An exploration of narrative, space, and gender roles in Certain Women

In what I envisaged to be an in-depth look into the tales of four women in the Midwest, I was as wrong as I was right about Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women. Adapted from Maile Molloy’s collection of stories, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Half In Love, Reichardt graciously presents three stories of four women quietly surviving in Montana.

In what could have equally been well executed as three short films, Reichardt subtly develops a narrative in triptych form which doesn’t so much intertwine the stories rather more depicts how these women co-exist along side each other. While observing the women’s stories Reichardt has also maintained a distinct cinematic style and combines this aspect with significant attention towards Montana’s landscape.

Overlooking the narrative(s) and women is the ever-present setting of Montana’s mountains – inhabiting the beautiful but derelict location – whereby Reichardt strategically repositions our perception of space to focus on the relationships of the story’s four women.

Throughout this three part structure, there is a consistent disconnect between men and women and their inability to communicate and form stable relationships. The latter is first established through Laura (Laura Dern): a lawyer currently involved in an affair with Ryan (James Le Gros) meanwhile also drearily trying to shake her tenacious client Fuller (Jared Harris). Both men are aggravatingly needy which in turn creates a subtly hilarity in juxtaposition with Laura’s casual demure, which is amplified further during Fuller’s attempt at a hostage situation and her casual realness.

[Credit: IMDB]

Throughout Reichardt’s work she successfully creates a gracious charm towards simplicity, while also establishing a grainy realistic approach to convey one’s hardship. Gina (Michelle Williams) reinforces the film’s theme of connection, or lack there of, as she balances her dwindling marriage to the unfaithful Ryan and a misplaced relationship with her daughter, all the while still attempting to nest by building a holiday home in Montana’s wilderness.

While trying to proposition their neighbour, Albert, into taking a collapsed school house’s remaining sandstone to create their holiday retreat, Gina’s dialogue is somewhat bypassed by him and redirected towards a predominantly passive Ryan. Both comic and obnoxious in his manner towards Gina, Albert shadows the significance of time and space in relation to gender roles as he represents an older generation, demonstrated by his assumption that Gina works for Ryan who coyly corrects him.

[Credit: IMDB]

Reichardt continues to explore gender roles in the final and bitter-sweet chapter through a nameless rancher’s (Lily Gladstone) relationship with a young and rundown night school teacher Beth (Kristen Stewart). Working in a predominantly male profession and quite masculine in her attire, Gladstone exerts simplistic yet impactful physical gestures that connote an endearing lust towards Beth which drives this section of the narrative.

The four women challenge female stereotypes and Reichardt speculates this predominantly through the rancher – originally a male character in Molloy’s story – by her placement in a conventionally male-orientated environment and the way in which she exhibits the evolving aspects of gender roles and contemporary relationships. Unfortunately in this instance a relationship between the rancher and Beth is unable to form due to the harsh geographical distance that Beth must travel.

[Credit: filmski-koticek]

Distance in all three stories takes a prime role, whether like the latter it’s practical distance, or physical distance in Laura’s case as despite the intimate nature of her and Ryan’s relationship there is still an obvious disconnect. Interestingly more so, this is further examined by Laura’s relationship with Fuller in his attempts to come closer to her by trying to enter her physical space, yet he still remains emotionally far away.

This theme then transcends into Gina’s narrative with her martial status to Ryan which in turn reveals that even with their legal commitment to each other, there is still a fundamental bond missing. Indicated by Ryan’s affair with Laura, and Gina’s preference to be alone as she takes herself away into an empty space to smoke, suggestively an allegorical addiction that fills this void, it becomes more apparent that even with fully formed relationships, distance still divides the women’s ability to find a connection.

[Credit: IMDB]

Amidst the women’s internal conflicts lays the greater space depicted through the landscape. Although evolution is represented by independent and progressive female leads, attention to tradition is ingrained in the slow mid-western setting connoted by echoes of Native American history still remarkably imbedded in this labouring environment.

A tranquil yet overbearing emptiness is established by the grainy palette aesthetic from the 16mm that fluently runs through each narrative, which arguably is the fundamental connection between these stories. Neither outspoken nor suited in body cons and equipped with superpowers, the four women challenge conventional female roles as they proceed to work and build in and around an environment most commonly associated with men. Certain Women will not be suited for every spectator, however as a result Reichardt intricately explores the female perspective while not adhering to the traditional melodrama genre.

