Saturday, 30 July 2016

Obligatory Reading: Part 1

I know summer isn't over yet, but after the summer I will be in my second year of University (yay!) and there are a bunch of books I need to read for a Literature class (American Literature After Kennedy), five books to be exact. I started with A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The synopsis on the back of the book seemed promising:
A Visit from the Goon Squad captures the moment where lives interact, and where fortunes ebb and flow. Egan depicts with elegant prose and often heart-wrenching simplicity, the sad consequences for those who couldn't fake it during their wild youth - madness suicide or prison - in this captivating, wryly, humorous story of temptation and loss.

Almost immediately after starting this book, I was introduced to a series of different characters, leading from one into another and sometimes references to one of the previously mentioned characters (which is, I guess, what they mean with 'where lives interact'. Each new person has his or her own story (to which we may or may not have been introduced briefly already), almost all of which are sad or at least makes you pity the characters a little bit. Almost all the characters live in the same place (or at least close to, or where there at one point in their life): New York City. However, we travel through time. One moment one of the characters is 9 years old and the next moment he's 28 years old and dealing with a lot of issues.

We are exposed to a series of lives, all complicated and different than you initially expected. Unfortunately, this also means you do not get to spend a lot of time with any of the characters, because almost every chapter has a different main character, some of which you never read about again after their chapter, but most of which you see again through a different character's story. In the beginning this experience was really annoying, at least it was to me. However, it gradually became pleasurable because even if I liked a particular character, you want to know more about the people around this specific person as well. You also don't get too invested into one character, which usually happens to me when I am reading a good book. I get emotionally attached to the characters I love and have a hard time letting them go. So even though you switch from character to character, it is a pleasurable read.

I was almost halfway through this book, when I was sitting next to a friend who just started to read the same book (she's also taking that particular course). I (foolishly) asked her what she thinks of it so far and next thing I know she is actually spoiling me! That's the funny thing about this book, there are a lot of connections between characters. I don't want to spoil the pleasure of reading this book for you, so I won't say more about it other than: if you want to read a good, unconventional, pleasurable book with a new surprise in every new chapter, I really urge you to read this book.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Orange Is The New Black

A few years ago I got hooked on Orange Is The New Black (Netflix). I think my brother recommended it to me (I can't keep track of how many awesome shows/films he recommends to me, I never have time to watch it all). I finished the first season in a week and I watched all the seasons after that in a similar fashion. The series started in 2013. Piper Chapman is sentenced with 15 months as a result of having been in a relationship with a drug smuggler when she was travelling abroad (a long time ago). From there on out we are introduced to a lot of other female characters (and some male guards), every episode introduces us to a new one and provides us with a bit of back-story of how that person ended up at Litchfield Penitentiary. It does not romanticise jail in any way. It makes it seem really goddamn hard and tough. They do what they need to, to survive on the inside. To keep themselves from going crazy (though some eventually do). 

We first see how Piper slowly adjusts to her new life while still being in contact with her loved-ones outside of the prison. She get's stalked, starved, bullied and a lot of other things. However, as the series progresses, jail changes her and she becomes part of the crowd and its games. Especially after she reconnects with Alex (the smuggler girlfriend). In Season three she even ends up starting her own business while still being in prison (I won't tell you what it is because it's kinda funny). To be honest I don't really like Piper all that much. She thinks she's better than everybody else, she's naive and she thinks she's really bad-ass but she's actually just a bitch. But that's my opinion. At least most of the other girls admit that they did something wrong.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this TV-series. We have lesbians, junkies, a transgender, a Russian chef, Christians, Latina's, etc. There are a few characters on the show I really like (even though they have a lot of flaws).  Starting with Stella Carlin, who comes into the series in Season 3. She is played by Ruby Rose, which should be enough of a reason to love this particular character (because well, she's hot). The character is originally from Australia and she was sentenced for drugs trafficking. She's covered in tattoo's, sarcastic, funny and has a cute crooked kinda smile. We get to know a little about her because Piper is really attracted to her (who can blame her really) and they soon form a sexual relationship. Unfortunately for Stella, she betrays Piper's trust and Piper ends up framing her for something she did not do two days before her release, which causes Stella to be send to another (more secure) facility. I like her character because she confuses Piper but also because she spices things up. She drives Piper away from Alex. Unfortunately, we only see her once in Season 4, when she tries to get close to Nicky, which brings me to the next character I like. 

Nicky Nicols is played by Natasha Lyonne. We met her in season 1. She's an very active lesbian who is off and on drugs through the series (which is also how she ended up at Litchfield). She had a problematic relationship with her mother, who is rather rich and who was dating a guy who did not like kids, hence Nicky was raised by her nanny in a different house where she rarely saw her mother. All in all Nicky is a train-wreck. She gets into a lot of trouble and continuously hurts herself and the people around her but she is very likeable. She's also really sarcastic, funny, down to earth and witty. She considers some of the other female characters to be her family and she is treated as such by them as well. She gets send to another facility in season 3 as well, which if you ask me, was not necessary. But luckily for her she gets to come back in season 4 (yay!). Sadly, this is just after she starts drugs again (after having been clean for a while). When she returns to Litchfield she is welcomed with open arms, but the other member soon realise she is on drugs again which causes the 'family' to back off a little bit. Nicky sort of expects things to be the same but her longtime lover is now married and refuses to be with her, along with a few other changes.

Next up, Poussey Washington (played by Samira Wiley). I never completely understood why she was in there to begin with. She was sentenced with 6 years for trespassing and possession/dealing of weed (but not even a lot, just like a small amount). She's really tiny, pretty, funny, sweet, intelligent and tries to avoid confrontations and violence. She likes working in the library of the prison. She also secretly makes alcohol in the garden next to the library (where nobody ever comes). At one point she starts to misuse the alcohol she makes because of her depression. Her mom recently died and she really misses her. They used to have a good relationship and she regrets being in prison, due to which she missed her mom's last few years. In season 3 she starts a relationship with Brook Soso (who falls in love with people, not gender), who gets her out of her depression. Poussey is not a spectacular character, but that's what makes her so lovable. She gets excited about the things she loves and is really cute when she talks about those things. My favourite quote of her is: "You can't live your life according to maybe's".

Last but not least, the leader/mother of the 'family' is Galina Reznikov, portrayed by Kate Mulgrew, who goes by Red in the series. She loves cooking, and I mean looooves. If you ask me she's obsessed with food but in a good way. She likes to be on kitchen duty and takes care of the garden of the prison, where she grows a lot of vegetables. Outside of Prison she used to own a restaurant with her family. In the beginning of the series Piper offends her and due to that she gets starved by the kitchen staff. This showed how much power Red has in the prison. She takes care of those who are part of her family and breaks those that offend her or any other of the members of that group. She hates drugs and therefore struggles with Nicky from time to time, because she wants Nicky to stay clean. She's been in the prison for a while and first got there due to being involved with Russian Mafia (who made her and her husband store corpses in their restaurant). I really like her because she stands up for what she believes in and even though she can be cold and strict, she is a decent and loving human being. 

These are just a few of the characters with deep backstories and good personalities. It's really hard to write a good summary of this show because of all the stuff that happens. All in all I really recommend this series. It's funny and heart-breaking and if you ask me it really makes you reconsider how tough and unfair life can be (considering most of the inmates are in there because of something really stupid and sometimes insignificant). I recently had a conversation with one of my housemates about this series and I came to the conclusion that Litchfield is like a small version of the world but because they are all in such a small place all the problems are really big and everything escalates really quickly. It reflects on our issues outside of that prison, like racism, sexism and everything. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Moving on

Two months ago, I wrote that I cheated on my ex-boyfriend and everything. I am not going to re-read what I said then, it's not important.  I talked to an old friend of mine, one who was not around when all of this happened, but who has been in contact with my ex. He confronted me about cheating on a party of a mutual friend of ours and I was taken aback. 'How did he know?' 'So he's really telling everybody I cheated on him?' I did not tell him my side of the story, because it was a party and honestly I did not think it mattered what I had to tell.

We recently met for a cup of coffee and I had the time and courage to tell him my side of the story. Bear in mind that I do not take it lightly. I hate myself for what I did and in no way am I trying to down play it. But he did. After I told him what happened and how it all came to be and why I did what I did. He asked me the following question: 'Did your actions achieve what you wanted to achieve?'

The answer is yes. I am a better person now. Not yet totally happy but getting there. I'm more independent than I have ever been. I'm putting myself and my education first and I'm trying to make my dreams come true. But so is my ex. When we were together I could not get him to do the things he secretly wanted to do. He seemed stuck. He only gamed and never really left our house to hang out with friends or do things, anything. Now he is doing good at uni, has more friends and meets up with them a lot and he seems to be taking better care of himself. He seems happier than he was when we were together, even if he won't admit it.

No matter how angry I am at myself for what I did to get here, we got here. Neither of us are stuck anymore. We are going where I wanted us to go and in the end that's what should matter to me. Not how we got here but the fact that we did. I gave myself the space to move on, but I also gave him the space to become his own person again, something I feel like I took from him when we were together. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Romeo and Juliet in the '50s

I recently wrote a blog post about the Phantom of the Opera. Before we went to see the musical, we went to see Romeo and Juliet in the Garrick Theatre. This was on the 6th of July. We actually came back to London to go see this particular play because, I felt so bad for not going to see it after meeting Lily James (who played Juliet). So we decided to go back to London to see her and Richard Madden (Romeo in the play and the previous King in the North). Unfortunately for us, Richard Madden was unable to perform the day we were there (he was played by Tom Hanson) due to a bruised ankle, but at least the tickets were cheaper because of 'restricted views' (which was not actually true because we had a perfect view) due to it being filmed that day and the day after.

Nevertheless, we got to see the play; yay! Lily James was really good and funny as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet set in the 1950's. During the break the couple behind us went on about how she was too intense in the role and it made the character seem childish, which to me was funny because that's exactly how the role should be performed. She is barely 14 and she's supposed to be giddy, cute and young.

The play appeared to be very well thought out. Most of the lines were the same (according to the script book I bought at the theatre about 80% of the original lines were used in the play). Yet it was set in a more recent time and hence the atmosphere was a bit different (in sense of decorum and society) but the story remained the same; same enemies. However, the prince was no longer a prince but a sheriff (or at least he was dressed as one, in the script he's still referred to as the prince) and Mercutio is played by Derek Jacobi (who was excellent and very funny), which may seem odd considering Mercutio is supposed to be about the same age as Romeo in the original play but it worked very well in this particular play.

After the play we decided to wait outside, hoping Lily James would come out. Unfortunately for us she did not,  but I was able to give my essay and a letter to her bodyguard. We waited outside for a while (we had time to kill before The Phantom) and met a french girl, who like us came to London specifically for this play. She was here for one day only and she was leaving the same night. Poor thing did get the chance to meet Lily (or Richard for that matter), but she met us and we talked for a long while. All in all it was a good choice to go back :)

Friday, 8 July 2016

The Phantom of the Opera

I recently had the opportunity (well,.. I paid for it of course) to see The Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty's Theatre in London, and it was a breathtaking experience. We (my boyfriend and I) went to see it on the 6th of July. Ben Forster played the Phantom and Christine DaaĆ© was played by Celinde Schoenmaker, both of which were amazing but Forster was truly magnificent.

My mother saw The Phantom of the Opera (before I was even born I think..), but she saw it in Dutch (blegh, I know). She and my dayd raised my brothers and I with the pleasures of seeing musicals because to them it was important to teach their kids to enjoy and love music (and considering my youngest brother and I recently went to Hans Zimmer with her, I think she succeeded). So I have seen a lot of musicals, the first of which was Elizabeth when I was only 8 years old (best birthday present yet). Anyway, back to the point; she has told me many many times how amazing the Phantom of the Opera was and if I ever got the chance I needed to go see it.

Since my boyfriend and I decided to go back to London anyway, I figured we might as well go see this musical (it took a little convincing, considering he was a musical-virgin, but in the end he agreed). Those of you unfamiliar with this musical, it is a story about a man (The Phantom) who hides far beneath a Paris Opera House. He haunts the house and tells those who own it how to run it, because in his eyes they are fools and don't know how to properly run an Opera House (he loves music). He falls deeply in love with his protegee Christine, who does not seem to know if she loves or hates him. They share the love of Music and the phantom tries to make her excel in the very art. It's a very sad love story (in my opinion) of a scared (and scarred) lonely man, who is in love with a woman who cannot love him for what he is and what he has done. 

Combine the story with intensely emotional music and you have the musical The Phantom of the Opera. In my opinion the Phantom is much like Quasimodo in The Hunchback of the Notre-Dame. A man, born with a different physical appearance and therefore feared and hated by those who are disgusted or scared off how he looks. Due to that the character is very lonely and in the case of the Phantom he finds ways to be less lonely. Making those close to him, fear him so he has some kind of relationship with them or power over them. It's heart breaking and sad and Ben Forster really seemed to capture his essence with his amazing voice. It really carried the pain and despair. It wasn't until the ending of the musical that I realised what was really going on, because at first he just seems evil. I'd like to finish by saying the very thing my mom used to say to me: if you ever have chance to go see it, you should.