Wednesday, 22 January 2014

'The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing!'

I’m not going to lie; I am the world’s GREATEST procrastinator. I am the queen of procrastination. Yesterday, for example, when I was meant to be getting on with an essay, I decided that it was a good time to book tickets to see Jack Whitehall, baring in mind that my deadline is today. However, I can now happily say that I have finished the essay AND handed it in!

I have decided that this next semester will be a fresh start. I WILL attend all lectures and I WILL MOST DEFINITELY NOT be leaving all work until the week that it’s due in. We shall see how long this lasts for.

So, basically these last two weeks have been so busy! Here is a rough breakdown of what it actually is that I have been doing with myself for not just these past couple of weeks, but my entire educational life:

As you can see, a massive 65% of my time is taken up by procrastination. This is not good. The fact that being distracted and eating and drinking dominates over my education is WRONG on so many levels. I get distracted by absolutely anything from what I can hear going on in my flat’s kitchen to the hideous carpet in my room. Not that I’m condoning any of the following, but here are the top 10 things I do to procrastinate:

    1.) Look at my phone- eg. Twitter, Facebook, texting.
    2.) Catch up on cheesy soaps such as Neighbours and Home and Away.
    3.) Decide that my notice board needs more pictures/decoration.
    4.)Go and see what is going on in my flat’s kitchen.
    5.) Go and make food/ get a drink.
    6.)Look at pictures/videos of sloths.
    7.) Watch random YouTube videos/music videos.
    8.) Go and find someone inside/outside of my flat to annoy with the phrase ‘I’ve got so much work to do.’ (Yet I could well be doing it right then, but am making the choice not to!)
    9.) Decide that now is a good time to ring round my family and friends at home and have hour-long conversations.
   10.) Make plans for future outings/events.

As much as I wish that I could get away with my usual excuse of ‘the closer to the deadline, the better I work, the better my grades,’ I really don’t think that this cuts it for university level essays. So, in an attempt to get my act together, here are the top 5 things that inspire me to get motivated and get work done, (yes, I know- a lot less than the procrastination list, but I will update this!):

1.) Turn off everything breathing distraction around you- especially your phone. I end up texting my friends moaning that I have so much to do when I could be doing it. The Walt Disney quote that I used for the title of this post is VERY true.
2.) Think how proud your family will be of you once you get your qualifications/dream job/whatever- I know it sounds cheesy, but it does work. My grandma is always saying how she wants a photo of me in a cap and gown, so that always reminds me that to get to that point, I do need to work hard!
3.) Buy something new that you really want- this sounds like something you should do AFTER you’ve done the work, but last week I went to Miss Selfridge and brought a new, pink Boyfriend jacket that I’d wanted for ages, and somehow it inspired me to pull an all nighter that night and get a load of work done!
4.) Make sure that you have nice food and drink in- work breaks mean good food and drink and by this, I mean junk such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, cake, fizzy drinks, milkshakes etc.
5.) Read inspiring quotes- I love reading quotes and they always make me think about things in a different way!

Procrastination is one of my favourite topics and a skill that I have naturally acquired. However, the funny thing is that once I actually get down to doing some work, I do get into doing it- (I wouldn’t go as far as enjoying writing the essays though!) So, my late New Year’s resolution is to stop procrastinating so much, stop leaving work until the last minute, stop being so lazy and get motivated!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

‘Writing for children is an art in itself, and a most interesting one'

As a child, my parents encouraged me to read- well, when I say encouraged, I mean forced; and now here I am studying English Literature at university. Reading is something that I try and make sure I do every night; I love books- novels, poetry, anything formed by words. Over the years, I have become a massive believer that each piece of text holds the key to the author’s soul. No matter how much an author denies that their work is not even slightly autobiographical, I disagree with them. To create such beautiful work takes soul, passion and of course, imagination- and what makes up your ‘imagination’? Life experiences, dreams, thoughts all combined with your own fantasies and a touch of magic!

