I got shamed today

Today, something strange happened to me on the bus. I was shamed, by a complete stranger.

First off, it was pretty innocuous, and I know feel a sense of humour towards their interaction, rather than anger. Also, I by no means think this is anything close to the other kinds of shaming that happens all too regularly to people in today’s society.

I usually read on the bus. Because I work full time I’m more likely to zone out in front of Netflix than tackle a book, because effort, right? Therefore, the hour and a half or so I spend commuting daily, is the perfect space for me to enjoy reading.

The first four A Song of Ice and Fire novels – ploughed through those in a few months. Kerouac? No problem. Not even Tolstoy was safe from my commuting literary feast.

However, today I’d forgotten to put a book in my rucksack. So, like any other human being would reasonably do, I pulled out my nice shiny iPhone 6. The scourge of boredom. So, for the 20 minutes it took for me to get from Newcastle to my bus stop I listened to the last bit of a podcast, set Spotify away, and chatted with three of my friends – one, who lives locally; two – who is currently in London; and three – who is holidaying in Thailand.

As I stood up to leave, a man in front who looked to be in his fifties, turned around and started saying something to me – confused, I lowered my noise-cancelling headphones and uttered a pleasant, yet confused “hmm?” in reply – I mean, what kind of animal talks to another person on public transport?! The animal!

“You really should learn how to better communicate.” he said, motioning with his eyes to my phone.

And off he strolled.

In a split second I went from confused, to dumbfounded to outright pissed off.

I’m guilty as anyone for spending too much time on my phone. But, I’m going to blame modern life. I mean, my life, for better or for worse is attached to a small, overpriced rectangle in my pocket.

I stormed off the bus really angry. First, I thought, “who the fuck was that prick”, the eloquent put down coursing through my internal monologue. I was the victim of a snap judgement that took no account of who I am, what I was doing, or who I was talking to.

All that guy saw was just another person on a phone, mind-dulled by innumerable apps, another symptom of modern society and all it’s ills. Did he look at me and think I was so one dimensional? Do I actually not know how to communicate? Would he have refrained from chastising me had I been actually talking on the phone for 20 minutes, rather than typing?

All of these thoughts ran through my head as I walked home. But as I calmed down, I have begun to brush it off as a random encounter, by a person who needed to mind their own business, whose opinion has no bearing on who I am or how I should continue to interact with my phone.

Like I forewarned you, this encounter is so trivial, it barely feels worth talking about it. However, for me, the after effects feel more profound.

It has given me a first hand account, however small, of how it feels to be victimised. Even though over such an insignificant thing – which I thought about for over 2 hours after it happened.

I thought about how unbelievably hard it must be for people who experience this kind of interaction on a regular basis, except the interactions being so much worse. I have never been criticised for my gender, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof. I don’t have these barriers up against me every waking minute of the day. And this real-life manifestation made me so much more conscious of this huge issue. I’m bloody well going to try harder to A) ensure my actions and words don’t cause pain against others, and B) to try and make people more aware of how impactful even the most seemingly inconsequential statements, and actions can be.

Anyway. I’ve learned never leave the house without so much as a Where’s Wally book from now on.

J.

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Grief

Today France, Europe and the world has woken up to understand the true horror of last night’s events. In the coming months we will come to understand what fully happened, and those who survived, and the families of those who did not will try and piece their lives back together.

I’ve felt a sense of numbness today, whilst I go about my job in a department store. The stream of photos, videos and accounts from the terrorist attacks have had a profoundly saddening effect upon me.

10 years ago, Britain was struck by the 7th of July London bombings. During the previous days, my dad had been in London due to his job, returning home the day before the bombs went off. He travelled on one of the tube lines upon which a bomb was detonated. I was only a teenager at the time, yet I have always carried this near-miss with me. It still makes me tense up to this day to think of what the worst case scenario could have been.

I am lucky enough that this tiny piece of my life is the closest I personally have ever come to experiencing the life-shattering aftermath of a terrorist attack.

What I now feel is grief. Grief for the people who will never see their loved ones again, for people who will be physically and emotionally scarred, grief for those halfway across the world for whom events like this may be a daily occurrence.

Yet, I have also witnessed the beauty of humanity unfold over the past 24 hours. People of Paris opening their homes to strangers, offering them sanctuary as they fled through the streets of Paris. To the fans of music and sport across the world who have offered their sympathy to the victims. To those I know, and to those I don’t on social media who are defending muslims, refugees and others who racists and bigots would wrongly blame for last night’s events.

