The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #69: “The Avengers” (2012)

In this Marvel Cinematic Universe themed episode Mark talks about the 2012 American superhero film “The Avengers” (also known as “Avengers Assemble” in the UK) – written and directed by Joss Whedon. In this ensemble film, which was the first to feature many prominent Marvel characters from other Marvel films who also featured within the pages of Marvel Comics over the decades, “The Avengers” brings together “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” to face off against a powerful interstellar threat lead by Thor’s brother Loki. Starring an all-star cast – including Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Tom Hiddelston – “The Avengers” paved the way for all the other Marvel Cinematic Universe to follow, and also showed that with great characters, great writing, great directing, great special effects, a truly epic superhero film could be produced that would become the benchmark for all others to follow.

The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #68: “Black Mirror” (TV series)

In this episode Mark talks about the British dystopian science fiction anthology TV series “Black Mirror” created by Charlie Brooker. Made up of standalone episodes (which are alluded to all take part within the same fictional narrative universe) each of which examine humanities ever-evolving and over-dependant relationship with ever more advanced forms of technology, and dramatises questions such as: to what end society may become influenced in the actions that they choose to make in the future because of the overabundance of technology. Often told with a dark and satirical tone, and often dealing with controversial and contemporary subject matters, each episode of the series explores who humanity is and why some people are motivated to do what they do no matter the cost to themselves.

My Poem “Always”

My heart goes out to everybody
who is having to adapt to doing things
and to living their life as best as they can
in a vastly different way than they had
previously known how to
since all of the restrictions put upon
their interactions, the way that they shop,
how they work, and how they learn
were introduced in order
to combat against an unseen
and an easily transmissible enemy
that has seemingly brought
the modern world to a stand still.

My heart goes out to parents,
because most of them have had
to adapt to becoming not only
their child’s guardian and around
the clock source of entertainment,
but they have also had to become
their child’s tutor and home school teacher –
and in most cases parents are struggling
to be all the things that their child
needs them to be all of the time,
while perhaps also simultaneously
having to juggle the responsibility
of being a supportive partner.

My heart goes out to the children
of this generation who want to learn
and who dream of becoming something
and someone with a calling
and a purpose in life to be fulfilled…
my heart goes out to those families
who are having to share their one
and only means of accessing the Internet
and those who are having to take it in turns
to seek out some kind of escapism
from the stark reality of world events
in any way that they can.

One thing that is undeniable
is that life is hard for people right now,
and the world, unfortunately,
seems more fragmented than ever;
however, whenever I see new art being created,
whenever I hear of new music being shared,
whenever I find out about new
innovations that are being made,
whenever I look beyond the shores
of my island home,
I am reminded of how resilient the human spirit is –
which is why I do not stop myself
from believing that with a little time,
patience, and perseverance
the human race will one day
collectively come out from
the shadow of this dark era
more resolute than ever,
stronger than ever,
consistently riding the waves of change,
because we have always been a species
who no matter what has always found a way.





My Poem “The Blackout”

One second there was light
and the next there was darkness…
One second all was bright
and the next I couldn’t see
my hand in front of my face…
One second I was looking at
my phones illuminated screen
and the next I was using the torch
of my phone to guide my way…
One second the sun was shining
and the next it had completely
disappeared below the horizon
heralding the end of the day.

I still remember those days
and those nights when I was a child
when the power used to go out
every now and again –
but whenever it happens now
it is always a complete and utter surprise
to the degree that some people
still attempt to flick light-switches
on and off multiple times
perhaps believing that they can cause
somekind of electrical reset.

It’s strange looking out of the window
at night and seeing all the streetlights off…
it’s odd having no power, no light,
and no heat for a short amount of time –
but such an experience does make you truly appreciate how much we all
do sometimes take for granted
the gift of instant electricity,
and how much when we do not have it
at out disposal some of us feel immediately lost.

When the lights come on again,
when the TV screens flicker back to life,
and when we no longer have any further need
for the torches and the candles that we
had lit as temporary sources of light,
we all feel thankful to be able
to see clearly and to feel comfortable
once again in our world of modern enlightenment
that for a time had been taken away from us
by the inconvenience of a brief
but significant neigbourhood blackout.

The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #66: “Black Swan”

In this episode Mark talks about one of his favourite films: 2010 American psychological horror thriller film “Black Swan” directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder – the film revolves a production of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ ballet by the New York City Ballet company, and it shows the psychological and physical trauma that obsessive dancer Nina (played by Natalie Portman) goes through in the process of attempting to embody and perfectly perform the dual role of both the fragile White Swan and the sensual Black Swan.

The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #65: “Captain America: The First Avenger”

In this Marvel themed episode Mark talks about the 2011 American Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero film “Captain America: The First Avenger” directed by Joe Johnston and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, starring Chris Evans the title character Captain America/Steve Rogers. Set during World War II, the film is an origin story for the title character as well as the starting off point for several familiar characters whose importance within the overall story of the “Infinity War saga” of the MCU would grow as more films were produced and as the interconnectness of the story being told was more fleshed-out. The film also stars Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, Hugo Weaving as Johann Schimdt/Red Skull, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Tommy Lee Jones as Chester Philips, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, as well as many other great actors who give phenomenonal performances as memorable characters.

