Lise Lyng Falkenberg's Point of View

Monday, June 20, 2011

Censorship

Yesterday I had a frightening experience on Twitter. Each Sunday we have a thing called #writechat where writers meet to discuss writing. Yesterday I asked if people use pen names and why. I got a lot of answers from (American) writers who said they use pen names either because they don’t want their families to read what they are writing or because they are afraid of getting fired from their day jobs as they’re writing erotica. One even sent me an article about a schoolteacher who got fired after 25 years because the parents of her pupils had found out that she wrote romance fiction. A writer from Canada told me that she thought it was an American thing, as she didn’t have that problem in Canada and an American writer wrote me that she thought it was an example of American hypocrisy. I answered that writer, saying that it was probably an American thing. I mean, in Denmark, where I come from, erotica is no big deal, no one would ever get fired from writing that, heck, even our Queen’s husband, Price Consort Henrik writes erotica!

Well, to make a long story short, all hell broke loose because I answered that American writer! Within seconds I was swamped by hate tweets from other American writers blaming me for generalization, for judging other peoples cultures, for being narrow minded (ha-ha-ha!) etc. etc. I didn’t even get to answer that Canadian writer because the hate tweets kept coming. What happened to her and the American one I don’t know, but measured by what happened to me because of me answering one private tweet, I’m not sure if they’re alive anymore. Out of the many writers on #writechat only one – ONE – wrote that everything should be allowed in art. I think he was Norwegian…

Anyway, the whole thing made me think. I always thought that writers were supposed to stick together and fight against censorship and for freedom of speech and not jump the gun on our colleagues if they had a different view than ours. My whole idea of pointing out that if we hide behind pen names because we are afraid of society’s reaction was shot down by the people who’re supposed to fight for the right to say and write whatever we like. Instead I was blamed for being anti-American! Well, I was not judging the US per se, in fact I think it’s a nice country and I have lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, but it was American writers who brought up the problem as being American. All I did was react to it and I’ll continue to do so, because something is wrong if you have to hide behind a pen name in order to avoid getting fired, no matter if it’s in America or Antarctica! If people keep hiding, we’ll never get anywhere and the powers that want to censor and control us have won.

I must say that I was pretty sad and disappointed about the reactions on #writechat yesterday. I guess we still have a long way to go when writers would rather support a system where they can’t use their own names than allow a few (foreign) colleagues to criticize that system, blaming them of being judgmental and narrow minded. I think those writers are going to have a hard time when/if they have their works published as I can’t see how the heck they’re going to handle the critique that any writer gets. And I sure as hell can’t see how we are going to get rid of censorship as long as writers fight each other instead of fighting censorship as a joint community. That’s all. Peace and love, man!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Source Code

“Source Code” is the second feature film directed by David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, following the brilliant “Moon” a couple of years ago. This time Duncan Jones has more money and greater studio expectations behind him, and with this new sci-fi thriller he fully lives up to the expectations.

“Source Code” centres on the American army helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on a Chicago commuter train in the body of an unknown man. His last memory is flying in Afghanistan, but now he sits opposite the lovely Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) who obviously thinks he’s a teacher called Sean Fentress. Eight minutes later the train explodes and Stevens finds himself in a space pod where he talks to Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), a woman who is evidently now his commanding officer. Stevens learns that he is part of a government experiment called the Source Code, a program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last eight minutes of his life. Stevens now has to re-live the incident on the commuter train over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind not only the bomb on the train but also bombs that threaten to kill millions in downtown Chicago.

In a way you could say that “Source Code” is a kind of “Groundhog Day” meets Rod Serling, but then again it isn’t. The film asks more of its audience than the average film, it is philosophical, but action packed, too, although the action is more concerned with thinking rather than things exploding. “Source Code” is all about time, identity and multiverses and it gives you plenty of food for thought. I know that the scene where we finally get to see the “real” Colter Stevens is going to haunt me for ages.

