Sunday, 29 April 2012

Fragments

          So I have fragments of thought today. I almost named this post trust but I thought better of it, as it's just one thing that I have been struggling with this week.

          I find that I am trusting despite all the betrayals of it down the years. It is a illusive concept, and I think it does you service as a human being to able to trust. It really does mean leaving yourself vulnerable to attack, it hurts when people find your weaknesses not meant for open discussion.

         I wonder if we can get past this idea when trying to connect? It's that old adage of the only way to live is to connect, have that link to someone else, not to be alone. It is far safer to be one that other side, but then you do not leave yourself open to new and happy experiences.

         Still trusting means you have to realise that hurt may be one the other side of that link. The more I have trusted the more I realise that I cannot live alone in my world. It would be a very lonely place.

         I was also thinking of definitions. The way we think of people, as employed or unemployed, dead or alive, married or single, bad or good, sexy or unsexy, creative or boring. I just wonder at this set of complete opposites. Is there not a middle ground? The more I think about the definition it's what other people assign you. I mean the dead and alive thing is pretty definite to my mind. 

         The other things that apparently define us aren't that important to my mind. It tends to be whether you have one thing or not, a job, a husband, sexual allure to whoever. It seems a very odd way to look at the world. To be defined as to whether you have one thing or not. After all I used to be a blonde now my hair is quite dark brown, I don't think about how I used to be blonde defines me in anyway, it's irrelevant to me. The more people lock up themselves in boxes the more suspicious I get of the box itself.

          The are other things this week that made me sad. Those are things that are out of my control though. I don't like being in such constrained circumstances. Maybe the real person I should be trusting more is me? I find that really hard.

           There are some things that have been making me happy. I love that I am discovering a new genre of fiction, Tamora Pierce's Allana series I have just finished which I liked immensely, I am going to read some more I have recently got out First Grave on the Right that I am looking forward to reading. I love learning about new rules of fiction and what writers have achieved with it. I have been listening to some podcasts, The Popcorn Dialogues among them, and want to give a shout out to Comedy Film Nerds as well as Extra Hot Great. I have problems with the ideology of the last two but they do have discussions about stuff that I like.

           I recently bought some jeans that fit me, and are not too long. Every pair of jeans that I have had until now has been too long, these are just right. I talk to my sister pretty regularly, not as much this week because she's been sick, but she is a bond that I could not do without. I love her so much, so that always makes me happy. 

           I still do creative things, it has been hard this last couple of weeks but I am still in the game of creating, that is something that I always want to do, and this week I am slowly doing more. The last silly things, I recently have got back into plaiting my hair, now it's long enough for a single plait. I also found a fabulous picture of two women in bathing suits in a 50s or 60s era reading, looking at the picture makes me happy. Sometimes the oddest things make me happy. The fact that I can be happy is alone a good thing.

          So one fractured long post about my week, I don't think it'll be as long next week!    

Living Dangerously

          I have liked Katie Fforde for a long time, I like her earlier work rather than her later stuff, but I think that comes under personal taste. Living Dangerously was her first book and still my favourite (though I love The Rose Revived and Life Skills a lot).  I think the thing that keeps me going back to that the book is the heroine Polly and the setting. This is an England that I recognise and a courtship framed in an environment that I really enjoy.


         I have always like strong heroines as well as funny books, and this comes through in spades for me.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

My Sci-Fi/Fantasy Start

         So as I didn't post last week, I wanted to do two this week. I asked the Betties via Facebook to give me some suggestions of Sci-Fi and Fantasy books that have strong female protagonists. So let me just start as to why I did this.

         I mainly read romance in my leisure time. I love romance always have, but I am a big reader which means that I usually have at least three books that I am reading at one time. I also like to read a variety.

         For whatever reason I haven't really read much Sci-Fi or fantasy. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I did read them a long time ago and The Lord of the Rings is one hell of a commitment, but it's very good. I have also read Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett. I love Terry Pratchett but got out of the habit of reading him, so I am going start with The Fifth Elephant and go on from there because I do still own some of his books, he is a gifted writer.

          That has been pretty much it for my Sci-Fi and Fantasy stuff that I have read. I have to say it kind of intimidates me. The romance genre I know so well, I know the stuff I like and I know what it is going in. Sci-Fi and Fantasy seems like another realm all together.

          So I thought well it's a genre I know very little about but I know that in books I like female protagonists, in pretty much whatever fiction that I read. So I'll start with that as a request for recommendations. The Betties came through and how! So I've made a list.


          My first book was Alanna The First Adventure: Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. I have read 80 pages and like it a lot so far. My sister has all four books in this series and lent me all of them so I look forward to how the series turns out. I like the world that has been created and look forward to reading all four.


         The second book A Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder. I started last night and finished it around half two in the morning. It's wonderful, I absolutely loved this book as you can probably tell. As an introduction to Sci-Fi and Fantasy I could not have chosen better, thank you so much everyone who recommended this author and this book. I love the characters, the theme of healing. The world around which this centres. Most all I love the heroine she really made the book awesome. I can't wait to find every other book she has written and devour them all.

          I have reserved some others and I am excited to read a genre that has really made such a great impression on me. I cannot say how much I loved Maria V. Snyder's book, it's amazing!

All The President's Men

        I very rarely read about events in history. I do read non-fiction but it is rare that it isn't essays, about feminism or about a specific subject like maths or astronauts or something like the impact of statisitcs. The one book that I have read about real events was All the President's Men. I did see the film first and I think that helped as it lets you know the stakes, how important the two figures were and how Watergate shaped history.


       In a way its a great story defeating Nixon, but I liked how good the book was in detailing their facts and how meticuous they were in showing their methods. It's a great book about a period of history that I didn't live though so in a way for me that makes it all the more exciting. I throughly recommend both versions (I think the leads in the film are wonderful), but I think for me the book is a nose in front. 

Save the Damsel, Kill the Bad Guy and Save the World


         The title of this post is a shortened quote from The Mummy. It kind exemplifies what adventures do best. Saving the Damsel seems to be a thing that happens in adventures, not that this is the only thing that damsels do. The Mummy, is a very well structured plot. We know what the stakes are. They go to the city of the dead, unleash the mummy, then destroy it.


        I had forgotten how much I liked this and its sequel (the third one is not that great but it does have a really odd villain, so maybe that's why I didn't like it that much). For me both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, have really good characters and really good plot. I learn a lot about structure and it mixes romances really well. The doomed as well as the good romance in Evelyn and Rick.

        I wanted to write about this because I feel like it gives fiction its thrust when dealing with adventure and the supernatural. The people are the first you save, and then there is the over arching concept of saving the world. I think many films and books have the theme of saving the world but its framed with the smaller characters. There is something that attracts me to that kind of story.

        I feel like its hard to get right, the tone in any story has to right, but with this the triumph over bad really becomes the thing that we all want, but it is character that I know that I go back for.

        The adventure stories that don't get it right are the ones that blow the characters, and saving the world has to be framed in a way that makes sense to the story. I know that saying I don't like Raiders of the Lost Arc will probably make people explode, but I liked it when I was younger but looking back at tit again it really lost it's appeal. I really do think it came down to Marion and big bad. I didn't believe nor did I get invested.


        Adventure is all about good overcoming bad, and we know that is what is going to happen. I think this lends itself to coming up with really great concepts. Like in The African Queen, I love that film because it's really about the relationship between the two people on this boat. I love Katherine Hepburn, (one of the things I like about her performance is that she is strong, resilient and yet vulnerable). I mean vulnerable meaning having faults and failings rather than wet and weak. She is the hero of this film, she always believes that there is a solution to whatever problem they have. I also really like that this is a film about two people building a relationship on a boat all the while fighting for the big bad in this case they are in a war, it's done really well to my mind.

        In a way all story comes down to character and what they are fighting for, or trying to accomplish. Save the people, kill the bad guy and save the world, that is one strong concept that I think will never go away.

Blackadder

         So I know that this might come across as a cool thing to recommend, and for what I like about it has nothing to do with cool. Blackadder for me found its footing and tone when they did the second season, they did four in all.


        What stands out for me is taking history and really making fun of it, the absurdities as well as the strange stuff. The cast is wonderful, and I wanted to mention Miranda Richardson who shows how funny she is particularly for me in her role as Queen Elizabeth.

        It can be quite elitist, but for me it doesn't shy away from the grotesque, and that's what really appealed to me as a kid first watching this. As I got older I liked the wordplay humour and the a mixture of slapstick.

