Thursday, 19 September 2013

Remember why you came here...

I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there — but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.  
Joan Didion

Maybe I am over quoting here, tossing around the words of other people until I find my own, like trying to find your favourite dress in the hamper, but I think it was Tom Wolfe that said "one belongs to New York instantly".  I've only been here about a month - in fact, I touched down at JFK exactly one month ago this Saturday - and I think I understand what he means.

For those who find themselves drawn to it, this city creates an irrational dichotomy of feeling.  You always feel  a minimum of two things at once, always.  When you feel like you know exactly where you are, you also feel utterly lost.  Often literally.  Quick tip, when travelling on the NYC subway, if you aren't 100% sure where you are do NOT surface.  Only emerge onto the streets with absolute certainty you'll do so on the exact coordinates you need, otherwise the city will swallow you.      

The moments of peace you feel are created in a bubble of unimaginable chaos.  When you are feeling brave, New York will find a way to remind you to be cautious.  

When you find yourself creatively stalled, the city will jump start you suddenly with alarming veracity and you'll know exactly what to do. 

You're never alone but a the same time desperately isolated. 

It's those in need of possibility, change and inspiration that gravitate here.  And if you fight for it, New York will provide.  But you've got to have stamina to fight for it or you'll get washed downstream.  

New York whispers to you if you have the capacity to really listen.  There's an electricity in the air that you can tap into.  You feel it when you arrive; an invisible conductor installs itself in your spine that allows the city's energy to flow through you.

This constant conflict of feeling and charge isn't for everyone and there isn't a grey area with New York.  You either love it or hate it; some people are not equipped for being yelled at to sink or swim, and that's what happens here.  

I went to see Frances Ha the other night at the IFC in the Village.  A brilliant wee film that felt to me, what would happen if Woody Allen and Lena Dunham were to have a movie baby.  Written and starring the pretty much brilliant Greta Gerwig and directed by Noah Baumbach.  

I'm not going to go on about it because you should just go see it, it's great.  I'm bringing it up because it was one of the moments of opposites for me.  The city feels like it has welcomed me but I was lonely, desperately so, and the city was looking down on me from a great height.  Not just because there are a lot of tall buildings.  So I took myself to the movies.  The movie reminded me why I came here - not just because Frances gets chewed up, spat back out again and rebuilds herself, but because sometimes there are just moments.  Little pockets of beauty to be found when you are at your saddest.  Remember why you came here.  Remember to look for the moments that make life what it should be.  

I came here to realise a dream.  To find and a create a better and braver version of myself.  To learn.  To train.  To be what I want to be.  Hopefully I'll achieve that.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with my favourite moment from Frances Ha, I really hope I get the chance to use this monologue in acting class at some point soon.  Frances is drunk, at a party comprised mainly of strangers and on the subject of relationships she says....

"It’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it’s a party! And you’re both talking to other people and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes. But…but not because you’re possessive or it’s precisely sexual but because that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad but only because this life will end. And it’s this secret world that exists right there in public unnoticed that no one knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s…that’s what I want out of a relationship or just life, I guess."

Me too, Frances.  Me too.  

Monday, 12 November 2012

Whedon the Franchise Fixer

Last week the internet collectively lost its shit, as is its wont, upon the news that Disney has bought Lucasfilm and is subsequently responsible for the fate of the Star Wars franchise.  News of this nature was on a par with the 2012 Election Campaign in terms of significance and was treated with the appropriate level of deference by trending like a motherfucker on Twitter and creating a string of memes faster than a whole bunch of animals photo bombing each other at the same time.  

The response fell broadly into two camps; you either had a bad feeling about this or you cried yub nub at the top of your lungs and celebrated, Endor style (which is a bit like Gangnam Style but you need have just blown up a Death Star).    

It’s fair to say that the latter opinion is motivated by the delight at having the franchise wrenched from George Lucas’ greasy, money grabbing fingers which he has used to repeatedly defile and violate that which we hold so dear.  The question on everyone’s lips was “Well, it can’t be any worse, right?”  And you would be right.  Disney is, in fact, not a bad captain to have at the helm.  Sure, they’ve made mistakes but who hasn’t?  I am still sore about the aggressive Henson takeover which resulted in us getting wrong sounding Muppets but they have more than made it up for it with 2011s The Muppets.  It was, true to form, Muppet joy from start to finish.  

As with most endeavours, the success of The Muppets was a result of the creative team assembled; a group of people who understood, and most importantly, loved the source material.  And that’s what is key to whether or not Disney take Star Wars to a new and better place; it comes down to who they select to be in charge and that persons passion for the original movies that make loving Star Wars so deeply satisfying.  

Which leads me to the second frothing internet response that came off the back of this news, a substantial faction of geek population collectively shouted “Give it to Joss Whedon” and called for Whedon to be handed the keys to the ranch with little to no debate.  I mean shee-it, there's a Facebook Group calling for the appointment to be made.  

I can see why.  It’s a safe call and that’s what Joss does.  He makes us feel safe.  When it comes to Star Wars, we’ve been wandering the dark and cavernous halls of Lucas Towers trying to punch the ghost of Hayden Christensen and we keep turning corners and running into a melty, shouting Anakin Skywalker with no legs.  By this point we’re tired, hungry and just plain scared.  Joss represents Emergency Aid, parachuting in to perform an immediate evac from this relentless nightmare.  

There is little he turns his hand to that doesn’t turn out great; fantasy, horror, science fiction and even the musical.  And we know he has a more than capable hand when it comes to navigating space, as proved with Firefly and then Serenity.  Disney recognised his ability to not only skilfully move between genres but also the fact that he can be trusted with a script and most importantly, character development.  So they handed him the biggest comic book movie blockbuster of the decade.  

Another vote of confidence for Disney; they acquired Marvel, gave the green light to The Avengers and promptly didn’t give the job to Bryan Singer.  Points! 

Having said all that – and aside from the fact that it’s a moot point anyway because Joss is committed to the world of The Avengers for the foreseeable – I think everyone needs to cool their jets.  As much as I love Joss Whedon (and I really, really love Joss Whedon) that doesn’t mean that we should just crown him King of Popular Culture (he kind of already is, come on).  

There are many Directors out there that could be considered for the job because their track record dictates they can handle themselves.  What about JJ Abrams as a fairly obvious choice?  He lovingly breathed fresh life into the Star Trek universe.  Jon Favreau should get his propers after a none too shabby revitalisation of Iron Man.  And no one can say Christopher Nolan did a bad job with Batman.  And call me crazy but I wouldn’t mind putting it in the hands of younger director such as Josh Trank and seeing what happens.  I thought what he did with Chronicle was damn snazzy.  And WHY has no one called Edgar Wright to see if he is free in 2015?  

I am not acting as cheerleader for any one of these dudes in particular (except for maybe Edgar Wright), nor would I be pissed if Joss found the time in his busy schedule of being awesome to take on Star Wars.  I would gladly take his hand as he led me to my happy place in a galaxy far, far away.   

All I am saying is that less popular opinion is probably right, let’s not rule out all the great new Star Wars directors in potentia.  We are fortunate enough to be in a position where there are a few knocking around.  The days of X Men 3, The Fantastic Four and Daredevil are now far behind us.  

Ah fuck it, tell you what, I’ll do it.  I’m just going to go text Joss and see if he will edit my script. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Guide to Train Etiquette

WARNING - this will be a ranty, sweary blog.  All those with sensitive ears (eyes?) should hasten back from whence you came.   

Every day I travel to work by train, twice, from Glasgow to Edinburgh and back again.  I am a commuter which if empirical evidence is anything to go by (and I think it is) makes me an asshole.  There is every chance that this is true in many other ways however I don’t think it can be when it comes to my daily commute.  The reason for this is that I find the conduct of my fellow passengers wholly unacceptable. 
The daily dredge of hauling my sorry ass onto a morning train for a 50 minute journey to be repeated again in the evening is bad enough without the rest of humanity making it even worse.  I appreciate that this is entirely a first world problem but you know what...I live the first world and this is a fucking problem!  If you are on the train with me then you had better adhere to the following or so help me... I am a woman driven to the brink...or the blog as it were. 

Not in order of priority (they should all be observed with equal care and attention)

