20 May 2012

Sunday Serenade

I fell in love with these guys on Britain's got Talent. Seriously, they're brilliant. They didn't win, but they didn't need to. I'm sure they'll be a success.

This was their very cool semi-final performance:

I'm definitely a Sheeran fan, but these boys killed this one too:

And here's their BGT final. I think my favourite of the lot:

Overall, a nice Sunday soundtrack. Keep an eye out for a record that I'm sure will be coming up!

19 May 2012

Big Stupid Adventure: Himalayas

I became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Bhutan a few years ago after reading The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. (Great book. Highly recommended.) Then I learned that they have a strict tourism policy that requires all visitors to pay US$200 each day just to be in the country. Fair enough, rules are rules. So I figured, why not just go to Bhutan's equally cool neighbours: Nepal and India. This is mountain-country like no other place in the world.
Mountains silhouetted at sunset.
The most spectacular mountain range in the world.

Civilisation in the Himalayas has created some unique and amazing cultures. It's hard to say if the people or the landscape is more fascinating. These are some things I'd love to get up to on an adventure in this beautiful Asian mountain range:

1.) Drink Tea in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is a beautiful mix of post-colonial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu. Chuck that in with farming in extreme mountain conditions and some of the most famous tea in the world, I'm sold!

Tea Plantations in Darjeeling, India
2.) Visit a monastery in Paro Valley
Buddhist monks are really the poster-boys of Himalayan cultures. Living in some of the most remote places on earth means that these monks can truly resist western-style modernisation and preserve their authentic lifestyles.
Monastery situated in Paro Valley, with mountains in the background.
Monastery in Paro Valley, Bhutan
3.) Get lost in Kathmandu.
I've heard there is no greater culture shock than for a westerner to land in Kathmandu. Now if that doesn't scream "BIG STUPID ADVENTURE" then nothing does! Kathmandu is the epitome of traditional old world hurtling into contemporary city culture. Tourism took off in the 1960s, which of course cued the Nepalese to cater to westerners demands (toilets and coffee for instance). Yet this city remains uniquely Himalayan, bursting with secret temples and busy markets selling unfamiliar produce.
Market stall outside Kasthamandap Temple.
Market Traders in Kathmandu, Nepal
 4.) Trek to Everest Base Camp.
There is simply no point in heading up these glorious mountains without committing to serious and challenging trek. Now I know full well there is no way I'm ever going to make it up Everest. But Base Camp is totally doable. What a dream come true to stand at the foot of a monster and marvel and the absolute magnificence of the planet we live on. Certainly a Big STUPID Adventure, but, I think, one well worth the effort.
The Highest Place on Earth

6 May 2012

Sunday Serenade: Harvey and Rabbit

This video is full of so many things that I LOVE! Advertising: good! Dogs: good! Terrible singing voices: good! Every time I watch this I love it more and more. Happy Sunday!

25 April 2012

Big Stupid Adventure: Clipper Round the World


Adventure is improved only by competition. 

Q: What could be more awesome than sailing around the world?
A: Racing nine other boats around world!

Clipper Round the World is a 40,000 mile ocean race that takes 11 months to complete. Ten identical boats with novice crews compete in 15 individual races to see who can circumnavigate the globe the quickest.

"It's the only race in the world where taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives, vicars mix with housewives, students work alongside bankers, nurses work with vets and doctors team up with rugby players. It's an experience that will change people's lives and while the crew members may be amateur, no one has told the ocean that. The sea does not distinguish between Olympians or novices and if the Southern Ocean, the Pacific or the South Atlantic decides to throw down its gauntlet, the Clipper crews need to be ready to face exactly the same challenges as those experienced by the professional racer."

I want to do this SO MUCH! I'd love to do the whole thing but 11 months is a big chunk of your life to set aside. On the up-side, you can sign up to do just one leg of the race which takes just about a month. Recruitment for the 2012/13 race is now on and I seriously looked into doing it. On the down-side, the cheapest possible option was about £10k. That's a lot of money that I simply do not have. One day. It has been bucket-listed. One day I will go on this Big Stupid Adventure!

But hey, maybe you have ten grand lying around? If you're keen to sign up for this amazing race you can get more information on their website. OR just click here to see their very cool promotional video that they won't let me post on my blog. Silly copyright!

15 April 2012

Big Stupid Adventures

Many, many hours of my life have been spent on planes and trains and boats and cars; queuing in airports and waiting on platforms and sitting in traffic trying to get somewhere. Hey, I like travelling as much as the next person, but transport just makes me weary! However, in the last six months my life in transit has depressingly stalled. I haven't even seen a plane since September and I've hardly been outside of the city since January.

The result is that I'm now itching for a Big Stupid Adventure! Yeah, a plane home would be nice. But it is not enough. Months of sitting still have me longing for something like this:

Yep, Nike again. I'm just loving all of their marketing right now.

Adventure is what I'm craving but my bank account protests (loudly and rudely). For now, the best I can do is dream. So I've decided to start a new blog-series of all the Big Stupid Adventures I wish I was setting off on right now! Not making any promises on how regularly these will appear. But I've got plenty of stupid ideas to share.

#1: Around the World in 10 Days! I actually think this is a STUPID adventure. But hell, what an experience!  And made infinitely cooler with your best mate making a cool film along the way.

8 April 2012

Sunday Serenade

A little romantic jingle meets a very effective advert meets some motivation for me to put back on those shoes and get to training!

This also kind of makes me want to be ginger again.

1 April 2012

Sunday Serenade

Wow! This place looks amazing! Yes, yes it is. Best country in the world is the perfect post-card for a fun romantic summer =)

18 March 2012

Sunday Serenade

Ok, so I'm a little behind with this, I know. But I think this is definitely the coolest video out right now. It also helps that the song is damn catchy!

11 March 2012

My Two Cents on Kony2012

I love that everyone is talking about this campaign. What's more, I love that everyone is talking critically about this campaign. And I don't just mean being critical of it.

I think those of you who read visible children and blindly wrote the whole thing off are just as ignorant as those who only watched the film and now blindly support Invisible Children. 

But it appears to me that both of those groups are the minority. The majority of comments, blogs, articles, etc, that I've read have taken a genuine critical approach; looking at the merits of IC and Kony2012 and at their downfalls, discussing the power of social media, talking about the power of the international community and how giving aid or military support might actually affect central Africa. Maybe I'm blindly optimistic about society, but what I've been seeing is a lot of individuals looking in a lot of places and drawing their own conclusions on the whole phenomenon. To me, this is fantastic. 

I think this says a lot about who we are as a society today. We have a world of information at our fingertips and we are using it. We are using it to ask questions and find answers about the media that bombards our lives. We are using it to make political statements in a social world. We are all thriving in a world of technology and using it to address the issues that are important to us and the people around us. 

We're saying that politics doesn't only happen in fancy buildings in big cities. It happens here; on this blog and on your facebook page and in Twitter trends and YouTube comments. 

Of course, it remains to be seen if and how this translates into action in any way. 

Whatever you think about the Kony2012 campaign, you have to admit that the consequences of its' popularity has shown a lot about the way we think about politics, charities, the international community, Africa, social media, celebrity participation, accountability, and on and on. It has pushed the world into a global dialogue about an international issue. Tell me that's not cool?

Some things you might want to watch and read that are related:

The Kony2012 film. You can't talk about it if you haven't seen it.
Visible Children tumblr. The most popular criticism.
The twitter feed for #Kony2012.
BBC Africa correspondent view
Critical piece from the Atlantic. 

There are countless more obviously. You all know how to use Google. 

15 February 2012

Ryanair walks the line on Sexy v. Sexist

Twitter has been a-buzz today with the news that Ryanair's recent print advert was deemed "too sexy" for UK media. Well, actually not too sexY but too sexIST. There's a big difference and I'll try my best to show you what I think that difference is. 

Here's a picture of the advert that appeared in two UK newspapers. I'll let you decide for yourself on this one. What do you think? Is this good advertising? Is this okay? Ladies in particular, do you want to fly with Ryanair now? Better yet, are you inclined to work for them now?

 Ryanair advert

The folks who get to decide what adverts get banned are the ASA: The Advertising Standards Authority. They don't only make decisions about the sex-factor, but also keep a close eye on advertising for alcohol and tobacco, adverts directed at children, and female body-image among other issues that arise. 

Recently, the ASA banned a L'Oreal advert featuring Rachel Weisz. Here it is:

Rachel Weisz in the banned L'Oréal advert (click for full image)

They were advertising a product that supposedly makes your skin super-smooth. But in this image her face is digitally altered to make her skin look smooth. It's photoshop and not skin cream that achieves these results. The ASA says that is false advertising and will not allow it.

But what about those Ryanair girls? The women that appear in the adverts are actual cabin crew who volunteered to take part. So that's not FALSE advertising, right? It can't be offensive if the women wanted to do it, right? That's what Ryanair says, but the ASA disagrees. 

Sexy is okay. After all, you don't have to work in advertising to know that sex sells! Sexist, however, is not okay. Let's look at two adverts by Axe that the ASA has reviewed. One was banned and one wasn't. I think this is the prefect precedent for the difference between sexy and sexist.

Here's the banned one:

This one wasn't banned:

Can you see the difference? There's actually an alternate version of that second one where the ladies in the end do move their hands. That was not approved for tele. Ok, so it is a fine line. But at the end of the day I think the ASA is a necessary organisation. I really think that most of the time they make the right call. 

What do you think? Was it the right call to ban the Ryanair advert? Are there any other banned adverts that you think are unfair?

If you'd like to learn a little more about the whole affair you can see what the BBC reported here, or what Huff Post had to say here, or get the SkyNews take here

14 February 2012

Everyone take a Time Out!

Most of the internet has made me want to throw up today. Romantic and Sentimental are foreign countries to me at the best of times. But shove them in my face covered in glitter and flowers and fricken red velvet cake (which by the way, unless you put beets in it, is just red cake) and now I'm pretty sure I've forgotten to take my malaria pills, drank the water in Mexico, or overdone it on the road-side seafood. Not only is my stomach spinning into a dangerous state of discomfort, but my surroundings are unfamiliar and I don't speak the language!

You might say I'm bitter. But I've actually always found Valentine's Day depressingly silly, even all the years when I had someone handsome to take me on dates. It is the icky-gooey romance that simply does not appeal to me at all. Or maybe I just hate having a schedule for my emotions; I'm supposed to go out of my way to express my love today? Why? I'll tell you I love you when I feel like it. And probably, when you've done something that genuinely makes me feel love for you.

To be clear, I don't hate love or couples or relationships. On the contrary, I'm a relationship junkie. My ultimate goal is to find someone who I can love for the rest of my life. And to help me achieve this goal, Time Out, our trusty guide to all things London, has given the internet the single best article all day: 10 last-ditch chat-up lines for Londoners.

This one is my favourite. I'm tempted to actually use it.

Bad Valentine: Fine 

13 February 2012

Hands firmly in my pockets!

So I've got a surprise week off this week. And being a surprise, I obviously haven't made any awesome plans for all this free time. Also, I've failed to put aside any funds for spontaneous holidays during surprise weeks off. Does that make me a shit life-planner? Probably.

So I find myself drinking too much tea and wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do with myself. Oh yeah! I have a blog! Forgot about that. And you probably forgot about that too since I've been inexcusably absent for the better part of two months? three months? Whatevs. I'M BACK! (for now) And I'm using this opportunity to rant about things that generally annoy me about life.

Today's subject of rantation: Being told for hands in my pockets.

At school I had a horrible uniform that had the one single benefit of Grand Canyon-depth pockets; perfect for holding all kinds of treasures! Pencils, reading specs, small books, lab goggles, protractor... yeah, I was a cool kid. But pockets were best for hiding the hands of a socially-awkward teenager.Well, at least I thought this is what pockets were for. Apparently I was wrong. Pockets in school uniforms are actually a devilish temptation sent to test the strength of my willpower. "Ladies", they say, don't put their hands in pockets. Well I've got some news for you, entire tradition of Catholic education:

It's been years since I've been at school so, "Why am I still annoyed at this?" you ask. Well, I've managed to land myself temporarily (fingers crossed) in a job where I'm treated like a six-year-old with short-term memory loss and attention deficit disorder. Now sometimes I can be childish, I may occasionally forget something you told me three seconds ago, and I am sporadically attracted to shiny things. But to assume that I constantly suffer all three ailments simultaneously? Simply unjust. 

The point I'm getting to is that once again, I find myself being told off for using the pockets that are conveniently located near the waist of my trousers. Being a mentally retarded six-year-old I obviously do not deserve an explanation for why this is bad practice. I must simply do as I'm told and not ask questions. But there are rumours floating around about what the reasons may be. 

First, there's the "lady" argument which was successfully disputed above. Then there's the "it doesn't look professional" argument. Hmm... 
These are some pretty professional looking people, right?

Another rumoured argument is that hands in pockets in unsanitary. To this I say, What the hell do you put in your pockets? And how rarely do you wash your trousers? I can think of several allowed behaviours that are infinitely more unsanitary than putting my hands in my pockets: riding the tube, using public toilets, shaking hands with a stranger, eating at McDonalds, and the list can go on... 

If I can guarantee you that:
a.) My understanding of a "lady" is not negated by hands in pockets, 
b.) I can act professional regardless of where my hands are (within reason. Get your minds out of the gutter!), and 
c.) my trousers are clean and my pockets are free from faeces, semen, and Ebola virus,
then can you get off my back and let me put my hands where I bloody-well please?!

16 January 2012

For My Fellow Graduates

It's a funny sort of thing to have graduation so delayed from our actual date of completion. 
Life has gone on, for some. And stalled momentarily for others.
Does walking across a stage in a silly costume make our lives any better?
Maybe it does. But probably not.
In either case, this is a message for you from a highly accomplished Doctor and some crazy hippies in a desert: