It’s been just over a month since I have returned from my visit to Budapest. However, I could not allow such a magnificent experience and such a beautiful destination to pass without a devoted blog post – so here it is!
I took my fiancé to Budapest, Hungary as a surprise for his 40th birthday. Admittedly, I knew very little about the destination before I booked our trip and had absolutely no idea what kind of city break we might actually experience. Most city break destinations don’t need much more than a good cityscape and some pretty bridges to justify itself as a city break destination. However, as it was a surprise for my fiance’s birthday I really needed Budapest to be extra special.
In all honesty, Budapest was not a destination I had romanticised over, like Paris, which possibly would always be my first choice for a European city break. Nevertheless, my fiance is not a big fan of Paris, we’d visited Milan, Barcelona and Berlin together in the recent years, so I needed a destination that was in Europe, that was not Amsterdam, that neither of us had ever been to and that would wow him. Budapest completely blew us both away. And maybe, just maybe, blew Paris out of the water too!
The features that lured me to the destination was the architecture, that I had been told was spectacular. The views of the river Danube, which I read were breathtaking and the Chain Bridge, thatlights up the night with stunning lights. However, what intrigued me more so than anything was that the River Danube literally and physically splits Budapest in two, creating Buda and Pest.
Indeed, Budapest is a striking city, arguably as pretty as Paris in its femininity, less modern than London, but more masculine and grandiose. Nevertheless, despite the beauty and the distinctive uniqueness of Budapest, we never picked up on an ounce of pretentiousness or even arrogance, one might expect from those that inhabit such a breathtaking city and this made exploring such a striking city just as pleasurable as its appearance.
Admittedly it rained our entire trip and was significantly cold, but this gave me the opportunity to wrap up and layer my winter armour. I packed my biggest oversized knits, my recently purchased black watch check cape with giant fur hood a la Dolce and Gabnana from Zara. I walked the streets of Budapest in my longest boots and complimented my ensembles with one of my many fur accessories, be it a fur snood, a fur collar or fur scarf – a winter styling technique I have adopted from Olivia Palermo.
It turns out that pretty much everyone in Budapest was dressed this way. However, the fur, worn in abundance, was everywhere and of course, it was real. Exploring the Christmas Markets, which were naturally freezing, involved lots of standing still outdoors, whilst we ate ghoulish soup or paprika sausages, so it made complete sense why these Hungarian women walked the markets in fur coats with hemlines just around their ankles. I am not sure whether all the luscious fur on display was worn worn out of glamour, frivolity or a display of wealth, because they were indeed completely functional, but they looked divine!
We stayed in Pest, the livelier side of the country, strolling through the Christmas markets drinking mulled wine, hanging out in the Jewish Quarter and drinking in the ruin bars. The impressive Parliament building, the third largest in the world,the extraordinary art-nouveaux Gresham Palace, which makes home to the Four Seasons Hotel and the Roman Catholic church, St. Stephen’s Basilica made for an awe-inspiring backdrop to our stay. However, it wasn’t till we hopped on board the local tram across the Danube River to Buda, that we could truly appreciate the Budapest cityscape in all its glory.
Buda sits on the right hand side of the vast Danube River and is connected to Pest with nine bridges. It’s mountainous and hilly land means it is able to offer views of both Buda and Pest which are unimaginable. Once the tram had dropped us in Buda, we walked a steep and rolling San Francisco-eque hill with an idyllic and quaint little town atop of it. Although, completely overwhelmed by how picturesque this town was, it was what was at the heart of this town that truly overwhelmed me – St Matthias Church,
In the pouring rain we spent hours in awe of the looming gothic church, with it’s colourful mosaic surfaces and just when we thought Budapest had reached it’s stunning quota, we walked behind the church, to find Fisherman’s Bastion. Located at the edge of the hill, Fisherman’s Bastion offers the best views of Budapest. The panoramic view, elevated from a top the hill allowed us to take in sights of the parliament building on the Pest side of the river, lit up in all it’s glory. We could see the chain bridge twinkling with white lights and it’s glittering reflection on the Danube river. With all the castles and palaces, churches and bridges, Budapest is indeed a sight for sore eyes. The vistas were something unimaginable and despite the pouring rain, we indulged in the vistas of Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion for hours.
Take a look at the photos of the views, the food, the markets and the bars we visited during our time in Budapest.
The winter season does not pass without me purchasing at least one new coat and a new pair of boots. If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely to be the same. How could one possibly miss out on the opportunity to add to our wardrobes items almost as powerful as the handbag, but so much more protective? We don’t! Today, I want to talk specifically about boots.
