Monday, February 25, 2013

Feedback Forum

The Writers' Soc met today in college, for the first time in way too long. We had to put our Feedback Forums on hold last semester, with most of us - if not all of us - actively involved in what became a triple-header showcase of plays at Christmas. It didn't make sense to try squeeze one more thing into an already busy schedule, not when it required producing work, and not when it usually goes on for about two hours.

It was so good to get to hear a lot of new work from people, with a mix of poetry, short stories, blog posts and letters, written in various emotional and sobreital states.

The Feedback Forum is a good chance for us to get to share our work, but that's not its only purpose. The poems we share - because it's usually poems, but that's not intentional - tell us something of the people who wrote them, and that leads on to various conversations about the meanings behind the work. We ended up talking in length about abortion in Ireland as a result of someone's work. Her first time coming, and that's what happens.

It was awesome.

I shared a single poem, this time, written at the start of the year for a friend whom almost everyone in the society knows. It was a very personal piece, and one I haven't had the chance to share more broadly, yet. All in all, I think it went down well.

The Writers' Soc is due to go on to become part of the first ever English Week in my college. Several societies - Drama, Writers, Tea and Sci-Fi confirmed, from what I know about it - are planning events to fit into the week, to make it known that there are lots of fun ways to share the joy of the English language and its various media. Thankfully I'm not in charge of running the entire thing, or I'd be freaking out right now.

It will be fun, though. We've never had so much to do in the various societies. Drama lasted the longest out of the non-sports socieities last year, with two plays in the second semester drawing in massive crowds - almost selling out twice! That's a lot for a small college. This year, we split up the work a lot over the two semesters, and created something entirely different out of the Drama Society than has been seen in previous years. Just as well; the number of new members jumped up this year, making it the biggest Drama Society I've seen since my first year in the college (possibly the biggest it's been since before that!)

With English Week, Drama is going along with three much younger societies to create something unique to the college. There's such a wide variety of events in the works, and I'm delighted that the Writers' Soc, my baby in the college, gets to be involved in it. We're still planning something massive, but it all focuses on the type of work we do in the Feedback Forum. We're going to get a little bit more public than people are used to seeing us, if they even remember we exist.

I canny wait.

In the meantime, I'm going to take advantage of the poetry-buzz I'm on and work on some new material over the coming week to get as many thoughts as I can out on paper in as best a form as I can manage. The next Feedback Forum is going to rock!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Marvel-ous Line-Up

It's no secret I'm a massive fan of Marvel Comics. Thankfully, the comic books are supplying a lot of entertainment off the page - and on the big screen - over the next few years. There's a lot to keep up with, and a lot changing, but I thought it would be worth sharing the future developments of Marvel-related films, more than half of which are part of the grander scheme of Marvel films. Release dates below are taken from IMDB, listing the UK release unless there was only a USA release date. Keep in mind: I will be referencing previous films in the Marvel universe, and there will be spoilers in that regard.

Iron Man 3 - 26 April 2013

The third in the Iron Man franchise, there's a lot to expect. I don't think they'll be setting up the armoured billionaire for another film after this one, using the trilogy to present one half of the dynamic duo that lead the Avengers in every struggle they face. Iron Man 3 is the first film to hit the cinemas as part of Marvel's 'Phase Two'. Phase One ended with The Avengers, and the gathering of the heroes.

Why the division, now? Because each hero has his or her own story, and they only come together to face to the world's greatest threats. In this instance, Iron Man is to go up against The Mandarin. In the comic books, he wears ten magical rings that grant him magical powers. So far, the Marvel universe has held back on the magic, unless it came from Asgard. This does raise the question: will this be the introduction to earth-based magic in Marvel films?

The Wolverine - 26 July 2013

Following up from X-Men: The Last Stand, we're back with Wolverine. Xavier is dead, Jean is dead, and I'm sure he's pretty beat up about Scott, too. Inside. Deep inside. With Wolverine: Origins having already hit the screens a few years back, there were certainly some troubles with continuity as the X-Men films continued. While the relatively recent trilogy wasn't entirely true to the comic books, it still maintained some of the standards set by the comic books.

