10 favourite movie moments

Usually when I think of a movie, there’s always a scene that comes to mind and brings back how I felt; even if I don’t remember the rest of the movie, that scene is enough to bring it all rushing back. A joke, an action scene, a kiss… there are so many great moments, but here’s a quick list of my favourites. I wonder how many would be on yours? πŸ˜‰

10) Steve McQueen’s vault for the Swiss border
The Great Escape
One of the best WWII dramas, the whole motorcycle chase, the final jump and Elmer Bernstein’s score always stand out for me. It’s probably Steve McQueen’s greatest performance and the image of McQueen on the motorcycle is indelible.

9) The chariot race
Ben-Hur
When you think of epics you can’t go past Ben-Hur. I always found it a little too long, but the chariot race is one of the most spectacular and thrilling sequences ever filmed. And Miklos Rozsa’s score is stunning.

8) The construction site
Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting
is one of my favourite movies; it’s such a realistic portrayal of friendship between two young men, and this scene (where Chuckie says he hopes one day he’ll knock on Will’s door and he won’t be there) sums up the whole film for me.

7) The farewell scene
Casablanca
One of the great love stories mainly because of the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman, this is the scene most people remember best. The foggy atmosphere, the plane in the background, “We’ll always have Paris”… even if you think the film’s slightly overrated, this scene is a classic.

6) Indy shoots the swordsman
Raiders of the Lost Ark
I still think Raiders is the best adventure film that’s been made, mainly because of the balance of action, character and humour. This scene has all three and it’s one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen – all the more so because it wasn’t scripted.

5) Somewhere Over The Rainbow
The Wizard of Oz
Still one of the best children’s films of all time, I love the song and Judy Garland’s voice. It’s just a quintessential scene, and all the more amazing that it is when you think the song was almost cut because it slowed the pace of the film.

4) The Bridge of Khazad-dΓ»m
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
In my view LOTR is the greatest trilogy ever filmed and Gandalf’s fall into the abyss looks like it’s come straight out of the books. It’s a beautiful scene, particularly in the moments after when we see the loss on the faces of the other characters.

3) Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s father
The Empire Strikes Back
The best of the Star Wars films, the first time you hear Vader’s revelation it just overpowers the rest of the film. Of course it’s actually quite obvious, but I was stunned at the time and watched Return of the Jedi the next day to see if it was true; I can’t imagine having to wait three years to find out.

2) The shower scene
Psycho
If the shower scene in Psycho isn’t the most iconic scene in cinema history, I’m not sure what is. Bates’ murder of Marion Crane is masterfully done by Hitchcock; with little gore, it’s the build-up that’s so scary, set to Bernard Herrmann’s violin-screeches.

1) The Normandy landings
Saving Private Ryan
The D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan is wrenching and incredibly difficult to watch; it’s brutal and hellish, but it’s one of the most emotional, affecting scenes I’ve ever seen and it’s the scene that, more than any other, brings back the whole film for me. To say it’s my favourite scene is probably wrong (it would be the shower scene in Psycho), but it’s the scene that stays with me more than any other, so it has to be #1.

Where does your country rank?

Australia Press Freedom IndexI’ve just been looking over Reporters Without Borders annual survey and it has some interesting results. The Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked Iceland at the top of the rankings, while Eritrea replaced North Korea as the worst offender. RWB also found that bloggers are coming under as much threat as traditional journalists, with more countries impeding the flow of online news and information.

Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Egypt (146th) and Vietnam (162nd) were all singled out as offenders where “bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible”. Egypt in particular is notable for sentencing blogger Kareem Amer to four years jail for criticising the Egyptian president and Islamist control of universities. Turkey, which blocked access to WordPress.com in August this year, ranked 101st. Pakistan ranked 154th.

Australia came 28th which isn’t too bad (okay but not great). Our anti-terror laws have caused a few problems, and then there was everything with APEC. New Zealand is still way above us at 15th and the United Kingdom is 24th. The United States is 48th.

The survey caught my eye after our electoral debate on Sunday night. The National Press Club twice tried to cut Channel 9’s coverage of the debate because 9 was using its “worm” to measure audience reaction. The Liberals had placed strict rules (basically a ban) on use of the worm which 9 disregarded and apparently that was enough for the National Press Club to try to take 9 off the air. They failed; 9 just switched to another feed.

