Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Infinite Power of Imagination

     "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground" - Theodore Roosevelt. This poster (above) has hung in my room for several years now, is a constant reminder of how I try to make it through each day: imagination.

     What kind of place would the world be without imagination? It’s an extraordinary phenomenon when you stop to think about it. Every great invention or discovery started with a little imagination, with something thinking “What if…?” It is a crucial part of human intelligence and development, and without it we would almost certainly still be living in caves.

     Imagination is a vast topic – limitless really, stretching as far as any individual’ mind can reach. So, the aspect I want to focus on is the one I feel most passionate about – imagination in the world of art. Art covers a vast array of subjects, from painting to music to fiction and everything in between.  Imagination and art come together to provide us with creations of beauty, of emotion, of drama; they can be as close to or as removed as possible from our everyday lives. It is true mark of the greatness of the human mind, that we can dream new worlds, mad adventures and even something as complex as human personalities.

     I’m particularly passionate about imagination in this sense, as I believe we would not be able to cope with the real world without it. It fuels our dreams and desires and gives us hope of something better. The real world can be wonderful, but it can also be terrifying and dangerous and depressing, so imagination provides us with a sort of escapism. A source of comfort when reality becomes too much. And imagination provides us with versatility, as what soothes one person may not do the same for another. So, we can choose to listen to music that relates to our problems, or avoid them entirely by reading about a world entirely different to our own, or even create a whole new work of art ourselves in order to express how we feel.

     Story-telling is one of my favourite ways to use my imagination, whether it be through the stories found in books, films and TV shows, my own attempts at writing, or simply allowing myself to day-dream. Stories come in all these different shapes and forms, but they are something that all of humanity has in common. Words woven together to create new lives. They allow us to experience things we cannot in the real world; daring adventures, epic romances, journeys into the unknown. We connect with the lives of characters, in ways we may not expect, as even the most bizarre and unusual of creatures as come from a human mind.

     Imagination has kept me sane and even happy for years, helped me survive the real world. Music speaks to every emotion I’ve ever felt, expressing for me when I cannot. Paintings and drawings remind me of the beauty of life. And stories are my escapism, characters my best friends. So many amazing things have sprung up from people’s minds and inspired my own. And I cannot wait to see what new wonders the world comes up with next.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Review - Blitz Kids: The Good Youth


The Good Youth (Amazon link), Blitz Kids’ second record, is aptly titled, as this record sums up the sentiments of the youth of this generation. Avoiding clichés and complex metaphors, it is an album full of tracks that are honest and straightforward, something young people desire more of in this society. The opening track, “All I Want Is Everything”, kicks off with an anthem-like chant, which instantly creates a feeling of universality, of being connected with other people feeling the same way. This is a recurring feature of the album, and it’s easy to picture a crowd yelling the lyrics in union, lyrics which ring true for so many young people. This record is full of lyrics that young people want and, more importantly, need to hear, and every song has music that matches the tone of the words perfectly. From the dark negativity of “On My Own” to the naked beauty of “Long Road” to the raw fear of “Title Fight”, these tracks remind us that others experience the same unhappy emotions that we’ve all been through. But these songs are scattered between track of optimism and hope, tracks like “All I Want Is Everything”, “Keep Swinging” and “The Sound of a Lost Generation”, bringing encouragement to be bold, to look forward to the future and to never give up. This balance of positive and negative songs prevents things from becoming overly clichéd, and creates resonance with the full spectrum of emotions young people experience. Stylistically, the same thing is achieved, with catchy melodies and sing-along chants, to really get a crowd going, combined with powerful honesty to give each track more depth. This is an album which is both deeply personal and universal at the same time, and this is music performing its best and most powerful function. Through all its colours and tones, it is an album of belief, of potential and of hope for today’s youth.

The Amazon link is part of their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Outfit of the Day - Back to Class

    So, I'm back at university classes now and although there are days when I just chuck on a hoodie, other times I try to make a little more effort. It's still pretty cold, so I'm going for outfits that are warm and comfortable, but still stylish. I have a natural tendency to pick darker colours too, and winter is the ideal time for that. (Warning - do not make my mistake and wear these boots for the first time when you have a long walk to class, break them in slowly first! - they look good, but my word it was a painful journey!)

Cardigan - LaRedoute, Top - Ellos by LaRedoute (worn with black cami underneath), Jeans - Next, 
Boots - New Look, Necklace - Market stall, Ring - Market stall, Nail Polish - "Navy Glint" by Seventeen

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Musings from an Airport Departure Lounge

    Airports. Places of transit. Places of waiting. Place where journeys take place, yet life seems to be on hold for a while. Places of excitement, of anxiety, of boredom, of joy and sadness alike. Where loved ones are parted and reunited, bodies hugging and tears flowing. Where adventures begin and end.
     There's the noisy family taking their children on the annual beach holiday. The younger couple, not yet burdened with offspring, taking a more relaxed break. Droves of business men and women on the daily commute to work in a place too miserable for them to want to live in. The young adventurers armed with backpacks but no plans, seeking thrills and excitement off the beaten path. The students leaving home comforts for the grind of university classes. The boisterous stag party, whose trip will be lost in an alcohol fuelled haze. The older group of friends, who's kids are all grown up, on a more sophisticated city break for the first time in years. The elderly retired couple visiting relatives, for a wedding or a new baby.
     Airports are unusual places, unlike any other in the world. Places of transit and waiting, both literally and figuratively. Places where life pauses to breathe, to contemplate, to reflect, before the next stage begins.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Review - Canterbury: Dark Days

     Dark Days is, without a doubt, Canterbury at their best. With each new album, a band hopes to better their last, and it's always a shame when they fall short, but that is by no means the case for these guys. The pledge system used to create the record proved their strong, loyal fan base, who had faith in this project from the start - and they weren't wrong.

     The album title suggests a deeper, more mature sound, and this is a good way to start describing the record. While still maintaining the unique sound which marks Canterbury out from the rest of the crowd, Dark Days has developed and matured it, as any band hopes to do with each successive record. Old fans will still love them, and many new ones will be enticed. They show off their range with some tracks that are bold and aggressive, and others that are mellow and dreamy, while still all blending together to create the sense of unity a good album needs. Their own musical talent is backed up by a plethora of other instruments, including strings and trumpets, giving the album a bigger and deeper sound, and the gang vocals make songs reach out to listeners, making the tracks bigger than the band themselves. Lyrically, this is also true, with poetically worded songs that many will be able to relate to. From start to finish, there isn't any song weaker than the rest. Canterbury have cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the world of rock music, and this album is a sign that only better things are to come.

     Favourite tracks - Expensive Imitation, All My Life, Satellite, Hold Your Own, Elephant

The Amazon link is part of their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Outfit of the Day - Monochromatic

     Drinks with friends. I went for an outfit glam enough for a night out, without being too over the top if things ended up being pretty relaxed. Leather jacket & heels add an edgy, rocker vibe to a more casual top & jeans. And while I love bright colours, black and white is effortless and classy.

Jacket - Topshop, Top - Forever 21, Jeans - New Look, Shoes - New Look, Necklace - Forever 21, Ring - Vintage Market sale, Ear Cuff - Forever 21, Nail Polish - 'Wicked' & 'Fury' by Seventeen

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Review - The Spectacular Now


     Poignant, charming and very much real. The Spectacular Now is a high school story which carefully avoids the clichés and stereotypes too often found in teen movies. It is impossible to put any of the characters into the typical high school groups, and their difficulties are far greater issues than simply trying to become popular. This film is a refreshing dose of reality, in a genre that often feels artificial and untrue.

     While this film may initially be thought of as a romance, and indeed this storyline is crucial, the real story is Sutter’s (Miles Teller) personal growth. Afraid of growing up and having to take life seriously, the appearance of Aimee (Shailene Woodley) kick-starts a series of changes for him. At first, it may seem as though Aimee is the one who will change, as Sutter shows her what a relationship can be. Aimee is in love for the first time, and is consumed by it, as every girl is. However, she is not the typical nice girl she first appears to be, and Woodley portrays all her facets and complexities in such a way that she becomes an entirely realistic and believable character. However, Sutter’s transformation is far deeper and more difficult, as he must overcome his fears of life changing and letting himself care for people. He must face harsh truths about his own family, and his struggle to deal with these facts is emotional and moving. Teller expresses every emotion his character experiences, from reckless abandon to complete hopelessness, with skill and credibility.

     At first, there is the vague sense that Sutter may just be screwing with Aimee, rebounding from his recent breakup, but Teller and Woodley’s chemistry is so strong and believable, these concerns don’t last for long. Their relationship seems delicate and fragile, as is to be expected between people so young. As a realist when it comes to love, I frequently find relationships in films to be melodramatics and unrealistic, but the intensity of this one works, as young lovers do fall fast and hard. In the real world, many high school relationships don’t last forever, but Sutter and Aimee have such a profound effect on each other’s lives, you can’t help but hope theirs does.

