A Year in Review

What a year it’s been – both for me, and this blog. When asked to describe 2017, people will think Brexit and the election, and despite watching the news in horror for most of the year, this has at least been good for my blog. I definitely haven’t had a shortage of items to write about. At the start of the year, I set myself the challenge of posting a piece a week, and I’ve kept to that without it (in my opinion) being detrimental to the quality.

So, what’s happened this year in my personal life? Not much to be honest. After the host of changes in 2016 which included graduating, new job, moving into my own flat, 2017 has been quiet. I’ve had a good year at work where I’ve had a raise, took on some side projects, and feel I’m getting closer to a promotion. Outside of work I’ve been involved in a lot of my own projects which I’m excited for, but currently I, unfortunately, do not have the time to knuckle down on them as much as I’d like.

2017 is also a year where my mental health has been relatively kind to me. Bar some low points in the autumn I’ve been fairly in control throughout the year, and I hope that can continue into the new year. One disappointment personally is that I am still very single. I obviously do not want to rush into a relationship for the sake of it, but I have been single for a long time now and am extremely sick of it. So, what are some of my highlights of the year…

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My Last Jedi Review

It’s fair to say it was a different film than any of its predecessors, as the Last Jedi pulled out all the stops to go, quite literally, out of this galaxy. It was long, but flew by, complicated, yet simplistic at its core, and I absolutely loved it. If you’re expecting a mirror to Empire Strikes Back in the same way the Force Awakens was a homage to New Hope, think again. Mark Hamill summed it up perfectly in the trailer: “This is not going to go the way you think” – whatever assumptions or theories you had in mind, throw them away.

Director Rian Johnson does all he can to put his own stamp on the long-running saga, and show the audience that it’s okay to flip things up and head in a new direction once in a while. The hype for this film was on another level, especially so with me, and I really had high hopes. I even went all the way to the cinema to watch it, something I very rarely do – and I was constantly reminded why as people talked, chewed, and even stood up during the viewing.

But back to the film, and Johnson didn’t waste any time in getting into the action. It opened with an impressive space battle led by pilot Poe, and ended with a spectacular sequence with Leia quite literally floating in space (it worked for me by the way). What didn’t was the early attempts to get the audience laughing, especially the cringe-worthy radio conversation insulting Hux’s pasty skin tone. By this point, I was underwhelmed, and felt uneasy, but luckily it picked up.

At this point, we moved across to Ahch-To and Rey’s attempts to bring Luke Skywalker back into the fold. Luke, the now recluse, was having none of it, and despite the jokes, the audience probably weren’t either. We wanted Luke on the frontline, leading the Jedi once more, and it took a while to get there. The Luke/Kylo Ren/Rey scenes around the island worked well, and the Porgs, again I liked. It’s common knowledge that Hamill wasn’t a fan of his character’s development, but he gave it all he got, and he perfectly fits the mentor/’one with the force’ role.

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Less Glamourisation, and Much More Awareness Please!

As someone who has suffered with my own mental health issues for many years now, I am all for, and always will fight for more awareness of mental health problems. It’s vital that people can open up and talk about their issues openly without facing a stigma, and it’s vital that people open their minds more to understand what those who suffer are going through. One of the best ways to raise such awareness is through the media, and in recent years mental health has become a more common issue explored within TV and movies.

Recently, ‘13 Reasons Why’, a show which focused on a teenager’s suicide, streamed on Netflix, and coming soon is ‘To the Bone’, a show focusing on eating disorders. Both shows have received very mixed reviews and extensive media coverage, leading to the question, when is it raising awareness of mental health? And when it is simply glorifying and glamourising it?

First, let’s focus on ‘To the Bone’, which focuses on a teenage girl who suffers with an ED, and eventually leaves home to receive treatment. At first glance, it looks to be a good effort to raise awareness and break the stigma, but there’s a lot of problems with the show. The biggest no-no for me is the unnecessary inclusion of a romantic storyline, fuelling the idea for many that eating disorders and mental health problems in general bring romance, and make you more desirable to others.

I can tell you from experience, depression is not romantic, worrying about your eating is not romantic, and struggling with your existence is not romantic. Another problem is that the big stereotype of eating disorders and anorexia is that the person suffering is underweight, small, and fragile. The truth is that anyone can suffer with it at any weight, and most of the time it’s overweight people that are struggling more often. To the Bone is about a young, white, underweight girl, which only leads to others that don’t fit ‘that role’ feeling they don’t matter.

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Friends Episodes – Worst to Best!

Using a very official spreadsheet, with very official categories, here is my ranking of Friends episodes – from worst to best!!

Doubles count as one!  & (S..,E..) denotes the season and episode number.

225. The One with the Stain (S8, E7)
224. The One with the Cat (S4, E2)
223. The One where Ross Moves In (S5, E7)
222. The One with the Apothecary Table (S6, E11)
221. The One with the Male Nanny (S9, E6)
220. The One with the Donor (S9, E22)
219. The One with Rachel’s Crush (S4, E13)
218. The One with the Ballroom Dancing (S4, E4)
217. The One with the Yeti (S5, E6)
216. The One with the Girl who hits Joey (S5, E15)
215. The One with all the Candy (S7, E9)
214. The One where Ross hugs Rachel (S6, E2)
213. The One where Joey tells Rachel (S8, E16)
212. The One where the Monkey Gets Away (S1, E19)
211. The One with the Home Study (S10, E7)
210. The One with Phoebe’s Rats (S9, E12)
209. The One with All the Wedding Dresses (S4, E20)
208. The One with the Birth Mother (S10, E9)
207. The One with the Fake Monica (S1, E21)
206. The One with the Pediatrician (S9, E3)
205. The One with the Engagement Picture (S7, E5)
204. The One with the Monkey (S1, E10)
203. The One with Rachel’s New Dress (S4, E18)
202. The One with Joey’s Award (S7, E18)
201. The One with Phoebe’s Cookies (S7, E3)
200. The One with the Joke (S6, E12)

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‘Remain’ and Labour – Wake Up!

“Do the panel here watch the internet?” the man in the Question Time audience piped up. “If you watch the internet… half of them immigrants they don’t want the water, they don’t want the food, they want money and they want to get to Britain”. Now at the time, me, and the couple of million others watching Question Time would have laughed at the clear and utter ignorance of the gentleman. But we shouldn’t. Firstly, obviously, it’s clear xenophobia, hence the use of the word ‘immigrant’. Now this isn’t to say of course he’s a racist or a xenophobe; I do not know the guy. It may be a clear case of pure ignorance, but that ignorance is the main issue at hand. And for both ‘Remain’ in the EU debate, and Labour, in-fact the whole of the left, this is a huge worry.

One of the big issues surrounding the EU debate is immigration, and this has especially been a big issue for the past few years for many of the electorate; with Ian Warren’s article highlighting how 60% of the public view immigration as a top three issues facing this country. One of the main reasons for this has been because of the majority of the right wing media, plus right wing ideologies like UKIP/Republican party scaremongering the public. They paint these refugees, fleeing a war torn country for a better life as ‘money grabbing criminals, possibly terrorists’. They tell the public that these people are dangerous invaders, who are simply after our money. Hence the views of the gentleman on Question Time last Thursday. This scaremongering and dispersion of fear across the public is what has led to rise of UKIP, Farage, and even worse personalities like Trump and Cruz across the pond in America.

Now why is this such a problem for ‘Remain’? Because of the EU’s ‘Open Door Policy’, which is being used as one of the main arguments by Brexit. The problem is that the media are merging this with the refugee crisis, to not only inflate the numbers in statistics but create more fear. People like the gentleman above forget about their own free movements, and all the other brilliant assets that come from being part of the EU e.g. access to the single market, security, global power. Now I won’t ramble on to much about the EU and the referendum, I’ll do that in a future post closer to June. But I will highlight the lack of knowledge Brits have about the EU, highlighted in this article. ‘Remain’ needs to begin to educate the voters on the EU, and the brilliant things it brings to us, and just how better it could be under reform. Otherwise, we could be leaving the EU.