Earlier today, I was moved to tears watching a video from the French Assemblée Nationale. Standing in silence, the members spontaneously broke into The Marseillaise. A beautiful moment of sorrow, of patriotism, of grief. It reminded me of the famous scene from ‘Casablanca’, where the French, under the heel of Nazi Germany, unite as one to collectively remember who they are, and what they stand for. I feel that we saw that today. That even though these events will terrorise us, they will kill innocents, and seek to divide – they will fail.

Remember those who died. Strive to be kind, to love, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If we do this, if we do not change the good people that we are, we will never be beaten.

Vive Paris. Vive la France.

REVIEW | Macbeth

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“O, full of scorpions is my mind!”

I walked into the cinema with expectations high. Michael Fassbender is rapidly becoming one of those rare actors whose touch seems gilded. Winning critical acclaim for films such as ‘Hunger’, ‘Shame’ and ‘Prometheus’, he now is given the chance to portray one of the greatest characters on the biggest stage. Alongside Fassbender, playing Lady Macbeth is the mesmerising Marion Cotillard.

So far, so starstruck.

To cut to the chase, I sat through a completely engrossing adaptation. Visually, the film is striking, stunning, even haunting. I have noticed that in screen adaptations of Shakespeare, there is often a great emphasis on the cinematography. In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 ‘Romeo + Juliet’, we were given a lush, almost cartoonish version of fair Verona.

Starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, 2011’s ‘Coriolanus’ was a grey, gritty modern day retelling of the titular character’s fall from grace, set in a modern day war-torn state.

In the same way as films before it, the archaic nature of Shakespearean English almost plays second fiddle to the visual. Battle scenes play out in near silence, the screen saturated with reds and yellows. The highlands of Scotland are dour, harsh and unforgiving, you practically hear the gales howling between the cinema seats.

That being said, the powerful delivery that Fassbender and Cotillard deliver is worth of much praise. Both actors play their characters which a wonderful sense of duality. Macbeth begins as humble and loyal, yet descends into madness after the murder of his King, Duncan. Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth may begin as the Machiavellian influence behind her husband, yet soon comes to fear the man she has played a part in creating.

 

I can’t praise this film highly enough. To take a relative Shakespearean novice, and leave such a lasting impression on me is no mean feat. It is a rich, captivating adaptation that will surely spark a revives appreciation of Shakespeare’s works.

5/5

If you’re in Newcastle, get tickets to see Macbeth here.

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ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL: My review

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It’s quite rare to find a film that thoroughly charms you. Although it seems quite an old fashioned term, I love the feeling I get when I stumble across something that I find charming. For me the sensation is like being wrapped up in an oversized jumper on a freezing day, or having that first glorious sip of tea in the morning. It makes you comfortable, makes you feel at ease, and it just makes you feel good.

This afternoon, I watched the film “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl”, and it was, you guessed it, such a charming film. It centres around the three titular characters, Greg, who is the ‘me’ in this scenario. He is a high schooler, content to coast through the whole experience with offending as few people as possible, and making as few friends as possible. Earl is his ‘business partner’, which we find out is code for friend, Greg is just too afraid to call anyone a friend in case they don’t feel the same way. Finally, the dying girl. This is Rachel, a thoughtful, unique young woman diagnosed with leukaemia.

This film is about death, and that is made very clear from the outset, courtesy of Greg’s narration that continues throughout the film. This is one of the many things that charmed me about this film. It is self aware, yet it is not cliche. What I mean by this is that the director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, has a clear picture of what this film is going to be about, but does not fall into the tropes that can accompany films that deal with death. It is sincere without being sappy, it is irreverent without being flippant and it uplifting without necessarily having to impart some greater moral lesson.

The films that I found myself thinking of after I left the picture, were two films that I enjoyed greatly, and ones that I feel are similar in terms of tone. “They are 500 Days of Summer” and “50/50” Both of these films are about relationships, and one is certainly about death. If I’m being lateral, perhaps you could argue that “500 Days” is about death, as it is about the death of a relationship…but I don’t know how meta I want to get here.

