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Monday, March 13, 2017

SINCE WHEN HAVE WE LOST THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?


 Yah, so I'm just gonna start this:
       
       Way before I ever had a blog, I had Sparklife.  For those of you who don’t know what Sparklife is— it is an online community based off of the literature analysis help site Sparknotes; if any of you have heard of the No Fear Shakespeare series— they do those too. During my early to mid teens, Sparklife was an absolute haven for me, providing me with likeminded geeks and nerds from all over the world who shared the same passion for books, obscure music and films, and a general abundance of geeky interests that the mainstream world knew almost nothing about. When I was 16, Sparklife had a series called Sparkler Posts, where us Sparklers, (the peasants who read and followed Sparklife), could send in our own written articles, and if the Sparkitors at Sparklife HQ liked it enough, they would publish it. (After editing it—sometimes very heavily). I remember sending in two articles when I was 16, both of which became published Sparkler posts. You can read one of my early works HERE. The other one however, shall remain anonymous, as I am too embarrassed to post it on this blog. (The Sparkitors edited that one pretty heavily-- to the point where the article lost the message I wanted to convey). 
      
       The problem with Sparklife over time is that though they said they preached a diversity of opinions— the truth was (in my opinion) that Sparklife kept preaching the same single narrow opinion over and over— which would technically be fine— I can live with a bias, if they had not started shutting out other opinions that differed from them. It seemed as if any time a Sparkler had something different to say, other Sparklers who shared the opinions of Sparklife would shame that Sparkler— calling him or her a bigot, ignorant, a prude, and other nasty narrow-minded names. It came to a point when a lot of Sparklers felt like they could not voice their opinions on a so-called open minded website— because they were afraid to be shamed for what they believed in. DISCLAIMER: I understand when someone is being an actual bigot, I know what it looks like when someone is actually being prejudiced against other people—and believe me— there were a fair share of trolls on Sparklife as well that deserved to be called a bigot. Therefore, because of these trolls, I was never really sure if Sparklife itself was overly biased, or if voicing one's opinion on being pro-life actually made someone a bigot. So I kept quiet, very much unsure about who was in the right here. 
       

       
       But then came the defining element. A Sparkler one day wrote into one of the resident Sparklife advice-givers, telling him/her (I don’t want to disclose the gender of the advice-giver so I’m just going to say him/her) that she was being judged in College for wearing a promise ring. She wrote in crying that some of the people in her dorm, if ever they found out that the pretty, unobtrusive ring on her finger was a promise ring, would somehow feel judged by her wearing it, and would even tell her that by wearing her promise ring, she was somehow shaming all of the people that didn’t believe in abstinence. Now wait just one minute. But don’t worry, it gets worse. After this poor Sparkler poured out her heart to said advice-giver, the advice-giver, instead of telling the sparkler to keep her chin up, to not care what idiots think, to be proud of the choices she makes in life --does not say any of this. No. Instead, said advice-giver tells the sparkler that maybe she shouldn't tell people that it's a promise ring, because such a ring bears with it a connotation of religious judgement and tramp shaming--and it really does make people uncomfortable. Please let us have a moment of silence so we can just take that in. 
       
Okay. I understand Advice Giver's point. If the letter writer was indeed being indiscreet about why she was wearing her ring, then being a little more discreet about wearing her ring is indeed the tactful thing to do, and some very sage advice. Furthermore, I also understand the inherent logic behind Advice-giver's advice: if you don't want to feel judged, then don't tell people that it's a promise ring! Sounds simple enough. It isn't. What bothered me about advice-giver's advice was that he/she went on to give a whole little side tangent about how  "rings that advertise your [intimacy] status—whether that status is 'not until marriage' or 'five times a day'—are a total tacky overshare." (Direct quote, BTW).  It is one thing to tell someone not to advertise her personal business so loudly. It is a whole other story to tell someone that her personal business is wrong, or tacky. Especially through the role of an advice-giver.          


