Lunatics Unite

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It’s nine o’clock on a Friday morning and I’m standing in the kitchen waiting for the water to boil, although it has already boiled twice. I push the on-button for the third time, the way I looked at the clock three times last night in the time span of no more than one minute, unable to fall asleep. My mind is restless like my body has been for the past three days. It’s a full moon. Yes. I am one of those people who Googles “full moon superstitions”, finding comfort in the first hit’s title being: “Why Do People Go Crazy During A Full Moon?”, because I do, somewhat, lose my head. There’s this unease to all that goes wrong, everything – from me forgetting my keys for the umptieth time to my best friend cancelling on me because she’s ill – feels unfair. Of course, I am a woman, and my closest surroundings don’t hesitate to attribute my behavior during full moon days to my “feminine vulnerability”, which really makes it all the more unfair.

For years people have theorized that the full moon has a negative impact on us. How is it that you fail your driving exam, are left at the altar; or that your dog gets run over exactly in those full moon days? Believers – or might I aptly call them lunatics ? – suggest that the craziness that ensues with a full moon sprouts from our experiencing of its tidal, affecting our internal organ liquids (hm…); or that we’re evolving mindlessly, in unison, with the lunar cycle; or perhaps the light coming from the moon affects our visual cortex in a such a way that it stimulates the animalistic parts of the brain? Crazy as this may all sound, certainly for me, there is legitimacy in these beliefs. Their consequences so often ring true to me.

But sadly, the first hit on Google tells me it’s all a myth. Behavioral changes due to tidal effects are a complete scam. We experience two high and low tides every day, which has nothing to do with the phase of the moon. No…wait a minute, whenever a full moon strikes, there is too much unease and lack of sleep that can be attributed to this to ignore. I feel down. Like the world is a little bit darker when there’s actually more light. This whole extra hour of time that was given to us some fortnights ago doesn’t really help either.

Then again, we don’t notice all the mishaps when there isn’t a full moon. We don’t categorize them as superior because they happen with lack of superstitious excuse. There’s nothing “more” to your bike being stolen or losing your sock in a room you never left when there’s nothing to blame it on, or is there? We’ll simply forget these instances. After I’ve finally had my cup of coffee that took so long to create, I start off my day outside by going back inside again into the nearest-by bakery. I’m eating my croissant, looking out of the window whilst two female friends, one with a pushchair, are sitting on the bench out front. The door is open so I can hear their talk about not being able to sleep well last night. I smile, feeling energized by this merging of three lunatics. In a couple of days, it will all be over, and I can go back to the unsuperstitious darkness.

ISA

Header image courtesy of The Telegraph.

 

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Nordic Noir

 

After Stieg Larsson’s well-loved Millennium trilogy, the popularity of Scandinavian television shows has risen drastically. And for good reason. Scandinavian crime shows, or ‘Nordic Noir’, as the popular term is, are dark and gritty, and have plots that twist and turn until you forget where they even began. The best thing, in my opinion, is that these shows don’t leave any room for clichés or dream-like scenarios, as I have so often found in their American counterparts. Its impeccable resemblance to reality is probably what is the most thrilling, and admirable, about these shows. Or perhaps this just has to do with the fact that the settings are very distinctly European and so similar to the Netherlands that I can just imagine one of their serial killers showing up on my doorstep. Continue reading “Nordic Noir”

A Disappointed Verdict

I don’t go to the cinema as much as I would like. Even though I am a big fan of everything that has to do with the silver screen, I don’t find myself in front of one very often. However, at the end of October I happened to go to the pictures twice in one week, and both times I felt satisfied, enthralled, but also disappointed. My cinematic experiences of choice were Fury and The Judge. Now, let me explain why they were disappointing, using some spoilers here and there. Continue reading “A Disappointed Verdict”

Writer’s Block Happenings: Weeks 47 & 48

It’s time for another edition of Writer’s Block Happenings! Let’s see what’s happing in Amsterdam in the upcoming weeks:

  • London Jazz Festival Bimhuis, 19 November 8.30 pm

During Bimhuis’s 40 Years of City Links programme, the London Jazz Festival has been invited to do an exchange. Make sure to be here for the best London jazz: http://bimhuis.nl/concerten/london-jazz-festival—bimhuis.

  • IDFA 19 – 30 November

Amsterdam’s documentary film festival. Student tickets €7,50: www.idfa.nl

  • Film Screening: Inside Llewyn Davis P.C. Hoofthuis, 20 November: 19.30

Etcetera’s Book Club is hosting a film screening of the Coen brothers’ latest film about a struggling folk musician in Greenwich Village in 1961.

