Have We Lost Personal Projects?

At the weekend I spent my morning watching The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about the final cinematic venture of Hayao Miyazaki and his history with Studio Ghibli. I don’t want to go into a massive raving review of the piece, so just trust me when I say every film fan needs to watch this documentary. The personal genius of Miyazaki is perfectly captured in his quiet reflections of life, and like all Studio Ghibli products, is filled with childlike sincerity.

A scene that particularly caught my notice was one in which we first enter Miyazaki’s house. In his rather modest home, we find hordes of creative projects that Miyazaki has been quietly working on. One project was a documentation of daily life after the recession hit Japan. He flicked through page after page of a enormous scrap book, each one filled with photographs.

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“I tried to document the effects of the recession on the people in my area but what I ended up with was just pictures of everyday life.”

To me, a person of the internet, his scrap book seemed like such a foreign concept. The idea that he had put so much time and energy into a project that (if it wasn’t for the cameras) would have never been seen by another person. It was a project he had untaken for himself and for his eyes only.

Older readers of this blog (are you even there?) might be rolling their eyes at my confusion but to you 90s and millennial kids I have to ask – have personal projects died? Has the blog become the new diary? Tumblr the new scrap book? Facebook the new photo album?

When I think about my own creative projects – writing and improvisation – they’re all undertaken with the goal of anothers eyes. Yes, of course, I do them out of my own passion and pleasure, but would I feel so strongly about them if I didn’t have access to an instant audience?

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Someone in my office remarked today that the new app Periscope was symptomatic of our culture. “It’s just another way for people to feel like everything they do is worth something.” This statement was made as we watched Nick Grimmshaw (Radio 1 DJ – don’t worry older readers, I’ll keep you current) go running through an airport because he was running late for his flight. I mean… I do wonder what Shakespeare would have to say if he could see what we were feasted our eyes on. DON’T WE HAVE THEATRE TO WATCH OR SOMETHING?

It seems to me that we are the generation that has crossed from having too small a platform, whereby it was significantly harder to show off your amazing projects, to having too big of one. A platform so big that we can literally just take a picture of a taco and dub it #BALLIN’.

Now I’m not going to stop posting a majority of my creative endeavors online but perhaps it would be nice to have a secret project… a whisper of creativity that only I can open up and was created with only my viewpoint in mind. The internet often clouds who and what we’re creating for. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most beauty blogs look the same, or that my own tone of voice sounds like some of the blogs I read. In many ways, the internet comes with templates or we find ourselves joining communities that we merge our voice into.

Being a voice within a community isn’t a bad thing. In many ways, the collective element of the internet is one of its best features. However, maybe once in a while we might enter that kingdom of madness and speak to ourselves for a while…

Being Heard in the General Election

The other week I wrote about finding a voice, which feels very poignant now that the General Election is in full swing.

I’ve always been afraid of writing about politics. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’m not the most qualified person to discuss such matters. Politics is the internet game for smart, current affairs people who can make funny remarks about graphs and stuff. They should talk about the election, not some woman who recently waffled on about her love of dog videos.

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However, this deprecating attitude of who should and who shouldn’t be discussing politics is a huge issue within this election. This is, after all, one of the most major conversations to be part of!

It seems that in the past political voice was defined by votes. The message was that if you voted someone was listening. We’re told that young people don’t vote and that this warrants a bad lot in life (a rise in tuition fees, the revoking of housing benefits, unfair renting, ect.)And it is true that young people have had a bad history of voting – in the last election, less than half of 18-24 year olds voted.

However, even if every single young person of today voted, according to a BBC Analysis, it would still take 30 years for us to become a electorally significant demographic.

So how can we be heard?

Well it really shouldn’t be that hard (note that I use ‘shouldn’t be’ instead of ‘isn’t’). Communication is the driving force of Generation Y. We tweet, we text, we snapchat, we blog… there’s so many platforms for our opinions out there, that it seems mad that most of us (myself included) are allowing our political views to go wasted in drunken rants in the pub.