The Wolverine will see the titular hero in Japan, a journey he took much earlier in the comic books. It is likely that, in facing psychological and emotional troubles following the events of the previous film, Logan needs some space to breathe, to discover himself, and maybe move on from Jean Grey.

The trouble is, mutants aren't an American problem. The Silver Samurai, if they use the original, can cut through anything - except Adamantium - by channelling energy into his sword. He's also supposed to be able to teleport, but the films haven't always stuck to canon on powers. If they use the second Silver Samurai, he'll just be a human with a technological suit of armour, and swords. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the film, and there isn't that long to wait.

Thor: The Dark World - 30 October 2013

The Asgardian is due to face two sets of 'aliens' in this sequel to Thor and The Avengers: dark elves and marauders. I won't lie: I don't know much about them. However, there are much more interesting developments to keep in mind. For a start, Loki will be present again, and he's never been up to much good in the films.

To add to that, however, are the rumours of the first appearance of Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of Marvel Comics. Early suggestions have said that he will be working alongside Jane Foster. However, no information about Dr Strange has been released officially. If the hearsay proves true, it may be a cameo role, but one that will see his introduction to Asgardian technology. As Thor remarks, science for him is magic for earthlings, and it may result in a fascination that cannot be overcome for the good doctor.

If those rumours prove true, the chances of a Doctor Strange film appearing in 2016/2017 are increasingly likely, but I don't imagine we will see one before Avengers 2.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 4 April 2014

Remember Bucky Barnes and how he plummeted to his death in Captain America? Well, the trick to Marvel Comics is that nobody really dies permanently. (Just ask Jean Grey...) Bucky is, in fact, the brainwashed Russian warrior, known as The Winter Soldier.

Cue dramatic music and a shocked close up of the dear Captain. Right before Bucky tries to kill him.

But then, Bucky isn't the only one to return to the big screen. Natasha Romanov, AKA Black Widow, will return as Captain America attempts to fit in to his new life in the twenty-first century in SHIELD. Along with her are introductions to Crossbones and Sharon Carter, one of whom is responsible for the death of Captain America. We've also got the listed seventh hero of the Avengers: The Falcon. While he won't be getting his own film, it seems, the hero is credited, so far, in both The Winter Soldier and Avengers 2. If you haven't guessed yet, he flies.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 18 April 2014

April's a busy month for superhero films, with the web-slinging wall-crawler making a return to the big screen. He's joined by the lovely Gwen Stacy again, and Mary Jane Watson. Yep, MJ's back. I'm not sure I'm happy with that. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy have a much bigger story than has been shown already, including her untimely death. But then, we won't have a Green Goblin to get that ball rolling. Yet.

We've got a new villain to join the ranks, though: Electro. He's going to cause a fair amount of trouble, it can be assumed, especially if the casting of a Rhino is to be taken seriously. We're talking full-on Super Villain Super Team here, with Doc Connors only locked away, and a mysterious figure in his cell. It's my guess that they'll be building things up for a big finish with the trilogy - and God I hope it's only a trilogy, and without the emo-Spidey that featured last time - with a collection of villains to really test Spider-Man in a way that hasn't been seen since the comic books. So far, adaptations have been lacking in the villainy Spider-Man has had to face during his life.

X-Men: Days of Future Past - 18 July 2014

The X-Men were the first superheroes I really loved. In this sequel to First Class, we're continuing with the newbies that were introduced, and still back in the Cold War era, but with a story that hasn't been tested on the superhero big screen before: a time-travel story arc.

With the casting of particular actors, there's the suggestion that this burst of X-Men films precedes the trilogy that first starred Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman. Well, guess what? Thanks to the miracle of time travel, many of the trilogy's characters are coming to cinemas once again! While there are still only rumours about Cyclops and Storm, so far it has been revealed that we'll be seeing Shadowcat, Iceman, Rogue, Wolverine, Magneto and Xavier, and actor Peter Dinklage (from Game of Thrones) as the antagonist. So far, his character is unknown, as the original story arc isn't quite the same as what the film will produce.

