Monday, 29 June 2015

Entertainment Monday: Passion Pit (Monday June 29, 2015)

Entertainment Monday: Passion Pit

Passion Pit is a band I discovered by listening to WEQX, the Indie Rock Station I've mentioned several times before. They hail out of Cambridge Massachusetts and are led by lead singer Michael Angelakos, with Chris Hartz (drums), Aaron Harrison Folb (bass/synthesizers), Giuliano Pizzulo (guitar/synthesizers), Pete Cafarella (synthesizers) and Ray Suen (guitar/synthesizers).  Ever since I was little I've been a fan of synth rock and Passion Pits sound can sometimes remind me of that time and make me a bit nostalgic.  I think they're really good song writers though and some of their tunes don't hit me with the nostalgic vibe, but I still like them a lot. 

The first song I heard by Passion Pit was Take A Walk.  When I first heard it I thought that they were a foreign band because of the lyrics.  I later found out they were formed in the U.S.

Take A Walk

Take a Walk has something of a depressing message behind it, but I think it is reflective of a lot of the struggles people go through on a daily level during tough economic times in first world countries.

Carried Away is probably my favorite song by Passion Pit.  I think it's funny and has a nice bouncy and upbeat feel to it, even though it's about the serious subject matter of two people who have trouble communicating with one another.  Sometimes a sound can make you smile and feel good even when the lyrics aren't necessarily the happiest.

Little Secrets is close to Carried Away for my favorite song by Passion Pit.  One of the things that seems to separate Passion Pit from a lot of other bands that rely heavily on synthesized music is that their sound isn't brooding.  Many of their songs have a kind of happy and upbeat nature audio-ally.  I think the lead singers voice also lends to the sense of joy I take from listening to Passion Pit.

Lifted Up (1985) is a newer song off Passion Pit's most recent album that I like a lot.  It brings me back to the 1980s which I absolutely loved.  In 1985 I was 8 years old and just beginning to get into music and sports and I guess I was beginning to become my "own" person which is a process that is ever evolving.  When you hit that age you start deciding what things you like for yourself (or at least that was the start for me).  Obviously you're not an adult at any level at that age, which I hope I'm not inferring.  I just mean that when you're a very little kid your parents will often decide the way you present yourself.  You start to branch out a bit more and make some choices for yourself, shaping your own identity a bit more.

Hopefully my Passion for Passion Pit will continue to grow as this young band continues to churn out awesome music for years to come.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- Review by Carlyn

I was interested in reading this book after watching the movie. I am a big fan of Emma Watson and I like to watch whatever she is in. I really enjoyed watching the movie and I heard good things about this book. The novel is told through a series of letters to the reader. It is about a high school freshman named Charlie, who is a sensitive and highly intelligent boy. He has a depressive nature after blaming himself for the death of his aunty when he was seven. Charlie is also very sad over the recent suicide of his only friend Michael. He makes friends with two seniors named Sam and Patrick who are step brother and sister. They encourage him to participate more in life and Charlie experiences new music, drugs, romance and alcohol.

Charlie has many good times with his friends but remains depressed. He desperately wants to stop feeling sad and cries a good deal in the novel. His family and friends are supportive of him but do not know the extent of his depression. Charlie also has a mentor in his English teacher Bill who gives him books to read. The books are classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Fountainhead. Most of the books are to give Charlie some insight in life, as his teacher recognizes that Charlie is having a hard time.

Charlie’s also supports his friends and family through their problems. Sam has a college aged boyfriend who is not always there for her; Patrick has a secret relationship with a footballer and Charlie’s sister Candace is hit by her boyfriend. He mostly comforts them by listening and following their lead. Sam thinks he ought to be more active in his support and to be more honest as his passive nature is not always good for anyone.  

It is has been a while since I had a new favourite book. I have resolved to give away any book that is not a favourite of mine so this is the first book of this year that I will keep. I felt nostalgic reading this book and thought about my own high school experiences. Charlie’s friendships reminded me of the deep bonds formed in high school and how each group can have traditions and inside jokes. The character seems so authentic and it is easy to be reminded of the people that I knew in high school.

There is a lot of drunkenness and drug use in the book that may be off putting for some readers. Charlie experiments with drug taking and drinking from the influence of his friends. Fortunately, they all look after each other so the effects of taking such things never has too much of an adverse effect from them. Drinking and drugs are not glorified in the novel but it is treated with casualness. The characters experiment mostly at parties and remain sober and clean in their everyday life. The drugs particularly have a bad effect on Charlie and he stops taking them.

