Series Review – Girlboss

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Girlboss is about twentysomething misfit Sophia and how she builds her vintage clothing business, Nasty Gal. While building her business, she has to deal with a hernia, unsatisfied customers, neglected friends and other vintage sellers who disagree with her methods. The show is full of colourful characters and fantastic fashion.

From the beginning the main character, Sophia, is insufferable. She walks over everyone else to have her own way, acts like she knows absolutely everything and expects others to be endeared by her quirks. Her best friend, Annie, is not much more likeable. This made the first couple of episodes hard to get through. And yet, there was something about the show that made me keep watching.

The story was intriguing enough and the aesthetic fantastic. Watching Sophia go through all that vintage clothing, while well-dressed herself, inspired me to go back to my favourite thrift shops and experiment more with my own style myself. Also, to get my bangs cut again. And go to San Francisco.

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Her entrepreneurship was very inspiring too. She’s not a girl you expect to succeed, but she turns out to be highly resourceful. She actively solves problems and is shown to have good business sense. Together with showing her vulnerability, she becomes a lot more likeable over the course of the series. In the final episodes I was happy to see her succeed with her business and really felt for her when she was unexpectedly betrayed.

Unfortunately, only snippets of the building of her company are shown. Most of the storyline seems to be about Sophia’s personal life, her relationships and struggles (unlike what the trailer suggests). I would have liked to see more about the business side of it. The best episodes are the ones which center on some facet of Nasty Gal, like ‘Ladyshopper99’ in which Sophia goes through every resource to satisfy a disgruntled customer. The ones which are more about Sophia’s relationships, like ‘Top 8’ and ‘The Trip’, I could have done without.

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The humour in the series is here and there. Sometimes it’s hilarious, like in the dialogue or in the portrayal of certain characters. Other times it completely misses the mark. In the already mentioned ‘Top 8’ for example; I kept waiting for those outlandish flashbacks to become funny, but they never did.

It was inconsistent in tone too. The text messages and sales popping up on the screen, to name some, seemed out of place. Those didn’t fit with the rest of the tone/aesthetic the series was going for. In ‘Vintage Fashion Forum’ the incorporation of the internet was brilliant though. I loved how they showed the interaction between the characters on the forum and in the chatroom.

If you like stories about female entrepreneurs, vintage fashion and Wes Anderson type humour, give Girlboss a shot. Even if you don’t love the main character, you may find yourself binge-watching it late into the night.

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Music Review – Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real

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Say what you will about the current political situation, it does make for some damn fine music.

Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real is a relentless attack against the present U.S. administration, and its supporters, from start to finish. SFTP have made brutal, confrontational political music before, but not to this degree.

Only Death wastes no time in engaging the listener and demanding them to pick a side. “You with us or the enemy?” in ‘The Opening Move’. This polarisation is characteristic of the album as a whole. Every song shoves SFTP’s political views down your throat, leaving you no room to breathe. It sounds great if you agree with them. If you don’t… Well, you probably won’t listen to this album for long.

Musically, SFTP have not changed much. Rage Against the Machine influenced riffs, punishing breakdowns that make you yearn for a moshpit, vocals that are more rapped than sung. The first couple of songs on Only Death sound very exciting. But then they tend to bleed into each other. The only standout tracks are ‘Goodnight Alt-Right’, ‘The House Always Wins’ and ‘Only Death is Real’.

There are some gems in the long-running stream of vitriol though. The opening of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ for one: “Everything has its price, but the price is wrong bitch.” SFTP do have a knack for creating killer opening lines. Lines that you can’t help but belt out as loud as you can wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. I also love the breakdown in ‘Plead the Fifth’, with the lyrics “Welcome to the melting pot motherfucker. If you don’t like it, then get the fuck out.” And, of course, Keith Buckley kills it in ‘Strange Fiction’.

Only Death is a good album overall. However, it doesn’t have the same replay value as SFTP’s previous couple of albums. It’s too specifically political and has too little innovation.

Rating: 7/10

Recommended for fans of Rage Against the Machine, Hatebreed, Stick To Your Guns etc.

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.

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.

Series Review – The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

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I don’t usually watch shows on a whim. Television series are an investment in time and attention. I usually want to make sure that I spend my time and attention well. So I’ll browse through IMDb, gather reviews and question people who’ve already watched it. This kind of research is also an investment in time, I know, but that’s not the point. Point is, I like to know that a show is good before I watch it.

