Wonder Women – thank you Patty Jenkins

 

Spoilers *** Spoilers*** Spoilers

 

If you have not yet seen this film, you may want to give this whole article a miss.

 

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“Wonder Woman” is yet another origin story, but so what? I’ve had to sit through decades of testosterone to get to this point.

I enjoyed that the movie took it’s time to introduce the warriors of Themyscira; a lush city-state and island nation (Somewhere hidden in the Aegean according to some sources). Where we learn that Diana is not unique in her abilities; we get a real sense of where she is from, that although she is semi-divine, Diana is very much an Amazonian, and those women ALL kick ass. For me, that was one of the wonderful things about the Wonder Woman movie, they were all wonder women.

I felt that the story contained a good balance of action and drama. There is nothing worse than sitting for an hour or two, being bombarded with scene after scene of fast-paced-look-we-got-multiple-cameras scenario and bellowing sound – this, I think, is the film-makers version of an extended guitar solo played by an unaware man-child. ‘Wanking off’, a muso friend of mine used to say. I think there are loads of directors who have become over excited by the CGI and ‘exciting’ bits.

Maybe it has something to do with the director of this Wonder Woman being female? Maybe she just enjoys a good story? Maybe she is just a little more grown-up in the emotional department? Whatever the reason, it works.

I have to admit, I was also rather apprehensive about going to see this film. I love the comic book/super hero genre (see my earlier post on Female Super Heroes) But I grew up with that garish 1970’s WW, and have seen  very few women lead in an action film. (Yes, I know you’re going to name a couple. People always do, but balance it out against ALL the films you’ve ever seen – then go away)

I think directors and producers have become lazy when making this genre, after all they have a ready and willing audience who will go and view it whether its shite or not. Now, thousands of women, like me, of my age, must have been waiting for this film. Where ARE all the female comic/superheroes??? So again, a ready and willing – if cautious and cynical-by-now audience was waiting for this film. Thought’s that passed through my mind in the build-up and trailer overload included – ‘I bet it’ll be overly moralistic’. ‘If she’s showing her cleavage…’. ‘It’ll be something for the boys really’. And finally, ‘I bet it’s shit.’

I went with my 19 year old daughter – so a broad age range to cater to – I’m 52. We both enjoyed it (apart from the sound of crisp/sweetie/nacho crunching dolts that surrounded us) It was not shit. It was not ‘for the boys’ and I almost wept to see women, actual women not youngsters, playing seriously physical roles. The fight scene on the beach is truly astonishing and deeply sad. For no matter how fast you run, or strong you are – bullet beats bow every time.

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Let’s just take a look at those women –

Ages and Nationality

Robin Wright, plays Antiope – or should I say General Antiope! She trains and leads what could be termed, the militia of the Amazonian. She is hard as nails, can fight with fists, sword, and bow (in fact, she doesn’t even need a bow!!!)  And get this, best of all, Robin Wright is 51 years of age – I am just gonna have to say that again – FIFTY ONE people.

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Gal Gadot, plays Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Diana wants to be a warrior from very early childhood. She does not know, and we the audience learn as she does, that she is not quite like every other Amazonian (in fact, at the end of the film, Diana still does not know the full extent of her origins and abilities) Diana works hard; she strives for perfection and to impress the General; her Aunt. Gal Gadot is 32 years of age, not a ‘slip of a girl’. And best of all, she is NOT American!! Gadot is Israeli and I thank director, Patty Jenkins for making this decision.

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Not distracted by a pretty face, Diana that is.

 

Connie Nielson, plays Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother. She is regal, cool with a restrained passion. She is engaging as a loving mother and ruler, and you can feel her anger and pain as her only child makes the decision to leave their island home to head off with a man, to save the world of men.  Can you imagine the homecoming?! (I think I’m gonna cry) Two best of all’s; Connie Nielson is also 51 years old!  And she also is NOT American, she is Danish.

 

And some of the others –

Elena Anaya, plays Doctor Poison. She is Spanish and aged 41 years.

Lucy Davis, plays Etta Candy.  English and aged 44 years.

Lisa Loven Kongsli, plays Menalippe. Norwegian and is aged 37 years.

 

For me, a fantastic multi-cultural selection of women who are not girls.

 

That costume –

Some of you might remember that awful, hideous outfit that poor Linda Carter had to wear in the 1970s TV series of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Linda Carter
EW! No, really, ew!

But take a look at what Queen Hippolyta originally gave her daughter to wear in the earliest comics –

Gal Gadot’s costume seems to have had the current trend for ‘dark costumes’ applied to it. The semiotics are not lost on film buffs and media students – still the red, white and blue are evident for all to see.

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I have to be honest; I have an issue with American and how it perceives itself as the ‘policeman of the world’. It feels as though it foists its ideals on the rest of us.  Most of the superhero costumes bear the colours or imagery, or both, of the ‘good ‘ole US of A’. Except Batman (huh, never realised before, maybe THAT’S why he is my favourite) I balk at the way many costumes imply an association with a country and it’s values/governmental policies.  Captain America being most guilty of this – however, he is called Captain America.

