28 Feb 2011

Putting the Cool in UnCool - Top 10 Embarrassing Tracks on my iPod

So, as punishment for not posting my top 10 childhood memories last night - and generally failing to post at all this weekend - tonight I am owning up to the most embarrasing `choons` on my ipod. In some cases it's not just a track, it's an entire album or body of work that I own by a particular artist. In fact I'm cringing just thinking about some of the er, gems that I willingly parted with hard earned cash for (yes, thank you iTunes). Remember people, drinking and internet shopping is *not* a good combination. It's a little like drunk texting - the next morning when you see what you did, you'll be all about `wtf did I buy that song for` what what what. And then repeat all over again next time you get home drunk. Please say it's not just me.

I'd better crack on with the list then - but just for my amusement, at the end is a list of songs that stupid tweeties that I follow, claimed to own. Oh yes, public humiliation time plus I have actual karaoke video of some of these tweeties!

***Disclaimer: I am having some weird-ass problem with flash player not working on my laptop so I've not put any links in to youtube videos so that you can experience the full wonder of these songs for yourselves. Sorry. However, on second thought, maybe that's a good thing?***

Top Ten Most Embarrassing Tracks on my iPod

1. Enya
Oh yes, you heard right, that's Enya. And there's a reason why I've not listed a track. And that's because I own not one, but TWO whole Enya albums. Seriously. In my defence, her Orinoco Flow goodness clearly takes me to my happy place because this is what I have to listen to, to get my head in the correct gear for writing my *novel*. Srsly. Once I've gone through both albums then - and only then - can i move onto something that one might actually hear in public. So that's Enya - I thought I'd start with a classic. And for those who care, my favourite track is either `Only Time` from the album `A Day Without Rain`. I also love `Ebudae` from Paint The Sky With Star.

2. I'm With You - Avril Lavigne
Er, yeah no I don't have a logical reason for owning this really. I just like it. I have no idea why because Avril's faux sk8ter grrrrl shtick really gets on my nerves, plus she like, totally, rilly can not sing whatsoever. Nope. I know that her whiny patheticness on this track should also grate like her false black talons down a skate ramp but oddly it doesn't. I don't know - any of you guys like it? Is it true that she's really a trained ballet dancer? Also weird and slightly creepy factoid for you, I used to work with a guy who had the *biggest* crush on her - this was about six years ago and he was in his 30's so I do find it slightly pedo-ish. He even went to her gigs. Weird right? Much weirder than me liking this track.

3. Rockstar - Nickleback
Okay, I'm sorry but I really shouldn't have to defend this one, I know that Chad Kroeger and his MOR cronies are just cringe-tastic in the rawking out stakes butbutbutbutbut this song just makes me happy AND when I decided to quit a job around four years ago, this was the song that kept me going even when I thought I was making a fucking HUGE mistake and shite-ing up my career. But I didn't shite it up. And this song is the soundtrack to that time of my life. Plus it has some awesome cameos including one from Kid Rock (yes I know, he's a complete douche but still - anything is better than the Chad-man). Another random factoid for you - which is so incredibly tangential but here goes...when I was around 16 and on a family holiday in South Caroline some total rich redneck boy cracked on to me and he was called Chad. I didn't reallise until that point that anyone outside of SVH was called that! 

4. Self Control *and* Gloria - Laura Brannigan
Oh I see you, you're sitting there going, WTF?? I have *never* heard these songs ever. But actually you have, oh yes. They are total 80's cheese-tastic classics and you will find that you even know the lyrics, particularly to Gloria "Calling Gloriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" and erm, it was also on the er, Flashdance soundtrack.  I have to say I prefer the synth pop of Self Control with the best drum machine possibly ever until Vanilla Ice came along. It just makes me dance. I have no shame clearly - even as I write this I am listening to "you take my self, you take my self control" and erm, sofa dancing. So yes, I'm shameless for sure. And lacking in cool. But more importantly fact fans Laura Brannigan was a back up singer for Leonard Cohen and also had songs featured in Grand Theft Auto...or something. So listen and enjoy tweeps.

5. Baby I Don't Care - Transvision Vamp
As the song says "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" yes, to you, if you don't like this one. I know I'm hitting you up with the 80's cheese big style tonight - and there's more to come, but there's something about this track that just screams big hair, bad eyeliner, blusher stripes and er, FUN. Unfortunately wikipedia has just informed me that TV are in fact `alt rock` and therefore might be cool - woops. Also one of the guys in the band ended up in Bush. With these facts I am spoiling you fact fans. oh yes. Still, the song KICKS ASS

6. St Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) - John Parr
I have absolutely NO IDEA wtf this song has to do with the phenomenon that is St Elmo's Fire but obviously this song is from the movie of the same name and nothing to do with sea-faring legends. Anyway this `choon` reminds me of a very bad (and by that I mean EXCELLENT) club I went to at university that most memorably stank of feet for some reason. It had a regular 80's night and I remember dancing my little stilleto clad feet off to this one (most likely on a podium as well, clutching an `alco-pop` in one hand, a man-boy in the other). I hadn't thought of this song in ages until a rather horrendously awful dance version of it cropped up in my Body Combat class (also worth pointing out that we had to shadow box to a house version of Smells Like Teen Spirit - KC would have been spinning in his grave).

