Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Only Fools And Horses

Pooh Bear is cold.Image by eldarbee via Flickr
Enjoyed a great weekend in London, where we visited friends, family and attended the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange. Arriving back in Leeds early Monday morning, we were greeted by what could be described as a disco revival. Everyone except one person was full of enthusiasm! This was encouraging because I had returned with a sledge and took everyone out on the 'slopes' surrounding their accommodation. A few hours later we received a warning for misbehaviour, and waved farewell to someone who should have been more open minded. To add to the excitement, there was a power failure in the evening that affected the entire building! This didn't faze us but when the alarm sounded we decided to be safe and head out into the cold. I don't think that anyone could have anticipated being banished for several hours, unable to gain entry due to safety concerns. We found shelter and entertainment in a lecture room, above the library, and watched YouTube clips on the projection screen. Obviously we survived this horrendous ordeal and were able to learn from the experience. Should the alarm sound and it's snowing, wrap up warm just in case...
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Smirnoff Exchange

Smirnoff ExchangeImage by joedawson via FlickrFollowing on from the earlier snow, we were awake early the following morning to confront the weather conditions and travel down to London for the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project. Waiting in the cold for the Megabus was a beautiful experience. I couldn't feel my feet by the time the coach arrived! For the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, fourteen cities were selected, paired together and swapped nights out, taking the best of their local artists, events, clubs and attitudes, then exporting them to their partner city. The journey had it's share of drama, the driver was reluctant to drive in the snow and the grit affected the windscreen visibility which caused delays as we stopped several times. Eventually arriving at Victoria, we were greeted by no trains heading to our desired station and had to seek an alternative route home. After a cold shower, we were on the DLR and heading back to London.

The destination was the Troxy, which according to the website is London's most versatile venue. Once inside, away from the cold, we were each handed an electronic wristband, offering the ability to check-in to Facebook at various access points, and five hundred Smirnoff dollars courtesy of the United States of Smirnoff. The legal tender for the night entitling us to several promotional offers available, courtesy of the vodka brand. Tinie Tempah greeted our ears as we entered the main area and we wished he hadn't because he sounded terrible. Having seen him several times this year and been impressed, this wasn't one of his finer performances. Zane Lowe was the next act on stage and he really set the tempo with his fast paced DJ set! N.E.R.D had earlier cancelled, replaced by Example, riding on the back of a successful year but not in the same league as Pharrell Williams and company. He was solid but the set was too short, credit to him for stepping in at late notice! By this point we had managed to acquire Miami themed hats, sunglasses, personalised flipbook's and several cocktails. Jaguar Skills then emerged from the Smirnoff shipping crate, famously known for playing the character of a ninja. During his live shows he is dressed as a ninja with a full ninja mask so that only his eyes. A great finale, and we managed to secure a promotional beach ball so plenty to return to Leeds and brag about from the experience.
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Friday, November 26, 2010


Snoh!Image by joedawson via Flickr
Whilst making preparations to travel home for the weekend, we experienced the first snowfall of the season. A blanket of snow has covered Leeds, and full of excitement we headed out to get involved. As it was the early hours of the morning, we were probably the first out but word spread quickly and soon there was an army of students participating in snowball fights. Snow really brings people together, if only it snowed during freshers week as that would have been an interesting spectacle. Not that it isn't now but everyone was more actively involved then! My partners flatmates weren't going to be deterred by the weather conditions, having previously organised a night out tonight. To be fair they weren't in the best condition themselves, with the amount of alcohol they had consumed, so should be an interesting contest. I'm hoping that the snow isn't too relentless because we have to get a coach to London in the morning and it's not about being stranded on the motorway! We're heading home for the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, fourteen cities have been paired together and swapped nights out, taking the best of their local artists, events, clubs and attitudes, then exporting them to their partner city. Should be interesting, although I'm disappointed to learn that N.E.R.D won't be involved.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hard Act To Follow

Snoh!Image by joedawson via Flickr
Today was the first round of Media Studies presentations. We have been working in small groups, using both the theoretical and conceptual aspects of the course and our own creativity to devise, script and present a national radio advertisement. The concept being for a new television soap aimed at 18-25 year olds to be broadcast on Channel 4. We then have to deliver the advertisement and a power point presentation which presents a production log outlining how the theoretical and conceptual aspects of the course have been used to make the advertisement. The first group set the marker, their work was well presented and organised. Everyone had that look of despair on their faces afterwards, clearly my group isn't the only one with work to do! Unfortunately the second group to present were interrupted by the student protests in Leeds. They battled onwards and finished but they struggled with the distraction outside. I have a few ideas for our advertisement now and will present them to the group at our next meeting. I joined the student protest briefly afterwards but hunger took priority and I left them outside the Gallery. Not sure the protests will make any difference but it's great everyone coming together to show unity against the decision to increase tuition fees.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

And Sleep...

sleepy alreadynotsogoodphotography via Flickr
I have noticed with university, that due to the minimal time that I'm expected to attend lectures and seminars that I'm having motivation issues. I'm told that the workload will increase considerably in the second year and that I should enjoy the night life whilst I can. I just feel too casual and although I have attempted to find work, it's not available in abundance for students. I guess I should follow the advice that I should concentrate on the night life more then! With university finished for another week, we headed out to Mint nightclub yesterday evening. There weren't many people out but we had a decent night until everyone felt sick. Must have been something that we had eaten. A poor attempt at enjoying the night life! The conditions didn't last too long, and we've been unusually productive today and feeling the love. Walking around the city and taking in what's happening around us, instead of sleeping through the duration of the day. My partners flatmates have been keen to visit the Royal Armouries these last few days but that still hasn't materialised. There's always tomorrow..
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Not Just A Game Anymore

DockImage by joedawson via Flickr
Returning to Leeds I discovered that the back window in the car had been smashed. There wasn't an explanation about what had happened, only a brief note on the back seat from the police. I called the number provided and spoke to someone that took details. Afterwards I received another call and filed a claim to receive a crime reference number. Thankfully conditions on my insurance meant that I could claim and pay a minimal excess fee. The Leeds Mafia have issued a statement of intent! At times I wish that I had sold the car because it's proved to be more trouble than what it's worth. The first semester has been difficult enough with limited funds available because of student finance. While the window was being replaced, we explored the area and stumbled across Clarence Docks, home of the Royal Armouries, located within easy reach of Leeds city centre on the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Clarence Docks is a ghost town, I expected to see tumbleweed but instead the Royal Armouries was a treat. When the children next visit, I'm definitely going to bring them here because there's plenty available to keep them interested. The free bananas were my favourite.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Keep The Change

Home Alone | Один домаImage by Anatoly Kraynikov via Flickr
Following on from the previous blog post, I mentioned that I was feeling disillusioned. The siblings still at home rarely leave their bedrooms, interaction under those circumstances is minimal. I have the children but only when I'm  permitted access. I guess I'm actually scared because without my partner and university I would cut a lonely figure. 

I attended a house party on Saturday, although I immediately felt out of place because I didn't really know anyone. Being screamed at didn't help! I felt like Kevin McCallister, reaching the top of the stairs and having placed a tarantula on their face. Although in this instance, I was the unexpected guest. I'm lost in the world, although I know this city and I'm down for the entire weekend. My partner thankfully saved me with those beautiful eyes, I was prepared to walk home but she changed my mind. Revealing her concerns about being divided between two locations. The following day I watched the formula one season finale at my brother's place. He's been great these last few months, and one of the only people to fully understand how difficult it's been. We were both happy that Alonso didn't win the championship. The final day in London today and after saying farewell to the children, it's time to head back to Leeds...
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Play More

cards....Image via Wikipedia
Open evening was yesterday and I managed to speak to the children's teachers about their work. I was keen to hear about how they were performing at school and how they could improve. I attended with their mother and we both had many questions about the 11-Plus, an exam administered to some students in their last year of primary education. We both feel that our daughter should be considered because she's intelligent and full of ambition. My son is making progress too and doesn't seem to be getting as distracted, although on occasion still acts the class clown. In the evening I travelled to a friends, his Xbox Kinect proved to be a huge success, especially with the children. I think that their Christmas present has been chosen because they were enthusiastic and laughing at every opportunity. I can see this being a success with any family because the entertainment value was available in abundance. Afterwards we collected my partner from her sister's birthday party and all stayed at mine. We awoke to breakfast in bed from the children, providing a reminder of everything before we departed for Leeds. That said, being home not much seems to have changed which is a peculiar feeling because being away I feel so different...
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Vampire Interpretations Through Media (Assignment)

Sarah Michelle GellarSarah Michelle Gellar
This is an assignment that I have been working on for my portfolio -

Through the many forms of media, vampires have shown incredible adaptability and represent an intriguing pop culture. The vampire has risen from the uneasy sleep of the earlier part of the century and experienced his own dark renaissance (Benefiel, 2004, p 261 – 271). Their presence has manifested to become the perfect metaphor of our insecurities and play an influential role.

As a signifier, Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person (Wikipedia, 2010, [Internet]).

As a signified element; Vampires symbolise sensuality and fear; exercise caution when charmed by an unsuitable person and ‘the omnipresent reality of male violence against women’ (Early, 2001, p 11 – 27). Zombies have sustained one role through popular culture, whereas the vampire paradigm has evolved dramatically; marketing machines have tapped into their mystique and created new incarnations. This keeps the public interest high, especially through younger generations perceived as the most vulnerable, often duped through peer pressure, ideology and acceptance which guarantee a high profit return. We’re exposed to vampires everywhere, cinema, television, magazines and even the Arctic Monkeys, an English rock band, identified with vampires in their track ‘Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But...’ The usage is open to interpretation, are we to believe the vampires are the record label, the fans; either way the outcome is the inevitable failure. This vulnerability is what encapsulates the masses; it generates widespread interest and goes for the jugular.

‘Cause all you people are vampires and all your stories are stale. And though you pretend to stand by us, I know you're certain we'll fail (Turner, 2005, Wikipedia [Internet]).

The portrayal of the vampire through the media has shown incredible diversity, being able to incorporate many different themes, forms and identities. The character Bram Stoker created in 1897 is a being without a conscious, a monster that is human only in physical appearance. Critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, conventional and conservative sexuality, immigration, colonialism, post colonialism and folklore (Wikipedia, 2010, [Internet]). Interview with the Vampire: the Vampire Chronicles (1994) tells the life story of a vampire, portraying struggles through love, betrayal, loneliness and hunger. The movie depicts the character as being vulnerable and struggling to find a place within class and society. Blade (1998) is the story of an outcast semi-human African-American who resists his vampire urges, to protect humans. Blood could easily be used as a metaphor for family and race, especially as ‘Blade is one of the few movies with African-American characters who succeed because of their difference’ (cinemademerde, 2005 [Internet]), rather than through similarity and identity (Hall, 1996, p. 436). This is a far cry from the positioning of blacks as ‘the unspoken and invisible “other” of the dominant (white) aesthetic and cultural discourse (Mulhern, 2000, p. 120). Buffy the Vampire Slayer emerged as an alternative, although “Buffy” presents a world where people excitedly search books for passages that will literally save the world (Hendershot, 2005, p 67). “Nerd-dom” is the term used which I don’t feel is very empowering, I also agree that the female figure, Sarah Michelle Gellar, is constructed as spectacle in classic Hollywood, coded in terms of ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’, typically halting narrative action to facilitate the spectator’s visually based erotic gratification (Tudor, 1999, p. 142).

The current incarnation of the vampire mythos, presents them as romantic heroes, most notably through the Twilight Saga which has completely changed the perception from one-dimensional savages to a complicated, 'vegetarian', brooding pretty boy. Daybreakers, another hybrid form presented a further adaptation in which a plague transformed much of the world's population into vampires. Gender relations and roles are evident in both and have prevailed through the many incarnations, and can be interpreted as a reflection of the entire culture. When television women are involved in violence, unlike males, they are more likely to be victims than aggressors (Strinati, 1995, p. 182). Film analysts and the blogosphere have been particularly critical about the underlying message from the Twilight franchise. Carmen Siering, assistant professor of English and women's studies at Ball State University views New Moon as an anti-feminist film that reinforces gender stereotypes to a "scary" extent –

"With just a moment of critical analysis, feminists can't be too happy about how the latest episode in the Twilight series, adapted from Stephenie Meyer's popular books, represents a young woman and her place in the modern world. In fact, the New film is really just more of the same, only worse." (Singh, 2009, Telegraph [Internet]).

Reading many blogs that reviewed New Moon at the time of release, I encountered the following from Skepchick, a blog founded by Rebecca Watson, which shared the same views and highlighted my concerns –

The messages behind Twilight? Be weak, let your man protect you. Be careful, don’t get him angry. If he hurts you, it’s your fault. Abuse is part of life. Accept it. If he really loves you, he’ll try not to hurt you but don’t be surprised if he does. You probably deserve it. You are nobody without your man, so don’t bother trying. (Skeptic, 2009, skepchick.org [Internet]).

Does the underlying message accept domestic violence or what is now commonly referred to as “intimate partner violence” (Dutton, 2007, p. 432). I don’t believe that’s the message the Twilight Saga attempts to produce but it’s difficult to associate with Bella who although misguided is an intelligent person. I mentioned that Hollywood constructed the Buffy character to facilitate the spectator’s visually based erotic gratification. Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are constructed in the very same manner. Much like the character Alice, who has visions based on decisions and events, the vampire persona is subjective and open to multiple interpretations which is why mainstream media is fascinated with the role vampires have within popular culture.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Revolting And The Revolting

Demo 2010Image by joedawson via Flickr
One of the largest and most vibrant protests in recent history took place in London earlier. 50,000 students and education workers took to the capital to protest against the rise in tuition fees, reforms in education in general and to protest for a fairer, free higher education system. Unfortunately the march will be remembered for the property destruction and occupation at Millbank Tower but there was a message here even if the press focus on the disruption. My partner and her friend participated in the march and I arrived later, having travelled separately with the luggage. I followed the events on Twitter and once I arrived at Victoria Coach Station I headed to Millbank. I met my partner at Big Ben and we ventured back to Millbank Tower. There was a heavy police presence outside the building, they appeared to have gained control, ordering away the remainder of the crowd outside their perimeter. There were a few innocent bystanders and people travelling home from work caught up in the fracas, and with the Sky News helicopter overhead we decided it was safer to move on in search of warmth. My partner and her friend had enjoyed the occasion, sharing photos and stories they had taken of the many banners, messages and events. I was disappointed that I hadn't travelled to London sooner but I'm sure there will be further demonstrations.
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Monday, November 08, 2010

Keep Calm & Travel Long Distances

Pridejoedawson via Flickr
I'm currently living in Leeds, studying at Leeds Metropolitan University but I made it clear that whenever there was an important date for my children that I would travel to be there. Today was the first special occasion, my daughter reached her tenth birthday. Quite the milestone - double figures - and I admit that does makes me feel considerably older! What thirty year old student?! Who's that person trying to stay in touch with the cool kids?

I choose the Megabus instead of driving, mainly because inflated petrol prices aren't an attractive alternative. I arrived at the bus station early in the morning and the bus coach arrived approximately thirty minutes later. For the duration of the journey I attempted to read a media book that I had loaned from the Library. This proved to be a difficult task, not the reading per se but how the sentences were constructed. I gave up eventually and figured that sleeping would be wise but the coach was so uncomfortable. I soon arrived at Victoria Coach Station and then caught the train. I was lucky that the children's mother was available, as I met her at the train station and she took me to their school. That was a result because I would have been late otherwise. Today was also the funeral of my cousin, after I collected the children I briefly offered words of condolence at the wake before heading home. Although everyone had experienced an emotional day, once home we celebrated my daughters birthday with presents and a cake. I think that both children were relieved that I had kept the promise to always be there when required. Their also excited for the weekend because I'm returning for a few days! First, the long journey back to Leeds tonight...
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Free Citizens or Cultural Dupes (Essay Plan)

This is an essay plan, set out to understand whether I'm an active agent or a cultural dupe? In the answer I need to make reference to key texts we have studied and also the Orson Welles’ film F For Fake.

The question wants me to identify whether I’m an active agent or a cultural dupe. Do I feel compelled to buy and use products even though I can see through what is regarded as the triumph of advertising in the culture industry? For week 4 we discussed Popular Culture vs Mass Culture: Free Citizens or Cultural Dupes. We looked specifically at the critique of a key group of critical theorists (Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin) who employed a neo-Marxist approach to interrogate culture after the second World War. We also watched a film screening of the Orson Welles film, F For Fake (1974).

I'm going to conduct research by analysing key texts; I mentioned Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin when I identified what was expected from the essay question. I also want to identify other key figures and research through the library catalogue and expand on the indicative reading list and include references from Dialectic of Enlightenment. I want to reference mediation in Marxist theory which refers to the reconciliation of two opposing forces within a given society. I also aim to look at the references in the bibliographies of these texts as they will provide ideas about how to extend my own research. From the film screening of the Orson Welles film, F For Fake (1974) I want to analyse perhaps the most celebrated segment of the film, treating the power of art and the nature of authorship. Welles narrates a montage sequence of the medieval French landmark, Chartres Cathedral. The film poses many questions; It's pretty but is it art? How is it valued? Who’s the expert? Who’s the faker? I want to analyse these questions and provide an interpretation which will relate to the question about whether I’m an active agent or a cultural dupe. I will use the Harvard Style adopted by Leeds Metropolitan University and adhere to it strictly.

After I have completed research, I will follow the basic structure to present my findings; a brief introduction and include the thesis statement, the main body which will include the theme and develop the argument whilst referencing the material and providing evidence, and the conclusion will be a summation of the essay question and I will provide a clear idea of how I have reached the outcome.

I will begin constructing the bibliography at the planning stage and allow it to evolve as the essay does. The author-date or ‘Harvard’ method of referencing is the standard at Leeds Metropolitan University. Harvard has the advantages of flexibility, simplicity, clarity and ease of use, both for author and reader. Sources are cited in the body of the text and listed alphabetically in the bibliography or list of references.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Murder On The Dance Floor

Guit BluesImage via Wikipedia
The HIFI Club was always going to be special, offering a delectable selection of cross genres including 50's Jump Blues, Latin Boogaloo, Jamaican Ska, Gritty Soul, Fried Funk Breaks and other international oddness. I admit that I was tempted by Propaganda but I really enjoyed the night with my extended family! Sadly, today was their final day in Leeds and they departed once they managed to navigate around the one-way system. A few weeks ago our group intended to participate in Carnage, Leeds but due to limited funds available, I was the only one representing. To be fair this was largely due to working for the promoter! I enjoyed the night but didn't manage to stay the duration because someone threw an ice cube at my face. Maybe I would have seen the funny side, had my nose not been streaming with blood! It wasn't a big look and as the guys I was working with were packing heat I decided to make a beeline for the exit and headed home to eat and complete an essay plan that needs to be handed in tomorrow!
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

How Will I Know

So EmotionalImage via Wikipedia
Attempting to organise a night out between two floors, visitors and twenty different expectations was always going to be difficult. Thursday was entertaining, from the 'crack den' to the dance floor and then back again. I could have sworn that Whitney Houston made an appearance but there was no sign of her in the morning! Tonight I was eager to head out and experience the firework display at Hyde Park, Leeds. Hoping that this would provide a welcome distraction from missing another event that I annually share with the children. Having already missed Halloween! I was probably the first one ready, unfortunately being dependent on others meant that the clock shifted through the motions and minutes became hours. We then received an update that the display had finished! This was unfortunate because we'll have to wait another twelve months. The plus point was that one of my partners flat mates, who had managed to head to Hyde Park, managed to win a goldfish! Christened 'Joey' which made me haps! Eventually everyone headed out to a bar which was much hyped but resembled a retro museum. It wasn't bad but I sensed that my friend wanted to experience more of Leeds. Halo being the obvious choice, I enjoyed the night but clearly hadn't consumed as much alcohol as him. He sent me on my way in the end so that he could look for cougars! There's gratitude!
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Nothing To See?!

Geologist examining cuttings from wildcat well...Image by The Library of Congress via FlickrI spend a reasonable amount of time in the company of my partner and her flat mates, forging strong relationships with them as they're on the same wavelength. Trying to keep the flat clean and in a good condition takes a combined effort because mess builds up quickly. Today marked the first round of term inspections, the communal areas would be graded and to ensure that the flat passed the inspection there was a list presented on the criteria that should be adhered to. We had previously removed all the posters from the walls and cleaned most of the front room but there was still a considerable amount of washing up when I arrived after lectures. I managed to work through this quickly and shortly afterwards the inspectors arrived and the flat was awarded a pass certificate. Amazing considering the mess that was visible a few days earlier, cleaning the hob with vinegar and water was definitely a well discovered remedy as I don't think the flat would have passed then. Not sure when the next inspection is scheduled but we have already started redecorating with a second wave of posters and flyers!!
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Monday, November 01, 2010

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

TwilightImage by joedawson via FlickrAlthough I was meant to allocate time for assignments, the lure of experiencing Halloween in Leeds was more appealing than writing essays. We weren't sure which venue offered the most attractive night so opted for Oceana. The nightclub has six themed bars and two night clubs all of which have a different look and feel about them taking you from one country to another. Working for the promoter meant that we were able to occupy the VIP area, the notable advantage being able to access the bar in reasonable time. I rate the venue but feel that the floor arrangement could have been better organised. The Secret Garden is probably the best aspect, providing space, sun lounges and a reasonable smoking area that's not just an after thought. There were great costumes on show, our attempt to resemble the Twilight cast passed unnoticed. Showering ourselves in glitter spray and eye liner was a minimal attempt but I thought we looked incredible. We didn't last the duration but enjoyed what the nightclub offered, I don't know why we don't spend more time at the venue?!
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