Saturday, 29 November 2014

'You Suck' and the Controversy Surrounding It

A 32 year old Single Girl’s perspective on Abigail Breslin’s You Suck and the controversy surrounding it.

I say “controversy”. First-world teenagers are upset.

When teenagers get upset about something their entire world is thrown into absolute turmoil. It’s so easy to be harsh and overly critical of this, but honestly their world is small. That sounds harsh. I mean their world is small – but it should be. They are at the stage between being children and being adults and it’s a hard stage. It’s hard to balance the shifting levels of dependence and responsibility. There is a lot of growing and learning required before you can approach the wider world with adult sensibilities – and that is supposing that these teens are surrounded by sensible people who are giving them tools to become functional adults, which is supposing a lot. At the same time teenagers think that they have already achieved levels of maturity which they... well, they haven’t. But they won’t realise this until they, too, are 32 and looking at teenagers being teenagers. Trust me.

By the way, I am so grateful that social media is a new phenomenon. There is no digital record of every dim-witted and nasty thing I’ve ever said which could potentially affect my future employment or relationship prospects. Teenagers today are not so lucky.

Yesterday I listened to Abigail Breslin’s first song You Suck, and it made me smile several times. I got right into the boppy pop vibe and I related to the quirky lyrics. It’s a little bit Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, a little bit Pink’s So What, a little bit Hilary Duff’s So Yesterday, a little bit Miley Cyrus’s 7 Things I Hate About You, a whole lot of Avril Lavigne’s songs... In short I thought it was a fun song and I related to it on a personal level. It’s exactly the song you write in the heat of the moment when someone hurts you and you are young and probably still pretty inexperienced with romance. Abigail is still only 18, and while she has been working as an actress since she was very young she is still young. Is it immature to say ‘yeah, well you’re a dumbass anyway and I hope all your hair falls out!’ to someone who broke your heart? Yeah it is. Of course it is. But it’s absolutely what we do; even we supposedly mature adults have those moments. And that is what this song is. It’s that moment.

After I listened to the song I saw it was trending and found out why. Teenage fans have had their idol (allegedly) besmirched and they are angry. And hey, I get it. I was in love when I was a teenager. He was a boy in a famous band and I was a teenaged nobody. We never met, but I knew it was real. He was amazing, and flawless, and beautiful, and if someone had written a song about how he’s really a giant butthole who uses girls then I would’ve gone ahead and written a nasty song right back at them. Like I said, social media wasn’t around back then so most of my thoughts and feelings ended up as song lyrics. Some of those actually earn me a few extra dollars in royalties now, so it worked out. And yes, at least one of those songs was inspired by my love for... let’s just call him Band Boy and leave it at that. It’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to. Back to the subject at hand.

I don’t know Abigail personally and I don’t know Michael Clifford either. There is every possibility that the song isn’t even about him, although the evidence is pretty compelling. So I’m going to leave conjecture out of it and talk about my personal experience, my personal reactions to some of things I’ve read that have been directed at Abigail, and why the song resonated with me.

Firstly, just because the song has been released now doesn’t mean it was written now. I can see why people may assume that but some odd accusations have come out of this assumption and it’s probably not accurate.

Secondly, dating and relationships are incredibly complicated and there is no way to know what is going on/has gone on between two people from the outside. Just because two people “weren’t even in a relationship” doesn’t mean someone wasn’t lied to and even cheated on. This has happened to me and it’s a fairly common manipulation tactic. Let’s take two people and call them Bob and Anna. Now Anna likes Bob, and Bob does sort of like Anna, but he doesn’t want to commit to her in an exclusive relationship. He knows that if he is honest to Anna about this he won’t be able to get anything out of her, so he says something to her along the lines of “I would love to be with you, but I’m really dedicated to my work right now.” Or maybe “You’re someone I see myself with, but I’m still getting over my recent break-up and I just can’t right now”. So Bob keeps Anna in this quasi-relationship holding pattern because he knows whenever he feels like having some time with her he can call and Anna will come running, but since they’re not a couple he is not obliged to be there for her in return. And Bob can do the same thing with Caroline and Danielle at the same time and that’s fine because it’s not like Anna is his girlfriend. Then if Erica comes along and Bob decides to make Erica his girlfriend and Anna, Caroline, and Danielle get upset with him then they don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s not like he promised them anything, why would they be upset? I’m not saying this is what happened to Abigail, just that these lyrics reminded me of my Bob experiences. Not technically being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t culpable for damage they have done.  

