New student Horse Racing Blog. All Aboard
New student Horse Racing Blog. All Aboard
Jealousy runs rife within football. Fans laughing at other clubs’ misfortunes as well as disparaging botched takeovers and transfers are actions rooted in envy - they all begin with a sense of hope and promise for a team that is not yours. Blackburn felt the full weight of these afflictions last season and continue to do so today. Others’ jealousy at the prospect of investment and big-name signings for the club then turned into pity for the plight of Steve Kean. Now today, like a contagious disease, Blackburn pose the threat of not only harming themselves but those around them too.
With a lavish carrot but over-used stick Blackburn’s Indian owners Venky’s have replaced two managers within three months. Kean and Henning Berg made ignominious exits while irresponsible and foolish have become epithets for the club’s executive decision-makers. Their unpredictable ways have become less and less interesting for the footballing public, rendering their actions into quite the opposite: expected. In football, a wager on ineptitude and folly is much more likely to pay out than one on brilliance.
An unenviable fate - one that is only pitied once there exists no threat to a fan’s own interests. Try telling that to Blackpool. “There is no animosity” Tangerines chairman, Karl Oyston, proclaimed as Ian Holloway left for Crystal Palace. Considering their thrilling Play-off victory and consequent Premier League adventure, Oyston’s words are understandable. Thesearch for a replacement took only four days as Michael Appleton signed.
Aboard the sinking ship that was Portsmouth, Appleton could not have been given a harder vessel to steer. Financial turmoil contrasted greatly with his humble and diligent attitude, overshadowing any tactical feebleness. Little expense and Manchester United pedigree were the stand out features on Appleton’s CV and clearly enough to persuade Blackpool.
But 66 days was all it took for Blackburn to begin inflicting their havoc on others. Appleton replaced Berg, Blackpool on the manager hunt again. Rejection at their first approach must only have been down to a lack in compensation - a matter quickly resolved with Venky’s financial clout. To throw their weight around a league in which most clubs endeavour to stay in the black is reprehensible. It is doubtful Blackpool will be the last club to suffer at the hands of such arrogance and boisterousness but nevertheless, a pattern that must be avoided. Blackburn’s implosion is in no way welcomed but when the debris starts to take others down with them such terrible ownership is at its worst.
Few will imagine a scenario in which Appleton lasts a significant time in charge. Perhaps it is the lack of criticism for owners he demonstrated at Portsmouth that Venky’s are after. They’ll need someone fighting their corner, or at least not condemning them, if this behaviour continues.
Why o why did the majority of my bodily hair have to accumulate around my arse. Take just a third of it, slap it on my face and hey presto I could pull off a whopping beard. In public I do not seem a hirsute man with little arm/facial/chest hair, even my armpits are sparse, a fact that has incited much ridicule from both intrigued friends and plain rude strangers. But drop below the waistline and you wouldn’t be surprised to see primitive spears fired from that rainforest.
The sight of any accomplished moustache or beard is a sure-fire way for my self-esteem to plummet, making me wish I could grow anything from a Clark Gable pencil (one at a time ladies) to a full Fleet Foxes bush (I only eat animals I kill myself). All attempts have been futile. Completely, entirely, bloody futile. To cite the latest example I thought I had shaped the ‘tache + goatee (a la recent David Beckham) nicely and trimmed the sideburns and cheeks in a complimentary manner. Alas a friend simply surmised: ‘Shave that shit off, it’s pathetic’. Don’t even mention ‘movember’.
I crave the feel of running fingers through my chin-muff, twiddling a luscious lip-tickler. Patience is supposed to be a virtue but every time I look in the mirror I reckon I’d look a lot more morally excellent sporting some Dumbledore length down.
A guilty pleasure can be defined as a song/artist/album that we shouldn’t want to enjoy but can’t help doing so.. Until now these songs could be happily heard and enjoyed behind the safety of a personal Ipod with the volume reduced just a tad. However, the privacy setting on my Spotify account has thrown up an unprecedented dilemma. Everyone can hear what I’m listening to. All songs I play are published for friends on Facebook (even those I don’t like) to see and judge as they wish. Now I agree with the premise of sharing such information, I’ve pilfered many a friend’s playlist and been aurally enlightened as a result, experiencing modern and old music that’s new to me by the invasion of their profile. In this way I leave my privacy settings open for the most part since I’ve profited from it, others should be able to too.
