Bieber Visits Anne Frank Museum, Educators Have a Meltdown

Many young people only recognise one of the people pictured – which one? Source: radiolive.co.nz

I must confess, I have never visited the Anne Frank museum, mainly as I have never visited Amsterdam. There is an eerie fascination with what happened to those oppressed by German occupation, especially in regards to Jewish families such as the Franks.

I have seen photos from inside the secret annexe, there’s even a virtual tour you can take online, showing you how small the annexe was. Her shared bedroom was tiny, and decorated with pictures to brighten it up a little (the same way Beliebers have pictures of Justin blu-tacked to their walls?), they shared a wash room which only had a sink. She spent her days with her family, stuck in one small room. If I was cooped up for that long with my family, some of us would not have survived long enough to be caught by Nazis. It must have been terrifying.

If I had the chance to visit the museum, Anne Frank’s choice of music had she been a teenager today would be the furthest thing from my mind. Can you even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been, the slightest noise potentially sentencing yourself and your entire family to certain death in concentration camps?

Yesterday, “news” surfaced that Justin Bieber had visited the museum in Amsterdam. This would not usually have made it into national newspapers – it would have just been a young man wanting to discover history. What made the story, though, was his staggering sense of self-importance. Instead of writing about his experience opening his eyes to her plight in the 1940’s – he wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Wow.

This, however, was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to uneducated teenagers and tweenies. “Beliebers” everywhere provided a staggering indictment of their respective education systems. Let me provide you with a few examples:

Want more? Greg Hyatt on tumblr retweeted a few more.

Recently, the history curriculum in England and Wales has come up for discussion. I had no idea that they were potentially discussing putting Anne Frank and her diary back into the teaching of World War 2. Or are these kids too obsessed by the coiffed little boy to pay attention to the teaching of fundamental historical knowledge?

I remember on at least 3 separate occasions, being taught the story of Anne Frank. I think myself incredibly lucky that my parents encouraged me to read her diary when I came home from school and said we were learning about her.

Now, however, even the BBC’s childrens’ news (Newsbeat) had to explain who Anne Frank was – to avoid another outbreak on twitter of “Who even was she?”

Her story is a fundamental part of forming empathy for the literally millions of victims of the German Nazi regime at this time. It’s truly, deeply worrying that so many young people are ignorant of her story.

For the sake of your own mental health, when you see young people being this ignorant on your timeline – do not go digging for more examples. It’s incredibly disheartening.

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Accidentally in Love…

Arya Stark – tiny and ferocious. Turned out to be a perfect name for my dog, too. Source: fansshare.com

I didn’t mean for it to happen, and certainly didn’t expect for it to happen as quickly as it did. After watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, I was certainly intrigued enough to purchase the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Although the price of the whole series was much smaller than that of buying the individual parts, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy his writing style (I am not the biggest fantasy fan to ever walk this earth, although I will happily give anything a try aside from 50 Shades of Shit).

On first look as I downloaded the kindle version was “That may be the most chapter dots I’ve seen, outdoing both Of Human Bondage and Les Misérables”. I should explain for those without the most brilliant piece of technology I have the fortune to own, even outstripping the wonderful laptop I’m typing this out on that on the kindle home screen, your progress through books is highlighted by a series of dots underneath each book title. As you read each chapter/section, a dot becomes bold. Longer books will therefore have more dots underneath their titles.

When watching the Game of Thrones series on TV, it took at least 3 episodes for it to totally engage me. There’s only so much interest I can hold in an episode which includes the selling off of a teenager, incest and a child being kicked out of a window for accidentally coming across the couple (it’s barely a spoiler so shush). Yet somehow, the plights of some of the characters drew me in – along with some absolutely brilliant acting by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf with an appetite for wine and women as big as any man you come across in the series. Nonetheless, the series is very engaging viewing once you can get past the inordinate numbers of tits you see per episode (and a couple of dick views in later episodes).

It took literally 2 chapters of A Game of Thrones for me to be totally enthralled by George R. R. Martin’s writing style. It is intimate as each chapter is from the point of view of a single character, yet it keeps its distance as it is written in the third person. I think my understanding of the characters and interplay between them was made easier by having seen the series first, but this did not lessen my enjoyment as clearly in a 900+ page book, only so much of the detail can make it onto TV.

