How To Be A Better Writer: Edition One

Nobody’s perfect; I’m sure even the Dalai Lama himself has a few character flaws left to work on before 2k18 rolls around. Improvement is always possible, no matter how skilled you are in a particular field. If you feel your way with words needs a tweak or two, here are some morsels of wisdom I’ve picked up as the years have ticked by and my pen has evolved into a QWERTY keyboard.

Let it flow. Like a menstrual cycle or a riverbank, your words should ooze out as organically as possible. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to pen something for somebody else? Naturally this is because you’re not invested in the results. Even if you care second-hand, if the words aren’t a reflection of you than the pressure is no way near your shoulders. Relax into your writing. Remove your judgement. Ignore the outcome. I guess I’m advocating ‘mindfulness’ here, which is just a buzzword way of saying ‘be in the moment’. A lifelong battle for all adults but one that pays off, particularly in the realm of wordplay.

Kill your darlings. Egocentricity is a habit of humanity. It seems ludicrous to the self-proclaimed writer that any element of their literary alchemy should be omitted from a paragraph because it might be a mis-match in tone, intent (etc.) but sometimes this is the case. Accepting that is the first step on the road to getting over yourself and producing more coherent texts. You can always save a killer line if it’s truly too poetic to dispose of entirely. That’s the beauty of CTRL+C.

Do it. You can’t be good at it if you never do it. So do it, a lot.

Narcotic abuse ‘Worked for Bukowksi. While I think it’s crass to present an image of yourself as a drinker who writes, rather than a writer that drinks, I will acknowledge the inspiration that uninhibited thinking and serotonin-depleted pondering brings. I’ve had inebriated states that enable me to stop procrastinating and continue wording, along with morning-afters that turn me into Socrates for a few hours on account of my philosophical word-vomit. Choose your poison wisely and don’t over-indulge. I’m not going to let my flippancy take the burden of your poor willpower, reader.

 

 

 

My Brother Julius

I come from a big family. My immediate family contains several generations, ranging from my folks; born in the 1940s, to me, a 90s kid. I’m the youngest of 5, which is a fortunate position in some ways. I’ve been blessed with the wisdom and support of my older brothers and sister over the years. My eldest brother is 19 years older than me. (A crazy big age gap, I know). Like any milennial blogger, the necessity of gratitude is just as familiar a concept to me as it is to Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. And as such, here is a list of reasons as to why I’m grateful to Julius.

Useful and Kind things Julius has done for me

Awoke nightly to feed and comfort me when I was just a weepy baby.

Let little me watch Beavis and Butthead with him, thus making me a punk-ass metal child \m/

Took me to Elhap, an adventure playground where I could play all day with other kiddies.

– Took me on memorable trips with said adventure playground, like the time I had my face painted like a ‘multi-coloured butterfly’ and stayed on the swings for literally hours.

When I was 11, he took me to the cinema one summer to see lots of different films, including Pirates of the Caribbean, School of Rock, Lizzie McGuire movie etc. We saw LOADS of films.

He used to walk me home from school, often buying me crisps and chocolate to treat me. Some slight rule-breaking going on here as my parents weren’t as keen on the sweets.

In the 2000s, he took me to Amnesty International meetings and encouraged my empathy for those seeking asylum at a young age.

Every year he buys me extravagant birthday cards and presents. Always huge cards and thoughtful gifts.

As a young whippersnapper, he gave me books on astrology because I enjoy indulging theories about the universe and spirituality, as does he. Not many people are so open-minded so that’s a stroke of luck.

His poetry circle is vast and he invited me into his online poetry community so I can attain feedback on my words if I so wish, as well as reading other contemporary poets.

Lastly, and perhaps most cruicial of all, he tells me vital pop culture information, like the fact R.E.M refused to play ‘Shiny Happy People’ because it got too popular maaaaan, or that Elvis has the same birthday as David Bowie.

There is obviously more but I have to cut the blogpost off somewhere eh?

Thanks, bro. 

How To Attract Someone Based On Their Zodiac Sign, Part 2: Scorpio – Pisces.

