Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Hero

"I'm a hero with coward's legs." (Spike Milligan)



I was thinking today about role models. I don't really have a 'hero' or someone I aspire to be like. I have people I find highly inspiration and who have shaped my outlook but I don't see the point of having a hero. Chances are, humans being flawed, they may do something to let you down. People are human and I don't mean this in a nasty way - I like that people have positives and negatives. It's unnatural to think someone's perfect and put them on a pedestal.


Few of the stereotypical role models do much for me. This may sound a little shallow but although I can see how some people have done great things - the Mother Teresa type of role model - I just don't feel a personal connection to that. Then when people suggest certain pop culture type role models, I just laugh. There's no need to be an individual for the sake of it so be inspired by mainstream stuff if you like but don't follow it just because it's mainstream.


Heroes make me think of Superman, Batman and that. Unless you're planning on becoming a vigilante, I don't see why you would look up to them. I do see why people would have role models but personally I just don't think like that. Everyone I have met has shaped me in some way. Some more than others. My mother, for example, is pushy enough that I was made to do my best but she would let my own preferences flourish, despite her hoping I would like what she liked. I owe her a lot and respect parts of her - she was the first female area manager of the company she worked for and she took breast cancer on the chin. She also gets easily pissed off about the silliest things and threatens to not let me out of the house if I don't tidy my room.


Generally, authors are the closest thing I can find to a role model of mine. Obviously, I want to write and some authors inspire me to do so. Terry Pratchett's writing and attitude to life is a virtual faith in itself and makes me think a lot about life, the universe and everything. Tamora Pierce is an author who shaped my childhood quite considerably. She probably deserves a post all to herself. I was rereading a series of hers recently and remembering how much of my young life I spent in my garden re-enacting scenes from her books with my sister wielding sticks as swords. Her female leads are the epitome of strong female characters. Some female characters can become silly, unbelievable or annoying when the author tries to make them kick ass. Just being 'feisty' or mouthy is simply a pain. Also a woman's natural limitations of stature and strength should be remembered unless they become unbelievable. And please don't make them beautiful and strong and smart and kind... They have to have a flaw or it's ridiculous. Pierce gave her characters enough fears and weaknesses to overcome that they were relatable. There was a theme in her writing that anyone could be a hero and although that may sound clich├ęd I dare any girl to read those books and not want to go out and do something epic with their lives. 


I don't think it's bad to have role models. It's never good to be too set in your ways so let people shape you and all that. It's great to feel inspired by someone. I do believe in individuality though and think, warts and all, you should be who you are and not rely too much on how other people are.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Yo Ho Ho..

"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, Drink and the devil had done for the rest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum." (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Pirates or Ninjas?

I know we've all wondered this at some point. It is one of those questions up there with the meaning of life.

Tomorrow is Hastings Pirate Day and I heartily look forward to putting on skirt, corset and hat and setting out with my plastic cutlass to town. They are trying to regain the Guinness World Record for "largest gathering of pirates". It is slightly disturbing walking through the street and seeing so many Jack Sparrow lookalikes in one place. It is great fun though. A lot of bad things can be said about the somewhat unsavoury town of Hastings but it does undeniably have character. What do you expect from the descendants of smugglers?

I'm rather a fan of our smuggling heritage. There was a battle at Sidley Green just up the road from where I live between the smugglers and the blockade men around 1820. I do believe the smugglers won. Obviously there was a brutal side to piracy, just like the knights in shining armour were less chivalrous than legend tells, but the fantasy is much more exciting than truth.

I certainly have no problem with the idea of letting my children play at being pirates. Pirates represent freedom, exploration and pleasure. We'll play down the plundering, raping and binge drinking until the kids are older.

Back to the point - in a straight fight, I'm fairly sure a ninja would trump a pirate. Luckily pirates don't fight fair so I'd say a pirate stands a cheating chance. I like ninjas - I don't want to offend them in case they come silently after me. There's a place for ninjas and I know they have a vast following. They are a bit colourless for me though. I am more of a pirate person myself. They have better taste in clothes, and are definitely the ones I would prefer to party with. 

Happy Pirate Day, y'all! Arrgh!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mummy Porn

"Fifty Shades of F*cked-up" (Fifty Shades of Grey)

The infamous Fifty Shades of Grey is the newest piece of popular fiction that I have on my hit list. Generally I am put off things that are adored by the masses and usually this is with a good reason..