7. The Best of Belinda - Belinda Carlisle
So yes, I think you might have realised that I'm a bit of an 80's freakazoid. Sorry but I love Ms Carlisle. I quite frequently listen to this whole album on the way to work in the morning. If you get the Northern Line in from Sarf London around 8:30 and you can hear a tinny version of "oooooh heaven is a place on earth" emanating from a girl with pink headphones it'll most likely be me. I fear I've not really embarrassed myself enough on this post so without further ado I shall say that although HIAPOE  is my fave BC track, I also love I Get Weak and Runaway Horses. It really doesn't get much more cringe-worthy than lyrics such as "I'm in love/I'm in deep" and er "Suddenly all of my fences have broken/I'm cutting the reins of my life"

8. If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
Okay firstly, the video for this is just fucking genius. Even Lady Gaga + La Aguilera combined into some giant lady monster would baulk at the idea of wearing a lace thonged body and straddling a cannon whilst singing to a ship full of sailors (seamen if you like). I like most of Cher's oeuvre anyway (plus with straight hair I get told I look like her) - who wouldn't love such politically correctly entitled songs such as `Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves` oh yes, but IICTBT is just classic - the guitar intro, the famillar Cher wails and the obligatory key change just before the end of the track. You know you love it.

9. Leaving On A Jet Plane - John Denver
You can blame Glee for this one - had it in my head ever since the end of the last series. Yes it's cheesy, yes it's a bit nerdy. But I like it. Live with it.

10. Escape - Enrique Iglesias
Okay no, this is not here because I fancy Enrique. Well....not *just* because I fancy Enrique. Okay time for another embarrassing story. This song came out around the time I got together with husbando. I liked him for a long time before he realised/liked me. So the lyrics "You can run, you can hide but you can't escape my love" as well as sounding just a tad stalkerish summed up how I felt. Anyway the video always made me smile because it had someone we each fancied in me - Enrique, husbando - Anna Kornikova. It's a naff song but I likes it alright.

So that's it for the embarrassing songs hair-shirt type post. I hope you've all been thoroughly amused but also enjoyed some, if not all of the songs!! I hope you'll share your cringiest tracks on the comments section - some that have been mentioned to me (Admitted?) are Barry Manilow, PJ + Duncan, various Disney soundtracks, Mc Hammer,Vanilla Ice....you guys are way worse than me.

Finally, here's a sneak preview of someone I'll be introducing to you tomorrow:

This little rascal is Archie! And he's my parents doggy with whom I had lots of fun down in Brighton on saturday. Pictures *and* video footage to follow tomorrow, plus I'll be back on Wednesday with WoTW (Method) and an interview with a fabulous accessory designer as well - 'citing stuff.

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building

25 Feb 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An Interview With Emlyn

Hi All,

Tonight as part of my weekly interview series, I'm joined on my virtual l-shaped sofa by writer, blogger and book publicist extraordinaire Emlyn Chand. Emlyn loves to hear and tell stories and allegedly emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story)

So just so you know, we’re eating thin-crust organic pizza with roasted eggplant, artichoke, spinach and goat cheese, (mmmmmm goats cheese, mmmmmm eggplant, mmmmmm artichoke) followed by a sinful chocolatey ganache, accompanied by Diet Mountain Dew (because we’re classy like that). I should add that as I'm in the UK and Emlyn's in the US I have *no* idea wtf mountain dew is but I assume its a kind of fizzy pop/soda - like EC says, we're classy here. We’re listening to Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits with the odd Bollywood song thrown in to intensify the mix (apparently). Emlyn's kinda bossy so I'm just doing what she says.

However, in case you missed it, *she* interviewed *me* earlier this week - live on Twitter! In case you missed it, there's a full transcript here :) Anyway, on with the show (aka, revenge for tough questions...!)

Me: First up, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
EC: If you don’t believe in yourself, then who else will? I honestly cannot remember the context; this is probably something I read on a motivational poster during my elementary school years and has now stuck with me.

Me: I think that's excellent advice, but easier said than done! Before we hear a little more about your motivation, what is your favourite book?
I have roughly six-million favorite books, so I’m going to reference an old favorite here: “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crocket Johnson. It opened my eyes to the world that could exist if only I was willing to create it, and I’ve never forgotten this lesson.

Me: How did you start blogging + writing?
As funny as this may sound, I was discovered as a blogger much in the same way that models or actresses are discovered. When the Ann Arbor News went out of business and the planning phase for its replacement AnnArbor.com (a pioneer in the multimedia news platform) began, I was contacted and asked to work as a community contributor for the site. They found me through my large and active book club and deemed me a book expert. I began writing pro bono, and after a couple of months, they liked what I did enough to promote me to the lead books contributor and began to pay me. Pretty cool, huh?

