Bournemouth-cheap not chic

Initially, I’d set out to write an informative post on Bournemouth’s reputation as a hotspot for fun, which is probably the view you’ve all heard. So, I headed to my nearest supermarket to find and interview some locals. It was here that I met Andrea Thomson who painted a slightly more depressing picture of this once peaceful seaside town.

A tasteful night out

Bournemouth is not the town it used to be,” Andrea told me. “It’s become very tacky.  We never used to have to all these awful night clubs, strip bars and cut-price shops. Everything’s about binge drinking and getting everything on the cheap.” This was not the response I’d anticipated. Has Bournemouth really replaced its class and authenticity with an assortment of tacky attractions and nightlife? I wondered into town to reflect on what she’d said.

And where better to begin my search for tack than a strip club? And Bournemouth certainly revels in this seedy excuse for entertainment, boasting 4 lap dancing clubs within  a two mile radius. However, exploring one myself seemed an unnecessary effort -strip joints are the epitome of tacky. I’m sure you don’t need a journalist to tell you that.

1 of many Bournemouth clubs

On the road riddled with strip clubs, I was greeted by a host of wolf-whistling kebab shop men lurking outside their eateries, stinking of rotten meat and grease. Charming. And I’ve never seen so many foreign restaurants that distinctively lack authentic culture. The merge of Chinese restaurants with British fish and chip bars is just one example of this. Andrea’s cheap and seedy perception of the town had been endorsed.

I wondered whether younger locals were as pessimistic as Andrea. So I approached fellow Bournemouth uni student, Josh Horne, outside HMV.

“I’m generally happy here. “This town is perfect for getting drunk, going to a lap dancing club, getting a kebab and doing it all in under twenty quid. What’s wrong with that?” He told me.

And he’s right. As students, we’re not interested in the history, scenery or culture of a place, just what clubs it has to offer. Similarly, tourists seem to use Bournemouth as a stop off for drunken fun. This is evident in the massive £500 million that the town rakes in from tourists each year as well as the influx of cheap B & Bs in the area. To find out what other Bournemouth students think of the town, click here to read my interview with friend, Becky Hannan.

Students doing what they do best

So it seems Bournemouth has built a good reputation amongst tourists and students at the cost of satisfying its life long residents. Whilst the heavy partiers are revelling in the cheap entertainment, the town’s new image is a massive blow to permanent locals who would rather scrap the tat. Bournemouth has begun to resemble a giant Butlins and it seems its future lies in the hands of the tourists and students. Guilty? Yes.

Bizzare fashion of the millenium

The "Boyfriend shirt"

What ever happened to jeans and a t-shirt? Since the dawning of the millenium, it seems we’ve all gone haywire with fashion, introducing bizzare new crazes and bringing unusual and unflattering garments back on the scene.

Leggings-Towards the late 90s, I’d cringe at the thought of squeezing into the nylon Lion King leggings I wore as a five year old. But these days, I’m starting to wish I’d held on to them. Leggings these days are the new jeans, which has become particularly evident since the invention of “jeggings”, the leggings designed to look like jeans. Who would have thought? Not me that’s for sure, but it doesn’t stop me wearing them on a regular basis.

See-through top

Boy’s clothes– Women spend a lifetime trying to look more feminine, with hair styling, cosmetics, makeup and push up bras. So why on earth have we begun wearing “boy friend” shirts and jeans???

Layers- The first time I saw a friend wearing a pair of shorts over leggings, I thought she’d lost the plot. But apparantly in  the 2000s and 2010s, it’s perfectly reasonable to team clothes with…more clothes. It’s no longer unusual to see t-shirts over t-shirts, shorts over tights and dresses over leggings.

Ugly boots-Let’s be honest, Ugg boots are ugly. They’re huge and unshapely and don’t do a lot for us. But we still wear them. Why? Because they’re in fashion. Simple.

Ugly Uggs

See through stuff-It’s becoming increasingly common to wear nothing but a bra under see through lacey tops and dresses. If this was the nineties, we’d all be branded a slut. But since it’s “in fashion” nobody seems to mind.

Underwear as outer-wear– On the subject of underwear, it’s also currently normal to see girls wearing teenie crop tops and bras with just a jacket over the top. Or in extreme cases, bras over tops.

Final thought: We may as well go out in bin-liners and curtains because at this rate, we’ll probably be ahead of the trend.

For an interesting take on fashion, visit the blog Go Fug Yourself.

Blog: Eastenders takes on race

Eastenders' Syed and Amira at their wedding

In case you didn’t know (or care), Eastenders has recently run a story involving an Indian Muslim having an affair with another man. Whilst this story has kicked off a lot of controversy, what interests me more is the stereotyping of the Indian culture which has been  most prominent since the story first unfolded.

Eastenders is sending out the message that all people of Indian heritage are governed entirely by religious beliefs. News flash: Today there are British Asians in the country who are no more Muslim than Nick Griffin. Also, going by Eastenders’ characters, all Indian people own curry shops,  wear turbans and do Bollywood dancing at weddings (see this youtube clip of Syed’s and Amira’s wedding to see what I mean).

