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.

How to edit a novel

  1. Print out the whole draft, marveling at all the words you conjured out of nothing.
  2. Read through it. Make notes as you go along: mark where the structure is illogical, where the characters are acting OOC, cross out the stream-of-consciousness filler, and don’t forget to add lots of question marks in the margins.
  3. Despair.
  4. Go back to your original document. Start making changes.
  5. Fiddle around with the structure until it’s more logical and/or interesting, starting with the first chapter.
  6. Flesh out scenes. Write 500 words of descriptions you skipped the first time.
  7. Delete 1000 words of that same chapter.
  8. Despair.
  9. Force yourself to move on to the next chapter, even though the previous one is still hella flawed.
  10. Repeat 5-9.
  11. Get lost in the chapter with the worst structure and content so far. Stare at your piece of shit document for hours on end.
  12. Despair.
  13. Move scenes forward in the novel. If you build it up more slowly, it will be better and more logical. Of course, now you’ll have to write a lot of new scenes in-between.
  14. Scenes, new scenes. You can figure this out.
  15. Get a drink.
  16. Or two.
  17. Stare at the document for several more hours and hours until your eyes are burning out of your skull.
  18. Force the words out, all words, any words. Scenes are made out of words, right?
  19. Read what you’ve written the following day. Delete 75% of the chapter.
  20. Despair.
  21. Repeat 14-20.
  22. You’ve been working on the same chapter for two weeks, haven’t you?
  23. Is the prospect of the remaining 23 chapters giving you panic attacks yet?
  24. Twenty-three, twenty-three, will the end ever come in sight?
  25. Why did you ever write a novel?
  26. Why did you ever think you should be a writer?
  27. You should have gone to medical school like the other smart, privileged kids.

Short story – Rapunzel

Very short retelling of (a part of) the story of Rapunzel, written for a contest.

“A prince came by the tower today.” Rapunzel sat in the high circular room with the witch. She brushed out the witch’s long dark hair, always tangled from her adventures in the forest.
“Is that so?” The witch looked at Rapunzel’s reflection in the mirror. Rapunzel pretended not to notice.
“Yes,” she said. “He came right up to the wall and called to me.” Rapunzel took another lock of dark hair in her hand. “He said the same thing that you do, in a rather high-pitched voice.” She brushed the lock from the bottom. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. Like I would be fooled so easily.”
The witch laughed. “I would be disappointed in you if you were. What did you do about him?”
“I told him to leave.” Rapunzel continued brushing. “He got flustered by that. You don’t understand, he said. I’ve come to save you.” She raised her face. Her eyes and the witch’s met in the mirror. “I told him, No, you don’t understand. I don’t need to be saved.”
“That’s my girl.” The witch turned around.
Smiling, Rapunzel put the brush down. She leaned forward to give the witch a long, deep kiss.

Video – Thrift haul

I went thrifting in Rotterdam the other week. I love thrifting. You come across so many great things that you wouldn’t find otherwise. Plus it’s much better for the environment & cheaper than buying new.

I got a nice all-black, gothy haul. I’ve been very inspired by 80s and 90s goth styles again; most of these choices reflect that.

Thank you for reading/watching! Hope you enjoyed.

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.

My blog in 2017

To the one or two people who might still look at this blog, my apologies for not posting for so long. Between my bachelor’s thesis and another major writing project last year, I’m afraid I have completely forgotten about this blog. I mean to get more into blogging again this year.

I have just finished my study. I’m currently looking for a job. Ideally, I would like to do something with writing. “Specialist journalism” as our career officer called it. To write for something like a book or music or fashion magazine/blog. For that I would need to polish up my non-fiction writing skills. So now is the perfect time to get back into blogging!

I’m still figuring out what exactly I will post on this blog. Lifestyle and fashion related things I love writing about. I’m also trying to write more reviews about books I read, shows I go to, and other media I consume. Maybe some personal musings. We’ll see, we’ll see.

Layout and sidebar information I will overhaul at some point. The banner I have now was only supposed to be temporarily, but it’s been up for as long as I can remember. So much work ahead of me. Better get started.

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.