Afternoon! I am fed up with organising envelopes and mythology-inspired greetings cards, so I thought I’d pop in. Happy Black Friday! Wait, that’s not what I mean. I mean, please buy from independent retailers this Christmassy season (and especially today, which many smart people are calling Indie Friday in a bid to cut through the Black Friday shite). I don’t want people to feel like they can only buy from independent retailers (yes, hello, Aldi’s gift and alcohol sections, I have been pillaging you since October), but I guarantee that the bosses in Aldi don’t feel a sense of personal achievement and glow both internally and externally when you buy a tote bag. Have I ever mentioned you can purchase reasonably priced tote bags, along with reasonably priced prints, pencils and the aforementioned cards from my Folksy shop?
I am still on Etsy, but I promote my Folksy shop more because a) it’s based in Sheffield and run by about three people, b) it’s a very friendly site with seriously high quality arts and crafts, and c) as it is a British company, the fees I pay actually go back into the British economy. So everyone wins when you buy something on Folksy!
I really ought to get to the post box while it’s still light so, as I cannot remember if there was supposed to be a point to this post alongside the SHOP SMAAALLLLL messaging, I’d better go and find my scarf.
Oh, wait, yes there is: I got to see Tim Minchin perform last night – in my actual town, nonetheless – and am pleased to report that, like a good cheese, Tim has improved with age. So has the Cheese song. Honestly can’t remember the last time I could feel my face from smiling. If the world needs anything at the moment – other than you lot buying from indie retailers hint hint – it is a good laugh and a rant on algorithms and confirmation bias. Like all good shows, I have a singular, shitty picture:
Side note: this man sold out the Cliffs Pavilion three nights running. Southend-on-Sea’s Cliffs Pavilion. Southend-on-Sea, where residents enjoyed Brexit campaign leaflets about how pro-leave they all were. Southend-on-Sea, where I did not really think LGBT people were allowed to live until I finally saw some when I was in my teens. Southend-on-Sea, that hub of lefty liberalism. Maybe the times are changing, or maybe people are more willing than I thought to travel to places that aren’t London for their south east-based atheism-tinged-fuck-Trump-sciencey-sprinkling of West-End-hit-Matlida-musical comedy.
Either way, I have a lovely post-show hangover. Right, post box!
Never let it be said that I eschew Christmas traditions. It’s a tradition that I subject you to the world’s best Christmas music every year.
Okay and now I have a present for you guys. Yes, even you, person who stumbled across this on a weird tag. Those of you who come here sporadically might remember me talking about Headspace, the mediation app. I love doing Headspace; it’s the only time of day I get to feel smug that I’m looking after myself (and other people, because it’s helped me learn how to stay calm and clear my head). The app even has this cool feature where you get a little reward for completing a certain number of days – hit 20 days and you get a voucher to give to a friend for a month’s free use, that sort of thing. Problem is, I quite frequently forget to do a day here or there, so my counter goes back to one. I start up again, and when I next hit 20 days, a voucher hits my inbox.
I currently have seven of them.
So, my gift for you this year – other than the MCR video I’m about to list – is Headspace. If you want one of the month-free vouchers, leave a comment here saying happy Christmas/whatever you celebrate, and I’ll email you the access code. (Technical shit: all Headspace is free for 10 days, I have no idea how long the codes are valid but so far as I’m aware it’s forever, I can’t guarantee you’ll love meditating. Oh and there are only seven vouchers up for grabs, because I’m on a good streak at the moment. Gift open until 31st January.)
I haven’t done as much scientific research for this project as I would have for an essay at school, mostly because the novelty that I never have to write an essay again still hasn’t worn off. But there has been one piece of information that didn’t need any research:
Tim is right. Everything is chemicals. I can actually scientifically back this up; a medical school friend said the exact same thing without any mention of Minchin. Chemicals are everywhere. They make up everything, including all make up. (Want to make an MCR joke? Me too. All romance is technically chemical. Ahhh.) So if it’s quite obvious that everything’s chemical, why has there been a recent movement toward ‘all natural’, ‘organic’, ‘toxin-free’, ‘green’ cosmetics and skin care produce?
Well, because some companies are literally full of shit, and put toxins or carcinogens in their products. Beauty Lies Truth, a US site aiming to educate women about America’s awful cosmetics regulations, explains the crap ingredients pretty well. The EU has done the smart thing and banned over 1000 ingredients that are unsafe to use as cosmetics, and has made a handy list to take to the supermarket to check. But for consumers in the States, ‘chemical-free’ or ‘all-natural’ has become synonymous with ‘won’t make your babies grow a third eye’, so has naturally – hardihar – evolved into a turn of phrase.
The funny thing is, the cosmetics industry has existed as long as civilization. Wikipedia is for once quite helpful (and its sources are sound) for info about where different products originated. It wasn’t until people started to combine scientific advances with business acumen (aka marketing) that unsafe crap got into our products, and because we’re lazy and uninformed, it’s been an uphill struggle to educate the masses about safe chemical products.
So what are safe products?
For those of us protected by EU law, we can purchase cosmetics and skin care from the shops without too much hassle (take that, Eurosceptics who like beauty products). For those of us who want to know exactly what’s going on our faces, or who risk potential illness by buying branded products, there is a lot of information out there to help… there might be a bit too much, so don’t forget to apply a large helping of salt to everything you hear. But as a general rule of thumb, I have found the following helpful:
Books. Not hippie ones where the author wants you to sign up for a spiritual cleanse costing £3000, but regular books. Go to your library, have a look at the beauty/cosmetics/science sections and steer clear of anything that looks self-published.
Blogs.Deliciously Ella, the food blogger, has a great section on lifestyle, and knows a thing or two about transforming food products into beauty products. Bloggers and YouTubers are good resources once you’ve established which ones actually know what they’re on about. Some are kind of insane, so if you find one recommending that you eschew toothpaste and vaccinations, go somewhere else. But you can find great people if you use…
Word of mouth. 90% of everything I use or consider using has been given or recommended to me by people I know. My MCRmy friends pointed me to a few decent places and I’m trying out a few things… give me heads up if you want me to Instagram my cleanser, yeah.
Everything is chemicals, but some are safer than others – and they are usually the ones that have stood the test of time. Want to get even more science-y? The Royal Society of Chemistry did a debate about cosmetics, and that’s probably as legit as you can get. Or it’s as legit as I’m going to get, anyway. Happy Tuesday!
With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!
The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines
Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?
Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!
That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.
In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.
The Family Debate Way: Television
Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).
This is stupid.
Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.
The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.
A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.
The Hands-Free Way: Radio
You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.
The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media
I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.
Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.
The Fun Way: Entertainment
Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.
Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.
Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!
Thought it would be interesting to dip a toe into the world of audioblogging, so here is my first ever attempt… To ensure visual satisfaction I have included little additions for you to look out for at X number of minutes.
“crshchrshcrsh” means “downloaded”. I think I moved.
“COUGH for example COUGH I went clubbing with my friends” Actually that might have been more movement. This is why it takes eight years to put a post together.
They were more appealing in the dark. Also Chloe made me have one.
Turns out they are pronounced the same way… do you think the Pacific Rim people had the drink in mind in the design room?
Heeey it is! Right, done. Thank you for listening – unless you didn’t in which case why are you here? – and let me know if the quality is okay and all that!
I’m not sure whether it’s heyfever, a cold, exhaustion or sheer utter relief that I’m not in school any more (or maybe all four) but my eyes hurt and I can’t really remember how to type so I decided that instead of the News we should share bullshit news stories that are almost too weird to believe.
Unfortunately after two years of minimal commenting I am aware that maybe two people will respond so here is a video with unlikely pertinence to the ISIS shit that’s currently going down which is actually too depressing for me to write about before my eyeballs fall out. So Tim can say some stuff!
If I remember correctly he follows up that sketch with the Pope Song… can’t remember if that has any baring on current events so I’m going to see the dogs and maybe complain about football.
I mean really, it’s a ball game. Even I know that you’re supposed to score goals and stuff…
Happy Earth Day everyone. I think we are all supposed to turn our lights out or something. As an advocate of long-term solutions I recommend regularly turning your lights off when you are not using them, as well as engaging in other resource-preserving activities, such as switching off your appliances at the plug, walking or cycling wherever practical and forsaking traditional materials for those with longer lifespans, such as canvas bags.
I’m tapping this out on my iPad partially because I want to watch Sport Relief and partially because Sport Relief is basically what I always wanted PE to be as well as everything I’m studying in Politics at the moment… Minus the debates about the benefits of nuclear proliferation.
So far, anyway.
Everything on TV pertaining to non-UK issues has so far has some sort of relevance as a case study exemplifying the bullshit that is rich people wanting to get richer and exploiting everyone else. The UK-based issues are no less relevant since we face them everyday… which calls into question why they are still even issues that require fundraising. Ugh. I can’t even find an appropriate GIF to express the disgust everyone should feel when they remember the shit that happens. Trust me, I just saw things no non-fangirl should ever see when Googling Sherlock.
Since this is the news and not just me getting angry here is some evidence of the bullshit from broadcasters with a modicum of credibility. Mostly. Hopefully you will find it interesting and helpful for Geography/Politics/quizzes/sounding smarter than the tabloid-reading misogynist you’ve been seated next to at a dinner party:
CIA World Factbook. It’s a bit tricky to navigate at first but you can pick a country and read about it in a pleasantly organised fashion, or compare states’ places on a list of, say, literary rates.
BBC country profiles. They’re a bit more wordy than the Factbook, with straightforward explanations of states’ histories and things that are quite useful, like phone extensions and Internet domains.
Historically-Political blog. I only saw this today but it was recommended by a teacher which makes it legit. It has examples of Politics and History essay questions which are horrible good at giving you the lowdown on Important Subjects. There’s also informed discussion about politics-y stuff, like here but with better grades.
YouTube. Amongst the baby cats and Tim Minchin videos (someone buy me a CD so I get offline when I’m working) there are documentaries and clips originally from TV shows or films. Take with a bucketful of salt, especially if you’re bootlegging a Hollywood film where they decided to impose a hero figure onto a story with almost no fucking hope (hi Blood Diamond! S’okay Leo I forgive you have a wee Oscar) and do your own research. “Be a sponge not a filter, Charlie.” Blood Diamond is a good watch for the record… I have a pair of bling-y earrings that I really, really don’t want to check went through the Kimberly Process.
The iPad is doing my head in – I also missed the ten o’clock mark because I was laughing at Beckham in Peckham and eating chocolate, mentally calculating how many children I could save if I emptied my bank account for Sport Relief…
It’s not a lot, but I guess it doesn’t have to be?