Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure: Potter Journal


This is something I've been wanting to do for ages and I finally took the plunge but a few days ago. I opened my Potter journal on LiveJournal, where I'll be talking about all things Harry Potter - my reactions to news, my thoughts about specific books, chapters, quotes, movies, events in fandom, excellent fanfictions, fanarts, music. Everything Potter is going to go on this journal and this journal only. I really need a dedicated space. So have a look if you're a fan of Jo Rowling. In order to comment on the Potter journal, you need a LiveJournal account - it's free and simple, and LiveJournal has some excellent communities you can join and users you can watch so I think it's really a great opportunity for you to discover all this. I have no current plans to reopen the comments on In Training for a Heroine, though. I also have no plans to give up In Training for a Heroine, on the contrary, I'm thinking about expanding it. I think that's it! I'm really excited about this, so let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If music be the food of love, play on. - 60s Part Two

Part two's here! Just click on the name of the band to hear the music. I realise that most of these are British Invasion bands, so perhaps I should just have called this "The British Invasion post", but it wouldn't have been accurate because some of these bands are American, for example The Byrds (although lots of people think they're actually British - they were indeed very influenced by the British invasion) The Turtles, The Archies and 1910 Fruitgum Company. Bear in mind that several of the bands I'm listing kept on recording way after the 60s: my only criteria is that they started in the 60s.

The Archies
Sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl

And you've got me wanting you.

The Tremeloes
Come on, twist little sister
To get that good night kiss.

The Byrds

Now, I've got to say
That it's not like before,

And I'm not gonna play

Your games any more.

After what you did
I can't stay on.
And I'll probably feel a whole lot better
When you're gone.

Freddie and the Dreamers

I'm telling you now
I'll say what you wanna hear
I'll be telling you for many a year
I'm in love with you

1910 Fruitgum Company
Put your hands in the air,
Simple Simon says,

Shake them all about,

Simple Simon says,

Do it when Simon says,

Simple Simon says,

And you will never be out.

The Searchers
Sugar and spice and all things nice
Kisses sweeter than wine
Sugar and spice and all things nice
You know that little girl is mine.

The Troggs
Wild thing...
you make my heart sing...

You make everything
I said wild thing...

The Turtles
Go lightly from the ledge,
Go lightly on the ground
I'm not the one you want,
I'll only let you down

Peter and Gordon
Birds sing out of tune
And rain clouds hide the moon
I'm OK, here I'll stay
With my loneliness
I don't care what they say I won't stay
In a world without love

The Zombies
Well, no one told me about her
The way she lied
Well, no one told me about her
How many people cried
But it's too late to say you're sorry
How would I know, why should I care?
Please don't bother trying to find her
She's not there.

The Yardbirds
To thrill you with delight,
I'll give you diamonds bright.
There'll be things that will excite,
To make you dream of me at night.
For your love.

The Who
Why don't you all fade away
And don't try to dig what we all say
I'm not trying to cause a big sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout my generation.

The Mamas and the Papas

They say candy is sweet, but it just can't compete with you, baby.
You've got everything I need and nobody can please like you, you baby.

I think that's it. Turns out I enjoy more pop and more rock than I thought I did. But apart from a select few artists, I don't like contemporary pop and rock at all. I'm giving the names of bands that have nothing to do with one another apart from a decade (The Archies and 1910 Fruitgum Company are bubblegum pop, completely different from the rest) and this list ultimately makes no sense. But here it is anyway. Gordon (as in Peter and Gordon) passed away last month. There is only one surviving member of the Mamas and the Papas and none of the founding members of The Animals is still alive. Some of these bands had a very short career (Gerry and the Pacemakers, for example) but most keep on recording and performing today (The Hollies never stopped and never broke up), which I personally find amazing. I would love to go to a concert some day. The 60s was a very prolific decade - even though it's a shame I'll never get to see the original band members perform, I'm happy to look back now with all the advantages this music can offer without the drawbacks of actually living in this world 50 years ago.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If music be the food of love, play on. - 60s Part One

Twelfth Night also happens to be my favourite Shakespeare play so I'm glad I can finally quote this excellent work. Today I want to post some more music. Up till now I have posted a lot of different things, but there's a whole era I haven't talked about. I think classic rock and pop from the 60s is one the things I like to listen to the most. I've already posted the Rolling Stones here (they haven't ever made a bad album, I love them, although it's true I'm not too fond of Undercover), I also enjoy early Beatles (before Sgt. Pepper) and early Beach Boys (they lose me after Pet Sounds). I wish I could say something like "I used to listen to my parents' records and I grew up with their music" or something, but this isn't true. My parents aren't interested in music at all and the first CD ever brought into their house was brought by me, so I had to build up my music collection from scratch (same goes for books and movies) which is really expensive when you're a student. In a way, that makes them more my own, I guess. It has made it harder to discover music that isn't popular today (no radio airing, no TV broadcast), but considering my musical taste, I'd say I managed to find what I truly loved nonetheless. So here are some excellent artists I've discovered just recently (everything is recent, obviously) and without whom I cannot live.

The Kinks
I believe that you and me last forever
Oh yeah, all day and nightime yours, leave me never

The only time I feel alright is by your side
Girl I want to be with you all of the time

All day and all of the night

Gerry & the Pacemakers
Don't let the sun catch you cryin'
The night's the time for all your tears

Your heart may be broken tonight

But tomorrow in the morning light

Don't let the sun catch you cryin'

The Animals
We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do

We gotta get out of this place

Girl, there's a better life
For me and you

Herman's Hermits

I walked her home and she held my hand I knew it couldn't be just a one-night stand
So I asked to see her next week and she told me I could

Somethin' tells me I'm into something good

The Monkees
I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me.

Love was out to get me

Thats the way it seemed.

Disappointment haunted all my dreams.

Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer

Not a trace of doubt in my mind.

I'm in love, I'm a believer, I couldn't leave her if I tried.

The Hollies
My heart it keeps on beatin'
I know that you've been cheatin'

I know our love could never be now

The Lovin' Spoonful
I've been havin' a sweet dream,
I've been dreamin' since I woke up today,
It's starring me in my sweet dream,
'Cause she's the one that makes me feel this way,
And even if time is passin' me by a lot,
I couldn't care less about the dues you say I got.
Tomorrow I'll pay the dues for dropping my load.
A pie in the face for being a sleepy bull toad.



Monday, August 3, 2009

The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.


I really had planned on posting more often: I found good books to read, good music to listen to. The only thing missing and preventing me from posting anything here was that I couldn't find any good movie or show to talk about. Oh, the anguish. It seemed as if I had watched everything I wanted to watch: everything I tried wasn't good enough to be finished, and I was desperate for some quality. I talked about it with a few people and one of them suggested I should try something different, something I don't usually watch. I wondered what I could possibly discover when I remembered that one of the latest books I've read about flappers contained a whole chapter on silent movies in the 20s. Here you go. Clara Bow to the rescue. So I watched It (1927). What a delight this film is! It's a romantic comedy, really, with a radiant Clara Bow whose smile is contagious. She plays a salesgirl who dates the director of the shop she works at but their affair is complicated when he thinks she's unmarried with a baby (in fact, she's been saying the baby's hers to protect a good friend of hers). It's a surprising film: besides being a commentary on women's condition during the 20s (Clara's character, Betty, never betrays her unmarried friend but it's obvious her friend is not considered good enough by the rest of society), it uses many different sets (they're aboard a ship at some point, it's quite original).It was immensely entertaining - the acting is superb (so different from the one used in talkies) and the score written by Carl Davis is excellent, very burlesque and carefree. Clara Bow is immediately loveable and Gary Cooper even makes a small appearance as a reporter (blink and you miss it).

I am currently watching the show True Blood, an adaptation of the Southern Vampire series written by Charlaine Harris, which I am also reading. Had you told me that a few months ago, I would never have believed it. True blood, a synthetic blood invented by the Japanese has allowed vampires to come out into the open and reveal their presence in society to humans since they can now feed without killing humans. Sookie is a waitress at a bar in Bon Temps, a small town in Louisiana, she meets a vampire named Bill , dates him and discovers a whole new world. True Blood is broadcast on HBO and I think the only reason it's produced by HBO is that True Blood shows things you can't possibly show anywhere else. Because you know what? HBO's best kept secret is that True Blood, or even the book series for that matter, isn't about vampires. It's about sex. The characters think about it all the time, do it all the time or if they don't, they talk about it all the time. The books and the show are different; while True Blood is a good adaptation of the books, it added a lot of material to develop the secondary characters. Both are extremely campy, pure entertainment and completely different from what's usually supported by HBO: it's pure fun, there's nothing deeper than that, don't look for a commentary on contemporary society or even on death or anything else. It is very disappointing on that level, I didn't expect it to be quite so shallow. Each book contains several mysteries and the heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, investigates best as she can while dating a vampire and meeting such creatures as werewolves and shapeshifters. Just so you get the picture: in these books, Bubba, a slow-minded vampire is actually Elvis Presley made vampire when he was still alive but heavily influenced by drugs. Nobody's allowed to say his name. Sookie goes to an orgy to investigate on the death of a friend of hers who attended such parties, vampire blood increases your libido so there's a huge market for it, Sookie disguises herself to infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun, a cult whose mission is to kill all vampires, there's a pretty funny/creepy exorcism taking place in the show. The books are funnier than the show, but just as graphic in terms of sex and blood (it's everywhere). Both are pretty addictive, although I really don't feel comfortable buying either the books or the DVDs of the show, it's entertaining but nothing else. In fact, I'm very ill-at-ease in this world sometimes: everybody's extremely conservative (homophobia, racism are common and most characters are very religious) and yet extremely liberal about sex. It's an odd mixture, which probably explains the success of the series anyway. I think it's fun and frankly an intriguing story but it doesn't go further than that. It feels good getting this off my chest.

I read a few books before starting the Southern Vampire series, and all were excellent. I saw the miniseries Angels in America a few years ago, and it remains one of my favourite. It was high time I read the play the miniseries adapted. I was not disappointed: I was reminded of how essential this work by Tony Kushner is, it questions so many things, the imagery's beautiful and the whole story is of epic proportions. It tackles many important issues while being rooted in the lives of very real characters. I love this play, it changed so much in my life - my only regret is that I never had the opportunity to see it performed on stage.

Tony Kushner

I also read Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson, which was a terrific read, one of my favourites this year in non-fiction. It focuses on the lives of single British women after the First World War when there was a shortage of men, so to speak. It's brilliant in that Nicholson doesn't shy away from any topic: is it possible to lead a full live outside of marriage and children? By giving many examples of women who led very full and interesting lives (one of them says something beautiful when asked what she would most like to do now at the end of her life, "live this life all over again"), by questioning the importance of sexuality, of marriage and how it doesn't relate to sexuality, of freedom from society's conventions in a time when women were not welcome in important jobs, Nicholson masterly focuses on what's important in showing how a generation of women changed how women looked at themselves and at what their purpose in life should be. Writing a non-fiction book of this kind is always a balancing act: many diary entries are quoted, but Nicholson always gives them as examples to justify her point, so the entries are not overwhelming (journal entries can be tiresome to go through). Her analysis is spot-on and I thoroughly enjoyed this book, for which I am quite grateful.

I also started a series of fantasy books, the first of which is called His Majesty's Dragon. Naomi Novik's books have an very good premise: what if the Napoleonic wars where fought primarily by an air force of dragons? Alternate history is such fun, and I didn't know I would enjoy reading about the Napoleonic wars so much. I must try to find some books by Patrick O'Brian very soon. The first book is excellent - we meet Laurence, an officer in the Navy who's compelled to become an aviator when he captures the egg of Temeraire, a dragon. The friendship between the two has some strong homoerotic undertones: even if the books are heteronormative, Temeraire's jealousy when Laurence becomes interested in a woman is unmistakable. The first book focuses on Temeraire growing up and Laurence adjusting to his new life. It was engrossing and very well-written. I couldn't put this book down, the battles are very interesting to read about, surprisingly, and the characters are very strong morally and believable which makes for good fiction. The world Naomi Novik builds is full of details, beautifully evocative. She has a good sense of the period. I can't wait to buy and read the next books in the series.

Okay. Let's see what I can choose for you to listen to while I'm gone. I talked about the Ultra Lounge series on this blog, and thanks to it I discovered Sam Butera, a terrific saxophonist who often collaborated with Louis Prima. Great entertainer. So here he is for your listening pleasure.
Enjoy August!