Bieber Visits Anne Frank Museum, Educators Have a Meltdown

Many young people only recognise one of the people pictured – which one? Source: radiolive.co.nz

I must confess, I have never visited the Anne Frank museum, mainly as I have never visited Amsterdam. There is an eerie fascination with what happened to those oppressed by German occupation, especially in regards to Jewish families such as the Franks.

I have seen photos from inside the secret annexe, there’s even a virtual tour you can take online, showing you how small the annexe was. Her shared bedroom was tiny, and decorated with pictures to brighten it up a little (the same way Beliebers have pictures of Justin blu-tacked to their walls?), they shared a wash room which only had a sink. She spent her days with her family, stuck in one small room. If I was cooped up for that long with my family, some of us would not have survived long enough to be caught by Nazis. It must have been terrifying.

If I had the chance to visit the museum, Anne Frank’s choice of music had she been a teenager today would be the furthest thing from my mind. Can you even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been, the slightest noise potentially sentencing yourself and your entire family to certain death in concentration camps?

Yesterday, “news” surfaced that Justin Bieber had visited the museum in Amsterdam. This would not usually have made it into national newspapers – it would have just been a young man wanting to discover history. What made the story, though, was his staggering sense of self-importance. Instead of writing about his experience opening his eyes to her plight in the 1940’s – he wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Wow.

This, however, was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to uneducated teenagers and tweenies. “Beliebers” everywhere provided a staggering indictment of their respective education systems. Let me provide you with a few examples:

Want more? Greg Hyatt on tumblr retweeted a few more.

Recently, the history curriculum in England and Wales has come up for discussion. I had no idea that they were potentially discussing putting Anne Frank and her diary back into the teaching of World War 2. Or are these kids too obsessed by the coiffed little boy to pay attention to the teaching of fundamental historical knowledge?

I remember on at least 3 separate occasions, being taught the story of Anne Frank. I think myself incredibly lucky that my parents encouraged me to read her diary when I came home from school and said we were learning about her.

Now, however, even the BBC’s childrens’ news (Newsbeat) had to explain who Anne Frank was – to avoid another outbreak on twitter of “Who even was she?”

Her story is a fundamental part of forming empathy for the literally millions of victims of the German Nazi regime at this time. It’s truly, deeply worrying that so many young people are ignorant of her story.

For the sake of your own mental health, when you see young people being this ignorant on your timeline – do not go digging for more examples. It’s incredibly disheartening.

Advertisements

Accidentally in Love…

Arya Stark – tiny and ferocious. Turned out to be a perfect name for my dog, too. Source: fansshare.com

I didn’t mean for it to happen, and certainly didn’t expect for it to happen as quickly as it did. After watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, I was certainly intrigued enough to purchase the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Although the price of the whole series was much smaller than that of buying the individual parts, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy his writing style (I am not the biggest fantasy fan to ever walk this earth, although I will happily give anything a try aside from 50 Shades of Shit).

On first look as I downloaded the kindle version was “That may be the most chapter dots I’ve seen, outdoing both Of Human Bondage and Les Misérables”. I should explain for those without the most brilliant piece of technology I have the fortune to own, even outstripping the wonderful laptop I’m typing this out on that on the kindle home screen, your progress through books is highlighted by a series of dots underneath each book title. As you read each chapter/section, a dot becomes bold. Longer books will therefore have more dots underneath their titles.

When watching the Game of Thrones series on TV, it took at least 3 episodes for it to totally engage me. There’s only so much interest I can hold in an episode which includes the selling off of a teenager, incest and a child being kicked out of a window for accidentally coming across the couple (it’s barely a spoiler so shush). Yet somehow, the plights of some of the characters drew me in – along with some absolutely brilliant acting by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf with an appetite for wine and women as big as any man you come across in the series. Nonetheless, the series is very engaging viewing once you can get past the inordinate numbers of tits you see per episode (and a couple of dick views in later episodes).

It took literally 2 chapters of A Game of Thrones for me to be totally enthralled by George R. R. Martin’s writing style. It is intimate as each chapter is from the point of view of a single character, yet it keeps its distance as it is written in the third person. I think my understanding of the characters and interplay between them was made easier by having seen the series first, but this did not lessen my enjoyment as clearly in a 900+ page book, only so much of the detail can make it onto TV.

