And Geeks.

An interesting fact I’ve learned from this season of AHS:Freakshow is what the word “geek” used to mean. One of the freaks is known as the Geek, and he’s a little guy who likes biting the heads off living things. Charming, I know. But apparently this was the done thing, back in the day when freakshows were a thing. They would open the show for the freaks; a warm-up act, if you will.

What I find interesting though, is the negative connotations that have always surrounded this word. According to the mighty Wikipedia, those who performed in freakshows without geeks, felt superior to those who performed with them. Translation: Even the freaks didn’t like the geeks. Flash forward to present day. What is a geek? At base level, someone with a high level of intelligence. Most often, mocked and ridiculed for this. Recently, there’s been a flurry of t-shirts and sweaters being sold on the high street with the word “GEEK” emblazoned across the chest. These are being worn ironically by the cool kids.

This has been part of a recent effort to make the term “geek” cool. I’m not so sure it’s worked myself. It certainly carries more negative connotations than the word “nerd” in my opinion. A few months ago, the Harry Potter convention LeakyCon renamed itself to GeekyCon. The idea behind it being that Potter isn’t the main theme anymore. I get the intention to celebrate “geekdom” but to be honest, I get made fun of enough for going to conventions – you can’t imagine the comments about attending something called “GeekyCon”. Sure, we shouldn’t listen to people who mock us, but we do.

Anyway. Maybe I should be embracing this new culture, and be proud to call myself a geek. But flashbacks to being mocked at high school for this very thing makes it pretty difficult. I do wish though that I had known about the Geeks at the freakshow when I was younger. It would have been funny to correct people who used the word incorrectly. Then again, that in itself would probably have warranted a wedgie or two.

Freaks…

*Spoilers for AHS:Freakshow*

Okay, so, I have no idea what to make of this season of American Horror Story. For years, fans have been asking for a season based in a haunted carnival, or freakshow kind of location, and here we are. And yet, it’s not what I expected.

So far, this season has been the least supernatural out of all of the seasons. Murder House had ghosts coming out the wazoo, Asylum had the Devil and aliens, and of course, Coven was witch-tastic. So far though, Freakshow, with the exception of one rather awesome ghost in the Halloween episodes, could be any TV drama. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like “horror” ought to contain at least some aspect of the supernatural. Otherwise, isn’t it just a slasher film, or crime show?

That’s not to say it hasn’t been good. There are aspects of the show I’m really looking forward to watching pan out – Dandy-related, mainly (Seriously, how is his mother going to react when she finds the dead housekeeper? “Oh dear, Dandy, what a terrible mess…”) He’s no Oliver Thresden, but he’s shaping up to be a pretty good baddie. Elsa Mars’ backstory was pretty shocking, and I’m curious to see where her story goes next. The storyline with Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts though. Pretty dull so far, and fairly predictable. Emma Roberts is clearly having regrets about sneaking into the freakshow under false pretences, and is harbouring feelings for real-life lover Evan Peters.

Twisty the Clown though. The show writers hyped this season up as having the scariest clown imaginable. Twisty is not scary. The people in this show are scarily dumb. Take the girl who is on a romantic picnic with her boyfriend. Twisty turns up, utterly filthy, with what could be the world’s creepiest mask over half his face. The girl is only slightly hesitant, before deciding with a thrill that this clown was hired by her boyfriend to be the picnic’s entertainment. For a town that despises the freaks so much, based solely on their appearances, no one seems to notice that this clown is a bit of a state. Dandy’s mother also has this reaction – sees a dishevelled, somewhat dodgy looking clown walking the side of the road, and decides to pick him up and take him home. I mean, come on people.

That being said, his backstory was pretty tragic, and in all honestly, almost makes you want to sympathise with the psycho clown. When re-watching, the backstory sticks in your mind, and makes any fear of Twisty crumble into sympathy for him. It’s interesting, because in Asylum, I had thought that once the Bloodyface identity had been revealed, re-watching the show would be impossible. But Zachary Quinto, and the writing of the character, makes one forget that we know he’s actually a homicidal maniac for the first few episodes. Freakshow isn’t quite there yet.

But back to the “scariest clown” point. A theory from the wonderful Chloe today – Twisty is not the clown that has been hyped up. Our dear new friend Dandy is. Dandy has chosen to become a killer, whereas Twisty was, in his own way, innocent. I mean, clearly, Dandy has his own issues. But I think he could be shaping up to be a pretty serious contender for Worst Villain of the show. Time will tell.

Renée Zellweger, Feminism, and Me

So. She’s been all over the internet the last few days. Renée Zellweger (hereafter, RZ, to save my poor fingers) disappeared from the public eye for a month and reappeared a different woman.  You’ve seen it. Every single news site in the world has covered it. (What about Ebola?! I hear people cry. Who cares about Ebola, there are celebrities CHANGING!)

The internet was shocked when RZ reappeared after her absence, because her face had changed dramatically.  And the reaction to that shock? The war cries. SEXISM!  AGEISM!  EVERYTHINGISM!  The internet was full of terrible people who expected RZ to look exactly the same until the day she died, and the fact that she had “aged” was sickening to the world.  For shame, internet, for shame!

Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it is. Because that’s not the reason people were shocked. No one is saying “Wow she’s gotten old”, or “Wow she looks awful” or “Wow she’s definitely not Bridget Jones anymore”.

They’re saying “Who’s that?”

She doesn’t look like someone who has aged badly. She doesn’t look like someone who used to be youthful and has hit life hard and it doesn’t agree with her face. She looks like a completely different person. The number of times I had to be told that it was RZ and not a mistake… This isn’t sexism, this isn’t ageism, this isn’t someone who ought to be a feminist but isn’t.  This is actual, legitimate shock.  It’s not an attack against feminism, it’s confusion. Women age.  This should be no surprise to anyone. But women do not, in the space of four weeks, transform into a completely different person. No, she does not look worse, she does not look older, and I’m definitely not being deliberately sexist or ageist or anything – but she definitely looks like a different person.

It’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s not being insulting, it’s not being rude, it’s not being offensive.  It’s having eyeballs. If no one had noticed, it would have been insane.  The paparazzi at the red carpet event probably had to ask who she was. She looks like a completely different person. And the automatic leap to “sexist”, “ageist” and the rest is pathetic.  There’s so much of this going around right now. Feminists who think they have to prove that they’re superior to men.  Newsflash, ladies – the idea is equality. Not superiority.  Stop taking offence at every little thing.

I read, with interest, an article today about a woman who was outraged that men have the audacity to approach pretty women in coffee shops and disturb their “coffee time” by speaking to them.  Heaven forbid! The woman was outraged on behalf of feminists everywhere, thought this was disgraceful, and that men were awful people for doing this.  Umm… What? So, people aren’t allowed to communicate now, outside of formally arranged exchanges?  It’s ridiculous.

So please, feminists, return to the original point. It’s not offensive to notice that someone has drastically changed appearance in a short space of time.  It’s not sexist to start a conversation with a woman, unless you consider it to be unacceptable for a woman to start a conversation with a man (heaven forbid!).  Let’s try and aim for equality, please.  We won’t get anywhere until we realise equality is the way forward.

Maybe Next Time

So.  Scotland has been a busy place recently.  The eyes of the world were on us as we became what I understand to be the first country in history to refuse independence.  No, really.  I’m not kidding.

It’s hard to explain to those from other countries.  A good portion of the rest of the world had no idea Scotland even was its own country, thinking instead of a quaint village in the North of England with deep-fried Mars bars and tiny haggis creatures running around.  Oh, and Hogwarts.

This is something that’s been immensely and inexplicably frustrating to me throughout my life.  Telling someone you’re Scottish, and being asked which part of England that’s in.  Hearing English accents referred to as “British”, or even worse, Scottish accents as English. Just a note, people – there is no such thing as a British accent.  How can there be?  Four separate countries, each with hundreds of different accents within.  There’s no single, generic accent.  But anyway. Tangent.

I’m truly astonished by more than half of this country’s reluctance to accept the gift it was offered.  To be a country standing on our own two legs, to be in charge of our own future.  Instead, we will stay in the shadows.  I can only hope that the UK Government live up to its promises of giving Scotland more of its own powers, but I won’t hold my breath.

I’m disappointed in Scotland.  But I’m not angry.  So many people are so angry right now, expressing their feelings in ways ranging from online rants to actual fighting in the streets.  I’m torn between hoping it blows over soon, and these people can return to some state of peace, and hoping that it doesn’t.  That what we’ve been through leaves a lasting impression on everyone, and as time moves forward, people come to realise what an opportunity they’ve missed.  And hope that we’re given another chance at it someday.

