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One liner Wednesday: First drafts…

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. Nobody likes the ginger ones.”

– Forrest Gump, 1994.

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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Films, Guest spots., Humour, One liner Wednesday

 

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One liner Wednesday: First drafts…

“Badgers? We ain’t got no badgers! We don’t need no badgers! I don’t have to show you any stinking badgers!”

– The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948.

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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Arts, Films, Guest spots., Humour

 

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One liner Wednesday: First drafts…

“Frankly my dear, I couldn’t give a fu…”

“CUT!”

– Gone with the wind.

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Colour me childish…

Rhonda reminded me at the weekend that I have a birthday coming up soon, (that she had to remind me this, shows my enthusiasm for arbitrarily celebrating another 31,536,000 seconds as a passenger on a spinning ball of rock, but that’s beside the point) an “event” that will mark the beginning of my fiftieth year of continuous breathing.

That’s 1,576,800,000 seconds, should you be interested.

I’m sure most people will tell you that they don’t feel their age, after all, nobody likes to think they’re getting old, whatever their own personal definition of being “old” is and I’m certainly no different.
In fact I’m pretty convinced that I’m still about 25, and that’s only in my overall outlook, the me that lives in my head can’t be much older than fifteen, judging by the nonsense that passes for my internal monologue most of the time and that has always seemed perfectly natural.
I bet if you really think about the way you communicate with yourself in the privacy of your cranium, you’ll realise you too are largely at the mercy of your inner child.

This is of course something we should all celebrate and be eternally grateful for, because if it wasn’t for the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child occasionally, where would the wonder go?
We need that childish naïvete and innocence sometimes, just to enable us to live in the world and not go mad.
We need to be able to just forget we’re “grown-up” for a while and indulge the big kid in all of us.
This doesn’t mean that having a childlike view of things makes us immature, juvenile or stupid, it just means we can enjoy exercising our intellectual faculties on a different, maybe more instinctive level.

And one of the best ways to channel our inner kid is watching a completely unrealistic, fantastical and unfeasible science fiction movie or TV show.
Because the genre title alone, Science Fiction gives you a get-out from the get-go, letting you suspend your disbelief and cynicism and allowing you a guilt free two hours of wishing you could fly an X-wing like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, or beat the crap out of zombies like Alice in Resident Evil.

So imagine my amazement this morning, when I read that one of the recent greats of British geek TV and cinema, the creator of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg, has said in an interview that he thinks our fascination with all things sci-fi has dumbed down our culture and society and made us all “infantile”.

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Simon Pegg – Don’t make me laugh, I’m trying to look intellectual.

This from the bloke who not only gave us two grown men miming slo-mo gunfights on television and a film about a couple of geeks meeting an alien on the way to a sci-fi convention, but who is also in the process of writing the next Star Trek movie, which I’m sure will once again feature him giving toe-curling comic relief in his role as Scotty, not to mention the hopefully excellent Monty Python spin-off, Absolutely Everything, which, would you believe it, prominently features comedy aliens.

Here’s the trailer.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t look like the sort of film that’s going to be shown in art house cinemas anytime soon, (In his interview, Pegg singles out such classics as The Godfather, Taxi Driver and The French Connection as being films that we could intellectually engage with. The Godfather? Art house? Really?) nor do I think that many of the movies that were likely to have influenced him in his youth were all that arty or cerebral.
I may be wrong, he might have spent his formative years watching nothing but Fellini and Bergman films while he stroked his wispy adolescent beard.
But I doubt it.

Simon Pegg’s argument seems to be that when you come out of a modern blockbuster, having watched two hours of robots kicking the shit out of each other in the Pacific, teams of superheroes fighting aliens, or presumably even Sandra Bullock dying of boredom whilst floating in space, you haven’t had much of a mental workout.
Although I don’t believe I recall the scene in which Don Corleone challenges a rival mobster to a sudoku tournament to settle a turf war, or Popeye Doyle quoting Nietzsche at a suspect as he beats a confession out of them.

