Turtles All The Way Down Review

Today was the release of John Green’s long-awaited new novel: Turtles All The Way Down. I wouldn’t be a Frenzied Fangirl if I hadn’t immediately run to the nearest Waterstone’s to grab myself a copy, and I’ve just finished reading it. Here are some thoughts. Please be warned that this review contains SPOILERS. Although it does not go into the plot very much, if you want to approach this book without any prior knowledge of its subject matter, leave now.

IMG_20171010_173450.jpgHere’s a picture of our cat, the book, and the awesome t-shirt and bracelet I also got.

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

It’s only because of my Facebook Timeline that I found out today was World Suicide Prevention day. It’s been over two years since I’ve been so blissfully ignorant of that fact, and I’m not sure whether to be happy or ashamed of that. I’ve been way too busy living to think about dying, and of course that’s great; it’s amazing. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to forget. I don’t ever want to fully leave behind the things I went through in 2015. I don’t want to forget how fragile and precious my mental health is, I don’t ever want to take it for granted, and I think you shouldn’t either. So I decided to turn to my blog.

Once again it’s time for me to get on social media and fundraise. I’ve said it before, I’ll no doubt say it again, but someone, somewhere in the world, dies of suicide every 40 seconds. That’s way too many people, every single minute.

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Trigger Warning: Broccoli

(The first anniversary of this blog reminded me I’ve been neglecting it a little. Forgive me. The end of the school year is approaching and the weather is much too nice to stay inside and write. Okay, okay. I’ll write outside more. Be patient with me.)

Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and anxiety attacks

Recently, I was triggered by something I saw in a seminar. This occurrence made me aware of the misunderstandings surrounding the words ‘trigger’ and ‘trigger warning.’ I’ll endeavor to shed some light on them for you today.  What happened was this:

For a module on affect studies we examined some examples of shame in popular culture. An obvious example was the 2011 film Shame directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. There was a scene towards the end of the movie that triggered an anxiety attack in me.

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Slash

You sigh. You roll your eyes. “Hasn’t Frenzied frickin’ Fangirl written enough about slash by now?” you ask. Maybe I have. But this time Slash is the title of a film I’ve just seen, and I’m here to tell all y’all that it rocks. As always, I have a few critical notes, but they’re not many.

So here’s the gist: Neil, the protagonist of Slash, writes slash for the fictional fandom of Vanguard. When his composition notebook is stolen (this is why we never take our attempts at writing erotica with us to school, children!) he accidentally befriends Julia, also a slash writer. Sidenote to people that know me IRL: There is a Julia in this film who writes gay fanfic, wears lots of t-shirts with cats on them and is an avid feminist. Sound familiar? I thought so. Julia encourages Neil to put his fic online, and when he does it soon becomes so successful that Neil is asked to do a reading at Comic Con. Then some other stuff happens that I won’t tell you for the sake of spoilers.

What I loved about this film: it’s about fandom, and more specifically: fanfic. It beautifully portrays the tensions within fandom that arise when old school fans are confronted with newcomers. Its full of in-jokes from RPF to curtain fic. It’s super open and honest about non-hetero sexual orientations.

What I didn’t love so much: Why is the protagonist a white guy? (SPOILER ALERT: Continue reading

The Elephant In The Room Or: The End Of Writer’s Block

Just over a week ago I blogged a complaint to my Muse: she had deserted me. Writer’s block had set in and I WAS NOT WRITING. It was a nightmare. Almost as soon as I published the post, a solution presented itself. A short story of mine got shortlisted for the Fantastic Story Competition organized by Dutch Comic Con. Voting ends March 12th. VOTE NOW!

I was surprised by the effect this seemingly insignificant event had on my creativity. I felt validated, I felt wanted, I felt cool. Simultaneously, I felt like a bit of an idiot. It’s a little  childish to only write when you get positive feedback on your work, and then, when you feel as though you’re not getting enough positive feedback, to just…quit.

I want to be a writer. I mean to say: I want to make writing into a career. I want to be a person who makes a living by writing stuff. That doesn’t just mean blogging on topics I feel passionate about on moments I feel passionate about them. Sometimes it means just sitting down to do the work, which is why I’m pledging to do at least one blogpost a week from now on. Wish me luck.

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New Year’s Resolution: No More Spotify

Here is my New Year’s Resolution: I will no longer use Spotify. I have uninstalled the software from my computer and my phone and I’m about to tell you why.

Of course, we live in modern times. Never before has there been such free traffic of information, and by and large I think that’s a wonderful development. Nevertheless, there are downsides to the age of technology: use of social media has been linked to mental health problems (source), online shopping makes small-scale bookshops, my favorite places in the world, obsolete, and there’s an ever-growing privacy concern around technology. Watch some Black Mirror and see what I mean.

But there’s something else that really bugs me. With information becoming available globally for free, it has become devalued. Why would I buy a book if I can download a free epub? Why would I buy a CD when Spotify is right there in my hand? Why would I go hang out at a friend’s house if WhatsApp is so much quicker?

