Quotes from ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ that really stood out and impacted me.

By Mollie Campbell.

It is ironic that Nine Perfect Strangers is about cleansing the body and reaching enlightenment, because at the end of this book I felt such a strong sense of clarity it was as if I had been on this transformative retreat, only without the psychotic twist and borderline torture…! Despite some faults, I think this book was written brilliantly, these are a few of the quotes that I liked:

“She got to her feet and looked at the starry sky one last time, but there were no answers up there.”

This probably speaks to me because the grief I have experienced has plagued me with a fair amount of cynicism, especially in regard to religion. It’s funny because personally, I have always felt very tranquil when gazing at the bright blurs of light sitting within the dark sky. Everything feels clearer when I look at stars, but then I get this realisation that we are so far away from them, we will never be able to fully understand them and they will never be able to help us. Maybe that explanation didn’t make sense, but to me it does.

“It was at that moment that Carmel Schneider gave herself to Masha with the same voluptuous abandon that novice nuns once surrendered themselves to God.”

I really liked this quote, whilst I support anyone who chooses to believe in a God, I am not religious and I have always found it fascinating how people are swept up into it. I also find the idea of cults interesting because it is so hard to understand how people are brainwashed so easily, Masha is like one of those cult leaders who prey on the weaknesses or vulnerabilities of the guests, in order to feed into the higher power or knowledge that they think they are conveying or successfully tapping into. This was a pivotal moment in the book for me, how quickly this character has surrendered herself to someone she barely knows.

“The anniversary was tomorrow. Napoleon sensed its dark, malignant shadow. It was irrational to feel frightened of a day. It was just a sad day, a day they were never going to forget anyway. He reminded himself that this was normal. People felt like this on anniversaries. He’d felt this same impending sense of doom last year. Almost as if it were going to happen again, as if this were a story he’d read before and he knew what lay ahead.”

I don’t even need to explain this one, Moriarty has not only described the way grief makes us question ourselves and our sanity, but she has also portrayed the overwhelming impact of anniversaries and milestones and the way they creep up on us, immediately transporting us back to such raw and inescapable pain.

‘Fan through the back’ said Yao. Napoleon fanned through the back and felt his muscles stretch and the sun warm on his face as he tasted the sea from the tears that ran heedlessly down his face. But he wasn’t broken’.

She turned to Masha. She said, ‘Have you been medicating us?’.

‘Do you know what Steve Jobs said? He said that taking LSD was one of the most important, profound experiences of his life.’

‘Oh, well then,’ said Lars, greatly amused.’ If Steve Jobs said we should all take LSD, then we really should!’.

The scenes in which they all feel the effects of the LSD is hilarious, and horrifying at the same time, the fact that they are being drugged against their will is completely insane. I would never have predicted half of the twists and turns in this book, it is thrilling, funny and honest. It is a clever commentary on people and how they see the world, but more importantly on how they see themselves, the difference between male and female body images, and the superficiality of social media.

“Maybe this was how he felt; like his mind, body and soul were shrouded in grey fog. Like there was not much point to anything at all.”

This quote is referring to Zach, Napoleon and Heather’s son who committed suicide. Napoleon is finally starting to try and understand the reason behind why his son did what he did, as opposed to how, or resulting to anger.

There are many quotes I could list here, but these are just a few that really cover some important issues that Moriarty has been brave enough to confront head on. If you haven’t read Nine Perfect Strangers, give it a go. Or if you have read it, I would love to hear some of your thoughts!

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ – book review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Contains Spoilers

Book: Nine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Rating: 9 ½ out of 10.

 

Nine Perfect Strangers, where do I begin? As a fan of Liane Moriarty’s ‘Big Little Lies’, I was immediately attracted to this book. Whilst the blurb was short and concise, I was intrigued straight away. What I really liked about it is the fact that it is hard to really pinpoint it as one specific genre. When I bought it, I thought it would be a contemporary, sarcastic reflection of modern life and the way people live their lives. It was. But later on I thought it was turning into a bit of a murder mystery, then I thought ‘Oh God it’s going to be a soppy romance isn’t it?’ But by the end, it was a low key thriller, bordering on horror. Maybe not, but there was certainly a lot of potential for horror after that twist, that mind-blowing, terrifying, psychotic twist that I never saw coming.

The story is written in different perspectives, all of the nine ‘strangers’ have their own chapters from their point of view, including the wellness coaches at the retreat (Masha, Yao and Delilah), but protagonist Frances Welty is the primary voice in the story, with a lot of chapters being written from her perspective. Set in Australia, Nine Perfect Strangers is about a group of people who travel to an expensive health retreat in order to ‘Cleanse’ and ‘Transform’ themselves. Each character comes with their own set of reasons but the ultimate goal is to change their lifestyles and perspectives. Frances is a published author of romance novels, Tony is an ex- AFL player, Lars is a Lawyer, Carmel is a divorced mother of four, Ben and Jessica are a rich young couple hoping to save their marriage, and Heather, Napoleon and their daughter Zoe are a grieving family who are spending the anniversary of their son Zach’s death at the retreat.

Moriarty’s observations of humans are portrayed so accurately in this book, we all know someone like each of the characters, and we all live in the same internet/technology-reliant way that they do, whether we like it or not. I think she described so many important issues so accurately, from her depiction of grief, to drug addiction, to the thin line within some people’s mentality that simply cannot prevent them from having a psychotic episode, the complete opposite of what I thought I was about to read. The pace is excellent, I was hooked straight away and read it over the course of two days. The dialogue flowed so naturally, and at times it literally made me laugh out loud, which is something books rarely make me do, especially in public! I love the way the characters were created with such ease, Moriarty was able to carve out these characters in such a defined way, it felt as if I knew them all straight away. This is a very hard thing to do, especially given the fact that the origins of the characters are not fully exposed until a much later stage.