Let’s face it, most films boil down to some kind of morality tale: Good vs Evil.
Star Wars is just a western in space, Guardians of the Galaxy could just as easily be the Dirty Dozen and Pegg’s own Hot Fuzz, well, that could be any number of buddy movies, all the way back to Butch and Sundance.

So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s fighting his way through some kind of early-onset, inverted mid-life crisis that makes fun people dull.
Then again, there’s just as much chance that he’s taking the piss, in order to promote his latest not-very-grown-up film.

Either way, I don’t intend to grow up anytime soon, no matter how many times I go past the same flaming ball of gas.

I shall leave you with two full movies to enjoy, one by Ingmar Bergman and the other by John Carpenter.
See which one entertains you the most…

And remember, stay childish everyone. ;~}

[Simon Pegg’s picture stolen from Google]

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Arts, Films, News, TV, Video

 

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award – The tenuous ten…

Once again Diary of an Internet Nobody has been honoured with an award.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve been chosen to receive the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, for “Keeping the blogosphere a beautiful place”, by Globe Runner over at Journey Around The Globe and as usual the accolade comes with a set of rules.

As anyone who reads this rambling stream of semi-consciousness regularly will know, I’m not a great one for rules, so I will be following my usual meandering path through the blogs that I’m nominating.
However, should any of my nominees wish to stick to a more conventional route, here are those rules in full:
1) Credit and link back to the blog that nominated you.
2) Post the award picture and list the rules.
3) Share seven random facts about yourself.
4) Nominate 15 other blogs to receive the award.
5) Permanently display the award on your blog and follow the person who nominated you. (optional)

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Well that’s 1) and 2) taken care of.
I shall be nominating ten blogs for the award, my randomness will be supplied by a musical accompaniment (in the style of The Tenuous Lynx) and I shall proudly display the virtual plaque on my awards page.

So without further ado, let’s move onto my first nomination;
(please check out the blogs and their musical partners via the links provided)

Why Evolution Is True is a fascinating blog that covers, amongst other things, scientific theories and discussion on both evolution and creationism. Well worth a visit, whichever side of the theological divide you fall on.
I chose to accompany this first nominee with a classic, gonzo video offering from the era of grunge:

Jam is a condiment similar to marmalade.
A marmalade tom is a cat with orange fur.
Otherwise known as ginger.
Connecting us to the next nomination, an eclectic and sometimes surprising photo-blog, including links to the inventive “52 rolls” project, Gingerlea Photography and I’m linking Fresh Ginger’s blog to a song from one of my favourite albums:

If you had a spirit wife, you may feel the need for some spiritual guidance.
For which you might turn to a monk.
And who’d have thought it but nominee three is Culture Monk, Kenneth Justice’s musings on life, coffee and the occasional foolishness of humanity.
His hand-picked tune is this non-PC slice of ’70s post-ironic pub rock:

The same phrase could be used to describe many of the photos taken by my next nominated blogger, because of the sometimes bizarre appearance and abundance of legs displayed by some of the subjects featured on Ron Scuberdiver’s Wild Life.
A vibrant, colourful and fascinating travel, photography and wildlife blog, check out Ron’s world if you enjoy being transported to exotic places.
I’d like to pair Rob with a true original, formerly plain old David Jones but now known across the universe by many names, including The Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust:

Unless I’m misinformed, the wild teenage life of someone in “sixth grade” is still yet to come, and yet my next nominee is only twelve years old.
Kiran Hiremath writes The Ink Stain, a mixture of personal journal, thoughts on life and beautifully written fiction with a maturity that belies the author’s age.
In an interesting juxtaposition, I’m accompanying his nomination with a new-age, psychedelic dance/trance/soul/a cappella number with a suitably trippy video.
You’re welcome.

