A Million Dreams

A Million Dreams

Hello Dear Readers

A simple line from a song from the film musical, The Greatest Showman. For many people, this movie and a couple of others seem to be a relatively new form, yet this genre has never really gone away. It is becoming a very successful film despite its mixed reviews. Why has it become so popular that now a sing-a-long version made it even more successful?

For me, partly it was the cast and story that first drew me to watch the trailer. This was quickly followed by brief hints of the songs, not all mind you but enough to make me want to see it. I don’t often care for the ‘professional’ review, which is funny as something similar happens in the movie. As always, there are no real spoilers here by now most will either have seen it or become fans.

The movie had just those right elements to make me want to see it, action, adventure, romance, escapism and just plain old fun. Add to that a good leading cast, a few songs and as in ‘Singing in the Rain’ said you have a hit. The story itself is a version of the world famous PT Barnum, a showman, a purveyor of the bizarre and lets face it, someone who could turn a dime into a dollar.

Circus films have been done before some on a huge scale, others just on a shoestring. It was the music that for me made this different and how the songs told parts of the story. Clearly, thats the job of the songs. But I do wonder how many people really listen to the songs. Having seen The Greatest Showman for a second time, at least two songs made me think – A Million Dreams and This is Me.

‘A Million Dreams’ bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood, showing that a dream is worth chasing no matter how long it takes. It is more than just a childhood dream or dreams, it is the ambition to reach out for ones own stars, chasing that rainbow of colours that appear each night. The song for me, embodies what Barnum wants in life. He sees what others have and how he can make a difference to another person. In each verse there is hope rather than the darkness that surrounds his world.

To a degree, it is this optimism which drives both the songs and the movie and takes something of Barnum’s real life. Although if you read about him, he did not enter the circus until aged 60. Again, for me, that does not matter as this movie is there to do just what Barnum did, suspend belief and enjoy.

The second song for me is ‘This is Me’. Another very powerful song again about what Barnum was trying to do be it right or wrong. This is about the fight for all to be who they are, not to be shunned by any party of society. They, the cast of misfits, have a right to be free from the dark. However, for me, this song is for all of us, just like ‘A Million Dreams’.  It celebrates the fact we can be different and should be proud of that even if the difference appears small to others. For we are glorious – a true line meant for all in my view.

There is a need of family within the songs of this movie, the need to belong is great. Even in the sad songs, the feeling of belonging is strong. This musical has caught the imagination of many including myself. It’s breathtaking, brilliant, exciting, entertaining and just plain fun.

Tagline; “So do you want to go?”




Posted in 2018, Hugh Jackman, musical, PT Barnum, The Greatest Showman, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What a Picture

Hello All

The Photography Show 2018

This is the second time I have visited this show, my first time was last year 2017. I was unprepared the first time for the scale and size of such an event. Not this time. I had a plan, a list and purpose. The show offered me and thousands of others the chance to indulge, view and purchase top quality photography products.

As with many shows, there was a huge tempting range of ‘stuff’ which often means, you need to walk a lot. In fact, you can reach your steps target with easy just wandering around. You also have to be well prepared to carry numerous flyers, magazines, leaflets and more. So a good bag is important, or you can make that your first purchase.

Take a Snap!

Of course many to this show take their own camera, I did myself. There are photo opportunities but not as many as last year or not that I could see. I did find a very nice Formula E racing car and with my new found skills took some shots. This is what I have enjoyed over the past 18 months. Re-learning what photography can be about. The show and a couple of camera clubs, have inspired me to think differently, as Apple once said. Now I was looking at the car in a new light, pardon the pun. The show last year made me think and this year was better.

Buy, Buy, Buy!

I had a list. It was specific to say the least. A certain camera, a certain lens and then other bits and pieces. You do learn to shop around and the show offers the chance to grab a bit more of a bargain if you look. For once, I did follow my own advice and went to each seller before making my purchase. Very happy indeed with my purchases.

You can find too many bargains however, and that is a real nightmare. There were some wonderful lenses, all of which were just in the right price range but I managed to hold out. Maybe next year.

Sore Feet

You do have to walk a lot at these shows, it takes time to find what you want as I said. You do have to take the chance to sit when you can and if you are lucky you get to see a celebrity or two. At this show I saw Chris Peckham. He had given a talk at the Canon stand and was just chatting to people. Part of the fun of these shows is what or who do you see if you keep your eyes open. There were a few very good picture displays which again inspired me as to what I could do. You don’t just learn by taking photographs, you learn by looking just like in writing.

Where Next?

This year I decided to check out the societies available as I want to push my photography as I did with my writing. There are various levels to achieve, each one pushing both the creative and productive elements. It will be exciting and lead to a recognised award. To imagine I can achieve that, as with publishing a book, would make me feel proud of myself. So which one to pick? I have my own favoured one and now it is the normal research and checking.

Last Words

The show was very good again. I was slightly worried I would be bored by seeing the same things again but, I had a different perceptive due to what I had planned. So long as there is a purpose to visit an event, you should always be able to find something new. Clearly that should be the objective. Maybe next time going with a group or club would give a new view or considering it a photo assignment.

