Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blogger: La Roux at Budapest Essentials

Before I tell you about the concert, I want to tell about why I love La Roux.

I can still recall the first time I heard I'm Not Your Toy. I was in a store looking at shirt (very manly T-Shirts, of course, because those have better designs on them. Have you ever noticed that? Oh nevermind), and I heard a beat in the background. I am one of those people who listens to the lyrics, writes down a couple of lines and then googles it. But I have good hearing, so that works about 99% of the time.
Got home in a hurry, youtube, and repeat until I got tired of it - which, FYI, still hasn't happened -, and then quickly I got hold of the album. I was 18 years old and it was the first album I heard on which I adored every single song. I know that she's going In It For The Kill, that it's only Growing Pains, that her Reflections Are Protections and that this time, baby, she'll be Bulletproof and that now we're all in the Quicksand. I know them all by heart and I just kept listening to it over and over again, waiting for the next one...

If you are a La Roux fan you will know that she had a problem with her voice and it took her a while to get back into the game. But she did and although I survived on the Gold Edition of the first album, which featured Under My Thumb (my favorite) and Finally My Saviour, as well as amateur videos on YouTube of live performances of Sexotheque (grateful for those!), but I was slowly going insane... Each year I checked her site, wikipedia, forums, awaiting some miracolous news of a possible new album on the way!

And then it happened: the announcement of Let Me Down Gently coming to YouTube and I went apes*it and started running around the apartment yelling to my sister and screaming out of joy.

My friend told me that he is scared maybe we've been waiting too long and the album won't be as good and I just told him: "It's La Roux. It's gonna be awesome." And it totally was :D I loved every single song - although I would like to direct a new video for Let Me Down Gently -, anyway, now when I wake up and there you are I know I got The Feeling, that I cannot Kiss And Not Tell, and that the temperature is rising Uptight Downtown, but Cruel Sexuality, am I fool to let you bother me? And since Paradise Is You, it's no wonder that the title of the album is Trouble In Paradise.

We all have a favorite don't we? Sometimes you can't explain why. Either the lyrics, or the melody. Mostly it's both or their ability to get you! Music understands you. And I feel that every single song is a bit different and they actually managed to reflect various stages in my life. Sometimes it's her voice, sometimes it's the fact that although the lyrics are very depressing, they have a catchy tune and it helps me cope with the situation. La Roux's music has saved me, I don't know how many times and for that she will always be my favorite artist!

Unfortunately - due to negligence - I missed her concert on Sziget last August, and I have regretted that decision more than anything else in my life. So you can imagine my surprise, and the feeling of a dream coming true, when she posted on her facebook page that "We're going to Budapest Essentials". This was followed by an immediate google search and two hours later I had tickets for the concert. And here's what happened:

It didn't.

Waited almost half a year for this and it didn't happen. Technically it's not her fault, so what can one do? Nothing. Wait, I guess, wait for the chance to see her here in my city. I cried on my way home, because this year was quite horrible for me, and I was hoping for this night off, but I apparently can't catch a break. And well, I don't have the money to go see her anywhere else, unfortunately. But as always, she'll help, so I'll put on her album in the background and try to smile.

Get well soon Elly, please do come back!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blogger: The Reason I Love Gordon Ramsay

There are a couple of things that I noticed while binge watching food related reality shows with my sister. I will also write a list of my favorite cooking TV shows, but beforehand, let me introduce the topic by telling you how many things we learned:

  1. British reality shows are 100% different from the American version (sometimes even of the same show!).
  2. If you put bacon into something, you are taking it "to a whole new level".
  3. The cake is too big, it will not fit into the van!
That said, I want to talk about one person in particular whose shows I have been watching for over three years now: Gordon Ramsay.

