For as long as I can remember, Tom and Jerry have been a part of my life. My earliest TV memories are of waiting for it to start, even as a youngster hoping it would be an earlier one. Fred Quimby, its producer, was a legend in our house for some years. My enjoyment never ceased, and I owned videos – and now DVDs – of these perpetually-funny cartoons.
I’ve always loved the pure silliness of it: Tom’s stupidity; Jerry’s smartness; the improbable supporting characters; and especially the appearance of random objects. Were it not for Tom and Jerry, I would probably have no idea to this day what an anvil looks like.
So that was it: along with other things that made me laugh, I’d just defined my sense of humour as “silly.” It wasn’t until much later – in fact, I’m ashamed to admit it was only a couple of years ago – that the boyfriend identified that my comedic affinities leaned at a very definite angle towards slapstick. And, to prove it, he introduced me to Laurel and Hardy.
This was a revelation. The first Laurel and Hardy film I watched (A Job To Do) rendered me completely useless. I laughed until I cried, and then more until I ached. I can’t remember how many films we watched that day, but I know I wasn’t in a good physical state by the end of it; just incredibly happy.
It’s easy to pick similarities between the two pairings; and it seems obvious that the creators of Tom and Jerry had Laurel and Hardy in mind when they created the cartoons. But gosh, I’m glad they did. Aside from giving me the opportunity to really laugh when I watch them, they’ve also inspired me to play with my writing in a way that is different from my usual style. Slapstick will never work as well in writing (it relies too much on visuals for that), but I’m working on achieving some form of it on paper.
So why do we hardly ever see either on mainstream TV any longer? I believe that some of the cable channels run modern versions of Tom and Jerry, but these are unlikely to be a patch on the originals. Not because I’m some sort of nostalgic purist (although granted, I am), but because any newer version will have suffered the same “modernisation” as the Beano: where Dennis the Menace no longer has a catapult, and Walter the Softy now has a girlfriend, so Tom running into an anvil, or smacking at Jerry with something large and far too heavy, is seen as no longer culturally relevant. Or, worse, too violent.
I grew up on those old cartoons and I have never yet done anything violent with a grass rake. Likewise, the boyfriend grew up on Laurel and Hardy and has shown no signs of outrageous violence, stupidity or sexism. Given the profusion of repeats on television, it’s inconceivable that we don’t see these shows because they’re simply old. Why are we denying a new generation the joys of some seriously funny TV? Is it just because these shows are seen as too offensive/politically incorrect for our modern sensibilities? Or is our taste these days too complicated for anything as beautifully simple?
Thank goodness for DVD. Chez Smith, slapstick really does rule.
Enjoy a fab Laurel and Hardy clip below. Not much slapstick, but fab music and a great performance by the two top guys.
As the year draws to a close, usually entertaining and informative literary pages are suffused instead with famous people telling us to read books by other famous people; column inches that I personally think would be much better used by the usual reviewers who actually have something to say. But this is just my opinion.
I was impressed today by this post by Abebooks
, though. Aside from its having struck me as a genuine and well-considered survey of books read this year, it struck me while reading it that I never
keep a record of what I read – which in turn means I couldn’t do a review of the year like this if offered my annual salary in one hit for the privilege.
I don’t really expect anyone to pay me for it, but I do think it would be interesting to look back and see what I’ve been reading over the past year, which is why I’m going to start logging books in 2012. I’m a frequent re-reader of books, simply because I get through so many and can’t afford to buy them all the time, so it would be an interesting mix of revisits and new material. My impending ownership of a Kindle will probably make the list a little more varied than it would have been in previous years. So action point 1 of 2012 will be to keep a reading log – which before I’ve even started feels a little bit like being back in junior school.
I’m not a maker of new year’s resolutions as I always think they’re doomed to fail, but the reading log is just one of a number of things I want to do next year. I spent this afternoon compiling my professional aims and challenges for 2012, so it seemed apt to do the same for my writing. I came up with:
- Joining my local writing group (it’s about time and I’ve already made contact).
- Increasing the amount I write.
- Experimenting with poetry.
- Drawing again.
Most of these will be my own thing, and won’t find their way onto my blog, but they are all things I need to do. Between these and work, it looks like I’ll be a busy woman next year! And, in twelve months’ time, I’ll not only be able to survey how it all went but I’ll be able to offer a list of reading recommendations as well.
But before I leave my blog for this year, I do have two recommendations for you.
The first, Misty Provencher’s Cornerstone
, is a gripping YA paranormal novel, which had me hooked from the start. I could spend many words describing it, but instead I’ll leave you to watch the book trailer
, which to me captures the feeling of the book perfectly. It’s available on Amazon
, and I see that Misty is already posting teasers of the next book, Keystone
, on her blog
The second is the Mexico
EP, by The Staves
, which I discovered recently and have had on repeat on my MP3 player ever since. When asked to describe it last week, I came out with “Elliott Smith meets Crosby, Stills and Nash, but female.” Yes, it has three-part harmonies (and yes, I’ve done this before
), but there really is something rather wonderful about this EP. I downloaded it from iTunes
, and I’d suggest you do too. I’m looking forward to whatever these girls do next.
So, not a year-long retrospective, but a couple of heartfelt recommendations from the latter part of this year, both of which I’m glad to pass across in the hope that you, too, will enjoy them.
I have another coming up in January as well, but I’ll tell you more about that nearer the time.
Finally, I would just like to bid thank you to everyone who reads this blog and engages with me via other social networking. I set up the blog and joined Twitter back in March, and I’ve met so many good people since that I can’t now imagine what it was like before I did. So, to all my regular (and not so regular) readers, I wish you all the best over the festive season, and a happy and prosperous 2012. I’ll see you next year, fresh and ready to start all over again!