Scorpio

Scorpio.jpgAs a wise and noble man once said, “Oh oh oh oh oh, mysterious girl, I want to get close to you.” – This is the mating call of the Scorpio. While game-playing is a HUGE no-no, acting slightly nonchalant will intrigue them because they are natural investigators. While you’re busy socialising with friends, their piercing gaze will be sizing you up from the corner of the room. If you’re a stickler for small talk, you’d better start opening up about all things taboo – pain, sex, politics etc. Someone who displays emotional strength appeals to the sensitive Scorpio as they would like their intensity to be soothed by a reliable partner. Despite outward appearances, they are hopeless romantics who are determined to preserve love for all eternity. And they love a good shag.

Above all, have depth.

Sagittarius

SagittariusLook good. Shallow but true, physical admiration is a key ingredient in this ‘love me’ recipe. All the usual social beauty standards apply because you won’t be the only one this sign has their eyes on! That said, they’re savvy communicators who will just wander off in a daydream if you bore them with a narrow perspective. If you aren’t afraid to get philosophical when you don’t have a vodka in your hand, you’ll be entertaining enough for these wacky individuals. A sense of humour is a must because they tell jokes a lot and sometimes misjudge how appropriate they are – a non-negotiable part of their personality. Dramatics turn them off because they really don’t want to know about your problems (in fairness, they usually have enough of their own).

Above all, be carefree.

Capricorn

CapricornAre you a respected member of the community with a social conscience and a steady career? Naturally introverted and shy, you’ll have to prize them out of their protective shell gradually. The best way to do this is not with words but by showing them the receipts of your moral decisions. Rather than becoming obsessed with their hidden depths, engage them with the deep and meaningful chats you have when you first befriend somebody. Their ambition knows no bounds so they want to be partnered with the best of the best. If they can trust and respect you, not only are you a part of a select group but you are also on your way to becoming cared for by one of the most trustworthy and reliable people around. 

Above all, be accomplished.

Aquarius

Aquarius.jpgIf you want to learn 100 things you never needed to know about clean living, conspiracy theories, and why all other people are rubbish, you’ve found the right sign. Nothing inspires the Aquarian like the unconventional so make sure you let your freak flag fly and be your unique self. If you get a weird impulse then follow through with it, it’s sure to impress them! Intellectual conversation that lasts for hours is the biggest turn-on for these social scientists.

Above all, get weird.

Pisces

Pisces.jpgJon Bon Jovi is a Pisces. That gives you a clue as to how much these folks romanticise love (and everything else, actually) so I hope you’re not looking to hit it and quit it with these guys. If you have a spiritual side, let it show from time to time. Arty and imaginative types attract these daydreamers because they’re feelers more than they are thinkers. Opening up to them is not only easy due to their empathetic conversational skills, it’s recommended as a surefire way to have them hooked. Unless they’re evolved beings, they also treat people as projects who need to be fixed or changed so if you’re worried about your emotional baggage, rest assured that it matters not. 

Above all, brood in front of them.

How To Attract Someone Based On Their Zodiac Sign, Part 1: Aries – Libra.

Let’s jump straight into the tips and tricks of what makes each sign tick. Applicable to any gender. As Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” 

Aries

Aries

The warrior of the zodiac needs a challenge to sink their teeth into so your best bet is to tease them playfully and debate with them. Opinionated and bold, they need someone to spar with intellectually. CAUTION – the fragility of their ego means you need to counteract cheeky jibes with compliments so they know you appreciate how amazing (they believe) they are. In turn, they will shower you with affection right back and always leave you with butterflies. Very physical beings, play-fighting is also a good way to entice them. Excitement, new experiences and a high-value individual are what an Aries wants.

Above all, don’t be boring.

Taurus

Taurus

Preen yourself, smell enticing and mind your manners. Ruled by Venus, a Taurus has an eye for detail when it comes to beauty and therefore appearances matter. Fortunately, you don’t really have your work cut out for you as their favourite activities are sleeping, relaxing and eating. Find out their favourite restaurant and casually mention how much you like it there; they’ll invite you to join them one evening as you clearly have good opinions ( -ones that are identical to theirs). Be sweet to them as they have a solid sense of self and yet remain somewhat mysterious so they have a reason to pursue you. When they do, you won’t get together overnight but together you might just last a lifetime.

Above all, be patient.

Gemini

Gemini

Good luck. Gemini have a reputation for being fickle and flirtatious. If you want them to like you, let them talk to/at you and ensure you snag them within the first few times you meet. If they don’t show any signs of interest straight away, you risk letting them move onto the next one. At any given moment they enjoy pressing people’s buttons so if you can match their wit you’re almost there. Most people fall prey to their charms so keep your distance from time to time. If you’re into the same films/games/books etc you already have a way in so all you need to do now is keep on top of cultural trends and remain well-read.

Above all, be talkative.

Cancer

Cancer

Help an old lady cross the road. Spend time with your grandma and send a snapchat to your Cancer crush with the caption ‘FaMiLy ❤‘. Bring them home-baked apple pie. Despite trying to appear tough (cue the laughter track), Cancerians are sentimental creatures who want to cuddle up with a blanket and stroke your face until you feel safe in their arms. The natural look will win them over and so will plenty of reassurance. They wish they were less emotional so if you convey strength and sass, you’ll have them intrigued. Just make sure you give them 90% of the attention they constantly crave because these pessimists aren’t too secure in their self-worth.

Above all, be responsive.

Leo

Leo

Make them the center of your universe. Talk about their favourite subject (them) with a sense of awe and wonder. How do they get their hair so shiny? Where do they buy their DKNY shirts? Why can’t everybody be like them? Once you have a mutual understanding of their brilliance, you’re off to a solid start. Next you need to laugh at their jokes because they are truly the life of the party; if you’re a stay-at-home type you might not be for them. Be desirable by making an effort with your appearance and laying on the charm as a Leo just wants to entertain and be entertained. When they get short-tempered with you, bite back. They’ll respect you for standing up to their royal highness. They can be cliquey too so if you’re a cool kid they’ll come a’knocking to hang out with you.

Above all, openly adore them.

Virgo

vvirgo

Read a book. Then another, and then another. Once you’ve completed this process, regurgitate this information to your Virgo interest before pondering aloud “Lo, I find the assertion that cognitive dissonance unravels during adolescence to be preposterous and quite unlike most 20th century psycho-analytical studies.” There you have it, the deal is sealed. Intellectual Virgo needs to know you’ll understand the analysis they love to undertake on matters big and small as their mind is constantly judging everything. Predictably, they are picky. Flattery won’t work on them because they have an ideal lover in mind and you must live up to these expectations. Do some digging to discover the type of people they admire and then emulate the stereotype. Virgos are suckers for fixing things so tell them your boiler is broken and they’ll come around to fix it. Explain to them the pragmatic merits of a date with you so they know you won’t interfere with their busy schedule.

Above all, be smart.

Libra

Libra

Libra is the relational sign so you’ll need to compete for their attention. They spend their whole lives learning how to be well-liked because they crave external validation and this brings me onto my first tip: tell them they’re pretty. Their smile is their best feature because it can charm anyone, following on from the words that come out of it. Share ideas and exchange friendly banter when you’re in their company. It’s likely they have a creative streak so take an interest in the arts and see where you match up because a Libra is a pop culture fiend. Since they’re also naturally good-looking, it would help if you made the best of yourself for their viewing pleasure. They’re popular people who are never short of a date so you’ll need to incorporate a ‘hot and cold’ approach to pique their interest in the long term. Let them choose you…eventually.

Above all, let them know you appreciate them.

Up next is Part 2: Scorpio-Pisces. 

Buffy Turns 20 This Year; 8 Reasons Why We Love It.

Another win for our old friend Time.

Irony aside, a Buffy birthday is something to celebrate. Why? I polled a few friends of mine to ask why the show has a special place in their hearts and came up with some pretty unaminous answers… but you can’t have a blogpost that just says ‘BECAUSE IT’S REALLY GOOD‘, so let me expand.

Buffy Summers

We love to watch Buffy because she’s a multi-faceted heroine. Joss Whedon’s empathetic depiction of a female character enabled him to create a strong woman that anybody could admire. Her physical and emotional strength coexist with her interest in beauty and relationships, she can defend herself without being portrayed as a ‘bitch’ and her quips are just as loved as her looks. She’s interesting. She’s enviable. Or as mi amigo Adam put it,

‘Buffy is a kick-ass lady. And is hot.’

Big Bads: Vamps’ and Violence

Every episode delivers some fast-paced fight scenes courtesy of Mr Pointy and the Scooby gang. Vampires are textbook cool creatures: immortal, pretty and nonchalant, however they’re the arrogant enemy in a universe where ordinary humans are heroes. The Big Bads are often disguised as harmless, like ‘the trio’, who Whedon uses to highlight the threat posed by narcissistic entitlement.

Most of the fight scenes take place in the graveyard so we get a double scoop of spook, and you can often see the microphones in shot. So ’90s.

Coming of Age: The High School Setting

It’s the perfect platform for a lot of heart-wrenching character development, as my friend Bridie pointed out, and it enables us to look at the ‘cool kids’ dynamic with a fresh pair of ambivalent eyes. We follow Buffy on the familiar journey from angsty teen to reluctantly responsible adult and we watch her grow as if we’re holding a lens up to our own past.

Life Lessons

Buffy is so beloved due to its’ thematic variety. Some episodes are non-stop comedy, some are quasi-horror shows and others simply break your heart. The wisdom sieved into the making of each story arc (beyond the first Season perhaps) is Whedon’s way of sharing his own story in a way we all find accessible. He pinpointed the more discrete feelings we bury under the surface as though he was our personal psychologists, and that’s a big part of what gives Buffy meaning.

From depression to grief to unrequited love, no avenue of human pain was off limits.

LGBTQ Representation

My friend Bridie articulated it’s importance beautifully when she said ‘the relationship between Willow and Tara was the first instance of a female same-sex relationship I’d ever seen on television. I know a lot of queer women my age credit that as something that helped them feel comfortable in their own sexualities.’ Even now, onscreen lesbian love is often sexualised. Tara and Willow were so beloved because of how tender they were to each other (we’ll glide over the obvious error he made when dealing with a certain character’s treatment).

Spike

Spike isn’t really a villain because we don’t love to hate him, – we just love him. His aesthetic is based on punk rock Londoner Billy Idol and his personality reeks of a man trapped in the toxic masculinity of pretending to be tough when all you want is to feel love. We hate the things he does but only sometimes. His backstory shows us the sensitivity his current incarnation denies him and his flawed relations with Buffy are ultimately endearing.

He’s there to remind us that nobody is entirely evil/give many fans a sexual awakening.

Five By Five

Quips and puns line the mouths of each character, whether part of the Scooby gang or not. Whedon has the talent of any hugely successful writer in that all Sunnydale residents speak with alien vernacular, where phrases like ‘totally wigging‘ and ‘five by five‘ apparently make sense. Despite this, every piece of dialogue is paced to perfection so it never feels stilted or unrealistic.

Once More With Feeling

The musical episode is one of the greatest pieces of television aired to date. Importantly, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and thus throwaway humour and cheesiness is imbued into each installment of the chosen one. The musical episode is masterful because it gives us a dose of something different while proving that experimenting with format can pay off.

The list could go on and on….

It’s camp, dated and hugely sentimental but still it stands the test of time. Buffy is the show that inspired lots of young women and made many alienated young people feel as though they weren’t alone after all.

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween is here! Time to get spooky. img_5786

This year I wanted to make an effort to be a pop culture party warrior after dark and dress up as something from a film or TV show. After lurking on eBay for aGes, I narrowed my choices down to: Princess Jasmine, Lara Croft (one day) and Catwoman. My indecision gave way when I realised it was a week until the big Monday so I purchased a PVC catsuit in ‘small’ along with a cute face mask.

The outfit arrived on Friday – just in time! But my 5 ft “1 (and a half) frame couldn’t fill out the leather costume properly… I was back to square 1.

img_5778So I reverted back to my previous choice; a broken doll! Easy make-up, a simple dress and cost-effective too.

In the end, it looked pretty neat

<—– Dress, £15, tights £5

I wore striped tights to match my dolly dress – but even an everyday-wear dress would work, tied my hair in bunches, painted some China ‘cracks’ onto my face using snazaroo face-paints (although eyeliner would work too!) and once my shoes were on I’d snagged myself a last minute outfit that looked thoroughly prepared.

OTHER IDEAS INCLUDE:

A geek/nerd. If you wear glasses this is an ideal last-minute outfit (and still manageable if not). Complete the classic white shirt & black skirt schoolgirl look by: wearing sensible long socks, doing your top button up, painting the three-dot freckles on your face, having messy hair and carrying a folder around with you for added ‘swot’. Voila.

ERROR 404: Costume Not Found. Grab a white t-shirt. Then grab a black pen. You know what do to next.

A cowboy or girl. Wear a cowboy hat, a checked shirt and jeans if you want to be a real life Woody/Jessie.

Sandy from Grease. Team a black top with black leggings & a leather jacket, curl your hair and ensure you’re wearing red high heels. If you’re blonde I’d recommend this look.

Go generic and be a ‘sexy’ cat or bunny. Most shops will sell bunny/mouse/cat ears for cheap and I’m sure you know how to do cat eyes/a bunny nose/whiskers. Wear with a classic LBD and you have a low key Halloween outfit where you look like you’ve kind of made an effort but won’t be the center of attention.

Even more generic would be the witch or devil costumes – again all you need are props to look all hallow’s eve ready. Even Tesco will provide you with these! Ace.

If you have fake blood you can dress for an ordinary night out that turns extraordinary when you paint some red splodges on your face to radiate the spookiness.

H A P P Y   H A L L O W E E N!

 

 

The Ferris Bueller Theory You Haven’t Heard Before…

Hughes is a teen-flick King in the mind of many film fans, perhaps due to his sincere compassion for the alienation of adolescence. His 80s era films received cult status in the years after their release, and each one was written by a 30-something year old man.

Image result for ferris bueller's day offFerris Bueller’s Day Off is basically ‘some guys have all the luck‘ for 1 hour and 43 minutes. Released in 1986, it has most of the hallmarks of a John Hughes movie: a self-aware lead character, witty dialogue, anti-authoritarianism etc., and yet it’s more optimistic than his usual efforts. The protagonist in his golden era of film would typically be a misunderstood outcast from a lower-middle class home undergoing high school trauma but Ferris Bueller breaks this mold completely. Ferris is a rich kid loved by everybody, spanning from the police department to those he manipulates in ‘junior’ year. He is an ‘everyman’* who gets what he wants and doesn’t face the consequences -an interesting morality when you see it on the page but on the big screen you accept his antics as harmless fun.

A character more in keeping with the Hughes catalogue is the ‘always sick’ (and probably clinically depressed) Cameron Frye. The most famous theory about the film is centred around this down-trodden dude and his penchant for self-pity. It has long been said that Cameron imagines the eventful ‘day off’ from his bed and Ferris is merely a figment of his imagination; the happy-go-lucky guy he wishes he could be. Sloane is supposedly based on a girl he fancies from afar in school, so she takes her place as his alter-ego’s lover. The crux of this conspiracy can be summarised by the phrase ‘…and it was all a dream’.

I think it’s a bittersweet idea, but also totally bogus.

In her book, Life Moves Pretty Fast: The lessons we learned from eighties movies (and why we Image result for ferris bueller's day offdon’t learn them from movies any more)’, Hadley Freeman points out that ‘only a teenager could think that Ferris is cool’ since his hedonism comes from a place of arrogance and immaturity. When you’re a teenager living out the mundanity of high school without much attention, you envy the ‘popular’ people because they get a reaction from everybody – some people look back at their school days and recall the misery of feeling invisible. John Hughes was one of these introspective types, so instead of creating a main character close to his teenage self again, he imagined what it would have been like if he experienced the notoriety other kids enjoyed. And thus, Ferris Bueller was born.

To add credence to this idea, all of Hughes’ teenage melodramas were based on his hometown of Chicago and filmed in surrounding areas to reflect the class divide he witnessed as he grew up. As a child, Hughes recalled his own solo trips to the art gallery frequented by the trio onscreen, adding The Smiths contemporary melancholy to give it the perfect soundtrack. By including such a scene Hughes was able to revisit these moments from a more carefree perspective – and in this film, perception is key. Ferris makes a speech during the parade aimed at Cameron’s self-imposed misery: “I’d like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today”.

 It hardly stretches the imagination to say that writing allows you to live vicariously through an imaginary realm, and with Ferris, he visualised an adolescence he wished was his own, if only he wasn’t trapped in the self-hatred typified in the familiar angst of Cameron. 

Image result for ferris bueller car
Beaut.

Maybe Ferris Bueller wrapped up his inner work in solving the injustices he experienced as a young’un in America, and he felt like the tone change was an appropriate place to say ‘Danke Schoen’ to all the audience members allowing him to grow up again.

 

*(An everyman is a misguided term referring to the supposedly normal privilege a person enjoys for being a white middle class man)