Wuthering Heights

On a notepad, write down every fictional character that mentioned that they liked or enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  Off the top of my head I can think of 5 occasions where the character has near enough been buried with the book, or had “Heathcliff” tattooed on their upper arm, inside a heart with an arrow crossing the t.  Basically, even within fiction, this book is admired and adored.

Wuthering Heights is a place where there is often misery and clashing social classes; it is also the home of hatred and anger, and quite often scarily violent desires.  Contrasting this, it is the place where romance brews, a love triangle is formed and a banned love is resented.  It follows Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw and how their love is interrupted and disallowed.  This is an acclaimed romantic novel, as we have discovered, and there are certain events which demonstrate this.  However there is a slightly disturbing aspect to this novel which makes it not so chick-lit.

Everywhere, the romance is devoured and obsessed over; the characters are yelled at and cried over; and the plot destroys the poor books’ spine as they are thrown against walls and floors as the inconsiderate characters make stupid mistakes.  Love-hate relationships are made with characters and the reader ends up murdering anyone who insults their favourite character.

Apparently.

Personally I want to throw this book in the bin.

Firstly, the story is told by a character that has the fantastic mental capacity to remember every word of every conversation that has happened in the past 40 years.  Ellen Dean manages to eavesdrop on all the significant conversations and recant them with precision after quite a few years.  I don’t know about you but her memory is exactly what I need when trying to remember a 50 item shopping list.

I suppose in Miss Bronte’s defence this would be the most appropriate way for the story to be delivered as characters tend to die.  However this second hand story-telling takes away all the magic and romance of the events.  If it was in a first person shifting narrative voice between Catherine and Heathcliff, I think the romance would be more emphasised and their characters could be sympathised with more for their unfortunate decisions and circumstances.  Or even third person narrative with focalising.  However this bland re-telling takes out all possibility of passion and love in their characters.

Secondly, the events didn’t flow and the story seemed to judder, jumping time periods and altogether confusing the reader.  On several points Mr Lockwood, the character who introduces us to this small community, takes over from Miss Dean thus ending the story temporarily.   This is necessary because otherwise his character is completely pointless and almost forgotten, but he doesn’t provide a welcomed break, he interrupts and disturbs the story.

Finally, the events which, in effect, destroy Cathy and Heathcliff’s lives, are skimmed over and not dramatised into large scale events.  This could be due to the narrative voice again however there should be a more dramatic repercussion, more re-telling of the effects of this decision and a greater conclusion.

However, there are some aspects of the novel which I find interesting.  The merging of two genres is particularly fascinating.  Bronte tends to mix a romance with a thriller; the anger of the characters, their desires and the slightly scary lunatics all tangle with the romance in the novel.  This was quite a clever decision as it added something extra to the basic love story novel; it created more tension and increased the pace (even if it was slightly weird).  This suspense is due to Miss Dean, she was scared of these characters and this is reflected in her story telling.

Also, the novel is quite romantic; you can understand and empathise with the characters involved in the love triangle.  And Edgar Linton is such a sweetie!  Heathcliff is devoted to Cathy and sacrifices himself in several ways to try and deserve her and Cathy herself does love Heathcliff, she is just a bit of a silly-billy.

Overall, this is an interesting book which you should read.  I am in the minority for criticising this book so heavily, and other acclaimed authors clearly have loved it (shown by their characters’ love for it).  If you like it then I can possibly understand your reasoning a little bit.  If you dislike it then at least you can say you have read it.  After all, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Facebook Finally Pulls Down Preposterous Post

Facebook is one of the most popular social networks.  With this massive market of young, vulnerable, immature teenagers, Facebook has a responsibility to control its posts, its activities and its users.  In the past year there have been many cases of suicides due to cyber bullying on the site.  It has become a place for scammers to create false deaths and petitions.  It has allowed children to be groomed and abused.  And if this isn’t bad enough, they recently have allowed mentally disturbing and traumatising materially to be put on the site.

A video of a woman being decapitated had been posted on the website with the title of “Challenge: Anyone can watch this video”.  With no warning and no limitations on the audience, this is a worrying issue for parents and other users of Facebook.

The language in the title is tempting members of the public by suggesting it will increase their ego.  It is horrific that this encouraging language has no hint of the emotional distress a video such as this will cause.  Parents everywhere were horrified at this content being accessible, for their sakes and their childrens’.

