Survival of the Fittest

Not a fitness blog part two:

super 1

I am still alive and well (following an extended period of recovery and getting my thoughts composed)!!

This is a long post, so, let’s get cracking and start at the beginning…

My team mate, Darren, was at a comedy gig the night before the event, which meant that we didn’t leave Nottingham until about 11:30pm and checked into our hotel in Bristol at 2:15am.  I think we did pretty well and had lights out just after 2:30 and we both got to sleep pretty quickly.

Which was just as well because our alarm went off at 5:30!!

Dressed and ready in our fitness gear and a bag packed full of Lucozade, water and energy gels, we opted for a continental breakfast in the hotel rather than try to find somewhere open.  Anybody involved in any fitness event will tell you that fueling your body is very important, so porridge and toast may not have been the breakfast of champions, but it was the best of what we had in front of us – that and a couple of strong coffees to get the energy levels up.

Despite a slow moving queue of traffic, which made us realise how popular the event was, we got parked up and registered with no bother and we took a moment to have a look around all of the workout areas that had been set up.  Although the organisers experienced some issues, you wouldn’t have known it, the place looked immaculate.  So, we scoped everything out – the assault course looked OK:  It didn’t have any obstacles that would have affected someone with a very slightly less than average height, so we were both happy with that and, on the face of it, it looked a simple enough course (more on that later).  We also checked out the other stations and felt that the weighted backpacks weren’t as bad as we thought they might be, the log felt lighter than expected and the keg seemed by far the most difficult thing to pick up and carry.  Of course, at this time, we were brimming with energy and excitement to take all of this on, so the difference between picking something up once right now compared to a few workouts down the line would become apparent!

Before I get into the action, I need to mention the friendly atmosphere: there was a real camaraderie among the athletes, with everyone aiming to have a good time and encourage each other.  The group from the same gym as me were there too – they’d been really friendly and invited us to train with them in the build up to the event, but we just couldn’t make it work time-wise – however, they were in roughly the same workout groups as us, so gave us loads of encouragement and support throughout the day.  The positive atmosphere gave us both a massive boost throughout the whole event – there were times each of us struggled, but the encouragement and general vibe kept us going with a smile…that may have appeared as a grimace.

Prior to the event you are allocated a workout group number and lane, which tells you which workout you should be doing and which station to be at when you do them.  We got paired up with a couple of guys who were the second workout group on our station, so we were required to help judge and count reps – there was no requirement to encourage or bond like a band of brothers, but that’s exactly what we did – they were great guys and I think we all helped each other get through some tough times during the day.

Onto the workouts…

Strength & Honour 20 mins AMRAP

  • 30 x hand release push ups
  • 50 x 50Kg thrusters
  • 50 x 70Kg deadlifts
  • 70 x sit ups

The rules for this are that you have to do the movements properly in accordance with the information given to us prior to the event and that for the first set only each person has to complete 10 reps minimum before handing over to their partner.

Man, was I glad we were doing this workout first!  Thrusters have been my nemesis for some time: 3 months ago, I couldn’t do 40kg thrusters and was struggling to do more than a few at 30kg – It became a focal point of my extra training sessions and, although I still clearly struggled, I felt comfortable that I would be able to do my share as long as we were taking it on fairly early in the day, so I would have the energy and strength to do it.  So, I struck it lucky with it being our first workout.  It is also one of the few complete workouts that Darren and I had practiced, so we sort of knew what to expect.

It’s fair to say that the nervous energy and adrenaline really kicked in and we put in a good solid performance – the thrusters were the real issue for both of us in the dying seconds, but that was to be expected.  The other aspects were far from easy, but we accomplished them in better form.

We were buzzing when we finished, but we worked hard to ensure we gave the guys in our spot the same encouragement and rep counts that they gave us.

Feeling good, we drank Lucozade, water and had a couple of energy gels before moving to the next workout area…

VO2 Max – 20Kg Weighted Run

This is a run around an uneven field with ling grass in searing heat with an army backpack containing a 20Kg sandbag.  This workout is one where you don’t have to stick together, so we agreed to just run our own race.

