Some things I’ve been enjoying of late!

A/N: If you subscribe to this blog via email, you may have seen this post come up before… I accidentally pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of the ‘save draft’ one, and when I ‘trash’-ed and tried to continue working on it from there, it republished it again! Sorry – please ignore them!

Right now, I’ve just started work on a couple of other, more ambitious posts, which I’m hoping will go up at least by the end of January. But in the meantime, I thought I’d muse on some of the pop culture – the TV shows, books, movies, and (of course) music – I’ve been enjoying over the past few months!

Firstly, though, I just want to say a few words about Leonard Cohen and the relentlessness of this year’s obsession with making cool people pass away. I only started to delve into Cohen’s work a few months ago – after watching a documentary made on him in the mid-’60s that my mum and I found in our favourite record shop – but he quickly became one of my favourite artists. Mum and I spent the past couple of months enamoured with his beautifully atmospheric music and poetry, and we’d only planned a couple of days before the news to listen to his newest album, You Want It Darker, together. And so we were both saddened to hear that – so soon after we’d begun to really discover his work – that he’d passed away. He will be sorely missed.

Music

Unsurprisingly, I spend the vast majority of my time reading about music. (I don’t run a food blog, after all!) It’s from this constant reading that I unearth many of the bands I haven’t yet discovered – a method that has lead my to some of my favourite artists in the world – and these past few months have been no exception on this front. Here are some notable examples:

  • Big Star: It’s been a while since I stumbled across my first Big Star song in the middle of an art class in March, but it wasn’t until I acquired a copy of their first two albums on CD that I began to delve fanatically into their discography. The band’s music is so beautiful – filled with jangling guitars and chiming harmonies, with all the twinkling prettiness of a sunny Spring day – and their story – filled with failure and tragedy, until not so long ago when their records found themselves buried deep in the collective consciousnesses of the majority of post-1985 alternative bands – fascinating. I’ve barely stopped listening to their Third album, and founding member Chris Bell’s solo compilation I Am The Cosmos, since, and I think they may be my favourite band along with Sonic Youth right now. (Bowie doesn’t really count as a “band”, does he?)
  • The Smiths: I was entirely unable to see the appeal of The Smiths – sans Johnny Marr’s guitar skills, which I’ve always appreciated – up until about a month ago. This change-in-heart was the culmination of two events: the first one involving me reading an article about Morrissey’s musical and literary influences and thus realising that I liked about 9/10ths of the artists and authors he mentioned, and the second one being me listening to ‘How Soon Is Now?’ with headphones and then thinking it was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard. I’ve since discovered that The Smiths were every bit as musically and melodically beautiful as Marr’s guitar skills had previously suggested to me, and that Morrissey’s voice and lyrics are not actually as annoying as I had found them before, but are instead rather interesting and funny. The Queen Is Dead has been my album-of-choice while drawing and painting for the past month, now! (I still love the Cure though. I can’t choose between the two!)
  • Lydia Lunch: I’ve found Lydia Lunch rather fascinating for a little while, now – her almost gothic aesthetic, her “I could care less” attitude, her involvement in the “no wave” movement (one which I find just as fascinating as well). I’ve been listening to her album, Queen of Siam, on constant repeat for a few months, and I find her music just as fascinating as I do her image. It’s so cool! It has all the arty, underground rebelliousness of the New York punk movement that preceded her no wave – but amplified, and with all the experimental spirit and dark mysteriousness that, say, the Ramones (as much as I adore them!) lacked. Plus, she worked with Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard – who are kind of national treasures here in Australia – so she gets extra points for that too. She’s so cool – go look her up now, and be inspired!
  • Blondie: I think I may have written Blondie off as a disco band in the past, which may explain why I didn’t delve into their catalogue until a few months ago. However, I haven’t let this late start stop me in developing a fanatic obsession with their music and their image. There is something infinitely fascinating about them – the way they added pop sensibilities and glamour to the CBGB scene and yet retained all the punk attitude of their contemporaries is the epitome of cool. Parallel Lines must be one of the most perfect albums of all time because of this – it’s sleek and poppy, but still alternative-ly self-assured and outspoken. And their image deserves kudos too – there is kind of a streetwise glamour to it, dirty and brassy yet beautiful and glitzy, which is my kinda thing. Plus, Debbie Harry is also a major role model of mine both stylistically and as a female musician.

TV: Twin Peaks

It took me four months to watch every episode – Fire Walk With Me included – of Twin Peaks. I started it knowing vaguely of its “cool ” status, of how it involved cherry pie and saddle shoes and some girl being murdered and “wrapped in plastic”, and of how David Lynch was involved in it and how he had also directed Mullholand Drive and of how (as much as I enjoyed it) confusing that was and how I wondered if it would be like that as well. But by the time I finished, I was completely and totally enamoured by it. It’s been well over a month since I watched the final episode, but I miss its presence in my weekends more than I’ve ever missed a TV show before… Perhaps the reason for this is of how utterly fascinating and enthralling the show’s narrative is. Exploring the devastating fallout after the murder of seemingly-flawless homecoming queen Laura Palmer, the way that its creators (Lynch and Mark Frost) explore the duality of Twin Peaks’ quaint small-town outer, and the greed, lies and pure evil that haunt it, is edge-of-your-seat thrilling. And many of its characters – some that you are destined to adore like no other from their first scene, others that you endlessly loathe and yet find compelling as a consequence – must be among the most well-developed and enthralling (and well-dressed! Case in point: Audrey Horne) in all of TV history. Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for the show is perfect, both for mirroring the show’s many atmospheres and as music in itself, too. It is simultaneously the funniest, saddest, most beautiful, most frightening – and undeniably among the best – thing I’ve ever watched. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to see how everything will pan out in the new Season 3 set for release next year!

ggs

And a quick word on the other TV show set in quirky, small-town America where all the main characters have coffee addictions – Gilmore Girls! Its special new season finally came out the other week, and while I won’t be able to watch it for a while as I don’t have Netflix (no spoilers please, then!!), my obsession with the original series – I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve watched it – has ensured that it’ll more than likely be well worth the wait! I can’t express how glad I am to welcome some of my favourite fictional characters ever back (though did they ever leave?) into my world, as demonstrated by my rather melodramatically excited reaction to the trailer. I can’t wait to see what they’ve all been up to over the past nine years – but I especially hope that Jess and Lane are still as perennially cool as when we last saw them, and that the former is as great an author as his last appearances in the original series suggested he was destined to be (team Jess! team Jess!), and Lane is back playing in a band…

Book: Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joan Didion)

To quote an essay I penned on the book for my English class:

There are some books which are destined to entirely engross and change the course of your life. These books are perhaps the most beautiful, the most eloquent, the most thoughtful thing you’ve ever laid your eyes across, and you know – almost as immediately as you dive into the first chapter – that it will force you to spend the rest of your life rereading it on endless loop and quoting its every word to everyone you meet. I have been lucky enough to have been blessed with a couple of books of this ilk within my life. Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is one of these. Perhaps it is the greatest of them all.”

Right now, I’m convinced that Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion’s first non-fiction anthology, published in 1968 – is the greatest book I’ve ever read, and perhaps one of the greatest ever published. To me, it is almost perfect – Didion’s writing style is the most eloquent thing I’ve ever read, filled with adjectives and infinite wisdom and mystery alike; she writes of the fractured, deceivingly glamorous American “cool” that I have long been fascinated by, of a contrasting collection of figures and characters to endlessly intrigue, and of all the things both internal and external that she has come across in her personal life to which many a reader will scream “Yes! I relate!” over and over to their bedroom walls; it is also unapologetically feminine, something I hadn’t really come across in a book before and a quality that I – as a young woman – find beautiful. I’ve never been so enthralled by a piece of literature before.

Movie: Heathers 

Here are three of the many reasons why Heathers is my favourite movie, second only to The Man Who Fell To Earth:

  • It’s one of the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. The script has some of the wittiest, fast-paced one liners ever written – laced with the most ridiculous black comedy, and clever enough that they never insult the audience’s intelligence – and its merciless satire towards almost everything the world held (and holds) dear is often so cruel it’s hilarious. I don’t think anything’s made me laugh so hard, ever. Here is a good list of only a few of the script’s highlights! Plus, the plot is so twisted and kind of comically disturbing that’s it’s funny.
  • It stars Winona Ryder. ‘Nuff said. (This is coming from someone who, for a few months, watched almost exclusively movies featuring her. She is the best.)
  • And how real it is. For all of its hilarity – and its disturbing plot – Heathers is actually one of the most brutally accurate portrayals of high school that I’ve ever seen in the media. Never once does the movie romanticise or censor it – instead, it shows it exactly like it is, and the movie is all the more intelligent, confrontingly authentic and powerful for it. A reason related to this that I feel deserves a special mention of how ruthlessly disparagingly it displays the concept of high school social ladders, something that must’ve been pretty brave for a world where an originally-quirky Molly Ringwald ends up with the preppy rich kid and an even more quirky Ally Sheedy ends up being transformed into a total it-girl! The very ending – the bit where Veronica walks through the corridor (without giving spoilers away!) – is the absolute best. It’s both great humour and social commentary!

As with pretty much everything else mentioned in this post, I could talk about my immense love of Heathers for years, but let’s just leave it at a paraphrased quote from the movie itself: “It’s beautiful.” (You can deduct whether this is sarcastic or not yourself!)

And so that’s what I’ve been into over the past few months! What about you?

And just before I sign off, I thought I’d mention that today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death – hope you’re resting well, and thinking of you!

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My Favourite Scenes In ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

 

It was fifty years ago today, when 'A Hard Day's Night' first came out to play (more lame 'Sgt. Pepper' puns!)

It was fifty years ago today, when ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ first came out to play (more lame ‘Sgt. Pepper’ puns!)

 

Hey Jude/Bulldog/all,

I apologise for not having written in almost a week – I was going to write last night but I didn’t really have much time.

At the moment, I am sitting in our rented apartment in Melbourne, listening to my iPad playlist, and (obviously) making good use of the free WiFi we have been given access to. Outside, I swear it is about ten degrees, so it is nice to be inside a heated building!

(Onto the point…)

Today is the 6th of July, which is – as all Beatlemaniacs know – the 50th anniversary of the Liverpool premiere of A Hard Day’s Night! If you are lucky enough to be reading this in the US (as I’ve been emphasising for the past month), The Beatles’ first film would have opened in 50 cinemas around your country two days ago, and I am really envious! I’d love to see that film on the big screen… Also two days ago (here in Australia, this time), Australian A Hard Day’s Night BluRays made their way onto our shelves, so be sure to go and purchase one! Mine, however, is being shipped from Britain, where the release date is July 21st, so I still have to wait a bit longer. But anyway – to celebrate the 50th birthday of this iconic film starring my (and many others’) favourite band – I thought I would make a list of four of my favourite scenes in A Hard Day’s Night. So (in no particular order), here goes:

 

The Opening Sequence

The opening chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is played, and we see three men being chased by hordes of teenage girls. On closer inspection, these three men are John, George and Ringo, and the audience is witnessing the start of one of the most iconic rock-and-roll musicals of all time. I love this bit of the film – it makes me laugh seeing John, George and Ringo run around, and darting around to all their hiding places. I read somewhere that the stampede of girls weren’t actors, and that the scene was almost genuine – why does that not surprise me (though I probably would have been one of them, if I were there 🙂 )?? Oh, and Paul in that fake moustache…

 

The Beatles At The Club

If you’ve never watched AHDN, you might be wondering what this scene is all about. Before John, Paul, George and Ringo make their way to this club, they have been checking out their hotel room with Paul’s ‘grandfather’ (who has joined the band on their adventures), and have been arguing about whether Ringo snores or not. Their ‘managers’ (Norm and Shake) gave each Beatle a load of fan mail, and told them to have each letter answered by the time the night is through. However, John plays the rebel, and convinces the other three to go to a club with him. Meanwhile, though, Grandfather abuses an invite to a casino that Ringo received, and decides to check it out for himself…

Anyway, what’s not to love about this scene? Ringo and George dancing, for one – I’m cracking up as I write this, with that image playing in my head. Sure, they may not be the best dancers in the world, but I still love their moves! Oh, and John looks like such a cool cat in this scene 🙂 …

 

The ‘Grotty’ Scene (or the ‘George-invents-a-word’ scene – both my names  for it)

Anybody reading this fantasise about writing a dictionary (I assume not, but anyway…)? Above is the piece of pop-culture that you’d have to credit with the origin of the word ‘grotty’! Here in Australia, ‘grotty’ is common slang, so was I pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my second-favourite Beatle is credited with being the first to use such a now-common word! So okay – George didn’t really invent the word (Alun Owen – the script-writer – did), but he was the first to use it!

But regardless of whether this scene invented a word or not, it is really funny (like the rest of the film)! I especially love it when George says that thing about Susan (a pin-up girl) being a ‘well-known drag’ – watch the above clip and you’ll know what I mean…

 

John In The Bath

The above scene is the cutest/funniest thing ever, and it is my favourite scene in any film of all time – END OF STORY!

Okay, maybe I should explain why I love this scene so much… Well, for starters, John in a giant bubble-bath, playing with a toy boat – self-explanatory (or in other words, it is not only so funny that it makes my eyes water with laughter, it’s also really cute). Add George shaving a mirror (shaving cream and all) – again, self-explanatory. And thank God John didn’t go down the drain (not that it’s even remotely possible for such a thing to happen!)! If you watch the right corner of the screen really, really carefully, you can actually see John get out – I’ve only spotted it myself a couple of times, but if you have really good eyesight, it should be easy to see. Oh, and apparently most of this scene is ad-libbed – as with the screaming girls within the opening sequence, why does that not surprise me?!

(Now for a couple of other things…)

Last Wednesday, I finally watched A Grammy Salute To The Beatles, the Grammys-run Beatles tribute/reunion from six months ago! I managed to get the DVD working on the DVD player in our top room, so my mum and I had a lovely afternoon watching it together! I thoroughly enjoyed each Beatles cover – my highlights being Dave Grohl’s ‘Hey Bulldog’ (and the speech he made before it), Imagine Dragons’ ‘Revolution’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘We Can Work It Out’ and The Eurythmics’ ‘The Fool On The Hill’ – and I thought that Eric Idle was very funny. Also, Yoko’s kick-arse dance moves were very cool! The best part by far, however, was when Paul and Ringo performed! They don’t seem over 70 at all, and they were absolutely fab (though what else would I expect??)! I loved absolutely everything that they played – either by themselves or together, as the half-Beatles – but my favourite bits would have to be when they played ‘Sgt. Pepper’/’With A Little Help From My Friends’, when Ringo played ‘Boys’, when Paul played ‘Birthday’ and when they played their beautiful finale of ‘Hey Jude’! A big thank-you to my lovely godparents for recording this and so many other Beatle-y things screened on Foxtel for me!

Oh, and it’s Ringo’s 74th birthday tomorrow – I will be wearing my brand-new Yellow Submarine t-shirt that I bought at the Queen Vic Markets the other day, and will listen to my Beatles albums on my iPad (considering my vinyl LPs/record player are at home in Adelaide). I will also be putting a ‘Happy Birthday’ post up here at some point, so look out for it! Ringo is supposedly performing on Sunrise (an Australian breakfast show) sometime this week, but their website was somewhat elusive as to when that is – I will be sure to post the time that he will be playing up here, as soon as I discover when that is!

So for now, I’ll finish off, and I’ll post again tomorrow. Good day sunshine 🙂