In May it was banned temporarily from the website while the company discussed how inappropriate it was.  Evidently it was not inappropriate enough to be banned permanently because it was made visible again.  This is disgusting and completely ridicules Facebook’s other content rules, such as banning videos with a woman’s “fully exposed breast”, or those that “glorify violence”.  It is ridiculous that the former is disallowed but a beheading was allowed!

As John Carr, from the Council on Child Safety, says, it will “fuel nightmares”.  This is seriously mentally disturbing material and will scar children’s minds for life.  Also, the psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy says that the more disturbing the material, “the more psychologically destructive it becomes”.

Facebook’s argument for this content was that people should be allowed to “condemn videos”…

It was founded in 2004 but gained its significant position in society in 2008-2009.  In more recent years the amount of users has increased from 100 million to roughly 1100 million.  This is a 1000% increase!.  Additionally the supposed age limit for creating a Facebook account is 13.  This is year 8-9 in school years, so these students haven’t even started their GCSE’s.  However there is no possible way for Facebook to regulate or enforce this age limit and there are many people who simply create false birthdays.  Therefore inappropriate content should have restrictions all over the place!

Thankfully, with much pressure and demand from the sensible general public and a slight nudge from the PM, Facebook have agreed today to take the video down after releasing it with a warning the day before.

About time!

Sunshine On Leith

Do you ever think about an event and know instinctively you would “walk 500 miles” to do it again?  Or do you ever think about an event and just say to yourself “it’s over and done with”?  Or perhaps you’ve decided you’re “on my way from misery to happiness today”? Well if any of those thoughts have ever crossed your mind then it’s time to see and fully appreciate Sunshine on Leith with music by the Proclaimers.

Set in Edinburgh, the story follows two soldiers, Ally and Davy, who have come back from Afghanistan to live in their hometown of Leith.  It continues looking at how they re-accustom to their lives at home and their relationships.  The four main tendrils of the film are the friendship between the boys and the relationships that develop between Davy and Yvonne, Ally and Liz, and Rab and Jean.  It’s focus is correcting mistakes and never giving up.  It’s focus is the importance of living life.

With a main theme of romance this film is bound to be a success with the girls.  But it also looks at older relationships and how they are still as fragile as in the beginning.  Additionally it takes a peek at friendship and the importance of trust.  The accompanying music is beautifully edited and covered with a slower pace and quieter instrumentals often building in pace to mimic the Proclaimers edition.

Dexter Fletcher, famous for his acting, was the director that brought this musical from the stage to the set of a film.  He manages to incorporate many of the aspects of the production in the film  such as the dancing and the typical stage moments such as bursting into song with members of the public.  This is a heart-warming feel-good film that really excellent for those cold nights.

Arguably this warmth could be due to the musical aspect of the film, but it is also due to the plot and the accompanying songs.  The cast of Sunshine on Leith, George Mackay, Antonia Thomas, Kevin Guthrie, Freya Mavor, Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks, are a musically gifted bunch who also speak in pretty darn good Scottish accents.  Only 2 of the six leads are Scottish (see if you can guess who). But they all manage to copy the accent even whilst singing songs by the well known band, The Proclaimers.

The Proclaimers are a band consisting of Scottish twins who sang pop-folk music in the 80s and are applaudable for the songs “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, “I’m On My Way”, “Over and Done With” and “Let’s Get Married” (these are personal favourites).  Their musical genius and accents create a memorable and popular soundtrack to films, additionally their albums are still being remastered.

Critics have called this is a cliche film.  The happy friendships, the loving relationships, the ending being brought together with no loose ends and all finishing very tidily and nicely.  However, this is a Rom-Com.  If there were no soppy moments and no opportunities for grinning stupidly wide, what would be the point?

Genuinely, this is a film that lives up to its title, consistently (apart from the odd blips) this film is full of sunshine and happiness.  Each and every event is flipped so it bursts with beams of light.  The music is uplifting and beautifully sung.  It’s optimistic.  It’s a film where there is no shame at crying with happiness (I hope? Guys? Guys?)

Romance makes the world spin round (or my head at any rate!)

So, you know how there are the absolute cliche moments in films? The ones that makes your stomach turn into a box of butterflies? The ones that make your heart melt like butter in the microwave?  The ones that never ever seem to happen?