However, I guess I should give Eastenders some credit. When it comes to race, it’s hard, if not impossible to get it right. If Eastenders didn’t use characters that perpetuated stereotpyes, they’d probably be critisised for not embracing different cultures. If all Asian, African, European people in soaps had exactly the same lifestyle, I suppose it would also not be realistic. I guess a lot of Indian people are strict Muslims, the same way that a lot of Italians are food fanatics and a lot of chinese people are hard working.

Eastenders: The Masood family

Solution to this lose-lose situation ? Well I guess you could suggest that soaps avoid using diverse nationalities. But obviously, if Eastenders didn’t involve a range of nationalities, it would be exclusive and unrepresentative which doesn’t help anything. On the other hand, it seems that sometimes soaps write ethnic minorites into the script to deliberately avoid this; when black or asian characters first appear in a soap, it sometimes seems they’re included for token value and it can take months for them to actually become relevant to the story. At least Eastenders weaves the Masood family into its storylines.

It seems soaps cannot get it right. Perhaps the racist issue is that we think in terms of race. Maybe I’m being racist by thinking all stories involving characters of an ethnic minority should be based on what’s appropriate and least racist. Maybe race shouldn’t even be considered when it comes to scripting and watching TV.

The Conservatives’ website- gaining or losing votes?

In recent years, the internet has become a powerful political tool for MPs, potentially in gaining users’ votes. And with Election Day just around the corner, it’s vital that parties are promoting themselves in the best light possible. However, it seems that the Conservatives are not making the most of this opportunity, with a poorly designed website that could potentially lose votes. To see the site, click  here.

The homepage

During the 2004 American election, 63 million people used the internet to obtain political information, highlighting the importance of the web in promoting party policies. However, the Conservative website provides no “about” page and subsequently, no introductory information. Users who are not familiar with the Conservative party, such as newly turned 18 year olds, will be required to read numerous pages of policies just to get a general understanding of what the party stands for.

Additionally, whilst the Conservative website contains a lot of policy information, most of it is indigestible to the user. Reading text on a computer is 25% slower than on paper. This is because of the posture involved with reading off a screen, as well as the glare given off by the monitor. Text should therefore be used sparingly. The Conservative website seems to completely dispute this, providing policy pages that reach around 900 words. On the other hand, videos are provided as alternatives for text. However, spoon feeding information to users with videos can be interpreted as lecturing and patronising, which is clearly not the effect they are attempting to acheive.

Party leader David Cameron

Whether the information the website provides is digestible or not, it is worthless unless it’s accessible to users. Therefore, navigation within the website is particularly important. The Conservative website contains a search box on the homepage, allowing users to find specific information they want fast. However, the website also uses far too many links and icons on the homepage, often even repeating the same link. This overuse could confuse the user and make it harder to find the information they really need.

The website does include an area to post questions to party leaders, as well as link to Facebook where prospective voters can post their thoughts. However, there is no “contact” link on the homepage, and to find contact details of party members, users must navigate through several web pages. Subsequently, communication between the party and voters is somewhat distanced.

A political website can be used to strengthen public trust for the MPs. Accordingly, the Conservative website needs to portray the party as professional and as though they work for the benefit of the public. To an extent, it does this well. The language within the site’s content is grammatically correct and well written, which helps convey a professional and authoritative image. These features make the party itself appear fresh, organised and consistent. However, the first image to appear on the Conservative website is a rather serious and unfriendly looking photo of David Cameron. This could be off putting to users and discourage them from exploring the website.

The Conservative logo

To sum up, there are some successful aspects of the website, but it seems there are more weaknesses than assets, which may risk losing potential votes. I guess we’ll see the effects next Friday.

Brighton culture in pictures

In term time, I’m lucky enough to live in Bournemouth, with its beautiful beaches, lively nightlife and cheap entertainment. However, each time I leave my permenant address in Brighton, I feel a great sense a loss. Brighton has so much to offer that I don’t feel Bournemouth can compete with it. And I was so keen to show just how great Brighton is that, like an excited tourist, I went around town taking pictures of all my favourite parts of Brighton life. So these are the reasons I’m proud to call Brighton my true hometown…

Independent shops-Not only does Brighton have all your usual high street shops, but it also has dozens of wonderfully weird alternative shops. The North Lanes in particular is home to a range of peircing and tattoo parlours, hand made jewellery stores, vintage emporiums and hippy clothes shops.

Independent store in North Lanes

Neon shop in North Lanes

Creativity– As well as having beautiful buildings and public art, some people express their own creativitywith graffiti.Far from the tacky tags and images sprayed on bridges and houses by wannabe rebels, Brighton boasts some spectacular graffiti. It’s dotted around Brighton, with a lot situated around the back of the North Lanes.

Graffiti in the North Lanes

Graffiti

Leisure- The youth of Brighton also express their creativity through sport and past times. The beach is full of skate boarders, jugglers, hacky sackers and basket ball players- another reason why Brighton is buzzing and naturally entertaining. There’s also a volleyball court along the seafront as well as numerous places for people to play football, bike or run.