I’m fed up with this election already. The coverage is everywhere and the election isn’t for another 5 weeks! But it’s a reminder that we can’t take our freedoms for granted, not even when there’s so much attention focused on the system. And a reminder that as bloggers everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up against abuses – because there are many more people in other countries who don’t have that opportunity. I wonder where your country ranks?

Rowling Outs Dumbledore

I’ve just been looking at the news at the SMH website and this story caught my eye. Apparently JK Rowling has been on an “Open Book Tour” of the United States (first I’ve heard of it; does she come to Aus for these as well?) and during one of her appearances at Carnegie Hall, she was asked by a fan if Dumbledore finds “true love”. According to SMH, Rowling’s response was “Dumbledore is gay”.

So the criticism began; right-wing groups criticising Rowling for making homosexuality seem “normal” to young readers; some gay groups criticising her for not making Dumbledore’s sexuality more obvious. Even John Cloud writing in Time seemed a bit perplexed: “Shouldn’t I be happy to learn he’s gay? Yes, except: Why couldn’t he tell us himself?

Now I’m perplexed. Some religious people being upset I can understand; I can see how they might find the HP series uncomfortable with its magic and sorcery, and this just adds to it. But I don’t understand this idea that Dumbledore’s sexuality should have been more obvious. The reason I like the books is that Rowling uses them as an allegory for many issues – war, racism, bigotry, hatred, tolerance – but doesn’t hit us over the head with them. She’s more subtle than that; she makes her characters human and works it into the story. Much as I love Narnia, Rowling is not Lewis with Aslan/Christ; her plot doesn’t just stop to interject a belief. Instead she works it up over time, and I think that way has reached many more people.

It’s not really anything new anyway. Dumbledore’s sexuality is one of the worst kept secrets in the HP mythos. Dumbledore has always been something of a mystery and he rarely seems to have any important relationships with women, except with his mother and sister. And his relationship with Grindelwald seemed like more than a friendship, given the impact it had on Dumbledore’s life. To say that there’s never been any indication of this in the books is just wrong.

I think the way Rowling chose to use it is clever as well. She used it to show Dumbledore’s weakness. “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was… he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him.” John Cloud took it to mean that because Dumbledore (allegedly) never had another affair, that he saw his homosexuality as shameful and inappropriate. “As far as we know, Dumbledore had not a single fully realized romance in 115 years of life. That’s pathetic, and a little creepy. It’s also a throwback to an era of pop culture when the only gay characters were those who committed suicide or were murdered (as Dumbledore was).” I disagree. I think Rowling meant it to show the trappings of power. Dumbledore was blinded to Grindelwald’s evil by love, and was attracted to power himself. He felt responsible (that feeling is palpable in Deathly Hallows) and didn’t trust himself to feel for another person; that makes his story more tragic.

I think it’s a very courageous thing Rowling has done. She knew she’d get flack, but she’s confirmed rumours that most fans expected were true anyway. And it also highlights the themes in her books and makes it a lot harder to dismiss them as juvenile fiction; as the series moved forward, the themes became darker, and this just adds another layer. This isn’t C-3PO and R2-D2 or Tolkien’s undercurrent of homoeroticism in The Lord of the Rings; Dumbledore is a full, rich character, and I think that’s a step forward for gay characters and literature.

It’s funny, though, that such a big deal is being made over one character. But that just shows how much Harry Potter has become part of the culture and how beloved the characters are. Now I just wonder what she’ll write next? Could she even write it with her own name? Perhaps she might need a pseudonym; otherwise how can anything stand on it’s own? It’ll be interesting to see. πŸ™‚

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Your English Skills:
P

Punctuation: 100%
Grammar: 80%
Spelling: 80%
Vocabulary: 80%

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Just a quick quiz today as I’ve been planning a couple of posts for later in the week, and my writing is starting to come along at last (the writer’s block is banished!). I thought after my post on Timbaland’s The Way I Are that it might be fun to take some kind of English quiz; put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

Well, I have to say this is one of the hardest quizzes I have ever done; don’t try it unless you’re prepared to be challenged. My results were quite good but only because I was able to take my time and think about the answers; if I’m just talking (or blogging) quickly then I make a lot more mistakes than that. If you have time, take a look and see how you go; I’d be interested to know if you found it as tricky as I did. Maybe I’m just going rusty. πŸ˜‰

Now this is how to accept an award

Here’s a question for you. You’ve just been told that you’ve won one of the most prestigious awards in the world. How do you react? Are you overwhelmed? Are you gracious? Is it one of the most amazing moments in your life? Or is your first thought, “Oh Christ…”?

