2015

Welcome to the end of the second week of the new year, which will soon become just the year, and then the old year. Really, it’s probably already the normal year. We adapt to things so quickly.

Fifteen things I would like to do in 2015:

1. Read The Lord of the Rings. (I’ve only read The Hobbit.) And then watch the movies.

2. Watch more of tyrannosauruslexxx‘s old videos.

3. Become fluent enough in French so that I don’t really need the subtitles on French films.

4. Wear my Black Milk garments more.

5. Wear what I want and become more sure of my ~~style~~.

6. Try and not let my tastes be guided by other people so much.

7. Reread the books that I love and haven’t read in a long time (like Dreaming of Amelia and Tender Morsels).

8. Read more Harry Potter books in French.

9. Read more French books in general.

10. Take more photos, especially selfies.

11. Question society more – question good and question bad.

12. See Pitch Perfect 2 at the movies.

13. Buy more books second-hand, especially from here.

14. Learn how to cook better, as in beyond spaghetti bolognese.

15. Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s Resolutions, because I have a very sensitive bullshit detector, but then I do reckon a year is a good, round, standard time period in which many things are achievable, and if you wanna make some goals to aim for, then go for your life.

X

The Ghosts of Girl Online

I am a watcher of YouTube. Zoella is not my favourite YouTuber (that’s tyrannosaurslexxx), but I enjoy most of her videos. I’ve been watching her videos since early last year, before she hit a million subscribers. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the release of her (“her”) book Girl Online because it’s definitely not the type of book I would generally want to read. I wasn’t planning on spending money on it myself.

I don’t really want to read it now.

In the past two days, we’ve learnt that Zoe Sugg didn’t write her book. Not entirely, anyway. The characters and the story, we’ve been told, are her own. So that warrants putting your name and only your name on the front cover, does it?

No. It doesn’t. I’m not a massive fan of Zoe’s, but I like her enough to feel strongly about this deception. Because it is literally deceptive to say I AM WRITING A BOOK or I WROTE A BOOK or LOOK I’M HOLDING MY BOOK IN MY HANDS when you haven’t written it, or when you’ve only partially written it.

On Twitter under #GirlOnline I saw a tweet that it seems has since been deleted saying something like “Do you really expect her to write a book all by herself?”

Um, yes. Yes, I do.

That’s what being an author is. Editorial input is fine and normal, but a full-on ghost writer? As someone who very much wants to be an author one day, it makes me angry. Zoe Sugg has cheated all these extremely loyal viewers into thinking that the book is entirely hers. As Lucy Hunter Johnston put it brilliantly in The Independent, her entire brand and career has been built on authenticity. That’s why it matters that she used a ghost writer.

I’m also completely incredulous. You can have a book ghost written or co-written, fine, but how stupid do you have to be to think that you can keep something like that a secret? My first reaction to hearing this news was laughing disbelief.

I don’t know if I’ll read the book. If it wasn’t said to have been written by Zoe Sugg, I wouldn’t look at it twice (which is a major reason why the publisher gave her book deal, no doubt). I wanted to check out her writing, but, uh, that’s going to be difficult.

Another quick mention of my favourite YouTuber ever, tyrannosauruslexxx or Lex Croucher. She’s fantastic. Go watch her face.

I have this weird feeling of being lied to whenever I watch Zoella’s face now. It’s a ridiculously idiotic breach of trust.

 

Complexities

Human = a weird bundle of contradictory ideas, thoughts, feelings and actions encased in a fleshy shell, which itself may be a major part of the human in question’s complexity, expression and complexity of expression.

Science.

I’m not a scientist or a psychologist (which is probably glaringly obvious), but PEOPLE ARE WEIRD. People are different things or everything all at once or one at a time. You can’t describe yourself with one word. You can’t describe yourself with three or five or ten, because there is SO MUCH to everyone. It can’t be condensed.

In films and TV shows, we like fictional characters to be condensed. We like media portrayals of real people to be condensed. We don’t like people to change their image – look at Miley Cyrus. Or, we’re told to prefer concise, simple, flat versions of people. That’s what we’re handed and what we accept.