Rest In Peace, David Bowie (a tribute)

On January 10, 2016, I wrote a poem called “Always the Starman” dedicated to the late great David Bowie who died on that very day in 2016 – and I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard of his untimely passing, and I can still remember being immediately inspired to mark the memory of one of the most famous and celebrated music artists of the 20th Century – and two days later I published the poem that I wrote on my blog for all the world to read so that they may get a sense of just how inspirational David Bowie was and still is.

Not long after David Bowie’s death, I remember that I was writing a new short story called “The Man In Black” about this mysterious character – who I didn’t truly know the identity of, nor why they were so mysterious… all I knew at that point was that whoever they were they dressed all in black, they had mysterious and powerful gifts that enabled them to appear one minute and disappear the next, they could bring animals and perhaps people back to life, and they may or may not be some kind of angel or some other supernatural being. And something else that I knew immediately was that whoever this mysterious “man in black” was he also bore an uncanny resemblance to the late great David Bowie, as some sort of tribute to him. But that was it. I originally intended to include my short story “The Man in Black” in my 2016 short story collection “Too Close To The Sun”, however for some reason I held it back… and to this day I still do not know why, what, or who stopped me from doing so – but I am so glad that they did, because from that first story there followed others that featured the same “Man in Black” who at times was known to white also depending upon when you met him. And slowly but surely I wrote more and more, until I finally found myself with seven short stories that explored who the “Man in Black/Man in White” was and why he did what he did. And to this day the stories of my short story collection “Playing God” still remain close to my heart, because within them are characters who I know and who I recognise: characters in need of being saved by a hero, a friend, a rebel, an angel, a god dressed all in black, and sometimes dressed all in white – someone who we would all wish would pay us a visit and heal the world of the present from what we are currently being plagued by.

I wrote my original poem “Always the Starman” and “The Man in Black”, the first story of my book “Playing God”, as a personal tribute to David Bowie – but the more stories that I wrote about this mysterious man who looked and sounded just like David Bowie, I also found myself uncovering many different sources of inspiration – from ancient Greek mythology to the daily torments that some people have to deal with – and I also found myself learning more about why I love writing so much: that thrill of exploration and discovery that I find every time I embark upon a writing challenge that I know will take me to places that I never imagined I would ever venture to. And that is what it is so enthralling and exciting about being a writer and an author of fiction: you never know where it is going to take you.

I will always be eternally grateful to the late great David Bowie for his music, for his creativity, and for the gift of inspiration that he gave to me – which coalesced over time into becoming a book of stories written in tribute to him, but also a tribute to hope, optimism and the gift of life that we are all blessed with which we all sometimes take for granted.

Rest in peace, David Bowie

“David Bowie” by Derren Brown

8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #64: “The Queen’s Gambit” (2020)

In this episode Mark talks about the 2020 American coming-of-age period drama “The Queen’s Gambit” created for Netflix by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Trevis. Set in the late-1950s to the late-1960s, the miniseries of 7 episodes stars Anna Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon – an orphaned chess prodigy with exceptional visualisation skills who rises to the top of the chess world, but who also struggles with drug and alcohol dependency, as well as the on again/off again relationships and friendships that she develops with other gifted chess players in their own right whom she meets along the way.

My Poem “Missing Time”

Since the start of this
world-shattering pandemic
I know deep in my soul
that I have missed the sound
of a particular source of music -
a soundtrack, a beat,
a rhythm of life that can be heard,
felt, and seen within your minds eye,
whether it be morning, noon, or night:
the same pulse of inspiration
that first surged within me
at the very moment when
I knew that I was born to be a poet.

What I love about writing
and what keeps me coming back
to the blank page time and again
is the same thing that I miss
about sitting in a café
surrounded by people,
before the days of mandatory masks
and before compulsory social distancing.

The thrill of the unknown,
the magic of the instantaneous,
the order and the chaos that to me
always made sense and which I could
always easily pull into focus:
all that being an artist is all about...
you can't plan for it, you can only create it
when you feel it within you boiling away
with such ferocity that you know
it is about to explode -
which is why artists need to capture
what occurs to them before
whatever idea forms combusts into dust
and becomes as spectral as a ghost.

I yearn to go back in time...
I wish that I could return to a place
at a point in the past where and when
I truly believed every moment
would always last...
I still cannot believe that we are all
living in the world that greets my senses
and compels my thoughts
and my emotions so overwhelmingly...
I wish that I could do something,
I wish that I could write something,
I wish that I could imagine something
that might serve to transport
everybody away from our current stark reality -
perhaps to a moment of peace, joy, and love
that the world once enjoyed,
or to a time in the future when I know
the memory of our current present
will not be as potent.

I have personal places
and I have particular times
where and when I return to within
my thoughts and within my dreams
that mean the world to me
that feel so close to me that I could
reach out and grasp them:
perfect moments the like of which
everybody has, which we all would do
anything to get back to,
which we never stop missing
and which are among life's
most precious of blessings.