Passionately Curious – An Interstaller Investigation

 

As you may well know by now, I’m a huge fan of the natural sciences. Usually, I use the space allotted to me here to try and explain some interesting bit of science in more simple terms, so that those of us who aren’t as big on the giant formulas and heavy textbooks can still get a glimpse of, say, the realities of time travel. Or, sometimes, I just like to investigate something silly – like coffee. Today, we’re doing something a little different. After all, we’re a magazine for writing, literature, and film, and so I thought I’d take you on a little trip through the science of a recent, well-received Hollywood Sci-Fi blockbuster: Interstellar. Continue reading “Passionately Curious – An Interstaller Investigation”

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In Defense of Young Adult

Next to my time as a student of English literature and final editor at Writer’s Block, I spend a lot of my time running a book review blog – or more specifically, running a book review blog that is mainly focused on young adult fiction. Usually, when I mention this to people, they give me a weird look, because “that’s those teen books, right? Like Twilight.”

This question particularly irks me because I feel like a lot of people judge YA before they even try it, which mostly has to do with the (negative) hype that has surrounded some of these books in the past, as well as the label that has been created. Both of these things are partly the fault of marketing. There are certain YA books that have received a lot of hype and that have been turned into big movie franchises, and in that way, are the most well-known of the genre. Still, there are so many novels left undiscovered by a lot of people, novels that have not gotten a movie deal and have not been promoted as much, and it’s a shame that some people think that these are the same as the most well-known ones. Continue reading “In Defense of Young Adult”

Hitchens and Titus – Gravitas and Levity

I once read that stand-up comedians nowadays fulfil a similar job as journalists, as a result of journalism becoming more concerned with commentary and opinion than with reporting. Both crafts, in any case, serve a public goal. Two of my favourite public servants in those crafts are Christopher Hitchens and Christopher Titus. I can read and reread everything by Hitchens, watch all of his speeches and discussions about various grave subjects, and listen to his audiobook God is not Great as often as I like, without them every becoming boring. The same goes for the work of comedian Titus, which is never light material. His jokes never seem to grow old, and I can laugh at them time and time again. Both Christophers have a certain sway over me, and I would like to explain why they are worthy of your attention as well.  Continue reading “Hitchens and Titus – Gravitas and Levity”

A Smokey Haze: A Review of Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice

In 1970, Doc Sportello, a private investigator with a soft spot for pot smoking, receives a visit from his former girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth. As it turns out she wants him to help her out with a plot to kidnap her current boyfriend, real estate magnate Mickey Wolfmann, which Wolfmann’s wife and her boyfriend have set up. If that does not sound already confusing enough, Doc suddenly finds himself haunted by a multitude of characters asking him for help with their problems, which somehow all turn out to be connected to the Wolfmann case. Doc starts investigating hazy leads and paranoid assumptions, or so the storyline of Inherent Vice, one of Thomas Pynchon’s more accessible novels, goes. Pynchon’s is not one of the easiest authors to read and is known for his bewildering and cutting-edge novels of extremely high density (his colossal Gravity’s Rainbow is oftentimes mentioned in the same breath as perplexing doorstoppers such as Ulysses and Infinite Jest). Making a film out of one of his novels has thus unsurprisingly not been a quest any director has dared embark upon. That is until Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, Magnolia, Boogie Nights) started writing the script for Inherent Vice in 2010.

With Inherent Vice, Anderson craftily distilled a two-and-a-half-hour drug-induced odyssey through realms as varying as neo-Nazi hideouts, massage parlours, hippie-invested mansions, drug-swindling ships, police stations, shady nightclubs, and FBI buildings, from the virtually indigestible maze of Pynchon’s novel. The film stages a perfect rendition of the borderland between the sixties and seventies, thereby commenting on the paranoid grasp that was seizing the bygone sixties after shocking events such as the Manson family murders.

All of the film’s characters seem perpetually baffled by the goings-on, and many a viewer might feel the same way too. Whereas the film is already notorious for the many walkouts during its screenings and its unsuccessful run in American film theatres, sitting through the film is worth it just for its subtle (but sometimes bordering on slapstick) humour. Although some of the scenes do indeed drag on for a little bit too long and some of the characters (particularly the character of Reese Witherspoon) fall short because a lot of the original plot has been cut, the acting of Josh Brolin (Bigfoot Bjornsen) and especially that of Joaquin Phoenix (Doc Sportello) definitely make up for these shortcomings. Providing us with spot-on bewilderment and alternately sneering and loving remarks, they make for an unlikely as well as hilarious crime-solving duo.

