Category: Thoughts

K-Pop – It Isn’t Just Music!

K-Pop‘ is a genre of music which originated in South Korea, and now seems to have taken over the world – much like The Beatles did in the 60’s.

by Guest Blogger, Lauren O’Neill

But will it stand the test of time like the Liverpudlian rock band has?

To some people, K-Pop is just some new thing that the female youth of this world have started to obsess over, and something that with time we’ll grow out of and find something new to fall in love with for a while.

But it’s quite the opposite in this case as K-Pop fans can vary in gender, colour, sexuality, age and location.

BTS at Wembley, 2019

This type of music is like any other genre – the only thing different is that they’re singing/rapping mainly in Korean. It is difficult to understand why so many people who don’t speak or know the language would listen to and pay money to see Korean groups and soloists.

But, a lot of the time the lyrics, when translated, mean a lot more to the fans than some stereotypical love songs do. For example, here are some K-Pop songs that bring light to more serious topics:

  • ‘My Pace’ by Stray Kids. Stray Kids are a 9 member boy group from the Korean Entertainment company JYP. This song talks about how you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and that just because someone is further ahead of you, doesn’t mean they’ll finish first. ‘Don’t compare, it’s alright to go slowly. Go your own path, my lane’.
  • ‘Answer: Love Myself’ by BTS. BTS are a 7 member boy group from the Korean Entertainment company BigHit. ‘Love Myself’ is all about… well, loving yourself and how important it is to love yourself and to treat yourself with kindness and respect. The 7 members also use this song to thank their fans, who they call ‘army’ for helping them reach this conclusion: ‘The me of yesterday, the me of today, the me of tomorrow (I’m learning how to love myself). With no exceptions, it’s all me’.
  • ‘I’ by Taeyeon. Taeyeon is a singer from SM Entertainment, as well as a member of the girl group ‘Girls Generation’. She sings about how even if you feel like the world is against you and being cruel, you must stay true to who you are and who you want to become and then maybe they’ll see you for who you truly are. ‘People don’t know, they don’t see your wings. A new world you’ve met could be cruel, but strong girl you were born to fly.’

Of course, there are the love songs out there in the K-Pop music industry that are all about a girl and a boy falling in love, and that’s okay! But that’s not all there is. Just like the songs I mention above, there are songs that could help you, make you feel better or just reassure you that you’re not alone and you’re doing okay.

BTS at Wembley, 2019 – two shows sold out in just ninety minutes!

K-Pop is an inclusive family that brings together people from all over the world. Many of them make friends for life through the connection they have – thanks to the music and the groups that brought them together.

K-Pop can also open the eyes of millions of people to different issues that are affecting the world today. BTS, for instance, has teamed up with UNICEF to help put a stop to child violence. A portion of their album sales and 100% of the profits from the sale of goods connected to the campaign goes towards many social programmes that will hopefully make a difference in someone’s life. So far BTS have raised over 2.4 Billion won as of April 2019.

Blackpink at Manchester
Blackpink at Manchester

K-Pop isn’t just music, it’s a community of people of all shapes and sizes who are finding themselves, finding their purpose or just finding a group/soloist that makes them happy. It may not be your kind of thing, which is perfectly fine but who knows, maybe you’ll find something you like!

#kpop, #k-pop. #thebeatles, #southkorea, #laurenoneill, #lesleyatherton, #scottmartinproductions, #bts, #unicef, #Taeyeon, #GirlsGeneration, #smentertainment, #bighit, #straykids, #jyp, #blackpink

Crime drama: The Thief of Time (and Bookshelf Space)

by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.
by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.

If you were to walk into any bookshop or library, and run your hand across the shelves before randomly stopping, the likelihood of you selecting a book belonging to the crime drama genre would be exceptionally high. We live in a society that just loves a good murder (no matter how oxymoronic that sounds). And this popularity has gradually led to the construction of an elaborate and complex labyrinth of sub genres, archetypes and plots that is still expanding to this day. I’m guilty (pun intended) of reading an abundance of literature in this genre too, having read many novels that trace lone wolves, dynamic duos and loyal teams in their quest to bring justice to the wronged. †

So why, exactly, do we love crime drama?

This question has been a hotbed for critical debate for years, and the reasons appear to be endless.

After a little bit of personal reflection, I’ve pinpointed four ideas which I believe to be some of the most inherent components of the successful formula that is literary crime drama:

Places of Experimentation with Literary Style, Genre and Narrative Structure

From Victorian novels such as Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone, with its innovative narrative structure (being one of the first to be written in the format of first person letters, journal entries and  transcripts) to the creation of modern day sub-sub genres such as the controversial Nordic noir genre (expanding the [spider’s] web even further) , crime drama has always been, as its themes suggest, an area where boundaries are pushed and waters are tested – and it appears to have worked so far!

Catharsis (Bakhtin and the Carnivalesque – a Really Interesting Concept!)

