Tag Archives: favourite things

Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Stories #1

Tori Amos – Blood Roses

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Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid

Before I learned to write, I told stories. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that on more than one occasion, and the “I write fairy tales” line in my bio remains, though I haven’t written one for over a year now.

As the heading should tell you, the above picture is from an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. I’ve had – and treasured – that book around 25 years; in part because of the stunning illustrations by Laszlo Gal, but more because of the story itself.

If you’re not familiar with the original version, when Disney turned it into an animated feature back in the late 80’s, in amongst some fairly prominent religious allegories¹ they took it upon themselves to remove (fair enough), they also removed some of the core plot points, and changed the ending entirely. In doing so, they removed one of the most important messages behind the story.

On the off-chance you require it, here now is a warning that henceforth, plot spoilers abound.

In Anderson’s original version, the key difference lies not just in the ending, but the extent of the sacrifices Ariel made to become human. The deal with the sea witch had further consequence than the removal of her voice – in fact, her voice was not magically captured in a glass bottle, the witch cut her tongue from her mouth.

She warns Ariel that once she is human, she can never again be a mermaid, and that if she fails in her endeavour to win the prince’s heart, her own heart will break, she will die and become sea foam.

The pain she suffered when her form changes from mermaid to human was merely the beginning. Throughout her time with the prince, every step she took felt as though knives were cutting into the soles of her feet, until they actually bled. Yet, of course, she uttered not a sound of complaint, nor even gave any indication whatsoever that she was constantly in an incredible amount of physical pain. What she did was dance for him, with a smile on her face.

In the Disney version, Ariel’s personality shines through her silence, the prince falls in love and they live happily ever after. In Anderson’s version, the prince’s heart belongs to the woman who saved his life. We all know that it was Ariel that brought him to shore, but she watched him from the sea until another woman found him.

While Ariel dances and smiles through her pain, the prince, who has grown fond of his silent little foundling, pines for the other woman. He declares, however, that she must never leave him, for she is so beautiful and dances unlike any other. Here’s the real testement to how the prince feels: he has a bed made up of velvet cushions outside his bedroom door, so there she sleeps, much like a faithful dog.

Ultimately, the other woman is found, and – wouldn’t you know it – she happens to be a beautiful princess. The prince, hopelessly in love, marries the princess and on their wedding night, Ariel dances for them both, knowing that she will cease to exist the following morning.

Her sisters, however, have each sacrificed their own treasures to the sea witch, and in the middle of the night they beseech Ariel to come home. She was implored to take a knife and plunge it into the prince’s heart, letting his blood wash over her feet so that she would once more be a mermaid.

She couldn’t do it, of course, so while the prince lies with his bride, the little mermaid resigns herself to her fate and dives into the sea.

What’s the point of that story?

I like stories.

Aside from the above being one of my favourite quotes from The Simpsons, I do have a point to all this.

Disney’s moral is overly simplistic and ultimately unrealistic – just be yourself, people will recognise you for the beauty you have on the inside and everything will be Ok. Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t even apply to the story they told. Why? Because Ariel wasn’t being herself, she had given away her core essence, her voice, which in this story is supposed to be something of an allegory.

This tale is about silence.

This is a tale about the consequences of sacrificing who you are for another person. The prince has no idea of the sacrifices Ariel made to be with him, he has no idea of the pain she endures. He has no idea who she is, so how can he love her?

I interpret Anderson’s moral as: if you compromise yourself, who you truly are, for another person, it’s not only going to be incredibly painful just to be with them, but they won’t be able to love you because they’ll never know who you are, they’ll love someone completely different and ultimately who you were will become nothing.

I’ll end discussion on the story with a quote from the book, which was re-told by Margeret Crawford Maloney:

“But if you take my voice, what will I have left?”

“Your beautiful body, your graceful movement, your eloquent eyes. Surely these can snare a human heart.”

Considering the original ending, I think those two lines incisively convey the importance of the message.

In that regard, the theme song I have chosen for The Little Mermaid is Tori AmosBlood Roses. I do try to keep a little variety in my choices, and briefly thought I should find something else as this is the third nod to Tori in this series, but there really is no other song out there (that I know of) that drives the point home like this one.

Back in 2009, I sat next to someone who had not long before told me they didn’t have the energy to accommodate the weight of my thoughts – not my words, but the things he thought I wasn’t saying – while we watched Tori perform this song live. That concert was one of the most profound events I have ever attended. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.

The lyrics to this song can be read over at one of my favourite sites, Here In My Head, along with some quotes from Tori herself explaining the meaning behind certain phrases.

