Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ask Me Anything: The Answer Post, Part 1

The blog birthday is here! I'm so excited to share my answers to the Ask Me Anything questions that some of you readers sent me. In fact, there were so many more questions than last year and I ended up giving such lengthy answers to some of them that I thought it might be a good idea to do the Answer Post in two parts. Today's post will include the questions from Hannah and Siiri L. – thank you both, for coming up with such interesting questions and for being such great blog friends all this time!

Hannah asked...

If you could play any character in a musical and/or play, who would it be and why?

I'm going to pick one character from a musical and one from a straight play. My musical character choice would be Éponine, without a doubt. "On My Own" and "A Little Fall of Rain" are among my favourite songs from Les Misérables, and although the character in the musical is often criticized for lacking the complexities of her Victor Hugo counterpart, I think there would be plenty of chances for an actress to explore more of the derangement and instability that characterize Éponine in the novel. Everyone loves a good stage death, and Éponine departs singing a beautiful duet and fills the remaining rebels with new resolution to keep fighting. Plus, I really love that hat.

August: Osage County is my favourite modern play so far, and Ivy – the middle one of Violet Weston's three grown-up daughters – is one of the most interesting characters in it. She makes her sisters uncomfortable with her blunt and apparently cynical comments, but with Little Charles around she becomes a completely different person, which just adds up to the devastation that the romance ultimately brings her way. She shows deliberate indifference to what are often perceived as commonplace feminine values; her mother nags at her for not caring about her looks, and she appears completely fine with the fact that she can't ever have children. Like Éponine, Ivy has a wonderful last scene in the play, involving emotional breakdown and finally breaking away from the mother whose problems she was forced to deal with as her sisters moved away. All the different layers in Ivy's personality and that heart-wrenching character arc would be just wonderful to play.

Can you rank the Dickens novels that you've read so far?

I'll be more than happy to do that! I have only read three and a half of his novels so far, plus A Christmas Carol which I'll also include in the ranking even though it's a novella. I'm seriously working on my Dickens education, though – just look at my Classics Club list! I would like to point out that I have loved every Dickens novel I have read so far, they are all brilliant in different ways. Therefore, even the works that I have placed low on this ranking are not bad – just less amazing than the ones above them.

1. A Tale of Two Cities
This one bounced straight up to my list of "all-time favourite books of literary magic which will affect me for the rest of my life" – as soon as I was finished with despairing over the cruelty of the human race and crying about that bloody guillotine. Dickens does something very different than his usual thing here; the setting is in the late 1700s exploring the devastating effects of the Revolution and the Terror on the French society, there is none of Dickens' trademark satirical humour, and the page count is just over 400. The result is an absolutely heartbreaking account on how humanity's struggle for "justice" leads to tragedy both nation-wide and in the lives of ordinary men and women. I don't think any other book ever has sent my mind reeling so wildly, both during and after reading it.

2. Nicholas Nickleby
This was my first Dickens experience and it will most likely stay high in my esteem no matter how many Dickens novels I will read after it. It is a big book in terms of length and story, covering diverse layers of Victorian society in their various pursuits. However, the focus stays on young Nicholas Nickleby of idealistic values, as he develops one of literature's loveliest bromances with poor Smike, and learns to stand his ground against his miserly uncle Ralph. Nicholas Nickleby is many things, which makes it such an engaging read – it's viciously funny and unflinchingly tragic, a broad social commentary as well as an eventful coming-of-age adventure.

3. A Christmas Carol
I'm a complete junkie for fantasy, character development and the Christmas spirit, so if there exists a story about a sore old miser finding redemption through supernatural intervention at Christmastime, written in brilliant Dickensian prose, is there anything else for me to do but adore it? As always, Dickens' masterful pen creates literary images so awe-inspiring that it is best described as pure magic.

4. Little Dorrit
I'm exactly halfway through this one while I'm writing this blog post so I won't say much right now, but I'm fairly certain that Little Dorrit will rank somewhere hereabouts once I'm finished with it. The book is very slow-paced at times, but the good parts are very good. It explores themes such as the effects of institutionalisation (in this case, in a debtors' prison), the vapid constructions of high society, and the importance of a fulfilling life in great depth. Arthur Clennam is an interestingly atypical literary hero and the reader gets to really delve into how his past experiences have shaped his personality and current views of life.

5. Oliver Twist
As I discussed in my review about a year ago, this book has some structural flaws and Oliver Twist himself is not the most interesting or realistic of child heroes, but there is still more than a fair share of brilliant bits to be found here.

Would you rather J.K. Rowling wrote a series about the Hogwarts Founders, a series about the Marauders or a series about the next generation at Hogwarts?

Each of these ideas holds its own element of intrigue, but being such a history person, I would most like to hear about how Hogwarts came to be. I just happened to do some reading on the Anglo-Saxon period in British history, and how amazing would it be to know what that era was like for witches and wizards? And even compared to all the countless magical people that came from Rowling's imagination, the four who founded Hogwarts must be terrifically interesting characters!

If you could put various Doctor Who Doctors and companions together for a one-off episode, who would you pair up?

Oh, I was hoping Hannah might come up with a Doctor Who question, and this is a wonderfully interesting one! (Hannah, I want your answer on this in the comments.)

First of all, I would pair up the Twelfth Doctor with Donna simply because, as this article points out, it would be hilarious. Donna would first ask what the hell "Caecilius" was doing in the TARDIS and why he was even bothering to do such a lousy impersonation of the Doctor – the accent? being all grumpy? WHAT?!

Now, the Doctor that Donna knows – the Tenth – would have to go with one of the Eleventh's companions, and I would pick post-marriage Amy and Rory – I love them best when they're together, so that's a package deal. I don't really know what we might expect to happen with these three. The Doctor might notice that Amy has succeeded in being ginger, unlike him. He would also, for once, get to meet a pretty young woman who doesn't fall for him, and that young woman's husband whom he can't call an idiot, unlike the "companions' boyfriends" that he met. He would also witness two companions whose lives don't revolve entirely around TARDIS traveling.

Because Martha is my favourite companion right after Amy and Rory, I would definitely want to see her somewhere in this mix-up. She and Nine would make up a very interesting, business-like TARDIS team, wouldn't they? Nine might also appreciate her talents more than Ten did, and I think Martha would lecture the Doctor on how he's not allowed to label all humans as "stupid apes".

Martha and Donna being taken, the only regular companion left for the Eleventh Doctor would be Rose, and I can't really see anything interesting coming out of this. Maybe I'm just biased against Rose. Anyway, I had another idea... Captain Jack Harkness. He's not one of "the" companions, but think about it, seriously! The "Captain of the Innuendo Squad" paired up with the Doctor who doesn't understand why a married couple doesn't want bunk beds – endless hilarity! Also, my favourite Doctor + my favourite supporting character from series 1-4 would mean an extra birthday for me...

What are your top 5 Disney films?

A Disney question, yay! First of all, I did some thinking on what sorts of things make my personal favourite Disney films stand out from all the good Disney films. Here is a list of things that really matter to me regarding this question. All of my Top Five don't have all of these qualities, but mostly they do.
  • Well-rounded main characters whose background, motivations and hopes are properly explored
  • Great music
  • Beautiful animation
  • An interesting setting
  • A well-paced, eventful story that has equal measures of touching and funny moments
  • A good voice cast – I watched most Disney films with Finnish dubbing first, and I still think many of the Finnish voice actors are better than the original ones, no matter how objective I try to be.
So, getting to the point, my Top 5 Disney films are...

1. The Lion King
This was an easy choice to make; there has never been and never will be a competitor to how much I adore just about everything in this film. The music is wonderful, the animation is gorgeous, I love every single character (including that classic, awesome Disney villain Scar) and no matter how many times I watch it, I'm always completely heart-broken about how Mufasa's death affects Simba way into adulthood. No other movie in the world makes me cry three times in one viewing. The story is truly inspiring and I wish I could have Timon and Pumbaa as my best friends – the Finnish voice actor for Timon, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, really stands out. Let me give all of you non-Finns a piece of him:

2. The Princess and the Frog
This film carries none of the childhood nostalgia that I get from The Lion King and Pocahontas and the likes, because it came out as late as 2009 and in fact I only saw it a year ago – so I was quite surprised at how high it jumped (frog-like) into my favourites list, I simply loved it straight away! New Orleans makes a wonderfully imaginative setting and I love how the "Disney Princess" concept gets a modern update in Tiana, who is one of my favourite Disney heroines ever. She knows wishing and dreaming won't get her anywhere – she's gonna work for it! She's also got Anika Noni Rose's voice, which is such a perfect fit for a Disney princess. I'm very happy with how her relationship with Naveen develops throughout the film; they go through a lot together and actually make each other better people, so when they (spoilers, sort of) fall in love and start a life together, it feels like they have truly earned it. I really enjoy the music in this film and Charlotte, Louis and Ray (sniffles!) are some of my favourite Disney supporting characters! This is the only film on my list that I haven't heard the Finnish version of, but Tiana's voice actress (including the singing) is Laura Voutilainen, whom I liked very much as Megara in Hercules. 

3. Mulan
Mulan is another wonderful heroine! She is such a great role model for anyone out there who feels like they don't fit in. She's smart, selfless and butt-kicking! She might even have actually existed! Again, the film looks beautiful and I really like the Chinese setting. It's possibly one of the funniest Disney films ever and makes me literally roar with laughter, but among the things I love most about it is the lovely relationship Mulan has with her father. "The greatest gift and honour... is having you for a daughter." Almost all of the earlier Disney heroines' relationships with their fathers were built on the fact that their mothers just weren't there, but I don't think any of their Disney Dads can top that line by Mulan's father. The soundtrack is amazing. The singing voices for both the original and the Finnish Mulan (Lea Salonga and Heidi Kyrö respectively) are very good, the scene where Mulan leaves her parents gives me the chills every single time, and this one below is one of my favourite work-out songs! (Shang's Finnish voice actor, Santeri Kinnunen, also voiced John Smith.)

4. Aladdin
Just hearing the first beats of "Arabian Nights" gets me all excited. By the time I finish watching, I think "Wow, this was even more awesome than I remembered", every single time! The setting in Agraba is full of mystery and excitement and Jafar is damn impressive as the villain. Jasmine is definitely on the smarter side of the Disney Princess line-up as she sees right through "Prince Ali's" pretense and fools Jafar into thinking she's suddenly smitten by him (I never stop giggling at that scene). Like Tiana, she gets to have adventures with Aladdin and learn things about him before she decides he's the man. The Finnish voice cast actually received some sort of a Disney award for best dubbing, with special recognition to the Finnish Genie, Vesa-Matti Loiri. He's a long-time household name over here and a man of many talents, and the energy and character that he brings to the Genie is spectacular. I do appreciate Robin Williams' portrayal as well.

5. Pocahontas
I wonder what people might think about me placing Pocahontas in my top favourites, because it seems that nobody particularly likes it. However, for me it was one of the most important films of my childhood. In all honesty, I can say that the importance I place on anti-racist and environmental values originates from how profoundly affected Little Me was by Pocahontas. Years later, when I had to give a presentation of a hero for a school assignment, I chose the real-life Pocahontas. I love the look of the film, the character designs and the colours (of the wind). Watching Pocahontas is also one of those times when being a Finn is a vast advantage, because you get to hear Arja Koriseva and Santeri Kinnunen as the leads. I don't really like Judy Kuhn's singing, whereas Arja Koriseva's voice seems to vibrate with the forces of the wind, the earth and the river that she sings about. I also find John Smith much more believable when he doesn't speak with the voice (and the American accent) of Mel Gibson. Now listen to Arja Koriseva sing like a goddess.

Honourable mentions: Fantasia because of its amazingly imaginative re-interpretation of some of the greatest compositions of classical music, and The Great Mouse Detective because it's such a fun tribute to Sherlock Holmes.

Have you seen any Jane Austen adaptations? If so, which did you like best?

I haven't seen many Jane Austen adaptations and, to be honest, I'm not terribly enthusiastic about them. In my opinion, Jane Austen's strongest asset is her distinctive, sharp and witty narrative voice – when that gets inevitably eliminated in the process of adapting to screen, the result is mostly leisurely-paced relationship dramas with very predictable endings. Therefore, I often get a little bored when watching Austen on screen. I have seen the Pride and Prejudice film from 2005, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series, the 1995 film and part of the 2008 miniseries of Sense and Sensibility, and the 2009 miniseries of Emma. My favourite of these would be The Lizzie Bennet Diaries because the modern update is very cleverly done! Out of the actual period dramas, the film version of Sense and Sensibility is my top pick because it has a good cast, a couple of additional scenes that really advance the characters, and beautiful directing by Ang Lee.

You're a polyglot: what's your favourite word in Finnish, Swedish, English, French and Spanish?

What an interesting question – and what a challenge! It's impossible to give definite answers to this one, but I tried to come up with something.

  • Finnish: possibly valo, which means light (the noun). I'm not even remotely sure about this, though – it's really hard to evaluate my first language in this way! Eino Leino, one of the greatest Finnish poets (1878-1926), liked to use words with the back vowels a, o and u, and I really like the Finnish sound of them as well. 
  • Swedish: Swedish words are almost always cluttered with sounds like d, j, ä, g, and r (seriously, there are so many r's!) which don't make the pleasantest combinations if you ask my ears. There is also an abundance of weird phonemes which involve s in the front and a variety of other consonants right after it. Himmel is a nice, soft exception, and it means sky.
  • English: Damn, this isn't any easier than the two previous ones! English is my favourite language and I'm constantly impressed by the scope and variety of its vocabulary. If I had to pick one, I might go with dramatic. It sounds exactly like what it means – dramatic!
  • French: Oh, everything sounds beautiful in French, even vulgarities and words like trash ("Oh là là, this pubelle is rotting!"). Avenir is a particularly nice one, I think – future. It's rather clever too, as it's constructed from à venir, which means upcoming
  • Spanish: On my last visit to Spain, I stayed near to a village that has the word arroyo (brook) in its name, and I realized that even though the rhotic r is one of my least favourite sounds in Finnish and Swedish, in Spanish it sounds passionate and vivacious. 

What's your favourite pizza topping?

Pineapple! It's one of the best fruits ever, not just in pizza – when it's fresh, actual pineapple, that is. The sickly-whiteish bits that swim around in tin cans do not deserve to be called pineapple.

Siiri L. wanted to know my Hogwarts house, wand and Patronus.

I am a Ravenclaw according to every single Hogwarts test I've ever found on the Internet, including Pottermore's, and I completely agree with the results. I have always identified with the bookish, knowledge-valuing Ravenclaw crowd, and when Pottermore revealed that the house also values creativity and originality (to the point where others call it being just plain weird), it sounded exactly like my old high school which specializes in performance arts and is locally famous as the "artsy weirdoes' school". (Note that I use the phrase as a term of endearment.)

According to Pottermore, my wand is of maple and unicorn hair, 10 inches and surprisingly swishy. Unicorns are my favourite mythological creatures and maple wands are supposed to fit for travelers and explorers who don't like to stay in one place, so I think it fits pretty well! The Patronus question is a tricky one because I don't think it's something you can choose, but I would love a wolf Patronus. Fear and hate of wolves is a deeply-rooted mindset in the Finnish population, but I've always thought they're beautiful and mysterious (though I do understand how people who live in the heavily wolf-populated areas where children are sometimes afraid to walk to school might find it hard to agree with me). The Starks' direwolves are one of my absolute favourite things in A Song of Ice and Fire!

The Ask Me Anything event finishes tomorrow with my answers to Hamlette's and Olivia's questions! :) Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the questions above!


  1. Happy blog anniversary! I'm glad you enjoyed answering my questions!

    - If I had the choice of playing any musical theatre character I wanted then I'd pick Eponine as well, because of all of the reasons why you wanted to play her. When it comes to straight plays it's a tie between Abigail Williams from 'The Crucible' and Eliza Doolittle from 'Pygmalion'.

    - 'Little Dorrit' is probably the Dickens novel that I'll be reading next. Did you know that both Freema Agyeman and Arthur Darvill starred in the 2008 BBC adaptation?

    - The Hogwarts Founders series would be my second choice for a Harry Potter spinoff - I picture Richard Madden as Godric Gryffindor and Harry Lloyd as Salazar Slytherin :D - but the spinoff that I would most want is a series about the Marauders. I love Remus and Sirius sooo much that the thought of being able to learn more about their hijinks and sneaking around at Hogwarts... well I'm having a hard time trying to stop myself from flailing! :D

    - I was smiling when I wrote that Doctor Who question because I knew you'd love it! Hehe. I think all of your picks would lead to fantastic episodes and I agree, 9 and Martha would make a great team! He would definitely appreciate her far more than 10 did with all of his post-Rose angst. If I had the power to swap the Doctors and companions around though I'd really want another episode with 10 and River. I'd love that so much! Especially since Moffat has confirmed that it was the 10th Doctor that River had the picnic at Asgard with!

    - Ooh, thanks for putting the Finnish versions of the Disney songs up! That was an interesting listening experience! My favourite out of the Disney films you picked is probably 'Aladdin' because I love Alan Menken's music so much but it IS very hard to pick a top five when it comes to Disney!

    - I personally love the majority of the Jane Austen adaptations that I've seen because even without her wonderful narration I still find her characters and plots incredibly compelling. No one makes everyday life as interesting as Jane Austen does in my eyes! :D I completely agree with you on your favourites though. I adore S&S 1995 and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

    - I love your picks for your favourite words! Is "valo" pronounced "vah-lo" or ""vay-lo"? "Himmel" is a good word (they have that word in German as well) and yes, poubelle is a surprisingly lovely word for trash! I guess that's French for you! "Dramatic" is actually one of my favourite English words too but my number one favourite is probably "Euphoria". I love both the meaning and the sound. We don't have all that many words of Greek origin in English but the ones that we do have are pretty awesome! "Archipelago" is another good one. And erm, thank you! You gave the English language quite a compliment there!

    - I've always identifed pretty strongly with the Ravenclaw house but I tend to get Gryffindor in tests. I think it's because they'll always be questions like "You're in the Forbidden Forest and you can hear something coming towards you. Do you stand your ground and prepare to engage in a duel or hide?" Now I'll always go for fighting because my thinking is that if I have badass powers then I'm going to damn well use them but I think the quiz then thinks that I'm too brave/reckless for Ravenclaw :D

    1. I'm going to see that Little Dorrit miniseries as soon as I'm finished with the book – the cast also includes Matthew Macfadyen, Alun Armstrong, Russell Tovey and Eve Myles so I can't wait to see it :)

      Remus and Sirius are among my favourite Potter characters as well! Such a shame that their movie portrayals don't match the book characters at all. Luckily, I can always keep re-reading my favourite Remus and Sirius passages from the books :P

      River Song would make a must-see combination with any of the Doctors, I think :D I wonder where Asgard comes up in the Tenth Doctor's time line, then? It's all so timey-wimey...

      "Valo" is pronounced kind of "vah-loh", stress on the first syllable. :)

  2. Finally, SOMEONE ELSE APPRECIATES POCAHONTAS! I know how you feel--it seems like absolutely no one else likes it, and I'm over here thinking, "Really, people? Are you SERIOUSLY going to dismiss that vibrant animation and gorgeous music just because it's not the 'real' story?" After all, I'd hope people would know that it wasn't 'what really happened' (I was told whenever I watched it, hehe), but for crying out loud, that doesn't mean it's not a great movie! Urrgh. Sorry to rant; long story short, I am SO glad to find someone else who loves Pocahontas;)

  3. Yes, Pocahontas appreciation, YES!! People keep pointing out things like how the language barrier is magically solved by "listen to your heart" and of course it's a bit funny, but things like that happen in animated films all the time. All the other Disney films have something equivalent of that! Also, people keep underestimating children's intellectual capacities. No child in the world would think that the Disney film gives a historically accurate account of Pocahontas' life – but it might encourage them to go find out more by themselves! That's what happened to me, and my friend had a similar experience with The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. That's one of the greatest achievements a children's movie can aspire to, if you ask me!

  4. BTW, I've awarded you the Liebster Award. Details here :-)

  5. I'm going to have to "steal" this idea. I love your blog!

    1. Do steal it, it's great fun. Welcome to the blog, I'm glad you like it!