If you don't watch cooking shows then you know Gordon Ramsay one way: the yelling as*hole who curses all the time in a reality show about a restaurant. Right? Well, that's even less than the tip of the iceberg. Allow me to elaborate!
I will admit that that Ramsay is the character he was paid to play on the show. Remember: a character, it's key to understand where I am headed with all of this. That's, or more precisely he was what the American people need. And I am not being judgemental here, it's simply a fact. I dare you to watch a sweet baking competition like The Great British Bake Off and an episode of Hell's Kitchen. Go on! Google it, see it on YouTube, it's ridiculous how different they are! The structure of certain reality shows is to build up suspense - which is fine in certain cases -, but otherwise it is very annoying. Oh and yes, they had the bake off show in America, entitled The American Baking Competition and it was cancelled after one season. So in case you are an American who would enjoy such a relaxed and sweet smiley show where people are awarded for their achievement and not just sh*t on, check it out! But even the American had somebody who did everything to break the rules, and he won... so yeah, Americans and their mentality...

What am I trying to say? That American reality shows suck? Yeah. Yeah they do, because 90% is about watching people fail miserably and laughing at their misfortunes and at the judges telling them off. I don't enjoy that. What I do enjoy is teaching and actual criticism.

So why am I talking about Gordon Ramsay? Because he is that person. Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong, but I'll let you know that you have not seen a single episode of The F Word or of his travels abroad, or any British production or interview with late night hosts, then you don't know anything about him. That man is hilarious and he is the kind of teacher who will tell you off when you really are shit, and get you motivated, but will gently pat you on the shoulder if you are too inconfident and when you do a good job. He doesn't like pompuos or overconfident people, but if you prove yourself you will be awarded. And for me that's a good teacher. All my life I have been told I'm shit, so when I am told now, I don't really hear it anymore, it doesn't even make me want to do better, it's like "Oh yeah? Okay, I guess. Moving on." and I just agree with it. But you will see a significant difference between an American Hell's Kitchen and a British The F Word. In one he exaggerates, like a lot, and that's not necessarily his fault. Americans are born winners, have you noticed that? "I am the next (insert title of show here)". Failure? Not an option. The American competitors do have big mouths and are excentric and have a certain pride to themselves. It's no wonder you will see less shoulder patting. But that's fine, because that's what the audience wants to see, the American audience that is, somebody cursing and the students cursing back and so on...

But not me. I don't enjoy that. When you are standing in front of a chef who's got successful restaurants, has travelled the world, can basically make anything with anything in 10 minutes - even if your palate is a bit different - when he tells you that what you made is "sh*t", you should probably go ahead and believe him. And why? Because even if you like it (and I know people who eat oranges with ketchup, so hey, you're not alone!), you should still accept the opinion of a trained professional and shut up. Learn. You are here to learn.

Humility? It's a wonderful trait, and you cannot learn without it, trust me, I know! Been there and done that, seen it again, taught people who didn't have it, NOT fun. The basic idea is that you are loser if you admit defeat, right? Americans and there rules... society sucks over there. Overconfidence will only get you so far! And the British? They do have humility.
When Ramsay yells they try to be better, even if they already gave it their all, they will die trying! I'm not saying Americans won't, but you can only watch so many shows with people yelling into your face that they are the best of the best! I've seen kids and moms tremble in front of Ramsay, and others just laughing and talking with him and not even taking him seriously! He knows people, he is able to create a relationship with everyone and that's fabulous. I remember in last year's Masterchef, when my favorite contestant, Jamiee Vitolo was eliminated and for her memory video of her best moments in the show they actually showed footage that has never been seen: in it she was sitting on the floor in the studio with Ramsay and they were just talking and laughing. That's the man I love, not the version mass media wants to sell you!

That said. I have seen a lot of Gordon Ramsay. Not just in a kitchen calling someone an "Idiot sandwich", or something way worse... (here's a list of the best: 25 Of Gordon Ramsay’s Greatest-Ever Insults), but interviews where he keeps laughing, even Masterchef Junior is ten times more humane than the adult version, along with British shows where he is with his kids and family. Not to mention the discovery shows, where you find out that there are things even Ramsay is scared of!

