Thursday, 18 August 2011

A rant about LGBT bullying

Being gay isn’t a choice, a gift or a lifestyle. It’s part of who you are and while it does help make you unique, it shouldn’t set you apart from other people.
Yet gay people live very different lives compared to heterosexuals. Some of this is the result of choices made, some stem from differences forced upon them. Today, I’m going to address one of the latter.
It’s a subject that often gets overlooked, because there are ‘more important’ issues surrounding (homo)sexuality. I won’t dispute this notion. There are many things happening on a regular basis that certainly require people’s attention. However, the fact that this particular action happens daily adds weight to the problem. The problem I’m talking about is bullying.
True, bullying is quite common and happens as early as kindergarten. Even at that age, children are encouraged to ignore and rise above it. But if it happens every day and it seems you can’t make it stop, just how long can you ignore it?
I first started thinking about this a couple of months ago. I was taking a walk with a friend of mine, when we came across a straight couple who were holding hands. I involuntarily thought ‘I’ll never be able to do that’. Not because I lack someone to hold hands with, nor because we never walk anywhere, but because this couple was so care-free about it. They weren’t thinking about running into people who’d judge and behave violently towards them. They’d probably never even thought about it. They had no idea how lucky this makes them.
When I hold hands with my boyfriend, we will always be on our toes. Nine times out of ten, there will be derogatory comments from others. Complete strangers, who know nothing about us or our lives, will feel the need to express their disproval of something we couldn’t change if we wanted to.
Sometimes, though rarely, people will say something encouraging. But even then, why is there such a drive to tell us what they feel?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking. She commended my boyfriend and me for our resolution to keep holding hands in public. She stated it shows strength of character. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but she had a point. Getting up every day, knowing there are going to be people mocking you, judging you and occasionally becoming aggressive just because you’re there is hard. It’s not so much an issue of occasionally being harassed, it’s the fact it happens every single day. If a mountain is hit with a drop of water on the same spot every day, it will eventually create a big hole in the rocks.
There are places where my boyfriend and I unlock hands in advance (although that hasn’t made a change as of yet), knowing things can easily turn very nasty if we don’t. Sometimes, you have to choose health over ideals.
Even events created for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people aren’t complete safe. At this year’s Amsterdam Gay Pride, some individual still thought it necessary to sling a cuss word at me. This shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did (and does), but it’s yet another example of the notion of a thoroughly unwelcoming world. For me, it represents what an immensely long way we still have to go on the road towards acceptation.
That brings us back to the happy couple I witnessed months ago. To walk hand in hand, unafraid of people shouting abuse at you – that’s what I strive for. That’s why I still hold hands with my boyfriend in public, and will continue to do so until people realise it’s the most natural thing in the world. Well, that, and because I like holding hands.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Creating characters

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working on a story I hope to write in full one day. Specifically, I’ve been working on the characters.
The characters are the most important thing in a fictional story. Without them, even the greatest plot in the world would seem lacklustre. Without characters to react to the events, the events themselves serve little purpose and have little impact on the reader.
What makes a good character, though? I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ll give a couple of pointers I view as important.

- The characters must be outspoken
It’s perfectly alright to have a quiet and subdued character in your story, but at least eighty percent of them need to be straightforward and voice their opinions when a situation arises. If you don’t show their personalities and viewpoints from an early stage, it won’t be believable when they speak up later on. Without precedent, their sudden outspokenness will seem exceedingly odd.
One character that can get away with being more introverted is your main character. The reader can follow his thoughts and emotions as well as his actions, resulting in a more complete character map. Because the reader can see what goes on inside the main character’s head, that character doesn’t have to speak as much as the others. It’s largely for this reason many side-character seem more interesting than the main character (Jack and Karen in Will & Grace, every single person except for Bella in Twilight – not saying the other characters are interesting, mind you).

- There must be more than meets the eye
When meeting people for the first time, you don’t introduce yourself by telling your entire life story. Your characters shouldn’t, either. If something is important to be known, it’ll find its way into the story. If there’s something about a character you really want to point out, do so at an appropriate moment in the story.
Be prepared to have lots of information about characters you’ll never be able to interweave with the plot. There’s nothing at all bad about this, as a heightened sense of familiarity with the characters you write about will certainly make a difference. The more you know about your characters, the better their personalities will come across on the page. For example, if you know a character has been stalked at some point in their lives, this will absolutely change the way they act and approach other people. Even if it never becomes clear in the finished story, this knowledge about the character’s past and motivations will be an incredible asset.

- Don’t rush it
If you want to create a fully rounded character, take your time. I usually take a lot of time writing a single story, mostly because I’m a great procrastinator. However, this gives characters the opportunity to show themselves to me. There’s one character I’ve known since I was about fourteen, but only two years ago did I discover she’s a lesbian. She’s always been a lesbian, and knowing this has made a lot of things make sense, but I never realised until recently. If I hadn’t waited so long before writing the story (in fact, it’s a story I’m not actively working on now), I might not have known before finishing the story. Again, this knowledge explains a lot about her motivations, past and emotional life.
If you take the time to get to know your characters, they’ll eventually show themselves to you.

- Draw your characters
What I’ve been doing today is drawing a character. She’s the love interest in my story, but with a double life. The main character falls in love with her instantly, making it all the more important to know exactly what she looks like. Yesterday, she was blonde and had freckles. Today, she’s olive-skinned, has dark brown hair and hazel eyes. This second look fits her character much, much better than any of the previous versions did. Again, the clue seems to be just to wait. Her current look makes sense, and she’s much better for it.

Of course, these are just methods that work for me. I’m not saying they’ll work for everyone, or this is the best way to work. This is how I do it, and remember, my mind is twisted.
In the end, it’s all about what works for you. It’s your story, which should be written your way. This is my way, nothing more (but definitely nothing less).

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

20 Days of Music

Since the 30 Days of Movies challenge was quite fun to do, I’ve decided to do the same with music. I’ve made some changes to some of the questions (and deleted some others) in order to reflect the medium better. I’m not sure if there’s an official list of music questions, and I’m too lazy to find out. No cutting it up this time either, all twenty items are right here in this update! Enjoy.

1. favourite song

It changes all the time, but I think it’s fair to say Anything Goes (from the same-named musical) is a good contender. I especially like the interpretation by John Barrowman.
Chances are I’d have picked a different song if I’d filled this in five minutes earlier or later, but right now, this feels like the proper choice. After all, in life, Anything Goes.

2. worst song

Friday by Rebecca Black would be such a conformist no-brainer answer… Besides, I don’t actually think it’s that bad.
My pick would be A Guy Like You from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not that the song in itself is particularly bad, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film (album) at all. I always end up skipping this song.
Runner up: My Baby by Britney Spears. It has no place on Circus.

3. cheesiest song

Je Hebt Een Vriend by K3. Horribly sappy, yet somehow still fun.

4. album you can’t wait to hear

A couple of weeks ago, I’d have said the new album by Britney Spears, Lady Gaga or Flogging Molly. All three have been released, so I suppose I’ll now be waiting for the new Will Young, John Barrowman or Michael BublĂ©.

5. song you can listen to over again

The Song That Never Ends, mostly because it never ends.

6. your oldest album (not the one you had the longest, but the one that came out first)

I think I’ll have to say my Frank Sinatra boxed set. I don’t actually own many CD’s, and most I do own are recent releases (sort of).

7. your newest album

Speed of Darkness by Flogging Molly. Not bad, but their first free albums remain their best.

8. your most childish album

The first albums by K3. I’m not ashamed, they’re just uncomplicated fun.

9. album that failed to be as good as the first

The Angry Mob by the Kaiser Chiefs. I loved Employment and while TAM isn’t bad in any way, it failed to attract my interest in the same way.

10. favourite lyric

The rainbow still looks pretty when it bleeds’ from Almost Sorry by the Scissor Sisters. There’s an elegance and gloominess about this still positive sentence. I like how it works together.

11. song you like, but people you know hate

The Song That Never Ends again. I don’t know why, but people always end up asking me to stop singing it after about ten minutes…

12. album you thought you wouldn’t like, but then did

Friday’s Child by Will Young. I first listened to it years ago and didn’t like it. Then last year I gave it another go, convinced I’d still dislike it, but it was actually rather good. You never know when your opinion is going to change, it pays go give things/people another chance.

13. song you don’t want others knowing you like

Honestly? None. I checked my collection and there's not one song I'm ashamed of. Why would I? I like the song and that's what matters.

14. favourite singer

I think I’d have to go with Amy MacDonald. She’s simply brilliant.

15. singer that should get a different job

Gordon. So long as it’s a job outside of the spotlights, I’m sick of seeing him as well as hearing him.

16. favourite album title (not necessarily your fav album)

I’ve always liked how Aqua’s albums matched each other. Aquarium and Aquarius. I just hope their upcoming third album will continue this trend.

17. favourite genre

Musical isn't technically a genre, it's a medium. Thought I'd explain that before people started wondering why I hadn't picked that.
Easy-listening? Jaron and the Long Road to Love, Michael Bublé, Eliza Dolittle, Laura Janssen, Mark Salling, that kind of stuff.

18. hottest singer

Daniel Boys. Yes, I still have my crush. ADWD, baby! Make some noise for Daniel Boys!

19. most epic song

Oof, tough one. Right now, I think I’ll go with either I Know Him So Well (John Barrowman/Daniel Boys version) or Girls of the Night from the Jekyll & Hyde musical (demo version).

20. special mentions

Avenue Q – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Book of Mormon – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Legally Blonde – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Rent – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Marry the Night

It was a cool, clear evening, uncharacteristic for August. Michael took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He’d expect to cry, and worse, he’d expected Steph to cry. Neither of them had. In fact, the break-up had been easier than he would have dared to hope. He wondered why he felt so disappointed. Steph and he had discussed a possible break many times – perhaps they’d desensitised to the subject. Still, he felt as though something was missing. Something to close this chapter of his life – something definite. He wasn’t about to go back inside though. Amiable though it was, they’d split up for a reason. He needed to move on.
Michael slung his rucksack over his shoulder and looked back at the house. Stephanie had closed the door, so all he could see now was his reflection in the window. He straightened his short blonde hair and took a step back to admire himself. His swimmer’s body was complimented perfectly by his outfit. A tight tee with the arms cut roughly, hugging his biceps. Dark blue jeans and white leather belt with matching bracelet. Michael gave his reflected self an approving nod. Time to put this stud back on the singles market.
He prised his eyes away from himself and inhaled deeply again. He loved walking on summer nights. That was the reason he’d chosen to talk to Steph tonight. If it had turned out to be emotional, at least the walk home would lift his spirit. As it was, he hoped the light breeze might take away from this feeling of disappointment.

He took his time, elongating the trip home as much as possible. However, he reached his street much sooner than he’d wanted. He hesitated, then crossed the street. Not quite ready to go home, he’d postpone it by taking a walk through the park.
Vandalism had hit the park hard lately. Almost all lights had been broken, making it virtually impossible to see. Michael guessed there were some dodgy deals happening at night. He didn’t venture into the park after dark much anymore, even though he’d certainly be able to stand his own if he ever did get into a fight.
Tonight though, he was thankful for the darkness. Not being able to see around you meant you had to look at yourself more closely. It gave him a chance to be alone with his thoughts. Michael found a wooden bench which hadn’t been wrecked, though the lantern next to it was on its last leg. He threw his rucksack on the bench and sat down next to it. The flickering light next to the bench annoyed him, so he emptied his bag and placed it over the lantern. He was now engulfed in darkness.
Everything seemed so different in the dark. Michael got lost in his thoughts, losing all sense of time. The line between fantasy and reality seemed to blur; everything seemed possible, if only he knew how to take the first step.

Michael didn’t know whether he was asleep or not when he first heard the whispering. He opened his eyes and saw the world in flickering light. He must have been asleep, or he would have noticed his bag being stolen. He dozily looked around – no one to be seen. He had no idea how much time had passed, but it was still pitch-black out. Still not fully awake, Michael closed his eyes and listened intently. There was nothing to be heard – no whispers, no people, not even the crickets. The silence felt unnatural. Then he heard it – a voice. He couldn’t recognise any words, but the voice was perfect. It was deep and smooth, inviting you to relax and forget all your cares.
Michael had almost completely fallen asleep when a sudden body spasm brought him back to the conscious world. He jumped up from the bench and said ‘Who’s there?’ in a loud and gruff tone. There was no answer. Michael straightened his stance and called again.
‘Look, I know you’re there, I could hear you whispering. Return my belongings now and I promise you there won’t be any repercussions. Don’t return them, and we’ll see just how many kicks it takes to break a human skull.’ Michael flexed his muscles as he spoke, determined to intimidate whoever was hiding from him.
‘I did not take your belongings.’ The voice appeared to be coming from all around him.
‘Belongings aren’t important to me. They are to you as well, but I’ll let you decide on the reason.’ ‘What do you mean? Show yourself, you coward,’ Michael said, squinting around to spot the man.
At that moment, the light flickered violently and died, throwing Michael and the unknown person back into total darkness. Michael felt the wind flutter around him – something was moving.
‘There are two paths before you,’ spoke the man. His voice hadn’t changed at all, but Michael was no longer comforted by it. In fact, it now froze him to the spot.
Michael felt cold fingers on his shoulder. He wanted to turn around, but the man spoke again.
‘Once I’ve bitten you – yes, I will bit you, there are two possible outcomes. One; you die, plain and simple. I’ll feed on your flesh and blood and go about my night. Or you can choose to become like me; living at night, forever young, untouchable by all living, moving creatures. I don’t usually offer my food this choice, so think carefully before you answer. It’s an honour to be asked, after all.’
Michael weighed his options. If this was some loony tramp, he’d probably stand a chance in a fight. If the guy had a weapon, his chances of winning would be a lot slimmer. No way of finding out, it was too dark for that.
Then again, this guy could be telling the truth. Vampires belong in folklore, but folklore itself was usually based on truth. If this were the case, fighting would be futile. Joining him would be the obvious choice. Besides, if it was a nut job, this would give Michael the best opportunity to find out if he had a weapon. He tried to sound disinterested when he answered.
‘Alright, I’ll join you.’

As soon as he’d said it, he felt a sharp pain in his neck. He would have buckled over, if the grip on his shoulder hadn’t firmly kept him up. He felt a hot liquid drip into his mouth. The man told him to drink, and Michael obeyed. He’d barely swallowed his first drops when the darkness became absolute and Michael lost consciousness.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

30 days of film challenge - part six

26. hottest actor/tress

Jake Gyllenhaal (born 1980).

What can I say? Sex on a stick.

27. film that confused you the most

The Fountain (2006).

It took me a while to get into this film, but it paid off. The story is as touching as it is confusing and further viewings help you appreciate it all the more. Worth a shot.

28. best voice in film

Sir Christopher Lee (born 1992).

This is more or less a shared space with Jamer Earl Jones, but Sir Lee wins out. Saruman is just too perfectly portrayed by him, there's nothing I can do about that.

29. Most epic scene

Heaven's Light / Hellfire (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996).

The juxtaposition of good versus evil, the animation, the chorus, the emotion, I just love every single thing about this scene.

30. Tv series or book that you wanna see a film version of

Van Jonge Leu en Oale Groond (2005).

A film version of this over-the-top dramatic series in my home dialect (Twents) would be just the ticket if I ever feel like revisiting.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

30 days of film challenge - part five

21. favourite film title (not necessarily your fav film)

Lesbian Spank Inferno (2000).

Don't understand why? Watch Coupling.

22. favourite good guy

The Doctor (Doctor Who, 2005).

I'd say Rafiki again, but I want this list to be diverse. So I suppose I'll go with The Doctor. He's a Timelord, practically immortal, travels through space and time and is so lovable.

23. favourite villain

Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty, 1959).

Tough one, I do love me some villains. Scar, Mother Gothel, Saruman, Madame Tremain, Ursula, the list goes on. Only one can be the favourite though, and that lucky woman is Maleficent.
Everything about her fits perfectly. The animation is phenomenal, the voicework superb. I know I've complained about Dolores Umbridge for not having a motive before, but I'm not being hypocritical. No, Maleficent doesn't have a background story (as far as we know, anyway). However, a fairy tale is a different beast from a 'proper novel'. The latter requires motives, deeper layers and more details. Fairy tales are happy just being your basic good versus evil stories. For Maleficent, that works.

24. favourite genre


Animation isn't technically a genre, it's a medium. Same goes for musicals. Thought I'd explain that before people started wondering why I hadn't picked that.
When I find myself home alone at night, I often pop in a horror flick. It's nothing too high-profile, it's just brainless entertainment. In the end, that's all I'm after in a horror film.

25. favourite director

Vincenzo Natali (born 1969).

He directed Cube (1997), Cypher (2002) and Splice (2009); three films I absolutely love. Cube ranks as my third favourite movie. If you're looking for films that make you think, go for Natali.
That said, Richard Kelly deserves a mention too. I already named Donnie Darko, but The Box is definitely worth a watch too. Just so you know.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

30 days of film challenge - part four

16. film you like, but people you know hate

Sex and the City - the Movie (2008).

The SatC-films are a bit of an oddity, in how people complained the first film didn't feel like the series (having an entire year in one movie), but then didn't like the second one because it didn't feel like a film (more of an extended episode of the TV-series). I happen to like both films, for different reasons. I still prefer the ending of the series though.

17. film you thought you wouldn’t like, but then did

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008).

Watched this with my boyfriend the other day. I'd never seen a kung-fu film before and even though this was an Americanised film, knowing how much I enjoyed this one has made me think about watching more of this genre.

18. film you don’t want others knowing you like

Honestly? None. I checked my collection and there's not one film I'm ashamed of. Why would I? I like the film and that's what matters.
That said, I really wish I could put Twilight here... Problem is I really do hate that franchise.

19. favourite actor/tress

Ruth Jones, known for Gavin and Stacey (co-writer, Vanessa Jenkins), Fat Friends (Kelly) and Nighty Night (Linda).

Ruth is just amazing at everything she does. She's a fantastic actress, who can deliver both a hilarious and a heartbreaking performance. She's co-written the BBC-series Gavin and Stacey (with James Corden, who also plays Smithy) and that's one of the best shows I know. Plus she's Welsh.

20. actor/tress that should get a different job

Kristen Stewart, known for Twilight (Bella Swan).

Too many to count really, but since I mentioned Twilight earlier, I'll go with Kirsten. The girl just can't act, and that's counting non-Twilight films. She just puts on her 'character-face' and freezes for the rest of the story. No genuine emotion whatsoever.