Thirdly, it’s possible for someone to be a really nice, sweet person to everyone in public and a total jerk to people close to them in private. There are countless examples. Fans won’t ever know unless someone speaks out and when someone does speak out fans are inevitably the most vocal detractors of their claims. And that is understandable. It is very difficult to separate admiration for an artist’s work from admiration of the artist. Most people can’t. It’s disillusioning. How can someone who created work that is beautiful, and meaningful, and beloved behave in an abhorrent manner? Though it is possible to admire someone on a professional level while disliking them on a personal level most people do not separate these out. Fans put artists on pedestals, but they are human beings and they have flaws. Acknowledging these flaws doesn’t make you a bad fan. It doesn’t even have to detract from your feelings for their art. Frankly, as far as flaws go, being a jerk to girls is low on the scale of things other fan bases have had to come to terms with.

Fourthly, I can’t find any quotes from her claiming that this is a song to empower women. I don’t know why people think this was something she said? The closest I’ve found was an article that had the words ‘girl power’ in it, but that came from the writer of the article and wasn’t a quote.

I will say though that I’m against the term ‘like a girl’ being used as an insult, so I was disappointed to hear it used in this song which I otherwise enjoyed.

Obviously if this song wasn’t believed to have been about anyone in particular, there wouldn’t have been this backlash. Backlash is the wrong word, because what is actually happening here is an online harassment campaign. This song doesn’t warrant that. That is a fan over-reaction. It is ok to dislike the song. It is ok to say that you don’t like it for whatever reason. It’s not ok to dish out such hatred. And no, it isn’t justified, because it isn’t equal to her song. Abigail does not hope that someone dies, for example. Also the song is not actually directed at someone. Even if you believe without doubt that it is about someone specific she never made that explicit and, as far as I know, never said these things to that person directly. There is a difference between expressing a negative view of someone through a song and saying horrible things to someone directly. I’ve also noticed that people complain that this is a song putting down his physical appearance, but they seem to have missed the main complaint about him; the core of the song: He used her and he lied to her.

I’d also like to point out that the song is actually pretty tame. It’s really very tame for a break up song. In my day we sang along to Alanis: “Every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it...” Now that song has some solid antagonism behind it. Abigail is really just blowing a raspberry at a boy who hurt her.

Hey, we’ve all been there. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

15 Halloween Movies for Non-Horror Folk

Not a fan of full-fledged horror, but looking for some suitable Halloween viewing? Your best bet is to avoid the straight-up horrors and go for some genre-blending fare. Below (in no particular order) are 15 of my personal recommendations for fun Halloween films that won't keep you awake all night.

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
The movie based on the musical which was based on the 1960's movie. A florist in the poor part of town becomes the focus of national attention when they begin displaying a most unusual and bloodthirsty plant.

Gremlins (1984)
A father gives his son a unique pet for Christmas. It isn't long before he breaks the rules and all hell breaks loose.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Both a Halloween movie and a Christmas movie, with the added bonus of being kid-friendly. The residents of Halloween Town kidnap Santa claus and take over Christmas.

Beetlejuice (1988)
The cult classic of a deceased couple who enlist the help of Beetlejuice to rid their home of it's new, living, owners.

Ghostbusters (1984)
Who ya gonna call when paranormal entities collude to bring about the destruction of humanity?

The Birds (1963)
Hitchcock's classic. A seaside town is besieged by unexplained bird attacks.

The Addams Family (1991)
Conmen try to infiltrate this mysterious and spooky family by posing as their long-lost Uncle Fester.

The Lost Boys (1987)
A family move to a new town where a gang of teenage vampires rule the night.

The Faculty (1998)
A late nineties teen black comedy/horror/sci-fi full of sparklingly quotable dialogue. A group of high school students discover an alien life-form is taking over their school one human puppet at a time.

The Frighteners (1996)
Michael J. Fox sees dead people and a deceased serial killer continues his work from beyond the grave.

