Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Musically Inspired - The Complexity of Human Behaviour

     How do we describe people? How is it possible to capture someone's entire identity in just a few words? These quizzes that ask you to describe your personality in five words - it's not possible. At least, not if you want a true understanding of them. Humans are complex, emotional and dynamic creatures. It would take years to fully understand everything that goes on inside one individual's mind. And their mind can be very different to what one might expect.
    Humans are complicated. We are constantly changing and learning as we experience the world, and the way someone might describe you now is probably very different to how they would have several years ago. Our behaviour doesn't just change over time though; it often changes dramatically depending on who we are with. The way you act with your friends is probably very different to your behaviour with your grandparents, for example. Emotions also play a huge role in how we act, including the things that affect us emotionally and how we deal with these emotions, as these are different for everyone.
     People can surprise us though. No matter how well you may think you know someone, one day they could do something entirely unexpected. The homebody books a trip around the world. The nerd gets a tattoo. Because who we are and who we want to be are not always the same thing. Sometimes it can take a long time to become comfortable showing the world who you really want to be. It can be a scary thing as well, taking an action that you know others will find strange or potentially shocking. However, it can also be liberating and triumphant and exciting.
     Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising though. People are not simple, and we all have multiple personae and attitudes. It is entirely possible for people to have oppositional behaviours that arise in different situations. And just because you suddenly act unexpectedly does not mean you are an entirely different person. Old and new versions of yourself can exist together. Identity is not clear-cut, black and white - it is constant, dynamic, varying and fluctuating. It can be just as confusing trying to understand yourself as it is to understand someone else. A single person can be confident, shy, clever, stupid, serious, funny, motivated, lazy, brave and scared. This is perfectly normal human behaviour. The world is huge and scary and exotic, and we change in order to accommodate, experience and understand it.

Song: Mz Hyde - Halestorm

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Ever Present Bigotry of Our Medieval Society

     Today I've decided to write about a topic that is a major issue in society nowadays - the LGBT community. I've never discussed homosexuality before, simply because I never felt it was something that needs to be discussed. For me, it's simple. Everyone should be allowed to love whomever they choose, regardless of that person's gender. I'm generally quite good at seeing both sides of arguments, but not in this case. I honestly cannot understand why it bothers people so much, and therefore why it is still an issue nowadays. However, for as long as it continues to be one, we should all keeping fighting for equality and an end to homophobia. Sure, we've come a long long way from where we used to be, but there are still far too many people who believe homosexuality is something evil, and far too many people suffering because of this bigotry.

     The reason I chose to write about this today was in light of Tom Daley's video, where he announces his relationship with a man (watch here). Initially, I was so pleased for him and think that this is a great example for other members of the LGBT community afraid to admit it. However, I still question why we are still living in a society where people feel the need to announce things like this. It should be something natural and accepted. The need to announce it arises from the fact that it is still considered different and unusual to so many people. We assume people are heterosexual, unless they state otherwise. But we shouldn't make any sort of assumption like this. Most of the people I know who are LGBT have never told me so explicitly, it's merely something that has been dropped into conversation. However, I am not close friends with these people, and I imagine they've all "come out" to family and friends already. But at least they don't feel the need to identify themselves in this way to everyone they meet, as they quite rightly shouldn't have to.

     What I really noticed about this video though, was the lack of identifying terms. Not once does he use terms such as "coming out", "gay" or "bisexual". He merely states that he is in a relationship with a man. He even admits to still fancying girls. And I liked the way he did this, as people shouldn't have to label or identify themselves. Some people may wish to, and that's fine, but we don't have to try to stick everyone in a box or category. Sexuality is complicated and confusing. What we may think about ourselves could be completely disproved, if we happen to meet the right person. Some people only discover their homosexuality much later in life. Personally, I've kissed girls and have "girl crushes", but would still generally identify myself as straight, as I'm primarily interested in men. But how am I to know that won't change one day? It is said that people are born homosexual, and that cannot be changed. And while I do believe this to be true, and the people who try to "cure" homosexuality are complete idiots, I think everyone is a little bisexual in one way or another. Sexuality cannot be defined in one term for the whole of your life.