A few weeks ago I spent an evening doing battle with the Russian language, trying to establish names of characters and a village for a new story. By no means do I speak Russian: I can say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, and have about five words of random vocabulary which wouldn’t get me very far. A conversation with me in Russian would be dull, but mercifully short.
Way back when I was in college, I opted to learn Russian. It was fascinating, but in a moment of late teenage madness I gave it up and thought nothing more of it. Until, that is, in recent years I developed a love of all things Eastern Europe, especially Russian literature.
It’s the same with music. As a child I was apparently “promising” in this sphere. I learned two instruments, thrashed my way through a few grades, and then – in a fit of early teenage madness – chucked the whole lot in. I was discovering pop music and I wanted a social life: staying indoors practicing scales and various classical pieces was no longer interesting.
As an adult, I discovered jazz. And the “if only” moments that have followed! I’m partial to a lot of classical music as well. What if I’d not given up, I ask myself: could I have picked up a clarinet and joined in?
I generally look upon regret as a pretty useless thing. You can’t change anything from your past, so its only good use is to make sure that whatever happened doesn’t happen again. Look forward, not back, and don’t dwell on what was.
Now I find myself looking at two major influences for my writing and wondering, what if?
So let’s take stock. Russian won’t get my anywhere really, other than in Russia (although being able to read the Cyrillic alphabet has been useful over the years). In Eastern Europe you’re much better off knowing a bit of German, which I have covered. And music? Well, to be honest I’m always going to be a much better listener than participant. I’d sooner be able to sit back and concentrate on the nuances than to worry about playing them correctly.
So all told, nothing much lost – but what I gave up would have been nice additions to my adult life. I’m sure my stroppy teenage self would have paid no attention had she been able to see what the future held. But I do wonder what we wouldn’t give up if we could see twenty years ahead. What have you given up that you’ve regretted?
This clip has everything I want: a great vocal performance, interesting instrumentation, a trad jazz feel – and Jools Holland playing the piano.
Today’s musings are the result of my iPod shuffling its way to Here’s That Rainy Day by Bill Evans on the way to work this morning. I rarely hear it, but it was perfect for a bus journey in the rain. It made me think of Dave Brubeck first, then Rachmaninov; before I’d arrived at the office I was contemplating pretty much every pianist I’ve heard of, and how wonderful they all are. Just for being pianists.
Predictably enough, short of the ubiquitous Chopsticks and a few random chords, I cannot play the piano. Like many, I’ve often wished I could. I’ve tried, too, but it was not to be. I’m a touch-typist, have played clarinet and violin in the past, and have always been blessed with good hand-eye coordination. But as soon as I sit in front of a piano, all manual dexterity disappears (the same happens when I pick up a guitar).
So I’m envious of those who can, and will confess to an element of hero-worship for anyone who can get anything but the most rudimentary tune out of a piano.
Pianos are marvellous things to look at, too. There’s something compelling about the keys, the black and white, even on the dustiest old upright model. To see the hammers and strings in action as one is played is a joy. Better still is to watch someone playing: how their hands can create sounds like that is something I can ponder for longer than is perhaps healthy.
This, of course, is where Jools Holland comes in. He’s a brilliant musician, he makes it seem remarkably easy, and looks as if he’s enjoying himself too. Oh to be able to claim even one of those attributes.
Well, I can dream. Despite my uncoordinated hands, I still have my ears, and I’ve resigned myself to my role as spectator when it comes to all things piano. This is why people like Jools were put on the earth: to make the rest of us feel better about our unfulfilled ambitions. Pick your favourite instrument, put with it your favourite player, then sit back and live your dream by proxy. It really does work – especially when a song that you weren’t expecting to hear surprises you.
For the more classically minded, I wrote this post while listening to Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C Minor (Op 35), which wasn’t selected by a shuffling gadget. I highly recommend it.
And what prompted all this? Listen to Here’s That Rainy Day by Bill Evans by hitting the Play button below.
I’ve often been heard to say to an unwitting companion (usually my long-suffering boyfriend) that I’ll go a long way to hear a good harmony. I love music; lots of genres and many more bands/artists/composers. Of course each kind has its own function for when one wants to wind down, go out, calm nerves or simply dance.
A decent vocal harmony just does it for me. When you write a story, and it’s going really well, it all sort of slots into place, as if the component parts were magnetically drawn to each other: well, that’s how I feel when I hear a harmony that works. It ties a song together somehow, and for me makes it whole.
This was brought to mind this evening when, on the way home, I happened across Echoes by Pink Floyd, surely one of the most beautiful vocal arrangements in popular music (although if the singing lasted the entire 20-odd minutes, it may be a little taxing). No surprise then that my music collection contains a number of harmony-heavy combos for when nothing else will do.
A quick survey of my MP3 player throws up The Bee Gees, Sugababes, Andrews Sisters, Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, Fleet Foxes, Ink Spots, Crosby Stills and Nash, and the Everly Brothers as examples of vocal harmony groups I have on there alone. I’ve not even bothered looking at the CDs and vinyl (yes, I still have vinyl!), but I’m sure I’d unearth more.
All of which has prompted me to set up a Harmonies playlist. You never know: that idea of completeness and tying of loose ends might even make a difference to my writing. Those magnetic pieces might pull together all the more easily if led by example. And believe me, I’d go a long way to have that happen.
PS - couldn't resist including this example of a great vocal performance. Enjoy!