Notes Backwards

We’ve all wondered what we’d say, if we could travel back in time, and tell ourselves what to do. I thought I’d blog about it today, on account of the weather being simply terrible, which is making me all reflective, and thoughtful.

Knowledge, and university courses. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are several things a person must know. The first, is that learning stuff, the big stuff, isn’t easy, and unless you’re bless with a photographic memory, something I dearly wish I had, you will spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rereading, and note-taking, before you can confidently declare to understand something. Moreover, somebody will always know more than you about something. This is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to be absolutely the very best, at everything you try to do. You should take the university course you love, because otherwise you’ll be extremely resentful of it, and it’ll make it one thousand times more difficult to finish it.

Art. Art is important. It’s important because we like to build things, create things. We must remember to write, read, draw, and dance, throughout the exams, and throughout the long working weeks, because otherwise life becomes well, incredibly boring. It’s also never too late to be something you’ve dreamt of being, even if you find you’re just a little older than the others. That just means you’re more mature.

Body. You think you’re fat now, however hindsight suggests you were wonderfully slim. As Baz Luhrmann quite rightly says, “you are not as fat as you imagine”. Take care of the body. Get some exercise, even if you hate it, and remember not to eat too much rubbish. Some junk food however is good for the soul, and so eating some of it is strongly encouraged. As is the eating of broccoli.

Success. Being an awkward child, you don’t know what you want to be yet, however you do know that it’s going to be something incredibly high-flying, and difficult to manage. The aspiration will seem like it’s a really long way away when you get a reality check, and sadly have to check into the real world for a while, however you ought to just keep going, and find new ways to pursue things. Thinking outside the box is really very, very important.

Self Confidence. Another Baz Luhrmann quote. “Do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.” I find these to be rather wise words, and he has a point. Remember not to get complacent, and don’t think that you know everything. When you get to university you will be humbled by everyone and everything, including your peers, how daunting the real world seems, and how little you really know about your degree. Just remember it’s only the beginning, work hard to understand more, and use the library often. Do not be disappointed if you don’t just sail through, straight away. There’s no reward, if it’s too easy.

I think that summarises my wise words of the day. I think it’s useful, sometimes, to remember what you’ve learnt. It makes you feel wise, and more mature than you were when you first started out, even if it was only really six months ago.  The video by Baz Luhrmann is something I find incredibly useful too, have a listen!

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The Importance of Teddy Bears

Who wouldn’t love that face? (1)

Teddy bears are one of those items that everyone loves and owns, but nobody really wants to admit it after a certain age. I find this a little offensive, because I feel as though they provide comfort when we are small, and it seems cruel to just abandon them when we get older, because they’re one of those items that one “grows out of”. I never really grew out of a love of teddy bears, firstly because they’re adorable, and secondly because I still have a very overactive imagination.

I used to read quite a lot of Enid Blyton when I was young, and The Faraway Tree Stories were my favourite bedtime stories. I love the idea of having a magical tree, full of elves and fairies, ready to take you on adventures. I did say I had something of an overactive imagination. It’s something I was born with. Teddy bear stories comfort little people because they take them to different worlds, where things simply aren’t as scary. There are never monsters under the bed in teddy bear stories. Adults I think have their own versions of teddy bear stories; we watch TV, some drink, and we draw, and paint. People spend lots of time not thinking about what’s really happening in the world.

An interesting comparison (2)

And this is I think one of the reasons that teddy bears, or at least the principles behind them, are so important. They provide a childish world in which to escape. Some of you reading this will be scoffing, however I think everyone has to be at least a little childish, and have a place where they can play with train sets and Lego. I personally enjoy Lego immensely; it’s one of the best children’s pursuits out there. I also used to love (and still do, a little bit), building massive Barbie mansions. At one point I think I owned about thirty Barbies, and not the new, strange ones, but the real-life 90s ones, which looked triangular. On a related note, I think those who blame 90s Barbie for causing terrible perceptions of body image is just preposterous, because she was so extreme. The newer Barbies are so perfect that surely they seem more human, and therefore more realistic shapes to aspire to? But there we go, something of a side note.

So anyway, I think everyone should own a teddy bear. They’re so lovely and so welcoming, and surely the world is a horrible enough place, without people abandoning teddy bears left, right, and centre too?

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(1) http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aIwCvfdhL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

(2) http://www.picshag.com/pics/012011/barbie-in-the-1990s-vs-barbie-in-the-2000s.jpg

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On Investment

Lately, I’ve been repeating “it’s all about the dream” to myself in an effort to maintain a degree of motivation. I repeat it especially frequently at seven in the morning, and during lengthy cross trainer or hill walker sessions. I’ve even turned into a cliché, and written it onto my mirror. It’s true however; everything I’m doing at the moment, including designing a prototype magazine, training hard, working on my degree, has a foundation in the future. This is something of an oxymoron, however, it’s perfectly true; my world is finding it’s foundation in the future. It’s an investment in the world.

