Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Do yourselves a favour & just don't read the papers...

I don't mind saying I like a bit of gossip. I would say it's a girl thing, but it's so not. It's also one of the few ways I can bond with my mother - she doesn't read books but she does seem to acquire truly impressive amounts of trashy magazines, which she passes on to me. (It's not easy to bond with someone who regards eating carbohydrates as a character flaw.) And as I've spent the last 4 years reading "proper" literature and no end of linguistics articles, I feel no shame in flicking through Grazia or Glamour from time to time. Reading a magazine is like eating a bag of crisps when you're really hungry - it distracts you for a little bit but you know it's no good for you. The hypocrisy of most women's magazines does get to me a little, because it does seem that most of them are a gross insult to our intelligence.

But now, to what I was actually going to say.

In the last few weeks, tabloids and magazines have been all over the Kristen-Stewart-cheating-on-Robert-Pattinson "scandal".

And naturally, everyone's got well up on their high horses in order to make judgemental sweeping statements about how all cheaters are scum and should burn in hell, or whatever.

I feel sorry for Kristen. Mainly because she's the one taking the majority of the flak. Yes, she cheated - but with an older, married man who definitely should have known better. He had the position of power, presumably; if anyone was going to put the brakes on their little make-out sessions, he should have been first.

She's 22. Old enough to know right from wrong but young enough to still be finding her feet. (I'm not even much of a fan of hers; about the best film she's done is Panic Room). And, good lord, if every relationship tizzy I have was splashed across the tabloids, I'd look a lot grumpier than she does. (You should have seen the Skype strop I had recently. Toddlers have displayed more rationale and reason; there was anguished yelping and everything.) 

Cheating is wrong. We all know that. Can we please now get over that and have an intelligent conversation about it?

On the one hand, you can argue that we don't need to feel too sorry for Stewart, as she's never going to have to worry about money ever again, she plays the main character in one of the biggest film franchises there's ever been (unfortunately), and she probably doesn't have to clean her own oven. But to resort to stating the bloody obvious, all the money and success in the world is largely meaningless if you're sleeping alone every night.

On the other hand, her level of fame has probably sailed past the "oh, this is pretty cool" stage and reached the "this is fucking ridiculous, I can't even post a letter without being photographed." Yes, she chose her career path, and actors know if they're successful, they stand to to lose a certain amount of privacy. But is that necessarily fair? Admittedly, this is probably better aimed at the tabloid press (I knew my dissertation would get a look-in here at some point, and not just in the form of me moaning about it), but it is worth thinking about. Personally, sometimes I think it must be pretty cool to be "famous" (in my head I am the natural heir to Caitlin Moran and/or Tom Hardy's future wife), but then I really think about it. Every unflattering outfit, every bad skin day, every heated conversation, every moody look, all photographed and written about? Haha, I think not. There'd be far too many of, well, all of them. 

Yes, she made a mistake. 22-year-olds do that. 17 year-olds do it. Ditto 45-year-olds. You can bet anything you like that how the press, and the internet hacks, and the pre-teen Twi-hards have responded to her bit of crappy decision-making has got nothing on what she's putting herself through. But no one makes that decision without a reason, and they alone know what the reason(s) is/are.

Being in a relationship is hard enough as it is - to paraphrase a quote from one of my favourite books, "you have to think about someone else all the time and all you get in return is regular sex" - but if you're two very famous young people who, I'm guessing, are probably miles apart a lot of the time due to work commitments, then at times it's not going to feel like a relationship at all. I've never done the long-distance thing, but I know that there's more chance of Satan winning gold at figure-skating that there is of me succeeding in a long-distance relationship. A good 60% of that relationship is in your head, really. You can't feel like you're with someone if you're not, like, with someone. I'm not saying this excuses cheating, but there's a reason proximity is a huge and obvious factor in who ends up with who.

I can't claim to be anywhere near the moral high-ground on this matter, and what's more, I'm normally judgemental as fuck, but just once, I would like to see people acknowledge that there are two+ sides to every story, a variety of possible motives and reasons for every bad decision, and that no one knows what they're capable of until they're put under enough pressure. 


Musically speaking, I saw this guy supporting Thea Gilmore back in 2003, and this is the only song of his set that made any sort of an impression on me. Almost 10 years later, I suddenly can't get enough of it. 

"You make me smile, and laugh too; how I'd like to spend my time with you". Quite.


 And this is shamefully boyband-y, but it got stuck in my head when I heard it in the London Victoria branch of Paperchase last Sunday.