The characters in the novel seem almost more real than those I can see on TV, as in the novel you can tell what each is thinking, instead of having to rely upon actors to do this. This is not a slight on the series, but there’s only so much a face can convey. During the first novel, I developed a few theories about what might happen, my hopes and ambitions for certain characters (including the wish that Sansa Stark would stop being a silly little girl and realise how truly vile Prince Joffrey is)

I am now over half way through the second novel, A Clash of Kings, and suspect I will finish it before the weekend arrives. I have been warned of what is to come, yet that has only increased the suspense. Looking at spoilers is something I do for fun with TV shows, yet I don’t want to look up what’s going to happen in the lives of the characters of Westeros.

This series has entirely caught me in its’ web. I haven’t felt this way since I was a little girl and read the first Harry Potter novel. It’s a very comforting feeling, knowing that when I finish this blog I can escape from the boredom of my tiny bedroom and be a fly on the wall through a story with such twists and turmoil, you really can’t see what’s coming next.

I’m just happy to be along for the ride. And I hope Cersei gets her comeuppance.

Are You A Psychopath?

Does this apply to you? Source: rachelnico.wordpress.com

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test has lead me to question what I actually know about the world. It is a very interesting book, starting with a mystery and leading you through what he has labelled the “madness industry” – psychiatric hospitals, psychologists, neurologists, even Scientologists who have the most profound distrust of psychology in all its forms.

Statistically, 1% of the non-prison population are psychopaths. Some of those Ronson contacted in research for this book informed him that psychopaths have low brain function in the amygdala, (he himself suffers from anxiety, which leads to increased amygdala function) which is the part of the brain used for emotive learning. At the most basic level, a psychopath can attempt to imitate emotions displayed by others, but can’t actually feel this themselves. This was called into question when Ronson was talking to a man he deemed to be a corporate psychopath said he cried over his dog’s death. However Bob Hare, who devised the world’s most widely-used test for psychopathy, said this man was reduced to tears because his dog was a possession he had control over. The man would not have cried if a member of his family had died, but would probably have been uncontrollably angry if someone was to scratch one of his cars.

Another example of this breakdown of amygdala function and loss of emotional learning is in the case where Ronson mentions one inmate who was being considered “recovering” who then went out and hacked another patient in the facility, claiming he wanted to know what it felt like (even though he had already committed a previous murder) when challenged about the previous murder, he said “It was a really, really, really long time ago.”

In this book, psychopathy is characterised as a pathological need to control everything around you, using many malicious means to do so. A psychopath would possess superficial charm, being able to talk people around to their way of thinking.

The aforementioned Bob Hare Psychopathy Test contains 20 criteria, which are marked between 0 (does not match this) and 2 (completely fits this). If the interviewee gets a score of 30 or more, they can be diagnosed with psychopathy and can be consigned to a psychiatric hospital for the remainder of their lives.

It is thought that psychopathy cannot be cured. Some psychiatrists in Canada in the 1960’s worked with the theory that psychopaths needed to work through their anger instead of hiding behind their “mask of sanity”. One psychiatrist took away all outside stimuli from his patients, gave them LSD and observed from behind a two-way mirror. On the outside, it appeared to be these psychopathic patients were recovering, developing actualised emotions. A striking fact from the book was that when released from an institution, 60% of psychopaths will reoffend. In this hospital in Canada, 80% of released patients went on to reoffend.

In the opening few chapters of the book, Ronson proffers the point that psychopaths actually make the world go round, that society in its current form is actually the product of psychopathy – that the other 99% of the population are under the influence of psychopaths. I found this an interesting point as it is mentioned that people who are at the top of companies, government etc need to lack empathy and remorse for their actions (2 of the categories on Hare’s psychopath test) to be able to take the tough decisions for entire nations/economies.

If when reading The Psychopath Test, you question your own psyche – the chances are that you are not a psychopath. Even if you score yourself reasonably highly on the test (which I will be posting at the end of this blog), you are still self-aware enough of your actions that you can’t be a psychopath.

