Saturday, June 28, 2008

Songs that I’m currently listening to the most.

Not my favourite songs, but just songs that I’ve been listening to more than any other so far this Summer.


- Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
- Come So Far (Hairspray soundtrack)
- Dance of the Knights (Sergei Prokofiev)
- Defying Gravity (Wicked soundtrack)
- Don’t Get Caught (The Zutons)
- Everybody’s Changing (Keane)
- Fascination (Alphabeat)
- Georges Street/The Tartar Frigate (Rodrigo y Gabriela)
- Gunpowder & Lead (Melissa Lambert)
- Hell Around the Corner (Tricky)
- Homecoming (Kanye West ft. Chris Martin)
- Seasons of Love (Rent soundtrack)
- Shipbuilding (Elvis Costello & The Attractions)
- Singing in the Rain remix (Mint Royale ft Gene Kelly)
- Spiegel im Spiegel (Arvo Pärt)
- Superstar (Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack)

There’s quite a strong musical influence in here, and that’s mainly thanks to the BBC show I'll Do Anything, where the women competing for the part of Nancy performed a different song every week, many from musicals. I’ve never been to the musical of Wicked nor seen Jesus Christ Superstar, but I really want to now, and Defying Gravity and Jesus Christ Superstar were both songs that were performed on the show that piqued my interest in the song.

Singing in the Rain is on there for the “Britain’s got Talent” factor, and also because, like Umbrella, it’s a Summer number. 1 even though it’s about rain, which I always find funny. In the same way, Dance of the Knights is on there for the “The Appentice” factor.

Come So Far was played at my school’s leaver’s assembly, and I’ve loved it ever since. Like Hairspray, it’s jolly, entertaining and top-tapping good fun.

Spiegel im Spiegel is Daniel Radcliffe’s favourite piece of classical music, but we won’t hold that against it because the slow violin and piano accompaniment is so relaxing, it must help the soul just to listen to it.

Out of all of these, Georges Street/The Tartar Frigate is probably my favourite piece. It’s one of the best pieces of guitar playing I’ve ever heard, with a hyperactive gypsy violin thrown in for good measure. Wonderful.

And out of these, the song that I’m most obsessed with is Homecoming by Kanye West. This songs makes me nostalgic, and I don’t even know what for. Homecoming is so catchy and no matter what I always sing along; pure poetry. Probably my favourite Kanye West song.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cassie from Skins = ♥








The Tesseract (Alex Garland)

Thank the lord for audiobooks. If it wasn’t for Martyn Reed’s voice reading me Alex Garland’s second book, The Tesseract, I would have died of boredom this past two days tidying my bedroom. As it was, with the convoluted plot being read to me whilst I did my summer cleaning, it was actually a pleasant experience.

I’ve not read Alex Garland’s debut, The Beach, but I’ve seen the film version of it, and, whilst I loved all the shots of Leonardo DiCaprio with his shirt off, I thought the film itself was ploddy and at parts, unintentionally hilarious. That said, it was still fairly thrilling, and thrill is something that The Tesseract offered from the start to finish.

Told in four parts, The Tesseract begins with Sean, a sailor on the shipping waters of Manila, waiting in a run-down motel for the gangster, Don Pepe to pay him a visit. Next, the story shifts to a doctor, Rosa, who is waiting for her husband Sonny to come home, as she reminisces about her first love, Lito. The next story follows two young Filipino hustlers, Vincente and Totoy, as they wander the streets of Manila in search of some easy dosh. And then there’s the finally, so climactic, so wonderfully clever in weaving the three threads together, that it makes Magnolia look like Little Britain.

The ambitious plot device made The Tesseract are hard story to write, but Garland completely succeeds. His modulates tone perfectly; from the nervous panic in Sean’s strand, to the romantic and bittersweet telling of Rosa’s romance of Lito, to the philosophical musings of Alfredo, a psychologist who Vincente and Totoy go to to sell their dreams to. At times, the pseudo-science gets a bit grating, and the flashback-within-flashback strategy left me a bit confused. I liked the novel most when it played things simple; and my favourite plot of the three was by far Rosa's, the tale of her and Lito was handled very beautifully.

Towards the end, Garland ran the serious risk of running himself off at a tangent, but luckily, he kept the story in control. The finale is as interesting as it is satisfying, tying in all three plot strands with one denouement, like the converging Tesseract of the title.

Oh, and the book was read aloud by Martyn Reed, who has a lovely voice; very deep and enigmatic.

Another "lol at the younger me" post.

When I was 16, one of my friends got me a book of sheet music for James Blunt songs...

... Because I'd asked for it.

Shows how much of a hypocrite I am, really. And also how bad my taste in music was.

So, any of you got any secrets you'd like to share?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I love it!!


Should I have this as my header?

The silence of the lahms.

I actually cannot get a pun that Gary Linekar made on Match of the Day last night out of my head. Basically, it was Germany 3 - Turkey 2, and the scorer of the winning goal was Philipp Lahm, the left back (cute in an aww bless kinda way). Anyway, when it was all over, Linekar signed off with "In the end, Turkey were silenced by Lahm". Now, even, if you don't like football, you have to appreciate that's quite amusing!

So, I'm now actually addicted to plays on the word "lahm". So far, I've also heard:
- Lahm chops down Turkey (double metaphor with food in there!)
- Tasty lahm the toast of Germany
- Lahm Kebabs 'Em (The Sun, you wouldn't know, would you?)

And here's my own contribution, inspired by this picture of the Germany captain Michael Ballack holding Lahm like a little pet:


Michael had a little Lahm.

Yes, OK. I'll go back to watching the football silently.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sweet (Julie Burchill)

I haven’t read the first Julie Burchill novel for teenagers, Sugar Rush, for which this is the sequel to, nor have I seen the TV programme of it, but I found this book on the ground when walking home yesterday (yep, really!) and the garish pink cover made me stop, read the blurb, and decide that on this occasion, it was finder’s, keeper’s.

Sweet tells the story of Maria “Sugar” Sweet, who has just been released from prison for grievous bodily harm. At 17, she’s already married and got a daughter – both of whom aren’t there when she’s released. Yet Maria is more pissed off about the fact that her husband ran off with her iPod than her daughter. Nice.

Anyway, the novel follows Sugar as she tries everything she can do get out of Brighton. Her first job is doing cleaning up for a pair of gay fashion designers, who decide to use her as their muse for their latest “product” (it later turns out that product is a range of clothes inspired by chavs.)

Sugar is a larger-than-life character, completely sure of her Goddessness and more than a bit of a slut, jumping from one guy to the next. Although she thinks she might be lesbian (there are frequent references to Kim, the girl who loved her, and Sugar didn’t realise she loved until it was too late), that doesn’t stop her from bedding her workmate Asif, making plans to shag a Chinese doctor she liked the look of, as well as snogging the face off anyone she meets.

I found it very hard to like Sugar, who is one of the most selfish, mercenary and insensitive people I’ve ever read about. Yet, I was totally drawn into her world (probably because it’s so different from mine.) She comes out with some of the most shocking and crass things – such as asking her 35-year-old pregnant mother, who wants her baby terminated, if she’d like to be pushed down the stairs to save money on an abortion, as well as referring to gays and lesbians in the widest range of derogatory terms I’ve ever heard. Plus, remember, she’s a mother. And she doesn’t care.

But I couldn’t help it, I felt myself giggling wickedly at everything Sugar said, and even empathising with her occasionally. Julie Burchill writes in the most colloquial way, but she does it so well and the book feels more like a chat with Sugar than anything else. Plus, the ghost of Kim hangs about through the entire novel, and you can feel Sugar letting her guard down about her one true love, who she’d (I’m guessing) manipulated and bullied in the first novel, only to regret it when it was too late. There was one passage in the novel where Sugar was remembering all the good times with Kim, and lamenting her loss, and that was Burchill’s way of showing that the cold bitch does have a heart after all.

Riotously good fun, shocking, rude, vulgar, unrealistic, yet utterly compelling, I was completely won over by “Sweet”, and will now be backtracking to read “Sugar Rush.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wai so serious? (vol. 2)

I watch films sometimes.

I had a huge movie binge this weekend! This is what I saw:

- The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004)
A moving and well made story of the life of Ramon Sanpedro, a quadriplegic who is appealing for euthanasia, which is against Spanish laws. The film shows all the people in his life – from those that live with him (his elder brother, his sister-in-law, his nephew and his dad), to the two women who love him, Julia, a lawyer who herself is suffering from an illness, and Rosa, a single mum who firsts visits him out of curiosity (played willingly by Volver’s Lola Duenas). 

I found The Sea Inside sad and intelligent (it doesn’t take sides), though a tad overlong and after a while I got bored of the flashbacks/dream sequences of Ramon diving into the sea. That said, it’s worth watching purely for Javier Bardem’s subtle and affecting performance. This is the guy that killed all them people in NCFOM, everyone!!

- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
One of my favourite films of all time, about unfulfilled wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor, in sizzling form), whose handsome but indifferent and alcoholic husband Brick (Paul Newman, nearing Brando levels of hotness) not only doesn’t care about who’ll get his dad’s large inheritance, but also, won’t have sex with her. 

Tennessee Williams hated this version of his play due to the toned down references to homosexuality and Skipper’s suicide, but to be honest, they don’t have to spell it out for us to work it out. I saw this with my brother yesterday, which possibly detracted from the power somewhat as he could only see the funny side in it all (such as when Brick was chasing Maggie around the room with his crutch), but it still remains a highly enjoyable melodrama with one of the best ensembles I’ve seen.

- The Girl on the Bridge (Patrice Leconte, 1999)
Another one of my favourites, though on a rewatch, I feel that my ranking it 43rd was a little high. I think it would be just outside my 100 now. It still remains a highly entertaining and witty experience, but I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like it as much a second time round. It’s about Gabor, a knife-thrower, who stops Adèle, a suicidal and confused young woman (who quite frankly, is a bit of a whore) from jumping off a bridge. Together, they form a double act in circuses, and their luck thrives everywhere. The entire film is really charming and quirky, not dissimilar to the oddness of Amelie, and the knife-throwing scenes are exhilarating to watch. Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteuil have such incredible chemistry that you wonder why Adèle would ever run off with another man. (Answer: 'cos she's easy.)

- The Spirit of the Beehive (Víctor Erice, 1973)

OK, this is another film that was one of my all-time favourites, an
d my adoration for it has lessened slightly. I think I should only watch films once. Anyway, I think the second time round watching this, I just wasn’t as beguiled by the minutiae as I was the first time, and found some of the wordless scenes, frankly, a little dull. But I’m still as effusive, if not more so, in my praise for little Ana Torrent’s performance, which is probably one of my favourite from a young actress, nay, an actress, in cinema. Honestly, those eyes!! She was just beyond sweet, and every time she asked a naïve question, or gave that wide-eyed look, I just wanted to give her a massive hug. A performance, along with Jennifer Garner’s in Juno, to make me want to go and become a mother.

- Kinky Boots (Julian Jarrold, 2005)
A winningly unassuming Britcom about mild-mannered Charlie Price who inherits his father’s ailing shoe company. Needing a bright idea to stop his company being walked over by repo men, he’s inspired by London transvestite Lola to start a niche market making boots for men. Mainly thanks to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s by turns charismatic but profound performance as Lola, and Simon, respectively, and Joel Edgerton’s bumbling nice guy, this film really works. Kinky Boots does what it says on the tin: make you laugh (Nick Frost is hilarious and the line about Ukrainian peasants had me giggling for half a minute), entertain you (the drag act scenes are oddly interesting), and generally give you a good time for 100 minutes. Just like the boots Lola wore before Charlie designed better ones.

- His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
I said, goddamn. They talk quite quickly in this film, don’t they? Wow. And, after me going off three films slightly after watching them again, His Girl Friday only went higher in my estimations. 

The frenzied humour, the mile-a-minute speed of talking, and Rosalind Russell does wonders on the girl power front as highly capable and Godlessly reporter who was always too good to be just married off and become a housewife are just some of the things to love about Howard Hawk’s screwball and massively funny comedy.

So that was me! Seen any good movies recently?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Funniest movie of the Summer?


The Most Hilariously Cringey Moments in Series 4 of The Apprentice.

It ended over a week ago, but I’m still in heavy The Apprentice-mood. Here are my picks for the funniest/most embarrassing moments in the series:

01.The 24-hour hotline for laundry.
02. Kevin's analogy of the US not caring about global warming.
03. Michael's supposed Jewishness.
04. "It's like I've had to breast feed you."
05. Lee's spelling on his application form.
06. "If you don't pull your weight you're going to the boardroom, simple as that"
07. Raef saying his words are his tool .
08. "Who loves their tissues? Do you love your washing up liquid?"
09. Losing people's clothes in the laundry task
10. Michael begging in the boardroom
11. Jenny getting bored when talking about the product she pitched.
12. Michael stalking the guy to try and flog him an hour in the Ferrari.
13. “I’m only 24!” Yes Alex, we know. You only said about 1000 times
14. Michael trying to explain where half the pizza went.
15. The pathetic acting in the Atishu advert
16. Lee's Atishu pitch
17. Sara's crappy attempts to sell wedding cake.
18. "Excuse me, have you heard of a Zoner?"

The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks)

The Wasp Factory follows life of 16-year-old Frank, a truly sadistic and disturbed kid who likes to torture animals and has to date, killed three people (all children that are related to them), lives with their dad whose brother Eric has just escaped from a sanitarium.

When I was recommended this book, I was told that there was going to be a twist, so, all the way through, I was trying to guess it. I thought that the twist was going to be that Frank never killed those three people. Whilst that could be true (we only have his word to go by, after all), the twist is even more audacious and much more original than that, and it was doubly ironic considering how Frank spent a lot of the novel going on about how much he hated [them]. I was a bit bemused by it.

The book itself is like watching a catfight; not pretty, but impossible to draw your eyes away. The imagery of how he tortured the rabbits was disgusting, but the bit that practically had me reaching for the sick bucket was when Frank described the ordeal that his brother went through when tending to a baby at the hospital. It. Was. Horrible.

Although The Wasp Factory never quite reaches the levels of gleeful sadism that I dreaded, due to me having high expectations for the wickedness, I was still thoroughly disturbed and shocked by it. Frank is one of the most macabre yet interesting literary characters I’ve read about (he sees death as natural and feels no qualms about killing, yet felt compelled to kill his cousin to balance out the numbers in terms of gender), Banks creates him excellently and builds their world and their mindset. It’s an unpleasant book and thus unlikely to make it on my list of favourites, but it’s a fine Gothic tale that receives my recommendation – if you can brave it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Viva Regina.

Hotels. Pickles. Stretchmarks. These are just three things that inspire Regina Spektor, the Russian-American musician who writes, sings, plays the piano, plays the guitar and is an all-round entertainer and artist of the highest calibre. I was reading through an issue of my school’s magazine from over a year ago, in which there was an article about the author’s favourite Regina Spektor songs, so I thought I’d do the same!

Born in Moscow on February 18th, her parents instilled a musical sense into her from an early age. Her dad, Ilya Spektor, was an amateur violinist, and her mum was a music teacher. She practiced the piano on a Petrof that was passed down from her granddad. Unfortunately, when her family emigrated from the USSR due to discrimination against the Jewish, the piano was left behind. No problem for Regina – she practiced the fingerings on windowsills until her family could afford to buy her another. And it’s a ruddy good thing she did, because she’s blossomed into one of the best artists around; her songs are deep, poetic, funny, sad, and have some of the most original lyrics I’ve ever heard.

So here are my top 10 Regina Spektor songs:
10. Pavlov’s Daughter
The grave diggers getting stuck in the machine
picking getting slim, slimmer
I hear them say my name
regin-ah, regin-ah, regin-a-ah

Absolutely adore this song, it’s one of the strangest I’ve heard, and definitely one of Regina’s most sinister. Word of warning, though, play it loud, and, getting to the “regin-a-ah” bit sounds a bit like a woman having an orgasm.

09. Buildings
Sifts through its sift
Just sifts through its sift
Oh, Oh ooooo
Sifts through its sift
Just sifts through its sift

Like most Regina Spektor songs, a really tricky one to interrupt. I think it could be about a couple in love, but the woman drifting away from the man through her depression.

08. Apres Moi
Be afraid of the lame, they'll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they'll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they'll inherit your blood
Apres moi le deluge, after me comes the flood

She sings a bit of Russian in this one!

07. Poor Little Rich Boy
Poor little rich boy, all the world is okay
The water runs off your skin and down into the drain
You’re reading Fitzgerald, you’re reading Hemmingway
They’re both super smart and drinking in the cafés

Always reminds me a bit of The Catcher in the Rye, for some reason.

06. Oedipus
I'm the king's thirty second son
Born to him in thirty second's time
Born to him the night still young
Born to him with two eyebrows on
And that's all I was wearing
When I woke up staring at the world

One of Regina’s most vocally strong songs, this, like Samson, alludes to a well-known story – here, of Oedipus Rex, and builds a truly powerful song from a myth. One to make you sit up and think.

05. Chelsea Hotel #2
I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can't keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that's all, I don't even think of you that often.

This is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel, and Regina sings it so, so well. His poetry + her voice = Heaven.

04. Real Love
Don't need to be alone
No need to be alone
It's real love
Yes, it's real love
Oh, it's real love
Yes, it's real love

Another cover, this time, of John Lennon. Regina’s voice & piano playing in this song are just sublime, she captures the emotional lines perfectly.

03. Braille
Elvis never could carry a tune
and she thought about this irony as she stared back at the moon
She was tracing her years with her fingers on her skin saying,
Well, why don't I begin again

My choice for Regina Spektor’s most haunting song, Braille takes us through the life of a financially struggling single mother and her son named Elvis. The piano-playing in the intro is brilliant here, I still get shivers every time I hear it.

02. Love Affair
There was a love affair in this building,
The kind of love affair that every respectable building must, keep as a legend.

This song demonstrates that Regina is not so much a songwriter as a storyteller too. Here, it is a fairly simple story of a man and woman in a building who meet and have a love affair. Listen to Regina’s warble on the line “mothers prefer doctors and law-aw-ars.” Incredible.

01. Samson

I loved you first, I loved you first.

Beneath these sheets of paper lies my truth.

Quite simply, the most beautiful song every written. I’m one of the few who prefer the faster version of this, but the lyrics that run through both are so beautiful, it breaks my heart. I connect with it completely, and I think everyone who’s ever felt love towards someone or something, and lost it, will do so too.

Samson, set to some clips from Brokeback Mountain. Omg, so beautiful.

So. What are your favourite Regina Spektor songs?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fireworks at Lake Michigan.

Three books today, two novellas and a longer book.

The two novellas were:
Kill Swap (James Lovegrove)
Despite being only about 60 pages in length, I really got a lot out of this book. It started with what seemed to be a Strangers on a Train-type plot – a boy, whose dad is being hounded by an uncompromising loan shark, agrees to kill a banker in the city he doesn’t know in return for the loan shark getting killed by someone else. But then the twists kick in. The problem with the short length of the novel is that we don’t really get given time to feel for the lad at the centre of it all – we get that he feels guilty, but he literally dwells over it for about three lines. That said, I really enjoyed it and thought it was very clever, particularly the nice bit of revenge at the end.

Fame Thing (Jonathan Meres)
This is about a football-mad teenage girl, George, who befriends the footballer that has just moved into her town, despite everyone else thinking he’s “bad news.” Completely unrealistic and predictable from start to finish (George is in a wheelchair, and as soon as the footballer’s agent sees her in a wheelchair you can just work out that he wants to get the two together cos it’s good PR), though it had some nice domestic scenes between George and her brother, as well as George and her best friend Nick. Overall though, I think the book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be – a comment on the state of the media (which Kill Swap did terrifically), the story of a teenage girl getting hormones, or a warning about the dangers of being too successful too quickly. In the end, it didn’t achieve any of those things.

And the book I read was:

The Mathematics of Love (Emma Darwin)
Reading this is becoming somewhat of a Summertime ritual now, though at times, it’s anything but a sunny read. The Mathematics of Love follows Stephen Fairhust, a Major returned from the brutality of Wellington's Peninsular War and Anna Ware, a 15 year old girl whose been fobbed off by her irresponsible mother, forced to live with her uncle and drunken grandmother in a dilapidated ex-school. Both experience love, though it’s far from without it’s tribulations. Stephen writes letters to Miss Durward, and, 150 years later, these letters are read by Anna, linking our two protagonists together.

Although it does take some getting into and not much seems to occur at first, every line was beautifully formed. I definitely preferred Stephen to Anna; some petulant streaks to Anna’s personality rendered her very dislikeable to me to begin with, but towards the end, I grew to respect her. I thought the way Darwin presented the relationship Anna pursued with an older man, photographer Theo, as well as the third person in their relationship Eva, was terrific, so, for that, I kind of preferred the modern strand more. Ooh, and I cried for poor Cecil. :( Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Book A Day...

The Lovely Bones.

I was so busy celebrating the end of the exams that I nearly forgot to read, which would have been quite a crap way to start the “A book a day” campaign!

Anyway. Today, I opted for a book I’ve read before and didn’t love – critical darling The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - to see whether my opinion of it would change in time for the 2009 release of the Peter Jackson directed film.

Right, well, where to start? Loved the cover picture, of the charm bracelet, hated just about everything else. The premise was fairly OK – dead girl caught in limbo between earth and heaven and looking down, but the execution just didn’t carry off. I didn’t like the detached writing style (though I do think it suited the novel), I wasn’t able to sympathise for any of the characters (I wasn’t convinced by some of the character’s “grief” – a mother that cheats following her daughter’s death is a little too pat, imo), and most of all, I got a really horrible feeling that Sebold took a grim sort of pleasure in describing Susie’s rape and murder, as well all of the other murder victims. She just kept going into all the detail, whilst trying to write in this classy way. Eww. Some critics said it was beautiful and uplifting, and whilst I wasn’t depressed by it or anything, it was definitely anything but beautiful. Rather, I thought it was kinda self-indulgent and turgid. Overall, I just thought it was a bit of a waste of time.

Saoirse Ronan says she hasn’t read the book yet. Let’s hope it stays that way.
The verdict:

^^ that was a naff review, I know, but I really do feel it was quite a naff book. I was “meh” following my first reading of it, but now I really dislike it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I am mesmerized by this image


First thing to do when I've finished exams - see Priceless!