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Good Old College Try

Posted in Meanderings

Well, as I start to write this I have yet to come up with a title for this particular entry that’s been sort of floating around in my brain – although in truth, this is most likely spurned on by my previous Meanderings article and my flailing YouTube channel – perhaps it should read as failing YouTube channel.

In regards to my YouTube channel Bradfangled, it may be apt to say “as you well know by now” – although odds are you don’t because no one really watches the content I put out on YouTube – the stats offer an extraordinarily in-depth break down of my channel’s failure – it’s unfortunate and spectacular at the same time, a real eye-opener you could say.

In perhaps, what could be the greatest diversionary tactic from my writing pursuits yet, I’ve spent the better part of two years sinking time, energy, money and creativity into a retro-game themed YouTube channel whose exponential growth in content quality and style surely deserves more than the average 20 – 40 views that my episodes garner, and a large portion of those views come from friends and family. So there’s that. Along the path to web show greatness – I learned loads about video and sound editing as well as script writing – yes, writing does play a huge role in the production of a web show, so in essence I was still writing throughout those two years.

Yet, it doesn’t stop there, an exhaustive amount of social media marketing was also spent, trying to gain followers on platforms like Twitter and Instagram in an effort to funnel them through to my YouTube channel – well of course that hasn’t really worked out too well either. So I guess at some point one needs to take a step back and evaluate the effort-to-viewership ratio, i.e – does the amount of time, effort and sacrifice that is poured into such a pursuit warrant the dismal viewership and engagement it gets? No, not in the slightest. Yes, YouTube is a creative outlet and ultimately one should focus on doing it for themselves but also take into consideration that the creation of and by extension the creative process involved in creating a web show is a form of art, and art is meant to be consumed and enjoyed, not hidden and ignored.

By contrast – and this isn’t to say that my content is the greatest of all time, but when compared to the endless cesspool of sheer garbage that populates YouTube, it’s clear that quality and effort are not factors that too many people are concerned with, nor YouTube for that matter – they will promote any shit that makes them money and will turn around saying that they support content creators, which is true, just as long as you’re one of their prized cash cows that they can continuously suck at the teat of, like the soulless corporate vampires that they are.

I also took it one step further, deciding to do a little social experiment and created a junk YouTube channel – literally no thought or planning going into it at all. A generic name, shitty banner, crappy icons and thumbnails pulled off of the web and uploaded vague, idiotic shit I filmed on my phone – a series of absurdly short clips, and I did this frequently. 12 videos in 2 days and wouldn’t you know, it’s getting views. In just 6 days, the channel already has 1826 views, so that’s basically just under half of what Bradfangled received over a 2 year period, and the most ridiculous video of them all received 650+ views in under 24 hours. Absolutely mind-boggling.

It’s worth noting that the above video is 28 seconds long, and just look at the watch time. I then posted a video on Bradfangled, using the same tags (as it was relevant – PS5 being at the forefront) about something trending which was Spider-Man Remastered and wouldn’t you know, the results were terrible, in fact, the video performed worse than usual, so clearly there is no visibility of my channel. It really doesn’t make any sense and is rather upsetting to be frank.

So with an average viewership of 20 – 40 views per video (there are a few exceptions) I’ve decided to take a step back from YouTube for a while and focus my energies elsewhere – specifically with getting my book published and probably some short stories and a comic strip, so you can expect my Patreon to be revamped to accommodate this change. On the plus side, I can say that I’ve given this YouTube thing a good old college try and at least I came up with a title for this article as I type these last few words.

Review | The Willoughbys

Posted in Film & Television

The Willoughbys went completely under my radar, not so surprising I suppose when you consider that it’s an animated film that doesn’t fall under the ever-encroaching umbrella of Disney. This in itself was quite a nice surprise as most non-Disney animated films tend to have a completely different vibe about them, such is the case with The Willoughbys.

Based on Lois Lowry’s novel of the same name, The Willoughbys follows the story of the neglected Willoughby children who hatch a plan to escape the thrall of their terrible parents by orphaning themselves – yes, you read that correctly, and it wouldn’t be an adventure if that plan didn’t turn out to be a needlessly elaborate plot – which it is, but that’s part of the fun of course.