I love boots. I am guessing I own around twenty pairs. Most are black, a few tan and brown, some wedged, Chelsea, studded and over the knee. Ankle boots and booties, knee high riding boots or edgy biker chic -you get the picture. Nonetheless, regardless of how many boots I might own and how many varieties I might boast I have the option of choosing from, it recently became very apparent that the majority of the boots in my collection lack the true fashion clout one needs to demonstrate the attitude of the boot this particular winter season.
I realised last Sunday whilst preparing my ensemble for a Monday in the office. I was keeping it pretty simple in a jeans and shirt ensemble – as you do on a Sunday, but was desperate for a pair of boots to ramp up the edge, bring the fashion know how and the bang on trend-ness to what I was wearing. So, I began slipping my feet into the boots all lined up in my dressing room slash walk in wardrobe (yes, in my new home I have one of these now!) and I realised, I need to step up my boot game at least five fold!
I have every boot you could ever need for whatever the occasion, smart, running around, evening drinks, dressed up drinks, boots to go food shopping in and boots for clothes shopping. Boots that can’t be worn in the rain and boots to keep you warm. Every single boot, apart from the boots I have decided I need the most, the boot for complete and utter frivolity.
This winter, boots are on trend in a big way. The same fashion kudos we once got from wearing black stack heeled, round toed ankle boots with a pair of black jeans no longer applies. The shape, the heel, the height, the length, the colour and the entire attitude of the boot has changed. This winter, the approach to wearing boots is to build your ensemble from the feet up, making your boots the major player. And if the boot is the star of this show, then they need to be perfectly on point! Here’s the boots on my radar for winter 2014-15…
The Over the Knee Flat Boot
The over the knee boot literally defined my early twenties. I purchased a pair from Office in the winter of 2009 and wore them throughout the entire winter. Five years later and they are back again! If you want to change up the standard, go to ankle boots and jeans ensemble, opt for the over the knee boot instead. I recently purchased a new pair of these boots and will only wear mine specifically with black jeans only, as my thighs aren’t exactly pin slim and the length of these boots naturally draws attention to this area of the leg. No need for me to tell you why I absolutely love black. Opt for your over the knee boots black leather as opposed to suede and not only do you get a cleaner and sleeker look, but you’ll love be able to wear these boots come rain or shine.
The Heeled Thigh High Boot
In 2010 the world was crazy about the ‘V’ boot. Also known as the Vagina boot – I too was crazy about this boot. They were long, tall and creeping way up our legs till their tops disappeared beneath the hem of your mid-thigh length skirt or worn with trousers, barely showed any of your thigh at all. They were slightly reminiscent of a dominatrix, powerful, commanding and overtly sexual – like many a shoes if this fashion era were. Fashion has refined itself significantly since and the thigh high boot isn’t so eager to make it’s way up to your nether region.
The key to wearing a heeled pair of thigh high boots is, make sure they fit close enough to the leg and ankles. The likelihood is that you’ll want to wear these boots with a midi skirt, another big trend of the season and in my humble opinion long clean lines beneath a midi skirt looks neater and is more slimming. Of course Alber Elbaz’s Fall 2014/15 Lanvin collection says differently. Opt for your heeled thigh high boots in suede to take the sexual edge off, which you are likely to get from a pair of long leather thigh highs and to add extra style kudos, why not avoid black completely and go for a soft grey? I am quite inclined to opt for these boots in berry red – once I find them! Wear these boots in the evening with a shift dress or a pair of high waisted leather shorts or wear with jeans during the day.
The Knee High Boot
Well, there’s not much to say on the knee high boot that Frida Giannini hasn’t already said on the Fall 2014/15 Gucci runway. This Gucci catwalk was almost a master class of every which way you should wear the the knee high boot this winter. First and foremost, the boot must sit directly beneath the knee, it just doesn’t work drifting between calf and knee, and again, they must be slim and close to the leg to create those clean lines I just love Gucci for. Wear these swinging sixties, mod boots with an A-line skirt, a shift dress or a mini dress and select them in any colour, from powder blue or cream snake skin, berry red, nude or black with a barely there heel for the day and a thick high heel for the evening. Wear these boots instead of a loafer or brogue and wear just as Frida has demonstrated, with above the knee hemmed dresses and skirts. I just adore this entire collection.
The Ankle Boot
Let’s face it, it’s not everyday that we’ll want our pins completely wrapped in leather, so the ankle boot still remains the quick go to boot. However, the shape of this fail safe boot has evolved somewhat. To be completely and utterly on the nose, the ankle boot is just a little longer, sitting slightly above the ankle as opposed to on the ankle. The toe of the boot is slightly more elongated and more pointed. The result is a much sharper, maybe even slightly rockier look, than that of the smart casual feel of the round toe Chelsea boot. The difference in the actual boot is only subtle, but what it will do for your jeans ensemble is massive. I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair of these!
