James Predicts The Future

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s not like me to use misleading titles for my posts.

Apart from when it is.

And I fear I may have done just that today. Because this post is not going to be me attempting to predict the future in a humorous way, which is probably what the title implies.

Nor will it be an attempt to make any serious and thought-provoking predications based on the evidence of current world developments because this isn’t that kind of blog and I’m woefully underqualified to do that.

Being woefully underqualified is not always a barrier to me attempting to do things. It is essentially a trick I’ve been playing on my employer for many years.

Nonetheless, this post is an homage to a different post I wrote.

Because what is more compelling than a blogger blogging about other stuff he blogged about?

That question was rhetorical. I don’t need you to answer it in the comments. Unless you can answer it in a way that is funny. Then go for it. Often the best bit about my blog is the funny stuff that other people write in the comments section.

Anyway, the post that I’m referring to is the one I wrote on the first day of the year, which I cleverly entitled ‘So You Say You Want A Resolution‘. You should probably go and read that now.

Are you back? Or did you just not bother to go? I’m not the boss of you, you don’t have to go and read it if you don’t want to. It might help you to understand what I’m going on about in this post. Then again it might not. In summary, it was my tongue-in-cheek predictions for the New Year, but honestly it’s uncanny how accurately I predicted the horrors of 2020. Because how could I possibly have known about coronavirus back in January?

Ok, I know it was a thing even then, and some people were predicting it would become a pandemic, but I just assumed that being, you know, British, we were immune to such things. I thought it was written into our constitution. I know we don’t actually have a UK constitution, but it’s surely still implicit that Britain doesn’t take part in pandemics. I blame the EU. It’s just a shame that Brexit didn’t come sooner really…

Anyway, I didn’t predict an actual pandemic as such. But I did write the following:

“I mean it’s obviously only just begun, but I have a feeling that 2020 will be a year like no other.

Call it 2020 foresight if you will, but I predict that the year to come will be one that changes everything.

But obviously not in a good way.”

So, you know, I was pretty spot on if the popular media is to be believed.

Anyway my solution to the end of the world was going to be to get into shape “so that when Judgement Day arrives, I can be the grizzled, cynical, but ultimately kind-hearted hero that the world needs me to be.”

Now while that was obviously me just having a bit of (as it turns out quite misguided) fun, it was also a roundabout way of saying my New Year’s resolution was, as it is most years, to get a bit fitter. Not that I’m entirely a stranger to keeping fit, but I’ve always been a bit inconsistent with how committed I am to the cause. And I’m certainly no stranger to a pie. Or chips (you can interpret that as either the UK meaning for chips or the US version – I like both kinds). Or ice-cream. Or beer. Or pretty much anything that’s fundamentally bad for you.

So I could definitely have done with being a bit more committed.

Which, to be fair to me, I was for January and February. I went to the gym quite a lot in January while I was waiting for an ear infection to heal sufficiently to return to my swimming routine. And, in February I returned to the pool and as has been documented occasionally on this blog, I started running a bit.

Then the pandemic hit and the swimming pools closed. So I was only able to do the running, which I did stick to, but, as has also been documented, I’m not really very good at running.

Recently the pools re-opened, so I’ve been able to avail myself of mine for the last two weeks. And it has been going swimmingly. I’m still running, I’m still quite bad at running, but, because I’m swimming again, I don’t have to go running as often, which seems to have resulted in me being less bad at running on the days I do it.

So it would seem that I am ticking along nicely, if unspectacularly, in my quest to be a bit fitter

Except that…

…this is a bit awkward really but…erm…

…I maybe haven’t been as honest as I could have been on these pages…

Generally it’s in my nature to be a little self-deprecating. I’m not one for bragging.

And I really am bad at running.

But I haven’t just been running for the last few months.

I have actually been doing some other exercise. Stuff like press-ups and burpees and some quite horrible things involving a kettlebell.

And even though I did carry on working, I did have slightly more freedom with regards my working hours so I generally found time most days to fit in a workout.

And I appear to have accidently become genuinely quite fit. Honestly, no-one is more surprised than me that this has happened. I mean I still have a diet akin to that of an unsupervised toddler in a sweet shop but nonetheless, I do appear to be burning some of those excess calories.

And if the world does need a post apocalyptic hero in the near future, I’m definitely more qualified than I was in January.

I mean, it’s probably still better if we don’t have an apocalypse but I’m just saying, if I’m needed to save the world, I’d be happy to give it a go.

 

 

Wanted – Talented Writers Who Have No Personal Ambition And Are Happy To Give Away Content For No Remuneration Or Credit

James Proclaims (4)

A exciting opportunity has arisen for a creative, results focused and ambitious Content Writer who can take direction from written or spoken ideas and convert them seamlessly into quality content that is better than the stuff we’re currently churning out.

James Proclaims Ltd

James Proclaims is a multiple award-nominated blog based in the UK somewhere. The blog is quite possibly read and enjoyed by tens of people around the world, although this is based on some potentially misleading statistics. Nonetheless those stats point to a recent upward curve and so the time has come to consolidate that success by ‘employing’ someone who can actually, you know, write.

Content Writer

You will join us as a Content Creator and will draft all content for blog posts, ensuring it is of the highest standard, engaging, and will definitely get a lot of ‘likes’. You will be a valuable team resource in terms of industry knowledge, keeping abreast of trends and passing that knowledge on to the wider team. The wider team is, essentially, just one person, although that person does sometimes use the first-person plural to create the illusion that there is, in fact, a team.

Content Writer Responsibilities:

– Responsible for drafting all content and effectively marketing the content so as to generate lots of ‘likes’.
– Respond to comments on posts in a timely and, where possible, witty fashion.
– Research competitors to stay informed of what is popular on other blogs and, where appropriate, steal ideas and content.
– Make coffee for ‘the team’.
– Sometimes go to the pub with ‘the team’ and pretend to be his friend.

Content Writer Requirements:

Essential Desirable 
– Willing to work for no remuneration or credit – Proven experience of writing for web, email and social media
– Ability to write good, clear copy in a variety of styles and tones of voice with impeccable spelling and grammar
– Excellent proof-reading skills
– High level of accuracy and attention to detail


WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES EMPLOYER AND WELCOME APPLICATIONS FROM PEOPLE FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS, GENDERS, ABILITIES AND ETHNICITIES.

Expressions of interest should initially be in the form of a message in a bottle. This is not a real job advert but all applications will nonetheless be considered before they are rejected.

This one

James Blogs About His Own Blog

James Proclaims (4)

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Though unintentionally, I appear to have started the previous two months with a kind of ‘blog update’. I suppose it’s an inevitable consequence of posting something everyday that occasionally my muse will lead me to ponder my own blog and indeed the concept of blogging as a whole.

And frankly I’m not alone in this.  You rarely have to delve too deeply into the blogosphere to find someone ruminating about their blog, giving advice about blogging or lamenting the state of their blog and/or blogging in general. It is, I suspect, the nature of the beast.

And so, as we begin August, in this strangest of years, I thought I might again write a little more about blogging. I have, after all, been at this for a while. This is officially my 732nd post on ‘James Proclaims’ in the 5 years, 2 months and 22 days since a younger and greener me took his first tentative steps into the world of WordPress, so now seems as good a time as any to share my wisdom and experience on all things bloggy. Well maybe not as good a time as any. Perhaps I’d have been better doing this on the fifth anniversary of ‘James Proclaims’. But that day I was busy writing about the 1978 ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’. I stand by that decision.

Perhaps I’d be better hanging on for my upcoming 750th post. That seems like a seminal blogging landmark. But I might have something better to write about that day. Although if I maintain my current daily blogging schedule then it would fall on a Wednesday, which currently, and rather arbitrarily, serves as the day on which I post my satirical ‘clickbait‘ posts. And they do really lend themselves to blogging about blogging. Because they aren’t really about anything else.

But I’m feeling somewhat introspective today and the beginning of the month makes sense by my (usually flawed) reasoning. Not least because it permits me to look back on the previous month’s ‘stats’, be that in elation or despair. And on that score, things are currently looking up. I began July 2020 by celebrating June 2020 as my most successful month ever, in terms of the stats that WordPress deems relevant. And this was significant because June 2020 was my most successful month since August 2015. But July 2020 has actually been even more successful, across the board. Not only that, but a mere seven months into 2020 and I’m already enjoying what is now officially my most successful year in blogging. This mostly speaks to what an appalling job I’d been doing in previous years. Admittedly the second half of 2018 and most of 2019 don’t really count because I was, effectively, on a kind of ‘blogging paternity leave’ for most of that time. I did pop up occasionally with the odd post here and there but from May 2018 until March 2020 I really produced very little content. Apart from my much ignored annual Christmas Advent Calendar of Films, which I doggedly stuck to, even though no-one ever reads those posts.

2017 was my previous ‘best year’ and even then I was pretty inconsistent with how often I posted, but I did spend more of the year blogging than I spent not-blogging. 2016 was a very poor year, because, while I did produce a reasonable amount of content, for some reason my posts weren’t appearing in the ‘WordPress reader’ which meant that any bloggers who chose to follow me were not being made aware of the fact that I had written anything. And most of my readers are other bloggers. That too is the nature of the beast I suspect. Because at the time I didn’t ‘follow’ my own blog I had no idea of the problem. I just assumed that people who had previously been quite regular visitors had just decided they didn’t like my blog any more.

I may have self-esteem issues.

Of course I have self-esteem issues. That’s why I have a blog.

Once resolved, my stats improved dramatically, and I now do ‘follow’ myself in order to be certain that my content is available to people who might like to read it. Or at least so they can click the ‘like’ button and give me a misplaced sense of self-worth.

Anyway, 2020 is now statistically my best blogging year. And this matters because I can now choose to not blog again until 2021. In many respects this would be the smart thing to do. If I keep going, then the eventual blogging slump when it comes (and it will come) might hit me hard in 2021 and mean that I can’t top this year’s stats. Whereas a blogging slump now would leave my stats fairly sedentary for the rest of the year and a reinvigorated blogging schedule next year could then theoretically help me to continue to ‘build on my success’. There’s no point in setting the bar too high.

However, you will be relieved to know (yes relieved is the correct word) that I am not planning on having an immediate blogging slump. Not least because my blogging schedule is really not well-planned enough to actively plan a slump. Beyond a notional ‘need to post every day’ at the moment, I have no particular idea of what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. Last time I had a blogging streak of this magnitude it was far more planned.

I had a proper blogging schedule.

And I had much worse stats.

These days though it’s just whatever I can think of, whenever I can think of it. Which seems to result in a lot of haiku. And some of those haiku have been about how I always write haiku.

I didn’t even really know what a haiku was when I started blogging. Now it’s my ‘go to’ strategy for producing content when I can’t think of anything else to write.

But endless underwhelming haiku do appear to be the foundation of my current blogging ‘success’.

Success, is of course, a relative term. For this blog to truly be successful I would actually need to have some sort of aspiration for it.

But all I really wanted was for some people who weren’t me to read my stuff and not hate it.

And on that score this blog has been a runaway success story since the day I realised that you need to ‘tag’ your posts in order for other people to be able to find them.

Which I admittedly did not know for the first few weeks that this blog existed.

So if I was to impart one piece of advice to any newbie bloggers out there, it would be to tag your posts. It doesn’t matter what tags you use. Etiquette would suggest that the tag should be pertinent to the content.

But honestly, the bots don’t really care one way or another.

 

Revealed: Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee

James Proclaims (4)

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Hello, I’m James and this is my blog, ‘James Proclaims’.

I like coffee. I drink quite a lot of it and I’m something of a snob connoisseur.

But in all honesty I doubt I know ten facts about coffee that aren’t already common knowledge. It would be ludicrous to claim otherwise.

Regular readers will no doubt have spotted that this is, once again, my (now apparently regular) Wednesday ‘click-bait’ post. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and if I’m honest the experiment has rather run its course. I don’t really know why I’m still doing it.

Perhaps it’s because, when all is said and done, disingenuous, low-quality content is still content and given that most media outlets, even publicly-funded institutions like the BBC, allow some pretty low-brow and worthless content on their websites, I don’t see why I should rise above it.

I should probably provide a link to something trite on the BBC website to prove my point, but these days my understanding is that you don’t need evidence to back up the claims you make and also quality is subjective, so it’s really just my opinion rather than an actual fact.

Believe it or not, some people will really like this post and consider it the height of satire.

And who’s to say they’re wrong?

 

Important Information For Our Readers

This one

Dear Reader

Thank you for your continued loyalty and support during these past months, which we know have been difficult ones.

As life begins to return to some normality, we want to reassure you that we’re continuing to do everything we can to keep you safe while still providing the quality poetry and great art that James Proclaims is known for.

You will have seen some updates from the Government recently and I wanted to share our approach with you in light of this latest guidance.

FACE COVERINGS

From Friday 24 July, we’re asking you to follow the new government legislation on face coverings while reading our blog.

All readers, apart from children under 11 and those who have reasonable cause, such as a health condition, disability, physical or mental impairment, should wear a face mask, scarf or other covering. Not all exemptions are visible, so please be understanding of other readers.

You will also be pleased to know our writers will be wearing face coverings. These will be worn by all writers who are not exempt when they are in areas where two metre social distancing cannot be achieved or where other measures, such as screens, are not present.