      Did this Sparkler start telling other people to wear promise rings? No. She did not. Did this Sparkler in anyway mention that she disapproved of people who did not keep abstinence? No she very well didn’t! Then why in the world does anyone have the right to tell her to hide what she believes in, simply because it makes some people uncomfortable?! Since when is telling someone that their promise ring is tacky an acceptable thing to say on an established public website? Is it then okay for me to tell that gay couple down the street that their public affection is tacky? How about that Muslim family stepping out of the Q train-- is it then okay for me to tell them that wearing a Hijab is tacky--that it makes people feel judged? How about that Chassidic couple walking down 18th Ave in Borough Park-- is it okay for me tell him that wearing a shtreimel and long side locks is a tacky overshare of his religious beliefs? Not one of us ever has a right to do that--because regardless of our own personal opinions, we really don't know who is in the right. One can live 120 years believing in Darwinism, only to later die and discover, that it was Darth Vader all along. Whoops.        

 Wearing a promise ring is a very personal and very private choice— like wearing a Yarmulke, or wearing a Hijab—or even not keeping abstinence. As long as we all live our lives, minding our own singular business, then no one-- and I mean no one-- has the right to tell us how to live our lives, or comment on our personal choices. While I am not Christian, and I don't wear a promise ring, I have been very vocal on this blog about my choice to dress modestly. I have never shamed anyone if they dress differently from me, because, let's be honest--everyone dresses differently from me-- but I felt comfortable to share that piece of my life with you, because I knew you would celebrate my life choices with me, not judge me for oversharing. I think what upset me the most about that Sparkler Post, was how Sparklife could be so open about being a 'liberal' website-- how they take everyone's beliefs into account--but if that belief differed from theirs, they were more than ready to subtly slam it. I remember being 17, and reading this post quietly in shock, and thinking to myself: “since when did we lose the freedom of expression?” That post eventually became one too many to handle, and I left Sparklife shortly thereafter. 


I started my own blog a year later. 


*PS-- After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to include a link to the original article, so that you can read it, and form your own educated opinion. Perhaps you disagree with me-- perhaps I didn't read things correctly. What do you guys think? Let me know, down in the comments below!  

Love,
Cynical Duchess


Original article HERE      

Monday, March 6, 2017

THE NEWBIE'S GUIDE TO UNION SQUARE


 We are not apologizing for not having a post out last week. Instead we are ignoring it as if it never happened.

Anyhoo,
       So I've been wanting to make a post about Union Square for a while. It is such a quirky, off beat part of Manhattan, that for some reason seems to fade into the limelight of the big Times Square. I literally have come here about every single Sunday for the past two months. Religiously. However, I don't usually have time to wander around the shops, and stare curiously at the Hari Krishna people banging drums in the middle of the square. I usually step right off the subway, and zoom straight for Starbucks across the street-- where I will then spend the next five consecutive hours staring into my laptop. And occasionally getting hit on.
       However, because I have indeed been going there every single Sunday, religiously, for the past two months, I have managed to stumble upon some real gems tucked into the nooks and crannies of the place. I do have to say this though: one sec, let me switch to red-- I do not claim to be an expert on Union Square. In fact, I have just disclosed that I am an anti social nerd who sits in Starbucks all day. Everything that I am about to show you are things that I stumbled upon accidentally, and on my own-- without even trying. Therefore, think of this as more of an interactive guide, just the things I've stumbled upon while wandering Union Square. 

ALSO: because this post got too long, I plan on releasing a Part II where I will mention all of the quirky cafes I found around Union Square. But for now, enjoy the Everything Else. 

ONWARD: 


So Union Square, in essence, is one of those many squares that Manhattan seems to have instead of flowers, or trees. When you climb out of the subway station and into the light, you are greeted by a historic and artsy looking neighborhood that seems to brim with personality. Every building seems to have a history behind it, and combined with all the people and the street performers, the quaint shops and popup markets, Union Square is probably one of the most flavorful squares Manhattan has created-- something that shouts that it wants something so much more than its provincial life. (10 Duchess points to whoever catches that reference).   




THE NECESSITIES 

Starbucks-- For one, and this is a big one for me-- there is an excellent Starbucks right across the street from the subway station. Sometimes, working all day at home without seeing any daylight can get really depressing. Actually, it is always depressing. Thats why I personally love getting dressed Manhattan style, putting on some red lipstick, and simply working on my laptop among the company of other New Yorkers who had the same idea as I have. I should also mention that this Starbucks is geared towards the study freaks, the college students, and the artsy workaholics of Manhattan. There are tons of little nooks and work tables around the cafe, so it's very study friendly. Embarrassingly enough, I have gone there enough times that I've started seeing the same people every single Sunday. At some point I'm going to have to introduce myself. 

