Wednesday, 29 August 2012

and may the odds be ever in your favour.

So I read The Hunger Games. If you have not, this post will probably not interest you in the slightest and you are free to go and play some scrabble or whatever it is that you normally do on a Wednesday night. I personally think Wednesdays are perfect for sitting around the house doing nothing which is exactly what I have opted to do all day. And all of yesterday. I regret nothing.

I started the books approximately three weeks ago and devoured them in one hungry gulp. One of the things I miss most about my childhood self is the way I used to stay up til the early hours reading. It was never anything fancy, most of the books I opted for were about animal rescue and had an alliterating title, but I must have got through hundreds of books, and there were never quite enough on my shelf. Nowadays, I have quite the opposite problem: shelves full of untouched books that I never find the time to read, and this is a source of constant sadness to me. As you get older, too, there is far more pressure to read things that are not shite. The problem with this is, I have to read lots of things for my degree that are distinctly un-shite and it can all get a bit heavy. I have waxed lyrical many times about the role of Harry Potter both in modern society and in my own life, and I am not ashamed to admit that the books I have enjoyed reading most in my life have been those written for children - His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and yes, The Hunger Games. 

These should not be mistaken with 'favourite' books, though there is some overlap but the thing is that they are just so utterly readable. They are enough to distract you from the irritating child on the train or the man staring at you from across a cafe. Nothing else matters when these books do, and this is exactly what I have missed - this childlike enthusiasm and need to know what happens next.

The Hunger Games, in my opinion, lack very little. The books are fast paced and very plot driven. There is gore, brutality, a love triangle, a gutsy heroine, bits that make you snigger in public and bits that make you shed an embarrassing little tear on the bus. The trilogy is just fairly brilliant and I urge you to read it immediately. If you are able to write off a couple of weeks, that is. 

The film is also rather good. But the books are better. The film does have a few advantages over the book. Okay, the film has one advantage over the book, and his name is Gale. I really don't get the Peeta-lovers of this world. Gale is sullen and brooding and passionate and everything a fictional crush should be. Peeta is just so nice - too nice! Plus Liam Hemsworth is Australian. Just saying. Anyway, I'll let you make up your own mind...


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

an american prisoner of war has been turned.

If you haven't yet watched Homeland, I urge you to do so immediately. I was hooked within about three minutes, and then proceeded to watch all twelve (hour long) episodes in the space of two days. It's that good. It did make me a little bit paranoid though. I keep dreaming that my friends are under cover terrorists and looking at ginger men suspiciously on the metro. I should probably stop that...

Claire Danes is good in everything, and I have sung her praises before, playing an angelic Juliet and a slightly psychotic secret agent are two very different things. This was a difficult role and it would have been easy to tire of the heroine, but she pulled it off with grace and ease. It would have been easy too to oversexualise the character, but she didn't - Carrie emerged a flawed, brilliant woman. She was clingy and confused and feminine - everything intelligent women are sometimes told they must not be. Overall though, she was just very likable. I stayed onside throughout, even when she was at her most ridiculous.

And what can I say about Damian Lewis? I remember seeing him in Stormbreaker when it came out (I would have been about fourteen). He played a Russian baddie, and I'm sure he was supposed to be scary, but really he just oozed sex appeal in his very ginger way (the best if you ask me). In this, he was a very different kind of almost-baddie - a marine who is discovered after eight years of being kidnapped and tortured in Iraq by an Al Qaeda cell. He comes back broken and changed to an unfaithful wife and kids he doesn't recognise.

The series is full of twists and gasps. The cast is solid (and mainly British). My favourite character was Saul-good-guy-Berenson who is brilliant from the start and only gets better as the series progresses. The story is very, very clever and told in a gripping, engaging way in which governments are corrupt and there are two sides to every story and two faces to every character. Now I'm just left wanting more, and searching for something similarly serious and dramatic to fill the void.

And I still really fancy Damian Lewis...

Monday, 21 May 2012

the future was our skin and now we don't dream anymore.

I have never really been one for blogging about music, other than to post a nice song at the bottom of the page that I think you might enjoy. There is one simple reason for this - I know nothing about it. I have no idea what makes the music I like good, what instruments are playing, the correct terminology for the different components or anything about keys and stuff. I don't want you to feel that I'm harping on when it's something I know so little about.