Fifty Shades is painfully written. I am a little bit of a snob when it comes to fiction and have come to the conclusion that bad authors use, with unfortunate regularity, the first person style as they just can't hack any other way of writing. First person can be used very well but it can also be a cop-out of epic proportions. First person does not need subtlety. Nor does Fifty Shades. With first person the author can literally tell you what the character is thinking in the most boring way possible. The girl actually says: "Did I just say that?" and "Jeez, he looks so freaking hot ". The lack of nuance means there's nothing to keep me interested. Another cringing part of Fifty Shades is the way the author namedrops long words. Maybe to seem more intellectual but it seems like they've swallowed a thesaurus. I just feel they could have used normal words and given it a more natural feel as it's meant to be Ana's POV. Plus there's too many adjectives. Good authors describe people so you can visualise them without you even realising they've taken time to do so. With this, every new person introduced was given a couple of lines of description. Every technique was so annoyingly obvious.   

I admit I have not read the book in its entirety. I may have missed out, later on in the book, on a piece of wonderfully crafted prose or may be drawing conclusions without enough evidence. I doubt it though. The whole premise of the love at first sight, followed by the "discovering dark secrets and a heartbreaking past", was a bit boring. The BDSM angle is what made it take flight. I read the extract where Christian "rips through" Ana's virginity. All I can say is: how are people turned on by this? It has been labelled 'Mummy Porn'. There's no accounting for taste.

I do sort of see how the series could be so appealing to people. It's full of shameless erotic sex. The sort that, if you suspend your disbelief at some of the description, makes you lick your lips ever so slightly when reading. Even sex aside, every girl wants to feel they are Ana and a man like Christian is worshipping them. It's also (apparently) more gritty and realist than the stereotypical love stories out there. All I can reply to that is, people saying that must be woefully badly read. Unless all you read is Disney Princess books, we know love is not 'vanilla'-like. I could point out several books that I, at 18, have read with well written sex and characters who are not your average Prince Charming and Damsel in Distress.   

Apparently the book has enhanced women's sex lives somehow. A theme of the piece was discovering and embracing your own secret desires so I can't object if they got a kick out of it and feel liberated to go do something kinky or whatever. I'm pretty liberated already to be honest and don't think reading about some wench getting tied up by her man is really going to improve my overall outlook on life. Anyways, porn is not that hard to find on the internet (or so I've heard) and if you're looking for porn with a heart (as it were) there are plenty of actual novels out there featuring characters with depth. People need to look for themselves rather than read what is popular at the time. People need to think for themselves.

The fact the piece developed when the author wrote a Twilight Fanfiction then decided the plot was good enough on its own, is enough to put any sane person off. I admit to laughing out loud when I realised that.

Fair play to the author, she's onto a winner here. I don't blame her - I blame the rest of humanity. They make me want to put my foot through my laptop screen when I read about them.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Science or Magic?

"Is sorcery science or magic?" (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)


One of my pet hates in fiction is the way authors use magic to explain everything they want. There's a line you shouldn't cross in order for a piece to read or watch with any degree of possibility. Ok, fiction is fiction and magic is fiction but there has to be rules or it's not fun anymore. If you can do whatever you want it's boring. I like it when the magic makes sense.

I recently watched the 2010 Sorcerer's Apprentice movie without much in the way of expectation. Surprisingly, I thought it was a rare gem of a movie. It was a perfectly formed ancient magic in the modern world thing with the stereotypical 21st century kid becoming apprenticed to an old, unaging sorcerer and then saving the world from the evil sorcereress that wants to destroy it. It took all the classic magic tropes and had fun with them.

I especially liked it as the magic was explained. The line between magic and science was blurred and the point was the sorcerers used the whole of their brain rather than just the usual parts we use. This meant they manipulated matter but within the parameters of actual science. The kid was super good at physics because of this and the kid's science skill was used to enhance his magic and it therefore made sense he defeated the Big Bad. I like it when there's a reason other than just some sort of destiny based on nothing and vaguely explained by magic. 

Also they didn't just use boring magic. So many movies have so little imagination when it comes to magic and just use energy bolts all the time. These guys went for the classics - fire, water, lightning, etc - but added their own flourishes. (Statues coming to life, people trapped in mirrors, rugs like quicksand. You know, interesting stuff.)

The film was generally real fun. There was great humour which relieved the stereotypical end of the world angle. There was an enjoyable homage to Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia when the kid decided the clean up and found the mops developed minds of their own. This kid was an actual geek, which made a nice change. Usually they get a 'fit' actor who tries to pretend to be all awkward but in this case you believed him when he said he wasn't up to saving the world. Which made it all the more epic when he did.

There was a great bad guy in Alfred Molina too. He's one of my favourite villain actors of all time. Also: Nicolas Cage. I don't usually like him that much but my opinion of him went up considerable after this. It might have been the epic trench coat, old man shoes and cool old-fashioned car..