Like so many animated films before it, The Willoughbys is based on a novel.

The Willoughby children consist of Tim, the rational eldest, Jane, the fun-loving middle child and the creepy twins named Barnaby (yes, both are named Barnaby). Tim is also obsessed with the once-proud history (and mustaches) of the Willoughby family, and wishes to recapture that lost grandeur however impossible that may be, his parents being the biggest obstacle of course.

One day, a baby is dropped off at the gates of the Willoughby house, and news of yet another child prompts the Willoughby parents to kick out all their children who may return provided they get rid of the infant. Needless to say, this puts all kinds of things into motion, including the idea of creating a travel brochure of dangerous places that would lure the parents to certain doom, thus orphaning the children…just as they wanted.

The Willoughbys is narrated by a blue cat (voiced by Ricky Gervais), adding a nice storybook feel to the atmosphere, further enhanced by the beautiful storybook-esque animation of the movie. While the overall story certainly lacks the scope of say your typical Disney animation or story of it’s ilk such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, it is a heart-warming and enjoyable tale all round, even if some of the plot devices – such as the baby at the doorstep are a bit clunky (the baby is literally just a trigger to progress the story and has no real bearing on the welfare of the Willoughby children.

I’ve never heard of Bron Studios however, looking at their Wiki page, they seem to have released many, many films since 2010 so it may be worth taking a look at their library, you never know what you might find. In conclusion, Netflix’s latest animated film while certainly worth a watch, leans a bit too much into style over substance as while its animation is undoubtedly delightful, there isn’t enough here to warrant repeated viewing.

Score: C

Much Ado About Nothing

Posted in Meanderings

Writing has always come naturally to me, whether it’s about something made up or perhaps even a work-related email, note, or blog post – whether or not I’m good at it of course is another story entirely. Hey, I think I’m pretty good, okay?

December leading into 2020 has been a bit of a nightmare, we hired a contractor (an acquaintance of a family member) to do work on the house and what was meant to be a 2-week job turned into a 4-month nightmare which technically never ended as the work was never completed, but I think I will rant about that another time.

Needless to say, by March, the Coronavirus had the world firmly clasped in its grip and by the end of that same month, we here in South Africa were also subjected to restrictions and a strict lock-down in an effort to slow down what is now called COVID-19. The lock-down regulations range from the perfectly reasonable (stay at home, social-distancing, and so forth) to the ridiculous (no tobacco, alcohol or ready-made foods to be sold in supermarkets). How is that ridiculous you ask? Well, in the absence of said alcohol and tobacco, the government has inadvertently (though it should not come as a surprise to them) created tobacco bootleggers and home-beer-brewers, the latter supposedly ‘illegal’ now too – just what the fuck did they think was going to happen?

Oh course, the whole no cooked foods thing is just a big fat fuck-you to front-line medical workers and the elderly who rely on the convenience of read-made meals – but hey, that’s in the ‘fast food’ domain and since all fast food outlets and restaurants are currently closed, you don’t get to have that pie or chicken you’re either too frail to prepare or tired to think about making after a grueling 18 hour shift attending to the sick.

Given the weak state of SA’s economy, needless to say the lock-down is driving the economy even further into the ground as 1 in 5 companies begin lay-offs, people starve and despite what the media would have you think, crime is in fact increasing due to pure desperation. In that regard, my wife and I find ourselves in quite a fortunate situation as she is employed by the government and I contract IT services for a company abroad.

Amid all this chaos, I selfishly wonder if the little Houw Hoek Farm Stall will survive not being able to make and sell those pies as that is exactly what it’s famous for…man, those pies are good.

Beyond that, I’m a bit at odds with what sort of creative endeavours I should pursue – I still have an unpublished book that needs attention, a YouTube channel to maintain, the desire to draw some sort of comic strip and of course, write. Fuck, something’s got to go. Again, selfish, I know, especially when the world burns around us, but I’m not going to apologise, it’s good to have goals, even during the apocalypse.

