Easy to love

She was light and hope, from a distance; all brilliance and beauty, charisma and kindness, a soul without measure and a kindred to all. She was the passion of a hundred soccer games, the home run in the final inning, the gold medal of every Olympics. She was triumph, and glory.

She was easy to love.

But her heart was empty, and her mind was bitter; ever she searched for one who would fly close enough to her flame, and risk burning to ash in her eyes. Ever she longed for one who would love her when she failed, when she could not be kind, when she hurt.

For love given to a mask, and not to the true soul within, is not love at all.

A hundred words

She was my first love; he was my second. Both alike and different, I loved them; hot and cold, I loved them; through anger and fear, I loved them.

Seeing them together was a knife in my heart, in my head, in my hand. Seeing them together drew me to the apartment, with the spare key I had kept; up the stairs and into the bedroom. Seeing them together, I saw nothing else.

The blood was my release. The blood was healing, nourishing, seeping into my skin. All their blood, to ease my pain.

And I would never love again.

Movies I don’t enjoy

I was recommended to watch a movie; sci-fi, which is not usually my preference, but this was one financed by Google and published on YouTube, so I thought it worth a look. I managed to watch the first five minutes before getting bored and wandering off.

I expect more of non-Hollywood movies, I suppose. This one was yet another white-man-hero-with-hidden-identity schtick that had a reasonably interesting premise and absolutely no character engagement that I haven’t seen a hundred times before. People talk about romance being formulaic; presumably they haven’t seen any of the many superhero movies released in the last decade that are all variations on a theme of white-men-save-thing/world-in-different-costumes.

The hypocrisy bothers me. People who would dismiss romance out of hand are all too ready to gush about superhero movies as if they’re something new, unique and different. I have to wonder whether this is a gulf in entertainment aimed at women versus that aimed at men, which likewise does a disservice to fans of either genre.

So it goes. I think the best movies are those that are fantastical or superhero, but grounded by something as human as a love story. It’s just a shame that the vast majority of big budget special effects movies immediately default to the huge, world-spanning, life-or-death crisis as an overarching plot line, and romance is usually sidelined.

//shay

Sir Terry Pratchett

I was reminded today that it’s been two years since Terry Pratchett died.

I suppose he’s not that well-known outside the UK, but I read his books. All of them. I loved them deeply. They changed how I thought about the world, about people. They made me laugh, so hard. I wanted to meet him and thank him for every smile he brought to my face.

If you’ve never read his work, then I highly recommend you start with Guards! Guards! Yes, that is the actual name of the book. He’s best known for the Discworld books, and there are several informal cycles of books all set in the same general area and involving the same set of characters. This one is the start of the Watch¬†cycle.

You will laugh, especially if you appreciate witty, intelligent, absurdist humor. Sir Terry was a master of the kind of dry, gentle, sarcastic jokes that the best British comedians are known for, except he was also a master of world-building and characterization and interesting, amazing plots that fire the imagination and draw the reader onwards. There is truly nothing like his work.

I will never meet him. I wish I had, if only just to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

GNU TERRY PRATCHETT

//shay

 

Purple Prose

Ever heard about this? Purple prose. I couldn’t say whether it came from trashy romance books specifically, but they’re very much connected to it now. The idea of purple prose in romance comes from the sex scenes.

Speaking from experience, it’s the kind of prose you find yourself reading when the author has to intentionally obfuscate the fact that sex is happening. Harlequin, Mills and Boon, and the progenitors of the paperback romance genre are what I usually associate with it now. I’ve read many books that would likely be called trashy romances, and they all have that feel of purple prose when the main characters’ relationship evolves into getting naked.

It’s a strange experience to read about two characters doing things, and suddenly the whole scene descends into barely concealed phallic metaphors and odd references to euphoria in order to describe two people having an orgasm. I think this is why erotica has taken off so fantastically well; erotica is basically romance, but with the purple prose replaced with normal prose.

I’m still rather fond of the whole style of purple prose in romance. It’s a strange cultural artifact, a wink-and-nod to the fact that women have always wanted media that catered to their sexual desires, even when it wasn’t socially acceptable to be explicit about it.

//shay

The size of a story

 

Stories are funny creatures. They can live in a single picture, or in a book several inches thick, and they are no less powerful for their brevity or length if told well. A picture is worth a thousand words, we’re told… Some are worth more than that. But we don’t need a thousand words to tell a story.

What I quite love are stories inside music videos, believe it or not. Music videos are an art form in their own right, and they are perfectly capable of telling beautiful, strange, touching stories. The most memorable ones are usually ones that linger on the strength of the story they tell. We have a deeper connection to narratives, far more than music on its own.

One of the greatest hits of the 80s: A-Ha, Take On Me. It was also an artistic accomplishment at the time, due to the heavy use of rotoscoping.

Now here’s something unusual: Snow Patrol, Take Back the City. This isn’t actually the official music video for the song. It’s the winner of a competition to make a music video for the song. I particularly love it because it’s not just telling the story of some guy’s night, it’s also telling the story of the city itself.

And this is WALK THE MOON, with Shut up and Dance. This has so many 80s callbacks that I can’t help loving it as is, but it’s also telling a weird, trippy little story all on its own, and having so much fun doing it. You just have to appreciate that kind of artistry.

I love music that makes me feel happy. Hope you’re all going into a good weekend, and you have music that makes you happy too.

//shay

Shades of Darkness

So… Fifty Shades Darker has been out for a while.

It’s mostly done well at the box office, in spite of its obvious deficiencies. I have not seen it, and I’ve no plans to, as it’s part of the Fifty Shades trilogy. I dislike the series so much.

The big problem I have with the Fifty Shades movies is that they are, by design, fundamentally dishonest in their representation of the books. (Believe it or not, I have experienced the books¬†by way of the Mark Reads series on YouTube. I couldn’t actually bring myself to read them.) The trilogy, if it has any redeeming features, celebrates female arousal, and female pleasure… and the trilogy also glorifies abuse.

See, there are stunningly few movies that treat female sexual pleasure the same as male sexual pleasure. If you have any doubt about that, then I recommend you watch This Film is Not Yet Rated, a documentary on the voluntary, arbitrary ratings system that largely controls the output of Hollywood. The net effect of this is that female pleasure is simply secondary to male pleasure; it appears less on screen, it is systematically erased or glossed over, and including it is almost guaranteed to raise a film’s rating unfavorably. It promotes the concept that female pleasure is somehow more obscene than male pleasure.

The Fifty Shades trilogy was ostensibly written for the female gaze, and it’s very much about female pleasure and female kink, more or less. The movies had a real opportunity to be groundbreaking in that respect, and I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide whether the first two have succeeded. But the crime, in my eyes, is that regardless of their success or failure the movies are still tied into the narrative of the books, and thus tied to a narrative that explicitly elevates abusive, manipulative behavior and presents it as a bastardization of ‘true love’.

This is the crux of my dislike for the movies in particular. They are movies that should pander to the female gaze, to female expressions of pleasure–and there are so very few such movies because of Hollywood prudishness–but they are a perverted and distorted view of healthy sexual relationships and healthy kink and fetish play. For many women, the first time they will see their sexual selves highlighted on the big screen will be in a movie that tells them that abuse is love.

That will never sit right with me, and it should not sit right with you either.

//shay