Quick Trip to London: Day One.

So me and my boyfriend arrived in London last night to stay with my Uncle for the next five days. The main purpose of this visit: to see the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. And this is exactly what we did today.

I’d booked our time for half twelve which meant we left the flat at the ridiculous time of half ten to battle the infamous London traffic. Even with the congestion charge and a driver who knows the city well getting to the other side of London is still an entire test of patience. The journey took an hour and a half in total, which would probably get me from Manchester (my local town) to the coast.

However leaving so early was a definite and we arrived at the V&A with a good half an hour to spare meaning there was enough time for a coffee but we totally got completely Bowie’d up. Also, after spending that long in the car a brew was definitely a necessity.

I must have booked the tickets to see this particular exhibition about three months in advance and have been really excited ever since. Due to this I don’t know if I can decide whether it was as good as I was wanting it to be or a bit of a disappointment.

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There was a bit of a queue to get in but not as much as the website had been making out, which seemed okay but once inside the amount of people really started to show. There was a lot of stuff to see, and it was in quite a small space meaning essentially the reason the museum advise you leave two hours to make your way round is because you have to spend ages queuing just to look at one item. I’m personally not used to this form of viewing; normally it can be taken at a leisurely pace with enough space around you for it to not feel like you’re involved in some silent game of sardines.

However, if you started to attempt to ignore the vast amount of people and become immersed in your headset which included music, interviews and information about David Bowie it began to feel a bit like you were in a world of your own. Plus the extent of costumes, lyrics, diary entries, artwork and music was as advertised, massive. Most of the famous costumes were on show, suits worn by the Thin White Duke, eccentric cat suits Ziggy Stardust brought to the stage and the exaggerated trouser legs of Aladdin Sane. Every album released by Bowie was exhibited at some point alongside original written lyrics and diary entries written by Bowie himself. In addition there was a collection of Bowie’s own art, mainly featuring Iggy Pop, and hand drawn storyboards and stage designs for his tours. Then there were photographs, so many photographs, all of which were beautifully taken and revealed an entirely new aspect or angle to the superstar.

The final room had to be my favourite. This was a room in which three of the walls were giant screens and speakers featured on every side. On these screens they played live broadcasts of songs and I could have honestly sat there for hours just watching each individual one, as if I was actually seeing David Bowie live. Due to the size of the screens and the volume of the music it was a truly overwhelming way to end the exhibition.

Besides the final room feeling like “this was it” the rest of the exhibition seemed to be curated in an odd manner. It felt like there could have been more of a general flow to the whole thing, it didn’t seem to be organised by time periods but initially gave the impression that it was. Also more space was needed, purely for the crowds, or a better use of the space given was needed perhaps so there was less standing around waiting to view one photo. By the end of the exhibition I must admit, I did feel quite stressed, but this is London and it was David Bowie Is. Crowds are inevitable.

In order to complete the day we visited the Natural History Museum in order to see the dinosaurs, and a blue whale skeleton which was pretty impressive. Then we walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens which was lovely and a bit weird. It’s odd that there’s all this green space and pretty much no noise of traffic in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. But then we got to Oxford Street and the tranquillity was swiftly shattered. If you know Manchester, think Market Street but a million times busier. We hit it at rush hour and God did we know it. Spending four pounds on a pint seemed only natural and this concluded the first day.

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The first day was exciting; the David Bowie exhibition made that a definite. But London generally is exciting and tiring, very, very tiring. However I’m looking forward to the rest of the week and some proper tourist sight-seeing tomorrow as we visit the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, hopefully meaning I’ll have lots more exciting things to write about. And so that’s it, the end of day one and it’s been fab!

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The Issues with Voting.

I’ve only voted once in my life and that was for the local elections. I’m desperate to vote in the general elections and will forever wish that in 2010 I was eighteen not sixteen as this vote resulted in the coalition government the UK has today, which really hasn’t benefited my age group at all. The Liberal Democrats broke all their promises to young people, especially students, and the Conservatives tried to make attending university more difficult for lower classes with an excessive rise in tuition fees.