I’ll give “Source Code” four out of five stars, although the fourth star goes solely to Duncan Jones. While I sat in the cinema waiting to see the film, he was kind enough to write me on Twitter, saying, “hope you have fun!” Thanks, Duncan, I fully enjoyed it!
Four out of five stars: ****

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sparkle

The new phenomenon Sparkle has now gone live on www.globalsparkle.com. And what is Sparkle, you may ask. Good question. It’s a social network where stars of sports, music, film, fashion and comedy share short video-clips (usually of 1 to 2 minutes’ duration) of what is going on in their lives. Among the celebrities using Sparkle are dancer Brian Fortuna, actress Emily Atack, supermodel Caprice and then the Phelps twins, who play the Weasley twins in Harry Potter.

It is pretty clever of the Phelps twins to do Sparkle as now that Harry Potter is almost over, they have to maintain a following in order not to be forgotten when what they are famous for is coming to an end. So far there are about 30 clips of the twins on Sparkle, mostly filmed by themselves and most of them being 2 to 3 months old, so it’s old news that you get, you could say.

On Sparkle the twins share moments of their hectic and very privileged lives, all very carefully selected in order to protect their privacy. In fact the most ”private” thing you’ll see are a few clips filmed in their own shared home. Instead some clips include hidden ads for companies like Adidas and Mathiesen & Brooke Tailors Ltd., others promote some of the twins’ favourite charities like The Great Ormond Street Hospital charity or their favourite sports clubs, like Oliver Phelps’ fave FC Aston Villa.

Most of the clips are either funny or informative and held in a positive tone and this way you get a very glossy and edited picture of how it is to be a Phelps twin. There’s nothing gritty there, nothing bad or revealing. In fact the most true-to-life clips are one with James opening Oliver’s rental car door into a tree and one of Oliver and his mates being pulled over by the police outside Las Vegas for speeding.

Watching the twins ”sparkle” as it is called, you can’t help but wonder what it is good for. Fans are gonna love it, at least at first, but after watching for a while you get to wonder if this is such a good idea after all. Although the clips are designed to please fans and protect the private lives of the twins, you get a behind-the-scene picture of the Phelps boys that is probably unintended and at least unexpected. Despite the carefully selected events and the positive tone when sparkling, the twins’ personalities shine through in a way that you haven’t seen before. When interacting, Oliver Phelps comes across as the bossy big brother (he is 13 minutes older than James) and James Phelps as the sheepish little brother. In other words you get a better picture of why their mates call Oliver Grandpa and why James seems so insecure, but is it a picture that fits in with the image they have built up within their fan community?

Recently there has been a huge debate regarding whether or not Twitter is a good idea for celebrities to use, as fans grow weary of their idols’ tweets that are often meaningless and inane and the same could be said about Sparkle. Why do we need to know that Oliver has just eaten an In-N-Out Burger? And why do we need to know that James has difficulties in choosing a lining fabric for his new tuxedo? On Twitter celebrities have started losing their magic and thereby fans because of things like that and I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen to stars using Sparkle, especially stars like the Phelps twins who are on both Sparkle and Twitter. A lot of illusions are going to be shattered and what you end up with are the rather pointless sparkles of two extremely privileged boys leading extraordinary lives.

I’m sure that with Sparkle the Phelps twins are trying to strengthen their image as ordinary, down-to-earth and very approachable guys (and as celebrities come, they really are), but with the clips of them playing golf, getting fringe benefits, attending VIP parties and jet setting around the world, the result is just the opposite. Yes, they are approachable, but they are in a different league and the upper crust life has become so ordinary to them that they don’t even seem to realise. I think that after a while the Phelps twins are going to lose fans over this, because they want to seem approachable, but at the same time they are not willing to share what the fans really want to know. Instead the fans are fobbed off with inane chit-chat about a life so blessed that ordinary people can’t even start to dream about it.

In a way the celebrity “sparkles” are as phoney and staged as a Hollywood movie, because they only show edited versions of the celebrities’ lives. When that is said, I have to admit that I haven’t had enough, yet, but I will at some point, I’m sure. As for now I’m just tagging along for the ride, hoping against hope that the sparkles are going to be a bit more profound in the future.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Collectormania 2011, Milton Keynes, UK

 On May 28th I went to Collectormania in Milton Keynes, UK. I got there by train and only 10 minutes after arriving at MK Central, a coach came to drive people to Collectormania free of charge. The coach stopped just outside the MK Dons Stadium where an awful lot of people were queuing up. Luckily, when the doors to the stadium opened, the queue moved quite quickly and at 9.05 a.m. I found myself in front of the Phelps twins “tent”; a sort of white canopy placed on the concrete above the lower tier.
When the twins turned up a little later, only seven people were in front of me and the twins took their time to talk to everyone and pose for pictures for whoever wanted it. I’d brought a photo that I took of the twins at the gala premiere of HP7 part 1 in Copenhagen, which they signed, and James said that it was one of the loudest premieres they had ever been too. My fellow Villan Oliver got up and gave me a hug and a kiss and he asked me about my trip to the UK and me staying in Sutton Coldfield.
I’d bought the twins wristbands from my local FC and Oliver decided that James was to get the ones in the home colours while he kept the ones in the away colours. I know, wristbands aren’t as inventive as the Ned Gerblansky T-shirt I gave James a couple of years back, but to make up for it, I also gave the twins The Slade Box, a 4 CD anthology containing Slade tunes from 1969 to 1991. Then we had a pic taken and I got a new hug and kiss from Oliver before my five minutes were up.
Walking around the MK Dons Stadium was freezingly cold and I was surprised to see that most of the celebrity guests were placed in flimsy “tents” outside on the concrete while the dealers were inside, warm and cosy. It only took me about an hour to see it all, as there was not much to look at unless you were a major collector of especially Star Wars and Dr. Who memorabilia or porn. A few people were dressed as characters from Dr. Who and Star Trek, there were some Freddie Kruegers, Ghostbusters and HHGTTG guys and then a whole lot of Star Wars types, some of them raising money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.
I then went to see Nigel Planer (Neil from The Young Ones) and I got an autograph and a pic, but there was no time for talk. He only asked me if my name had an a or in e in the end. He seemed nice enough and I noticed that no flash photography was allowed.
I was freezing seriously now and as it was only 11.30 a.m. I left the stadium and went over to ASDA to shop and get warm. Then back to the stadium in order to queue up for the twins’ photo shoot. The queue was as endless as the one in front of their “tent” and people were freezing their butts off while waiting. To make things worse, it even started raining!
The photo shoot was hilarious and the quickest I have ever attended, the bloke shooting the pictures calling everyone Sir or Madam no matter if they were six or sixty. Each shot took less than five seconds, the twins almost laughing at the photographer who kept repeating, “Step up, Ma’m, that’s nice, Ma’m, you’re done, Ma’m, step up, Sir,” etc. over and over again. Oliver sneaked in a “Hi again” and “Cheers. Thanks for coming,” to me, then I was done there as well.
Literally stiff with cold I went to get a cup of tea, then I walked around and looked at some of the other celebrity guests (no autographs, though, as I was on a budget). I saw David Warner, Robert Englund, David Prowse, Nick Moran, Afshan Azad and Charlotte Skeoch. Englund struck me as a funny guy, David Warner as very bright and the rest were nice, but a bit bored as not many queued up to see them. The queue for the Phelps twins was by far the longest at Collectormania, only challenged by the one for Robert Patrick.
In the meantime the sun had come out, but because of the wind it was a lot warmer outside the stadium than inside and the place slowly emptied. Around 4 p.m. only the people waiting for photos were left and even most of the celebrity guests had gone, except for the Phelps twins. Their photos didn’t show up until 5 p.m., then their queue got even longer as everyone wanted their pics signed. Poor boys, they worked hard for the money!
When finally I was able to leave, it was with mixed thoughts about Collectormania. I think it’s brilliant that the entrance is free and the coaches running to and from the station is a great service. But having such an event at a stadium, that is prone to be windy, is probably not the brightest idea. Furthermore there is too little to see and do if you have to spend the whole day there waiting for pics.
There were many dealers, yes, but most of the stuff that was on sale was the same, and when it’s impossible to take pics of the celebrity guests because they are hidden inside “tents” what are we supposed to do while we wait?
A chill out zone or a bar/restaurant with seats would have been nice, too, as it is very tiring to spend nine hours walking around the stadium as there was nowhere to sit down. You couldn’t even stand still because you’d then freeze to death! To be perfectly honest, hadn’t the Phelps twins been there, I would have regretted going, but as it was, the twins saved my day. Thanks, guys.