We had not practised this workout at all.  We can both run ok with some 10k and half marathon experience behind us, but this, as you may expect, is quite a bit different to that!

Putting on the pack was OK, but, when receiving the pre-workout run through, it already started to feel pretty heavy.  I also think this was by far the hottest of the workouts.  My theory is that the rain Bristol had received all week in the run up to the event had stored in the tall grass and, now that the sun was beating down, the water had started to evaporate creating heat rising from the floor as well as from the sun in the sky.  The ground was very uneven and the course was undulating enough to make a gentle slope seem like a steep hill in these conditions.

Not having trained for this showed straight away, as I struggled to get my feet to lift up and move quickly enough to jog.  This was also hampered by the long grass which made it feel like running on sand.  However, once I got going, I felt like I got myself into a rhythm that I pretty much stuck to.  It wasn’t fast at all, but I kept going and managed to speed up as the seconds ran out to ensure I reached a marker flag to score a half lap on top of the 3 I had completed.

In a weird and twisted way, I really enjoyed this workout and both of us were happy with our performance.

600m Assault Course 20 mins AMLAP (As Many Laps As Possible)

A glorified relay race (one person competes a lap and then tags their partner to go next).

super 2

Although the course looked simple enough when we arrived and also on the pre-workout walkthrough, it was really tough.  I think it was down to each obstacle being different and a bit awkward, so I couldn’t settle into a steady pace or rhythm.  The first lap felt like it took and age and that I’d left my partner under pressure to go faster.  As it was, I think we both found that first lap awkward and slow, but we both improved massively to go a bit faster on the second lap.  Most of it was down to knowing how to take on each obstacle when you get there, so the first lap is working that out and the second is just going for whatever you think worked ok first time round.

The details of the obstacles in brief:

Tyre step through; zig-zag run; hay bale; A-frame climb up/down; cargo net crawl; tyre tunnel crawl; over and under beams; hay bale; over a wall and down a ramp; up a ramp and down a wall drop; wall ledge; over bars; hay bale; monkey bars; over tyres; balance beam.

If you fail any of the obstacles, e.g. I failed to get across the monkey bars, it’s a 10 chest to floor burpee forfeit.  Thankfully, we didn’t fall of the balance beam or fail any of the other obstacles because we’d have been gutted to have to do 10 burpees for that!  In my defence, the monkey bars were quite far apart and my grip slipped! J

Lunch

Although the whole event was running a bit late, we had a lunch break.  Ordinarily, that’d be a great time to refuel, but because we weren’t used to having to do that (we just go to the gym for an hour at a time).  Any solid food at that time would have made a reappearance quite soon after, so that’s something to regard as a tip for first-timers: get used to having to eat between intense workouts.

The event it billed as family friendly and that family, friends and pets are most welcome, however, if you’re looking for something to entertain children for the whole day, you’d be really struggling.  There were a couple of things, but not enough to keep them occupied and I’m not sure how much of a spectator sport Superhuman is, so I was glad that my family and I had decided that I would come and do this without them.  There were very few stalls and food outlets too.  None of this is a complaint – I’m just telling it like it was.  I’m sure the organisers had enough on their plates putting the whole thing together without worrying about stalls and family entertainment.

Unconventional Beast 20 mins AMRAP

  • 30m synchronised walking log lunge with overhead press
  • 30m 50Kg keg run

super 5

This was an absolute killer and I felt that it was by far the hardest and most gruelling workout.  Initially, we struggled with synchronising the lunges, but with me taking on a sort of cox role and shouting out repetitively “down, up, over”, we got ourselves into a rhythm of sorts.  The keg carry was something else.  The rule was that you could only carry it a certain way which meant a lot of pressure on your abdomen to keep the keg up and also, due to being only very slightly smaller than average height, my reach couldn’t get all the way around the keg.  I think I managed a couple of carries, but was very grateful to my partner who picked up the slack and came through with some great carries for us.  This was also the first workout where we were actively taking a breather to refocus and go again.  Certainly my brain was trying to get me to give up which was also a new feeling for the day which made this workout much harder.  I think it was the moment that I became conscious of how tired and sapped of energy I was.  It felt like we had to really grind this one out and it felt like a long 20 mins!