House of Wax (1953)
This is actually a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and has very little in common with the 2005 slasher of the same name. Vincent Price is wax work artist with a sinister secret to making his art so very lifelike.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The newly-engaged Brad and Janet get a flat tire near the home of Dr Frank-N-Furter on the night he is unveiling his newest creation...

Troll 2 (1990)
The poster child for so-bad-it's-good. Despite the name it does not actually have anything to do with the first Troll film. Nor does it actually contain any trolls whatsoever.

The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1962)
A mad scientist keeps his fiancĂ©’s head alive in his lab while he searches for a suitable new body for her. Meanwhile something in a locked room is trying to break out.

Zombieland (2009)
A road trip movie WITH ZOMBIES! After the zombie plague has wiped out most of the population of the world a college student makes his way home across the USA, with a little help from his new-found friends.

Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween!

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Single Girls’ Guide: Yes I Mean It When I Say I Want This

There is not one thing, not one single thing, that every human being in the world enjoys. Not one single thing. And yet it seems to be generally thought that every person in the world wants a relationship. After all, there are so many possible varieties of relationship it seems ridiculous to think that anyone would not want any of them. Surely at least one of the many different incarnations of romantic love would appeal? It’s just so common a belief that if someone is alone then it is supposed that it simply means that they haven’t found someone to be with yet. If they say they are not looking it’s usually met with “Oh, but one day you’ll just meet someone and then...” or “You’re young now, you’ll change your mind as you get older...”

Now I’m not 100% totally saying I never will, not because I have a sense of remorse, it’s just because absolutes are fraught with danger. Like assuming that someone will eventually want a relationship because “everyone does”. That is an example of an absolute.

I feel the need to reiterate that I chose to be single and I mean it and, gasp, I like it because today is Valentine’s Day. The day when it is assumed that anyone who is single should be sad and crying and feeling all desperate and alone. We live in a society where people are regularly divided into ‘Have’ and ‘Have-Not’ and the ‘Have’ folks are always deemed to be superior. The ‘Have-Not’ are presumed to be wanting to ‘Have’.

However being single is not a temporary state that everyone is seeking to modify. Some people – a lot of people – like me, have chosen it. And by chosen I do not mean we’ve resigned ourselves to our lonely fate. It’s not some irrational knee-jerk emotional reaction. I’m not too lazy to put the effort in. I haven’t given up because I’ve been too hurt.

When I say I’ve chose to be single I mean that I have thought about past relationships, guys I liked that I’d wish I’d had relationships with, what I would want from a relationship should I have one, what I want from life in general, what my goals and plans are, I’ve read a number of relationship advise books, even read a bunch of parenting books, looked at all that information, thought long and hard about how I felt about all these things and made a decision.

It’s a decision that I feel is right for me. It is a decision that I feel happy and comfortable with. It is a decision that I do not doubt or regret, even on a day like Valentine’s Day. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Single Girl's Guide to Eating Varied Dinners on a Budget

Two things about me: One - I am a creature of habit and will go on doing something for ages before I will stop and ask myself if there is a better way. Two – Most of the time I need to have figured things out for myself in order to know what works best for me.

Growing up I used to help out with the cooking on a regular basis which was making dinner for a family of 6. When I started living on my own I kept these cooking habits and used to make the same quantity of food – ie a spag bol or stir fry for 6, and then portion it out into microwave/freezer safe containers. This meant that I was eating the same thing for dinner all week. (Or I’d freeze some, cook a few nights in the week, then live off frozen left-overs for a while.)

 This method suited me in that I would have only one or two nights a week when I actually cooked (with the subsequent large amount of washing up). Even though I do love cooking I like to not have to worry about it on work nights or busy nights or nights when I’m late home. The problem is that having the same thing every night for dinner can feel a little boring. Going out for dinner or buying ‘dinner for one’-type frozen meals are expensive alternatives – it is a far cheaper option to buy raw ingredients in bulk and cook for yourself.

After about 5 years of in-bulk style cooking with the occasion extravagance of take-away I finally hit upon an idea. There was a way to cook in bulk and still have a different meal every night. I would use the same base ingredient to cook 5 different dinners at the same time.