Aya was the Akkadian goddess of love and my sixth choice of blogger to receive the award is Tim Love and his View Of The World.
If you want passionate writing that will touch your heart, from a writer with heart and a touch of passion, do yourself a favour and visit Tim’s blog.
The link to his tune is I think, self explanatory:

Samba is a musical style, and music requires notes.
Which connects us rather nicely to Notes Dropped In The Well, the new blog from my friend Lisa.
But before you start mumbling about favouritism and the like, let me say that her beautifully descriptive prose has been inspiring me on her Facebook feed for long enough to easily qualify her for a mention. I’m not going to quibble about where I read her work, I’m just glad more people will be able to enjoy it.
And her musical notes are dropped into a more magical portal:

To wish someone well at the end of a letter, you may write “Yours Sincerely“, which by crazy coincidence is the title of the blog from Monique Le Roux which is getting my next nomination.
I first encountered Monique when she asked for blogging tips and I rather embarrassingly told her that I thought she was a spammer with an outrageously over the top, fake French name.
Fortunately her sense of humour matches the tone of her quirky, optimistic and thoughtful blog and she saw the funny side in the end.
I’m hoping that humour will extend to forgiving me for thinking up her music link before I checked the relevant spelling:

Bulletproof is the name of a movie, which I’m sure my penultimate nominee has an opinion on, given that she is an accomplished film reviewer, as well as a journalist, travel writer and photographer.
Charlie Derry is a prolific blogger and one of the most consistently accurate movie reviewers I’ve read.
I have also greatly enjoyed her travel writing, especially her recent odyssey around Scandinavia, a journey that was accompanied by some stunning photos.
And from Charlie Derry we go to Derry, Northern Ireland, for her tenuous tune, a classic slice of ’70s punk-pop and John Peel’s all-time favourite record:

Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey is very vocal and opinionated on the matter of musicians’ rights, campaigning for better royalties and tighter copyright controls for artists’ work.
Another Opinionated Man is my final choice for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.
His is an inspiring story in itself and you should check out some HarsH ReaLiTy for yourselves for blogging advice, plenty of opinions, poetry and more.
Bringing us to the final musical morsel in this tangled trail of tangents, a glacial slab of icy, swirling synths:

Thanks again to Globe Runner for nominating me, I hope you found something new and interesting to entertain you amongst the nominees here, and I hope you got at least one “Ooh, I haven’t heard this for ages” moment from the tenuously linked tunes too.

Ok, time to pick up the goodie bag and face the paparazzi…

[Thank you to Jeremy, “happiness engineer” on the WordPress support forum, for helping to sort out my problem with embedding video]

 

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HR Giger – The man behind the art of Alien…

There are some movies that have such a definite visual style and atmosphere, once you’ve seen them it’s impossible to imagine them looking any different.
The current fascination with remakes, reboots and “re-imaginings” of old (and not so old) films demonstrates the wisdom or otherwise of attempting to capture the spirit of the original, whilst adding a new cinematic spin to the story.
After all, for every Batman Begins there’s a Batman and Robin and for every Star Trek there’s a Miami Vice, so it’s a brave director who tackles a recognised classic by putting their own spin on it.

It says a lot about the way a movie should look, that the many subsequent incarnations of classic 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, Alien, owe so much to the vision of one man, who died this week.

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H.R. Giger: 1940 – 2014.

Born in 1940 in Switzerland, Hans Rudolf Giger studied as an architect and industrial designer, but his main interest was surrealism, something that was influenced by his meeting with one of his artistic heroes, Salvador Dali and by his long friendship with ’60s psychedelic experimentalist, Timothy Leary.

Originally his art was a form of therapy, to help him cope with and articulate the night terrors from which he suffered since childhood and which informed the large majority of his dark and sometimes disturbing work.

July 1977
Giger was very nearly responsible for bringing his unique style to the first film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune, which he was to work on with director Alexandro Jodorowsky, but which failed to go ahead when Jodorowsky couldn’t get backing for his trilogy of films.
Fortunately, soon after the film was shelved, the man who was to be responsible for special effects on Dune, Dan O’Bannon, approached Giger about another project.
Giger remembers reading from O’Bannon’s notebook:
“Seven astronauts, two women and five men, are in the spaceship Nostromo on a return flight to Earth. On the way they come across a planet unknown to them and decide to make an unscheduled landing to explore it…”

He had of course just read the opening lines to the very first draft of a film that he would indelibly stamp with his dark vision, Alien.
O’Bannon suggested to Brandywine Productions (Walter Hill’s production company, who were to put up money for the film) that Giger should create the alien monster that would play such a central part in the story and he began work on concept art for the film straight away.