When they first arrive at the retreat, they are given blood tests, which led to a paragraph that made me realise instantly that I was going to enjoy this book;

Did this young man currently helping himself to her blood even have medical expertise? ‘Are you trained as a…?’ she was trying to say ‘do you know what the hell you’re doing?’.

‘I used to be a paramedic in a previous life’ replied Yao.

She met his eyes. Was he possibly a little mad? Did he mean he was a reincarnated paramedic? You never knew with these alternative types. ‘You don’t mean, literally, a previous life?’. Yao laughed out loud. A very normal-sounding laugh ‘It was about ten years ago now’.

Masha, the eccentric and controlling leader of the retreat is introduced in such a towering way; she is a complex character, a Rubik’s cube, layered and unpredictable. And I love the sarcasm that is present throughout: “Before we begin our first guided meditation, I have a story to share’ said Masha. ‘Ten years ago, I died’. Well, that was unexpected. Frances sat a little straighter.

As the narrative progresses, things get weirder, as a reader we start to doubt the authenticity of this retreat, at ‘Tranquilium House’. The guests bags are searched, and they are all forced to take part in a ‘noble silence’, things start to look a bit like a cult, and this idea is confirmed at the end of chapter 21, when Moriarty writes: It was at that moment that Carmel Schneider gave herself to Masha with the same voluptuous abandon that novice nuns once surrendered themselves to God. This is so sudden, and truly chilling to think that this person is becoming susceptible to brainwashing so easily.

The plot twist I wasn’t expecting is when Heather asks Masha; ‘Have you been medicating us?’ which leads into therapy sessions with all of the guests feeling the effects of LSD, which they unknowingly ingested. Whilst this is utterly shocking, the result is hilarious. But things get darker when they all get locked in a room; Masha turns psychotic and will not let them out until they somehow reach the ceiling of the room to find a hidden message. As the guests hopelessly try leaping to the ceiling, Masha, who is watching through the surveillance camera, sedates Yao and forces the guests to play a game called ‘Death Row’ in which they all have to defend each other’s lives to be freed. I mean, talk about plot twist, this is not where I thought he book was leading at all. Ben then says to Masha; ‘What happens if – according to you, our judge- we don’t successfully defend our clients?’. To which she responds: ‘Well, obviously we don’t generally execute our guests! That’s not good for business!’ She laughed gaily. I mean, this is a completely illegal, horrific, psychotic and inhumane turn of events, but somehow Moriarty still manages to make the reader laugh.

The only little fault I can think of is a slight decline after the ‘big event’, even though it is thrilling, it feels a bit anti-climactic. There is also a sense of everything being tied up at the end in a perfect happy ending, but I interpret this as the author’s nod to the protagonist Frances, who writes happy romantic endings herself. But also, it is an honest depiction of some people having ‘perfect’ lives, whether they are happy behind closed doors or not, some people will only ever put a perfect image of themselves on display. I think this book has got something in it for everyone; it is funny, witty and completely unpredictable, in the best way possible.

Thanks for reading; I enjoyed this book so much that I will be publishing another article next week, highlighting my favourite quotes and how Liane Moriarty has encapsulated grief, and many other issues like drug addiction and mental health, in such a truthful and important way.

The dangers of stereotyping Grief, and the effect it has on people who are suffering through it.

By Mollie Campbell

This article is an account of some of my experiences with grief, the way in which the world navigates through the waters surrounding grief and how it impacts us.

In the 21st century, from a young age, children are told that they can be whoever they want to be. We encourage individuality, freedom, uniqueness, a world without stereotyping, yet the second the conversation grazes over the topic of grief it is like everybody who hasn’t been through it instantly goes into a conditioned, deprecating, rehearsed spiel on how there are ‘5 stages of grief’ and ‘do this to move on’, ‘move forward’, ‘heal’…as if we are supposed to all react in the exact same, structured way, stomping all over that garbage they said before about being individualistic.

People tell you it will hit in stages, that is technically true, but ‘experts’ lead people to believe that it always works that way. Grief isn’t as structured as that, in fact grief isn’t structured at all, it is a mess. A great big sloppy mess, it’s like walking on a tightrope. You try and try with all of your might to stay on that rope, curling and tensing your toes to keep yourself from falling. Others may make it to the other side, but they still feel the soreness on their feet, they cannot escape this. Others may fall, one tiny wrong move and the balance is gone. This is the only way I can think to describe grief; it attacks you out of nowhere. You might be doing ‘ok’ and then one day, a word someone says, a song you hear, a memory that gives you goose bumps has the power to bring this immense pain back so harshly and abruptly, it feels like your body is tearing in two.

But this also just shows us that there isn’t one set way to grieve, everybody is different, there isn’t a textbook telling us exactly how to feel and what to do. So why should we all be expected to react in the same way? Another big factor is the way other people react to it, they don’t know what to say which is fair enough but sometimes it is better to be there silently than to give advice on something they don’t have experience with. When I was 7, I lost my father to Cancer. And the things people said to me over the years were just absurd, I mean, you wouldn’t even think to say this stuff to an adult, let alone a child.

‘At least you were a child’ they would say.

‘Oh but at least you don’t remember anything that traumatic, you were only 7 right?’.