Now, for the left, and Labour. I know I blether on about Labour’s issues a lot, but this is a big one. Immigration is an area where the electorate do not have faith in Labour. As Frank Podmore highlights most of the electorate who stopped voting for Labour in 2010 were ‘social conservatives’, and one of the reasons was because they believed we let too many ‘immigrants’ into the country. In 2015 Ed was able to win back much of the left, but he couldn’t shake off the perceptions of Blair/Brown etc, and wasn’t able to win back the Social Conservatives. Even though migration into the UK is higher under the Tories, and the Conservatives are nowhere near meeting targets, the electorate still see their ‘tougher stance’ as electable. This is another area where Corbyn and current Labour is very unelectable, and I can’t see that changing for a long time, especially when Corbyn, McDonnell and co call for more open borders.

Many of that audience had very ignorant, bigoted views and the lack of humanity was astounding. However, this is the electorate that Labour and ‘Remain’ need to try and win over somehow, and that will be an incredibly tough task indeed.

Sherlock – The Abominable Bride Review

2016 TV started with a bang last night. And some head scratching. Because the long awaited new episode of Sherlock was out, The Abominable Bride, and it didn’t disappoint the fans who had waited so very long for the next 90 minutes of Holmes, Watson and Co.

Obviously we knew this episode would be vastly different. It was set in 1895, it would feature Sherlock and John meeting again, and would not yet answer the Moriarty questions from the previous finale. Or at least that’s what we thought…

The story only briefly showed the meeting of Sherlock + John, and then jumped to around the same time-frame after meeting as it was in the current series. John had his Mary, all the characters were established and Sherlock had just learnt of the supposed ‘back from the dead’ Moriarty. But there was yet another case to be solved in ‘1895’, a ghostly women who was killing men around London, bearing a significant resemblance to the death of Moriarty, for a reason of course.

It turned out that the 1895 part of the story was all fake, in a way, and we were really watching Sherlock in his modern mind palace, still in the plane a mere 5 minutes after last series’ finale. He was using the unsolved case from 1895 to try and work out whether Moriarty could be alive, and if he was then how he had managed to pull it off. The next 30 minutes of the episode took us on a magic ride between modern day and Victorian mind palace as Sherlock was able to work out the mystery, kind of at least…

It turned out that Sherlock worked out that Moriarty simply could not have survived, but that he was still plotting from his grave. And that is where the episode left us; simply hoping we might get the next chapter in the next 18 months.

The episode was full of huge positives; the settings were beautiful, the lighting fantastic and the costumes tremendous; but it was still all outshone by the main casts tremendous performances. Cumberbatch’s and Watson’s duo fantastic once more, Una Stubbs and Mark Gatiss providing comic relief. But once again the highlights of the episode quite arguably came from Andrew Scott, his take on Moriarty as chilling and eery as ever.

Obviously there were some things I didn’t quite like. The waterfall scene for me one step too far in the silly direction, the flirting a bit too much for 1895 realism, and I think it’s fair to say Moffat’s views on feminism will come into question on social media. But overall it was the best start 2016 telly could have hoped for. 9/10

Impractical Jokers

I’ve always been a rather avid TV fan, so I imagine many of my blog posts will be on this subject, and quite frequent. Impractical Jokers is a show that I had seen may adverts for over the last few years, it looked quite interesting but I never got round to actually watching a full episode. It was purely by accident that I watched a full episode for the first time, as I left the channel on after an episode of Friends. After an episode, I was hooked. So I watched another. And soon the show found itself on series link on my Sky+.

The premise of the show is fairly simple, four friends take on different embarrassing challenges and the other three try to make it as horrifying as they can for their friend e.g. saying the most embarrassing sentences to strangers or trying to steal peoples food in restaurants. If they can’t complete the task they get a loss and the friend with the most losses at the end of the show gets an extremely embarrassing forfeit, facing their known fears, posing as a life model etc.

The words ‘laugh out loud’ is used too often for comedies, but it fits this show like a glove. I often find myself crying at laughter and this show is right down my street.  I think I connect with the show as me and my friends like to wind each other up constantly, and I feel I am very similar with one of the characters, James Murray (who I think I will also look a lot like in 10 years). It’s not easy to put into words how funny this show is, and just how much I would recommend you watch it, but if you sit and watch one episode, you will want to watch a whole series, 8.5/10.