I should state here that I am not a vegetarian and also don’t have any dietary requirements. Everyone should feel free to take this basic idea and make it their own. Also I don’t doubt that other people out there already do this, but I haven’t seen it anywhere and the below experiments are all my own.  

Experiment One

For my first experiment I settled on chicken. I pulled out about 500g (I buy meat in bulk and freeze in 500g lots). I put aside 2 good-sized fillet pieces and then diced the rest.

I made little foil trays for the fillets. On one I put strips of ham, slices of tomato and some cheese. On the other I put lemon juice and some butter. I put these under the grill.

At the same time I browned the diced chicken in a pan on the stove top, then split the chicken into 3 equal amounts in 3 pans. To one pan I added honey and wholegrain mustard. To another I added teriyaki marinade. To the third I added sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce. While I was doing this I cooked rice in the microwave.

It was more or less at this point that I realised the frozen mixed vegetables I thought I had that I’d been planning to add to the chicken stir-fries had actually already been consumed and I had neglected to buy more. I had bought plenty of fresh salad-type vegetables so decided that I would just have salad as a side with everything.

Butter Chicken Fillet, Chicken with Ham, Cheese and Tomato, Honey Mustard Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken, and Sweet Chilli Soy Chicken.

And just like that I had five single serve meals ready for the week ahead. It took me less than half an hour (more or less the usual dinner-cooking time) and only added a couple of extra small saucepans and spoons to my washing up. I could plate-up, cling-wrap and fridge or container and freeze them. And I had my choice of dinner with no more fuss than my usual routine.

Note that it is best to freeze anything you don't intend to eat within the next few days. 

Experiment Two

If I’m not eating chicken for dinner it’s a pretty safe bet I’m eating minced beef. These I frequently bulk buy as they are pretty versatile and I also find them incredible tasty. With mince I saw an opportunity to be even more diverse than in my first experiment and I spent some time flicking through recipe books and jotting down notes reducing ‘serves 4’ recipes to single serve.

Interesting note, my mother actually taught me fractions by getting me to halve or double recipes while cooking and it is one area of maths that I always did quite well in. Demonstrating once again that I learn best by doing. Ok back to the mince.

I did a lot more with this second experiment, yet it didn’t take that much longer, just over 45 mins, I think. However before I began I had carefully planned out what I needed to do. However next time I’m also going to make sure everything is peeled, grated, sliced and maybe even measured out before I begin cooking (like someone on a cooking show.)

Taking about 500g of mince I split off about 2/5 of this into a bowl and added some grated onion, egg, and breadcrumbs. I rolled tablespoons of this mixture into 6 balls and then rolled the rest into one large ball and flattened it down into a patty. 

I then peeled three medium potatoes, sliced 2 of them into fries and diced the other. I coated the fries in olive oil. I then sliced a peeled green apple in half, grated one half and diced the other. (With the diced apple I added some thickened cream and cinnamon then rolled it up in some puff pastry and made a quick and easy single serve strudel for dessert. Which reminds me; mug brownies are also a great single-serve dessert.)

I put the fries, meat balls and meat patty onto trays and put them in the oven to cook.

I browned the rest of the grated onion with the rest of the mince and then divided this into 3 pans as I had done before with the chicken. At the same time I cooked enough spaghetti for 2 serves.  

Into one pan of mince I added the potato, grated apple, ½ teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of flour, 1 & ½ tablespoons of stock and 2 & ½ tablespoons of water and ½ teaspoon of apricot jam. (I added a bit more water as it cooked to keep it tender and prevent it from drying out.)

To another pan I added about 1/3 jar of bolognaise sauce.

To the third I added a bit of water and a little crushed garlic then sprinkled on chilli powder, paprika, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

I used soft tacos rather than hard as they freeze better. I also always freeze my bread, and my hamburger buns. To serve I topped the meatballs off with several spoonfuls of the bolognaise sauce, and had taco sauce/salsa for the tacos, along with all the usual toppings.  

So here we are once again I have five different meals ready for me to reheat and add salad/frozen vegetables, toppings for the tacos and etc.

Burger with Fries, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Soft Tacos, Curried Mince, and Spaghetti Bolognaise.   