While the film is not as perfectly steady in its cinematography as Anderson’s previous film The Master (2012), Inherent Vice sets forth a humoristic brilliance that is perfectly acted out throughout its digressive plot. For those who are still afraid of this trippy tale that is thickly veiled in an opaque haze of smoke, lighting up a joint, as Josh Brolin suggested during the film’s publicity tour, might help you open up to the druggy frenzy of this film.

 

Watch the trailer here.

Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newson, Benicio Del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, and others

Duration: 146 minutes

Playing at: Pathé City, Pathé Tuschinski, Filmhallen, Cinecenter, Kriteron, The Movies

 

Isabel

Forever Alone, or Not, And Everybody Is Pretty Fucking Fine With That

keep-calm-and-learn-to-be-lonely

Do you have a favourite love story? You probably do, as we all are spoon-fed love stories from the moment we first saw the outside world.

Romantic love, differing from other ‘kinds’ of love, such as platonic love, is a major theme in a great amount of songs, books and movies. Not to mention commercials, that often feature very happy couples or that send the message that if you buy Brand Name X’s product you’ll suddenly land yourself a girl- or boyfriend and so forth. Oh, and remember that one day in February that tries to make us participate in consumerist society and purchase boxed helium balloons and teddy bears holding fluffy hearts in the name of love? (If that is totally your thing, do the thing, but why only on Valentine’s Day?)

Our whole society seems to be focused at finding romantic love, preferably in the form of a relationship with the person you’re in love with. Best would be if this person turns out to be the love of your life, the Prince Charming, the Perfect Woman. Of course it is not the single thing that is important in society, but romantic relationships, the ones that may eventually lead to marriage or some similar mutual agreement, remain a huge ‘thing’. It is an expectation, often set by yourself after years of hearing love stories in all forms, that you start aiming for that from a young age. Some practice rounds first, perhaps, but many will want ‘the real thing’ rather sooner than later. Not the main point, but besides that all, these expectations are extremely hetero-normative.

What bothers me most about this main focus on romantic relationships is that to some it is seen as a failure when they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend (yet) and that it will be attributed to a deficit in appearance, personality, or both. It contributes to a feeling of not being good enough to be in a relationship. This urgent need to find romantic love diminishes us as individual human beings. It makes us end up in relationships that we value for the idea of a relationship and it makes us value everything that we wish for that is not that relationship less, even ourselves. There are people who are unable to view themselves as whole unless they are in a relationship with someone. Which may sound great and hopelessly romantic in Twilight, but in real life the love story doesn’t end after a few hundred or thousand pages and you will have to spend your whole life with the person you are.

If we are able to decide to shift the focus from romantic relationships to the relationships with everybody who adds value to our life – that is, all the different kinds of relationships with friends, the relationships with family, as well as boyfriends and girlfriends, wouldn’t we be more whole of a person, and happier with the person we are? What if a romantic relationship would be one of the many ‘pillars’ of important things in life, and not one of the few? I’m sure you will be able to find plenty of soulmates, persons with whom you have “a deep and natural affinity” (according to Wikipedia), not just a soulmate for a romantic relationship, but also a soulmate for finding the best red velvet cupcake in town, a soulmate for playing Mario Kart, a soulmate for conversations about the meaning of life, and a soulmate for browsing bookstores. And wouldn’t it be great if that soulmate can be you on some or even all of these occasions?

I like to think that this shift not only makes us appreciate all that is in our life more, even the romantic relationships that we might be in, but that it might also break the taboo on being alone. Lonely and alone are not equals, and yet many people will feel a stigma against them if they decide to drink coffee alone, or go to the cinema on their own or, perhaps worst, dine at a restaurant without company. And perhaps, on one of these occasions you might fall in love with a person, and consider it one of the many great things in life – because I’ll admit it: being in love is great, it is just one of these many great things.

Of course, such a radical shift in what is valued in our society cannot happen overnight, but hopefully one day, in my utopic society, everybody can decide for themselves, without pressure or hurry, when they allow themselves to find a romantic partner, at 17, at 76, or never, and that does not change anything in the way their life is valued.

As a final request, I would like to ask if we, for once and for all – as it represents everything I’ve pleaded against – can get rid of that god-awful ‘Forever Alone’ meme.

 

Tessel

Writer’s Block #24

The time is come at last: Writer’s Block #24 is here! It’s been available at several UvA locations for a little while now, and we’re happy to present you with a digital version here as well – you can find it in the link below.

We hope you enjoy it and you are encouraged to send in some work of your own! Writer’s Block is always looking for new pieces of writing, because without submissions there is no WB. We hope to read some of your writings soon!

Click here for the online version of WB #24.