Monday, 28 September 2009

This Month's Top 10

Every once in a while I get a little bit too obsessed with something or other, be it a song, TV show, gadget, website... the list goes on. Here is my Top 10 Things this month -

1. Gilmore Girls
This is the sort of telly that is great for any time of the day or night, with a cuppa and a biccie, or a coffee and a smoke, or a sandwich and an OJ... goes well with anything, really. The characters are so well-formed and articulate that it is a pleasure to watch. Having ploughed through the whole of Season 1 in less than 72 hours is my personal accomplishment this month. I have even re-watched a few, when my sister was catching up with me. Now am (im)patiently waiting to borrow the second season - which I will hopefully get tomorrow - so it'll be another 72-hour lockdown (...or lockup?!)...

2. My BlackBerry
O.M.G. I'm turning into one of those. Those people who are never seen idly sat on a bus or train, always frantically tapping their fingers on the keypad, accessing (in my case) copious amounts of BBC News, returning 'pokes' on Facebook as instantaneously as I receive them, and generally embracing the technological age. This makes me a little sad, but at the same time, I do genuinely enjoy having access to whatever takes my fancy at the touch of a button! Only this morning I was scrolling through Rudyard Kipling's poetry; (here's a favourite: Cupid's Arrows)

3. University Challenge
Watched religiously, every week. Personal top score: 11 thus far this series. Sadly, York suffered a humiliating defeat tonight by St George's of London. It was painful.

4. Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
One of the feel-god hits of the summer, this still brings a smile to my lips. I just love the melody and the guitars, and have even found this brilliant acapella version: Del. It's not great audio quality, but I especially like when the beat-boxing kicks in. Sweet!

5. The Gatehouse
Ah, my local, how well you have served me in these last few weeks! If I ever have to suggest anywhere to meet up, it seems to always be at The Gatehouse lately. There's even a theatre upstairs, I will be checking out Twelfth Night when it comes along.

6. Babies
Ok, so this one might be a little weird, but I'm somewhat alarmed by my sudden (very) broody nature. Every time I see a baby, I just think, 'awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!'
I put this down to having spent such a large amount of time with my baby cousin this summer, who is just the sweetest thing to have ever graced this world.

7. Milka Chocolate
At this time in my life, my perfect job would be Chocolate Tester for Milka. I love them all. The biscuit-ey ones, the yogurt-ey ones, the nutty ones... I stay away from raisin-ey ones to be fair, I can only eat raisins plain.

8. Twitter
I'm sort of in two minds whether or not to admit to this pretty compulsive behaviour of mine...I update my Twitter probably a bit too regularly, given that so few people actually reply to my 'tweets', but I find the self-indulgence very satisfying! Is that wrong?! ...probably not.

9. My Hair
As in, trying to see how long I can go without washing it. It's not really anything disgusting, I just want to see if it's true that the less you wash it, the less greasy it is. So I'm sort of going for the 'wash every 3-4 days' thing, but it's difficult 'cos sometimes when I step in the shower I just forget... Anyway. Maybe too much personal information...

10. Kettle Chips
Just can't get enough. Every time there's an offer - and sometimes when there isn't - I buy a couple of bags. Recently tried the Honey BBQ flavour, and Thai Red Curry, but nothing so far compares to Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper. Mmmm....

Hmm, in retrospect, maybe 'obsession' is too strong a term to use for all of these, but the above have pretty much shaped my life in the last month. I think I need to get out more.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Drugs 'n' Alcohol...

...a topic dear to many people's hearts!

My first bit of opinionated ranting -
You might have heard in the news recently that there's been a proposed alcohol advertising ban in the UK. It would include the axing of 'Happy Hours', 2-4-1 deals, special offers, TV advertising, the list goes on. During one of their reports, ITV news interviewed the mother of a 23-year-old who was in hospital with liver failure. The mother thought the ban was a great idea, suggesting that without such promotions, her son wouldn't have been hospitalized in the first place. However, the news report also mentioned that her son had started drinking at the age of 11, during the time when his parents were going through (what I imagine must've been a pretty messy) divorce.

My point is, no young person, let alone a child, should be drinking at that young age, and certainly not to the extent that, a decade later, they're suffering from serious liver damage with only a small chance of recovery. Furthermore, that 11-year-old was hardly able to take advantage of the aforementioned special offers. And I will refrain from ranting about the responsibilities parents have to take care of the welfare of their children, but suffice it to say that something must've gone very wrong somewhere along the line if one's child is hitting the bottle even before the 'terrible teens' have hit.

The problem in this country isn't going to be solved by a blanket ban on alcohol advertising. Our cultural acceptance of binge drinking, which for most 14-year-olds is akin to a rite of passage, is what adds fuel to the fire. Until we change our very attitude towards alcohol, not much will change.