Why did I write this entry?
Yes, the final question, well, let alone the fact that I too am preparing to become a teacher and that I have been blessed with teachers who see through the bullshit of some people, I wanted to write about Gordon Ramsay from a bit of a different view. That is, him as a role model and not so much as a chef. There is a reason he acts the way he does and I can't blame him. Actually, 99% of the time (unless it is hyped for TV) he is right when he tells somebody to "F*ck off"

I hope I made you want to look up his work, because really, there is more than meets the eye! Still, he does curse a lot. But I kinda don't mind, because they are usually well positioned! And when he is mean to someone it is usually very much justified! That said I would like to end with a quote:

"I have Gordon Ramsay parties. We sit around and tell each other to f*ck off."

Monday, May 25, 2015

What's Next On My List? Furious 7

For Paul

It took me well over a month to get to see this... I actually almost missed it. But then, I just told myself, this is his last film. No more of him in the theater. If I don't see it, I will regret it for the rest of my life!

The Toretto family has finally reached its peace. They live their life in Los Angeles and make the best of every single day. But as the years pass, nothing seems to be as perfect as it seems. Letty can't handle Dominic only seeing her old self, and Brian misses the bullets. But a man shows up who wishes to make himself known to Dominic: Deckard Shaw. He is the brother of our villain from the sixth installment. He is displeased with the state the Toretto family left his brother in and he decides to get revenge.
Dominic doesn't like the fact that he made it personal and he decides to go after him and meet him halfway. Shaw, however, is a shadow. And to find him he needs to shine some light on him, and to do so he is given help by Mr. Nobody - a government agent -, who seeks the help of Dominic. Bryan, Roman, Tej and Letty arrive and they have to save a hacker who was abducted. This hacker came up with a program that can hack into any camera and microphone and find anyone around the world. Dominic is told he can use it to find Shaw if he finds the hacker for the government.
The hacker is saved, and they retrieve the program and find Shaw, but have to retreat, and they also lose the program to a group of mercenaries. They decide to let Shaw come to them in Los Angeles, Dom fights him while the others transport around the city the hacker who tries to hack her own program in order to get it back from the mercernary group. As a final gift, Hobbs arrests Shaw, Letty reveals that her memory came back and we find out that she and Dom got married. In the end, Brian realizes that being at home with his wife and child is the best adventure he's got to look forward to. And they'll see him again!

Where to start? This movie knows its audience. As a matter of fact: all of them did. I still love the third, I don't care what people say. And they tied that movie into these simply perfectly! I loved that the there were two different storylines that kept connecting to each other. I also liked that there was really one bad guy, because so far in movies the suits always turn out to be bad guys. And here, well, these movies always make sure to portray the police as accurately as they can. When the others were on the wrong side of the law, the police were the bad guy. The police completely changes they attitude towards them once they are proven innocent. And that's something I really admire as I see how the movie pays attention to the little details.
I loved Kurt Russel, I loved Jason Statham - of course -, and each movie that has Dwayne Johnson has my vote! The action scenes were incredible, and I mean that considering that it seems weird that they can still take it up to another level - after six movies - and they did! Wonderfully coreographed and just... something you'd want to see, isn't it? People who loved the fight scenes in the Transporter series were surely entertaind to see Statham fight both Johnson and Diesel - I know because I was!
I loved the cars, the scenery, the countries and well... everything. I am always afraid of how well a movie will balance the action and the actual story of the movie and I wasn't disappointed. I just love these movies so much and the characters? They always leave something more to be desired. I want more Hobbs, I want more Letty, I want more Tej and Roman. It's never enough - these movies just take me on a high and I can't get down from it. I remember an interview with Paul Walker where he said that he is astonished by the fact that people are still interested in seeing these movies. I just wish he could've seen all the records this movie broke!

And speaking of... I cried. It's funny, you know? I could immediately spot the scenes where his brothers helped out. I really miss him, you know? It's strange, I know, I'm just a simple fan, but he truly was someone amazing and I am so sad to have to say goodbye to him. Yet, again, I was glad I could. I am so happy he was in this movie and I loved that they didn't kill off his character. No, they gave him the best possible ending and I think that's what got me to cry my heart out during the end credits. And the thing was that if you've seen the movies you know that Brian is always trying to beat Dom, and well, you see his last scene pulling up to Dom and saying that he can't leave without a goodbye. They don't compete, but I'm almost sure that they did in the original ending, instead, the two cars go along each other and they head down towards different roads into the sunset. I really loved that ending. So thank you, thank you for that.

Watch this movie. But marathon all of them, trust me! I know I will this summer. I just love these characters so much - they are practically my family too!

Thank you for the ride, Paul.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Dominic Toretto - Vin Diesel
Brian O'Conner - Paul Walker
Deckard Shaw - Jason Statham
Roman - Tyrese Gibson
Tej - Ludacris
Sean Boswell - Lucas Black
Mr. Nobody - Kurt Russell
Elena - Elsa Pataky
Jakande - Djimon Hounsou

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blogger: Margaret Atwood and I

A Short Story.

"When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. 
We want to believe it was all like that."
from: The Handmaid's Tale

Take this roller coaster ride as an open letter. You see, I can't even remember the first time I heard your name. Perhaps a lecture, that seems likely, yes. Either way, it didn't remain unknown for long, I had underestimated the force of the avalanche that came with knowing that name. Then there it was: your book in the hands of a friend. Then, another friend. And yet another! There was one very specific week, I remember, that I had five different friends who were reading you! I thought wow! She must be great! But something changed... yes, it changed drastically because not only my friends couldn't tell me why they liked your work, but some of them harshly criticized me for not reading your books. And I grew angry, you know? During my years at the university I was taught to be able to come up with arguments, to prove that my opinion is not just there and you have to "deal with it". I also tried to recommend books to those friends of mines who were more open to discuss your works, but even their responses varied from "No!" to "Just read Atwood!", and finally "How can you not read Atwood?".
Their unwillingness to actually discuss things made me care less step by step. I reached a point where I would cringe when I heard your name, or rolled my eyes disapprovingly. "How can you not like Atwood?" they would ask me, while laughing, but it wasn't fun for me. I still couldn't quite put my hands on what my problem was. And when a teacher of mine advertised a whole seminar to discuss your works, I thought, why not? I'm not an expert! There is a set reading list, and for the first time if I had questions the answer wouldn't just be "Read!". So here we were, and I went in with an open mind. Remember that, please. I went in with an open mind!

"Longed for him. Got him. Shit."
from: "Very Short Stories", Wired, Nov. 2006

Stone Mattress, the short story, was the first one. Such depth, the whole story? Mesmerizing! I liked reading it, I truly did, and loved the layers! And then we spent 60 minutes discussing whether or not Verna was right to kill her rapist. OK, that's important too, but why 60 minutes? Here I was, looking forward to finally discussing your work, talk about the characters, the way you write, and again... none of that happened! And it wasn't even the teacher's fault, there was just too many of us and all of them eager to speak. I didn't mind that, later on as much as I did in the beginning, but we got from point A to B very slowly and I felt the same way I did before: No real answers to real questions.
I thought I was going to lose it. I was so mad. And then I thought, is this general? Does your work do this to people? They are either crazy about it or hate it and there is no in-between? The question was simple, was she right to do it or not? I said no. Everyone answering that question should've been the end of that argument, instead, everyone felt the need to keep on talking about that... OK. And perhaps the biggest problem was that it was made clear in the beginning that nobody will expect anything other than criticism from me, so even if I did try to be unbiased: it didn't live a long life.