Brutal Beat Down 20 mins AMRAP

  • 30m synchronised burpee long jump
  • 50 x 24Kg kettlebell swings
  • 30m partner carry

The final workout of the day! Another one we had to really grind out.  I was a spent force and we had a lot more occasions of taking a breather before getting moving again.  Once again, with the synchronised part, we had a shaky start, but sorted ourselves out to get going and find our pace.  The kettlebell swings were brutal at that weight, especially on top of everything else we’d done that day.  Weirdly, I found the partner carry to be a pleasant respite!

I can’t quite put together the right words to express how we felt when it finished.  We were elated that we had completed everything and it was big sweaty hugs all round with the guys we were grouped with and just about anyone else around at the time!

super 6

We stayed to watch the podium announcements for each category and a pair from my gym came 3rd which was a huge achievement!  Our huge achievement was that we didn’t finish bottom of the leader-board, but also that we completed the whole day to the best of our ability.  There was an after party arranged for somewhere close by, but we had to hit the road and head home…

A couple of pit stops (including the largest Burger King meal I have ever eaten) and we were home: sore, achy, grubby, bruised and happy…and just under 24 hours from when we left!

I’d definitely recommend it – the workouts and the atmosphere are awesome! I’d definitely train more and specifically concentrate on the events that are included, as soon as they are revealed.  I’d get used to doing multiple workouts and refueling in-between.

Also, be prepared for the aches and stiffness they day or so after – I rested Sunday and Monday and returned to the gym Tuesday – thankfully, once I got warmed up, I was fine!

Would I do it again next year?!  Hmmm…to be continued…?

Superhuman

Advertisements

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Superhuman

This is not a fitness blog…repeat…this is not a fitness blog…

OK, so this isn’t a fitness blog, but seeing as I write about many things on here from travels to film and book reviews and other experiences, I thought I’d write a couple of blog entries about a new experience I have coming up.

 Superhuman Games 2018 takes place in Bristol on 2nd June and I am competing taking part in the Same Sex Pairs (SSP) category.

The event details can be found on their website www.superhumansports.com

But to provide a brief summary:

 The event has loads of different categories, but the SSP is on where you and a partner (of the same sex) combine to take on 5 different 20 minute workouts over the course of the day.

The workouts, in the order that we will be taking them on, are:

  • Strength & Honour AMRAP:
    • 30 x hand release push ups
    • 50 x 50Kg thrusters
    • 50 x 70Kg deadlifts
    • 70 x sit ups
  • 600m Assault Course AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible)
  • VO2 Max – 20Kg Weighted Run
  • Unconventional Beast AMRAP:
    • 30m synchronised walking log lunge with overhead press
    • 30m 50Kg keg run
  • Brutal Beat Down AMRAP (don’t you just love these names? Not frightening at all!!):
    • 30m synchronised burpee long jump
    • 50 x 25Kg kettlebell swings
    • 30m partner carry

As I am part of a same sex pair (shout out to Darren!), these workouts are all about sharing the load with your partner.

For example, in Strength & Honour, you split the reps with a 10 rep minimum per person, e.g. we could split the thrusters – 15 reps each, then 10 reps each to equal the overall 50 reps.

 How on earth did I end up here?

 I’ve never really been a gym bunny – I’ve had various periods of gym memberships and various levels of commitment and training that have never been consistent.

During my last gym membership (I was doing spin classes, circuits and fight klub), I felt that I needed to supplement my training with something extra.  I chose running because it’s free and I’m not reliant on having a partner for it or any other dependencies.

To make sure I did the running, I would sign up for a few local 10K running events.  And that was working out fine to a degree.

 When I changed to my current gym (H3 Performance in Nottingham), the classes were such that I no longer felt any need to supplement my training with running, so I gave up that aspect of my training.  Which kind of left a gap for me to commit to something that would ensure I kept up with attending the gym and making sure I was ready for some sort of organised event.  I know it’s a strange twisted logic, but it worked for me!

