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 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.

Birdsong – an epic?

I apologise for my lack of posts recently, but I was working at the Wimbledon Championships which was an amazing experience, especially with Murray winning! I feel unbelievably proud to have been part of such an historic event and so I hope you can forgive me for not keeping up to date with my blog. The good news is however that I was able to do a large amount of reading across the fortnight – there was rather a lot of travel involved as well as waiting around in queues for various things.

I managed to tackle a rather voluminous work: Birdsong. This is one of those everyone-must-read-before-they-die books or everyone-must-read-in-order-to-know-our-past-better books. Truly amazing. The first world war is often a very difficult subject to talk about, with the vast amount of lives lost, and the destruction it caused not to just to humanity but to the countries involved, the world economy and international relations. Sebastian Faulks has very cleverly built up characters that we not only sympathise with and back to survive through the war, but we are also able to see them change.

The non-linear narrative enables Faulks to jump around with the plot, revealing sections about Wraysford’s life before the war, then during, then skipping ahead to his granddaughter’s path of historical discovery – which moments before we had been living through his eyes. This style effectively reveals subtle layers of the characters’ personalities and histories without being blunt and direct. It gives depth. They become real characters, with lineages with future possibilities. It also allows the reader to subconsciously compare the decisions of Isabelle and Elizabeth, who live extremely different lifestyles, France 1910 and then England 1978 both find themselves unmarried and pregnant.

Men at war.

Men at war.

This really is not just a love story. It is an epic love story. It is in itself and epic. The novel covers such a vast period of time and lives and people that it isn’t really a novel. It has the important historical element to it too, the war is the crux of the plot, it holds the story all together. The opening in 1910 is foreshadowed by the readers knowledge that the war will follow four years later and then all the characters are directly affected by it. As I have said it is an epic, but sometimes it does go on and drag a little. The descriptions of the war scenes and the life of the men in the trenches is often times repetitive and full of similarities – but I guess trench life was mundane and repetitive.

I cannot recommend this more highly, for those who dislike historical fiction, this is also a romance and for those of you who don’t like romance, there is so much death, destruction and loss that it counterbalances any love affairs early on. And for those of you who like the sound of it but don’t like the length, I really recommend the BBC adaptation that came out last year with Eddie Redmayne. Amazing.

The Great Gatsby: Fitzgerald’s novel and Luhrmann’s film

Seeing as the film is set to come out in cinema’s tomorrow, and I am in love with the soundtrack, it only seemed appropriate that Gatsby should feature on my blog. It even features on the about me section, so it definitely deserves to be here. In fact I love it that much that I refuse to listen to the criticism that the academics have written about it, the words that I need to know for my exam in a couple of weeks. I know that studying a text can ruin its beauty, simplicity, take away certain qualities that make it perfect for the reader; but it also allows you to understand it at a deeper level. Different elements come to life that may not have at first been apparent from your own independent reading. So I guess I will just have to grin and bare it…

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The first time that I read Gatsby was for my IB English exam so I have been unable to read it from a purely pleasurable reason. The second time was for the exam coming up so I am still struggling along. Other people who haven’t had the pressure of exams have told me that they found the story to be less exciting and almost bland in comparison to the praise it has received. They agree that it is beautifully written and Fitzgerald creates a perfect and yet simultaneously a distorted version of a perfect life throughout the pages.

The Great Gatsby in my opinion is fantastic. It has elements of good and bad, on the surface it presents a romanticized view on life, and it isn’t until you scrape away at the perfectly constructed language that the realities of that lifestyle present themselves. Daisy is nothing more than a rich woman who enjoys being at the centre of everybody’s attention, in love with money and the life that it buys. “Her voice was full of money” summarises it pretty nicely I think. Tom is nothing more than a bored rich American, who enjoys to dip into the women that the proletariat has to offer, because Daisy is nothing more than a trophy wife. She is not a working woman who aspires to be a woman of leisure. Nick, a biased author is probably the reason for the romantic construction of 1922 New York. He is unable to see the political and sexual agenda’s that are prevalent throughout the story. He doesn’t question where Gatsby’s fortune comes from – he is completely oblivious of any wrong doing.

I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.

I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.

Although set in 1922, which was an important era for modernism, Fitzgerald wrote it 3 years later in 1925. Ezra Pound a contemporary  poet and critic even argued that 1922 marked the beginning of a new modern era. The invention of the car, end of the war, economic boom and rise of America, development of cinema and television and thus the creation of the BBC, publication of Ulysses and The Waste Land all had a huge impact on the direction that culture chose. It could have merged, or stayed separate, or ultimately and what was most likely to happen, there would be a collision. An inevitable explosion of opinion and division.

Gatsby, although written over 90 years ago is an extremely modern novel still. The creation of money. Inherited or stolen or made honestly. The need for one to fit in, into social circles that are higher than your status, that inherent desire to succeed and improve. They are all very human qualities and I think this is one of the main reasons why the novel is considered one of the all-time best pieces of literature to come from America.

I could go on forever, in fact upon looking over what I have mentioned I have barely touched the surface of how passionately I love this novel. In fact, I didn’t even realise I loved it this much until I wrote this post. For those of you who haven’t read the book and are planning to see the film, I cannot recommend it more than I hope this post has done. It will be completely different from the film, because no Baz Luhrmann film is ever similar to anything else except other films he has directed. Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge both completely different in tone, musicality, pace, culture and yet they have been united by the modern music. They have been brought forward into the present, and in some ways, that is exactly what Fitzgerald and other modernists were trying to achieve. Unite the past and present, whilst refining and progressing down the literary canon.

And to end, of course there has to be a link to the soundtrack. I love all of the songs so much that I am just linking the entire thing. Click here to listen!