It can be terrifying to consider that the person – real or fictional – who you know or admire has a million different facets that make the entire them. Complex, messed-up, flawed characters make for uncomfortable viewing or reading – but it feels so much more real. We all have light and dark inside of us and we can act on either side at any time. We switch sides like a record changer.

You can be smart and be stupid. Vapid and vacuous and gossipy and cynical and analytical and aware. You can be kind and be complaining. You can want to be cruel but be sweet instead. ADJECTIVE PARTY.

Your actions aren’t you. If we were only our actions, with no layered consciousness, we’d be despairingly empty and one-dimensional. If we were only our minds, open and bodiless and floating, we’d probably argue a lot more but we’d all know the different parts that make up someone. Actions included.

Me, I’m lots of different things, depending who you ask. Depending on the time of day. Depending on everything because I’m not fixed. You’re not fixed into a mould . You make the mould. You can change the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you do your hair or your make-up, the music you listen to, the books you read. You can try out different things. You change and remodel yourself. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.

Maybe we’ll never be free of the constraints we feel in certain situations, arguably every situation. But at least we all know that we’re not static. At least we can change when a situation changes. And, perhaps most importantly, at least we know that everyone we meet is as complex as us and we don’t always see the whole them. We might never see the whole them. But the whole them is there.

Therefore

A girl changes her profile picture on Facebook. The new photo is a close up of her head and torso. She is wearing make-up and a lacy bra. She is in her mid-teens.

Within an hour, there are over fifty comments on the picture. Some are in admiration of her body, her looks. Others are derogatory, some are lewd and sexual, some denounce her as a slut, a whore, a graceless attention seeker.

She posted are photo of herself in a bra.

Therefore she is narcissistic.

Therefore she wants attention and compliments.

Therefore she wants to feel wanted.

Therefore she wants people to leave sexually explicit comments.

Therefore she is vain and vapid and unintelligent.

Therefore she is promiscuous – and that’s bad.

Therefore she has too much sex.

Or maybe she enjoys her own body. Maybe she likes the way she looks in the picture. Maybe she is feeling confident. Maybe she doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed for a contextless photo. Maybe there is no reason to come to so many conclusions over a photo. Maybe there is no reason to degrade her and her sexuality in what is essentially a public forum. Maybe this photo conveys nothing more than a girl in bra.

When I see photos like this, the thought that this is wrong immediately and involuntarily comes to my mind. I make that connection because we are taught that being sexual – especially if you’re a girl and especially if you’re a young girl – is bad and immoral and stupid and dirty. I have enough awareness to realise that there’s nothing wrong with what the girl in the photo is doing. There’s something wrong with what I’m thinking. There’s something wrong with the fact that these ideas are pushed into my mind to such an extent that they are first thing I think of.

I say we are taught to make these connections and these judgements because although when we go to school there’s no class called A Run Down of 21st-Century Western Society and Culture, these ideas are extremely pervasive in our everyday lives. We pick them up from young ages and carry them forward into old ages. That’s why prejudices are hard to change. That’s why the ideas you’re brought up with have an impact on you. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s unapologetically obvious. It’s always there.

It is distressing, sickening. But stopping to think for a moment about why exactly you straight away draw a certain conclusion helps to change this and undo some of the effects that social conditioning – because we are conditioned to think things – has had on you personally and on others.

Everything has a denotative meaning and a connotative meaning. Connotations can be good, helpful, fun. They can lead to playfulness, jokes, common ground. Connotations can also be harmful, prejudiced and damaging. They can lead to ingrained social discrimination, prejudice and inequality. It is important to diminish the harmful connotations. They don’t have to be the only thing that comes to mind. They don’t have to come to mind at all.

She posted a photo of herself in a bra.

Therefore she posted a photo of herself in a bra.

Music Stuff

I got really excited recently because of all of this:

Ready for the Good Life

Ready for the Good Life

Paloma Faith

Head Up High

Head Up High

Oh Land

Earth Sick

And Earth Sick the single by Oh Land (my favourite Danish person) and the promise of Earth Sick the album out in less than a week!