"The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; 
there ought to be as many for love."
from: Surfacing

It still puzzles me how different my brain is from my classmates', because when I read This Is A Photograph of Me I could feel a Polaroid picture in my hands, taken of a frozen lake where a simple accident happened in a Canadian winter. Let me tell you that is not at all what the others saw! And all they said kept going further and further from my vision and I couldn't step in, I couldn't say, "Hey! Wait!". And even when I did manage to find something I could criticize - something I spend a lot of time on improving in my own works - like the dialogue in Death By Landscape, I was told "No, it's brilliant!".
I was on the verge of giving up. I had fun with Circe & Mud Poems because I've read that you watch Game Of Thrones, and the mythology behind that just brought the game to a whole other level. I started to take my mission to complete the course seriously. And while reading The Girl Without Hands I felt truly that perhaps I am not the only one out there who sometimes feels like they are in no way in control of their own faith. My enthusiasm quickly faded after reading Sunrise, but then there it was, like a gift from the gods: Isis in Darkness. I don't know how you did it, but every single word in that story was pure perfection! Richard? The main character? He was me. And I say that knowing that I am not a grown man who left his wife and doesn't care for his child. But his feelings, his heart, his foolishness? I got it all. Only two other authors before - David Lodge and Stephen King - had managed to come up with a protagonist that I could relate to so easily. This short story made its way into my heart like an arrow.
And the class started comparing him to Yvonne, the main character in Sunrise and I just--- NO! My brain shouted, I'm nothing like her! - I thought to myself. And I was very critical. Yvonne's approach to her life as an artist filled me with rage! And I might not have received awards or written the best novel of the 21st century, but I do think of myself as an artist and if I want to punch Yvonne in the face it's not because I have problems with your work! No, it's not because I am blinded by a premeditated wish to dislike any and all your works that might come may way! I remind you, I had an open mind. I remind you that I couldn't find anything wrong with Isis in Darkness, and as I read I imagined Florence Welch reading her poems to Richard and a sense of bliss ensued. I was Richard, I knew that, I was even proud of it, and I would debate anyone who said otherwise.

In the meantime I was taken out of the short stories and listened to a presentation by my best friend. She worked with your trilogy, Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and Maddaddam (2013), for her thesis. The presentation was wonderful, and I knew I should read this trilogy the moment I can. And then it happened: I realized what was my first problem when the sentence "The main character's rape--" was uttered and I just gave up. "OF COURSE SHE WAS RAPED! WTF MARGARET?" I shouted. In my head. Because if it wasn't my best friend out there on the podium trying to analyze your work, I don't know what would've happened.

"If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged."
from: Alias Grace

I was done.

No seriously, I was done. Why do you keep raping your protagonists? And I mean that both physically and mentally! It's not the actual rape that I have a problem with! That's the thing I have encountered in the first half of the semester: I never felt that you like the women you wrote about. Why is that? I wonder out loud if anyone had ever encountered this or is it just me? Was I wrong in supposing I could have an open mind about it all? They all suffer, go insane, they are damaged goods and not in a very inspiring way! And I can only tell from what I've read so far, but boy, it's so incredibly hard for me to identify with your protagonists! There is something wrong there - for me - let there be no mistake, this is just me! But the women? ... Is that why I liked Richard so much? I could endure his pain, he didn't make me mad, he was hurt too, yes, damaged goods like all the others, but I think you loved him. You made him something that your women lack. And I don't know what it is, god knows, if I did I wouldn't be here writing this in the first place! I do, however, feel that these women had suffered far more pain because of your pen, rather than the life they lived. (And I know you have a short story entitled Rape Fantasies, but to avoid this story turning into an angry rant I'm going to evoke salutary neglect on that one.)