Picture the moment.  The beautiful lead girl is sitting in some quaint little cafe.  Her favourite book in her right hand, the pages turned down and creased and crumpled because of the constant reading and transportation.  The table is covered in a cute checkered cover and the canopy outside is being bombarded with pelting rain.  The waiter  walks over to her ready to take her order, pen in the left hand, a small smile on his perfectly proportioned lips.  She smiles up at him… and their eyes meet.  Following this key moment is some flirting, some smiling, some laughing and the tiniest bit of protocol.  10 minutes later the waiter is barked at by his stroppy manager to get back behind the counter, so he shuffles back all the while glancing behind him.  Finally he strolls over holding her mocha, grinning.  He places it on the table and walks away, while she peers into the cup… only to discover the whipped cream has been made into a heart shape!

Now, modernise and make this slightly more realistic and we find ourselves stood in the queue in a Starbucks at the back of a Sainsbury’s waiting for a mocha, with a purse in hand, glancing at the prices and counting out the coins.  Fast forward 15 minutes and we get to the till to find a charming young man serving behind a counter in a bright green apron.  Add in a bit of flirting and a lot of smiling and in this modern world, that is all we expect.  However what if I were to tell you that today, in this said restaurant with that said young man (well, a more specific young man) the amazingly adorably beautiful moment happened where… he gave out a mocha with whipped cream in the shape of a heart.

And unfortunately, it was not to me!

The Rails’ rules and regulations

Recently, an employee of Southend train station has been suspended due to not following the protocol when a woman had fallen on the rails.  The elderly disabled woman had fallen in her wheelchair off the platform, so several people jumped onto the rails to help her to safety, including a member of platform staff.

Commendable? Yes.  Brave?  Yes.  Correct procedure?  Apparently not.  But should we care about this?

According to the company, there are strict procedures to follow in the case of someone on the rails, including alerting the driver to stop the coming train.  However this employee acted on gut instinct and jumped onto the rails to help.  Instead of running to a radio box, they ran onto the rails putting their life on the line to help.  And this evokes suspension?

Understandably, an enquiry should happen if the people were not successful in getting everyone back on the platform.  If someone died or if it was very nearly a catastrophe due to the rules not being followed, then an enquiry would be inevitable and acceptable.  However “the driver did not have to apply emergency brakes”, highlighting there was no immediate danger.

Rules and regulations are there in the case of an emergency for a reason, they are there to protect people and if it was the quickest way to stop the oncoming train, then they should have been followed.  But how many of us can say that we would remember our code of conduct in a situation such as this?  The employee helped save a life.

An act that should be commended is now responsible for the possible end of a career.

Am I too old for the Octonauts?

Have you ever heard of a Siphonophore? Or how about a Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa? (I am being absolutely serious). Well neither had I until CBeebies aired a TV program called “Octonauts”.

8 animal marine biologists “Explore! Rescue! Protect!” the sea creatures of the deep.  Diving from the Sunlight zone to the Midnight zone they discover all kinds of animals and encounter many dangerous situations.  Helped by the Gups (underwater vehicles) and their fellow Octonauts, Captain Barnacles (a polar bear) Kwazii (the pirate) and Peso (the medic) go on adventures all over the world.

Now, I understand this is a program for the under 7s…. but… it is actually fascinating with an extremely catchy theme tune!  The animals they meet are strange and appear almost fictional!  Shellington provides the facts and the animals advantages normally save the day.

For the youngsters it’s the storyline that sticks, but for those … elder audiences … the facts make it enjoyable and interesting.  For example, a Siphonophore is an invertebrate jelly-fish like creature that lives in the deepest parts of the ocean.  It isn’t one animal, but a colony, with each individual having its own part to play (stinging, digesting, reproducing).  I would never have even supposed there was an animal such as this without the program.

And a Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa is actually a really (really) long term for a Reef Triggerfish that grunts like a pig when threatened.  It can lock its spine in small spaces to make being removed more difficult and can blast out jets of water from its mouth to find food!

Now while this information is generally not usable in ordinary scenarios, it could make a great conversation starter!  Imagine how many awkward first meetings could be salvaged as you attempt to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa!  (Note: actually pronounced as humu’humu’nuku’nuku’wa:pu’wɐʔə if that makes it any easier).

So is there shame in sitting with your younger siblings and watching a program designed for them?  Is it embarrassing to know the theme tune and enjoy the storylines?  What if I don’t watching it only for the facts?

I think quality time discussing it with them and enjoying hearing them play out the storylines are added bonuses to the new creatures I learn about and the humour in the program.

So in my opinion there is no shame in being a fully grown adult and watching the Octonauts.

Wicked

Gregory Maguire is the mind behind the smash production and bestseller book that is Wicked.  For the general plot, look to my earlier post on the musical, for here I will outline a few of the differences between the book and the theatre production.