With themes in mind, the film that we have is a touching portrayal of young adults struggling with issues that they should under normal circumstances never have to deal with. Where this films succeeds is creating a set of fully fleshed out characters that we can enjoy watching react to this situation in their own unique way. Greg retreats, Earl is sincere and Rachel doesn’t need your pity.

This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and I left the cinema with a smile on my face when the subject matter actually required tears. It may be strange, but if you want to feel uplifted, go and see this film. You may leave the theatre crying, but I guarantee you’ll also be wearing a smile.

4.5/5

TRAINWRECK: My review

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It was with only a small amount of trepidation that I went to see the latest Judd Apatow-produced film. The last film of his I went to see was Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and the less I remember about that film the better..

I was worried that I’d reached my ‘peak Apatow’. Were the films that I’d laughed myself to tears during my teenage years – ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, ‘Superbad’, and ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, only funny because I was young?

As much as my male lizard brain likes fart jokes, and watching grown men blunder in an eternal adolescence, I’ve started to seek out more when it comes to comedy. This is not to say that I haven’t gotten that from Apatow in the past. My favourite film of his was ‘Knocked Up’, which to me was such a heartfelt, bittersweet send up of one of the proverbial man-children coming to terms with what it means to take responsibility.

I say ‘was’ my favourite, as ‘Trainwreck’ has taken its crown. I barely stopped laughing from start to finish, and that was mainly due to the blisteringly funny acting of it’s leading actor, and writer – Amy Schumer. I’m a bit late to the Schumer hype train, which I’ve noticed rumbling on around me over the past year. I’m now truly on board, and over the next few days I plan to binge-watch everything I can find of her on YouTube.

In Trainwreck, Schumer’s character, conveniently named Amy, seems to be an extension of her stand-up routine. A brash, I don’t give a shit feminist who confronts existing standards of how women are supposed to be in real life, and portrayed on screen. Amy drinks, smokes, has a whole load of sex, and works at an FHM-like magazine whose headlines go something like ’30 Ugly Celebrity Babies Under Six’.

What feels very refreshing is that you never feel that Amy is being shamed for the lifestyle that she lives. How she lives isn’t ideal, and introduction of sports doctor Aaron (played by Bill Hader) into her life is certainly a positive thing, he isn’t presented as the stereotypical white knight. He helps Amy discover that she is more than how she sees herself.

It is because that Schumer wrote her character as being more than just the butt of a joke this film works so well for me. Amy is a character that many of us can empathise with. She is potentially every other person on the street, doing ok in life, working at an OK job, she has a good family and good friends around, yet you get the feeling that there is something missing, even if she doesn’t quite admit it to herself. How many of us often feel ourselves in that exact situation.

Just like Amy, the film is not without its flaws. Some of the celebrity cameos seem just a little too shoehorned in, even though Hader’s character is a surgeon to the stars. If you’re nit-picking, is Schumer’s character THAT much of a trainwreck anyway?

This film is a thoroughly enjoyable, and refreshing take on girl-meets-boy romantic comedy. It’s testament to Schumer’s sharp writing that film manages to carry it off so well. It’s full of heart and with some truly hilarious supporting roles, it leaves me thankful that Apatow’s  films may be maturing along with me.

4/5. Go see it now! If anything, for the surprisingly brilliant comic turns from NBA star LeBron James, and WWE wrestler John Cena. Seriously, I was surprised as anyone!

The End of Empathy?

Anyone who is remotely aware of the world around them will have noticed that London is simultaneous experiencing Tube disruption due to workers exercising their democratic right to withdraw their labour, or, IT IS BEING HELD TO RANSOM BY GREEDY, BUTTON-PUSHING TUBE DRIVERS. It all depends on where you stand on the political spectrum I suppose.

Now being the spawn of North-East mining stock, it will not surprise anyone to know whose side I’m on. (Psst, it’s not TFL). I have my reasons for thinking this, and could no doubt argue all day with someone holding the opposite opinion.

This is not the point of this article however, my question is why have so many people become collectively so un-empathetic when it comes to the situation of others? Whether it is desperate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean or Channel Tunnel, the jobless, or workers fighting for rights they hold, it now seems a requirement to have a vitriolic backlash via social media.

When I talk about these comments, I don’t mean the ones left by EDL, or Britain First sympathisers. These comments are from your friends on Facebook, colleagues, acquaintances that under normal circumstances you’d most likely view as perfectly good people. The narrative I know see has becoming particularly adversarial. We are living through incredibly difficult times, and yet rather than trying to understand the misfortune and concerns of others, instead, we seek out who is to blame.