He’d been asked for designs for the three stages of the alien’s evolution; “Facehugger”, “Chest Burster” and “The Alien” – along with landscape modelling, the Nostromo models and the giant, derelict alien ship – and what he took to the first meeting with the studio blew them away.
The only concept that didn’t make the final cut was his design for the alien “eggsilo”, the giant breeding chamber where the deadly pods are first discovered, rejected as being too costly to construct.

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Eggsilo – HR. Giger

After Giger delivered his artwork to the studio they said they no longer require him on set, as the models are to be built by their own staff.
Unhappy with this development, Giger returns to Zurich to begin work on the three-dimensional versions of his drawings, convinced the studio set technicians will not manage to interpret his work accurately.
He soon sends slides of the initial pieces to 20th Century Fox for approval, the first of which is the alien hieroglyphics panel.

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Alien hieroglyphs – HR Giger.

On his return to Shepperton studios after an enthusiastic call from Brandywine Productions however, Giger is considerably less than enthusiastic about the set builders’ efforts, declaring himself “appalled by it”.
His displeasure must have been evident to the studio bosses though, because they asked him if he would prefer to model them himself.
From Giger’s diary;
“It’s clear to me that, unless I do, it won’t go the way I want it, so I take the work over. I ask them to obtain as many different bones as possible, and a supply of plasticine, before my next visit”

Returning a week later, his requests catered for, Giger began work on modelling the landscapes and interior sets, sawing up bones and rejoining them, with plasticine, various tubes, pipes and pieces of machinery integrated into the structures, which were then moulded and reproduced in plaster of Paris, clear polyester and latex.
This exemplifies the “biomechanical” style that pervades all of his art and which gives the film such a unique visual style.

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Bones being prepared for moulding.

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A finished section of alien ship corridor.

Work soon started on the models of the derelict alien craft and the dead “pilot” figure in the cockpit…

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Giger (far right) at work in the “Monster Department”.

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Working on the “pilot”.

…while Giger refined the designs for the monster’s three incarnations.
Firstly the two smaller versions;

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Alien Egg – HR Giger.

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Facehugger – HR Giger.

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Facehugger on astronaut – HR Giger.

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Chest Burster – HR Giger.

He then began to create the star of the show, simply known as “Alien”, modelled around the imposing figure of 6’10” Bolaji Badejo, spotted in a bar by director Ridley Scott and hired specially for the part.

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Making a mould of Bolaji Bodejo for the Alien suit.

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Alien – HR Giger.

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Alien wardrobe – Latex Alien suit components ready for use.

HR Giger’s brief (from a letter from Dan O’Bannon) had been;
“…The creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an oversized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome. In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design”

“Oversized, deformed baby”?
I’m glad Giger had ideas of his own, otherwise who knows what film we may have ended up with.

The rest, of course, is cinema history.
A film much-copied, never with the same impact, never having the same brooding feeling of primal terror, the sense that something terrible and merciless is silently waiting in the shadows, something unknowable and Alien.

HR “Ruedi” Giger leaves behind him an extraordinary body of work, filled with grotesque beauty and beautiful horror in equal parts, a man at peace with the darkness in his art and one who will be remembered as an exceptionally talented artist with a unique vision.

{All artwork and photos taken from “Giger’s Alien” from Titan Books, copyright HR Giger / 20th Century Fox}

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VISIT THE GIGER WEBSITE.

You can also watch a short clip of Giger at work on the set of Alien HERE.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Arts, Films, Photography

 

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A Beacon in the darkness…

In a previous post I explored some of the less cheerful experiences I had at school, but as I spend more and more time perusing the new Facebook page set up to celebrate life and memories from my old home town of Crowborough, the more the fun times I spent in that sprawling comprehensive in the heart of Sussex come flooding back.