All in all, Ronson’s book was excellent. A very thought provoking, interesting look into psychopaths, the people who have attempted to diagnose and treat them, and the effects this small minority of people have in the world. I would recommend this to people who have an interest in true crime, psychology or those who are just curious.

The Psychopath Test

  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self worth
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
  • Pathological Lying
  • Cunning or manipulativeness
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (superficial emotive responses)
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural controls
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Early behavioural issues
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

How To Be A Woman – A Sort-Of Review

As I wrote about in my post on Kindles,The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage, the first actual piece of “light” reading I have done on my kindle has been “How to be a Woman” by the lady pictured above, Caitlin Moran. Moran is a British journalist who writes for the Times (though I must admit I haven’t read many of her articles due to the paywall on their site), but like many journalists reaches a greater audience through twitter. I have been following Moran for as long as I have been using the site, and her procrastinating tweets and links proving “fashionable” does not always mean “stylish” do brighten up my day. So, when she brought out her book about linking aspects of her own life to stages in becoming a “strident feminist”(please note my use of inverted commas here is to quote Moran, not to look down on the idea of feminism. If you don’t believe me, look at the rest of my posts), I was curious.

As an aside, kindle books are far cheaper and easier to source than hunting around for cheap second hand copies of books.

Alas, I shall begin my review, along with a few personal things in my life which tie into what I have read. This may wind up being almost as long as Moran’s book itself, mostly because it’s quite short and I agree with a lot of what she’s written about (especially later in her book when she writes about celebrity culture and meeting a woman who makes my eyes bleed – Katie Price).

In my 21 years of residence on this planet, I’ve come to the realisation that I have a pretty good grasp of what it takes to be a fully fledged member of my gender. I may not feel like an adult, given my lack of financial independence, yet I feel like a woman and not a girl. I’m not sure I was aware of my mind maturing alongside my body and yet here I am. I am woman, hear me roar!

“How to be a Woman” is part memoir, part manifesto. Moran ties anecdotes from her life growing up in a very poor household, with steps towards declaring “I am a strident feminist!” to herself, in front of a mirror. I think Moran initially started out with this book attempting to further dismantle the (ludicrous) idea that all feminists are militant, man-hating, bra-burning feminazis (though if that’s the way you want to rail against patriarchal bullshit, you go ahead). She shows that women just want to be on the same playing field as the rest of “The Guys”. We see eye to eye on this point – “Seeing the whole world as ‘The Guys’ is important. The idea that we’re all, at the end of the day, just a bunch of well-meaning schlumps, trying to get along, is the basic alpha and omega of my world view. I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘antimen’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’.” And here here. If you see others as either better or worse off than you, nothing will change. You need to see everyone as being on the same playing field to work out how to achieve total equality (which in the end is what we all want, right?).

In talks of puberty, Moran talks about her first experience of menstruation. I think any woman reading would laugh and wince in equal measure at the graphic imagery. Men on the other hand may find the brutal description very off putting (but hey, at least you’ll get to find out what we thought on first experience of a type of bleeding no plaster will fix!). I remember thinking along the same line as Caz, Moran’s sister, when I reached this horrific milestone: I want my entire reproductive system taken out, and replaced with spare lungs, for when I start smoking. I want that option. This is pointless.” I never took up smoking to the extent where I needed spare lungs (they taste absolutely disgusting), but my reproductive system serves no purpose. I’m not having kids, so give my eggs to someone who wants them.

Although Moran’s book is about feminsm, it’s far from a serious work on feminist theory. It’s actually funny! Especially in her discussion of the confusion which is involved in the simple task of shopping for clothes. But now it seems you find “the dress”—but “the dress” must have “the belt,” and a complimentary but not overly matching bag must be found, which works with not only the correct hosiery but also something to “throw over,” if you become chilly. It’s like fucking Dragon’s Quest—an endless list of things you’ve got to run around and try to find, possibly in a cave, or under a sage. The thing you “throw over” can’t be an anorak, or a picnic rug salvaged from under the stairs, by the way, but a deconstructed cardigan, a hacking-style jacket, a £200 pashmina, or a “shrug,” which unfamiliar item seems, to my untrained eyes, to be a shrunken cardigan made by a fool. It all looks bloody knackering. It’s going to cut into my bread-and-butter-pudding-making time severely. I don’t make bread and butter pudding, but she’s right. You can’t just go out and buy one thing for a night out – a whole new outfit is expected to be bought. I love shopping, but it’s so much more complicated than it needs to be.

