On Strictly week one

I apologise that this is being published a bit late, but because I am without a television I am unable to watch Strictly live on Saturday and so I had to wait until the show appeared on BBC iPlayer. But, as promised, here is my account of the first week.

I have to say that I quite like the set up for this season. Having half the contestants perform on Friday evening and then the rest the night after, trying to squeeze them all into one show would be a disaster darling in mine and Craig’s opinion. Firstly there would be less time for the BBC to pad out with the introductory clips and not mention the amount of time that is needed or Brucie to make his jokes – believe me, some of them are pretty long-winded. Bruce mentioning twerking was something I had never expected in a million years and felt very uncomfortable and uncanny opposed to the laughter it was aiming at. Does Bruce even know what twerking is? Or he is simply just reading what they have written on his cue cards.

Is there anything the BBC won't let him do?

Is there anything the BBC won’t let him do?

As to the contestants and their first dances there was the expected usual array of magnificent and mediocrity. From Abbey and Aljaz being awarded 4 eights in their first dance at the top of the leader board, and unsurprisingly Tony and Aliona and Dave and Karen in joint last place with a total of 16 points – have the top score. Now the main problem I have with the show (don’t misunderstand me, I love it right down to my very pointed toes) but there seems to be no continuous scoring scheme that is used by all the judges throughout the entire course of the show. Yes Abbey danced an amazing Waltz but there is no possible way that she can only progress by a mere 2 points from each judge between now and Christmas. Moreover some of the judges seemed overly harsh with some of the contestants; Vanessa and James’ Cha-Cha was not the best dance in the world, but it perhaps should have been awarded more than 19 points considering there were many faults in Deborah’s dance. The judges need to make it clear to both the public and themselves how the scoring system works. Do they score fairly throughout the whole show, awarding rarely higher than a 5 in the first few weeks and really make those 8’s and 9’s count. Or are they going to continue to throw them out willy nilly.

It also seems completely unfair that they have celebrities on the show that do have a background in dance. Yes it is not fair to discriminate, but in this instance Natalie Gumede trained to be a professional dancer until she became injured. Yes it was made public on the show but that still goes a long way to justify why she was given 31 points in her first dance – it was a bloody brilliant one at that. Similarly I also find it hard to make a decision when the celebrity is a performer. Fiona Fullerton was an actress and was able to disguise her nerves and cover up her mistakes like a professional, her dance quality was not much better than Vanessa Feltz – but her acting gave her the grace that she needed to make it into the middle of the table. I do think that this might be the year that Anton will make it into November and won’t be voted off in the first few weeks because his partner is disliked and unable to put one foot in front of the other on live television. Perhaps all his years of struggling in silence will have paid off; he won’t be lifting the glitter ball this year, but he will have a better chance than any of the previous shows.

Are you watching Bruno? Silly question...

Are you watching Bruno? Silly question…

Of course, an episode of Strictly would not be complete without the necessary sexual innuendo, flirting, tanned chests on show, sparkles and a few testosterone egos bumping into one another. The comment of the weekend for me was Bruno as he spoke to Ben Cohen, the Rugby player, offering his services if Kristina is not able to keep up and make use of all of Ben. Yes a little cringe worthy, in fact very cringe worthy and awkward to watch, but that comes with Bruno. All of the judges have their quirks and gimmicks.

Next week also looks like it will be a promising episode. The ballroom dancers will be swapping to latin and vice versa, then we will really know who is the cream of the crop.

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On Alison Bechdel’s search for her mother

After reading her first graphic tragicomic for my exam last term Fun Home I quickly made the decision that her second graphic novel would be making its appearance onto my shelf very soon. I made a good choice.

Although not as comical as her first novel, this is equally as gripping and interesting. It follows Alison’s life as she tries to explain and understand the relationship that she has with her mother. Are you my mother? is a memoir that reveals how her relationship with her mother influenced the person she is, her interests in literature, in writing and also her sexuality. It follows her journey through therapy as she investigates and tries to get to the cause of her anxiety, whilst being followed by her mother’s career. Classified as a memoir I would say that it doesn’t really seem to fit. Yes it accounts Alison and her mother’s history non-chronologically, but it also is a metabook. It narrates its own creation. The plot follows the progress and also regress of Bechdel’s struggle to complete her second novel; especially after receiving such success from the one based on her father, Fun Home.

What I particularly liked about this book was that there did not seem to be a coherent narrative. We jumped around from past to present, from mother to Alison, good times to bad: and it worked really well. It was compatible with the storyline. The search to discover who we are and why we are the way we are is a long process, it would not occur in a coherent and linear way. Progress is a not a continuous process, it speeds up, slows, plateau’s, picks up and then storms ahead; and not necessarily in that order. What I am trying to say is that within the novel there are multiple story lines interwoven and developing at different rates; with the relationship between mother and daughter at the heart of it.