Froot

Froot

Marina and the Diamonds

(It doesn’t have a legit album cover yet as far as I know.)

1989 Deluxe Edition

And of course this whole entity of cool.

I was thinking, as song after song after album came out and I collapsed in rapture each time, that all I need is a new single from Florence + the Machine. They are my fave ever, and I can listen to Lungs and Ceremonials forever, but, you know, new stuff is cool too!

I forget how excited I get when people I love make and do things that I love. Baby give me diamonds, give me gold, give me magic voices!

 

 

Fast Books That Invade Your Mind

There are some books that complete take over your thoughts* and demand to be read as fast as possible. Here are eight such books.

*I appreciate that most books, in one way or another take over your mind, but I’m talking about how some can totally invade your thoughts and your perspective of the universe for at least as long as you are reading them.

 

Nothing

Nothing by Janne Teller (2000, translated by Martin Aitken 2010)

This is a Danish book, about a boy called Pierre-Anthon and his classmates. Pierre-Anthon decides one day that nothing matters. He sits in a tree and shouts down at his classmates about how nothing is important, and they react by building a pile of things that mean something to them, to show that the world and life doesn’t just mean nothing. This book quickly becomes thrilling, terrifying and brutal. It is one of the few books I’ve read that I literally found difficult to put down. I read it about a year and a half ago and I still think about it often. It is incredibly thought-provoking and challenging in the way the ideas root themselves in your head. It reminded me of Lord of the Flies.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

I read this book only about a week ago. I loved it. It’s about a super rich American family, narrated by the eldest grandchild, Cadence. In the summer, she and her extended family live on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.  Two years ago, Cadence had some sort of accident, it’s called, and she can’t remember exactly what happened. The mystery hangs over the book the whole way through, and the accident is nothing like I expected. At all. And I loved it for that. I also loved the characters and their relationships, and the analysis of families with extreme wealth. It’s a book that’s both gripping and gentle, before the ending, which escalates to completely shocking.

Bitterblue

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (2012)

Bitterblue is the third in a trilogy, the first two being Graceling and Fire. Graceling and Fire are more like companion books, but you really need to have read at least Graceling before Bitterblue. I found Bitterblue quite different to the others because of the suspense and ominousness of it, as Queen Bitterblue, now eighteen (she’s ten in Graceling), tries to figure out what her psychopathic father did to the people of Monsea during his long reign. I loved the clever codes and ciphers in it and the great characters, and the wonderful (but horrifying) world.

NLMG

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Never Let Me Go isn’t quite as forceful as the other books. It’s a lot more subtle in its ideas and plot, but this one and Nothing are possibly the most mind-invading books here. It’s narrated by a young woman called Kathy H., who is remembering her past at a boarding school-like institution with a shocking true nature – but when you read it, it’s almost not shocking because of the way Kathy tells it. This book is one of my favourites ever, and is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The writing, the characters, everything.

Liar

Liar by Justine Labalestier (2009)

This is a book about (wait for it) a liar. Her name is Micah Wilkins and she is a hugely unreliable narrator, but you kind of trust her anyway. The story is split between before and after the death of her boyfriend Zach. When you finally get to the truth section, similar to We Were Liars, you’re  not really sure whether to believe Micah or not. There are other mysteries throughout it – she’s a liar, after all – and the revelations can be brutal. It’s a great book. Micah is likeable and relatable, and not frustrating even though she keeps revisiting her words and telling you the truth (or what you hope is the truth). I loved it.

bk diviners

The Diviners by Libba Bray (2012)

The Diviners is an awesome book. It’s fun and creepy and brilliantly put together. Evie O’Neill, the protagonist, is completely fantastic, and the 1920s setting just makes it even better. Evie is essentially exiled from her hometown and moves to New York City to live with her uncle. He runs a museum of the occult, and is called to help with a murder investigation. Evie has a supernatural power that proves very useful for this, but things are complicated and this is just a great book ok. It was mainly the character of Evie who took over my thoughts, I think. She’s great. And there is great mystery, of course, with both the plot and the backstories of other characters, as it switches points of view.

