Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Dead Adventurers Club

I have been pretty hectic the last month with the Leeds Savage Club so there have been no new stories on the DAC since March, but why not check out some of the existing stories ?

There is the DAC map here which shows you where all the stories take place. Click and explore..

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Roman Empire and its Germanic people

This is an academic book, written by an Austrian Professor who spent most of his life studying the history of the Germanic people.

If you imagine an academic book, written by an Austrian to be extremely dry and conservative then you will not be disappointed. 

It has taken a long time to finish this book. One of my new years resolutions was to get through that pile of unfinished books,which this is one of many that takes up space on  my book shelves. Though the conservatism (is that a word?) style of this book has been the main reason for not finishing it, another reason has been that my interest in Rome stops at the fall of the Western Empire. This book goes up  to the dawn of the early medieval period. 

Whilst this book is tough going, there is  tons of interesting facts and gems of information. I particular found interesting the effect of Schisms on the early founding of Europe, the obsession with blood lines and the continuation of the idea of Rome.  

The author's thesis (I think!)  is that the Western Roman Empire never fell Per Se, more that the Germanic tribes on the borders, actually became more Roman than the Romans themselves at the time. The ideals were carried on through the various Germanic tribes and their Kings who carved up Europe in the sixth and seventh century. 

This is explained through a complex journey through the tribal structures, Papal Rome, Arianism , Constantinople & the barbarian migrations(which he is keen to stress the word migration and not invasion). Wolfram goes into great detail and cross referencing throughout this book which he backs up with time-lines and genealogy charts in that wonderfully conservative and efficient style of his. 

In a non conservative way, I'll attempt to get the gist across;

Let us say, I'm King of the Ostrogoth and one day  I decide I want to  go and sack Rome. Constantinople (Where the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire sits) lends me their support (they dream of a united empire again). I then get bit of an Ego and claim to trace my bloodline back to the great emperors of Rome. I am victorious and take Rome, and then Constantinople tells me that  God and Jesus are the same. I say how can that be ?

Constantinople doesn't like the fact that I am questioning them, so they  then sends troops to get me out of Rome, so I runaway to a city called  Ravenna and declare that this is now the capital. 

Whilst this has been going on my second cousin who married my sisters mother and has been sunning up in Spain with the Visigoths and his web feet. Decides that he would like to have a go at Rome. 

Constantinople hearing this,  says sorry and asks can we defend the eternal city, if we agree to differ whether God and Jesus can be the same person. So I move my armies to the walls of Rome in defence.

When meeting my cousin, we agree a truce (after all, we have the bloodline of true Romans) as long as I marry his daughter who is also my aunt.  We  then decide to sack Rome and then head off to sack Constantinople.  After a long siege, they manage to hold out and chase mine and my cousins army back to Northern Italy.  Getting a bit fed up about the whole Rome and Constantinople business, we continue to rule form Ravenna and start introducing true Roman laws and customs. Which are in fact very similar to the existing laws - but ours are purer

We then have a bit of a falling out as my cousin asks if Jesus is in  fact God.  This is the cue for Papal Rome to say that actually, There is God, Jesus AND the holy spirit. One of my slaves laps this up and kills me in the middle of night and marries my widow. He has the full support of Papal Rome and the cheeky buggy steals all my hard work in laying down the pure roman idea, and we are now at the start of paving our way to the Holy Roman Empire... 

Whilst this is all happening, the Arabs are beginning to creep up on the borders, The Frankish kingdom is building up and out of no where the Slavs have begun to appear.  My cousin by the way has accepted a large about of money from the usurper and is now enjoying a nice Duchy somewhere near the Alps - with dancing girls.

I have heard this is a book is a good counter read to Gibbon's Decline and Fall, which I have not yet read, mainly because I want an old version that has hand scribbled notes in the margins. I always keep an eye out in junk shops and second hand books for such a copy, and there have been a few almost s. My copy is out there somewhere. 

There were quite a few (lots in fact) times when reading this, I had to reach for the dictionary or a quick google search, but a couple of things I do want to read further about is 

Theodoric the Great who had a roman education as a child hostage in Constantinople who then went onto become King of The Ostrogoths, ruler of Italy and regent of the Visigoths. 

The Avars who were an organised Nomadic people who were around a lot longer than the Huns, but we know far more about the Huns that we do them. 