That was Doris Lessing’s reaction when she was told she’d just won the Nobel Prize for literature. It’s one of those classic moments. The media are waiting for her and can’t even let the poor woman get out of the taxi before they start asking her questions. As it turns out, the Nobel committee hadn’t told Lessing she’d won; in this day and age you’d expect an email or a text to get through first – hell, even FedEx or a pigeon – but no, Doris Lessing is left to hear about it from the media.

And I love her reaction. It’s not just that she doesn’t want a fuss, or her obvious contempt for literary prizes; it’s the audacity of the media to show up uninvited on her doorstep. She’s been out with her son and all she wants is to get back home and they can’t even wait to let her get out of the taxi properly? And just when you think it couldn’t get any stranger, what on Earth is going on with her son? Is he wearing a vegetable as a sling?

But isn’t this the way we all wish we could act sometimes? To have that old-fashioned arrogance and contempt for what your peers think of you? Sure, there’s a lot to be said for accepting an award with grace… but it’s not as much fun. I remember when I was 1st in English and was given a few other awards in school, my first thought was “Oh wow”; my second was “Fuck, I’ve got to climb all those stairs”. I didn’t say it and I smiled and said my thank yous… but believe me, there were a lot of stairs. πŸ˜‰

What’s really interesting is how the media have used her comments and made them sound completely different. This from news.com.au: “I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one,” she said as she stepped out of a taxi carrying groceries. β€œI’m delighted to win them all, the whole lot. It’s a royal flush.” Wait – is this the same Doris Lessing? Is this even the same interview? At least the beginning of it is, but you wouldn’t know it.

I like Doris Lessing’s works but I must admit I was a little surprised she won. She was awarded it for her life’s work; as the Nobel committee put it, Lessing is “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. My problem isn’t that she doesn’t deserve the prize, she does; it’s that strictly speaking the prize isn’t meant to be awarded for a life’s work. It’s stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s will that the prizes are meant to be awarded to β€œthose who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”. The preceding year. Nothing there about a life’s work.

To me the best novel of the last year is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Nothing else comes close to it; it’s one of the most harrowing, painful and beautiful novels I’ve ever read. It would get my vote for the best novel of the last thirty years, not just the last year. And McCarthy’s life work is impressive as well; his work always speaks to the depths of humanity and darkness, life and death, and The Orchard Keeper, Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses and The Road make a very powerful reading list.

But Lessing has achieved so much in her career that she definitely deserves the recognition; it would be a shame to think she’d be another to never win the prize like Graham Greene. But there’s one thing that isn’t being talked about much regarding Doris Lessing. It’s the risks she’s always taken with her work, none more so than with Shikasta. For one of the most notable literary talents to go from writing classics like The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook to a space opera like Shikasta and the whole Canopus in Argus series was incredibly gutsy; in the 1970s mainstream fiction deplored science fiction (still does) and SF itself was a heavily male-dominated field. But Lessing didn’t care; she told the story she wanted to tell and along with Octavia Butler, Alice B. Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr.) and Ursula K. le Guin, transformed science fiction.

Now thirty years later Shikasta is considered every bit the classic it is. And Lessing still doesn’t seem to care. And that’s how she accepted her prize; on the street, with every bit the contempt she’s always exhibited. I can’t help but laugh. Isn’t it fabulous? πŸ™‚

Soundtrack to my life

I’ve been wanting to do an easy post after a couple of heavy ones, so here’s one which has been a lot of fun to think about. It’s the soundtrack to my life – my ultimate playlist. It features two songs from every year since I’ve been born, one pop song and one rock/group song; my kind of music. πŸ˜‰

I knew there’d be a lot of songs to choose from, so this isn’t really a list of my favourite songs; instead it’s a list of the songs I can remember playing for significant moments in my life, or I’m told were around for ones I can’t remember (apparently I was walking to Into the Groove).

The list’s below and I put them all together over at Project Playlist as well; there are a few Australian singers some people might not have heard before – I definitely recommend Pete Murray and Missy Higgins. And if you’re wondering, I treat Project Playlist as a radio-library; I go there if I want to hear a new song, but once I’ve heard it I’ll buy it from iTunes. So that’s my way around any legalities. πŸ™‚

1984
Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springstein
Here Comes the Rain Again – Eurythmics

1985
Into the Groove – Madonna
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds

1986
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
Livin on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

1987
I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston
Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House

1988
Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle
Never Tear Us Apart – INXS

1989
Like A Prayer – Madonna
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

1990
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
Janie’s Got a Gun – Aerosmith

1991
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You – Bryan Adams
Fall at Your Feet – Crowded House

1992
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
Even Better Than The Real Thing – U2

1993
I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That) – Meat Loaf
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.