And my personal favourite, a teacher who said: ‘It has been five years now Mollie, it’s time to get over it a bit’. I was 12, 12….! I often wondered if these people heard those words escaping their lips with ease, void of any sincere compassion or emotion. Preaching something they had zero knowledge on, thinking it is better to spurt out information than to accept the simple fact that I was in pain, what they didn’t realise is that it was ok to be in pain. I just felt like screaming at them that I remembered it all, all of the hospital appointments, I watched him have chemotherapy, watched his hair fall from his head, watched his eyes roll back as he was having a fit, saw him in intensive care, and I stood there and watched as he took his final breath. I was 7, but I was there for it all, and I remember every single second, in fact, I will never be able to escape those moments in my head, even if I tried.

Some people compared my father dying to their parents splitting up, I felt true empathy and understood it would be a heart-breaking thing to see your family split in two, but they could never quite grasp that I meant death. At least they would see both of their parents again; I would never see my father again. Die, that word. So short, the time it takes you to say it is the time it could possibly take for someone to die, how ridiculously fleeting is that. You’d expect it to be some sort of long intricate word at least then that would be an attempt at matching the feelings we feel when somebody dies. How can somebody that means so much to you be gone in a matter of moments?

 

The biggest impact of stereotyping grief and the way in which we do it, is people thinking that they are ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’ for not reacting in the same way as other people. If we think we have to adhere to some unwritten rule about how to grieve, subconsciously we will think that we are somehow doing it wrong, but how could you possibly grieve incorrectly? I think because death is one of the most certain and inevitable things in life, it makes people uncomfortable knowing that they can’t avoid it, and nobody really understands what happens when we die, it is a segment of the unknown. Humanity doesn’t deal with the unknown very well, we have to see things laid out clearly in front of us, if we have a lack of understanding on the subject, we try mercilessly to come up with some systematic method of labelling it, in order to fear it less. So the stages of grief thing is a natural reaction to not understanding grief, I get it, but we shouldn’t be preaching it to people who are grieving, because it is a system created by one brain, and all of our brains are so different.

It also really prompts people to completely underestimate the sheer extent of grief…the pain doesn’t magically disappear after those 5 stages. The stages are just the beginning, grief essentially stays with us forever…I can’t speak for everyone because as I keep reiterating, everybody is different. But in my case, grief has been a part of my life since I was seven years old, and I know it will always be a part of me. And the hardest part is accepting the fact that it will never truly be gone, that is what happens when a piece of you dies with your loved one. You can stitch your heart back up again, but it will never truly fit together in the same way it did before.  Learning to live and feel in a new way, one where the love we feel isn’t being absorbed by the one we have lost, is the most difficult part of it all.

Everybody uses their own coping strategies, and everybody’s journey is different. For anybody out there who is suffering a recent loss, as cliché as it sounds, it truly does get better. It never goes away, but you will learn to live with it, things will never be the same as they were before but that initial rawness and pain will start to feel less intense, and in time you will be able to have a memory of your loved one without the beauty of it being tarnished by pain.

My favourite quotes from ‘Turning for Home’.

By Mollie Campbell.

“People tried to make out what was happening, but there was a shore they couldn’t venture beyond. So they watched from the strandline and tried to imagine how cold the water must be. Then shouted out from time to time that I really should eat, I really should lift myself up out of the sorrow I was in, and hoped I could hear them over the waves, the storm raging”.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m being punished. Or I’m going mad. It’s been a year now, but really, all that stages-of-grief nonsense, it seems to me to be absolute rubbish. I don’t think you ever get used to any of it. Because she’s gone, hasn’t she? And I just, I don’t know. It’s just very sad. And it’s infuriating. I don’t think it would even help me very much if I had the sort of faith that allowed for the possibility of a meaningful afterlife.  Because I know I sound like a spoiled child, but I don’t want her then, I don’t want to wait, I want her now”.

“Dreams, as far as I can see, are as natural and inescapable as the shadows people cast when they stand in the light. I think if I could only keep hold of them all, and fashion the dreams of my life into one long chain, perhaps I might be able to make out the route I’ve been taking, and see where I’m aiming for. It will never be possible, of course. I will have to be like everyone else, and live in the space between reality and dreaming instead, and cling to what clues I can find to the code that would decipher me, if only I could ever make it out”.

“I look at my parents now, and see how much taller than mum I’ve grown, and can’t help feeling like I’ve outgrown all those memories. I wish I could still be filled with that much hope, and feel that free of any worry, any care, and able to concentrate only on the taste of the wine, the way the light passed through the glass when I held it up, the way Aunt Laura’s laugh seemed sharp enough to crack glass”.

“Things rise up and claim you, and mark you for greatness or mark you for tragedy, and the route of your life is mapped by forces entirely beyond you”.

“All I know is that I live held fast in the empty, vast embrace of the blue sky, the bright water, the loneliness I have learned to call being alive”.

“The threads of the conversation keep fraying like that all day. It seems there’s no way of touching the sides of grief, and slowing your fall as you plummet into it. I remember a story Mum told me once of a man who tunnelled all the way from England to Australia. I suppose that’s what it’s like to lose someone. You have to pass all the way through the centre of the earth before you come out into the light again, dizzy with the emptiness of losing something you need and can’t have anymore”,

“What is needed is an amnesty, a forgetting. What might save us all is a way to put our lives behind us, and love facing into the future, not always turned back looking for the past. But the song of memory is forever calling. You can’t just wash it away. It’s everything people are made of”.

“I don’t think he understands, because he isn’t in my head. He’s never quite known how it all looks through my eyes. No one ever succeeds in learning the map of another person’s life; they only glimpse the surface”.