What this revelation does, however, is completely remove Wolverine: Origins from the line of stories. Emma Frost is younger in Origins than she is in First Class; Professor X can walk and has hair when he first meets her in the later film, but in Origins he's bald. He's also walking, despite the bullet to the spine. While it is still suggested by the line-up of films together, Wolverine: Origins doesn't seem to fit in, in terms of continuity.

Guardians of the Galaxy - 1 August 2014

We've received very little information on Guardians of the Galaxy as of yet, though the Marvel Now! comics are due to begin fitting the shelves shortly. Historically, they've only had a couple of major stories that people still talk about, one of which involves a battle against Thanos.

This is Marvel's chance to play off the more science-fiction elements of their universe. The Guardians are space travellers with high-tech equipment. I don't know what to expect from the film, but if the rumours are right, they'll be in the way when Thanos starts making his journey to Earth. If the film proves to be part of Phase Two in Marvel's plan, the heroes may lose the battle, and Thanos will reach Earth.

Fantastic Four - 6 March 2015

We almost had a chance to rewrite Daredevil's cinematic history. That would have been wonderful. However, the man in charge decided that the Fantastic Four reboot would be favourable. I tend to agree, though I'm a little bit annoyed at the same time. Marvel would have recovered the rights to the universe of the Fantastic Four if a film hadn't been made.

At the same time, there are some interesting stories to tell with the Fantastic Four, who exist in a universe outside of Marvel's films, but in the same developments as the X-Men franchise, and the Spider-Man franchise. It will be interesting to see what they produce by the time 2015 comes around.

Avengers 2 - 1 May 2015

Bringing Phase Two of Marvel's films to a close is the second Avengers film. We can expect it to take place after the events of Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and likely after Guardians of the Galaxy, if it is indeed included in the same story arc.

With that in mind, we'll be receiving the Falcon into the team, and just in time to face an as-yet unspecified villain. Rumour has it Thanos will be taking the world by storm, having pledged his vengeance for his defeat in The Avengers. Still, rumours will remain rumours until something is said.

Ant-Man - 6 November 2015

Beginning to Marvel's Phase Three is the introduction of Hank Pym, AKA Ant-Man. There's much to reveal yet (except to tell those who don't know about him that he can become microscopic, or about 100 foot tall, depending on what he needs), though there are rumours that Ant-Man will confront one of his enemies, Chen Lu, known also as Radioactive Man (imaginative naming at its best.)

The film's position at the start of Phase Three does raise some questions, especially with recent rumours about a new Hulk film. This has led to speculation that somewhere along the line, the Hulk will rampage and be sent off to space, resulting in a Planet Hulk film, and eventually World War Hulk - a possible story for Avengers 3.

However, that's all a long way away. It can be expected that some rumours will be bashed and others confirmed, so that maybe we'll be seeing Thanos fighting the Avengers, Dr Strange weaving some spells, and the Hulk smashing a whole other planet. In the meantime, we've got ten films based on Marvel's comic books to keep us going for the next two and a half years or so, many new characters to be introduced, and a lot of interesting developments to be made. And of course, I'll be getting massively excited about each one.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Beside me is a green folder. In it is contained a list of projects I wish to complete by the end of the year, and the various tasks I need to do to actually complete them. These are all books or other, associated, writing projects.

On my desk is a green envelope. I have spoken about this before. It contains a number of topics to write about. Essentially, it takes the control away from me, but makes things more exciting.

Here is one simple fact about these green items and their contents: they stand to make my life much more interesting and fulfilling if I could actually get around to addressing the various items within them. To that end, I'm hoping to increase my writing output over the next few months.

This will not be an easy task. I have exams to face - Dreaded Exams - and tiredness to battle. Right now, the latter is kicking my ass.