I do have ideas for what I need for next time if I can last that long or maybe it will be to enter a photograph. Who knows. I can say the Photography show is well worth going and should be something you visit even if its just the once. Always take a list, bottles of water, a bag and really good shoes.

Tagline: ‘Bang – What a picture! New camera please!’



Posted in 2018, NEC Birmingham, Photographs, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek: The Naked Time

A Fans Thoughts

The Naked Time

Star Trek seldom featured episodes with no ‘guest’ aliens, it was the nature of space to almost always find someone. However, there were the occasional stories which explored the crews. The Naked Time is one of the better explorations of a crew trapped by an unknown virus with, as always, time running out.

The episode opens with USS Enterprise in orbit of the dying planet Psi 2000. Their mission is to locate a missing research team and observe the planet’s breakup. Mr. Spock beams down with a landing party, to discover the researchers are dead having suffered mental breakdowns or a form of madness. The life support system had been shut down leaving the team frozen to death in bizarre situations, such as fully clothed in a shower, seated at a control console as if nothing was wrong, as well as one woman who was strangled. Lt Joe Tormolen, one of the Enterprise landing party, removes his environmental suit glove and comes in contact with a strange red liquid. The landing party is beamed back to the ship and quarantined by McCoy who finds no medical issues and allows them to return to duty.

Of course it would be a very boring episode if nothing happens other than watching a planet explode. Nothing is found, which I guess highlights one problem with decontamination. It can’t spot everything. In this case, the virus is not considered deadly by the machines standards.

Tormolen starts to act irrationally, expressing hostility towards other crew members, threatening Lieutenants Sulu and Riley with a knife. In trying to stop him they too become infected without knowing and Tormolen turns the knife on himself. Although his wound is not life-threatening, he dies much to McCoy’s bewilderment.

Meanwhile, both Sulu and Riley also begin to behave irrationally. Sulu acts like a 17th-century swashbuckler, while Riley revels in his Irish ancestry and locks himself in the Engineering section. Proclaiming himself Captain of the Enterprise, he puts the ship in certain danger. He also has a minor comic role of singing one song over and over again. Everyone whose skin they have touched soon follow suit, and the infection quickly spreads through the crew.

Chief Engineer Scott eventually regains control of Engineering from Riley, but Riley had already shut down the engines. It would take more time than the ship has in its decaying orbit to restart them before the Enterprise crashes into the planet.

Spock becomes infected when Nurse Chapel takes his hands and confesses her love for the Vulcan. Spock struggles to contain his emotions, and infects Captain James T. Kirk when he tries to help. McCoy, having taken precautions to avoid infection, studies blood samples from his patients and water from Psi 2000. He a previously undetected virus that affects humanoids like alcohol, depressing the centres of judgment and self-control. It is transmitted by touch. He develops a serum to reverse the effects, administering the initial doses to the command crew to allow them to bring the ship back under control.

Kirk orders Scott to make a full-power restart of the warp engines, a dangerous process mixing matter and antimatter in order to restart the engines quickly. The restart is successful, propelling the Enterprise at impossible speed away from the planet backwards in time by almost 3 days. While Kirk hopes reliving the last 3 days is nothing like what they have already experienced, Spock notes that they now have a way to travel back through time. Kirk’s response is “We may risk it someday, Mr. Spock.”

This is a classic plot, you can’t always see what might kill you. There are numerous assumptions made during the episode and actions you would expect can’t happen. For example; as Riley locks himself in Engineering, why is there not an emergency way in. In later episodes and series, the Jeffries tubes could be used to get around the ship. Why did it take so long to open one door?Simply to build tension.

The spread of infection itself was very simple. Touch and you’re it. In that case why did not McCoy just quarantine anyone who came into contact with the first victim? Again, plot effect. There are always other plot holes, which sometimes you have to overlook in order for the story to have its effect.

Part of the enjoyment is the confinement of the crew once disaster strikes. They are helpless against one man. They can’t even use the planet to escape too, as it is a danger. The combination makes for tension which is written brilliantly. You can feel the frustration on the bridge as they just have to wait. Yet, it does not lack action. Each crew member is affected differently, again allowing a hidden side to appear if ever so briefly. Naturally this is used again for the central characters in later episodes. It is also interesting from a psychological view-point as to how some of the crew both controlled that element which was released and how they regained control of themselves. Spock in particular, saw his very humanity exposed as his true Vulcan side came through. The battle between his human and Vulcan halves gave us a minor glimpse into how his character could become. The writers, of course, wanted this struggle in order to allow the viewers to bond with him. It was normal for humans to just go ‘off the rails’.

The Naked Time explored the Enterprise crew, rather than just the universe and helped create some of their character traits. It was supposed to be a two-parter ending on the cliff hanger of the Enterprise going back in time. In some respects, for me, I am glad it was kept as a stand-alone episode. They would have used “Tomorrow is Yesterday’ as the second part. After all the turmoil from the episode, there are two questions which never get answered for me and I guess never can be. Since they travel back in time, would the research team still be alive and the crew man that died?