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Review: A Cure For Wellness

A Cure For Wellness has been on my radar since the first trailer came out – Hollywood’s long-awaited sophisticated psycho-thriller – and I was eager to see director Gore Verbinski’s comeback to horror since his remake of The Ring.

The film fixates on self-discovery and for our protagonist Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), his journey begins as an eager junior turned exec determined to prove his worth by climbing the economic high-rise. From the get-go Lockhart exerts pretention, reminiscent of Mad Men’s young Pete Campbell, but his cooked books conveniently enable his company’s board members to blackmail him. Lockhart must now bring back the company’s CEO (Pembroke) from a Swiss wellness centre to sign an all round benefitting merger – trouble is, Pembroke doesn’t want to leave.

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Verbinski successfully combines classical horror conventions with his own contemporary and experimental stylisation, which can first be seen as Lockhart makes his way up to the Castle-like clinic. Against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps the castle is abundantly oppressive as a typically located eyrie, and it is at this point when Lockhart is removed from contemporary society and placed into isolation that I immediately think: Bram Stocker’s Dracula meets twisted fairytale fantasy.

A more idyllic and charming rendition of Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe at first, it doesn’t take long for this Swiss spa to do a number on Lockhart with the assistance from submissive staff and their illusive answers as to the whereabouts of Pembroke. Deciding to return to New York, retrieving Pembroke seemed like Lockhart’s only issue until alarming hallucinations start to take effect after consuming the local water (part of the treatment). From bad to worse, his predicament then escalates resulting in a car crash. Lockhart lands himself right back in the clinic with a broken leg whereby a power shift occurs and his role is shifted from guest to patient.

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After meeting the dubious clinic director Volmer (Jason Isaacs), Lockhart is persuaded to take “the cure”. Still equipped with his hotshot attitude and not a lot else to do, he takes it upon himself to discover what the cure really is. While hobbling on crutches around the nothing-is-what-it-seems facility he encounters; the “very special case” Hannah (Mia Goth); folktales; inhospitable villagers; an aquifer turned evil layer; and eels, lots and lots of eels (red herrings, if you will).

Film Review A Cure For Wellness

While Verbinski’s cinematic style is relentless and overflowing with visual metaphors – on an aesthetic level this is well executed – patience and perseverance are key, as answers and plot twists are provided in titbit fashion. At just around two and a half hours long, I couldn’t help but contemplate whether or not Verbinski had exhausted the latter element in exchange for a plot holed narrative, which we trust to eventually provide the film’s underlying message.

Fortunately, most inadequacies can be somewhat side-stepped or salvaged by the atmospheric soundtrack. A cross between Stranger Things and A Secret Garden, Benjamin Wallfisch’s ominous score successfully reinforces the film’s apt for nihilistic mystery and dream-like states.

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The only other real mystery, also revealed at the end, is the certificate rating 18. A self-confessed scaredy-cat I was rather hesitant about going in alone, but turns out the real horror is less frightening and more… disturbing.  Quickly spiralling down, A Cure For Wellness takes a peak turn, which at this stage I fear screenplay writer Justin Haythe has got too many ends to tie together.

Eventually it becomes apparent that Lockhart wasn’t really destined for his new found position, given that he was only bumped up because his predecessor mysteriously clocked off. So, it seems fitting that what we have left in Verbinski’s fairytale finale is a depiction of humans stripped of their success, which in turn reveals their haunting emptiness, and Lockhart amidst some sort of eel-infused trip gazing upon the Alps.

Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Released to cinemas in January this year, I slightly panicked at the now-limited listings for Hacksaw Ridge. At just over £10 pound a ticket, I often ask myself: “is this something I have too see on the big screen, or shall I wait for the DVD?”

Luckily for me, I had my newly purchased Cineworld Unlimited card – it was a no brainer – so I asked my mother (a war film fanatic) to join me on the judges’ panel.

A story of patriotism, perseverance, and standing up for your beliefs, Mel Gibson journeys back to Maeda Escarpment, commonly known as “Hacksaw Ridge”, amidst the Second World War. Paying tribute to brave American soldiers, the film above all commemorates the heroic actions of combat medic Desmond Doss.

While collating general opinion, Hacksaw Ridge has been compared and paralleled to the likes of Saving Private Ryan, and it’s not hard to understand why. Immersed with gore and war zone realism, Gibson depicts the merciless violence and relentless efforts experienced by soldiers during this battle against the Japanese on Okinawa island in 1945.