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (2012)

This book completely swallowed me. It is dense and intense and magical and detailed and passionate and beautiful and dark. It is split between the stories of three women: Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a real historical figure who wrote the earliest version of Rapunzel, a young girl from Venice called Margherita who is locked in a tower, and the witch, Selena Leonelli, who holds her there. The stories interweave with utter precision. This must have been a painstaking (but interesting and exciting too, I’m sure) book to research and write and arrange, and Forsyth’s mastery is evident in every page. The characters and their motives and actions are fascinating, which is why it invaded my mind.

Dreaming of Amelia

Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty (2009)

This is one of my favourite books. Jaclyn Moriarty is actually referenced in We Were Liars, which made me very happy. This is a companion novel with Moriarty’s other books about the schools Ashbury and Brookfield. In this one, the characters are in Year 12. I read this first when I was in Year 8, and though I didn’t re-read it last year in Year 12, I thought about it a lot.  Like the other Ashbury/Brookfield books, it’s told through what the characters write, in this case for their Year 12 assessment tasks and HSC exams, which I loved (although how on earth they managed to write that much in an Extension English exam I have NO CLUE). There is mystery again (yay!), but it doesn’t weigh down the whole book. Actually, there are quite a few mysteries (two main ones) that are gloriously interwoven throughout it. It makes you think and smile and gasp and wonder.

 

The covers I’ve included here are the covers I read the books with. Most of them have at least one newer cover.

The main image is of Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop in Paris that I really want to visit one day.

UN Women, Emma Watson, #HeForShe

I watched Emma Watson’s #HeForShe speech yesterday. It blew me away. I couldn’t speak for about twenty minutes afterwards.

There was such truth, such brilliance and such passion in her speech, and she spoke so well. She is one of the people I admire most in the world.

 

For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.

When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press.

When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”

When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.

I was never called ‘bossy’ when I was younger, because I was a quiet, shy child. I didn’t take the lead. This wasn’t, I hasten to add, because of any social conditioning that made me subconsciously submissive because I was a girl. It was just my personality. But boys were never called bossy. You could never call a boy bossy. It wasn’t even considered. Girls were bossy. Boys were not, even when they were taking charge. Girls are bossy, and girls cry. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t talk – maybe don’t even think – deeply about emotional issues. Girls are the emotional weakness, boys the emotional strength – and strength equals a lack of sensitivity. Why are we so intent on polarising the sexes? We are not opposites and we don’t need to be opposites.

It must be horrible, as a young actor, especially a young female actor, to be scrutinised by the press, to have your body scrutinised by the press. This affects not only the actors in question, but other girls in the rest of society as they measure their bodies against famous people’s. It’s a cycle, one that’s in plain view but is rendered invisible.

I hate the fact that feminism has become an unpopular word. One of the things that I find the most difficult to understand is why anyone would not be a feminist. How can you not believe in gender equality? To me it’s like denying that we need oxygen to stay alive. The definitions people use – for example that feminism equals man-hating, as Emma Watson said in her speech – are completely misguided. When stars like Shailene Woodley, Taylor Swift (who has since had a ‘feminist awakening’) and Lana Del Rey, people who I and many other young girls and women look up to, declare that they are not feminists, that they agree with gender equality but not feminism, or that it is an uninteresting or unnecessary movement, I explode.

 

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.

We are all imprisoned by what we are told we are meant to be. I have been dogged by feelings of inadequacy since I was fourteen or fifteen. Not always inadequacy in terms of living up to the standards that being female entails, but that is one of the biggest parts of it.

This is one of my favourite parts of the speech. Men should feel free to be sensitive without feeling emasculated. Women should feel free to be sensitive without feeling like they are living up to female stereotypes. Being strong should not be just the male domain.  It isn’t  just the male domain. Everyone is strong and everyone is weak. Everyone is everything, but we’re told to shape ourselves to constricting cells of social ideals that don’t help anyone.

Gender equality is everyone’s issue.

 

Emma Watson’s full speech is here, and a video of it is here.