  • Simone de Beauvoir (SLAA) Tolhuistuin, 25 November 8 pm

SLAA (Stichting Literaire Activiteiten Amsterdam) presents a night of discussions and lectures about Simone de Beauvoir. Feminism, Sartre, and literature are key elements. Don’t miss out, student tickets €5,-: http://www.tolhuistuin.nl/agenda/slaa-alles-welbeschouwd-het-leven-en-werk-van-simone-de-beauvoir

  • Kunst, kapitaal en avant-garde De Balie, 29 November 10.30 am

In light of the Amsterdam Art Weekend, De Balie’s hosting a discussion about the financial value of art that is nowadays auctioned for millions and millions of euros. A morning about the art market that has undergone radical changes with quite an impressive panel: Beatrix Ruf (Director Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), Olav Velthuis (Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam), Matthew Slotover (Co-founder Frieze) and artist Zachary Formwalt. Student tickets €7,50: http://www.debalie.nl/agenda/programma/kunst-kapitaal–avant+garde/e_9491548/p_11647645

  • RIJKSAKADEMIEOPEN 2014 Rijksakademie, 29 and 30 November 11 am – 7 pm

The weekend every artist and art lover has been waiting for! All of Rijksakademie’s artists invite you for a sneak peek in their studios. There will be live radio, tours, performances, film, and presentations: http://www.rijksakademie.nl/NL/rijksakademieopen.

Don’t forget there’s a whole slew of events from the last few weeks that might still be going on! The complete list of events is always featured on the right of the page, so use the search function if you’re looking for info on a specific event that’s not on the above list. Do you happen to have a really good suggestion for the next edition of WB Happenings? Let us know through writerssblock@gmail.com, and we might include your suggestion in the next edition!

Philosophical Reveries and Tantalizing Guitars: A Review of 20,000 Days on Earth (Forsyth and Pollard, 2014)

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While 20,000 Days on Earth starts off like any regular music documentary, the film, which gives us a peek into the daily life of Australian multi-talent Nick Cave, soon starts to blur the line between fiction and reality. In directors Forsyth and Pollard’s first feature-length film, Cave, who is mostly known as a musician but who also is a literary talent and occasional actor, is tracked on his (fictitious) 20.000th day on this planet. Grown out of what was first solely meant to be promotional footage for Cave’s latest record Push the Sky Away (2013), 20,000 Days on Earth promises to convey, in the words of Cave himself, a day that is “both more real and less real, more true and less true, more interesting and less interesting than my actual day, depending on how you look at it”.

As a person who is riveted by the hauntingly charismatic persona of Cave, I was looking forward to watching this film very much and I must say I was not disappointed at all. Although I sort of hoped the film would consist of shots of Cave having eggs for breakfast, brushing his teeth and doing other regular human-being things, 20,000 Days on Earth actually digs much deeper. The film, paradoxically, not only brought me closer to the personality behind the legend that is Nick Cave, but also succeeded in leaving me more in awe of him than ever before. As the film shows, Cave indeed is someone who writes, eats, and watches TV just like us and is not constantly as dark and destructive as his live performances make him seem to be. Through cleverly edited scenes of Cave’s meetings with a psychologist and his conversations with close friends such as actor Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue, and musicians Warren Ellis and Blixa Bargeld, directors Forsyth and Pollard manage to slightly crumble the carefully structured barricade that is Cave’s stage persona. When Cave, however, starts to philosophize about the transformative nature of performing and the art of creating, it becomes quite obvious we are dealing with someone who is artistically very gifted and this is where Cave’s more enigmatic side emerges again. In his contemplations, Cave stresses how important memory is to him, not only in his creative processes, but also in his daily life as he sees it, not merely as a collection of recollections, but a personality-shaping factor. To him, life is about recreating that one perfect childhood memory and being the curator of one’s own museum of reminisces. The film’s title highlights this idea: one’s life is not merely the sum of a few years, but a total of significant days.

Nick Cave’s 20.000th day on earth isn’t just like any other day. It’s a day filled with philosophical reveries and tantalizing guitar chords that is filmed in a very aesthetically-pleasing way. With 20,000 Days on Earth, Forsyth and Pollard created a ‘docufictional’ must-see for all fans of Nick Cave and those interested in the process of creating and (song)writing. It’s a haunting film with a fantastically ominous soundtrack that both honours Cave’s imposing oeuvre and philosophizes about “the simmering space where dream and reality intersect”.

Currently playing at Melkweg Cinema, De Filmhallen, EYE. Watch the trailer here.

 

ISABEL

Header picture courtesy of the www.intothegreatwideopen.nl

Short Story Competition – Writer’s Block #24 – CLOSED.

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UPDATE: As per Januari 1st, the competition is CLOSED. We’re currently in the process of reviewing all of your wonderfull submissions. Still, keep an eye out for future updates: the winners will be announced at the Writer’s Block Drinks commemorating the release of the issue #24!

UPDATE 2: Issue #24 is out, and the winners have been announced! Thank you all for participating, and for all of you who crave more incentive to write your short stories: don’t worry, there will be other competitions 😉 So stay tuned, and keep your pens sharp.

Our competitions last year were a resounding success, and so we’re happy to announce that we’ll be hosting a short story competition for the next edition of Writer’s Block! If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of submitting your work to us, now is the time to do it: you’ll be entering a literary fray with other talented authors from our audience, with fame and fabulous prizes on the horizon! We know you’re all super excited for this, so we will quickly tell you exactly how this is going to work.