The Cut Out Boot
I shunned these boots as the most ridiculous boots ever created! I could NOT get my head around why a shoe worn in the winter, to keep feet from the cold, rain and snow would have chunks cut out of it? Surely the holes defeated the entire purpose of wearing a boot in the first instance? I was perplexed as to why these boots were ever even created. At least, that was my thinking was till I tumbled upon endless pics of the Balenciaga cut out boot all over Tumblr and could not resist how edgy they looked and how much they did for the most basic ensemble. So, naturally I bought a pair. It’s pretty simple really, wear your cut out boots with any and everything. These boots are all about attitude, so wear them when you are prepared to add a little fashion and frivolousness to what would be a typically practical and functional boot. Be warned though, some people still don’t get it!
The Cleated Sole Boot
This boot sits in the same family as the cut out boot. Like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. Right now, I would say I hate them. Of course, I have once said the same about Brikenstocks and the cut out boots and own a pair both. In all fairness, the truth is, I do like the cleated sole boot, I just hate them for me. At thirty years old, I think this is a trend I am going to have to let pass me by. Admittedly, I also said the same about the cut out boot as well. But if you like the idea of stomping around town in the comfort of a cleated sole – it does sound tempting – this boot is indeed for you. Slightly less elegant, more fashion student and Tumblr chic, these boots are perfect for the youthful street style maven. And if you’ve donned the cut out boots with absolutely no qualms last year, then the cleated boot is a natural progression. I don’t think you’ll be seeing the likes of Olivia Palermo or Victoria Beckham street styling it up in these!
Which boots will you go for?
My aim is to have them all…because, let’s be honest, I am likely to fall for the cleated boot pretty soon too.
If blogging is an art form and this is art, then in this case, art imitates life...
It’s been far too long since my last blog Dandies and I have been longing to get back here so I can do what I love to do the most – write. I am glad to say that what has kept me away has all been good stuff! The past few months have been crazy, productive and somewhat life changing. In fact, it’s nice to have been so occupied with my life for productive reasons, so that I can now sit here and write this blog feeling one hundred times more content than I did the last time I wrote for Charms of a Dandizette.
Of course, I am always in a pretty serene and constructive place when I am writing my own blog. However, the last time I blogged I wasn’t completely immersed in these two very significant projects; the planning of my wedding and the design of my new home. Indeed, I am feeling very adult at this juncture in my life, but mostly I am feeling really proud and very happy.
Finding someone that makes you genuinely happy, whom you want to spend the rest of your life with and whom returns the feeling is indeed one of life’s many challenges, but creating and designing a wedding and building a home that represents your journey and your life together is a creative challenge that I am relishing at the moment! I have assigned myself the role of creative director and have found myself exploring design forms other than fashion. Admittedly, not all will approach a wedding like I a creative project, and at times I do feel even a little guilty for referring to my wedding as a ‘project’. But I can’t imagine that any fashion concerned being would look upon the style of their wedding or the presentation of their home, be it grandiose and glamorous or small and simple, any differently to the way we style ourselves, create our blogs or throw our parties. Every opportunity is an opportunity to be expressive and my wedding and my home are offering me endless creative opportunities.
My partner and I have worked so hard to get to this point and I want to love and cherish every moment and every single last detail. So, I am putting that love into these two amazing life projects I am so excited about. At any one day I could be admiring white orchids – which adorned scenes from Baz Luhrman‘s Great Gatsby so heavily, or selecting chiavari chairs (Italian of course) in white or gold. The next day I am studying layering techniques in interior design and figuring out how I might create a nook in my bay window which leads out to my balcony.
I am finding the designing and styling of my wedding far more natural to me than that of my home. My love for fashion, my love for an exquisite party and my obsession with the 1920s has made this project a glamorous one. Indeed, glamour is also another of my passions. Can you be passionate about glamour? I think so!
However, my approach to the style and interior of my home is very different. As a writer, space is important to me. This will be the space that I write in, that I need to calm me from the crazy, to lure me in even when there’s so much going on outside. I don’t want my home to be glamorous, or even to sleek. Unlike my fashion, my wedding or the hotels and bars that I love to hang out in, I want my home to be soothing, the sort of home that gives you the biggest hug once you’re inside. I am thinking light, airy, welcoming and inspiring.
Frequent Charms of a Dandizette readers will be shocked to see that I am covering the London Collections Men’s fashion week – as I have never thus far. Admittedly this can be an event that can pretty much go unnoticed for me, but as my partner kicked off the week at the Dolce and Gabbana London Collections event on Sunday night and gave me a firsthand run down of the events that took place the following day, how could I couldn’t not cover it? So here are my favourite looks of the people at the parties and on the FROW’s of the London Collections 2014-15, needless to say there’s a fair few of Mr David Gandy. But I’d like to take my hat off to Wretch 32. What a dandy he looks in that heritage check suit ensemble, with the floral shirt collar and those oxblood shoes – Perfection!