 

SMALLER QUEUES

As readers return to their normal reading patterns, we’re seeing queues reducing, and no queues at all on many posts. If you do find yourself queuing, please try reading outside of the peak lunchtime and early evening hours when it’s quieter.

 

READING HOUR FOR THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE

At the beginning of lockdown, when some posts were in high demand and the blog was very busy, we created a dedicated hour at the start of each day for our elderly and vulnerable readers.

We know how much this was appreciated and so – although our posts are now less busy and we have effective safety measures in place – we will continue to keep the first reading hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays reserved for our elderly and vulnerable readers.

We hope these measures reassure you that we take the safety of readers very seriously. Thank you for your patience and support in these challenging times. I look forward to seeing you commenting on one of our posts soon.

Take good care,

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J Proclaims
Managing Director
The James Proclaims Partnership

This one

Ten Reasons That You’re Underperforming And Five Ways You Can Fix It

James Proclaims (4)

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Just five years ago I was a mess, like you probably are. I was failing at life and I didn’t know why. Then one day I picked up a book by Dr Willhem Grimaldi and my life has never been the same. I realised that I had been making the same ten mistakes as all stupid loser people make and I decided I wanted to be a clever winner person instead.

Dr Willhem Grimaldi showed me that in five simple steps I could stop doing the ten stupid things and be a better me than I thought possible.

And now you can also be a winner person like me.

Except that I just made up Dr Willhem Grimaldi.

And I have no idea if there are ten specific things that would make people unsuccessful. It seems unlikely that there could possibly be ten universal truths that account for every single person being successful or not. And if there are, it seems utterly without credibility that there would be five solutions to these ten problems. That doesn’t make mathematical sense.

Hello, I’m James, and this is my blog, ‘James Proclaims’ and I hope you’re here because you regularly read my blog and you’ve recognised that this post is just the latest in a series of posts I’ve been writing for the last few weeks (for some reason on a Wednesday) that have ‘click-bait’ titles.

Because if you really came to a blog called ‘James Proclaims’ to find out how to make your life better then I really don’t know if anyone can help you.

 

Remember Vincent Montcetti? You Won’t Believe What He Looks Like Now!

James Proclaims (4)

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Do you remember 90’s heartthrob Vincent Montcetti, star of teen comedy ‘Saved By The Prince’?

It seems unlikely because I just made him up. And I made up the show too. The photo above is just something I found on one of those websites that has royalty-free images. I have no idea who the bloke in the picture is. He could conceivably be called Vincent Montcetti but he probably isn’t.

If there really was a show called ‘Saved By The Prince’ and it really did have a star called Vincent Montcetti then I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to any genuine fans who clicked onto this post hoping to read about their favourite former teen idol.

Although, I’m not that sorry because if there were such a person as Vincent Montcetti, then the ‘clickbait’ title of the post could really only have enticed you here to see what he looks like now. And the implication of the title was that, if he once was something of heartthrob, then he isn’t any more. So shame on you for wanting to revel in someone falling off the pedestal that you once put him on.

I imagine most people are here because they often frequent my blog and they’ve worked out that this is the latest entry in my current ‘blog project’ of giving some of my posts ‘click-bait’ titles to see if more people visit my site as a result. This is my third week of doing this and frankly the last two efforts did yield more visitors than would be normal. I doubt this is actually a good thing, because I can’t imagine many of those additional visitors stuck around.

Still, I expect I’ll post a few more click-bait titles in the coming weeks.

It’s a flawed methodology for attracting new readers but the comments sections of those posts have been highly amusing.

Reflections On The Recent Lockdown By A Man Who Might Be Slightly Inebriated

James Proclaims (4)

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It will be Monday when I post this but, as I write, it is Saturday afternoon. Little Proclaims and I spent much of this morning doing our usual weekend daddy-daughter activities, which mostly consists of feeding ducks and jumping in puddles. I join in with the duck/goose/swan feeding as Little Proclaims, while content to hold a piece of stale bread and shout at the associated waterfowl, is rather less than proactive in actually dispensing the bread to the beneficiaries. I tend not, as a rule, to jump in puddles due to not possessing the appropriate footwear. And not being a toddler. It’s more about the footwear though…

As of the 4th July we have, of course, been permitted to return to playparks, so that too featured this morning. Little Proclaims has very much enjoyed this renewed relationship with the swings, slide and roundabout but by far her favourite activity in the playpark at the moment is to run around aimlessly while shouting excitedly. We go out early and are alone in the park so I try not inhibit this expression of unbridled joy, unless she looks as though she’s about to do something that will result some kind of mishap. Which does happen quite often…

Little Proclaims is now enjoying a much deserved afternoon nap and I am sitting in front of a televised football match that I have fairly limited interest in, drinking some very nice beer, which I purchased for a bargain price at the supermarket and which is making me question whether I will ever return to the pub. I suppose I would like to socialise with the small number of people that I consider friends again but frankly the beer is just as good, and significantly cheaper, at home and I wonder if I really need to go the pub to see them. Maybe the ‘new normal’ will present us with lots of new opportunities to get together, which won’t involve imbibing alcohol in a claustrophobic environment on a Friday evening. Probably not, the world does seem intent on making the ‘new normal’ as much like the ‘old normal’ as possible. Then again I’m sure the ‘old normal’ had plenty of activities that weren’t ‘the pub’. I just didn’t pay them much heed. Perhaps I should stop waiting for the world to change around me and just be a bit more proactive. That does sound like a lot of effort though.

I’m also feeling fairly reluctant to get a haircut. Having rejected Mrs Proclaims kind offer to trim my locks during lockdown, I now have quite the mop. If work, which in my case is based in a secondary school, were operating as usual I’d probably feel more inclined to sort it out, because teenagers can be quite cruel, but there are so few of them there at the moment that I feel I can hang on, particularly with the six-week summer holiday coming up. No doubt by the time September rolls around I’ll be desperate for a trim but I feel I can let things play out for a little longer – who knows, I may decide to opt for an entirely new look at the end of all of this. Maybe a new hairstyle is what I’ve been waiting for to kickstart my journey to being a new and better me.

Or maybe I’ll just be the same person but with different hair.

I expect around the end of August I’ll cave in just have my usual haircut anyway. The non-descript but easy-to-manage look that has served me so adequately for all these years.

I should at least be a slightly fitter version of myself as a result of all of this. My thrice-weekly run has now increased to four-times a week. The main result of adding an extra run per week seems to be that I’ve become much much slower on all of my runs, but as the notion of going for four runs a week was unthinkable only a few months ago, I’d still have to count this as progress.

The swimming pools are due to open soon. No doubt with lots of rules that make it far more difficult to access them, but I should still be able to add swimming back into the mix in some way. I’d like to imagine I’ll stick with the running too, not least because the gyms are also re-opening so there should be less runners about in general, which might mean I can stop getting up at 5am to avoid them.

That said, Little Proclaims does like an early start so it’s unlikely to be the end of my 5am alarm calls…

Being the parent of a small child and still largely having to go to work did mean that lockdown wasn’t the life-altering experience for me as it was for many. Still, I did acquire a little more time as a result of it and I wonder if I really made the most of it.

I’ll have to do better during the next one.

 

Lose Weight And Feel Great In Three Simple Steps

James Proclaims (4)

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Hello, I’m James and this is my latest post on a blog I like to call James Proclaims.

It’s not really a blog about weight-loss or fitness, although occasionally I have used my own lacklustre attempts to improve my health and wellbeing as the basis for some of my posts, which for the most part are meant to be amusing rather than inspirational.

I can’t tell you how to lose weight and feel great in three simple steps. I doubt there are three simple steps. Assuming you have no underlying medical conditions, if you eat healthily and do a reasonable amount of exercise you’ll probably be fine. I don’t think there are any obvious short-cuts, but I’m no expert. I don’t wish to dismiss how difficult it is to eat healthily and do regular exercise either – I find both to be soul-destroyingly difficult. Nonetheless, I think that is the only route that will yield results.

Obviously if you’re a regular visitor, you’ll have probably worked out that the title for the post was a continuation of a theme I started last week, when I decided to write a post with an obvious click-bait title to see if it attracted more people to my blog. I mainly did it for a laugh, but I also learned a valuable lesson. Which was that writing click-bait titles that have little or nothing to do with your post does actually work, if your sole goal is to attract more visitors to your blog.

And to be fair, although I did acquire some new ‘bot’ followers, I also did get lots of comments and engagement from real people. I was unduly rewarded for my Machiavellian ways and it was a busier day than normal over here at James Proclaims Towers*. Certainly, busy enough for me to try the same trick again this week.

Last week’s click-bait title was specifically pitched at other bloggers, and ultimately, although my post did not help anyone to generate additional followers for their blogs, the post in question was at least about the whole concept of blog followers, so hopefully none of my new visitors left feeling hugely short-changed.

It would only seem fair, then, to dedicate the rest of this post to the topic of weight loss.

But that does seem a bit boring.

So, I’m not going to do that.

 

*I’m trying out ‘James Proclaims Towers’ as the new blog nickname for my home. You obviously don’t know what my house looks like, but if you did, you would know that ‘James Proclaims Towers’ is hilariously ironic.

Throwing Stones

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The other day
I overheard two colleagues
Disparaging another colleague
(Behind that colleague’s back)
For being overweight

It irritated me
For several reasons
Not least because
Although I’m not above
The clandestine critiquing of others
I would like to think
That I would never do so
For reasons so shallow
And unkind
As these people did

But it also occurred to me
That while the person who was the subject
Of the condemnation
Is indeed overweight
The two people passing judgment
Could also stand to lose a few pounds
And ultimately were being somewhat hypocritical

But then I worried
That in disapproving of them
I too was being hypocritical
Because although I would be confident
In declaring myself healthier and fitter
Than either of them
It definitely wouldn’t hurt me
To cut down on the snacks

Then again, I only judged them
On the basis that they
Were judging someone else
So maybe I’m not as bad as them
When all is said and done

Of course, I kept my thoughts to myself
And didn’t challenge them
After all, how could they know
I could hear their every word
Just because they were speaking loudly
Outside the room that they knew I was working in?
It’s not like they were talking about me
And the person they were discussing
Was blissfully unaware of the conversation
So, I just left well enough alone

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is
Possibly there is no moral at all
Or maybe it’s something about
Glass houses and stones
Which always confused me
Because who would build a house out of glass?
Unless the saying is about greenhouses,
But then why not just say greenhouses?
Anyway, it’s probably best not to throw stones
Indoors at all
Because most buildings have windows

Massively Increase Your Followers In Three Simple Steps

James Proclaims (4)

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Hello, I’m James and you are currently reading my latest post on a blog that I like to call ‘James Proclaims’. There’s a chance that you already know this of course and that you came here to sample my latest offering because you generally find my output tolerable. However, if you’ve stumbled here by accidently clicking on the wrong link or some other internet-related mishap (we’ve all been there), then I still want you to feel welcome and appreciated. We at ‘James Proclaims’ value all of our visitors, regardless of the circumstances that led to them finding themselves here. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’. I sometimes like to pretend this is a team effort, but it isn’t. This blog is entirely my fault and my fault alone.

There is, of course, a chance that you’re reading this on the basis that you were enticed by the ‘click-bait’ title I decided to give this post. If that is the case then I’m genuinely sorry. It wasn’t my intention to mislead you (well it was, but only in a misguided attempt at humour). In all honesty, there is very little chance that continuing to read this post will help you to get more people to follow you on whatever social media platform you’re currently operating on.

Because I don’t know how to do that.

Certainly not in three simple steps.

I don’t have that many followers.

Actually, at the time of writing I do notionally have something like 850 followers. Some bloggers would consider that a lot, while others would look on me with condescending pity as they bask in the glory of having thousands of followers.

850 is fine with me. It would be even better if there really were 850 people regularly reading my posts.

There are not. I think there are reliably about twenty people worldwide who actually read most of what I write and then maybe another twenty or so people who occasionally read what I write. I could be wrong. There could be more than that, there could actually be far far fewer than that.

The other 810(ish) followers either consist of people who did used to read my blog but haven’t for a while, other bloggers who followed me despite having no interest in my blog, solely in the hope that I would follow them back (I’m sorry to disappoint those people but I tend not to do that, although they aren’t actually reading this so it’s probably a redundant statement to make) and quite a lot of my followers are what we in ‘the business’ like to call ‘bots’. I don’t know what a bot is, but I do know that if I write about specific topics, things that normal people write about like health and/or fitness, then the bots go crazy for it. When I write about ducks and puddles, the bots seem less interested.

Anyway, the point to all of this, if indeed there is a point, is that in the month that has just gone, the month in question being June in the year 2020, my blog has enjoyed something of an upturn in fortunes. It was, statistically speaking, the most fruitful month I’ve ever had based on all of the different criteria that WordPress uses to measure the success of my blog. I had more visitors, more ‘likes’ and more comments on my posts in June than in any other month since I started blogging, way back in May 2015. And while you might expect a blog to get more successful over time, that generally isn’t how things have gone for me. My stats for June 2020 eclipse every other month by a considerable margin. The only month that comes close is August 2015 and that has always been an outlier, a beacon of shame if you will, reminding me that every other month has been a spectacular failure by comparison.

There are some factors which may have helped June, not least the fact that I’ve been producing content on a much more regular basis than I have in the past, but as this is my hundredth post in as many days, one might wonder why I didn’t enjoy a similar upturn in fortunes in April and May. Ok, May could be explained by the fact that I wrote exclusively about Star Wars for thirty-one consecutive days and April was fairly niche too because I mostly wrote about 90s indie music. But I’ve had blogging streaks before and they’ve never resulted in a massive increase in my blogging stats. Perhaps the pandemic has meant more people have time to read blogs. Maybe my particular brand of ‘whatever-it-is-I-actually-do’ has been more appealing during these coronatimes than it was when there wasn’t a world-wide health crisis.

Or maybe, somehow, I have finally nailed the art of blogging and June 2020 was the beginning of my humble little online journal joining the stratosphere of the ‘superblogs’. Maybe this time next year I’ll have 8000 followers rather than just 850.

It seems unlikely. But, while I’d like to pretend that I don’t care about things like ‘numbers of followers’ and ‘likes’ and that I’m really too cool for all of that, there is a part of me that has enjoyed this last month.

And I’d like it to continue for a bit longer.

So, I thought I’d get my July blogging stats off to a good start by writing a post with an obvious clickbait title.

Just to see how many more of the bots I could reel in.

Ducks Versus Puddles (Round 2)

James Proclaims (4)

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Last week we explored the efficacy of ducks (or more accurately geese, which aren’t ducks) at hindering my morning run, in comparison to puddles. That round went to puddles. Let’s see if ducks (and associated waterfowl) can level things up this week.

 

Prior to current world events, I would often take my daughter to one of the many playparks that we’re lucky to have within walking distance of our home. She’s quite an early riser, so we were often able to get to the park before other people and would frequently have use of the facilities for a good hour before anyone else arrived.

Which was great for me, because the one thing that has not been a hardship during the pandemic is staying away from other people. Little Proclaims is generally more sociable than her father but lacks any kind of boundaries or social etiquette (which I understand is fairly normal for a toddler) so she did enjoy having the run of the park without me constantly having to restrain her. She loved the swings, the slide and the roundabout, but her favourite activity, if it had been raining, which it does quite a bit in the UK, was to jump in puddles.

Indeed she loves jumping in puddles so much that, when we were adopting a pretty strict ‘stay at home’ regime during lockdown, she would often fill her little plastic watering can, from the sand and water table my parents bought her for her birthday, and create little puddles in our garden to jump in. Even better was when she could convince me to get out of the camping chair, I’d mistakenly thought I could relax in while supervising her, to get the big watering can and make some really big puddles for her.

March and April involved me being at home a lot more as I initially tried in vain to work from home for two weeks and then we had the Easter holidays, which were still observed notionally by schools, although ironically less so than in years when schools were open as normal. As a result, Little Proclaims and I spent a lot of time in the garden. And even though I returned to working in school at the end of April, I was only able to work on-site for the duration of the ‘school day’ which in reality represents a fraction of the time I spent in my office pre-pandemic so the garden fun was largely able to continue most afternoons. Things have slowly crept back to, if not quite normal, then ‘still quite busy’ at work and the hours I can access the site have increased as more of my colleagues and more students have also returned to the school.

But it has still felt important to continue to make time in my day to have fun with my daughter. Pre-lockdown I was in danger of becoming ‘the boring parent’, certainly on weekdays. I probably remain the ‘more boring parent’ because Mrs Proclaims applies the same level of intensity towards parenting as she does to pretty much everything, which means that Little Proclaims is phenomenally entertained by her mother, to the point that both are often exhausted by the time I get home. Nonetheless, I would still like to think that my daughter enjoys my company as much as I enjoy hers. Then again, if she enjoys spending time with me only half as much as I enjoy spending it with her then she’s still having a great time.

As lockdown has gradually eased (rightly or wrongly), though we’ve still been inclined to remain Chez Proclaims for the most part, the little one and I have ventured out for a walk most afternoons. We can’t yet access the play parks because, understandably while it is absolutely fine to gather in large numbers and drink alcohol in our local parks, it is clearly not safe to play on the swings, so Little Proclaims and I have had to make do with going to see the ducks. Some days, if we have any leftover bread, we even feed the ducks.

Obviously, as with ‘Round 1’ of Ducks versus Puddles, when I say ducks, I really mean the various associated waterfowl that frequent the bit of the Thames near where we live. But that does include ducks. And Little Proclaims does think of them all as ducks. Or sometimes canards, because as I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is quite good, for an almost-two-year-old, at speaking French.

But she doesn’t call them waterfowl. And never geese, despite the fact that the geese outnumber the other birds by a considerable amount. It’s almost as if a parental figure has taught her to call them ducks…

Anyway, she likes these little outings a lot. I often take her out when she wakes up from her afternoon nap. My child, much like her father, is not the loveliest of people when roused from slumber. She can be a little cranky post-nap and while I theoretically sympathise, because ‘morning me’ is best avoided by all, I’m never been sure how to help her snap out of her mood. But one mention of ducks and she’s a different child, straining at the leash to get out. It’ a literal leash too, because Little Proclaims is so mobile that I’ve long since given up on taking the pushchair, so she mostly gets where we’re going under her own steam. But because she has all the road safety awareness of a toddler, I have to employ the use of reigns. These come in the form of an owl-themed rucksack with a helpful cord for me to hold onto. She likes wearing the rucksack, so she doesn’t object to this limitation, and when we eventually get to a nice open field I let her run free, which she loves.

The ducks and associated waterfowl are always a source of fascination for her, and, unlike her pater, who would happily avoid the hissing velociraptor-like geese, she’s quite content to get close, unaware that there might be any danger, which apparently there isn’t, because the geese, seemingly realising that their bluff has been called, retreat more quickly at the sight of a small child in the afternoon than they do at the sight of a large man running slowly in their direction in the morning.

A couple of weeks ago I would have been quite confident in telling you that my daughter’s favourite activity at the moment is going to see (and sometimes feed) the ducks.

But then it rained for a few days and all of a sudden there were puddles galore on our outings, including a veritable ‘festival’ of puddles in a local, currently not well-used, car park that we happened upon. And I’ve never seen her happier than running and splashing in those puddles.

She still likes the ducks, but I’m pretty sure that she prefers the puddles.

There have been two key indicators:

  1. She happily walked through a pack of velociraptors – sorry flock of geese – the other day, completely oblivious to them as she made her way to, what wasn’t even that impressive, a puddle.
  2. When I coax her away from the ducks in order to return home, she sometimes objects a little. When I try and take her away from the puddles, I’m met with full toddler meltdown, the kind which draws judgmental stares from the general public, and I have to literally carry her kicking and screaming all the way home.

So, at the end of round two, the ‘entertaining my daughter during lockdown’ round, puddles are very clearly the winners.

Which means that in the clash of the titans that was ‘Ducks versus Puddles’, Puddles have actually won the series comfortabley 2-0.

And as I can’t think of any more rounds with which to assess them, then I can categorically state that puddles are better (or much much worse depending on your perspective) than ducks.

I imagine we’ve all learned something today.

 

Ducks Versus Puddles (Round 1)

James Proclaims (4)

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A couple of notes before I begin:

  1. This post is notionally about ducks, but really it’s more about geese. And a tiny bit about swans. Essentially it’s about the birds that live on the Thames, or the bit of the Thames that goes through the town of Reading. I think the collective name for such birds is waterfowl. But I tend to call them ducks, even though only a few of them are actually ducks. 
  2. It’s also about puddles, so the above picture seemed an appropriate choice. But, even though cartoon ducks (and those plastic ducks that some people have in the bath) are often yellow, I’ve never seen a yellow duck in real life. Do such creatures exist?
  3. I’ve never seen a white duck either, like Donald and the other Disney Ducks. Or Beatrix Potter’s ‘Jemima Puddle-Duck’. In fact, to my mind, Jemima Puddle-Duck looks more like a goose, and I just assumed that ‘Puddle-Duck’ was an affectionate, antiquated, name for a goose. But I googled it and it’s not; there are such things as Puddle-Ducks and they are white ducks, I just happen to not ever have seen any in real life. Which brings me back to my question about yellow ducks. Actually I could just google that too… 
  4. Although this post is about puddles and ducks, it isn’t about Jemima Puddle-Duck. We’ve dealt with her and she won’t be mentioned again.

When I partake in my thrice weekly run, I go out at ‘stupid o’clock’. ‘Stupid o’clock’ can be defined as somewhere between 5am and 6:30am. Usually it’s before 6am. I go out early. I do this mainly because there are fewer people around at that time. Because they are mostly still tucked up in bed. Which is where I’d rather be. But my desire to stay in bed is currently being out-voted by my desire to get fitter. This tends to be a temporary state of affairs in my world and I’m making the most of this current inclination towards self-improvement, so I get up at ‘stupid o’clock’ three times a week and go out for what I refer to as a run, but what many others would probably refer to as a plod. I don’t like running when other people are around because I’m not yet at the stage in my running where I feel comfortable. It’s not a vanity thing, I don’t possess a lot of dignity when I run, but few people do. It’s more that I find running so utterly joyless that it’s all I can manage to keep going most of the time. I don’t need obstacles and other people do tend to get in the way. It’s worse at the moment, because with the gyms all closed, a lot of people have taken to going out running. But at ‘stupid o’clock’ in the morning there are only a small number of intrepid souls out and about. Including yours truly.

So mostly I get to run without anyone getting in the way. Sometimes I seem to time my run at roughly the same time as the man from the council is out in his little van emptying the bins along the Thames path. This is less than ideal as, obviously being in a van he goes faster than me, but he also stops a lot to empty the bins. So it’s a weird mile or so of me overtaking him and then him overtaking me. He never actively gets in my way so it’s more of an unwelcome distraction than anything.

No, it’s mainly an obstacle free course at that time in the morning. Except for the geese. They get in the way. A lot.

The ducks don’t, they mainly stay in the river. The swans are also quite considerate. But the geese, in quite large numbers, tend to congregate on sections of the Thames path, leaving me with something of a conundrum. Do I run towards them and trust that they’ll oblige and get out of my way? I’m not the fastest runner, but I’m a fairly large person. I imagine, to a goose, the sight of me running towards them would be akin to a tractor moving towards me. I’d have plenty of time to consider my options but none of those options would include waiting for the tractor to arrive at the space I’m currently occupying. But the geese, in general, don’t seem that bothered by my presence. Or at least not especially fearful. And I don’t know if you’ve ever met a goose, but they are quite frightening. They move around in packs (I suppose technically flocks) and they resemble, to my early morning eyes, the velociraptors off of ‘Jurassic Park’. And they hiss. Quite aggressively. They’re really not very nice.

So I tend to alter my course to avoid them. Which I can’t help but feel does throw me off my stride a little.

Recently though, the weather has been a little less clement. I’ve woken up at ‘stupid o’clock’ to find that it’s raining. On such days, any sensible person would decide that outdoor exercise is a bad idea and return to the comfort of their bed. But, as previously mentioned, I hate running. So running in the rain is not especially any less appealing than running when it’s not raining. I’ve completed a few runs in conditions that some would describe as ‘nice weather for ducks’. I’m not sure if the ducks really have a preference for the rain over other meteorological conditions, but the geese do seem to behave differently. I wouldn’t say the path is clear of geese, but more of them seem to remain in the river on such days. Which means I encounter fewer feathered fences to hurdle.

So you’d think I’d go faster on such days. But alas, in place of the geese, I find numerous puddles. And they are also a hindrance. Because, while some puddles are insignificant, some are akin to small lakes and it’s harder to run around the larger puddles than it is to run around a goose.

Or course puddles don’t tend to be quite as aggressive as the geese, and they don’t hiss at me, so I can run through them without fear of being attacked. But it’s easier said than done. I’m sure more able runners, those who are solely focussed on improving their personal best, would run straight through a large puddle without a care in the world, but I’m still at a point in my running when such disregard for common sense is alien to me. Because it’s human nature to avoid puddles. So where I can I do and when I can’t, and I have to traverse the offending quagmire, I do so as delicately as possible. Which rather slows me down.

And while none of my running times are yet worthy of any kind of boasting, I’d have to say that, on balance, when my primary obstacle is puddles rather than geese, I tend to record slower times.

So, in the category of ‘Hindering Me While I Run’, puddles would have to be declared the winner.

Puddles take round 1.

But it’s not over, ducks and associated waterfowl still have a chance to level the series.

Tune in next time (whenever that is) to see if they manage to do just that.

I Am Your Father

James Proclaims (4)

Don’t be fooled by the title of the post – unless you are my almost-two-year-old daughter, I am not your father. And I’m pretty sure you’re not my daughter because, precocious though she appears to be, she can’t yet read. To the best of my knowledge anyway.

But today is Fathers Day and, as of August 2018, I am a father, so I get to celebrate today. Celebrations appear to largely consist of ‘doing what we always do on a Sunday’. Which is fine. I generally like Sundays.

Obviously there is still, notionally at least, a worldwide pandemic, rendering many celebratory activities largely off the table.

Although my understanding is that the pandemic is basically over. I mean it’s obviously not over, but having made such a colossal mess of everything, the UK government appears to be in the process of sweeping the evidence under the carpet and pretending like nothing ever happened.

So I suppose we could do something to celebrate Fathers Day after all. But I’m still relatively new to all this – it is, after all, only my second Father’s Day and last year I was very much at the ‘rabbit-trapped-in-the-headlights’ stage of my parenting adventure so I can’t recall what, if anything, we did to mark the occasion.

So far today, Little Proclaims and I have enjoyed breakfast together, as is our way on a Sunday morning. Mrs Proclaims joined us this morning, but often on a weekend it is just  the little one and me, while my much-cleverer-than-me wife gets on with studying for her PhD. While eating breakfast we watched a bit of the Disney film ‘Moana’, but, as Little Proclaims currently has the attention span of a lively toddler, we only ever get through twenty-minutes at a time.

After breakfast, I was showered with Father’s Day gifts. They were notionally from my daughter, but I suspect she was aided a little by Mrs Proclaims. It was a good selection, and included things to eat that are bad for you, which is my favourite kind of gift. I did my usual Sunday 4 mile run this morning (as opposed to Tuesdays and Thursdays when I only run 3 miles – I really do go the extra mile on a Sunday), so I’m feeling virtuous and like I probably deserve to eat bad food.

I also got a card, and a really cool Star Wars T-Shirt (to add to my Star Wars T-Shirt collection) as pictured below:

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The card (outside)

 

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The card (inside)

 

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My new favourite Star Wars-themed T-Shirt

An Overly Long Post About An Underwhelming Return To Running After Quite A Few Years Of Not Running

James Proclaims (4)

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Note – I started writing this on Sunday, but didn’t get around to finishing it until today. So every reference to ‘today’, with the exception of the one in the previous sentence, actually refers to Sunday. Not that it matters, but I’d hate for you to feel in any way deceived.

 

Today, according to my bottom-of-the-range GPS watch, I ran my second best time ever for a four mile run.

Of course one could deduce that I have, in fact, only run four miles twice in my life and today I was slower than the last time I did it.

This is not entirely true.

But it’s also not exactly untrue.

In my twenties, particularly a golden period in my mid-twenties, I could knock out a four mile run fairly effortlessly, and much more quickly than I managed today. Indeed, back in my twenties I used to run half-marathons on a pretty regular basis and on three occasions I actually managed to complete entire marathons. Technically the third was the day after my thirtieth birthday but, to be fair, the training took place while I was still in my twenties. I began my thirties in pretty good shape but it really was the start of a decade of my life when I mostly seemed to be committed to undoing all of the good work of the preceding ten years through a combination of poor dietary choices and watching too many box-sets. Although ‘The Wire’ was excellent. It’s not really relevant to this post but I can’t overstate how good that show was.

Even in my twenties I was never especially quick, but I could run for quite a long time. Nonetheless, I was almost certainly quicker than I am now.

Unfortunately, back then, I didn’t own a bottom-of-the-range GPS watch, so I had no way of tracking my performance stats when I was training. I don’t even know if such devices existed back then.

I own one now though and I’ve had it for about three years. I didn’t initially buy it to keep track of my running. Frankly, after that last marathon in 2009, I thought I’d pretty much given up running for good. It wasn’t my intention to give up but life just kept getting in the way, as life is often prone to do, and I’ve never been especially disciplined when it comes to fitness. I did briefly come out of ‘retirement’ in 2014 to run a half marathon. I did very little training and somehow completed the distance, in an admittedly lamentable time, through a combination of misplaced confidence and presumably an element of ‘muscle memory’ from my earlier endeavours.

That last half marathon was a grim experience though and I had no interest in doing it again.

But in 2017 Mrs Proclaims and I started doing quite a lot of walking. It started off relatively modestly, but we went out most weekends and we were pretty soon clocking up twenty-plus miles on our outings. So I bought the GPS watch to keep track of our progress. Alas, it had rather less energy than we did and it would frequently run out of charge long before we completed our perambulations so it was, essentially, useless.

However, in the winter of 2017 Mrs Proclaims and I had to curtail our ambitions regarding walking, due to the forthcoming arrival of Little Proclaims. Also it was winter and walking long distances is rather less fun in the winter. But we knew that, all going well, by the time the weather picked up, Mrs Proclaims would be in no condition to complete the kinds of distances we had been walking and, whether capable or not, was hardly likely to feel inclined to do so.

I have generally tried to maintain an acceptable, if not exactly impressive, level of fitness, so I’m certain I did still do some sort of exercise (albeit in an ‘on and off’ fashion, as is oft my way) throughout Mrs Proclaims’ pregnancy, but it did not tend to involve any kind of running.

However, it did occur to me that our forthcoming lifestyle change, and in particular the additional costs of having a child (which I still, even with my most pessimistic calculations, managed to woefully underestimate), might render gym membership a luxury I couldn’t really afford. So I thought about taking up running again. Because running is, if nothing else, free.

And, in April 2018, I went for a run.

I didn’t expect it to be especially easy, but I was ill-prepared for quite how horrendous the whole experience would be.

In the end I completed a mile.

A single, solitary mile.

Which would be all well and good. Not the most ambitious of beginnings, but something is better than nothing. Except that I didn’t run the whole mile. I actually ran about 40% of a mile. And then I had to stop because I was in agony. I completed the rest of the distance through a combination of walking and painful short-lived attempts to reignite the run.

It was a pretty humbling experience. I didn’t expect to be able to run a 10K on my first attempt, but to not even be able to manage a mile did seem a spectacular fall from the giddy heights of my youth.

I needed to urgently right this wrong.

For the next eight days I ran (or attempted to run) a mile every single day. And I did improve. By the end of those eight days, according to my cheap GPS watch, I was actually able, if I gave it my all, and didn’t mind collapsing in a breathless heap at the end, to run a mile at roughly the same pace as ‘most men my age’.

I’ve no idea how the pace of ‘most men my age’ was calculated, but I’d hazard an educated guess that it was ‘most men who decided to part with their cash to purchase a similar device to mine’, so it probably wasn’t the most accurate calculation. Still, I was quietly pleased, in eight days, to have improved from that pitiful first effort.

And in order to build on this success, I promptly gave up running again.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself spending a lot of time in hospital. The birth of my daughter, was not a straightforward affair and while Little Proclaims thankfully came out of the ordeal relatively unscathed, Mrs Proclaims was not so lucky and was in quite a bad way for a few days. My wife and new-born child were not discharged for the best part of a week, and while I did occasionally venture home to sleep, I was mostly there with them. But they were both asleep for quite a lot of the time, so I spent some of that time reading. And, although I mostly tend to read novels, my attention span was somewhat lacking during that week, so instead I found myself reading some of those collections of newspaper columns that comedians like to repackage as books around Christmas time. One such compendium was by Charlie Brooker and it was a pretty good way of taking my mind off what was a very surreal and stressful situation (my wife’s long term prognosis was actually pretty good, but she was really not well for those few days in hospital, which was hardly the ideal introduction to parenthood for either of us). Anyway, one of the recycled articles in Charlie Brooker’s book, was about how he, despite not being someone who particularly enjoyed ‘keeping fit’, had taken up running regularly by completing one of those couch to 5K apps.

And I thought to myself, if Charlie Brooker can do it, then so can I. Although he has also forged an extremely successful writing career on a variety of platforms, and I, despite often claiming I would like to do that, have never come anywhere close to making that happen. So I’ve no idea why I thought Charlie Brooker’s achievements should serve as a baseline for my own ambitions.

Anyway, once my wife and daughter had been discharged from hospital, and after we’d had a few weeks to adjust to life as parents, I downloaded the same running app and started running 3 times a week. And I really enjoyed it. As is no doubt the case with similar apps, the programme starts you off very gently so the first few weeks were eminently manageable, particularly for a man who could run a mile at roughly the same pace as most men his age. And after five weeks or so I was building nicely towards a regular running routine.

So obviously I gave up again.

To be fair, being a new parent is exhausting enough and there were a lot of other irritating things like ‘having to go to work’ and ‘thinking about but not actually writing my MA dissertation’ that were getting in the way too.

After a few weeks of complete inactivity, I did take up swimming again, which is a form of exercise I much prefer. Even that was a bit stop-start for a few months, but once I’d finally put my MA dissertation to bed I did invest quite heavily in the swimming and by the time my daughter’s first birthday rolled around, I was relatively fit again.

So much so that once again I started running. I didn’t bother with the app, I just decided to try and run 5K straight away, and although it was pretty miserable and painful and even though I was still pretty slow, my recently acquired swimming-induced fitness meant that I was able to do it. This time I kept up a routine of running three times a week.

And I lasted an entire three weeks before again giving up.

I stuck with the swimming, which I much preferred and that did seem to be enough to keep me in relatively good shape until November when a series of ear infections kept me out of the pool until the end of January.

If you’re going to stop exercising regularly, then the period between November and January is not ideal.

And although I was able to return to the pool, my GP advised me against swimming daily, as I had previously been doing, because she was obviously getting fed up with constantly prescribing antibiotics.

So in February I started running again, alongside a much reduced swimming regime. But after the excess of festive food and a lack of training over Christmas, I decided once again to turn to the app in order to try an establish a manageable routine.

And much like before I quite enjoyed the first few weeks because they really aren’t that strenuous. But, by around week five, I was starting to look a little shaky and was fairly convinced that once again I’d be ditching the running and risking further ear infections by upping my time in the pool.

And then a certain pandemic happened.

And suddenly the swimming pool was closed indefinitely (and indeed still is) and running was all I had.

So I stuck with it and completed all nine weeks of the couch to 5K app.

And on the last day, I expected the little voice in my ear, the one that had been encouraging me for all those weeks, to make a bit more of a fuss than she actually did. But there was no pomp or ceremony. The app gave me no closure. It was almost as if it was an emotionless piece of software.

However, I had achieved the goal of running three times a week for nine weeks.

But, during that time, the entire world had taken up running. So I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to continue. After nine weeks I didn’t really enjoy running any more than I when I started, and in any case, I particularly dislike running when there are lots of other people also running.

Nonetheless, I dusted off my GPS watch for the first of my post-app runs (having previously decided that none of the app-inspired runs needed to be recorded for posterity).  I expected to see a vast improvement from my August/September running pace and lo and behold, I discovered that I was , if anything, even slower.

But I suppose the app did instil a routine because I completed it some time in April and I’ve stuck with my three-times-a-week running schedule for a while now.

I’m a little bit faster but it’s certainly nothing to brag about.

The agonising pain seems to have gone though, which seems like a good thing.

I’m still a long way off even thinking about running marathons again.

But this morning I ran four miles for the second time in as many weeks. And four miles is better than no miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zooming Away To Another Meeting

James Proclaims (4)

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I’m in a meeting as I write this. It is, as most meetings are these days, a ‘virtual’ meeting. I’m currently using Zoom. I have also used Teams quite a lot. I don’t like either very much.

I’ve never written a blog post in a meeting before, however, as there are 42 people in this meeting and no-one can see or hear me, due to the fact that my camera and microphone are switched off,  I thought it would be a better way of spending the time, rather than actually listening.

I’ve also ‘left’ the meeting to make multiple hot beverages, while still, as far as anyone knew, remaining ‘in the room’.

The meeting has been going on for 45 minutes and is showing no signs of ending any time soon, certainly not within the advertised time span. Hardly any of the agenda items pertain to me. In fact none of them directly pertain to me, but there were a couple of bits that were vaguely useful for me to know about in an abstract way. Those agenda items have long since passed. However, in that respect, this is no different to how these meetings tend to work in ‘real life’.

I can’t write a blog post in the real meetings though.

But I can in this.

I’ve certainly found writing it more diverting than listening to the various people who have been permitted to have their microphones on during the meeting.

Except for the bit when one of the more senior members of staff was struggling with a poor internet connection and sounded a bit like a broken robot. Mainly because people were telling him they couldn’t hear him properly but he also couldn’t hear them so he kept going on and on and people were clearly getting quite vexed by the whole thing.

I enjoy the vexation of others as long as the source of their vexation is not vexing to me. Which this wasn’t.

But in general I do find meetings to be vexing, and virtual meetings are possibly more vexatious than real life meetings.

Some virtual meetings require me to be an active and engaged participant. They are the worst.

This one didn’t though, so I can hardly be blamed for not giving it my full attention.

 

My Toddler Thinks I’m An Idiot

James Proclaims (4)

teddy-2012851_640I think I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but wife and I are attempting to bring our daughter up to be bilingual.

This stems from our own love of languages – both of us have an undergraduate degree in French Studies. Indeed, that is how we met in the first place.

Having said that, there is little comparison between Mrs Proclaims and I in terms of our mastery of other languages. I scraped through my undergrad course, with what many people refer to as ‘the drinkers degree’. Which, in my case, would be a fair summary. Mrs Proclaims not only secured a First on that particular course (and quite comfortably as I recall) but very quickly obtained an MA in eighteenth century French Literature and is currently working on PhD on nineteenth century French Literature. She’s completely fluent in French, highly competent in Spanish  and a few years back studied Latin, in her spare time, for fun.