I will have to wait until 2015 until I have the choice to choose the best out of a frankly bad bunch for who I wish to run the country. In 2015 I’ll be twenty one and may have changed my mind about how I feel about these three parties or they may introduce some policies that may persuade me that one is actually better than the other but for the time being I am pretty unimpressed with all of them. The Tories favour cutting public spending, I don’t agree with that, the Lib Dems have broken all their promises hence making them unreliable and Labour have voted Ed Miliband as their illustrious leader, a guy who has about as much charisma as a bald cat.

This is why I have a problem with the voting system in this country. I’m not a fan of any of the three main parties which are likely to get in power, it’s a very limited choice, politicians appear generally out of touch with the people which seems to defy the idea of what democracy theoretically is and the fact we have a coalition really seems to indicate the fact that it doesn’t work. Essentially what happened in 2010 is that no party actually won the national majority meaning that none of the parties actually won the right to be in power. Surely this should result in a re-vote, not a decision from the Lib Dems as to who they’d most like to work with?

If the matter arises that no party gains a national majority should the parties not have to go away and rethink their policies which are then put towards another public vote? Surely this is the sign of a democracy; the voting system actually resulting in a reflection of what it is the general public want? This is why in my idealistic world the voting system should be changed.

Firstly, I believe that a ballot paper should have an extra voting option, a ‘None of the Above’ box. If enough voters crossed this decision then the parties would all have to go away and amend their policies so they are more suited to what it is the voters want within a government and reflects the changes the people wish to see in the country. This would involve the politicians actually spending more time with the public in order to gain not even a better grasp but simply a grasp on what it is their country wants. It seems that the government of the day are reasonably out of touch with their own people, ordinary people and what it is that will and will not benefit them.

And then this is the current debate I’m having within my own mind about my personal vote. Like I said by twenty one I may have changed my decision but currently the most obvious thing seems to be the option of ruining your ballot paper. Personally for me this is not a wasted vote. Not choosing to go to a polling station at all is a wasted vote and I think that’s a big issue in this country, not enough people take advantage of the fact they have a choice in who runs the country. However, taking the time to go to a polling station and ruin your ballot paper is a vote within itself, it holds a great significance.

Ruining your ballot demonstrates an interest in the voting system and the politics of the day but displeasure in it, or a sense of being unimpressed. It isn’t necessarily ignorant or stupid, but rather for me displays a certain degree of intelligence, like I said it’s still an expression and an opinion on the matter. Obviously it’s an uncounted vote, it doesn’t mean anything but I think this should be addressed as well. I personally think there should be a commitment from those in authority to release the statistics on how many people actually ruined their ballot. Like I said, to me this is also a vote. It would be interesting to know how many people actually did partake in this within each election whether it is general, or simply local. Even if it was not acted upon it would demonstrate to the government how many of the general public are not in support of the way in which they run the country.

Essentially I think the way in which our leaders interact with us, the general public, needs to be assessed. They seem out of touch and the current situation with cutting public spending really doesn’t benefit the people who actually vote for them. There needs to be less hypocrisy and more commitment to what they actually stand for. Sadly it appears that when a party finally reach the high point of their career and having the decisions of a nation in their hands what they actually initially stood for is lost in a haze of power and the voters are left disappointed, losing faith in a party they believed stood for them.

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The “Britain’s Got Talent” Final- Was it Fair?

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I’m not particularly patriotic, in fact I’m not at all, but watching Britain’s Got Talent last night I couldn’t help but feeling that the choice of winner was fairly odd. In case you don’t know the winners were an artistic dance group from Hungary called ‘Attraction’.

I’m not going to lie, they were pretty impressive. Their idea was entirely original and creative. Telling stories through the use of dance and silhouette communicates to everyone and anyone no matter what language they speak or culture they adhere to. Plus the stories were moving, one beautifully told the story of a young couple falling in love and moving through to marriage and then pregnancy whilst the other told a story of a mother and their child. However both these involved death and grief to finalise making them tug at the heartstrings of the viewer.

Their performance for the finals was the most British performance I’ve ever seen on the show, which didn’t surprise me if I’m honest. Those who don’t live in Britain or who weren’t born in Britain tend to be much more patriotically inclined than someone like me, British born and bred.  I think it was this nationalistic performance which spanned through Britain’s history from the declaration of World War Two to the peak of 2012 and the Olympics last year. Saving this for the final seemed to be what guaranteed them a place in the top three and eventually being crowned champions of the 2013 series.

However is it okay for a non-British act to win the show? After all it is called Britain’s Got Talent, and this group weren’t British. By this I mean they have a Hungarian citizenship and came over to Britain in order to enter the competition. Is it fair therefore for them to then win the money and what is classed as the privilege of performing at The Royal Variety Show?

There were many good British acts within the competition such as ‘Pre Skool’ who were a completely adorable dance group made up of five to eight year olds or the girl who covered Beyoncé’s If I Were a Boy which was actually stunning for a girl so young.

There’s obviously no rules against who can enter though so I guess one can’t complain too much and ‘Attraction’, for being so innovative did deserve recognition and in this show that simply means winning. In some ways though, due to the winner being cast by public vote, it kind of provides me with some reassurance within the British people that there’s not going to be a continuation of hostility to foreigners after the reaction to the Woolwich attacks recently.

However in other news, besides all the excitement of a winner, someone threw some eggs at Simon Cowell which was actually a massive anti-climax. I watched the whole final on catch up after seeing on twitter that items were thrown at Cowell and simply watched it to view this. I was pretty disappointed, there was absolutely no reaction from anyone really and it was obviously set up. If you’re going to go to all that effort to set something as bizarre as this up, at least go to the effort to make the aftermath at least slightly interesting!

I never really watch shows like this; I haven’t followed Britain’s Got Talent and only watched the final. I would never normally care about who does or does not win, and to be honest I’m not overly fussed now. It just seems interesting though that a group who weren’t British did in fact win. Is it fair, or should there be some form of rule set up against this kind of thing? They were good though, and much more interesting than any of the other acts and I suppose it doesn’t really matter that much, after all it’s only reality TV.

My Gripe with The Godfather Trilogy.

Right so I know it’s really late for me to voice an opinion on this but I’ve only just watched The Godfather Trilogy. I know, I’ve been here nineteen years and have never got round to it, shame on me but now that I have I can kind of see what all the fuss is about… To an extent.

Parts one and two were amazing, really good films, gangster films at that. Part two I would argue is better than part one. The story line was more exciting, it was following one main character resulting in less confusion and Robert De Niro played a young Don Vito which was simply fabulous. Hearing him say, “I’m gonna’ make him an offer he can’t refuse” is pretty much unbeatable. But then to be honest when Marlon Brando says it it’s possibly one of the best things to happen in the history of the world ever.

So over around six hours of my life I ploughed through these two films thoroughly enjoying every second. I tend to love all gangster films, Goodfellas being one of my all-time favourites and both these first parts adhered to this criteria. Enough shooting, enough slicked back hair, enough meetings and quite frankly enough deaths resulting from dodgy deals and revenge vendettas. And then came The Godfather Part III.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed with a follow up film in all my life. Admittedly the aging of the cast added something to the whole cinematic experience but I think that was probably about it. The story line was pretty much inconceivable and frankly irrelevant. It seemed Al Pacino had gone legit, which I just couldn’t comprehend. Due to the nature of his character you seemed to spend the whole film wondering if this was just a façade and at the end none of this was resolved. The entire story line with the Pope seemed a massive waste, and didn’t give anything to the film except a lot of deaths of characters the audience didn’t really have a chance to come to know. I have no idea who died and why in that film.

The character of Vincent, Michael’s nephew was a confusing one. It was like you kept waiting for him to betray his Uncle and it never happened, or maybe it did, I really don’t know. Again the ending left that unclear. I don’t mind ambiguity but this just seemed ridiculous. When wrapping up a trilogy some kind of clear resolution is preferable.

Then I have the issue of Sofia Coppola who played Michael’s daughter. Firstly, her acting was appalling. After her unfortunate death at the end I assume the audience is meant to feel empathy and complete devastation for Michael as he has finally lost something dear to him but it just didn’t happen. Her acting was so poor and unbelievable throughout that the audience bore no connection to her and I felt kind of glad that I didn’t have to sit through any more painfully bad scenes involving her.

Secondly, I’m guessing she got cast due to being the director’s daughter. I’m sorry, I understand trying to help your kids in the world but when directing the finale to what should be one of the greatest trilogies in existence don’t cast someone who can’t act just because they mean something to you. This is the same with Nicholas Cage (formerly Nicholas Coppola) who featured, I’m guessing due to being the director’s nephew. Admittedly he’s a little bit better than his daughter but not much.

Essentially I was so not impressed with this choice of casting. It seemed like the whole making of the film was done in some kind of Mafia fashion! I felt a bit cheated; I sat through some awful acting just for his daughter’s name to come up in the credits.

Anyway, aside from this The Godfather trilogy was still enjoyable. Parts one and two, as I’ve said were fabulous. Part three, not so good. Hard to follow although not much happens. However, considering three films spanned over about nine hours I’d say if you wanted to watch a really good gangster film, similar to this trilogy but probably better, just watch Goodfellas. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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The Great Gatsby: Film Review

Okay so I’m a bit late with this one, the ship in which people avidly reviewed Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby did sail quite a while ago but I’ve only just got round to the pleasure of viewing it this evening.

I seem to have been waiting for this film to come out forever as it was pushed back to May this year after originally being planned to be released last Christmas. Having not yet seen a film adaptation of this glorious novel that I liked I was pretty certain that this must be the one having majorly enjoyed both Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet. The trailers were tantalising and the soundtrack something I actually chose to listen to in my spare time as opposed to just in the film or in adverts but the reviews were awful. Film critics had slated the film, giving it average reviews and saying that it did the book no justice, and this is where I beg to differ.

Taking my seat this evening in the old 1950s cinema my small town still has in its possession I felt like the setting was complete. My ticket simply stated ‘Admit One’ and my popcorn was in a small cup and only cost me one pound fifty, the experience of this cinema is enough to draw you into your own fantasy world of the Golden Era. Then the film began.

I thought the opening was really interesting and very well portrayed, granted it is a bit odd that Luhrmann places Nick Carraway in an asylum but when one thinks of the trauma the events of the novel have caused him it becomes to be a sensible decision. Toby Maguire’s performance as Nick was just right. He was awkward enough, reserved enough and didn’t impose too much on the story, even though he is narrating it. Luhrmann’s key use of Maguire’s character though was constantly reminding the viewer that they were watching an adaptation of a novel. The use of Maguire typing on screen, and the letters and sentences appearing written out for the audience was a fitting tribute to Fitzgerald and his novel.

Furthermore the amount of direct quotes used from the book is admirable. It seems only correct that the last line in the film be the same as the last line in the book, as it is so beautiful. However in terms of direct quotes my favourite part of the film was when they referred to my favourite quote in the novel. “People came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” At first I was horrified, it was quoted “whisperings and the laughter and the stars” but then it was transformed, Maguire’s character had a trial and error moment, and we were left with the quote I so thoroughly adore.

In terms of Caprio’s performance as Gatsby I was initially apprehensive. He seemed to good looking and charming to play the awkward and unsure Gatsby the book so incisively portrayed. However, he got it perfect. Caprio displayed just the right amount of charm in the public eye of his character and a substantial amount of awkwardness around Daisy. He also portrayed precisely the insistent hope Gatsby’s character never lets the audience forget about, he is hopeful to the end and Caprio implored a generous amount of emotion into this which amplified its importance.