One final thing to mention, I am no position to say whether Wolfram's theses is right or not, but one point that he makes clear all throughout, which I agree with is the Hun's weren't wiped out, the Romans weren't wiped out, the vandals weren't wiped out, etc etc. Immigration and migration played a far bigger part and this power struggle to divide Europe involved a very small elite group of people 

Its not quite this black and white but If me and you were living at that time, the only thing we might have noticed about this huge period of transgression in our history was; Some months we would be paying our tax to someone else and bloody hell someone has bought up the subject of  is Jesus God again. 

Certainly not a book for the beach, but I am glad I did get around to finish it.

The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples - Amazon Link

Friday, 16 April 2010


For as long as he could remember, Mr. Yamagata had loved to read. From the moment he got up in the morning, to the point where he could no longer keep his eyes open in bed, he could be found with a book in his hand. He frequently borrowed up to thirty books a week from the Osaka Municipal Library, and his house was wall to ceiling with them.

He adored non-fiction just as much as fiction, and whilst early modern contemporary Japanese works were his favourite, he had read a comprehensive range of world literature that was second to none.

There was just one thing. He couldn't write. I am not talking about getting the odd letter wrong or mixing up his sentences, but the very act of putting pen to paper escaped him. He could not make any letters, or even a recognizable shape, with pen, crayon, stick, chalk, pencil, paintbrush, etc. Just big black blobs.

He did, however, have amazing powers of recall, and was able to recite at great length what he had read, complemented by his uncanny knack for cross-referencing. From an early age people around him had noticed this ability, and when he left school, the prestigious Shingai Corporation noticed as well. They normally only took on interns after they had proved they could survive a month on Mount Fuji Hiro with nothing more than a Casio watch, but they made an exception for him. Sadly that job came to an end after only two hours, when a secretary asked him for his signature for the keys to the office.

The only job the young Mr. Yamagata could find back then was at the local brick factory, where he would spend the next thirty years. Now do not get me wrong, reader. You may think this is a tale of woe, but Mr. Yagamata loved working there.

His job was to help load the kiln, which was crowned with two large square brick chimneys. Once the bricks were cooked, he would help unload it. The thing he liked about his job was there was a plenty of waiting around; days sometimes. This gave him ample time for reading. Another thing he loved about his job was that everyone who worked at the factory would come to him for advice (including the board), and this sharing of his knowledge filled him with a joy that made him smile as soon as he woke up each morning. He believed he had truly found his place in the world.

That was until the following events occurred, which happened all too quickly.

The brick factory owner died and his young son, Koji Fung Ming, inherited the business. In the morning, even before the funeral had taken place, the son had sold the company to Abunai! Golf. By late afternoon they had plans drawn for a new golf course, and late in the evening, a sign was posted on the gates to inform the workers they were being sacked to make way for the new golf course.

Mr. Yamagata was heartbroken when he read it in the morning. He felt his entire world had been ripped away from beneath his feet. Not knowing what to do, he sat outside the factory all day, as did some of the others, but by night he was sitting alone. It was then the idea struck him.

I've mentioned that early modern contemporary Japanese was his favourite reading genre, but his favourite book was by a medieval Arabian author by the name of Al-Jazari. The book was called Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, and coincidentally, that was the very book he had with him that day. He jumped over the locked gates and made his way to the kiln building...

If you had lived in one of the tall towers in the residential district of Fukushima-ku facing west, you would have seen the following happen at sunrise: The two chimney towers of the kiln building suddenly fall over gracefully in a perfect 90° arc. After the dust had settled, you would have then seen the tower rise, again in a perfect 90° arc, but now with the kiln building placed upside down at the top.

In a circle cut in the top, you would have seen Mr. Yamagata, and you would have seen him get a lot bigger as the chimney towers became 'legs' and he began to make his way downtown.

The old kiln used to be ignited by a smaller blast furnace, which Mr. Yamagata had reverse-engineed into a giant flame thrower and mounted on the underside of his creation. Being built of brick, he could aim it in any direction without fear of damaging his machine. His first target was to be the offices of the Abunai! golf company which he reduced to a pile of molten metal and glass. For good measure, he also took out several golf shops along the way.

With that done, he then made his way over to the house of Koji Fung Ming, who in the very short time after his father's death had obtained several flash cars. The Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley were crushed by good old-fashioned stomping. The Ferrari and McLaren were reduced to ash and the Bugatti was scratched all along one side, just enough to make the repair expensive.

He then turned to the house, where he knew the young Koji would be, and gave the door a kick. As the door flew off its hinges, Koji ran from the house and through the legs of the brick Mecha onto his yacht, which was was moored at the back of his home.

Mr. Yamagata took two giant steps (one crushing the house) and positioned himself in front of the yacht. He pressed the button in his cockpit and the flame thrower began boiling the sea, leaving Koji, who was now begging for his life, hopping up and down on his slowly melting boat.