        I like it for the depiction of humour in a historical context that to me was something that I had never seen before. That is what I like about it and still have a place in my heart for it, it also has a great theme tune.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

What I am reading This Week

         So I have three this week. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, The Naughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism, by Ellie Levenson and A Week To Be Wicked by Tessa Dare.


        A Week To be Wicked by Tessa Dare is the first one I want to talk about. I really liked it. It fulfils my type of romance crack in particular my historical romance crack. The heroine is a big reader and not considered a great beauty and through the relationship with the hero develops a confidence in herself. I also really like the name Minerva and it's the heroine's name. I like the references to geology in the book which is Minerva's passion. I though it was really good, Tessa Dare is fast becoming a writer I want to read all of.


        The Naughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism by Ellie Levenson is the second book I have now finished just today. I liked a lot of it, I do hate the title and I didn't agree with a lot of the stuff that she said, but I like reading about a subject as diverse as feminism and looking at all the stuff that people think about it. 

        I do feel that it talks about the small things that women can stand up for and count as wrong. I also liked that she talks about abortion, marriage and children in a very understandable way. That is to say I feel a writer like Germaine Greer though I am glad I read The Female Eunuch (and really didn't agree with most of that book), it felt really unreachable at times. This isn't. I think I would compare it to Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, I'm glad I read that book too and it is very to me relatable, though I disagreed with a lot of points.

        I think when I read books about feminism there is a danger of falling into the trap of recommending something just because it exists. There are things that I feel should be talked about more often in feminism, choice is a particular word bandied about without really examining why people get that choice. There is an assumption that you have money, have a job, and on the whole have sex with men. These are assumptions, and I feel that writers don't really see the privilege under these statements. 

        I liked parts of the book and for me feminism is something that should be talked about, books written about and discussions had about. So I would read it and see what you think about it. I am hampered by the fact I have very little money, so I want to praise libraries. Every time I go into mine they know me by name and are always surprised at the fact that I read so much. It is a wonderful resource but their feminism section isn't that wide, but they have one and I have read practically all of them, including this one.


        The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht is the last book. I am in two minds about whether I like this book. Every time I decide I don't, it does something that makes me like it again. I think the problem that I have with it, is the narrative is really disjointed and really for me off putting. The story seems to be so fragmented and me trying to work out what happened and to whom is at times really hard.

        It is an intriguing premise which I won't spoil and I do find that the writing style is the thing that keeps me coming back, but I do find it hard to read (I'm about 2/3 the way through). I feel that in any book that I read I do have to care about the people in it, and as I said I am struggling with this one. I am going to finish it as it is a book club book. I have the rest of April to do so.

         I am looking forward to reading Rebel Girls soon by Jill Liddington which is about the Suffragettes, a subject I know very little about. I think that will be interesting.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Casual Violence

            I wanted to talk about violence in films and in TV. I wanted to talk about the casual way women are treated as victims and somehow women are easier to see as being violent towards to.

          I wanted to reference The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo first, the book weirdly enough I could not get past the first 100 pages as I was bored by the politics involved. I know the plot and I can't seem to get past to get past everyone treating her as a feminist. She is repeatedly raped, the first book itself concerns itself with a case where a woman is raped by her as people have told me own family.

          I know that there is a scene of rape in the film. I can't see this as feminist, even though she takes her revenge, how is showing a woman getting revenge necessarily a feminist act? I don't think people would have the same reaction if it were a man. Would he not be seen as giving up his masculinity by being raped in the first place? It seems to me that people leap on this as an instance of woman seeking violence for justice as a sop to the fact that she was a victim all along.

          I do not want to become one of those people that treat a film with violence as wrong, and to comment freely on a film that I have not seen. I am never going to see these films. I do not want to give money to a franchise that I have such problems with. The other thing that I want to mention is that people always compare this to Twilight.

         I have only seen the first film I was out at the moment he said that Bella was his own personal heroine. I find myself mystified as to why people feel this is appealing - how does someone who wants to eat you and end your life fanciable? I suppose there is danger, but I would run from anyone who wanted to kill me.

         This argument of comparing the two assumes there is only two extremes. There is not, there are plenty of films, books and TV that have strong female characters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a great and wonderful example of a woman with immense power that literally kicks the asses of people who want to kill her. She does fall in love with a vampire (well two), but there are special circumstances and she isn't portrayed for me as a victim or that violence is perpetrated towards her because she is female.