     However, what has really prompted me to write this, is not Daley's video itself, but rather the reactions it has received. While plenty of people have been nothing but supportive, there are many other who are not. This article shows just a few examples of the less encouraging responses he has received. This absolutely disgusts me. Someone else's sexuality is none of your business. How does their happiness make other people so angry? I was particularly appalled by the message that said he shouldn't be representing our country. This is complete bullshit. How does his sexuality lessen his sporting ability in any way whatsoever? I simply cannot fathom what goes on in these people's heads. Everyone should have the same rights (I'm especially thinking of the marriage laws here), and be allowed to love who they want. In fact, "be allowed" isn't the right term here. No one has to give heterosexuals permission to love, so why do homosexuals need it? They should simply be able to love who they want without being judged or hated for it. I won't delve into the religious reasoning some people claim, as I could go on about that for a very long time. I'll simply ask why people allow a book that is hundreds of years old decide their opinions for them. Times have changed a lot since then.

     I could write a whole separate post about why bullying of any kind is wrong, and homophobia is a major part of this larger problem. We read so many stories about teenagers bullied about their sexuality to the point of suicide. This is just so completely and utterly wrong, there's no other way to put it. No one's life is worth any less because of who they love. It infuriates me that people can be so cruel over something which, in the larger scheme of things, is quite trivial. The entire issue surrounding homosexuality is just something that I wish was not an issue at all, but until that day comes, we need to defend this cause. But honestly, why can't we just accept everyone for who they are?

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Difference Between Fantasy and Reality

     Call me a pessimist, call me heartless, call me a cynic. But I don’t believe in love.

     That’s not altogether true. I believe in some kinds of love. I believe in the love people have for their family and friends. I believe that people fall in love, that you can find someone who makes you happy enough that you want to be with them instead of anyone else.

     But what I really don’t believe in is true love. The idea that there is someone out there who is perfect for you, your other half, your soulmate. The dream that one day your handsome prince will come and sweep you off your feet. We are raised with these notions, from stories and movies. But that is where these ideas should stay – in fantasies. They don’t exist in the real world. We watch these characters that seem too good to be true – because they are. Girls don’t have crushes on actors; they have crushes on the characters they play, who put love above everything else. But how many guys actually do that? We watch the bad boys change when they meet the “one”; successful men giving up opportunities and careers to be with the girl who “completes them”; guys chasing after their “true love” at the airport; huge embarrassing gestures and displays to win back their “soulmate”. So then girls start expecting that, and are shocked when it doesn’t happen. I’m sure this works both ways, that there are some guys out there who are perpetually disappointed romantics too, but I think even the most feminist of us have to face the truth that women are more guilty of this than men. More modern films have at least made some advances, in depicting women as strong and independent, rather than princesses who do nothing but pine and long for love. However, they always end up reduced to a cliché. If I were in a romantic film, my cliché would be meeting the guy that makes me believe in love. But life is not a film. In real life, people aren’t perfect and love is hard to find. Relationships are not easy and take work to make them last.

     I should make something clear though; I enjoy romantic stories, and I spend a fair amount of time dreaming up sickeningly lovey-dovey scenarios involving myself. And that’s ok, I strongly believe that without fantasy, we would not be able to survive the bleakness of reality. But I never, ever let myself believe that these fantasies will ever come true. I’m trying to save myself from disappointment. It is important though, to have some standards when looking for a potential partner – don’t settle for someone you deserve better than – but keep those expectations realistic. No one is going to make you see fireworks, or feel like bursting into song. There will be no earth-shattering revelations or grand proclamations declaring true love. The best we can hope for is to find someone who we want to spend time with. Someone who makes us happy. That’s all.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Musically Inspired - Don't Tell Me How To Feel

     Everyone has felt sad at some point in their life. I am absolutely certain of this fact. I'm also certain that the vast majority of people have been told at least once to get a grip, or to stop being such a baby about it. Sometimes this is necessary, sometimes people need a harsh wake-up call to force them to stop moping, particularly if what's making them sad can be remedied.

     What is not ok is people telling you that your problems are stupid, that they don't matter. People telling you that your life is good enough, and that you have no right to be sad. That others have it far worse than you do. And maybe that's true, maybe your problems are pretty minor compared to others; people with illnesses, people without homes or food or family. But that doesn't mean you don't have the right to feel sad. Yes, it's important to help people who have it worse than you, and to appreciate what you do have. But everyone's problems matter to them, no matter how big or small they are.