Of course, technology is convenient. It also leads us to believe that we are not responsible for our individual actions. Cyberbullying is a lot easier to do than putting someone down face-to-face, simply because it’s more anonymous. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t steal a book or CD from a shop where a shopkeeper was keeping an eye on you behind the counter, but you have no problem downloading the same content illegally.

I’m here to argue that you should have a problem with it. Now, I’m not telling you to travel back in time. I love CD’s, I love their glistening covers and the booklets full of lyrics and the whirring sound they make when the disc starts spinning, but I understand if you find CDs outdated and inconvenient.

But please consider the following: an artist receives one dollar per album sold on hardcopy through their label. When you listen to an album through a (legal) streaming service like Spotify, the artist makes 0,00029 dollarcent. That means that in order to make an American living wage (5 euros and 36 cents an hour, what the actual fuck??)  an artist needs to be listened to on Spotify 4,5 million times a month (source.) Obviously, illegal downloads earn the artist nothing. Of course, artists can supplement their income by doing live shows and selling merchandise, but my guess is you don’t want those things to be crazy expensive, either. Furthermore, the pressure to tour keeps these artists from having families. Additionally, life on the road can be a huge drain on an artist’s mental health. Artist’s don’t just exist to entertain you. They are also people with personal lives and needs.

Do you want to live in a world where the only music available is the music 4,5 million people listen to? Because that’s the ultimate consequence of using Spotify: our choices in music will become less and less diverse. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Please be aware that if you’re getting something cheaply (through Spotify) or getting it for free, that means somebody else somewhere is paying the price. That person might be Beyonce, and I can already hear you argue that she can afford it. I don’t disagree. But it might also be Jens Lekman, and I am more than willing to put in a little cash to save his career.

Illegal downloading and legal streaming services such as Spotify have another downside: local businesses get in trouble because no one buys CD’s anymore. There’s Spotify users that use the service to browse, then go out and buy CD’s anyway. I just happen to think there’s a lot more people out there who don’t do that. don’t do that. But I will stop using Spotify and start buying CD’s this year. I promise you that.

 

A Reminder, A Rant & A Recap

This post consists of three parts: a reminder, a rant and a recap. Or, if you want to look at it that way, a reminder and two rants. Let’s get down to business.

Warning for some bad language in the rants. Also, some spoilers for all of Sherlock so far.

1. Reminder: the Mental Health Reading Challenge starts tomorrow. I’m very excited. More info + signups here.

2. Rant: This rant is about queer baiting.

“What is queer baiting?” you ask, a quizzical expression on your face.

The term refers to what happens “when people in the media (usually television/movies) add homoerotic tension between two characters to attract more liberal and queer viewers with the indication of them not ever getting together for real in the show/book/movie”. says Wikipedia.

You shrug. “So what?”

It can even add up to the point where it hurts the queer audience. Queer baiting often plays potentially queer hints and references as mere jokes, but “if the representations in question utilize humour, are queer people in on the joke or are they the joke?”[4]  (a

Is representation a joke? I think not. If you do, that’s your opinion but I’m going to take a wild guess and say you probably don’t feel very marginalized in your daily life. I see way too few characters with disabilities on television. I see way too few women and when I see them they are often portrayed as erratic or superficial. That fucking hurts me.

Storylines where a character can’t be fulfilled until they have overcome a disability fucking hurt me. Representation like that makes me feel as though I’m not enough. I was very angry when John Watson’s limp on Sherlock turned out to be psychosomatic, because it looked as though he only became a competent and interesting character when the disability was cured. That fucking hurts me.

Now, I’m personally not gay. I am, however, a student of cultural analysis and a vocal advocate for equality. I believe in the importance of equal representation in media such as television, and that’s why I’m really kind of angry at the creators of Sherlock: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

Here comes part 3: a recap of the relationship between John & Sherlock so far. Alternative title: a second rant: John & Sherlock LOVE each other.

When they first met in A Study In Pink, John and Sherlock had the following conversation in a candlelit Italian restaurant:

 

Dr John Watson: You don’t have a girlfriend, then?

Sherlock Holmes: Girlfriend? No, not really my area.

Dr John Watson: Oh, right. Do you have a boyfriend?… Which is fine, by the way.

Sherlock Holmes: I know it’s fine.

Dr John Watson: So you’ve got a boyfriend, then?

Sherlock Holmes: No.

Dr John Watson: Right. Okay. You’re unattached, just like me. Right. Good.

Sherlock Holmes: [pause] John, um… I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work and while I’m flattered, by your interest…

 (Source: IMDB)

 

Please keep in mind that the gentlemen knew each other for less than a day at that point. Keep in mind that Sherlock has some serious issues about opening up emotionally, and that Sherlock, the most observant man in the whole wide world, had somehow gotten the idea that John was romantically attracted to him. A few scenes later, they looked at each other like this.

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Calling The Beast By Its Name

I was recently inspired to do a series of posts on my personal brand of feminism, and here is the first one, the cornerstone of my feminist beliefs: I think feminists should call themselves feminists, I think all women should call themselves feminists, I think everyone should be proud to call themselves a feminist. If you’re not, I think you’re either misunderstanding the meaning of the word or being very rude.