So I'm going to make a deal with you. The music stuff will remain a key part of what I write about, but you are not to expect anything more insightful from me than "ooh this is pretty" or "I like his face". Neither should you think that the songs I select will be particularly new or in any way cool. Okay? Okay.

Perfection exists in the form of a beautiful man from Sweden who is like a scrubbed up Bob Dylan with a voice just the right side of harsh and a super cool wife with odd hair. This song is gorgeous and I must have listened to it twenty times today.

Beach House's Teen Dream is an album I can listen to again and again without tiring of it. Take Care and Walk in the Park are my favourites, but the whole album is cracking. They have a new album out now which is just as lovely. For those of you in the clutches of exams at the moment, rather than being smug that I have none, I am going to be helpful and suggest that you let this band aid you in your revision. It worked for me last year!

I had a dream last night that I was on a boat with Conor Oberst. He renamed me 'Lua' and I remember being less than pleased. Nonetheless, it made me think about seeing Bright Eyes last summer and how much I have been obsessed with them (him) for such a considerable length of time. I think he deserves just one more sneaky appearance with this lovely live version of what is now my song (in my dreams at least).

I'd really like to go to some gigs this summer, so if you have any suggestions, or if you'd like somebody to keep you company, just drop me a little message. Failing that, there's always Greenbelt where lovely people like Gentry Morris come to play and I get to spend my days sauntering round a vegan café, picking up rubbish and making people tea. It's one of the highlights of my year.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

ten men who know how to rock a suit.

The art of suit wearing is difficult to master. So many young men who wear suits look like they've borrowed their dad's Sunday best, and so many older men's best efforts are ruined by a sneaky bit of beer belly creeping over their nicely-fitted trousers. There are no hard and fast rules to making the smart look work, but sometimes timeless is best, and thinking outside the box should maybe only be left to the pros.

  • Richard Ayoyade - Now this is a man who can pull off a bit of tweed. He is half Norwegian, half Nigerian, and one hundred percent comfortable in a suit, which is maybe not something you can learn, but should be appreciated nonetheless.

  • Eddie Redmayne - He went to Eton where I hear they teach a special class on 'How Toffs Should Dress'. It definitely worked: the tweed, knitwear and pocket square make for a winning combination, and he has that public school boy hair down to a tee. 

  • Douglas Booth - Of course, it is easier to do this whole suit-rocking thing if you are a Burberry model whose job it is to wear beautifully cut suits opposite Emma Watson, but I reckon the average Joe could learn a thing or two from him. I admit this post is rapidly turning into a pretty-boy appreciation post, but there's nothing wrong with that. Is there?

  • Luke Evans - He played the simple yet hench farmhand in Tamara Drewe, and he has come a long way since. The hipster glasses don't hurt either...

  • Tinie Tempah - phwoar.

  • David Tennant - He wore a red velvet suit and it looked good. Velvet. Matt Smith may look alright in a suit, but he is no David in either the Doctor stakes or the fanciable stakes. Oh yes, I went there.

  • Daniel Craig - He is James Bond. It's innate.

  • David Beckham - A bit of an anomaly in this list, perhaps, but he's been showing the boys of our nation how it's done for years, and I think he deserves some recognition for that. 

  • Don Draper - Fictional, yes. Poorly dressed, most certainly not! 

  • Benedict Cumberbatch - Single-handedly making scarves less gay since 2010. 

  • Andrew Garfield - I've loved him since he was in Doctor Who all those years ago, and now he's a fairly big name. Somewhere along the way, he learned to rock a suit. Good for him! 

  • Thierry Henry - va-va-yesplease.

So there you have it. Pedants among you may have noticed that there are in fact twelve people in this list, but I didn't have the heart to relegate anybody, besides, I am an equal opportunities kind-a-gal. 

you should sit with me and we'll start again.

Once upon a time, I updated this blog every three days or so. Back then, I was in sixth form, living in Kidderminster full-time, and yet seemed to have an abundance of things to write about. Now, I am older and a bit more emotionally stable, this obviously results in less compulsive reading for me, let alone you lot. Nonetheless, I miss it, and I miss people arguing with every little thing I write, so I think the time has come to start up properly again.

At the moment I'm really enjoying being in Italy, even though it's rainy and full of men who tell you to smile as you're walking down the street minding your own business. This happens increasingly often, and I feel like apologising to them because my head is not always full of fluffy thoughts of puppies and lollipops. Sometimes I have thoughts. And sometimes I like to think about these thoughts, resulting in the smile momentarily disappearing from my face. I can't do two things at once.

