The Moment

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If you’ve come looking for a book by Douglas Kennedy, or the start of a Taylor Swift song, I’m afraid I’ve underwhelmed you. WAIT DON’T LEAVE. As a consolation prize for those who were, here’s a beautiful piece of music written by my sister (“the girl triplet”, a popular label arising from my uni friends) on her Soundcloud profile, MissHMusic.

http://m.soundcloud.com/missmusicojh/the-moment.

Also, if you enjoyed the piece, be sure to share her music and follow for some banging tunes, mate! Whatever you do, don’t let me say ‘banging tunes, mate!’ again?

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I Bought the Power

(Article at ‘York Vision’)

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Adrian Horan argues that there has never been a better time to be a cheapskate

The future is dark for the modern cheapskate, not least because of this awful weather and the clocks having gone back on the 27th. Recently, the U.K.’s major suppliers have announced plans to increase prices on their rates for gas and electricity by a minimum of 8.2%. Yet, as winter is coming (I promise that wasn’t a ‘Game of Thrones’ reference), I ask myself the question – should I be ashamed of becoming a bargain hunter?

As we entered uni, our basic perceptions on how we lived our lives completely changed. Before, many of us had the luxury of being able to scoff at the thought of buying ‘ASDA Smart Price’ lemonade instead of ‘Schweppes’, or rolling our eyes as our Mums lit all of the scented candles in the living room rather than turning on the lamp. We weren’t independent adults, just people hiding under the security blankets of our parents’ success. Now, with a recent figure of one in ten undergraduates becoming unemployed, it’s paramount that we keep an eye on our wallets and don’t feel stigma for being a hermit and missing the odd ‘Tokyo, mate, it’s gonna be sick!’ night.

Sure, university is labelled as the ‘best time of your life’, and that shouldn’t be doubted. It’s just that it comes with a Mexican wave of changes – and it’s not in our control of who starts it. The problem with these various changes, however, is that it hits students disproportionately to one another. To the modern Scotsman who lives on campus, they may not notice these changes whatsoever. Yet, to an off-campus first year like myself, I spend my nights doing star jumps in my fluffy dressing gown to keep warm, instead of spending more money turning on the heating.

Young people hold a different stance in society now, where we were once looked on by older generations as the weapon of change for the future. Instead, we get the sympathy vote for our high levels of induced debt and our reluctance to say “keep the change!”. University is meant to be this time of freedom, where we can grow into the adults and transition into a likewise growing world. Are these views imposed on us beyond our control? Bargain hunting might just be the answer in changing those perceptions. Not having our lives dictated by ‘The Magnificent Six’ of the energy world, or even Michael Gove for that matter! Rather than being subject to change, we can subject our own change.

It never felt so good as to walk around charity shops, finding a triple Frank Sinatra CD for 50p; or getting a 10% NUS discount on a packet of lettuce that was already reduced. It’s trivial, but, it gives us that sense of freedom which we seem to be steadily losing as students. My teachers highly encouraged that we look at different options other than university in anticipation of ‘hard times’. Instead, taking on the challenge couldn’t feel more exciting – it might even give students a better image than writing ‘STUDENT LOANS’ aggressively into the air with a sparkler.

Cheapskates, rejoice, your resistance to buying high quality meals may just make this financial struggle a lot more empowering.

The Day of the Doctor(s) Review

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(Original article at ‘York Vision’)

7.50pm, the 23rd of November. A date and time circled, starred, and circled again by Whovians across the globe. With ‘The Night of the Doctor’ (and an incredibly fun yet complex Google “Whoodle” to match) helping to over-hype our Doctor Who senses, we were finally mentally and physically prepared for this 50th celebration episode, whether that be in selected 3D cinemas, or even in front of the TV., like Doctor Who tradition demands us to.

However or wherever (can I be hopeful that other planets watch it too?) you watched it, it’s certain to say that we were all watching the same wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey magic that we’ve been dreaming of for weeks on end.

Quicker than you can shout ‘GERONIMO’, the Doctor Who formula of late went into full swing. Clara goes running for the Doctor, charming greetings are had, only to be spoilt by time-space mishaps in need of his investigation. U.N.I.T. has called upon the Doctor’s aid due to a disturbance in a set of “T.A.R.D.I.S. art”, which is discovered to be a plot of the retro race, the Zygons.

I was worried the episode would fall into ‘hero fights villain’ category. Yet, it became something much more than that. It was The Doctor’s day.
Thanks to the help of a time-rift (and, of course, a fez) we find David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurts’ Doctors joined together to ultimately decide the fate of Gallifrey. Whilst they do have aid from a colourful host of characters (Bad Wolf and Tom Baker’s scarf, that’s all I can say), they have to discover this concept of what it means to be a Doctor. The Warrior, the Hero, a Doctor. Fans have never seen so much morality being disputed across what is, essentially, one person (same casing, different software). It was heart-wrenching, yet rewarding, thanks to it kicking off a potential search for Gallifrey, either at Christmas or when we see Peter Capaldi (again, SPOILER) as the Doctor.

The episode wasn’t all drama and fezzes, thankfully. I don’t think I’ve giggled like a weirdo so much in one episode! Everything about the Doctors that has been previously poked at is poked at again, right in the sore spot. The Sonic Screwdriver not being a water pistol, the Doctor’s ever changing fashion sense, the way he fails to grow up even. It helps to spark a wonderful chemistry between this Power of Three. Opening an unlocked door was a personal highlight of this in action.

Nostalgia is rife in this special too. Not just helping to bridge the gap in Doctor Who lore with the Time War feud, but having more nods to fans than a nodding Churchill dog, in a car, over a pothole. Watching the original ‘wormhole sequence’, seeing all 13 T.A.R.D.I.S. models at once, hearing the good-old cringe-worthy catchphrases. What’s more, the final sequence needs the aid of all Doctors through time and space, ending with them stood in a line with their smouldering faces – perfection.

With drama, humour and a lot of nostalgia, Doctor Who’s 50 years go out with a snap, a crackle and a pop – proof that you can end articles with ‘Rice Krispie’ characters.

Booty Calls! Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

(Original article at ‘York Vision’)

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Warning. Review written by penniless first year who hasn’t bought the game. I’ve conducted my research and know this series very well, so keep yer epithets to yerself, yer port swillin’, sneaky gaggin’ reptile!

With a moderate opening title in the series, Assassin’s Creed has gone on to become Ubisoft’s biggest success story (that’s right, even bigger than that old Rayman game you played the hell out of). Gamers can immerse themselves into a world filled with a rich narrative, beautiful scenery to jump around in and killing. Lots of killing. Yet, with the recent announcement to make the series an annual release, as well as a certain degree of backlash to A.C. III compared with previous titles, is there a worry that fans may drop ship? Not at all – in fact, stay on that ship and shoot the hell out of some other ones.

This time around, players take control of cocky protagonist Edward Kenway, grandfather to that of Connor Kenyway, the previous lead role. The two of them live completely different lives. Whilst Connor spent his time getting high on herbal tea and stabbing redcoats in the name of Washington, Edward spends his raiding enemy ships for loot and sleeping with many a Caribbean courtesan (he’s unemployed, give the guy a break, eh?). He’s refreshing in his approach, feeling like a pick ‘n’ mix of previous lead assassins. A good man at heart, but completely reckless, players see how his character begins to grow as his epic adventures intertwine with the life of the Creed.

His playpen ain’t so shabby either. Set in the Caribbean, 1715, Edward encapsulates himself in the Golden Age of Piracy, a violent yet exciting time in world history. From Renaissance Italy to Damascus, players have taken part in an epic adventure of ‘Around the World in 80+ Hours Gameplay’ since the year 2007. Ubisoft have been known for visiting locales to create the best representation possible – that’s completely evident here. The vast oceans, the dense jungles, the metropolitan cities. I’m in my own pixelated world here, but it couldn’t feel more realised, even topping A.C. III’s impressive feats.

Now, I have to pick bits with this, as I feel the story may be the weakest part of the game. Sure, those concerned with the history and characters of this time period will be pleased. However, you don’t find yourself particularly interested in the main game, proving to be more of an effort in completing these missions as opposed to side quests. However, the ‘present day’ events concerned with Desmond  take a great turn, focusing more on Abstergo’s side of events. Their office has a Microsoft feel about it… interpret how you will.

All I could think of when I watched Jack Sparrow clashing swords on screen was ‘Why does Johnny Depp get all the fun?’ Now, you finally get a piece of the action. With a mix of land and sea exploration and combat, gameplay doesn’t go stale. From running across rooftops and the merciless fighting we remember, to striding across the oceans in the Jackdaw, diving into undiscovered caverns for treasure and wrestling the bajeezus out of sharks. Your crew even sings sea shanties for an authentic feel… sadly not the ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ theme tune.

Pirates, in one way or another, have steadily become a popular part of mainstream culture. Except video games. Everywhere except video games. Well, me mateys, I’m going to put a cannonball in that statement right now. This latest addition to ‘Assassin’s Creed’ doesn’t just revitalise this bloated series – it reconceptualises the pirate in gaming. So, is it a pirate’s life for you?

Urgh! What’s Going Off In Your Fridge?

(Article at ‘York Vision’)

With the latest reports from Tesco that over half of bagged salad and apples are thrown away by its consumers, Vision writers finally confess the state of their fridges

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Fridges – chilled receptacle used to keep food at its best for a bit longer. Fridges can be seen as a mirror of their owners, with each shelf being assigned to a messy, frugal or absent housemate. With the latest reports from Tesco that over half of bagged salad and apples are thrown away by its consumers, Vision writers finally confess the state of their fridges.

Adrian Horan: BEHOLD, the frozen wasteland of an off-campus first year. You can tell a lot about a man from the contents of his fridge, and I think this just about sums me up. Well, as the decent all-rounder I want you to think I am. My fridge only looks like this wonderful hierarchy post-ASDA delivery; but before that, it looked like something I’d cultured on a petri-dish and baked in the sun… Seriously, my salad had its own watery preservative and I felt self-conscious as my food seemed to grow more hair than I ever could. My binman’s in for a treat!

Doris Xu: One of my housemates, who is from China, told me that in order to take up more space in fridge, she tried to be the first one to move into the house. It’s easy to find bags of vegetables like carrots and potatoes with drops of water inside the packaging in the fridge. In fact, for most vegetables, the most suitable time is within three days. At its worst, the fridge becomes a place to only store leftovers. Opening the door, piles of big containers appear in sight. Another housemate said, “I will cook food every Sunday for the following whole week, so I only take out some from container and then microwave it.” In the battle of seizing fridge space, no one is winner. Those who store vegetables for weeks and for the ones who cook food for a whole week may suffer from chronic gastroenteritis as a consequence.

Photo Credit: Pippa Driver

Pippa Driver: I live in a flat of eight and, with only one fridge between us, I have been forced to start some sort of farm shop in my room. One of my shelves now contains an assortment of onions, potatoes, apples (bought in bulk from Aldi), three courgettes and a lettuce, all of which are exposed to the varying temperature of my bed – window open at night, radiator cranked up full in the day. This has resulted in mould and discolouration, yet I refuse to throw any of them away. I have never heard of someone dying due to the consumption of a rotting vegetable; although this might have something to do with the persistence of my Fresher’s Flu.

Morenike Adebayo: As I’m currently winning the award for Housemate Least Likely To Be At Home, you would think that my section of the fridge would be meagre or at least overrun by the foods of other housemates asserting their dominance over unclaimed lands. You’d be wrong. Nestled next to the 1kg bag of slowly decaying spinach (that I’ve started so I’ll finish) is a bunch of wilting spring onions. They were bought for a recipe but, as I’m a maverick with recipes, they were substituted and then forgotten about. While I’m certain that I will eat the spinach and the spring onions, the plastic box of furry pineapple slices should be thrown out. Or, if the juice doesn’t eat its way through the plastic, I might keep it as an experiment over this year.

Fresh(ers) Meat – A University of York Perspective

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Ah, University. A mythological world of academics that I’d only heard about through ‘American Pie’ films and ‘Disney’ Sequels. Yet, as the calendar months rolled on, it wasn’t only Andy’s turn to pack up the various belongings and ASDA ‘Smart Price’ cans, but that of thousands of other students across the U.K.. A new city, a new start, a new list of cliches. Just looking at my Facebook news feed, I could see the excitement brewing.  Yet, there was one fear that I held deep in the dark depths of my subconscious brain, a place where I do a top-notch Homer Simpson impression and adding jelly beans to my student meals is deemed ‘creative’. That fear, was that we first years would be ‘Freshers Meat’ for the rest of the university.

As much as I’m fond of America’s mainstream culture, it was the ‘GET THE FRESHMAN!’ theme that was so apparent in the ‘College’ genre of films that really brought this thing on. The ‘head in the bog’, the ‘super wedgie’, the ‘human basketball’. I expected my student life to be a David Attenborough-style hunt for survival across campus as I fled a group of third years, just trying to convince me that ‘the water in the lake doesn’t taste that bad’. Would a top ten university really condone this sort of animalistic behaviour? Was it really like that? No, not one bit.

This new sense of independence can feel a little daunting for some, even exaggerating itself towards isolation. Yet, fresher’s week and beyond at University of York could not make the common first year feel more at home. There’s a real sense of community that’s shared across all of the students studying here. YUSU’s Viking Raid went down a storm and was a great way for the first year to clank their pint glass with a fellow blue/green/red shirt, no matter what grade of student. And nothing, nothing gives a sense of community quite like screaming ‘Vanbrugh ‘till I die!’ with a bunch of people you haven’t even met before!

And so, my fellow first years, maybe university life isn’t as bad as it seems. Maybe with the help of a wonderfully ambitious student’s union, a colony of feathered friends and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, we may just survive this first year. Heck, we might even find it to be the best year of our lives. Just don’t eat bread with blue bits on it; no good can come of it.

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AdrianCharlesHoran – Update

Now that the ridiculously snazzy picture above caught your attention, a quick update – just to let my readers know that I’ll be changing my publishing days from Wednesday and Sunday to Monday and Thursday. What time, you ask? Well, I don’t want to become too predictable, do I? Stay tuned, and in the meantime, check out some of my other blog posts on my web page. Happy blogging!