Prompt & other requirements
First, it’s important to know that this time around,  there’s a bit of theme challenge involved. We’re going to give you complete freedom on what your work is about, with a small ‘but’: you need to include the sentence “Please wash the mugs” in your submission. We don’t care how exactly you choose to include it. That is entirely up to you. Please make sure that you do, though – your piece won’t be eligible if you don’t! Furthermore, it’s important to note that you may submit one piece with a maximum word count of 1200 words. Again, make sure not to go over this, as it would be a shame to a have to disqualify a beautiful piece of writing on the vice of a few too many words. Finally, contrary to previous reports, everyone is welcome to participate! Whether you’re a student or a stay-at-home mom, whether you live in the USA or in South-Africa, we would love to read your work.

Judging
As with our previous contests, your piece will be judged by the Writer’s Block board as well as two UvA academics (think literature teachers or professors).

Winners
So, what happens when we find that you officially wrote the most amazing thing ever? First, there will be an official ‘award ceremony’ at a Writer’s Block borrel – if you send in work, we hope to see you there to celebrate the new issue, as well as to (hopefully) celebrate your winning entry! The winning piece will be revealed here, and it will of course be published in Writer’s Block #24. The top three pieces will all be featured independently on the website. There is going to be another special prize for the #1 spot, although we’re still working out the details on that. Think book coupons. We’ll update this post as soon as we know more, and we’ll try to make this public through our social media as well, so keep your eyes open!

Please note that we can only give out any of the physical prizes if the winner can come to pick them up themselves. That being said, we’d still love for you to still enter the competition, and any winners who are unable to pick up their prizes will still be featured in the magazine and on the website!

Deadline
Of course, the number one most important detail of every competition: the deadline. Send your piece to writerssblock@gmail.com before December 30th, 24:00 GMT+1. That’s still a good one and one-half month to get crackin’ on that piece (as of this posting), so what are you waiting for? Get writing!

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Disclaimer: We reserve the right to change these details at any time.

Updated: 23/11/14 – participation no longer limited to UvA students.

Ghent and Where to Find Books

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a book lover in possession of just as much as any fortune, must be in want of independent book stores. And even if a book lover has to eat at their parents’ for the rest of the month because their bank account has less than a euro in it, they’ll still walk in, “just to have a look”. Recognizable? Last month I visited Ghent, and went all over town to find the best independent bookstores.

Ghent is the perfect town for poor Dutch students who are just dying to leave the country for a bit. At only three hours by train away, there are few closer, worthwhile destinations in the same price range. And what a cute town it is. Picturesque 16th Century houses along the river Leie, cobblestoned roads leading to squares with cafés where they sell the beer Belgium is famous for, a non-dangerous amount of cyclists, and an exciting collection of bookstores. Some are not much different from Dutch bookstores, while others truly have their own format or that one special thing that makes them different from the regular stores.

Near the Ghent St-Pieters station, Koningin Elizabethlaan 142, you will find Limerick, a bookstore that doesn’t seem very original at first – they offer a range of French, Dutch and English books that you can find in most other bookstores – but in the back hides a pleasant surprise: the collection of typewriters that belonged to Dutch writer Willem Frederik Hermans. This writer did not just own, you know, two or three typewriters. In his possession were no less than 150 typewriters and, after his death, all were brought to Ghent. The fact that the typewriters of a famous Dutch writer can now only be found in a tiny bookstore in Belgium caused quite an uproar in the media (as well as in the Dutch parliament), but doesn’t this hidden secret make the typewriters more amazing?

Every Sunday between 9 and 13 you can find a Book Market on the street Anjulei, parallel to the Leie. While strolling along the river you will mostly find Dutch books, an English book here and there, as well as a lot of Belgian comic books. On the same street you will also find the English Bookshop. The smell of old books reaches your nostrils even before you enter the store, which is crammed with second-hand English books on all subjects, from fiction to war and from biographies of writers to sport. It’s quite a quest to find that one paper treasure, but you might even find that one obscure book.

Paard van Troje (Trojan Horse in English), is one of the bookshops that has noticed that it should do more than just offer books to actually sell books. Therefore, Paard van Troje is a bookstore slash coffeehouse where you can get some caffeine in your system while staring at the wide array of colourful books that are neatly sorted in wooden bookcases, in old-fashioned glass vitrines and on small or big coffee tables throughout the shop. They mostly offer Dutch books, but they also sell gorgeous editions of English books as well as cookbooks and books on Philosophy. The Children’s section is fairly big, and besides books Paard van Troje sells wine, bags with some of your favourite book-related quotes printed on them, and accessories you’re dying to have. You can find this bookshop at Kouter Square.

So if you visit Ghent, be careful, as you might feel the need to ‘marry’ one of these bookstores and your bags on your train trip home might be of different quality (that is, weight) than you originally would have assumed…

 

Tessel