The lyrics are very much from the songwriting-by-numbers school of thought, but there's something quite hypnotic about it.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Whatever floats your goat...

I have at last decided, I am not going to read any of the Fifty Shades trilogy.

And I really want to. It genuinely pleases me that books of that kind (I would call them erotic fiction, but having read excerpts here and there, that would be an insult to the rest of the genre) have rocketed into the bestsellers' lists, developed a stronghold there and have become such a talking point. Even Phillip Schofield has said they're good - or at least, the fact that they exist is a good thing (I used to fancy him when I was a lot younger). Even a few days ago, every third woman I saw on the train was reading a Fifty Shades book - I thought the hype was mostly over by now. But apparently, it persists.

And I don't normally get taken in by hype. If everyone's telling me that something is amazing, for some reason even I can't quite explain, my instinctive reaction is to think "it can't be that good".* It's why I've never seen The Hangover. Or The Notebook. It's why I do not find Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds attractive in any way. And this reaction doesn't come from a hipster-ish need to shun whatever might be drifting merrily down the mainstream, however much my friends want to think so. I just seem to have this default setting that makes me think, "if everyone thinks it's that good" - whatever it is - "then the thing in question can't be trying hard enough".

*Things I've been wrong about: (500) Days of Summer (it really is that cute. Don't watch it with your significant other, though; you might come over all, like, feeling-y or something). Razorlight's first album. The Civil Wars. Reel Big Fish live. That's kind of it.

But back to the matter at hand.

Like I said, I want to read them. Or rather, I want to want to read them. (I also really want to make a terrible pun about reading them so I can join the mass debate, but I won't.)

I know I'm not going to put myself through it though, purely because of how they're written (I don't want to say "badly", because hey, who's the published author, me or E.L. James?). But the clumsy, wince-inducing prose style and the incredibly irritating narrator will infuriate me to distraction before I find anything vaguely erotic about the books. It's a shame, because really, there is so much potential there: the naive, wide-eyed young girl being seduced and corrupted by the complicated - and by all accounts, rather bossy - mysterious (and conveniently rich) man... We've all had that fantasy, right?

Anyway... It's a shame, because I think in the hands of a more skilled writer, the books would have been truly great. Seriously, what's the whole "inner goddess" thing about? (If I get bored while dandering about in town, I duck in to WH Smiths and read a few lines, wince, chuckle and wander off again. Thinking about it, I've probably read a fair bit of the first book through doing this.) I don't have an inner goddess, I don't think. If I do, she's socially awkward and terribly indecisive, so if you find that remotely sexy, I'm your girl. I want to support the Fifty Shades cause - for want of a better word - because it seems to have got many, many women talking very publicly about what they find hot - an area of conversation that I don't think it's too controversial to say, has previously been dominated by men. (And speaking of being dominated by men... oh, it's too easy.)

I didn't want to give this too much of a feminist slant because, let's be honest, that sounds rather dull. But it seems that part of the reason Fifty Shades has become so talked-about is because it's essentially mainstream porn for the girls. Which we haven't had, really, up until now. (Not that I've looked.) Guys have had it easier in that respect for quite some time. Already, Fifty Shades is spawning copy-cat stories - it's like Twilight all over again - and while these bandwagon-jumping tales might well be worse than the wagon that came first (God forbid), hopefully this means that erotic fiction will maintain a presence in the best-seller charts for time to come. Or will at least prompt people to seek out the better-written stuff. Like Anais Nin, or Erica Jong. Or even when Sarra Manning gets two of her main characters in a bedroom. Or, as you're on the internet, try that.

So - not that I can really conclude with anything useful, as I'm on the fence myself - I wish I could switch off my word-geekery and rattle through the trilogy, because I'm nothing but in favour of erotic fiction. But it really, really kills the mood when the choice of words makes you cringe. It's like having someone talk dirty to you in a strong Birmingham accent - just kind of wrong (oh God, please no-one take offence) ...I think I should go before I say something worse...

I must quickly explain the rather odd title of this entry - a few nights ago, I was joking around with a friend and said something along the lines of "Well, the wildest night I ever had involved dwarves and the sacrifice of a goat..." (Funnily enough, this is what's known as a lie.) To which he responded, "Whatever floats your boat, I guess!" I couldn't resist saying, "Don't you mean... goat?" Heavy groans all round.

Here, have some Tim Minchin:


My favourite verse starts at 2:19. It's the work of a genius (well, almost).

And I'm listening to these guys' new album, but this song is one of my favourites by them (and probably one of my favourite songs ever). They're very good live.