But the dilemma is this: songs have flickered onto the screen and I swish them away with a finger for one of two reasons: I don’t like them or I’m too embarrassed that I like them. The latter is an all too frequent occurrence, so if ‘Call Me Maybe’ comes on do I deny its existence? Do I go private and enjoy a guilt-free guilty pleasure? Or should I be brave and simply acknowledge to the world that my taste in music can often be simply too accommodating? Artistic taste is one of the most unappeasable and inexorable aspects of what makes us human. It can’t be faulted, it can’t be trifled with, however greatly another disagrees with it. It’s resolutely personal and the cause of why music is so expansive and experimental. I should be proud of my taste, stick up for it, provoke opinion and debate over it, why be embarrassed of it? Because Carly Rae Jepson is an incredibly fortunate, lyrically pre-pubescent girl who found herself on the end of a beat that unerringly compels me to flail my limbs and scream along. That’s why.
I remember surprisingly little in an ocular sense about my childhood; any feeling of nostalgia stems from strong emotions rather than vivid visuals. Among these sentimental memories I can recall the fear i experienced witnessing an episode of fraternal throttling, the inexplicable joy I recognised after my first encounter with a puppy but, perhaps most prevalently and hauntingly, it is the traumatising melancholy at the end of my 11th birthday when I finally understood why my letter from Hogwarts was not coming.
Ridicule has tended to accompany my declaration of love for all things Harry but on the seldom occasion I find a kindred spirit I am still unchallenged and unrewarded, as if matched up like Rafael Nadal with an infant who’s picked up a racket once and therefore claims to know all things tennis. The only encounters I have had that could be likened to a Grand Slam final were attained through my university’s newly founded Harry Potter Society, ‘Wingardium Leviosoc’. I feel a little bit ashamed in belittling my own people here but they were just a bit too weird.
Harry as a passion does not stem from fancying film actors or genuinely believing that I can be a wizard (anymore), it’s an appreciation of masterful plot-writing and Rowling’s brilliance in creating a world that is simultaneously realistic and fantastical. I feel like the unmentioned but crucial piece in the Harry, Ron and Hermione quartet, having lived through their experiences and often foreseen the consequences of their actions. And so I strive to know and learn all I can about the world of Mr Potter so as to feel part of it in any way possible, while still obviously acknowledging its impossibility. After the filmic finale I thought that pursuit was purely up to my imagination again. Alas, enter Pottermore.
“Pottermore is an online experience built around the Harry Potter books, created for a new digital generation of readers who can explore, share and participate in the stories” is how its maker Sony describes it. The website itself is much more enticing: “Prepare to begin a journey that will take you deeper than ever before into the magical world of Harry Potter.” Such temptation and seduction in such few words… my fingers slip from the mouse as my palms begin to perspire in anticipation.
Quickly and expectedly I am thoroughly enjoying myself. The artwork is terrific and feels almost more realistic than the film thanks to its intimate relationship with the actual text. The interaction tends to be limited beyond picking up certain items and stuffing them in your trunk (including some currency which surely can’t be encouraged.. especially the giant gold coin I decided to pocket from the Christmas dinner table just because it was lying there, perhaps a temporarily forgotten, generous yuletide gift. ‘That could have been Ron’s!’ I think, ‘he can’t have many…’).
Aside from petty theft from both my friends and the Library’s centuries-old collection, (Yes apparently stealing books is cricket too, god knows where Madam Pince was at the time) there are two stand out moments for me. Firstly, attaining my wand. The closest I’ve previously been to this feat is receiving a piece of kindling upon entry into the Bristol student union but this feels quite superior. The process is reasonably simple, every player must answer a series of questions regarding their physical appearance (height, eye colour and dexterity obviously affect wand length) and then some rather more subjective ones (I won’t go into detail about what I was asked so I can reveal my results without any threat of people using this as a template). The wand chooses the wizard they say and “Hawthorn and Unicorn Hair, Ten and Three Quarter inches, Unyielding” has chosen me. All of a sudden it’s clear that no other wand could be more perfect, especially upon discovery that HAWTHORN wands are “complex and intriguing in their natures, just like the owners who best suit them”, and Unicorn Hair is a very “faithful” substance. Good to know. Despite being aware that every wand wood and core’s blurb serve to flatter the player who has just received it I feel like this is a match made in heaven. There is a vast assortment of wand combinations and their descriptions are all exclusive to the site, a bonus that, like most of the exclusive content, feels like a personal gift from JK to me. Thank you JK.