Me:  That's awesome! I'm slightly jealous, I would love to do that. I know that you have a full time job as well as all the stuff you do - so how do you keep so motivated, as you give so much to people online – I think you never sleep!
I am self-motivated 100%. I enjoy what I do and want to keep doing more of it as much as I can. I like to say that I have the opposite of ADHD. I go into hyper-focus mode and very little can pull me out of it. It’s why I blog obsessively, tweet obsessively, and novelize obsessively.

Me: Can you tell us a little about your current projects
EC: I pay attention to the world around me and ideas naturally follow. One July day, my husband and I were taking a road trip, I was totally bored and just staring at my vacant reflection in the side-view mirror. I was wearing these huge boxy glasses and though “huh, I look blind.” Then I thought about how there were teensy little images being reflected in my glasses, and then I thought about the blind prophet Tiresias from Greek mythology. My paranormal YA work-in-progress, which is called FARSIGHTED.

With regards to my “entrepreneurial spirit,” I noticed that my blog traffic rose phenomenally on days when I posted about how to use social media to further one’s writing platform. People were retweeting my links, asking me questions, and looking to me as an expert. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my understanding of this tech realm was a marketable skill and so Novel Publicity was born (the company will launch officially on March 1 and we’ll be giving away tons of prizes like a book trailer, blog tour, cover art, an evaluation of your unpublished manuscript + more)

Me: Okay, last question about your craft - what do you love + hate about writing?
I love inventing stories and watching them come to life as I type in a plot point here, describe a character there. I love when my characters become so real to me that they show up in my nightmares (yes, usually nightmares). I’m not a huge fan of the editing process even though it’s totally necessary—who enjoys murdering their darlings, I ask you?

Me: Right, time for the *fun* questions - go ahead, tell us a secret about yourself:
My secret is that I’m not as confident as people assume. I put on a brave face but really I’m scared every moment.

Me: Describe yourself in a dating ad
Emlyn Chand is art married with ambition. She’s 5’10 and has pasty skin from spending too much time indoors and on her computer. You can contact her for a date if you really want to, but keep in mind that she’s already married and she’d probably prefer a fictional character to you any day of the week.

Me: Finally, what do you know to be true about life?

EC: You get out what you put in most of the time, but you never get out something you don’t first put in. If you work hard, you may or may not be rewarded, but you’re not going to be rewarded without the work—period.

Wow, that was a fun packed + informative interview, thanks Emlyn. Don't forget to check out Emlyn's blogtwitter account and her facebook pages (here + here) too too! She's a busy lady :) If you're a writer or a blogger she's definitely worth a reader and her info on social media usage is invaluable!

That's all for tonight folks - I'll be back on sunday with my Top 10 Childhood Memories, a picture essay of the seaside (Brighton) on Monday plus the usual WoTW and interview next week.

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building 

23 Feb 2011

Giving In Does Not Equal Failure - Word of the Week

(Acceptance n.: The state of being accepted or acceptable/Favorable reception; approval. Etym: From Latin acceptare receive regularly, take from Proto-Indo-European root *kap-)

This week's WoTW took  me a little while to think of, normally I have my word planned a couple weeks before, but this one was tricky. I would like to warn readers that this post might be a little sensitve to some as it touches on mental health and also cancer. So I hope I don't offend/upset anyone unduly and sorry in advance if I do.

Acceptance has two meaning for me personally - acceptance of my self and my black dog issues, and acceptance of myself as a writer (which is a label I am still finding it rather odd to wear).

In terms of acceptance of oneself, I guess for me this means facing up to issues that have been going on for some time and just, well, being honest about them. Giving in to all the denial and facing up to the fact that battling on for so long is just not working any more. I guess that's what happened to me in late December/early January of this year.

As I've kind of touched on, 2010 was a difficult year in some ways. Workwise it's been amazing - I have a job I love and wonderful supportive colleagues. I truly believe in what I do and that I'm making a difference and contributing to people's lives - which is a great motivator for me! Also friend + husbando-wise, it was fabuloso too - I've got some amazing friends, and made some new ones too, who live in my computer!

On the not so great side, there have been some family issues which have been rather sad and as a result, have made me question a lot  of what I thought I knew to be true about the people I loved.  Plus, as I've hinted at, I had some health issues, which actually, I'd like to mention on here.

So here we go: I had to go for a pre-cancer biopsy over Xmas - on New Year's Eve actually (great timing). I had to wait 8 weeks to find out if there were definitely pre-cancerous cells - and there are *but* according to the letter I got, this is not uncommon and currently no cause for concern. I have to have a follow up proceedure in six months but for now, not to worry. Although that's easier said than done, I know that it could be a lot worse, so I've made a conscious effort not to weird out about all this - there are people going through so, so much worse indeed. For all those who know or have known or have indeed been through something similar, my thoughts are with you. I know that we are supposed to keep these health things private but now I've got my results, talking about it has made me feel better. I hope that this has not bothered anyone.