     While the acting is excellent, it can only be produced when performing a strong script, which is exactly what this film has. Everything about it feels real, from the sorts of difficulties the characters must face, to their speech, which sounds like that of real teenagers, to the characters, which are multi-faceted and complex enough to be believable. One of the key things to make a film great for me is a script that keeps me on my toes. There is nothing worse than predicting a film’s ending and then being proven right. This takes all surprise and wonder out of the story. The ending of The Spectacular Now is not particularly surprising or unusual, but it avoids using anything overly clichéd, to maintain its plausibility. Indeed, the film overall is not ground-breaking or entirely unique – but it is certainly realistic and complex enough to elevate it above most other teen films. A thoroughly enjoyable watch.

The Amazon link included is part their affiliate programme and I will receive commission on any purchases.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Outfit of the Day - Cosy Cardigan

     So I'm not very clued in on current fashion, but I like putting outfits together and creating my own style, so I thought I'd start sharing some of that. Today's outfit was comfy and wintery I guess.

Cardigan - LaRedoute, Top - New Look, Jeans - New Look, Necklace - eBay, Nail Polish - Peacock by Seventeen

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year, New Me?

    So, just in case anyone lives in a cave and might have missed the news... it's 2014! This makes me feel alarmingly old, as I'm turning 20 this year. Twenty?! I can only call myself a teenager for a few more months. Twenty sounds like such a grown-up age, like I should be mature and responsible about my life. However, that certainly won't be happening. I'm pretty certain I'm going to be a twenty-year-old who still acts like she's five, as I do now. But hey, that's still a few more months away, and let's face it, twenty isn't old at all in terms of an entire lifespan.
     Anyway, my social networking feeds have been covered in people reflecting on the last year and making resolutions for the new one. And to be perfectly honest, I'm sick of hearing it all. People claim that they are going to change their lives and become a whole new person, just because it's a new year. It's only a date though. Our calendar just happens to be constructed this way. Today could just be any other Wednesday, but because it's January 1st, it becomes significant somehow. New Year's Resolutions irk me, as if you really want to change something about your life, you can do that at any time of year, and people so often fail at keeping these resolutions for very long.

     However, in some ways I do think New Year is a good thing. People often just plod through life, doing the same thing day in, day out, but at New Year we get a wake-up call, reminding us that life is passing us by. Reflection and new resolutions are a sign that there is something about our lives we want to change, and if this particular date in the year prompts us to do just that, it is certainly not a bad thing. I think my main issue surrounding resolutions are the people who make them half-heartedly because it's the thing to do, then never stick to them. Or they screw up once and so give up entirely, when they could resume their efforts of they really wanted to. If you want to make changes in your life, and are going to put in the effort to do so, then by all means, go for it. I do think people should make these changes as soon as possible, rather than just at New Year, but for many the thought of another year having passed by may be what spurs them into action.
    Personally, I haven't made any resolutions for years, as I so rarely keep them for more than a few weeks. However, over the past month or two, I have been thinking about making some changes, but was too lazy to actually do anything about them. So for me, Christmas was a time to continue being lazy (er, I mean relax) and then use New Year as a point of time to force myself into action. I've also set myself specific goals, rather than vague notions of self-improvement, so I can keep track of whether I'm actually achieving anything.

1) Write More. Writing is something that I often enjoy, but I more often am too lazy to really get stuck into it. My goal is a minimum of two decent writing sessions per week, whether in the form of blog posts or continuing my attempts at a novel. (Exception: essay deadlines/exam periods)

2) Exercise More. I hate exercise and my weight has never bothered me much (I'm not overweight, but I'm certainly no twig), but I have become aware of the fact that I'm just plain unfit, which is actually a health concern. I'm not jumping straight in with running or the gym, as this will never last long, so my goal is to start doing yoga, at least 30 minutes, four times a week. (Exception: travelling/holiday)

3) Eat Better. This is connected to the exercise, as my concern is not really to lose weight, but just to be healthier. I have a massive sweet tooth, so I'm going to cut myself down to a maximum of two sweet things per day (most likely some form of pudding after dinner, and biscuits with a hot drink in the evening). (Exception: birthday/Christmas)

     I'm leaving at that for now, as if I try to do too many things, I know I'll slack and achieve nothing. I do have larger life goals, but they are long-term or far-off things that I may not achieve this year, which is fine. After all, I'm not even twenty yet. But these resolutions are possible to achieve, so I'm going to do my best to stick with them, and not abandon them if I don't meet my goal every week.
     So yes, make changes in your life. Try to be a better person. Just remember, New Year is just a date, and you can improve your life whenever you want to.
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