Any-who, I’m trying to challenge myself to post an update here as frequently as possible, so I’ll keep at it and scribble down anything else that comes to mind that I think someone out there may find interesting.

If not, hey, at least I’m writing.

Review | Avenue 5

Posted in Film & Television

I’ve had Avenue 5 in my downloads list for quite sometime now but somehow managed to put off watching it until now, it seemed my wife and I reached the point where we’d caught up with all the weekly shows as well as the binge-worthy ones. I believe I presented it as – “Well, might as well check this one out, it’s like the Orville, but with a luxury cruise ship instead of an exploratory one…oh, and it has House in it and Josh Gad – Gaston’s right-hand in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.”

That was enough to sell it – so we watched it all in two days.

So some important things to know, season one consists of 9 half-hour episodes, it ends leaving you wanting more and HBO have already renewed it for a second season – this last point is especially important due to how season one ends, so it’s better to know this going in for obvious reasons – especially given the cutthroat nature of prime spots, viewership numbers and all that other shit that goes on in the background that pretty much controls the fate of your favourite shows.

So why write an piece on this show in particular? Well, I enjoyed Avenue 5, it’s light-hearted yet clever at the same time, and the melting pot of characters including Hugh Laurie (obviously) make this the perfect distraction for the COVID-19 induced lock-down most of us seem to find ourselves in. Besides, black-comedy space shows are welcomed amongst the wealth of Star Trek reboots, Star Wars sequels and other endless space-operas trying to make their mark in the sci-fi department. Seth MacFarlane had the right idea with The Orville – a show that’s certainly humourous, but at the same time, oozes charisma, wit and has a penchant for clever story-telling.

So, without giving too much away – Hugh Laurie plays Ryan Clark, captain of the luxury cruise spaceship Avenue 5. Despite having to placate the thousands of spoiled, self-absorbed and often-times just plain shitty passengers (there’s a Karen on board, *eek*), the nightmare is compounded when the ship’s engineer is impaled to death and the ship itself is knocked off course, turning an 8 week journey into a 3 year nightmare.

Thankfully for us, this creates the perfect condition for humour as the funny and quite-frankly ubsurd (at times) interactions of Herman Judd (Josh Gad) – billionaire owner of the Avenue 5 whose name is quite literally plastered all over the ship, Head of Customer Relations, Matt Spencer (Zach Woods, Silicon Valley), no-nonsense Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura) and second engineer Billy McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow) all play off of one another beautifully, oh, and not forgetting the absolutely deplorable Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front), who as you can imagine really lives up to being a Karen.

So why haven’t you heard of Avenue 5 you might ask yourself? Fuck all marketing from what I can see and relatively low IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores are most likely the cause, but don’t let the idiotic opinions of aggregation sites deter you, Avenue 5 is an enjoyable watch, that opens itself up to a lot of potential for upcoming seasons should this cruise ship manage to navigate itself up and above the ocean of shitty, heavily-marketed mediocrity that seems to so-often plague our screens.

Score: B+

Lester – Chapter 1

Posted in Short Stories

Lester was a little creep who had obtained super powers. He got them from an odd rock that had plummeted from the sky and landed in his back yard. The rock radiated with cosmic energy and would have gone completely unnoticed if Lester hadn’t tripped over it and subsequently attacked it with displaced aggression. The rock had done nothing to incur Lester’s wrath and the moment the boy’s skin made contact with the mineraloid, it had gifted the spoilt ten year old with abilities beyond his wildest dreams.

Lester did not deserve these powers.

The imbuement of absolute power seemed to go unnoticed as Lester continued to pelt stones at the neighbour’s cat – an average Thursday for a no-longer average child.

-5%-

“Stupid cat, why don’t you move if you don’t like me throwing stones at you? Obviously you must like it!?” said Lester.

The very next stone that Lester flung, ripped through the cat like the creature was made of tissue paper. The cat slumped over the boundary wall, it’s guts leaking out on either side. Lester stood quizzically for a moment observing what he had done.

“Stupid cat.”

Spinning on his heel, Lester trotted inside the house, unperturbed by what had just transpired.

