Inspirational AF: Akala

I went to see Akala speak about two weeks ago, having long admired him from afar. He spoke and answered questions on ‘Is Britain Having an Identity Crisis?’ for two hours with an mind-boggling level of eloquence and thoughtfulness, at the same time as being incredibly relatable and human.

You don’t need to watch all the above, but watch at least a little to get a sense of Akala’s level of knowledge – and to learn something new about Britain’s history and politics.

Also, a bonus vid below – Akala is also a legend because he loves Shakespeare. See below for his amazing rap paying tribute to the Bard. I always love a Shakespeare-lover.

Inspirational AF: Monthly Me-Time

 

img_2905

This tweet (link here) caught my eye this week. I love a plan or a list of some sort, and this seems like a near-perfect way to improve your state-of-mind. I try to create resolutions like these every new year, and, although I definitely do not complete them all every time, there’s something nice about having resolutions that make your life or you feel better, rather than being about losing or stopping something.

If you need some more, here a few suggestions:

Every Day:
– Read the news
– Make your bed
– Read 10 pages of a book
– Have a 5min solo dance session

Every Week:
– Message your parents
– Listen to a podcast
– Go for a walk
– Do a good deed

Every Fortnight:
– Call or email your grandparents
– Cook a 2 course meal

Every Month:
– Try something new
– Ask someone out for coffee (not a date necessarily, maybe just someone from work/a club you want to get to know better)

Comment below with any of your own suggestions!

Monday List: RuPaul Parodies That Should Be Done

In honour of the Season 10 final four (#TeamAsia), enjoy these five suggestions for the future seasons. Got better ones? Leave a comment below!

1. Murder on the Whore-ient Express

I mean, how has thus not been done already?! Melodramatic, riddled with stereotypes and full of great costume opportunities, Agatha Christie (Hag-atha Christie? Agatha Bitchy?) is easy pickings for RuPaul and his posse. Imagine the exaggerated death scenes. So much potential for bitch slaps here.

2. PRIDE 🏳️‍🌈 and Prejudice/Jane Whore-sten

Okay, so I can’t quite think of the puns, but hear me out. Again, pretty costumes. They literally have balls in these books. There is a house called “NETHERfield”. There are a wealth of ott female characters. Bendelacreme’s Snatch Game Maggie Smith shares a lot of similarities with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The Colin Firth-lake scene? I’m sure the Pit Crew would be more than happy to oblige…

3. Wuthering Tights/Jane Hair

Catherine Earnshaw is so extra, she might as well have been a drag queen. If Kate Bush is ever a guest judge (please Drag Gods make this happen), there is no question what should be the main challenge – or the lip sync song for that matter. Pit the Brontes against each other with this team challenge. Nick some inspiration for Jane’s Red Room from Christian Grey’s infamous version, and we’ll be off to a good start.

4. Great British Cake Off

Like The Bitchelor in All Stars 3, reality shows are always good fun, with a big variety of characters allowing different queens to play to their strengths and improv a bit. This one has the added bonus of being British, so we can all enjoy some terrible terrible accent attempts, and perhaps a Mary/Prue/resident older woman impression or two. And think of all the fun that could be had with the baked goods – #DragFoodFight.

5. Fahrenheit 69 #DragDystopia

Just for the title alone…

With thanks to Sam (@SamButtler) for the punny names. 

Inspirational AF: Failure is Good for Other People

One of the great things about becoming a teacher (apart from the long holidays, 4pm finishes, and hilariously stupid responses from children) is that you start to lose the fear of being bad at something – or at least the fear of starting.

I’ve feel like I naturally stick to the things I know and love. Singing. Theatre. Books. The Leggera Padana at Pizza Express (it’s obviously the best – fight me). I love trying new things… as long as they’re already within my comfort zone.