What I want to do is set myself up in such a way that I can produce twice as much per day as I had originally intended. Not one item per day, but two. Obviously, on days like this when the tiredness is too much and my eyes hate me for looking at a screen, I can't over-write. But other days? Not a problem.

While my lectures go on for a while tomorrow, I do have an opportunity to do something of value with my time. I'll have a few hours after college to actually write. I am yet to decide what I will write, and will probably see how I feel. If I can't decide on anything, it's to the item on my wall - from the green envelope. If I want to address one of my larger goals, I'll go to the folder.

It's simple, right?

I managed at least five hundred words a day during teaching placement. Who's to say I can't write even more now that the actual stress of day-to-day life is significantly less? I'm going for it. I am. Two items a day, about a thousand words a day. On weekends (and Fridays), maybe three items per day.

Tiredness may be beating me now, but these items of green won't stand a chance once I get started.

I'm screwing myself over, aren't I?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The World to Come

As my final exams approach, rather alarmingly, talk has once more arisen in my house about what I will do post-Graduation. Teacher training is all but at an end, and this, it seems, suggests that the one thing I am allowed to do is strive to become a teacher.

The question of whether or not I feel ready to become a teacher has never been raised.

Allow me to explain. Yes, I have had the training. I could comfortably go into a classroom and teach. The actual job isn't the problem. I had a table thrown at me, teenagers shout at me and disrespect vaulted around the classroom, but the students aren't the problem. Not their behaviour, anyway.

The problem is that becoming a teacher is more than just training. It involves a sense of acting in loco parentis, in the place of the parent. I'm twenty two years old, technically the youngest person in my family, and my ability to take care of myself in the Big Scary World has not been demonstrated to either my parents or myself. And, to put it bluntly, I'm not ready to be a parent.

I'm sure this isn't a shock. There aren't many people my age who feel ready to become parents. I am sure there are many who have children at my age (or younger) who don't feel ready until they are holding their newborn son or daughter in their hands. But that's different. That's an actual emotional, parental connection with a child.

I don't believe this will last forever. Yes, starting any new job is difficult, so I don't expect to settle in right away. But I think I should still have a choice in what I do with my life before going into teaching. To go from primary, to secondary, to tertiary level education, only to go right into the world of work without any loans to pay off seems a frightening ordeal, and it makes me wonder when I would actually get a chance to live my life to a reasonable degree.

New teachers are kept on their toes for at least the first two years of their career. Am I supposed to wait until my mid-twenties to do the things I want to do in my early twenties? I'm not even talking about anything particularly adventurous. I'm talking about the chance to live my final years of youth, working outside of a school. I want to write, to use my writing in new ways, to hopefully earn an actual income from writing that can be sustained when I start teaching.

I don't see the problem in that. But then, I'm not the one questioning my decisions.

As I thought about all of this today, I happened to pick up some reading material for my English course. Two articles: 'Death of the Author' and 'Against Interpretation'. When I finished reading them, and applying what I could gather from them to Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, it occurred to me that, in reading these pieces, in assimilating them, in thinking about them within the context of another piece, and my own reaction to said piece, I was preparing myself for a future in writing.

What is the point of such realisations without the actual future in writing?

The world to come, the world of work and relationships and the dreaded act of Growing Up cannot be without writing. That's a plain and simple fact that's central to my being. If I can't chase the dream of writing for a living for a year without school or exams or lesson plans, how can I ever say that I feel fulfilled in my life. Teaching is important to me, but it's not the only thing that's important to me. If it was, I wouldn't be an interesting teacher at all.

I think, soon, the time will come to explain this to my parents. I don't mean to sound disrespectful to them - I understand they want me to make something of myself as a teacher - but I don't want to do something that goes against who I am just to make them happy. Respect goes two ways, and if I'm ever going to actually face the world - as a teacher, a writer or, to borrow a phrase from John Hughes, a fry cook on Venus - I have to be seen in their eyes as an adult, capable of making my own decisions, allowed to pursue my own dreams, and prepared for the chance that I make my own mistakes. I wouldn't expect anything less from my students, so why from myself?