It’s very clear thoughout the entirity of “How to be a Woman” that Moran just wants everyone to be content with who they are. No matter if that’s a woman who wants to be a housewife or one who wants to be a CEO. It doesn’t matter if a man wants to go to the football or go out in a pair of stilettos – if that’s what you want to do, then do it! She has very strong views of her own about a woman’s pubic hair, proclaiming that every woman should grow herself a great big muff. I don’t agree with her in this respect. I don’t like being hairy…anywhere. I’m happy removing my hair, it makes my skin feel nice. And as long as I’m happy with that, I’m sure it wouldn’t cause Caitlin Moran to lose any sleep.

Moran encourages the reader to make up their own mind about issues. If you want to have kids, that’s great! There’s a chapter entitled “Why You Should Have Children”. If you don’t want to have children, there’s a chapter about “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children” too. So long as you’re happy with your choice, go with it! Be who you want to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed “How to be a Woman”, I found the book to be honest, funny (to the point I was laughing out loud on the bus) and included a new viewpoint about “new feminism”. I can happily recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a bit of lighter reading. If her opening prologue: The Worst Birthday Ever doesn’t sell you on reading more, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.

In one last stand out lesson to take away from this book, it’s how to work out if you’re doing something down to “Patriarchal Bullshit”. Ask yourself, are “The Guys” doing this? For example, take your body hair. Do you think “The Guys” are worrying about removing every last follicle below the neck? If you see yourself in a better light with some fur, then you put the razor away. It’s not something women should be worrying about. Some guys shave, some grow enormous beards. If you want a beard on your face or your fanny, then grow one!

Meet The Men of Strictly Come Dancing Series 10

In a continuation of my post about the women of Strictly 2012/13, this is my post about the men. Have a read, see where I think the gents will come and if you have thoughts, tell me about them!

Colin Salmon and his partner, Kristina Rihanoff:

As Colin Salmon was introduced to the crowd, my mind struggled to think of who he was. It took me going to IMDB to find out he had been in Resident Evil, and that’s where I recognised him from. Those of you reading who like Bond films will recognise him also. He’s tall, so the likelihood is that he’ll do reasonably well, unless he falls flat on his face. I think Craig Revel-Horwood may want a bit of him, and the sexual comments may be directed his way.

His partner, Kristina Rihanoff is most likely to be remembered as the woman who became involved with Joe Calzaghe during his brief stint on the show. I find her a bit odd-looking, but the British public kept John Sergeant around for weeks to continue gawping at her bountiful breasts.

Johnny Ball and his partner, Aliona Vilani:

I’ll be honest, the only thing I know about Johnny Ball is that he’s Zoe Ball’s (who did very well on Strictly) dad. I’d probably be best leaving it there than pretending to be some authority on him.

His partner, Aliona, won the show last year with McFly’s Harry Judd. Since she joined the series, she has been my favourite of the female dancers, she’s always lovely when interviewed, isn’t cheeky to the judges and gets the best out of her contestant. I can’t see this couple doing well, but I may well be wrong.

Louis Smith and his partner, Flavia Cacace:

Silver medalling Olympic gymnast Louis looks like he may be all athleticism and no skill this year, judging from what he said to the walking corpse Bruce Forsythe. I think the younger women may vote for him as the strength of the male talent on the show this year is rather sparse. If Louis can devote himself as much to dance as he does to the pommel horse, he may do better than his expectations.

His partner, Flavia Cacace is one of the strongest dancers on the female side. She is the dance partner of Vincent Simone, and they do a phenomenal – absolutely unbelievable Argentinian tango (which in my opinion, is the sexiest dance ever). I think if Flavia can bring out Louis’ confidence in his own ability, they could go very far in the competition.

Michael Vaughan and his partner, Natalie Lowe:

Michael Vaughan has all the pressure on him, though perhaps not as much as his phenomenal Ashes win in 2005 (yes, I watch cricket too. I’m a bundle of surprises!). Past cricketers, Tuffnell aside, have all done very well in Strictly. There may not be enough room in the final few to fit Michael and his partner in.