 

‘Turning for Home’ – book review.

Author: Barney Norris

Genre:  Contemporary fiction, family, loss

Rating: 7/10

“Things rise up and claim you, and mark you for greatness or mark you for tragedy, and the route of your life is mapped by forces entirely beyond you”.

Turning for Home is written in the format of two different perspectives, with each chapter belonging to either Kate or Robert (who is Kate’s grandfather), taking it in turns to essentially tell the tales of their lives. Robert talks about his life with his late wife Hattie, his past, and his links with the IRA. Kate talks about her strained relationship with her mother, the tragedies that have been thrown at her, and the personal battles she has had to endure. I was very excited to read this, and in the opening few pages I was blown away by how Norris had written this book, some of the sentences in here are things I have thought about so often, this is just the type of writing that I would create myself, so I was instantly drawn to these somewhat philosophical ways of thinking. But as I read on, I slowly realised how slow-moving the plot is, there isn’t any pace to it, and I think the way it is formatted just makes it worse. I love the idea of two separate perspectives within one book, but I don’t think it was executed in the most efficient and exciting way, it had much more potential.

Another thing that I couldn’t quite adapt to is the way he constantly breaks dialogue into separate chunks. It seems kind of sloppy and bitty, the way he makes the characters break off into entirely different points in time without any sort of structural or grammatical warning. I love surprises and twists in books, but I found this to be very irritating. On the other hand, I do like the fact that this format could be a metaphor for the complexity of the human mind and our emotions, memories are bitty and random, grief is unorganised and unstructured. The bittiness is a very accurate representation of how we as humans think and feel, particularly in times of pain. We may be in a public setting; we might even be in the middle of a conversation with someone, whilst simultaneously re-living a completely different memory in the back of our heads, trying to balance both scenarios, so that the past doesn’t accidentally slip over into the future. If this is what he intended to portray, then I think that is a very clever observation of the power of human emotion.

Although there were a few things I disliked, e.g. the whole IRA story itself, which seemed to be shoved in at the last minute to add a bit more depth to the character, I found myself becoming more enthralled as I delved deeper into the plot. The pace picks up a bit and we really start to gain an insight into these characters minds, we start to resonate with the very normal and common human emotions that they are dealing with. Grief, loss, family tension, mental health issues, the point really starts to become clear. This book doesn’t have a bulky plot, and in time it becomes clear why, this book is more about the simplicity of characters exposing their truths, their deepest emotions and how they attempt to decipher them. The book became metaphorically richer as I kept reading, each quote touched me more than the previous one as the focus finally came into play, pain…the pain we all feel,  that we can do nothing about. It is raw and honest, and the anorexia storyline is dealt with such accuracy and truth, and the way the characters react are not forced or overly dramatised, they are truthful representations.

Having experienced grief first-hand, there were a lot of things that resonated with me in this book. It provides an honest and raw analysis of the grief we feel, and how it impacts each person differently, it focuses on our individuality as human beings, how we each deal with the pain life throws at us, a profound commentary on how we live and feel, and how the things that happen to us are out of our control, as scary as that may seem. I started this book feeling kind of disappointed, and I ended up feeling moved. There wasn’t an ultimate revelation, it didn’t alter my mind, instead it simply reminded me that human emotion is the strongest thing we can feel, it reinforced the idea that everybody feels these things, it is just hard to lay it all out in the open, where we feel most vulnerable. This book is like looking in the mirror, and I believe that every person, even if they have never experienced the events that unfold in this book, can take something away from it.

If you stick with it, Turning for Home is an excellent contemporary reflection of life, constant family and societal influence, and the idea that the past is just as present and relevant to us as the future is.

Wallows ‘Nothing Happens’ – album review/analysis.

By Mollie Campbell.

Band: Wallows

Members: Braeden Lemasters (Vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar), Dylan Minnette (Vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Cole Preston (Drums, backing vocals).

Genre: Indie, Indie-Rock, Alternative.

Rating: 8/10

 

The album opener ‘Only Friend’ is just the kind of opening track you would expect from this indie/alternative trio, a catchy, fuzzy riff accompanied by the nonchalant style of singing that they execute so well. It is simple in a musical sense, which fits in with the laid back vibe of the song, a relaxed introduction to an interesting album. The lyrics paint a picture of modern life and what it entails for young people, the loneliness in a Social media driven world, and the isolation that comes with the transition into adulthood. I like that they used the riff right up until the end of the song without any pause, as it shifts into the next track. It really sets up the concept of the album and the continuity we will be following as listeners.

Next is ‘Treacherous Doctor’, opening with a catchy and rocky riff mirroring the sound of 2000’s British indie bands, is a brutally honest reflection of the band’s feelings of hopelessness in the world in 2019. The lyrics: ‘You grow up, gone, so what’s the point of connecting to anyone? Is a relationship bought or is it won?’ really highlights the negatives behind modern love and relationships, and seems to be telling us that despite Social media being there to connect with people, it can actually make you feel even less connected, and in tune with your own sense of isolation and loneliness instead. The song has an interesting instrumental section, full of loud crash symbols, it seems to be a random exertion of energy, possibly mirroring the emotional distress they are singing about, before resolving back to the message they are trying to portray. I wouldn’t say this is a particular highlight of the album, it is kind of monotonous at times, but that might be the point, and I appreciate the attempt.