The narrative is not complicated, following our protagonist on his journey to Hacksaw Ridge, and perfectly embodies the remarkable sincerity and determination of Doss throughout. The latter for me is where the true accomplishment of the film lies, supported by an outstanding cast that is lead by Andrew Garfield.

Garfield presents, at first, what appears to be a childish naivety that he then transcends into Doss’ genuine intentions, and valiant actions, to save the lives of his fellow troops in what seems like an impossible mission.

Following in the steps of his father and brother, Doss enlists himself to join the war as a medic aspiring and then proceeding to save lives, but not take them, while refusing to hold or fire a weapon. Tormented and terrorised by his fellow troops, and psychologically questioned by his superiors, Doss’ moral compass stays straight and he subsequently earns the respect and recognition deserved for saving 75 lives.

Despite Mel Gibson’s controversial opinions, which arguably sent him into hiding since his last feature Apocalypto back in 2006, as a director it’s unlikely he’ll go unnoticed for this acclaim-worthy achievement. Gibson shoots a clean-cut picture, which is stylised by wide landscapes and medium close-ups packed with beauty as well as destruction, placing this endearing and harrowing war film on a pedestal of its own.

As always Oscar season will be stirring with hype and injustice, especially with current front-runner La La Land at the helm. In all honesty I think as far as cinematography and art direction go, La La Land deserves the win, but for me Andrew Garfield certainly poses as a major contender for Best Actor given his soul-bearing performance and notable progression from neophyte Spider to War hero.

The Hype of Hygge

Since visiting Copenhagen last July, I have found myself completely captivated by the Danes’ lust for chic design, cool composure and aspiration to live well.

Sent with love and well wishes, Meik Wiking graced Britain last year with the release of his best seller The Little Book of Hygge. The Little Book of ha-wha, you ask? The Little Book of “hue-gah”: The Danish Way To Live Well.

Hygge is a Norwegian turned Danish term used to describe and encourage “a feeling of home” and creation of “atmosphere and experience” in our everyday lives. Essentially, we should take more time to appreciate and indulge in the comfort of the simple things life has to offer, as opposed to limiting our enjoyment of pleasurable activities.

But why care what the Danes do? Well, the Danes’ reputation for happiness has become an established identity within itself as they are rated as the happiest country in the world. The Danes also boast a very high quality of life that is not just fixated on income or another fad diet, and this has lead many Britain’s to now jump on the train, destination: happy.

So, how does one hygge? Well, now the smug owner of Wiking’s well-being guide myself, I’ll share with you some of the simple secrets:

No matter what the occasion, have candles everywhere: Candles are the first lesson in hygge, so it’s important to note that “Scented candles are considered artificial, and Danes prefer natural and organic products”, and to put it bluntly “no candles, no hygge”. Furthermore dim lighting is key, and the Danes equally love their lamps.

Make quality time for loved ones: To know if you’ve got relationship status hygge, time spent with loved ones should feel “like a good hug – but without the physical contact”. Wiking’s research into happiness has concluded that “The more satisfied people are with their social relationships, the happier they are in general”. Moreover, at the centre of a Danish home you’re highly likely to find a dining table, designed to accommodate family and friends for frequent social meals.

Home is the “hygge headquarters”: The Danish are known for their design (oh that enviable Scandic-chic) and “tend to put a lot of effort and money into making their homes hyggelige” (aka homey and intimate). Danes therefore create a cosy yet fresh living environment, because “Home is central to social life in Denmark”. Unlike us Brits who love to go out, the Danes make their homes the place to be.

Less is more: Minimalism is also key, which you can instantly recognise from Danes’ wardrobe attire and everyday appearance, to their interior design. To get the hygge look pull your focus towards scarfs, layers, casual hair, and most importantly black, so “aim for a look that would be fitting for Karl Lagerfeld’s funeral: stylish but monochrome”.

Eat well to live well: The Danes are treat eaters and don’t fret about indulging (they’re crazy for cake) because “hygge is about being kind to yourself – and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living”, while still remaining balanced. As opposed to Maccy Ds and KFCs Danes prefer to indulge in more homely comfort foods – they love their meat and potatoes, pastries, and crafted open sandwiches.

Get on your bike: It’s a very easy argument to suggest that Denmark was built for bikes, given what seems to be an on-going flat landscaped county. When visiting Copenhagen cycling was a huge highlight for me, and it’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular – it’s “an easy way to weave a bit of exercise into our daily routine and is environmentally (and wallet-) friendly”.