     No one can tell you how you should or should not feel. No one should be made to feel guilty for feeling sad - let's face it, that's only going to make things worse. Humans are built with a wide range of emotions, and what triggers them is different to everyone. So just because one person thinks your problem is insignificant doesn't mean that you feel the same way. And when you confess your sadness, only to be told that you're being silly, you stop confessing it. You bottle up your emotions and don't let anyone in, for fear of being told the same thing again, for appearing weak and pathetic. And sometimes this makes the problem worse, even resulting in depression.

     What we need is for people to understand each other. To listen to each others problems and not judge them. Know when tough love is going to help, and when it's not. Try to see things from the others point of view - what may not be a big deal to you could be causing them no end of worry. We're a little messed up in one way or another, so let's try to not make it any worse.

Song: Cry With You - Hunter Hayes

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Musically Inspired - Why Do I Care What You Think?

     Why do people feel this overwhelming need to fit in? Why are other people's opinions so important to us? People are willing to change their appearance, pretend to like things they don't and go along with ideas that they know are bad; because the alternative is so much worse. The most obvious form of this is playground bullying, but peer pressure is something that seeps into our lives, often without us realising what we're doing. People are always giving us their opinion on every aspect of our lives - our clothes, our taste in music, the opportunities we choose to take and the ones we don't. And sometimes it's good to have other's people's advice on important matters - but it's never ok to follow this advice when you don't want to. And often, people don't even offer advice, but rather just snide comments and opinions on things that don't concern them - and this plants doubt in your mind, doubts about your choices, your abilities, your chances at success.

     So why do we care? Because it is human nature to want to fit in, to be accepted and liked by our peers. No one wants to feel alone, an outcast for simply being their self. We crave human contact and companionship, and are therefore often willing to sacrifice in order to get this. We seek advice because we realise that we don't know it all - but just remember, neither does anyone else.

     So here's the important bit - why would you want to be friends with people who don't like you for you? Why does their opinion matter, when they are clearly so close-minded that they cannot appreciate diversity within humanity, that they believe they are always right? No one is perfect, no one has everything figured out. So stop listening to people who tell you that you can't achieve what you want. Stop listening to people who tell you that you have to change. Because what do they know? Find the people who appreciate you for yourself. Prove the doubters wrong. Make choices based on what will make you happy. Don't waste time on people that don't matter, people who aren't looking out for you. Embrace the things that make you different. Figure out who you are and who you want to be. Know when it's ok to have some fun, to do things that are crazy and stupid. Make the most of life. And never, ever apologise for being yourself.

Song: Reckless - You Me At Six

Friday, 11 October 2013

Musically Inspired - Trying to be Happy

    Happiness is not easy. Happiness doesn't just happen. And happiness can be damn hard to make happen. there are so many factors that determine our happiness, different for every person and often out of our control. Sometimes you can have a dream about you think will make you happy, only to realise one day that that's not it. Happiness isn't permanent either - as sad as it is to admit, what made us happy once may not make us feel that way forever. People change and grow, and so do the things we want out of life. Maybe you realise your dream job isn't all that great. Maybe you realise you don't love the person you thought you did. Maybe you've been fooling yourself, pretending things are ok when they're not. Life is not a fairytale, not like the movies, where everything works out for the best in the end. And I think it's important to realise that, if you want a chance at finding real happiness. Accept the things will never be perfect, and maybe you can learn to be happy with what you've got.

      And I think we're all a little messed up somehow.No one is perfect, no one has the ideal life. Maybe you're close, close enough to be happy with what you've got, and that's great. But we've all got our problems, our anxieties and insecurities. Maybe some people can get past some of them. But ridding yourself completely of all of them? Has anyone ever managed that? Maybe your problems seem pretty insignificant compared to other people's - what's a little stress compared to full-blown depression? But that doesn't mean they're not important to you. You can just magically make your issues go away by belittling them and pretending they don't matter. Ok, sometimes you do have to man up a bit and try to be strong - but it's ok to admit when you're struggling, even if just to yourself. You've got a better chance at finding happiness if you face your problems, instead of sweeping them under the rug.

     And maybe some of us don't believe we'll ever be truly happy. Maybe we don't know what it is we need to be happy, maybe we don't know how to overcome our problems, maybe we don't think we deserve it. But that doesn't mean we should stop trying. Seize opportunities, say yes to things, go after what you want. Accept that perfect fairy tales don't happen, but also that that doesn't mean real life has to be a disappointment. It might be scary, you might regret things - but better to regret doing them, than not trying in the first place, right? Just don't give up. Happiness is not easy - but it's not impossible either.

Song: Happy - The Maine

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hands Off!

      Can anyone please explain to me why feminism is still an issue? Humans have been around for thousands of years, and yet somehow, despite all the the developments and breakthroughs regarding feminism, we still do not have gender equality. Now, I'm not going to explore every aspect of this topic, or this post would be a million miles long, but rather I'm going to focus on one aspect, that I think is overlooked at times. The best way I can think of to state this is inappropriate physical contact, and I'll explain what I mean by that.

       I got started thinking about this topic after something that happened to me recently. I was walking along the street - not a street I would go along alone at night, but I regularly walk along it in the day, and it was 10am when this happened. Anyway, I was walking along when I suddenly felt a hand touch my bum then run up my back. Naturally, I was startled by this and turned around to see a complete stranger grinning at me, a guy in his mid-20s I'd say. I looked at him in disgust and carried on walking, speeding up to try to lose him. He tried again however, basically attempting to put his hand up my skirt. I hit his hand away, told him to eff off, and walked off as fast as I could, changing course towards what I knew was a busy street. This was the first time anything of this sort had happened to me, but it got me thinking about this sort of thing. What threw me though, was if he had tried to be forceful with me, it was the middle of the day and I cam across another person less than a minute after getting away from him, so he would easily been caught. And if this wasn't his aim, did he really think that was the way to charm a girl? He failed completely, unless his goal was to come across as a complete pervert.

       But that idea of trying to charm a girl stuck with me, and got me thinking about other times guys exhibit this behaviour. Obviously in the street in the middle of the day is never appropriate, but what about in bars and clubs? Once I thought about it, I realised this has happened to me before in these scenarios, but I hadn't quite thought about it in the same way before. Often people are out in these places, looking for some sort of flirtation, or are 'on the pull' (looking to kiss someone, for those unfamiliar with the expression), in which case physical contact of some sort is the goal. It's certainly something I've done myself before, kissing a guy I've just met, for no other reason that it's a bit of fun and I felt like it. And generally, if you make it clear you're not interested, guys will leave you alone. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for it, or I'm having a girls' night - whatever. Which is fine when the guy does leave you alone, but that's not always the case.

        Some guys need to learn to take no for an answer - I didn't get all dressed up to impress you, I did it because it makes me feel good, because I happen to like this outfit. I'm drinking and dancing to enjoy myself, not for your benefit. And some guys don't even look for a sign of consent, they just grab you - dancing behind you, touching your bum, any sort of physical engagement - and this is what really gets me, because what the hell makes you think you have the right to touch me like that? It's my body, my personal space, so back the hell up unless I say you can do that. Quite frankly, it's just disgusting. And ok, sometimes if I'm in the mood I will kiss a stranger for fun, but I would never get involved with someone I met like that. It might sound a bit hypocritical, but it's not a great first impression to make, as if you're kissing me knowing nothing about me, then it's nothing more than physical attraction, which is clearly all you're interested in. If both parties just want harmless fun, then never want to meet again, that's clearly fine for them. But I've pulled guys, then they've given me their number - I don't know what their hopes are, but I certainly will never, ever use it, for the reasons given above. I want to meet a guy who gets to know me first, who likes me for a lot more than my appearance.

        Now just to clarify, for all this is a post about feminism and women's rights, I'm not saying that it's just guys who do this. I'm well aware that there are girls out there who are very confident and forward, and who will make inappropriate physical contact with guys. However, I'm writing from personal experience; I have been felt up without my consent, and I am most definitely not one of these girls.

        So sure, we've had plenty of advancements in women's rights. And I'm certainly glad that women are now allowed to be more promiscuous, to have a bit of fun, rather than stay an untouched perfect little princess until marriage. But I do wish there were still a few more gentlemen and a bit more chivalry going around. So yeah, sometimes I'm up for a bit of fun - but guys, please learn when to keep your hands off!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Musically Inspired - Making it Happen

       Just as a quick intro - this is the start of a sort of series I want to do. I had the idea to write posts based on songs. Basically just whatever I start thinking of while listening to that particular song and where my thoughts head from there, so this could go pretty much anywhere. Sometimes it's the entire theme of the song, other times I just focus on a specific lyric. Just a little experiment I want to try.

         Our lives are our own. We control them, we make decisions for ourselves. At least, this is what we are told. Make your dreams come true, reach for your goals. So why do things still hold us back? Sometimes things do spiral out of our control, external forces mean we can't always do what we want. Other times, it's ourselves holding us back. Mostly out of fear. So many of us don't go for things because we are scared of failure. Scared that we won't make it, that we aren't good enough. Some thing I'm probably guilty of doing myself. And people can say 'Don't be afraid, just go for it' but for the wallflowers like myself, it's not quite that simple. It's difficult to summon courage within ourselves. I often wish I could find it, wish I could just plunge into things. Sometimes I feel like life is just passing by, and I'm not making the most of it. I want to be able to say 'Now. Now is when I'm going to start making it happen." But more often than not, it doesn't. Prime, basic example - look at how often I update this blog. Standard advice for budding writers is to write everyday, but I find that pretty hard to do most of the time. Not so much out of fear though, more laziness or lack of inspiration. So I  can work on that more easily than I can on the confidence issues. And you can only tell yourself that you're just having on off day so many times. We all know the clichés - seize every opportunity, grab life with both hands, dreams only come true if you work for them. And I'm not denying any of this, I absolutely believe that we should make the most of life. I'm just saying, for the people like me, that it's ok to find this hard sometimes, as long as you keep trying anyway.


Song: Weightless - All Time Low ("Maybe it's not my weekend, but it's gonna be my year.")

Friday, 27 September 2013

Review - Deaf Havana: Old Souls

(Source)
      Bold, powerful, raw and most of all, honest. These are the first ones that spring to my mind while listening to Deaf Havana’s new album, Old Souls (Amazon link). An apt title, as it’s easy to forget how young this group of lads are, when their sound is so much more mature and experienced. We all know that bands need time and a few records to really find their sound, and now on album three, Deaf Havana are doing just that. Their sound is bigger and bolder, as they seem to be growing in confidence. There is a clear American influence on this record, but without losing its English rock roots, as this is a band at the forefront of the resurgence of British rock that has been seen over the past few years, and this fusion overall creates a pretty fantastic sound. There is also a great range within the record, from slower emotional songs, to bigger numbers that you can picture a crowd really getting into, and they are clearly not afraid to experiment with their sound, from trumpets jazzing up ‘Everybody’s Dancing and I Want to Die’ to the addition of a choir adding even more power to the already intense ‘Caro Padre’.  One of the real strengths of this record though is the lyrics, largely written by lead vocalist James Veck-Gilodi. As in previous songs, his words are personal, honest and real, unlike the clichéd bullshit that so many chart songs are full of. These songs tell stories, of their past and hometown, of relations with other people, and of how their lives are now. It’s very easy to feel like you have an insight into Veck-Gilodi’s emotions and thoughts; yet although these are clearly very personal lyrics, they speak to the band’s listeners, relatable as they are full of emotions that many of us have felt. From the catchy riffs of opener ‘Boston Square’ to the raw intensity of closer ‘Caro Padre’, this album is an amazing listen from start to finish, and surely a sign that Deaf Havana are only going upwards, on to bigger and better things. Personal favourites: Boston Square, Everybody’s Dancing and I Want to Die, Night Drives, Kings Road Ghosts, Caro Padre.


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Sunday, 24 March 2013

How Long Until Our Entire Lives Go Digital?

No one can deny the impact technology has had on human lives, in particular, the Internet. A lot of this has been highly beneficial, making our lives far easier. Some of these inventions look like things from sci-fi films of the past, and I often wonder how long it will be until we have the technology we dream of in more recent films.

The Internet allows us to see people on the other side of the world as if they were in front of us, access any information in seconds and purchase nearly anything we want. It is also a great platform for new talent, particularly in the music industry. It is impossible to not use it, particularly in the work world, where everything requires a computer of some sort, even if it is only used for something as basic as email.   

       However, I, like many others, sometimes miss simpler times. So many of us are reliant on our computers, phones and other gadgets, myself included. We compulsively check Facebook and Twitter, often before doing anything else in the morning, and ‘just Google it’ has become the standard response for any unanswered questions we may have. I have found it possible to write entire university essays using online journals, without entering the library. And emails are quick and easy, but who wouldn’t love to receive a hand-written letter in the post nowadays?

Children are growing up entirely computer literate, which will be beneficial in our modern, digital world, but really, why do eight year olds need smart phones? Children should spend their youth discovering the world first hand, exploring what is around them, and not doing it through a screen.

My biggest pet hate is the digitalisation of films, music and especially, books. I understand why it is easier to have all these things in one place, and that they are now much more portable. I certainly would not part with my iPod easily. However, I am a romantic, and I like having collections of things I can see and hold. I have boxes of CDs and shelves upon shelves of books, and there is just something so much nicer about them than one little electronic device. I do upload my CDs onto an iPod, as I like playlists and mixing up what I’m listening to, but I prefer having physical copies for peace of mind – I’ve seen too many computers crash and hundreds of files get lost.

(Source)
As for books, I hate e-readers. Reading anything electronic for too long hurts my eyes, and you can’t mark pages or make notes or underline quotes on an e-reader. Books are much more personal, and I like that everyone’s copies are unique to them, even though the story inside might be the same as another’s. They are also wonderful for decorating a room, displaying collections of the art (literature, music, films) that you love. It disgusts me how many of my fellow literature students use e-readers, when we of all people should be first in defending traditional books. And despite portability benefits, I would still carry a heavy tome around rather than an electronic version, as it’s just not the same.

Maybe I’m in denial, but I sincerely hope that we can preserve these things. I am pretty reliant on my electronics, but I hope I never let my entire life go digital. We’ve already come close to losing HMV, let’s not send Waterstones and our libraries the same way.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Marriage in the Modern World


This topic struck me as of late, since I haven’t been to many weddings and my cousin is engaged and my mother has been heavily involved in helping with the preparations. Marriage today seems to me, an entirely different affair to what it once was, and I can’t help but wonder what the point in it is sometimes. With divorce rates rising and fewer people bothering to marry in the first place, I have begun to question my own opinions.

For years, I always assumed I would get married one day, as it was just the normal thing to do. Most of my older relatives are married and now many of my elder cousins are reaching the same point. As for many typical teenage girls, I like the idea of finding one person to spend the rest of my life with, and getting married as a way to cement this. Weddings themselves always seemed wonderful to me; flowers, decorations, a beautiful dress. They are almost like a day in which you can forget about the real world and the problems of daily life, and just get to enjoy being in love. However, watching the ongoing preparations for my cousin’s wedding is rapidly putting me off this idea. I am now struggling to understand why people spend so much time, effort and money planning for one day. It seems like so much hassle to get everything arranged, and has to be done ridiculously far in advance. Personally, I would far rather use that money and plan something more significant, probably travelling in my case. A lot of people may argue that they want to have a special day and get to be the centre of attention, but I think I would find the whole affair highly embarrassing. I’m not a fan of public displays of affection, so getting up in front of a room of people and declaring my love for someone would be awful for me. I think if I ever did get married, I would keep the wedding very small and simple. A hideously over the top affair with hundreds of people would be a nightmare.

            I also think it is silly to spend so much on one day, when divorce and remarriage are so common nowadays. Everyone would like to think that the first person they marry will be the one they spend the rest of their life with, but this is less and less frequently the case. The hassle of organising one wedding puts me off entirely, but people who do it three, four times? Surely it starts to lose its meaning and becomes less special each time. I think marriage had more significance in the past, when people didn’t get divorced, didn’t live together or have sex before marriage, and it also involved amalgamating their property, income etc. Now, I’m certainly not saying we should revert back to a women’s property becoming her husband’s – but nowadays, people get married and simply carry on as they did beforehand. They just spend a lot of money on a lavish occasion to let everyone know that they will continue to do so. Many unmarried couples are together for longer than married ones now. Marriage was also traditionally performed religiously in church, but many people are atheists who have their weddings in other venues, so while they are legally bound together, the religious, spiritual aspect of the union is largely insignificant and lost in the modern world. The sole purpose marriage has now is pledging yourself to someone for the rest of your life – but is an expensive ceremony necessary to do so?

            Personally, I have concluded that while marriage seems like a nice idea, still celebrated by many, and plenty of marriages do last in the long run, it is not nearly so important nowadays. I am not religious, I don’t care about having a big wedding and I understand the practicalities of the real world, which sadly means many couples don’t work out, and therefore, I do not feel marriage is necessary. I don’t mean to say we should lose the custom – I am very supportive of people who do choose to get married, and if asked, I would accept a proposal. I’m also not entirely cynical about love, as I do hope to find someone I want to spend my life with. However, I am not longing to get married, and if I ever do, it will certainly be a small, private affair. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Review - Biffy Clyro, Mallory Knox & Pure Love

Biffy Clyro – Opposites
(Source)
Easily the most recognisable name of this review, the hype surrounding this release was fairly apparent to most people. Biffy has risen greatly in popularity over the past few years, and so, had a lot to live up to, releasing a double album effort (I personally have only listened to the single CD version). Which, I feel, they do and don’t. In general, the style of the album bears many similarities to their last effort, Only Revolutions. The same, soaring melodies and strong riffs are still present. Yet, there is something entirely non-catchy about their tunes; I have found it near impossible to get any of them stuck in my head for any great length of time. This makes their songs potentially less annoying, but also less memorable. For me, much of the album blends together, sounding all rather similar and hard to distinguish. Lyrically, there seems to be no powerful message of theme, indeed many lines making little sense in any respect – anyone want to explain what ‘her tiny saxophone’ is? A few tracks do stand out for me though: Sounds Like Balloons has a strong opening riff, easily recognisable, Biblical and Skylight are powerful and emotive, and Stingin’ Belle harks back to the band’s Scottish roots with a wonderful bagpipe input. Overall, it’s an enjoyable, easy to listen to album that I would happily play in the background throughout my day, but nothing that I will feel particular affinity to or remember significantly.

Mallory Knox – Signals
(Source)
A band’s debut album, as this is, has to make a strong first impression, telling your listeners what you’re all about. There are no expectations to live up to, or preconceived ideas about your music, which is both a positive and a negative; no chance of disappointment, but also no large pre-existing fan base to support you. Mallory Knox burst out with an album of catchy, energetic riffs and meaningful lyrics, making for an excellent listen. They sound young, fresh and energetic, giving their all to their music, reaching out to listeners who can relate to them. For me, their sound may not innovative or experimental, but rather fits in perfectly with my music collection full of the likes of Young Guns and Deaf Havana (bands whom Mallory Knox can be linked to through various tours). Even if this is not your preferred style, they are easy to listen to, and have clocked up a fair amount of Radio 1 airplay, and could be a good introduction to those not familiar with this genre as a whole. Their lyrics veer into dark territory at times, but are personal and meaningful, and relatable to many people I would expect. The album has a decent range as well, from the up-tempo, energetic tracks, to the slower, simpler ones, showing that they are willing to experiment a bit. Stand outs for me include Beggars, Death Rattle, Wake Up, Signals and Creeper. I found it to be a great listen from start to finish, and since this debut is all we have to go by, indicates great things to come from this band.

Pure Love – Anthems
(Source)

For most people, I would guess the first word that springs to mind when thinking of Pure Love is unexpected.  There was a great deal of shock when Frank Carter left hardcore punk band Gallows and teamed up with former Hope Conspiracy guitarist Jim Carroll. Their new style of music is a far cry from their previous, as they have moved into rock’n’roll territory. Anthems is their first offering together, and it does not disappoint. I can understand Gallows fans not liking this style, as Carter has clearly moved on from his old ways, but this album will easily appeal to a new crowd of followers. Personally, I don’t like the hardcore, screaming style, and Pure Love is far more up my street. Their songs are upbeat and catchy, while maintaining the raw reality and personal influence of good rock music. Far from ‘selling out’ as some may think, Carter is pouring himself into these songs, as well as displaying off some impressive vocals that I, thinking him a screamer, was previously unaware of, and teamed with Carroll’s energetic riffs, it seems to be a winning combination. Highlights off the album for me, include Riot Song, Handsome Devil’s Club, The Hits and Beach of Diamonds. The album hits the perfect combination of bright, catchy tunes and meaningful, real emotions behind the music and lyrics. Here’s hoping these boys find success in this new venture, as this is certainly a promising start. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Review - Les Misèrables



     Les Misérables has been surrounded by hype and expectations since the announcement it was being made into a film. And, on the whole, I didn’t find it disappointing.

     To clarify before I go any further – I have not seen the musical version, but I have read the book, by Victor Hugo. Yes, all 1200 pages, an entity who sheer size determines that it really should be discussed almost entirely separately from its adaptations. So, I went in knowing the plot and characters, but not how it had been adapted, as naturally, a lot has to be removed to condense it to a watchable length. Normally, this irritates me to no end in film adaptations of books, but the only part that really bothered me this time was the length of Marius and Cosette’s courtship. While I did find it a bit far-fetched in the book, in terms of the very sudden, very intense emotion, a romance of secret meetings lasting several weeks before the rebellion is at least somewhat more plausible then the incredibly brief encounter they have in the film. But on the whole, the book has been adapted well – major praise on the person who thought to turn that book into such a widely-celebrated musical.