1994
Chains – Tina Arena
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden

1995
Hand in My Pocket – Alanis Morissette
Where the Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds feat. Kylie Minogue

1996
Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
Wonderwall – Oasis

1997
Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve

1998
Crush – Jennifer Paige
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith

1999
I Try – Macy Gray
Ana’s Song (Open Fire) – Silverchair

2000
Graduation (Friends Forever) – Vitamin C
Beautiful Day – U2

2001
Thank You – Dido
Yellow – Coldplay

2002
A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
The Greatest View – Silverchair

2003
Crazy In Love – Beyonce & Jay-Z
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

2004
So Beautiful – Pete Murray
Somewhere Only We Know – Keane

2005
The Sound of White – Missy Higgins
Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day

2006
SexyBack – Justin Timberlake
When You Were Young – The Killers

2007
Rehab – Amy Winehouse
How Far We’ve Come – Matchbox Twenty

Is beauty dying?

One of my favourite novels is George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. It’s one of the most beautiful, haunting novels I’ve ever read and it holds up amazingly well when you think it was published in 1949. Earth Abides is a post apocalyptic novel but it’s really more than that. It’s a lament for civilisation; human history unravels, devolves. But even as humans shrink, nature reclaims what it’s lost. There’s a wonderful scene at the end of the novel where Ish looks at the hills and knows that soon he shall return to the hills and the earth, and so shall his children, and the world they leave will be nothing like the one he knew. But life will go on; earth abides.

Reading all the posts about Blog Action Day has reminded me of Earth Abides. We seem to be at something of a crossroads right now about the environment ourselves. 20,000 blogs were involved in Blog Action Day and people are angry, worried about what world we’re leaving to our children. I’m concerned as well but I don’t think we’re at the final tipping point just yet; we have to accept our role in the problem, change our policies and the impact we have on the environment, but I still think if given the chance nature will reclaim what its lost. That’s evolution, the way of life; earth abides.

But having said that, responsibility is key. We need to understand that we all have an impact on the world we live in and accept the responsibility to make changes in our lives. If we all put off the changes, say someone else will do it, then the effect is negated. Likewise we need governments to be responsible for making changes, for making industries to adopt more environmentally friendly policies. And the only way politicians are motivated to make changes is if they know it’s a community issue, something they can’t ignore. That’s why Blog Action Day was a great initiative; it got us talking about the environment in ways that matter to us, and hopefully we’ll keep talking about it.

Blog Action Day also got me thinking about something else: Beauty. It was MusEdition’s great post which started it; she described her surroundings and it sounded so beautiful, to turn and look out the window at mountains and birds. Then I read Sulz’s entry and I knew just what she meant about walking through the woods or a park as the sun rises; one of my favourite pastimes is to walk along the beach, see the tide and the sun reflecting off the ocean. It’s something I take for granted sometimes and I shouldn’t; I’m going to try not to from now on.

But then I looked out my window. I don’t really know how to describe it; I live in one of the nicer residential parts of Sydney but I’m surrounded by cakeboxes. The street is filled with blocks of flats and the occasional house; I live near one of the largest parks in Sydney but I can’t see it from here and I’m high up in the flats. In fact, I can’t see trees at all; it’s just a concrete and brick jungle. Well, there is this one scrawny thing opposite that looks like it should be put out of its misery, but I don’t know whether that counts or not.

I live in one of the world’s most beautiful cities (and I do mean that) but today it just struck me how manufactured a lot of it is. And how manufactured our society is. We seem to have this idea of beauty that nothing can really live up to; a person has to look a certain way to be beautiful, our clothes are in fashion one minute and ugly the next, our homes have to have the latest trends, our gadgets have to be new and shiny. If something doesn’t match our standards, we don’t just get it fixed, we remake it in our image; cosmetic surgery, makeup, renovations, there’s always something which can make us or our possessions more “beautiful”.

I’ve never been someone who buys into the whole idea of image; I’m not going to say I don’t care how a person looks, but that’s not everything. I care more about personality and if the person is interesting than their looks or if they’ve got the latest iPod. I think at heart most people would say the same thing. But we still cling to this modern ideal of beauty just the same. And I’m wondering if this is spreading to how we think about the environment as well. When was the last time you saw a natural feature that made you stop and appreciate it? Not something you planned for, but just saw by accident? I know the last time for me: it was a sunset that caught my imagination just the right way. I took a picture of it. But before that I’d gone weeks, maybe months without even thinking about it, without even noticing what was around me. I think that’s true for a lot of people living in large cities.

It’s so much easier to turn a blind eye to the environment when you feel like it’s just your surroundings; when you’re so busy with your daily routine that you barely notice anything outside of it. That’s apathy and that’s the biggest danger of all, that we just exist and don’t care. We don’t see it so we don’t care that cities are taking over more and more land to cover growing populations; we don’t see that animals are being displaced from their homes by bulldozers for a new shopping mall to go up.

That’s why Blog Action Day was a good initiative and hopefully will continue to be; it’s got people thinking about it, noticing again. And as I said, I believe that if we play our role, nature will recover, and that’s why having a message of hope is a good balance. But something which concerns me is the thought that we might save the environment but replace the beauty that surrounds us in the process, and we might not even know what we’ve lost.

One of the biggest problems we’re facing now is overpopulation and crowding. How do you deal with it? With an ageing population and a steady birthrate, how do you extend a city and manage resources without impacting the environment? You can’t spread out further; you can’t take over new sites. The only viable option is to build up and make better use of the space we have; for more apartment blocks to be built, taller and with more vacancies, and for more people to live together, sharing costs. I think that’s the only way we can do it… but it means knocking down more houses, replacing them with flats. It means in 30 years that cities would become much more uniform, dominated by cakeboxes and dull towers, and what beauty we do have around us would be even less noticeable. I find that a very sad thought.

Perhaps it won’t be like that; perhaps I’ve simply used my imagination too much and envisioned something more like Blade Runner than a realistic future. But with the way we value our own ideal of beauty and the trends that come with it, it seems like something that might happen; that we’d place even less value on real beauty, artistry and design. That’s probably a worthy trade, but I find it sad just the same.

Still, life goes on. And earth abides; that’s the whole point, isn’t it? That’s what Blog Action Day was all about, spreading the message and making people think. It’s certainly made me think and I was proud to have played a small part in the day. Congrats to everyone. πŸ™‚

5 ways you can help the environment

Today is Blog Action Day, a day encouraging bloggers to unite about the environment. Thousands of bloggers are taking up the challenge, including Lifehacker and Treehugger, writing about the environment in a way that suits their blogs. I’ve been torn between a couple of topics, so I thought I’d cheat a bit and do a couple of posts, one today and another tomorrow to follow up. This first one is about some simple ways we all can help the environment. I’m not going to claim I do all of these all of the time, but I try to be mindful of them, and they might give you some ideas on how you can help too. πŸ˜‰

5) In your home
You’d be surprised by the amount of power appliances consume even in standby mode; just having half a dozen appliances on standby is the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb. If you turn appliances off at the power point and unplug them, it can save a lot of power. Turning off lights when you’re not in the room can also save a lot of power, as can washing clothes in warm or cold water instead of hot. Using the half-flush cycle on toilets, installing a low-flow showerhead and washing dishes when there’s a full load can save a lot of water as well.

4) While shopping
Making sure your tyres are well-inflated can make a big difference in preserving the life of your tyres and saving petrol, and bringing your own shopping bags for groceries is a simple way to cut down on plastics. Buying items in bulk also reduces the need for packaging and costs less. If you drink a lot of water, using a bottle and refilling it will help to stop wasting water and buying more bottles; likewise, buying rechargeable batteries saves you money and stops metals in batteries from leaking into the soil.

3) Changing your habits
It’s probably one of the hardest things to do but changing your habits can have a big impact on the amount of waste you produce. Showering for a minute less each day can save a lot of water, as can making sure the water doesn’t run while you’re cleaning your teeth. Walking, bicycling or carpooling to work also cuts down on the amount of cars on the roads and pollution. Many people still prefer CDs over MP3s, but downloading music from somewhere like iTunes is a very simple way to help the environment; manufacturing CDs uses oil and CDs are not biodegradable, whereas MP3s only use hard-drive space.

2) Being more responsible
Being aware of the impact we have on the environment makes a big difference. Understanding that our actions and habits have a consequence means we’re more aware of the ways we can avoid them as well. Doing something as simple as recycling is a great place to start and get children involved in the process. You can actively seek out materials which are recyclable or have a lesser impact on the environment; refill printer ink cartridges or take used ones to businesses to dispose of; use recycled wood chips in your garden; put leaves in a compost heap. You can be proactive and try to make sure your taps don’t leak and make sure you keep the oven door closed so the heat doesn’t escape. Using fluorescent lighting rather than incandescent bulbs will save you money and use 1/4 the amount of energy. They’re all simple things but being aware of them, being more responsible and taking notice, makes a huge difference.

1) Sending a message
The final and perhaps most important thing you can do is to let people know how you feel. The Australian electoral campaign has just started and there’ll be elections soon overseas; don’t underestimate the power of writing to your politicians and newspapers – every letter they receive speaks for more than just your voice and while they know it’s an issue, they’ll continue to support it. Ask what your school and workplace are doing to be more environmentally friendly, or make small changes yourself to set an example. If you feel especially passionate, join a local community organisation; volunteer some of your time to help clean up beaches and parks or to talk to other people about the environment. Join WWF Passport and join with people to speak about issues and conservation. There are so many things people can do; what matters is raising environmental consciousness. And that’s what Blog Action Day is all about.

What did he say?

I’ve said before that I’m a bit of a music junkie. I used to love watching the countdowns each week on Video Hits and I usually have something new on my iPod; right now it’s Ben Lee’s new album Ripe and The White Stripes’ Icky Thump. I really got into music about the same time I got into writing and I’ll often write with something on in the background to help me get into the right mood.

Much as I love music, though, I found I had one of those “wait… what did he say?” moments a couple of weeks ago. It’s still bugging me now. I was listening to the radio and a song came on which I hadn’t heard before. It was Timbaland’s new single and at first listen it seemed catchy enough. But then I heard the title – The Way I Are. Ouch! I think I can hear my English teachers screaming from here.

I’ll be honest: bad grammar is a pet hate of mine. If you think The Way I Are sounds bad enough, there are worse lyrics; one that stands out is It don’t matter ’cause I’m the one that love you best, and just what the hell does Thug it out mean?

I’m not saying my grammar is perfect – I know sometimes it’s, like, so not hot. But there are a couple of reasons Timbaland’s song bugs me. First, it’s #2 on the ARIA charts this week and #1 for downloads; it’s selling well and not many people seem to be saying anything about it. Second, I listened to the entire song several times and didn’t hear The Way I Are line in it anywhere. I still don’t now; I had to go to one of the lyric sites and apparently it is in there – Can you handle me the way I are? My point is that the lyric kind of slips by in the song; I don’t think I’d notice it as much if the title was The Way You Are, which is used a lot more in the song.

But the thing which really gets me about the song is this completely unrealistic idea of dating. I don’t want to sound unromantic but I don’t know many people who broadcast that they’re broke to help score a date; first dates are about impressions and no-one said you have to be rich or a millionaire to be attractive, but what about having some dignity? Some class? I think that goes a long way and singing Baby if you strip, you can get a tip doesn’t strike me as classy. But worse, the majority of people buying this song are teenagers; it sets an example that illiteracy and unemployment are acceptable and not a barrier to finding your soulmate. It’s a lovely sentiment but it just doesn’t work in the real world; or perhaps you’re going to pay for dinner with your tips from stripping?

I don’t mean any disrespect if you like the song and I do understand why it’s popular; it’s definitely catchy and has a good beat and a good video; Keri Hilson is simply stunning. What I’ve been wondering then is whether all this comes under poetic licence and I’m just making a big deal over nothing? Artists take liberties with language all the time to heighten the effect of their work, to change a tense or make a lyric rhyme. What’s so different here? Well, to me the difference is that The Way I Are subverts language rather than uses it. There’s little artistic reason I can see for any of the errors; there’s no lyrical reason for I to be used instead of You, for instance. This isn’t Justin Timberlake with Lovestoned or Apple telling us to Think Different; it doesn’t utilise or invent language, it subverts it, and it just bugs the hell out of me.

Of course, it’s just a song; CJ, chill. Whether Timbaland says The Way I Are or not doesn’t really matter in the end. Except that I’m a writer, damn it, and language does matter to me! I think every time we accept abuses like this, we lose a little piece of what we have. But it’s #2 on the charts now and doing well and it just makes me wonder if the whole thing is really just a clever marketing ploy… cynical, I know, but maybe that’s just the way I are. πŸ˜‰

Edit: Changed Timberland to Timbaland. Thanks to Judy for pointing that out; now I just feel embarrassed! πŸ™‚