What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Lolz. Don’t worry. I’m not getting all Shakespearian on you.  Could you imagine if I went from reviewing post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction to Shakespeare? Yikes.  Anyway.  Moving on. 

I’ve been thinking about names recently.  Character names are so important, in any piece of writing.  Sure, Romeo and Juliet would have the same plot, but would it have had the same impact if it had been about Steve and Jemima?  Who knows.  I’m currently reading City of Heavenly Fire, the last in the Mortal Instruments series (hah, Shakespeare.  You thought I had been reading Shakespeare.  Hilarious).  For all its flaws, the Mortal Instruments series houses my favourite character name ever – Sebastian Morgenstern.  Does that name scream “villain” to you, or what?  Don’t get me wrong, I have other fictional villains that are a thousand  times more terrifying, and I’d be much less happy to run into them in a dark alleyway, but gosh darn it, this one definitely has the best name. 

I think I pay particular attention to names because I hate my own.  “Clare” is an exceptionally dull name, and yet people are still unable to spell it correctly.  Although, apparently, my father was pretty keen on naming me “Gráinne”, Irish for Grace.  So I suppose I should count my blessings.  I tend to feel that, when it comes to fiction at least, character names shouldn’t be unpronounceable.  How can readers obsess and come up with fan theories if they can’t pronounce the character names?

Saying that however, I’ve just remembered how no one knew how to pronounce “Hermione” until the films started pre-production.  Even my high school English teacher got it wrong (a shock to my system at the time – teachers making mistakes?!).      But of course, come the early noughties (God, I hate that term), the popularity of the name Hermione skyrocketed

Would it have been as popular if Hermione had been named Megan?  Or Fiona?  Or God forbid, Clare?  I doubt it.  Would Sebastian Morgenstern have any appeal if his name was Bob Smith?  Who knows.  Names are pretty important, Shakespeare. Would your work be as acclaimed if your surname was… Poopface?  Okay, so I suck at making up names (see my Sims for details). Sue me.  Or don’t.  Whatever. 

Maybe I’ll change my name one day.  Hermione Morgenstern?  Perhaps, perhaps.

Little White Lies

Little white lies. You know, those innocent little remarks that people use to avoid a sticky situation. “Does my ass look big in this?” “Of course not!” “I’ve lost weight, can you tell?” “I was just thinking you looked really skinny!”

Why do these lies exist? Who, at what point in history, realised that it would be easier to just agree with a loved one (because certainly, these lies tend to be told in relationships) than to suffer the wrath of admitting that a corset could be doing with being pulled a good few notches tighter? It’s something that intrigues me. I’m honest. Painfully so. It’s landed me in trouble more times than I care to remember. So when I see people engaging in these innocent lies, I can’t help but watch for the consequences. Often, it’s just that – innocent. But sometimes, people get greedy. One person feigning awe at invisible weight loss isn’t enough. It has to come from everyone. But why?

More and more these days, people find their self-worth in what others think of them. We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. Buying a dress because a friend says it looks good. Having more than a few drinks at the end of the day because someone at work thinks you’re lousy at your job, regardless of what’s actually happened.
The point of this blog post? To tell you to knock it off. Your opinion is what matters. Buy the dress because you think it looks good. Do your best regardless of what someone else thinks you should be doing. And don’t constantly seek others’ approval. Your own approval is the only one you need.

Family

What is family?

When faced with a question, I did what everyone does these days. I Googled it. Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia had the usual definitions – any group of persons related by blood.  Urban Dictionary had, again as usual, slightly odder definitions, but still relatively accurate ones – a bunch of people who hate each other but eat dinner together, usually annoying and invasive around the holidays, a word used to force you to do things you don’t want to do.

They’re all fairly relevant, aren’t they? Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking on this lately. An event (hereafter referred to as The Incident) happened in my family last year that has had extremely serious repercussions.  I won’t go into it, but trusts were fractured into what must be at least a billion parts.  No apologies were made, and no attempts at reconciliation happened.   I think the person at the root of the problem might have convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong. Crimes were never proven, and time moved on.  Now that we’re over a year later, the person continues as always, and on the surface, everyone else has moved on.

But they haven’t moved on, and I was reminded of this today. It’s my father’s birthday in a couple of months; my incredibly strong and wise father.  He has been through so much in the last year, not least The Incident. Discussions regarding celebrations began tentatively, and were quashed extremely quickly when some family members stated they didn’t want to come – it was too awkward given the past.

It looks like we may have become one of those families that only ever get together now for funerals. Cheery, right? So, post Incident life seems to be plodding along on the surface, but underneath, the repercussions look to be permanent.  All I want is for my family to be whole again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So what is a family? Is it merely the people who are related to you, regardless of their actions?  Or is it about the relationships that you make yourself – whether people are related or not – that are cultivated and grown to the point that you can’t imagine being without them?

Clichés

It all started with a man.

I’ve had this stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. I’m toying with the idea of a short story that begins with this line.  I won’t go into it; mostly because I haven’t thought it through at all yet. But I’m currently fixated on this line.  I really want to start the story with this, but isn’t it a massive cliché?  There’s nothing worse than opening a book, reading the first line, and thinking “Oh dear… Is it all going to be like this?”

I notice things like this. I know, I know – I’m obsessive over stupid little things like this. But I wondered, what do other people think? Am I obsessing over nothing, or is there a blacklist of opening lines for works of fiction?

Alone

Alone is an interesting word. Just look at it up there. You immediately think “This is going to be a sad post” or “Uh oh, what’s happened in her life?” But it shouldn’t have to imply any of these things.

I was inspired to write this blog post last night. Friday night, alone in my house (not counting feline friends), watching The Following (fantastic by the way, you should catch it if you haven’t already). I thought of my friends, out at a party, or spending time with their significant others, and thought, gosh, I bet they think it’s a bit sad that I’m home alone on a Friday night.

But the weird thing was, I was happy about it. I’ve come to realise that inside, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. At high school, I tried to be friendly with everyone, but the truth was, when too many people were around, I just wanted to disappear. It’s only very recently that I’ve realised it’s okay not to be craving the company of others all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be alone 100%  of the time, but when I am alone, I’m okay with it.

People who are classed as “loners” usually get a bad rep. Movies and books always have the cliche serial killer profile “Oh he was always a loner, we knew there was something off about him”. Well, I can assure you, I’m not a serial killer. Nor do I have any plans to become one. I’m just a regular person who enjoys spending time on my own to read, write, draw… Lots of things.

So I guess this post is for all of you fellow loners out there (oxymoron?) Have a grand old time with the company of your good self, and own your loner status.

Obsessed…

So, as I write this, I’m sitting in a bar on a Monday afternoon – pretty good, right? I’m meeting a friend for dinner, and naturally, dinner is preceded by pre-dinner drinks. It just makes sense. Now, I’m not just bragging. There is a reason I tell you this. Said friend is running a tad late. This is no problem – a half hours peace with a glass of cider is never a problem. I order, I sit, and I instinctively hit the Kindle app icon on my phone. I’m in the middle of a book (Inhuman, by Kat Falls, since you ask) and half an hour free to read seems like a good thing.

However, I am seriously not enjoying this book. It’s a typical dystopia – this is how the world is, oh wait, it’s not, oh wow now I hate the government. I’m not knocking this – I love these books when they’re done well. This particular book though has thrown in the inevitable love triangle which I just have no interest in whatsoever. It started with Twilight (no, Harry, Ron and Hermione were never a love triangle, I don’t care what you say) and has been present in at least 83% of young adult books since (statistics are sourced from the Barney Stinson Institute). The plain girl being fought over by two very different but both very wonderful men has been done to death. Now, if this is what you’re into, fair play to you. You’ll enjoy this book. But it’s not for me.

There’s a simple solution – stop reading every dystopian book that crosses my path. But I have issues (one at a time, please). I am obsessed with this genre. I have no idea why. And the worst part is, even if I don’t like a book, I will finish it. I need to know what happens to the characters. Even if it’s characters I dislike or the outcome is obvious, I need to know. What does this say about me? Am I easily suckered in? Has every book I’ve read in the last couple of years had astounding character development? I have no idea. Is this a rather rambly blog post? Why yes, yes it is.

I suppose it could be seen as a good thing – I’m dedicated, and I have to see something through to the end, no matter what. Or I’m just pernickety about unfinished story lines. I’ll finish this book, and I’ll probably complain about how predictable it was. A glutton for punishment, you might say.

Is anyone else like this? Is there a solution? Answers on a postcard please…