Also this past year I've also struggled with myself and my self confidence - which is not new - but a recent exercise in what a good friend of mine calls `psyche tuning` showed me that I have disliked myself for nearly 20 years. And I'm only 29. I guess I just got to a point over Christmas where I felt that I just couldn't continue in that vein anymore. I won't lie - I have had some very, very scary thoughts about myself which I shan't go into on here.

So with all of the above, it's no wonder I had a return visit from my black dog - aka depression. But for the first time ever, a still, small voice in my head, even through everything, was trying to be heard and it was saying `what if you didn't have to live like this, to be anxious 24/7 or hate yourself so completely`. And I guess that was a total wake up call for me. So I'm trying to accept a few things about myself now:

1) Yes, I've got depression and you know what, that doesn't make me a total failure. The majority of people who know me have no idea (well, until now, oops). I manage, I do my best. Some days it is so hard to get out of bed and put a happy face on - but I damn well do it. So perhaps I need to give myself a little credit for that instead of beating myself up

2) I can't control everything. No, I can't - and also, I don't have to be liked by everyone. I'm not going to like everyone so why should they like me. Also sometimes people are going to do weird crazy shit and you know what, worrying about them doesn't make a difference or change them. So live and let live. And also, it's okay not to be perfect. Because as I've covered on this post, I need to stop with the perfectionism. It's not big and it's not clever and also, who wants to end up like Natalie Portman in Black Swan?!

3) God it feels good to finally, as @graffitiliving says, put those rocks down. He has done an awesome blog post about this. I am just starting to feel such a huge amount of relief in being able to say `It's okay, I'm sick` or `I'm feeling sad, so can you help me please` or `can you hold my hand` (well that last one is just to husbando mainly). It really is like a weight is lifting off of me for the first time since I was a teenager. Really.

So anyway, beside all that, what does acceptance mean in terms of writing. Well firstly as I said, it means accepting that yes, I am a writer. I write - doesn't matter what or how or where, I write so therefore I'm a writer. I don't make any great claims about my writing - I hope it amuses, entertains and touches people, but ultimately I'm just trying my best to tell my truths. It's kind of nice to have a new label - like writer - unlike the others I have around my disability or my religion. It's a positive feeling. I never thought I was creative before - I thought I was a talentless loser who should just let other people do it better.

Also the side of acceptance that means that sometimes the words are gonna come easy and flow right onto the page - the characters are talking in your head no matter where you are - and then the flip side is, sometimes, like anything worth doing, it's fucking hard work. Sometimes just getting one goddamn word on the page is too much. Whoever said that who thing about being a writer means staring at the paper until your forehead bleeds was right on the money! (who said that btw, please tell me!). No one else can write or create for you - writing is very solitary and self driven and proactive. It's a very selfish art too, you have to force yourself to give up things you enjoy (social life, sleeping) and some you don't (cleaning, gym attendance) to write. You may have rows with people you love over your writing infringing on your time together (!) but writing, a little like love, just rides rough shod over any objections - it *must* be done. It is all consuming. And it's fucking great!

So I don't know if anything I've written has chimed with any of you guys out there. I've been writing this blog continuously for nearly two months now and I feel like I know some of you pretty well, so I just wanted to have a bit of honesty on here and tell you what was going on. And I feel pretty good and accepting of myself now. I think the more honest and transparent we are about ourselves, the less we'll judge others as we'll see how simillar we all are really.

Thank you and good night.

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS I would like to thank everyone of my lovely real life, twitter, fb, blogger + online forum friends who have supported me over the last few months whilst things have been shitty. I really could not have done it with you. I won't name names, you should know who you are. If not - ask me!

PPS I was twitterviewed by the lovely Emlyn Chand live on Twitter last night - click here to see the transcript!

21 Feb 2011

Stylish Blogger Awards!

Wow, thanks to incredibly lovely Suzanne Korb from Bang Out The Prose blog for giving me a Stylish Blogger Award! I'm not really dressed for the occasion, being in my pj's and sheep slippers.... but here have some virtual champagne with me!

This is, quite possibly the first time *anyone* has thought I was stylish but never mind about that! 

As an award recipient, I am supposed to share seven random facts about myself, which is kinda hard to think of after this post. Anyway, here goes:

1.  I can't ride a bike or drive a car. I am thus totally reliant on public transport and/or the kindness of friends/family with cars.
2.  My family dog was called Sacha, he looked a little like this. He died around 5 years ago but I still miss him and get tearful when I see other airedales. He liked Kylie Minogue, Parma Ham, he could switch on the telly with his paw and also open doors. Sometimes I spend time looking at videos of airedales to make me giggle. It's tragic I know.
3.  I rock climb (indoors) upto a 6a standard (well, once - otherwise more like 5/5+)
4.  I used to have a nose ring and I miss it every day. I took it out around 9 years ago.
5.  My main career ambition until the age of around 15 was to be one of Madonna's back up dancers. I then realised this seemed unlikely. Having said that I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up and I'm nearly 30. Remind me, when are we officially grown ups?
6. My husband has never, ever, to my knowledge, read this blog.
7. I'm left handed. So is my husband. I will be really annoyed if we have right handed kids.