Health Food Stores-- So Brooklyn has one giant thing wrong with it. Actually, Brooklyn has many things wrong with it, but I'm not going to go into it now. The one giant thing that Brooklyn has wrong with it, is that it does not have a single Trader Joe's in a normal area. I live in the Midwood area of Brooklyn, which is a huge suburban area filled with many families. But for some reason, Trader Joe's has not had the sense to build a chain in Midwood. Pathetic. Which is why I usually go all the way to Union Square to do my heath food shopping. Because Union Square, unlike some other place we won't mention, has a Trader Joe's, a Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe's Wine Shop all within two blocks of each other. Take that Brooklyn. 

Drugstores-- So this is usually where I get my marijuana  shampoo. I'M KIDDING, I'M KIDDING. (*colleges please don't un-accept me. Corny joke). Since I usually do the bulk of my dry goods shopping here, it is also quite convenient that there is a Walgreens, 2 CVS's, and a Rite Aid placed in strategic places around Union Square. There are so many little crevices that you can disappear into, but no matter which direction you take, there will be a drugstore nearby. Which is uber useful, for both tourists and locals alike. I should also mention that there is an Apple store a few blocks down for the Square.Just in case you needed one. 




THE SHOPS

The Well Known Ones-- So think of any well known, and not so well known-- shops that you can come up with-- Forever XII, H&M, Zara, True Religion, Doc Martens-- Union Square has it. Trust me, it is a lot more fun to go shopping when the stores are spread out in a sprawling neighborhood, among beautiful people and architecture, than having to stuff yourself up in some decrepit, closed up mall, buying the same exact clothes from the same exact stores. Just saying. 

The Not So Well Known Ones-- For one, there is a store, which I have not entered yet, called Chocolate By The Bald Man. One day I must, I must, enter. There is also a store, whose name I wasn't able to catch, that only sells smoking paraphernalia. Hookah pipes, cigarettes, cigars, general pipes-- this guy has it all. I just find this store hilarious because something like this would probably be deemed highly dangerous and illegal in LA. Not that I condone smoking in any way, as I do indeed find it extremely dangerous and addictive, but I still find it bothersomely ironic how LA can ban any and all suggestions of a cigarette, but allow marijuana to be so rampant, that on national Pot day, about 85% of my college mates came to school high. Trust me, I could tell. 

Nature Republic-- So this is indeed an extreme gem that I found nestled between some random nondescript stores that I usually ignore. I first heard about Nature Republic from a Youtuber who deals specifically with Korean skincare/makeup products. The reason why I was reading up on Korean makeup products in the first place, is because I still plan on traveling to Seoul this summer, and one of the things I wanted to stock up on, was some of the excellent makeup and skin products Korea has to offer. Which is why I did a rather comical triple take when Nature Republic suddenly appeared before my eyes. Of course I had to go right in. At first I was apprehensive as I totally thought Nature Republic would hike up their prices, just 'cuz they were in America. BUT THEY DIDN'T. Five dollar body butters and hand creams, ten dollar cc creams and coverups, TWO DOLLAR FACIAL TONING MASKS. Suffice to say, I was in heaven. It was also at that moment when I realized that Walgreens had lost my business. We were also helped by a lovely salesgirl named Tina, who was both friendly and truthful in her recommendations. My friend tried on some of their lipsticks, and Tina made sure to truthfully tell her whether the color suited her or not. So I'm just saying guys, if you ever find yourself in Nature Republic, go ask for Tina-- she'll really help you. 
       I should also mention, that they give you free samples with every purchase. Because I spent over $25, I got a free hand cream, as well as a chance to spin their wheel of fortune, where I won two packs of mineral infused facial wipes. Score, I say. 




BOOKSTORES, MARKETS & ENTERTAINMENT

Bookstores-- Once again, right when you climb out of the subway station, across the street, standing formidably next to a Sephora, is a gigantic Barnes and Noble. It is three floors high, and reminds me very much of my B&N in the Grove, in LA. They also have a cafe on the third floor, as well as having a lot of author/celebrities events every month. 
       The famous Strand bookstore is also located around Union Square, but I have yet to visit it, so I don't really know much about it-- though it is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit. Lastly, there is a bookstand right across from the main subway station, near where the Hari Krishna usually like to settle themselves, that deals with various secondhand books. I also have yet to peruse this book stand, but if you dare me enough, I'll probably do it. I may even buy a book. 

Popup Markets-- You do not understand the feeling of climbing out of the underground into daylight, and emerging into a bustling surprise market selling who-knows-what. From August to September it was an organic food market. From November to December it was a twinkling Holiday market. Currently there are a few vendors that sell various paintings and art, but who knows what will be during the coming months? I am rightfully excited. 

Street Performers-- from jugglers, to guitarists, to singers, to saxophonists-- you will always catch some sort of musician or performer hanging around the main square. Just make sure to tip them a dollar when you pass by-- it's free music they hand you. 


 
#Bookstand
And well-- that is all.  I hope you enjoyed this meticulously researched Guide to Union Square, just as much as I enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for a part II post on the quirky cafes I found in Union Square. 

TEN DUCHESS POINTS TO LINDSEY GINGE, OF LYNDSEYGINGE.COM 
--- for being the first to guess last week's quote down in the comments below

FIVE DUCHESS POINTS GO TO ERIN, OF EXPLORE-REFRESH
--- for being the second to guess last week's quote down in the comments below. 

Don't forget to guess this week's quote down in the comments below to participate in the giveaway! 

for Giveaway details, click HERE. 

Love, 
Cynical Duchess

What is a place that you constantly troll?
Leave a comment below! 
  

Monday, February 20, 2017

INTERPRETING THE SONGS ON MY IPOD


HELLO OUT THERE!
 So my work is never ending and I find myself with almost no time to actually see daylight. (I exaggerate of course. Slightly). Therefore, I had to think of something this week that would be both entertaining, creative, and would allow me not to step foot outside my house for extended periods of time. (That sounds as depressing as it actually is). I figured the one entertaining element I had at my disposal was my iPod. Therefore, I have decided that for this week, I am simply going to put my iPod on 'shuffle'--literally--whatever embarrassing songs come out-- and I'm going to interpret them.
     A lot of songs out there just really make no sense whatsoever; as if they are purposely muttering nonsensical words from the english language, disguised to look like Deep Poetry. Or they just simply repeat the same idiotic word, over and over again. Like: "BABY, BABY, BABY, OOOOH!!!!" Like that people-- that is real literature. Right there. Shakespeare would be proud. [10 Duchess Points to whoever knows the reference above].
     Therefore, because I am such a benevolent human being, and I am quite sure you are all super interested in knowing what lurks inside my iPod, I have decided to place said iPod on shuffle. Where I will then attempt to figure out the meanings of whatever comes out of the dark recesses of my download history. Enjoy! I'm so scared.  


I'm Sorry-- by CNBLUE

The Band: So this is a South Korean Indie Rock band. What’s unique about them is that though they are considered a mainstream band in Korea, they all play their own instruments, and even write a lot of their own music— which is a very different move compared to the institutionalized Pop scene in Korea. The lead singer, Jung Yonghwa, has a voice like distressed velvet— so you know you are getting a smooth yet husky sound, with a bit of a roughened edge. Also, their tracks are always excellent.

The Song: Kay so...I don't know Korean. But like, I really really don't. The few Korean scraps I have managed to salvage from this song is "love", "please", and "are you crazy?" However, along with the scattered English words that are sprinkled throughout the song, I have come up with this profound explanation. Ahem: Boy messes up. Like big time. Girlfriend breaks up with him. Boy wants girlfriend back, but she isn't having it. So he tries apologizing. It doesn't work. The rest of the song depicts Boy lamenting about how he actually is crazy. 
        I really hope I didn't just deeply offend some CNBLUE fans right now. I apologize if I just butchered this song for you and now you want to kill me. This is why I don't post my address on the internet. 
On my iPod since: 2016


Eet-- by Regina Spektor

The Singer: I do not know how to describe Regina. Everything about her is quirky. Unpredictable. Unique. She has a breathy, matter-of-fact sort of voice-- which makes no sense when I put it to words-- but if you just heard her, you'd understand. She sings about the strangest, most random, most heartfelt times during life, switching genres, and timbres, and even tunes--as if she makes it up as she goes along. The music genre people just call her 'Anti-Folk'. 

The Song: My Gosh. Of all songs. One cannot possibly expect to successfully interpret Regina Spektor. That just doesn't happen. Her music is all poetry, but the kind of poetry that just leaves you scratching your head way after it ends. Kind of like Sam Pepper. But here goes: Whenever I listen to this song, I always feel as if she's talking about a human that's only halfway there. Someone whose not completely in touch with himself or the world. I think the word "eet", for that matter-- is an unfinished word--only something halfway there. The song describes headphones that drown out your mind, and lyrics you always knew but somehow forgot. It's all these half-finished images, trying to feel something, but not fully getting there. 
On my iPod since: 2012



Teir Abhaile Riu-- by Celtic Woman

The Band: I grew up on Celtic Woman. They are what initially got me into Irish folk music and fiddle in the first place. They are an Irish girl group that specializes in Celtic Folk music. While they will occasionally sing some popular non-Irish Folk music as well, most of their stuff is definitely Celtic, and usually half in Gaelic. 

The Song: This one doesn't need much interpreting; the words are pretty straight forward, as it is a folk song. But I always got a thrill out of this song, as I always wondered who was the adventurous soul that wrote this back then? The song tells of a rebellious girl looking off into the town lights, dreaming about the sailors that will soon be coming, and whisking her off to Galway. However, "home you'll go, and it's there you'll stay, for you've work to do in the morning--give up your dream of going away, forget your sailors and Galway". Say the nasty town girls who try to hold her back. It's such a fun song. Just check it out. 
On my iPod since: 2014



My Immortal-- by Evanescence

The Band: I see you laughing at me. I see you. You can stop now. 
 I admit it, OKAY! I like Evanescence. Actually, that's a lie--I love Evanescence. You Rock and Metal snobs can mock all you want, calling it some Emo group for metalhead wannabes (which is something I've heard before), but I happen to love Amy Lee's haunting voice against the grunge of the shrieking guitars. It's like the voice of midnight against a storm, and the effect is beautiful. 

The Song: This song always does something to me. Something to the inside of me. Evanescence was a crutch during some of the darkest moments of my life, and this song especially, was like a ray of darkened light tethering me to reality. For Amy Lee, this song must have been about her sister, who died when she was younger. The lyrics tell of a girl wiping away someone's tears when she cried, and fighting away someone's fears when she screamed. How this mysterious girl is still with the singer, somehow, but yet--she is still so alone. This song always made me think of my own 13 year old sister.  My sister is a tough kid, who is wise beyond her years, and sees things that many adults cannot even begin to fathom. But even she cannot hold everything in at times, and the lyrics in this song just make  me think of how much I appreciate and care for my sister, and how honestly, I would do anything for her. That she should only know how much I want to always be there for her-- no matter what she's going through. If you are reading this, I love you, Sis. 
On my iPod since: 2015



Falling-- by JudaBlue


The Band: So this is probably the weirdest band on this list. Y'all probably never realized that something like this ever existed--but this is what I mean when I mention cultural stereotyping and appropriation-- there is so much we do not know about different cultures, that we really do have to be careful what we borrow and appropriate. So JudaBlue is a Jewish Indie Rock band. They are not the only one of their kind, nor are they the most famous-- in fact, they are quite obscure. A lot of people have this warped idea that Jewish music is some Fiddler-On-The-Roof-Esque squeaky violin from some German countryside in the 1800's. With some "Hava Nagilas" thrown in. When in reality, this is so far from the truth it might as well be comedy. Judaism is a religion spanning every continent (well, perhaps not Antarctica), and practically every single country. I know true and proud Jews who hail from places like China, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Philippines, Argentina, Costa Rica, Korea, Puerto Rico, Egypt, Japan, Syria, Belarus, Iran, Scotland, Ireland-- I can go on and on. And except for the Philippines, Uganda and Costa Rica-- who are people I know only through mutual friends, every country on this list, I know people personally. 
       What I am trying to say is, just like every culture, and every race, is different around the world, so too, Judaism looks different all around the world. I mean, you really can't expect Ethiopian Jews to take up the squeaky violin and start dancing to Have Nagila! I mean, it is SO not their culture! They come from Africa, not Europe! Wow. I did not mean to get into that tangent. Did not realize I feel so passionate about this. Whatever, bottom line is-- different parts of the world, different sounding Jewish music. 

The Song: this is an inside look at the story of David and Goliath, mostly from a symbolic perspective. It treats King David as the teenager that he was at the time this took place-- going into what he may have gone through to defeat Goliath. The song also has some subtle Orthodox Jewish Symbolism within it that you may not catch if you don't know what they are talking about. But over all, I don't think you'd believe me if I told you this video was produced in one day by a bunch of kids who had just graduated High School. Check it out if you dare. 
On my iPod since: 2016


       And that is all, everyone! I sincerely hope you enjoyed this random trip through my iPod. I know I definitely did. Some of these songs, are old. Honestly though, just go check out this music, each one is really awesome in its own way. Or maybe I just think that because every song holds some sort of memory for me. 
And remember, don't forget to guess the reference down in the comments below to participate in the giveaway! 

 Giveaway details on THIS POST


What was the last song you guys listened to?
Leave a comment below! 

Love,
Cynical Duchess. 
   



Sunday, February 12, 2017

TOP 5 BOOKS ON MY TBR LIST & GIVEAWAY CHALLENGE


Salutations People of Earth:

       Before I get to my books that I need to read ASAP list, I want to talk about a little giveaway challenge I am hosting on this here blog. You see, you guys seem to enjoy guessing the little literary quotes I throw out here and there, and I very much enjoy handing out Duchess Points to the people who guess those quotes correctly. I mean, it means that you are actively reading my blog, participating in it, enjoying my words, and for that, I really just want to give back to you. Therefore. I am hosting a giveaway challenge!

-- From this post on, I will be throwing out a literary reference somewhere in every post. Your job is to find it, and be the first to guess the literary reference down in the comments below. Don't worry, you will know when I'm referencing something because I will mention "10 Duchess Points to whoever guesses..." next to the quote.
-- Each quote, as you can see, will be worth 10 Duchess Points.
-- The first person who guesses the reference down in the comments will be linked to and mentioned in the next post, so you know how many Duchess Points you have.
-- The first person to reach 30 Duchess Points wins the Giveaway!

THE REWARD:
 You can choose a category from Books, Shoes, Clothing, Makeup, or RANDOM SHTUFF, from there, I will sending you a surprise something from the category you chose for $20 and under. Because I am a college student. And this thang is just for fun. And because my thrifting tendencies are killer. If I do say so myself.

JUST ONE RULE TO ENTER THO:
-- You must be following me on either my twitter, Instagram, or Bloglovin'. Because yah.

AND NOW, ONWARD--TO THE REST OF THE POST: 
Right, so disclaimer-- these are books that I've been wanting to read for a very long time, but have never had time to. They have been recommended by people whose judgement I trust (when they aren't drunk or temporarily insane), and whose summaries make my heart pound with the excitement of it all. All these books have a very sophisticated or quirky feel to them-- they are not your typical YA read, which is a post for a later time. Therefore, if you are looking for unique, quirky, or vocabulary-rich books, please, read on, you have come to the right post. 

I. THE NAME OF THE WIND--PATRICK ROTHFUSS

The following is taken from the Patrick Rothfuss website. I will not be adding my own summaries, as I have not read these books yet. I will however, add a sentence or two of commentary:

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree."The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.
My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them. I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned. 
So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.

I have not wanted to read a fantasy series this bad since I was 15. The writing is like poetry, the world is achingly crafted in beauty, and the plot seems so vivid, so out there, so unique-- and, there are THREE OF THEM. THANG G-D. My friend K, from The Geek Post, recommended it ;). 


II. THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR-- YOKO OGAWA 

The following summary is taken from Goodreads: 
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.  She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.  And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.  The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

Me: Translated from the Japanese, this book seems so delicate in its attitude to the fragility of relationships. Something so precious, as a budding piece of love, just seems ever that much more beautiful and complex when it's only yours for 80 minutes. May Cho, from The Mayden, actually mentioned this book in one of her posts, and I've been wanting to read it ever since. It just seems too beautiful not to devour. 


III. THE HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT OF THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED-- JONAS JONASSON 

The following is taken from Goodreads:
It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.

Me: Another translated beauty, this time from Swedish, this is one of those books which you will probably pass multiple times in your local books store, something which you will continuously pick up, and then put down again, until you finally take the plunge and decide to read it-- and ultimately fall in love. That is, that is my expectation from this outrageously quirky sounding novel. Courtesy of my friend K, once again. She always recommends the most unique novels. 


IV. BILGEWATER-- JANE GARDAM

Taken from Goodreads:
Marigold Green calls herself 'hideous, quaint and barmy'. Other people calle her Bilgewater, a corruption of Bill's daughter. Growing up in a boys' school where her father is housemaster, she is convinced of her own plainness and peculiarity. Groomed by the wise and loving Paula, upstaged by bad, beautiful Grace and ripe for seduction by entirely the wrong sort of boy, she suffers extravagantly and comically in her pilgrimage through the turbulent, twilight world of alarming adolescence. 