Only yesterday did I watch the BBC television film, ‘Enid’, about the life of the infamous author Enid
 Blyton whose work practically made my childhood. If anyone asked me who my favourite author was the answer would be ‘Enid Blyton’ and the answer as to which series of books were my favourites would switch between ‘The Wishing Chair’ and ‘The Faraway Tree’ collections. The happy, idealistic world that the children in these books lived in and the magic of a chair with wings and a tree that could whisk you away to different lands, (my personal favourite being ‘Birthday Land,) with the help of faerie folk Silky and Moon-Face was enough to keep me entertained for hours on end. I will always credit Enid for my love of reading and I’m sure my parents will eternally thank her for keeping me quiet! I hate the fact that so many children today either do not get the opportunity to read brilliant books like these or that, in the case of many, they just don’t want to Unfortunately, as amazing as technology is these days, it’s a huge distraction to children and doesn’t give them the opportunity that I had- to read, imagine and play.  I used to spend hours with my younger cousins making up games; bossing them about and making them dress up in my grandma’s silk scarves. Every time I read a book, it’d trigger an idea for a new world with different characters and I’d turn those into stories written in scrawled black ink.  I
watch my very young cousins now and see how their ‘play’ involves watching the same film over and over again and playing on the Xbox, which is why I play the evil babysitter when I look after them and make them read with me! I am proud to say that the eldest got reader of the week at his school after I’d read with him! Reading is so important and we all have to use it in everyday life, so why not make it interesting and read things that you enjoy? Learning and pleasure at the same time- I’m all for it! What Enid did is write what all children wanted to hear about. Her talent was that she knew her audience, got into their mindsets, taught and kept them entertained simultaneously, which like she says for herself, is an art in itself!

So from watching the ‘Enid’ film, I learnt a lot about her and why her work, well, worked for so many children and continues to be a huge success today. Of course, I never take these biopic films at face value as the plot and events are obviously exaggerated for entertainment purposes. However, after further research, I have come to the conclusion that Enid wrote so well for children because she was still a child herself. Her father, whom she was very close to left when she was young girl and never came back, leaving her alone with her two younger brothers and her mother who she didn’t get on with. With a lack of father figure in her life and suffering from inevitable abandonment issues, it’s no wonder that she found her outlet in her writing and rekindling the adventures that she had often had with her father as a child. It is perhaps these that inspired her writing and by reliving these memories, enabled her to try and deal with her loss. Therefore, even though she was an adult writing for children, she was probably writing about her own experiences and feelings in a filtered and light-hearted manner; a manner that allowed her to be a child again. I can identify with Enid, having my own dad leave when I was a child and not being able to understand properly why. Even though things have changed and I’m practically an adult now, it is something that I will carry with me forever and has shaped the way that I want to live my life in the future.

Another thing that I found interesting about Enid was that she did not have a good relationship with her two daughters, yet she adored her young fans and would often hold tea parties and read to them. Again, this was probably something that stemmed from her own experiences as a child, yet her ability to relate and play with children other than her own seems very… odd. Maybe her lack of attachment with her fans, who she notably refers to as her ‘friends’ in the film, enabled her to relax more with them, rather than those she has held responsible for.

To conclude, (god, I sound like I’m writing an essay- which is probably what I should be doing right now,) I love Enid Blyton’s work and find it to be inspirational for any kind of author. I will definitely be making sure that any future children of mine read all of her books! I also believe that it is possible for ANYONE to write- everybody has a soul and a story and you never know- that story might just make you millions if you’re lucky ;)

NB: ‘Enid’ is a film that I would recommend any Blyton fan to watch or if it’s a rainy day and you’ve got nothing better to do- not a lot happens plot wise, but I found it really interesting to watch, and Helena Bonham Carter portrays Enid brilliantly. The full film is available to watch on YouTube.