I began life at Beacon school a little late.
Not very late, only about five minutes I think, but that was enough for me to enter the (to me at least) enormous and bewildering campus when everyone else had already been sheparded away into classes or, in the case of first years like me, to the main hall for registration.

As I hurried around the corner of the concrete and glass edifice of the Tower Block I collided with what at first sight appeared to be a bamboo tweed giant, who looked down her nose at me from about eight feet up and said in an imperious voice; “Walk, don’t run. You should be in assembly, boy” and proceeded to give me directions.
I stammered my thanks and hurried away. Walking, not running.
I later discovered I had just met Miss Vokins, but as she and I had very little to do with each other for the following six years, we shall leave her there and enter my first year at Beacon.

When I finally caught up with my classmates I found I’d been allocated a tutor group that was located in a prefab behind the main hall, bordered on two sides by sports fields and well away from the gaze of all but the nosiest of teachers.
It was a science classroom.

Our tutor was of the young trendy type, with the boundless enthusiasm of the recent training college graduate, as yet untarnished by the cynicism produced by having to deal with the likes of us day in, day out.
His name was Mr Sharratt and he was very good entertainment indeed.

For a start, there was a good story about his time at training school which went something along the lines of;
Due to a previous injury to nerves in part of one hand, he had no feeling in a couple of fingers and had once inadvertently set fire to his own hand as he held a test tube over a flame without due care and attention while giving a chemistry lecture.
And he could be persuaded to do pretty much anything in science class.

Like the time we convinced him it was a good idea to see what the result would be when a lump of highly reactive sodium metal, roughly four times the recommended size, was dropped from some six inches above the surface of a glass tank full of water.
The result was that the lump sank to the bottom, stuck there like an angry, fizzing limpet for a few seconds and then, with a loud explosion of gas that threatened to crack the tank, shot to the surface and went careering back and forth across the surface of the water, almost reaching escape velocity and filling the whole room with possibly lethal fumes, causing the lab to be evacuated.

Or the time we did the “Custard powder bomb” experiment, whereby a lit candle is placed in a custard powder tin, the lid replaced and a small quantity of custard powder is puffed into the sealed tin via a pipe, the resultant combustion being just enough to blow the lid off.
However, if you get your teacher to really pack that pipe with custard powder, and you can also talk him into placing four candles in the tin, then what you have is a massive explosion that propels the lid off the tin so hard that it embeds itself in the ceiling.

And I’m sure you’ve all tried the water rocket experiment at some point, the one that demonstrates how water can’t be compressed (or something) and involves pumping air into a plastic washing-up liquid bottle half-full of water, ideally launching it a few feet along the lab bench into the sink.
Except when we did it, the top of the bottle had somehow become jammed in very hard indeed and by the time enough pressure had been accumulated to launch the bottle rocket, it shot the entire length of the room and smashed the toughened wired glass window of the fire exit.

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And scientific experiments weren’t restricted to the classroom either.
There was a bit of a fad for “recreational explosives” shall we say, the sort made from vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and a small plastic pop bottle, or small handfuls of potassium permanganate, smuggled out of chemistry lessons and mixed with gelatin in a meat paste jar.
(DON’T try this at home, kids)
Many a desk mysteriously had the bottom blown out of it by amateur chemists honing their demolition skills.
We really were rather ingenious, I’m sure our teachers would have been secretly proud that we’d been paying such close attention.
Although minor furniture damage paled into insignificance with the furore surrounding the theft from the chemical store of a whole bottle of the aforementioned highly reactive sodium.

The entire year, maybe even the whole school, were given a stern talking to in hastily arranged assemblies with mass detentions threatened if nobody owned up.
That was until the missing hazardous material was allegedly discovered in the attic of a school master’s house, where it had been hidden by his son in collusion with a co-conspirator.

Oops. Awkward.

It wasn’t until later on in my time at Beacon however, that the most notorious event of my time there occurred.
That was the scandalous, almost surreal experience of The Beacon Riots.