The characters in the novel seem almost more real than those I can see on TV, as in the novel you can tell what each is thinking, instead of having to rely upon actors to do this. This is not a slight on the series, but there’s only so much a face can convey. During the first novel, I developed a few theories about what might happen, my hopes and ambitions for certain characters (including the wish that Sansa Stark would stop being a silly little girl and realise how truly vile Prince Joffrey is)

I am now over half way through the second novel, A Clash of Kings, and suspect I will finish it before the weekend arrives. I have been warned of what is to come, yet that has only increased the suspense. Looking at spoilers is something I do for fun with TV shows, yet I don’t want to look up what’s going to happen in the lives of the characters of Westeros.

This series has entirely caught me in its’ web. I haven’t felt this way since I was a little girl and read the first Harry Potter novel. It’s a very comforting feeling, knowing that when I finish this blog I can escape from the boredom of my tiny bedroom and be a fly on the wall through a story with such twists and turmoil, you really can’t see what’s coming next.

I’m just happy to be along for the ride. And I hope Cersei gets her comeuppance.

Are You A Psychopath?

Does this apply to you? Source: rachelnico.wordpress.com

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test has lead me to question what I actually know about the world. It is a very interesting book, starting with a mystery and leading you through what he has labelled the “madness industry” – psychiatric hospitals, psychologists, neurologists, even Scientologists who have the most profound distrust of psychology in all its forms.

Statistically, 1% of the non-prison population are psychopaths. Some of those Ronson contacted in research for this book informed him that psychopaths have low brain function in the amygdala, (he himself suffers from anxiety, which leads to increased amygdala function) which is the part of the brain used for emotive learning. At the most basic level, a psychopath can attempt to imitate emotions displayed by others, but can’t actually feel this themselves. This was called into question when Ronson was talking to a man he deemed to be a corporate psychopath said he cried over his dog’s death. However Bob Hare, who devised the world’s most widely-used test for psychopathy, said this man was reduced to tears because his dog was a possession he had control over. The man would not have cried if a member of his family had died, but would probably have been uncontrollably angry if someone was to scratch one of his cars.

Another example of this breakdown of amygdala function and loss of emotional learning is in the case where Ronson mentions one inmate who was being considered “recovering” who then went out and hacked another patient in the facility, claiming he wanted to know what it felt like (even though he had already committed a previous murder) when challenged about the previous murder, he said “It was a really, really, really long time ago.”

In this book, psychopathy is characterised as a pathological need to control everything around you, using many malicious means to do so. A psychopath would possess superficial charm, being able to talk people around to their way of thinking.

The aforementioned Bob Hare Psychopathy Test contains 20 criteria, which are marked between 0 (does not match this) and 2 (completely fits this). If the interviewee gets a score of 30 or more, they can be diagnosed with psychopathy and can be consigned to a psychiatric hospital for the remainder of their lives.

It is thought that psychopathy cannot be cured. Some psychiatrists in Canada in the 1960’s worked with the theory that psychopaths needed to work through their anger instead of hiding behind their “mask of sanity”. One psychiatrist took away all outside stimuli from his patients, gave them LSD and observed from behind a two-way mirror. On the outside, it appeared to be these psychopathic patients were recovering, developing actualised emotions. A striking fact from the book was that when released from an institution, 60% of psychopaths will reoffend. In this hospital in Canada, 80% of released patients went on to reoffend.

In the opening few chapters of the book, Ronson proffers the point that psychopaths actually make the world go round, that society in its current form is actually the product of psychopathy – that the other 99% of the population are under the influence of psychopaths. I found this an interesting point as it is mentioned that people who are at the top of companies, government etc need to lack empathy and remorse for their actions (2 of the categories on Hare’s psychopath test) to be able to take the tough decisions for entire nations/economies.

If when reading The Psychopath Test, you question your own psyche – the chances are that you are not a psychopath. Even if you score yourself reasonably highly on the test (which I will be posting at the end of this blog), you are still self-aware enough of your actions that you can’t be a psychopath.

All in all, Ronson’s book was excellent. A very thought provoking, interesting look into psychopaths, the people who have attempted to diagnose and treat them, and the effects this small minority of people have in the world. I would recommend this to people who have an interest in true crime, psychology or those who are just curious.

The Psychopath Test

  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self worth
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
  • Pathological Lying
  • Cunning or manipulativeness
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (superficial emotive responses)
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural controls
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Early behavioural issues
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

A True Dichotomy: I Am An Organised Mess.

Credit: nerdyknitter.wordpress.com

Credit: nerdyknitter.wordpress.com

The first book which I have finished in 2012, Jon Richardson’s not-an-autobiography-but-about-his-current-situation cleverly entitled It’s Not Me, It’s You! Impossible perfectionist, 27, seeks very very very tidy woman, has made me feel a little introspection is in order.