Another part of being awarded the prize means I can award it to ten bloggers of my choice who I think deserve it so here goes:

1. DemonWrangling101 - check out my interview with Jo here!
2. Siren of Brixton - see what happened when me + Siren went for margaritas here
3. Emlyn Chand - awesome source of advice + knowledge for writers, particularly around using social media
4. I Know I Need To Stop Talking - this blog makes me pee my pants every single fucking time, if you have kids, or even if you don't, you need to check this one out, even if it's just for 3 year old Jamie's pearls of wisdom.
5. RocknRoll Bride - I know I'm no longer planning a wedding but this blog and it's amazing creativity is so inspiring, I still check it out, just to see all the talented, romantic, amazing people out there. Especially RnRBride herself!
6. The Crafty Bat - always interesting, thought-provoking and never afraid to speak her mind, my favourite HBC obsessive is worth checking out :)
7. Maggie Alderson Style Notes - I couldn't really have a stylish blogger award and not award it to a fashion blogger/author/journalist could I now?!! 
8. Query Shark - er, does what it says on the tin. Takes query letters and eats them. Provides feedback. A must read for anyone thinking of submitting a query letter.
9. Tahereh Mafi - as she says herself, she's a girl and she writes books. She's also really fucking funny. Check out her blog + journey to publication.
10. Please Don't Kiss The Cook - a relatively newbie blogger, PDKTC has a charming blog with some lovely recipes on that have inspired me on a couple of occasions now. As I've featured some well established bloggers on here, it's nice to have a `one to watch` as well!

So that's it  - all done. My award, check, my 7 facts, check and my 10 award recipients, check. Ladies please now go ahead and do the same thing. Create a post, stick up a pic of your award, tell us 7 things about you and then give the award to your 10 stylish bloggers!

Thank you and good night.

Stupidgirl has left the building

20 Feb 2011

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - My Top 10 Works of Art

Evening everyone, can't believe it's sunday evening *again*, how did that happen? This weekend has flown by even though I've not done much except chores, visit the mothership and eat. Hey ho, onwards and upwards (clicks neck boxer style) `bring it ON, monday`. However before we get to monday, perhaps you might like to see this week's top 10 list. I've gone for an art theme this time - and again as with poetry and love songs, I don't claim to have hugely original taste, but hopefully there will be something on here you've not see before. Anyhoo, let's get on with the show

1. Flaming June by Lord Leighton
This is, without doubt, one of my favourite paintings, ever! And I don't even like the colour orange. I've blogged about Leighton - and how you can visit his house - before, but this picture speaks for itself and no trite comments from me can really do it justice. However...all I can say is that there is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, I love the images in the background, I love the curve and heft of June's thigh. This painting is at once sensous and also, given that June is sleeping, seems oddly innocent, It's a painting I always find myself drawn to over the years. For proper info on the painting, click here

2. Guernica - Picasso
I'd never even heard of this painting before I read the book of the same name - and about the same incident - by Dave Boling. Both the book and the painting are incredibly moving and Picasso's talent at rendering the effect of war on innocent civilians seems to transcend his regular genius! The painting I believe, is now seen as a potent anti-war symbol and an `embodiment of peace`. Whatever you see when you look at it, I think that this painting changes your perception of war forever.

3. The Kiss - Klimt
There's lots of proper analysis of this painting online, but for me it perfectly embodies love and sex at the same time. I know that really the man + woman are wearing separate outfits but when you first look at the picture it seems as though they are wrapped up in an intricate blanket of gold. It is an incredibly intimate picture - I feel almost voyeuristic looking at it, so wrapped up are the couple. Oh, it's just so beautiful - and it's a visual representation of how I feel when I'm with husbando. PS Check out the link to wikipedia (above) for how this painting is also, apparently, a penis...

4. Four Darks in Red - Rothko
I never really `got` abstract art properly until I went to the Rothko exhibition at the Tate a few years ago. And then I fell head over heels in love with Rothko. Looking at one - or several - of his paintings at a time made me almost dizzy with colour. It sounds kinda weird but I wasn't sure if the paintings were inside or outside of me. The colour was so intense it felt three dimensional, the paintings seem to wrap themselves around you. Anyway...I've picked Four Darks in Red simply because the maroon hues felt so friendly and comforting to me, but really Rothko's works need to appreciated in bulk because that way you get their true, transcendent affect.

5. Girl With A Pearl Earring - Vermeer 
Not the most original choice, I give you that, but something about this painting just really gets to me. I love the expression on the girl's face - and the look in her eyes. I'm not sure it's as overtly sexy as the book/film would lead us to believe, there is something in her knowing gaze. Aside from the girl herself, what I also love about this picture is the light that plays across it even though the background is black. Where is the light source and why does it make the girl glow? Finally, the blue of her headscarf is just so beautiful.

