Slaughterhouse 5 really is a great book – and here’s why…

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Having decided to read Slaughterhouse 5 as an extension of a postmodernism essay – i thought i knew what i was in for.

Slaughterhouse 5 encapsulates everything that we as a society are now unable to do – regain a sense of past, and the book embodies the attempts to make that bridge to an extremely far removed event – World War II. Upon reading the blurb, i thought, wow, this is slightly ridiculous. The narrative revolves around a guy named Billy Pilgrim who has been abducted by an alien race called the Tralfamadorians and also has the ability to time travel. I made the ignorant mistake of thinking, ‘wow, that’s pretentious’, until i actually began reading the novel and gave myself a nice big slice of humble pie.

The novel all in all is unbelievably tragic, and i’m shocked (well, not shocked – we all remember the Gove curriculum anarchy circa 2014) that it isn’t taught in British schools and at sixth forms. It powerfully portrays the trauma’s and post-traumatic stress of war and its lingering effects into the present. The fact that Billy feels most happy whilst being probed on Tralfamadore suggests the isolation he feels after experiencing the horrors of Dresden. His ability to time travel echoes the non-linearity of time he experiences inside his head; he becomes ‘unstuck in time’ because subconsciously his mind is still trapped inside the trauma of WW2.

The novel had more of an impact on me than any historically accurate textbook of World War II ever has and i’ll tell you why – because in my opinion, it is honest about war. Textbooks can only do so much – give us dates and pictures – it can never give us feeling. That’s why Slaughterhouse 5 is simply a great novel – Vonnegut is showing our inability to connect to a trauma that is so far removed from our society – and that is truly frightening. We can learn about war in school and we will walk away from it feeling as if we have learned something truly great, and that we are now better because of it – when really, we aren’t.

Reading this novel has shown me that the past is an empty shell, and we, as spectators and inheritors of the past – can only know it from a distance – we can never really feel that pain. I think there is something truly heartbreaking in that – and Slaughterhouse 5 breaks the fall, just a little.

The stars shine brighter on the other side.

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We are the stars at night, that pervade the sky.
We see them flicker by, we take it in.

We are the cool mornings, when the fog surrounds
but slowly lifts to let the air breath.

We are the trees, who show off their emerald haze.
We are the roots, and the highest point where only birds
can reach.

We are the lake, when it stirs and when its still.
And who reflects the sky like a perfect mirror.

We are every storm,
and every humid day.

We are the friends we make, our bonds tightly grow.
Oceans away, continents apart, the love never falters
in our hearts.

We are the lessons we teach, and the ones we learn.
The mistakes, the unsaid things, and things better
left unsaid.

We are the lives we touch, and the stories we come to know.
We are the differences we make, no matter how big or small.

We are the fears we conquer, and the ones we never knew we had.
Bravery prevails, we are stronger than we know.

This place is yours, mine and ours
that will always be true.

We want to linger, linger a little longer,
but the truth is, we must depart.

The sun fades, the seasons change
and life speeds along.

And yet this place remains,
rooted within.
A fragment of time in
an extraordinary world.
Waiting patiently for 10 months,
for it to begin again.

“10 for 2”

A poem written about Camp Vega.

Jessica Green

Anchorman 2 Review – Redbrick Newspaper

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Four has-been anchors, a baby shark, cultural ignorance and a whole lot of permed hair can only mean one thing – Anchorman 2 comes back to the screens with a boom.

 

High hopes have been set for this anticipated return – after 9 years and after the first films roaring access , setting it as a cult classic for a generation of film fans, Ron Burgundy and co had a lot to live up to. These high expectations did not falter, and it is possible to argue that the second instalment is as funny, if not funnier than the first.

 

Will Ferrell returns as the icon Ron Burgundy whose Broadcasting career comes to a halt after his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) becomes the lone anchor of the network. After a short-term stint as a drunken presenter at the dolphin show at SeaWorld, Burgundy returns to New York to take back his throne as the new Anchor of the first 24hour news programme. Along the way Ron enlists the help of his dynamic news team consisting of Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner whilst coming face to face with the handsome and arrogant Anchor Jack Lyme (James Marsden).

 

Similarly to the first film, there is no resounding narrative – and a bunch of random events happen which are completely unrelated to one another and serve no purpose, however the overall idea of the film is about Ron Burgundy’s battle and journey to becoming a family man – and this doesn’t happen till the last 15 minutes of the film. Although not completely the same, this sequel does follow a similar pattern to that of the first – that of the rise, the fall, the fight and of course, Baxter saving the day and saving Ron Burgundy from a shark (last time it was a bear.)