One of the first distinctions he makes between people is those who are “putters” and those who are “leavers”. Ask yourself the question – where are your keys? If you answered “Where I put them, in the *insert where the keys live here*”, then you are part of the former. If you answered “Uhm, where I left them”, then you are a leaver. Richardson makes the mistake in assuming that all people who are leavers lead chaotic lives. I am the opposite – I am a chaotic putter. I know where my keys, bag, phone and glasses are (I put them in the same place each night/when I come home). But I, like most people, misplace things like TV remotes, hair ties and socks. It actually drives me mad being this woefully inept at putting things where they belong.

As I read on, I had the realisation that I am an utter dichotomy. The very definition of an organised mess. My room at my parents’ house is tiny, yet I can’t keep it tidy. However, the books I have on the shelf above my bed are separated into fiction and non-fiction, then sorted by alphabetical order. I even took a few hours to sort my boyfriend’s mammoth CD collection into alphabetical order, and they’re kept hidden from view! I am organised, but I am lazy.

My compulsion to keep things tidy actually extends to updating this blog. If I have ideas, they are jotted in the back of one notebook, to later be copied out into the “draft” notebook. I write in pen, yet hate making mistakes. I am not above tearing out a full page after making a mistake on the second line.

If only my opening my bedroom door would look like this every day.

If only my opening my bedroom door would look like this every day.

I cannot abide people who are constantly late or are unreliable to get in contact with – Jon Richardson agrees with me on this. Perhaps it’s my own fear of being left behind by the normal people who turn up on time. It’s like the concept of time just passed some people by completely, like being an inconvenience to people in cinemas by turning up after the previews have started. Totally inconsiderate.

Richardson also talks about having breakfast in what he sees as being the right way, always leaving the best parts until last. I am quite sure my habit of eating food in a logical way stems from my disordered eating which still plagues me to this day. People talk of the joy of a roast dinner being eating everything together. No. It’s always vegetables, then potatoes, yorkshire pudding followed by the main event – the roast meat. This causes me to eat slower than most people – but there’s little more enjoyable than finishing a perfect plate of food. Yes, I am that easily pleased.

If my bed wasn’t so comfortable, and if I weren’t so damned lazy, my life would be a wonderful, organised place.

I really enjoyed this book, and even if you are not in the same type of mindset as myself (those content with keeping things unordered). This is a man who has a successful career as a stand-up comic in the UK and lives his life with what he believes to be Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. He can still live his life normally, but little things can really irritate him. It’s an interesting insight into his mind, and a very engaging read.

Out of the Swing of Things

I need to start getting back into the swing of writing on here again. Since I posted about the potential risk to a woman’s right to choose which took more than a month to prepare, I am totally stumped with what to write about. I am now no longer working (proof that hard work is no guarantee of a permanent position in Christmas temp work) and have more time on my hands – so where are my ideas?

Over the last couple of days, when I have had access to the laptop I am writing this on, I’ve written four drafts, all of which have been defeated. This blog was meant to be for me getting out what I need to, and I’m not managing to get that done because it’s not engaging or entertaining enough. It’s not like many people read this, let alone comment.

I have been exploring wordpress over the last few days, engaging with people who have been writing on topics I have already dealt with and don’t really want to rehash. But it has been interesting, hearing another person’s viewpoint. Why do people not connect with me here? Is this my hidden corner of cyberspace with over 40 followers who’re meant to be reading little pieces of literary brilliance from myself?

Can someone in the news not just be an arsehole so I can get angry again? It would really make getting back in the habit easier.

Looking in a Literary Mirror

Certain things we all have read will have hit a little too close to the bone. I often read blogs from people who I vehemently agree with, and this doesn’t phase me. It’s nice to read people online who think like me, it encourages conversation in comments sections. It’s partly why I follow so many blogs – I’m a conversationalist! Anyway, this isn’t the reason why I’m writing today.

Like-minded people are great, but what disconcerts me are people who write in a way similar to my own, about experiences very similar to those I have had myself.

The book which I am currently devouring (seriously, I am currently 69% of the way through and started it yesterday on my bus back to my parents’) has certainly disconcerted me. The author had a slightly different childhood to my own, growing up in a middle class house in the Home Counties yet found university to be useless in a teaching sense – only in a social one. University has made me feel more self-confident. I moved up to Edinburgh as a shy, breakable girl – I feel almost the furthest thing from that now. Sure I still have my moments of insecurity, but I feel far better about myself.