By 8pm it was time for Lester to go to bed, but the overindulged child was not interested.

“We will not go through this exercise again, Lester!” scolded his father.

“I don’t WANT to go to bed, I WANT to play Xbox!” protested Lester.

Father and son stood in front of one another for what seemed like an eternity, eyes locked – both unyielding.

“I WANT to play Xbox!” he hissed through gritted teeth.

Lester’s squealing shot through his father’s mind like needles. Burst blood vessels in the man’s eyes caused him to relent as he stumbled off to the bathroom to rinse his face. Soon after his wife would come looking for him.

“Henry, what’s happened!?’ she cried.

That little shit son of yours, that’s what!” he scolded.

“Henry, your eyes!” she gasped.

“Yes, I know it’s my fucking eyes, was so angry…shouting at Lester must have popped a blood vessel or something.”

This was not so, and was in fact Lester’s direct doing. Though neither knew it at the time.

Yet again, Lester was untroubled by what had happened and saw this as an opportunity to get his way and play Xbox, just like he wanted in the first place. His father would not bother him again that evening, as he lay in bed nursing the worst headache he would ever experience in his life.

-9%-

It was Saturday, and Lester enjoyed nothing more than melting plastic soldiers with his father’s blowtorch, he wasn’t allowed to go near the tool but his father worked on the weekends and his mother would spend the day watching her shows. So melt little plastic soldiers he did.

The rotting remains of the neighbour’s cat had caught Lester’s eye as carrion birds proceeded to rip and pull at the entrails. Lester’s lapse in concentration at this spectacle meant that he neglected to notice that the blowtorch was spewing white hot flames onto his knees as he sat on his haunches. As Lester finally turned his attention back to his melted soldiers, he fell back, startled, thinking he had burnt himself but there wasn’t a single mark on his skin, not even a scorched hair. He rubbed his knees and legs over multiple times in disbelief but he remained unharmed – the blowtorch sat next to him idly, the torch’s nozzle stained by heat.

Panicked, Lester let out a high-pitched scream, and soon after his mother came running outside to see what had ailed her son but her concern was almost immediately replaced with anger as she saw the blowtorch lying on the ground next to her wailing son.

“What have we told you about playing with that thing!? Do you see what happens when you don’t listen, Lester!”

Lester’s mother stormed over to her son, scooping up the blowtorch – she grabbed his forearm with the intention of dragging the boy inside but recoiled with pain as her hand was immediately and inexplicably burnt, the palm of her hand bubbled with welts and loose skin.

‘Fuck, Lester!”

Her son stood idly, watching his mother writhe in pain, trying to make sense of what was happening. His mother glared at him with equal confusion, cradling her hand, she stormed inside to nurse the wound.

-12%-

That night, Lester sat in his room playing video-games as his parents argued in the kitchen, his mother desperately trying to explain what had happened that afternoon without sounding too hysterical. Her husband, tired from the toils of manual labour sat at the kitchen table, disengaged, hardly paying attention to what his wife was saying but lashed out at her after she spilled his beer while trying to show him her burnt hand.

“Jesus, Karen! Watch what you’re doing!”

“That’s what your worried about? Your fucking beer!? I’m trying to tell you something here, Henry! Something strange is happening with Lester!”

“The only thing that’s strange here is how you mollycoddle that little shit!”

“He burnt me, Henry! As soon as I grabbed his arm!”

“And this is exactly why no one but me should touch that blowtorch!”

“Damn it, Henry! I was holding the blowtorch, I got burnt when I grabbed his arm…haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said!?”

“No Karen, because what you’re saying is stupid, clearly you shouldn’t be touching the blowtorch either!”

“Fuck you, Henry!”

Karen smacked her husband’s beer out of his hand before he could take another sip and stormed out of the kitchen. She passed Lester’s room, stopping momentarily to see her son sitting in front of the TV, still playing his video-games. For a moment she thought about approaching him, but the memory of that afternoon gave her pause as a chill ran down her spine. She continued on to her bedroom.

***

After several hours, drunk and weary, Henry slowly shambled towards the bedroom but not before seeing Lester still playing video-games.