I think in order to truly view this film properly one has to have read the book. The director seems to be assuming that this is the case at certain points and I think to truly appreciate what he has done it has to have been read. In terms of the way the film looks, it’s amazing. The parties look fantastical, imaginary and amazing. The use of the green light is perfect. It is subtle yet at the same time extremely important, just as it is in the novel. The costumes are all outrageous yet fitting and the scenery and sets are mind-blowing.

There are two things that did annoy me a little though. I’ll go with the big one first. They didn’t show Gatsby’s funeral. I understand it would add time to an already long film but for me, personally it’s an important part in demonstrating Gatsby’s loneliness and the immorality that gripped New York which is so prominently displayed in the book. Secondly, he had a fabulous soundtrack which then just didn’t quite hit the spot in the film. It appeared he had all these big names recording tracks for the film and then just flung them in randomly in order for them all to get played. Now, I don’t think the problem is that he tried to bring old and new together, Moulin Rouge worked and I think this could have too. However, it just seemed a bit random. Lana Del Rey recorded a lovely track for the film which then just didn’t seem to be used to such great effect. That’s what I think the problem was, his soundtrack included a lot of strong and emotional songs which then weren’t used to their maximum potential in the film.

However, they are my only gripes. Overall it was amazing, a good tribute to the novel in more ways than one. I don’t think anyone can criticise the acting or the way in which it looks, Baz Luhrmann was directing, what did people expect? I’m sure most people will have already seen this by now, like I said I’m a long way behind, however if you haven’t, do! It is definitely worth the watch!

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Future Feminists.

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Feminism, in the seventies and eighties it was at its peak but since then what’s happened? In recent years there’s been much to suggest it needs a revival, just look at Coca-Cola selling their brand through the use of tanned women in hot pants and bikini tops. Some would say this is empowering to women, others that it was degrading. There seems to be a whole range of things that Feminism covers, treatment of women and expectations of women, which ties in ideas of body image and appearance. How should women look and how should they be treated? I would describe myself as a Feminist, of the Liberal kind, meaning I believe in equality between the sexes. However, I sometimes find myself torn and wondering if I’m keeping up my Feminist standards.

I’ve always believed in Feminism and then studying the school in sociology just reinforced these values. It appears that in today’s society it needs a revival. It’s like we accepted Feminism in the seventies and eighties and believe that it has just continued to these standards. We’re constantly told we live in an equal society and compared to others, we really do however is this entirely the case? Female editors within major newspapers make up for a total of 5%, 10% of bank CEOs and 0% of the Bank of England. This doesn’t appear to be equality; just because we believe we’re doing something it doesn’t mean we are, this isn’t change.

Expectations of women are also still pretty traditional, maternity leave is still a much higher proportion of time than paternity leave. In some instances this can be seen as fair enough but also isn’t it pretty presumptuous? Society is assuming that it will be the female who takes prime responsibility for the child and more women go part time or stop their jobs completely after they become mothers. I’m not saying this is a bad thing if this decision is made, but how much of it is just influenced by what society presumes?

I think my main issue at the moment is the emphasis on the way in which women should look. Females are the target audience to be constantly bombarded with fake tan adverts, make up adverts, hair dye, beauty products, heels, dresses, nice clothes. All these things defy a natural look. In order for a woman to be considered beautiful it appears that at the moment she must have a tan, take good care of her hair, and pay particular attention to make up. I’m not saying there aren’t pressures on men, but are they to the same extent?

And this is where I seem to contradict myself in my views. I believe in equality, I think there’s more society can do in order to achieve this goal yet at the same time I fall into the trap of taking care of my appearance in this manner, minus the tanning! Today I’ve been to get my hair done, cut, coloured and styled. I’m really pleased with it, partly for myself because I like to look good but partly because I like society to deem me as someone who is responsible and in control of the way they look.

See, this is where the problem lies. I can’t decide if because I’m doing it for myself I’m sticking to my Feminist roots and it’s empowering for me. Or have I become yet another victim of the expectations that are placed upon me. I do my hair and make-up everyday yet at the same time I have ambition. I want to be a writer, I want to change that 5% figure and find my place in the editing world. However, image matters in everything. For both men and women the first impression of a job interview is crucial. I suppose what I believe is I can become successful whilst maintaining my image. I don’t do it because of society’s pressures; I do it to display values such as presentation whilst at the same time displaying parts of my personality through the way I look.