Certain experiences in the author’s life have been very similar to my own. I am purposefully not revealing the title of this novel as it would give away far too much of my private life and too much of an insight to my psyche. She saw certain events which have occurred in my life (after moving to Edinburgh, I should say) in similar ways to myself. She’s had a fair bit more life experience compared to myself, and some of the things the author has experienced I could never imagine, but it is very interesting to see things from another perspective.

As I have been reading this novel, I have wondered as to why I am so closed up and private as to this aspect of my life. I can’t even talk about it on Girl-Support, and those girls know almost everything there is to know about me. The author is so honest, unafraid and likeable in her approach to these situations – I just can’t see myself ever being that open about what goes on in my head.

I am yet to finish this novel, but at my current rate I’ll have it finished by the end of today. My head is full of conflicting thoughts and a little curiosity.
I’m sorry about my abstract post, and not sharing what it is I’m reading. I’m just not comfortable sharing THAT much about what goes on upstairs.

With the Death of Gatsby, Came the Death of the American Dream

This post will contain spoilers, you have been warned.

Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

Do you ever have those books you read in school that stuck with you? Be it by Orwell, Shakespeare or anyone. The book that really resonated and stuck with me was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this book as part of my higher English course, so I read it for the first time more than 5 years ago now – and have read it countless times since.

The book centres on a group of characters from around New York and Long Island in the 1920’s and is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man trying to make his own way in Long Island, after having moved there from Minnesota. Whilst in Long Island he is struck by the exuberant wealth he sees where he lives on West Egg. In the 20’s, Long Island was seen to be separated into two eggs, West and East – these kept separate those who had only recently come into money (West) and those who had inherited it (East). Nick’s rented house in Long Island is overshadowed by the grandeur of the titular character’s home: it is the house belonging to Jay Gatsby.

Symbolism is at the very heart of this short novel – even Gatsby himself becomes a symbol of the long-forgotten American dream. Gatsby was not born rich, but used nefarious means to create his astonishing wealth, with bootlegging and organised crime. But Gatsby was not aspiring to riches for his own purposes, he wanted to impress Daisy – a woman so self-absorbed she could not even look after her own daughter (though perhaps this is for the best as she wanted her daughter to be a “pretty little fool”, just like her mother). Gatsby bought his massive mansion as it was directly opposite Daisy’s house on East Egg, with a green light on the end of her dock which Gatsby is first seen reaching out to.

The green light is another metaphor for Gatsby’s extraordinary gift for hope, Gatsby reaching out to it showing him striving towards his goal. Eventually, just prior to Gatsby’s demise, the green light on the end of the dock has gone out – his hope has been lost.

Little has a character in literature angered me so much as Daisy Buchanan. She proclaims to love Gatsby (alongside her husband, but he’s another issue by the point this comes up in the novel), yet allows him to take the blame for running over Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s mistress whilst she was driving the car. She is ultimately to blame for Gatsby’s death, and doesn’t even recognise this. She is vile.

With the mention of Myrtle Wilson in the previous paragraph, I must point out another symbol which is very clear in the book (so clear in fact, the picture is at the top of this post) – the eyes of Dr T.J. Eckleburg. A faded sign in the Valley of the Ashes, keeping a watchful eye out on everything which occurs under his glare. To me, they strike me as a symbol for the eyes of God (which occurs to George Wilson also, on his way to find the driver who killed his wife). This lack of concrete significance in other characters contributes to the unsettling nature of the image. Thus, the eyes also come to represent the essential meaninglessness of the world and the arbitrariness of the mental process by which people invest objects with meaning.

Speaking of his demise, there has been little in fiction which has devastated me so. It is testament to Fitzgerald’s writing that in 9 chapters, he could make me cry over the death of a character. Gatsby did not deserve to die for something he did not do. The wrong person was blamed and his life was cut out before he had a chance to do things his way, with the woman he loved. I don’t think Gatsby’s death will ever not make me well up, no matter how many times I read the novel, it’s devastating.

All in all, the novel is quite a striking denouncement that the American dream is over. It can be reached by those who’s fathers have garnered the riches for them (Tom Buchanan), or if you have had to work your way up, there is no way this can be done through normal means (shown by Gatsby’s bootlegging). With Gatsby’s death, came the death of the American dream. Of all the characters in this book, he appeared to be the only one with any sense of life – Nick was only along for the ride and did not proffer any suggestions of his own. And without this sense of life and living every moment – even just to get the girl of his dreams and run off into the sunset – the American dream can never be reached. All Gatsby wanted in life was to be happy, and he wound up dead in his pool to keep his love from harm.

If you haven’t read this book and I have spoiled it for you, I am really sorry. It is still worth a read as you may take something totally different from its message. I love this book despite it’s cynical nature, and I hope everyone else does too.