Monday, 22 May 2017

The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes, London

The Art of the Brick - The Flash

One of the best things about growing up in my house is that my mum let me follow my own interests which is why at a very young age I had a very impressive Lego and Matchbox car collection. Although it is entirely possible that I stole these things from my long-suffering baby brother, five years my junior, I tend to blur on the details.

One thing that was entirely my own was my fascination with Batman and I bunked school on the day Tim Burton’s Batman came out just so that I could catch the first showing at the theatre.

Imagine my joy when Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes came to London. Combining two of my childhood loves, I was absolutely guaranteed of a good day out.

The Art of the Brick - Batman and Robin

Most people have heard of Nathan Sawaya before and indeed, nearly everyone I have spoken to saw the first Art of the Brick show when it showed at Brick Lane. Nathan makes art from Lego and most of his pieces take several days if not weeks to complete. If you’re wondering how hard it can be to make Lego sculptures then you’ve obviously never tried to build a giant Lego airport after throwing away the instructions.

The Art of the Brick - Superman

I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with DC. I simply don’t get why they felt the need to reboot Superman (or why Marvel have rebooted Spiderman more times than I can even bother to count anymore). I also completely lost my appetite for Christopher Nolan’s reboot of Batman after The Dark Knight. I like dark films and have a healthy fascination with horror but there was something beyond horrifying about the film that destroyed Heath Ledger. I digress.

The Art of the Brick - Wonder Woman

There is something for everyone at The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes whether you’re a fan of CW’s The Flash and Arrow, a true Tim Burton fanatic like me or firmly dedicated to the very dark turn DC has taken in recent years.

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One aspect of the exhibition that I did not expect was how inspirational and uplifting it was. In amongst all the truly impressive Lego models were inspirational quotes from a variety of authors including JK Rowling. It sounds hackneyed but I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one.

The Art of the Brick - The Joker

My second favourite part of the exhibition was the entire room dedicated to villains from The Joker to The Riddler to Catwoman. There were several models of the Joker and I might have taken altogether too many photos of all of them.

The Art of the Brick - The Joker

The Art of the Brick - Gotham

It was the room dedicated to Gotham that stole my heart though. Complete with its very own Bat Signal, this is the room that took us back to Detective Comics roots and to the very deconstruction of Batman himself and I loved it.

The Art of the Brick - Batman

The Art of the Brick - Batman

I have but one word of warning about the exhibition – do not under any circumstances stop to shop in the store at the end of your visit. I have never seen such rip off prices in my life and the extortionate gift shop prices are the number one complaint on Google and Tripadvisor reviews. You’d be better off bribing your child with a year’s supply of ice cream than letting them browse in that store.

The Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes is open until 3 September 2017 on London’s Southbank. Tickets are available on the Art of the Brick: DC Superheroes website and remember, tickets are available on Mondays for just £10. Normal tickets are £16.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions and £11 for children. Family tickets and discounts are available.

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Leftfield at O2 Brixton Academy, 12 May 2017

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What is the longest time you've ever waited to see a band in concert? For me, it is almost 22 years. We were meant to see Leftfield at Glastonbury 1995 but they didn’t pitch up that year and neither did Stones Roses. As the years went on, it was just one of those bands that I thought I’d never see.

I never stopped loving them. Leftism is one of those albums that I’ve played over and over again on repeat for years and the album was somewhat of a soundtrack for an entire generation during the 90s.

When I heard that Leftfield were playing Leftism in its entirety to mark 22 years since its release, I didn’t hesitate for one second to buy tickets for my brother and I. Anniversary and revival gigs are somewhat of a risk, especially seeing as Neil Barnes was performing without Paul Daley (but with his blessing) but I was willing to take the risk.

Should I have worried? Absolutely not.

It is the best gig I have ever been to.

Leftfield Brixton Academy 12 May 2017

The gig was absolutely thrilling, so much so that I couldn’t form complete sentences afterwards, resorting to simply adopting a dazed visage and repeating that it was “so good” again and again to my brother. Other people on the tube weren’t faring much better and one popular opinion was that everyone had experienced a mass acid flashback during “Song of Life” but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go right back to the beginning.

The format for the gig was simple. One album, all the tracks in order and no encore. I initially wondered if they would bulk up the setlist with B-sides like Pixies did with Doolittle in 2009 but instead we were treated to extended versions of all eleven tracks and a sound and light show that was out of this world. If anything was going to ignite my nostalgia for a decade of raving, this was it.

Leftfield Brixton Academy 12 May 17

It’s nearly impossible to pick out my favourites from the evening. The entire gig was sublime and perfect. We loved that there were live performances of the vocals and I was especially impressed with the vocalist for “Afro Left”. “Song of Life” and “Space Shanty” were absolutely storming and I’m pretty sure I experienced synaesthesia during “Black Flute”.

Leftfield Brixton Academy 12 May 17 Original

We were really impressed with the vocalist for “Original”. They’re not easy vocals to get right but she did a pretty good job. I was slightly disappointed that John Lydon didn’t bounce out on stage and regale us with “Open Up” but given his distinctive voice, I’m glad that they decided to play his recorded vocals and that another artist didn’t try cover it, because that would definitely not have worked. During the track, the footage from the original video was played and that was quite cool.

Leftfield Brixton Academy 12 May 2017 Original

My only complaint from the evening, and I’m afraid it’s quite a significant one, is why the hell didn’t I have tickets for the second gig on the 13th May? That was a huge failure on my part and a lesson learned through hardship. They’ve seen what a huge success the evening was and I can only hope that Leftfield will consider doing this again for the 25th anniversary. And maybe every single year thereafter.

It was so good.

Leftfield Setlist, O2 Brixton Academy, 12 May 2017

Leftfield Setlist O2 Academy Brixton, London, England 2017

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Leo Hunt's Seven Trees of Stone: Exclusive Guest Post and Giveaway

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Have I mentioned before how much I love Leo Hunt’s Thirteen Days of Midnight series? I think I have. Luke Manchett is perhaps my favourite protagonist of all time and I gave both Thirteen Days of Midnight and Eight Rivers of Shadow glowing five star reviews. There is just something about Leo Hunt’s writing and Luke Manchett’s self-deprecating manner that draws me in time and time again.

The fabulous news is that the final book in the trilogy is being released tomorrow and to mark the occasion I’m giving away three copies of Seven Trees of Stone and I’m also featuring an exclusive guest post written by none other than Leo Hunt himself. Definitely give it a read, it tells you all about Leo’s journey in creating Luke Manchett and his journey to the end of the series.

It really couldn’t be more perfect if it was my birthday this week. which it is. Let’s get started then.


Now Leaving Dunbarrow – Leo Hunt

In September 2010 I wrote a page and a half of prose. It was about a boy getting a letter telling him his father was dead, and then letting his dog in from outside. I remember liking the voice and thinking the story could go somewhere.

It’s now May of 2017 and the final book about Luke Manchett, Seven Trees of Stone, will very shortly be released. It’s been a long journey from there to here, and although I immediately thought Luke’s life in Dunbarrow had narrative potential, I had no idea the character I created that day would alter the course of my creative life so completely.

Leo Hunt - Official author photoEndings are difficult to get right because they weigh so much in a reader’s mind. Your novel can survive a few misjudged scenes in the middle much more easily than it will survive a bad ending, so there’s a great deal riding on those final paragraphs. Similarly I think there’s a lot riding on the final book of a trilogy; having spent the previous volumes spinning plates and dropping hints and leaving narrative doors slightly ajar, any reader who’s come this far with me will have high hopes that all their questions will be answered, and have their own ideas about how they want the series to end. Writing this final volume of the series, I had a great deal of self imposed pressure not to disappoint.

Adding to this pressure was the fact that I never intended this to be a series. When I wrote Thirteen Days of Midnight, in my mind the narrative stopped at the final scene, where Luke walks back towards his house at sunset, with his father’s necromantic sigil and book buried in the field behind him. He’s achieved victory but at heavy cost — his bargain with Mr Berkley — and symbolically laid to rest the memories of his father, facing up to the dark figure Horatio really was. I’ve never been interested in triumphant endings where trumpets blare and the hero gets given the medal for being a Good Person Who Did Everything Right, and I was happy to leave Luke for good, and have his future be a dark mystery. My publishers disagreed, and argued that I should explore Luke’s world further.

I was initially not keen on this, but there did prove to be a story beyond that moment in the sunset field that was worth exploring. I decided that the second book of the three would focus on the world of the dead, which Thirteen Days had hinted at but never revealed beyond a pair of surreal scenes in the final chapter. The plot of Eight Rivers of Shadow was built around the idea that Mr Berkley would take a backseat, Luke would face a new adversary — Ash Ahlgren — and the final act would be a journey through the grey horrors of Deadside. This journey remains some of my favourite writing that I’ve done, and the second book of the trilogy might be the one I’m most proud of.

However, Eight Rivers did not shed any light on two of the nagging questions left over from the ending of the first volume — the exact nature of Luke’s bargain with Mr Berkley, and what Horatio did after Luke set him free. The Berkley question in particular drove me insane because I had never planned for the issue to be resolved. It went from being a dark, ambiguous presence at the end of Thirteen Days to being something that I actually needed a concrete answer to, not to mention that I also needed a way for Luke to defy Berkley and defeat him. Not to mention that I needed a plot. I had none of these things.

In the end, the structure suggested itself. The first book is Luke as an apprentice, discovering the spirit world and making tentative use of his powers. In the second volume Luke is a literal journeyman, leaving his home to travel deep into Deadside and encounter the true source of all magic. The final book is about mastery, Luke finding ways to fully use magic and his wits to overcome the being that inducted him into this hidden world in the first place. I also realised that in this third volume the worlds that had been separate should come together, and the veil could be lifted so that characters apart from Luke and Elza would see the spirit world. With these two concepts in place, the shape of the final book started to emerge, and I saw how I could resolve the bargain between Luke and Berkley.

I’ve spent close to seven years of my life working on these books and living with these characters in my head every day. It’s strange to be leaving Dunbarrow and moving away from this project into something new. When I look back at the town I built it’s hard not to see the mistakes, see the story threads I wish I’d pursued further or resolved differently. But I’m also amazed by how much I was able to grow from that first page and a half of writing, and how moved I’ve been by reader’s reactions to it. The years I spent in Dunbarrow changed me, and I know I’ll never forget them.


Giveaway

Seven Trees of Stone - Leo Hunt

The Thirteen Days of Midnight series is not the kind of secret one could or should keep to oneself and so to celebrate the release of Seven Trees of Stone, I am giving away three copies of the book to lucky readers. Enter using the Gleam widget below and remember that the competition is open to UK resident only.

Leo Hunt's Seven Trees of Stone Giveaway

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Finally Reading James Dashner's The Maze Runner

I love Dylan O'Brien, star of the Maze Runner films but such is my level of literary loyalty, I made myself read the books before watching the films. Fast forward three or so years and I've finally finished the first book in James Dashner's Maze Runner series. Sad, I know.

I enjoyed the book, unable to put in down in the final chapters as Dashner delivered devastating shock after shock in the build up to the finale. Strangely enough, I can see why so many people found the book to be average but I really enjoyed it. I loved how Dashner gives nothing away and it was everything I could do not to go seek out spoilers or, indeed, read the prequel The Kill Order.

Many people have complained that Thomas shows little character development in the book but I found Dashner's representation to be extremely realistic. In fight or flight mode at the height of a crisis, you're just trying to get through it, to survive. That goes for anything we go through as human beings. The personal growth comes later and it is only as you work through what's happened that you realised how much you've changed. I thought Dashner's writing of Thomas's feelings, perceptions and reactions to the events in the book were really well written.

Will I read the rest of the books in the series? I'd say so, I'm already a quarter of the way through The Scorch Trials where everything has changed. Perhaps I can reward myself sometime this weekend by finally watching the films.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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