Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Whole Cool Book Thing: Every Day by David Levithan

So, I said I'd blog more often. And now I am. :)

My entire aim to blog more frequently was challenged by my laptop deciding to go on the ultimate blink this week. But now it is fixed and I can be all happy again.

Anyway, I'm sitting here, blogging, scrolling through Tumblr, eating pizza and watching Supernatural so I figured it was as good a time as any to write about Every Day.

The basic premise of Every Day is that A-the main character, with no gender-wakes up in a different body every day. As you can imagine, this essentially sucks. By the way, even though a lot of people mention how cool that would be, does it say something about me that the first thing I thought was OH GOD NO. I'd hope that means I really like my life rather than that I'm just unimaginative.

But A lives their whole life like this, going from one body to another each day. And they have a few rules for themselves: never get too involved. Never leave anything that could ruin someone's lives.

But all these rules go out the window when A meets Rhiannon, the day they're in the body of her boyfriend, Justin.

No, not him.

 And I'm just going to say now that Justin is kind of a jerk. As in, he ignores Rhiannon, he's mean, he's the guy who likes to talk your ear off about his own issues and treat you like a chair that's paid to listen. I hated him within one page.

But when A's in his body, he's nice. And then of course, A leaves.

A goes through a load of different bodies but they're still pulled to Rhiannon. And they start meeting up with her as different people. And this eventually leads to the secret coming out.

And of course, this leads to a few more problems than the average long-distance relationship. And in the meantime, there's more complication. A blinks out of each body at midnight, like some sort of twisted Cinderella magic. And one guy they're in, they don't get back to bed in time.

This guy's called Nathan and becomes obsessed with the idea he's become possessed by the devil. And once again, I don't know what this says about me, but he was the guy I hated the most-apart from Justin and the priest Nathan hires-in the whole book.

He was just so freaking annoying. No harm happened to him. Nothing bad. And yet, even when A emails him (A has their own email address, which was actually one of my favourite things as it's primarily how they communicate with Rhiannon throughout the book) and tries to explain, Nathan's still convinced they're the devil. Apparently, Satan has an email address in Nathan's mind. No, really. It's hilarious. Nathan's going to the news and everything, convinced he's possessed by the devil. It's bizarre. And then he brings in his extremely dodgy friend, this bishop guy-Reverend Poole- who's talking about exorcizing A from people's bodies.

And then there's a big twist. Don't read any further if you don't want the BIG TWIST.

Reverend Poole is a person like A who has figured out how to stay in people's bodies, effectively taking them over and killing them. And then stealing their life. And they want A to go dark side with them.

Unsurprisingly, A is not thrilled and turns this offer down.

But meanwhile, A is getting closer and closer to Rhiannon and the novel deals with the whole theme of identity and can you be the same person if you look completely different and does your body truly dictate who you are, etc. And it's interesting because as nice and sweet a person as Rhiannon is-and we'll get to that in a minute-she can't always get past it. She can't always look past the body A's in to see A. And she doesn't like herself for that. She really doesn't. But she finds it too difficult at times. And A doesn't even blame her for that.

And I'm not going to say the ending but basically, it's bittersweet. It's not one of those happy ever after endings, I'll say that. But it's-I don't know if you could say realistic because let's be real, I don't know how many times you're going to find yourself waking up in a different body in your life. Or falling in love with someone who does.

But OK, let me get to the characters. There are way too many to go into individually, because you know, there are loads since A's a different person each day. But let's just focus on A and Rhiannon.

A's great. A has no gender, no permanent orientation. A's one of those people who you could say is utterly totally themselves, shaped solely by their own nature, because they've never had one home to nurture them. Or you could say A is shaped solely by nurture but by loads of different types of nurture for all the different people they experience. And A's life is shaped around trying not to damage other people's. This makes A someone who's basically treading on thin ice.

And then there's Rhiannon. And she's just awesome.
I don't know, I always picture Rhiannon liking Taylor Swift songs. I've no idea why. But more than that, Rhiannon's one of those sweet, kind people who's there for everyone else. And Rhiannon also scribbles on her Converse sneakers which is adorable. I basically had a crush on her by the end of the book. She was sweet and A-A  tries to make her happy.
But she can't always deal with A. She can't always deal with the problems of their relationship. Even though she loves A and A loves her, it's too much for them.
Thanks for breaking my heart there, David Levithan.
So, check out Every Day. If nothing else, it will make you question just how much your image of someone is based on what they look like. And how you'd see them if they looked completely different.
Plus, it's by David Levithan, so it obviously won't disappoint. :)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Whole I Met David Levithan Thing

Oh my God, I met David Levithan and no I'm not going to be even the slightest bit cool about it.

My first exposure to David Levithan and his GENIUS WRITING was when I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson last summer and fell in love with both Wills but particularly the angsty, angry one written by David Levithan. And he was all written in lower capitals as well, which just made him cooler. I also liked him because he was depressed which I dealt with and it sucked and it was kind of cool to have a character I loved also dealing with it and also agreeing that it sucked. In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I love books and films where I can just project my personal issues all over the characters.

But anyway, I loved the book and loved that it had this sort of ambiguous-but-happy ending for David Levithan's Will Grayson (I love ambiguous endings because I like torturing myself with possibilities.) And then a few months went by during which I was busy being depressed and anxious and wasn't in much mood for interacting with people.

Everyone should be doing this face for me now.
But don't worry, I cheered up again, with the help of meds and therapy. All that cool stuff.

Not what therapy is actually like at all. Also, I'm not a middle aged cartoon man.

         But anyway, when I cheered up, I started seeking out a load more books to read and I devoured the awesome Every Day by David Levithan (I'll be writing about it, you should read it. Just so you know-it's awesome.) And then I went to his author talk.

The first sign that David Levithan is awesome is that he told us that his little toy that he takes pictures with doesn't like being upstaged. He also has one of those awesome tape cassette phone cases, which sent me into retro heaven. (I have this weird 90s nostalgia thing, even though I was born in the 90s. Thank God for Tumblr.)

Oh, and he's really awesome at reading aloud. Seriously cool at reading aloud. It wasn't even a book I'd read and by the time he'd finished reading from it, I wanted to read it.
And he answered questions, and was generally hilarious while he answered them. One of these Chief Hilarious Moments was when people asked if he'd ever had any negative collaborations with authors and he said that what was he supposed to say? "George Orwell wouldn't return my calls?" And he's just generally cool and funny. AND HE ANSWERED ONE OF MY QUESTIONS.

That's right. David Levithan, you know, knew I existed. Big moment in my life.

My question was something that won't make sense to the people who haven't read Every Day and it was about how A (read it, you'll get it, I'm shamelessly advertising this book now) makes the choice not to intervene in people's lives and did David Levithan think it was the right choice or does he think there were times you should intervene?

And he answered the question. I was sitting in the second row so he basically just said the answer to me. I was sitting there, with my big puppy dog eyes I put on when I'm in the presence of someone I admire to everything cool.

Don't act like they aren't the cutest thing ever.
But he said that he personally thought it depended on the situation but that yeah, you should intervene, if you think it can help. He said it way more eloquently than that, but that was the gist of it.

And then he signed books and spoke to people and it was awesome. And yeah, we stood in the queue for a while but I got chatting to some really cool people-*waves at you if you're reading this*-and we discussed Harry Potter and Destiel-DESTIEL OMG I'LL TALK ABOUT THAT SOME TIME-and cool books and that was rad.

And then he signed my books. And he talked to me.

I basically fangirl-gushed over Rhiannon-who was MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER in Every Day and will so be getting a Cool Character page, at some point-and he told me about a new book he's writing. I'm not going to give anything away but he told me about a scene he'd been writing THAT DAY. When that book comes out and I snap it up like a hungry tiger ( I don't know what that simile was, please don't judge me) I will know I spoke to him on the day he wrote THAT SCENE. You don't know the meaning this gives to life.

Oh, and to cap it all off he wrote to "live every day in wonder" in my copy of Every Day. And "May all your playlists be infinite" in my copy of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

So, yeah, guys, that basically made my life for a while. And I don't often use smileys in my blog posts but I will here, because it's basically the only way to sum up the SpongeBob style smile I had afterwards. :):):)

Anyway, let me know the cool people you've met in the comments! GIVE ME COMMENTS GUYS. And I'll be updating more often from now on, so apologies for the lack of updates for the last week, but there's been a lot going on, kind of. Still, now there's TIME FOR MORE. Oh, and thanks to everyone who's followed so far, you're awesome and cool and all that great stuff. (Hint: I'll really like you if you follow.)

So anyway, yeah, that day was cool. Oh, and I was wearing my nerdfighter Don't Forget To Be Awesome T-shirt as well. BOOYAH.

(Yes, I seriously just wrote BOOYAH. I love that word too much.)


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams

I remember the first time I watched Dead Poets Society. It was my dad who suggested it, because he knew I liked writing, he knew I liked poetry and he knew I liked the whole "rebelling-against-the-system" thing, though at age thirteen most of my rebellion consisted of sticking a pencil behind my ear and leaning back too far in my chair.

I'll be honest, at first Hermione would probably have done a better job of being a rebel than me.
Anyway, we switched on the movie and watched it. And like most people who watch Dead Poets Society, I loved it, and soon had the film's quotes memorized, particularly the one that everyone knows.

Yeah, I was totally Hermione at one stage.

Anyway, that was my first real exposure to Robin Williams' acting. It took me ages to realise that I'd seen him plenty of times before-in Jumanjii and Mrs Doubtfire, both of which, unsurprisingly, I watched as a kid. (I loved Jumanjii, because I loved the idea of using the game to control everyone I disliked by letting them get sucked into it. Looking back, maybe I was just a very weird child.)

But it was as I got older that I saw stuff like Awakening-one of my mum's favourite films-and became aware that he was in Good Will Hunting-which I need to watch. (I'll get around to it, I promise.) And I knew he was a good actor, even if some of his films weren't-the best.

I didn't actually know too much about his stand up career, though I'd heard of Mork and Mindy. I did know about some of his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction in the past but I sort of filed it in my head into the "past-struggles" thing and kind of assumed Robin Williams was one of those actors who'd always be around, you know? I kind of assumed he'd live on happily and eventually pass away in his eighties or nineties, probably in his sleep, the way everyone kind of hopes they'll go.

I guess this blog post sounds a little disjointed or fragmented but that's mainly because it hasn't fully sunk in that he's dead. It's eerie to think that someone whose face I watched on a TV screen so many times and just assumed would always be a part of entertainment is dead so suddenly, and something about the fact it's been ruled a suicide is even worse. The fact that Dead Poets Society deals with depression at one stage and that I used to watch it whenever I was feeling down or sad makes it even harder to deal with that the guy who in that film was such an inspiring figure, a reason to keep going, took his own life.

I guess that maybe this is the wrong time to write something like this since it's so soon after the event, but I just wanted to write it. I don't know everything about Robin Williams but I do know that he was a great comedian and that I guess he'd want to be remembered for the ways he made us laugh, as well as the ways his work made us think-and the ways that it may even have helped some of us who felt lost, with no way out, ourselves. It will never stop being sad that he too didn't find something to help him find the way out.

But Robin Williams' films helped many people and he gave a lot of people a lot more laughter in their lives. It's fitting he played a genie at one stage because he kind of reminds me of one-someone who was able to magic comedy from somewhere and make people laugh again. I don't know why he killed himself, and I don't know what will transpire in the next few days as all the media descends on the story. But I do know that I hope that anyone out there who's thinking of harming themselves or taking their own life GETS HELP. Because the world would not be a better place without you. Trust me on that, because even if you think it would, it wouldn't. And if you feel nobody else cares about you, then know that whoever you are, I do, and I don't want you to hurt yourself.

Whatever transpires about Robin Williams' death, I know how I'm going to remember him-as the guy who always brightened up a screen, and the teacher standing on the desk in Dead Poets Society, urging his students to sound a barbaric yawp and reminding them that love and words and stories are what make the world go round.

                                              Robin Williams
                                  21st July 1951-11th August 2014

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Whole Cool Character Thing: Olive Hoover


I'm just going to make a confession, Olive Hoover is one of my favourite film kids of all time.

Olive Hoover is the-kind of, sort of-main character of Little Miss Sunshine (a film I will blog about at some stage because IT IS ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME) a film about a dysfunctional family going on a road trip together to get the little girl-Olive-to a beauty pageant. Along the way, there's fall outs, rejections, drugs and death. And it's a comedy. It's also absolutely hilarious and there's bits where everyone cries.

But Olive is perhaps my favourite of the characters.

She's played by Abigail Breslin, who at age TEN got an Oscar nomination for the role because she's brilliant and I could go on about her for ages and she will definitely get a Cool Person blog post to herself at some stage. But this post's about Olive.

Olive is sweet. She's kind and attentive and she tries to do as her parents tell her. She gets on brilliantly with her foul-mouthed, drug-addicted, absolutely hilarious grandfather, who's the primary encourager behind her passion for beauty pageants. It's ironic that she wants to go in for pageants because, in the best way possible, she's like the opposite of the typical image of a pageant queen. She's funny and she's nice to everyone-even the less likeable members of her hilariously dysfunctional family.

And yet, she worries. Her father Richard has what you might call "a mild obsession" with winning and losing, and Olive continually worries that she'll let her father down by being " a loser." It's not helped by a scene in a restaurant, where her father snidely insinuates that if Olive eats a lot of ice cream, she could get fat which could hurt her chances in the beauty competition. And I decide that Richard suffers from what you might call "a mild case of being a dick."

Shut up, Richard.
And then the rest of the family chip in and let Olive eat her ice cream and her brother aims a napkin at Richard's head and everyone silently cheers while she eats.

Seriously, shut up, Richard.
But one of the best things about Olive is that she's a trier. She knows she doesn't look like the other kids going in for the competition. She knows that she's not like them, and that she doesn't look the same. She knows she's the kid from Albuquerque and they've been doing it their whole lives. There's a scene where someone asks if she thinks she can win and she seems to think about it. She admits that the other kids have been doing it for ages "but I practice every day." She knows she's a trier and that in some ways, it's kind of a long shot that she'd win.

But she tries, anyway. She goes for it and she tries. And she isn't one of those kids who's constantly down on herself. She knows she's got a shot and she knows she's good at dancing. Sure, she has her insecurities-there's a really sort of heartbreaking scene where she's on stage with the other kids and we see how different she looks from them and then a shot of her in the changing room, trying to pull her stomach in-but she also knows she's good. At least as good as some of the other kids. Maybe even better.
And she gives the weird pageant host the best raised-eyebrow, creeped-out look of all time.

Olive mirrors the audience's reaction to this creepiness.

There's a scene where a pageant winner signing autographs asks her what her talent is and Olive tells her she's a dancer. The pageant winner then says "You must be a good dancer." And without a trace of arrogance, Olive just says "Yeah...I am."

I love that scene. I love that Olive is proud of herself and knows that she's good at dancing-and it's not portrayed as arrogance or anything else. She just knows that she has a talent. And she's proud of it. For a female character in a movie-particularly a young female character-that's pretty awesome.

And then there's one of my favourite scenes in the movie. It's this scene and it's kind of one of the messages of the movie overall and it's just a really sweet scene with Olive's insecurity and her steadfast side being shown at once. And it sort of mocks the whole idea of "beauty" and "being pretty" as well, which is also awesome. It shows off Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin's acting abilities to a T.

Here it is.

OK, that scene is adorably sweet and it's always the one that comes to mind when I think of Olive. And her determination to keep going and keep trying, even when it seems like everything's against her. And like Grandpa says-insert the cheese here-that's what makes her a winner.

A real loser is somebody who's so afraid of not winning that they don't even try.-Grandpa, Little Miss Sunshine

And Olive is the opposite of a loser.

Of course, she also has that final scene. That final dance scene. And I'm not going to put that in because I'm saving that for when I write about the film overall. And because, my God, it is worth waiting for. If you really want to watch it, you can find it on Youtube. And warning: you might faint laughing. It's brilliant and once again, Abigail Breslin carries the whole thing right.

I'm not going to give away the ending and say whether she wins or loses. I'm not even going to tell you everything that happens to her. But you leave the film with a sense that no matter what happens, Olive is going to be just fine. In fact, she's going to be cool as all hell when she's older-because she's herself and sweet and kind, and she doesn't care too much what people think and she keeps trying. And even if she doesn't get everything she wants, she focuses on the bright side. She's a born trier and she's just herself. And that's unbearably cool.

Plus, she does the best dance moves ever.

Any kid who does these moves is probably cooler than me.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Whole Cool Person Thing: Ladyhawke

Ladyhawke is awesome-there, I said it, I'm done.

No, don't worry, I'm not, I like going on about her too much to leave it there.

Ladyhawke is a musician that brings back nostalgic elements of 80s music, with the same kind of beats that you can picture on a dance floor but at the same time, there's this weird aesthetic quality to the songs-they feel like something physical, almost like each one deserves their own video. (I haven't seen all her videos but I'm planning to sit down and watch them all in one afternoon. If they're as good as her songs, it'll be a good usage of time.)

Ladyhawke took her stage name from an 80s film-her real name's Pip Brown and she hails from New Zealand (like Lorde and Peter Jackson. New Zealand=Producer of Awesome Genius.)

Her most popular song is probably My Delirium which you'll almost definitely have heard on an advert at some stage given its' huge popularity. I'd heard that a few years ago and decided I liked the song, but it wasn't until around November time last year that I really got into Ladyhawke, when I heard her song Love Don't Live Here Anymore, on a Youtube video for the film Texas Killing Fields. I thought it was brilliant and started Youtubing every song of Ladyhawke's.

At the time, I wasn't too happy. I had a sore throat and was lying in bed, feeling generally miserable. (My anxiety had rocketed. Anxiety's like that red light that always stops you right when you want to get somewhere-every time you think you've beaten it, it pops up again like one of those sadistic recorded messages that always calls your phone. "Hello, this is Anxiety and yes, I am trying to ruin your day.") I was not feeling particularly happy and so finding new songs was pretty much my refuge of choice for cheering up.

