Conspiracy theory (1997)

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Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) speeds around rainy New York City in his yellow cab, dropping off passengers whilst collecting stacks of newspapers from his buddy down the street. They dabble in talks of politics as they make predictions and reveal conspiracies to one another that one wouldn’t necessarily believe.
On his way home, a clumsy yet talkative Jerry arrives at his home uttering conspiracies out loud while he locks his steel door to his tiny, cluttered apartment equipped with three locks. Obviously paranoid, Fletcher searches through his stacks of newspapers copying stories and creating conspiracies he believes true, ready to be posted the next day.
A rather interesting turn of events as Jerry makes his usual visit to Alice Sutton played by Julia Roberts, and explains his worries about the U.S Government and the detrimental effect he feels they may have on the safety of others daily. When one of his conspiracies turns out not to be just a thought anymore, this two and a half hour film begins to unravel, displacing character profiles and testing knowledge as well as personality.  

juliaRated a 6.5 on imdb, this film may surprise you. Though starring the graceful Julia Roberts as Annie, there is little focus on her beauty as expected, rather the solving of the predicament is of key importance. The male gaze does not take over her character because she takes pride in playing a vital role in helping to sustain the U.S Governments image. Mel Gibson’s character on the other hand, attempts to unravel everyday elements of ordinary citizens’ thoughts on their safety, as well as future well being. Nevertheless, though seeming highly paranoid, Gibson does bring many interesting points to the surface.

Though from the nineties, if you have never seen this film,  it still deals with current everyday concerns Americans may carry but it also reveals fears we all have referring to the powerful leaders of our countries. A riveting action packed movie guaranteed to have you glued to your seat.

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Judy Blume should have prepared me for this

“I lived in New York for eleven and a half years and I don’t think anybody ever asked me about my religion. I never even thought about it. Now, all of a sudden, it was the big thing in my life.”   – Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret.

The queen of children novels, Judy Blume, encompasses a rare ability to write classic books for years to come. As teens, we had expectations of her to teach us the truth about things that no one else would, and this revealed an obvious reliance never before presented to other authors; a social responsibility Blume clearly took seriously. Many of you have read her gripping, almost addictive and quite memorable stories as a child, myself included.blume31n-1-web Tales of divorce, losing a parent, snooping neighbours and first bras aided young children to believe that yes, maybe there was an adult out there who understood all our problems. Puberty and its dark shadows on a young child’s life was nowhere near fun, yet Blume’s many individual and intriguing characters, proved that her characters lived through what we lived through. They shared our joys and pain, and her stories proved to be a revelation in the eyes of the youth. Her gift of making almost depressing topics, engaging to a young reader, prompted her excellent ability to tackle themes of religion, American politics and racial tension as well as other topics like socialising, sibling rivalry and puppy love. Judy began her career in the in 1966, whereby after graduating from New York University, she received a B.A in education. She began with several picture books for young children in the early days and in 1972 found her big break when “Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing” (1972) was published. Initially this story was intended to be called “Peter, Fudge and Dribble” and had a different plot to the final story, but as time went on Blume decided to base Fudge on her own child and the New York City lifestyle of her memories of a close friend’s family life.

“Sometimes life in the Hatcher household is enough to make twelve-year-old Peter think about running away. His worst problem is still his younger brother, Fudge.”

CaptureIn 1980 one of the most popular and my personal favourite Judy Blume book “Superfudge” was published. I can remember purchasing it from a book shop when I was in Year 4 in primary school. My teacher had picked it out for me and I loved that the cover was bright orange with three intriguing characters on the front; two boys and a baby girl.  Surprisingly Blume claimed “I remember exactly where I was when the idea finally came to me—in the shower, covered with soap and shampoo. And the idea seemed so simple I couldn’t believe it had taken seven years. I would give the Hatchers a new baby.” Baby Tootsie the new member of the family causes friction when Peter, the oldest son, is unhappy that a new edition to the family will arrive soon and that they’re all moving home to compensate for his parent’s dream careers. Blume has many other books, spin off of the Hatcher family and they’re friends. These include “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” (1972), “Fudge-a-mania”(1990) and “Double Fudge” (2002).