This one is a psychological theory, traditionally associated with the purpose of tragic plays (which, depending on your reading, can be seen to have close parallels with the themes and characters of crime dramas). In short, the theory suggests that reading texts where ‘socially unacceptable’ activities are played out enables audiences to purge subconscious emotions such as those of pity and fear within a safe environment. Reading and writing is a lot more than just a way of passing the time!

Places of Experimentation with Characterisation, Gender Roles and Identity

The literary crime drama landscape is saturated with iconic characters, from Conan Doyle’s world-famous super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the genre isn’t short of complex, morally flawed heroes and villains. Opportunities for writers to explore issues of identity, including those of gender, race and sexuality are thrown wide open within this genre, so if you’re considering writing a crime drama novel yourself, don’t hesitate to go all out. Sherlock Holmes was the world’s first (and ‘only’) consulting detective remember, with supernatural powers of deduction, sociopathic tendencies and a chronic opium addiction. There aren’t many, if any routes that are closed off to you!

A Reflection of Our Times

Security has always been something mankind has sought, and in an era where threats of terrorism, climate change, and political upheaval are becoming increasingly inherent (at least, social media appears to be telling us this), reading texts where the heroes aren’t perfect, but where justice is restored (usually), a perfect source of illusory comfort can be argued to be provided here.

There are many crime dramas to sink your teeth into out there, including David J Grunter’s novel I’m a Killer that is available to purchase via the Scott Martin Productions web store. If you’re looking for a morally flawed, highly controversial character, with twists and turns galore to reignite your love of the genre, then you needn’t look much further than this.

#guestblogger, #rebeccawilson, #davidjgrunter, #imakiller, #crimefiction,

Review of Bolton: The Positives, by Lesley Atherton

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad.

Second, some goods.

  • Skaters yell to each other. Despite the heat and brightness of the day, they wear long sleeves and beanies and there isn’t a single t-shirt or pair of sunglasses to be seen. We watch as they zoom about, but we’re mainly looking at their facial expressions – pride, cool, nonchalance… The joys of being young.
  • We park in the multi storey where weekend parking is free, and we manage to find a spot on the first floor.  It’s never happened before.   
  • Thirsty, we flop into a café for a much-needed drink. I can’t place the accent of the man who takes our order, but he’s so friendly and recognises us from our previous visits. He asks about the family and gives us each a toasted teacake on the house.
  • We spend two hours rummaging round X-Records and emerge with music, DVDs and a pretty funky Led Zepp-inspired shirt. I absolutely love the friendly organised chaos of this place.
  • We decide to eat at the Cherry Moon café, just up the road. It is a place for gamers of all types, for comic book fans, and for diners who like good food. We certainly go mad for their halloumi fries, and my crushed avocado on sourdough toast is superb. Yep, this has to be the coolest and friendliest place ever. Oh, happy days.
  • A community police officer smiles at us and comments ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ If he’d been wearing a bowler hat or flat cap I’m sure he would have raised it for me. ‘It’s certainly warm, I reply. ‘I think the lions are happy’. I gesture over to the distinctive town hall step statues, and note the affection for the town’s people in the officer’s eyes. †††† ‘Good job. We don’t want hungry lions rampaging round Bolton. We have enough problems.’
  • We do our fish and vegetable shopping in the covered market. The place is clean and bustling and the choice is fantastic. We purchase Caribbean curry to accompany the fish, and I suspect the man dishing out the chickpeas is the cheeriest person in the whole town. We leave, arms clutching food bags and faces glowing with anticipation of our evening meal. It feels like Christmas.
  • We take a trip round the museum and gallery and discuss the photographic exhibition and Egyptian displays. Another two hours happily spent. We don’t call in at the aquarium this time, as we need to get home.
  • The roads are busy, but I’m astonished when a pedestrian stranger leads us from the car park and onto the road. He holds up the traffic with a grin, and waves as we drive away.

#lesleyfridayreads

Review of Bolton: The Negatives, by Lesley Atherton

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad. First, some bads.

  • The car park’s one we’ve been to hundreds of times, but they’ve changed the entry method. We assume it’s owing to the homeless people who regularly slept on the landings, and perhaps also the drug transactions we’ve seen occurring in this place which stinks of urine and is peppered with pigeon guano.
  • Three men sprawl on the ground, backs leaning up against a wall. One is more lying than sitting and the other two surround this incapacitated friend. ‘Spice’ a woman says, as we pass. Sugar and spice and things not nice.
  • A woman squats on the corner wearing a filthy, navy blue sleeping bag. We pass a little later when she’s being questioned by the community police officers who wander the town centre. She is insisting that she was innocent of a crime, while they are insistent on her guilt. A small crowd gather to listen. Meanwhile, a young near-toothless man, lies on a nearby bench and watches with open mouth.
  • Undeterred by cardboard policemen at the pound shop’s entrance, an elderly lady in an unseasonably heavy camel coat pockets a chocolate block.
  • In a large health and beauty shop, a dead-faced woman hovers by the make-up stands. She opens tubes, installing their contents on her face inexpertly and with speed. When two young staff members inform her that this is not acceptable, she immediately scurries away without a word.
  • A charity shop assistant discusses their recent spate of shoplifting, and the cheek and sense of entitlement of such people. Another customer comments: ‘They must be pretty desperate to steal from this place’. The two workers ignore her slight.
  • Three young boys scare an elderly woman with their play fighting. She stumbles, and the boys disperse.
  • Two teen girls mock a larger than average woman who is reclining in an arcade-salon chair to get her eyebrows done. Her body spills over, and the teens, with perfect skin and perfect bodies, point and laugh. The woman hears, and her smile freezes.

#lesleyfridayreads

Literary Inadequacy

Walking round an independent bookshop this morning, I experienced overwhelming feelings of anxiety and dread. I wasn’t being followed and I hadn’t forgotten my debit card. My problem was much worse.

I was experiencing artistic anxiety. Literary anxiety, to be precise.

Being an author and publisher, I’m in regular contact with other creative souls – writer who express themselves with a succinct brilliance, and others whose wordy exuberance inspires and challenges me constantly. I love to hear their work and their comments on mine.

But… and it is a big but… I have this very real sense of literary inadequacy. I can’t remember the last time I read a bestseller purchased from the Asda shelves, or from the Waterstones display tables. I can’t converse on the fashionable, the literary, or even on the archaic. In other words, I’m not what anyone would call well-read when it comes to the contemporary classics.

That doesn’t mean I don’t read – what it means is that I don’t read the correct, approved books – the ones that might be raved about on Radio 4, in the pages of a woman’s mag, or at a trendy book club. But should I? I’ve read plenty of classics and I happily select books at random. Unless the subject matter is one I dislike intensely (and there aren’t many – military history, heraldry and monarchic dynasties are three that come to mind!) I’ll give the book a go.

I’m also not afraid to enjoy the sometimes dubious pleasures of film novelisations, low key romances and unpublished, experimental works. Why not? Just because something isn’t out there and on every shelf, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

Perhaps this is down to stubbornness, but I don’t tend to read stuff till any furore has already died down, and I can read without reference to hype. But this means I’m always at least five years behind my more fashionable reading friends. Hence the anxiety.

I suppose I could read reviews, thus pretending that books have been read. I could even actually read the books I ‘should’ read, though I’d have no idea where to start, and which of the famous names to follow as priority.

But I’d rather watch random TV from eras long gone – and I have the same attitude to reading books. Take it at my own pace with no agenda and no ‘must read’ list. This way I come across some real stinkers as well as some perfect classics. I’m not sure I’m prepared to lose that spontaneity.

So, I guess I must live with this literary inadequacy and accept that there’s no way for anyone to read all the decent books that have been written – or all the bad books, for that matter.  

There’s more to life than being at the forefront of fashion. Life’s too short, anyway. I’d rather just read and be happy.

‘Self Doubt’ – Poem by Lesley Atherton

We all have it – especially writers.

I hope this poem helps anyone else who has to deal with it. I don’t claim to be a poet, but sometimes the words just happen, then happen to mean something.

Image: Pngtree

The Voice

There’s no way you can sing and dance
Said Voice with sneering, snarling stance.
Your playing’s crap. Your singing’s worse.
Makes fingers twitch, makes eardrums burst.
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl just pack it in.

Your needles break, your knitting sags.
Failed projects lounge in patchwork bags.
Your hemming rips, your beading flops
Applique flakes, and stitches drop.
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl just pack it in.

And writing? Girl, for goodness sake,
You’re barely literate. You’re fake!
You self-indulge. You scrawl your name
With fallow dreams of shallow fame.
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl just pack it in.

I’ve read your awful stuff, Voice said
You’re destined never to be read.
Remove the stories from your head.
The only decent scribes are dead,
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl just pack it in.

What makes you think you’ll ever scrawl
A story strong, a tale not tall?
And why would any person buy
Your ‘Camping Tales’ or ‘Baby’s Cry’?
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl, just pack it in.

So, when I’m low, the Voice is loud.
And when I’m strong, the Voice is cowed.
I’ll do it even if it’s bad
Cos if I don’t I’ll just go mad.
Yes. When I’m low, the Voice is Loud.
But when I’m strong, the Voice is cowed.
– Creative stuff’s just not your thing.
– The Voice said Girl, just pack it in.

#poem #selfdoubt #thevoice #lesleyatherton

What’s the Cringiest Poem You’ve Ever Written?

“orator fits, poeta nascitor”
An orator is made, a poet is born.

Mine is less of a poem and more of a song. I am in my early 50s now, and wrote it back in those idealistic days when I was all of sixteen, thought I knew everything there was to know about the world, and when new age travellers were constantly in the news.

If you want to read something that will make you cringe even more than David Brent from ‘The Office’, you just need to take a look inside the songbook that’s been with me since the age of fifteen.

For those of you who can’t look in person, I’ve typed it up this particular corker here:

https://www.scottmartinproductions.com/pastpresenttense

Just scroll down to ‘Peace Convoy Partisans’. You won’t regret it, if only that you view your own writing more favourably.

And with that in mind, I challenge each and every one of you to fight back with an even more cringey contribution. Don’t be afraid. We’re all friends here!