The next highlight follows soon after and it is what I have been looking forward to yet dreading most since starting on this adventure: the sorting. This is a question whose answer I have interrogated myself for many times, always fruitlessly. The questions (as to be expected from JK) are difficult and very personal with a myriad of answers; she’s clearly thought about this a lot. I read later that every player receives a random 6 of many different questions in an attempt to prevent copying certain routes from friends or the internet. It seems to be as true a sorting as there can be with the hat’s answer being unequivocal and undisputable.
Specific and brutal questions run through my head: am I brave enough to be in Gryffindor? Cunning enough to be in Slytherin? Intelligent enough to be in Ravenclaw? Or none of the above and therefore useless enough to be in Hufflepuff? The hat’s answer is predictable but no less disheartening: Hufflepuff.
I have defended Hufflepuff house in the face those less enlightened for its’ students’ noble spirit, selflessness and conscientious intelligence, yet there’s no denying I would rather be anywhere else. JK patronisingly congratulates me and, as im sure you can tell, a surge of resentment makes itself evident, the first since Hedwig’s oh so tragic demise. I am whisked off to the common room where I read a small essay from a fictional house prefect telling me why Hufflepuff is so great and why my disappointment should be substituted for pride. Slowly my anger abates as I learn that Hufflepuffs are not just the leftovers, they are often just as great as other houses, with the simple difference that they don’t laud it over others. Hang on.. This does sound a bit like me: “Hufflepuffs are trustworthy and loyal. We don’t shoot our mouths off, but cross us at your peril; like our emblem, the badger, we will protect ourselves, our friends and our families against all-comers. Nobody intimidates us”. Quickly Hufflepuff feels appropriate and I’ve always enjoyed a bit of adversity, although there is a significant mountain to climb. The colours of yellow and black are languishing on the bottom rung of the House Cup ladder with no semblance of upheaval evident. It seems many players are sorted into Hufflepuff and thenceforth either give up or create a new account in an attempt to change house. Shame on them, I’m Hufflepuff and proud (any previous bitterness forgotten) but still very aware that JK felt compelled to write many lines on the virtues of Hufflepuff to keep us interested and loyal.
The story continues from here with consistently attractive artwork, while I unlock various features to be used once the narrative has been covered. Potions can be brewed and duels can be fought, all with the intention of earning House points in order to win the House Cup. This is the social aspect that brings fans together, chatting online in the common rooms, donating Potions ingredients and congratulating victorious duellers.
But above all it is the exclusive content that is the true reward of participation for me. JK offers interesting insight into certain choices she made or information she never shared, such as the naming of Number 4 Privet Drive, Minerva McGonagall’s personal biography and why magical folk don’t use the metric system. It is satisfying and enticing to note that Rowling has all this information stored up, suggesting just how much deeper her imagination has delved into the world of Harry Potter and how much there is left to tell. This is why I will keep coming back for every book and eagerly await the arrival of the 2nd… Although recently I have been known to pop in and duel the stuffing out of some self-righteous Gryffindors. The complete Harry Potter experience became a bit more complete with Pottermore, an idea that hopefully makes the non-participatory understand why over 3 million have joined and more do so every day.
Aside from my personal experience, what are the greater effects upon the business of literature? The irrepressible and unfathomable beast that is the internet has pounced upon our most noble art forms, moulding them from tangible forms into simple bytes. The music industry has already witnessed decline of physical sales and the Amazon Kindle poses a similar threat for literature. However is Pottermore becoming a precedent to deprive children from genuinely wanting to hold a book in their hands, rather than being forced to by schools and parents? I have already praised the interactive experience of Pottermore but as a person who has read the novels an irresponsibly large number of times. If the site starts to function as the method in which children first experience Rowling’s words then it would become a double-edged sword, which provides us with enjoyment but first-timers with a distorted perception of what literature has to offer us. The most successful series ever published shall be turned into a simple Internet game, designed to titillate the eyes and not the imagination.
Yet Rowling’s series is not exactly the mean by which to judge other works. Its figures are staggering and the experience unique, even just the font itself is nostalgia inducing. I can’t imagine another text creating such an experience and attracting so many users, perhaps rendering this sort of entertainment reserved for titles with already long-standing and intense followings. This is what encourages me to keep believing in the appeal of reading the printed word not computer screens. It would be unrealistic to refute the Kindle’s claims of ease, comfort and size when compared to giant hardbacks or even smaller paperbacks, but the faith maintained in page-turning and imagination I can only hope remains entirely realistic.
In the second part of Epigram’s Foreign Affairs serial, we take a look at Roberto Benigni’s life-affirming classic, Life is Beautiful
“This is a simple story, but not an easy one to tell. like a fable there is sorrow, and like a fable there is wonder and happiness.”
Against a backdrop of foreboding mist, these are the first words of Benigni’s La Vita è Bella. They hint at the intricacies inherent in within a film of such ambition. The plot centres around one man’s comic attempts to seduce the woman he loves and his attempts to protect their consequent family. It is a simple plot, but one which takes on a wider and more universally affecting significance when contextualised amidst the devastating impact of Nazism in Italy. The balance of any tragicomedy is always complex, none more so than when one of the most horrifying events in modern history is involved.
The protagonist, Guido Orefice, (played by Benigni himself) is as charming and endearing a character as has ever been brought to the screen. Indeed, the wit and humanity of Benigni’s performance earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1999. The film’s first half sees Benigni display his immense comic prowess: his physicality and naturalism are Chaplin-esque. However, as with the best of Chaplin’s work, there is an ever-present sense of sadness and of anger.
This manifests itself in the encroaching influence of fascist Italy. From Guido’s Uncle Eliseo’s horse being shockingly vandalised by anti-semitic sympathisers, to the overheard dinner conversations of the city’s elite, the glimpses of human cruelty are all the more affecting when seen directed at a character of such warmth. After Guido finally sweeps Dora off her feet, the story skips forward to witness the birth of their son, Joshua. Any latent trepidation is fully realised as father, mother, son and uncle are then thrust into a Nazi concentration camp.
Upon entering the camp, Guido persuades his son that their presence in the concentration camp is all part of a game. However, this apparent levity in the face of horror never strays into irreverence. It is this tension between comedy and tragedy which makes this masterful film so utterly compelling, and ultimately, so telling of what human nature is capable of.
For, within this film exists evidence of all that is utterly despicable, cruel and hopeless in human nature. The almost inconceivable evil that the Nazis aim to exact on their fellow human beings is heartrendingly realised and personalised by our attachment to Guido.
And yet, the beauty of this film, and the reason why it remains so close to the heart of all those that have seen and cherish it, lies in the fact that, out of this hopeless depiction of the depths human nature can descend to, rises a shining ray of hope. Guido’s love for his son, the sacrifices he makes for him, and the courage with which he holds himself, all act to exemplify that despite the awfulness of how human beings can treat each other, there are also endless and enduring examples of kindness which are born out of the very depths of despair.
What we are told at the start of the film only rings truer at the end, and with this resounding message in our ears, we go on with our lives not with the air of despondency and gloom, but with impenetrable hope: “Like a fable there is sorrow, and like a fable there is wonder and happiness.”
Edited and published by University of Bristol Epigram Film, 24th October 2011.
The Vaccines have rather a lot to do. They have been asked to bear the weight of a BBC Sound of 2011 award, assume the responsibility of reintroducing original guitar-based music to the charts and quash the trend of poor endurance when it comes to debuting indie bands. Whilst their peers, Brother, try to explode their own skulls with arrogance, The Vaccines seem to be shrewdly keeping their feet on the ground with a title in the same vein as one of the band’s largest influences, The Strokes’ Is This It. They know of the dangers that media hype can bring, and they have been daubed in it. But judging by their music they have not been smothered.
First, ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ grans your attention with its no-nonsense Ramones gumption in a brief 84 seconds. The band rattle through the first half of the album throwing in crowd-pleasing singles and demonstrating scampering drums and indefatigable bass. ‘Blow it up’ and ‘Wetsuit’ will inevitably become gig singalongs and ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ are very likely to be heard blaring out of a car window near you this summer. A cheeky reference to Amanda Nørgaard after a one-time encounter demonstrates both a level of wit that Brother would probably struggle to summon, and also their ability to make authentic music that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
Amidst media speculation of chart upheaval, the band seem to be happy writing enjoyable music rather than revolutionising popular taste. The album is sometimes let down lyrically: the relentless repetition of “Eleanor” as a chorus on ‘Under Your Thumb’ is lacklustre and the refrain of ‘Wetsuit’ is uninspiring. It is towards the end if the record that the band come into their own; ‘All in White’s tenacious bass will bother many a neighbour, ‘Wolf Pack’ is catchy and well-assembled, while ‘Family Friend’ sees the band pull together to create something more than the sum of its parts in a wild climax. The album closes with ‘Somebody Else’s Child’ , a piano ballad ticking the versatility box.
An indie rebirth of Arctic Monkeys proportions is unlikely but this whirlwind 35-minute album warrants praise and hopefully there’s more where this debut came from.
Edited and Published by University of Bristol’s Epigram Music, March 21st 2011.
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