Currently still off the Facebook bandwagon, I felt like I needed more of a social networking hit, so I've rejoined Twitter. For those of you interested, as of yesterday, I am now Mindbopping rather than just Mindbop. They wouldn't let me reprise my account after some scallywag hacked into it (there is a pattern emerging here) so I thought I'd start again. Simple. 

The thing is, I love the internet - probably far too much - but it simply doesn't love me. Too many unpleasant things have happened to me over the internet, and my interest is waning. The few sites now that are keeping me sweet are Skype (which has made this year bearable), Wordreference and Texts from Last Night (just because). Oh and The Guardian... and Tumblr... and now Twitter... forget it, I frigging love the internet, as cruel a mistress as it may be!

I have two months left here. I'd really rather not leave, but there are definitely things worth going home for, and I'm trying to arrange my summer so that I won't be too Romesick by the middle of August.

Here is some Bright Eyes, because if don't post anything by him for too long, the universe implodes.

And here is some Frightened Rabbit, to bring you back up.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

we decided just to write after all.

I sometimes have a tendency to get too hung up in music my mother would call "durgey" and forget all about good music played on guitars and drums - the old fashioned way. And while I love clinky piano music and whingey ballads, there's nothing quite like listening to someone sing as loudly as they possibly can about girls and heartbreak and everything that makes music good. Maximo Park have talent and volume in oodles, and I think they are splendid.

Another thing about this band that may appeal to you is the singer Paul Smith, who is not to be confused with the fashion designer. This one does not make cologne, nor will he charge you seventy quid for a wallet. In fact, he may not sell you a wallet at all. The one I'm talking about looks sort of like a cross between a Victorian undertaker and a Tim Burton creation. He has a Geordie accent (the nice kind, not the Cheryl Cole kind) and jumps around a lot. That's the gist really.

Anyway, their first album A Certain Trigger was completely brilliant - all anger and angst and dancing around in your room on a Wednesday night in a hat of some sort. Next came Quicken the Heart, which was pretty much flawless. It was one of the few albums I had on my 1GB Sony MP3 player, back when I was fifteen, miserable and spotty, and had a paper round. I have a very clear memory (though some of those turn out to have been dreams) of a very rainy Thursday evening delivering the Kidderminster Shuttle for next to no money and listening to this record and it sort of making everything okay again. 

Their third album was pants. But we'll ignore that...

And now they have a new album coming out! Hurrah! I am more excited than I was about the return of Mad Men and I am even considering coming home to see them on their little mini tour in June. But maybe that would be excessive! 

To celebrate, here are my five favourite Maximo Park songs. I hope you enjoy them! And if it's raining where you are (it certainly is here), just think - at least you aren't fifteen. And if you are fifteen... erm... it'll get better? 

  • Graffiti - "I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French" - Deal!

  • Books from Boxes 

  • Apply Some Pressure - "What happens when you lose everything? You just start again. Start all over again."

  • Nosebleed - "Did we go too far? Is that why your nose is bleeding?"

  • Girls who play Guitar - "It's her life and a life is worth living."

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

still on my feet.

This cover of Joni Mitchell's A case of you is astonishingly lovely and according to iTunes, I've listened to it fifty eight times. Sounds about right. Up until now, though, I'd never seen the video, featuring Rebecca Hall whom I have loved ever since the first time I saw Starter for Ten. She almost ruined it with Vicky Christina Barcelona which is bad. Really really bad. But this is great, so she's back in my good books. And James Blake never left them.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have deleted my Facebook account. I think I'll stick with it for the time being because already today, I have read an awful lot, and this has to be better for the little grey cells. No doubt I will return soon enough, but for now I feel fairly liberated.

Today, I was walking to the supermarket (I use the term lightly. Think Netto mixed with an Esso Garage and you'll get the right idea) down the street from me. I was not immodestly dressed, I wore a long sleeved t-shirt, a knee length skirt and a leather jacket. A middle aged woman stared at my bare legs in disbelief, and without even trying to disguise her abhorrence, tutted at me and mumbled "disgraceful". I would have been surprised were it not for the fact that I seem to be living in a country where they cannot tell hot from cold. Today was beautifully sunny and hit 21°C at midday which is when I ventured out. This is the equivalent of British summertime, and dammit I'll get my legs out if I bloody want to.