For whatever reason, the word ‘feminism’ has gotten a bad rep over the past years. Feminists are often viewed as irrational or silly, and the word ‘feminazis’ is used to describe the craziest of all. I was disgusted to find that there is now a movement that proudly calls itself: ‘Feminism Is Cancer.’ Apart from the fact that the word ‘feminazi’ is very disrespectful to survivors of the Second World War and their families, and that equating a deadly disease with a political opinion is very harmful to victims and survivors of this disease, I also think the rhetoric used to vilify feminists is despicable in its own right. As usual, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has phrased it more eloquently than I ever could, saying:

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists)

Just as the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ recognizes that black people have been oppressed throughout history and ‘All Lives Matter’ glosses over the painful history of racism, so does ‘feminism’ indicate the problems society is facing and ‘equalism’ deny their seriousness.

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The Final Episode: A How-Not-To Guide

I live in constant fear of contracting some rare, painful and terminal disease. I’m afraid of height, needles and shadows moving in the dark. I am, generally speaking, a fearful person. My worst fear, however, is not that of abandonment, or the social anxiety I experience at parties, or the dreadful nightmare I often have where my skin falls off and leaves gaping holes behind. My worst fear is being disappointed by a TV show.

We’ve all been there: you’ve invested God-knows how many hours in watching a show you have come to love with all your heart, and, quite suddenly, like the writers have lost their heads, the resolution of the plot is terrible. 

Any writer can tell you that endings are hard. They run the risk of being cheesy, either too happy or too sad, or being just plain random. The ending of a long-running TV show should satisfy the audience, but giving them everything they want runs the risk of appearing unrealistic. It seems to me that the problem is this: we have no endings in real life. We go on, or we die. Even when we die, the people around us, the supporting cast, so to speak, eventually go on. No one has any experience whatsoever with something ending; so, it’s extremely difficult, maybe even impossible, to write an ending.

Still, I have some opinions on what constitutes doing it right and doing it wrong. Let’s have a look at some examples. WARNING: None of these examples are spoiler-free, but spoilers for each show are only in that show’s paragraph, so skip ahead if you must.

Bad Endings

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother had its finale in 2014, but I only caught up on the show just last year. My friends had been watching it for a while and encouraging me to do the same. It was funny, they promised me, but not in the way of so many sitcoms that got nothing but the occasional snort of laughter from me; HIMYM had character development, it was a TV show with a heart and a soul.

I watched it. That takes three days, four hours and sixteen minutes, according to BingeClock. So I think it’s fair to say that I invested quite a bit of time. Of course, I made it to the final episodes with slight feelings of apprehension, as the resolution of the plot and the answer tot the Big Question (“Who Is The Mother?”) are infamous for being a disappointment.

The rumors were true; it was disappointing. The derailment of HIMYM’s plot wasn’t slow, like in Lost. It happened quite suddenly, over the course of the last handful of episodes. I was no longer amused. Through a series of events that don’t bear repeating, the character development the audience has witnessed over seven seasons is completely undone. No, Barney is not a one-woman man now. No, all those times we saw Ted’s relationship with Robin fail were just temporary, and they are actually meant to be.

A mainstream TV show like HIMYM, which gets its viewership mainly from people like me, looking for a happy feeling and a laugh, should not defy expectations in its final story arcs. HIMYM’s finale should have satisfied the fans, and it did not.

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How One Of The World’s Most Progressive Countries Is Turning Back The Clock

Prepare for a social justice rant. Seriously, people. I’m going to make some noise in this blog post today.

Here’s what happened in 2015:

The Dutch government decided to remove child psychiatric care from the standard package of health care. That basically means that if you get the standard package, which is mandatory, psychiatric care for your children isn’t covered in your health insurance. The idea was that municipalities could arrange health care for their citizens individually.

More affluent towns would therefore have better care than their less affluent neighbors. Well, of course, that ain’t right. It also forced communities to rebuild the infrastructure surrounding psychiatric care as they were used to a different system.

But municipalities are faced with budget cuts. Local government was asked between fixing potholes and providing care for mentally ill children. Of course, politics being as they are, compromises were made. Mental healthcare was purchased within a pre-determined budget for the oncoming years.

Here’s what’s happening now:

Some parts of our country have gone through the allotted amount of money. Underage victims of mental illness aren’t getting the care they need because there isn’t money to pay for that care. Only those people that can pay for healthcare out of their own pockets are receiving the treatment they need. Children with mental health problems are missing school.

“Re-doing a year of secondary school costs 5000 euros. (…) Treating an anxiety disorder costs 1200 euros. Do the math.” Peter Dijkshoorn, Mental Health Professional at Treatment Centre Accare.

Loosely translated from the NOS website.

Here’s another problem: what’s going to happen in January, when all of the people being denied healthcare right now rush to get their children the required treatment? Will the annual budget run out in February next year? And if so, what will people do then?

I don’t know what else to say about this. I don’t even really know who to blame. Obviously, mental healthcare should be part of every basic health care package. Yet you can’t blame a town for wanting to keep its busses running, and investing money in that, either. You can’t blame anybody for wanting the best possible care for their child, regardless of financial circumstances. I think the government needs to step in and solve this problem right the f- now.