Charlie’s depression is handled with sensitivity in the novel. I could relate to his feelings of hopelessness as it reminded me of the saddest moments in my life. I think that this book would be a good read for people going through a hard time to see Charlie try to get better. He eventually has a nervous breakdown but even that is a good thing. Charlie gets a psychiatrist who helps him to heal from the pain of his past. 

This book isn’t really a downer despite the content. It’s more of a coming of age story and a nostalgia trip for people who have finished high school. If books aren’t your thing, the movie is pretty good too. There are a few little differences of course but it perfectly captures the spirit of the novel.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Entertainment Monday: When Marnie was there (22 June, 2015)

When Marnie was there is an anime movie about a young girl named Anna and her friendship with the mysterious Marnie. Anna is a withdrawn and depressed child who goes to stay with her aunty in the countryside. Anna’s mother hopes that the fresh country air would be good for her spirit as well as her health as she has asthma.The movie is based on a book of the same name by author, Joan G. Robinson. 
While exploring the neighborhood, Anna is drawn towards a mansion by the lake. The mansion appears to have been deserted for several years. However, Anna notices that mansion appears to be occupied at night and in a better state. Anna goes to the mansion again in the next day but the mansion looks empty and abandoned. The townspeople tell her nobody has lived at the house for years.
One night, Anna goes to the mansion and meets Marnie. Marnie says she has lived at the mansion ever since she was born. Her parents are often away and she is looked after by her nanny. Anna and Marnie become friends and spend many days playing and exploring the countryside. The girls’ play dates always end with Anna falling asleep and Marnie disappearing. Anna wonders whether Marnie is real. 
I found the movie to be enchanting and I loved the mysterious atmosphere. While I was watching the movie, I was trying to figure out if Marnie was a ghost, an imaginary friend or if there were some magical barrier where past and future crossed. The mystery is solved in the movie but I won’t reveal it in this post. Something I will hint at is that, I thought Anna’s secret which caused her anguish was no big deal. I can understand how it would stress a child though.
I hadn’t watched an anime in years and I thought it was a refreshing experience. What I like about anime is the mature storytelling which I think makes it more appealing to a wider audience. I thought the animation was beautiful and I could picture the movie as a live action film.

I watched the movie in Japanese with English subtitles. I wonder about the little differences in the translation and wouldn’t mind seeing it in an English dub as well. The English version has many famous people doing the voice acting such as Kathy Bates and Hailee Steinfeld.  The movie was produced by Studio Ghibli which is likened to Disney for the quality of animation and popularity. This movie will be their last movie for the time being as they are going on a hiatus.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cairns Holiday Story Part 3

Paul and I were in much better spirits today after a good night sleep. Today we decided to explore more of Cairns City.  The first stop we went to was the Cairns Botanical Gardens. We love being outdoors and walking around gardens. Almost every city has botanical gardens which is usually free and features exotic and native plants arranged into beautiful gardens. 

The Cairns Botanical Gardens has 4000 tropical plants from Australia and around the world. There are also native animals that live in the park such as the bush turkey and possums. Bush turkeys are actually common around Queensland and some even live in people’s backyards. Some people think of them as pest because they are foragers who dig up the ground with their feet so it can be hard to grow things with them around. They are not good eating either, not that you are allowed to eat them. In olden days people would eat them but they have tough meat.

There were a lot of tourists at the park that we had to be patient about taking photos and not walking into other people’s photos. The park was like a rainforest with lots of trees, ferns and exotic flowers. I had two Chinese tourists ask me in Chinese where things were but I couldn't answer them because I don’t speak Chinese.

My favourite part of the gardens was the Lowland Swamp Forest which had a long boardwalk through the swamp. We weren’t expecting the walk to be so long, we thought the pathway would eventually lead out to the entrance that we came in but we ended up at the Freshwater Lake. I asked Paul if he wanted to see the Saltwater Creek but he said once you have seen one lake, you have seen them all. So we decided to exit the park and go to the city. 

We had lunch at McDonalds in Cairns City. We didn’t pay for wifi at our hotel so it was an excellent time to use the free wifi from McDonalds. Afterwards, we went to the Cairns Regional Art Gallery. The art gallery doesn’t allow for photography so I didn’t take any pictures. The gallery was doing exhibits on Indigenous artwork and photography from some celebrated photographer. The gallery use to be the courthouse so had a big wooden staircase with marble flooring.

When we finished looking at the gallery, we decided to go the library. The library was near where our car was parked and would be the last stop of the day. The library is a beautiful building. The library is just like any other library inside, rows of books and lots of desks and chairs. There were many local people as well as tourists. We just browsed the shelves and read a snippet or two before going home. 