I’ll put this out there right now: I’ve never liked Natalie. In her first series, and ever sine, she came off as so far up her own backside I felt like kicking her. I imagine she’s popular with men, given the masses of blonde hair, proclivity for wearing the skimpiest outfits possible and her mile-long legs. I still don’t want her to do well, cricket legend as her partner or not.

Nicky Byrne and his partner, Karen Hauer:

I have my reservations about Westlife’s Nicky for one reason: his career performing live was essentially a night of sitting on a stool, standing up near the end of every song when the key changed. There was no dancing involved in Westlife. They were the ballad kings. For this reason, I don’t think he’ll do very well.

His partner Karen, is the only new dancer to arrive this series. This being true, I have no opinion of her built up, though I’m sure that will form quickly once the show begins properly. She may have her work cut out for her first season.

Richard Arnold and his partner, Erin Boag:

Richard Arnold is a showbiz presenter on the ITV breakfast show (which changes so often, I’m afraid of putting a title as it may be wrong on Monday morning). I’m not a fan of showbiz reporters, shouting at people on the red carpet, but Richard’s opening video made him seem at least a little likeable.

Erin seemed very happy to be dancing with Richard. I imagine he’d be a great deal of fun, but may be annoying after a while. I imagine they’ll be a great couple, but don’t think they’ll get very far (although Erin is my favourite ballroom-favouring pro dancer, she’s just so graceful).

Sid Owen and his partner, Ola Jordan:

Sid Owen, or better known as his TV alias “RICKAY!” on Eastenders, is the typical useless dancer they bring in every year to laugh at. It’s good that he’s come along and agreed to be awful.

He may be around longer due to male votes though, as Ola Jordan (who has a body I would happily kill for) is dancing as his partner. Ola will try her best to kick Sid into shape, she doesn’t mess around and despite her small stature, she can be pretty scary. Potentially the first couple to leave.

Do you agree with my picks for the gentlemen, as to who will go far and who will flounder? Comment below.

Terrific! It’s Trash TV Time!

With the nights getting shorter comes something marvellous – the addition of admittedly terrible TV shows to the viewing lineup for the weekend. No matter what your proclivity for crap telly is, there’s bound to be something for your taste. X Factor has started for those who either enjoy seeing someone singing well, or for those who enjoy the horrors of the auditions. Red or Black (which I’m fairly certain no-one watches anyway) is on for people with absolutely zero taste and are quite possibly brain dead. My own personal “guilty” pleasure is Strictly Come Dancing, which previewed tonight, and which I’m going to run down for you. I love Strictly, and I have since the first series came on. I have dreams of becoming some glamorous, leggy woman in a beautiful dress (I may not be the most feminine of women, but I love pretty dresses), strutting around a dancefloor with a man in tight trousers to a piece of music that gets your energy going.

Sadly, I wasn’t blessed with natural glamour, I’m as graceful as a deer trying to walk on ice. I wasn’t ever going to be tall, given I’m pretty certain my sister and I are the first of our family to grace the wonderful world of being over 5ft tall (just). I’m pretty awful at walking, never mind dancing in high heels. And on top of all of that, I just can’t dance. For all the trying in the world, I can put my feet and arms in the right steps, but I can never look good doing it. I’m not destined to grace the grand ballroom in Blackpool, my limit’s making a total fool of myself in nightclubs when I’m too drunk to care.

Anyway, I digress. I have been quite looking forward to the new series of Strictly starting, as I’m always interested to see which celebrities will be taking part. It has taken all sorts of people to make up the cast over the years: newsreaders, soap stars, cricketers (who until Phil Tuffnell took part did very well), pop stars, all sorts. And this year is no different. Now, let me introduce you to the female stars of Strictly Come Dancing, 2012/13 version! For the men, please click here.

Dani Harmer and her partner, Vincent Simone:

Every series of Strictly, there’s always the little “pocket rocket”: the spunky, short woman who surprises everyone by doing well. Rachel Stevens has been that woman, as has Jill Halfpenny who won the show’s second series. By being small, these women usually do very well in the latin dances because their legs are shorter and they can move them faster. So it’s good to know that my short legs would be worth something if I could make them move in a rhythmical fashion. This year’s pocket rocket is Tracey Beaker star, Dani Harmer. She is a good 4 inches shorter than the next shortest contestant.