Of course I can speak French perfectly well, and were we in a bar in Paris, I could competently order a round of beers. That’s mostly what I spent my time in Paris doing. But my French was never as good as that of my wife and in the ensuing years (and it’s been more years than I care to admit) since we left our undergraduate days behind us, though I have occasionally dabbled as a French teacher, I have mostly pursued occupations which have had very little to do with the language and consequently the gap in our ability has increased.

Nonetheless, I have been very much a part of developing my daughter’s vocabulary in French and as well as speaking to her in French, I frequently read her books in French and watch cartoons with her in French.

In these corona times, she has been deprived of access to toddler groups and the like and consequently has probably been exposed to more French than English, given that we do use the language a lot at home. We’ve noticed that she has a definite preference for speaking the former. Which is pretty positive as I have no doubt that once the ‘new normal’ kicks in and she’s exposed to more English through the medium of ‘just living in England’ that things will balance out.

But had I any fears that Little Proclaims was developing her French at the expense of her English, I need not have worried.

Because my daughter has clearly noticed the difference in competence between my wife and I. Just the other day, Little Proclaims and I were out for a walk and an aeroplane flew overhead.

She looked up in wonder and excitedly exclaimed “Avion!”

Then she looked at me, with pity in her eyes and calmly translated for me.

“Plane.”

 

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

James Proclaims (4)

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As is the case for most people, it has been a while since I had a haircut.

Not that this is anything new, I’m more than a little familiar with the ‘unkempt’ look. It’s kind of my style really.

Still, even by my standards I’m looking less kempt than usual. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t see anyone anyway. And I have a hat for the occasions I need to venture out.

And Mrs Proclaims says she likes my hair longer, so there’s no problem on the marital front.

Except that she wants to cut my hair.

Not because she thinks I really need a haircut, but because she just wants to play at being a hairdresser.

Now my wife has many talents, she is an exceptionally gifted linguist, a high-achieving academic and a wonderful mother to our daughter.

But she is not a hairdresser. And her claims that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she was a little girl don’t, in my eyes, qualify her for the job.

After all, I had dreams of being a rock star, but I won’t be headlining Glastonbury any time soon. And not just because the festival has been cancelled this year.

So I am refusing to let her cut my hair.

Some might call me belligerent, others may call me vain. And I’m fine with either of those labels – they both are fairly true.

But I’d still prefer to hang on a bit longer.

If nothing else, growing my hair a bit might help to establish more of a ‘rock star’ look, which could, in turn,  secure me that headline slot at Glastonbury for 2021.

 

 

 

Que Sera Sera

James Proclaims (4)

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Having been largely dormant for much of 2019, my blog has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late.

This may be a natural consequence of all that is going on in the world.

Then again, although it is abundantly clear, even to an introvert like me, that social norms appear to have changed for most of us (or at least those of us who don’t work as special advisors to the prime minister) aside from having to queue to get into supermarkets, not much has really changed for me.

Because I am the father of a very small person. A toddler if you will. So I never got to see anyone or do anything anyway.

Obviously I’m being slightly glib. I think. I’m not actually sure what ‘glib’ means, but it seems appropriate to use it here.

Yep, I’ve just looked it up and it was the right word.

I’m being as glib as a politician who tells you that they are being guided by the science.

Obviously life has changed for me in the last few months, but not as profoundly, I don’t think, as it probably has for people who like spending time with, y’know, other people. And who don’t have an adorable yet demanding small person in their lives.

But, even though I have mostly still been at work (and yes, I actually have been ‘at work’ rather than working from home, for quite a few weeks now, since I established that, as no-one else was there, it was as easy to social distance in my office as at home and far far easier to pretend to be working hard there), my job has changed quite a lot. Because I work in a secondary school, not strictly speaking as a teacher (though I could if I wanted to, I have the relevant pieces of paper that permit me to teach children how to not fail exams, which has, essentially been the main focus of the British education system for many a year now, not least since, fairly early in the decade just gone, when Mr Gove and his special advisor, a certain Mr Cummings, decided that anything resembling a holistic education for children was a massive waste of time), but as someone who attends lots of meetings in which many things are discussed but nothing is ever resolved. And though I have had to attend a lot of the same meetings ‘virtually’ and complete lots of unnecessary paperwork that no-one will ever read, the absence of any actual children in school has been different to say the least.

I’ve still been busy, but there have been fewer distractions and so I may have had a little more time to blog. On the other hand, for the last two months I’ve been blogging predominantly about music and Star Wars, and I’d been planning on doing that regardless of ‘you know what’. The birth of my daughter in August 2018 resulted in the latter part of 2018 and most of 2019 being quite unproductive in blogging terms. Because it turns out that being a new parent is both time-consuming and exhausting. Who knew? Roughly 65% of the posts I wrote between June 2018 and March 2020 were the Christmas-Adjacent movie reviews I write in the build-up to Christmas. And no-one ever reads those. So I’d pretty much decided that I needed to have a couple of ‘blog projects’ that didn’t rely on me writing about movies that may have a tenuous link to Christmas. And I’d planned my April ‘A-Z of albums’  some time in advance of writing the posts. I planned the Star Wars thing a little less well, but notionally I thought it might be fun to do a long time before May arrived. And I was right, it was fun to do.

There’s no doubt that having slightly more time, due to world events, has helped my blog stumble back into existence, but I like to think I would have written most of what I have written without the need for a global pandemic.

But now we’re in June.

And I haven’t planned anything for June.

Except to write the same sort of stuff as I was writing before my extended paternity leave from the blogosphere.

And I can’t quite remember what that was.

I have vague recollections of writing something about soup once.

And I’m pretty certain there was something about the etiquette of waving on a boat.

And I expect I moaned about Brexit a few times.

And there was definitely a lot of bad poetry.

And some stuff was just plain weird.

Anyway, the point, if indeed there is a point, is that I’ve definitely re-discovered my love of blogging, which should mean that there will be a fair amount of content on these pages in the coming months.

But I offer no guarantees as to the quality of that content.

 

 

 

May The Thirty-First Be With You: Impossible To See The Future Is

James Proclaims (4)

star wars

And so we arrive at day 31 of May 2020, which means that my month long homage to Star Wars can finally end.

Which is something of a relief because, aside from vaguely thinking it might be quite funny to extrapolate the flimsy premise that the 4th of May is ‘Star Wars Day’ into the completely ridiculous premise that the whole of May could be ‘Star Wars Month’ I didn’t really think this through at all.

So, although I’ve watched most of the movies to the point where I could probably recite them word for word, I had no idea how I would fill a whole month of posts with Star Wars related content.

I’ve been pretty much winging it since day 10, but somehow I appear to have achieved my goal. It’s not much of an achievement, all things considered, but I am strangely proud of it nonetheless.

But what of the future?

“Impossible to see the future is,” according to Yoda, but given that he utters that line in ‘Attack of the Clones‘ then it’s not even true, because you can definitely ‘see the future’ from his perspective if you watch the original trilogy.

But will there be enough new Star Wars stuff for me to be able to do another month-long tribute to Star Wars next year?

Arguably there already is.

I didn’t watch all of the animated shows in their entirety, so there’s every chance I could write more about those next year. Whether anyone would want to read about them is another matter…

Series 2 of ‘The Mandalorian‘ is also due to come out before May 2021 rolls around so I’d be able to write about that.

There are also quite a few Lego Star Wars series that I haven’t seen yet.

And I didn’t even come close to writing about the various parodies of Star Wars that are out there, such as Family Guy and Robot Chicken and…erm…well definitely those two anyway.

And there’s the 1987 Mel Brooks spoof, ‘Spaceballs’.

And given that Star Wars was originally a kind of homage to ‘Flash Gordon’ then 1980’s ‘Flash Gordon’ movie would surely be deserving of a post. Not least because Ming the Merciless turned up in ‘The Force Awakens‘.

And lest we forget, there is a Star Wars reference in the second Indiana Jones film, when he pops into Club Obi Wan to get poisoned and have a fight. Surely that would be reason enough to write about all of the Indiana Jones movies?

And, although I had a few cheat posts this time around when I wrote about mugs, T-shirts, Mr Potato Head and a towel, I still have plenty of Star Wars merchandise on hand to produce a whole range of filler posts. And way too many action figures for a man of my age.

So even though I appear to have already scraped the Star Wars barrel, I can sink to even murkier depths and it is more than possible that ‘May the 2021’ will be with me. I’m not sure if that would be wise. I’ve always struggled with the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Probably because I’m not a Jedi.

But what of the future of Star Wars in more general terms.

In spite of the box office failure of ‘Solo‘, the general antipathy towards ‘The Rise of Skywalker‘ and the fairly polarised views surrounding ‘The Last Jedi‘ (all of which were films that I liked anyway), there appears to be quite a lot to be optimistic about.

The Mandalorian‘ and ‘Rogue One‘ are obvious templates for future projects – new stories in the Star Wars universe that aren’t bogged down by the weight of expectation surrounding anyone called Skywalker. Or Palpatine. Or Solo. Or Organa. Or Calrissian. Well ok probably not Calrissian.

Also, ‘The Mandalorian’ proved that Star Wars could work on the small screen. Provided it has a big screen budget…

And there are at least two Star Wars shows that seem almost certain to happen. The first is going to centre around the character of Cassian Andor (and perhaps more importantly K2SO) from ‘Rogue One‘. I’d watch that. The second is potentially more exciting, as Ewan McGregor is set to reprise his role as Obi Wan Kenobi. I can’t wait for that.

There are also potentially more movies on the horizon, with Taika Waititi apparently confirmed to be directing a stand-alone movie, which is definitely exciting.

And, depending on how you feel about ‘The Last Jedi’ (which I loved) the fact that Rian Johnson is still seemingly due to make an entirely new Star Wars trilogy is either going to be something to look forward to or something to dread. But I’m definitely looking forward to it.

I’m looking forward to all of it.

If, of course, any of it happens.

But it’s hard to be certain.

Impossible to see the future is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May The Thirtieth Be With You: The Mandalorian

James Proclaims (4)

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‘The Mandalorian’ arrived late to the UK, given that Disney Plus didn’t launch here until March, having been available elsewhere as early as November. However, the hype arrived a long time before that and, consequently, this show had a lot to live up to by the time I got around to watching it.

Probably more so for me, given that I’ve just re-watched all of the movies and quite a lot of other Star Wars related stuff in order to be able to spend this entire month writing about the franchise, in what, I began to realise some weeks ago, was quite an ill-conceived and fairly pointless project.

But we’ve all had to get through lockdown in our own way haven’t we? I couldn’t escape to a farm in Durham, so I had to escape to ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’. Which was probably the more ethical choice really.

Anyway, I saved writing about ‘The Mandalorian’ until last (I know there is one more day of May, but I thought I’d use that to craft some kind of ‘conclusion’ to this madness), because, based on everything I’d read, looking at who was involved and considering its astronomical budget, I pretty much expected it to be excellent.

And, having just watched the last episode of series one, I can confirm that it ticked all the right boxes for me. I can’t wait until series two.

But before I go any further, I should, for the sake of completion if nothing else, issue my final spoiler alert of the month:

Spoiler alert: I’m going to write about ‘The Mandalorian’ now. I doubt I’ll give too much of the plot away, but there may still be one or two spoilers in the text that follows. Because this is the way.

The first live-action Star Wars ‘TV show’ was always going to be a bit of a risk given the notoriously difficult to meet expectations of Star Wars fans, but ‘The Mandalorian’ is almost a masterclass in expectation management.

Firstly, it’s set between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens’ but much closer to the former, which is pretty much a blank canvas in terms of the Star Wars chronology. Perhaps that period has been covered in some of the novels, but there are no existing movies or cartoons set in the time period. Also, the sequel trilogy rendered a lot of the novels non-canon, so it’s fairly likely that there won’t be any existing Star Wars material that massively contradicts the events covered within the show.

Secondly, ‘The Mandalorian’ is deliberately set in the outer reaches of the galaxy, pretty far away from any likely era-defining events, and certainly far away from any Skywalkers. There’s not even a cameo for C3PO. And he normally turns up in everything, whether you want him to or not.

Thirdly, it centres around the coolest looking characters in the Star Wars universe – the Mandalorians. They’re cool because they all dress like Boba Fett, who was pretty much everyone’s favourite action figure. But, Boba Fett never really did anything in the movies and wasn’t even a proper Mandalorian, so the first live-action incarnation of the Mandalorians was also a fairly blank canvas. They did turn up in the various cartoon series a bit, but there was still plenty of room for interpretation in this show. As long as they looked a bit like Boba Fett. Which they did.

‘The Mandalorian’ manages to strike the (not always easy) balance of providing lots of references for die-hard Star Wars fans, while trying to be accessible to anyone who is coming to this without any knowledge of the movies. It’s hard to be objective, I am obviously a massive Star Wars fan, but I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy this show even if it wasn’t based on Star Wars. It looks and feels like Star Wars a lot of the time, but it is also very much its own thing and there were times when it reminded me a bit of the brilliant and short-lived 2002 show ‘Firefly’, which is probably not that surprising given that it would be reasonable to describe both shows as ‘Space Westerns’.

‘The Mandalorian’ is definitely a Star Wars show, but its greatest strength in many respects, is that it isn’t too ‘Star-Wars-y’. There are stormtroopers, X-Wings, and Tie-Fighters but there isn’t a Jedi in sight. Apart from ‘Baby Yoda’. But he isn’t technically a Jedi. Oh and there are no lightsabers. There is a darksaber. Which is a bit like a lightsaber. But it definitely isn’t a lightsaber. Although I couldn’t really tell you the difference.

The Force is strong with ‘The Mandalorian’ but it’s quite possibly because the Force isn’t in it very much.

Best character  – The Child (AKA Baby Yoda)

Baby-Yoda-in-The-Mandalorian-Chapter-4

Having been bombarded with ‘Baby Yoda’ memes for months before actually getting to see the character on-screen, I was apprehensive to say the least. But, while he has no dialogue, and is played, essentially, by a puppet, it’s hard to see past this little fella as the best thing about the show. Which is harsh on the titular character  who is pretty fantastic too. Although, if I hadn’t gone with ‘Baby Yoda’ I’d probably have gone with Taika Waititi’s IG11 rather than The Mandalorian, so he wouldn’t have got a look-in anyway. 

Worst character – Toro Calican

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I didn’t hate him or anything, but the show was mostly full of eminently likeable (if admittedly fairly two-dimensional) characters and this guy was pretty much the one exception. Being a bounty hunter without any of the requisite skills makes him one of the least cool characters anyway but then he kills off a character who had the potential to be genuinely pretty cool in Fennec Shand, before she got a chance to actually do anything cool. Which makes Toro even less cool.

Unsung hero – Paz Visla

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This honour could have gone to more significant characters, such as the aforementioned IG11, or the Nick-Nolte-voiced Kuiil, both of who sacrifice themselves to save ‘The Child’. However, Paz Visla gets the nod, because he’s a Mandalorian, in a show called ‘The Mandalorian’ and he’s barely in it.  Also, when he is in it, he goes out of his way to save the life of the titular Mandalorian, even though it’s been established in an earlier scene that he doesn’t really like him.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘The Mandalorian’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write some sort of conclusion to my month long tribute to Star Wars in an effort to justify what has, almost certainly, been a colossal waste of time.

I have spoken.

 

May The Twenty-Ninth Be With You: Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales

James Proclaims (4)

lego

When I was a kid, Lego was essentially a load of plastic bricks that you tried (and generally failed) to build stuff out of. Even back then you could buy kits that had particular themes, I remember having a space themed set, but by and large most new packs of Lego were just dumped in with any you already owned, you built what you could out of what you had and your imagination did the rest. It was pretty good fun, everyone had a set, but hardly anyone would have said it was their favourite toy. Even if it was their favourite toy. It was ok to like Lego, but it wasn’t especially cool.

At some point that changed and these days you can get Lego in all kinds of different themes, and many of them are linked in some way, shape or form to major movie franchises. The likes DC and Marvel, Disney, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Ninja Turtles and countless others have been represented in small plastic brick form at one point or another.

And obviously Star Wars is no exception.

But Lego has become more than just small plastic bricks in recent years and most people would be familiar with 2014’s ‘Lego Movie’ and it’s subsequent sequels and spinoffs. Cynical marketing ploys or not, they are definitely entertaining and frankly hardly any animated feature film isn’t a little bit about selling lots of toys, so I’m not going to hold it against Lego – at least they had the decency to make their movie enjoyable.

People might be less familiar with the various Lego short films, and TV specials which are also available for consumption on various platforms. But there are a lot of them.

And again, Star Wars is quite well represented.

And given that some of them are on Disney Plus, which has been something of a facilitator in my making my month-long tribute to Star Wars possible, I thought I might watch one of them.

There were a few to choose from, including a proper full length TV series called ‘The Freemaker Adventures’. But that was too long, given how much other content I’ve been trying to cram in.

So instead I went for a shorter series, called ‘Droid Tales’, which consisted of five twenty-minute episodes.

And I’m going to write about it now.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: Are you really planning on watching a Lego Star Wars cartoon? Really? And you’ve decided, out of all the various options available, you’re going to watch the one I’m writing about here? Ok, well then I might spoil it for you if you read on. But probably not, because it is, after all, a Lego Star Wars cartoon and it’s probably not worth being that precious about plot details.

I actually did really enjoy this and not in a ‘it was slightly better than I thought it would be’ way but in a ‘that was really funny and very well made’ kind of way.

It’s genuinely really good. It’s not really Star Wars as you know it, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a parody more than anything. Made of Lego.

I suppose, having seen the Lego movie and 2017’s ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ I should been expecting this to be quite tongue-in-cheek, but it really is laugh out loud funny.

In essence, ‘Droid Tales’ is a recap of the first six movies, as told by C3PO (who is, as always, voiced by Anthony Daniels). But it’s also a complete send-up of the movies. It’s all in good taste and it’s done very affectionately, but it doesn’t take any prisoners and ‘The Phantom Menace’ is mocked pretty mercilessly.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed everything Star Wars related I’ve watched in the last month, but, given that I really only watched this on a bit of a whim, I’d have to say it was a surprising highlight and I’ll now definitely be watching all of the other Lego Star Wars cartoons at some point in the near future.

Best character – Palpatine

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Most of the characters are pretty funny, but Palpatine made me laugh more than most. Probably because he is still, even as Lego, completely evil, although somewhat less competent in small plastic brick form.

Worst character – Admiral Ackbar

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The characters tend to be funnier when they are exaggerations of their movie personas and Admiral Ackbar, possibly because he is essentially a minor character in the films, is less based on source material and the joke seems to be mainly about him having a spaceship called Daisy-Mae. Which isn’t all that funny really.

Unsung Heroes – Chewbacca and Nien Nunb

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Because they cut short their holiday to help C3PO find R2D2 and also because they are wearing Hawaiian shirts. Which is pretty funny.

 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Droid Tales’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about ‘The Mandalorian’. And about time too…

May The Twenty-Eighth Be With You: Star Wars: Resistance

James Proclaims (4)

star-wars-resistance

As with ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’and ‘Star Wars: Rebels‘ I can’t claim to have seen every episode of this animated show. At the time of writing I have seen series one in its entirety but I’ve yet to see any of the second (and as it turns out final) series.

In fairness to me, although time was a factor, series two is not yet available on Disney Plus in the UK. I’m pretty sure I could have found it in other, less legal, corners of the internet, but, given that I’ve been operating on a pretty tight viewing schedule for most of this month, I thought series one would suffice for this post.

And I think it just about does, although I’m glad I did watch the first series to the end because frankly my views on the show after watching a few of the early episodes were very different to my views now I’ve seen twenty-one episodes.

But before all that, please enjoy this spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen series one of this show, then the following may contain spoilers. But it’s highly unlikely to contain spoilers for series two, because I obviously have no idea what happens in that. 

Up until about halfway through this series (roughly around episode ten) I was pretty convinced I was going to be writing a pretty scathing post about this show. The animation, though stylistically very different to either ‘The Clone Wars’ or ‘Rebels’ is obviously of a high standard. But that was about all I could say that was remotely positive.

Just as ‘The Clone Wars’ is clearly linked with the prequel trilogy and ‘Rebels’ has some pretty obvious links with the original trilogy, this series is very much tied in with the sequel trilogy.

Except that it doesn’t seem like it really is in the early episodes. In fact it doesn’t much feel like it’s got anything to do with Star Wars at all.

Poe Dameron (voiced by Oscar Isaac no less) is in a few episodes, and ‘R2D2 wannabe’, BB8, is a regular up until episode 17 but that’s more or less it. OK, ‘Galactic Empire wannabes’ The First Order are also in it a fair bit, but mainly in the background – Gwendoline Christie voices Captain Phasma in a few early episodes but she’s barely in it really. The main antagonists early on are pirates. Pirates! And a lot of the early action seems to focus on racing. Not exactly pod racing like in ‘The Phantom Menace’, but not a million miles away either. 

The premise is that the main character, Kaz, is working undercover for The Resistance on an aircraft refuelling station, which isn’t all that enthralling as concepts go. Most of the early episodes are less about him spying on the First Order and more about him trying to fit in with his new surroundings. Which is as dull as it sounds. And frankly he’s a bit of an idiot. I’m not quite sure why the Resistance have recruited him.

Anyway, it’s all a bit silly and lightweight and not really much to do with Star Wars and most of the characters are quite hard to like.

And then all of a sudden it gets a lot darker and The First Order suddenly become quite prominent and Kaz stops being quite so much of an idiot and seems to be a vaguely competent spy after all.

And even though I thought I was quite indifferent to it all, I actually found myself quite enjoying the last few episodes.

And I’m now actually quite looking forward to watching series 2.

Best character – Neeku Vozo

Neeku_Vozo

Takes everything he hears literally which mostly results in the show’s funniest moments. Can be hit and miss as a source of comic relief and does have the potential to be an irritating character, but is generally too endearing to ever be truly annoying.

Worst Character – Jarek Yeager

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Meant to be a world-weary but ultimately wise and caring mentor for Kaz. Mostly comes across as grumpy and a bit of a killjoy. Has a bit more about him in the later episodes but will need to put in more of shift in series two for me not to regard him as a rubbish character.

Unsung hero – CB23

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BB8 is with Kaz in the first 17 episodes and in the few episodes we see Poe he is accompanied by CB23. Then Poe decides he wants BB8 back and swaps him for CB23, who is then with Kaz in the final four episodes of the series. And clearly is just as good as BB8. So why does Poe feel the need to swap? Harsh.

And that’s all I currently have to say about ‘Star Wars: Resistance’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about something else to do with Star Wars.

May The Twenty-Seventh Be With You: Star Wars: Rebels

James Proclaims (4)

rebels

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have been somewhat unsuccessful in my attempts to watch every episode of every show in the Star Wars canon before the end of this month (although I’ve given it a pretty good go).

Unfortunately this 2014 successor to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ is one of the shows I haven’t been able to view in it’s entirety.

But I’ve watched a few episodes and I’d never let a little thing like ‘not really knowing my subject matter’ stop me from writing a blog post about it.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: I’m only up to about a third of the way through series 2 of this, so please don’t ruin it for me. Although if you haven’t seen any episodes, I suppose there’s still a small chance I could spoil it for you in the rest of this post.

I really like this cartoon. It’s very different in tone and style to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and some might say it suffers by comparison.

I haven’t seen enough to fully inform my views but I’d say that what I’ve seen so far holds up pretty well and there are definitely elements about this that I prefer.

The main things I like are probably nostalgia driven, because this show is chronologically much closer to the original trilogy. Which means that we get proper Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers and Star Destroyers.

Oh and we get Darth Vader. He’s not in every episode, but he shows up a few times and he’s voiced by James Earl Jones and everything.

And so far in the episodes I’ve watched, we’ve also had Lando (voiced by Billy Dee Williams) and C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels but that’s less of a novelty because C3PO is in all the Star Wars cartoons and he’s always voiced by Anthony Daniels). Grand Moff Tarkin has also been in some episodes although obviously not voiced by the original actor. But it was still nice to see him feature.

There are also recurrent characters from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, notably Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, who were two of my favourites from that show and who are voiced in this by the same actors.

And while they haven’t yet shown up, I’m fairly certain from the marketing I’ve seen around this show that Obi Wan Kenobi (the older version from the original trilogy) and Darth Maul (who seems to be making the most of his implausible resurrection) are both going to show up too.

But the show really hinges on its central characters. I don’t really know how I feel about them yet, but so far I’m fairly optimistic. There’s no-one I actively dislike and potentially by the time I’ve got through all of the episodes there’ll be a few who’ll be up there with my favourites.

All the core characters in this were essentially new to Star Wars when this show first aired, which means they had no existing capital with fans (which seemingly can be a problem for some Star Wars fans). It does, however, leave a lot more room for character development, which, even though I’m still not that far into it, is already apparent in the episodes I have seen.

Aside from trying to win over the fans, the main problem with introducing new characters, particularly in a show that is set a few years before the original trilogy, is the difficulty in explaining why these characters aren’t around in those movies.

Particularly as, so far, we’ve got two Jedi in Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger, as well as the aforementioned Ahsoka, who isn’t technically a Jedi anymore but who still knows how to wield a lightsaber like the best of them. And there are no shortage of bad guys with red lightsabers called the inquisitors who are also not in the movies. Although at the stage I’m at with my viewing, one of those is already dead, so maybe the others will follow suit.

But will the good guys also die?

And if not, how will the show resolve itself to explain their absence from the movies, given that they are very much part of the Rebel Alliance?

Obviously I’ve done a lot of reading about Star Wars in recent weeks so, unfortunately, I have subjected myself to some spoilers and my understanding is that the show will have answered my questions by the time I get to the final episode.

To be fair, I’m not too precious about such things really, as long as the show is entertaining.

And on the evidence I’ve seen so far, ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ is a pretty good watch.

Best character (so far) – Ezra Bridger

ezra

The force is strong with this one. He’s a bit of an archetype, but I quite like him because in many ways he represents what I always imagined the young Anakin Skywalker should have been in ‘The Phantom Menace’. Rather than the Anakin we actually got in ‘The Phantom Menace’…

Worst Character (so far)  – Chopper

chopper

He’s like R2D2 but with a bad attitude. Sometimes he’s funny but he’s often quite annoying and frankly he’s a liability. Given the general disposability of droids in the rest of Star Wars, it’s a wonder the other characters in this bother to keep him around.

Unsung hero – Minister Tua

tua

Initially presented as a fairly unsympathetic official working for the Empire, not exactly evil but not especially nice. But with the arrival of Darth Vader things take a darker turn and she realises she’s out of her depth. Tries to defect to the Rebels and gets blown up for her troubles. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Star Wars: Rebels’. Which is actually quite a lot given how few episodes I’ve seen. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write about another show I haven’t seen in its entirety.

 

 

May The Twenty-Sixth Be With You: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Series)

James Proclaims (4)

Star_Wars_The_Clone_Wars

In all honesty, when I started this month long homage to Star Wars, I wasn’t actually planning on doing much more than writing about the nine movies of the ‘Skywalker Saga’ in episode order over the first nine days of the month. Then I thought, given that I’d seen both ‘Solo‘ and ‘Rogue One‘, I might as well write about those. Then it occurred to me that as I had, in the past, sat through the appalling ‘Holiday Special‘ I should probably write about that too. And once I’d committed to that, it seemed a shame not to include the Ewok movies, especially as the first of those was the very first movie I ever saw in the cinema.

Throw in a few posts with pictures of the various Star Wars merchandise that I own, and I probably had enough material to write about Star Wars for quite a few days.

But to write about it for the whole month?

To achieve that I’d have to watch the various TV series. And, aside from the Ewok cartoon of the eighties and the 2003 show ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars‘, I hadn’t seen a great deal of the animated shows really. And I hadn’t seen the Ewok cartoon since the eighties, so I’d definitely have to re-watch that in order to be able to write about it.

So, as well as writing a lot about Star Wars, I have spent most of this month (and quite a lot of the previous month) watching Star Wars in its various guises.

Which has been made easier, thanks to the UK launch, in March, of Disney Plus, which has made a lot Star Wars content available in one place. Although my quest has still meant some foraging around elsewhere on the internet. Particularly for Ewoks.

But still, it has been quite an undertaking and I have rather failed in my bid to watch everything.

Obviously if I was experiencing the kind of lockdown that the media would have us believe is the norm, I would have had plenty of time, but I have mostly still been working and when not working I have my little girl to look after. And she isn’t a massive Star Wars fan.

Yet.

I’m working on it but she still prefers Peppa Pig.

I have made a pretty good effort to cover the whole Star Wars back catalogue.

And I’ve watched enough episodes of enough of the series to be able to post something about most of them.

Which is a relief, because if I’m going to undertake a pointless month-long project, I’d hate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Like the Empire frequently does.

But it would be lying to claim I’ve watched every episode of every show.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled to watch everything in it’s entirety is the series I’m writing about today. Because there are a lot of episodes of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’.

I have managed to get through most of them, but at the time of writing I’ve yet to see series six and seven. I will watch both of them (because I am now a big fan of this cartoon) but as the show essentially wrapped up at the end of series five in 2014, with series six almost being viewed as bonus material (it’s subtitled ‘The Lost Missions’) and series seven essentially a short revival of the series made this year specifically for Disney Plus, it’s fair to say I’ve probably got a relatively good handle on the show, having watched the first 108 episodes (and of course the movie, which I’ve already written about).

But before I go any further, I will issue my now customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This is a brilliant show and you should definitely watch it, but I am potentially going to reveal some plot details from this point onwards. Although there are a lot of episodes and consequently there are also a lot of intersecting plotlines and there’s no way I could cover them all, so it’ll probably be fine.

Not to be confused with the excellent, but very brief, 2003 cartoon, ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’, which is only a definite article away from having the same name, ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ essentially renders that earlier cartoon null and void in the sense that both tell the story of what happened between ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ but they tell very different stories.

Nonetheless the 2008 cartoon is arguably even more brilliant than its shorter predecessor.

It didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings.  The movie which introduced the series was not beloved by critics. I can understand some of the animosity directed towards that particular cinematic release, not least when viewed as a stand-alone movie, but I still think the critics were overly harsh. And when viewed as part of the series as a whole, the movie does work quite well. However, it’s nowhere near as strong as the series would go on to be.

Obviously a lot of the action is centred around Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, with the former being easily the best incarnation of that particular character. This is an Anakin Skywalker that is played by someone who can act, which really helps, but he also benefits from some well written storylines and some actual character development (as opposed to just having different hairstyles). It’s easy to believe that this Anakin was a genuine hero, but equally, his darker traits, though often subtle, are also there to see and once in a while he really loses it and is not a million miles away from the Darth Vader we know and love from the original movies. The dialogue is also well written, with this version of Anakin quite often adopting a turn of phrase that we hear Darth Vader say in the movies. Which as writing goes, is impressive. Most impressive.

However, one of the strengths of ‘The Clone Wars’ is the way it brings the other characters to life. We see a lot of Jedi in the prequel movies but we never get to know very much about them and in this cartoon we’re able to explore that world in greater depth. And although there are definitely good guys and bad guys, a lot of the time it’s more nuanced and very few of the good guys are completely good and very few of the bad guys are totally bad. Apart from Palpatine, who is palpably evil. And Count Dooku is pretty much always bad too. And General Grievous doesn’t have any redeeming features. But everyone else is more nuanced.

While it’s the characters from the movies that you start out invested in, it’s other characters who come to the fore. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan learner, was initially disliked by many, but, possibly because she is not weighed down by any preconceived expectations, her character has one of the most interesting journeys throughout the series. The same is also true for villain turned antihero Asajj Ventress, who’s only prior on-screen appearance was in the 2003 cartoon.

The other standout characters from the show are the clone troopers. I had huge misgivings about the clones in the movies, but in the cartoon, although they all look the same (although are distinguishable by having differing hairstyles, facial hair, tattoos, etc) and they are all voiced by the same actor (who is frankly incredible), they all have distinct personalities and some individual troopers (notably Rex, but there are others) have the most interesting narrative arks. There a several episodes that focus exclusively on a group of clones and they are some of the best.

A lot of the promotional material surrounding the later series did focus on the resurrection of Darth Maul, who absolutely and conclusively died in ‘The Phantom Menace‘. I was apprehensive about this particular storyline, but it’s done really well, and far from dominating the later series, he’s really only in a few episodes. They are some of the best episodes though, which confirms that killing him off in ‘The Phantom Menace’ was a stupid decision. Although that movie is full of stupid decisions…

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ is by no means perfect. At times it gets bogged down by some of the same problems as the prequel trilogy, and any episode that focuses on ‘the politics’ tends to be a bit dull. Jar Jar Binks, although not a prominent character, does pop up a few times and is generally as annoying as he was in the films.  But there are far more good episodes than bad ones and in many ways this series serves as a far more satisfying prequel to the original Star Wars Trilogy than the actual prequel trilogy ever did.

Best character – Ahsoka Tano

ahsoka

When I was still on series one, Anakin was my favourite character, but as the show develops, Ahsoka comes more and more to the fore and you could make a convincing case to say that she, rather than Anakin, is the central character in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’. 

Worst character – Tan Divo

tan di

Despite it’s brilliance, there are quite a few annoying characters who pop up from time to time. The aforementioned Jar Jar Binks obviously and Ziro the Hutt, who irritated me in the film version of this show. But I think Tan Divo, who is a pompous, yet fairly inept, police officer is the one that probably annoyed me the most. Fortunately, like all the other annoying characters, he wasn’t in that many episodes.

Unsung hero – Riff Tamson

riff

OK, he was absolutely a bad guy. But he was also a shark. And he was hard as nails. He was only in three episodes. If you look like a shark, you should be in more episodes. 

 

Frankly I could I write about this series for days on end and still only scratch the surface. It’s utterly brilliant. But I must stop writing now, so I can cram in a few more episodes of the show I’m planning to write about tomorrow before my daughter wakes up from her nap.

May The Twenty-Fifth Be With You: Do Or Do Not, There Is No Dry

James Proclaims (4)

Today is Towel Day, an annual celebration in honour of the late great Douglas Adams, and in particular ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, which is celebrating it’s 42nd anniversary this year. As fans of that particular guide will know, this is especially pertinent, what with ’42’ being the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

I love ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, I’ve read all the books multiple times and consumed it in many of its other various guises (radio show, TV show and movie), so I feel it’s only right that I join in the fun of Towel Day this year.

But I’m currently (for reasons I can’t quite remember) committed to writing about Star Wars for the entirety of this month, which presents something of a conflict of interests.

To be fair, there are some links between the two; both are set in space and although both are frequently mistaken for science fiction, there isn’t much in the way of actual science in either (a bit like current government policy surrounding ‘you know what’, which frequently claims to be guided by ‘the science’ but might as well be guided by ‘the force’ for all it has made any actual sense, and certainly ‘knowing where your towel is’ seems infinitely wiser advice than anything that has come out of the mouth of Mr Johnson of late, although his recent defence of Dominic Cummings was a new low even by his standards).

Also they’re fairly contemporaneous, with Star Wars coming into our lives in 1977 and the first incarnation (the radio version) of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ popping up in 1978.

Oh and there were 42 years between the first Star Wars movie and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, and while the latter seems unlikely to be the last Star Wars movie, it did notionally wrap up the story started by the first movie,  a story now commonly referred to as the ‘Skywalker Saga’. So I think ’42’ has some pertinence to Star Wars.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to justify writing a post about ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Star Wars’ without a more forensic, detailed look at the parallels and differences between the two.

Unless you happen to own a Star Wars themed towel. Then you can cheat and just post a picture of that…

 

Thanks to Pedantry at Wibble for blogging fairly regularly about this year’s Towel Day, otherwise I might have missed it and today you could be reading about some obscure Star Wars cartoon that you have never seen and have no intention of ever watching….

May The Twenty-Fourth Be With You: Solo: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

solo-a-star-wars-story-poster

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ has the dubious claim to fame of being the first Star Wars movie to make a loss at the box office and it’s perhaps the main reason that the focus for future Star Wars projects, after the release of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ has been more geared towards content for Disney Plus, rather than cinematic releases. There are still numerous big screen projects allegedly in the pipeline, but at one stage there were ambitions for an annual Star Wars movie, and that seems to have been somewhat dialled down since the relative failure of this film.

Whether there really is an ‘audience fatigue’ for new Star Wars movies or whether this film failed to achieve box office success because it was fundamentally flawed from the outset is up for debate, but it’s clear, with the benefit of hindsight, that this movie was always going to struggle to live up to expectations.

It is a shame, because, while it would be a stretch to describe this as a great movie, it’s a perfectly entertaining couple of hours and I did enjoy it.

But before I get into all that, here is my customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: As quite a lot of people didn’t bother to watch this movie, then there’s a more than reasonable chance that you haven’t seen it. But if you like Star Wars then there is a lot to like about this film. I doubt you’ll love it all, and some bits might actually irritate you, but overall you probably won’t hate it. I’m going to write about it now and I may include some details of the plot so consider yourself warned.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ was always a gamble. Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in the whole franchise, but a big part of the reason for that is that he is played by Harrison Ford. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

And to be fair to Alden Ehrenreich, he does a pretty good job. The failings of the movie cannot be levelled at his door. But, while I’m glad they didn’t go down the ‘Rogue One’ route of CGI(ing) a young Harrison Ford into the movie, I’d question the wisdom of making a movie about a young Han Solo, with a new actor, so soon after Harrison Ford had recently reprised the role in ‘The Force Awakens’. Maybe this one should have been given a few years.

Or perhaps, if a Han Solo back story was necessary (and of course it really wasn’t) then it might have been better suited to a TV format. The success of ‘The Mandalorian’ suggests that this is a pretty feasible outlet for Star Wars and the recasting of such an iconic character would be less likely to be an issue in a TV show.

But Alden Ehrenreich is not the problem. He’s better than anyone could realistically expect him to be and I didn’t find it too hard to accept him as Han. Donald Glover also does a more than credible version of Lando Calrissian, although to be fair, much as I love Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy, you’d have to say his shoes aren’t quite as hard to fill as Harrison Ford’s.

The problem with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is that it doesn’t seem to have much of a story to tell and instead seems to be a series of attempts at ‘fan-pleasing’ moments, strung together by the most prosaic of narratives.

The attempt at a love story between Han and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is particularly perplexing because, as we all know, Han loves Leia. So I can’t possibly be invested in a love story between Han and someone else.

Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos would also have to be in contention for ‘least interesting bad guy’ in the whole of Star Wars.

And while Darth Maul’s brief cameo at the end of the movie might mean something to those of us who have watched ‘The Clone Wars’ cartoon series, it would be quite jarring for anyone that only watches the movies. And only watching the movies is a perfectly acceptable position for a Star Wars fan to take. It’s a position I was in myself prior to undertaking this month-long homage to Star Wars. I love the cartoons but they shouldn’t be essential viewing in order to understand the movies.

Plus the Darth Maul cameo hinted at a sequel, which we now know is not going to happen and I hate it when movies make promises they can’t fulfil.

To be fair, the film can’t have been helped by a change of director six months into filming and while Ron Howard has a perfectly credible filmography, he wasn’t an especially exciting choice and seemed like a ‘safe pair of hands’ to replace the apparently more maverick Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were not, seemingly, playing by the rules. I think, on balance, I’d quite like to see the version of this they were trying to make though.

But Ron Howard does as well as can be expected under the circumstances and though ultimately ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a film that takes very few risks (beyond the original risk of trying to re-invent a character that didn’t need any re-invention) it’s enjoyable enough all the same.

Best character – Han

Han Solo, Alden Ehrenheich

Ok he’s not the Han we know and love from the original trilogy, but he’s still eminently likeable in this and if you can set aside your preconceptions, he’s definitely the best character in the movie.

Worst character – L337

null

Generally Phoebe Waller-Bridge can do no wrong in my eyes, but the first time I saw this I didn’t know that she was playing this particular CGI character. And I found L337 quite irritating and it’s quite hard to revise that opinion just because I’m a usually fan of the actor playing the role. In fairness the droids-rights activist was, in many respects, the most innovative character in the movie and in a different sort of film (perhaps the version that the original directors were trying to make) I might even be on board with L337. But I didn’t feel the character worked especially well in this film.

Unsung heroes – Val and Rio

nullRio_Durant_Databank

Part of the ‘crew’ that Han joins fairly early on in the movie. Both killed on a ‘heist that goes wrong’ and essentially never mentioned again, even though Beckett, one of the principal characters in the movie, was married to Val. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’. Tune in tomorrow for something else Star Wars related.

May The Twenty-Third Be With You: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

Day 23 of me writing exclusively about Star Wars, purely on the basis that it’s currently May and I can entitle each post ‘May the (whatever date it actually is) be with you’. Which possibly was never that funny. Or if it ever was funny, the joke is wearing thin now. Surely the end is in sight? And yet, for me not to have given up after 23 days would suggest that I am determined to see this through to the end of the month, in spite of the fact that my blogging stats, fairly resurgent only a few weeks ago, now seem to be in sharp decline. Fortunately if I were motivated by such things as blogging stats, I would long ago have retreated from the blogosphere with my head hanging in shame.

However, today I am at least writing about a Star Wars film that most people have actually heard of, which is something of a concession to those intrepid readers who have stuck with me throughout this particular ‘blog project’.

For today I am writing about ‘Rogue One’, a movie that is oft thought of as the first Star Wars spin off. But as several of the preceding twenty-two posts will attest, it isn’t the first Star Wars spin off.

But it probably is the best.

Before I write about it I should issue a spoiler alert.

Spoiler Alert: This is quite a good film and if you haven’t seen it you probably should. But I’m going to write about it now and that might ruin it for you. So, if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it now and then come back and read this later.

Riding very much on the coattails of ‘The Force Awakens’, 2016’s ‘Rogue One’ appeared to confirm the return to form of Star Wars after the much maligned prequel trilogy. Not only that, but this was the first cinematic release that wasn’t either part of the main saga, predominantly about Ewoks or a cartoon.

‘Rogue One’ also offered up the tantalizing possibility that we could be getting a new Star Wars movie every year and that stories set outside of the main ‘Skywalker Saga’ could not only work well, but had the possibility of being even better than the movies in the aforementioned saga.

Obviously, a few years later, we know better. While the Star Wars franchise is very much alive and well, it’s fair to say that not every cinematic release since 2016 has met with universal acclaim.

But people did really love ‘Rogue One’, with some people mistakenly going as far as to claim that this was the best Star Wars movie ever.

Which it isn’t.

Not least because it relies quite heavily on the existence of other Star Wars movies to work. Prior knowledge of the Death Star, the Empire, the Rebellion, the Force, certain major characters, certain minor characters and the entire plot of the original 1977 movie all help you to enjoy ‘Rogue One’ a lot more than I think would be possible if this were the first Star Wars movie you’d ever seen.

In spite of that, it does dare to be different. There is no shortage of carnage in most Star Wars movies, but it’s generally minor characters who meet their end. Certainly if a main character dies, it’s a pretty big deal. So to kill off pretty much every central character at the end of this movie was a definite departure.

That said, I did find it hard to care too much about many of the characters and frankly, when the most emotional death is a droid, it probably hints at a slight lack of character development.

Equally, entertaining though the movie undoubtedly is, for two cameos by Darth Vader to steal the show, would suggest the rest of it maybe isn’t as compelling as it could be. Then again, Darth Vader is a very hard act to top.

If Vader was the most memorable, there were plenty of other cameos throughout the movie, from C3PO and R2D2, to Bail Organa, to the two barflies that attack Luke in the original movie. The most notable, and most controversial, was the CGI enabled return of Grand Moff Tarkin. Because at first glance it looks very much like the late great Peter Cushing is playing the role. Which would be impossible given that he died in 1994 . So obviously it’s not Peter Cushing, and when you pay closer attention you can clearly see the CGI at work. It’s an impressive technological feat nonetheless. As to whether it should have been done, given that the particular story that is being told deals with events that take place immediately prior to the original movie and heavily features Tarkin’s place of work, the Death Star, it would have been hard not to include the character. And to have a different actor play the role could have brought its own protests (I mean obviously a different actor does play the role, the CGI is not the whole story, but you get what I mean). So it was a no win situation in some respects and as Peter Cushing’s estate had approved the use of his image, it was perhaps worth the gamble. It mostly pays off.

Perhaps this predicament could have been avoided entirely if the character of Tarkin wasn’t so completely absent (aside from a token CGI background appearance at the end of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘) from the prequel trilogy. I always thought this omission was quite strange given his prominence in the original movie. If there had been a young Cushing-a-like cast in one or more of the prequels it would have been reasonable for that actor to reappear here without any need for CGI wizardry.

As things stand, I’d rather have the CGI Tarkin than no Tarkin at all.

A young CGI Leia also manages to appear at the end of the movie, but it’s the briefest cameos really. Unlike Tarkin, the movie doesn’t really hinge on Leia, but the scene does make narrative sense. It all depends on how you feel about this particular use of CGI really. I didn’t hate it.

Ultimately, ‘Rogue One’ is an easy movie to like. It doesn’t add a great deal to the overall mythology of Star Wars, but it’s a compelling enough tale set against a familiar Star Wars backdrop.

And the original stormtroopers are in it, and pretty much confirm that they are better than the versions that appear in either the prequels or the sequels. 

Although I was less sure about the black-suited death troopers that turn up in this, because they look a bit like Darth Vader wannabes.

Best character – K2SO

k2so 

Aside from Darth Vader’s cameos, K2SO is hands down the best thing about the movie. He looks fantastic, it’s genuinely hard to believe he is CGI, but it’s the voice performance by Alan Tudyk that makes him stand out from virtually every other droid that has ever been in Star Wars. Indeed I’d go as far as to say he’s one of the greatest characters in any Star Wars movie. Arguably the movie’s only concession to comic relief, it’s nonetheless K2SO’s ‘death’ that is by far the most moving scene in the whole film. Which is particularly noteworthy given that every character dies…

Worst Character – Baze Malbus

Baze-Malbus_Big_6

Possibly the biggest failing of ‘Rogue One’ is that a lot of the characters really aren’t all that memorable, but Baze is probably the least memorable of the lot. Which I think makes him the worst. I’m not sure. I don’t remember that much about him other than he has quite a big gun.

Unsung hero – Bohdi Rook

bohdi

In many ways, the bravest character in the movie. Gives up a presumably secure career in the Galactic Empire to join the rebels, providing them with some much needed intel and gets tortured for his efforts. No-one ever really says thank you and yet he still gives his life for the cause at the end. 

And that’s it for ‘Rogue One’. Tune in tomorrow to see if I write about the one Star Wars movie I’ve yet to deal with.

Or something more obscure.

 

 

 

May The Twenty-Second Be With You: Star Wars: Forces Of Destiny

James Proclaims (4)

forces-of-destiny-logo

I’m not sure too many Star Wars movies would pass the Bechdel test, but there’s no denying that there have been some great female characters throughout the franchise.

Having said that, I approached ‘Star Wars: Forces of Destiny’, which is a series of short animated stories, predominently centred around the aforementioned female characters, with some trepidation.

The concept is fine, but it was heavily linked with a new line of Star Wars toys that seemed to be marketed specifically towards girls. I find the notion of ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’ a bit outdated given that this series first aired in 2017.

Then again, Star Wars has always been intrinsically linked with the selling of toys and frankly my nephew and niece mix and match each others’ action figures/dolls all the time so I suppose it doesn’t matter whether there was an archaic marketing policy with regards the actual product, so long as fun is had by the children who own them, and no-one felt they couldn’t watch the cartoon because it wasn’t ‘aimed’ at them.

And as it happens the cartoon itself is pretty good. It lacks some of the energy of the 2003 series of animated shorts, Star Wars: Clone Wars, but it has plenty going for it nonetheless.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This series is made up of a lot of unrelated, very short, episodes, centering on different characters within the Star Wars universe. So it’s unlikely I’ll be able to spoil it for you. But I am likely to reveal some minor details, so it’s up to you if you want to read any further. It’ll probably be fine, but don’t come crying to me if I ruin this cartoon for you.

This is definitely a cartoon aimed at children, rather than adults. Which is obviously true of a lot of Star Wars stuff, but it’s probably more apparent with this one.

That said, I’m a fully grown adult and I did enjoy it. And actually, if you’d spent the last month or so watching nothing but Star Wars, including some of the more obsure spin-offs, then you’d enjoy it too.

Because there are actually one or two little references in there that you could only get if you watched the Ewoks cartoon. And the Ewoks movie. Which I have. So I did get them.

One of those references is the appearence of an Ewok wearing a pink hood, for this is none-other than Kneesaa, one of the principal characters of the aforementioned cartoon series. She’s never been featured in any other Star Wars movie of TV show outside of that long forgotten cartoon, but she turns up in this. Which I found genuinely quite exciting.

Another episode deals with Leia and Luke getting attacked on the forest moon of Endor by a gorax. And that was only ever featured in the first Ewok movie, Caravan of Courage. So if, like me, you have sat through that ‘not very good’ movie, then you can smile smugly when the gorax pops up in this.

I like things like that. It’s like a little reward for those of us who really should use their free time more wisely.

Although most of the episodes predominently center around one or sometimes several female characters, there are some exceptions. At least one is about Luke and Yoda and another is mainly about Chewbacca and R2D2. But these episodes are the exception. All the episodes are stand-alone, but if you’ve seen the movies, it’s generally pretty clear where they fit into the wider Star Wars universe.

The voice cast is actually quite exceptional, the characters from other animated shows like ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ are voiced by the same actors who played them in those shows, but quite a few of the actors from the movies lend their voices to their animated characters too, including Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones (for some of the episodes), John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran. Obviously Anthony Daniels does C3PO. Oh and some bloke called Mark Hammill does the voice for Luke Skywalker too.

I really liked this cartoon. It was pretty fun and it covers the whole of Star Wars in easily digestable bite-sized chunks.

Best character – Leia

leia

I was torn on this one. It was pretty much between Rey, Ahsoka Tano and Leia. And Leia, for obvious reasons, is the only one of the three that isn’t voiced by the original actor that played her. But she’s still Leia and when all is said and done, that’s enough to make her the best.

Worst character – Qi’ra

qu

If you haven’t seen ‘Solo’ you wouldn’t know who she was. And a lot of people haven’t seen ‘Solo’. She only merited one episode of this, she wasn’t even voiced by Emilia Clarke who portrayed her in the movie.  It’s not a bad episode but the other characters are more memorable.

Unsung hero – Kneesaa

kneesa

Because her appearance in this made me smile but also because she shot down a tie-fighter in one episode and was instrumental in stopping the gorax in her other appearance.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about a cartoon that really wasn’t aimed at me, but which I enjoyed in spite of that fact. Tune in tomorrow when I will once again be writing about Star Wars in some capacity.

 

 

 

May The 21st Be With You: I Have A Bad Peeling About This…

James Proclaims (4)

There are still quite a few days left of May.

Which is surprising because it feels like I’ve been writing about Star Wars forever.

Although there remains plenty within the Star Wars back catalogue for me to write about. Which is good news. From a certain point of view…

But today I’m going to have to go with the slightly lazier option of posting a picture of something Star-Wars-y that I own.

Fortunately I have plenty of stuff that ticks that particular box.

Today I thought I’d go with this little guy:

He’s one of my favourite things.

Indeed if I was to update that famous song from ‘The Sound of Music’ I’d change it to:

Cadbury’s Roses and memes of cute kittens
A functioning kettle and droid oven mittens
Amazon packages when the doorbell rings
But Darth Tater is my most favourite thing

Obviously some of the above is not really true. I like a Cadbury’s Rose, but I’m just as partial to a Quality Street. I have no interest in kitten memes, and you can’t prove otherwise. But if you’re going to do a rubbish parody of a verse of a well-known song, it’s important to keep a hint of the original elements in it I think.

I do actually own some R2D2 oven mittens, but they’ve seen better days (because they are functional as well as fun) so I won’t include a picture of them.

Darth Tater is brilliant though. Few things can make me smile like this fella.

You can get other Star Wars themed ‘Mr Potato Heads’. I believe there is a Spud-Trooper, a Luke Frywalker, an Artoo Potatoo and most recently a Frylo Ren.

I don’t own any of those.

Darth Tater more than meets my ‘Mr Potato Head’ needs.