This most recent Tube strike is not about wages, but about ensuring that workers are insured against being forced to work an unlimited number of unsociable hours. When a 24 hour tube service is about to come into service, this hardly seems like too great a thing to ask. The people who work on the line have a huge responsibility to the public in order to keep trains running safely, and on time. Without assurances to have a ceiling for numbers of night shifts work during the week, what is stopping a driver to become sleep deprived? How is that not an accident waiting to happen? To ensure the safety of the public, again, I would ask is this such a great thing to ask for?

Safety aside, when discussing the tube strike, there seems to be no perspective in regards to the personal lives of the staff involved. Many will have families, children and the huge range of commitments that entails. Just because someone drives a tube, works on the platform or signal box, do they have less of a right to see their families during the day time?

Seeing comments that tell London’s transport workers to ‘man up’ and to just ‘get on with their jobs’ dishearten me greatly. Have we truly lost touch with empathy so much, that we now shout and scream at ordinary people, who are just like us want to live an ordinary life, that is not dictated by the job they do?

I can only hope that somewhere down the line, collectively we can try to learn how to be empathetic once more. Rather than instantly judging others from our own perspective, we can take five or ten minutes to at least try to understand that other person’s situation. Even if for the briefest of moments, at least it would be progress.

2014: My year in review

Last year I wrote a blog post very much in this vein. I remember it being one of the blogs I most enjoyed writing as it gave me the time to remember so much of the awesome music, films books and culture I devoured during the year.

My taste in pretty much everything is eclectic to say the least. I’m more than happy to have a playlist with some Taylor Swift and Beyonce mixing it up with Mastodon and Slipknot. If a film has subtitles, more the better for it, but hey we all love explosions right. Except when Michael Bay does it. Fuck you Michael Bay. In terms of literature over the past year I have read anything from the Game of Thrones novels to biographies to a study of the year 1913.

I’ve learned as I’ve grown older to try my hand at anything, as being close minded doesn’t do me any favours. I’m glad I have done so, as it’s opened up so many more worlds to me to enjoy.

ANYWAY. Diving right in.

Music

2014 was the year I went over to the dark side and started using Spotify Premium, which inspire of it heralding the death of aspiring musicians trying to make a buck or two… is AWESOME! Every day I get to listen to music I wouldn’t normally come into contact to. So here are some of my favourite songs I’ve listened to this year.

Lana Del Rey – ‘West Coast’

When LDR first exploded onto the scene, I honestly couldn’t understand the hype. Admittedly I thought she had a unique look and sound, but nothing more than that. However, upon hearing the opening toms beat their rhythm on this track I was hooked. The track couldn’t be cooler if it was a picture of James Dean, smoking a cigarette with the ‘Hefe’ filter cranked up to the max.

Sun Kil Moon – ‘Carissa’

I stumbled across the American folk trio Sun Kil Moon on a compilation of some of the best artists so far in 2014. They more than justified their inclusion on such a list with their album Benji. The song ‘Carissa’ stood out in particular for me. The sparse acoustic guitar plays out behind mournful lyrics describing the pain a family experiences after the death of the titular Carissa.

Beck – ‘Morning’

I first came across Beck in an episode of Futurama. In it he was described as ‘a musician-poet who transcends genres even as he re-invents them’. Yep, that seems about right. Since discovering him through that brilliant cartoon, I’ve learned to see Beck as equally as brilliant. Each album I listen to seems to reveal more about him as an artist, yet makes him even more inscrutable. The only common ground appears to be their excellence. On his latest outing, ‘Morning Phase’, the second track ‘Morning’ has been the song that wakes me up since I first heard it.

Mastodon – ‘The Motherload’

Mastodon are the Atlanta-based prog-metallers that have well and truly taken Metallica’s metal crown. Steadily releasing mind-bendingly complex and deep metal albums, their magnum opus was this years ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’. It’s a rare breed of band that manages to make progressive metal accessible to a wider audience. ‘The Motherload’ is a all out assault on your ear drums. The rattling of the snare drums weave in between the thrum of the bass and the duelling guitars to create a wall of sound that knocked me down when I first heard it, and still does.