Me: I stumbled upon this little treasure in the modern classics section of Barnes and Noble. Originally published in 1970, in Britain, this book takes on a James Joyce-ian air as it dips and trills through the craziness of adolescence. I actually have, in fact, borrowed this book from the library--and from what I've read so far, the book sounds like a teenage poet who is slightly high on marijuana. Which is exactly my kind of book. Me mucho excited.  


V. BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS--DAI SIJIE

Taken from Goodreads:
“Picture if you will, a boy of nineteen still slumbering in the limbo of adolescence, having heard nothing but revolutionary blather about patriotism, Communism, and ideology, and propaganda all his life, falling headlong into a story of awakening desire, passion, impulsive action, love, of all the subjects that had, until then, been hidden from me”
In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

Me: There are two things that I especially love in a book-- the mention of banned books, and a peek into another culture. I actually just discovered this book 5 minutes ago, as I was scrolling through Goodreads, trying to find a replacement for the French book I originally had on the list. The French book has been on my TBR list for too long, and I just simply lost interest. The idea behind hidden knowledge, subtly tasted behind closed doors and from prying eyes, simply makes my heart flutter. It's the reason why I enjoyed Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 so much, or even Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. Banned books always have something to say. Also, Chinese Cultural Revolution. I'm intrigued.  

  And that is all folks, for this here post. Also, here is my literary reference to describe what I am feeling right now: 
I HATE DATING. WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS. Ten Duchess Points to whoever knows that reference. 

So, 'till nest Sunday Folks, 
love, 
Cynical Duchess


What's on your TBR list? 
Leave a comment below! 




Sunday, February 5, 2017

FROM DAY TO NIGHT IN FOREST GREEN & AND A TALK ON CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

DISCLAIMER: IN THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS, I AM WEARING NUDE TIGHTS. 
       
       Right.
So I'm sitting here listening to Japanese rock music, and I'm wondering two things:

1) why do these bands always feel the need to sing half their songs in English? I mean, Japanese is a perfectly good language. Why dilute it with the boring English language? I'm telling you, English has pervaded every culture like like a leech. Like a streak of accidental white paint. Like an annoying stain on your favorite dress. And it won't. Come. Out. I don't know, what do you guys think? Can someone please explain this phenomena to me?

2) And two, what in the world am I supposed to say about my clothes? Yes, I am aware that this is a fashion post, but how much am I supposed to wax poetic over the fuzziness of my sweater, and the corduroy-ness of my skirt before all your faces start to dive headfirst into your respective keyboards? (Because you've fallen asleep--if you didn't catch my reference). 

I will say this however--this is a day-to-night outfit--I therefore created it as inspiration for you for those lazy days when you need to go to multiple places, but you really don't feel like completely switching outfits. Thus, I've kept the same top and jewelry, and just switched the shoes, socks, and skirt. And I added a hat. But that takes two seconds. Oh, whatever, more on that when we get to the night bit. 

ONWARD: 
DAY



       Instead I want to talk about cultural appropriation. Now I am a great advocate for learning about other cultures. I have music from all over the world on my iPod--in fact, I'm planning a post on my top 5 global musicians-- and I love cooking food from different countries. But when does interest and enthusiasm cross the line into a fetish? I am going to use Korean pop culture as an example, simply because that is the country I am interested in at the moment (before that it was Ireland--don't worry, still obsessed with Ireland--and its seductively fluffy grass), and also because that is the country that currently seems to be the most culturally appropriated. 

       Now there is a term in Korean pop culture known as 'Koreaboo', or the Japanese equivalent--  'Weeaboo'. This refers to someone, usually 100% always a foreigner, who is so obsessed with Korean culture, that they practically attempt to become Korean--even though they are faaaaaar from it. How they go about attempting this, I know not. They start using Korean words in their day to day language, like--
Ahem, like this: 

Koreaboo: "OPPA! Can you come here and tell me if my aegyo sal looks normal?"
Koreaboo's Boyfriend: " Kate, I don't know how many times I've told you-- can you stop calling me that? I don't even know what that is--what even is an Oppa???"
Koreaboo: "Oh, Oppa, you are so cute!! As if you don't know what Oppa means". 
Koreaboo's Unfortunate Boyfriend: Kate! No! I really don't know! Just tell me what it means!"
Koreaboo: "Oh, fine-- it's the Korean term for Older Brother--isn't it cute?? But shouldn't you already know that? Aren't you Asian?"
Koreaboo's Extremely Unfortunate Boyfriend: "Kate?"
Koreaboo: "Hmm?"
Koreaboo's Extremely Fed Up Boyfriend: "I'M FLIPPING CHINESE". 
Koreaboo: "Oppa! Huh? Wha--? Where are you going--OPPA!"