The next track is ‘Sidelines’, portraying the classic tale of ending a relationship with someone, but still caring about them. The narrator is breaking up with his girlfriend, but he can’t help watching from a distance, on the sidelines, he begins to regret his decision when he sees her with someone else, and he can’t help but think about it: “I see you loving on the sidelines, I think about it at the wrong times, I see you loving on the sidelines, (I don’t wanna know), who you’ll be taking with you tonight”. Musically, the album is indie-rock/alternative, but certain songs like ‘Sidelines’ have poppy undercurrents, resulting in a much more mainstream sound. The bareness to the drums and the lucidity of the lyrics actually work well, the simplicity creates a clever result, a good transition song, linking the opening to the bulk of the album. The next song and the first single ‘Are you bored yet?’ featuring Clairo, gives the listener another perspective on the album concept, a refreshing female voice to prevent any kind of monotonous tone that may be starting to grow. The lyrics centre around two people in a relationship wondering if their time has come and whether the other person is bored or not, I like the way Minnette sings at the same time as Clairo, portraying the idea that often people are thinking the same things in a relationship as opposed to the perceived opposite stance, and that sometimes the relationship comes to an end in a really natural way. There doesn’t seem to be much of a sadness portrayed, mostly because there is a sense of trying to salvage what is being broken: “ If you could tell me how you’re feeling, maybe we’d get through this undefeated”.

‘Scrawny’, the second single, begins with that customary Wallows sound, an indie-rock riff accompanied by a fragmentary style of singing. This light-hearted interjection serves as a buffer between more serious themes on the album, with the narrator referring to himself as a ‘Scrawny motherfucker with a cool hairstyle’ several times. I like the vibrant style of drumming and the clean sounding guitar riffs in between choruses, and nonchalance of the lyrics. ‘Ice cold pool’ provides us with nostalgic basslines and trombone licks, this delves into the exciting unpredictability of youth, and how much we want to hang on to this sense of invincibility of our teenage/young adult years: “What’s the fun if you know what’s comin’?, I don’t want to escape it’. I love the carpe diem attitude to the song, mirroring what the majority of the target audience is feeling at this point in our lives, the idea of living for the now before we grow older and less passionate: “The plant inside that never seemed to die, you cut it down before the leaves were brown, the gate was closed, we know that we’re too old, the pool is cold, the pool is cold”. For me, this is an album highlight; it gives us an infectious sense of inspiration to experience life fully before it is time to grow up, and the inevitability of the passage time.

The next track ‘World’s Apart’ is quite plain musically; the lyrics are the real focus. It focuses on the questions that are running through the narrators mind when he feels as though he is becoming even more disconnected in his relationship with each day, it also delves into the concept of an empty love and the problems involved when trying to decipher whether your feelings are real or just a façade: “Am I afraid of you? Or do I pretend I don’t care? Just like the stars can tell all the worlds apart”. It may also be touching on the emptiness of  Hollywood and the superficiality that seems to be infectious: “A voice in the hall, you’re famous for something, it’s hard to recall”…are they simply together as an attempt to not feel alone in the LA bubble they find themselves in? The next verse: “Do I exist in your heart? Or did the ship sail away while I was in the gift shop? You swim with the sharks, and I know we’re worlds apart” May be referring to the narrator losing his partner to the magnetism of fame and superficiality, the gift shop could be a metaphor for the tourist and fame centred town they are in, attracting swarms of people that they are getting lost within. And at the end of the day, no matter how hard he tries to keep it together, he knows that it’ll never work because they are literally ‘World’s Apart’.  This is clearly an important message for this Los Angeles – based band.

The next song ‘What You Like’ seems to be a continuation of ‘World’s Apart’, but from a completely different perspective, this time the narrator is admitting to not really being switched on in his relationship, and not paying any real attention to the personality of his partner: “Go ahead, tell me now, what you like, maybe this time I’ll listen, go ahead, tell me now, what you like, maybe this time”. He is now regretting not listening to her and being as present in the relationship as he should have been, because now she is distancing herself from him: “You’ve got a new place in the world, that I can’t find”. I like the instrumental before the final two verses, it is kind of hectic and chaotic, representing the mess the narrator finds himself in. ‘Remember When’ begins with a nostalgic ‘Every Breath You Take’ vibe in terms of its opening riff, it is clean and musically pleasing/catchy. Then it switches to a deeper and more prominent riff before the vocals come in. The song, which runs for less than 3 minutes, is a catchy and easy listening indie track. The lyrics seem to be focused on the nostalgia of memories, and possibly the idea of navigating through the false perceptions and deception of adulthood and the ‘real world’, a polar opposite to the freedom of youth, as we grow older we are less trusting: “Thought I saw your shadow under the door, just a trick of the light I’ve seen before, I can never tell what’s real anymore, anymore, anymore”. It also deals with a lost relationship that he has left behind, and the fact that he feels kind of embarrassed for wanting to revisit that period in his life.

The penultimate track on the album ‘I’m Full’, is an energetic song with twangs of nostalgia as it reflects on themes portrayed earlier on in the album, for example, using the lyrics of previous songs: ‘Tell me what you like’, ‘You’re my only friend’. This song was actually written by the band years ago, meaning that it was probably the basis of the whole concept for this album; this is the foundation and a really important one at that. It is interesting that they put it at the end of the album; a literal confirmation of the idea’s we as listeners have been surmising throughout. The lyrics seem to be encapsulating the idea of bad habits that we cannot break out of no matter how hard we try, the things that are slowly killing us are always disguised as our friends. “I’m at it again, alone with a friend”, this precedes a loud instrumental. Then the voice becomes distorted and echoed, as the narrator pleads with someone, possibly himself, before letting out a tortured scream. The guitars become heavier and the drums get louder as the song reaches its end, this is a much more complex track and is quite impressive for a penultimate track due to its quality, and haunting concepts. It is a very raw and honest song, leading us into the final track: ‘Do Not Wait’.