And yes, I know other countries use red, white and blue as their flag colours – but we all know, don’t we, that ‘they’ mean America.

Another thing.  Superhero females, at least in comic art, are invariably ‘sexy’. They have the tightest fitting clothes in the history of clothes manufacturing. They have more curves than an Italian mountain road. Their breasts could act as twin dirigibles. Women have railed against this for so long, we’re hoarse.                                                                        In Wonder Woman 2017, Gadot’s costume has had the colours toned down,  and although we still see bare legs, arms and shoulder, it is not sexy (I guess some men would argue against that, but it isn’t out-and-out-here-it -is –for- the –male- viewers sexy)But that’s it. No cleavage in sight. Curves are mostly concealed. The Amazon ‘uniform’ is more reminiscent of the Spartans. Look at Hellenic period armour; the bare arms and legs, the leather ‘flaps’, the moulded breastplate. It is practical and believable, whilst remaining true to the original design.

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The physicality of this new Wonder Woman made evident in this lasso scene.

 

Sex –

There isn’t any. HALLELUJAH!

99.9999% of films have a romance. Dull, dull, dull. Men and women can and do have relationships without becoming sexually or romantically entangled. And yes, there is a suggestion of Diana and Steve being ‘interested’, but this is clearly more him fancying her. Diana is here to do a job, she is focused and love isn’t getting in the way. She may have grown up in a glorious paradise inhabited only by females, but she is not ignorant of how sex works, and even suggests that men have become irrelevant and unnecessary except for procreation.  Steve’s mental squirming is soon forgotten when they get to the nub of who is doing what in the war. Thank goodness.

 

The Men –

I suppose I should say something; I wasn’t going to write anything about the male stars at all. There’s enough information about ‘the great white male’ (as Grayson Perry puts it) without me adding.

So a quick nod to Chris Pine, Danny Huston and David Thewlis – the ‘good guy’, the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘badder guy’ in that order. Pine was great, Huston good, but, as much as I love Thewlis, he simply seemed wrong for the role of Ares.

 

Was it a great film? No, it was good; possibly in the Top 3 of this genre of films. Again down to lazy directors relying on a ready and willing audience, most of whom have become so desperate that there discerning monitor seems to have broken.

The storyline was simple, but that works as it is almost an ‘intro’ to Wonder Woman and her world. However, I did guess who was who quite easily.

It’s beautifully shot with the holiday brochure scenes of Themyscira; where you can almost smell the aroma of blossoms on the warm breeze, contrasting with the misery of brown and grey of London and the battlefront.

But I do believe this film will be talked about for years to come. When Sigourney Weaver first appeared as Ripley in Alien, a generation of women cheered and said ‘At last!”

Now I believe we are doing it again.

It is 2017 people.

50% of the world population is female.

Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero film since 2005, when Jennifer Garner played the lead role in Elektra.

And finally. Thank you Patty Jenkins.

Coming of Age

When I turned 18 (oh so long ago), I got extraordinarily drunk whilst at college. I spewed copious amounts of vomit around the girl’s toilets and had to be taken home by a member of staff and a student. My mother was confused – she did not recognise drunkenness when she saw it, my father thought it quite funny. I was ill for about three days. When I turned 21, my parents turned up at my university digs with a cake, my two main childhood toys (Tiny Tears and Teddy) and a bottle of champagne.

Fairly typical for Many UK young people on the cusp of adulthood; most people I know of my age, also got ridiculously drunk on their eighteenth birthdays. It seems to be the norm here. Celebrations dropped down to 16 after a while, so massive parties and lots of alcohol consumed, usually in the celebrants family home, but more and more people are hiring halls, or restaurants or clubs these days.

So when do we become an adult? What do we do to celebrate and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood? And why are the laws and customs regarding what a teen can and cannot do not unequal throughout England? It seems like other cultures have a handle on this, traditions which continue over the generations and are acknowledged by the whole community. You can have a tooth filled in Bali, do a land-dive in Pacific island of Vanuatu, or be beaten and scarred with the Fulani of Western Africa. But what do we do in England and when do we do it?

For those of you who are not English, let me fill you in –

  • The legal age of consent (to have sexual intercourse), is 16 years.
  • You can drink a beer, wine, or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant if you are with an adult, at 16 years.
  • You can get married with parental consent, at 16 years.
  • You can smoke, (but you cannot buy cigarettes or tobacco) at 16 years.
  • You can drive a vehicle ,at 17 years.
  • You can vote in Elections, at 18 years.
  • Now you can buy your own cigarettes, at 18 years.
  • The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol, 18 years.
  • The minimum age for enlisting in the UK armed forces is 16. Those who sign on when 16 or 17 must serve until they are 22.
  • Join the Royal Navy at 16 years; although that may vary for certain roles across the different branches. If you’re under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
  • Legally – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – a minor is a person under 18 years of age.
  • In London, under 11’s travel free on most public transport.
  • On most public transport across the UK, adult fares begin at 16 years.
  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you’re paying for adult tickets from the age of, 12 years.
  • Kids go free at Legoland, up to and including the age of 15 years.
  • In England, you must stay in full-time education, for example at a college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training, until you are 18 years.

 

So let’s have a quick re-cap. At 16 years of age you have to pay adult fares for theme parks and the like, you can smoke cigarettes, but NOT buy them. You can marry with parental consent (so presumably have children), you can join the military, which presumably involves in weapon training. BUT, you have to be with an adult to have a drink with a meal. You must remain in education and you cannot vote. Not forgetting, that legally, YOU ARE STILL REGARDED AS A MINOR. YOU ARE A CHILD! There is little, or no consistency.

Does this picture look skew-whiff to anyone else?! I have been boggled by the age issue since I was 13 years old and I was charged adult price for a ticket for Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum. I argued for ages with the guy on the counter:

“I’m not an adult”

“It’s adult for 13 and over.”

“I’m a school kid!”

“It’s adult.”

“But I’m not responsible enough to be an adult!”

I paid anyway – wanted to see the wax heads on sticks.

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Well it was scary then! Especially as I was alone, sans parents…

Can we not all agree on what age is the one true age of reaching adulthood? The complications are sometimes related to money. In the consumer age, corporations and conglomerates want your money, regardless of whether you earn any or not. This is a ludicrous situation. Not only can we not agree on set ages for ‘coming of age’, but we don’t now know when to celebrate. So, 16 years old’s celebrate that they have turned ‘Sweet 16’ (So What?! I cry), then 18 year old’s celebrate their ‘coming of age’ – as we have seen already, usually by getting very, very drunk.

Then along comes 21 years. This used to be the age recognised throughout the UK, when a child became an adult. This changed in 1970, in England (1969 in Wales and Scotland). It was a huge moment marked by celebrations, party, gifts and, a once well-known song.

Now we are being told that, mentally and emotionally, we are reaching adulthood around 25 years. So isn’t it about time to have parity across the board? If we are saying that people are minors/children until the age of 18, shouldn’t all laws and charges reflect this?

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx1D2asFSig

 

Having something definite to mark this passage provides us with a ‘mental landmark’, we all know where we stand. Make it a real celebration, something that is recognised by all, a ceremony of sorts. A Tradition.

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Princess Elizabeth on her 21st Birthday, choosing ‘one’s totty to take to the ball.

 

Jewish Coming of Age Tradition: Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Mazal Tov! Around the world, young Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith and recognize that they are now responsible for following Jewish law. After the religious ceremony, a reception  to celebrate the young person’s hard work and accomplishment takes place; as they have often spent weeks learning and preparing for this day.

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Health and safety not an issue, as youngster is jiggled up and down in the air.

Amish Coming of Age Tradition: Rumspringa

In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. It also recognises that youthful exuberance exists and needs to be allowed to happen. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26).

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And you thought they were dull !

 

 Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island

In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatise to the harsh arctic weather. As part of the tradition, a shaman would be called to open the lines of communication between men and animals. Nowadays, this tradition has been extended to young girls as well, as “out-camps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

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 Khatam Al Koran Coming of Age Tradition: Malaysia

In Malaysia, 11 is a special birthday for some Muslim girls, as it marks the time when they can celebrate Khatam Al Koran, a prestigious ritual that demonstrates their growing maturity at their local mosque. Girls spend years preparing for this day, reviewing the Koran so they can recite the final chapter before friends and family at the ceremony.

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Maasai Coming of Age TraditionTanzania and Kenya

The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys cannot flinch, because doing so would shame their families and discount their bravery.

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Jumping for joy – literally!

 

Japanese Coming of Age Tradition: Seijin-no-Hi

In Japan, the second Monday of January marks a special day- the day in which 20 year olds get to dress up in their finest traditional attire, attend a ceremony in local city offices, receive gifts, and party to their hearts’ content amongst friends and family. It’s their Coming of Age Festival, otherwise known as Seijin-no-Hi. The tradition started nearly 1200 years ago and recognizes the age when the Japanese believe youth become mature, contributing members of society (it’s also the time when they get to vote and drink).

Japan

 

It is interesting to note, that whilst I was searching for images to represent each culture’s way of celebrating this rite of passage – I could not find anything to represent the UK. There were very mixed images of different types of parties, the odd one of teens drinking or smoking, but no consistency – because we have no recognisable, traditional way to share and enjoy. This will have to suffice…

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EXAMS!!!!

Exams!

It’s that time of year again.

Exams!

The word can bring the usually stout of heart and joyous of personalities to a stuttering, heart-in-the-mouth, stomach-churning (occasionally pants-filling), halt.

exam Will

Thousands of young people across the UK will have sat, or be currently sitting these horrendous GCSE/A level/End of Year papers. My thoughts are with you guys.

But why do we do exams? For years I have gone along with the mentality that exams are there to assess how much we have learnt, to grade us for the next level of education, to see where our skills lie (academically) and so direct our employment options.

Imagine our ancient ancestors – ploughing the fields, milking the cows, thatching roofs, building homes, smithing your horse’s hooves, sewing your clothes, brewing ale, grinding corn and so on and so forth. Did they sit written exams? No. They didn’t, but managed to make, create, produce and thrive in a continuously moving environment.

