Thursday, 11 February 2010

How I am going to pass Magazine Journalism (maybe)

I picked Magazine Journalism because the alternative was Photo and Video Journalism. I know this isn’t the noblest reason but it’s the truth. Although I both admire and envy those with photoandvideo (in my mind it’s just one word) skills, I would like to pass my degree, thank you very much. Ergo, magazine stand here I come.

Not that I have anything against magazines. In fact, when I lived in Spain I used to get my dad to post me (yes, post!) issues of Mizz and Sugar. But having outgrown them, I certainly don’t read enough current “grownup” magazines to reasonably expect to get a good mark in a module all about understanding them. Although in fairness, that would probaby bankrupt me.

When I found out that the assignment required “working in groups” I got that horrible feeling that I became all to acquainted with in primary school PE classes. You may know the one I mean: your heart beats a little faster; your eyes seem to find your trainers to be the most fascinating thing in the world... Then you fast-forward a few minutes to when your excited classmates are all paired up and the teacher says: “OK, who wants to work with Sirena?” Cue everyone shuffling around the football pitch / lecture theatre muttering about their group being full.

In actual fact, I am happily grouped up and excited to create what seems to be some sort of cross between the New Yorker, Cosmopolitan and Vice Magazine. Sound bizarre? As well it should – I’m involved. But who knows? Maybe this time next year I’ll be rich! Or maybe I’ll just be re-taking the module. Either way suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Charlie Brooker the height of cool? Why?!


Fashion is a strange thing, especially hard to pinpoint when it doesn’t refer purely to aesthetics. I recently found myself obliviously at the height of fashion when I was given a Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for Christmas and hosted my very own cupcake party, complete with a Cath Kidston apron and everything. I subsequently noticed cupcakes in the window displays of the trendiest shops and a common subject of Facebook statuses.

Fashions also seem to be distinguishable in more intellectual matters. It seems that the current trend in reading and viewing material can be summarised in two words: Charlie Brooker.

A segment of his comedy/current affairs programme Newswipe became YouTube’s highest-rated clip with over 728,833 views last week; his G2 comment pieces for the Guardian are re-linked thousands of times on social networking sites; and his Twitter profile has over 100,000 followers. I have even heard girls name him as their “celebrity crush”, despite having a self-proclaimed “face like a paedophile walrus”.

Last week, award-winning Guardian feature writer Simon Hattenstone guest-lectured at Kingston University, where I attend. In a lecture theatre full of journalism students, hands shot up when we were invited to ask him our questions. With only ten minutes left and perhaps forty students keen to contribute, it was pure luck that decided who got to speak.

One of the lucky students who were picked posed the following: “Is Charlie Brooker as angry and hilarious in person as he seems on TV?”

It does say a lot about the state of universities when that is the best a journalism student can come up with. But more to the point, Mr Hattenstone had shared stories of interviewing the likes of Woody Allen, Helen Mirren and Lou Reed, yet the celebrity he was asked about was Charlie Brooker.

So what exactly is it about this self-proclaimed “embittered cynic” that young people find so attractive at the moment? To be honest, I can’t work it out. Despite moderately enjoying his writing, I am not a fan of his TV persona. The over the top cockney accent and unwavering pessimism make me want to shout at the TV: “Who died and made you judge of the world?!”

Yet in an era when turning on the television subjects you to the likes of Popstar to Operastar, Take Me Out and, of course - the staple of the last decade - Big Brother, I must admit that there is something refreshing about a show that gets an opinion out of you.

But is his elusive ‘cool factor’ a reflection on the quality content of his programmes and writing? Or is it simply a je no se quois that Charlie Brooker innately posses (and I will never learn to identify)?

Comments and debate welcome!

Fewer students is not a bad thing

Getting into university is not The X Factor - Andrew Haldenby (Comment piece in the Times, yesterday)

If you can overcome the Tory rhetoric and get to the main point of the article, Andrew Haldenby makes a very valid point. Since when has a university education been everyone’s entitlement, as opposed to the reward for those exceptional and dedicated enough to deserve it?

It seems that Labour’s intention of making higher education accessible to all young people regardless of their financial situation got somewhat misguided and ended up making it accessible to all young people regardless of their intellectual ability.

Ironically, this has created a situation where a British degree is practically worthless when applying for jobs, which means that those successful in their chosen career are those with the financial means to support themselves while doing countless unpaid internships and work experience programmes.

This is especially true in the field of journalism, where a work placement (ie working for free) actually constitutes part of our degree, and yet we are expected to schedule it for the Summer holidays, when students are usually working in order to be able to support themselves during term time.

Perhaps it would be a more logical approach to limit university places to applicants good enough to deserve them and fund these selected few so that they aren’t forced into thousands of pounds of debt before they even have their first job.

Like Andrew said, if you don’t win the X Factor, you don’t demand Simon Cowell creates more first places, you accept that you are not good enough and move on.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Sex and the City 2 - Carrie On


I am a Charlotte. I have been since the first episode of Sex and the City that I watched. Possibly against my better judgement, I must admit to being a faithful SATC fan. I find the acting is terrible, the dialogue is forced, the clothes are ridiculous and the storylines outrageous. But I have watched every episode. I cried when Carrie left Mikhail Barishnikov in Paris and ran back to Manhattan with Mr Big (sorry if I’ve just ruined the last episode for someone but if you’ve waited until now to watch it you deserve the spoiler).

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross last week welcomed Kim Cattrall (with an oddly transatlantic accent). In case you faithful fans have missed out on the news like I had, the new movie is out May 28th and it appears the plot is being kept a complete mystery. The trailer and interviews with cast members seem to reveal few details about the film other than a trip to Marocco, a terrible soundtrack (out with Henry Mancini and in with Jay-Z seems to be the motto) and the unfortunate Sun-style tagline “Carrie on” that actually made me groan.

It has to be said that despite all arrows pointing away from the cinema, I am desperate to see this film. Probably for the same reason as I felt compelled to watch Saved by the Bell – The College Years, I need to know what happened next! Namely: did Carrie and Big stay together?!

It could be great, it could be terrible. Watch this space, I’ll report back.

Apple strikes again. iPad anyone?


Is there anyone in the Western world that hasn’t ranted or raved about the iPad on their blog by now? Love it, hate it, love to hate it... I have heard more clich├ęs than I can remember over the last few days. It does remind me a little of one of those so-called celebrities that pops up out of nowhere, is suddenly all over the press and in everyone’s conversations but yet no one seems to know what this person has actually done.

I am not an Apple denier. I don’t care that people buy the products because they are “cooler” or in fashion. If I had more money I would probably buy an iPhone; if I had a lot more money I might buy a MacBook Air and feel uber-cool on the train. As it is I have an ancient iPod and that’s as far as I go.

I should also say that I am not tech-savvy. I don’t bother to argue when people tell me the virtues of OSX vs Windows as they’re probably right, but to be honest, I don’t care.

When it comes to my “no opinions” policy though, I do draw the line at this new gadget. Stephen Fry wrote a very amusing article in The Guardian last Friday exulting the wonders of this machine. And to be honest, I was willing to listen. He began by stating the obvious reasons why people would be sceptical: no multitasking, no Flash player, no camera, no GPS. I nodded my head approvingly and waited for him to dismiss these shortcoming in favour of some huge revelation that he has the inside scoop on. His answer: it’s really fun to use.

Forgive me for not being sold.

And other that the tech-problems, the marketing problems (I mean 'iPad'? Really?), I am also confused as to how you are supposed to use it. Are you supposed to put it on your lap like a laptop? You would get rather a sore neck looking down. Are you supposed to hold it similarly to an iPhone in one hand and use the other? Because that doesn’t look very secure to me, and after spending $499 or more on an iThing, I don’t think I’d want to risk dropping it.

The verdict? I would have to agree with Charlie Brooker’s take on it: “It's an iPhone for people who can't be arsed holding an iPhone up to their face. A slightly-further-away iPhone that keeps your lap warm.”

Tragically, though, I am still expecting some Apple magic to touch the pumpkin and turn it into yet another gadget which will undoubtedly wean its way into our lives over the next few years, killing off even more of humanity’s imagination and interaction and probably making poor Orwell turn in his grave.