It made sense for this tiny lady to get the tiniest male dancer, Vincent Simone. I’m not his biggest fan, although his latin professional dances with his partner Flavia are absolutely phenomenal. I think Dani may be a surprise (not just to me, when I realised that she may be around the same age as me, and I watched her on CBBC).

Denise van Outen and her partner, James Jordan:

Denise van Outen may be the celebrity I dislike irrationally this series. Purely because she mentioned that it’s her excuse to wear fake eyelashes. I hate fake eyelashes. Almost as much as I despise seeing people in Scotland being orange with fake tan (you’re Scottish, you’re pale – deal with it!). Her most notable appearances on the public consciousness are as a presenter on The Big Breakfast, and she has since resurfaced in the West End, as Roxy Hart in the musical Chicago. I very much like her partner, however, James Jordan.

Himself and his wife (another dancer on the show), Ola, always stand out in the professional group dances which start each of the live shows. And the arms! Though he does have a rather ill-advised tattoo on his right arm which is quite disappointing.

Fern Britton and her partner, Artem Chigvintsev:

Fern Britton has already had her chance at the Strictly limelight, taking part in a Christmas special version of the show, where she did very well. I can’t for the life of me remember who she danced with at that time, but this lady may be one to watch. She is still a much-loved star of daytime TV, so the young and the jobless may vote for a familiar face. I don’t have any notes written on her (I took notes as the show was advancing), other than the others should definitely not write her off because she’s a bit older than the average winner. She was very impressive.

Artem won the show two series ago with soap star Kara Tointon, and is a very impressive dancer. He’s also an incredibly likeable and rather cute (in that I’d want to smother him with cuddles), so their dynamic could be like a son teaching his mother how to dance. I think this couple may be a dark horse in the competition, and they are a sure-fire hit with the general public.

Jerry Hall and her partner, Anton du Beke:

Jerry Hall, in her first interview on Strictly with Tess, came off a pure filth. Though I guess you could assume she was at least a little dirty because she is an ex of Mick Jagger’s. When asked what her ideal partner would be, she calmly replied with “Oh, someone tall, handsome and with a lot of stamina” with the cheekiest look after she’d said it. I already liked her.

My problem arises with her partner, Anton du Beke, who has competed in Strictly from the very beginning of the show, yet has never won. Why? Because no-one in the general public likes him (except my granny, but she’s the weirdest old woman you could ever know). You may have seen him on the show Hole in the Wall (which was terrible, not just because he was involved). I can’t see him winning this year either, but the couple may do better than most expect them to.

Kimberley Walsh and her partner, Pasha Kovalev:

Kimberly Walsh, of Girls Aloud and now West End fame stands to continue Rachel Stevens and Emma Bunton’s trend that girl band members do reasonably well (but don’t win) Strictly. I imagine with her practice (starting from Sound of the Underground) in choreographed dancing, she’ll do reasonably well.

I’m not so keen on her partner, Pasha, he seems far too over-confident, and that just doesn’t fit with the whole idea of the show, where everyone takes on the criticism of the judges (which with Alesha Dixon gone and replaced with the brilliant Darcey Bussell, is a truly knowledgeable panel), takes it away and come back improved the next week. I don’t want this couple to do well, but I imagine they’ll do okay.

Lisa Riley and her partner, Robin Windsor:

Lisa Riley was a much-loved part of the Emmerdale cast a few years back as the ever-likeable Lisa Dingle. She has never been a tiny, skinny girl, and has always been on the bigger side. Now, sadly, she looks bigger than ever (though, the Strictly diet has been proven to work, and her partner seems like a workhorse) and may struggle through the fitness aspect of the next three weeks of training before the tough stuff really begins.

Her partner, Robin Windsor may have to do without working lifts into his choreography this year, but I don’t think that will hold him back. He will challenge Lisa in all kinds of ways. I don’t imagine this couple will go very far.

Victoria Pendleton and her partner, Brendan Cole:

Cycling’s golden girl has taken her leave from the velodrome, and has stepped straight into the Strictly world. With legs to die for, Victoria will certainly not be lacking the stamina to survive the long training sessions. I think she could do very well indeed, if she has rhythm.