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Er, obviously NOT going to be a bricklayer!

The problem lies with numbers; not those hated calculations involving equations and formulas – or that might just be me. I mean numbers of students. In the past, authentic assessment was the norm; we had apprenticeships; an expert would take on an apprentice, provide individualised training and constant feedback. Apprentices were evaluated on how well they applied the skills, not how well they answered a multiple-choice question. The tradition continues today; the construction industry being a point in question.

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Chinese students had to sit outside – is this what we are heading towards???!!!

But as the population grew, we needed a way to assess huge numbers of potentials. And now we have a kind of production-line mentality to education and exams. We go in one end, age 5 years (3 ½ if you go to pre-school), and come out the other aged 18 years, having sat numerous tests along the way: IQ tests, 11Plus, Aptitude, End of Year, SAT’s (thanks America!) Mocks, GCSE’s (O Levels if your over 40 years), A Levels. THEN, you can go to Further or Higher Education where you do further exams – or retake those English and Maths GCSE’s you failed at school.

exam stress
And we start them so young!

And this in an age where we talk about the individual; about how we’re each different, how we have differing needs, how we learn at different rates. So why the rigid, one-size-fits-all attitude?

And what do exams do anyway, besides stress us out? So you happen to be able to remember a bunch of information that someone spewed out for 10 months, so what? Just because you can pass a written exam, does not mean you will be successful in life, as a person – you know, the REAL important stuff?!

Should we be looking at a new way to educate people? What should we be educated in?

We’re so busy stuffing our heads with dates and measurements and names and so forth, that we do not stop to think what we should be learning about.

Education, after all means – the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university, “a course of education” (OED) Origin – Word Root of educate

The Latin word ducere, meaning “to lead,” and its form ductus give us the roots duc and duct. Words from the Latin ducere have something to do with leading. A duct is a tube that leads from one place or organ to another. To educate, or teach, is to lead to knowledge. To induce is to lead into a particular state. (Merriam-Webster)

 

So, instead of stuffing words, dates and formulae in, we should be spending half the time, drawing out from the pupil.

And anyway, who decided that if you don’t get the grades then you’ll never ‘make it’ in life. Let’s have a look at how some well-known people fared in their school exams and ask ourselves, Do we really need exams in the form they currently are anymore?

Imagine if every student across the land – every single one – refused to do their exams. On the same day, at the same time, they all agreed to down pens and refuse to take part in this pointless ritual that measures nothing but an individuals ability to regurgitate information in a given time frame…I wonder what would happen?!

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Failed his pasty eating exam…

 

Simon Cowell –Music Entrepreneur – left school with just 1 O Level.

Jon Snow– journalist/News Presenter – Grade C in English.

Lord Alan Sugar – Business Entrepreneur – 1 GCSE.

Sarah Millican – Comedian – D and E in her A Levels.

Jeremy Clarkson – TV Host – “If your A-level results aren’t joyous, take comfort from the fact I got a C and two Us. And I have a Mercedes Benz.”

 

…and extracts from some school reports of the good and the average:

 

“This boy will never get anywhere in life.”  Eric Morecombe, Comedian.

“Judi would be a very good pupil if she lived in this world.” Judi Dench, Actor.

“Certainly on the road to failure…hopeless…rather a clown in class…wasting other pupils’ time.” John Lennon, Musician.

“Inclined to dream. Could do better if he tried.” Nick Park, Animator.

“Jilly has set herself an extremely low standard which she has failed to maintain.” Jilly Cooper, Author.

“Constantly late for school, losing his books and papers….regular in his irregularity….” Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister 1940-1945/1951-1955

So you see, if at first you don’t succeed; become an entrepreneur, a comedian or a politician, can’t go wrong!

 

Oh, And

Good Luck! 

Feast of Words

In the light of recent cultural divisions, that have been happening across the world by various means, I decided to write of something that we all have in common – FOOD.

We all consume food, we even share similar palettes to people’s and cultures we may know little about, or think we have in common. Lemons, for example, are thought to originate in India and yet are eaten all over the world today. The pomegranate started out in Iran, and yet I can get them from my local supermarket. And oranges; one of my favourite fruits and bits of knowledge – Did you know – oranges come from South East Asia, they were first cultivated in China. The colour orange come from the fruit not the other way around. And why do we say, “Can I have an orange?” ? Because the fruit was originally called narange, a Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). As with many words, it became Anglicized, so from “Can I have a nāraṅge?” it morphed into ‘an orange’. How cool is that?!

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N.B: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. (See what I did there?!)

 

How are we divided? Tonnes has been said on that – let’s focus on what we ALL have in common; the need to consume, the joy of eating, the love of specific treats and delicacies. And what a culture does not/may not eat due to spiritual concerns can also show our similarities – Tim Minchin, comedian, wrote a song (He’s written quite a number of songs actually), about the similarity, rather than differences amongst the Muslim and Jewish folks called ‘Peace Anthem For Palestine’ – about how they both do not eat pork!