All sound quite straightforward? That’s because hygge really is. It’s an underestimated concept, the idea of being happy, and for me the Danes have nailed it by extracting their primary happiness from life’s simple occurrences that can be incorporated into everyday life – it is that easy.

Over the last few months we Brits have predominately been occupied with a Brexit backlash and NHS crisis, so frankly I think we could all benefit from a bit of positive well-being. Anyone curious about hygge, why not test the waters with a few home essentials: a hyggekrog (nook), a fireplace, candles (this cannot be stressed enough), wooden furniture, books (no, not kindles), ceramics, shop vintage, and fill your home with cushions and blankets.

If you’re still not sold on hygge, my only next logical step is to implore you to visit Denmark and see for yourself. Check out some of my top recommendations for Copenhagen HERE. It really is a beautiful and vibrant city that I cannot wait to visit again.

The Trumps Turn Back Time

// “2017 will be better” they said //

Do you remember when you first heard that Donald Trump would run for president? I remember throwing my head back with a laugh of disbelief thinking “Ha! Good one”, and yet little did I know the joke of the century would become a morbid reality.

After  recently dosing myself with feel-good Youtube interview clips of  Barack and Michelle Obama, I hit a brick wall following a video concerning Ivanka and Donald Trump. The video is a conversation between Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian who present The Young Turks and they discuss when Ivanka Trump walked out of an interview with Cosmo last September.

>> Watch full video here <<<

On the subject of Trump’s proposal for maternity pay, the topic became a little too close for comfort when Cosmo journalist Prachi Gupta addressed Ivanka Trump on how the policy wouldn’t cover those in same-sex relationships as the policy only applies to mothers who have physically given birth to a child. As a typical Trump reflex, Ivanka dodges the question insisting Gupta is being too negative and doesn’t understand how she can answer the question. How about explaining the implications of this biological-mothers-only club?

What distresses me most about Ivanka’s attitude is that it could suggest that she is homophobic, and honestly I’m getting that vibe. Ivanka’s decision to leave the interview demonstrates how the Trump pattern of relationships with the media is definitely favouring a certain type of journalism by trying to only promote a pro-Trump image, but this is also called propaganda, is it not? I would like to think that a family of the Trump’s political status should be able to handle and accept tough questions that oppose and challenge their views (Obama could do it, and we respected him for it).

Furthermore what about adoption? What about the thousands of barren couples who want to start a family and choose to adopt? There are women across the globe who suffer with mental health and financial instability who may not feel suited or ready for motherhood, and it is a noble act to admit this in a society where women are still shamed for not wanting children. This then raises implications for couples who are able to provide a child with a higher quality of life but are unable to seek the same maternity work benefits when starting a family.

I can’t help but tie the latter discourse to Trump’s abortion policy which should address relatively taboo subjects such as unwanted children, navigating us back into the pros for adoption. These two policies to me just don’t go hand in hand as surely the abortion policy restrictions should be presented with some sort of solution by the maternity pay policy, like promoting adoption which welcomes/involves barren and same-sex couples across America.

In an article by Mark Molloy for The Telegraph, Molloy shares a tweet by Ivanka which boasts “A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table”. Well, to an extent I agree with this – women should be able to advance and progress in high positions within the workplace just like men – but given her stance on the maternity pay policy I’m not sure she is the best representative at all (even more so given that she can’t handle an interview with a women’s magazine). Also, where were the women at the signing of the abortion policy?

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Personally I don’t think  Gupta’s questions were necessarily negative, I think they were just raising concerns over equality and LGBT rights which apparently Ivanka isn’t in favour of. All the policies put in place thus far by the Trumps have certainly been controversial and they also seem to only encourage outdated values such as disregarding LGBT rights; discriminating against races that aren’t white or traditionally American; and resurrecting the cereal packet family.

>>> Read Gupta’s Cosmo interview with Ivanka here <<<

It’s 2017 and with all the rights we’ve obtained from the heroes before us, it would be disrespectful and a shame to turn back the clocks and undo all they’ve given to achieve equality. The world is where it is because of the hard work of generations before us, but it is still infected with sexism, racism, and fascism. In order to evoke forward progression we need to keep writing, keep filming, keep talking, and keep marching.

// “People have the power to redeem the work of fools” – Patti Smith //

Films for Action: Blackfish

 

There’s a very popular hashtag trend on Twitter and it goes by #EmptyTheTanks. If you were to search this I guarantee you’ll see links to Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish and it is clear why.