And then I found this song, which might not be her most popular or even the best of all of them but it's definitely one of my favourites:

That song is basically what I listen to whenever things feel all depressing and on-top-of-my-head and I-seriously-don't-get-this-world-ing.

Give me time to reflect, gimme all you know
Holding hands on the street when the lights are low
You and me wanted more but we'll never know
And you, you try to remember
All it means in a world where its never slow
And you, you try to remember

We're part of a, we're part of a, we're part of a crazy world
We're part of a, we're part of a, we're part of a crazy world

But it's not just the songs that are awesome. Ladyhawke herself is like this otherworldly entity who is so cool that you wonder if she's real.

She grew up in New Zealand and spent a lot of her childhood lying on the floor doing random puzzles while listening to music-apparently, she loves the Pretenders and David Bowie. She didn't particularly fit at school and I really want to scream for that scene from Freaks and Geeks where they bring up that chart that proves that those kids who don't fit in at school triumph in later life. (Insert my personal issues here.) 

I wouldn't go to school when I was younger and when I did, I would just stare out of the window...I started playing piano when I was eight. It came quite naturally...I took up drums when I was 11 and that was it for me. I loved it. After that, I picked up lots of instruments instinctively.-Ladyhawke.

She sounds like a cool, sort of Salinger-esque kid crossed with a miniature Stevie Nicks. I was a Salinger-esque kid myself, who used to lie on the floor reading encyclopaedias and looking up stuff about cryptozoology, so I basically fell in love with her there and then. (Also, I'm actually typing this watching Child Genius, which seems astonishingly appropriate.)

She took on the name Ladyhawke because she wanted to make music herself, the way she wanted to, and she's blatantly honest about the fact she finds the industry difficult at times. She talks about her stage fright and the anxiety she feels about being with large crowds of people perfectly honestly with this kind of disarming chatter and it's a refreshing thing to hear, especially when she says she hates the whole arrogance of some rock stars who think they don't have to try to interact with people. She's also open about the fact she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as an adult, which explained a lot of her quirks. Given that that can leave you struggling with social interaction, it's even cooler that she doesn't let herself refuse to interact.

One of my favourite things about Ladyhawke might be the way she is just unabashedly herself-and she's not one of those people who inserts her "being-herself-ness" in your face while screaming I'M DIFFERENT, I'M DIFFERENT, PAY ATTENTION. She's just herself in her own quiet way, with her own way of dressing-she wears Doc Martens, cool little jackets, sometimes guys T-shirts, and best of all, her hats.

                              The importance of a cool hat cannot be overstated.

She's just really herself and her music's like that too-you couldn't mistake it for anyone else, though she's been compared to Courtney Love and Stevie Nicks. She's got her own unique sound, with her low voice over these beats and tunes that basically give you this feeling that you know what she's talking about, that you're seeing the story of the song playing out in front of your eyes. I remember listening to Another Runaway and just playing it over and over. I remember listening to Girl Like Me and basically leaping up because THAT WAS JUST HOW I FELT AT THE TIME. I remember thinking she must be telepathic.

And of course, her song Anxiety-don't really need to say more. Sums it up, that's all I can say.

But my favourite song of hers' has to be Back of the Van. It's just-amazing.

In the dark, in the back of the van, cautiously holding your hand
Making eyes, making everything all right-Ladyhawke

It just reminds me of falling in love with someone who you're terrified of breaking your heart because you know there's a chance they will. But they're so different from everyone else you can't walk away because they're different and special and they're the one you want even when you're constantly on the edge thinking that they could be about to walk away again, and that it could all be about to end.

When I wake and I'm far away, I know that you're leaving
In the dark, when I'm all alone, I'm scared that you're leaving
You set me on, you set me on, you set me on fire
You set me on, you set me on, you set me on fire-Ladyhawke

It's that feeling of the one person that makes you feel different, the one person who sends you crazy, but they're the one person who could hurt you the most, as well. And that plaintive way she sings-"I'm scared that you're leaving"-the way you do when you just want the person you love to tell you it's OK, you don't need to be scared-but you know you'll still be on the edge of thinking that they could leave at any moment and it could all be broken apart, even as you know that they're the person who's the centre of everything for you.

And Ladyhawke's able to sing it all in one song, with her voice and her own way of being. And she's able to go on being herself, telling the stories she wants through her music. So, once again-Ladyhawke's awesome, there I've said it.

                                       And that is one amazing jacket.