My other rant, also to do with advertising, is the drug-driving advert we're all subjected to during prime time television:

Think! Road Safety Advert

Firstly, no one's eyes become the size of saucers, no matter what they're taking! Secondly, given that it's one's pupils that dillate under the influence of alcohol, the police will be hard-pressed to notice such things unless they stop the car. And finally, it seems a little illogical to me to impose the same penalties for drink-driving as for drug-driving, given that the latter substance(s) are illegal! Aside from that, different drugs have different effects on the body - some make you more alert, others act as a sedative. Far be it for me to suggest that taking one substance over another might improve your concentration on the road, as with all things it's apparent that we only ever get one side of the story. Check out this site for more on the subject:

How Drugs Affect Driving

On a final note, I am by no means advocating drink- or drug-driving, but rather giving some food for thought. Should the penalties be the same? Caffeine is a stimulant drivers often take when on the road, but no one writes of the dangers of 'crashing out' (excuse the pun) after a few too many coffees, though it is widely reported that caffeine withdrawal can cause effects such as anxiety, nausea, headaches, and an inability to concentrate.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Free Stuff

In case anyone wants to make any extra money through answering survey questions, I highly recommend:

It's Your View

and, to a lesser extent,

Song People

The former sends you a cheque for £50 every time you reach 50 points (I am on 19 after 8 months or so, but I have not taken full advantage of the surveys sent to me), and the latter has various rewards, e.g. Amazon vouchers, free CDs, ...

Also, every once in a while

Free Stuff

has some cool free samples, cinema ticket offers, and general competitions (which I don't suggest you enter as it seems you just get spammed, and I don't trust most of those sites anyway).


The Graduate Panel

(and similarly

The Student Panel )

pays for your survey time in Amazon vouchers.

As Tesco says, every little helps.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Leeds Festival 2009 Review

If I had to sum up Leeds Festival in one word, it would be - messy. In both a metaphorical and literal way. Demographically, the punters seem to be between the ages of 16-25, and most of those are sixth formers. The main aim of the average festival goer here is to get as wasted as possible, as quickly as possible, for as long as possible. No one really seems to understand the concept of a bin bag, and even the incentive of a beer token for every bag of recycled cans handed in didn't capture many imaginations. A few people did make between £20-£30 for the beer/cider paper cups collected (10p each), but I got the impression they were working in some or other capacity at the festival anyway ( - e.g. stewarding, bar work, etc). The other surprising thing was the sheer number of tents left abandoned at the end of the festival. If I hadn't have known any better, I would've thought two thirds of the campers were still asleep at 1pm on Monday afternoon. There was definitely a post-apocalyptic air about the place.

Due to the timing of my shifts, I only managed to watch The Prodigy on the first two days of the festival. I found them unnecessarily rude to the crowd, and didn't particularly enjoy their set, though that could have been because of the fear of being drenched in what I can only hope was beer in flying paper cups; I am compelled, however, to think it was bodily fluid. The less said about that the better.

I was very fortunate to have the whole of Sunday off, and there were many good bands to be seen. Somewhat regrettably, my musical education did not really extend much further than to be able to say I had heard of all the bands before - apart from Madina Lake - but I hadn't really listened to their music. Nevertheless, this is my opinion on their efforts:

Sonic Boom Six - very enjoyable, very upbeat, great vocals. A good kick start to the day on the main stage, they did very well to engage with a very hungover crowd.

Madina Lake - flattery gets you everywhere, guys! Musically a nice, tight set, they were continually expressing their gratefulness at being there.

Alexisonfire - boring. Quite forgettable, I don't seem to recall thinking much at all during their performance.

New Found Glory - similar to Madina Lake, but in retrospect they haven't made too big an impression on me.

Funeral For A Friend - didn't pay a great deal of attention to them, I spent most of their set trekking to and from the loo, and trying to find people in the crowd.

Deftones - definitely way too depressing for me, and I couldn't understand why the singer was screaming so much?! Perhaps because he looked like he was gonna die on stage.

Fall Out Boy - genuinely impressing performance, a good few singalongs, wholeheartedly recommended.

Placebo - amazing. They kept me interested and listening throughout, despite me knowing only one song (Every Me and Every You). I was somewhat bemused by the blond girl they had on stage, who first played the electric violin for a bit, and then proceeded to sit at a huge piano and every once in a while play five notes, but they inspired me to download their music, which can only be a good thing.

Jamie T - is a chav with a guitar. I don't get the hype at all, the tent was packed and so many people were singing along but he was, at best, average and, at worst, bad. Particularly disappointing was when he played an (acoustic I think) bass for one of his songs...I use the term 'play' very loosely, he was essentially playing one open string over and over again.

Faith No More - certainly converted me! (I've been wanting to use that pun for what feels like forever!) They put in an incredible performance. Mike Patton, the lead singer, injected such enthusiasm and energy into the set, you couldn't help but 'rock' along. I especially enjoyed the EastEnders tribute (very well received). It felt like this was exactly what we'd been waiting for all weekend, and I couldn't think of a better way for my festival to end.

Other than the music, there isn't really a huge range of things to do at Leeds. There were a few fairground rides and a Guitar Hero tent, but the main arena shuts sometime between 12am-3am and most people then must just make their way to the campsites. It has a certain corporate feel to it, and though I had a good weekend, I can't say that I'll be rushing back any time soon - unless it is to see my friends or a few bands that I really really like. However, now that Leeds Festival is out of the way, I don't really feel like I have anything left to look forward to. My summer is well and truly over.