Sunday, November 29, 2009

Top 5 Artworks

Because it's almost midnight and I've got some serious spooning to get to, tonight's top five will be in pictures.

Enjoy the brevity, it's brought to you by a solid two hour work-email writing session.

5. Marc Chagall - The Dance
4. Leonardo da Vinci - Leda and the Swan

3. Davide - The Death of Marat

2. Hieronymous Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights

1. Salvador Dali - The Metamorphoses of Narcissus

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Top 5 Songs

As someone who has been indoctrinated into a sort of classical mindset about music (thank you, dear) I find the word "song" very difficult to negotiate these days.

"Songs" are not "pieces", and some of Saturday's Top 5 are definitely "pieces". I've had to set myself one rule in making this list (a rule that makes things much easier, I will add) in that sections of musicals or operas, no matter how distinct as "songs", do not count. They are part of a greater work and therefore do not belong in the category of stand-alone musical "pieces". It also means that when I come to do my Top 5 Musicals, I wont have already mentioned them all now.

I think music triggers emotion and certainly emotional memory in a way nothing else really does, and that's why I think every song or piece someone puts in a list like this has to be meaningful, has to have a story. I know mine all do.

5. Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saens
Danse Macabre is pure classical pop, I know, but it was one of the first pieces I listened to after deciding to make an effort with the "classical" genre, and it stuck with me. I remember hearing it and being so taken in by the furious rhythms and strange tonality... until I played it in orchestra. Let me tell you right now there is nothing interesting about the double bass part, kind of ruined the whole thing for me.
Still, the fantastic waltz-beat of it and the amazingly eerie and supernatural sound-world it creates pulled me in and reawakened my passion for music, so for that it most definitely deserves a place on this list.

4. Hounds of Love - Kate Bush
From classical pop to actual pop... I love this song. This one's "story" is pretty crap, but the song is an absolute masterpiece of chipmunkery and for that I laud it's name. Kate Bush is, of course, a complete maniac, but I love love love her music, and especially this song. Nothing in the world motivates me to get up and throw myself out into the world like Hounds of Love does, a statement proven by the fact that I listened to it every morning on my way to school in the last month before I graduated. Before exams, before studying, whilst procrastinating studying - Kate Bush's greatest hits kept playing, and Hounds of Love kept on getting put on repeat.

3. Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 - J.S. Bach
This story has to be picked around, for there is something of a risk of over-share in relation to this piece. Of course, this is the first section of one of Bach's most beautiful works for solo cello, the sound of which is instantly recognisable because of how widely it is used in film and television, but for me it just speaks volumes of earnest, straining, youthful love.
The first time I heard Roman play this piece, we weren't together. I think I was thinking about it, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't... that's kind of how it happened - I suggested it to him and he said "you know, I'd never really thought about it like that" - like all great romances, hey?
So anyway, I downloaded this piece and played it over and over, lying on my bed, worrying about whether my Great Love would ever love me back. And it's just the music for it.
A summer later, the Prelude's story came full circle for me. On some awful hot day, I lay on my back in my Great Love's music room, listening to him play it - just for me.

2. Call Me Al - Paul Simon
This is the Family Song. There are so many stupid, funny memories associated with this song that I can't think of any specifically, it's all melted into some silly pot of full family air-instrument bands whilst Paul Simon blares out unacceptably loudly over long car trips. Paul Simon, especially the Graceland album, makes me think of my dad, and my family, and all the wonderful, wacky love that exists there.
(I bags the air-trumpet).

1. With or Without You - U2
This song is not number one because I love the song. In fact, I've quite gone off it in the last couple of years, something about Bono being a rather large tool or something, but the moment in my memory that explodes into my mind every time I hear it is so pure and so clear that I can't ignore it.
When I was in year 12, I arranged a girls' vocal version of With or Without You for a concert, and the absolute most perfect moment in the entire song was decidedly the moment when the bassline comes in. It's low, even, and throbbing, it helps the music build in such an intense, emotional way that it's just perfect.
On the actual night of the concert, the music started, and as that beautiful bassline came in, I looked across the stage and saw Roman with my old electric bass slung over his shoulders, tapping away at it, and I couldn't help but beam.
That was such a moment for me, a completely still crystallised moment in time, in which I realised, so instantly that my inner-voice actually spoke the words, that I was in love.

I don't think it matters whether it's a song or a piece, whether it's interesting and artistic or a three-chord band job, the music that stays with you is always the music that was playing at that moment in time. We all have them, musically-triggered recollections. I think that's what is important to me about this project, that I can take all these moments where art has touched me and record them, leaving a perfect record of what matters to me at this moment.

Mission Lifestyle Rearrangement: Day Two

Last night I stayed up too late. Bad start to my Brand New Girl push, perhaps, but the point is that I woke up at eight thirty this morning and felt truly rested.

I hardly ever feel rested, so that was very exciting. I put it down to drinking lots of water.

