Thursday, May 26, 2016

Listening to Hailee Steinfeld: Is Life all a matter of Perspective?

I've been listening to Hailee Steinfeld's new single Rock Bottom a lot these few weeks, and I've been having trouble picturing what she means by the 'right side of rock bottom' and how one can 'keep falling' from there. I've asked a few of my friends, and they don't seem to know either.

One friend, who just came out of a life crisis and a bad relationship, did remark to me that she may be at 'the right side of rock bottom', having just come out of rock bottom itself. She certainly didn't want to 'keep falling' though.

Does anyone want to 'keep falling' in life or in relationships though? Initially I thought no, but then, Hailee did say she 'hope that we keep falling', right? Given that some people like to ride roller-coasters (not me), the idea that there's an appeal in 'falling' sure makes some sense.

Why's there a song celebrating the idea of 'rock bottom' anyway? Wouldn't one hate to be there?

Life's confusing. But maybe it's all a matter of perspective.

Anyway, have a listen and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meghan Trainor's No - Feminist or Not?

Ever since Meghan Trainor's No came out a few weeks ago, my friends have been arguing over whether it should be classed as a feminist anthem or not. On one side is the argument that it should be, because it encourages and empowers women to reject unwelcome advances from men. On the other side is the argument that a song like that actually achieves nothing much, and nothing will change just because of it.

Both arguments look valid. However, let me offer this thought:

Cultural change is a gradual process, made up by many small events and actions. There's no one big act that will change the world, rather, every little bit will help.

So there it is. I believe Meghan Trainor's No is indeed a feminist anthem. Case closed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The rise of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn - Does it really mean people are dissatisfied?

The recent rise of 'outsider' politicians with radically different agendas to what we're used to has raised discussions in many quarters as to whether people have become very dissatisfied with the world we are living in.

I think the answer is 'yes'. People feel like their politicians are not reflecting their beliefs, that their democracy is 'broken', and that they don't have the true freedom to be who they want to be in life. They feel like the ability to get ahead in life is no longer there. People everywhere are feeling this, from twenty-somethings in quarter life crises to older adults who have been made redundant and yet cannot afford retirement. They also feel like the decisions about our future is not being made by them, that they are not being listened to by the political class. In other words, representative democracy has become unrepresentative.

Whilst I can understand why people are looking to the likes of Trump, Sanders and Corbyn, I also believe that they are not the answer. Not that any politician is, anyway.

I believe we need to fix our system, badly. For example, there should be more emphasis on liberty, and politicians on all sides should be focussing on the concept of liberty and 'living together' in a liberal society. Representative democracy should also be supplemented by an increased use of direct democracy in the form of regular plebiscites or referrenda, in my opinion. A decisive victory for climate action at the ballot box will stop any further protesting from corporate interests, for example.

Furthermore, it's dangerous to look to our politicians to solve everything. We need to remember that not everything needs to be done by the government, and that non-governmental solutions are often better. Inspiring people, lifting people up from a feeling of helplessness, is a collective responsibility, for example. Governments cannot do that. Speaking up against those forces which are making people feel oppressed, which is clearly not limited to our governments, is also a collective responsibility. Only broad-based discussion and consensus in society will push those forces back. Finally, changing the culture so that 'outsiders' are not excluded anymore, including but not limited to combating racism, sexism, homophobia and disability discrimination, is something we all need to do, together.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wholesome Music of the Month: Kelsea Ballerini - Peter Pan

Whatever else you may like, we all need a dose of wholesome music in our lives, just like how we all need wholesome healthy food. It's good for your life, I promise.

Kelsea Ballerini is the most promising young country star since Taylor Swift, in my opinion. Peter Pan is the latest (I think third?) single from her current album, and I think it's one of her best.

Check it out:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hunger Games, Divergent, and... Do we need more future dystopias? (Part 1)

Many futuristic dystopias have landed with great impact on the book and movie worlds in recent years, with The Hunger Games series and the Divergent series probably being the most popular. The appeal of this genre is undeniable.

Why do people love future dystopias? I think the answer can be found in the fact that these stories revolve around strong characters, who survive and don't bend their principles in the face of the adverse circumstances surrounding them. It's not that people enjoy the brutal dystopias, but rather the strength of those who survive and find a way to thrive in them.

But do we need the context of unrealistic made-up future dystopias to show us this 'strength'? After all, this strength, the spirit of survival, bravery and optimism, can be found everywhere in real life. And I believe, as both a reader and an author, when it's based in a context similar to real life is when it really shines. It's why I've chosen to base my Princess's Spirit Trilogy in our recent history (well, a semi-fictionalised version of it, but it's still in the context of our world in the early 21st century).

Bravery, optimism and defying the odds, are all things we love to celebrate. It's not just to be found in future dystopias. It's everywhere around us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor and TaraElla: We all like a bit of Reinvention

The TaraElla Show is back, a month earlier than expected! (And yes, I did complete that novel early. Go to the Books page to download your own copy, if you're interested in checking it out.)

I would like to re-open with an idea: reinvention. It's what you do when you want to keep things fresh and sustainable for the long run. It's what you should do when life feels stale.

Taylor Swift is arguably the queen of pop today. Yet I think she is also the queen of reinvention. I mean, if you've still got that Taylor album from 2009 (the name's Fearless, I think), take it out for a listen. You'll find that she sounds completely different nowadays. She also looks different too, by the way. And she's way more popular nowadays too. A reinvention success story.

Rising star Meghan Trainor appears to have had some reinvention in 2016 too. She looks nothing like she did in All About That Base nowadays, in my opinion. No, she is definitely much cooler nowadays.

You see, reinvention makes people cool and fresh. If you haven't reinvented yourself in some time, now's probably the time to consider it. Try on a new look, adopt a new attitude, and see where you can go from there! Life doesn't need to be stale, remember.

p.s. The TaraElla Show blog has also undergone some reinvention whilst we were away. You will see how things have changed in the coming weeks. I hope you'll enjoy the new format just as much.

Download the full song here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Two Month Hiatus

I am taking a break for two months, while I attempt to write more of my upcoming novel, and prepare several new publications.

See you again in June. I will be back, I promise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What the Problem with Girls is - and why Mistress America was much better

The HBO series Girls surely has many fans. Mostly young women in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are searching for their dreams and not quite getting there a lot of the time, the theme of the show and the lives of the four young women featured surely strikes a chord with them.

As for yours truly, I have to be honest: I just cannot see the appeal, personally. A few years ago when I first learnt about the show, I thought it was something that I would like, but after watching a season, I just quit. The reason: it was boring (sorry Lena). I concluded that it was a great idea, but not that great in practice.

Fast forward to October 2015, when the movie Mistress America came out. It was set in New York City, and was about the lives of young women trying to find their way in life. Like Girls. Except it wasn't entirely like Girls - I liked it much more. There were a lot of great quotes and observations about life, stuff that was missing from that first season of Girls I watched. Mistress America inspired thought in a way that Girls simply failed to. It now appeared that Girls had a great idea, but just did not have great execution (sorry again Lena).

To be fair, all my observations of Girls was based on Season 1, as I hadn't bothered to watch any more of it - unlike Mistress America, of which I am looking forward to watch on DVD when I have the time to. But in this world of information excess, where Season 1 was a disappointment, there's no reason to watch Season 2, right? (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Sunday, February 28, 2016

From Hunger Games to Star Wars, and Beyond: The Rise of the Heroine

When the first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012, it was one of a kind: not many movies had a strong heroine type lead back then. The popularity of the Hunger Games series appears to have changed that forever. In the past few months, many big movies have been released featuring strong heroine type leads, including the latest Star Wars movie (a first for that previously male-dominated franchise, so congrats), The Fifth Wave, Joy, Sufferagate, not to mention the whole Divergent series.

Whilst this may be dismissed by some as just Hollywood's latest fashion, I beg to differ. I have always believed that cultural change is the path to real gender equality, and like it or not, Hollywood driven popular culture affects our wider cultural conversation to a great degree. Whilst some feminists have focused on political initiatives like affirmative action, I have always believed that they are not the way to go, that changing the culture is the only way to go. For 'cultural' feminists like myself, any signs of cultural change is an important victory, and wholesale cultural change driven by Hollywood is a big game changer indeed.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marriage Equality: Where to in 2016?

2015 was a big year for marriage equality in the Western world. Ireland and the US were the latest countries to join the marriage equality countries list, with discussion starting and continuing in even more countries. With the vast majority of countries still not on board, the fight for marriage equality remains a long one, but 2015 has shown us we can win countries over, one by one, if we play the game right.

And the most important part of playing the game right is simply to keep the issue in the cultural conversation, globally, until it's all done, all around the world. In 2016, as always, talk about this important issue with your family and friends, and other potentially interested people, whenever you can. Future generations will thank you. After all, previous generations worked hard to get us the rights and freedoms we all take for granted, so we need to pay it forward.

We also need to know how the battleground looks, in every round of the game, in order to play it right. As English speaking people, the greatest cultural impact we can have are with English speaking countries, so I believe it's there we should focus our collective efforts, at least in the first instance. The battleground landscape here has changed considerably in 2015, so that now the only remaining English speaking Western countries without marriage equality are Australia and Northern Ireland. Our marriage equality conversation in 2016 should therefore be focussed on these places. (Forget about US Republicans rolling back equality there - it's not happening)

This year, Australia looks particularly promising, with the Prime Minister and Opposition leader there already supporting marriage equality, and action likely to be seen late this year or early next year, after the federal election due around September. In these circumstances, keeping the discussion up leading up to the election is very important. And I believe the whole English speaking world can help. We should do our best to keep marriage equality trending in Twitter, keep news of marriage equality on people's Facebook feeds, and keep the topic very much alive over the course of 2016.

Marriage equality is a global effort, it's not done until it's standard worldwide. Even if you already live in a country with marriage equality, you need to keep fighting. After all, a US or UK same-sex marriage clearly remains 'not equal' if it's not recognised when the couple is on holiday in Australia (something many US and UK couples do every year, without affecting their marital status, may I add), right?

TaraElla's Latest Single Not That Kind of Retro

This song is now available at the TaraElla Google Play shop.