Sweater-- Forever XII
Skirt-- Topshop
Nude Tights-- Melas
Socks-- H&M
Shoes-- Sophie17 


       Okay, Maybe I am exaggerating just a tad, but you get the gist. Said Koreaboo will probably have a hidden stash of imported makeup from Korea hidden in their sock drawer, and they probably know Korean culture better than a Korean. Also, they probably only like to date Koreans. I am just saying, if you find your self nodding your head to any of this, if that guy is your boyfriend, if you just had this argument yesterday-- then I'd like you to step away from the laptop for one minute, don't worry-- I'll still be here-- and I want you to take two deep breaths. Then I want you to put your head between your knees, and face the honest reality. What you have is not a mere cultural interest-- it is a cultural fetish.   

NIGHT


       Right-- I'm interrupting myself for a moment just to comment on the fashion aspect of things. This is my interpretation of the same outfit, except for evening. I actually love this outfit so much that I've recreated it multiple times. Like that is my favorite hat EVER. I love the different muted hues to this outfit-- the darkened greens, grays and blacks that just make my hair and lips stand out. (In my humble opinion). Also, I love the subtle tones of punk that I sneaked into the outfit--through the subtle choker and lace booties. Because you can never go wrong with a bit of punk. Write that down and hang it up on your fridge. It's good free wisdom.  


       Anyway-- oh my gosh I just love those sparkly tights so much. Sorry. Anyway-- Now don't get me wrong-- if you are interested in Korean, or Japanese, or Russian culture-- then by all means, wonderful! In my opinion, it is very healthy to learn about, and even get involved with other cultures. However, when that fascination starts to be all you think about-- or when you begin to think that a particular culture is superior to other cultures, you have to start asking yourself whether you are not just fetishizing that culture. 


       The reason why this line of thinking is particularly harmful, is because it takes a diverse country filled with so many different people, and outlooks-- and dumps them all into one romanticized idea of what their country should be, based off of their entertainment! I mean, what can you get about a culture from Kdramas and Kpop anyway? If I were to make assumptions on Korea based off of their entertainment, then I would assume that (G-d forbid) all the guys there are emotionally unavailable jerks, and everyone walks around in pink hair. Pretty much sounds like Korea, right? NO. Lets use the Korean word for it: ANI! A BIG FAT ANI! Here it is in German: NEIN! Hebrew: LO! Again in English: ABSOLUTELY NOT!     


       Well, that's pretty much all I have to say. No culture is better or worse than any other. Except for maybe really scary dictatorships. Those are pretty bad. Thus, in conclusion-- by all means, appreciate the great qualities found in various cultures, but don't romanticize them to death that you essentially stereotype them, just the opposite way. Because that is also called being racist. And that is my 
shpiel <---- Yiddish. 

       
       And now I'mma say once again, that I uberly love this outfit. With the fire of a thousand suns. (10 Duchess points to whoever knows that reference). I just love the little quirks that you can put into an outfit that make it your own. Honestly, I just love how every outfit starts off with a basic shirt/skirt or shirt/pants, and the little accessories we add simply make all the difference. 


Sweater-- Forever XII
Skirt-- White House Black Market
Shoes-- Fergalicious By Fergie
Tights-- Target
Socks-- Forever XII
Choker-- Forever XII
Hat-- (Small shop in Jerusalem--brand called Se7en). 

And that is all for today children. If you'll excuse me, I'd like to go watch my Kdrama now. ;) 

10 Duchess points go to Leta from The Nerdy Me for guessing last week's literary quote-- 
"T" as in "Troll"-- from Harry Potter!

I think I should host a giveaway like this. Yah! Okay: How about, the first person to reach 100 Duchess points wins some thing from me. Ok, I now need to work on this. More info to come soon! 

love,
Cynical Duchess

PS-- Major thanks to CB for the gorgeous pics! 

Have you ever felt stereotyped, or culturally appropriated? I know I have. 
Leave a comment below! 
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