Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Whole Cool Band Thing: Pains of Being Pure At Heart

The fact that not more people know about the Pains of Being Pure At Heart is up there with one of the great tragedies of life (two others being that I have not yet hung out with Tavi Gevinson and that I am not married to Sirius Black. It's dark times, people, dark times.)

But the Pains of Being Pure At Heart are just so incredibly cool to listen to. I can't even describe their sound because it seems to change with each album (and each song.)

I first got into Pains of Being Pure At Heart when I was looking at Flavorwire back when they did playlists for book characters (something I am going to start doing because seriously, there could not be anything more fun than comparing scenes in Jane Eyre to Taylor Swift songs.) They recommended the song Young Adult Friction by Pains of Being Pure At Heart for one song. I listened and basically exploded with excitement and started typing all of their songs into Youtube.

 But one of the big ones that I literally fell head over heels for was Belong.

Oh my God, that song sounds like all the teenage years and first love being mixed with some Sofia Coppola film that sends your brain high. It's this geniusly dreamy song that sort of aches with teenage angst and yet kind of revels in it as well. It's that song to listen to when you're feeling gloriously angsty and like you're aching for your life to start and to be with the one you love but you're also kind of enjoying that feeling. It's sort of the song of the teenage years.

And then you get that music video and that's just brilliant in its' simplicity. It's just the band having a concert and everyone listening and joining in and those awesome giant stars dangling overhead (I want them for my bedroom) and then they're throwing toilet paper around. It's just kind of a nostalgic ode to the first time you saw your favourite band in concert and that first time you feel you've found a band that gets you, you know? It's that sort of inclusion everyone kind of longs for as a teenager and that's this song, which is about belonging and fitting in and the whole she-bang about finding a place for yourself with the people you love.

They've just got this awesome Smiths-like sound to them that kind of reminds me of Tigers Jaw in some ways (or Tigers Jaw reminds me of them, whichever came first.) Someone compared Belong to Smells Like Teen Spirit and it got me wondering whether the Pains of Being Pure At Heart are what would be produced if Morrissey and Kurt Cobain had a really angsty baby. Or something.

But anyway, I listened to Belong over and over and downloaded a few others (another one I loved is Everything With You. That is the ultimate Smiths-sounding song.) And then a few weeks ago, I got the idea to see if they'd released anything else since so I went and looked them up and downloaded their new album Days of Abandon and promptly forgot everything else I needed to do because I listened to Art Smock and thought I'd found the meaning of life.

OK, that might be overdramatic but that's just me.

But seriously, I clicked on Art Smock almost at random (I think I just thought the name sounded cool. And it does, don't deny it.) And I just got lost in this incredibly, achingly sad guitar chords song with these gentle lyrics that was just basically a story set over a few strums of the strings.

The sound was just so gently stripped down and so achingly sad with all these Nick Drake and Elliott Smith sounds. It kind of sounded like when someone's whispering a story to you in the dead of night when you're the only people around. That's what this song's like.

It's just this story about these two people who meet when they're young and they're together with no pretension or manipulation. They're just together because they love each other.

What you wanted I never knew
I was a mess but so were you-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

They swear they'll never fade out, they'll always matter and do things because they matter but as one of them grows more successful, they just grow apart. They move in different circles. The person that moved away becomes more superficial in the eyes of the one left behind-but we don't see their side of the story. Maybe they just wanted to better themselves and to them, this is a natural change.

You learned to mingle with a well-bred crowd
 Straightened your hair and forgot all about
Torn jeans and sweaters from the lost and found
Dropped some pounds and the people that you used to hang around-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

And that might be the saddest part-that it might be nobody's fault, their paths in life are just changing and they don't belong together anymore. And it's just one of those things that happens. I read an essay in Rookie magazine recently about break ups and there was this quote that just seemed to sum up this part of the song:

Your lives' paths intersected for a moment in time, then those paths diverged and that is beautiful and OK.-Meagan Fredette, Rookie Mag "Running Up That Hill".

But more than that, this song sums up that feeling when you know your paths have diverged, you know you're different people now, you know it doesn't feel right anymore-but you still want it to be the same as it was. And you keep hanging on even though you can feel the other person slipping through your fingers because to let go of something that you loved so much feels like the hardest thing in the world and as though you can never ever get this feeling again.

When I spent the night, it just felt wrong
Like a Felt song, I'm off the throne
And I need you here, and you're not around
To fall to pieces in my hands again
I'm broken where I stand again
I never learn this lesson right
But I want you here-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

That bit at the end-when you want somebody to be who they used to be but they can't because they've changed and grown and maybe you have, too, and you're just not meant for each other anymore. But you desperately want to go back to the people that you used to be when everything was good and right and when you knew you were meant to be together.

That bit at the end-when he sings "But I want you here", as if all you have to do is want and it'll bring them back-always reminds me of someone lying alone in an apartment at night, with the summer dawn starting to come through the windows, thinking of someone far away, whom they spent their last night with a few days ago and who they know they're probably never going to see again. The words are just imbued with that kind of longing and sadness and not wanting to let go, even when you know you have to.

So, yeah. Um. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are really kind of magical.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Whole "You Should Be Doing Something" Thing

Does anyone else ever get the weird feeling that they should definitely be doing something more than they're doing? As in, will anyone ever be lying there, just kind of basking in the feeling of doing nothing, and then the next thing you know, your brain starts jumping up and down in your skull like the bratty little kid wanting sweets, shrieking AARGH TIME WASTING ARGH WASTE OF TIME. And at first, you start making like the angry mother whose kid starts shrieking in the middle of the supermarket and start trying to pacify your brain with comments like "It'll be all right" and "Be patient" and actually probably thinking SHUT UP SHUT UP LET ME RELAX SHUT UP. The whole thing gives me a lot more sympathy for what mothers in supermarkets are actually going through.
(Though there are a few differences between your brain and a screaming kid. For one, you cannot easily pacify your brain with a dummy. I may or may not have tried this. No judging.)
And then eventually, like that mother with the screaming kid, you end up giving in and while the mother bungs a packet of sweets at her kid and probably makes a mental note to somehow invent a time machine and rewind to the moment she ever thought having children was a good idea, you end up getting up and making yourself do something-like write or read or even download new songs. And none of those are bad things to do and you might actually end up having some fun doing them, it's just a shame you ended up doing them because you felt like you HAD to, because your brain was all AARGH TIME WASTING rather than just doing those things for the sheer unadulterated pleasure of doing them.

The thing is, I think time wasting can actually be kind of cool. Not all the time, obviously, or it would be way too easy for me to lie about listening to Charli XCX and not doing anything. And sometimes, it's kind of cool to get done something  that needs to get done. (I wouldn't have downloaded Passion Pit's album, otherwise.) And sometimes once you do something, your brain feels like it just got a shot of Felix Felicis and is magically NOW I KNOW THE PATH and everything.

But sometimes, it's all right to kind of just lie around and let your mind wander and let random ideas come into your head. Because sometimes, those random ideas lead to cool NEW ideas that you can work on and then everything wins, you got to spend time lazing around and it gave you something cool to do later on. And sometimes, you just need time out which is kind of what these long summer days are made for. (And, you know, the whole hemisphere facing the sun, and everything.)

And sometimes, it's awesome to just wander around with your friends and talk about things and compare milkshake flavours and talk about the general awesomeness of whatever you're into at the moment. Like the other day, wandering around watching How To Train Your Dragon 2 with my friends and then hanging out picking up Sherlock posters and comparing whether we thought the Death Note anime or manga would be better. Or like earlier today when I was wandering around town again with two other friends, and we were just chatting about the great directing skills of Paul Thomas Anderson, and the hilariousness of Tina Fey and how to determine a scale of coolness for moustaches. And I might not have created any GREAT WORKS OF ART on those days, but if you create one of those every day, you've got no time for appreciating other great works of art and messing about and just getting into the fun bits of life, like when you find a red heart in a bag of Haribo.

And let's be honest, if you didn't have any goofing off time with your friends, you don't get those wonderful moments of discussing Paul Thomas Anderson, etc. and those moments when you're all wandering around together and it feels wonderfully Perks of Being A Wallflower-ish. In a very good way.
And let's face it, that would be a great loss to the world, AMIRITE?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Seven Years Since Harry Potter

Seven years ago, yesterday, we spent the night driving down a motorway, and our first act in the morning was to find a supermarket so that we could buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I was ten years old and I'd have been one of the kids at the midnight signings, but we were booked to go on holiday. I have no idea why we didn't have the sense to book the holiday around the book release. My whole life revolved around Harry Potter back then, anyway. (OK, to an extent, it still does.)

I remember driving on the eight-hour drive to the hotel, strapped into the back of the car, watching the sky turn dark around us, the night before the launch. At around half eleven, my mother pointed out of the window to a W H Smith lorry. "They'll be carrying the books" she said. My parents had never seen anything like the frenzy that was accompanying the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with any other book, and they regarded my excitement with a smile and a nod. Neither of them had read the books themselves, but they'd been dragged to the films, and they shared an interest in the whole Harry Potter universe. (My mum loved Snape's character, due to the fact she thinks Alan Rickman's a brilliant actor and we had endless is-he-evil-or-not debates.)

I still remember sitting in a hotel room and watching an interview with a little girl who'd bought one of the books at a midnight release. She was already on Chapter 4 and I covered my ears so I wouldn't hear any of the plot. My mother had pre-ordered the book for me already on Amazon but we could all see there was no way I was waiting two weeks for the last book to come out.

So at nine the next morning, we walked into a supermarket and asked if they had the book. They burst out laughing over what was probably the sixty seventh request they'd faced that morning and pointed to what must have been about six hundred copies. One of them asked who wanted one and I was like:

I literally leapt for the book. No, literally. I actually crashed into the pile of books and ended up knocking them to the floor. Of course I did.

But we paid and miraculously I didn't crash into anyone as I raced out of the automatic doors across the street while my parents headed for a café to drink a cup of coffee. As they dawdled outside one, deciding whether or not to go in, I opened the book.

After a few moments, they decided to go in. They turned and looked around for me. They had to look down because I was already on page five and had taken a seat on the pavement in order to concentrate on the story.

It took me five days to finish the book.

For the rest of the summer, my cousin and I endlessly discussed the last book. We wrote what would eventually become our first tentative fanfictions about the series. We talked about Snape and all the revelations over and over again. We squeed over the Pensieve scene over and over again. We went berserk over Ron and Hermione, who we'd been shipping since Philosopher's Stone. We insisted on reading passages aloud over and over again.

But my first memory of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the excitement of sitting there, the pages crisp and new in my hands, with my mum and dad carefully guiding me down the street-a difficult feat, given I wouldn't look up from the book-while I stared at the pages of Book Seven, and tried to take in the fact that after what felt like years, I was holding the last book in my hands.

I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd known that in seven years, I'd be sitting with my laptop, in my bedroom on a summer night, writing a blog post about reading the seventh book. I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd have known that Harry Potter was just the start of my fandom obsessions, the same way the Beatles were just the start of my music obsessions. I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd known that years from then, I'd have done a load of the things I dreamed about at the age of ten, that seemed completely impossible for me then. It's strange to think that a load of the people I know now, that I'm close to now, I didn't even know back then-I wasn't even aware they existed. I'd never even heard of half the things I'm obsessed with now. That's growing up, I know. You learn about new things and open yourself to new interests.

But the best thing about the really good things is that new things don't push them out. These days, I'm obsessed with Supernatural and Sherlock. But I'm still obsessed with Harry Potter. Music wise, I just got into MGMT and Tigers Jaw, and a load of other indie music. But I still listen to the Smiths and the Cure and the Beatles and the Beautiful South, and all the things I loved when I was younger that I still love now. I've read thousands of things but I still go back to Calvin and Hobbes over and over. Because they're things I don't stop loving.

And that's the great thing about Harry Potter. You don't have to grow out of it. Seven years on, I love it just as much as I ever did-maybe even more so. You don't grow out of it, you grow up with it. Seven years in the future, it will have been fourteen years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published. I wonder who I'll be close to then. Probably some, if not all, of the people I'm close to now-but others too. People I haven't even met yet. I'll probably have interests I don't have now. I may be obsessed with bands and films and TV shows and books that don't even exist yet. I might be living somewhere entirely different. I don't know what's coming, but I know that the stuff that's truly great will stick around now I've found it and the future great stuff will stick around when I find it, in whatever way I need it to.

And I'm pretty sure that this time in seven years, I'll still be reading my Harry Potter books. I'll still have all my shippings going on, and I'll still laugh and cry over the pages. I'll still read about the Dementors when I'm riddled with anxiety, still laugh at Sirius' funny lines, still cry at the death of every character I loved. And I'll still smile at the end. And at the last line.

So, it's seven years since the last Harry Potter book was released. Right now, it's a summer night. I'm sitting on my bed, typing this up. Will You Be By Me by the Wallpaper Airplanes is playing on my ipod docking station and the sound is filling the room, providing a backbeat to the words I'm writing. I'm looking at my own stories I'm working on, stories I wouldn't have dreamt I'd be writing seven years ago. Outside, I can still see the shapes of the garden, faint in the summer dark. And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is lying on the bed next to me. Because I'm about to start re-reading it tomorrow.

I mean, it should only be around the eighty-seventh time.

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home-J.K. Rowling.

I don't know exactly what might be happening in seven years. But I'm pretty sure that, no matter what happens, I'll still be reading Harry Potter.

RIP Skye McCole Bartusiak


RIP Skye McCole Bartusiak, who died on 19th July, at the age of 21.
The most famous movie of hers’ is The Patriot, which I’ll admit I haven’t seen all the way through. However, I have seen some of her scenes in the film and they’re enough for me to know she was a brilliant young actress and had a bright future ahead of her. By all accounts, she was a lovely person. She passed away at the age of 21 on July 19th 2014.
Even though I didn’t know much of her filmwork, I know she was a talented young woman, with a whole life ahead of her, and the fact that she has died so young is hugely saddening. I can barely imagine what her loved ones are feeling. I hope that they find a way through this. Rest in peace, Skye.

                                             Skye McCole Bartusiak
                                       28th September 1992-19th July 2014

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Watching Fatal Attraction, the whole "Obsessed" mentality and The Rabbit Scene

It's kind of hard to make the stalker references for Fatal Attraction because all the stalker references I know came from Fatal Attraction. Literally, all of them, right down to "I'm not going to be ignored."

Well, I'm listening to Every Breath You Take by the Police, so maybe that will set the scene. (I will never understand why some people play that at their weddings. It's like playing "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in the middle of a homeless shelter. It kind of conveys the opposite of what you want. No offence if you played that at your wedding.)

Anyway, I'm not going to go over and over the plot of Fatal Attraction because mostly everyone knows it even if they haven't seen the film-Michael Douglas has an affair with Glenn Close over a weekend, she becomes obsessed and then starts stalking him and his family. It's creepy, weird and scared all married men into fidelity for roughly ten years. It's also, really, really good.

There's a load of controversy over whether Alex Forrest deserves to be blamed as much as she is, and whether Michael Douglas's character-I know he has a name but I can't remember it. Yes, I'm really thorough-deserves to be pitied as much as he is. Yeah, Alex is clearly not stable, but Michael Douglas' character is the guy who decided to have an affair, when he was apparently completely happy with his wife and little girl. And I mean, adorable little girl. She was seriously one of the high points of the film for me-his six year old daughter, who's just sweet and nice and not the Macaulay-Culkin type, but just a cute kid. She kind of brings the humanity into it and I felt really sorry for her being stuck with a dad who cheats on her mother and puts literally her whole family in danger. She was actually the one I felt sorriest for in the whole movie.


Anyway, the acting's actually great by everyone and the standout is-perhaps naturally, since she gets the meatiest character-Glenn Close. She plays Alex Forrest, really, really well-she doesn't start out as a knife-wielding psycho, she seems sweet, intelligent, educated, etc. It's only when Dan-the Internet informs me that Michael Douglas' character was called Dan-basically cuts things off with her that she goes nuts and starts stalking him.

And that's basically how it's portrayed-she's nuts. They don't really go into the mental health behind it though I've heard some people describe it as possible de Clerambault's syndrome. We're just kind of supposed to see her as this insane woman who's obsessed with this guy-who does at least get a load of punishment from his wife when she finds out what's gone on. I guess this was partly because of the time period and if the film was made today, the mental-health angle would be totally different. But it still rankles that they don't really bother to go into the whole motivation and psychology of mental-illness thing.

Anyway, the film has really great scenes and the camera angles are really clever-the scene where they're running in the park and where Ellen runs to the hutch, with the camera following at her feet are great. Maybe that's why Dan gets all the sympathy-you kind of feel like you're in the film with them, and you feel desperately sorry for his wife and daughter, who really did nothing wrong except be related to a cheating asshole. (And no matter how sorry you feel for him, he was a complete asshole there. I'm sorry, it's true.)

There are a lot of famous scenes-the one where Alex smears her blood over Dan's face, the one where he walks into the apartment and she's sitting there, chatting with his wife, the tape scene in the car, the one with "I'm not going to be ignored"-that one's particularly creepy because she sounds so reasonable for half of it-but there's the one scene that everyone knows.

The one scene that freaks everyone out. The one scene that prompts the big confession from Dan, the one scene that sent every man who saw it out of the cinema and straight home to polish their wedding rings and start stocking up on alarm systems. The big scene that coined the term "bunny-boiler."

The rabbit scene.

I think I'll just give you the clip.

Yeah, that's pretty much the point of no return for sanity. Boiling a kid's rabbit generally sends someone over the edge.

                                  But at least, she started dinner for them.

I guess you could call this the boiling point. *crash the cymbals*

Weirdly enough, that's not even the worst thing that happens in the movie. Alex KIDNAPS ELLEN and just walks her around a theme park for hours, leaving the threat of what could have happened hanging over everyone's heads. And of course, we get the big confrontation between Beth, Dan's wife and Alex when Alex breaks in and they end up in the bathroom brawl scene in which Alex seems to be beating Rasputin for failing to die until they finally just break out a gun.

It kind of ends-weirdly. After-spoilers-Alex is killed, and the police take the body away, etc, Dan and Beth just go back inside and sit down and the camera pans in on a photograph of the family. I guess the whole "You had an affair and put everyone's lives in danger thing" can be forgotten pretty quickly with a  wholesome family photo.

"Your family stalked by a psychotic woman who wishes to murder you all and snag you for herself? Photo frames for those wholesome family moments."
But anyway, the film's interesting, Adrian Lyne does a great job directing, the soundtrack is interestingly creepy-and these days, loads of people bring up an issue with the film. An issue that states:

Isn't it kind of unfortunate that Alex Forrest, who appears to be an intelligent, independent woman is shown to go nuts and become an insanely dependent harpy after sleeping with a guy?

Look, I like feminism and I'm all for equality but I really think the film would have been just as creepy if it was the other way around-a guy obsessed with a girl. I don't think this is an anti-feminist film-his wife's portrayed as a good person and so's mostly all the other women-there's actually a comment near the start that seems to hint that men are wrong to think that women should just be automatically open to their advances, so I don't think the film is a misogynistic one. I get that today it would probably be handled differently, though, with maybe a little more insight into why Alex is the way she is, has it happened in the past, etc. (We do get kind of a hint that she's a fantasist.)

Fatal Attraction's still REALLY REALLY POPULAR and maybe the whole reason it's so creepy is that today it's still kind of resonant. I mean, who hasn't had a celebrity crush? Or been slightly obsessed with someone you're fantasizing about? And with the advent of the Internet, it's all too easy to find who you want to find. Maybe when the film came out, the whole fear for the men was that anyone of them could become Dan just by sleeping with the wrong woman. But I think today, there's a niggling fear that would any of us-men or women-know if we were becoming Alex?

Think about it. She sounds so reasonable in that not going to be ignored scene-it's even Dan who throws her against the wall. She befriends his wife with little difficulty. And she genuinely sees herself as in the right and as the reasonable one in the situation. So-would any of us know if we were becoming too obsessed? Where does it cross the line?

On that slightly creepy note, I'll leave you with Alex's lamp being switched on and off.

                          "Don't you hate when the pizza man takes forever?"

Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay,
I'll be watching you
Oh can't you see, you belong to me-The Police.

Who wants to bet that that would be Alex Forrest's favourite song?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sharknado and Meta-ness

I’ve heard about Sharknado. I’ve looked at Sharknado memes. I’ve watched the Nostalgia Critic’s review of Sharknado. I’ve even seen people cosplay in Sharknado costumes.
But now, Sharknado is on TV. And it is even more glorious in its’ terribleness than I imagined.
I’ve heard so much about it that this is like the negative version of, after all the Internet speculation, meeting Carles from Hipster Runoff. You’ve heard so much about it online that the fact it’s real actually seems kind of unbelievable. Meta-ness off the charts.
Remember guys when you’re having a bad day, there is always Sharknado and the fact that you didn’t make it. You’ve always got that for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now I am going to glory in the Science From the Minds of People Who Think The Room Is The Height of Screenwriting that states it is possible to cut your way out of a shark’s stomach with a chainsaw. And a good day to you.
Cross-posted to my tumblr

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Whole Writing and Dreams Thing

So, this is the part where I tell you all that I want to be a writer.
I guess this is something that a lot of people say. And can I just ask does anyone else ever get that sympathetic look when they say that? Does anyone else get that “Aww. How cute. Thinks they can follow their dreams” expression. And does anyone else ever get that patronizing tone of “You do know hardly any writers make a living at it?”
I’ve got to say when that happens it makes me want  to insult my laptop really, really loudly. And I take laptop manners seriously.
Because do these people really think we writers don’t have enough hang-ups about our work? Do they really think we writers don’t beat ourselves up enough about whether we’ll ever be good enough, whether we’ll be able to earn money, whether we’re just plain stupid to think we’ve got talent? Do they really think that we don’t ask ourselves enough questions about the future without having to remind ourselves that no one else seems to think we can do it either?
I know I sound like an annoyingly privileged brat if that’s the biggest thing that annoys me but it just gets to me. So if you want to be a writer and you’re getting those kind of comments? Don’t listen to them.
I’m not saying don’t be realistic. I’m not saying it might not be difficult or take a long time to get where you want to be. But I am saying; don’t waste your time with people who make you feel bad or stupid or pathetic about your dreams. You don’t need that. Life’s hard enough as it is without letting people drag your dreams down too.

Cross-posted to my Tumblr The Little Enigma . The link might not be clickable yet but it's late and I'll fix it tomorrow.


In case anyone is interested, I am now on Tumblr! It's the same name as I am on here, the little enigma! Here's my name:

The Little Enigma

I can't figure out how to get the links to work yet and it's late so I'll fix the link tomorrow if it doesn't work! But that's my name on Tumblr if you want to check it out.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Hard Day's Night-The Beatles

I'm three years old and I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor of the living room. My dad's sitting next to me, strumming his guitar. He's playing one of the songs he always plays, one of the songs I'm used to.

I get up and ask him to play it again. He does.

When he's finished, he sits me on his knee and says "Do you know who that song's by?"

I shake my head. I just know that I like it.

My dad sits me on the couch and leans his guitar next to me. "It's by a band called The Beatles."