One night, I saw a series called The Lizzie Borden Chronicles appear on Netflix. That title, the beautiful cover picture and Christina Ricci’s mischievous smirk were all that I needed. I watched two episodes that very night.

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Oh, it is glorious. The characters, costumes, setting, storyline, dialogue… Perfect.

It starts with Lizzie Borden getting acquitted from the murder on her parents, to the outrage of the town. She and her sister get difficulties with the inheritance. Lizzie goes out of her way to fix those difficulties and start anew. At first you feel sorry for her, but it soon becomes apparent that she needs nobody’s pity. It was such a delight to see how consistently Lizzie solves all her problems. Christina Ricci is at her best in this role. She effortlessly goes from a cold-blooded killer to a sweet, innocent girl and back again. Completely steals the show.

Of course, the other characters and performances are fantastic as well. Like Emma Borden. I did not find her that interesting in the beginning, but halfway through the series she won all my sympathy. Poor Emma has to endure so much from her psychotic sister.

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The storyline gets increasingly absurd, which only adds to the fun of the show. It goes from a legal fight over an inheritance, to a private investigator’s ill-fated quest to prove Lizzie’s guilt, to difficulties with local gangsters, to dog abuse in the neighbourhood. There are even two genuinely touching romantic subplots. This show goes in so many directions, but somehow it all works together, for the first six episodes. Unfortunately, it does not keep up this momentum for the last two episodes.

The last two seem awkwardly tacked on, after the main storyline was resolved in the sixth. A lot of new characters and a new setting are introduced. The main characters are on a new journey, which starts and ends abruptly. It would have been so much better if those two episodes had been fleshed out in a second season. Then we could also have enjoyed the performances of Michelle Fairley and Chris Bauer for longer. What a waste to only feature them, and the characters they played, in one or two episodes.

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Other than that, nothing negative to report about The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. I can highly recommend it. If you enjoy dark period pieces, black humour, quirky anti-heroes and detective-type stories, do check it out.

Rating: 8.5/10

Music Review – Creeper’s Eternity, In Your Arms

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Last year I heard Creeper’s ‘Black Mass’ and fell in love. Their sound, subject matter, aesthetic; everything about them excited me. Not since AFI (1999-2003) has there been a band that merged punk rock and goth themes quite like this. I have anxiously been awaiting a full length album by Creeper since. And last month, they delivered. Oh, how did they deliver.

Eternity, In Your Arms is everything a spooky punk rocker could ever want. I have continuously been playing it for the past couple of weeks.

There is such a variety in the music, from the ridiculously catchy ‘Suzanne’, to the slow, minimalistic ‘Crickets’, to the theatrical ‘I Choose To Live’. This keeps it interesting through many listens. No two songs sound the same, though some lyrics can be a little repetitive. They deal with themes such as longing, heartbreak and lost youth. There is an overall sense of 90s goth nostalgia: sometimes subtly in a description like “skirts of velvet”, sometimes more explicit like the song titled ‘Winona Forever’. It also reminds me of my own teen years and all the superficial drama that went on, in the most endearing way. At the same time it reminds me that those years are not lost; they will forever be a part of me.

Their subject matter is a breath of fresh air in the current scene. So many heavy bands with a goth or horror aesthetic waste their potential churning out the same rebellious drivel over and over (Motionless In White, I’m looking at you). Creeper goes for something more vulnerable and interesting.

Some of my favourite lyrics are: “We’re going through this phase where we feel nothing / Making out with ‘loneliness’, cheating on each other with ‘regret’ / We’re so forgettable and miserable”, “When all I wanted was a hand to hold to watch the world explode / I was all of the things that you always dreamt and then never did / All of the lives that you could have led but then never lived / The midnight kids” (‘Black Rain’), “And it’s breaking  me to see you so happy / I just want the worst for you / So selfish and typical of me / To sail and sink with you” (‘Winona Forever’), and basically all of ‘Misery’.

Rating: 9/10

If you like bands like AFI, Misfits, My Chemical Romance or Alkaline Trio, you should definitely give Eternity, In Your Arms a listen.

Book Review – Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

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It started out so well. The perfectly suspenseful opening scene immediately hooked me.
And then, the mysterious female explained what she was. Spoiler alert: she was not a werewolf. This is not a book about werewolves, despite what the cover and summary and reviews suggest. From then on, the novel got increasingly frustrating.

