Book Review – How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

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I had been meaning to read this book for ages. It came highly recommended from feminist friends and I had a copy I got for free lying on my shelf for maybe two years. The fact that the copy in question is a Dutch translation was not very motivating. But a couple of weeks ago it felt like its time had come. It’s funny how that goes with books sometimes. They can be on your shelf for say, two years, and many times your eyes skip over them as you scan your overstuffed shelves looking for the next book to read. Then out of the blue, when you’ve long forgotten the initial interest you had in them, they can call out to you and you know YES, this is The One. That gut feeling of how this book was what I needed at the moment proved right.

This book starts off with a rather clunky prologue detailing the author’s worst birthday and how clueless she was about how to become a woman. The best part of the prologue is the end when Moran discusses feminism and its enduring necessity. I loved her straightforward definition:

What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.

After this Moran goes through all the big milestones of “becoming a woman” in more or less chronological order, with a lot of personal stories to accompany them. A lot of this was easy to relate to. I can’t tell you how often I read something and mentally gasped and said to myself I thought it was only me!

I loved the writing style, even translated. It’s lively, creative and intelligent. It’s hilarious at the points when you agree with the author, obnoxious when you don’t. The writing style is also uncompromising and confrontational. Moran has a tendency to assume that all women are the same in certain areas. I get that this tendency is necessary to keep a book like this consistent, but it did bother me at times. For example in the chapter about weddings. She takes it for granted that all women dream about their ideal weddings and look forward to it like it will be the greatest day in their lives. This was completely alien to me.

This book has an extraordinary honesty. In it Moran discusses so much that we would rather sweep under the rug. It gets uncomfortably graphic about certain female experiences. I didn’t mind this much; it was strangely reassuring. The part where she described the birth of her first child read like a horror novel though. If you already know that you don’t want children, this will only make you more steadfast. If, on the other hand, you do want children… Good luck getting through it!

Overall, I loved this book. It was very relatable and eye-opening. Reassuring, as I’ve mentioned before. Also inspiring to improve my non-fiction writing. I would love to read it again, in the original language, someday.

Modern females, if there’s only one feminist book you read in your life, you should consider How to Be a Woman. If the confrontational tone, graphic descriptions and swearing don’t put you off, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Quotes:

You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.

It’s difficult to see the glass ceiling because it’s made of glass. Virtually invisible. What we need is for more birds to fly above it and shit all over it, so we can see it properly.

At its best fashion is a game. But for women it’s a compulsory game, like net ball, and you can’t get out of it by faking your period. I know I have tried. And so for a woman every outfit is a hopeful spell, cast to influence the outcome of the day. An act of trying to predict your fate, like looking at your horoscope. No wonder there are so many fashion magazines. No wonder the fashion industry is worth an estimated 900 billion dollars a year. No wonder every woman’s first thought is, for nearly every event in her life, be it work, snow or birth. The semi-despairing cry of “but what will I wear?” Because when a woman says I have nothing to wear, what she really means is there is nothing here for who I am supposed to be today.

New Converge EP – ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’

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Yesterday I got a casual little e-mail from Spotify: “New single from Converge now available.”

WHAT?

It’s been five years since their last release (excluding live albums and re-workings) and with no warning this bomb gets dropped on us.

The single is called ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ and along with another track, ‘Eve’, it was released on an EP. The beginning of ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ is pretty standard Converge, in so far as there is anything standard about Converge: fast, brutal and angry. Then it lurches into another direction with “I just need to leave, just need to find my way out”. Oh, these lyrics. They hit deep.

When you’re already convinced that this is another great Converge song, it ends with an epic, annihilating breakdown. The second half of this song is really what takes it to the next level.

I have been listening to it over and over and over this afternoon. ‘About Pain’ has a rawness reminiscent of You Fail Me, one of my favourite Converge albums. The rawness is what makes it so disturbingly relatable.

As for ‘Eve’… I have no words.

Just listen to it. With decent headphones.

It’s a fairly long song at 7 ½ minutes, but keeps you captivated throughout. When I was listening to ‘Eve’, with my headphones on and eyes closed, I drifted off to another world. Especially at the beginning, I felt like I was in The North in Westeros or some post-apocalyptic wasteland or something. I have also been listening to ‘Eve’ repeatedly this afternoon, after I recovered from ‘About Pain’.

This EP only has the two songs, but strangely it’s all you need from Converge. Both of the songs showcase the best of them. ‘About Pain’ features their fast-paced, angry side and ‘Eve’ their more contemplative, experimental side. While they’re very different songs, they’re equally intense. No punches are pulled.

I do hope this means that they have a new album coming up though…

My #1 tool to instantly get myself into a good mood

Avril Lavigne - Smile (7)

Lately I’ve been having a lot of bad days. Days when I feel completely unmotivated to do any of the things I have to do. From the moment my alarm goes off at the absurd hour of 4:30, I’ll be cranky. I won’t want to shower, dress in my boring jeans and shirt uniform, cycle the half hour to my shit job with the wind against me, and especially not spend the great majority of the day doing intense physical labour that does nothing to help me achieve my personal work goals.

I’ll get so frustrated before I even get out of bed. I’ll hate having obligations and so little time or energy to spend on the things I actually enjoy. I’ll hate being a slave to money and hate the whole capitalist system and hate my life in general.

When this happens, I know that I have a choice. I can choose to stay miserable and hate everything, or I can actively cheer myself up and transform my day into a nice one.

I tend to choose the latter. How I do this when it seems like there is no good in sight?

Pop punk.

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Yes, pop punk.

Specifically, the good old pop punk spawned in the 90s and early 2000s: Good Charlotte, Blink-182, Green Day, Avril Lavigne and so forth.

It sounds ridiculously easy, but for me it makes a world of difference. It’s impossible to stay in a sour mood when I hear something as fun and familiar like ‘The Anthem’ or ‘All the Small Things’. And I don’t ever wanna, I don’t ever wanna be you…

So in the morning I’ll put on my pop punk playlist at too loud a volume and inevitably sing along louder. (Both at home and while I cycle the long way. Singing while cycling makes the road infinitely more fun) Before long I’ll be happy to be alive again. Able to laugh at my misery. Completely capable of handling whatever the day will throw at me. With pop punk at my side, I’ll show up at my shit job grinning like an idiot.

Of course, I won’t want to listen to such cheerful music at first. When I’m in a sour mood I only want angry music to justify my anger. It’s always an effort to put on something that will make me happy instead. And always worth that effort a thousand times over.

Some of my favourites:

Long live pop punk!

How to not write a novel

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  • Do not, under any circumstances, start writing without an outline or other solid plan. If you do, you’ll spend forever untangling your mess of a novel. Your plot will make no sense, your characters will be flat and contradictory and you will have too many ill-explored themes. Revising this will frustrate the hell out of you and will lead to many bad life decisions and too much money spent on liquor.
  • Seriously, don’t start writing without an outline.
  • Don’t write your outline without a basic knowledge of plot structure and character arcs. I know things like plot structure seem boring and formulaic, but it’s good to have a handle on. Not to say that you need to follow the structural ‘rules’ of writing to the letter. However, you can’t break the rules without knowing them and understanding how they work.
  • Don’t edit or censor yourself as you go through the first draft. Let it all flow onto the page/document. Even if it feels like it’s becoming a mess despite your outline. Revising and editing will come later. Finish this draft first.
  • Don’t assume that others will understand your characters like you do. You may have a crystal-clear idea about who they are in your head, but does it show in your work?
  • Don’t start revising on a chapter by chapter basis. If you do, you’ll keep running into the same structural problems and pushing them back instead of solving them. Rather, start by looking at your draft as a whole. Does it have a consistent theme? Is there a logical sequence of events? Etc. After you’ve fixed the bigger issues, work your way down to the details.
  • Don’t procrastinate on revising by writing blog posts about writing novels.

Complacency

You know the feeling.

You think you have everything you want. You have a stable job, a stable relationship, a stable plan for your future. You go out and have fun often enough, at the same old places with the same old people. You’re comfortable and seemingly happy in your predictable life. It doesn’t even occur to you to do anything else than you’re doing right now.

Sure, you did have dreams about moving abroad and joining a band, but they have long faded into the dark corners of your mind. You still like the city where you’re currently living. You’re not that good at singing anyway. Why make any drastic changes?

You’re happy.

At least, that’s what you tell yourself.

You fail to notice how much you are limiting yourself and your experiences. You fail to notice how small your world has become. This is what’s necessary right now, this is what’s necessary right now. This is what it means to be a grown-up.

Jokes about committing suicide creep back in. Really, they’re just jokes. These are just tears of laughter.

This is starting to seem bleak and hopeless. But there is good news! You are not alone in this world. There are many people out there who refuse to settle for complacency. Unconventional, adventurous, loving, inspiring, ecstatic, encouraging, hilarious, creative, optimistic, free-spirited people. People committed to living life to its fullest. Like stars whizzing through space. And if their stardust touches you, you’ll never be the same.

‘Core Classics – ‘Shadow Moses’ by Bring Me The Horizon

I was at my mom’s house the other week and listened to some old cd’s, as I usually do. One of the cd’s that I listened to was Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal. It floored me all over again, particularly the song ‘Shadow Moses’. I had to write about its greatness somewhere, so here we are.

Is it really four years ago that ‘Shadow Moses’ was released? It seems like just yesterday that it popped up in my Youtube feed and blew my mind. I thought it was one of the most epic, relatable songs I had ever heard. From the slow beginning with the group vocals to the fantastic breakdowns and the nihilistic lyrics; I was in love. I played this video so much when it just came out. I still think it’s an unrivalled song within the genre, like a lot of BMTH’s work.

All together now: THIS IS SEMPITERNAL.

Inspiration for WGT

I can’t believe WGT is in 2 1/2 weeks already! I’ve barely been able to think about what I will wear. Ideally I’d go for over the top gothic lolita and Victorian-ish looks, with some trad goth mixed in. Unfortunately my wardrobe and budget are not too accommodating, but a girl can dream.

Here is a somewhat random smattering of my personal style inspirations for WGT.

aw2013-3From Alice Auaa’s AW 2013/14 collection

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Marie Dauphine basically embodies all my gothic lolita goals.

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fille_de_porcelaine_iii_by_remussirion-d9g1062Fille de Porcelaine

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Can never get enough of Penny Dreadful‘s Vanessa Ives and her fabulous wardrobe.

baroness-dress-7Picture from Fantasmagoria, obviously

One day I will get this Punk Rave dress. One day…

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Black Friday is one of my continual inspirations.

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As are traditional 80’s alternative styles. Trad goth outfits can be a lot more practical for clubbing too.

Hope you could find some inspiration in this post!

*Uncredited images are saved from Tumblr, where all credit goes to die.

Music Review – Motionless In White’s Graveyard Shift

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I have a love/hate relationship with Motionless In White. I adore a lot of what they do, but there is also a lot in which they just miss the mark. It also irks me how often they cover the same sort of subjects in the same sort of language. Always people making them fucking sick, fuck this and fuck that. Gets boring. I hadn’t been following their new music for this reason.

Then I watched Black Friday’s interview with Chris Motionless and my interest was piqued again. I followed the link she gave for MIW’s newest video, for a song called ‘LOUD (Fuck It)’, despite the same boring, over-used word in the title.

I was blown away. It was so fun, catchy and intelligent. Also confrontational, but in a subtle, interesting way. It reminded me of ‘Everybody Sells Cocaine’, a lovely little gem from their previous album, and made me excited about their music again.

Last Friday they released a new album, Graveyard Shift. With Graveyard Shift they further refined the spooky industrial metal sound they developed on Reincarnate. At the same time, they took the best of their early metalcore sound, mixed in some more Manson influences and lightened up a bit. They generally sound more melodic, though they can’t resist a good breakdown. The transitions between the melodic and heavier parts are super smooth too. Such an improvement over their earlier music.

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The same sort of subjects I mentioned in the beginning? Those are either gone or packaged in a more interesting way. Lyrically, and musically as well, Graveyard Shift is a lot more diverse than their previous work. There is a cringey line or two, but those are well compensated musically. I’ve already mentioned the fantastic ‘LOUD (Fuck It)’, which is by far my favourite song on the album. Other highlights are ‘Rats’, ‘Eternally Yours’, ‘Voices’ and ‘Untouchable’.

‘Eternally Yours’ is their best song about love until now. The songwriting is great and the imagery Gothic and lovely. Is there anything more darkly romantic than “I’m more than willing to rot in hell with you”? In ‘570’ there is the old defiance, though there is also pride of how far one has come and the recognition of flaws in oneself. ‘570’ has really been growing on me. It’s reminiscent of Parkway Drive’s ‘Dedicated’, which I love. Like Parkway, MIW seem to be moving more towards the ‘metal’ side of metalcore. On the unapologetically heavy ‘The Ladder’ MIW sound more metal than ever before. Then there’s the ridiculous horrorpunky fun of ‘Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2’, which is a lot more experimental and risky than the original ‘Dead as Fuck’. A lot on this album is more experimental and risky than their previous work.

Graveyard Shift is definitely MIW’s best effort so far. It’s the first album of theirs that I can listen to all the way through, without skipping (or wanting to skip) songs. Not to say that all the songs are flawless; just that the weaker ones have something good to compensate for those flaws.

Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that MIW are good at what they do.

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommended for fans of Marilyn Manson, Bleeding Through, Parkway Drive, Murderdolls, Deathstars etc.

Every Time I Die’s new video for ‘Map Change’

A couple of days ago Every Time I Die, one of my favourite bands ever, released a new video for their song ‘Map Change’. They described it as a “love letter” to their hometown, Buffalo. ETID tend to make either very random or party-heavy videos, so I was not sure what to expect.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful video. Bleak and brutally honest, but beautiful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it brought tears to my eyes. It’s extraordinary how, despite the very specific setting and inspiration for the song, relatable this is.

I’ll just add this to my mental list of why ETID are so great.

Lyrics:
Am I the only one that saw the sun burn out? The locusts keep their rhythm. My watch has broken down. I wake up and take on water, sink to the peak of despair. What I need is a cigarette. No more prayers. The planets unaligned. We have saints without a shrine. A storm comes and the city’s abandoned. The ship is going down with the captain. I am the man that sank atlantis. The bottom is not the lowest we get. Further down still the dark’s absolute. Further down than that its only me and you. I assure you that hell is not a myth. We both vacation there. Hell is not a myth. We spend each winter there. No one can prepare. A storm comes and the city’s abandoned. The ship is going down with the captain. I am the man that sank Atlantis. The bottom is not the lowest we get. I thought I knew the best part of the secret: the truth is the thing we forget. The glory I had witnessed was just a sleight of hand. These hearts cannot be salvaged, these bones cannot withstand. I have either been forgotten or I was never seen. Now I’m in the negative space between. I weighed down the earth, through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. No use trying to save it. I’ve weighed down the earth, through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. Not sure I can take it. I’ve fallen out of frame. A strangled, distant flame. Clenched in the jaws of anguish are only godless men. Chaos is drawn to silence like life is drawn to death. The dusk is so much clearer than the dawn had ever been. I’m a ghost, and yet I’ve weighed down the earth. Through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. No use trying to save it.

If you liked/loved this too, be sure to check out the other work of the director, Kyle Trash. It’s more great, beautiful stuff. I especially liked the video he did for Four Year Strong.

‘Core Classics – ‘The City’ by The Chariot

Lately I’ve been listening to The Chariot again. I hadn’t listened to them in ages, but when I was editing I got the urge again.

The Chariot never gets old. Every time I listen to them, their music grips me as much as the first time in 2011. It still sounds fresh and exciting.

I could go on about all their work, but the song that I’ve had on repeat is ‘The City’. Six years and it still gives me the chills, every time. When Josh Scogin screams “This is a revolution”, it goes straight through my soul. There is so much that I could feel I could say about this song, but I’ll leave you to listen and experience it yourself.

Lyrics:
This is only the start
You’re only opening the book
You’re only on the first line of what’s going to take a little while
I hope you don’t hold your breath because they revolt like a choir
They say the language is dead, well, then why do we speak
I hope you understand that my brain is fixed

Into the next town
This is only a revolt

Enough is enough because we cannot be late
Basically, you’ve been defined as “unworthy of love”
And I confess, I had placed in my heart the same address but I paint with my words
“You’re free, don’t fear, this is just a revolt”

Into the next town
This is only a revolt

Calm rose: violent wind
The only “surrender” tonight, shall not be our own
They cannot escape, one if by land, two if by sea
I saved my money, but it can’t save me
And maybe there is blood from the past, but that is not from me
They can take away one man, and they can take away his mic
But they cannot take us all
No, they can’t dig a hole the right size to fit all of our dreams
They can’t bury me, they can’t bury me
We can’t hope that somebody else take our place
No, we can’t hope that somebody else take our place

May the history book read of all of our names
Be it blood, be it ink, but at least we were free
This is only but a fraction of what I’ve got to say
But it must be said, it must be said
If I leave this earth tonight may it be said that I spoke my peace
I spoke with the wrath of his grace
Calm rose: come violent wind
Oh we stand hand in hand and we walk without fear
This is a revolution