 

But what Anchorman 2 lacks in a complex narrative, it makes up for in comic timing. Debatably funnier than its predecessor, the film fully lives up to what you’d expect as an anchorfan and many of the cult conventions remain. The film is full of politically incorrect comic moments and underlying themes of Racism  and sexism that could probably only be condoned (if that) in a Will Ferrell or Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s safe to say, if you’re offended easily – maybe this film isn’t for you. Scene after scene is often ridiculously funny and stupid; crack smoking whilst on live television, Burgundy losing his sight whilst iceskating and raising a baby shark – these are just a mere few of the comic highlights of the movie – that and of course every single Brick Tamland (Carell) one liners.

And of course, the legend of Anchorman wouldn’t be complete without the epic fight scene, which was completely predictable. This comes at the end of the movie, and is well worth the wait. The fight consisted of probably the best assembled troup of anchors  you could imagine – Sacha Baron Cohen, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Kanye West, Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn) and a Minotaur – absurd, yet the highlight of the movie.

 

Its safe to say, Anchorman 2 does not disappoint. There is definitely more going on in this sequel and all of the iconic characters bring back to the screen their comic brilliance and  prove that sequels to cult classics do not always have to be a train wreck. If you’re already an avid fan, this movie is for you – if not, prepare to keep an open mind. In any case, it is well worth the watch – 8/10, let the quoting commence…

 

 

Gravity review – Published in Redbrick

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Gravity (2013)

 

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock side by side in an over-budgeted sci-fi movie could be seen as a perfect recipe for another Hollywood disaster and many people may chuff at the sound of it. However if you’re one of these people; you couldn’t be more wrong and you need to see movie. Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish – the beginning credits highlighting the baron and isolated nature of space whilst a silence hangs eerily over the room is perfect for achieving that ‘shiver down your spine’ effect and I found myself totally absorbed from then until the end credits.  And as somebody who isn’t the greatest admirer of contemporary sci-fi – this is my favourite movie of the year (so far).

 

The cleverly simplistic story follows Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Bio-Medical engineer Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on a mission just outside earth, the film opens with the pair space-walking on the shuttle “Explorer” and everything pretty much goes down-hill for them from there.  The shuttle is destroyed by space debris and the duo find themselves catapulted into space, trying desperately to get back to one another and to seek refuge in a space station close by. They are tethered together, but in the uncontrollable nature of space; and without ruining the movie too much; it soon becomes a one woman show as we follow Bullock’s desperate and nail-biting attempts to get back to earth.

 

This space drama is unlike the norm; there are no over-dramatized heart wrenching monologues or ridiculous CGI attempts – in fact, it could be deemed revolutionary in how realistic it is visually. The film flits beautifully between intimate moments focusing on Bullock’s personal journey whilst being continuously thrown into moments of sheer terror and danger; we witness through Bullock’s character the chaotic nature of space, and it almost seemed so real to me that I had to take my 3D glasses off at one point through all the confusion and in order to the stop the potential panic attack I felt coming on.

This for the most part, is why I am making the bold statement of Gravity being ‘best film of the year’. You expect to see, when walking into this movie, another one of those Sci-Fi’s with creative but far-fetched CGI, a cast who could never ever picture as astronauts and a ton of plot holes.

Instead we are given two charismatic characters to focus on and we are opened up to a visually real portrayal of space and a plot that keeps you hooked for the entirety. “Will she make it?” “Oh my god she’s going to die”, “Wait watch out for the debris! Wow I’m dizzy” “come on Bullock you can do this” – were some of the thoughts rushing through my head.

Cuaron is a genius in the way he creates a situation within the film that the audience will strangely feel physically and mentally connected to (even though you’ve never been involved in a space station disaster in your life), and it’s an extremely frightening and raw experience that has your eyebrows sweating and your eyes rolling back and forth and up and down in your skull.

 

 

Even if you’re not into sci-fi – I’d definitely recommend this film (especially in 3D). It is a cinematic experience not to be missed and you’ll be talking about it for weeks no doubt.  It keeps you hooked, is original in its plot and once again Sandra Bullock proves herself as a wonderfully diverse actor and Alfonso Cuaron raises the standards of this genre and sets a trailblazing new wave of space thriller. 5 STARS.

 

 

 

Jessica Green

My S’more experience…

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I didn’t think you could get anything better than sticky toffee pudding, until I tried S’mores.

It was a week before the kids got there when we had our first “cook out” at camp – and this was my first ever experience of the wonder that is the S’more. I was expecting to try one, since I was in an American summer camp, but I never thought it would turn into a love affair.

I was initially dissuaded from trying one, since one of the key ingredients is the Hershey bar; and I had a bad experience once with a Hershey kiss. But, I was willing to be open to new things (I know, so crazy). So I toasted my marshmallow happily on the fire and once the consistency of gooey to lightly crisp was just about right – I ripped open a pack of graham crackers and hesitantly placed the Hershey chocolate on the cracker and applied my marshmallow to the S’more sandwich. Then I took a large bite, and was in ecstasy.

I won’t go into the details of how it felt like I’d just bitten into a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, but it did. I’d never tasted something so delicious in my life, my taste buds erupted and I was sat there for a good 5 minutes with the biggest smile on my face – and I thought, this is why America is better than us.

Its safe to say that my love for S’mores has not gone away since I’ve returned to the UK, and I keep promising myself that i’ll make some. However I don’t think the ranger will think too kindly of me sitting by myself at the local park with a portable barbeque crying into a mound of melting, gooey heaven whilst screaming “its not the same, its not camp, take me back to S’more heaven!” or something along those lines.

 

Up next; the night I realised how blessed I was to be living in such a beautiful place for 2 months.

“You wait 10 months to live for 2”.

The culture shock – A nervous Brit in an American summer camp

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So there I was, this nervous and tired and also very jet-lagged girl stepping off the plane in Boston about to embark on an adventure I could not comprehend at the time. I was already thousands of miles away from home and it was too late to turn back.

There was a group of about 5 us travelling to the same camp, so I was not entirely lost. We made our way from Boston to Portland, Maine on a very nice concord bus and the sky was getting darker. My nerves were growing at the prospects of what was to come. When we finally arrived at camp – a whole 4 hours later – it was straight to bed for me – little did I know I was soon to wake up and have the most challenging first week of my life.

So yes, this post is dedicated to the culture shock – and boy was it a biiiiig shock (the i’s emphasize my shock, as you can tell). I eventually got used to it and even came to love t but at first it was quite hard.

Here are a list of things that took me a while to get used to:

1. The humour – ok, so its a universally known fact that Americans and Brits tend to have a disagreement with what is deemed funny – I quickly learned this. I found myself trying to make jokes as forms of ice-breakers, but most of my American friends (not all, but most) really didn’t get it at first. However, after a while – I think I broke them in, I even managed to get one of my friends watching ‘The Inbetweeners’ and they now find it hilarious. So at least I accomplished something.

2. The food – including the portions. Actually this didn’t take me while to get use to at all, in fact I was completely in my element. The food was great every single day. I gauged on bagels and muffins and pancakes and steak and fries and pasta and burgers and fries every day – and yet still complained about gaining 6 pounds. The only shock that came with food is the fact that the Americans really really didn’t get our own British traditions. I spent the entirety of the 9 weeks trying to convince some of them of the genius creation that is beans on toast – they looked at me with a disappointed, disgusted look and I felt like an alien. They also couldn’t get their heads around crumpets, REAL biscuits, “toad in the hole” or Sunday Roasts. Now, I am a big roast dinner fan, so I always found it hilarious when we would have “thanksgiving dinner” for tea. Apparently its not a thing to have a roast every sunday, or any other day of the week – bizarre.

3. The Mosquitos – Possibly the most evil, Satanist creatures ever to exist. Ok so I knew i’d be living in the middle of nowhere for almost 3 months, I prepared myself for that. However I wasn’t aware of how resilient the mosquitos and spiders would be to bug spray. I lathered myself in the stuff, but In the first week alone I must have gotten 10-15 bug bites on my legs – i’m still left with some of the scars (they’re my war wounds).

4. And finally, The MURICAN TRADITION. – The whole reason I came to camp was to experience the American tradition and everything, but It really hit me like a ton of bricks in my first week. As most Brits are, I tend to be quite reserved, well mannered and sarcastic – so it was really hard for me at first not to feel intimidated and uncomfortable by the great all American traditions and ways of thinking. Firstly, the Americans took competitions VERY seriously, especially sporting events. They were also very confident, very loud and very patriotic (especially on the 4th july – but I’ll go into that on a later date). I came to love the pro-active way about them, and hopefully they learned something from me.

 

So, those are the four main culture shocks that initially caught me off guard and had me crying for the first 7 days (slight exaggeration) – but on the upside, they are things, amongst many other things, that I came to love and cherish as my summer went on.

My next post will be on my first Smore experience!

Until then,

stay cool kids.