I understand that David Cameron and the like aren’t going to watching my twitter feed or reading this blog, but at the very least we should be creating more awareness within the great potential-voter pool. So many communities are being marginalised by the current government and if we don’t all use the tools that we’ve been given, these people will slowly just disappear from view.

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London especially is a great example of this. Just look at the Focus E15 Mothers, who are currently occupying abandoned council estates in protest of the housing crisis. If these women sat back and proclaimed: ‘well it isn’t my place to question the government!’ Then they wouldn’t even have a chance of remaining in their local area. They would have been quietly pushed out of London, like most working-class people have been in recent years.

Even I know that lucky circumstance is all that has kept me out of extreme poverty. I’ve been financially independent since the age of 18, supporting myself through either student loans or finding work. I don’t have a good relationship with my parents. Once I left university, there was no home to go back to. No safety net against the jobs crisis.

My final year of university was filled with a crushing fear that only those who have come out of dire circumstance know and will never forget. What if I failed to get a job? What if I couldn’t afford to shelter myself?

The Tories have pledged that anyone between 18-21 will not be able to claim housing benefit. Now I’m sure they’ll make exceptions for the obvious cases – such as those who have lost their parents. But I doubt that those in my special circumstances, ones that have no documented proof of why they can’t live in their family home, will be saved from finding themselves either on a friend’s couch or (very likely) the streets.

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Judging from the Tories recent commitment to cut £12 bn from Welfare, this trend for demonizing and exploiting the most vulnerable in our society is only getting worse. And it’s no coincidence that this same group of people are the ones who feel they can’t speak out. That no one cares. That their voice doesn’t matter.

I refuse to believe that we are an indifferent generation and that we cannot shape the destiny of our own country. I have a voice, a vote, and a platform to say in which direction my country should be heading – and you do too.

And preferably, let’s have that direction moving as far away from the Conservatives as possible.

Finding a new voice through improv

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It’s been over a year since I stepped into my first improv class. I remember how scared I was beforehand. The course had been an impulse buy that had occurred after a couple of glasses of wine and the finishing of Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossypants’. In between the click ‘buy’ and that moment outside the classroom doors, a month and half had gone by of a scared voice in my head saying ‘Don’t bother. You’ll embarrass yourself. What if you hate it?’

Looking back, I wonder how many times that voice has stopped me before. Was it the reason I didn’t perform at university? Is the voice why it took me years to try stand up? I’m sure we all have that voice inside of us – an awful human quirk that gets in the way of living life wholly.

In the case of improv, I decided to fight back. I stepped into that classroom full of fear but still full of hope.  That voice will always tell you that new situations will be hostile. That newness is unwelcoming and cruel. However, entering that room I found people who were probably just as scared as me. Probably telling their own inner voices to pipe down.

The quietness of the room wasn’t unwelcoming, it was smothered in fear. What had we let ourselves into? Were we all mad for doing this? Nervously, I met eyes with people, who all smiled while shuffling their feet.

Here’s another fact about the voice, it’s very easily drowned out from the outside. Inwardly we struggle for the strength to shout over it, but others seem to act like buckets of water to its insidious fire. In the case of improv, this new voice came in the form of our new teacher Maria Peters.

Maria is the reason I fell in love with improv. Her love for the art form (and it is an art form, Sir. Naysayer) shines out of her. She was the lighthouse that guided myself and others to joyful silliness.

“Improv isn’t about being funny,” she told us as we stood in a human circle. “Improv is about making others look and feel good. No matter what you do, the person next to you will always be there to make you look your best.”

And just like that the voice finally shut the hell up.

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Here’s the thing with improv, the thing that I’ve gleamed from my year in its cuddly hug, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Everything is up for grabs. Go anywhere on the map. Dive for any treasure. If you want to be holding a gun, you’re holding a gun. If you want to be sitting on a rainbow, you’re sat on a rainbow.