To quote Diana Scharf Hunt, "Goals are dreams with deadlines." I'm asking for a year.

Monday, February 11, 2013


I'm on a superhero buzz at the moment. Like, more so than usual. I've been mulling over an idea for a book for a while now, thinking through the plot and the characters and the way the universe works, and eventually it led to me picking up a book I'd bought a few months (or a year) ago, called The Physics of Superheroes. It's a surprisingly interesting read, though, of course, it combines two of my favourite interests: superheroes and science. (Is it bad that I like science so much while studying at God College?)

Anyway, one thing led to another, and I started looking up different books about superheroes. This is to add to my physics book, and the books I have about various superheroes from the Marvel universe, and the vast history of comic books and plots I've picked up over the years (and that I can acquire from the Internet).

So, I'm reading up on superheroes a lot more than usual. I suppose this is my way of compensating for the failure what was World War X. The story, I liked. My execution, however, was sorely lacking. As in, I didn't write anything after a while. There was so much to focus on, such a large world to build, and I didn't feel like I owned any of it.

This time around, I'm going back to my roots and utilizing some ideas that were mine from the start. The story is much more exciting and dynamic than the World War X plot, though I always have the possibility of using some of the characters and ideas I was coming up with for that story. I can put my own personal spin on things, and explore the humanity behind the superhero complex, along with the ethics and morals and the great big ideas of heroism that people support in their minds when they feel like they have the power to do the right thing.

It's a massive bundle of crazy at the moment, still only in the planning stages and developing wildly of its own accord. That planning is going well, though, and once I have my reading done for the book I'll be able to develop a massive system within which to develop the best possible superhero novel I can come up with.

In my opinion, it's going to be awesome.

But then, that's slightly biased. Okay, more than slightly. It's biased by the combination of superhero fun and, you know, my decidedly high opinion of myself (because I don't always have to be self-deprecating.)

Anyway, I think this story stands to be enjoyed by a lot of people if it ever makes it out into the wide world. It's not just about superheroes and superpowers, but about the effects these powers have on what had been otherwise stable lives, the opportunities offered, the problems that arise; in short, it's about the people behind the powers.

Plus, if it was a movie there would be lots of bright lights and flashy explosions. That's always fun.

Now I just need to plan the book and do all my reading for it. Then I can actually start writing it!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When a Hero Comes Along

John and Hank Green came along to Dublin recently. On Wednesday, they had a show in the RDS Concert Hall, which is essentially a large library that seats a thousand people. Every one of these people was excited, almost deliriously so, because for the first time two of my favourite people arrived in Dublin to put on a show the likes of which I could only ever see on YouTube, or dream about.

Usually the latter.

Starting at seven, they were on to cover the following:

- An explanation behind the writing of The Fault in Our Stars, perhaps my favourite book of all time
- A reading from the book
- Questions from audience members
- The mispronunciation of the name 'Ciara' (like 'Kieran', but without the 'n')
- A song about Quarks
- A horse-head mask
- Songs about Harry Potter
- A song about chord progressions
- More questions from audience members
- A slap in the face
- Lots of cheering
- Crowd-volume control
- A misunderstanding of the word 'heckling'
- Five hundred miles
- A song about the book
- A signing

The latter, after all the excitement of music and laughter and reading and emotional stories about children's hospitals and Esther Earl, took the longest to get around to.

Myself and two friends waited an hour and a half to get on stage to meet John and Hank. We got our tickets signed, because only one of us knew this would happen and we should bring books. John thanked me for wearing his face, and I told him about scaring myself by forgetting it would stare at me in the bathroom mirror.

Good times.

Of course, the excitement doesn't end there. John was on Ireland AM the next morning (thank you, Mammy Carroll, for telling me about that!) and both brothers were interviewed on Two Tube. Frickin' awesome. Hank's latest video tells about their time in Dublin, though I have a feeling that John will end up showing some footage from their day-before-the-show wandering, too (because he got some footage of his book in The Gutter Bookshop which I was delighted to recognise when Hank showed them in Temple Bar). Also, we got to say good morning to Hank.

I can't wait to see that. I cheered first, I think. Then it all set off.

John described the crowd of one thousand Nerdfighters as sounding first like 100,000 people on Twitter, and then like 10,000 people on Ireland AM, and I have to say: I'm damn proud of that. Irish crowds are louder and more enthusiastic than most people expect, and it has nothing to do with alcohol (as is often the case when Irish people are loud and enthusiastic.) On Wednesday, there were mainly teenagers present, everyone sober, and we still raised the volume to a ridiculously high level, with much due excitement.

It is our duty as rarely-visited Nerdfighters to make ourselves remembered, and to make the night as awesome as possible. Mission accomplished, Nerdfighters of Ireland.

So, awesome night. I got home fairly late, but didn't care. It was all worth it. We had brownies and white chocolate while waiting to get inside, and were greeted with the type of awesomeness we could only before imagine, over and over again. It was an evening of awesome, when a hero came along.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On Mental Health

It’s 2013. My experience with Mental Health Awareness over the past year and a half has shown me a few things, which I feel are worth highlighting. This will not be pleasant for everyone reading, but this is important for everyone. That’s Mental Health in a nut-shell.

The first thing I can point out is obvious: many, if not most, people feel uncomfortable talking about Mental Health. Of these, a majority will struggle to address depression or suicide openly. In Ireland, and around the world, these topics are taboo, linked with harsh stigmas and stereotypes. The end result is a crushing silence, like a wave of black water crashing around the sufferers of mental illnesses; there is no hope to see nor kind word to hear for as long as people misunderstand and refuse to listen. There is no way out of the suffering.

Seem bleak? I’m only getting started.

It is common that people will debate the idea that any form of mental illness will affect them in any way. This includes through other people. As such, they believe knowing about it is of no use to them.

So let’s clarify: anyone can become subject to the effects of mental illness, and everyone has a responsibility to be open to learning about Mental Health. Why? Because anyone can be affected, and anyone could be needed. Anyone. Not just a doctor, or a priest, or a qualified professional. Anyone could find themselves having difficulty with someone who has had a month’s worth of bad days. Anyone could find themselves helpless to watch as someone threatens to take their own life. Literally anyone could find themselves in a situation that, if they don’t listen, if they aren’t willing to learn, they will not be able to manage.

Very few people know if they are depressed, if someone else is depressed, or why someone with depression might find the flippant use of the word ignorant and/or insulting. There is no way for anyone to understand, without experiencing depression themselves, except that the effects of depression are not short-term (i.e. a couple of days) or easy to express. There is a pain to the sadness that can be brought about by depression, by the anxiety that accompanies it, and by the desperation that clings to sufferers as they attempt to find a way out.

Worse still, there are many who don’t know any other way out of the suffering by suicide. This becomes even more problematic the stronger the stigma attached to suicide is in any given society. How does someone talk about thoughts of suicide in a society that will not listen and does not understand? The simple answer: they don’t, because they can’t. Have you ever wondered by the rates of suicide are so high?

What do you say to someone who is feeling suicidal? There aren’t many people who know that to say, how to respond, what to do, or how to temper their reactions. Yes, shock is allowed. Disgust should be reserved. Anger should be avoided completely. Pity is acceptable, if it comes with a willingness to listen, and without patronisation. The whole scope of human emotion makes this a complication subject. There aren’t many who know what to do when faced with thoughts of suicide in another person.

And finally, for now, there appears to be a gap in the knowledge about the actual existence of Mental Health. During a talk on awareness, I was asked a simple but significant question, ‘What is Mental Health?’

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a counsellor. But I have studied, and continue to study, in these areas. I care. And this year, I want to make a difference in this area. Consider this the first public announcement of a project that could very well change my life forever. More importantly, it could save someone else’s.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, to make sure everything is ready to launch later in the year. In the meantime, the first step comes down to you: talk about Mental Health.