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Iggie’s House (1970)

Blume has also published a string of highly influential, if not controversial novels, which are very much cherished by fans still today. Iggie’s House (1970) was different to the Superfudge series in that it was not too focused on young children, rather was classified as a young adult novel. It deals with the topic of racism in the late 1960’s where Blume herself commented that “the late sixties was a turbulent time in America. Racial tensions were high, especially following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The ongoing fight for racial equality affected all of us, one way or another.”  The main character Winnie’s fascination with the new black family next door, allows her to quickly become friends with them. However, her own family’s disapproval of her new friends is disheartening as the story takes a turn for the worst. Blubber (1974) deals with bullying in school, a common and relatable topic, whereas the next novel by Blume called “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself” (1977) was an autobiographical novel whereby Blume concealed herself in this character wearing a colourful  dress, reliving her past as a Jew throughout the war.

“Suppose there aren’t any more A + days once you get to be twelve? Wouldn’t that be something! To spend the rest of your life looking for an A + day and not finding it.” – It’s Not the End of the World (1972)

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“It’s Not the End of the World” (1972) chronicled a marriage falling apart at the seams whilst the story is told from the point of view of a young girl named Karen. Her parents constant fighting leads her to lose faith in love and marriage, as does her hope for her favourite teacher’s marriage lasting, instead believing it has made her evil. Her parent’s quick decision toward divorce, causes her to do anything in her power to make them stay together, even if that means pretending to be ill.

The controversial topic of religion is tackled in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” (1970)  and follows a young girls search for a religion in the confusion of her Jewish/Christian family. She often talks to God, and begins her prayers with ‘‘are you there God?”  Her pre-teen concerns are a main factor of this novel, however throughout there remains a fierce confusion between two faiths, which causes conflict in Margaret’s family, making her angry at times. This I believe to be a poignant novel in Blume’s career, due to its popularity, but also its subject matter.

”Who says March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? That’s a lot of bull. All it’s done this March is rain. I’m sick of it.” –Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (1971)

then“Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” (1971) was a different spin on earlier Blume novels, because the point of view changed. It was the adolescent voice and life of a teenage boy. Blume’s success from “Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret” was the catalyst for this pleasant surprise.  Tony and his family move to a new town due to his father’s promotion, and his family’s abrupt changes being to annoy Tony. He keeps all his emotions inside, causing him emotional anguish and pain. The false pretence of people in his life, he views as fake, and so he searches for reality through his binoculars, into his neighbour’s bedroom window, where he soon becomes known as a peeping tom.

“When Deenie sees the brace for the first time, she wants to scream, Forget it…I’m never going to wear that thing! But the words won’t come out. And beautiful Deenie, who everyone says should be a model, is stuck wearing a brace from her neck to her hips.” – Deenie (1973)

Deenie (1973) deals with a young girl of the name Wilmadeene, nickname Deenie who suffers with Scoliosis but also has big dreams of becoming a model. When the doctor diagnoses her with Scoliosis and she has to wear a brace for her condition, the four year wait to take it off, begins to take a toll on her. Her decision to ditch modelling and become a Orthopaedist is not taken lightly by her pushy mother.

”Now, besides being best friends we’ll also be neighbours. And moving just a few blocks away really isn’t like moving at all. I think the only reason we moved is that our house needed a new roof and Mom and Dad just about passed out when they learned what it would cost.” – Just as long as we’re together (1987)