I have no idea now, if I’m perfectly honest, what kicked it all off, although I suspect it had something to do with several policemen chasing a couple of glue sniffing skinheads across the playground in the middle of a school day not long before, or the fact that there was an especially large contingent of that particular tribe at Beacon back then, with the added bonus that a teacher had been seen enthusiastically putting the boot in after the fleeing glue sniffer had been subdued beneath a heap of struggling coppers.

Whatever the cause, the result was a thrilling explosion of chaos and anarchy amongst the pupils, some of whom locked themselves in The Pens – fenced-in tennis courts bordering the playground – in solidarity with….something or other, and anyway, yeah, like, fuck the system.
Other rebel fighters laid siege to the sixth form block, the inhabitants of which retaliated with water bombs, intellectual abuse and Chaucer quotes (possibly).
But most exciting of all, whilst staff foot soldiers were attempting to enforce some sort of order on proceedings with loud-hailers and middle class self-importance, several high ranking officers – housemasters and above – were chased, yes chased by a small mob of the ringleaders into the main office, where they barricaded themselves for the duration of hostilities.

It seems amazing, now that I think back, that there wasn’t more of a backlash from that day of iconoclastic chaos, but from what I remember (and I’m open to correction from anyone else with a better memory) very few sanctions were imposed on the student body in general and only the instigators of the revolution were executed expelled or suspended.

My own particular contribution to the fight against the powers that be was more restricted to being a general smartass, something which regularly got me detention, visits to infuriated house masters’ offices, report cards that said things like, “will do very well if only he’d stop talking and listen for a change”, and uncannily well-aimed blackboard erasers flung my way.
Having said all that, some of the staff obviously saw something in me worth saving and the likes of the fabulous Jeff Lee, English and drama teacher extraordinaire and invaluable mentor during my teenage thespian days; Dick Kempson, another English teacher who also acted as our chaperone and driver when our briefly-famous theatre group performed at the Edinburgh Fringe; and Mr Watson, the French teacher responsible for me still being able to get by in basic conversations whenever I visit France (quite apart from being a bloody good shot with a blackboard rubber or piece of chalk), all of them made those days in class that much more bearable.

Funnily enough, one of the memories that most amuses me doesn’t involve classes, other pupils, or even any intention on my part to cause mischief, just an unfortunate accident of technology:
In the lazy summer limbo period between finishing studying and taking exams, we were allowed a certain amount of freedom to persue non-academic interests in and around the school (I spent some of this time producing a mini drama festival) and one of the duties I took on was helping out in the audio/visual control room, which amongst other things recorded and broadcast the educational TV programmes used in lessons.

There were four video recorders in the room, three that were used to transmit and one purely for recording. There was also a small library of movies on tape, including Nicholas Roeg’s ’70s psychedelic sci-fi masterpiece, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
One day when I had nothing better to do, I thought I’d watch David Bowie louche-ing it up as the titular alien, but the spare machine was recording a programme at the time so I elected to use one of the two currently unused broadcast machines instead. I mean, what harm could it possibly do, right?
I was still comfortably engrossed in the action when the phone loudly interrupted my viewing pleasure;
– Hello, A/V room.
{slightly panicky female voice} Hello! Um, I’m supposed to have booked a programme about dinosaurs, why are there naked people covered in slime on my television?
– I’m sorry, there must be a problem with the recording, I’ll sort it out immediately.
– I should think so too, honestly!

Needless to say, my job as budding TV producer ended there and then.

It is possibly rather self-indulgent of me to think anyone will be interested in reading the nostalgic reminiscences of a non-descript teenager’s days in a perfectly ordinary comprehensive school, but I’ve enjoyed reliving them and sometimes it’s good to write just for yourself for a change.

But if as a result of reading this, you find yourself revisiting memories of school with some affection for the days we were so keen to escape at the time, then I shall consider my job here done.

Wait for it.

Ok, you can go.

Walk, don’t run…

[This post is dedicated to all ex-pupils of Beacon, especially those in the Crowborough Memories Facebook group. Thank you for all the good times]

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Blogging, Films, Humour, Personal anecdote

 

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