Brendan is the firecracker of the dancers, known for mouthing off to the judges after unkind comments. He won the first ever series of Strictly and has been unlucky to have had some awful partners since then. If Victoria has any semblance of rhythm, this couple could go very far indeed.

Do you agree with my picks for the Strictly ladies? If you have an opinion, please voice it in the comments below!

DP Challenge: The Sounds That Make Me, Me.

I adore music of all sorts. I always loved music during high school. I loved everything that was available. I learned to play a wide range of instruments, those small enough you were terrified of breaking them (such as a little glockenspiel, producing tiny yet significant hints at something magical appearing in the near future), and those which were actually big enough to support my 5ft 2 frame (sorry, Mrs. Norman!).

I played in the school’s tuned percussion group from when I was in second year (and had the talking to from the history teacher mentioned in my post written to a teenaged me). At first I felt very odd at giving up a lunchtime to do something so inherently uncool. I mean, what kind of self-respecting teenager wants to play an instrument bigger than them?

I loved the sound of the marimba, the cool sound of woollen mallets striking the massive wooden bars resonating around a room in four part harmony. It really relaxed me, for all it took so much effort and practice to improve. Though, improve I did. I was lucky enough to have had an excellent teacher, who must have saw some degree of potential within me, as she taught me personally how to use four beaters. I still don’t regret the horrific claw hands I wound up with after hours of practicing changing the distance between the two mallets I had in each hand.

I loved the listening section of music also, being introduced to so many wonderful pieces of “classical” music (the term applies to the classical period, although all pieces of music which involve an orchestra are often referred to as classical). I loved listening to the twinkling sound of the harpsichord which signified music from the Baroque period. I loved the playfulness of Mozart’s composition. I even loved the utter bizarreness of music introduced to us as “bonkers minimalism”.

I adore a variety of modern music, also. I can quite happily browse my music library and find Beyoncé happily beside Biffy Clyro, and Shakira beside Slipknot (seriously). I have my parents to thank for my varied and probably bizarre taste in music. My mother has a similarly eclectic taste, harbouring loves in equal measure for Journey (yes they did more than just Don’t Stop Believin’), Duran Duran and the Sex Pistols. My father is a rock fan, he introduced me to the funk-infused brilliance of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy, the theatricality of Queen, and the balls-out insanity which make AC/DC so unique. Though, my heart does lie in rock. It must be a family thing.

I still apply the concepts learned in my music classes to the music I listen to today (though regrettably, what appears to be hitting the mainstream now all appears to be cover versions of some of my favourite songs by some breathy woman).

I’m one of those people who is always listening to something on the bus and no matter the mood I’m in, there’s something there for me which agrees with me. A prime example is the other day, when I was travelling on the bus, hadn’t slept well, and was feeling quite down. I found Bon Jovi, and his reaffirming, though cheesy, stadium rocking anthems. One particular lyric, accompanied by Richie Sambora plucking his way through a little ostinato pattern sang

“Some, day I’ll be Saturday night, I’ll be back on my feet, I’ll be doing alright. It may not be tomorrow baby that’s O.K. I ain’t going down, gonna find a way”

Isn’t that just wonderful? It personally makes me feel comforted by the fact this song was written so many years ago, yet I can relate to it in my current situation.

Great music and lyrics never die.

If I May Put Forward Two Lists of Favourites

Well, even if I may not, I’m going to write them anyway (with links to videos, which you can check out if you feel so inclined)!

Starting with my top 5 favourite pieces of “Classical” music:

  1. In The Hall of the Mountain King – Grieg
  2. The Nutcracker Suite –  Tchaikovsky
  3. Minute Waltz – Chopin (these guys came to see us play and complimented ME!)
  4. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart

And my top 5 favourite songs

  1. The Light and the Glass – Coheed and Cambria
  2. Aqueous Transmission – Incubus
  3. Truce – The Dresden Dolls
  4. Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night – Bon Jovi
Marimba man image from http://www.tiwy.com/pais/guatemala/telon_de_platanos/marimba.jpg
Also, this post is an entry to the DP challenge