justMy personal favourite “Just As Long As We’re Together” (1987) deals with the teenage melodramatic reaction of a teenage girl who is moving home, dealing with new friends, compulsive liars, a new school,  and boys. Stephanie Hirsch is living with her family in a new home in Palfrey’s Pond, Connecticut and deals with an array of ups and downs with her two best friends, Rachel and new girl Alison. On a more serious note, this novel highlights the fears children have about their families and their future well-being. Divorce plays a large role here, as well as the strength of friendship and trust. In a spin off story, ”Here’s to you Rachel Robinson” (1993), best friend Rachel Robinson is a straight-A student. She practices the flute 45 minutes a day and strives for perfection in everything she does. But she grinds her teeth at night and dreads dinnertime, now that her troublemaking older brother, Charles, has been thrown out of boarding school and is now back home, acting up to get attention as usual. Her resentment for him is clear, and his attempt at breaking the family apart is obvious too. Counselling and a trip to Ellis Island, New York may put the family back together, or it may tear them apart. heres

Other popular Judy Blume novels include “Tiger Eyes” (1981), “Forever” (1975), and many more young adult novels dealing with similar themes. Blume’s simple yet fascinating writing style encapsulates even adults today who have read her novels in the past.  “Letters to Judy. What your kids Wish They Could Tell You” (1986) revealed secrets and opinions from Blume’s readers, in an attempt for parents to walk in their children’s shoes. It contained thousands of letters sent by fans, pouring their hearts out to their favourite author revealing her very profound effect on many lives.

 

Durga Chew-Bose: Too Much and Not the Mood Book Review

I began writing this post even before I’d finished this book simply out of excitement that I’d found her! I’d found the essayist who reminded me of myself, the one who I viewed like that friend. The one with tunnel vision, the one who notices every teeny tiny detail turning them into words that puncture my soul in the best way, cupping my entire mind. Afterwards, in my head, she invites me to have food.

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”I counted them and double-checked because extra-small things bring out the extra-small person in me who sometimes even triple-checks things; who still chances certainty might exist in asking, “Promise me?”

Named after a Virgina Wolf diary entry, ‘Too Much and Not the Mood’ is a book of essays channeling Chew-Bose’s most inner thoughts and home to her insightful critique of ”what it means to be a brown girl in a white world” and ”the beautiful dilemma of being first-generation Canadian.” Too Much and Not the Mood is fresh, insightful and unbelievably true to our lives. It brings to mind the noises at dinner, the safety of your parents’ house, the quiet of living alone or the experience of cinema – this is how vast her scope is. Chew Bose writes earnestly about the things we neglect as things frankly; things we don’t acknowledge as important to the bigger picture, but they are just that, important.

“Because writing is a grunt, and when it’s good, writing is body language. It’s a woman narrowing her eyes to express incredulity.” 

Who knew taking everyday tangible moments and heightening them to mean so much more, could make us think of things like the meaning of comfort, the psychology of Build-A-Bear Workshop or of fishing as a child in such a profound way. Chew Bose is the queen of weaving neatly through her thoughts, explaining and analyzing but always concluding with bite.

“It’s an elbow propped on the edge of a table when you’re wrapping up an argument, or to signify you’re just getting started. An elbow propped on the edge of a table is an adverb.”

This book will make you go back, go back and finite the things in your life you have taken for granted, make you want to tell your family you love them, maybe even make you want to understand how your family thinks you view them. Ask how they view you? It will make you remember, remember smells and trips, remember what you have done, little things you do all the time. She calls to mind movies and love, perspective, and understanding. This book also chronicles Chew-Bose’s critical feelings of displacement being Indian and Canadian and living in Montreal and New York. This book creates a sense of solitude, and as Chew-bose remarks ”that life that you’re living alongside your life.” She initiates a voice, so true and real, it may wake up the person you know you are, the one you are meant to be or simply, the unheard voice inside of you. Her power is in her prose, but best of all, her power is coated in her questions.

“Isn’t it fun to read a sentence that races ahead of itself?”

Chew-Bose’s observational skills may distract slightly, but whenever she goes slightly off-kilter, she returns with gusto. She opens up, lets us in her ‘heart museum’ to start and then frolics to pronunciations of her name, her parent’s divorce, skin tone and high school memories. Her thoughts are intellectual and her nostalgia is rich with character and sentiment, reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s essays where she wavers always returning with an objective or even Joan Didion’s haunting style of shock. As much can be said for her chapter titles, her stories drift, possibly delayed even but pertaining to a celestial style that she owns authentically.

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Durga Chew-Bose is a writer from Montreal, Canada based in Brooklyn,NY.

 

Why Dr Joshua Bennett is so important to poetry

Image by Rog Walker
Watch here: Joshua Bennett on Russell Simmons’ Brave New Voices

I first heard of Joshua Bennett on a YouTube crawl at what feels like a very long time ago now. It was a typical night; bedtime routine, candles and some light reading then, Def Jam Poetry before sleep came. He appeared on my feed as a recommendation, and I first encountered a young man from Yonkers, NY reading a spoken word poem called ”10 Things I Want To Say To A Black Woman.” He called out to the female viewer,  ”I’ve seen you crucified too, spread out on billboards to be spiritually impaled by millions of men with eyes like nails.” I’ve been preoccupied with his words ever since.

Next, Russell Simmons’ Brave New Voices based in Philadelphia where a nineteen-year-old Bennett performed ‘Adam and Eve’ so passionately, how were we ever to forget him? They called him the grand slam champion and he went on to prove why. “It’s no longer physical chains that bind. It’s this mindset that forces me to TEVO rap videos and press rewind.”  Weeks later, and I was still hooked. I listened faithfully to ‘Balaenoptera’ on a loop, whilst working at a job I hated, memorizing the sweetness of this narrative he pieced together so beautifully. ‘Darling. Did you know, that a blue whale has a heart the size of a car?” Then ‘Transatlantic Love Manifesto’ revealed his tenderness, his patience, and his delicate need and want for love.  He asks his woman “how about we write a joint letter to the Department of Age and ask for a refund?” His poetry was fresh, daring and exceptionally memorable, his words making fans identify with his predicaments, groan in approval of his stanzas, and click, click, click at the live shows in awe of his talent.

To me, Joshua is king of spoken word. He’s elevated the craft; the distinguishing feature always being that he expresses knowledge and sense through his own eyes. He understands and absorbs his craft, pulling at readers/listeners heart-strings by way of language. This is the making of a great poet.

We were introduced to his family through ‘Levi’ and ‘Tamara’s Opus’, both wonderful and sentimental visions of his siblings.

”I waited
was patient numberless years
anticipating the second
her ears would open like lotuses
and allow my sunlight sentences to seep
into her insides
make her remember all those conversations
we must have had in Heaven
back when God hand-picked us
to be sibling souls centuries ago.”

  • Tamara’s Opus

Levi’s story is revisited in ‘The Sobbing School’  through ‘Still Life with Little Brother’ and Bennett’s take on understanding autism and it’s place in the world. His angle both times on his brother Levi is beautiful and will for sure stir your insides.

”Levi is my brother’s name
& I wrote a poem
about him once
& it wasn’t about him
as much as how fear stalks me
like an inheritance, how I fear
for him with all of my love,
how I know the world
like I know the names
of famous poets & the world
has claws, Levi.”

  • Still Life with Little Brother

sobbing schoolBennett’s parents play a vital role in his writing, starring roles even. He dedicates his published book to his loving mother and father ‘who dreamt of other worlds.’ Their influence on him is rich, resulting in some wonderful poems emerging in ‘The Sobbing School’ centered on family relationships. Bennett revisits his past with his mother and father often but also recalls his parents historical telling of their own upbringing and surroundings. Here, Bennett creates a captivating narrative where his poems reference ”back in the day” or ”my mother claims”, as well as his own memories of his parents like ”I knew Mama was nothing to be fooled with” and ”my father showed up that day dressed up as a man with a son with a rage problem.” His family life is reflected in an open and honest fashion, Bennett giving a true insight into his surroundings growing up in a Latino neighborhood and attending a predominately white private school. His world is vibrant and his probing and examining of it is sensational.

strivers rowJoshua Bennett was once a member of spoken word group, ‘The Strivers Row.’ He introduced the world to such pieces as “Praise Him”, “In case of an emergency: Letter to my nephew”, “Still life with Black Death” and “16 Bars for Kendrick Lamar.” Even amongst a very talented group of six poets, (including Miles Hodges, Alyssa Harris, Jasmine Mans, Zora Howard and Carvens Lissaint) Bennett stood out for me. It was his importance, the urgency to hear his poetic voice. On stage, he is a force. His readings are bound to give you chills; his passion and emotion lingering through his words like electric currents, never seizing to impress and educate. Most importantly, the subject matter is always significant and didactic. Bennett’s poetry has always been alive with current American culture, and a fascinating perceptive understanding of the world. This is also reflected beautifully in his published work.

What makes Bennett so remarkable is that he is unafraid to question American society, white or black. He is at his most impressive and true when discussing race, and his tumblr account “square dancing with giants” is a good place to feel this. His poignant interest in race is clear as the theme of blackness is explored through images and quotes.

Square Dancing with Giants
http://joshuabrandonbennett.tumblr.com
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‘‘He doesn’t talk much, about growing up under the iron fist of 1963, but when he does you can almost feel the police batons against your skin.’’

To put it simply, Dr Joshua Bennett’s voices resonates. As an admirer of his poetry, my admiration for spoken word poetry has been heightened and has allowed me to invoke a poetic voice within myself, I never knew existed. ‘Algorithm & Blues’ and ‘The Sobbing School’ have become my most treasured collections of poetry. Through these racially charged anthologies, Joshua reflects the youth and their challenges at school and the workplace in light of being black in America. His delivery not only echoes the astonishing beauty of language, but he is also able to convey clarity, personality and powerful messages in his words. Many can strongly identify with his working-class family background but also his passionate voice, his intriguing stories, and his New York vision. As a black African, I feel his work is notable and current in light of police brutality, but also culturally I feel his work is able to respond to other types of discrimination.

To say I am an admirer of Dr Joshua Bennett, would be an understatement. In my eyes, he is crucial to poetry and vital to young black readers. He is most definitely notable and a force to be reckoned with. His work thus far has changed me; influencing my daily writing and moving me beyond words. Dr Bennett has affected me greatly since that first night I watched his spoken word poetry online. Due to his inspiration, I went on to study a masters in English and Creative Writing and write poetry of my own. In my personal statement when applying, I wrote with his work and voice in mind.

”I’d like to take my writing to a critical place; a place where through honoring myself, I’m able to create work with the potential to change the perceptions of every form of me. Be that for women, Somalis, Black and African people, Muslims and twenty-somethings. I write for my love of the process, the craft and the contentment it brings me. My great joy derives from reading the work of writers who rouse something in me, the ones whose names I can never forget. Staying true to my childhood self (who was a dreamer), I intend to make myself proud by creating work others can love just as I have. My primary responsibility is to write with a sense of vulnerability and at times a reckless imagination so that I may make my work, to a stranger, worth remembering.”

Joshua Bennett greatly opened my eyes to the use of language. Through his work, I’ve been washed over with the creativity of poetry, viewing blackness as a study and of believing in my own vision, my words and life events now becoming art. He has the power to show young black people, wherever they reside, that they too can become a doctor. They too can choose to not be a stereotype or a statistic and are able to use their life experience on the page. Through his inspiration, they can excel, educate themselves and dream big.

I’m sure there are people out there with their own stories on how they discovered Joshua Bennett’s greatness. Comments on countless videos begging for written lyrics of his poems, requesting for more or simply showing him love. I’m the most intrigued by his mind. I’d like to read what he reads, understand his vision even more and watch his career soar to whichever plateau it takes him.

If you ever read this Dr Bennett, I’d like you to know you are one of my heroes and you have made a change in someone. You are so important not only to me, but to poetry.

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