Friday, July 18, 2008

It's been a while...

Wow, I can't believe it's been a year since I last blogged on here!

A lot has happened since then! I graduated from my post-graduate diploma in print and online journalism with a Merit. Since then I've worked as an editorial assistant for a sports magazine, a sub-editor for a car magazine, and I'm currently sub-editing two spiritual titles!

I'm still loving the weird and wonderful world of journalism and am hoping to get some freelance writing projects on the side to build up my written portfolio – so if anyone out there knows of anything like that, please let me know!!


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Paris: not so hot after all

So Paris Hilton has been jailed for 45 days after driving when her licence was suspended. Too bloody right.

And the best bit of all? She won't be allowed any special treatment. No access to her Blackberry, chihuahua or nail technicians. No gourmet meals and no designer togs. Paris will be a regular inmate just like every other offender in her jail.

But will this finally teach her a lesson? Probably not. And the reason for this? Her mother.

When Paris was sentenced to the wake-up call the rest of the world has been wanting to deliver since she copyrighted the vacant phrase "that's hot", Kathy Hilton laughed and snapped at the judge, "May I have your autograph?"

Oh, how witty you are, Kathy. That remarkably laughable (even for you) comment only exposed to greater effect how far your wilfully childish and spoilt daughter has been influenced by her parents.

Kathy went on to yell "You're pathetic!" at the judge who decided to - shock horror - make her daughter accountable for her actions.

Well, no wonder your daughter's behaving with such flagrant disregard for the law if that's the example you set her.

I've heard of parents who drag their deviant offspring to the police station in the desperate hope that a spell behind bars will scare them into improving their rebellious teenage behaviour.

Paris, on the other hand, has been encouraged to believe that she may do as she chooses and use her privileged background and bulging bank account to buy her way out of the consequences.

"I'm very sorry, and from now on I'm going to pay complete attention to everything. I'm sorry, and I did not do it on purpose at all," said Paris before her sentence was delivered.

Well, newsflash, Paris: You are an adult, not an underage teenager. It's your responsibility to make sure you pay complete attention to everything before you're pulled up in court for not doing so.

No one else gets a second or third chance. If I did what you did and said to the judge, "Oh, sorry, I wasn't listening that first time, give us another chance, eh?", I'd be quite rightly laughed out of the courtroom and into the nearest cell.

"To sentence Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail was to me uncalled for, inappropriate, and bordered on the ludicrous. I think she was singled out because she's who she is," said Hilton's attorney.

Indeed! How ludicrous it is to hold an adult accountable for their illegal actions! To make her live like a mere mortal for 45 days! Doesn't the judge know who she is? She's PARIS HILTON, for goodness' sake! She was born, by sheer fluke of the genetic lottery, into a family worth millions! Surely that entitles her to behave as she pleases without the threat of punishment?

Afraid not, guys. Maybe this will finally send a message to the souped up brats of Hollywood that just because you happen to be good at crying on camera for a profession that happens to make more money than others, you aren't a superior being and neither should you act like one. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Perfect Parkas
(The Smoke issue 7)

This season the parka is the only worthy winter warmer. The androgynous outerwear looks striking paired with jeans or leggings. Team with heeled boots for a streamlined silhouette and a look favoured by fashion heavyweights the world over.

Burberry, Luella Bartley and Bottega Veneta all showcased the trend in their utumn/Winter collections. And the parka's popularity looks unlikely to subside in the Ne Year as high street brands capitalise on the look.

Topshop, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have all produced stylish but affordable parkas guaranteed to see you warm and well-dressed for the remainder of the winter months.

Pass Us A Ciggie
A feature in the style of Jonathan Swift

(Please note that nothing contained in this article represents my personal opinion on the subject discussed.)

Smoking is soon to be banned in public places across the UK. Such a bizarre move is clearly another example of the government succumbing to the pressure of a few eccentric activists in the name of political correctness.

We are to be stripped of one of our only solaces in a world with more daily stressors than ever before. Shopping in an over-crowded supermarket of blithering fools blocking aisles with their trolleys; festering in a traffic jam at five p.m. on a Monday night; attempting to put the kids to bed just as they develop a sudden case of acute hyperactivity; these are the times when the cigarette is our saviour.

Many a public brawl in the cornflake aisle has undoubtedly been prevented by the prospective perpetrators popping outside before throwing a punch to smoke away their stress.

Without these merciful sticks of sanity, we will be reduced to a mob of edgy lunatics in desperate need of some anger management therapy (much pricier than a couple of packets of Marlboro Lights a week). The number of car accidents would also be bound to increase due to irate motorists taking to ramming cars off the road like dodgems.

Indeed, some scientists have even gone so far as to suggest that smoking may prevent the onset of dementia. But smoking is not just beneficial to national Mental Health statistics. An obesity epidemic is sweeping the Western world. The UK is one of the biggest culprits, with 46% of men and 32% of women overweight and 17% of men and 21% of women obese. The solution to the problem is blindingly obvious, yet widely ignored: smoking.

Yes, there are a few negative implications associated with the habit. Similarly harmful associations also apply to driving cars, but we have yet to see the mass pedestrianisation of the UK in a bid to minimise crashes - which will be necessary if the ban goes ahead (and this will pose problems in itself, as many smokers suffer from asthma already. Surely it is an abuse of human rights to force people with delicate chests to hike everywhere on foot?)

Obesity causes all kinds of health worries in itself, such as heart disease or even heart attack. Surely the discerning British public would prefer to look trim and have lower stress levels than to be fat, angry and prone to heart attack at any minute?

The Fast Train to Uxbridge
An observational feature

Raindrops mar the view from the train window, the blurry outlines of molting trees barely visible under a heavy grey sky. The trees rush together as the train gathers speed, rocking its passengers up and down, up and down.

The man in the brown and white checked plimsols picks up his coffee from the red and navy flecked floor of the train. Sporadically stuffing muffin into his mouth from a crumpled paper bag, he loudly sucks the moist crumbs from his podgy white fingers before raking them through his clipped brown hair.

A giggle pierces the controlled rhythm of the train. Two young women sporting an array of colourful woolly garments are gossipping in thick Mancunian accents, their heads close together. Their voices become animated and snatches of their conversation float down the carriage.

'Ooooh, d'yeh remember when...'


'...she took it out o't freezer and it were defrostin and the cat took it -'

'- Yeh joh-kin'!'

'Honest teh God, it took the whole tur-keh to't top o't stairs an' sat there chewin on one end o'it!'

The doors of the train whoosh open like a conveyer belt at high speed. An impenetrable gust of wind rushes into the carriage. The train is suddenly silent, its engine still. Only the muffled raggae of a nearby ipod disrupts the quiet. Then the doors quickly groan shut and the engine groans back to life, resuming its monotonous drum beat of motion.

Plimsol Man takes a navy and white handkerchief from his green duffel pocket and vigorously blows his nose. Replacing the now-soiled hanky, he sniffs, his nostrils red and slightly flared.

A lady in a tight beige mac coughs hoarsely from her seat across the aisle. She fiddles with a strand of unruly ginger hair resting just above her barely-there eyebrow as she scans a copy of Bella through small black-rimmed spectacles.

A shrivelled elderly man taps on his coffee cup, in synchrony with the motion of the train. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

The train doors whoosh to a close once again and it departs from the windy platform, shrouded in a sheet of rain.

Christmas Is Coming
(The Smoke issue 6)

Christmas is coming, so step out in sparkly style this December in some of the season’s flashiest footwear.

High street brands from Primark to Office have gone all glittery, producing a plethora of gloriously gaudy pumps, strappies, platforms, and courts in a range of high-impact colours guaranteed to make heads turn.

From festive gold, silver, and red, to candy pink and royal blue, there is a take on this trend for every taste.

So sample the spangle for your very own set of twinkle-toes this Christmas! Team them with a matching glittery belt or bag for a head-to-toe shimmer, or dress them down with an all-black outfit for a sophisticated look with added sparkle.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What's Wrong with a Hand-out?

Oops! Sorry, that just burst out of me uncontrollably after months of frantically suppressing it for fear of being seen as ignorant, disrespectful to my contemporaries, or vastly technologically inept.

But I am none of these things.

(Can I say before I begin that I am really grateful for the lecturers' teaching and I have a lot of respect for them all. I don't want this blog to be misconstrued as an attack.)

I have been feeling increasingly disorientated on the course as the year has progressed. Mainly because my life has been completely revolutionised by journalism (which is a good thing).

It has literally taken over my thoughts, it is the motivation behind many of my actions, and it underlies my interpretation of everything I read, watch, or listen to.

Lurking beneath this new pro-active, excited, career-driven buzz, though, is an undercurrent of panic.

I am finding the ferocious onslaught of journalism on my life in some ways extremely difficult to adapt to, which I suppose is expected. But do I really need to grapple with certain technological advances to add to the mix?

What IS wrong with a handout? If I am having trouble fathoming what on earth the law textbook is trying to tell me (my faith in it as a journalistic tool is somewhat impaired by its ironic persistence in using 100 words where three will do)the last thing I want to do is wait for the lecture to be blogged a week later.

And to be honest - please no one take offence at this - I find many of the blogged lectures very muddled and super-basic and overall difficult to understand. We were told not to worry about trying to write down everything said in lectures because they would be blogged. But I need more detail!

A piece of paper. Bullet points stating the main points of the lecture with brief notes following each point outlining what was elaborated on. That's all I'm asking for. I can put it in my folder next to my scribbled lecture notes. I can refer back to it when I'm studying without having to log onto the computer. I can make notes down the side. I can tick off the sections I have understood or revised. It is a physical entity that can be filed in organised order with my notes, and THAT is what complements the lecture for me. The online lectures complement the handouts.

To revise for law and public affairs (as well as having read McNae's obviously) I trawled through the course message board trying to find the posted lecture notes, and then trawled through the law site trying to make notes from that. A simple hand-out every week to put it all into order in my head would have made this task so much easier when it came to revising.

It helps compartmentalise the (excellent) lectures in my head before I start taking notes once the lesson has begun. I know then, if the class digresses or the we go a bit off course, what bits I need to be listening out for and making notes on.

So please, before making us run, let us walk. We have already crawled by managing not to have nervous breakdowns at the huge impact this whole new lifestyle has had on our lives, which I don't think anyone anticipated. I would love to run, but I need a bit of extra help first.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ten Puzzling Questions

Why do people wander aimlessly across my path in the tube station when I am in a particular rush to be somewhere, but rush to move out of my way when I have time to spare?

Why do customers insist on being ignorant and pig-headed when I have been forced to go into work on a busy day with a ferocious hangover, but engage in polite chit-chat when the shop is quiet and I am well-slept?

Why does my hair invariably decide to curl into a corkscrewed mess on a potentially hot first date, but remain sleek and straight on a study day at the library?

Why does my computer crash on the rare occasion that I am engaging in some academically relevant activity, but work like a dream when I am wasting time on myspace?

Why do my tights ladder before an important interview, but stay in perfect condition when I wear them under jeans to keep warm when no one can see them?

Why do clothes shops supply an abundance of beautiful but expensive garments when I am about to declare myself bankrupt, but contain nothing but plus-sizes and grey jumpers when I have just been paid and am braced to embark upon a mammoth shopping spree?

Why do I fall ill before an important exam, but remain in perfect health when I have nothing better to do than surf the net for amusing stories concerning David Gest?

Why do online book stores charge extortionate prices for my course books, but sell every other book in stock for excellent value?

Why do I look like a scruffy old hag in the graduation photos members of my family have placed on their mantle-pieces, but manage to look half decent in drunken photos of me clubbing?

And finally, why do I never see anyone remotely nice-looking at my campus when I am dressed respectably, but stumble into the path of a virtual adonis on the one day I have come into university in a tracksuit resembling a pair of glorifed pyjamas?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Courting Disaster

Today I have been assigned the task of visiting my local magistrates court to find a story.

This may seem like a simple enough task, but in my world nothing is ever simple. Let me explain...

After several minutes attempting to persuade my father's resolutely sluggish and disobedient laptop to connect to the internet, I managed to establish that my local magistrates court is, in fact, in an adjacent town. Silly me! Who would be so stupid as to expect a court for one area to actually be in that area?

After further research I had also managed to ascertain that my destination weas reachable by bus, and duly set off.

This was when the trouble began.

I boarded the bus and made my way to the nearest available seat, slumping into it gladly. Unfortunatly for me, the seat had somehow and inexplicably detached itself from the vehicle. As a result, I catapulted rather ungracefully into the aisle.

As if this wasn't embarrassing enough, an elderly lady, sporting a blue-rinse perm and an array of frankly hideous clothing, had the audacity to laugh at me!

Fuming, I regained my composure and moved to the seat next to me while shooting menacing looks at the cackling witch.

When the bus at last pulled up at my stop, I deboarded gratefully and entered the magistrates court, whereupon I was informed by a slightly scruffy attendent that there was no public gallery.

'Ummm, I think you'll find there is,' I said witheringly (I get irritable when my elders belittle me in public).

Finally, a woman with half an ounce of sense and professional training approached and confirmed that, yes, there was a public gallery, but that the trials did not begin until 2p.m.

This left me with almost three hours to spare! So I made my way to the nearby library, resolving to adopt an uncharacteristically studious persona for the remainder of the morning and get some other work done.

This studious persona lasted approximately half an hour, following which I cooed at an alarmed mother's baby, updated my MySpace account and consumed enough food in the library cafe to feed someone of at least four times my body weight.

I am now uncomfortably full, freezing cold (as usual) and becoming extremely drowsy. Only an hour to go until the trials begin - I'm off to the celebrity autobiography department...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Laying Down the Law

As part of my course I am having to learn about the law in the context of what journalists can and cannot legally report.

This is proving significantly more complex than I had anticipated.

Firstly, I seem to have inherited selective narcolepsy. Unfortunately, the main trigger for a spontaneous and uncontrollable nap appears to be reading about journalism law.

This is becoming a considerable hindrance to my progress in understanding what on earth it all means. As soon as I am half way through a chapter of my book, I drop off, waking up a few hours later having had a terrifying nightmare about the impending law exam.

Secondly, what I have managed to successfully read and understand of the law with regards to journalism has scared me half to death.

If my understanding thus far is correct, then I find it very hard not to believe that prisons up and down the country are severely over-crowded with bewildered young hacks who have unwittingly commited contempt of court and still can't figure out how.

However, I am determined to master this law lark. It is clearly very important for young journalists to be acutely aware of our legal limits when venturing into the profession, where several tabloids will undoubtedly attempt to mislead us into reporting less than legal material for their own sensationalist gain, and then leave us to face the music of the courts.

I'm off now for a double espresso and a read!