Everything is possible in improv and that’s because everyone is making that happen. There’s a collective voice that choruses ‘YES!’

Maria started that loud affirmative echo in our class. Within a few weeks we knew that when we stepped up on stage we could make anything happen. If I wanted to be a fireman I could be. I could be the queen, a llama, David Cameron – anything! I was first and foremost an improviser and that meant I could be it all.

There’s always going to be something telling us that we can’t do something. A voice –whether from others or ourselves. But the real skill is finding that something that drowns that noise out.

For me that’s improv. On and off the stage I have a new confidence. I’ve never regretted entering that classroom, because now I have a new voice that tells me anything is possible.

 

If you fancy trying improv, I highly recommend using Hoopla for advice and SUPER courses: http://www.hooplaimpro.com/

Weird Things That Make Me Happy

Today has been dubbed ‘blue Monday’ because it’s apparently the saddest day of year. Just to recap, January is also famous for other fun loving days such as ‘divorce day’ and ‘fuck it, let’s make a suicide pact day’.

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In these times of winter gloom, it helps to know what makes you happy – what really makes you happy. Sure, in a survey you might list your sources of happiness to be your friends, your job, or even… your kids *shudder*. But these are pageant answers, publically acceptable responses that make you seem like a nice normal human.

What you need on a day like this is true joy, the joy that can only be gained from the weird stuff you watch cathartically on the internet. Such as…

That Soothing French Interview

I don’t know why but I find nice voices to be the most relaxing thing on earth. Renee Zellweger has one of these voices, but sadly my favourite interview of her isn’t on Youtube (it’s an interview she does for the ‘behind the scenes’ bit on the Miss Potter DVD). However, I found the next best thing when I discovered this old interview with French New Wave star Anna Karina.

There was a point last year when I listened to this video every night before I went to bed. It was my French bedtime story. I just like the way Anna can make ruffles look cool, or say things like ‘I didn’t eat for two weeks’ like it was no big deal. Also, at the end she puts on a wig. Just because.

Dogs 101

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out that Animal Planet have basically created a dog-lovers Nevada. The Dogs 101 series basically features a video on every.single.dog.breed. I have spend hours watching these videos and weighing up which breed is right for me (I’m not even getting a dog).

Some personal favourites of mine: the Labrador (obviously), pugs (their eyes can pop out – ew), and the weird mop dog.

Zalfie Vlogs

If I was a 13 year old girl there probably would be no shame attached to this activity, as it is I am 23 and yes… part of me is ashamed of loving Zalfie. However, there’s something that’s just so nice about watching two nice people just go about their day. They go shopping more than I can, they have a pug puppy, Zoella has a lot of time to get her make-up just right. It’s just all so nice.

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Of course, what they put on camera is probably very carefully edited but isn’t it reassuring that no matter how shitty you day, you have the guarantee that someone has been having a good day? God bless Zoella’s candle shopping.

Movie Trailers

I really enjoying being emotionally manipulated by instrumental music and choice sound bites. A good trailer is like crack for me. Here are some of my current favourites:

  • Selma
  • Tyrannosaurus (watch the actual film at your peril)
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Unbroken
  • Never Let me Go

This Guy

I don’t know how the internet survived before this guy appeared. He is our new God. The God of Swift Sass.

Life Lessons from ‘Girls’

Tonight is the night that think-piece lovers have all been waiting for… the return of HBO’s Girls!

Lena Dunham’s cult hit (I’m going to call it a cult hit, why? Because I have a keyboard) has been one of the most talked about shows in the blogosphere since it aired in 2012. A lot of us twenty-something ladies love it, a lot of angry white men hate it, and others like to reference it in dinner party conversations without actually having watched it because it makes them seem ‘current’.

Obviously because I am actually current (like Ribes nigrum baby – that’s a latin joke for blackcurrants #wow) I bloody adore this show. Sure, there have been times when I’ve wondered where anything was going. And yes, the characters do become unlikeable – but like, in a glorious ‘sticking-it-to-the-Mary-sue-archetype’ kind of way. And as a fan, I’d like to share with you some of the life lessons I have gained through my television lady-journey with Dunham.