“For Christ’s sake, Lester, shut that shit off and go to bed.”

Lester did not respond, and seemingly ignored his father.

“I’m not going to ask you again, boy!”

Still, Lester remained motionless in front of the television. A fact that only served to enrage his father even further. Henry marched up to Lester, crushing various toys that were strewn in his path, reaching out to grab hold of his son, Lester got up and turned to face his father. A split second later and Lester held both of his father’s wrists firmly in his grasp.

-15%-

“Fifteen percent, Dad.” whispered Lester.

“Wh-what are you talking about…let go of me.” protested Henry, unable to free himself from the ten year old’s grip.

“Fifteen percent…it’s the amount of power I have so far.”

“P-power!? This isn’t a cartoon, boy. You are going to get such a hiding, you have no idea what’s coming, you little shit!”

“No, Dad. It’s already here.”

Lester crushed his father’s wrists so thoroughly that all that remained were two stumps as the man’s life spilled out onto the carpet – filling the small room with the overbearingly acrid odour of blood. Taking a few steps back, Henry fell into the hallway, slumped against the wall, and bled out in moments. In response to all the commotion, Karen came out into the hallway, in a daze of confusion as she tried to make sense of seeing her dead husband slumped over in the hallway with no hands.

Karen stood silent, so petrified she was unable to scream. She managed a few steps towards her husband before her heart gave out. She fell to the ground dead, only a few feet away from the blood-covered man.

Lester stood at the threshold of his room, staring blankly at his dead parents. In one fluid motion he spun back into his room, sat down in front of the television, and continued to play his video-games…


New year, new me bullshit? Well, sort of but not really…

Posted in Meanderings

I wasn’t overly aware as to just how long it had been since my previous blog post – a realisation that dawned on me when I logged into the Dashboard this morning only to see that there were 10 pending updates and WordPress had seemingly reinvented itself with ‘blocks’, new features and what have you.

The usage of ‘block paragraph inserts’ seems lost on me but I’ll go with it…for now. My last post was the 4th May 2018, now that’s quite a while ago, and even then I wasn’t really writing, having shifted my focus to a small web comic I was doing which has subsequently fallen to the wayside due to time constraints and just a general lack of interest I suppose.

Yesterday was the first time since December last year that I managed to dedicate some time to my novel – an endevour that I started in 2012. The book is essentially complete, I’m just going over it one last time before I set out on the arduous task of looking for a publisher. My lovely wife-to-be is also assisting me by offering advice and criticism which is welcomed as after having spent 6 years working on the thing, I undoubtedly have a degree of tunnel vision so there is room to gain a widened perspective via an additional viewpoint – especially since she is an avid reader.

So what have I been doing? Well, for the most part, I have been diverted from working on my book yet again by a YouTube channel I started in July of last year – it’s been quite an undertaking and although it may not seem like it, there is a fair amount of writing that goes into developing episodes, namely writing scripts and so forth. It’s been fun but I think it’s time to go back to my roots – complete my book and get it off to a publisher. There is certainly a degree of self-sabotage at play here since I always seem to find ways not to work on my main project.

I aspire to be a published writer – read; ‘published’ – I hate the term ‘aspiring writer’. I’m already a fucking writer and won’t allow anyone to tell me differently. If the difference between being a writer was measured on whether or not one is published then I fear for the industry. If you want to write, then write. If you want to get published, then get published. There are numerous avenues a writer can take to get their work out there. The real danger is procrastination and self-sabotage, in this era it is simply too easy to get side-tracked by the sickly wonderful hindrances of streaming services and social media. Not discounting the unfortunate hindrance of a tedious day job either…

I’m not about to abandon the YouTube channel – I’ve invested far too much time and effort into it, but I will slow it down a bit – besides I have some other ideas in mind which will be explained in next week’s video.

So for now, I will return to the pages of my book, thereafter I intend on finishing off a couple short stories I had been working on – I read the pages of one in particular I had started last year and really enjoyed it – I think if you can read your own work and smile about it or look at it in awe then you’re on the right track and it would be a shame to let something like that fall to the wayside.

| Brad.