The fact the plot also included a rather glorious thousand year love story added to my enjoyment. It's always about a wench but in this case it made sense and personally I thought it was rather beautiful. The relationships were good and that always improves the believability of fiction. The best was by far the relationship that developed between the Sorcerer and his apprentice. The mutual life saving that went on at opportune moments was the sort that inspired a fair amount of fangirling. I just wanted to give the Sorcerer and Apprentice and big hug.  

I shamelessly admit, this is one of my new favourite films.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Drunk I Am

"I'm not as think as you drunk I am!"

Everyone knows all teenagers are deviant, and like to get drunk and fornicate whenever they get the chance. We are a completely different race to 'adults' and it is God's own truth that they ever did anything like this when they were younger..

I admit, going out drinking, or staying in and drinking, are favourite teenage pastimes. I indulge on occasions. That doesn't mean in any way that we're going to go on to beat up old ladies or rob from little children. That does not necessarily follow.    

Alcohol holds a certain fresh attraction for me, as it's something I, at 18, can only just really experience - legally, that is. Going out with friends is fun. There is nothing wrong in dancing and drinking a bit. I'm not the most hardcore of people and tend to fall asleep after a while so enjoy the idea of house parties more. I enjoy, probably more than I should, sitting on the floor of friend's kitchens with a drink in one hand and a piece of bread in the other. (Bread helps soak up alcohol and is usually found in some odd places round the house after parties.) At friend's houses you can pick the music you listen to as well, which beats the rubbish generally blasted out in clubs. There's a comfy sofa on hand for if you want to crash out and a toilet nearby in case anyone drinks a little too much - either that or you could give them a mug to throw up in but that turned out to be not such a good idea.    

I admit that I do quite enjoy it all. Sometimes though, during the morning after the night before, I do wonder why we all love it so much. It's obviously bad for you in the long run - and can make you sick in the short term. (Let's pretend I don't speak from experience there.) It's also expensive. If you go out on the town, you generally get the pleasure of being in a confined space with people who smell, and get leered at by funny looking guys at the bar. People spill drinks on your shoes, or in the case of me at a party once, in my new shoes.  Then some of us have to get up early the next day and go to work, which is never a nice experience.

I think, hobby-wise, I shouldn't take up drinking as I'm not very good at it. Being a light-weight has certain monitory advantages though but I don't advocate it as a vocation. We should take up something respectable, like stamp collecting. Although I think I might stick to deviance, which is more fun..    

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Dangerous Business

"It's a dangerous business, going out your front door. You step onto the road and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." (JRR Tolkien)

Officially this year marks the end of my years at college. I will hopefully be passing my exams and going to university and that can only end in me growing up and getting a real job. I am terrified.

School and college have been some of the best (and easiest) years of my life. It's slightly worrying to see how much I have changed in that time. Definite 'growing-up' has gone on and it would actually be a lie for me to say I feel I haven't changed. Some parts have improved and others deteriorated but that's unavoidable. I've learnt a lot academically and realised a bit about myself, which is always a good thing ultimately. I now know what I want to do with myself in most aspects of my life. In a way I can't wait to get onto that but I am a bit of an old woman and this sort of change is a little scary. Hence the LotR quote at the start.  

I thoroughly enjoyed my education and don't like the idea of leaving it for the real world. I was thinking today how far I could draw out my university years. My BA degree will take three years, then a Master's, if I could do one, would be another year and I have no idea how long it takes to get a Doctorate. I doubt I could fund that sort of thing, unless I won the lottery, so will have to come to terms with the fact I only have three years left before I am released into society, hopefully with a degree and hopefully with a plan. 

I will miss my friends. We're going to university, not prison, so although I know this isn't a complete goodbye, it still will never be quite the same for us again. I acquired a group of people over the years so socially awkward themselves that they accepted me and we had some very good times. I know I will keep in contact with my close girl friends but my more extended group are going to all sorts of places and it's less likely our paths will cross. 

At times we were a motley crew but I loved them all unconditionally and I know they would put up with me whatever I did. My boyfriend is going to a far off university too and I try not to think about how that will turn out. More cheerily though, we have a whole summer together before we leave and have lots of plans. I am looking forward to what happens and whatever happens it's been tons of fun so far.

I'm just hoping I can fit what I need in my suitcase for uni. So far I have everything except the kitchen sink on a list of stuff I need. I am a worrier and therefore want to be ready for every eventuality. I'm pretty sure this is impossible but I will give it a good try. Chances are, I'll forgot something stupid - like my toothbrush. I have the whole summer to get ready though.

I am rather excited!