Firstly, the narrative voice.  While it can appear there is no narration in the production, the story of Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, is introduced and concluded with Glinda the Good Witch.  The rest of the story continues in chronological order of events with little input from her.  However in the book, while remaining in the third person narrative, the perception shifts from character to character.  This is a useful tool that Maguire designed as it allows the events to occur from their point of view.  The narrative voice is therefore not omniscient, it does not know all; it follows the story as it happens.

Secondly, the hopes and dreams of Elphaba in the end of the book unfortunately do not come true.  The twists she dreams to occur are non-existent and are merely considered by Maguire as a devious scheme to get our hopes up.  However, I would suggest reading the book first because in the musical, those dreams are acknowledged and exist, much to the happiness of the audience.

Thirdly, the ending.  As I just said, see the musical after you have read the book.  The ending is similar from some characters perspective; however from ours, the omniscient reader, the book is sadder. So as to be left with the possibility of a happy ending and a continuation of the story I must stress to see the happier version, the production, after the book.  The book is just heart-wrenching in two parts (I am trying very hard not to give anything away, not a particular talent of mine).

The book is also more mature than the production; there are no strong hints of anything sexual in the production, as it is designed to be more acceptable for younger audiences.  However the book is more targeted at the young adult to adult.  As well as the more sexual parts there are also many more political aspects and themes.  While the production touches on the work of the Wizard and the monstrosity of dehumanising the Animals, the book much more works to the idea of a conspiracy, racism and prejudice.  The comedy is more subtle and confined to the lesser characters than to Glinda, as it is in the musical.

My personal opinion is that between the connections that he intertwines between The Wizard of Oz and Wicked, the political aspects and conspiracy theories that almost change the genre and the depth of the characters, the years he spans in one novel and the changing narration all make one incredible book.  Be warned, the book is not the singing, dancing, romance that the musical portrays it to be.  It is darker, more realistic and more thought provoking.

Musicals are designed to be light, books are designed to be intense page turners, therefore I still maintain the musical is fantastic and thus recommend both.

The Morals of Murderers

Inside Death Row was an insightful 4 part TV program that investigated the lives of prisoners at Indiana State Prison with death sentences.  It is not the first investigation and neither will it be the last, but watching it, I saw something astonishing.  There is a hierarchy in the prison.  Not the publicised hierarchy of gang members and ring leaders, but the hierarchy amongst the murderers.

One prisoner on Death Row was convicted of pointlessly murdering a mother and her daughter.  There was no quarrel between them, no hidden past.  It was just the extremely brutal murder of two innocent people.  Of course, he was given the death sentence, but once inside the prison, he was shunned.  More than shunned, he was beaten up to the brink of death and had to be completely secluded from the rest of the institution.  Why?  Because of the nature of his crime and his victims.

This isn’t the first case where a child or a woman killer has been nearly or has been murdered in prison.  Paedophiles are often treated the same way; with contempt and hatred from the rest of the inmates.  It gets to the point where in the lax prisons of England, the paedophiles are given their own cells and are separated from the in-mates anger.  Is this right? Do they deserve to be secluded from the rest?

But the real psychological questions behind cases such as these are: Why does this happen?  Is it that murderers have morals? Is there a secret line which you do not cross?  Is it that we have pre-conceptions that once you have killed, there could no piece of conscience left? Or is it the innate male desire to still protect women and children?

Even in the Army, where it should supposedly be equal between men and women, female soldiers are not allowed on the front line because it would endanger those who would try to protect her.  Going back in time to the age of knights, commands would be to save the women and children.  Or more recently with the murder of the two policewomen, the outrage of the country was frightening, but would it have been the same for two policemen?  Unfortunately I doubt it.

Should it be surprising about this hierarchy in the prisons, the fact that the murderers on Death Row would quite happily kill the man convicted of killing a mother and daughter?  Do we believe that morals disappear once someone has intentionally taken someone else’s life? Evidently, they don’t.

Tarzan learns to talk, but how?

My intention is not to ruin anyone’s impression of the Walt Disney film, Tarzan, because I agree childhood films are precious and it is a great film.  My intention is to analyse the scenario presented in the film. Tarzan presents a scenario where it disproves a lot of highly respected research.  It also poses many questions as to the effects of a scenario such as this in real life.

In the film, Tarzan is a man that is raised by gorillas in Africa from a baby.  He speaks gorilla, walks on all fours, on his knuckles and conforms to their traditions and way of life.  Due to his complete lack of contact with humans from the age of a very young baby possibly a few months old, it can be inferred that he has no memories of anything other than this life.

