My Bike Story – ‘Blood Dragon’

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We all have our bike stories to tell. Whether it’s that trip to Centre Parks with the family, or just that you can sing Queen’s ‘Bicycle Race’ without a lyrics sheet. Well, folks, here’s my bike story – I call it ‘Blood Dragon’.

There’s been nothing tougher than spending my first year at University as an off-campus student. Living in the not-so-fancy Tang Hall area, I had to walk for half an hour to get to uni, there and back, every single day. Some days, I’d stay at my girlfriend’s place just to avoid leaving campus (and, because I wanted to, of course).

Then, one day, I heard there was a bike sale of re-cycled bikes on-campus. Initially, I had my fears, but there was no harm in at least popping along. When I arrived, there was a range of slightly-rusted bikes, ranging both in colour and price. After much scanning, I found my needle in the haystack – a steed for £50, with all kit included. Bingo. My luck hadn’t run out after all! However, there was one small catch:

The bike was bright pink with neon green handlebars.

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Sadly, it doesn’t come with the drain pipe!

Yikes. I stood there assuring myself, with sentences such as “Ady, it’s fine, it has that vintage, California beach look about it!” and “It’s salmon, dammit, salmon!”. I knew that I’d live to regret this, forever mocked by my immediate family and passer-by chavs. But, being the cheapskate that I am, I couldn’t ignore how cheap it was, how proud my Mum would be for buying a bike £30 cheaper than my brother.

And so, after handing over my money and receiving a ‘That’s a unique choice, mate!’ from the seller, I have something that can get me to and fro rather quickly, is the brightest bike on campus and beyond and gives me an excuse to sing ‘Bicycle Race’.

So why call this story Blood Dragon? Well, for any gamers and popular-culture-enthusiasts out there, it relates to Far Cry 3’s standalone adventure, ‘Blood Dragon’. For those who aren’t either of the above, the game showcases killer cyborgs, laser dinosaurs and more bright pinks and neon greens than an exercise video from the 80s!

Sgt. Rex Power Colt - my bike's inspiration

Sgt. Rex Power Colt – my bike’s inspiration

Sadly, I am sad enough to name my bike ‘Blood Dragon’… all judgmental comments are welcome.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Film Review

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When I first saw The Amazing Spider-Man, as both a cinemagoer and an avid Marvel fanboy, I had but one question on my mind: ‘Didn’t I see this movie ten years ago?’. Poor Webb. When Sony approaches you to reboot Marvel’s greatest superhero that already had a perfectly suitable origin story, a memorable cast and a charismatic Asian lady playing his theme tune, it was inevitable that some toes were going to be trodden on.

Now, two years later, our toes are somewhat healed and ready for Andrew Garfield’s second entry as our friendly neighbourhood hero. Does his charisma hold together this web of ideas? Or does director Mark Webb swing in too many directions? Can I possibly make any more spider puns?

The sequel opens up in a rather dramatic fashion. A continuation of the flashbacks in the first film sees Peter Parker’s parents, Richard (Campbell Scot) and Mary (Embeth Davidtz), leaving the child with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). The nature of Richard’s work with Oscorp puts him in danger, leading to the couple’s inevitable death and the laying of the shady corporation’s foundations into place.

Years on, the incident, the death of Gwen’s father and the continuing responsibilities of Spider-Man put Peter, and those he loves, at risk. Can the superstar of New York possibly keep up the pace with love interest Gwen (Emma Stone), the return of old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan) and the rise of misunderstood villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx)?

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Old Friends, New Challenges

As you can see from my somewhat long-winded description, there is a lot going on here. Mark Webb, this time around, is a bit of a visionary. With plans to extend Spidey’s universe into two more films, as well as two spinoff films, The Amazing Spider Man 2 oozes continuity rumours, sub plots and the ticking of the right Spider-Man boxes.

Whilst it may feel over-stuffed with ideas, the film does right to relate it all (albeit, with some tedious links) to the film’s plot. It’s admirable, considering the franchise doesn’t have any other Marvel films to bounce off of like the rest of its cinematic universe. Taking the film in its own right, as a sequel to the first film and a middle-finger to the Sam Raimi films of old, it’s a successor in almost every single way.

Garfield is swarve, cocky and adorably awkward as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Whether it’s the choreographed web-swings, the humiliation of Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) or his head-over-heels moments with Gwen, the man helms this entire universe, bringing a spark of life out of its characters. As great as Tobey Maguire was, Garfield (again) just leaves him out to dry as the Spider-Man of old. And yes, for those concerned, he is just as ripped.

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Hero

In terms of the action, comedy and romance, Webb has turned the dial up to 11 on every aspect, making them complement one another perfectly. At times, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, with CGI boss-fights and wise-cracks galore to please the simpleton in all of us. Then, it wants to wrench your heart out in Garfield’s scenes with co-star Stone, as you remember that this superhero is just a teenager like many of us, with promises to keep and a life to lead. Particularly with Gwen’s valedictorian speech, there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

Of course, a round of applause must go to Foxx and DeHaan for their strong depictions of some of the web-head’s greatest villains and the universe’s most intriguing characters. One can hope that they return in The Sinister Six movie, but they will not be missed as much as a character who meets their end in the film. Nudge nudge!

Overall, The Amazing Spider Man 2 acts as a successor movie to its prequel, as well as a building foundation to its further movies, which creates some building tensions within the movie. Still, you can’t ignore the film’s evident charm and mass-appeal to the cinemagoer and Marvel fanboy in all of us. You may leave slightly disappointed, but you’ll be guaranteed to be quoting it and practising your wise-cracks on the way home – or is that just me?

That’s No Moon, That’s a Book Review!

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Not too long ago, in this very galaxy, Verily, A New Hope brought two pieces of treasured history, Shakespeare and Star Wars, together. That literary geek’s dream now has a sequel: The Empire Striketh Back. If you need an excuse to brush up on your love for Shakespeare, your Star Wars fanatics or that ghastly impression of Yoda, Ian Doescher may have just found it.

From the moment you grasp the book, it hits you that you’re holding something brilliant. A centralised Yoda coated in Shakespearean quilt dominates the cover, surrounded by an exquisite scenery and classic Star Wars characters and vehicles. Together, they mock and complement one another in perfect harmony, with these illustrations continuing throughout the book.

As for the inside, a traditional Shakespeare story awaits you, only this time set in space. Once you begin to read the prologue, you see what Doescher is trying to do – translate The Empire Strikes Back’s dialogue into Shakespearean. Take Han Solo’s “Punch it!” line and you get “Anon, Chewbacca, lead us to our fate!”. The effect is simultaneously humorous and impressive in that it feels authentic for Star Wars and Shakespeare fans alike.

Like So!

Like so!

This isn’t just in Doescher’s dialogue, but in his presentation of each and every page. The book is divided into five Acts, each divided into Scenes, each Scene presented in the form of a traditional Shakespeare play. You have your characters and stage directions, the use of iambic pentameter and prose, and just about every Shakespearean device you could name. From reading the Afterword, you can tell that the man knows his stuff.

Don’t assume that he is simply a scribe – he has his own, literary imagination to toy with. Through his use of monologues, you gain an extended insight into the characters and themes of The Empire Strikes Back. Some of them are suitably hilarious (every now and again, Chewbacca and R2-D2 get their own, dramatic speeches), but the majority heighten the film to another level of ass-kicking sophistication.

A minor criticism is that, just like with the first two Harry Potter films, if you’ve experienced it before, you’ll get a strange sense of déjà vu. The plot almost entirely follows that of the film (save swapping a few scenes around), which becomes more obvious when you follow the book alongside the film like a script. That’s to be expected, as the surprises and changes are intended for the dialogue.

And so, once I finished this heroic tale and chuckled at its closing sonnet, all I could do was await The Jedi Doth Return. Shakespeare and Star Wars fans, with criticisms considered: this is the spoof you were looking for.

 

Making a Job of It – Guidelines When Applying

Original article on Humpington Post

Turning 16 can mean two things to two different types of people.

For the thrill seeker, you can now legally do some of those things that are considered moderately dangerous. For the modern realist, it’s the time that every influential figure in your life nags you to grow up, turn off ‘Spongebob Squarepants’, and enter the world of work.

Get used to the words ‘curriculum vitae’, kids: you’re applying for a job.

The job

The immediate temptation is to flood back to your childhood and pick that insane career which appeared plausible at the time, whether that be lion tamer, Jurassic Park founder or space cowboy!

Sadly, they don’t exist in this metaphorical ‘world of work’; you’ve got to lower your standards a little bit. Try finding a job which tailors to your interests, but is suitably realistic: instead of ‘lion tamer’, why not work as a part-time assistant at the RSPCA? Good, eh?

The CV

Hold your horses, space cowboy! Before you start running those brain juices dry thinking about the new job you don’t have yet, you have to make your CV first.

Forget your birth certificate or those precious GCSE results; this will be the most important document of your life now. This is essentially you written down, which can be a good and a bad thing. Ask older siblings, friends, parents, or just search online for tips on how to make the perfect CV. You’ll be very thankful that you did.

Distribution

Handing your CV out sounds perfectly simple, but this is essentially the very first impression that employers get of you.

It can be tempting to just travel to town, with your bundle of CVs and bed hair, and distribute them like our friend Postman Pat. Instead, pick the places best suited towards both your interests and CV, present yourself well, and hand in your applications one at a time. Make sure you have one in your hand and the rest in your bag; it makes it look as if that company is your main (if only) choice, which can only make a good impression for yourself.

Violà, your three-step guide to applying for a job! Good luck and I leave you one piece of advice – if you do get an interview offer, please do not turn up in a tuxedo. Watch the film ‘Step Brothers’ and you may just discover why that can’t be a good idea.

This Photo Fought Off Cancer

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Adrianna – Donator to Cancer Research

Sometimes in life, we do some pretty crazy stuff in the name of charity. Whether that be throwing yourself out of an aeroplane to almost-certain death, or mixing Frosty Jacks with bleach and half a packet of gravy granules for a Necknomination. For supposedly being the most intellectual species on the planet, we can be pretty damn stupid at times – I recently discovered that I am no exception!

Gents, do you and your girlfriend have a list of things that you want to do to each other (steady on, not that list)? For me, I’ve always wanted to make Lydia watch Star Wars, play video games with me and learn to at least tolerate Coldplay. That she has. For Lydia, she wanted me to Holy Music B@tman!, perfect an Irish accent and allow her to ‘doll me up’. To my demise, that list was only two thirds complete – charity was going to change that.

Unless you’ve been living under a social media rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of the latest charity craze, the #nomakeupselfie. Women everywhere have been ‘taking off their masks’ and exposing their natural self to the world. I’ve seen a range of comments, from “Y u so beautiful?! xxxxxxx” to “Some birds are getting deleted after this no make up thing”. Genuine. It’s racked in an astonishing £8m for Cancer Research, changed the way women perceive themselves and created a multitude of grumpy people who shout “DOWN WITH SELFIES” instead of donating for a good cause.

James

Jamesita – Best Friend and Nominator!

Whilst it may be only a small proportion of people, cancer does affect men too. And thanks to one of my best friends who wished to express his inner-diva, I found out that the #makeupselfie was coming to get us. Once I saw my nomination, and the look on Lydia’s face, I knew what I was in for.

An hour and several varieties of makeup later, Lydia’s list was complete and my pride was both degraded and restored simultaenously! Look in the mirror. You see that bearded teenager with lengthy eyelashes and a powdered face? That’s Adriana. She just raised £3 for Cancer Research.

Forget ‘That picture just gave me cancer’, I can hope that some day, this picture fought off cancer. On a serious note, trends like this give everyone that extra reason to help combat any life threatening diseases, not just cancer, so let’s keep them up!

Band of Skulls – ‘Himalayan’ Review

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Original article on York Vision

With Leeds and Reading, two studio albums and more commercial appearances than Kevin Bacon (‘Need for Speed’, ‘Twilight’ and ‘Guitar Hero’, to name a few), the three-piece alternative rock band are starting to extend their reach that bit further than Southampton. Now, having teased via Facebook and streamed through NME, Band of Skulls’ third studio album, ‘Himalayan’, has finally arrived – does it bode well for their rock ‘n’ roll image?

The album doesn’t ease you in – the immediately aggressive guitar and drum beat of “Asleep at the Wheel” bellow to the fact that you, listener, have entered the world of rock of roll. It feels familiar to some of their previous sounds, very The Black Keys and, as some fans are describing it, ‘fucking dirty’.

That feel begins to settle in for the next few tracks. You’ll begin to feel your feet stomping and your head banging as “Hoochie Coochie”, what with its tight, dance floor grip. From there, lead singers Emma Richardson and Russell Marsden know that they’ve got you and ask you to sit back, relax and take a classic Band of Skull’s road trip.

Together, they co-operate to deliver to their fans, to rocking newbies and just about everyone. You’ve got the love ballad of “You Are All That I Am Not”, the psychedelic feel of “Cold Sweat” and that exploding sound of about every song. By the end of “Get Yourself Together”, you feel satisfied that the band have tried to stimulate you in almost every way they can.

Admittedly, I was sat there making some comparisons to the likes of Foo Fighters and Jimi Hendrix throughout my listen. With that familiar, kick-ass rock sound underlying its modest 12-track listing, you can’t help but draw a few here and there. Still, it doesn’t completely take you away from the fact that Band of Skulls has given you a pretty good journey for the past hour.

Whilst it may not deliver something completely new to its genre, ‘Himalayan’ does provide for a great time to both fans of its genre and for its loyal fan base. With their upcoming European tour, expect to hear their name just a little bit more, folks.

G.I. No – Ending Gender Division in Children’s Books

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“The Hunger Games… isn’t that a girls’ book?” – this was the lukewarm reception I received from my sister when I told her that I’d finally started reading ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy in anticipation of the new film. Understandably, the same sort of statement would have been said by me if I caught her reading Captain Underpants. Was it just one of those “sibling comments”, or has society not progressed when it comes to gender perceptions in literature?

These problems have been prevalent in kids’ products for generations, specifically in fashion, television and food. ‘Friends’ taught us that it isn’t cool for boys to be playing with a Barbie, but instead they should be pretending to shoot their dad with a ‘G.I. Joe’ doll; yet the recent ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ movement is already putting sitcom scenarios like that to bed. ‘Let Books Be Books’ is next in line and it seems to have arrived at the perfect time if views on the entire market are to change.

This recent push by parents to break down ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ categories in books has been met with a positive response from numerous retailers and book publishers. From Toys R Us to Usborne, the publisher behind the likes of ‘Girl’s Activity Book’ and ‘Boys Activity Book’, it seems that there are plenty of companies willing to put an ender to gender-stereotype reinforcements and move forward with the rest of society.

Funnily enough, when I was back at sixth form, we hosted a ‘Pirates and Princesses’ day to raise money for local charities. Of course, I could probably guess who was going to dress as whom – oh boy was I wrong. Some of my male friends came gallivanting through the main doors in their sparkly dresses, when two minutes later they would be kidnapped by a gang of Somali pirates, both male and female!

Now, I don’t mean to be encouraging cross-dressing, piracy or kidnapping in that example, but it just shows that gender doesn’t define what views we impose on each other, particularly in children’s books. There is a vast amount of literature out there that can appeal to a vast range of interests and beliefs, without catering to a certain gender, race etc.

I may be too young to want kids myself, but it gives me a wave of relief to know that in ten years’ time, my child may not have to make the choice between pink and blue, ‘G.I. Joe’ and ‘Barbie’ or Jacqueline Wilson and Chris Ryan. Imposing gender views on children before they’re old enough to establish their own shouldn’t be encouraged, especially in books, which take such a vital role in a child’s cognitive development.

If movements such as ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ and ‘Let Books Be Books’ can work to reinvent the children’s market, then that can only mean good news for the future. Ross, pivot your views elsewhere – ‘Let Books Be Books’ gets a great big thumbs up from me!