And life was never the same.

I grew up on the Beatles. I was born in the same city the Beatles came from. I grew up with them being played constantly. My dad's favourite band? The Beatles. In fact, my mum was once one of the people randomly selected to be interviewed on the news asking who her favourite bands from the North were, and she said "The Beatles" and also pointed out my dad's love for the Smiths (who I also love.)

So, basically, the Beatles were part of my life from the age of three. In fact, later on that day, my mum came into the living room to find my dad playing the guitar and me drumming away on a little plastic pot with a wooden spoon, telling her I was Ringo Starr. He was my favourite for years until I learned about the wonderful craziness of John Lennon and he became my favourite. (And after Ringo posted the video about the fan mail, I kind of cracked up laughing. I mean, seriously.)

Anyway, I have a ton of favourite Beatles songs, and I can't even remember what the first one I heard was. But I do know that one of the first ones I heard and one of my favourites was........A Hard Day's Night.

guitar twang

Didn't you just picture the song starting then?    


I grew up listening to those chords, and those lyrics. Literally, every day it was on in our house. It was one of my dad's favourites too and my little cousins quickly got in on the action once everyone was playing the song constantly. Our whole family knew the song. And going to a Liverpool school, so did most of the kids there.

It's been a hard day's night
And I've been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night
I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you, I find the things that you do-The Beatles

I was totally oblivious to what the last line could mean. But then again, I just loved the song. I hadn't heard anything like it. Ever. I remember blabbering excitedly that it was what excited sounded like. (I was a precocious little thing.)

When I got a little older, my mum and dad bought me the film of A Hard Day's Night for my seventh birthday. I adored it-no doubt, a lot of it went over my head but I adored John Lennon's witty lines and it was probably the film that started my lifelong love for John Lennon himself. And of course, I loved all the songs that were played.

Just the simple repetition of the song probably appealed on some level. If you listen, the lyrics are actually pretty much the same over and over. But the music is so good. There aren't even words to describe how it sounds-it just sounds like, as I put it when I was a kid, like excitement. It sounded like feelings to me, and I just loved it.

I still love it-and I'm in a generation that has access to pretty much any music we want. I can only imagine the excitement when this song came out back in the Sixties. If I think it's brilliant now, what was it like back then?

When I got my first ipod, the Beatles were the first band that went on there. Whenever we were on family holidays and my dad pulled out the guitar, they were always the first thing that got played. Everyone always sang along.

I grew up with the songs. As I got older, I started to realise just how good the songs were-particularly this one. Even just the simple repetition of those lyrics was brilliant. And the chords were great-they were simple but something about the sound just got stuck in your head.

You know I work all day
To get you money to buy your things-The Beatles

I'm thirteen and we're driving home from school in the car. It's a rainy afternoon, early winter. I've had a bad day. I've got my head leaned against the window and my mum's trying to focus on the road in between worrying about whether her daughter's about to have a breakdown in the car. I'm leaning against the window, trying to conjure ways to get out of going to school tomorrow.

I lift up my ipod and plug it into my ears. I click on the Beatles and shuffle through the songs, putting one on at random.

The guitar twangs in my ears. It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog....

By the end of the first verse, I'm smiling.

I'm in my cousin's holiday house and we're trying to decide what to play. My littlest cousin is eight and she shakes her head at each choice, already discerning.

"Too boring" she says, hands on hips. "Too slow. Too quiet."

Her sister, brother and I roll our eyes at each other and I elbow them aside. "Out of the way." I type the song into Youtube, and the guitar twang sounds through the room.

It's been a hard day's night....

Immediately, a smile spreads over her face. Her sister and brother are bobbing their heads and singing along. By the end of the first verse, we're all screaming the lyrics, and even our parents are joining in.

But when I get home to you,
I find the things that you do-The Beatles.

I swear that I had absolutely no idea that today was the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Hard Day's Night album. When I was looking for an image of the album cover on Google Images, and I learnt that today was the anniversary, my jaw actually dropped. But it was brilliant timing for this post.

Last summer, we were all in the car, driving on holiday. I plugged my ipod into the front and we shuffled through random music, my parents refusing to scream along to My Chemical Romance, like my cousin and I. We both rolled our eyes.

And then I click onto the Beatles. It's been a hard day's night...

My cousin's grinning. We both launch into the song and I'm remembering back when we were tiny, standing in the garden on summer nights, listening to my dad play that song and spinning around with our cousins, laughing under the stars.

Whenever I've had a bad day, and just want to curl up with something sad and hug things, I always flick through my ipod to the Beatles. And this song always comes on.

When I'm home, everything seems to be all right-The Beatles.

And the last bit of the song always makes me smile. Not the lyrics, just the way the chords and their voices fade out.

