Sunday 31 July 2011

Trains, planes and time delays…

I travel, both for work and pleasure. On Friday I went to Glasgow for the day, for a meeting that lasted all day so I only got to see the inside of a train station, airport and office. Not the best way to spend a day, but it has to be done.

Why, I ask, is transport always delayed in this country? I’ve lived in other places where trains run to a timetable and keep to it, and even buses manage to arrive on their scheduled times. But in Britain (unless this is a curse that only affects myself) I always seem to get delayed.

There’s nothing I hate more than having to wait and waste time and arriving late to a meeting is just such an inconvenience. I seem to forever see the word ‘delayed’ flash up on station screens and come over train tannoys in a tone liable to start me off on this (see above) topic to whomever is near enough to hear my mutterings.

This is me, the frustrated traveller, sending a message out, no, a plea, to say please make my life easier over the next few weeks. I have numerous trips to make on business and there is only so much of departure lounges and poor coffee I can take. Let my planes launch ever on time and my trains run to timetable.

Elloise Hopkins

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Disappearing library…

This lunchtime I announced gleefully that I was taking a trip to the library and was scorned, yes actually scorned by my colleagues. They found the fact that I was using a library hilarious and announced that Sarah Jessica Parker (à la Carrie in Sex and the City) and I must be the only people that still use libraries.

I was bemused by this comment, but the more I thought about it, the more it frightened me. Are libraries already obsolete in the minds of the masses? Is it only students, scholars and the elite few that still use libraries on a regular basis?

It got me thinking about the digital revolution. If libraries are so viewed already as antiquated, quaint and not really of any use, what will happen to them as the popularity of digital books continues further?

This is a particular worry to me. I live and work in Birmingham and am frequently faced with the plans and advertising for the city’s new library ‘coming 2013’. A year may be a long time but two will fly by. Will the library be obsolete by the time it is complete or will it revive library usage? I can only hope for the latter.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Mildred Pierce…

I began watching HBO’s adaptation of Mildred Pierce with trepidation. I studied the 1945 film, directed by Michael Curtiz, as part of my BA and wondered how well the new adaptation would fare.

The original film was a popular melodrama, one of those known as ‘maternal melodrama’, whose storylines focused on self-sacrificing women, and the role of women in family and society. 1945’s Mildred Pierce was full of poignant references to the woman’s place during recession and the gaining of independence and confidence for post-war women.

I did not expect that the modern adaptation would capture the essence of the story in such a hard-hitting and relevant way as its predecessor, and unfortunately it seems that my prediction was correct. The series seems somehow shallow in its more modern TV guise and events did not move me as much as the film.

Whilst I cannot fault the acting, settings and overall look of HBO’s miniseries, I am left wanting more than the veneer coating. This version of the story sees to be lacking the drama and tension that was so rich in the noir melodrama of the forties and for me, does not capture the power of Mildred Pierce, neither in story nor character.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 18 July 2011

Social yawning…

It has always fascinated me how yawning is such a social activity. If one person yawns in the proximity of others, it travels. A pass the parcel of yawns if you like. I often wonder why this is.

As I have always understood it, the yawn is a reflex designed to get more oxygen into the bloodstream in order to counter tiredness. The blood flow slows down as our bodies and minds become tired so we need more.

But yawning as a social phenomenon is, as far as I can tell from my (somewhat limited) research, as yet unexplained. The theory goes that contagious yawning harks back to primitive data stored in our genetic makeup. Past experience of living in a herd, and living as a social being in harmony with others, seems to still manifest itself as a social yawn.

That does make me wonder what else is lurking under the surface of our consciousness. Is a yawn the only remainder of a more brutal and primitive past or is there more lurking beneath the surface?

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Favourite Character of the Moment…

At the moment my favourite character has to be Max from Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. I loved this book as a child and to this day I still long for my very own Max-style wolf suit to wear when I’m feeling particularly mischievous. Don’t forget the crown too.

There is something about Max that provokes reaction in me. He strikes such a balance of bad behaviour with moments of pure naivety and vulnerability that I can’t help but love him. If I encountered a real child that behaves as Max does, then I would be enraged and banish said child from my presence. But on the page Max manages to circumvent that with his cunning.

The story is about anger and goes much deeper than an eight year-old’s temper tantrum. Max embodies human nature so realistically that we can all empathise and relate to him even if we are passed the days of kicking and screaming on the floor (although only marginally over it perhaps in some cases).

Max not only makes the characters he meets angry but he makes his readers angry, both at his treatment of others and their treatment of him. The self-elected King Max is a fantastic contrast to the homesick Max who wants his supper and I will carry the idea of contrast into my next story.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 11 July 2011

Glory hunting…

There are people in life who do things because they love to do them. There are other people in life who do things because they think it will bring them fortune and glory. Their focus is only on the end goal – what will this get me? – and they lose the opportunity to enjoy their endeavour.

I know people who go through life constantly jumping from task to task, never really settling long enough to take any pleasure in what they do. Each idea will be the one that makes them rich, famous and will earn them recognition.

The behaviour of glory hunters puts me in mind of the school child at the front of the classroom whose hand always shoots up first. They straighten fingers, strain elbows and lean shoulders forward in the hope they will be chosen. They catch the teacher’s eye and chant “me, me, me, I know, I know”. They rise from the seat, knees trembling with the effort of half-standing, back arched, reaching to the front desperate to be ‘the one’.

I often wonder what became of that child after school and then look around and realise he is always nearby, still glory hunting, but with fortune and glory forever out of reach. What a waste of life’s pleasures.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Final Fantasy…

Some in my acquaintance would have titled this blog post ‘waste of time’. I am happy to admit that one of my great vices is the Final Fantasy series of video games. Many hours of my life have been dedicated to them and I am not afraid to say many more probably will.

Final Fantasy VII was possibly the first visual experience that made me take real notice of graphic design and animation and it is unquestionable that Final Fantasy X was a contributing factor in my desire to learn how to animate and design in the digital world.

The world and stories of the game are so complex that they deserve a series of blog posts of their own. For this post, I am honouring the inspiration they had on my life and the contribution they made in setting me on the path I am on. I completed a degree in Digital Media and Creative Writing last year and studied 2D and 3D animation, graphic and web design as part of that.

I have a very visual imagination and when I write I see my characters and worlds in action, effectively animating them in my mind. The influence of graphic design and animation on my writing is a key strength and I think that the marriage of these influences with my writing will lead to a fully developed and imaginable world in my upcoming work.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 4 July 2011

E-reader verdict…

The time has come, the walrus said. Well actually it is me saying it but I am well and truly in fantasyland again today. I recently took my e-reader on its first outing and it is verdict time.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the reading experience far more than I expected. The lack of applications on the gadget worked in its favour, as there were no distractions, although the in-built dictionary was a great novelty. Another definite plus was being able to carry a huge amount of reading material in a package that is both smaller and lighter than a book. It made luggage considerations and long journeys much less painful.

The actual reading experience surprised me too. The screen did not tire my eyes or bombard me with glare or reflection as I expected, in fact it does a rather good job of mimicking real paper. The page turning is surprisingly pleasing – a little stroke across the screen – and being able to lean the e-reader on my lap and still read without it falling off or closing itself, like a book would, was a pleasure.

I certainly won’t be eradicating real books from my life (or bookshelf) but the e-reader will be a permanent attachment for journeys and may find a regular place in my handbag.

Elloise Hopkins.