 And then I heard about Superhuman.  Other gym members had placed on the podium during the last year’s event and they gave great testimonies about it and also great encouragement that me, far from being anywhere near as fit or strong as them, could take part, do my best and enjoy it.

The other great thing about it was that most of the workouts would most likely contain things that I had already done as part of classes at my gym, so it wouldn’t be like having to learn any new disciplines, for the most part.

 And one fateful day, when I must have been buzzing from an endorphin rush after a good workout, I signed up and I then talked my friend into joining me.

 At the time we signed up, we didn’t know what the workouts were going to be (we found out in April) and we truly didn’t start training for it properly until January and we based our workouts on previous years’ workouts.

I think it is fair to say that we have not trained together as much as we would have liked, but we have both kept up with our training individually.

 I’m nervous about the event (who wouldn’t be), but I am itching to get started!

“I may not be the strongest, I may not be the fastest, but I’ll be damned if I’m not trying my hardest”.

 “We may end up bottom of the leaderboard, but that’s still higher up than anyone who didn’t go for it!”

I may have mentioned, this is not a fitness blog…so the next and final entry on this subject will be about the event and how we got on…wish us luck!

Readers On The Storm

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Hardback)

It’s time to take off the tinted glasses, remove the blinkers and the ear muffs.

Take the red pill, not the blue pill.

I feel that this is an important book – important enough to become a mandatory curriculum book in every school in the country.  For the questions and issues it raises are compelling enough to activate a change in future generations.

There are hard truths and fundamental messages within this book, e.g. “We don’t live in a meritocracy and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise of wilful ignorance.”

The chapters :

Histories                                            – “History only remembers the winners”, an eye-opening discourse on how our perception of history has been edited and warped

The System                                        – Describes and dissects the structural racism that exists around us and within us

What is White Privilege?               – A term often used, but always understood and is there a common consensus of what it means?

Fear of a Black Planet                     – The age old hyperbole of the white British becoming a minority in a few generations and the rabid fear of multiculturalism in this country

The Feminism Question                – How the feminist movement seems unable to cope with intersectionality

Race and Class                                   – The continuous fallacies of the age old class system versus the more realistic view of class and how appending “white” makes all the difference

There’s No Justice, Just Us            – What on earth do we do?  Small step changes and challenges to the norm, question and challenge the default white position – the book raises hard questions within each of us and allows us the grace to make our own decisions on what we choose to do about it.

2 quotes I’d like to share, although I could quote this book many more times:

The mess we are living in is a deliberate one. If it was created by people, it can be dismantled by people, and it can be rebuilt in a way that serves all, rather than a selfish, hoarding few.”

The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence. White privilege is dull, grinding complacency. It is par for the course in a world in which drastic race inequality is responded to with a shoulder shrug, considered just the norm.

Whilst none of this makes for easy or comfortable reading, the author’s tone, whilst passionate, is elegant and even handed throughout.

It has already changed my outlook and I would recommend this book to anyone.

And I will leave a final quote here:

Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.

My Rating: 5/5

Readers on the Storm

The Dry by Jane Harper

I thought this was a fantastic book that conveyed the suffocating atmosphere of a small isolated town, beset by tragedy, in rural Australia: Pen-pushing Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to the town he grew up in to attend the funeral, following the death of his old best friend, Luke, and his family in an apparent murder-suicide.  Luke was Aaron’s alibi some 20+ years ago when they were teenagers and their friend Ellie was found weighed down in the local river.  What follows is an intense investigation into crimes of the past and the present in an atmosphere of stifling heat and hostility.  The town and its inhabitants are vividly brought to life during an intolerable drought pushing the whole community to the brink of bankruptcy both financially and morally.  Jane Harper brilliantly evokes the mob mentality and rumour-mill of a small town where everyone seemingly knows everyone else’s business, whereas the reality is that many secrets remain hidden and run deep through the core of the community.  IN short, it is terrific and I highly recommend it.