Naturally, there were some bloggers there too…
A closer look at the Dolce and Gabanna New Bond Street store’s setting…La Bella Ita
Amongst the myriad of skilfully and intricately animated graphic novels and witty comic strips there is one that seems to literally be tearing the American public apart with its social satire on race relations in America. Regardless of the constant disapproval, censorship, hate mail and rebuttal the comic generates, it is an undying success and continues to prevail.
On the second of May 2010, the pioneering and revolutionary comic strip, The Boondocks aired the first episode of the third season on American TV channel, Adult Swim. The return of the show after a two and a half year break was heavily awaited amongst fans and just as much dreaded by those opposing. The opening titles read ‘an episode that takes us back to the election of our nation’s first black president…’ The episode acted as a documentary that explored the power of the electoral campaign amidst Woodcrest (fictional town) residence. The German interviewer of the episode remarkably took the voice of Werner Herzog (the German film director and screenwriter whose films often feature superheroes with unattainable dreams, this collaboration sat in perfect alignment with the episode.
‘It was a veritable loaded gun (as many Boondocks episodes are), aimed at blasting the hype that surrounded Obama’s presidential win in 2008,’ says Tom Surette, staff writer for TV.com. The disapproval and enthusiasm that would surround this episode was as exciting as the show itself. Moments after the show broadcasted Facebook patrons, bloggers and online writers began a whirlwind of deliberation. Many fans thought it to be the best episode yet, while others felt it was too critical of Obama. The political cartoonist and creator of The Boondocks, McGruder had done it again, provoking the thoughts, confronting the situations and creating the debates that nobody really wants to explore – at least not in the eye of the public. The Boondocks may very well be guilty of documenting the most honest cultural and political analysis of the presidential electoral campaign and its impact on American society to date.
Thirty five year old Aaron McGruder created The Boondocks in 1996 while attending the University of Maryland where he studied African American Studies and where the initial Boondocks comic was published, in the university’s student newspaper, The Diamondbacks. The Boondocks is set in a fictional middle class, white suburban town named Woodcrest, centralised around the Freeman family; Huey aged ten, Riley aged eight and their grandfather, Robert Freeman. Huey and Riley have moved to white suburbia from Southside Chicago to live with their grandfather, where they attend a ‘very strict and very white oppressive’ school named, aptly, J Edgar Hoover (1) – this is where the strip begins.
The show satires prominent events and figures in American society against the back drop of black socio politics; George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Lil’ Wayne, R. Kelly and Martin Luther King are to name a few of the famous figures McGruder has lampooned. He approaches delicate and controversial issues like Hurricane Katrina, Nine Eleven, the rape trial of R. Kelly and the ambiguity of use of the ‘N’ word. Many of the impressionable and ignorant characters use the ‘N’ word, and in selective episodes such as the Jimmy Rebel episode, so excessively it is hilarious (ashamedly so, maybe). Mike Lee Richmond, political radio talk show host at 90.1fm and a general fan of the comic, known for broadcasting shows that discuss many of the prominent Boondocks episodes says, ‘I have no issue with him using the word or explaining why he does so*. Satire is a comical reflection of what the writer sees in society, he is clearly pointing out our loss of self. He’s not trying to entertain us all the time, he is trying to send the message that we are losing what we fought so hard to gain.’ It is important to note that when the characters swear in the cartoon, these are always bleeped out – this technique emphasises McGruder’s reasoning of the use of the N word.
Like The Boondocks, McGruder was born into a middle class family in Chicago, at age six Aaron and the McGruders, consisting of Aaron, his parents and older brother Dedric, who also works as a political cartoonist, moved to middle class suburban town Columbia, Maryland, where McGruder was the student of what he describes as a ‘very strict, very, very white school.’ He says the two years spent at this particular school were ‘the most oppressive years of my life.’ Evidently the two oppressive years at McGruder’s school failed to coerce him into a silence, in fact it has provided stimulus for material that has created what may cautiously be considered a genius comic strip, which speaks as loudly and clearly, with all the political belligerence and integrity of Aaron McGruder.
Before the end of 1999 McGruder secured a syndication deal which was ultimately the beginning of his fame, success and notoriety. Since then The Boondocks has emerged in over three hundred American newspapers, most of which the comic has appeared daily. Due to the comics nature newspaper editors frequently discontinued and postponed printing it. Nevertheless the newspaper medium acted as platform for McGruder to reach a much broader and varied audience and has since been adapted into the cartoon series. This has inevitably allowed the cartoon to be accessed globally across a number of video streaming sites, including Youtube.