Also, I like having an excuse to use Girl-related .gifs.

Only Kanye West should Kanye West

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Remember that scene when Marnie stands-up in front of an office party (not even her own office party) and sings a ‘stripped back’ version of Kanye West? If you can’t it might be because you instantly hit the mute button in order to avoid that weird stomach thing you get when watching something so embarrassing you feel like you might shit in order for it to end.

While poo-inducingly-awkward, this scene was very important for me. I’ve often had a little voice in my head whisper things like ‘I’m sure if you tried, you could really nail that Jay-Z and Kanye rap’. I’d like to think that the horror of Marnie’s musical venture has saved me from making a similar mistake at my Christmas party…

…however, at my last Christmas party I did sword fight with someone dressed as Zoro, so maybe the lesson hasn’t really stuck.

Getting Cut Off

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The whole show kicks off with Hannah getting financially cut off from her parents. It reveals a side to my generation that I’ve seen countless times, this notion of deserving help from the generations before. It’s understandable, we have to rent because our parents’ lot bought all the cheap houses, we have to struggle to work because of a recession we didn’t cause, and we have to make our lives look fabulous because some guy called Mark made social media the norm.

But here’s the thing, and it’s not a pretty thing – some people never get that support. I’ve been independent from a very early age. I worked through university, saved enough money to fund an internship and have long been resided to the idea that I’ll never be able to buy a house in London because no one is going to die and leave me a massive inheritance (and unless you want to go into insider trading, that is the only way people buy houses now). Therefore, it gave me great satisfaction to watch someone else get thrown into my position. It made me feel like ‘yes, let’s level the playing field so we’re all in this shit storm’.

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I don’t care if this shows a bitter part of my personality. I’m not actually going to start hacking parental bank accounts so that Tarquin doesn’t get his rent for that nice Kensington studio flat. It just feels good to watch it happen on screen because it makes me feel proud of being an independent woman.

Writing is Hard

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Having drowned a cup of watery opium pods, Hannah stumbles over to her parents to let them know that she is ‘the voice of her generation… or at least a voice… of a generation’. One of the show’s main plot points is Hannah and her dream of being a successful author. As someone who has an on and off again relationship with writing (hello my lonely blog posts of last year), Hannah’s inability to figure out how to be a writer in the modern world is something I can (kinda*) relate to.

*Okay, so I haven’t written a book of essays, but I do write some funny tweets.

Should she be the bohemian essay-writer, who goes to intellectual meetings to read what she’s been ‘working-on’? Should she go the cooperate route and sell her creative talent for real cash? And is it appropriate to chase up a book/ebook deal at a funeral?*

*Turns out, no it isn’t.

Hannah’s navigation of what it means to be a writer in the 21st Century demonstrates that our word-guzzling internet culture has created many avenues for writers but still has little chance of ‘from-ink-to-cash’ success. You can make money but not necessarily be creating the stuff you want to be creating, or you can be creative but never actually make any real money. So that’s… nice.

Hurray for pears

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There’s literally been a million and one articles written about Dunham and her frequent use of nudity – specifically her own. Most of the controversy stems from the fact that Dunham has a body shape that isn’t often represented on TV, eg. She hasn’t got wash-board abs.

All I can say on this matter is… hurray for pears! Hurray for the women who were given little bits on top and big stuff down below. Woohoo for women who can never buy bikinis in a set! Huzzah for ladies who can smack their thighs and get ripples!

Of course, all body shapes are beautiful and you should all take a moment to woohoo your own particular brand of woman-ness. And now that Lena has opened the floodgates for the great display of lady jiggle/no-jiggle, perhaps everyone will eventually get to watch TV and say ‘hey, her butt looks like my butt!’

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Disclaimer: I don’t own or make any of these .gifs. I just got them off Google images.