Sunday, December 15, 2013

Friday Sound

SKEETWOOD MAC. Fleetwood Mac mashed up with hip hop. Rhiannon & Rihanna. 2 Chainz vs. The Chain! Q: Could there be anything better in the world? A: No, no there couldn't. This series by The Melker Project has been around for a while but it is still amazing and I love it. Also, no one in my real life gets it. When I meet the person who fully appreciates the wondrous, hilarious musical perfection that is this series I will have met my soul mate.

Cool lady.

Beyoncé! More qualified people than me have spent the weekend slaving over their think pieces, I'm sure we'll see them hit the webz in the next week, but phwoar? That's my initial critical opinion for you. Bey is looking good. The styling on ***Flawless in particular is amazing (as is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's monologue of course). Joan, Jourdann and Chanel on Yoncé - three of the biggest black models working right now and Beyoncé holds her own. Grillz! I want some. I have never been interested in the power ballads so a big chunk of the album is inevitably lost on me but there are some great party hits. I've been singing Grown Woman all weekend. [N.B. Links are to Tumblr where the full length videos have been proliferating since Friday.]

I don't really have anything to say about the way that Beyoncé has released this album - she has always been a master of self-publicising and the secret aspect doesn't really interest me. The 17 videos slightly depresses me though maybe? Is it hopelessly passé and outmoded to wish that music was slightly more about music and slightly less about image? I understand that pop music specifically has always been image conscious and Beyoncé & co. have always traded on their images but this seems like the climax of the current Bey/Gaga/Rihanna trend of music as spectacle/visual and I'm basically over it. (If I was ever under it). The music feels almost beside the point here because we have 17 videos of Beyoncé's beautiful perfect face and her beautiful perfect body and great clothes and make up and so very much writhing to shove into our eyeballs. Maybe that is what we want? Beyoncé is nothing if not savvy and she's probably just catering to consumer demand but can't we demand more of her than her arse?

Which brings me onto my second issue with the whole circus - SEX. She is the biggest pop star in the world (I think that is fair to say? 1D & Bieber et al. can get back to me in ten years once they've proved their staying power), surely she doesn't have to be quite so reliant on soft core (and less soft core) porn? Why is it all so explicit? [Man, all of this is making me sound like a grumpy old man.] Pop is a youth genre and so so many of her fans must be teenagers and young girls and she makes a big show of being an icon and a strong woman and a pseudo earth mother figure to her fans and yet she is so aggressively naked and sexualised in so many of these videos. Let's talk about Partition. I hate that eleven year olds are watching their icon literally behind bars, basically naked and gyrating for a male gaze.

[Aside no.1 re Partition - why is everyone wearing those diamante bras? They look amazingly uncomfortable.] [Aside no.2 re Partition - He 'Monica Lewinsky-ed all on (her) gown'?? That doesn't make sense - if anything he 'Bill Clinton-ed all on her gown'. Monica Lewinsky didn't jizz on her own dress. I could read into this Freudian slip (?) almost forever - there are essays on women and sex to be extrapolated from this single line.]

I know that Beyoncé isn't at the front of the pack when it comes to unbelievably overt sexuality in pop music (hey there RiRi, Pour It Up was certainly something) but she must have one of the youngest audiences and she casts herself as a wholesome figure and feminist icon in a way that Rihanna never does. It just feels so hypocritical to me, hypocritcal and crotch-tastic. Beyoncé/The Visual Album is exciting and beautiful and I am going to dance happily to a bunch of the tracks on it but it also exacerbates my issues with Beyoncé, her image and self presentation, best summarised by AHP months ago.

Anyway, rant over. Thoughts and feelings, yes; coherence, no. What are your opinions on Beyoncé? Everyone has opinions. That's why this whole stunt worked.

Chuck x

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Update

I'm back! Kind of. For now... Anyway, I have reasonable justification for my absence - I have been being productive. *SHOCK*

1) The latest issue of Oh Comely (Issue #18 - how did that happen?) is out and I have a piece in it about my complicated relationship with meat. The photo is obviously and hilariously not me - I would never condone naked knife work. It isn't safe or hygienic in the kitchen and I don't even want to think about any other context. The issue theme is bacon and I haven't had a chance to properly read through the magazine but it looks as delightful as ever. I have some mega train journeying scheduled this weekend and I'm stocking up on high quality reading material. More on that later.

2) I weeeen, I weeeeen! I took my first ever shot at NaNoWriMo and I totally did it. 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 exhausted me. 311,409 people took part this year and 41,940 finished it which makes me one of the 13% left standing so I'm feeling pretty good. Admittedly, most of the time it felt like hell and it devoured my November but it was a very interesting experience and I'm glad I did it. I can't vouch for the quality of what I have written because a) I felt strung out most of the time and b) I haven't re-read a single word of it yet and it could be completely unhinged ramblings for all I know but I feel like I've learned a lot.

I strongly suspect that NaNo lessons are ones that can only be learned by doing but on the off chance that you are one of the lucky few who can learn from others mistakes and because I am smug and drunk on my own success, here are some of the things that I learned:
  • The more you write the easier it is to write more: The various WriMo mentors and helpers and whathaveyou spend the first week alternately telling you to pace yourself, this is a marathon not a sprint, don't use up all your writing energy in the beginning, and to capitalise on your initial burst of speed and get out as many words as possible before the big slump in weeks 2-3. I found the opposite to be true - I wrote considerably less in the first week than any subsequent week and even struggled to meet the minimum target (1,667 words/day). It took trial and error to get up to that kind of speed and volume but I found that the more I wrote the more easily words flowed. In some ways it is harder to write 800 words a day than double that.
  • Strict deadlines are awful until they're deeply satisfying: When you're on the wrong side of your word count you feel awful and everything is impossible and you just want it to stop but if you can get past it you feel like a god and every additional sentence is a gift. Also, if you are a person who never feels like they're doing enough (hello!) it's really nice to have an officially sanctioned stopping point.
  • Routine is everything: Obviously this is a super personal one because I know there are plenty of WriMo-ers who write 1-2k in the week and then sprinted through 8k at the weekends but I cannot do this. My words will fill the time I have so give me four hours to write 2,000 words and I will do it but give me eight hours and I will also write 2,000 words much more slowly. This says bad things about me and procrastination but a steady amount of pressure and a regular daily process works for me.
  • Find your limits and work with them: I cannot write more than 500 words an hour, I just can't, I am not a fast writer. NaNo are big on scary 'word sprints' where everyone gets on Twitter and writes 600 words in 15 minutes - I 100% can't do that. But now I know my limit I know how much time I need to find and clear for myself.
  • The impossible isn't but you can't have everything: I didn't really believe at the beginning of November that it was possible to write 50k on top of a full time job but I thought I'd give it a shot because even if I only came away with 10k that still would have been a win for me. However, it turns out that it can be done! No excuses, it is possible. Nearly 42,000 people say so. BUT you (or, at least, I) only get two out of the three - i) a job, ii) 50k, iii) a social life and/or hobbies. There are only so many hours in the day and something has to give. This blog bit the dust and I've barely seen any of my friends in the last month.
  • Hangovers are the worst: This is true generally but they are also the most massive drain on productivity. Drink with moderation, friends. For now, at least.
I think those are the main ones? I don't know. I'm not yet in a position to judge the long term effects on the quality of my written words or the discipline of my writing practices but I'm happy and I feel like I've achieved something tangible. I also think that there are many interesting and some critical things to say about NaNoWriMo as a cultural phenomenon but that is a story for another day.

Also, guess what? It turns out it is nearly Christmas! I'm psyched.

How've you been?

Chuck x