Blackfish takes an in-depth look into the controversy with capturing Orca, or Killer, whales and raising them in captivity which in turn reveals the shocking and unfortunate truth behind the dazzling lights and performances at SeaWorld.

Ex-trainers give their personal accounts of their experiences at SeaWorld from their naivety as young, new trainers lacking education about these orca whales, to the death of their friend, and fellow trainer, Dawn Brancheau. The tragedy of Dawn’s death sparked much outrage given the nature of the upfront circumstances calling for Tilikum to be put down, however despite the actions of Tilikum, is he the one to really blame?

The film focuses on Tilikum – an orca far too large to be in a tank in the first place – who suffers from psychotic stress and trauma from being taken from the wild and being forced into captivity to become an entertainer for humans. The hard-hitting facts presented predominantly come from the visual contrasts of orca whales roaming in the wild to these lifeless, floating giants in large swimming pools at SeaWorld. Needless to say, the message is clear: orcas in captivity is inhumane.

Further to the latter, facts from marine biologists about orcas in the wild expose lies given to park visitors by Seaworld staff (who have probably never seen an orca in the wild), for example: the life expectancy of orca whales in captivity is believed to be longer than orcas in the wild. The misguided information provided at the parks also raises concern towards the moral aspect of bringing in money vs actually educating people properly about these sea creatures who are unethically dying in an unnatural habitat.

One of the worst parts of SeaWorld’s outlook and animal programs is that there are alternative plans to enable the release of captive orcas – one of the front runners for this campaign is Ingrid Visser, a marine biologist from New Zealand. Visser has been a huge advocate for sea sanctuaries, presenting plans for large scale pens to be placed in the sea to retire orcas in. Inevitably there is a harsh reality due to their captivity that orcas from SeaWorld will not ever be able to be fully released, however the sea sanctuaries are the closest thing to knowing a sense of freedom.

An article by Brian Clark Howard for the National Geographic addresses the slow growing progression that is being made with regards to orca shows but unfortunately Howard identifies that not all orca shows across the USA have complied. Furthermore even though a SeaWorld park in California stopped shows in 2015, SeaWorld still own the orcas and have no obligations to remove them from their enclosures (well, aside from moral obligations of course).

Reverting back to Howard’s point on progression, after public pressure ignited by the outrage from Blackfish, SeaWorld announced in 2016 that they will no longer continue the orca breeding program. Now considering the prior popularity of these orca shows, this is a fantastic step forward yet undeniably on an iceberg-like scale. What I mean by “iceberg scale” is quite simply that there are still many orca whales living in inadequate tanks across the world, and regrettably it took the death of a SeaWorld trainer to finally start actively addressing the issue and effects of orcas in captivity.

Blackfish leaves viewers with a bleak depiction of life for orcas in sea parks – it evokes emotion from the spectator but more notably from the ex-trainers, wild life activists and marine biologists. Yet just under the surface, the desperate plea to #EmptyTheTanks comes from people’s reaction to growing knowledge and appreciation of how orcas live and prosper in the wild, and a large increase of this activism and protest is thanks to Blackfish.

// Tilikum died earlier this year in captivity at SeaWorld – lets make sure he’s the last //

Courgette Crisis

I had heard a few rumours and seen a few hashtags, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I fully appreciated that the UK is currently losing their vegetables. The leading front runner of this campaign is the courgette, which has quickly established a #courgettecrisis and for good reason.

Now while we can appreciate it’s easy to forget the small things, because credit where it’s due it has been one eventful week – Trump’s in the most powerful seat in office presenting us with “alternative facts”, and Marine Le Pen is leading an uprising of the far right – the courgette situation has not gone unnoticed.

Although the outcry is somewhat dramatic, it is not unprecedented. According to online sources the scarce show of courgettes is due to heavy snowfall in Spain, who sources the majority of the UK’s supply. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop here as it has been noted that other vegetables like aubergines, cucumbers, and broccoli are at risk of becoming less frequent dinner guests too.

Trying to adopt a positive attitude this new year, it would be wonderful to to think that such a catastrophe could encourage more British consumers into “home growing”, or at least look at sourcing one’s vegetables organically by supporting local farms and their other produce. Now, this doesn’t solve the crisis, I know, but it does logically seek an alternative as opposed to declaring a code red situation, like one Guardian reader:

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>> Link for full article by The Guardian <<

God speed Charlotte, I’m so happy you got through that ordeal… Luckily there are some more appropriate, and blunt responses:

twitter-quote>> @Parveen_Comms <<

I too addressed the situation on Twitter, albeit less outranged more “well this is happening”, to which Sainsbury’s swiftly restored my faith in humanity:

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I myself am a lover of courgettes, but it goes without saying that the crisis is not like swearing off something on par with the end of a species. The courgettes will return, but as demanding as we are, consumers can’t always have everything.