Sure, it’s a light-hearted, comedic foray into international politics (!!) BUT, essentially, he is talking about commonality through food.

Food really can bring people together. Hear the one about the Palestinian and the Israeli who used Hummus to aid refugees?                                   https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/how-hummus-brought-a-palestinian-and-an-israeli-together-to-help-refugees-in-berlin

I thought then;  writers have used food and drink in their stories over and over, to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place. What is sense of place? Wiki tells us – Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors.

We all have used the phrase at some time or another. However, if a fresh, tall glass of orange juice conjures up images of Californian sunshine and groves of fruiting trees sparkling in the morning dew – what of the origins of the orange? Doesn’t consuming food from across the globe begin to distort our idea of sense of place?! And maybe, rightly so.

I say embrace the commonalities. Drink French wine, whilst eating American raisins and roasting English lamb, followed by Iranian pomegranates and Italian ice-cream. Cue the extracts, oh, first let me say, ***SPOILER ALERT – after the Shakespeare quote, the passage selected from Patrick Suskind’s Perfume is the ending of the novel. So avoid if you have not read it. And if you have not read it – please do – a hideously delightful story, redolent with humans. Enjoy:-

 

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
  • “I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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  • “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
  • “I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines.”
  • “The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

              ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

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  • “Waiter: Would you like to hear today’s specials?

Patrick Bateman: Not if you want to keep your spleen.”

  • Our pasta this evening… is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth… with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale…and grilled free-range rabbit with herbed french fries. Our pasta tonight is a squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth.

God, I hate this place. It’s a chick’s restaurant. Why aren’t we at Dorsia ?”

― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

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  • “I saw her in the back-kitchen which opened on to the courtyard, in process of killing a chicken; by its desperate and quite natural resistance . . . it made the saintly kindness and unction of our servant rather less prominent than it would do, next day at dinner, when it made its appearance in a skin gold-embroidered like a chasuble, and its precious juice was poured out drop by drop as from a pyx.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

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  • The meal consists of limpid turtle soup laced with Madeira, blinis Demidoff with caviar, quails en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras and truffles in puff-pastry cases), a salad, cheeses, tropical fruits and a glistening baba au rhum, all accompanied by Champagne and fine wines.

― Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast

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  • ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well — ‘

‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’

‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

feast of words 6

 

  • “The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation… Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 feast of words 7

 

  • “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (shinny, is booze.)

―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

feast of words 8

 

  • ” “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?” However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”

―Herman Melville, Moby Dick

feast of words 9

 

  • “He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

―William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 feats of words 10

 

***

  • * “But to eat a human being? They would never, so they thought, have been capable of anything that horrible. And they were amazed that it had been so very easy for them and that, embarrassed as they were, they did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience. On the contrary! Though the meal lay rather heavy on their stomachs, their hearts were definitely light. All of a sudden there were delightful, bright flutterings in their dark souls. And on their faces was a delicate, virginal glow of happiness. Perhaps that was why they were shy about looking up and gazing into one another’s eyes. When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances and then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of love.”
  • Patrick Süskind, Perfume

The Raven Dane Interview

Raven Dane is an award-winning author of steampunk, dark fantasy, alternative history and horror fiction. Her first novels were in the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series;
Blood Tears, Blood Lament, Blood Alliance. These are dark fantasy/alternative history/SF novels about a non human race of vampires who most definitely do not sparkle!

In 2009, Endaxi Press launched The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire, Raven’s scurrilous and most definitely adult spoof of all things High Fantasy. A fairy tale for grown ups with a sense of humour.        

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/287640.Raven_Dane

Described as The Gothmother, Raven Dane is all things Gothic. With a ‘taste’ for vampire’s and ghosts, poison and dark fantasy, she has entertained readers of all ages with creations from her inky quill (I’m absolutely convinced she uses a real quill and ink!). She also enjoys dressing up in Victorian Gothic clothing for Steampunk conventions, and has a wicked sense of humour.

 

RD6

Hi Raven, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Flailing?  Sounds very energetic …lol!   I used to find myself frantically plate-spinning, trying to balance work, bringing up my son, looking after my mares and writing. These days, I sort of crawl between time spent writing and  the necessities of real life and my ever welcome duvet. Wish I had the energy for flailing now!

 

  1. Raven, you’re well-known for writing supernatural stories. There is the Cyrus Darian series and Legacy of the Dark Kind series, plus many more. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?

I have always loved SF and dark fantasy.   I was a precocious early reader as a child and devoured books at a fast rate. I used to sit on the floor by my parent’s book case and read works by Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, especially the Canterville Ghost.  That story terrified me; it wasn’t until I re-read it as an adult that I realised what a poignant, sweet story it really was. In those early days I was definitely drawn to the dark side. My brother and I used to sneak downstairs late at night and peak through a gap in the living room door and frighten ourselves with Quatermas, SF and old horror films. Later when we were older and could watch what we wanted, we loved the old black and white Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as well as Hammer horror  and old SF films like The Trollenberg Terror. And of course, Doctor Who which I have watched since the very first episode, usually from behind a cushion.   Today my love affair with horror and dark fantasy has not dimmed. I am not a fan of gory fiction (unless it is something by Sam Stone, who adds style and great characters to the genre). The same goes for torture porn like the Saw films and  the growing in popularity extreme horror books, they are not for me.  I do enjoy creepy ghost stories; I am a huge fan of Susan Hill and M R James novels and their film adaptations. Ghost stories in a Victorian setting are a favourite for me to write. Other favourites include dark fantasy like Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, his two Hellboy films and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

 

RD10

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?

That’s a tough one. I have a special affinity with horses and love cats, wolves and ravens.  I would have to choose a dragon though, for its magical nature, grandeur, its ability to soar to distant, exotic realms and to incinerate anything and anyone who gets in its way.

dragon-07
Editors beware!

 

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? What did you do with your first advance?

Did you splash out on something exotic with your first pay cheque?

Not my first pay cheque or advance. My other half has supported my writing all our married life and allowed me to work as full time writer for many years. It has been a struggle and we have gone without the material things that many people have thought essential in life, like holidays, big, new TVs and modern cars.  So anything I have earned has gone straight into the household running costs. I did however, treat myself to a huge golden velvet dragon made by a lovely lady in the US.  Total extravagance though!

Oh, and after a successful morning’s book sales at an Asylum weekend, I treated myself to a gorgeous black pirate ship hat, very steamgoth, very me. I have had so much fun and use out of that hat, it was worth every penny.

 

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I was blessed to be taught English literature by a lovely lady called Miss Curry. She was not far off retirement when she had the tough job getting our lively class through the GCE’s for O and A levels but she introduced us to wonderful things. The powerful emotional impact of the War Poets like Rupert Brook and  Siegfried Sassoon, the ravishing beauty of the English language from  poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I think the most powerful moment for me personally was the first book that made me cry, to really weep as if for a person I actually knew…and that was The Ship Who Sang by Anne MacCaffrey. If the fate of fictional characters can move me to mourn, than what better proof of the power of language?

 

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is vitally important to me, whatever I am writing. I tend to research as I write as I never plan a book in advance. Some writers are planners, others fly by the seat of their pants and get straight to work with no idea of where the story will go. I am a definite pantser. Research can take me more time than writing sometimes but I think it is essential.  I spent all afternoon recently researching a historical find that I mentioned in just one line of a book. Even in the most fantastical setting, research can give a depth and believability to a story , anything less is cheating the reader with shallow, implausible storytelling.

 

  1. Cyrus Darian is a rather unusual name, how do you select the names of your characters?

Some come to me instantly as if been channelled from another dimension. Others can be a nightmare and get changed many times throughout the writing process. Thank goodness for my friend, the search and replace thingie on Microsoft Word.  Cyrus Darian was a bit of a blend between the two. I decided he was Persian, so being named after a great Persian king of antiquity suited his vanity. Darian came into my head as a nice sounding name. I used my other friend, Google to see if it meant anything and discovered it was a town in Iran. Perfect. Mind you, it might not be his real name, Cyrus lies all the time and uses many aliases.

 

  1. To date, what has been your hardest scene to write?

The hardest was also the easiest…if that makes any sense.  The end of a story arc for one of my favourite characters was always going to end badly for him. He had become more than someone fictional but a very real presence in my life, so knowing how it had to end was deeply emotional for me. But the scene wrote itself, confirming it was the right plot thread for the culmination of a trilogy. Not saying any more…Spoilers!

 

  1. If you were not a writer, and you could be anything else in the world, what career/vocation would you choose?

I love any form of creativity so always drawn to arts and crafts but I have no talent and anything I do is just for the pleasure of making things.  I was always a good actor as a teenager, I was the annoying little madam who always got the main female role in all the school drama productions which were almost always Shakespeare. I was the only child for years that was encouraged by the teachers to go into acting much to the ongoing annoyance of my younger sister who was at the same school and  did become an actress. Her teachers suggested a career as a secretary for her.  A mixture of a sense of family duty and the need to earn regular money took me on another path, journalism and later fiction writing. I take part in amateur dramatics now and thoroughly enjoy being on stage…I love to make people laugh… or boo, when playing the baddie in Panto.

Or be one of those smiling ladies in sparkly clothes riding a dancing pure white Spanish stallion in a circus….

 

  1. Have you ever had what one might call, a supernatural experience or event occur in your life? If so, would you care to share it with us? If not, which figure from history would you like to receive a visit from?

So many!  I am very attuned to the presence of earth bound spirits since a child. I wish I wasn’t to be honest. It is not something I can switch off and has led to many uncomfortable times in the past. My present home is totally spirit free which is so relaxing!  The worse one was an encounter with an angry, aggressive spirit in an old farmhouse where I worked. Young students at the riding school lived there and though we never told them about it to avoid hysteria, he was always targeting the youngest females, trying to frighten them. One day, when the house was empty for a couple of hours, I went in and ended up being pushed down the stairs. I could feel the imprint of strong fingers digging into my shoulders.  In 1995, there was a big fire there, no one was hurt but the oldest part of the house was burnt down. All the spirit activity stopped and never returned.

 

11 And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Oooh….a tough one, I have so many. The first one that sprang to mind was  the fantasy novel, Elidor by Alan Garner. I loved it and he is an early influence on my writing.

RD elidor

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Raven.

 

 

RD

 

Raven’s most recent work is included in, Trumpocalypse; an anthology of satirical horror from authors on both sides of ‘the pond’.

RDtrump

 

 

You can find Raven at   http://ravendane.blogspot.co.uk/  and her books to order from all good bookshops, on Amazon or direct from Telos Publishing. At the moment her books published by Endaxi Press are only available as eBooks.

Sex…(That got your attention didn’t it?!)

 

N.B: Possible sensitive material. (Depending on how sensitive you are.)

Sex sells.

Forget your Game of Thrones romps in Peter Littlefinger’s brothel, or the gyrations of any number of women – and occasional men, in music videos, or that 1990’s bra advert – ‘Hello Boys.’

You know by now that I like to have an occasional rant  – and if you don’t then you haven’t been following properly! *smiles coyly – or you have only just started following.

I wanted to rant about sex, no not the lovely smushy, let’s-get-this-party-started kind of sex, but the kind that is used to make you (and me I suppose, sometimes, but I like to think I’m-above-that-kind-of-thing) buy stuff.

Are advertisers bastards? Or are we just dumb animals that allow our baser instincts drive the click-pay-send-buy cycle? It’s all over the show: perfume and aftershave adverts, clothing, cars, ad infinitum. But what bugs me most? Music videos! Music videos that contain endless yards of naked, semi-naked, sweaty, oiled, writing flesh. And guess what? There’s no age limit on them like films have, so television channels can show them at 8:30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when you want a lie-in, and your little kids are up and about. And what do little kids do when alone? (Ew, not that!) Yep, they watch the box, unsupervised (‘cos you got pissed the night before and have to lie still in a darkened room so you don’t vomit all over the place – or is that just me?)

Your kids are watching soft porn people!!!!

But before we all get carried away, this post isn’t about soft porn (though I know some people will wish it was). I have been noticing semi-clad images all over the show except one place – literature (NO! Not that kind of literature) I’m talking about fiction writing and the covers that bind them.

Sex sells.

petyr baelish
Petyr Baelish, fondling those exquisite pages.

Which brings me back to Game of Thrones; or should I say books in general. Although there is an insanely wild amount of sex in G.O.T, the covers tell a different story, because it’s all about politics, not sex. There are those books that have a suggestion of sex on the covers; prime example is Jilly Cooper and all those jolly gals and boys who ride horses, play polo and live in a foreign country as far as I’m concerned. And maybe an open shirt or two revealing a male chest to titillate the middle-aged, middle-class reader. And then there is the brigade of women writers and readers (and I guess some blokes) who read romance. Ah, romance; roses, wine, softly scented kisses, you’re kidding aren’t you?!

 

image001.jpg

It was not always so. For your delectation, I have trawled through acres of yellowing-dog-eared-slightly whiffy pages to present to you some fine, and cringe worthy, examples of how sex has been selling literature for decades. From the 1920’s through to the current day, I give you, how sex sells literature…

sex 1928
Ladies in Hades. 1928

 

What Aldous Huxley would have made of this cover, God only knows!

sex 1963
Teacher’s Pet. 1963
sex 2011
In Bed With a Highlander. 2011
sex 2012
Taking a Shot. 2012
sex 2013
First Strike. 2013

And my favourite; even though it is a parody…

sex spoof

You can find more romance parody book covers at – https://www.flickr.com/photos/verybigjen/sets/489555/

Feel the need of a scrub down now. Have a great day y’all.

The Sam Stone Interview

Good Morning readers.

Today I would like to introduce you – if you’re not already familiar with her work – to Sam Stone; horror/fantasy writer. Another hugely prolific author with an impressive resume of novels, novella’s, short stories, a screenplay and editorials under her belt. Winner of multiple awards; including the 2011 British Fantasy Society Awards for Fool’s Gold. She writes poetry and prose and is even a radio host on SirenFM. Modest and polite, even if she does write of horror and occasional gore, just don’t cut her up on the motorway – you may end up in her next story!

Award winning author Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.                                                                                                                        http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1681383.Sam_Stone

 

Hi Sam, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

A: And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

S: All the time! That’s what being a writer is all about! We don’t just make up fiction, we’re all winging it in the real world too. 🙂

SS KatOnAHotTinAirship

A: What were you like as a child?

S: I guess I was a quiet, studious child. I was always hiding in a corner somewhere reading a book. But for all that, I hated reading aloud to my teachers. I found it embarrassing and I stumbled over my words. As a result they thought I couldn’t read well and gave me extra reading lessons. All of which I really enjoyed!! I also loved to sing, and my sister Adele and I used to sing together all the time. I was always too shy to actually get up and perform and usually avoided being involved in school plays because I would just get too nervous. I hated feeling like that and so I always stayed in the background as much as possible.