Mr. Yamagata then effectively made his machine do the splits (he made a note to add knees next time) so he could get eye to eye with Koji. He looked hard at him and then tugged at his left eye and stuck out his tongue, a great insult in Japan in case you were wondering. Then he threw a brick at him.

He felt a wonderful sense of liberation upon exacting his revenge. As the sound of helicopters, sirens and tanks approached, Mr. Yamagata and his Mecha began to head out to sea.

"Maybe I will build something with glowing laser eyes next..."

my first non dead adventurers fridayflash which was inspired by the included picture done by fellow Leeds Savage member Steve James

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Mortus Illumina 3rd Incarnation (AKA How not to make a feature film)

The 1st Incarnation
The 2nd Incarnation

Here below is the presentation I gave at Bettakultcha on Mortus Illumina. I honestly did not mean to swear that much. (those of you reading this on facebook, can see it here)

Watching the video back, there are a couple of points I did mean to mention, but had to drop them because of time (BettaKultcha format 20 slides at 15 seconds a slide - it goes quicker than you think). The first of these, is that if we have even put one tenth of the planning that went into the shoots into post production. Then that would of been a year wiped off the time it has taken.

The second thing is, a project like this does take over and consume your life. I think for sanity reasons, over the last few years I have put some distance between myself and it, but this point leads nicely onto the third carnation of the script.

I mentioned that the second incarnation of the script took us through several shoots,in fact it was the  the bulk of filming. Come June 2002 after the chapel shoot, all we had left to shoot was a studio shoot to get some interiors. These would of included scenes inside the convent and scenes at Mary and Rico's flats. Below is the storyboards for one such sequence.

We had planned it would be a two week shoot and even had scale models made of the sets, ready to go.

The London shoot and Chapel Shoot happened extremely close to each other and part of the London Shoot involved shooting a 1940's Bar scene. In this scene, there is also the longest continual shot in the film ( 4 minute track) and the most expensive shot. I worked it out , taking into condsideration equimpent costs, location costs etc to be £2500 for that shot. But  definitely worth it.

Do  not think it was a luxury shoot as we had the bare minimum of lights and equipment to make this scene work. The photo below, you can just make out the track and literally we had everything in pool of lights around the track. Everything else was in pitch black and the following photo sequence should give you you an idea of the end result.

This shoot wasn't without its fair share of glitches in the run up, the band that were meant to be in there, pulled out at the last moment for starters. But the shoot itself, I think was one of the most succesful bits of shooting in the entire film.

The chapel shoot as well, was a very succesful shoot and it was nice having the two shoots close together. This was acheived by the fact that I was effectively working full time for one client (40 hours) and then working 40 hours for another client at the same time - which you can only do for so long before cracks appear (add on this 30 hours a week prep for the shoots) both personally and in what you are doing. 

I've mentioned more about this in a journal I put together in 2003 which you can read over here. To cut a long story short, financially doing the shoots so close together was a huge financial gamble which did not pay off.  Secondly on a personal level, my father also passed away a few weeks after the chapel shoot.

The next year was extremely tough both mentally and also around that time, the bottom fell out the market and I was no longer able to earn the money I was earning. Where I said about how something like this engulfs your life, from experience it is gut wrenching when other things in your life began to fall apart and then you watch what you have created begin to full apart too. It goes hand in hand as you are so involved. 

This resulted in a year hiatus from Mortus illumina and then an attempt to try and pick up the pieces after that gap.  I think I was only left with one option which was to sink the old MI ship and build a new one. Which is what I did and this is the third incarnation.

Before getting to the third carnation I want to stress this point. I have, and always be entirely greatful for all those who have put their time and effort into Mortus illumina. I was always aware that doing this would always be a one off in the fact of getting so many people to give their time to this project, which has taken far longer than anticipated. I am aware the onus is very much on me to deliver and believe me I will. We are extremely close to that point. The casualty list of unfinished low budget films, I would say out numbers the completed and I am determined that MI won't end up on that scrap heap.

I threw a party roughly 14 months on from the last shoot at the time (which was the chapel shoot) armed with a  polished promo of the film cut so far, with the aim of judging what the enthusiasm was. It was not a success and whilst there was a slim chance of having all and sundry back, I think if we had gone that route. It would have shown on the screen. I have included below "The wrap email" I sent out to everyone at the time.  It's interesting from my point of view,  reading that  back now.  I think at the time, I was quite disheartened and a bit bitter to be honest.  Whilst horribly over schedule, I am quite proud of how the final film has turned out -It is far better than originally intended.

The third incarnation  was to fill in all the gaps in shooting with stop motion and puppetary. I must also stress here, that stop motion sequences were always going to be apart of the film, right from the early days of the hammer head incarnation. This was taking it a step further and introducing the puppetary element. To give you an idea of how this works, the storyboard of the scene Imentioned  earlier was meant to take place before this scene below which we had filmed.

So hey presto, missing scene with puppets

I was reading Faust at the time when coming up for the script for the third carnation and what struck me most, was the opening bit where the director is talking about the play "faust" they are about to put on. I got caught up with this idea of having a world within a world and that expanded out to create this entire new "outside" story.

Two new characters were added, The Puppeteer and a character called "Tony" who went from early draft in the scripts from being everything from a Medieval knight to a soldier in the second world war; before finally becoming a guy with a bag full of cash, a gun and a motorcycle tire  - naturally.

Which from then, built up the idea that the original Mortus illumina tale was being told by the Puppeteer to Tony. There were several major chops made to the second incarnation story. The main being that where the book in the second carnation was made central to the storyline, in the third carnation the books message of knowledge is the more central theme.

The puppeteers dialogue is the favourite thing I have every written and there are 100s of hidden references, not only in the dilalogue but also in the visuals.

We filmed these new sequences in 2004 in two shoots, the first here which was at a disused print works in St.Albans(where they also shot Inspector Frost) and then a second shoot in Frome, concentrating on the puppets a few months later.

The third carnation is  the final film that you will see. I know this, as a cut of 86 minutes without credits sits on my harddrive. Here is proof

Those of you who have been following this blog and MI, will also be pleased to hear, That all the VFX has been completed. Which leaves only the sound design and music  to do which is getting underway. I will stress that is the only thing left to complete the film and the people are their to do it, it will be finished.

7th Septmber 2003

Hi all,

I'm calling a wrap on Mortus Illumina, Basically I feel that the project has gone on past its natural life. If things have worked out differently over the last year we would be sitting around with a finish feature. But unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. Whilst there is still life in the old ship , I think now is the time to bow out gracefully.

I think over the three years the project has been running everyone involved myself included has learnt a lot, and to say it’s been one hell of a experience is a understatement. From the Dusty freezing Rainthorpe Hall and the “We don’t like Strangers” locals, to the wind swept beaches of Kings Lynn and the Erie Church at St. Agnes. I hope that everyone is at least walking away with some memories and not a sick bag from the roller coaster that has been MI.

To explain my decision to wrap MI more. I feel that the enthusiasm and support that kicked of MI in the early days over the three years has now gone. With any project whether it be film or not has a natural span, it is only natural that people move on to better and greener pastures and the focus that was once there shifts to these pastures, hell I somehow clocked up two Hollywood credits in the last 6 months and I know a lot of you have been successful in your own fields and continuing to be. Whilst there is still some life in MI , the energy that would be needed in completing the film I feel can be spent starting new projects and moving forward which is what I intend to do.

But its not all doom and gloom, ,as some of you are aware the Promo version has been cut in with the animation. My intention now is to use more Animation along with some puppetry (VERY EVIL PUPPETS)to fill in the gaps.  Basically those of you who are familiar with Faust, Faust starts of with the director and clown talking about the play they are about to put on (faust)  and I'm going to take a new twist on that along with the film becoming more of a character piece.  The story is going to change somewhat (when hasn’t it!) but I am confident that I get a good hour long film out of the footage. In a Blaze of publicity the film will be hosted on a Website on a pay to download basis. With broadband becoming more popular and films already to begin to appear such as This Is Not A Love Song
I believe that this is going to be the best distribution medium for the project, I have a really shit computer game posted on the web somewhere which has had over 7000 downloads, plus the old MI site has had over 13’000 unique hits. So with a bit of publicity especially the story behind the film itself I'm confident of MI reaching a wide audience. Also I'm hoping to take the film to Cannes next year and it will begin to do the festival route next year. So this is not a case of MI disappearing and all your hard work being for nothing. Just more of a different film than when we started out which looking back on the original script is a hell of a lot different anyway.

For me the highlight of the shooting of Mortus Illumina has to be the Bar shoot followed very closely by the chapel shoot, the main thing has been working and meeting everyone of you. I can’t express my thanks enough, In total there have been over 20 days shooting on this film and I feel honoured that so many of you have dedicated so much time to the film. I would like to stress this again  I hope that everyone has got something out of Mortus Illumina, even if it’s just Jason walking into the Matt box or chasing a bit of Polly board on the beach you cant but that sort of entertainment. Also Zoe’s Singing Nun will always have a special place in my heart.

I would like to take this opportunity again to thank everyone for their efforts over the years and to wish everyone the best of luck in the future. This is not the end of 5YLAC films either, a couple of projects which I'm kicking in to pre-production are “The Stranger” a short which I will be filming later this year, and I'm on the look out for a short to direct as well. Pre-production on the feature length Version of Deadlights is going to kick off mainly because I can get my hands on lots of guns and explosions oh and a helicopter too.

I’ve attached the script’s For anyone interested in getting involved to run a bit more about them,

The Stranger (set in two locations a record by my standards) is about a worried bunch of Ye Yokels whose children and livestock are going missing,. So they hire guns from a Stranger to deal with the person who they think is responsible and theirs a wee bit of a twist at the end.  Basically I'm doing this as more of a atmos piece , whilst there is a script I'm looking more to create an environment and improvisation piece.  The feature length version of Deadlights Is in its second draft at the moment and I'm looking for a script writer to collaborate with to complete the next draft.  In case your wondering no it probably doesn’t make the short make any more sense ;-) a couple of other projects in the pipeline involve a pretty much blue screen film and I am going to be collaborating on other peoples projects in the immediate future.

If you are interested in getting involved with Stranger’s then please let us know asap,  I am going to be shutting down the smartgroups (never liked it  ) in the next two weeks,  before I do please make sure your contact details are correct , nearer to completion on MI I will have some paperwork which will need to be signed off. basically a “release” and more importantly if the film is successful on the web then you are all entitled to a share of the profits and there will be some paperwork for that too. I will send another e-mail about any outstanding expenses shortly so watch this space.

Once again a big thankyou to everyone who has been involved, when the film is ready  next year  You will each receive your copy so another reason to make sure those details are correct!

Salutations et All


PS, Wimples going spare

Monday, 5 April 2010

Plugin for Wordpress - A Better Tag Cloud

I've just come across a plug in for wordpress called "A Better Tag Cloud" and it does exactly what it says on the side of the tin. It offers you a fair bit of customization on the Tag cloud front. I've updated my my Smokeback and The Dead Adventurers Club sites with it, so you can see it in action.

I also have this post here, which includes a few more useful wordpress plugins that I use

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Page 247 of the Memoirs of Martin Hardy

...and he was left standing there. Naked as the day god put him on this good earth with his plug tail swaying in the wind. The old Jack Ketch, like the crowd was in a fit of stitches. There was noway in Riley he could on gone on with the Hanging after that.

That was just one of the many wonderful characters from those months I've spent at the Newgate. Whilst I've been called a criminal many a time by a Judge, I would call myself a criminal now, if I was not to mention Madame Nicol in this memoir. For it was her that taught me everything I knew about business. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't even got as far as the Thames Estuary let alone the other side of the bleedin world.

She was a most heavenly creature to look at, but stone me when she opened that mouth of hers. Most Cantish toungue In the East end. Some even said she had the toungue of Lucifer himself, but she was a lovely sort.

She had a Buttocking shop right next to the payroll office of the East India Company. Sailors who would just be back from after six months at sea would go in and collect their wages and walk the twenty steps to her door and be claret broke by morning, ready to sign up for the first ship out of there.

We became great friends and I think what sealed are friendship was a rather amusing incident involving a Merchant by the name of Guy Brooker. He was one of your typical gentlemen at the time. Shares in several boats and owned a couple of warehouse's down Bow way with a nice house on the other side of town. Honest, respectable during the day light hours, but could be found with the rest of the low life and politicians - pardon my french, round the back of Commercial street at night. Which is where in those days, we liked to keep that sort. Away from the salt and earth.

One Tuesday evening he decides to pop in to Madame Nichols. Now, remember Mr.Grover back in chapter 12 ? I had been working for him that day and had just come into a nice bit of kelter and thought I would treat myself. One of Madame Nichols romps was an Exotic Oriental, and let me tell she was a right article with her red hair and towering statue. She emptied my purse quite a few times, let me tell you. I had just finished wetting my whistle and went down to the bar to wet me other when in walks Brooker. Now what you need to understand, is how Madame Nichols ran her girls. When a customer ...

This was done for a Leeds Savage Club task entitled 'Page 247 of a Biography''

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Leeds Savage Club in the Yorkshire Evening Post and....

A bit, well a whole page actually on the Leeds savage Club. Thats me on the left in the picture btw. You can read the online version here

Also, a blog post of interest by a fellow member Ivor Tymchak over here.



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