Then some very British well spoken explorers arrive in search of the gorillas, and Tarzan bumps into the lady, Jane.  This is when the film takes the even more imaginative step in terms of psychological and biological research that has been produced to do with language acquisition.

Noam Chomsky has researched into the language acquisition of children and he composed the theory of the Language Acquisition Device, which can be explained with the idea of an empty bottle, which is innate.  We then learn our language and this fills up the bottle.  However there is a time limit on this, the LASS was developed by another psychologist, Bruner.

There have been many sad cases that support this time limit theory; one famous case is the story of Genie.  This girl was neglected awfully by her parents; they left her in a room to grow up with limited contact, she had a few dolls and a baby’s cot and a harness strapping her to a potty.  The mother and brother were beaten for talking to Genie.  When social services intervened, psychologists attempted to help Genie become “normal”.

Due to Genie teaching herself to walk, her gait was stooped and her limbs were positioned at odd angles.  This didn’t change for a very long time.  Therefore when we see Tarzan begin to walk in the short time the explorers were there, the perfect replication of upright walking after many years of being on his knuckles and crouched is highly unlikely.  This doesn’t even cover the fact that his muscles, joints and bones may have evolved to his needs, perhaps his spine and shoulders had evolved due to his hunched walking?

Moving on to language acquisition and talking, Genie had many issues.  According to the researchers after she was freed, she was beaten for vocalising.  This would have had an extremely detrimental effect on her language development as children learn through experimentation with their vocal chords and tongue.  Also there is the theory of a time limit on acquisition.  But Tarzan immediately begins to copy Jane perfectly, words and short sentences; this would completely disprove Bruner’s theory.

There have been other films that use the idea of a child raised by animals, such as the Jungle Book 2.  Again they use the idea that immediately, the child can be integrated into society.

Tarzan, I think, is a brilliant film both from the perspective of watching the film but also from the perspective of analysing its content. It poses questions as to what would happen in a scenario such as this.  This would be such an interesting experiment to conduct, raising a child by animals then integrating them into society.  However there are far too many ethical issues for this to be possible, such as the long term and short term harm that can be caused, the lack of consent from the child and many others.  This would only be possible in the scenario created by Tarzan, a child being adopted by animals as opposed to giving the child up

Tangled

Excitedly, albeit sceptically, I took Tangled out of its case and put it into the DVD player waiting for the Disney film to begin.  I was apprehensive, being a “90’s kid” and used to the traditional 2D animation, the flat screen cartoony images that I adored and still do.  Therefore when I saw Disney had moved into the 21st Century, following Pixar and making it more 3D, I was annoyed to say the least; imagining that the music, the atmosphere, the tale had been twisted too.  Nonetheless, here is my report on Tangled.

In the film, the traditional tale of Rapunzel had been slightly adapted, meaning her hair has a glowing healing power; but it follows the story of a stolen baby, a Tower with no stairs and 70 feet of hair.  However this Disney adaption seems to be slightly darker than the original, preying on the concept of human greed and selfishness.  If you comb the film (pardon the pun) it is in many places, from the thief thieving, to “Mother” stealing the baby, to the very reasons behind the Tower.  However this is brushed over (again, sorry) by the focus on the light, dreams and exploration of the world.

The songs are funny, lovely and provide the infamous Disney atmosphere, whether it is romantic or slightly scary.  The music is also slightly deceitful in one case, so beware!  However, sometimes, the lack of music adds to the atmosphere too.  As the slim teenager struggles to shove Flynn Rider (the leading man) into a closet, the musical silence adds to the comedy.  I saw a meme recently stating “Flynn Rider: the only Disney character to question bursting into song” and it was true.  The first singing occasion was a scenario where on pain of death, he must sing.  This was entertaining in itself.

The film was rather funny, this may have been due to the characteristics of the comedy duo, Max and Flynn, but I tend to think it was down to the animators.  The attention to slightly overdone facial expressions really paid off, and giving the horse human expressions also increased it.  And full credit to the animators for the flawless Flynn and Rapunzel!

My criticism is that the length of hair seemed to fluctuate; I understand that getting the same 70 feet of hair into every shot would be near impossible.  But it seemed to lengthen and shorten upon desire!

Overall, a good twist on the traditional tale.  The animation turned out to be much better than I was expecting and it worked out well.  I was glad I watched it, and overall ashamed of myself for ever doubting Disney.

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