Monday, 6 January 2014

‘Whoever controls the media, controls the mind’

In my last post, I touched on the subject of the media being a device for indoctrination, myself being a recurring victim! So, I thought that I’d combine my views on the media with another one of my favourite things- vintage advertisements. I would like to start by saying that I am by no means an expert on media and marketing, nor vintage advertisements and these are just my opinions.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the media works and the power that it has over us- I love this Jim Morrison quote that I used as the title of this post as I think that it sums it up perfectly. From expensive perfume to over-priced baby dolls, adverts can sell anything, hence why the media is such a huge part of the economy and relied on by huge companies. Not only this, but can you imagine a world without the media? Celebrities wouldn’t be celebrities, news wouldn’t be news and we’d be disconnected from the rest of the world. Being a student and not holding a TV license nor buying the newspaper regularly, I often feel like I live in a selfish bubble; when we’re sat in our kitchen, my flat often ponders the question: what is actually going on in the world at the moment? Thank god for social networking and the DailyMail app! One of my resolutions for this year is to keep up to date with the news and what’s going on outside of Sheffield as well as reading about things that might not interest me, but have an impact on us such as politics.

My main point that I want to get across is that the media is a powerful machine that can do anything it wants to. If it wants to destroy Kate Middleton, it has the power to do so; if it wants to trigger a young girl’s eating disorder, it can do; if it wants to turn a tiny bit of cellulite on Britney Spears’ thighs into a worldwide headline, it just takes the click of a button. Without sounding biased, I do believe that the media has a slightly larger impact on women rather than men, especially when it comes to the sticky topic of body image. It makes me sick when I see gossip magazines such as Now! exploiting women’s ‘bikini bodies’ and ultimately making not only those women, but millions of others feel rubbish about themselves. This may be clichéd to say, but we are all intended to be different- a size 6/8 is NOT the perfect size and blonde hair, blue eyes and big boobs are NOT the perfect combination, contrary to belief and the media’s brainwashing skills. No wonder there has been an increase in the number of people being admitted into treatment for a mental health illness such as an eating disorder. I hate to think what a photographer/journalist would make of my HEALTHY size 12 body!

This brings me on to talking about my obsession with vintage advertisements (and my preferred choice of artwork for my wall!) I think that the media has always been very catty and exploitive, especially in the health and beauty industry and it wasn’t up until the 21st century with the creation of new technology that it really came to its peak of bitchiness. During my A Level English Language, I remember studying an advert for clothing from the 50s that would definitely not have been acceptable today due to political correctness of language; if I remember rightly, it went something along the lines of it being disgusting and unacceptable to be pear shaped. Yet it’s now acceptable to exploit women on magazine covers and photoshop Victoria’s Secret models within an inch of their lives. Crazy.

In fact, I think that from what I’m looking at now, the tables seemed to have turned. I have just found the 50s adverts above. on Google and apparently it wasn't so sexy to be naturally slim back then! The fact that the media have played on what it means to be sexy and what men apparently want women to look like is something that is very comparable with today’s media. The main stereotype of being an object desirable to men seems to be (what I mentioned earlier,) that of the blonde hair, blue eyes and big boobs variety in today’s world.  Though I’m sure that if you ask any man what their ‘type’ is, many would probably say that they don’t have one. The lesson here is that nobody should be TOLD by journalists what they should look like to enable themselves to be seen as ‘sexy’ and ‘desirable.’ All you can do is be yourself; at the end of the day, that is what makes you YOU. It’s sad that the media then and now plays such a huge role in our lives, whether it be on the topic of body image to adjusting our own beliefs and values.

On a lighter note, I just want to share some of my favourite vintage adverts since despite my views on certain aspects of the media, I still love them.

1.) Fry’s Milk Chocolate- This one I have up in my room. I just love everything about it- the slogan, ‘its worth the risk’; the children sneaking chocolate; the pastel colours, it’s just so cute!

2.) Twiggy Lashes- I think that this one is pretty iconic, I mean look at those huge eyes and spider lashes! Plus, who doesn’t love Twiggy?
3.) WW1 Propaganda- I could write so much about this topic, not to mention my huge interest in WW1! I love this piece of propaganda as I think it conveys just how powerful the media can be when it comes to playing with your emotions and making you think about things that you never usually would. 
4.) Coca Cola- Simple but effective. To be honest, I love all of the vintage Coca Cola adverts!
5.) Fairy Soap- No vintage advert collection is complete without a classic soap one! I especially love the image of the little girl all dressed up to look like a little doll!

And, just to end the collection, they may not be vintage in the timing of their creation but they’re definitely relevant to today: