Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fame On A Friday: The Award Shows Don’t Know My Schedule

My Colin proves that he is true gentleman

 

This week’s Fame On A Friday is slightly belated, as the BAFTAs held their ceremony last Sunday with no regard for my blog. How dare they. I was going to try to find some other story to talk about, but the BAFTAs are just too big to ignore, especially when you want to win one some day.

To no one’s surprise, The Artist scooped the majority of the golden faces, leading Peter Straughan, writer/adapter of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and my award for Speech of the Night, to remark that he “would like to thank The Artist for not being adapted from a book” when he picked up his award. He went on to pay a touching tribute to his late wife and writing partner Bridget O’Connor, who recently passed away.

Stephen Fry was a delightful host, as always, bringing in just the right amount of risque humour to alleviate the boredom without becoming the pilloried yet hilarious figure of Ricky Gervais. His shameless flirting with Brad Pitt seemed to make the Hollywood star a touch uncomfortable, but then again he should really be used to it by now.

Someone else who never fails to catch my attention is the lovely Colin Firth, who is always referred to as ‘My Colin’, for it will (eventually) be so. He underlined the fact that he is a perfect gentleman when Holy Meryl lost her shoe on her way up to collect the Best Actress award (it’s a wonder that she has any cupboard space left). My Colin was straight in there to save the day and return CinderMeryl’s glass slipper, providing the tabloids with some ‘proper’ news to report on the next day. It’s not like they would mentioned anything else about the ceremony, aside from the red carpet delights and disasters.

And so we look ahead to next weekend’s Oscars, where The Artist is pretty much a shoe in for every single award, even the ones in which they weren’t nominated. And I hope they do. The Artist was such an exciting and new experience, I’ve never been in such a silent cinema before, or had the urge to clap as the credits rolled. It was an utter joy and deserves every single accolade. Particularly Jean Dujardin, who is pretty much Gene Kelly reincarnated it seems. Lovely man. Also, is anyone else giddy with excitement for Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo? It’s so rare to see a comedy nominated that I actually find myself feeling so proud of them for achieving so much, it’s the same feeling that I have whenever I see Martin Freeman in full-hobbit. So proud. Maybe even Andy Serkis will finally get a nomination for The Hobbit one day, it’s about time that he was recognised for such stellar and pioneering work.

However, there is a dark cloud hanging over next weekend’s proceedings, the sad truth is that the Oscars too have decided to ignore my carefully thought out blog schedule, and are holding the long-awaited ceremony on a Saturday. Bastards.

 

[Image via mirror.co.uk]

 

 

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Thursday Me Time: It’s All About Rosi Golan

Today I’ve been going crazy for Rosi Golan’s music. Ever since the Israeli-American songbird’s single “Can’t Go Back”appeared on Perez Hilton’s website (my longtime homepage), admittedly only a matter of hours ago, I have downloaded both of her albums and listened to them on repeat. In the porcess I’ve also discovered a Family Records (www.thefamilyrecords.com), an artist managed company which helps musicians to “cultivate fruitful careers with artistic freedom and longevity”. Yes, it does sound a little airy-fairy, but they sent me a free mixtape along with my purchase of Golan’s album ‘Lead Balloon’, so I’m all for it.

To prove that I’m not developing some sort of ear infection, listen to this and see if you agree with me, that Rosi Golan is destined for great things.

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Wednesday’s Got Issues: Education counts for nothing.

As I’m typing today’s post I’m listening to BBC 5 Live’s unemployment debate, broadcast this morning. It is difficult to decide whether it’s more or less depressing to hear that so many other people are going through the same thing as me, graduates and others searching for jobs over a period of months and years to no avail. A number of people are discussing the utter uselessness of job centres, and I have been reaffirmed in my decision not to sign on – it was repeatedly said that job centres have no idea how to deal with graduates. I think the main reason for this has to be the preconceived idea that going to university is an ironclad guarantee of a well paid job, it seems that job centres are equipped to deal with the uneducated, and even then they’re useless. Ever since I can remember a degree has been a non-negotiable part of my life. I never thought about any other options, university was always the plan. I enjoyed my education and was generally placed in the top sets, so it seemed like a natural progression: if you are thought of as smart, you go to university. I wonder if the next generation will think the same, factoring in the astronomical rise in tuition fees, and I envy them. The teenagers of today are becoming more exposed to the availability of apprenticeships and training programmes that offer a cheaper and more stable alternative, as degrees become less of a certain route into satisfactory employment. They are much more aware of their options than I ever was.

Admittedly, my degree is not the best foundation for a vocation. A 2:1 in European Literature and Cultural Studies provided me with excellent skills in researching and persuasive writing, and my year abroad in New Zealand left me with a brilliant ability to adapt and problem solve the most trying of situations. But friends of mine who studied Geology are currently looking at jobs in exotic places with a starting salary of £75000, while I am left to apply for 12 month internships in which my only wage is expenses of £5 a day. And that is the one thing that the debate has not touched on, the rise in vacancies described as internships or work experience, in which you are expected to do a job for nothing. A recent movement discussed on theunitlist.com (one of the many jobsites that I visit multiple times every day), has highlighted the exploitation of companies who use people desperate for experience, yet don’t reward them for the valuable contribution that they make. As I understand it, work experience is defined as a shadowing programme, you don’t actually undertake any significant duties but rather gain first hand knowledge of an industry. I accept that internships are different, but from what I’ve seen in vacancies advertised over the last 8 months, it is generally equivalent to the work of an admin/communications assistant, which in other vacancies warrants a salary upwards of £15000. During an internship which I undertook last year, during which I learnt a huge amount and thoroughly enjoyed myself, I received no renumeration whatsoever. And from what I saw, the majority of the legwork was done by the team of interns who assisted the permanent staff. That is not to say that the permanent staff did nothing, they worked very hard and took the time to teach us a lot of skills, however I don’t think that the festival that was organised would have been possible without the work of the interns, and yet we received very little.

I understand that internships are a necessary part of gaining experience, and I am so glad that I was able to undertake one myself, but there are times when the expectations seem a little unrealistic. Could someone explain to me exactly how I’m supposed to live in London and support myself for the entirety of a 12 month contract, in which I am only paid minimal expenses, or nothing at all? The only reason that I was able to support myself during my internship was that it was based in Cambridge, where I was able to stay at my family’s home. It is just not possible to manage for an entire year, in London, without at least minimum wage. A few months, yes, but not much longer than that. The bank of Mum and Dad will not extend that far.

So I am continuing with endless job applications, hoping that one day someone will see that I am employable, and maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones. If not, it’s down to the job centre, degree in hand, where I expect I’ll be viewed with the same indifference that is extended to everyone who comes through the door.

 

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Travellin’ Tuesdays: Samoan buses are all kinds of crazy

I’ve left this post a little late as I was indulging in my latest obsession of watching The Daily Show’s Lewis Black segments. He rants, I get addicted.

 

Just your average Upolu bus...

But this week, I’m revisiting my character building experience on a bus in Samoa, in which my friend and I took the simple decision of taking a bus to the nearest town on the island on which we were staying. We consulted the staff our the fale (beach hut) resort, and waited patiently at the roadside for an hour in the midday sun. Finally, after a bus had already ignored our flailing hands, our salvation arrived and we boarded the brightly painted and WOODEN army-style truck, and took a seat on one of the childsize benches. We got some inquisitive looks from the other passengers, but in our eyes, we were being intrepid travellers getting to grips with the true culture. Our mistake. For after a short while, it became painfully apparent that we had chosen to be adventurous just as every single school on the island finished for the day, and the already cramped space began to fill up pretty quickly.

As the only non-islanders, we had been given our own bench, which was barely enough space for two adults as it is, but as more people boarded there seemed to be a trend beginning, in which four people sat on one bench – two people sitting on laps. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the average Samoan body shape, but they are known for being rather Rubenesque, as well as statuesque. Put simply, it seemed physically impossible to fit four people of the larger persuasion onto one tiny bench, and yet it was happening in front of our very eyes. Eventually, it was made clear to us that we were expected to follow suit, so I took up my place on my friend’s lap (thankfully by the open window) and our journey continued.

After about 30 minutes of trying to ignore the tingling sensation in my legs, I made the mistake of trying to move them, trapped as they were between three other pairs of legs, and pain blossomed from my toes upwards. I tried, I really tried, to be content with gazing out of the window at the island paradise streaming by – the azure ocean, palm trees heaving with coconuts, and the idyllic fale homes – but I couldn’t pretend that I was comfortable any longer. It was at this point that my friend decided to tell me that she gets carsick. Fabulous. I was trapped on the lap of a nauseated person, encased by curious locals who seemed to enjoy our discomfort, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever walk again.

It turned out that, after another hour on a neverending but beautiful coastal road, we finally reached our destination – a town which housed the island’s only ATM – and we gratefully disembarked amidst the locals’ goodnatured staring. That’s when we discovered that, no, we would not be able to walk without each others’ assistance for quite some time, so completely dead were our legs. Bereft of life they rested in peace, if we hadn’t been attempting to walk they would’ve been pushing up the daisies. It was painful and humiliating, yet (as my friend loves to say) purely character building. Once we had looked around and used the ATM (the sole purpose for the visit, as we had neglected to factor the beguiling cocktails at the hotel bar and scuba excursions into our budget), we considered getting a bus back. And then, like a ‘Hallelujah’ moment, with shafts of light directing our vision, our eyes alighted upon our saviour – the taxi rank. The car may not have had door handles, the radio may have played Christian music for the entire journey, and the driver may have picked up one of his friends along the way, but the important thing is that we each got our seat and the use of our legs. And we arrived back at the hotel just as the bar was opening, crazy blue cocktails – complete with umbrellas- all round.

In looking for a suitable photograph to go with this post (the ones I took do not do the buses justice) I stumbled upon many other accounts of travellers in similar situations. And we all share the same sentiments – yes, the journey itself can be pretty hellish, but it’s all part of the experience of being a traveller who engages with culture rather than ignores it. Would I do it all over again? Sure, it was another interesting story to add to the others that you seem to collect when backpacking – it’s all part of the experience.

[Image via blog.travelpod.com]

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Monday Pick Me Up: Dubai know their way around a fountain

It seems that a lot of people still can’t get over the fact that Whitney Houston died on Saturday, there are various tributes being paid to her, from Jennifer Hudson’s emotional performance at The Grammys to a moment of silent remembrance on SNL. But some have found a unique way to pay their respects, in Dubai a fountain danced with lights as ‘I Will Always Love You’ sang out into the night. It was so. Beautiful. It would have been beautiful whether it was a tribute or not, but the added poignancy gave it a more of a heavenly context, and I can’t stop watching it. It may not be much of a pick me up, but it will definitely leave you breathless.

 

(Belated) Sunday Cook Off: Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

Woops. I got so caught up in Whitney/BAFTAs/Grammys that I completely forgot about my amazing recipe find. What a hectic Sunday!

Anyways, on to the sweet stuff…I used American measurements because I got the recipe from an American blogger (http://www.brighteyedbaker.com), but there are plenty of conversion tables that are only one Google search away. While they were baking, all of the muffins seemed to explode in the same direction and form quite a humourous shape, but they still tasted great so that’s all that matters.

Phallic, yet tasty

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used a bit more for extra flavour)

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (Be careful not to use too much, this is what adds the doughnut taste but you don’t want to go overboard)

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I always use more vanilla then the recipe advises, you can never really have too much)

Topping:

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Oven Temperature: 200*C

1. Prep a muffin tin with cooking spray (I wanted to cover the entire thing in cinnamon sugar, if you just want to use it as a topping then use muffin cups)

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla for about a minute. Add the dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the muffin tin. Don’t be afraid to fill more than 2/3 full if needed. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, checking with a skewer at the end to make sure the muffins are done. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl and combine the cinnamon and sugar in a separate, shallow bowl. The size/shape of your bowl depends on whether you want to dip the entire muffin into the mixture or just the top.

5. As soon as the muffins are done baking, dip one-by-one in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar. Make sure not to drench them in too much butter/that you have an equal butter to sugar ratio, otherwise the muffins will go soggy. Place on a wire rack to cool.

6. Gobble.

Wait until the muffins are completely cooled before storing them, I made the mistake of putting them in a tub too soon (the dogs were looking a bit devious) and they were soggy by the morning. Next time I’m just going to leave them uncovered permanently, a stale doughnut is better than a wet doughnut.

Saturday Potluck (Bonus): RIP Whitney

I wasn’t going to write another blogpost tonight but, wow, then Whitney Houston died. I’ve been listening to her music for my entire life, trying and completely failing to sing along with her. She had so many rough patches but it seemed like she had gotten through it all, just like with Amy Winehouse, it seems like you can never escape your demons. The performance above is so beautiful and poignant, I’ve been blubbing along to it on repeat. I can’t even imagine the pain that her family is experiencing, as well as her fans, may she rest in peace.

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Fame On A Friday (on a Saturday Potluck): Has Hollywood finally got some morals?

Hollywood's most normal couple?

Apologies for the lateness, again, it seems that I am particularly unproductive on Fridays, so for this week I’m amalgamating Friday and Saturday into one. Anyway, I want to talk about Hollywood’s most amicable divorce, that of Katy Perry and Russell Brand. I think that Ms. Perry may be the first person in history to end their marriage with a smiley face, and Russell Brand possibly the only less famous spouse who won’t take a penny from their meal ticket. Of course, Russell Brand is certainly famous and rich, but I suspect nowhere near on the scale of his ex-wife, who regularly sells out areas all over the world. What has struck me is the common sense of his [supposed] reason, basically that he wouldn’t dream of taking money that Katy herself has earned. They also decided against a pre-nup for similar reasons, that they would never get to the point where they would want to take everything from one another. How completely human and un-Hollywood. Although they doesn’t seem to be the only one: Kris Humphries has said that he’s not interested in Kim Kardashian’s money, just in proving that she’s a fraud. Good luck with that Kris, she’s a billionaire in charge of how you’re edited on screen, and could probably have you killed with a wink of one her false eyelashes. Kim K is definitely evil and conniving, but the fact is that everyone already knows that about her and yet still chooses to watch one the many shows that her and her godawful family churn out. The Kardashian-Jenners are the vermin of TV, and cockroaches are notoriously hard to kill.

In other news, Halle Berry is proving to be a queen bitch in her custody battle with Gabriel Aubry for their stunning daughter Nahla. From what I can see Aubry wants equal visitation with his child, while Berry wants to get a restraining order for her ex and then move to France. Today the judge in their case decided that Aubry would have to have supervised visits with Nahla, after a nanny alleged that he pushed her while she was holding his daughter. Sounds a bit like someone is sucking up to the Oscar winner to me, but hey, maybe the beautiful Adonis man is violent. Which must be why there are so many photo ops of him gazing adoringly into his daughter’s eyes. Sometimes it can be so wearing to keep up with the various contrivances of the rich and famous, which is why Russell Brand and Katy Perry are such a breath of fresh air. Here’s hoping it continues.

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Thursday Me Time: Steve Coogan doesn’t care either

Firstly I must apologise for the practically incoherent blog post yesterday, that’s what I get for forgetting about it until 2.30am. BUT, in other news, tonight’s Question Time perfectly proved my point. The fact that football gossip is reported in the same sentence as the massacre in Syria actually happened, when an audience member forced the panel to segue from a heated discussion about how best to react to such a humanitarian crisis, into a discussion of John Terry’s suspension. The main distraction was Ann Leslie’s bizarre performance, in which she drunkenly slurred her way through repeated assertions that, as a foregin correspondent, she was the only person who could possibly discuss anything due to her being friendly with everyone in the entire world, except nurses it would seem. Yet my personal highlight was Steve Coogan, whose failure to become Alan Partirdge disappointed many a Twitterer, who refused to be drawn into the discussion, stating that he had no opinion whatsoever on football. How refreshing, yet damning, that on a panel with both Tory and Labour politicians, a member of the House of Lords (I LOVE Shirley Williams), a hasbeen journalist and David Dimbleby (the man is category in himself), it was left to a comedian to point out the obvious. Coogan received a round of applause for his comments, and not only from me, and the discussion thankfully moved onto the hotly contested and universally panned NHS bill. An issue that is as difficult to explain as it is to condone. So I’m not going to do either, instead I’m going to find an interesting story for tomorrow’s post, and it definitely will not involve football.

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Wednesday’s Got Issues: Something happened in the football world, and everybody cares

The main news story today has been the resignation of Fabio Capello as the England football team’s manager, it has been everywhere since it was announced. If you look on the BBC homepage this story, and the story of another aging manager’s court trial, are pretty much dominant features. And what irritates me is that everyone has an opinion, is talking about it as if it affects their life, and generally accepting the massive coverage that has been going on. Why? Because the UK is a nation of football fans, you only have to look at an average tabloid newspaper’s TV advert to see that the majority of the working and middle classes focus a lot of their attention on which of ‘their’ teams has beaten the hated rival (which incidentally changes to suit every single match), rather than realising that there are bigger news stories out there.

The same applies to the importance that the general media place on stories of celebrity hook-ups and break-ups, it is almost painful to see a BBC newsreader, used to reporting in a warzone, relegated to a red carpet event just to ask some jumped up ingenue about what it was like to kiss Brad Pitt. Fuck. Off.

I’ll admit, the world of entertainment is something of an interest of mine and while I can’t stand football, if there’s a story about the All Blacks then I’m all ears. But the point is that if I want to read about such subjects, then I go to the relevant source, I do not expect Perez Hilton to get as excited about a general election than he did about Kim Kardashian’s wedding. Of course, he does report quite often on political matters, particularly ones relevant to gay civil rights – which is very admirable – but that’s not why I read his website. If I go to the BBC News homepage, I expect to see stories that fit in with their reputation for high brow reportage, not the revelation that millionaire Russell Brand will not be asking for any money from millionaire Katy Perry. Yes, it’s refreshing to see celebrities mid-divorce behaving like adults (I’m looking at you Halle Berry), but I’d much prefer to hear about what has been going on in Syria, or at the Leveson inquiry.

In a way, I’m mostly annoyed with other people. The media has responded to signals from their viewers about what constitutes an engaging news story, and they are going to do whatever they can to increase their ratings, I get it. But just once it would be nice not to have to get my information about more serious topics from sources on Twitter, rather than have to wait even past the human interest story, in which a farmer has grown a marrow bigger than his entire family, to learn a bit more about what’s going on in my country.

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