5/5

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

I’m a big fan of Southern Gothic novels and so have a real fascination with the Appalachian trail and its inhabitants, so often referred to as hillbillies.  They are generally regarded as people of a bygone era where family honour, crime, tough love and intricate familial relationships have seemingly remained the same since settlers first laid the foundations of the communities.  So, I was intrigued by this book and the publicity it has been receiving: supposedly this book gives, according to The Independent, “…a great insight into Trump and Brexit”.

Personally, I don’t see it. For a start, I couldn’t warm to the narrator. Vance seemed to veer wildly from gritty hillbilly dramatist, Crocodile Dundee / Country Mouse / and extremely self-aggrandising scholarly sociologist. He generalises massively and seems to have declared himself a spokesperson for his people. It does not come across as a level headed view at all. The only genuine feelings that came through were those of his Mamaw and Papaw who he did characterise magnificently well, which shows he knew those people inside out and had a very close bond with them. The general viewpoint of the book reminded me of when Bill Cosby did his series of talks blaming Afro-Americans for their own poverty (in a nutshell). It’s uncomfortable and proffers nothing constructive.  These “pull your socks up” tales are comparable to anecdotes about the power of positive thinking, clean eating, prayer, etc. curing cancer.  The tales may be inspirational, but they can obstruct the actual issues that need addressing.

2/5

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a decent unsettling, rather than scary, horror that pays homage to the ambiance of The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist.  Exalted company, you might think, but it somewhat falls short.  Perhaps because I’ve seen enough to be cynical about horror novels these days: I’ve been desensitised by exposure.  An average middleclass family are drawn into a world of exorcism and horror after their fourteen year old daughter, Marjorie, does not respond to therapy for psychological issues.  Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry, is the eyes and ears of this story with a loose enough reliability to keep you guessing.  The book has an interesting structure with time hops that enable the story to progress and remain intriguing.  As one reviewer on Goodreads said it’s like Exorcist fan fiction and it is, in a way, but it is way clever than that.  There are loads of homages and references to other horror works which just manage to stay the right side of OTT.  Paul Tremblay clearly revels in this, as he even includes a glossary of all his horror references at the end: a bit like a director’s commentary.  Apparently it did scare Stephen King though…

4/5

The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs

Image result for the monkey's paw ww jacobs

Now this is how you write a short story!  WW Jacobs packs more atmosphere of fear and dread in its few pages than some authors manage in huge tomes.  The Monkey’s Paw is a cursed talisman that grants wishes to the holder with a dark macabre twist.  It is gripping (pardon the pun) and definitely worth ten minutes of your time to read it.

5/5

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Quivering Pen: Sunday Sentence: The Things They ...

If, like me, you find the Vietnam war a fascinating era in history, then you may already be watching the fabulous The Vietnam War documentary currently screening on BBC Four.  I’m only a few episodes in, but I am stunned by the depth of the documentary and the knowledge it is imparting.  There is so much to learn from how Vietnam has been treated and occupied prior to the USA’s Vietnam war and much of it still resonates today when bringing to mind troops on the ground in hostile environments and occupation of other countries.  Michael Herr’s Dispatches is often the “go to” book on the Vietnam war and rightly so: it is an excellent insight into the war and a prime example of New Journalism.  The Things They Carried stands comparable to Dispatches.  Told in interlinking vignettes the stories follow members of O’Brien’s platoon during and after the Vietnam war.  I have been lucky enough to visit Vietnam as a tourist and although it may seem macabre to visit sites such as the Cu Chi tunnels, I feel that I treated my visits with the respect and gravitas that they deserve.  This is a country still reeling from after effects of Agent Orange and, rather than become a forgotten war, it should be remembered for the horror it was and still is.  The Things They Carried is an important accompaniment to this history.

4/5

Short Story: Vigilante

Moon

Sleep was the worst when it eventually came.  Night terrors they call it on TV. I watched a lot of TV.  I hadn’t been to bed since I returned home from the hospital.  At best I dosed in front of the TV, only occasionally sinking into a deep enough sleep for the nightmares to appear.  Those movies that show people sitting bolt upright, sweating and gasping isn’t just make-believe.  It happens.  It’s a primal fear that seems to envelope you.  It makes you tremble and, more often than not, cry.  I can’t live like that.  I won’t live like that.