My other adventures

Monday, 15 June 2015

Entertainment Monday: Citizen Cope (Monday 6/15/2015)

Entertainment Monday: Citizen Cope

Clarence Greenwood (aka Citizen Cope) is a performer I was first introduced to through the movie Ghost Town which came out in 2008.  I rented the movie one night with some friends or family (I can't remember which) and really enjoyed Citizen Cope's Sideways which was featured in the film.  I highly recommend the movie by the way which stars the highly underrated Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni. 

I like Citizen Cope's sound because he has such a distinctive voice relative to a lot of the alternative music I typically hear. Sideways is a bit repetitive lyrically and the tune is slow but it effectively elicits a kind of sad/romantic vibe.  

Sideways by Citizen Cope.

Another song I very much like by Citizen Cope is Son's Gonna Rise, which has a very different sound in my opinion to Sideways. 

Son's Gonna Rise

What's a bit different for me with sharing Citizen Cope's music here is that a lot of the bands I share are bands I would absolutely love to see live or have seen perform live and been a fan of for years.  Citizen Cope is a performer who I'm not extremely familiar with so I'm not sure if  I'd want to see him live.  The few things I've heard from him I enjoy.  A lot of the music comes across as really personal even if the lyrics are not always deeply thought provoking per se.  For lack of a better term, there is a raw sound to his music that I enjoy.  Hopefully some of our readers who may not have heard of Citizen Cope will enjoy it too.  =)

Pablo Picasso

Monday, 8 June 2015

Entertainment Mondays: Big Bang ( 8 June 2015)

Big Bang is a Kpop boyband consisting of members G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang and Seungri. The band has been together since 2006 and are one of the first groups to become internationally famous. The band members have also branched out to release individual albums, collaborated with other artists as well as working in pairs which are called sub units in kpop and have acted in film and television.

I’m not that familiar with their music but I have watched some of their music videos. I love their dancing and I think they perform very well live. Taeyang is my favourite Big Bang member as I think he’s a good singer and dancer.

Big Bang has recently debut their comeback song after a three year hiatus. They plan to release a new album in September. What I love about Kpop comebacks is that it is always exciting to see the new direction of the band. A comeback includes a new look which often means dramatic new haircuts and daring fashion choices. The music direction is always new and different to their previous style. If the previous album was dark then the next album might be more fun.  

I really liked their first song called Loser which has intense lyrics and a depressing theme. The song is about feeling worthless and wrestling with inner demons. The first lines in the song are about comparing themselves to rubbish.  In the music video all the members are tormented from problems like infidelity, loss of faith and isolation. For the more conservative viewer, I must warn you that there is a scantily clad woman in the video. However, the racy elements in the video may seem tame by western standards.  I find it to be very sexy for a Kpop video as most sexy kpop videos don’t have people so undressed and usually it is coyly suggestive.

Another new song from Big Bang is Bae Bae which  I think is quite a pleasant song but it has an utterly bizarre video clip which I love. It is a good example of the extravagance and daring of kpop. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Cairns Holiday Story Part 2

Paul and I arrived in Cairns alright. The airport is tourist friendly as there were information guides waiting by the baggage claim waiting to help people. One of the guides came up to help me when she noticed me looking at some papers. I was reading the receipt from a rental car company and the instructions on where to pick up the car. She told us where to wait for the shuttle that would take us to the car company.

The car we got was a Suzuki Swift which is a small car which is pretty roomy inside. It’s great for two people with luggage and can fit five people comfortably without luggage.
I called the hotel to see if we could check in early and they agreed. We had a self serviced one bedroom apartment, which had a small kitchen, laundry and bathroom. The room was just like the pictures on the hotel website except a bit more rundown. There were some scuff marks on the walls and the sofa looked a little worn. The deterioration was only minor and the room was clean and tidy. Paul was exhausted so he took a nap when we arrived.


Afterwards, we went out to explore the place and get some groceries. Cairns is a popular tourist spot so I thought it was going to be urban like the Gold Coast, with hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions all crammed in. While Cairns did have all those things, it wasn't a crowded city. There were lots of people but it was quiet and peaceful. I was also surprised at the mountainous countryside which was covered in forest. Although, I have never been to Hawaii, I imagine that it was a good resemblance for it.

We decided to visit the beach that was just across the street from our hotel. The sand was very gritty compared to the other beaches that I have been to and there was a big net in the water to keep out the jellyfish. The marine stingers can really hurt and the pain can last for hours. There was also a sign warning that there might be crocodiles in the water. Most crocodiles are removed from areas that humans frequent but sometimes we miss one.   Fortunately, there were no crocodiles present and we had a nice walk along the beach.

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