Stranger Things: A Reflection 

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Netflix Original Stranger Things came as a pleasant surprise last month. A bold, heartfelt throwback to eighties pop-culture that crafted something inventive and memorable in the process. From its music to characters, it sparked feverous discussion online and proved to be an instant hit. It is, in essence, a love-letter to numerous films, books and cultural artefacts from that decade. But it’s also something much deeper. Stranger Things is a salute all those who watched such pictures; who read those comics and had their lunch money stolen as a result. It is, put simply, one for the nerds.

The series itself spans eight episodes and gravitates around the disappearance of Will Byers; a child living in eighties Indiana. Backdropped by an Area 51-style conspiracy, we see a relatively lacklustre village face an inter-dimensional monster — a Demogorgon to coin the Dungeons & Dragons phrase — terrorising its local community. This is compounded by a Cold War cover-up, namely MK Ultra to ‘Stay one step ahead of the Russians’, drawing a small-town cop into something well beyond his pay-grade. Yet beneath this, lies something far more relatable. Three young friends and a bereaved Mother trying to make sense of it all.

This mix of fantastical, if not ridiculous adventure, with tangible humanity feels familiar. It’s textbook Spielbergian adventure. It has whiffs of horror, action and sci-fi, but it’s largely a tribute to those great Hollywood adventure flicks. Indeed, Stranger Things is a cocktail of famous texts: from throwaway nods to outright pastiche. But it does so explicitly enough to remain charming in the process. Although such references deserve attention — I discuss them in due course — it’s rather the camaraderie between the boys and the escapee ‘Eleven’ that drives the show forward. It binds it with a youthful optimism that celebrates its more nuanced moments. Making Stranger Things a rather complex, but deeply satisfying blend of nostalgia and creative thought.

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American Historical Cinema: Video-Cast

In the similar vein to my First Year Video-casts, I decided to create a video production for an American Historical Cinema assessment. Naturally, all the beta-blockers in the world couldn’t get me to enjoy public speaking, and I also find nothing worse than hearing someone describe a visual medium with vague words. Ergo, for this project I researched, edited and recorded my findings on the historiography of Oliver Stone’s JFK. Admittedly, this was recorded in the early hours with a four-pack of Grolsch, but I was generally happy with the outcome. It was subsequently awarded an ‘exceptional first’ (96%) — and my seminar tutor let me shot whiskey as it played – no doubt making 20 minutes of my own voice more bearable. 

Making History Video-cast #2

In the same ilk of my previous video-log, I created my end-of-year Research Project via a video format. However, this project also entailed creating a webpage, displaying all of my sources and crucial reflections. I digitalised all of my annotations and documents, creating a portfolio of research.

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This was awarded a First Class Honours, and bizarrely, won me 50 quid.

EDIT: This work is currently used as an example for students taking this module. (2014-2014) Warwick Students can now view it here.

The Quest For Tone

The quest for perfect tone is something every guitarist struggles with. Regardless of style, ability or whether or not you’ve sold out Wembley – getting the best sound out of your rig is important.

For the sake of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned about gear over the years. I’ve been buying, selling and collecting effects pedals since I was about 13. Since then I’ve learned a lot about the industry, tone and pretty much every variant of effects you can name. Whilst I certainly haven’t toured the world – I do consider myself knowledgeable in this field and am shameless tone-geek. Ergo,  I felt I should note down some of my thoughts through this informal, long-form platform I’ve created. I could quite easily write a book on the topic; so this may be an ongoing addition to my site.

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Making History Video-cast #1

Well, essays and presentations have hindered the progress of this blog. It appears First Year is a lot harder than one is lead to believe.

I’m going to try and use this page more effectively in the summer – albeit it just to host articles and uploads from others sites. Nevertheless, here’s something a bit different. (And a bit of an excuse for why I’ve had no time for this page)

For one of my assignments I was set to create video-log challenging the historical accuracy of a film or text. In all fairness, I cracked this out in two nights whilst recovering from flu (hence my failing voice…), but I thought it’d be fun to share it. It’s mostly ad-libbed around some basic points, and recorded on a MacBook in the early hours of the morning. It’s not something I’ve done before and it’s an area of History that I finds lends itself to a visual medium.