I remember this much: It was a cloudless night with a full moon and I was pretty cold.  Blood loss does that.  Makes you shiver.  I kept my eyes on the moon until it disappeared as I entered the ambulance.  I passed out.

Around £25, my bank cards, my watch and my phone.  My phone might be worth a fair bit and maybe the watch, but the bank cards were cancelled.  No villa on the Costa del Sol for them.  They’d have to rob a lot more people for that.

14 stitches.  It should have only been 13, but the doctor said I had been unlucky enough, so he put an extra one in.  That’s all I need, a superstitious doctor.  I guess I should be glad he didn’t shrink my head or sacrifice a chicken to save me.

I gave the police a description.  The usual stuff they must hear: it was dark; I didn’t get a good look; it all happened so fast, etc.  That was the truth, I guess.  I’m certain I’d recognise him if I saw him, but I can’t visualise him enough to describe him.  And I know, as soon as he sees me again, I’ll see that look of recognition in his face that will confirm it.  And he will see me again.

Every city, in fact almost every place, has dodgy areas: the places you don’t walk alone at night and this city is no different.  I’d been in one such place when stabbed and robbed.  You could say it was my own fault.  I’d missed my bus and so I decided to walk home.  The shortest route took me through this neighbourhood.

So, yeah, if you’re thinking that it’s my fault I got stabbed and robbed because I chose to walk home, then in your mind you’re probably right.  In my mind, I should be able to walk wherever I choose without fear of violence.  Especially if I miss my bus and take the shortest route home. In my mind I’m probably righteous.

I spent 2 weeks in the hospital.  I returned to my flat and a heap of post to open.  I found myself pausing to consider the potential damage my letter opener could do if used with malice.  In my mind’s eye I pictured an entity of the guy who stabbed me.  I smiled.

The guy in the store had to check my ID.  Technically it’s a camping knife.  Technically I was going to use it for outdoor pursuits.

After a week of sitting at home, lost in my own thoughts and troubled by nightmares, I made a move. Although still not yet fully mobile, I walked the exact same route, at the exact same time as the night I was attacked.  I walked the route every night.  I gripped the knife tightly in my pocket every time.

Nothing happened.  That frustrated me.  Could it be such a random occurrence?  Like the flip side of winning the lottery?  No.  You make your own luck.

I changed my route.  It took me deeper into the heart of the neighbourhood I had skirted around when attacked.  It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys and passageways.  Graffiti tags and trainers looped over telephone wires mark out gang territories.  Not a hospitable place for an outsider, yet people still visit daily.  Drugs & prostitution seem to be the main exports of this economy.  Cash, violence and intimidation are the main currencies.

I used my phone to guide me on a circuit of the estate: the dilapidated shopping centre, the pubs with heavy drawn curtains and steamed up windows, debris littering the streets.  With phone in full view, it took all of half an hour for someone to approach me.

He asked me if I was lost.  I said yes.  He offered to walk me to where I wanted to go.  I followed.  We called each other mate and small talked about sports.  He advised me not to walk these streets.  There are some dodgy people around who’d take advantage and take the phone.

He walked me to a dead-end.  He no longer called me mate.  His instant aggression caught me by surprise.  He was on me before I had a chance to catch my breath.  He shoved me hard in the stomach and I felt as though my lucky 14 stitches were torn.  A burning sensation and dampness seeped from my wound.  Pushed up against a fence in the darkness I smelled the weed and the booze on his breath as he came in close.  My wallet and my phone or I will die.  I told him ok and he stood back arms folded.  I grinned and waited long enough for that to register with him before producing my knife.  It scared him momentarily and then he tried to face me down.  He taunted me to do it.  He didn’t have to ask twice.

The blade went in through his jacket and I felt the edge of the blade grind up against the inside of his ribs as I plunged it upwards.  He screamed and I covered his mouth.  He bit down hard on my hand.  With no free hand I head-butted him to knock his jaws loose.  His nose emitted a large cracking sound and blood splattered over his face and my forehead.  His eyes rolled up into his head.  He passed out.