In view of the success of The Boondocks, McGruder has become a bit of a personality, associated with both black and white public, political and celebrity figures. He is repeatedly invited to lecture at universities, which are renowned to sell out, he has been awarded the Chairman Award at the NAACP Image Awards and The Boondocks was the winner of the 66th Peabody award in 2007, for an episode which envisages the awakening of Martin Luther King. McGruder has become a celebrity in the light of the impact of his work and since his recognition has attended Hugh Hefner’s birthday party at the grotto and P.Diddy’s infamous MTV after parties. The cartoon features the voices of Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes and is celebrated in the lyrics of conscious Hip Hop artists. It is important to note that the recognition and celebrity status McGruder may have acquired is a consequence of the quality, the intelligence and the artistic vision and conviction of his work and not vice versa. It is also important to note the rise of McGruder and the success of The Boondocks is not because the American public are enthusiastic about his work, many of the American public are somewhat adverse to McGruder, his views and or The Boondocks – but his work and the intellectual brain behind it is indisputable excellence and can evoke a strong aversion.
But what is it that makes The Boondocks such a powerful piece of art and McGruder such a powerful artist?
For those that are yet to watch The Boondocks, the Black President episode epitomises the essence of the cartoon and shows the true talent of McGruder at its best. The brilliance of McGruder is not the political events that he explores but the characters he has created and how he aligns them perfectly to each and every event; The Boondocks, although dealing with conflict ridden situations, manages to tell an astute and entirely candid discourse. ‘Aaron McGruder’s overall portrayal of black people in American culture is very parallel. Notice the things such as uncle ruckus, the self hating black man that is there to specifically point out all the faults of the black culture. Huey, who is there to show that there are some people in the culture that are willing to believe in blacks and are hopeful that something will smack the people upside their head and make them realize what is truly important in black culture, I can go on about the other common characters but I’ll leave it there,’ Mike Lee says. Of course, it is to be noted that the narrator of the cartoon and protagonist of the comic is Huey Freeman, Aaron McGruder’s alter ego – who often summarises and concludes the impact of various current affairs and their influences on society and the Woodcrest residents. Excluding this, through the perspective of very diverse and dynamic characters that represent various social characteristics, the reader or audience is able to view circumstances in their entirety, as opposed to just McGruder’s perspective. There are many characters in the comic that are just as influential to the cartoon, who communicate vital elements of whatever the subject matter maybe just as effectively and authentically that completely conflict with Aaron McGruder and his alter ego’s political alignment.
Huey Freeman, possibly the most intelligent, socially and politically aware ten year old is introduced in the First Black President episode as a ‘Domestic Terrorist.’ Aside from his neighbour, District Attorney Tom DuBois, Huey may be the only black character that does not use the word Nigga on tap. Throughout the cartoon and comic strip Huey has a constant frown and hasn’t smiled once thus far. He is known for his conspiracy theories, his political convictions, his disdain for rap culture, capitalism, Black Entertainment TV AKA BET, which Huey has redubbed Black Exploitation TV and is tired of celebrating Martin Luther King, ‘as though he were the only black person to ever do any good.’ McGruder and Huey are also known for their disdain for Condoleezza Rice, so much so that McGruder writes her into a strip where Huey links her single status to the war on terrorism. Huey deliberates, ‘maybe if there was a man in the world who Condoleezza truly loved, she wouldn’t be so hell-bent to destroy it.’ McGruder has previously said on TV show, America’s Black Forum TV, ‘I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because of her politics. I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because she’s part of this oil cabal that’s now in the White House. I don’t like her because she’s a murderer. You know, I’m not bound by the rules of a politician or journalist. So, you know, when I say, “She’s a murderer,” it’s because she’s a murderer, and that’s all that’s necessary for me to make those statements.’
Both Huey and McGruder are in McGruders own words, ‘Cautiously pessimistic’ about Obama’s presidency, he says, ‘I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.’ In reflection of this, in The Black President episode Huey merely sits in the background watching his fellow black people campaigning for Obama, his silence is due to the fact that, ‘Nobody listens’. His lack of excitement for the black president baffles the interviewer and irks black Woodcrest residents so much so that they try to attack him. What McGruder documents in this episode is the unfortunate truth, this electoral campaign was in fact more a racial protest, more so than it was a political campaign.
‘When McCain played on Obama’s inexperience in government, people started playing the race card. The whole election was racially charged and racially fueled. People who were against Obama’s policies were either labelled racists, or uncle toms from the black perspective of things… it’s sad really, but McGruder really pulled it off nicely,’ says Mike Lee. Mike Lee believes his political views correlate with McGruder’s, he felt that McGruder documented the impact of the electoral campaign with complete accuracy, ‘Spot on,’ he says, ‘he did an excellent job showing that no one was paying any attention to what Obama was saying or rather, not saying, in regards to his policies.’
Nevertheless beyond all the excitement around McGruder’s political approach to creativity or his creative approach to politics many black media figures struggle to accept the concept as intelligent entertainment, for many the show has materialised as a degradation of black people and the cartoon and McGruder generate a following divided by conflicting views. The nature of The Boondocks isn’t entirely dissimilar to the creator’s infamous and highly controversial temperament that frequently causes uproar, offense and humiliation within both the black and white American public.
Larry Elder, an American talk show host and great critic of the cartoon and McGruder says, ‘Aaron McGruder draws the sometimes-funny daily comic strip “The Boondocks.”… In a recent strip, two young black characters considered renaming what they call the “Most Embarrassing Black People” award. One character suggested calling the award the “Larry Elder.” An idea clicked. How about an award for the “Dumbest, Most Vulgar, Most Offensive Things Uttered by Black Public Figures”? Maybe we could call the award the . . . “McGruder.”’However, McGruder doesn’t see Larry Elder as much different to himself in their approach to their work and is well aware of the fact that in order to make changes in the world one most certainly needs money, ‘The more ridiculous shit I say that’s hurtful and hateful and racist, the more stupid rednecks will buy more books. I don’t even get mad at them, ‘cause I get what it is…He [Larry Elder] decided to be that black guy that makes money by saying things that white people want black people to say.’
‘I find it very funny that the people who have the hardest time dealing with McGruder’s satire, are the people who truly haven’t done anything productive for blacks since Martin Luther King died. Larry Elder, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton just to name a few,’ says Mike Lee. Would The Boondocks be so controversial if it had a predominately black or urban audience – like it does in the UK? Would Larry Elder even care so much as to critique the show or strip be it obscure to the mainstream or only satire the black underclass? It could be doubted that Elder would even want to give the show any exposure, not for the refusal of contribution to the success of a highly intelligent black male, after all it’s not the success of Aaron McGruder that troubles black public figures. If McGruder were a golfer, a conformist journalist or creator of something similar to The Cosby Show he probably wouldn’t mutter a single, negative word – in fact, when boasting of black people’s achievements in the world, he might use McGruder as an example. What does anger black middle class figures like Larry Elder is the precise and acute illustration of black society in its totality, broadcasted to the public domain and put in the line of fire.
The Boondocks, heroic and defiant in its illustration of ‘blackness’ and societal, racial and political views acts as the metaphorical mirror being held in the face of American society. Exploring the lives of black people living in a country that is the supposed manifestation of Martin Luther King’s ‘blissful’ dream McGruder unveils, fortunately or unfortunately, the black social and cultural experience in all its glory and criticism. It’s authenticity, frankness and it’s no hold bars approach is what makes it a success. The Boondocks forces people to question their own actions and reactions – even if they don’t do so out loud. Should we be laughing at Uncle Ruckus’s racial verses? Should we be laughing at the poor white teacher Mr. Petto that made a slip of the tongue and called Riley a Nigga in what he thought was a term of endearment, maybe even brotherhood, confused by the various contexts and meanings? Do we ever find Huey’s subversive nature tiresome, even though knowing he is for the greater good of the race?
The Boondocks success is McGruder’s courage and his competence to illustrate the profound issues he does and his outstanding ability to tap into his audience’s mind. McGruder uses the audiences own personal perspective as an interactive part of the experience, finding identification and familiarity with the strip or particular characters is a very fulfilling instant. Watching the short twenty minute cartoon is like being on an emotional roller coaster, the sensation of The Boondocks is beyond description and worth watching or reading just for the sheer amazement at the witness of a genius.
McGruder isn’t about whitewashing blackness or making the truth obscure to anyone – he is just extremely courageous and devoted to presenting his vision with complete veracity to anyone and everyone who cares to know, regardless of their race, class or political affiliation. However, in the words of Huey Freeman, ‘Now here’s something black people have known for a couple of hundred years, niggas are crazy, now black people may not want to talk about crazy niggas in public because white people might be listening, but I’m afraid the secret might be out.’ The Boondocks Season 4 is in production.
Otis Jenkins, A.K.A Thugnificent is Woodcrest’s very own superstar rapper. ‘Otis has found success like many negro American entertainers today, by being a professional buffoon.’
(1) J Edgar Hoover the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,and to collect evidence using illegal methods.
Drive, a book by James Sallis, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling
An actor that is currently under my radar is Ryan Gosling. Not only because he was papped in a passionate lip lock with the stunning Eva Mendes a day or so ago, but because he appears to be the man of the moment right now. Last night, when everyone was queing to watch the special screening of The Help, I was sipping wine in the foyer, waiting to see Drive.
The night before, I had watched a narcisstic, womanising, hard bodied, handsome Ryan Gosling, with that unmissable and wonderful accent – which apparently has Canadian roots, star in Crazy Stupid Love. However, Drive is a very different film and Gosling loses all his gloss for a very different kind of role.
Yet another book adapted for the screen, Drive was written by James Sallis, the film, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. By day Gosling works as a mechanic and a stunt driver for the movies, at night he is a designated heist driver. We first meet Gosling, on the road, driving-gloved hands on the wheel, waiting for two men who have just robbed an establishment, to drive them away from the crime scene. Once the men bundle into the car Gosling puts his foot down and takes off, swooping and careening through the streets to avoid the police. What we are treated to here, is possibly one of the sexiest driving scenes, likely to go down in movie history (at least I hope so).
Everybody knows there’s something unmistakebly sexy about cars and the way their driven (I’m sure Nicole Scherzinger can vouch for that, as can Justin Lin and Vin Diesel). However, this is no Fast and Furious, or other such cheap thrill action films. There’s something fascinating about the calmness, the confidence and the control Gosling’s character oozes, when he’s a hold of the wheel, and most surprisingly, when he’s not…
This is a heartfelt film about a man (Gosling), who has been assigned no proper name, whose life is turned upside down when he offers to drive in a heist that goes terribly wrong. He’s providing his services out of the goodness of his heart, to a man with a wife and child that Gosling has grown fond of. Gosling and the the wife, played by Carey Mulligan, shared something special while her husband was locked up in prison. But now he’s released, his situation risks harming the family. Gosling believes his driving can help.
Gosling plays a man of very few words. He’s quiet and reserved. When he meets Mulligan, we might even be led to believe that he’s shy. We understand that he’s not impassive, particularly through the relationship he builds with Mulligan’s son. But we also understand that, as a wheelman he’s no saint and something’s gone wrong somewhere. Well, we never learn much about Gosling’s backstory, just as we never learn his name. However, what we do learn is that he is very capable of taking care of business.
The film is intense from the word ‘go’. Incredibly gruesome and violent scenes are juxtaposed against moments when there are almost no words, just a stirring and evocative soundtrack, Kavinsky’s Nightcall, playing in the background.
Driver: If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.
Drive – The Opening Scene
Drive – The Elevator Scene
There are many more scenes and quotes I could put on here that are mind-blowing, but I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it yet. But you must – see it.
Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help
Yesterday, West India Quay’s Cineworld had a special screening of Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help. Queues backed out of the door and spilled onto the, now freezing, London streets. Thankfully I had already seen The Help and was, in fact, queuing to see Drive. However, considering I enjoyed The Help so much, I thought I should dedicate some time to write about it.
Set in 1960’s Mississippi, Emma Stone, who plays aspiring journalist Skeeter, has returned from University, where she studied a degree in Journalism. She’s inspired to write a piece that explores the relationships between white families and their black maids from the perspective of the maids, for the Jackson Journal. Skeeter, decides she wants to interview one of her friend’s maids, Abileen, played by Viola Davis. A number of events occur, mainly stimulated by the callous behaviour of Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, towards her maid Minny, Octavia Spencer, that causes a cautious and dubious Abileen to speak out. It’s not long before Minny follows in Abileen footsteps.
The film takes an emotive angle, as opposed to a racial one, and reveals the relationships and love that develops between the maids and the children they care for. It’s ironic that these women and mothers trust their maids to feed their families and nurture their children, but refuse to share a bathroom with them. We are shown the struggle, the trials and tribulations the maids experience and endure in order to have the means to support their own families.
Abileen and Minny meet with Skeeter discreetly and divulge their stories working as maids. Soon enough, a troop of local maids from Jackson Mississippi , get wind of this opportunity, which ultimately offers a chance for them to break free from their oppression, to vocalise their thoughts and express their humanity.
Skeeter’s desire to speak with the maids is of course threatening and dangerous, but the maids soon realise that this column offers hope and the possibility of change. These courageous women come together to risk their social status, their livelihood and the well being of their families to be heard and consequently to make a difference.
The film deals with some sad and serious issues, but miraculously, unlike many other films that even remotely face racial issues, The Help doesn’t feel heavy nor weigh you down. In fact, never have I laughed so much during a film with racial concerns. It’s inspiring and uplifting.
Minny Jackson: Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life…
Minny: Eat my shit. Hilly: Excuse me! Minny: I said eat… my… shit. Hilly: Have you lost your mind? Minny: No, ma’am but you is about to. ‘Cause you just did.
I watch the infamous party scene from The Great Gatsby with the exact same intensity I watch a Lanvin show. With that bottled up combustible excitement. Each and every time I am completely bowled over. The amount of fabulousness all in one place is overwhelming and deliciously tempting. Oh how I would still do anything to be at that party, amongst all that glitz and glamour. To wear those dresses and pile them up with the fanciest of accessories, drink those cocktails, smoke from those cigarette holders (even if I think smoking is ghastly) and dance the Charleston in the Roaring Twenties.
I learned and fell in love with the roaring twenties; the flappers, the slickers, the slang, the excess and the scepticism that came along with it through reading the literature of the man who wrote it to perfection. I can’t imagine this glittering era without my mind instantly painting a picture that has been conjured up by language as evocative as a John Held illustration. It is indeed the astounding Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald that I have fallen in love with. I liked him in Jelly Bean, Bernice Bobs her Hair and A Diamond as Big as the Ritz. I was infatuated by him in This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night and by the time I read The Beautiful and Damned I had decided it was a full blown wondrous affair- as exciting and passionate as any flapper romance or cocktail party.
The books of my Fitzgerald collection are like indexes, with self adhesive tabs that I use to indicate all the reasons I love the twenties, literature and Fitzgerald. How I had read myself around the world, Roberto Bolano and Paulo Coelho of Spain, Melissa Panarello of Sicily, Gabriel Garcia Marques of Colombia, Carlos Fuentes of Mexico and Isabelle Allende of Chile, before reading the man that would change the way I read literature forever is a wonder. He is to me, the great novelist that puts into context all the other great novels of the world.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul Minnesota, in 1896. His debut novel, This Side of Paradise, was published in 1920. It was the first novel that would delineate the younger generation and possibly even helped to shape it. The 1920s was the earliest era in which children were relieved the duties of adults. Teenagers had the luxury of their adolescence and youth began to form its own culture.
The impact of this debut novel could not have been predicted, it became a bestseller in just two weeks. He became the man that was on the tips of everyone’s tongues, the media celebrated him, the debutantes formed their lives around him and parents winced, with the hope that this new flapper was just a fictitious character. She attended petting parties, she enjoyed flirting, she was at her best when the centre of a man’s attention and took great pleasure in watching herself being admired. This was a completely different mindset to the Victorian parents of these children and their reaction may explain why Fitzgerald’s novels were rejected in the outset.
Fitzgerald wrote continuously throughout his childhood and managed to have plays, short stories and musicals published in school publications, staged in school productions and eventually in his local theatre. But it wasn’t until 1917 that Fitzgerald he would begin to pen the novel that has made him the famous literary that he is today. Fitzgerald wrote one hundred and twenty thousand words in just three months. The novel was titled The Romantic Egotist and like many of his novels was a semi-autobiographical tale. Unfortunately the novel was rejected, with a letter accompanying the manuscript stating that, ‘It was too crude and too incoherent.’ B. F Wilson for the Smart Set wrote in 1924. Desperate for money and keen to write, Fitzgerald applied to work as a News reporter, but was unsuccessful in finding work. Eventually he found a day job as a Copywriter for Barron Collier and wrote short stories in the evening. Fitzgerald collected over one hundred and twenty two rejections of his short stories from editors. He tried his hand at writing advertising concepts, poems, songs and movies but this was with no avail. Still determined to be published Fitzgerald quit his copywriting job and put his heart and soul into rewriting The Romantic Egotist, which soon became published as This Side of Paradise. Two months after Fitzgerald found himself the literary celebrity all nine of his short stories were printed in magazines.
He made his sweetheart, Zelda Sayre his wife the same year his novel was published. The couple began to live out the material which would be the life line of his novels. They had a great hunger for life and lived it with an enthusiasm that was almost limitless. They were icons in New York, became part of the literary expat crowd in Paris and the Riviera, where they socialised with the likes of Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein and John Dos Passos, and flocked to Italy where Fitzgerald wrote. Just two years after Fitzgerald’s claim to fame he published his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned. The novel documents the romantic and tragic story of his life and love for his wife, the flapper he made iconic.
Fitzgerald was crowned the chronicler of the flapper, renowned for his sensationalism of this young girl. He wrote them with a faultless and astute observation. Although at times this new modern girl may have exasperated him, he was undeniably intrigued by her and all that she thought she was afforded. With the power of literature, the press and publicity Fitzgerald had created the flapper that every girl wanted to be and every man wanted to marry. The most enviable and coveted flapper was indeed a Fitzgerald flapper – she was Mrs Zelda Fitzgerald (Grace Patch), the woman he marries in The Beautiful and Damned. Between the artistic couple they have documented the flapper’s readings, her dancing, her fashion and her makeup. They critiqued her morals, made observations on her love life, debated her ambitions and made her one of the most fascinating women in literature and history today. It would appear that the fast life caught up with Fitzgerald, died in 1940 of a heart attack at just forty years old, leaving his novel The Last Tycoon unfinished.