 It would probably surprise you to know that most of the time I still feel like hiding!

 

A: We have met a number of times now; through Steampunk, and you are always polite, always smiling, always giving of your time to fans of your work. Are you ever angry? Do you ever swear? And what would it take to make you do either of those things?!

 S: I love to talk to people and meet them at events. I’m eternally grateful for anyone continuing to buy my books and support my work. As any creative person should be. So when I hear about how obnoxious other writers or media celebs can be that makes me angry. Without their readers or fans they wouldn’t be anywhere would they?

I get a bit angry whenever I’m not having time to write. I find writing cathartic and so when I’m not writing for any length of time I become a little bit moody and frustrated. Even a bit depressed to be honest.  Writing makes me happy. I’m a very sociable person but I love my own space.

 I do sometimes suffer from road rage. My husband, David, says I have ‘driving’ tourettes!! Other drivers can be bad-mannered and they really annoy me!! I dislike someone tailgating me. I detest them using bullying tactics to shove you out of the way. It’s just so rude. It makes me cross that some people think that their journey is more important than yours, and that you have no right to be using ‘their’ road.

 But real anger – rude people. Ignorance. I hate it when people criticise other people without actually knowing anything about their circumstances. Bullies make me angry. Cyber-bullies especially because they usually hide under false names. Some things that people say online is totally inappropriate – the way they treat others is unacceptable. They would never say or do these things face to face. But it’s okay for them to do it behind their computer screen. Cowardly for sure.  No one person is better than anyone else and everyone deserves to be treated with respect no matter who or what they are.

SS Whats Dead Pussycat

 

A: What does literary success look like to you?

S: Success is always somewhere way above my head and out of reach. Even the most successful authors think this. All you can do is strive to write the best you can. Reading should be fun and as long as people continue to buy and enjoy my work, then I have all of the success I need.

SS zombiesinnewyork

 

A: Sam, you’re well-known for writing in the horror genre, you have ‘Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings’; a collection of short stories and poems that walk firmly on the dark side, and ‘Killing Kiss’, amongst others. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?

S: Growing up I loved Hammer horror movies. This led onto me reading horror, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice. I enjoy a good Zombie movie now. Love watching horror that’s fun rather than bloody. I’m not into torture porn at all, even though I’ve written some pretty gruesome stuff in the past. I don’t really like non-supernatural horror much either. So no home invasion films for me! I think horror should be something that you can use to help exorcise and face fears and phobias but, for example, the claustrophobic The Descent was a bridge too far even for me! Which is why I personally prefer supernatural horror, because it’s easier to have the scare thrill but you don’t carry it with you for long afterwards.

 I do enjoy watching a variety of different types of fiction these days. Horror is something of a busman’s holiday to me sometimes. But I love  IZombie, Santa Clarita Diet, Outlander (Historical Romance – but quite gruesome in places!), Lucifer (Comedy) and I recently bought the box set of a series called Revenge.

SSThe Descent
So exploring caves is NOT on Sam’s To-Do-List. The Descent 2005.

 

A: You also write Steampunk novels, Kat Lightfoot being the eponymous heroine of many of these. Can you tell us how Kat came to be, and did anyone in the ‘real’ world influence her character development?

S: My daughter, Linzi Gold, was actually the basis for the personality of Kat in the first book. They were both the same age and Linzi is funny and strong and really sparky. Naturally Kat has evolved and become completely her own thing now. But how the character was initially created came from the title of the book Zombies  At Tiffany’s which David suggested to me. It shaped all of the characters: Kat was Audrey Hepburn in looks for example.

SS Zombies at Tiffanys

A: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

S: Writing definitely energises me. Although when I’ve had a particularly busy day and I’ve written 5-8000 words, I’m a little bit spaced out! David gives me a glass of wine and I’m soon back to normal, and back in this world and not in the one I’m creating.

SS Darkness Within CreateSpace

 

A: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing your own pieces?

S: As a teen I loved the Angelique series of books written by Sergeanne Golon. They were epic historical romances and I did cry when one of the main characters died in that series.

 

A: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?

S: A wolf. Wolves are pack animals when they need to be but like solitude too. They always protect their young, and I am by nature a very nurturing person. I always look out for others – even when I know they wouldn’t do it for me.

SS wolf
The Wolf : a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty,

 

A: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

S: Oh yes! I often kill off people that have done something vicious to me, and believe me it has to have been bad for that to happen because I’m a very forgiving person. The clue to who they are would be in the description I give of them. But there are also lots of hidden meanings to things too because I do reflect on human nature quite a lot.

SS The Vampire Gene Book 1 Killing Kiss

A: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

S: I don’t really have one. I didn’t enjoy young fiction at all when I was young. The stories we were forced to read were all fairly boring. I only enjoyed reading once I discovered adult books. The Collector by John Fowles was the first one I read. Then after that it was anything I could get my hands on that was grown-up or scary.

 

Thank you, Sam, for taking part.

 

 

*You can find Sam at www.sam-stone.com, and her books in all good book stores, and online retailers or visit www.telos.co.uk for signed copies.