I splashed water on his face from a leaking gutter.  He was slumped up against the side of a garage.  His face was a mess and his eyes and nose had already swollen.  He clutched at his wound as though trying to keep the blood from leaking out of him.  I knew that feeling.  He tried to speak, but he caught sight of the blade in my hand and thought better of it.  Dogs barked in the distance. I wasn’t sure if I’d have long, so I got to the point.  “I just wanted to make sure you knew this was happening”. I grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and sliced the blade across his neck.  He gurgled and panicked. He kicked his legs out and grasped at his neck.  When he stopped moving, I left.

I’d expected to feel more.  I was numb.  But I slept soundly.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Film Review: Skyfall

Image

To the manor Bond

There’s nostalgiaabout this film as it marks 50 years of Bond.  It also fulfils audience requirements in that since Casino Royale thrust Bond back into fashion audiences have been waiting for another action packed Bond Film (considering Quantum of Solace garnered less enthusiasm).  Plus, a Bond film is one of those films that you go to the cinema knowing you will like: you may be able to see its flaws, but on the whole you know you’re gonna like it.  It inspires and revisits the excitement of when the new Bond would be out (or even an old one on television) from childhood.  But…

…Don’t believe the hype: this is not the best Bond film ever made.

It is a Bond of two halves:

It’s definitely Casino Royale mk2 for the pre-title sequence: a pulsating chase through Istanbul that culminates in a reasonably edgy segue into the titles.  I liked the titles and the song is fittingly Bond-esque (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adele involved in further films).

The film continues apace punctuated with a couple of dull moments that are clearly there to show depth to Bond’s character, but feel clunky and ill-conceived in relation to the rest of the film.  It seems that in this “Bond universe”, contrary to the rookie Bond in the previous two Craig outings, Bond is a washed up (literally) drunk: battered and bruised and self-aware enough to know that espionage is fast becoming a young man’s game where technology outfights brawn.

But, with a list of secret agents being leaked by a disturbingly camp former agent Silva (Javier Bardem), Bond is soon found to be useful, particularly as this adventure becomes more personal.  Silva is potentially Bond of the future: as an agent he pushed the boundaries of his remit too far and M hung him out to dry.  Silva explains as much to Bond, but the similarities between them seem to pass him by and, unfortunately that theme does not get revisited.

There are some great set pieces and when the action does get going it grabs the film by the scruff of the neck and lifts it way beyond the shaky plot.

At some point the main plot, the secret agents list, is discarded and it becomes a film about Bond protecting M from all-out assault from Silva.  This second half of the film seriously loses its way for me and I began to lose interest.

Silva also inexplicably discards his clever scheming and terrorist tactics in favour of all out warfare.  Perhaps it was to show that the list was trivial to him and all that mattered was M, but this was not really represented in the film.

What this film does do is give M much more screen time than previous Bonds.  Judi Dench’s clipped and matronly interactions with, particularly Craig’s, Bond have always been well worked.  Unfortunately, in this film Judi Dench shows more of her “As Time Goes By”, rather than her Academy Award winning acting chops.

Although the “Straw Dogs” style siege at the end offers up impressive action again, the shine is taken off by the manner in which we got to this point.

At times it feels like fan fiction: revealing more of Bond’s past and knowing nods and winks to previous films (and Bonds).  That’s not to say that it doesn’t work, but it places Daniel Craig’s Bond in that uneasy area where previous Bonds are regarded as the same person: George Lazemby clearing his desk in OHMSS springs to mind. 

This might seem like a damning review, but I actually enjoyed the film.  You do have to suspend belief when watching Bond and I’m more than ready to do that.  I suspect the hype led me to believe that this really could be the best Bond of all.  It always helps when you like a Bond and, Brosnan aside; I’ve liked all Bonds (yes, some more than others).  I honestly think that Daniel Craig is a great choice and conveys Bond’s ruthlessness and charm extremely well.

The film redeems itself massively in the final 20mins and I also suspect that audience members leaving the film on a high and full of anticipation for the next film in the series will have also added to the rave reviews.  It sets up the next phase of the series really well and I will be relishing when…James Bond will Return…

My Rating 3/5