Like any classic milennial/gen z – I fall sort of in-between generations – this is partly from a fear of failure. The British education system also encourages us to specialise, and to avoid what we’re not good at as soon as possible. This worked pretty well for me, as a freakish child who knew what they wanted to do from the outset, but with people who want to be doctors but also fancy a spot of art on the side it’s not so easy. A levels, and the way universities treat them, encourage specialism. STEM scholars in particular suffer here. A humanities student has a certain level of freedom in their choices outside of their degree subject, whereas parents and institutions often encourage STEM students to choose within only that small field. To paraphrase Paris is Burning, they demand “STEMs across the board.” And with all this specialism, this dedication to only a certain type of subject, trying new things and starting from nothing can feel pretty scary. Also no one likes being a failure, let’s be honest.

But! Working at a school has encouraged me to push past this pessimism. If an eleven year old can start learning something with so much enthusiasm, why shouldn’t I? Also, and here’s the best bit: of I fail, I’m simply being a relatable role model for the kids. There’s nothing more comforting than seeing an older person mess something up. Phew. Pressure’s off. Now they can feel better about themselves – I’ve done a good deed simply by being really quite shit at poetry writing/rounders/the floss. Give yourself a pat on the back and a gold star.

So yesterday I went bouldering, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I was pretty rubbish, I can’t lie (the video is my talented friend, not me. Hopefully some people didn’t read down to here and think that I’m that skilled.) But thanks to some rather determined friends I made it up six or seven routes. They were the easiest ones and I was terrified every time my feet left the ground but still. I also learnt that a lot of bouldering is sitting on the floor chatting and watching other, extremely ripped people do all the work – so it was much more enjoyable than anticipated.

To sum up: If you fail, you are doing your good deed for the day and everyone thanks you for it. Also bouldering is fun.

What to wear to the Theatre 🎭

When I was younger, my biggest theatre experience was going to see The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House each Christmas. In attempt to fit in with the soft, crimson velvet, the gold brocade, the shimmering crystallised ballerinas, I would excitedly shimmy into my most special dress. Usually pink or purple, usually sparkly, chosen for maximum twirling potential. As you get older, though, tip-toed swishing into a theatre in a swirl of colour and sequins becomes slightly less acceptable (at least on a Monday night at a fringe theatre anyway… I reckon Kinky Boots would love it).

Having been lucky enough to see a lot of theatre, this idea of specially choosing what to wear has become rather redundant; a bit of a waste of time. We’re not quite at pyjama-wearing level yet, but after a long or difficult day jeans and jumper seems perfectly fine. Yet last year, when I invited many of my friends to the theatre who’d rarely been before “What shall I wear?” was often the first question they’d ask.

Part of this is to do with theatre’s image problem. Spanning back from the gentleman’s boxes and the wealthy audience sitting on the stage of the early modern stages all the way to the red carpets of press nights today, there’s a sense that you go to the theatre to see and be seen. This despite the fact that there seem to be fewer and fewer intervals in which to parade your finery for the masses; and if there are lots of intervals, it’s so much of a marathon that only comfy clothing will do (looking at you Angels in America). And added to this the fact that in most theatres, we’re sitting in the pitch black for the most part anyway.

It is only to be expected that no theatres have a set dress code anymore for everyday performances. A set of rules about what to wear necessarily excludes certain groups of people, and theatre should be open to all. Plus, the production will not fail because of your pair of grubby trainers. Actors may be a fragile group of people, but I assure you, their training is sufficient that they can carry on, whatever fashion faux par glares out at them from the front row. So rest easy (unless your clothes actually smell – but that faux par is not limited to the theatre).

P.S. When thinking about clothes can be helpful:

For some reason much of the time attendees feel the need to imitate the style of the performance in their outfits. The audience for Glengarry Glen Ross at the Playhouse Theatre last year had so many suited men I wondered whether I’d walked into some sort of regional conference by mistake – and sure enough, the play itself was about as interesting. Like draws like, at least where costumes are concerned. If you want to know what a show is like, checking out the clothes of the audience isn’t a bad idea.

Monday List: 5 Great Shakespeare Adaptations

I tend to think Shakespeare is best live and in a theatre – but with no shortage of screen adaptations, there are plenty of gems in there amidst the dullness of others. In honour of tonight’s broadcast of King Lear on BBC Two (9:30pm), enjoy this list of other fab adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.

  1. Shakespeare Re-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
    Re-telling Shakespeare in modern-day English, this series saw James McAvoy as a murderous Michelin-starred Macbeth, Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell as warring politicians in The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a caravan park. But none of those was as good as the joyous rewrite of Shakespeare’s best romcom (no arguments please) by David NichollsSarah Parrish and Damien Lewis are Beatrice and Benedick as broadcasters, whose bickering is too much to take for their colleagues. It’s light-hearted and funny, just as this play should be.
  2. The Hollow Crown: Richard II
    All of The Hollow Crown is fantastic; faithful to the text, beautifully shot and acted. This, the first of them, is still my favourite, partly because I love Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear, who star as Richard and Bolingbroke respectively. You can find my review from way back in 2012, when this was first aired here.
  3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Russell T Davies)
    If you’re looking for a more irreverent take on a classic than The Hollow Crown will give you, Russell T Davies’ version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be right up your alley. However well you think you know this story of fairies and donkey heads and lovers, the last ten minutes will definitely surprise you. It’s also as star-studded as tonight’s King Lear, with Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas, John Hannah, Elaine Paige, and a handful of excellent young RSC/Globe actors as Puck and the lovers.
  4. Shakespeare Live! From the RSC
    Not strictly a full adaptation, but this deserves a place on this list for the many joyous excerpts from Shakespeare scenes, starring many British national treasures. The Rory Kinnear/Anne Marie Duff Macbeth scene is so gripping, it makes the recent National Theatre production feel like even more of a let-down. And who can forget the hilarious ‘To Be or Not To Be?’ sketch, starring none other than Prince Charles.
  5. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
    The absolute classic. I was planning to just focus on TV adaptations, but I couldn’t leave this out. Flashy and over-the-top and melodramatic, this is a perfectly teenagery, stylistic version of Shakespeare’s fatal romance, filled with lustful longing. Also Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to be on every list in existence.

#tbt The History of Nutella

Did you know Nutella was originally developed as part of Italian rationing during WW2? That’s right, while us Brits had powdered banana and potato peel pie, and the Germans were literally eating people in some cases (shudders), the poor Italians were forced to eat Nutella. It’s a tough life for some.

Hazelnutty-chocolatey goodness was initially known to hungry Italians as “Pasta Gianduja”. Created in 1946 by baker Pietro Ferrero, it was developed as a way of making up for the shortage of cocoa (thanks to rationing), using the hazelnuts which grow in abundance in the northwest of Italy – Alba, Piedmont to be precise – where Ferrero’s bakery was located. Hazelnuts bulked up the limited chocolate supply.

At first, Nutella wasn’t even in the form we know and love today. It was sold in solid blocks, which one could eat a la a chocolate bar, or lay on top of bread etc. It wasn’t until 1951 that Ferrero began selling a creamy version of “Pasta Gianduja”, which he named “Supercrema”. By 1963, Pietro’s son Michele decided to revamp “Supercrema” in order to market it throughout Europe. The composition was modified again, and it needed a new name: Nutella. The first jar left Alba on 20th April 1964, and was instantly a huge success (the product, not just that one first jar). In fact, as of 2017, you can find Ferrero products in 160 countries! There is even a World Nutella Day on February 5: a day well worth remembering.

So next time someone criticises you for having Nutella on your toast (or eating it straight out of the jar, I see you), just tell them it actually counts as rationing…

Monday List: Three Worst ‘Classic’ Books

  1. On The Road Jack Kerouac
    An ultimate classic in the worst sense of the word. One of those books celebrated for its ‘authenticity’ and ‘rawness’, whilst sticking to all the cliches of the American male-crisis novel. Although there’s no denying that the rhythm, the juvenile longing of Kerouac’s prose is sometimes exciting, and even electrifying, the flatness of the female characters cannot but make it as a whole feel two-dimensional (see Alice Walsh’s great article on this, as well as The New Yorker’s opinion piece on Kerouac’s popularity). The plot centres around men wildly thrashing out against a female domestic sphere they perceive as closing in around them, choosing escape over security for the sake, they tell themselves, of their ‘souls’. Only when this domesticity is drawn authentically does this idea become interesting; and here it is not. If you want a better book about a desperate desire for something more, then read Zora Neale Hurston‘s amazing novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Same dissatisfaction, same passion, more tenderness, thought, and feeling.
  2. Heart of Darkness Joseph ConradCover Issues: Hesperus Books | Lulu's Bookshelf
    Talking of meaningless talk about ‘souls’, step up Joseph Conrad. Reading a few of Chinua Achebe‘s essays and speeches, makes this choice feel particularly righteous. This is one of those books that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, a faint feeling of disgust or frustration. In 2003, Botswanan scholar Peter Mwikisa concluded the book was “the great lost opportunity to depict dialogue between Africa and Europe; I’m tempted to agree. The depiction of Congo as a place peopled with savages, with “rudimentary souls” is dangerous mythologism. But, to judge aside from the possible/probably racism, the book itself is also just a heavy, dark, intense read that, like both the others on this list, seems self-indulgent and ambiguous to the point of confusion. On the plus side… it’s short?!
  3. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontëcovers for books: Wuthering Heights - The Mill on the ...
    You are either a Brontë or an Austen fan. It’s like Marmite: you can’t be both. I sit firmly on the side of Lizzie Bennett, of Emma Woodhouse, of headstrong heroines with high standards and witty narration. Wuthering Heights is the total opposite of this. If Catherine Earnshaw lived today, she’d be the vampire friend; the one who always finishes a night out weeping at you in a corner, deliberately grinding on strangers to make her possessive partner jealous, or who just leaves you because she’s spotted some much cooler/fitter people.Image result for needy friend meme The extreme emotions are too much for me (in particular love that borders on necrophilia – looking at you here Heathcliff). It’s the categorisation of this as one of literature’s greatest love stories that makes this a disappointment, as with its sister book Jane Eyre. As a critique on Victorian class systems: great. As a romance: awful.

#tbt: Dorothy Gibson

An ex-Nazi sympathiser who survived the Titanic, made a film about it, was arrested in Italy as an anti-Fascist agitator, and who was also a pioneering silent movie actress, Dorothy Gibson was the definition of living your best life.

Born today in 1889, in New Jersey, by the age of 20 she began modelling for Harrison Fisher, a famous commercial artist. 220px-Dorothy_by_fisherDorothy soon became Fisher’s favourite muse, and her image was seen regularly on postcards, merchandising products and even on the covers of magazines like Cosmopolitan.

As early as 1911, Dorothy began appearing in movies, starting out as an extra but soon taking the leading roles in a series of films by Éclair Studios. Praised for her natural acting style and comedic flair, she was a huge hit – and arguably the first actress to be promoted as a star in her own right.With contemporary Mary Pickford, Dorothy was the highest paid movie actress in the world at the time of her premature retirement in May 1912, from which time on she focused on her choral career.

The thing she’s most known for today, however, is nothing to do with her talents. On her way back from a holiday with her mother (Pauline) in Italy, Gibson became part of one the most famous events of the twentieth century. As Dorothy and Pauline played bridge in the lounge, their ship, the Titanic, crashed into an iceberg. Along with two of their game partners, they escaped into the first lifeboat launched (Lifeboat #7). After arriving back in New York, Dorothy’s manager persuaded her to appear in a film based on the scenario: the first ever film based on the disaster. Saved From the Titanic came out just one month later. Dorothy starred as herself, and also wrote the scenario, appearing in the same clothes she had actually been wearing on the night of the sinking.

Although Saved From the Titanic was a tremendous success in America, Britain, and France the only known prints were destroyed in a 1914 fire at the Eclair Studios in New Jersey. The loss of the motion picture is considered by film historians to be one of the greatest of the silent era.

But that’s not all…

Like any great actress of that era, naturally Dorothy had her share of salacious backstory, aside from any ship-based disasters. Between 1911-17, Dorothy embarked on a love affair with the married movie tycoon Jules Brulatour (co-founder of Universal Pictures). Brulatour was an advisor and producer for Dorothy’s main film company, Eclair, and backed several of her films, including Saved From the Titanic.

In 1913, while driving in New York, Dorothy struck and killed a pedestrian. So far, so irrelevant, right? But Dorothy was driving Brulatour’s car at the time (serious Great Gatsby vibes). In the court case that followed, then, it was revealed in the press that she was his mistress. Brulatour was actually already separated from his wife. Nonetheless, the humiliation of the scandal made her sue him for divorce, finalised in 1915. Dorothy and Brulatour then married, in 1917,  his fame and political power forcing him into legitimizing his relationship with Dorothy.

Two years later, the marriage’s legal status was challenged, and eventually dissolved as an invalid contract. Dorothy then left NYC for Paris to escape gossip and start a new life.

Fighting Fascism

By the time WW2 started, Dorothy and her mother were in Florence. The reasons for them staying there are hazy… Dorothy claimed it was because they were scared of the journey back to America after the whole Titanic incident. Others claim they stayed there willingly because they were Nazi sympathisers, and potentially even Fascist intelligence operatives!

However, by 1944 Dorothy had renounced her involvement, and was even arrested as an anti-Fascist agitator and jailed in a Nazi prison! She was sent to the Milan prison of San Vittore, from which she then escaped with two other prisoners, journalist Indro Montanelli and General Bartolo Zambon. The trio was aided through the intervention of Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, and by a young chaplain of the Milanese resistance group Fiamme Verdi, Father Giovanni Barbareschi.

Living in France, in 1946, Dorothy died of a heart attack in her apartment at the Hôtel Ritz Paris at the age of 56. Gibson’s estate was divided between her lover, with the spectacularly Latin name of Emilio Antonio Ramos, and her mother.

In the fifteen years between the death of Dorothy and herself, Pauline grew increasingly vocal about her criticism of the Allies and her support for the Nazis – we’re still unsure whether Dorothy echoed or challenged these sympathies.

So: Model Muse, Silent Movie Star, Titanic Survivor, Mogul Mistress, Nazi Spy, Anti-Fascist Agitator, Prison Camp Escapee. Dorothy Gibbons’s life was legendary.

 

Sources:

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/dorothy-gibson-the-woman-who-survived-the-sinking-of-the-titanic-and-a-nazi-prison/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Gibson

 

Monday List: Top Five Eurovision Moments 2018

Having spent Saturday night in Stockholm, complete with a trip to the (excellent) ABBA Museum, I am convinced that Eurovision embodies everything that Cultured AF represents; talented people mixed with undeniable trashiness. Here are our top five moments.

1. SuRie Gets Kanye West-ed

After Brexit, how to make the UK vaguely more likeable to the Europeans? Interrupt their performance with a protester storming onstage to shout about the “Nazis of the UK media”. Surely sympathy vote secured, right?*
anigif_sub-buzz-5489-1526156308-7.gif
*well, no, we still came third from bottom. But still not last.

2. The Man With The Pipe

This guy has not got enough attention. In a turn reminiscent of the Russian grannies, or the Polish butter churner, Serbia brought on an old man with a Serbian flute to accompany their song ‘Nova Deca’. Looking like the crazy professor from Back to the Future, he piped away with aplomb, adding some much needed interest to an otherwise kinda bland performance. Legend.

eurovision-2018-finale-serbia

3. The Whole of the Czech Performance

Pure 100% Dairy-Lea Babybel Cheese. Czech Olly Murs. Bum-wiggling. The lyrics. All of it was classic Eurovision. Genius.

anigif_sub-buzz-5969-1526156668-2

4. All of the Awkward Points-givers

I both love and hate this part. It takes f**king ages wow, but also seeing loads of awkward, over-dressed people in front of green screens, trying to grab every inch of screen-time given them is monotonously joyous.

There was the random attempt to make a Kanye West joke, the La La Land joke that belongs in 2017, the Swedish guy who started facing the wrong way for unknown reasons, the Norwegian dude in a blue LED mask…

Check out Graham Norton’s comments on this mess here.

5. When Finland’s Singer was flipped upside down.

Because why not? It’s Eurovision! Singing on its own is not enough. SPIN YOURSELF ON A GIANT WHEEL WHILST SINGING. That is the level of commitment required.

anigif_sub-buzz-18309-1526157126-2

 

P.s. Why is RuPaul not a judge of Eurovision? Or Michelle Visage? Get on it for next year Israel.