The main character is insufferable and unbelievable. He’s supposed to be smart, yet it takes him almost the entire novel to figure out what the reader already figured out in the first quarter. For a moment, I thought that this was one of those novels that lead the reader into thinking they knew for certain what was going on, only to crush those expectations and blow their mind with new information. It was not. It was exactly as I had suspected all along. How uninteresting.

I also couldn’t deal with the ‘scientific’ explanations of the characters’ supernatural powers. As if that wasn’t tedious enough, those scientific explanations are revealed to be a part of a totalising theory about two races continually at war. All great mythical stories are linked back to this theory. Not to mention things like the Inquisition, which this theory justifies. Sigh. I’ll just attribute this to the time in which the novel was written.

It was not all bad though. Many descriptions were great. Without being too long-winded, they painted vivid pictures in your mind. The descriptions of the violence were perfectly gruesome. Only sometimes descriptive phrases were overused. After a certain point, every time I read “sleek white bitch” or “linkage of probability” I wanted to fling the book against the wall. Or out of the window. Or into a volcano.

Going back to the positive, the pacing was well done. The story consistently keeps building. Important information is withheld until the right moment. The tantalising question of ‘But, what’s in the box?!’ kept me reading until the end.

That’s all I got. Why people consider this one of the best werewolf novels is beyond me.

Live Review – The Dillinger Escape Plan

Review of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s show in 013 (Tilburg) on January 27th 2017. Support: Bong-Ra.

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One-man electronic performances have always gone over my head. I really liked Bong-Ra’s music, but as a live performance it fell short. Especially as the support act for a band such as The Dillinger Escape Plan. It did nothing to warm one up. Most of the other people in the venue seemed to agree with me. They did not let the musician performing on stage deter their conversations. A lot of people also seemed to prefer to stay downstairs in the parlour. Later in the show, with more fast-paced songs, the small crowd started getting into it more. Two or three people were happily bouncing around, seemingly having the time of their life. Many more were bobbing their heads along to the beat. I think I would have enjoyed Bong-Ra’s music a lot more at a festival or dance party. As the support for Dillinger, it was strange.

The mathcore kings launched into their set with the fantastic ‘Limerent Death’. It took the crowd a little while to get into it. The thing about mathcore is that it’s hard to move to. I have been to several mathcore shows where people plainly did not seem to know what to do with themselves. At Dillinger’s show however, there was almost constantly a moshpit.
Their show was calmer than the last time I saw them (no swinging from lamps or crawling on speakers), but that didn’t matter. The band was as passionate as ever. It was a tight and professional show, with a good mix of new and old songs. The old songs remained the most popular with the crowd. The first stage dives took place during the old ‘Sugar Coated Sour’. The poppier songs ‘Black Bubblegum’ and ‘Milk Lizard’ got the whole crowd singing along.

Personally, I would have liked to hear more from Option Paralysis. They did play ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’, which was easily the highlight of the show for me. It is one of my all-time favourite songs. The intensity of that song live was magical; it gave me goosebumps all over. The rest of the crowd also went wild during that song. After that, only a couple of songs were left. The band gave everything they could give and left the crowd dazed.

It’s hard to believe this was one of Dillinger’s final shows. They will be sorely missed in this kingdom they have built.

the end of penny dreadful?!

(spoilers ahead)

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Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). – Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_1579

when i innocently logged into netflix today to watch the new episode of penny dreadful, i had no idea what was in store for me. i thought it was just another episode of the week. it seemed like there were still some more episodes in store, counting them by number. of course, looking at what last week’s episode had set up, i should have suspected something. suddenly there was a big climax and the dreadful words ‘The End’.

it took a while to process.

however, now that i have gained some distance, i have to admit that it was a spectacular finale. i’m sad that i don’t have an episode to watch forward to next week & that vanessa died though. vanessa died! what! i was considering possible deaths for almost all the other characters (really crossing my fingers for frankenstein), but vanessa! i did not see that coming at all. it does make sense, but it did seem like a very bleak ending. earth has nothing but suffering in store, so better to take an early train to heaven. the religious thinking behind it is so typically 19th century; fascinating in such an otherwise modern show.

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speaking of that big plot point, the scene in which it played out is done fantastically. the way ethan goes up the stairs, all the candles, vanessa in the white dress, the prayer at the end, & the acting of both of them… wow. the aftermath, in which the other characters grieve for her, is also beautiful. it’s the little things, like how frankenstein hugs ethan before he leaves. aww. in a sidenote, that hug was also one of those things that redeemed frankenstein a bit. he was such a jackass this season.

there are so many cinematographic things that i could praise in these two last episodes. london covered in fog. the woman singing to her child integrated with the edited opening credits. our heroes entering the slaughterhouse. dorian in his empty room flooded with light. the burial. the creature reciting the poem at the end. so many things. this whole season was on a much higher level than the previous ones. i loved all the new characters too. catriona hartdegen, oh my god. her character is slightly anachronistic, but so fabulous. i love her intelligence, attitude, & how she saves so many male characters at some point. dr. seward is also badass. inventive interpretation of the dr. seward of bram stoker’s dracula. i love how many more coloured people there are this season too. of course they had to do something after killing off the one black character, but i choose to see it in a more positive light.

as for the storylines of the other characters, they were wrapped up nicely. i was glad to see the vulnerability & change in lily. brute strength aside, she becomes a much stronger character towards the end. we also got to see a new side of dorian, though he of course goes back to how he always was. fitting for his character. the creature has a predictable sad ending. however, it was interesting to see how he deals with it.

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frankenstein i have already touched upon. this season he was significantly more monstrous than his ‘monsters’. he pissed me off more with each episode. yes, he was devastated by all that had happened, but that is no excuse. in the second to last episode he finally recognised how wrong he had been, in another beautiful scene with lily. & then he is reunited with our heroes, just in time. interesting how he then immediately seems to become more heroic himself. it does seem that it was his isolation more than anything that led him down that dark, dark road. anyway, his clumsy way of fighting later provides some chuckles in that otherwise dire situation. luckily he has miss hartdegen to save him.

& then there are ethan & sir malcolm. it is touching when ethan calls sir malcolm ‘father’. even for the viewer it is comforting that, though vanessa died, they still have each other. vanessa! before the episode had ended, i already thought there was no way they could go forward from here. penny dreadful is vanessa’s show after all. it’s good that they ended with this season. the plotline of vanessa eternally being hunted by some demon/the devil was already getting stale in this one. looking at it as a whole i did love it though. it had its faults, & it had jackass frankenstein, but it is definitely worth a re-watch. the whole of the show is. it is so complex, centered around loveable, intriguing characters, & an aesthetic delight. i do think this show will stay one of my all-time favourites.

book review – the life-changing magic of tidying up by marie kondō

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i have seen so many people raving about marie kondō’s the life-changing magic of tidying up, i had to read it myself. the summaries they gave sounded promising. i bought the e-book last night & i read the whole of it today. it’s a nice short read. at first it really put me off though. in the beginning kondō came across very elitist & she made it sound like no one had learned to tidy properly, they were all going wrong about it, except her, & she was here to show you The Way. i almost put it down, but i trudged on & it became better.

this tiny book is full of interesting ideas. i love kondō’s approach to possessions, although i can see why some people would write this off as insane. she is very adamant about being grateful for what you own & treating them with respect, even the things you get rid of. as someone who has a really hard time getting rid of things, this really spoke to me. i believe her that being grateful for what those things have done for you & realising that they have served their purpose will make this a lot easier.

another thing i loved was how she wrote that the only criteria for getting rid of or keeping things is essentially personal. for this you need to ask yourself whether a thing gives you joy or not. she is not going to tell you exactly how to go about it or give you exact guidelines, but wants you to hone & trust you own intuition & decision-making skills. she wants you to find out for yourself what you’re comfortable with. the goal is to only have what you truly love & this differs from person to person.

i also like how she stressed that ‘solutions’ for storage are no solutions at all. she writes that the first step is getting rid of the excess, then you’ll find that storage is no longer a problem. however, she also provides some small, useful tips. the tidbits from her own life & her clients’ experiences were interesting & amusing too.

one criticism i have is that it could get rather repetitive. then again, how much different things can one really say about tidying? another thing that bothered me was how selective the categories she discussed were. these were: clothing, books, miscellaneous items & things with sentimental value. the first two are concrete, but the last two are very vague. she leaves a lot of things out (although you could theoretically take ‘miscellaneous’ as broadly as you like), which takes away from the credibility of her statement that that konmari method will totally make & keep your whole house tidy forever. she also completely ignores creative people & their material needs. of course, with that second point you could argue that practically no artist is interested in these sort of books, so these books are not written for them. it’s probably a criticism very personal to me.

this is not a book for everyone, but if this book piqued your interest & you are interested in both living  & improving your life, & you are open to unconventional ideas, you will probably love it. if you’re not already interested in these things, or you’re only looking for a quick fix, or thinking about objects as living things with feelings sounds too ‘woo-woo’ for you, don’t bother.