1.    WAIT UNTIL PEOPLE GET OFF THE TRAIN BEFORE YOU BOARD.  If you are pushing through people as they try to disembark, wielding your Upper Crust baguette like a weapon designed to fend off those seat stealing trolls you obviously think managed to teleport on ahead of you, then you are an awful human being. 
2.    Don’t press the button to open the’s not lit up YET which means that won’t work.  The door mechanics are not vulnerable to your pointless persistence.  Stop pressing it.  It’s pretty simple, light goes on you press button.  Stop it...I said stop pressing it, there’s no point...STOP PRESSING THE FUCKING BUTTON!!!
3.     The platform has just been announced, it’s at least 8 minutes before the train is due to leave, why are you running?  Is this a race?  Will there be a prize?  The only thing you are going to achieve is my complete and utter disdain. 
4.    It is universally acknowledged and understood that on a quiet train where you have your pick of any seat you like that you do not, under any circumstances, sit next to me.  I am a humble traveller; I did not choose the 4 seat table for I did not require it.   I did not select the seats reserved for the elderly or disabled because that would be unethical.  My weary bones deposited themselves in a quiet, out of the way, non-controversial seat that yes, does come in twos but the fact that I am a single is not an invitation for you, and your girth, to join me.  You inexplicably decided to impinge on what little personal space is afforded me on this journey.  You have made the list. 
5.    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day...apparently.  And as a fellow commuter I more than understand the virtues and necessity of eating on the run.  However, there are still rules.  The most important one being that 8am is NOT an acceptable time to eat a Burger King.  And if you must do it then have the decency to be ashamed of it and refrain from sitting in front of me.  The one and only exception to this rule is if you are experiencing the morning from the other side, that is to say you haven’t been to bed yet, then by all means, you are free to eat your nasty takeaway burger.  You may also enjoy tacos, cold pizza or noodles.  BUT NOT ON A TRAIN AND NOT IN FRONT OF ME.   You will not realise this but as I sip my Starbucks and try to keep my eyes averted from your chewing I am willing you to choke on it.  It’s why the vein in my temple is twitching. 
6.    Yes I need you to move your bag because the train is busy and your bag does not need a seat.  And you’re rolling your eyes.  FUCK YOU! 
7.    You!  You little ned fuck!  If you don’t put headphones into that phone right fucking now I am going to have your Techno-N Dubz-David Guetta-Grime-Dirty-Banging-Shuffle loving body blasted into atoms.  I am serious, I will kill you and I promise no one will miss you.  When listening to music headphones must be worn at all times. The alternative should be punishable by being flung off the train while it is still moving.  Seriously, after this I am writing to Scotrail. 
8.    The barrier check gate thingy which is the one last obstacle between me and a train free existence for another few hours will not accept your ticket because you are trying to insert it into one that is not an exit.  See that big red cross, that means “no, you can’t go this way you dribbling ignoramus.  The shiny green tick however is much more tolerant of you, go towards it”.  Ah but you are going to try shoving the square peg into the round hole AGAIN. Like the train loving troglodyte you are.  You know what, you don’t get to leave, you have to live here because people that fucking stupid DESERVE TO LIVE IN TRAIN STATIONS!!!!

I feel better now. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Domestic Goddess Vs. Career Gal

There’s a hint of contention around the suggestion that you cannot marry your position as a “career woman” with being a “domestic goddess”. I am using the bunny rabbit ears because I don’t believe either of these things actually exist, certainly not as applied titles and I am not going to spend this blog debating gender politics because that would be silly and boring.

Quite simply I have three facets to my personality that are part of me but don’t define me in isolation; I have a career and it’s high-pressure, I love to cook and entertain and I am a woman.

My day job has long, erratic hours and involves a commute to Edinburgh every day and my creative projects keep my spare time equally packed. I am often tired, a bit stressed and with a hefty workload that can bleed into my home life. It is a rare occasion I find myself over the door any earlier than 8pm. And because the first thing I tend to do when I get home is go into the kitchen and start cooking I get accused of being mad (mainly by my Mum). How can I be bothered? I should be relaxing, de-stressing...well...I am! Cooking does relax me. When I am feeling particularly irritable or have had stressful day at the office then I like to go into the kitchen, pour a glass of wine and make something delicious - being a weeknight it’s often fast and simple - but homemade and as from scratch as I can manage.

Regular weeknight favourites of mine tend to be Butter Chicken Curry - tomato based, mild and rich. Bourbon Street Chicken - sticky, sweet and very spicy. Roast Chicken Pie - classic and comforting. Spicy Baked Meatballs with Spaghetti (and lots of cheese!) Pork Fillet in a creamy, mushroom and white wine sauce, which is one of my favourites, pork fillet is just the business and frighteningly underused in day to day cooking.

None of this stuff is hard; you can twist the recipe a little each time to make things richer, spicier, stranger or healthier, depending on the dish and, of course, your mood.

I’m not going to lie or make myself out to be some sanctimonious super-chef; there are some nights where only a bottle of wine and a Chinese takeaway will do and sometimes time is actually against me and I don’t get home until late o’clock (that can really get me down, good thing there is often leftovers to comfort me). I just like to cook and there is a sense of satisfaction that relaxes me far quicker than plonking myself straight down on the couch.

Not sure why I am thinking about this, I think it might be because my work has me busy every weekend this month - as is normal and par for the course given the nature of my work - and the culinary part of me lives for the weekend. Those days are reserved for things like making pancakes for breakfast, slow cooked stews, homemade bread and soup and baking and, ideally, sharing all these things with friends. I get a little ache when there is larger gaps of time between being able to do that.

Ah well...I am working on Dr Sketchy this afternoon, should be done by 6pm. I would cook if I did have some work to get done before Monday morning.

Such is the life of a Super Human Career Domestic Goddess.......what a dick! :p

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Joss Whedon - Redefining Feminism

I wrote this for Syfy Online months ago and it was accepted by my editor but with some minor changes which I then completely forgot to make and as such it never made to the publishing stage. Going through some outstanding paperwork reminded me that it never saw the light of day due to my own chaotic mind and schedule. This seems a shame so, well, here it is...