        I want to talk about other great female characters but I also want to talk about this casual violence in other shows. It's there in Gossip Girl, Lewis and CSI and the women that are shown to be assaulted, murdered or raped both at the same time in many a procedural, the violence is casual and the woman is dead, this means she does not even have a voice. It's the reason why I can't watch procedural shows anymore. 

         Gossip Girl may seem to be a very fluffy show, and it is about the politics of a school. In the first couple of episodes there is a instance of a girl being sexually assaulted. First she gets saved by her brother. Second she is described by more than one person to be a victim. The wording is pretty awful, basically the descrption 'he doesn't brag about his victims' is used.

          So someone who gets assaulted is a victim, and the guy is let off apart from being hit in the face - violence with violence. There is also another discussion about this girl with the guy who assaulted her, basically the scene is don't mess with a person's sister. So is the message there feel free to assault women who are alone and can't defend themselves because no-one will care? 

         The casual violence is what really gets me. It is treated casually and it is always women who seem to the people who get this treatment. It is not just in film, TV and books, it reflects societal attitudes that people have, and that makes me mad and really disappointed. 

         I want to end this by saying this is not the only view to be taken, there are many women who are treated fairly, and violence is not treated casually. Jennifer Cruise has many female heroines that I adore and who are strong. Agnes and the HItman, Bet Me and Manhuntiing are have very strong heroines and I love the romances in them too. Buffy the Vampire Slayer I like both the series and the film. Matilda by Roald Dahl, Return to Oz, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, Stranger Than Fiction, The Lady Vanishes, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.     




         The last one is of the character Matilda who I have loved since I was young enough to read. These are all examples of stuff that for me goes against the mainstream of violence being treated casually, this is not to say that there may not be violence in them, and some is directed towards women, but this casual viewpoint is not taken and for me it should be the mainstream not the alternative.     

Scarves

          I ahve always liked scarves, knitted as well as cotton and silk. They can be practcal as well as just for fun which appeals to me. I have also made about three I think when I have knitted scarves, one of which I have kept for myself that I like a lot.



          I love the red one, I would totally love to make it, but it seems quite hard for me skills as of yet. They all look really nice, and I now want more scarves.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The dark side

          So I was thinking this week about Children's films, partly because I've been reading about Children's books all week. I think I was thinking about the ones that were really quite scary to me when I was younger. So I am going to talk about Return to Oz rather than The Railway Children or Monsters Inc. Not that these films are not as good but they don't have the scary quota.


         So I'm going to start with The Wizard of Oz. The film did scare me, because of the witch and the flying monkeys. I think the reason why it scared me was that I wasn't sure whether she was going to be vanquished and that she really was out to kill these people. The threat was real. 


         Return to Oz scared me even more when I was younger. This story is really dark. First she is stuck in a mental instution and she is given electric shock therapy. Even when she is in Oz, that is one scary place, with a queen that exchanges heads, and really creepy creatures called wheelers that have wheels for hands and feet. That film is really scary and definately dark for a kid. I enjoyed both of these and when I watch them back now I like them still but it is a very dark place indeed in these fantasy films. 

        Dumbo was another one that freaked me out, particualrly in reference to the dream sequence with the other elephants. Snow White scared me in the scene where the witch changes to a hag. I don't think, however, the tone had scariness wrapped up in it like the Oz films. The Oz films also both have female protagonists and are scary yes, but for me show the determination and the fighting of the odds all the more because the threats are genuine.

        The Oz films I remember and still watch because they are interesting and put forth different themes. I like the world created by Return to Oz in particular it has something dark and mysterious about it. The Wizard of Oz is a little too bright and sunshiny for me at least, though a very good film.

        So I think the dark in Children's films and indeed Children's books should be there, it is one the reasons why I like the book Matilda by Roald Dahl so much, it's dark without being afraid of it. People should not be protected from it, afterall it's something that is always there. As a side note I would recommend the audio version of Matilda done by Joley Richardson, I liked it very much.

           

Paper Chains

          I know that paper chains are associated with Christmas but they are fun to make any time of the year, and really easy. I was going to make some this Christmas but I did have enough paper.

        I like the look of them so this week I'm recommending paper chains especially if they can look like this: