Friday, March 25, 2011

Nanna Øland Fabricius - Oh Land is the future of music

Not just a pretty face gents. 
Danish singer/songwriter and former ballerina (of the Royal Swedish and Russian Ballet) Nanna Øland Fabricius, or better know as 'Oh Land' is breaking through all boundaries of today's popular music. What exactly is it that makes her such a big hit? For most people (ie. the 6 million viewers of "Son of a Gun") it's her completely 'out there' music videos....fantastical landscapes and crazy dancing. 
Perhaps it's her slightly accented floaty voice, come-hither (yet insinuating innocence) look, and lets not forget the tall graceful form that only a ballerina can have. 

For me, it's her unmistakable sincerity and love for what she does that comes through in her videos and performance. Also the fact that she does nothing to induce sex appeal (ass shaking and such) and yet you can't your eyes off her. She's sexy without trying too hard to be. How many female performers can do that these days? In a world where Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black are thought to be 'music artists', this may give humanity some hope that there still is a sense of order in the world, and good music is still out there. 

But the main reason why she's such a hit, I think, is the fact that she's different in the right way. Her music is different, her videos are so different you cant look away, and her mixture of classical dance moves with her own quirky style is different. But like I said: different in the right way. 

Still not convinced?


Ok, how about now?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

List of Books I desperately want to add to my Library...



Monday, March 21, 2011

Part 2: CORRECT reading order for the Chronicles of Narnia

NOW, onto a much debated and annoying issue. I want to take a moment here to thank Wikipedia for this pretty table depicting the controversies and differences, and also this hilariously understated caption:
                                                                                                                                                                                   "Fans of the series often have strong opinions over the order in which the books should be read" 
                                                                         NO SHIT.

Honestly, most of you will probably stop reading here with a dignified air of "who on earth cares?" Fair enough. But the sad reality is that I actually do find this fascinating and well worth discussing. I am yet to find someone as fascinated  as I am to discuss this with, so untill then this will have to do...                                         
My stance on reading order: Order of Publication. 
1. LWW must be read first and LB read last. No argument. All the others are not as important.
2. PC, VDT and SC read next in that order
3. MN must be read before LB

Why? And why on earth does it matter enough to make a freaking blogg about it? Well a few main reasons that I think need addressing:

1. Why read LWW first and not MN (which is chronologically correct)?

Firstly it creates gaps for the reader to experience questions that need answering:
  - What the fuck is a lamp post doing in the middle of a wood
  - Who is the White Witch
  - Is there only one other world, Narnia, or myriads more?

Secondly, if you don't read it first (the alternative being to read MN first) there are problems: 
  - You sacrifice strategies Lewis used to draw readers into Narnia, like the initial description    
     Lucy feels as she enters it, and Tumnus describing the Narnia that used to be...fauns and 
     dryads  and animals living in peaceful coexistence
  - Most importantly, the build up of Aslan is lost. Instead of feeling the joy, wonder, confusion, 
    excitement and fear you are meant get stuck with: "Ok, there's a Lion singing...and 
    things are sprouting out of the ground. Cool." Big difference there. Despite what Lewis may  
    have said himself about the reading order, missing this experience is missing a whole chuck 
    of the Narnia experience.
  - Both the lamp post and the White Witch lose their mystery - you already know. Lamp post was 
    from our world, and the witch is Jadis. BORING. 

Lastly, and most importantly: MN is meant to be read as a flash back. LWW starts the story 
  In medias res  (into the middle of things) is a Latin phrase denoting the literary and artistic   
  narrative technique wherein the relation of a story begins either at the mid-point or at the 
  conclusion, rather than at the beginning, establishing setting, character, and conflict via 
  flashback and expository conversations relating the pertinent past.  (thanks again Wiki)
  Schakel notes the importance of this in his book Reading with the Heart: The Way into Narnia:

"The only reason to read The Magician's Nephew first [...] is for the chronological order of events, and that, as every story teller knows, is quite unimportant as a reason. Often the early events in a sequence have a greater impact or effect as a flashback, told after later events which provide background and establish perspective. So it is [ ...] with the Chronicles. The artistry, the archetypes, and the pattern of thought all make it preferable to read the books in the order of their publication."[15] 
There you have it.

2. Why read PC, VDT, and SC in that order?

Mainly because as a reader, you are already in the flow of things with the Pevensie children. It makes little sense to jump into HHB after LWW just to be chronological (already discussed why that is moot) and even LESS sense to chuck it in after VDT! I really don't know why the Final Completion order has that...very pointless. It works to experience the entire journey the Pevensie children go through, with them. Then jump into flash back mode and read about their adventures  in Calormen.

3. Why read MN directly before LB?
This is almost too obvious to even state but I'll say it anyway. It's like reading Genesis and Revelation...actually, scarily so (from an 'agnostic lover of Narnia' viewpoint). There is a sense of satisfaction about reading a beginning and and an end back to back. A perfect completion. Also, there's nowhere else you could fit it in the sequence. But shhhh that's not important. I suppose it would not KILL YOU to read MN as the second book, right after LWW. But none of the orders stated above has that combination, and I wanted to pick one. So sue me.

So there you have it. MY VIEWS. Please feel free to agree, disagree, call me names - I'm all ears for a debate. In fact, I'm kinda hoping someone does disagree :P
I realise I left out allot of stuff but I didn't want this to go on and on unnecessarily - just wanted to get the main points on the table.

Post Script: All these views are a combination of my own, and some from  Peter Schakel's : Imagination and the Arts in CS Lewis which you should read more of if you want a more detailed version.

Part 1: On correcting people who think Fantasy is "escapist"

I was recently reading Peter Schakel's "The Way into Narnia" in the holidays (as you do) and I really want to hi light some of the main points I think deserve to be addressed:

*Fantasy & Escapism 

He inserts many quotes by Lewis himself, but surprisingly most of the quotes are from J.R Tolkien! Any true Lewis fan has to eventually submit to the truth that he did in fact get allot of his ideas and thoughts (not to mention his illustrator Pauline Baynes) from his 'mentor' Tolkien. This does not make Narnia a second rate copy of Middle Earth in any way - it just means that he's human and, like many great minds before him, needed some inspiration (as you can see here). But the main ideas of Narnia and talking animals was an idea he carried with him since his boyhood when he used to draw little characters of animals dressed in armour and ready for battle, with amazing stories to go with them.

Now, I considered paraphrasing some of the thoughts I liked best but every time I tried I could not do it justice. Simply because there is no better way to word it than how it is written already.

A perfect excerpt (p29)
 And another to finalise the point (p33)

Here I should clarify that the use of the words 'Primary' and 'Secondary' worlds are to distinguish between the the reader's world and the fantasy realm created in the story. The reason Lewis and Tolkien (and Schakel) use these words is to avoid using the highly connotative words 'real world' and 'fake world' 

‘There is no market for fantasy.’
                        -- U.S Publisher to an aspiring author in the 1950’s

Utter Bullshit. We need Fantasy. 

Escape into a fantasy world is not the cowardly action of a person unable to cope with their own lives. Fantasy enables us to recuperate and regain a new outlook on life. But it is not just the act of escape alone that does the trick - it's when we return that does it. When we return from the Secondary world it helps us see things in the Primary world that we may have previously taken for granted. It gets us out of our limited perspective and frees us from  "the drab blur of triteness or familiarity" (Tolkien: 'On Fairy Stories). 

How many times have you ever stopped to think about the point of life? The reason for our existence? If you are anything like me, and have no stable world view to dictate it for you, the answer is EVERY freaking day. So, reading fantasy stories, and being attune to 'other-world' literary devices is something that keeps us going. This is not to distract or make up for our actual lives, but to give us hope. This goes hand in hand with what Lewis said about art (or in this case, fantasy as a work of art)  acting as a window into worlds unseen. As humans we  “seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. … We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. … We demand windows.” (Lewis: 'An Experiment in Criticism')

That phrase about humanity, that we "seek an enlargement of our being" may be one of the most true statements I've ever heard. It explains the search for God, religion, purpose, an afterlife...this is not necessarily profound, but true. It's easy to pick out fallacies and lies in someone's work - but we often forget to commend the delicate art of stating the obvious in a beautiful, refeshing way.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One last thought....

Two of my all time favourite things Lewis said:

"Hence a man's reaction to Monarchy is a kind of test. Monarchy can easily be debunked; but watch the faces, mark well the accents, of the debunkers. These are the men whose tap-root in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach -- men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality, they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king, they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison."

"In the same way, under the necessary outer covering of legal equality, the whole hierarchical dance and harmony of our deep and joyously accepted spiritual inequalities should be alive." 

The latter is from his essay "Equality" and can be read in full here:

In no way does this mean I agree with some of his spiritual beliefs but reading his thoughts almost makes me want believe in something the way he did. I'm not blind to his faults as a writer or as a person, but I will say that at the heart of all his writing there is some thing highly profound and tangibly sincere. Its real and it makes you think about life whether you want to or not.

To wright rite.

To be a successful writer - accomplished and gifted with the skill of writing down your thoughts in an unpretentiousness ( non pretentious?...) manner that other people can relate to - you gotta be pretty damn well read. Even the types you dont necessarily like reading or agree with. Also, you cant apologize for the way you write or think. The best writers (the ones we remember and love the most) are the ones who write like they talk. The best ones are where when you've finished the book, you have a sense of loss. Reading the book is like talking to an old friend. It is refreshing to read.
To be specific: the more I read of Lewis, the more I find myself loving his 1st person type of writing. Including himself and his ideas in his writing does not seem presumptuous at all, or like he's 'putting on airs'. Its more like...he's so full of ideas and beliefs that all he wants is to share them with other people. I feel like that most days, but unfortunately I lack his charming literary eloquence. Or a diligent audience willing to listen to my ramble.
Its a dangerous thing to read. To do that you must be open to self reflection and criticism of the world around you and what you consider to be important. If you are anything like me, and have ever avoided that sort of higher cognitive function (for various reasons - denial, self preservation, unconscious blocking etc) this can be quite a leap. Be prepared for those around you to notice a change in you and perhaps despise your new-found authoritative stand on life.

On a different matter entirely: why analyse a book just like everyone else? I really do detest talking about symbolism and themes and hidden motifs. I can do it, and I'm pretty good at doing it in my sleep even - but its utter bullshit. That what I honestly think (and here I am doing an English minor....fml). I would much rather hear what someone felt about a book, rather than hear a regurgitated backwash of whatever their high school English teacher told them was 'good English analysis' of a book. Honestly, anyone can pull an B grade English essay out of their ass at 5am the morning before its due. We've all done it. And what's really funny is that it does in fact get a high grade! Just because it contains all the 'right' things that an essay should contain. It's gross really, to think about it. I thought creative writing was supposed to be just that: CREATIVE.