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1: In the revised and published version of The Little Mermaid, we are told that while mermaids live for exactly 300 years, they do not have an immortal soul. When they die they become nothing but white horses (an older term for the white foam that forms on the sea). Ariel’s desire is not just for the prince, but for an immortal soul – to live forever, even in death. Ariel dies but is granted a soul for having sacrificed herself for her true love’s happiness.

This ‘reward’, for me, undoes a little of the work of the story, because in the first version Ariel merely dissolved. which is a much more natural resolution to the preceding narrative, as well as in keeping with the message as I have interpreted it. The religious reference is obvious and was tacked on, to the detriment of the story as far as I’m concerned. So it’s not just Disney that know how to ruin a good story, authors do it to their own work, too.



Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Films #1

Tori Amos – Here In My Head

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Favourite Romantic Comedy – Amélie

French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, which translates to The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain

I’ll start by acknowledging I’ve probably set myself a complicated challenge with this particular notion, as – quite obviously – films generally have dedicated theme songs. With the nature of a theme song being what it is, these things aren’t just loosely associated, but rather the original theme song and film tend to become quite intrinsic to one another. So these can be considered less a theme for the films, and more a theme that summarises something about what they mean to me.

I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies in general, but I suppose the reasons why are applicable to most genres of film – clichés, boring characters, formulaic scriptwriting… All the things that make movies feel like you’ve seen it all before yet they remain instantly forgettable. One of the things that makes this film so special is that it captures what happens to the heart when it loves, rather than doing that thing most other romantic comedies do – make fun of how people react to it. Not to mention that it is probably one of the most charming films ever made, and full of whimsy. And I do like me some whimsy.

As you may have seen in the trailer, Amélie is a French film, starring the gorgeous Audrey Tatou (and please do watch it in its original language, if you decide to see it. Rarely do dubs convey the same level of emotion and/or other necessary things as the actors that spent months getting to know their characters). It’s a little difficult to describe this film in any language other than consistent sighs, particularly as I want to steer clear of spoilers and all the key reasons why I love it would contain exactly that.  In a very vague and over-simplified summary, though, it chronicles Amélie’s attempts at bringing a little magic into the world of those around her, while being afraid to truly venture out into it herself.

The music of the soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen, with the signature piece (arguably, maybe) being La Valse D’Amélie; below is a solo piano version that is just beautiful:

Even if it was my intention, it would be nigh on impossible to compete with music that is perfect for the film in every way, so the theme I’ve chosen speaks more to one of the lessons I took from it.  Here In My Head, like most of Tori’s songs, can be interpreted in a few different ways, but I think  the key theme is relevant – namely, the references to what can happen when you live in your head, even though in other ways you can give out so much of yourself. Amélie is a supreme fantasist, and while it means she has a profound effect on those around her, her actions are ultimately of a vicarious nature and she struggles to find a way to connect with the object of her desire in any way other than through a series of contrived, mystery adventures.

 

Amelie fantasises while baking a cake

I think… Sometimes, no matter how little or how well others may know us, we’re the only one up in that mind of ours and for some that can be a retreat. It’s a safe place to go, where imagination, fantasy and thoughts can be driven by – or to – things that we want, love, need… All the things that we yearn to bring close, because there’s not much that’s closer to a person that what goes on in our thoughts, considering it’s the most private, internal emotional process we have. But in that way it can actually have the opposite effect and distance us from those things in real life. Ultimately it can make it that much harder to come out from there and form real connections with people, where they are subject to the flaws of human nature and dangers inherent in real life and circumstance.

There’s a lot of scenes in the film that (to me) shoot straight at the heart. Little things like the bold gesture of inviting him to her then being too afraid to reveal herself, even though he’s sitting there saying ‘I know it’s you…‘, then watching him leave,  literally dissolving into a puddle of water on the floor. While there’s probably countless films that had a scene or two in them that got me a little teary, usually upon a second watch it doesn’t quite have the same impact, but I have to admit that the scene where she’s baking a cake and starts daydreaming about  not a different life, but one that’s simply shared with someone else that knows you well – just a little every day circumstance that makes her laugh and cry –  gets me every single time.

And so does this song.

 

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PS Just in case it doesn’t happen automatically, to ensure the English subtitles appear in the trailer, click the CC button as pictured so that it is highlighted in red:


Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Cars

Deftones – Passenger

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Favourite Car – Torana LX SLR 5000

It would be foolish of me to pretend that I know more about this beautiful piece of machinery than I actually do, as well as quite against the purpose of these posts to get overly technical on everyone. Thus, if you’d like to learn more, check out Holden Torana, or Wikipedia for a decent history and overview of the various models.