Tagline: “There are always possibilities”

Posted in 2018, Star Trek, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Zen – A year on

Zen – A year on

Dear Reader

I am surprised a year has passed so quickly since I first published Zen and The Art of Timetabling. It taught me much about my success as a writer and how satisfying it felt to hold my book.

It is one of those fixed moments in time, that obviously, will never go away. Nor in this instance would I want it too. It was a tough process in some respects, going from what was a simple concept to publication but it was an enjoyable one. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I would have done some of this differently of course. The interesting part is what bits?

As I think about it now, I am unsure just what I would change. The content is fine however, as a writer I would more than likely wish to rewrite parts or add to bits. This I feel, is the one bane for all writers. We can see how to improve and always thing we should improve that one line. It is almost an addiction to perfect the words. But that would mean never finishing or publishing and then publishing again.

The cycle might never stop, hence the timetable would indeed fail. There is that word again, timetable. It is always with us. It guided me in being able to complete my book. But is it in itself open-ended? There is one way all writers eventually stop writing. So, should I like others publish edition two?

Since completing my book, I have undertaken other projects and another book (not timetabling) is heading for publication. It is completely different, as some might say, combining photography and writing two of my passions.

Yet I can never forget Zen and The Art of Timetabling, I am really proud of the fact I wrote it and what I consider the rules for all timetablers around the world. It’s a bold statement but many have agreed they are true.

So what next? Maybe there is a second edition waiting to emerge.

Mark ODonnell is the author of

Zen and The Art of Timetabling – available from all good e-book sellers

Posted in 2017, education, Writing, Zen and The Art of Timetabling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek The Doomsday Machine

Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine

A fans thoughts

It is often difficult to pick favourite episodes with the Star Trek universe, there are so many. However, I have found that certain episodes I will happily watch no matter what. The original series has a number which I enjoy, The Doomsday Machine being one.

In this is a second series episode, the Enterprise is following a series of destroyed planets when it comes into contact with her sister ship the USS Constellation. The ship has been heavily damaged by an unknown force, to the extent that it seems no-one is left aboard.

Captain Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and a damage control party beam across hoping to discover who or what is behind the attack.

They find one lone survivor, Commodore Matt Decker, deeply traumatized at the loss of his crew and it seems his ship. He tells Kirk of a planet killer, a machine that can slice planets into bits. Kirk asks about his crew, Decker emotional reveals he beamed them to the third planet of the system. That planet was destroyed.

Realising what he must do, Kirk orders McCoy to take Decker to the Enterprise, while he and the damage party ready the Constellation for tow. As they do, the planet killer reappears, and attacks the Enterprise. Damaging the ship Spock manages to stay ahead until Decker decides to take on the beasts again. Spock informs the Commodore that phasers alone will not destroy it but he insists on making the attempt. It is clear the planet killer is heading towards densely inhabited areas of the galaxy and only the Enterprise now stands in its way.

Watching the fight from the Constellation, Kirk els helpless until Scotty informs him they have power and phasers. It becomes a cat and mouse game as Kirk frees the Enterprise but himself becomes a target again. At this point, Spock manages to regain command of the Enterprise, citing Decker as being frankly mad.

Decker takes matters into his own hands by using a shuttle craft to explode inside the machine. It naturally causes little damage.  It does however cause something which Kirk gambles on, the destruction of the Constellation.

Why do I enjoy this episode?

Almost all the original series were stand-alone plots rarely did we see non Enterprise characters reappear. We did of course have the Klingon’s and the Romulus’s appear a few times, but unlike other series, there was no real story arc. The Doomsday Machine, stands out for me as a slow building dramatic ‘How can they win’ episode. It is simple in its plot, the pace is just right and the conclusion just that momentarily humorous. Watching Kirk waiting for transport as the countdown is going, while Spock is calmly stating what to do and Scotty sort of ignoring it all, is classic.

You are made to wonder about the machine itself, but not allowed time to dwell on who built it. There is no need to mention a race or why they did it. It’s just there and blindly killing planets. That was it’s function. There is speculation between Kirk and Spock but the dialogue does not slow down.

There is also the sacrifice of Decker to try to redeem himself which he fails to realise will save the day. As Kirk points out, they are stronger with him than without. A point he misses when he closes communications. Could the Enterprise have beamed Decker out? How would that have changed the story?

There are always people who will look for those little plot holes which given the nature of a television show can’t be helped. For me, in this episode, there are few to be honest. It is well written, hence I can watch it again and again.

The episode does pose some questions of the time. The Doomsday machine had clearly become rogue since it had been found to have travelled from another galaxy. The question was basically why have such devices if they could obviously go wrong. Was that something the producers were trying to say about atomic weapons of the day?

The Doomsday Machine is one of my favourite episodes, I can even quote many of the lines and love the dramatic harsh music. It is all round enjoyable to watch.

Posted in 2017, Sci-fi, Star Trek | Tagged , , | 2 Comments