The basketball courts along the beach

Alternative couple skating along promenade

History– Ok, so Brighton’s history isn’t amazingly interesting but it does have some great historical buildings. The Royal Pavillion, built in the 1800s is a great example. There’s also numerous unique buildings and old churches scattered around the town, adding to its beauty. A perhaps less sightly, but interesting all the same example is the West Pier. Once an entertainment spot for tourists in the 1960s, this building’s suffered a few too many fires. It’s now a popular view amongst photographers and artists.

The Royal Pavillion

The West Pier

Public art-Brighton boasts some weird and wonderful art around its seafront, including a strange donut shaped thing over-looking the sea and the Kiss Wall along the promenade. There’s also an interestingly shaped sculpture on the beach itself.

Art on the seafront

The Kissing Wall

The gay scene– Brighton is the UK’s most gay friendly city. It has numerous gay bars, clubs and pubs and hosts gay pride every year which is full of fun and entertainment. This just shows how diverse and accepting Brighton is.

Brighton's gay pride parade

Pubs-Brighton is notorious for having a huge range of pubs, from traditional inns to flashy bars.

Brighton Pub

Nightlife– Brighton is a top destination for students and hen/stag nights due to its diverse nightlife. Brighton’s nightclubs range from gay clubs, to indi clubs, to drum and base nights, to mainstream clubs and so on. It is also renowned for hosting fantastic live music, as well as comedy nights.

Comedy club

Subcultures- Brighton is tolerent of all different kinds of people so is a hotspot for hippies (by the way, Brighton was the only town to elect The Green party!), goths, punks, grunges, skaters etc. It’s great being around such a diverse group of people and it makes it easy for everyone to be themselves.

Punk kids in North Lanes

To find out more about visiting Brighton, visit its tourism website here.

Blog: Why I love horror films

Admittedly, I’m a proud to be a horror film obsessive. But why is it that people like me love watching blood, gore and victims being stabbed to death in dark alleys?

The Saw Dummy

Firstly, I find horror films are more fun to watch than other genres because they’re engaging. They make us empathise with the victims and think about how we’d behave in the same situation. We sit wondering whether we’d run up the stairs or out the door, whether we’d risk our life to go back for a friend or whether we’d be willing to saw off our own foot to escape. Yes, some of these scenarios are unpleasant, but they certainly stimulate our brains rather than films where we just simply sit back and watch passively, like a lot of action and romance rubbish.

On a biological level, we love horrors because of the adrenaline they give us. When we’re waiting for Jason, Freddy or whoever to axe their next victim, adrenaline is released in our body, our heart starts racing and we tingle with anticipation. This “fight or flight” effect is exciting and makes us want more.

The Exorcist

I think another major reason I love horror is because it makes me grateful. I feel lucky about my own life (despite relationship problems, exams/deadlines and debt) having watched someone being slashed to death in a dungeon by a sadistic serial killer. Sounds morbid, but makes sense to me.

Finally, horror films function as a form of escapism. We like to create fears of things that will never happen to divert us from the things we really should be worrying about. Who’s going to think about the all important meeting at work when we could be worrying about aliens invading our homes or a dead girl coming out of our TV? Horror films feed these artifical fears and make us feel less worried about real issues.

Whatever it is that makes horror films so appealing, it’s going to have me watching them until I can no longer see, hear or soil myself. If you want some ideas of decent horror films to watch tonight, read my post about the scariest scenes in horror.

Friends are leaving E4

The gang

So apparantly E4 have finally decided to take Friends off air in 2011, having blessed our screens with the addictive sitcom ever since the channel launched. Whilst we knew this was going to happen sooner or later, I think we’ll allbe sad to see it go.

Friends has been some what of a comfort to us all over the years. Whilst it’s ultimately a comedy, I feel that the reason a lot of us love it is because it deals with real issues. It’s shown characters die (Mr Heckles and Estelle), battle with pregnancy and babies, being fired, being hired, cheating, falling in and out of love, turn into lesbians, divorce, marry, reunite with their familes,  move away and be involved in a load of other real life dramas. But the show never lets us be sad for long. Not to be corny, but it shows how friendship and love can overcome anything…ok so that was horribly cheesy but you get the picture. To watch some of these moments, try this website for streaming of episodes.

The reason I think Friends is so funny is because it has such a great character development. We laugh when Monica, Joey or any of the gang say things because it’s so typical of them. Trust Monica to be pedantic and obsessive, or Joey to be womanizing, or Chandler to make a sarcastic comment. This type of humour is clever and inoffensive, targetting, well…everyone.

Pheobe's wedding

Friends has also to be revolutionary in comedy in that it’s been one of the first comedies to run like a soap. It’s impressive amount of episodes (238 over a course of ten years) means that unlike most comedies, an episode can’t finish off where it started. Progress actually happens and things change. Rachel gets the new job, Monica dumps Richard, Ross has a kid and so on. This differs from the usual comedy structure where the characters are stuck in more or less the same situation throughout.

Overall, we’re going to miss the gang. Although, perhaps instead of watching Friends, we can finally live our own lives and even get some for ourselves…