The final song is over 6 minutes long, and whilst it does have a lot of interesting instrumentation, the music seems to have taken a back seat in order to focus fully on the richer and more complex lyrics. A raw and personal end to a meaningful and honest album: “You will say you’re dreaming up a way, you’re dreaming up a way to explode, there’s a time you’ll seek out a disguise, when you think people hate you the most, and it gets worse before it gets better, that’s one thing that I have come to know”. As the song continues, the dynamics of the music itself shift back into focus, acting as a prop to the story being told so deeply. There are some interesting distorted guitar licks before constant repeats of the line ‘Nothing Happens’, they finally delve into the meaning behind the album title. The song is continuous yet fragmented, almost as if the lyrics and music were written in the style of chapters.

Overall, this is an impressive effort for a debut album, giving us an insight into what this band is all about, and the promising future that awaits them.

 

The Pros and Cons of the domination of digital newspapers and how they are using their platforms to monopolise the market even further.

By Mollie Campbell.

It has been said that by 2040, newspapers will have become extinct worldwide, but the way in which things are going at the moment, tells me that they will disappear long before that date. In fact, in the UK and US, newspapers are already being deemed insignificant, and really, how many times do you see people reading newspapers instead of clutching phones when you’re walking down the street? Newspapers are going out of print every day, as the necessity to read the news physically has been wiped out by the convenience of online magazines, apps and even just search engines like Google.

The launch of online newspapers/news sites has completely dominated the journalism industry, everything is done online. I love reading books, but I haven’t bought a newspaper in over a year, now, I could sit here and lecture people on the importance of keeping reading (newspapers) alive, but I am a culprit myself. Yet there are some important things that we really are forsaking if we ditch newspapers for good. The first is the way the press write features and headlines, when a journalist or editor is writing a story for print, there is always at least some element of caution when printing something that they perceive as risky. There should be some kind of truth to it, only because of how final printing a paper is, once it’s out there it can’t be edited, people will see through any sort of lie that you have published, which could lead to a loss in sales. Well, for broadsheet papers at least, I can’t say the same for tabloids, who seem to print just about anything and everything! But when it comes to publishing articles online, nobody is as cautious, because if they publish something that is too over the top, or in factual, they can just edit it, or even delete it, in a second. Not only does this make it far easier for people to be subject to some sort of hidden political agenda, but it also makes writing a lazy/sloppy area.

Moreover, if people are aware of the fact that they can just delete or edit articles when things go wrong, they won’t take as much time to really think about what they are writing. The effort and patience is gone, creating a generation of lazy or even grammatically challenged journalists. They won’t have the same calibre as that of a writer forty years ago, who actually had to make sure that their final draft was impeccable, or the whole world would see their mistake, which could have led to them being fired or damaging the reputation of the newspaper. There isn’t that same level of care anymore, which is happening in a lot of area’s because of Social Media.

The topic I am about to delve into next is one that is and always will be a very big part of journalism, advertising. In newspapers, there are pages and pages of printed ads, surrounding every article you read. Newspapers were the perfect opportunity to reach audiences, but despite it taking up nearly every page, you aren’t forced to read it. You can skip over it, turn the page, or just completely ignore it, we had that option. Now that is gone, online newspapers now have the opportunity to turn their entire operation into something that is completely central to advertising; they put the needs of advertising before the needs of their actual content. Many newspapers like The Guardian for example, make you sign up in order to read an article, without doing so you can only read the first few sentences. So not only are they calling all the shots on how we read things, but they are also charging more than we would ever pay for a physical copy of a newspaper, with many online sites now charging monthly subscriptions. And if all newspapers online start doing this, we will have no option but to pay, completely monetising the industry even more than it already is. And when we do pay to read the articles, we are bombarded with ads left right and centre, often blocking the words on the screen in order to force us to consume them.

Moreover, this turns the industry and Social media in general, into a market, and we are the buyers being forced to shop even if we didn’t intend to. Then, these online newspapers, like many websites these days, have cookies and data policies. And we have to accept them in order to keep on reading, this gives them even more power, not only have they made us pay prices we wouldn’t have before, and bombarded us with tons of ads, they have also invaded our privacy in order to pile even more ads onto the screen, this time tailored to our interests by monitoring what we do online. If that’s not a modern example of Orwell’s 1984, I don’t know what is. Of course, there are pros to this as well, and not everyone is annoyed by these ads, in fact for a lot of people find them helpful, with some viewing them as an extraordinary possibility in this modern world, I just think that it’s a tad too invasive.

Although, there are many pros to the abolishment of newspapers, firstly, we could save a ton of paper which would be an incredible step in the right direction for the preservation of the planet, which is something that is much more important than people think in 2019. Secondly, it is more convenient to read the news online, with many people in full time work, juggling responsibilities, it doesn’t leave much time in the day to sit down and read a paper. This way, people can keep up to date with things, without sacrificing precious working hours, with many people reading news online during their commute to work. But there might not be as many of the population in favour as these newspaper companies projected, when the Independent ceased to print and moved online in 2016, they found that a lot of people didn’t take that digital leap with them, instead they just lost customers who switched to different physical newspapers. The switch to online platforms might actually just make people less interested, physical newspapers are harder to ignore than little online articles that people just seem to glance over instead of reading. The loss of the Independent as a liberal buffer between the left and right Guardian and Times will be felt politically, but other than that, it stands as a warning for newspapers out there thinking of making that digital leap, and the risk of losing such a large proportion of their readership if they do.