The reality of “reality TV”

// “Reality TV to me is the museum of social decay” – Gary Oldman //

[If you watch reality TV, I can’t promise you won’t be insulted]

First and foremost I feel I must confess that despite my distain for reality TV, I actually don’t watch it, so you’ll find little direct reference to programmes here. Now I’ve seen a few episodes for intrigue, like Gogglebox, but I haven’t dared dive into the depths of moral decent with something like Keeping up with the Kardashians (heaven forbid) – I’m more of a Planet Earth and Louis Theroux kinda gal.

To make my point valid I do want to share some of my reasons for being so anti “reality”.

// Keeping ratbags rich //

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Granted the likes of the Kardashians and Chelsea squad would be financially sound without their shows, however by watching these programmes we as viewers only endorse and fuel their finances. Think about it, the funding comes in for “reality TV” because of the soaring TV ratings which means another season of nonsense from what has been interpreted as consumer demands. Are you a demanding consumer?

Is it because we are fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous? I have genuinely heard people say they like watching Made in Chelsea because they like seeing how people in London live. Well we can solve that argument for you! I used to live in London, and what you are watching is actually the 1% of Londoners aka the spoilt rich kids of the upper class. Thank you for keeping them that way viewers, great work!

// Encouraging shitty gossip and basic bitch behaviour //

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Are you aware there’s a Refugee crisis? Or that a racist/sexist businessman has taken the highest seat in office? No? Well, fair – there are “real” issues to attend to…

I work in an office, and while Love Island was being aired the previous night’s events were always discussed in the morning like the world news – I honestly felt like my ears were bleeding. Essentially what I got from the “news” is that he said, she said, now someone’s with someone else, and therefore they have left the island.

My fear is that the whole he said, she said attributes will become adopted into society as social norm, and the way one intervenes in business that is private and has absolutely nothing to do with them will also become acceptable. My fear has been realised… I constantly overhear (and try to keep out of) gossip infested conversations which revolve around hanging out someone else’s laundry for them – I do not find this discourse entertaining, I find it really alarming and incredibly boring.

My theory is that some people just can’t stand that they are not invited to the party.

// Lets become couch potatoes together – that makes it okay //

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The moment I watched Gogglebox I was terrified of it. Okay, I’ll admit that some comments made are entertaining, and I appreciate the concept of the programme is to convey and understand “real” people’s point of view, but no, just no.

Any time I see an advertisement for Gogglebox I have a little existential crisis in my head: people are sat on their sofas watching TV of people being sat on their sofas watching TV. *BRAIN CANNOT HANDLE*

Furthermore from a wider perspective, “reality TV” is just watching other people live their script-prompted lives (with no educational value). Does it make you feel like you’re living? I cannot help but feel that viewers watch these programmes because they are deemed as “reality” and this has ultimately normalised sitting in front of the TV watching/listen to mind dumbing (yes, I meant dumbing) material.

// It’s not like we don’t have good TV //

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Everyone has their own taste and ideas of what makes TV good, and I’m all for that, but unfortunately “reality TV” is the limit for me and is not a valid recommendation in my eyes.

Personally, I think if you’re going to show interest in reality, then why not raise the bar with some highly acclaimed documentaries? I mean, by one’s enthusiasm towards “reality TV”, it suggests that you are interested in real life events…? Well brilliant, try some of these: Blackfish, The Cove, Bowling for Columbine, Searching for Sugarman, anything by Louis Theroux, Frozen Planet, Planet Earth, Cowspiracy, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, and Grizzly Man (to name a few). Hola if you need more!

Alternatively sometimes we do require some escape from reality, so by all means give yourself a break. This year we have season 3 of Twin Peaks coming our way (SO excited), and we’ve been graced with the likes of Westworld, Stranger Things, House of Cards, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad (to name a few), so we have plenty of other options that won’t make us brain dead.

// I like to think humans are better than this //

Lets face it, the content of “reality TV” is first and foremost superficial, often encouraging and resulting in conflict over money and consumer goods – y’know the whole, “mine’s better than yours”, so you’re watching big children.

Secondly it’s not exactly promoting a healthy outlook on relationships and how to resolve them should a problem arise. Based on my minimal but sufficient knowledge on these programmes, everything’s centred around a lot of drama, yet as a real entity, or person, I know quite few friends in relationships and they do not act in the manner. Effectively, my friends seem quite happy and rational.

Thirdly, the majority of these “real people” are just bloody stupid. Call me arrogant and up myself, but I’d prefer to watch something/someone with a bit of substance *turns on QI*. Thank you for reading.

// “Reality TV” made me realise that boys can be basic bitches too //

Lost in Swindon?

[Opinion]

// Best venues to visit in Swindon, according to me //

I moved back to Swindon in October 2015 and I won’t lie I’ve been a hermit for most of it, and/or retreated back to London for long weekends. Naturally a small town cannot realistically compete against the capital city, but I often find myself spending most of my time on the GWR.

Now despite my reservations, I eventually decided to try and not act like a petulant child and take a wonder to see what improvements my small town had or hadn’t made since my return.

// My Swindon go-tos //

I can’t lie, I was not exactly psyched about trying to adjust back into Swindon – the town’s market for eateries is not enticing compared to say Cirencester or Bristol, but I had heard of some new competitors up in Old Town which instilled some confidence and curiosity.

// Helen Browning’s Chop House //

Where: 19-21 Wood St

I had been excitedly anticipating my visit here – I’d heard great reviews and, for me, it’s reputation alone had already outdone the greasy Spoons and influx of restaurant chains at Regents Circus.

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The main thing that is swiftly brought to your attention is that the produce is sourced organically, and the meat itself is brought in from Helen’s farm Eastbrook which is only 6 miles away from Swindon. Unlike the Spoons and Greene Kings, the Chop House does not advertise cheap processed meals, it is instead not shy of high quality and fresh dishes, which have been put together thoughtfully. I’d seriously recommend going in for brunch!

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// Balula’s Delicatessen //

Where: 9 Wood St

Just a few doors down from the Chop House is Swindon’s very own Deli come cafe. I had always noticed Balula’s but hadn’t ventured in until now – I was full from brunch but fancied a peruse and some inspiration for dinner.

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I was pleasantly surprised as I hadn’t realised there was a large dining area, or “coffee lounge”, and so much on offer to purchase at the counter. Balula’s reminds me of the cafes in Cirencester; independent, charming, and homemade. Unlike many of the coffee chains in Swindon’s down town, the cakes don’t look processed or as though they have been sat out for too long.

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As well as sweet treats and a lunch menu, Bulula’s also offers fresh meats, cheeses, fruit, and veg. I myself purchased some chorizo for my favourite scrambled eggs and a risotto dish – they were both spectacular.

// BAILA Coffee & Vinyl //

Where: 85 Victoria Rd

My favourite coffee shop in town has always been Darkroom Espresso, but I’ve now found a fantastic surrogate. Edgy, trendy, and contemporary – this has been a much needed establishment for Swindon’s young and alternative culture.

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Although I like to be alone when I get my writing done, I also like to be in a venue with some atmosphere – whether I want a flat white in the morning, or an Aperol Spritz in the evening, this progressive cafe come bar offers me both. BAILA also hosts a modest sized record collection to browse and purchase from. Furthermore come day or night there is always great music to be heard here, and that’s not just on vinyl – it also accommodates live music and DJs.

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*Note: BAILA has been refurbished rendering my above image outdated – I prefer the white walls though*

// Los Gatos //

Where: 1-3 Devizes Rd

I would strongly advise booking in advance (excluding weekends) when planning a visit to Swindon’s Tapas hotspot – it is a gem that consistently supplies high quality Spanish cuisine. Los Gatos is also a great alternative to the popular pub dining scene, boasting an array of delicious dishes which are designed and intended to be shared. As expected from Tapas, there is an impressive range of dishes on offer which accommodate meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans – the menu has been crafted and influenced by the owners’ travels in Spain.

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So far I’ve only visited of an evening, but each time I have remained pleasantly greeted by a buzzing yet intimate atmosphere. Furthermore there’s a smooth aura generated amongst the guests and staff, and it’s probably because this popular venue delivers on excellent value for your money leaving satisfaction levels high. I’ll certainly be returning soon to also check out the Los Gatos Paella Sunday specials!

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// Old Town Thai //

Where: 23 Wood St

Swindon is full of greasy Asian “restaurants”, so shamefully I was quite reluctant to give Old Town Thai a go, but I am pleased to conclude that I’m so glad I did. The food here is delightfully fresh tasting and not shy of flavour or authenticity – we ventured in as a group of three and because we were tempted by so much of the menu we ordered a selection to share (a manoeuvre I’d recommend).

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I feel I must also comment that the staff here are so accommodating and ready to take fire from guests who don’t really know much about Thai food – this enabled us to choose accordingly, leaving us extremely pleased. If you yourself are not familiar with Thai food, I would highly recommend opting for the classic Pad Thai, because here they guarantee an exemplary first time try.

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What’s more is that the venue itself is cushy, decorated with delightful Thai treats like mini Buddhas and cultural wall art.

// Give them a go //

If you’re like me and have unfortunately encountered some shaky experiences in Swindon, I hope I have been able to comfort you with some faith and enthusiasm (as well as alternatives to barricading yourself in at home). I am confident in suggesting you try out some of my selected favourites should you find yourself in the local area.

Essentially the rule is to stay up town and avoid the restaurant chains like our infamous teenage pregnancy trend – apparently this is now under control, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for our apparent love of unimpressive cheap eats. Although I have no intention of settling in Swindon, I’m glad that for the time that I am here the town is showing signs of progression.

// If you take a chance on some of my recommendations, I’d love to hear your thoughts! //

My 2017 Reading List

I was very humble with my Christmas list last year, the contents of which revolved around practical items such as socks, make-up remover, and of course books! In tune with my new practical outlook it seemed fitting that my new year’s resolution followed suit: READ MORE!

As an aspiring blogger in pursuit of a job in content writing I wanted to introduce some variety into my material for 2017. My top author’s thus far are Patti Smith, Miranda July, and Raymond Carver (I’m a big fan of short stories), and I am keen to expand and broaden my horizons.

1. A bit of lifestyle:  The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

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I was told about this little gem by a friend, and then having seen The Times rave about it the curiosity killed me. I’d visited Copenhagen last July and fell in love with the Danish culture, food, style, and what I have now learned to be known as “hygge” aka: enjoying the simple things (in a nutshell).

Wiking explores the way in which one can encompass hygge into everyday life and the results are both therapeutic and positive – everything me and my well being need for 2017 – from cooking and clothing, to the outdoors and happiness

2. A bit of philosophy: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

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I was first introduced to Nietzsche while studying Film at university and was very much captivated by his theories on “Will to power” and “Superman”. When applying his “Will to power” theory in film I loved analysing the concept of humans as desiring machines which then spiralled into a discourse about “becoming”.

I selected Nietzsche’s most known work Thus Spoke Zarathustra for his nihilistic and atheist approach towards humanity, which incorporates one of my favourite ideas about the “superman”, or as my lecturer labelled, the “superhuman”.

3. A bit of humour and guidance: Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham

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    “I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle” – relatable, well said Lena.

    I am a huge fan of of the TV show Girls and cannot wait for the last season. I love what Dunham has created with the script by depicting the honest, hilarious and brutal troubles of what life is like in your 20s (especially when you don’t have it all figured out). With the latter in mind, as you can imagine, I have been wanting to get my hands on her book for awhile.

    4. A bit of Art & Film: Incomplete Control by Sarah Keller

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    “Avant-Garde” was one of my favourite modules at university, for which Maya Deren became a key figure in my essays and education. Known best for Meshes of the Afternoon, Deren is one of the most influential American avant-garde filmmakers who introduced me to new ways in which one can express and convey ideas through film.

    In Incomplete Control, Sarah Keller discusses and explores Deren’s successful career as a female experimental filmmaker/artist, but also examines her unfinished works as well. Although I may no longer be at university, I’m definitely still a loyal disciple of film studies.

    5. A bit of fiction: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

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    Having expressed my interest in short stories and fast fiction, I was given this book to borrow by a friend. The title rings familiar, but to be honest I don’t know too much about the book itself or McInerney. Before committing to the idea of another book, my friend and I had a little bed time read – I was astonished and completely sold when realising Bright Lights, Big City is written in the second person! How intriguing!

    A few pages in and McInerney proves witty, thought-provoking, and brilliant, so it’s of no surprise at all that it had to be added to my list.

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    Given my inability to speed read, I am sure that my 5 top picks will keep me occupied for the majority of 2017. If anyone has a read of them, or has any other recommendations, then please do share!

    // Happy New Year //