Honest descriptions.

Honest descriptions.

The relationship between mother and daughter is the most interesting, complicated and inspiring of all relationships for many reasons. The daughter is interested in the mother as she is the first female that she comes into contact with, they have a bond that cannot be replicated. The mother grows and protects the daughter who will potentially do the same to her daughter. The mother has a duty to protect her daughter until she is independent. What makes this novel particularly heart-felt is that the relationship Alison had with her mother is not the usual sunshine and rainbows that you expect. Alison explores the reasons why she has always been independent, not been close to her mother and ultimately whether that influenced her sexuality. Similar to what made her first full length novel so successful is the way Bechdel takes the normal and regular and manages to make it slightly uncanny, familiar and yet simultaneously new and odd.

Bechdel is truly talented and this is a brilliant read. Graphic narratives really are the way forward, the convey both heavy messages and are also light hearted, and so appeal to many people all at once. I truly recommend this book, not as easy going and comical as the first, but just as inspiring and page turning!

On Britain’s discovery of its backbone

Britain has a history of sticking its nose into other peoples’ business. We really just can’t help ourselves. We see trouble; we decide that it is our moral obligation to help out those poor innocents, regardless of whether they would actually like our help in the first place. Jolly good show old chaps, you really have pulled one out of the bag this time, really gone the extra mile, and lady justice is pleased.

Yet it seems that perhaps we have come to our senses. We have left Syria alone. What madness is this?! We, a nation constituted of moral righteousness and vanity have decided that perhaps we are not wanted. We are not needed. Have the Commons finally accepted that we are no longer the mother of the world? We are no longer the keeper of peace?

In recent years the British public have sat back and watched as the US puppeteer us. We are no longer that Great nation that once ruled half the World. We live in shadow of the US; we bend to their every whim and fancy. Dave can often be seen making tea for Obama at the UN conferences, just to make it 100% clear which side he is on. But Britain has had enough it would seem. Despite Dave putting up a good fight in the Commons, bless him he really wanted his own Prime Minister’s war to mark him in the history books, but the people said no. He graciously admitted that “it is clear that the British parliament…does not want to see British military action” which must have really grated his non-existent backbone.

Perhaps Dave’s gallant retreat had ulterior motives. Perhaps he has realised that our best hope now lies to the East, amongst the new rising tyrants China and Russia. Has his allegiance switched or has he finally come to his senses and realised that Britain has little interest in the outside world. The majority of us have bigger fish to fry than what is happening across the deep blue. We have £9000 a year tuition fees to eventually pay for, we have an economy that is just about holding on as it gradually climbs the steep slope of recovery. We have a government that is as close to shambolic as you can possibly get and what’s more the X-factor has returned to plague our screens.

Of course I am not saying that we should ignore Syria. The destruction and devastation that is occurring within that country is truly horrific and it is a disgrace to the name of humanity (which really is saying something, because most of the time I would rather not classify myself as a human if possible). I am merely suggesting that perhaps Dave and his chums in power should perhaps grow a pair and decide that we are better off alone.

On makeover time

So my little blog has finally had its makeover. I have been meaning to get around to doing this for quite some time now, the colours and the layout of the previous theme didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped for. It is not until your blog has been up and running for a period of time and you have had a chance to scope out other layouts that work well for other people that you really know what you want it to look like.

This one however I like very much. I think the colour scheme is much more pleasing to the eye and having the side bar down the right hand side is very handy, as opposed to scrolling down to the bottom of the blog to look for those items. Quite pretty, even if I do say so myself.

I hope you like it too! Feedback is always welcome fellow bloggers.

On Austen’s Emma and why I just couldn’t warm to it

My summer reading list for my English course starting next Thursday has finally been completed. I successfully managed to read the list in time, whilst simultaneously enjoying my holiday and reading the other books that I wanted to get through. I don’t want to make the reading task sound like a chore, because it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. In fact a lot of the texts that I read I really enjoyed and were already on my ‘To read’ list anyway; so two birds were hit with one stone.

Emma by Jane Austen was the last one to be crossed off, and I am really unsure what I quite make of it. I love Austen, I really do and I find it quite shocking that I have only just read Emma. But there is something about the book that has really perplexed me; and it really is starting to become a nuisance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot I will summarise. Emma is a beautiful and rich girl who adores arranging marriages for her friends, but never seems to be very good at it, to the extent where she causes much more harm than good.

Cover of "Emma"

Cover of Emma

Now, the main problem I had with the novel was that seemed to be it. There was hardly any plot or real storyline. We sit back idle as we watch Emma make blunder after blunder not only for herself, but particularly for Harriet (her friend) who does not possess the same qualities or birth right as Emma and as a result is fairly helpless. But it happened time and time and time again and I couldn’t work out why Austen would have not altered the plot. The conclusion seemed to me, to have been apparent from the beginning of the novel. The marriages that end the novel, were fairly obvious at the outset, it just took them a long and drawn out road to get there.

What also really shocked me about this book was that I simultaneously loved and despised the protagonist Emma. She meant no harm through her little match-making schemes and yet she didn’t stop once they started inflicting pain on her nearest and dearest. At times she acts very much like the spoilt brat that she probably would have been, but then at others she was very genuine and lovable. There seemed to be a lack of continuity in the characterisation. The other characters however, seemed to stay put. They were either hero or villain, never the twain shall meet. So yet another confusion added to the mix.

I even went as far as watching a film adaptation of the novel to see if it improved my opinion. It didn’t. I watched the Kate Beckinsale ITV film version which seemed to only further my opinion on the matter. Emma is both fickle to her friends and family as she is to herself. Her opinions and ideas change and swing back and forth so rapidly it is often like watching a tennis match. She manipulates her father and her friend Harriet, abuses her power of authority in society as a role model for young ladies and ultimately has a few too many unattractive qualities.

I cannot entirely criticise the novel because there are a few things which I found very agreeable indeed. Firstly, the relationships between the families and the differing social situations was very interesting to look at through fiction if one was gathering information on that historical time period. There was a great that could be taken from that novel in relation to social norms and societal expectations, which were very interesting. The balls and the dinner parties offered a great insight into what ladies and gentleman did both for leisure and as a means for courtship. The language and the prose is up to the standard expected of Austen and so it is an enjoyable read on that front. However I personally could not get over the vanity of Emma to really warm to her as a character and therefore the book on the whole. Of course I would recommend this book, however I feel it is just not one of the best.

On Strictly and it’s “razzamatazz”

So it is that time of the year, strictly fever has hit the nation. We all tuned in on Saturday night to watch the partnering of the 15 celebrities participating in the 11th series. The beginners to the professionals. The infamous group dance at the end of the show is what most of us held out for. The endless videos and biographies from each of the celebrities, not to mention the new professionals that have joined does become fairly tedious after a while. I was quite thankful that I had recorded the program, as there were some moments when I really did have to fast-forward.

Yes, I know! Slightly sacrilegious. For a humongous dance fan to want to miss out on all the minor details seems so entirely wrong. Well on some level I agree with you. BUT it is a dancing show after all. I watch it for the dance. The performance. The glitz and glamour. They are strictly the reasons why I watch the show.

The line up.

The line up.

Despite some of the criticism the show received, one articular review on the daily mail website by Jim Shelley, I believe that the red carpet opening was totally in-keeping with the show. It was an elaborate performance, decorative, mesmerising, chaotic: all the things that performance and musical theatre are known for. Criticising that the show was just too “razzamatazz” seems completely idiotic in my opinion and almost as if Shelley has completely missed the point of the show.

I think the partnering of the contestants works fairly well. There are many couples that definitely have brilliant potential just from what was apparent in the group dance. Also considering that Natalie Gumede trained as a dancer until she received an injury at 19, seems like there will be some good performances in store for us. The 10th series was the best to date (another cliché that is mentioned each year, that the talent is the best they have seen, that time it really was) and so there is a lot riding on the celebrities. Can they beat the brilliance that was broadcasted every Saturday across the nation? I hope so.

Plus, the competition was only made more apparent when last years champions Louis and Flavia performed their brilliant Charleston “Dr. Wanna do.” No pressure guys, but that is really is awesome. Yes he has his flashy gymnastic tricks thrown into the choreography to add a little bit of that “razzmatazz” but the dancing too is fantastic.

Reining Champs.

Reining Champs.

I am so excited, and I really can’t hide it. Strictly fever has well and truly set in for me and my household. Saturday nights have a new priority and with it probably goes my social life as I start University again. Well worth the sacrifice. I know that many people are not attracted by the dancing, the glitz and the razzle dazzle of showbiz. But this really is all rolled up into a neat little ball. Yes I have danced all my life. Yes I can probably sing most of the lyrics to A West Side Story. Yes I dance instead of walking down the street. But I have no way of waiting another 3 weeks calmly until the show really gets under way.

For those new to the show, take Bruce and his presenting with a pinch of salt (or fast-forward like I do). Take the sequins and spray tanned waxed chests as what they are and embrace your inner goddess; because strictly speaking, we are all diva’s deep down.