"War is what happens when language fails."
from: The Robber Bride

The semester was not over yet. Next up was a series of poems, extracts from The Journals of Susan Moodie to be exact, and it all reminded me of "Landscape" by Florence And The Machine... I've found that strange, but this artist has come to my mind for the second time ever since I've been reading your works - and again due to poems - and she wasn't the only one. Music, lyrics especially kept sneaking up on me in my brain while reading and I would find myself singing. And then came the second short story where the main character was a man, George, in Wilderness Tips. A cunning fox, nevermind Hungarian, but still an exquisite character. I loved George. George made the women around him lovable as well, even the smallest of their quirks became charming, because he was a charmer! Second time a male character - despite being far from perfect - got to my heart in a matter of seconds.
Then I got to know two women and their mom, and while reading The Art of Cooking and Serving and The Boys At The Lab in my ears I could hear the lyrics "Things we lost to the flames / Things we'll never see again / All that we've amassed / Sits before us, shattered into ash." (by Bastille).
And then I realized what you do to me. It was a pleasent feeling, but if I read your work I could hear really music. And when I did, the story in front of me stayed with me. And it was strange, I'll admit, that every review I've read spoke of son, but I saw a daughter - perhaps because I saw myself - narrating the story of her sick father as he tells her about the The Labrador Fiasco. I can't tell you if the story ever said he or she, because I could never read it back. It was too real, like a picture from the future - my future - and I wasn't ready to see it yet. We also read Tricks with Mirrors, which very accurately reflected they way I let the ones I love use me - shamelessly to add - and I heard in my head "When we fall in love/ We're just falling/ In love with ourselves/ We're spiraling" (by Keane), not to mention the Variations on The Word Love, which for me had a very painful tone. Painful, yes, but something I could write myself and then You Made Your Escape and at first I felt that sense of relief when you realize that you are no longer in love, no longer have that unsatiable desire toward someone, who doesn't love you back and-- wait. "(...) nothing/ remembers you but the bruises/ on my thighs and the inside of my skull." ... This is about rape, isn't it? Goddamn it Margaret! NOT AGAIN! It was going so well for the two of us, we didn't fight anymore, we even found our common tone. What happened, I wonder, is it the fear that makes you write about it, or simply the notion that you can? Did you grow up knowing that such taboo should be talked about instead of being swept under the rug? It would be easy to tell me to avoid stories of yours with such content, but how can I? They are everywhere! Or is that the message perhaps? I don't know.

You are no fairy tale, let me tell you that!

Having had an inside look I know what it is about your style that just simply wasn't meant for me. But having written so many things, I'm not afraid to say that I will surely encounter more of your work that I will like. The Dead Hand Loves You is open here by my side right now, and I'm in chapter three in The Handmaid's Tale. However, having started writing this story I couldn't help but wish to dig deeper. I just... I had to know what was it that made it so easy for me to hate you blindly.
Then I got it. And it's stupid, you know? I feel like such a fool for not seeing it. I write myself - and all of them - all of my friends that one summer had my books. I gave it to them. I entrusted them with my work. Some people think it's easy, because I'm outgoing and have a blog and so on. It's not. Stephen King once said that "Fear is the root of all bad writing", and he wasn't lying. You said it in a way yourself in The Blind Assassin "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read". So when I pour my heart out in my work I have to be strong enough to give it to someone else to get some feedback. Because I need the criticism, I know I do, every artist does! And that summer... that summer they all had one book in their hands. All yours. None mine.

"As with all knowledge, once you knew it, 
you couldn't imagine how it was that you hadn't known it before."
from: The Year of the Flood

I'm not sorry for having learned about you, because unlike some professors at my university from other departments who like to pretend they know every author and their every work, I at least had an actual insight. I can now participate in discussions, know where to look for your work, and who to talk to. You have inspired me, I'll admit that proudly, and I will work even harder than before. I will read more from you - might keep it to myself to avoid getting enraged in senseless conversations with people who can't recognize the depth of certain stories - because I can learn from them. As I reach the end of this very story, allow me to quote one last time Mr. King:"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time and the tools to write. Simple as that." And I take that sentence to heart.
_ _ _

And if you, reader, have reached the end of this story, you'll recognize that sometimes we can be hurt by the smallest of things and not realize it. The only thing to do is to try and find the source of that pain - that's the only way to make it stop! And if you just take the amount of work I put into this one story (with the clearly Googled, but very well positioned quotes), maybe you, dear reader, won't tell me off from now on for reading something other than Margaret Atwood.

"I would rather dance as a ballerina, though faultily, than as a flawless clown."
from: Lady Oracle

PS: Can we all agree that if they made a movie out of your life, the actress who portrays you should be Rhea Perlman? Thank you.