Investment seems to be something of a touchy subject in the wake of our current economic climate; people who had invested in property have temporarily lost a vast amount of potential capital, and people who had simply locked their savings into bank accounts have suffered some degree of loss, or at least an affected interest rate. The older generation are suffering on the pensions schemes, and the young people are suffering under the loan companies and the rising cost of education. And therefore one can only ask whether we can ever truly invest in the future. We can’t predict the long-term effects of economic downturn, or how long it might last, and how severe it might be. There are entire organisations dedicated to trying to establish patterns of economy, however financially, and in many other ways, the future is decidedly uncertain.

However, to not invest in property, education, etc, is far more dangerous than doing so; one can hope to skate by on good grace and charm, and unfortunately, I have friends who have quite literally skated through school and accidentally fallen into the laps of insurance companies, accountancy apprenticeships, etc. There are people in the world who are apparently automatically blessed; they just acquire opportunity with little to no effort. I think half of this is a situational advantage; some people end up lucky and simply fall into being in the right place, at exactly the right time.

Changing and investing. (1)

The rest of us however, are investing. Employability events. Optional lectures. Extra reading. Extra curricular projects. Getting up in the morning. It’s all part of the grand effort to become something in a climate that seems determined to force young people into unemployment. One of my pet peeves in the employment sector is when you are told “you haven’t enough experience”. The question of course being, “how on earth might I acquire this experience, if you are not willing to invest in me?”. I don’t think it’s really entirely about us, investing in ourselves. I think it’s also about employers, older people, and lecturers, investing the time in us to teach us, and to lend us the experience. Those who are willing are continually asking for opportunities ought to be rewarded, in a world of equals. There won’t ever be enough spaces to accommodate everyone, and that’s okay; we just need a fighting chance to gain some of the experience that we seem to lack.

So, today I’m hoping people will invest more in us; we’re willing to work hard and to learn, because we want to be you one day. We want to be the people to invest in the young people. It’s a cycle though; we need a leg up, so we can be just like you, when we grow up.

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(1) http://uffenorde.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/breakRules1920x1080.jpg

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Oh, Lolita…

The novel Lolita, when mentioned in polite conversation, tends to invite a plethora of different responses. Some react with fascination, others with polite, yet barely disguised repulsion. Some refuse to discuss the novel, because of the sociopolitical significance it has. Others however recognise the novel as an artistic exploration of boundaries. I never quite know what to think of the novel, because I somehow cannot fathom the ideas it contains as ever being rational, or sensible, in any capacity. Whilst I have boundless amounts of respect for the author, Vladimir Nabokov, for being so brave in his exploration of the topic, I cannot help but be repulsed by the very fact that he thought to write it. Critically, I like his use of perspective, and narrative structure; however from a moral and emotional standpoint, I find the novel awkward to read, and to process emotionally. No matter how critical a mind you have, a novel tends to provoke some kind of emotional, instinctive response. This is where with Lolita, I struggle.

The most significant idea to remember however about the novel is that Nabokov sought to push the text away from the author’s grip completely; he chose to explore the death of the author, as prescribed by Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes. Their attitude towards literary criticism at the time, in the 1960s, was that it was too author focussed, and as such, was not real literary criticism, because it was really a criticism of a human being, as opposed to a text with literary structures, containing linguistics and concepts with a multiplicity of meaning.

Lolita (1)

Lolita’s narrative structure seeks to toy with the reader; it uses suggestion and persuasion to call into question what the reader believes to be real. Humbert Humbert provokes empathy in a person but underneath his eloquent, even decadent pleas to “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury”, there is something underlying that is simply not quite right; there is a lack of sincerity, and instead of a wholesome confession, he steers the reader away from thinking about himself as a criminal. Instead he plays the part of the long-suffering hero, emphasising Lolita’s faults, as opposed to his own. The subversion of morality is fundamental to the novel.

I find that awkwardness can indeed occur when reading a novel, because, when it is well written, it is completely engaging; all-consuming as it were. Consider for example Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. When reading the passages relating to the mining tunnels, I feel distinctly claustrophobic. I hate feeling trapped, and so the concept of the miners being caught completely alarms me. Lolita however makes me uncomfortable in a different way; not so much physically, but in that it almost feels dark, tainted even, by the sheer force of the perversion that drives the narrator to tell the story as he does. Interestingly however, he seems to completely accept that he is flawed, but also blames the girls he calls “nymphets” for being his poison; his warfarin, as it were. The rejection of complete responsibility for his actions, and the implication that everything is somehow Lolita’s fault for seducing him, is one of the fundamental elements of the novel because it highlights the mentality of Humbert Humbert, rather aptly I think. To this extent, he could be considered unstable, even insane, and indeed it is mentioned early in the novel, that he had been previously committed to a mental hospital. From the outset then, the reliability of the narrator is challenged, and so how can we, as readers, really believe that his version of events are true at all?

Lolita is an excellent novel however, and the mystique that surrounds it is very much a part of the censorship that also surrounds it. It’s a novel everyone should experience at least once in their lives, because without it, there’s a lack of perspective in terms of what can be done by an author, but not necessarily from the author’s perspective. The novel also has a certain page turning quality to it, so it’ll at least kill some time, whilst you process everything!

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(1) http://thewrittenwordreviews.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/lolita.jpg

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