What I will say is that the Torana is an icon of Australian motoring history, both in sport (racing) and socially. I have a lot of fond memories associated with these cars (and not the typically teenage car / backseat type memories, I’ll just point out. Those are reserved for the Kingswood – which is also a Holden). Most of the memories I have are associated with family road-trips in a white LC model. Aside from the obligatory fights between my brothers and I over who would get to ride in the front seat, I loved just watching the suburbs slowly disappear and become vast fields of Salvation Jane or dense, dark forests, rolling hills, steep cliffs and the occasional, long-abandoned crumbling stone cottage or graveyards filled with headstones from the 1800’s – the kind of things that drove my imagination wild.

In later years, I had a massive crush on a guy who drove an LH, (and I assure you it was about the guy, not the car). We’d sometimes go out on midnight drives, the kind which put our lives in danger in general just for the sheer thrill of it, but I was always too scared to tell this guy how much I liked him. Such is the folly of youth, I suppose – getting things the wrong way around and being prepared to risk a life but not the heart.

With production on the Torana models ceasing in 1980, these now vintage cars are highly coveted by many, including myself. Alas, while my mother paid $400 dollars for one in the mid-80’s, some models now fetch well over $100k, though – depending on condition – it’s possible still to find them under $10k. As things stand, for the time being it’s one for the ‘if I ever get rich…‘ list.

While I’m here, I may as well mention that Holden are also responsible for another car I’m quite partial to, the Monaro, which itself is a beautiful car and would be the definite runner-up as far as  favourite go.

Holden HX Monaro GTS

But the Torana gets the gong for all the memories I have with it. In terms of performance, I’m not even remotely capable of making a judgement and I don’t really have the inclination to change that, I’d rather appeciate the beauty of the beast from an entirely aesthetic and nostalgic perspective. I’ve picked the SLR over the other models simply because it’s my dream car.

As for the theme song, well I hope it’s fairly self-explanatory… The Torana is one damn sexy car, and DeftonesPassenger is suitably one of the sexiest songs there is, with Chino Moreno and Maynard James Keenan (Tool) delivering an intriguing – not to mention breathless – duet.

While I’m still footing it in most of my travels, and I’m very far from being the type of girl who will jump in any kind of car without knowing much more than the name of the driver, anyone who rolls up next to me behind the wheel of one of these, I’ll at least give ’em a wink just for their supremely good taste (in cars, that is).

 

 

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Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Flowers #1

Mia Doi Todd – Night of A Thousand Kisses

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Favourite Floral Scent – Jasmine

There’s a fairly broad variety of jasmine plants. My particular favourite, however, is the one pictured above – jasminum polyanthum. Funnily enough, it’s more commonly referred to as both white and pink jasmine.

In one of the first homes I ever lived by myself, I had a very small garden out back – approximately 3m x 8m (for the non-metrically inclined, that’s about 10ft x 26.5ft). My garden was separated from the neighbour’s by a corrugated iron fence which was covered by a jasmine vine, blossoming primarily during spring and summer. Though I’m a bit more of a winter person, stepping outside and being greeted by the scent of jasmine was one of the best things about the warmer weather, especially at dusk when the day had slightly cooled and the perfume seemed to just expand the air around it. I suppose it’s quite difficult to convey a scent in words, but to me it’s one of the most alluring fragrances there is – delicate but rich, a little dark and sweet. No suprises that almost all of the perfumes I find myself favouring have a jasmine base.

The theme song for jasmine is Night of A Thousand Kisses by Mia Doi Todd, from the 2008 album Gea. Not quite for the subject matter in this instance (though the sometimes dizzying effects of romance is fairly apt), but because musically it matches the light, delicate, dusky and beautiful visual aspect of jasmine; and because Mia’s wonderful voice is the perfect combination of gentle, rich, slightly smoky, evocative and sensual to represent such a gorgeous flower and fragrance.

 

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Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Visual Art #2

Favourite Modern Artist – Yoshitaka Amano

Yoshitaka Amano, quite simply, does amazing work in a varitey of mediums, though he’s most noted for his Final Fantasy and anime character designs such as Vampire Hunter D. I suppose thematically rather than stylistically, he does share a thing or two in common with the Pre-Raphaelites, with a similar sense of fantasy, romance and tragedy present in a lot of his work; but his attention to small, intricate and wild detail is almost beyond comprehension for someone like me.

For books, I recommend checking out Neil Gaiman‘s fairytale The Dream Hunters, which is a Sandman spin-off (prior knowledge of the series is not required), Tale of the Genji and Fairies – all of which contain exquisite examples of his work. There used to be an online gallery which featured a wide variety of his pieces spanning the last three decades, which unfortunately seems to have disappeared, but here’s a few examples.

 

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The theme song I’ve chosen for Yoshitaka Amano is Drink Me by Christophe Beck, who was the primary composer of music for Buffy for most of the show’s duration (he won an Emmy in 1998 for the episode titled Hush), and has worked on various film scores. I chose this (from the third season of Buffy), for being, at different points, dark, sinister, dramatic, fragile and beautiful.

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Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Visual Art #1

Visual art is a medium – along with music – that I’ve always wished fervently I could be somewhat competent at. I’ve tried, many times and in many different ways, but apart from a few minorly successful attempts and being somewhat decent if tracing paper is involved, I just don’t have the talent (or perhaps patience and discipline) to bring to life the visions if they’re anything other than messy stick figures with triangular dresses and scribbled hair. Thus, I have a deep respect for anyone that has the talent, skill and dedication to produce works of art in a visual medium.

Favourite Painting – Valkyrie’s Vigil

Painted in 1906 by Edward Robert Hughes, who is responsible for several favoured pieces (I highly recommend visiting this online gallery to view more of his work). Though I really like almost all of the Pre-Raphaelite art and artists associated with the movement, the works of which are often a combination of beautiful, whimsical, romantic, tragic and dramatic, I fell in love with this the moment I first saw it – the tone and colour, the delicate impression of a warrior in a moment of reflection, while the symbols of her duty and power are still present (helmet and sword).

Valkyrie means ‘chooser of the slain‘ – they would, as the name suggests, choose which warriors would die in battle. The strongest of the fallen souls would then be brought  to Valhalla where they would serve in Odin’s army of the dead. The valkyrie is often depicted as a half-naked Amazonian-type warrior in modern art (here’s a typical example), which is what I would call a relatively liberal interpretation of the text, one sprung from fantasy more than the original myths and legends. Though the origins, attributions and specific duties of the valkyrie vary, in Scandinavian mythology (which I am most familar with) they were both in the servitude of Odin and the dead souls they brought to Valhalla, so you can see how the linked example might have evolved… But when I look at this painting I wonder about all the unspoken things, the things implied and the what if’s, and I think to call a valkyrie a warrior is to acknowledge other aspects of the kind of life  one would have lead.

Edward Robert Hughes’ Valkyrie is a far cry from the savage, sometimes beastial woman often seen in modern fantasy art. She is wistful and sad, reaching out to or for something; alone and waiting.  The world beyond her is vast but  altogether as  ethereal as she is. In that light, and what I fancy she’s thinking about, the theme song I’ve chosen for Valkyrie’s Vigil is this beautiful live version of  PJ Harvey‘s Angelene.

 

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Theme Songs for Favourite Things

This is a blend of a few different ideas I had that never quite came to fruition, but simply, for me, a good opportunity to think about music and the way I relate to it in a different way, as well as – every so often and hopefully, draw some attention to some of the other awesome things that are in this world. I have pretty much a neverending supply of favourite things, so the idea is to make this a (probably sporadic) permanent feature.

Favourite Colour – Purple

Just about everything looks awesome in purple, so I doubt much more explanation is required. And, surprise, the theme song for purple is not by Prince or Jimi Hendrix, but the infinitely beautiful and long-treasured song Purple People by Tori Amos. I first heard this track nearly 15 years ago and I still love it. The lyrics in the final verse – thunder wishes it could be the snow / wishes it could be as loved as she can be / these gifts are here for her, for you, for me – are made beautifully ambiguous by the vocal. If you listen to it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

 

Favourite Animal – Lion

Yes, I have something of an obsession with lions – their symbology, mythology and the pure, primal nature they represent; which I reference on a continual basis in other writing endeavours. There is nothing more awesome on earth than watching a lion take down its prey – raw and savage power not always driven by need. Thus, the theme song for lions is The Resonance of Goodbye by The Angelic Process. (Contrary to what the vid says, the song is from the album Weighing Souls With Sand).

 

Favourite Sandman Character – Delirium

Pretty much one of the greatest fictional characters. Ever. It’s simply impossible not to adore her. She is one of the seven Endless – siblings in The Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. She often comes across as a child – confused, whimsical, innocent and a little bit odd, but the perfection of her character (to me) is that her thoughts, where they come from and where they go, are simply unthwarted by the things we get taught “should be”, which  often ignores  possibilities. I highly recommend the comic series, and for more on Delirium specifically, check out this  awesome blog dedicated to her. The theme song for Delirium is Fishes and Honey by Scout Niblett.

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