So there are many pros and cons to losing newspapers, and they are going fast. But according to statistics, people are still reading physical copies, and not everyone who reads articles online have stopped reading newspapers, it will take a while to get there, but when we do, what will happen? How will this shape the industry, and ultimately society?

Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear some different opinions on this subject!

The Importance of putting your Mental Health before Social Media.

By Mollie Campbell

 

Have you ever scrolled through endless pages on Social Media apps for a longer amount of time than you would care to admit, and end up feeling like your happiness or emotion has been drained out of you?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone. In fact, a statistic I keep coming back to is that, according to NHS UK, 91% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK use the internet and other social networking sites regularly. More importantly, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the last 25 years. This is a scary and unforeseen companion to Social Media that has slowly and surreptitiously been following the trail of the world’s internet advances for the past 25 years, not becoming too much of a worry until we saw an actual change in the development of children who belong to generation Z.

Why? There are a variety of reasons behind this increase in internet users with low self-esteem from any generation, but particularly post-analogue. The first reason, which I have written about before, is that Social Media has arguably become the most important aspect of modern teenage life; children do everything on the internet, expressing themselves on a platform. Due to this, they see popular digital trends being labelled as ‘successful’, it bombards them so much that the line between personal dreams/desires and the world’s desires is blurred, massively. This completely and utterly strips them of any kind of individuality, instead they follow the crowd, never really delving into what they are passionate about, instantly creating a generation of people who aren’t happy in what they are doing.

Another major aspect, which can happen at any age, is how these Social Media sites force us to compare ourselves, even if we aren’t aware. Let’s take something like Instagram for example; its sole purpose is sharing photos of our lives with the world, which sounds great, and it is, as long as you use it for its basic feature. But that almost always goes out the window because we as humans just can’t help ourselves from making comparisons. We end up seeing everyone living their best lives, looking like a million bucks at all times, and it makes us question ourselves. For example, in a shop window, you are always going to put your best and most flattering items on display. It is the same on Instagram, we are just sharing with the world our own little shop windows, portraying all of our best moments, to live up to this perfect image. Nobody is going to upload a mediocre photo to Instagram, which lulls people into a false sense of perception, making people think that this perfection is what people look like at their worst. And if you’re constantly looking at photos of people at their very best, you cannot help but compare yourself to them, even if you don’t know you’re doing it. It sets completely superficial and unrealistic expectations, and if it this impactful with fully developed brains, think about what it is doing to the mental health of young people. With me, it wasn’t exactly about comparing myself from an aesthetic point of view, and I didn’t even know I was doing it until I realised that every single time I came off of Instagram, I went into full on panic mode about my career, my life-choices, I questioned what I was doing with my time, should I be doing more enriching and mind-altering things with my life? This all stems from seeing one travel photo, or someone climbing up their career ladder.

What is worse is that these things aren’t always easy to detect either, that sluggish post-scroll feeling is overlooked, placed on a shelf in the back of our minds. But what we don’t realise is that it never filters out of our brains, it sits there, festering, growing larger until one day it hits us in multitudes. A silent monster, preying on our mental health and the vulnerable position the internet puts us in.

How do we change this? Unfortunately, we cannot change what technological advances have been placed in front of us, but we can change our attitude and approach. There are tons of positive things that Social Media has to offer but you have to question whether you are on there for yourself, or simply because everyone else is doing it. We come back to that classic cliché quote:  if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? It’s corny but it has never lost its meaning. I often observe how people act in public with regard to phones, if a group of friends all take their phones out and you’re the only one left standing there without it, chances are you will follow their lead and end up on your phone too. Why should we all follow the crowd if it is something that is damaging us, we cannot change Social Media but we can change the way we use it. My point is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to spend your time on it just because everyone else is, take a break, steer clear from it for a while. Retune your mind with nature, planet earth, your mental health is an incredibly important thing and if Social Media is the reason for it slowly being chipped away at it, it is ok to step away from it.

In conclusion, whilst the internet and Social media has its benefits, we must accept that everything has a downside. And if we start to feel the aftershock of this negativity, there isn’t anything wrong with reducing contact with the thing that is making you miserable. It is evident that Social media has become an addiction within society, and every addiction results in the necessity to change your lifestyle. If the internet is having a negative impact on your life, don’t be afraid to put your mental health before the needs of Social Media, it might just be one of the most life-changing things you can do.

 

 

Netflix’s ‘After Life’ – Season 1 Review

By Mollie Campbell

Genre: Dark-Comedy, Drama

Cast: Ricky Gervais, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton, Ashley Jensen, Tom Basden

Rating: 9/10

As someone who has experienced the turmoil that is grief first-hand, on multiple occasions, I am naturally very defensive when it comes to representations of grief in Movies and TV shows, the writers always seem to lack any knowledge whatsoever on the subject, often resulting in some ridiculous lines that they seem to have acquired from the ‘grief handbook’ e.g.  the textbook of phrases for people who have never experienced grief, those who stress the formula of the ‘stages of grief’ and tell us to ‘move on’.  So I sat down to watch this show, not expecting much and preparing myself for my imminent annoyance, but it never happened. Nothing in all of the 6 episodes struck me as insensitive, offensive or quite frankly just absurd. I enjoyed every second of it.