     I am not a huge fan of musicals, but I do enjoy some – Oliver perhaps being my favourite, and so this was pretty far up my street. I was not aware that practically the entire script is sung, which at times I found a little odd and forced, but the more spectacular songs make up for this. Particular stand outs for me were One Day More, On My Own, Do You Hear the People Sing? and of course, I Dreamed A Dream. I also loved the ending, which was not included in the book, and is a much more enjoyable finish (I won’t give too much away for those unfamiliar with it!) I think the decision to have the cast sing on set was excellent on Tom Hooper’s part, as when there is so little spoken dialogue, miming to recorded vocals would have been very forced and jarring. Live vocals make it much more raw and emotional, in my opinion, though I have read reviews that disagree.

     As for the cast, there were obviously some issues regarding the balance of acting and singing ability. Hugh Jackman makes for a strong Valjean, though I didn’t see anything extraordinary in his performance. His acting is strong and emotionally charged, depicting his character’s dramatic change well, but I was not a fan of his singing voice, as it was too high and weak at times. Anna Hathaway, who has a brief part, still manages to make a strong impression as Fantine. She is emotional and raw, clearly dedicated to her acting, and her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream will certainly never be forgotten any time soon. The scenes between these two characters are some of the most moving in the film. Russell Crowe is probably the weak link in this cast, in many ways. Javert is austere and dedicated to the law, but Crowe seems rather flat on screen, showing even less emotion than I was expecting from this cold officer. I can only say that perhaps he was too focussed on his singing, and forgot to act.

     Amanda Seyfried, plays the sweet, naive Cosette fairly well, with a singing voice perfectly suited to these qualities. I found her to lack any real depth, but having thought this about the character in the novel, this is due to the part rather than acting ability. The same is true of her younger counterpart, played by Isabelle Allen – sweet and angelic, but simplistic. Eddie Redmayne plays Marius wonderfully – though I should admit that he is absolutely gorgeous and I am very biased. His acting is emotionally charged, with a larger range than some other characters, and makes for some very touching moments, and his singing, while nothing incredible, is competent and comfortable. Broadway alums Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks play Enjolras and Eponine respectively, and their experience shows. Tveit is strong and confident in his role, but Barks is exceptional, being familiar with her role already. Her rendition of On My Own is truly breath-taking and she brings great depth and sentiment to a character who I greatly disliked in the book. Her final scene with Marius is something I shall never forget.

     Finally in the cast, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter bring a wonderful hilarity to their scenes as the villainous Thénardiers, in what is otherwise a very serious film, stealing every scene they are present in. And Daniel Huttlestone is delightfully charming as the cheeky Gavroche, though may be better suited to the streets of London than Paris – a potential Artful Dodger in the making.

     Visually, the film is breath-taking, taking us inside some of the less familiar areas of Paris and France, of narrow winding streets hosting the barricades, the splendour of the avenue where the funeral procession takes place, the filthy, poverty stricken areas Fantine finds herself in, and the ruined remains of the rebellion’s headquarters. Despite Crowe’s acting and singing, the most visually spectacular scenes are those of his solos, on a rooftop and later a bridge at a night with the glorious Notre Dame providing a memorable backdrop. The climax of the rebellion is exciting, tense and dramatic, cleverly weaving each character’s individual story into a greater whole, while keeping us emotionally connected to every one of them. Each has a powerful and inspiring story, none of which are over-emphasised or neglected. The costumes and make-up are also very well selected, showing off each character’s individual traits while staying true to the era, with everything from Valjean’s tattered prison uniform to the Thénardiers ridiculous costumes during their times of profit. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and think Tom Hooper has done an excellent job adapting such a well-known and loved stage musical for the big screen. Certainly worth anyone going to see.


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Friday, 4 January 2013

My Take on Disney Princesses

     These are my own images, a few sketches I've done in my spare time - re-imaginings of Disney princesses in somewhat more modern fashions. Oh, and with fairy wings.

Snow White

Cinderella

Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

 Ariel

Belle

     Apologies for the picture quality, I don't have a scanner at the moment so I just took quick snaps of my drawings. I plan to do more of the other princesses, and I will upload when I do.
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