I class myself as a Feminist, someone who believes in equality between men and women and supports equal opportunities. The problem with society now is that we seem to have slipped back into old ways. Feminism needs a revival, perhaps not in the same way as in the past but some recognition and some action needs to be taken in order for society to become more equal again.

Woolwich, Worry and a Wider Misunderstanding.

In terms of news Britain has got some of it’s worst today. Two men have attacked and brutally murdered another man in London in what appears to be an unmotivated and unexplainable manner. Facebook, yet again, has erupted.

I suppose some background to the story may be necessary. The man who was murdered in the street, in broad daylight is yet to be confirmed as a British soldier but this is what appears likely. The suspected murderers, two black men, have been associated with the Islamic religion after one was heard to say, “Allahu Akbar [God is Great]”. Police have arrested both men who are both currently in separate hospitals under armed guard in London. David Cameron has flown home from Paris in order to address the nation on the attack which has been described by him and the media alike as a “suspected terrorist attack”.

I’m not going to initially start disputing that, as long as it is recognised that the term ‘suspected’ was used. In terms of treating it as suspected seems reasonable as nothing can be proved. This attack doesn’t necessarily scream terrorism, it’s simply cold blooded murder, as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declared earlier today. Two men have killed another human being in nothing more than an act of brutal humanity. Giving the men the label of ‘terrorist’ makes them something more than they are. It gives them a status, and one that is undeserved.

The problem with attacks like this though is often media coverage and misguided views from the general public. Facebook has gone mental since the news came out, heavily fuelled by racist opinions and people criticising the government for allowing immigration into this country. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the high amount of non ignorant and highly rational views that have also been expressed. But maybe that’s a reflection of the people I associate with. Somehow news like this always seems to fuel racial hatred and condemning certain religions.

Since the news was shared the English Defence League (EDL) have gained an extra three thousand ‘likes’ on facebook meaning an extra three thousand people have joined the group that claim to “peacefully protest” against Islam. They protest against an entire religion. They have revelled in today’s news and the group have used social networking in order to encourage people to take to the streets in order to “take a stand.” Essentially they have exploited the situation as no official statements regarding either man’s religion have been released.

This then misguides and distorts people’s views on the situation. As opposed to this being viewed as a cold blooded murder it is a religious attack. Again, people are ready to condemn a whole religion based on the actions of a minority. And that’s if it is associated with religion at all. If it does come to light that this is a religious attack then it is of extremists. The word extremists never seems to be emphasised enough, this can be seen after 9/11. Instead of placing enough emphasis on the fact that this was the work of Muslim Extremists a whole religion was left to be condemned, with something just as simple as the stop and search rates for Asian boys being increased massively supporting this claim.

If the world were to constantly assume and treat everyone in this manner after the acts of a few individuals then it leads to nothing logical. Anders Breivik killed 69 teenagers in Norway recently, and he was a Christian yet do we condemn the whole Christian faith? No, we widely recognise him as an anomaly. Likewise with the IRA, no one has condemned the entirety of those who follow Catholicism because of the actions of a small minority. So why is it so likely in these cases? I can’t answer that question without delving too far into my own personal views and I wish to remain mainly informative and factual, with the added idea of making the reader think. I hope I achieve my goal. Instead of just reading what you see and taking that as true, maybe ask some of these questions. Is it a terrorist attack? No, until confirmed it’s not. Is it a religious attack? Again, until confirmed, it isn’t so. The two men appear quite willing to talk, maybe the public will find out the true reasons behind this barbaric and unimaginable attack and maybe we’ll be surprised.

But that appears the most important thing to remember. This was a cold blooded murder, committed by two men who don’t deserve any form of status and have caused yet another reason for us to be just that bit more ashamed in humanity.

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