Joss Whedon – Redefining Feminism

It’s a good thing we’re hot chicks with super powers – Faith to Buffy, Season 7

I have just finished reading Y the Last Man, a graphic novel that tells the story of the males of every mammalian species simultaneously becoming extinct. Well, all but one, the hapless Yorick Brown; for details on his journey to find the explanation for his survival in a world that has decided to favour the XX chromosome, you’ll have to go seek out copies of the graphics yourself. Relevant sidebar; the character of Yorick is enjoyably Whedonesque in his characterisation and has quiptastic, geek infused dialogue.

I thoroughly enjoyed Y the Last Man but the notion of a world populated solely by women scared the crap out of me! What could possibly be more dangerous? What one woman impassioned by an idea can accomplish can be formidable; when it’s a group of them organised around said idea, that has the potential to be truly apocalyptic.

Women are more likely to adapt, evolve and absorb more swiftly and more logically than men if left to do so (and I am moving on from the extinction of all men as an example here, just in case you are left thinking the birds and the bee’s flutterbuzzed their way past my house. And feel free to integrate flutterbuzzed into your lingo as a new way to refer to gettin’ it on!) I’m an advocate of the fact that women are just generally stronger and smarter than men but I have never, ever come anywhere close to using the word feminism to summarise any gender-philosophy attitudes I may have. In fact, I love men and often prefer their company to women; for some time I thought of feminism as a slightly dirty word (interpret that in any exciting way you choose).

Due to poorly formed stereotypes, I am not scared to confess that for a long time the word feminist, for me, conjured up images of a lot of angry, occasionally but not always hygiene challenged childhood traumas that spent more time screaming (or writing fisty poetry) about the shortfalls of man than they did doing anything about it. In short, I think rhat often people who call themselves "feminists" miss the point entirely and I don’t count myself as one of them.

But then Joss Whedon came into my life and I thought that he was a feminist that I could actually connect with, he redefined what that word meant to me. Joss loves women, and quite rightly so. And although he has been known, in certain episodes of his shows, to enjoy them in a girl on girl kind of way, he does so in a manner that is entirely acceptable and also a bit, if you’ll excuse the awful pun, a bit tongue in cheek.

Joss boiled down a fundamental truth about women and then channelled this into all his amazing female characters. That truth is that women are inherently the masters of everything, have a strength that men can’t even comprehend to the point that it terrifies them and because of all of that they can allow themselves to become isolated.

Women do a lot of amazing things alone, sometimes in silence and sometimes in loud brash hysteria which rails against this isolation in an attempt to gain recognition or perhaps some kind of understanding. But at the end of the race their strength exists in isolation.

The concept of the slayer is that she is the chosen one; the one girl in all the world with the strength and power to fight evil and save the world. It is true to say that Buffy Summers becomes the most powerful of all the Slayers in their history because she rejects the isolation forced upon her and shares her burden, allows herself a support network. She doesn’t just reject the isolation she all but eradicates it by rewriting doctrine and changing the potential in every girl who could be Slayer into a reality, “every girl who could stand up will stand up”.

Having said that, she is still the lynchpin that holds her support network in place, the celestial body around which the Scooby-verse orbits and this is a responsibility that she carries alone.

Feminism as a defining theme in Joss’ work comes into play with force once again with Dollhouse. It would take more than I am allowed in my word count to properly peel away the number of layers at work in this show so instead I will focus on the central characters

Echo and Adele Dewitt are two women at war over power. In a world dominated by very rich, morally questionable men Adele maintains her position of power by adopting a facade of masculinity, standard practise for the modern day business women. Being hard, cold and an uber-bitch is often the only way to survive (and dare I say it, to be taken seriously). Very few can play the virgin and the whore simultaneously and get away with it.

Whedon’s women are strong but flawed, vulnerable and impervious at the same time. In some ways they play into the cliché of women being the ultimate mystery but Whedon provides that concept with a positive spin – women are a mystery because of their complexity and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Firefly’s Zoe loves her husband Wash very much, she plays the traditional role of the wife but it is at odds with her career and loyalty to another man, her captain Mal Reynolds. The struggle emerges from her attempt to reconcile the two. Wash’s way of coping is, although perfectly justified, with jealousy and arguments but when it actually matters Zoe doesn’t hesitate, she stands by her husband, demonstrated in one episode when she rescues Wash over Mal. But like any woman, once she has ensured the safety of what is most precious to her, she starts taking fracking names and straightens everything else out.

Women are the masters of sacrifice and simultaneously will stop at nothing to get what they need, another thing that Whedon celebrates through his female characters.