Taylor Swift – ‘Blank Space’

So here’s the deal. Until recently I saw TS as just another tween pop star from America, rolled out from Nashville. She sings well enough but I’m just not the target demographic for what she produces. Challenged by a friend to give her latest outing ‘1989’ a listen I submitted. I’m trying to be less of a judgemental person these days, and this would be a great exercise showing how much I’d grown. However, I was not expecting to find the album one of the standout releases of the year. No kidding. It is a brilliant slice of pop. Filled with the echoed synths that wouldn’t be out of place on a HAIM record, but at no point feels patronising, something that a huge deal of contemporary songs are guilty of. Now I’m no die-hard fan (YET!) but I can see that ‘Blank Space’ is Taylor taking aim and knocking down those who have built her up to be a man-devouring psycho cliche. A thoroughly brilliant, catchy track. I’m definitely a converted Swifty now (that’s what we call ourselves you know.) I am now very aware that this TS related paragraph has taken up more space than the previous entries combined. So I’ll stop now.

The War on Drugs – ‘Under the Pressure’

Driving across America, top down on the convertible, sunlight glinting off your Rayban Wayfarers. When I hear this beautiful, epic of a song, that is the image I cannot help but imagine. This song nearly tops 8 minutes, but at no point feels overdrawn. Imagine it as a more ethereal take of Bruce Springsteen. This is the hardest song and album I’ve had to think about over the past year, as it’s truly one of introspection. It represents the best of what music can do to an individual, it makes you turn inwards to feel, and understand yourself better.

Honourable mentions: Taylor Swift – ‘Style’, The 1975 – ‘Medicine’, Kendrick Lamar ‘i’, Beyoncé – ‘7/11’, Foo Fighters – ‘I Am A River’, Aphex Twin – ‘aisatsana [102]’, Jamie T – ‘Turn On The Light’, You Me At Six – ‘Room to Breathe’, Paolo Nutini – ‘Iron Sky’, Black Label Society – ‘My Dying Time’, Lana Del Rey – ‘Once Upon a Dream’, Katy Perry – ‘Dark Horse’, La Roux – ‘Cruel Sexuality’.

Dishonourable mention: Chris Brown – ‘Loyal’. Not proud of this, as the artist is a colossal ass-hat, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the song. Gets me so hyped at the gym. I’m sorry. I’ll go.

I could go on and on (I probably have already) about the music I experience throughout the year. This was just a brief snapshot of the highlights of my year. I’m going to pop a link to a playlist on Spotify so you can listen to them (except the Taylor Swift ones). ENJOY!

Film

2014 was a standout year for film. I honestly can’t remember a better year in which films of such a high calibre were released. For the sake of the reader, I have agonisingly narrowed my best of list down to four choices.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

This is taking the number one spot. I couldn’t not have it as my top film of 2014. I walked out of the cinema desperate to see it again. It is a enthralling blend of the comic and the tragic, all shot in Wes Anderson’s iconic style – the seemingly never ending tracking shots through long corridors, or across the alpine landscapes of the fictional country Zubrowka. One of the greatest scenes of the film involves a chase down a bobsleigh run. Not only does Ralph Fiennes put in a star turn as the joyous M. Gustave, as do many of the other stars dotted throughout this wonderful picture, Christopher Walken especially. It is unconventional, but therein lies it’s charm. Time and again you will watch it and time and again you will discover more ways in which to love it.

The Lego Movie – Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Everything is awesome! And everything WAS awesome in this film. When I first saw this film was in development, I thought it was the death of cinema. Finally, even cherished childhood toys, the fountain of so much creativity was now up for sale to the highest paying studio, ready to be packaged up and thrown at cinema goers for a cheap, cynical buck. How wrong I was. It is a sublime blend of slapstick, clever word-play and sheer childlike happiness. However there lies a deeper message about how creativity should not be stifled by mass consumerism. ‘YEAH RIGHT, IT’S ONLY ABOUT SODDING LEGO’ I hear you cry. Just watch it, and you’ll see the message. If not, hey, just enjoy it for the laughs, and there are plenty of those to keep you going!

