Posted in Music, Updates

The Cycle of Musical Creation

So those of you who know I write, know that I’ve usually got my hand in one or two projects at any given time. Right now, I believe there’s four or five and that keeps my creativity going. 

I’m sitting here writing this because I’m pleased with myself, some years I end up writing a few decent songs and sometimes I end up with tonnes of material that are either covers, or I can’t use or just aren’t cutting it. Last year was focused so pretty much every song that made the cut had to work, they also all seemed to fit a theme and honestly, 2016 was a brilliant year for me because I didn’t have any hideous moments that I vow will never see the light of day. 

My cycle of musical creativity is different from writing novels, scripts, poetry, you name it because it demands to be felt first. If I’ve got an idea for a song it will either pass or fail within the next hour. If I can replicate what’s in my head and keep on adding fresh sounds to layer up with one another and then find a compelling melody within that then I just might have a winner. If I cannot however, it’s at this point that a lot of my tracks are cut. 

There doesn’t really seem to be a time limit for dealing with a musical piece after this, as long as the foundations are in place I find it’s much easier to go back to. Rough vocals, little snippets of melody to point me towards the direction my instrumental is going in are all really useful because it makes remembering my big idea that little bit more attainable when I come back to it. 

I’ll go for weeks, sometimes months (though it’s rare for me not to do anything within this time) before I come up with a new idea, new chord progressions I haven’t used, themes I haven’t explored, ways to tell a new story within this time almost nothing works. It gets a little saddening just waiting but it really does seem to occur naturally and when that idea hits it’s like riding a wave of momentum and I forget just how hard it’s been trying to force something new out.

I’m writing this post because I’m out of this rut right now and that’s always cause for celebration. It’s also nice to be writing about something positive and to be reflecting on my previous work because, “hello!” I have previous work! It makes me feel a little bit like I actually know what I’m talking about and I love sharing whatever that may be here with you guys, so keep yourselves inspired this year and may 2017 be as fulfilling creatively as you want it to be. 

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Posted in Films, Reviews

‘I Like Her Numbers’

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

4 Stars

As you can imagine the first time I heard about this movie and saw the trailer, I was already hooked on the story of three African-American women who lead to the change in tides during the Space race. I wasn’t deceived by this movie’s subject matter nor did I feel harrowed where I perhaps could have.

This story, based on true events, for the most part takes place in the early 1960s, segregation between ‘white’ Americans and ‘coloured’ Americans was still very much at it’s peak and it’s very clearly to see the tension this caused (and still causes) on either side of the divide. Adding to the struggle of racial tension, added to the mix is gender discrimination and this is touched on a great deal. It’s hard to believe that as it stands I can see very little change in attitude towards women in the workplace both in the 1960s and present day, how accurately this was portrayed in the film remains to be seen however.

The film centres around three important women within NASA during this period in history, namely: Katherine G. Johnson, a well accomplished physicist and mathematician working on crucial calculations imperative to the success of many successful missions into space. Secondly, Dorothy Vaughan a mathematician and human computer who went on to become the first African-American woman supervisor at NASA, after teaching herself how to program the centre’s first computer, using the language: FORTRAN. The third, Mary Jackson, a mathematician who went on to become the first African-American female Aerospace engineer at NASA.

While you’d expect this film to be perhaps unrelenting, the tone throughout the film is serious but with humorous moments and tenderness scattered throughout making much easier to swallow this lesson of tolerance than it perhaps should be. At times, I found it glazed over the plight of the civil rights movement happening during the 1960s. But with quite the heartwarming emphasis on the determination and characters of these there women, it’s an uplifting dramatisation that instills faith that there’s decency in mankind’s endeavour, perhaps one of the most important films of the year could have set a disparaging and uncomfortable tone but rather set an example of freedom and ‘looking beyond’ the time in which the characters are living.

Posted in Let's Talk

Let’s Talk • ‘Real Men’ and ‘Real Women’

Nothing aggravates me more than the general messages that are pushed around as Facebook memes, or found on other social media sites on a daily basis, the the point that I stopped scrolling through Facebook because eight in every twenty of these posts are either adverts (suggested posts) or messages shared by people. Social media has quickly become a way for us to use our voice with a much broader scope and that means that more frequently people post their opinions online, I’m doing it right now. In some ways you have a choice, to view this information or to ignore it and so I’ve been taking action to avoid social media more often for that exact reason.

The fight for equality rages on and I find myself with raised eyebrows at both arguments somewhere along the spectrum between misogyny and matriarchy, neither of which I would deem as ‘the way forward’. I think the context that foregrounds both arguments is our deeply rooted though largely artificial roles which we assign to gender, it’s what people are referencing when you are ‘Oh men don’t do that…’ or ‘women need/don’t need…’ the truth is not all men or all women are the same, we’re each born with our own differences which makes no two people the same and therefore no two representatives of the same gender conforming to the same hegemonic (dominant ‘norm’ of our society) roles. It gets so much worse when you start making a pass on how well someone is ‘performing’ their gender, whether they pass bar as a ‘real’ man or woman, because what exactly is the assumption if you are not a ‘real’ man or ‘real’ woman? Are you somehow sub-standard, unnatural or unlawful or are you simply not following a code of conventions that in all honesty is about as foreign as whatever it is these ‘fake’ men or women are doing?

I am not a ‘fake’ man because I don’t like football (or sports in general), neither me nor my partner have ‘traditional’ full-time hours and whatever I happen to be doing or wearing doesn’t degrade my manhood, because for a man to look like a woman or perform certain functions that you’d typically associate with a woman is… degrading? I don’t expect someone to hold the door open for a woman because she’s female and your male, I’d expect you to the hold the door open and wait for someone to pass because that makes you a descent human being. In much the same way, I don’t expect a man to be the head of the household because he’s a man, because if we’re being practical it’s perfectly plausible for a woman to be just as hardworking, dedicated and resourceful as any man.

Thanks for listening to my little ramble, it’s not often that I do these and I promise it’s not going to become a regular thing. I just feel like we need a little clarification on these things because just because I might agree with the sentiment that saggy trousers are a bad look does not mean I need to post about it online and suggest that ‘real men wear belts’ because no part of me is more able to judge than those men with the saggy trousers.

My love, always

Shawn.

Posted in Films, Reviews

‘I Tried Not To…’

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

2 Stars

You may have noticed a theme occurring with these film review posts titles, they’re all named after a song or track from the film’s soundtrack. I’m possibly more proud of this fact than I should be, and I’m so glad I found this song hidden away on the depths of Apple Music, because I think it sums up what I’m about to say about this film. I tried not to like it.

At the heart of most of the films we watch, there’s a positive message that binds the film together and gives it a central film. This is one film that happens to be exempt from this rule. Now you can choose to subvert people’s expectations in a playful, ironic or intelligent way or you can choose to do this quite ambivalently and almost, it seems, by mistake.

At first glance the trailer of this film had me intrigued by the premise of two people awoken too early from stasis purely coincidentally who just happen to make it work and fall in love. Of course, they save the ship from total disaster and against all odds it has a happy ending. This isn’t quite the film that you get. The ‘Avalon’ does indeed have problems and someone is awoken accidentally due to a failure I’d guess, though this isn’t really explained past the point of ‘It can’t happen, but it did.’ but the meeting of these two people was not coincidental but in fact, purely selfish.

On one hand, it’s a story and why shouldn’t you represent characters who are flawed as all of us are, what interests me about this film is how despite Jim Preston’s decision (which is a moral challenge for the character admittedly) to gather information, stalk and without her permission spend time getting to know the still sleeping Aurora Lane via intelligence gathered aboard the Avalon he still makes the decision to wake her from cryo-sleep essentially choosing to take her life, many years before she should even be awake. When this is challenged by Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Jim frequently tries to win her back because obviously why wouldn’t he be a talented blacksmith, jeweller, architect and gardener to name but a few. The narrative seems, ultimately, to reward him for an action which I’d assume would lead to the breakdown of trust in a relationship. Fundamentally, would this not be the end of your relationship?

I can forgive his actions being overlooked ultimately by his female counterpart, but it seems to me that this could have been a much deeper film about morals and understanding of the human psyche as a social experiment and less of a romantic film about two characters who save the Avalon against all odds, and quite unrealistically they survive unscathed. To say that I did not enjoy this film would be lying, I did, it strikes me though quite alike most films screened in the cinema as disposable love stories that should be consumed and then forgotten, despite their extensive budget. I suppose in a way, that’s largely what the genre of animation appears but I saw a lot more value in the message portrayed by a koala, a porcupine, a pig and an elephant than I did here. Which is a shame because this film was visually stunning and the concept could have been great.

 

Posted in Films, Reviews

‘There Are Witches Among Us’

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

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It feels great to be back in the world again, the wizarding world that is. I have be completely honest with you, while I’ve been a Harry Potter for a long time, since the early ’00s anyway, I’ve always had a greater connection to the films than to the books. We can start pointing the finger here and saying “Well, you’re not a true fan then, are you?” and I’m not even going to attempt to defend my knowledge of the books because past the second it gets kinda ropey but let’s be honest nobody can start criticising this film for it’s closeness to the book. Otherwise you’d have probably ended up with short film about a fictional piece within a work of fiction that hasn’t even been published yet.