I then hopped in the car with my family (including my brother, who was Not Happy about being woken... he's seventeen, which pretty much explains that) and drove to to beautiful Clovelly, where I had my first swim of the summer!

If there was ever something that deserved bold-ing, it is that. The water was perfect, the fish were swimming happily around my ankles, and although the blue groper eluded me, I saw a fish that I thought was a parrot fish and ended up being just a very clever regular fish carrying a stone in its mouth.

Getting physically active - tick!

I also enjoyed some pretty wonderful food, which I'd like to share in my slightly crazy, point-form way:
  • tabouli in pita bread pockets with baba ganouj
  • a big old strawberry milkshake
  • door-stop sized slices of a wonderful chewy sourdough bread we bought from a woman selling loaves over her garden gate in Clovelly, with olive butter
  • Fresh strawberries and grain crisps
Documenting food and exercise may be very boring for any readers I may still have, but is wonderfully helpful to me. I hope I can keep going like this for at least another little while...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Top 5 Television Programmes

I probably watch too much tv. Not actually ON the television, mind you. Most of the programmes on this list come care of youtube, or dvds put on to play in bed with Roman, as is probably evident from the sheer Englishness of them.

The whole concept of the Top 5 asks some interesting questions. How do "works of art" effect the people who watch/listen/experience them? Even television programmes effect us, the multitudes of online forums devoted to shows, characters and particularly relationships prove that they do.

Cults of personality run rife in tv-watching, and I am totally guilty of that. You'll notice some names that repeat over the course of my Top 5 this evening, starting with...

5. Qi
Stephen Fry's stomach-achingly funny BBC panel show, featuring my idee fixe du jour, Alan Davies, who looks less like Roman and more like Roman's dad in the present day. Still wonderfully funny, he is joined by three guest panelists and rigorously quizzed on Quite Interesting facts by Stephen Fry, a.k.a. The Lord of All Things Wonderful. Its series' are lettered rather than numbered, and every episode has a theme based on the series' letter. Also, it makes for great conversation starters, for example "Here's a Quite Interesting fact - earth has two moons!" You can't help talking with implied capitals and exclamation marks.

4. A Bit of Fry and Laurie
Stephen Fry's second but not final appearance on this list. Simply put, the best sketch show ever. The vox pops are incredible, the amount of drag costuming is incredible, the way that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie interact is incredible. Totally worth exhausting youtube's supply of clips.

3. Absolute Power
Here he is again! Stephen Fry and John Bird star in a sadly short-lived comedy about a Public Relations company and their dirty dealings. Featuring such plotlines as "sexing up" the House of Lords, accidentally killing a performance artist by draining all his blood, spinning a British neo-Nazi party and everyone sleeping with Jaime.

2. The West Wing
I don't think there are many people who haven't seen The West Wing. I don't think there's much I can say about it, either. My dad has all seven seasons on disc... we didn't see him for a while after that happened. It's a completely engrossing series with amazing attention to detail and beautifully fleshed-out characters. I don't mind admitting that I've seen every episode at least twice, and every episode featuring Danny Concannon at least five times.

1. Jonathan Creek
Ah yes, the ultimate cult of personality. Jonathan Creek is the most wonderful concoction of a character. The idea of super-analytical mystery solving with a socially awkward, accidentally charming genius with his brash red-haired sidekick (who I really identify with... she's slightly uncoordinated and can't keep her mouth shut) is just immensely appealing. The relationship between Jonathan and Maddy (aforementioned brash red-haired one) is fantastically interesting and endearing. A will-they-wont-they that doesn't grate the way some of the American sitcom relationships do, just a perfect imperfect love story that is always funny and eventually just a bit sad.

Television can be decidedly banal, but I think we can all admit that it's sometimes exactly what you need when you have to switch off and relax. Speaking of, I'm off to watch season D of Qi... night all.

7 x 5

I'm starting a project. Sheer boredom really, but I feel it's moderately likely to help me streamline my ideas about art and life. Possibly.

The idea actually comes from a seriously bad/funny film called High Fidelity, in which the two main characters, who work in a record shop, are constantly quizzing each other on their Top 5 hit B-sides, Top 5 Drummer-turned-Lead Singers, etc, as you can imagine.

So - seven days of Top Fives.

SUNDAY - Artworks
MONDAY - Films
WEDNESDAY - Musicals
THURSDAY - People to get stuck in an elevator with

From easiest to write about to most difficult - and interesting - to write about, starting tonight.

Mission Lifestyle Rearrangement

I think I probably could have managed a snappier title. Oh well!

Yes, I am, to put it mildly, COMPLETELY FED UP with my failing immune system and as such have decided that I need a serious shift in habits to stop my body from giving up on me.

So, I've made some goals:

1. No more alcohol.
I don't drink that much, really, but occasionally I drink too much too frequently and make myself very unhappy. I think it has something to do with not drinking at all until after I turned eighteen due to a mixture of respect for the law (ha) and the fact that my liver just couldn't take it after I was seriously ill when I was younger.
Normal nineteen year olds are far more bullet-proof than I am, and I must remember that.
What I will do now is swear off the demon drink altogether until the 20th of March (the closing night of the next show I'm producing) and then reassess whether I really can't live without it after that.
Besides, less drinks = more shoes. Or something.

