Friday, 28 November 2008

Practicality Over Fashion

I love these shoes - but they have a 4.5 inch heel and I can only manage, at the most, 4 inches. It's odd because when I first saw these I thought.... wow! Look at all the pretty colours! They're so different! But after clicking to see the heel size (which I thought was going to be below 4 inches judging by the first picture they displayed) I was bitterly disappointed.
I think manufacturers should start making shoes that either have adjustable heels or they should make a wide range of heel sizes - everything from flat to sky-high (if you really want sky-high). Shoes that have a heel the width of a pinhead should be banned and made illegal, while people over a certain height shouldn't be wearing heels at all (trust me, when you're only little over 5 foot it's scary seeing a woman who's nearly 6 feet tall in a pair of 6 inch heels).
The heel situation is really limiting the type of shoes I can wear. Dolly shoes may be cute and a little quirky - only a little since everyone seems to wear them - but heels would give me a.) a sense of height and b.) a more grown-up feelings. Being the proud owner of a pair of brogues that have a medium-sized heel is brilliant - but they were a rare find. To most people brogues mean granny shoes, with no style, no heel, a dull colour and make your feet look so wide and fat that it brings a whole new meaning to the cockney term "plates of meat".
So we have a conundrum! Either our feet ache with rubbing and blisters but we look feminine and have the illusion of height or we go for these awful, awful, simply awful pieces of rubber. I know what I'd rather pick, much to the chagrin of everyone else. But can we please have a fashion season when Chanel or someone does a whole collectino of fashionable mid-sized or kitten heels?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

So In Relation...

So after posting a couple of days ago about closing down libraries I had a conversation with some colleagues about the state of reading in this country right now.

I think we all agreed that less and less people are reading, even if it's just a few pages a night like me - most worryingly, this seems to be true of children and teenagers and aren't they the people who need to be reading the most? It does, after all, extend their vocabulary and their overall general knowledge.

I wouldn't exactly say that I'm a book aficionado but I do know a fair bit and I have spent a large number of years studying literature - from this you generally get a good feel of how things should and should not be written (although really the basics of writing should be drilled in during sessions in school - I can't stand bad grammar and spelling).

Since one of my associates teaches English, they know what is and isn't acceptable in the world of teaching. So now we have a parallel - as TV, games console and computer ownership goes up, the number of books being sold and read is going down. Add to this a second parallel - as the number of books being read is going down, the number of kids who can't read, write and communicate properly is going up. And it's going to be difficult to solve since if these kids don't want to read, which is generally the case after they hit the age of 12, literacy skills will be in free fall and we'll have a whole country of illiterates!

(Well, maybe that was an exaggeration but you get the drift....)

My associate pointed out that children don't even have to be reading Shakespeare or Wordsworth to generally increase their reading and writing standard - even works of science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers will help them because they all have one thing in common - a wide vocabulary and generally impeccable grammar (I say impeccable because, while most books have very few mistakes, I consider the rotten Oxford Comma to be awful and unnecessary!). I would highly recommend people like Terry Pratchett for people who can't stand more realistic concepts - even he involves the politics of the day and the state of our world into his hilarious Discworld novels.

Oh, what to do? I believe we're in a conundrum....

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Go Philip! Go Philip!

Philip Pullman, aka the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, spoke out this week about the closure of the library in the school he used to go to - basically he said it was a disgrace.

The reason for the closure? Technology. Flamin' technology again (and yes I'm aware of the irony of me writing about "flamin' technology" given that I'm using it to express my view here). They're going to replace the library with some technology that means you can have books digitally or something.

Here's a positive - perhaps the kids might treat these digital books a bit like their mobiles or iPods. With some respect. I don't know about anyone else but everyone seemed to hate books when I was at school and would do anything to get out of reading them. At least this might spark some more interest in literature.

But what really ticks me off about this is that in many schools libraries are being scrapped because they are seen as "not an essential part of the curriculum or the way the school is run". Er, isn't English a core subject? Don't you, you know, have to get a good grade in English to get anywhere in life? Books suddenly not part of English any more? Have I suddenly become old fashioned and no longer know what English entails?

NO!!!! I haven't. In fact, I'm pretty sure that, apart from the titles of the books studied in schools today, the basic curriculum of English revolves around reading and writing. 2 of the legendary 3 Rs (the other one is 'Rithmetic as in Arithmetic as in Maths - but that's the least important of the 3 Rs).

What are all the librarians going to do? They'll be jobless! It's another catastrophe! Can you see where I'm going here? You can't shut the libraries down because, surprise surprise, it would be an atrocity. I like the feel of a solid book, and I hate to think about this since it could signal the very beginning of the end for the physical book. I can't fathom why anyone would want to read a book from a little digital machine - they're probably going to give you the eyes of an 80 year old at 25 and lock-arm from using them (since you'll be straining your eyes to see the words and holding your arm up constantly to look at the screen. Oh, so add iPod finger to that as well seeing as how you'll be tapping furiously at a little button to turn the pages....)

Who needs a mechanical book? I'd be so annoyed. I don't care if I end up with a really scrappy copy, I'll never change from good old paper and so what if I'm old fashioned!? I agree with Mr. Pullman!


First of all, let me apologize for being away from the desk for... well, ages! This might actually be a more frequent event and if you happen to notice that I'm away for a couple of weeks don't panic, I will post eventually. Bearing in mind that it's been a madhouse here I'm pretty sure that you can all forgive me. Hopefully.
I've been watching a lot of news lately, and by that I mean watching the 6pm national news then the 6:30pm national news on a different channel and then yet another news programme at 7pm on yet another channel... whew.
During this time I've been noticing some weird coincidences. First of all, the Pre-Budget Report came out yesterday with Alistair Darling saying we should all spend more. Cue the presenter standing in, you guessed it, a shopping mall!
But the thing that got me was when I watched the BBC 1pm news and during an interview with their political correspondent outside Westminster, a guy with a placard saying that Iraq was turning into World War 3 and a nuclear holocaust starting waving his banner behind the reporter's head. The thing about this was that the cameraman tried to surreptitiously zoom in to the correspondent's head to try and block the placard out of view. He did this so many times that you could practically count the amount of nose hairs that political man had.
The Beeb are supposed to be impartial so I guess this was only necessary - I was hoping to hear a little statement from the anchorwoman claiming that the views reflected in the report were not that of the BBC. But no, they must've just about avoided any sort of egg/face incident.
The punchline is that Mr. Protester did exactly the same thing on the 6:30pm news! How brilliant! I ended up egging him on to give the angry sign-waving a bit of welly but the report ended to quickly for him to get anywhere. What a shame eh?
Still, this news channel is supposedly a little less unbiased (er, well, that's actually arguable) so if we had more placard/camera interaction would the cameraman have attempted a similar zoom in strategy? I guess we'll never know, but the point is that maybe the news channels shouldn't be so touchy about little things like this? It was a peaceful protest, unlike the numerous times when football hooligans have shouted and started chanting like dummies just to get attention when some of these journalists go outside a stadium. He wasn't being noisy - what's everyone's problem?!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Neighbours: Now With 10% More Fat Than The Next Leading Brand!

So I was reading the paper a couple of days ago and I read an article that said you were much more likely to be overweight if your neighbours were. They said it was like "keeping up with the Joneses".

Now, I don't know about anyone else but I would be a bit worried if I started putting on weight to keep up with the way that my neighbours looked. Apart from the fact that it's just a little bit weird and sad*, surely it's not good for your health at all?! With all of the warnings that we have about being over a certain weight I find it odd that people would be putting on weight in this way: can't we just leave the whole keeping up with your neighbours thing to TVs and sofas?

Perhaps I'm not the best example though. I'm a healthy weight and living in a fairly slim neighbourhood - would I really be fatter if I lived in a neighbourhood with more overweight people? Can I extend this "area" to mean my whole town? If this was the case I can say this research is terrible since there's a lot of large people walking down my high street eating a Greggs** pastie*** and McDonalds. At the same time.

I wonder what kind of sample they had? If we think about this deep enough it could have been done in particularly hefty streets in generally hefty towns. At least this research doesn't state the obvious though: most of them say things that are blatant even to people who've been on another planet for all their lives (we're talking smoking here, which is such a stupid subject if looked at in more depth).

Somebody please tell me if this is applicable to anybody/anywhere near them. I'm very interested....

*Sad = just something a bit weird and pitiful really. Like people who constantly go "ahhh, isn't that cute" whenever they see a baby or any kind of animal
**Greggs = I wished I'd never have to explain since it's disgusting. They're a bakers who make nice doughnuts and little else - I think that they serve food disgracefully high in fat, salt and sugar, mostly at the same time. Catch the smell wafting around on the mornings and be sickened for the rest of the day. Don't be fooled by the apparent "healthy" options like the piled high cajun sandwiches or whatever they are. No comparison to rival bakers Milligans in my own humble opinion
***Pastie = I deliberately spelt it this way so that people who didn't know what one was wouldn't say "pasty" as in looking a bit white and ill. Pasties (pass-teees) are like a savoury pastry with various fillings. Quite filling, quite fattening in some cases but if you ever have a chicken tikka flavoured one you'll understand that one every now and then is pretty good for you really. Available in corned beef, chicken bake, tikka, cheese and onion, and the most famous Cornish to name a few

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Burn After Reading

Maybe this is the first time I've ever gone to the cinema to see a film that has really only just been released? I think four or five days after the initial release is a pretty good amount of time, and the cinema screen was still practically empty (because all the tiddlywinks wanted to go and see High School Musical - shudder).
Lets get straight to the point: Burn After Reading is as strange and oddly protracted as any Coen Brothers' movie, and still has a very dark thread running through it. After all, they don't really hold anything back do they? The story follows how the secret documents of sacked CIA man Osmond Cox (John Malkovich) are lost by an incompetent secretary at a gym and are found by two employees there (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt). In the mean time Cox's wife (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with their friend Harry (George Clooney) and things start to get.... complicated.
Well, there's lots of paranoia involved, particularly from Clooney, and just general stupidity, particularly from Pitt. The voice that he puts on to essentially blackmail Cox, for instance, is idiotically contrived and I had to stop myself from laughing at the incompetency - no wonder he gets punched in the face. And worse, but I'll not give it away.
There are some hilarious moments as with all of the Coens' less serious movies. Let's put it this way: you just have to see Clooney's home-made chair to believe it. Then there's the scene that I've colourfully called "the chopping of the carrots" and the whole way that Pitt acts in the movie - I can't believe that he didn't know that his character was gay when he was acting it out.
When we finally get to the climax you wonder how everything will be resolved. There isn't a definitive twist, as such, but there is a rather weird final scene. I can't give it away. But it's certainly not as thoughtful as the last little sequence in Fargo - in fact, you have to wonder about the morality of the whole thing. But it's pretty funny.
It's true that it isn't as good as Fargo or even the Big Lebowski, but it's still distinctly a Coen movie, and it's still got all the twisted, juicy elements that you would expect - probably isn't good enough for the Oscars like No Country For Old Men but definitely deserves some good recognition. Can more people go to see it before it tumbles into obscurity in the face of all the tween movies that are being paraded at the minute? Please?