6. Ophelia - Millais
I don't have anything big or clever to say about this painting, I just think the intricate detail of the riverbank and the use of colour makes it so very beautiful. Ophelia, as we know is, a character from Hamlet and her death is described by Queen Gertrude. Although the painting is almost photographic in its clarity, the patterns and colours used actually remind me of the clothing in Klimt's Kiss (above). What do you think?

7. The Scream - Munch
I'd like to quote Munch himself on the inspiration for this painting:
"I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Again this is another painting that means something different to every single person who sees it but I think we can all relate to that desire to suddenly stop in the middle of everything and just let out this scream. For me it would be a scream made up of equal parts terror, sorrow, anger and frustration. It is a scream of tiredness and also clearly a cry for help. I've read before that this painting is a visual representation of depression and mental health issues and certainly that chimes with my feelings about it.

This is a fabulous, all consuming painting, I feel like I am standing on the water's edge watching her pass by. Also I am assuming you're all familiar with the poem `Lady of Shalott` by Tennyson which is an awesome poem and one that nearly made it onto the poetry top 10. Anyway, the painting! Colour, shape, detail - it's all there. I used to have a big poster of this painting pinned up on my bedroom wall (around the same time as my River Phoenix RIP poster which I used to kiss goodnight....I *was* 14) and so the first thing I saw every morning when i woke up was the Lady of Shalott. Whenever I see this painting, it's like greeting an old friend.

I love Andy Warhol's pop art images - in particular the Campbell soup can work - but the Marilyn prints are the ultimate in pop art in my opinion. One of the worlds greatest cinematic actresses immortalised on canvas by the genius that is Warhol. I know that this print is everywhere - and so can get a little tired from time to time *but* it's rare that you actually get to see the diptych in its entirety - colour and black + white. I didn't realise that the images were created soon after Marilyn's death and so the idea that each side of the diptych represent both her life and her mortality is fascinating to me. Plus I've always had a bit of a girl crush on Ms. Monroe, so I'd love to own a copy of the diptych!

I thought I'd finish with a bit of sculpture and what better than a spot of erotic romance from Mr Rodin. It's such a lovely piece, the way they're entwined around each other. Apparently the piece was originally quite shocking for its representation of a woman being an active partner in the act of love - and no longer passive. I was also surprised to learn that the sculpture was also designed to be part of a larger work by Rodin entitled "The Gates of Hell" - in which our amorous couple are in the second circle representing a 13th century noble woman who falls in love with her husband's brother. Without knowing all the background history, this piece always makes me smile.

So that's it - that's my list! I hope you liked it and please do talk about your favourites in the comments section - I love to look at new pieces. Also thanks to the following tweeps, who kindly suggested + recommended their favourite works of art - if you don't follow these people - you should!


Hope you all have great weeks this week and I'll be back on Wednesday with WoTW!

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building

19 Feb 2011

Fun with Japan - A Guest Photo Essay!

Happy Saturday lovely viewers - regulars and newbies! Hope you're doing well. I am very excited about this week's photo essay as I'm able to feature the work of a very talented guest photographer and blogger - the lovely Graffiti Living. If you've not checked out his blog or followed him on twitter, I urge you to do so. (PS In case you missed it, here's last week's valentine's themed photo essay)

Anyway let's get on with the show - today's picture essay theme is simply `Japan`. I think James would be the first to admit that he's a little nuts about Japan - and if you read his blog, you'll definitely know that. These pictures give such a wonderful flavour of an amazing place - and also show just how talented James is, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy!

Creative Commons License

Amazing stuff there. If you'd like to do a photo essay one week, please do get in touch - either through the comments bit on here, or over on twitter @stupidgirl45 - I'd love to feature your work if I can. 

In the meantime, tune in tomorrow for my Top 10 Favourite Works of art, in case you missed it, last week's top indie love songs caused quite a debate. I'll then be back midweek with WoTW and an interview with Emlyn Chand on friday. Plus don't forget - I'm being interviewed live on Twitter - 9pm UK time on Tuesday 22nd. Follow #emlyn to check it out + ask me questions of your own :)

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building

18 Feb 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An interview with SirenofBrixton

Hey everyone! Welcome to tonight's interview - and in an exciting twist - we're *not* on my virtual l-shaped sofa. For this interview with the very lovely blogger + author, @sirenofbrixton, we actually met up, in real life and headed out for some tapas + frozen margaritas in our little bit of south london! In fact a few of you may remember a few of my tweets *after* consumption of said margaritas. Anyway before all of my drunken shenanigans and giggling, I did manage to interview la Siren......

So to set the scene, we're sat in bar 19, on a comfy leather sofa, sipping our icy cold + completely perfect cocktails (best I've had in London folks). The bar is kinda quiet which makes it perfect for the interview. Siren is uber-glam + stylish, texting me so that I recognise her when she walks in wearing a purple furry coat, a leopard print cardy + funky retro red lippy. I know straight away that we're going to get on well :)

Me: Sooooo, let's start with a hard one (fnarrr) What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Siren:  I was going to visit my grandmother in Wales and she insisted on paying for our accommodation. I was annoyed: I didn’t think it was right for a pensioner to pay for us. My mother-in-law said to me, “She’s a grown up. She knows her own mind. Respect her wishes.” It may sound stupid but it was an epiphany for ma at the time and it transformed my relationships with all my relatives. I let them be, I don’t ever assume I know what’s best for them.

Me: That's a very interesting point, and one I think can apply generally across relationships. I like that! So, moving on to less philosophical topics, what's is your favourite book?
Siren: I have to cheat slightly and pick a trilogy in five parts: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books are my bible. So much wisdom: eg

"on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons"

Me: That brings us neatly on to your special subject - writing and blogging! Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a writer+ how you came to start your blog!
Siren:  I did write as a kid. I guess these days you’d say I wrote fan fiction: I wrote sequels to novels I liked; friends at school and I wrote a musical based on the TV show the ‘Kids from Fame’ – and we performed it! I wrote to ABBA once and suggested they write a musical based on their songs. The plot I suggested was very different from Mamma Mia but I like to think I warmed them up to the idea. No letter of thanks yet though.

I’ve always dreamed of being a writer and the blog is part of my finally taking that dream seriously. Now I realise that the writing is a reward in itself but the blog means that even if I never get published by anyone else, I at least get the satisfaction of knowing some people have read my words and been affected by them.

Me: I think that resounds with a lot of bloggers - it's hard to write without at least considering your audience, so actually what inspires you - in writing - and perhaps in life generally?
Siren: Without wanting to sound right-on, it’s the amazing diversity of life. That’s why I love living in London – and Brixton especially. The miraculous variety of humanity and their astonishing, infinite creative capacity: I’m insanely greedy to taste as much of it as possible.

Me: I have to ask - as I do most writers - what do you like best/worst about writing?
Siren: Best: getting lost in it, suddenly becoming aware of your surroundings again and realizing you’ve been laughing and frowning and crying along with your characters. And that hours have passed.

Worst: When you try and try and try but the words just won’t quite come that capture the idea as it is in your head.

Me: Finally, tell us about your ambitions/plans for your writing + the blog.
Siren: I have two screenplays in progress and I’ve banned myself from starting anything else until I finish a draft of one, but I have a special notebook for project ideas because I have dozens. I think I must have been storing them up for the ten years I wasn’t writing. But I’ll wait and see what seems the right thing to do next. Once I finish a bloody draft.

Me: Wow that all sounds super exciting! Let's finish up with some fun final questions. Firstly, aside from tapas + frozen margaritas with moi, what would be your last meal?!
Siren: If I was awaiting execution I’d be trying to delay as long as possible, so maybe a twelve course degustation menu with matched wines. Or an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Me: What is your favourite song?
Siren: I am hopeless at picking favourites but I’ve always said I want I Go to Rio by Peter Allen  to be played at my funeral. That song never fails to lift my mood. (PS I picked this clip because it has that spectacular karaoke video cheesiness to it.) Best singalong song and my no. 1 karaoke choice is I’ve never been to me by Charlene 

Me: What really annoys you?
If you’ve read my rants, pretty much everything! On a personal level, being blamed for something I didn’t do. I’m ree-al thin skinned about that. I may draw blood.

Me: Tell us a secret about yourself
Siren: Don’t tell anyone but most days I think I must be one of the luckiest people alive. Gotta count your blessings

Me: What is the nicest thing you have done?
Siren: I get a lot of credit for giving Mr S. a trip to Europe and tickets to a Liverpool game for his 40th birthday but I made him bring me so it wasn’t entirely selfless. 

Me: Aaaaaaand finally, finally What do you know to be true about life?
Siren: Nobody really knows anything much; everyone’s pretty much making it up as they go. But you better enjoy it as much as possible, because you only get one and it can end any minute.

Damn straight Siren! So folks, hope you liked that interview - do check out Siren's blog and you can also follow her on twitter @SirenofBrixton.

Next week I'll be featuring an interview with the fabulous @emlynchand but also, excitingly, she'll be twitter-viewing yours truly. Follow hashtag #emlyn from 9pm UK time on Tuesday 22nd to check it out and ask me questions live online!! 

Meantime I have got the most *awesome* photo essay coming up tomorrow from guest blogger Graffiti Living so be sure to stop by and check it out, plus also my top 10 works of art on sunday. Thanks again for all the reads, recommends, comments, tweets and RTs - much appreciated and keep on enjoying the blog.

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building

16 Feb 2011

Driving Me Crazy...Word of the Week

(Motivation noun: desire to do; interest or drive/incentive or inducement. Psychological definition:  the process that arouses, sustains and regulates human and animal behaviour. Etym: From Latin `Motare` to move/shake/stir, from proto-IndoEuropean meuÉ™-)

I've been climbing for nearly two years now. I've been to most of the indoor walls in London* plus climbing in the Peak District, Portland and the Alps last summer. I even went hiking everyday bar 2 days on my honeymoon. I should now add that I'm terrified of heights. Yes, that's right, I'm petrified of being more than about 3 foot off the ground.

So a) how did I end up climbing and b) what the HELL has this got to do with writing I hear you ask. Good questions - and there are two reasons, both questions in themselves - and they revolve around that rather cheesy, management speak-esque word `Motivation` which is the WoTW. Why did I start rock climbing and in what universe could it possibly help my writing!?

Well, the answer to the first question is around what could drive me to the extremes of paying to scare the shit out of myself on a weekly basis. I have one word for you - husbando! Yes, he and I, are complete polar opposites when it comes to interests and personality types. I'm loud, lazy and un-athletic, he, quite frankly, isn't! At some point in our (now) nearly 9 years together, this was going to bite us in the ass a little in terms of our relationship - after all we'd started to lead almost entirely separate social lives outside of work + spending time together. It suddenly seemed to be rather a concern, particular as our wedding was looming at this point. 

In April 2009, H decided that he wanted to try rock climbing and by jove we were going to do it together. I'd like to tell you that I was incredibly enthusiastic and supportive about this suggestion. But that would be an outrageous lie. Still we struggled on, past our `taster session` at The Castle, onto a 4hr intensive climbing course + eventually began weekly climbing sessions. By the time we'd been climbing for 3 months, I think i'd feigned every possible injury bar none in order to attempt to wriggle out of going. These excuses included such gems as "I need to have long nails for the wedding, so I can't climb in case I break one" and also "I have period pain so I can't climb, it's the LAW". Husband was not fooled, and continued with his cause, manfully facing up to the prospect of endless public domestics + coaxing a tearful histrionic wife down from the top of the climbing wall. "Hold on to the rope" and "Let go of the wall" became regular phrases in our conversations. I think The Castle think of me as `that screaming maniac`.  Oh yes, did I mention the fear of heights?

So anyway, fast forward to 2011, we're climbing away, I don't mind getting up early, *and* last sunday I climbed my hardest climb yet (a 6a for those who have a clue about climbing grades) - for which my lovely long-suffering husband rewarded me with Chanel make up!

So what the fecking feck has this bloody got to with writing, can hear you all hoping I might be getting to the point soon. To recap, my motivation for scaring the shit out of myself was to get closer to my husband. And when you're all that stands between your loved one and if not certain death, but at the very least the strong possibilty of broken bones, then trust is at the very heart of your relationship. Learning to let go + trust someone with not just your heart but your entire physical being is the most extreme way of offering yourself to someone. I can absolutely say that husbando + I are closer because of climbing - because he's seen me test myself to my very limits for him (see more on this below) and because I've learned that despite all my fears, I can trust him. So a very powerful driver is love.

The first lesson then, which can be applied to writing therefore, is learning about what motivates and drives you. Look for motivation outside of writing. What motivates you at work, what motivates you and gets you excited generally in life, why do you do what you do? What makes you think hey! that's cool, I want in on that. That's where you're going to find what motivates you beyond all else and will keep you writing when you want to give up. 

My motivation is love and making people happy so that's what keeps me writing! I love entertaining people with my blog, if I've made one person smile or think or most importantly, value themselves a little more, then I am so incredibly happy - that's my job done. And maybe it sounds twee but sometimes that's the only thing that lies between me and not getting up in the morning when the black dog bites.

Second lesson about motivation from climbing is just bloody putting yourself out there/facing your fears. I know I bang on about this - and maybe I'm just really trying to convince myself of this but what's the worst that could happen when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It's fucking scary writing + doing this blog + putting myself out there for criticism but how else do we grow + learn? And you know what it's bloody empowering. No one is going to reach out and say `Yes, you're special, I'm going to tell everyone about you + your writing` you need to be your own helping hand. I'm not saying be an arrogant prat but just dare a little more, push yourself a little harder. Add a new, crazy character, put a random plot twist in the book - I ended up with a pivotal scene in my book as a result of this. Have fun, live a little - it's meant to be enjoyable. If you're bored of your writing, chances are your reader will be too! Every time you're scared writing, just think about what drives + motivates you and then ask yourself, "what's the worst that could happen", chances are, it's not going to involve a broken bone!

I know that's been a long post so if you got this far, thanks so much, I hope at the very least it was interesting - I've put myself out there for your judgement. I've enjoyed writing this anyway! Don't forget to tune in on friday for an interview with the lovely Siren of Brixton, plus another guest photo essay, this time from Graffiti Living. Plus I am thrilled to announce that I will be featuring an interview with Gaz Parry - 6 time British climbing champion in a few weeks, check out his blog here.

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building

* My fave climbing walls are West One in Marylebone, The Westway in Shepherds Bush and obviously The Castle! Other good places to try are The Arch and Mile End. Enjoy - and let me know if you check them out.