2. Get physically active.
This is a hard one. Apart from the effort it takes to actually get out of the house after you've had the flu or similar (as I've experienced repeatedly in recent months), Australian summers are unkind to those who wish to walk/jog/do anything out of the water. Luckily enough, I'm a very strong and fairly fearless swimmer, so that makes my choice easy.
I'm on holidays. My boyfriend drives, my parents both drive, they all like going to the beach (even though Roman swims like an Englishman*) so that's what we will do. I will go swim laps of Clovelly Bay every day I can this summer, and on days I can't, I will either go for a nice long walk after dark, or put on Paul Simon and dance like a maniac.

*Not very well

3. Eat Well
I know I can do better than I'm doing right now. I plan to eat healthy amounts of healthy food and stop buying meals wherever possible. For example, today (day one) I have eaten:
  • An organic cheddar, bean and tomato toasted sandwich with orange juice for breakfast
  • A small but awesome serving of Dad's home made veggie fried-rice
  • A parsley omelette with rye toast, fresh tomatoes and baba ganouj.
  • About to eat apple slices and raisins in natural yoghurt. Yum yum yum.
The great thing is I know it makes me feel so much better than eating the crap I usually buy at uni or work. So yay, let's hope I can keep it up.

3.1 Eat Meat!
My vegetarian period has coincided with the highest rate of recurring illness in my life. After watching far too much of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on River Cottage, I've realised that as long as you eat good meat that has been treated organically and ethically in its previous life, it's not actually a sin to be an omnivore. Plus, my dad makes amazing lemon lamb.

4. Drink water
Seems dumb, right? Well I am dumb. Profoundly, apparently, because my doctor says that two days ago I was so dehydrated it was raising my heart rate. More fluids required. This is an important one for everyone, I think, especially anyone planning on dealing with Australian weather over the next few months.

5. Get on the self-respect wagon
This is the big one. When I'm staying up to all hours with no food and too much drink in me, I forget that I'm actually a bit of a goddess.
This sounds ridiculous, and in many ways it is, but I don't think it'd kill me to remember that I've got a beautiful, feminine body that needs a bit of care given and attention paid.
..Which is why I painted my nails! They're a deep, shimmery turquoise. Like the shadow of an iceberg under the southern waves.
It's the beginning of appreciating what my body does for me and thanking it just a little for that immense labour.

I know I'm going to get better.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tales from the Sickbed

Hello dear chickens and roosters (a special nod to my dear uncle Loz right there... pity your team sucks), I am most pleased to inform you that my rate of posting will be increasing due to (I am less pleased to inform you) another bout of Caitlin's Mystery Illness Adventures.

Seriously, if life were a lucky dip I would be picking up all the packages filled with pathogens, and not even the interesting ones.

I know it's not that bad, I mean it's just a case of letting myself get run down - flu followed by meningitis followed by whooping cough followed by whatever I have now (nausea, dehydration and crazy low blood pressure) is not terminal cancer, and for that I am very grateful, but HONESTLY. I am bored of being sick.

Do you remember when you were a kid and taking a day off school for being sick somehow made you a bit special or something? You got to watch tv and read and the next day when you came back everyone would ask after you and make sure you were okay. That seems so far removed from what I've been repeatedly experiencing over the last couple of months, which is being exhausted, missing out on all sorts of work, social, and most importantly musical commitments, watching awful mind-numbingly boring television and trying to find a good book to read.

But it's a learning experience, isn't it? That which does not kill us makes us stronger... or whatever.

  • Orange Gatorade sucks. Full effing stop. I shall never drink it again as long as I live, I don't care how it replenishes my electrolytes.
  • Electrolytes have less to do with the Large Hadron Collider and more to do with fluid retention than I thought. Disappointing.
  • Trying to perform a week long run of a musical with Whooping Cough is pretty much the opposite of a good time.
  • Don't watch the news right before going to sleep when you're not sleeping well. You'll wake up at 4am and not be able to get back to sleep for thinking about escaped double murderers (Sydneysiders know what I mean...)
  • Having a boyfriend with the immune system of the Winged Victory is really very good. My Roman has never been immunised against anything, and has not got one of the diseases I've had despite being perfectly happy to sleep beside me whilst I'm coughing/feverish/vomiting. What a trooper.
  • My family are wonderful. That includes Roman, but also extends to my Mum and Dad, and Andrew and Lilly. Special mention goes to Lil for getting me a sick-bowl. Champion.
I've been very seriously contemplating how things got this way - how I've managed to make myself sick five weeks out of the last six - and I realise that I need a serious lifestyle re-arrangement. Details of said lifestyle rearrangement will no doubt follow, as soon as I've figured them out...