The show centres on Tony Johnson (Ricky Gervais), and his grief after his wife dies of cancer. We see him in a complete depression, barely surviving; the only real interaction he enjoys is with his dog. He attempts to commit suicide multiple times but the only thing that prevents him from doing so is the responsibility he feels for his dog, who he cares too much about to leave behind. These suicidal feelings cause Tony to become someone who is cynical and rude to everyone, he takes risks and doesn’t care about the consequences because his argument is that if things go wrong, he can always commit suicide. The concept is talked about very heavily, and he is quite frank when he expresses these feelings. It is very accurate when it comes to portraying how other people react, some are incredibly helpful, some do not know how to react and some people compare grief to things that are sad yes, but in no way match the incomprehensible feelings that grief leaves us with, they just don’t understand that death is final. We will never see that loved one again. This show perfectly demonstrates what life is like after you are hit by the grief train, how it changes us as people and how living through another day feels like a chore.

But deep down, we are still there. And as the show goes on, it is clear that in all of this, Tony’s conscience and kindness is still in there somewhere because he slowly starts to realise that whilst it is understandable to be in such pain, it makes you feel worse if you keep causing others to be miserable when they do not deserve it.  This is a comical yet touching and honest portrayal of grief, and how people who haven’t suffered through it just do not understand what we are going through. It balances humour incredibly well, nothing is out of place, and it is harsh and brutal but still somewhat light-hearted in certain areas. One of the most memorable lines is something that has been whirring around my brain for years but has only just properly come to light because of how Gervais has written it, it resonated with me so strongly that I had to press pause and just sit quietly for a moment, collecting the words in my mind. When talking about the reality of the afterlife existing, Tony says:

“I know, she’s nowhere, alright. But get this through your head, I’d rather be nowhere with her, than somewhere without her”.

This sums it up for me, not wanting to die, but equally not wanting to live without your loved one. I have never seen this concept so accurately portrayed before, it touched me deeply. I was half-smiling, half-crying, although, it did actually throw me into a bit of a depressed spin the night after I watched it; it took me right back there, not that I ever left. So obviously that’s not really a good thing for me personally but on the other hand, it helped me at the same time, a reassurance that it is ok to feel this level of pain and depression. And that no two people react to grief in the same way, and that is something that is never portrayed that well within the sphere of Film & TV.

It also focuses on the connection we have with animals and how they help some people more than a human ever could. Whether it is because of their selfless and affectionate nature, or their inability to feel the darkness of the world, I don’t know, but I loved that they added this perspective into the show. It is something  that means so much to me as I have recently lost my dog, she helped me to survive when I lost my father, I wouldn’t have been able to keep on going if it wasn’t for her. So this storyline resonates with my experiences so deeply, it felt like I was watching some elements of my own life being portrayed on the screen in front of me. I have never seen anything like it, it is clever, unique and above all else, true. It is simply a true depiction of trying to survive throughout the constant cloud of grief, something which is incredibly important and should be focused on a lot more, maybe this is the start of that journey.

Captain Marvel – Movie Review

By Mollie Campbell

Genre: Superhero, fantasy, action, drama

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law

Rating: 8/10

 

I must admit, in recent years I have grown a little tired of the relentless domination of superhero movies that have been overriding our movie theatres. MCU movies really took off again with the release of Iron Man in 2008, but it is over the last 3 or 4 years that they have really controlled the film industry, just when the hype for one movie has died down, another Marvel movie is released, breaking more box-office records. Despite this all being one heck of a lead up to the final Avengers movie, set for release next month, this tyrannical reign from Marvel has really started to feel quite boring to me, it’s constant. But I’ve kept on going, watching them as they are released, sometimes more for the depth and rich histories of the characters than the actual plot. This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I watched Captain Marvel, it was actually fresh, unique and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

When the film started, for around twenty minutes it felt a tiny bit stagnant, not a desirable beginning for the most highly anticipated movie of 2019, but after a while the plot starting emerging with more of a natural pace to it, enchanting the audience and not letting them out of its spell until the end credits. The film focuses on Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), a member of the Kree (military organisation); she has extraordinary superhuman powers, a result of an explosion, which caused her DNA to transform. The film follows her on her journey through the universe, (ending up on earth during the 1990’s), fighting the ‘Skrull’, the shape-shifting enemies of the Kree. As these events unfold, she delves into the life she had as a human on earth, discovers how her past has influenced her, learns the dangers of blind trust, and gives us as the audience an insight into the origins of the entire Avengers saga plot. Larson plays the role to a really high standard, refusing to conform to the negative stereotypes of female superheroes that have been portrayed over the years, whilst still staying true to the source material. This is exactly how we envisioned Captain Marvel to be, but it combines modern storytelling with a classic tale.

With Marvel movies, despite the constant action we see on screen, I sometimes find there is a lack of pace in terms of the plot, but this movie just got better and better as the minutes crept by. It is different than other Marvel movies, firstly, it has its own unique soundtrack that fits in perfectly with each scene, appropriate but never too corny. It also portrays a strong female protagonist (the first of its kind for a Marvel movie), which is inspiring to women/young girls everywhere. It also doesn’t rely heavily on the Avengers movies; it stands on its own two feet. It is comical but never forced, and the nostalgic 90’s references are an added bonus. The relationship between Captain Marvel and Nick Fury is given time to develop naturally, nothing in this movie feels rushed, it’s action packed yet it still grounds itself, bringing the origin story back into reality at several points. The acting is great, the special effects were thrilling, overall it was a very satisfying movie and I would definitely recommend watching it. Lastly, I didn’t realise that 2019 would be the year in which I needed to see a friendship between Samuel L. Jackson and a cat, but here we are… that’s what’s happening. Enjoy!