You know I feel all right
You know I fee-eel all rii-ght-The Beatles.

And then you get that chord fade out, and it's beautiful. That moment at the end of the song always takes me back to sitting there with my family, singing away on holidays late at night. And then I go back and play the song again.

You know I feel all right
You know I fee-eel all rii-ght-The Beatles.

Happy fiftieth anniversary, Hard Day's Night.

(OK, maybe it's a couple of days until the actual anniversary, but who's counting?)

Friday, 4 July 2014

Lorde-Royals Music Video

So, since I reviewed Royals last week, I thought I might as well do the music video which is actually pretty unusual. Plus, I love Lorde's hair in this video-it looks kind of wild and untamed which basically describes the song. I don't know if it's possible to have a crush on a hairstyle but I do on hers'.

                            "Each curl could earn her a thousand dollars."

Anyway, the video starts with a shot from the back of a car or truck (for some reason, I like to imagine it as a Harry Potter broom but that's because I'm crazy) driving through the streets of the suburbs, apparently travelling away. Not sure if this is entirely accurate but I heard somewhere that Lorde insisted on it being filmed in the suburbs near her own home in New Zealand? Correct me if that's wrong. Anyway, the image kind of fits in with the song-it's a song about staying true to your roots and coming from an ordinary, everyday neighbourhood, but longing to escape, and that's where and how the video's filmed.

The video's actually pretty minimalistic and simply cuts between Lorde singing and two boys-apparently her real life friends-going about their everyday business. That sounds like a pretty boring video but something about the way the images are combined with the music makes it pretty fun to watch. It is a video about ordinary, everyday teenagers-because Lorde wrote the song about ordinary, everyday teenagers. Who apparently box and bleed from the mouth.

                          "I'll be honest, I have no clue why that's in there."

Anyway, you don't just get shots of the two boys, you get random shots of the neighbourhood, buzzing televisions, standing alone in a gym, sinking underwater in a swimming pool. We see the boys shaving their hair, which kind of brings back memories of trying to establish your own identity as a teenager, altering your appearance, doing anything to show you belong somewhere else, somewhere other than where you are. I guess it could symbolise a sort of trapped rebellion. The boxing could represent some of the teenage anger when everything seems to be this weird inertia and the desire to create some sort of drama or conflict for yourself-or it could just be a random shot of two guys punching each other. Because didn't you all have that experience of punching a friend in the mouth in your living room, wearing peculiar boxing gear?

                                  "I'm sure everyone can relate."

Near the end, we see the boys on a subway on a night out with friends, staring out of the windows. It sort of implies that even in the middle of their temporary escape from suburbia, they're fantasizing about what else might be out there, about what might lie ahead if they just finish out their teenage years. The whole video gives off that strange, dreamy vibe of being trapped in suburbia and it kind of encaptures that weird feeling you get as a teenager, that real life is happening elsewhere. It's got a flavour of the Virgin Suicides with a rap-type back beat.

The video ends with a reverse of the same shot that opens the clip-driving through the suburbs but this time travelling further into them rather than away. This could actually serve as a pretty cool reflection of what's happened to Lorde since she became famous-now that she's made her way out of the suburbs, become "bigger than she ever dreamed" she actually wants to return to her roots-the way teenagers who couldn't wait to leave home suddenly want to visit all the time. I guess it's the feeling of being trapped that makes suburbia so unbearable as a teenager, and the last shot could represent the song's anti-materialism vibe-that even though she's world famous, Lorde's still happy to return home to the ordinary suburbs, ignoring the culture that constantly tells her she should want more.

Overall, the video's a cool companion to the song. It enhances it, and gives other interpretations of the song, and it's got a quirky, short-film vibe to it as well. There's a sort of staticness to the plot, and a kind of sterile, drained feeling which could represent the way the world often feels as a teenager-empty and permanently slow and with little point. Directed by Joel Kefali, it's almost an illustration of teenage boredom-and it does a good job of showing that at the end of the day, you will escape the emotional suburbs of the teenage years, and might even change your opinion of them.

Oh, and Lorde's hair's great.

                      "That little smile says she's enjoying her world domination."

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Cool Characters: Sirius Black

So, this is the first post of these that I'm doing. This is like a little monthly thing where I focus on a character that I really enjoy or just one that I think is the coolest thing since ice discovered it could jump into icy water and become cooler. Or in other words, characters I really like. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions-and they won't always be the heroic characters. In fact, sometimes they'll be the villains. These are just characters I enjoy and are my favourite to read/watch. And first up is Sirius Black.

I'm going to be honest with you, Sirius Black was my first crush. Yes, seriously. At age eight, my first crush was an escaped fugitive who was on the run with a stolen giant bird-horse and who was suspected by everyone else of being a murderer. You can't say I didn't start as I meant to go on.

But a little background. Sirius Black is one of the more popular characters in the Harry Potter series. He gets a brief mention in the first book-in which he has a flying motorbike. Starting to see why I adore him?-and then appears in the third book in which he is set up as the main villain. But-and obvious spoilers if you haven't read the third book yet-it turns out Sirius is innocent and someone else is the villain, having set Sirius up years ago. Oh, and he's Harry's godfather. Cool.

Obviously, Sirius ends up on the run and for the next two books he serves as a sort of older brother figure to Harry and the others, as well as being one of the series' snarkiest, bad-boy type characters. While Sirius definitely has a reckless streak, that's kind of part of the charm. He spent twelve years locked up in Azkaban and as a result, is kind of a case of arrested development. (And never really recovered from the loss of his best friend, Harry's father. The guy he's accused of betraying to Voldemort. It's a long story.)

So why do I love Sirius Black?

Well, firstly, there's the whole he-was-the-first-person-whose-poster-I-wanted thing. (I didn't own one. I still need one.) But aside from that, Sirius was kind of my introduction to the character I like to know as the Dark Outsider Type-the guy who lives on the edge, is snarky, sarcastic, and is often a bit of a woobie too. Sirius is pretty much all of that, plus is pretty hilarious with it. He's the first real experience Harry has in the series with a genuine family, and he's just hilariously cool. The guy rides around on a flying motorbike, goes on the run with Buckbeak, the stolen Hippogriff, can turn into a dog at will-yeah, I forgot to mention that. Who doesn't want their future husband to have an alternate canine life?

                                 "Sorry, honey, I couldn't catch the dinner."
That came out creepier than I intended.

Anyway, I've got to be honest-one of the main things I love about Sirius is his whole "What's life without a little risk?" attitude. (He says it.) He's hilariously relaxed about breaking the rules which he just sees as a bit of boredom alleviation. Oh, and he gets some pretty cool witty lines, too, especially in the films. Plus, the dynamic between him and Lupin in both the books and the films is pretty cool. Especially given that they give off the old-married-couple vibe-not shipping, just...observing. *hums and stares innocently in the opposite direction* Even Snape notices it.

Remus: Be quiet, Sirius...
Sirius: Be quiet yourself, Remus!-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, film.

I rest my case.

But more than that, Sirius is a really well-written character. He's very clearly a good guy by the end of the third book, but he has definite flaws-he can be cruel on occasion, he does get too reckless at times, and he can be arrogant. But they're all clearly depicted as flaws. It's one of the things I like best about J K Rowling's writing-she can clearly demonstrate her heroic characters as flawed people, and nobody's expected to be an angel just because they're one of the good guys. It's a clever introduction to the whole idea of just because someone's a good person, doesn't mean they've never done bad things, and it serves as a reminder that just because someone's flawed doesn't mean they're a bad person, just a human one. It's a lot deeper than you get in a lot of kids' books though I'd argue that Harry Potter isn't just for kids (though don't get me started on that one, I'll be here for hours.)

Sirius was the first cool outside rebel I really came across and he had the whole dark and mysterious thing. As a kid, I kind of wanted to marry him. Or at least have a ride on his motorbike. (That is not a double entendre.)

Oh, and I'll be honest; the scene where Sirius Black dies was the first time I ever cried reading a book. No, seriously. I was nine years old, and I remember quite vividly the moment I read it. True story time: it was Friday evening and I was sitting in the kitchen waiting for a McDonald's meal. I got to the page, and just stared at the words. Then I went back and reread the chapter. I kept hoping. Maybe I'd got it wrong. Maybe it was all a mistake.

It wasn't. He was gone. I didn't say anything. I simply went and sat in a corner of the kitchen, curled up and cried quietly. I swear, it was like a defining moment in my childhood. (In case you were worried, when my mother came in and saw me, her first response was to give me a hug. And then tell me she was sure Harry would be OK.) My first experience with grief was through a fictional character. Once again, I'm not sure what that says about me.

Also, the first time I saw a Youtube video of Sirius Black to the song Nutshell by Alice in Chains, I cried. I'm too attached to this character.

Anyway, Sirius Black is, to this day, one of my favourite characters. He's witty, he's funny, he's the outsider-and OK, he has a mean side, it's touched on a lot in the books. But he grows out of it-mostly-and he's still there for Harry and he's just plain cool. And he's played by Gary Oldman in the movies. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Oh, and when I read that Harry named his first kid James Sirius? I kind of squealed and jumped around the room. I'm not ashamed.

So that's my first Cool Characters post and I'm just going to add a little message at the end here; if you like my blog, tell me! Just leave me a comment below, and you'll make me very, very happy. Happier than when Sirius gets into a sparring match with Snape. And that's all for today.

Don't make me cry, Sirius.