I’ll start by saying that what this film lacks is a clear narrative direction. It’s sort of like stumbling into a world that J.K Rowling spends so long trying to define that multiple narratives start and very few actually find a conclusive ending in this film. In that sense it almost feels like it would’ve made a better television series than a film. However, I actually really enjoyed exploring the characters of Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein, Queenie Goldstein and Credence Barebone to name but a few. Based on the fact that this is a completely different world, in a different time to the original story I definitely think it was important that we saw these characters fleshed out in the way that they were and by the end of the film the only characters I was suitably unimpressed with were Madame President (What even was her name?  Was it even mentioned?) and Grindelwald (mostly due to his lack of screen time, i.e. none until the last few minutes when his identity is revealed to the wizarding community).

This is definitely the start of a greater work here and nothing could make that more inherently obvious than the inclusion of a top-billed actor with less than five minutes screen time, Johnny Depp. At times it was even Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt Scamander felt reminiscent of Matt Smith’s performance as Doctor Who and in many ways with it’s multi narrative format, I felt that the movie form was misunderstood by the creators. One thing is certain though, I would certainly pay time and time again to see more of this world, no matter in what form it’s given to us.

 

 

Posted in Updates

To Tell You The Truth • It’s Just a Phase

Life can get pretty boring and I like to think that in recent months I’ve tried thinks that are different. Some of these have worked and some…well, took a little bit more work. 

The world is full of fads and trends and I love living in an age where I actually feel that I’ll be accepted and love no matter what choices I make, helps me to feel empowered in whatever it is I’m doing. Something I’ve been loving doing for a few years now is dyeing my hair. You’ll notice, if you know me, it’s very often a different colour each time you see me; I’ve been dyeing it blonde for several months but before this I tried a richer brown, various shades of red and a truly awful orange.

I settled on blonde for one of several reasons, when it comes to my hair brown is boring, and it’s a pretty fair brown, I’ve wanted my blonde hair back from my youth ever since I remember it being blonde and it now being this basic mousey, neither here nor there, brown colour. Secondly, you can do a lot with blonde, it’s a great starting point. Luckily, my hair is light enough that it takes to pretty much anything but blonde without a toner can be very yellow and so I began experiment after my last haircut with some toner, I achieved a pretty good lilac while I was last at the hairdressers and it left my hair a platinum colour, which was super clean and something I feel a lot of people in their twenties are going for. I love crazy colours and a colour I’ve wanted to go for a very long time now, is blue. 

Pastels are ultimately my preference, they’re not too bold, and I’ve a pretty pale complexion. Sure enough they washout and fade over time but that only gives me more colours to choose from in a shorter time frame which means you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this is a new ‘phase’ for me. Ultimately though I feel a lot less held back and more confident than I ever have before and that’s not something I take too lightly. 

With a renewed sense of self I feel that I’m all about expression, and self-expression is so important because as individuals we strive to be different, outspoken and unique and this is just one of the ways I feel I achieve that. I’m not going to lie to you, it hurts when someone says that I’m simply doing it for attention, or to rebel against some form of suppression, truth be told I take little notice of my hair colour when I’m not looking in the mirror of a morning or an evening and I take heade even less when I’m making decisions or driving myself forward in life or at work and so, you may as well call it a ‘phase’ if you feel so inclined but I’m not out to make a statement, I’m simply being me and I don’t think that will ever change, one minute I’ll be set on blue and the next… Who knows? Maybe violet? 

I’d lastly like to say a huge welcome back, it’s taken me a while to post and for that I’m very sorry. Stay tuned though because I’ve some pretty cool posts on the go! 

Posted in Updates

Five Days To Go!

I HONESTLY CANNOT BELIEVE WE’RE HERE ALREADY. I thought I’d just breifly summarise what’s been going on since I last posted and let you know that there’s more to come and I’m very much looking forward to the next few posts. It’s been a stop-start month and with everything that’s been going on, I’ve barely felt able to blog. It’s been a time of processing, griefing and healing; together, we’ve made it through and that’s something I know that we’ll keep on doing, for everyone.

Yesterday, we hung up our chirstmas cards and I started binge watching the House of Mouse cartoons! An attempt to get back to some realm of normality I feel has been pretty successful over the weekend and having finished wrapping the last of our Christmas presents yesterdays, I feel well prepared if not completely spirited away by Christmas this year.

I feel in going through the motions that, actually, it’s beginning to feel a little festive today, probably due to realising that we’ve only five days to go and I wish everyday of the year could be preceeded by opening a chocolate-filled calendar. In the last few weeks, we’ve gotten back into a routine and I dare say we’ve been cooking a lot more at home which is definitely, a step in the right direction. We’ve both started back at work, for the second time today and I feel we’re both on track to end the week on a high, with it being Christmas and all.