Mmmm Tasty burger and fries for dinner!

Monday, 4 November 2013

I've Always Wanted To Do A Little Modelling

I’ve never dreamed of being a famous supermodel or strutting down catwalks or gracing the pages of fashion magazines. I still don’t dream of these things. But I have always thought it would be fun to be able to say “why yes, I have done a little bit of modelling...” just on the off-chance somebody should one day ask.

The problem is that I have long hated photos of myself. I hated photos of myself because I hated the way I look. I hated the way I look because I had (have) low self-esteem and a poor self-image. But I’ve been working very hard at changing that for however-many years (becuase it isn't something you should just accept about yourself, it is something you can actively change to a certain extent) and I have started to come to a place where I accept myself and (shock, horror) actually like myself. At least a satisfactory portion of the time. While I am still gathering together my thoughts on THAT very personal journey I can say I am in a place where I feel comfortable enough to be in front of a camera when the occasion calls for it. I should be clear here, doing a bit of modelling for people did not improve my self esteem, but rather I felt good about saying yes because my self-esteem had already improved.

Modelling job the first: My sister is getting close to finishing her diploma and needed models for her portfolio. And so I got to take a foray into the swinging sixties! With one of Mum’s old bridesmaids dresses and my sister's amazing hair and makeup prowess I was transformed. While I have had hair and makeup done before (for weddings) I wouldn’t say I’m used to the experience. Day-to-day I don’t even put makeup on myself. It is a combination of awkward and fun. Getting to see each new stage in the mirror always interests me though.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a five thousand word essay on my first modelling experience:

Given my long history of loving to dress up it should be no surprise that I had an absolute blast with this.

Modelling job the second: Sometime later Tanith asked if I’d like to model some of her absolutely amazing hat creations so I said yay! Apart from getting a few hours to hang out with one of my closest friends, I got to pull out the fancy dresses I rarely have occasion to wear and dress up. We tried different hat/dress combinations and different places around the backyard. One thing I realised – I have absolutely no idea how to pose. What do you do with your hands? Where do you look? At least you’ll know my smiles are genuine. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

I Am Not Alone

When I kicked off my first short film project as writer/director back in February I could not believe I was about to embark on pursuing such a big and important dream. Now we are at Halloween, we’ve finished shooting, and I can’t believe I’ve done it! Even if my film career starts and ends with this, I am so proud of it.
All the pieces are coming, and have come, slowly together, which is not a negative thing for me. I’ve been looking at this very much as a confidence-building exercise as much as anything else so a bit of breathing room to take it all in has been comforting. It’s really been something special to see what once just existed in my mind bud and grow and take on a form I could share.

Besides that this film has zero budget so everyone involved has been generously giving me their time and talent with nothing but my thanks in return. Shout outs are required as my heart bursts with gratitude - my stella actors Lauren and Nathan; my brother Andrew who is currently editing and helped out so much on the big first night of filming; my sister Bekah who is a divine hair and makeup artist; Tanith whose cloak made such a scary figure; Dad who provided the camera; Carys who provided much enthusiasm and insight (though she might not have realised just how much!) and lastly Lynnie, my BFF, who has been the music to my words all our lives. Also all the friends and family who have been nothing but encouraging, and all the strange people on the interwebs who have been supportive even without knowing me, even with nothing yet to show for myself, just because there is such an amazing indie filmmaking community out there. We’re all in this together.

So, since it is Halloween here’s another little sneak peek for you:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

For Posterity: The Old Twitter Bio

I felt like updating my twitter bio, but I still love the old one. So I'm recording it here for posterity:

Genre Fan. I love exploring other worlds, although a recent error in a time/dimension jump has resulted in me becoming my own Great-Grandfather.

Twitter bios are a brilliant exercise in very short story writing.

My new bio feels more like where I am at the moment. It's:

Office worker by day, pursuer of creative projects by night. And sometimes on the weekends. Life is a work of art in progress.

In other words I've been doing a lot which I can't wait to show and tell. Also I've written a lot for this blog, I just haven't posted it yet.

In related news: today I bought a sleep mask. So if I were a character in a TV show I'd be evil. Out here in the real world I'm just sleepy.