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

While 2014 has been the year of the McConaissance, and rightly so, there has been another actor who for me has displayed some serious acting chops I’ve never seen before. I’m referring to Jake Gyllenhaal and in particular his performance in the deeply disturbing Nightcrawler. I’ve always viewed him as a good actor, however in this performance he does what I feel makes a good actor great. He made me forget I was watching him. For the time I spent in the cinema I was transfixed by the odious, slimy yet completely charming man, Lou Bloom. The film explores the darker side of what goes into getting our news, a swipe at the news system that feeds our desires to see the sordid, the depraved and violent. Chilling to watch, but to engrossing to turn away. Gyllenhaal deserves the Oscar, with no reservations.

Guardians of the Galaxy – James Gunn

Seeing the trailer for this I exclaimed “huh?”. Then I sighed, seeing that after milking Iron Man et al for all they were worth, we were now going to be treated to the back catalogue of Marvel. But, like the Lego Movie above, I was proved very wrong. Whilst the bigger franchises involving already well known characters, GotG is allowed to express itself in a much fuller sense, as frankly, I’d never heard of Star Lord until the opening scene, and I’d venture not a great many other people had either. It has been compared to Star Wars, and whilst not entirely a fantastic analogy, it does have the feel of a space epic that could go much further if given the right director and support. Not tied down to conventional planets, I’m looking at you, Earth, there is a sense of fun and freedom that lets these guys do what they want how they want. Chris Pratt, usually seen being hilarious on Parks & Recreation is the ideal lead. Witty, likeable but not the conventional hero. He is, let’s face it, a bit of a douche sometimes. Combined with arguably the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard, it all makes a non-stop joy ride from start to finish.

Literature

I’ve been ashamedly lax during 2014 when it came to reading. My newly discovered Spotify meant that my time was unfairly devoted to music. Not sorry though, see above for the fantastic education it gave me!

When I did get the chance my reading was varied any immersive. Here’s a look at some of the pages I turned in 2014

A Song of Ice and Fire – A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin

Like a vast number of others, I came across this series from the TV series (no need to say how good it is, everyone knows by now). I was really taken how engrossed I became so quickly with these novels. Not since I read War and Peace had I felt like that. Now I’m not comparing those novels in terms of quality, as in my option W&P is the greatest novel ever written. However in terms of the desire to read as much as humanly possible, as quickly as possible, my reaction was the same. My reading of this saga is currently is on hiatus. I enjoy watching the TV series for the suspense I feel every episode. I feel that by reading the books ahead of the series I would ruin some of the great moments I’ve experienced. The benefit of this is by going through the books, I get to enjoy just how more richly the text illustrates George R. R. Martin’s vision of Westeros. I can’t understate how much I am looking forward to picking up these books again.

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

A harrowing, honest and truly stark picture of modern warfare. Set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway draws on his own experience of that conflict to guide us through one man’s struggle with the reality he is part of. The book is a juxtaposition of the beauty of nature and the cold mechanisation of modern war. As Hemingway writes, you can almost smell the pinewood forests, feel the wind blow through your hair, tread the rocky ground underfoot. You also hear the click of the metal bolt of a rifle, the whistle of the round cutting through the air, man being rent apart my explosions. This was a tough read for the burden it places on the reader. Hemingway finds a way of writing as if you were the only person his book was intended for. You are force to confront the grotesque position that war puts men into. Yet in it’s darkest pages, there is still beauty to be found, however hard that is to imagine.

1913: The Year Before the Storm –  Florian Illies

In the centenary year of the beginning of The First World War, hundreds, if not thousands of books were newly published documenting every aspect of one of the defining conflicts of human history. However, a fascinating, and perhaps under-looked topic is the years preceding the conflict. It is a tragedy that the youth of the early 20th century were sacrificed across the battlefields of France, Belgium, Russia and further afield. This book takes a look at the richness of cultural achievement that was going on, right up until the beginning of the war. Freud and Jung were battling over the better method of psycho-analysis. Future dictators of the right and left in the form of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin lived within a few miles of one another in Vienna. Artists sought to redefine what art could achieve in the form of Cubism, one of the boldest artistic movements of the 20th century, at least in terms of the schools it preceded. This book is phenomenal for many reasons, if anything, it shows the tragedy of the progress, the wonder and inspiration that the Great War so tragically curtailed.

Well. That’s me done for now. I hope you enjoyed only a small part of the journey I went through this past year. I want to try blogging a bit more in 2015 as it occurred to me that it’s one of the positive outlets I have for expressing myself, short of twitter rants!

Here’s hoping we all have a wonderful 2015! 🙂

J