Reinspired’s first birthday: What inspired you today?

On 29 March 2010, I did something I hadn’t done for a long time. I took a chance on buying an album I hadn’t heard and fell in love with it instantly. Three tracks in, I knew that it was going to have a significant impact on me, and the following day, I started this blog to write about it. Two people inspired me that day: the one who made the album in question, and the one whose blog gave me the idea for this one.

One year later, and a great many people have inspired me. Some have entertained, some have made me think, and many have achieved both at the same time. I thought it would be fun to catch up with those people and ask them what had inspired them today.

Let’s start with Everett True. Though we’d intermittently emailed each other in the intervening years, the last time I’d seen him was when he was still writing for Melody Maker, back in the mid-1990s. In the meantime, he’d edited various magazines included Plan B and relocated to Australia, where he now ran two blogs of which the latter – Music That I Like – I was an avid reader. Everett’s blog was a direct inspiration for this one, and it was a pleasure to catch up with him again this year, when again he inspired a creative outburst without really intending to. He now edits Collapse Board, an aggregate blog of various mostly Australian-based music critics, and performs in two bands. I dropped him an email to ask him what inspired him today.

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Review of the Year 2010

Everyone is making these “reviews of the year”, so I guess it’s my turn.

Between January and March, I mostly listened to Lady Gaga and 30 Seconds to Mars. I was disappointed with This Is War, but didn’t hate it on first listen. I haven’t listened to it at all since March. Otherwise, my year pretty much went like this (checks Facebook):

JANUARY

watched Avatar. Three hours was not long enough to be looking at Sam Worthington. … Him Indoors kept referring to the Na’vi as “smurfs” – 02 January at 20:37

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Vampire Diaries – Season 2

I’ve been catching up on season 2 of The Vampire Diaries, and I’m delighted that they’ve maintained the momentum from the first series. This trailer doesn’t really do it justice – makes it look too much like a Charmed-style teen drama, when the reality is closer to something like American Gothic.

The town itself is still the star, as the entwined lives of small-town America face up to supernatural shenanigans. There’s still the mixture of jumpy horror and soapy drama surrounding its too-pretty cast (including the gorgeous Taylor Kinney (Trauma) as new arrival Mason Lockwood). It’s still moodily underlit and full of gasp-worthy plot twists. Ian Somerhalder still owns the show as sultan of snark Damon Salvatore. The difference this time around is that the dialogue is even sharper and funnier, with genuine laugh-out-loud lines; an escalation of the previous season’s quoteworthy quips. Nina Dobrev – who plays Elena – visibly relishes playing her evil doppelganger, vampy Katherine. It will be interesting to see how the writers manage to spin out the love-quadrangle storyline while avoiding cliches and dullness … but it’s something they’ve handled with finesse so far.

If you haven’t ventured to Mystic Falls yet, you’re missing out on what is very probably the best show on TV.

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The Vampire Diaries: Lynch mob

Self-pitying whining doesn’t really work for me. Luckily my pinball stream of consciousness doesn’t allow me to maintain any mood for more than a few minutes, let alone a bad one. Eleven hours’ sleep and I’m right as rain. Which is more than can be said for Jeremy Gilbert.

He’s the only Vampire Diaries character to exist in an unending quagmire of angst, but then again, he is a teenager. The rest of the inhabitants of Mystic Falls are refreshingly flippant about the rising body counts and supernatural weirdness that surrounds their town. It’s what makes the show such compelling television – that point-blank refusal to wallow and indulge in overwrought tearful recriminations – and I was pleased that the first season ended as well as it did. Can’t wait for more.

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Sorting out my old VHS tapes following the move, I found old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I had previously thought was the progenitor of this type of programme, but then realised we have to look further back to find its real sire: The Vampire Diaries owes much more to Twin Peaks. Even though David Lynch’s surreal series has aged very badly, the rustic charm of the inhabitants is unforgettable, as is their unfazed reaction to the weirdness that surrounds them. Yes, Sunnydale has its share of likeable oddballs, but it’s too rooted in teen drama and comedy. Like Twin Peaks, while the teens take the spotlight in TVD, the town itself is the star.

It’s certainly less self-consciously quirky and doesn’t have that edge of the surreal – closer in tone to Sam Raimi’s American Gothic – which itself would not have existed without Twin Peaks. What American Gothic, Twin Peaks and The Vampire Diaries certainly share is that the plot is almost incidental to the developing relationships between the characters. Yes, it has soapy components and high (supernatural) drama, but all these events serve simply to bring out and consolidate aspects of the very well-rounded personalities of the people in the town. They feel real in a way that makes other shows look choc-full of cardboard cutouts. Don’t let the just-another-vamp-show setup put you off: I’ll be buying this one on DVD.

James Remar

OK, so B-movie king James Remar is the star of Mortal Kombat 2 – you know, those films where everyone owned the soundtrack but nobody actually watched the film? So far so good, eh? Remar’s decided to get over it by appearing in every single television show I watch right now.

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I could swear he’s following me around. I was amused when I saw him in Dexter, but it didn’t end there.

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The Vampire Diaries

I don’t watch much television these days, but one of the four or so shows I make time for every week is The Vampire Diaries.

It’s not edifying, sophisticated entertainment, but it is a textbook example on how to do the vampire thing properly. Picture: a group of executives sat around a table, talking. “OK, so we all loved The Lost Boys as kids; we thought Buffy season 6 rocked whenever it wasn’t drowning in waterworks; we think Twilight would be a good idea if it wasn’t so bloody ridiculous; so why not take the best bits from all of the above and leave out all the whiny crap?”

The Vampire Diaries works because it took notes while watching other shows. It even takes pointed digs at the likes of Twilight, because it knows perfectly well what doesn’t work about that series, and resolves not to make the same mistakes. It’s learned those lessons well, and is much the better for it.

1. Lesson from Spooks: “No character is safe”

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I remember when Fred was written out of Angel, and I wasn’t remotely moved by it because I didn’t believe that they would kill a character off like that. There had been so many false moves before that – moments when you believe a character has died, only to see them a few episodes later, that the series had cried wolf one too many times. The moment had lost its impact.

When Spooks set up its leading cast in the opening episode and then – in episode two – had one of those main characters’ heads plunged into a deep fat fryer, it shocked the audience in a way that polite BBC drama just hadn’t done before. If no character is safe, then the danger becomes real. They really might kill off that character you like in any episode, so suddenly that tension and drama is increased.

I’m not expecting them to kill off Elena or Stefan any time soon, but as for the others, all bets are off.

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