Friday, 30 January 2015

This week keeps getting better and better

Alright, so this week has been another one of those weeks in which the days stretch like elastic. The week itself is so brief that you barely have time to make a cup of tea. To business!

There was a committee meeting at PIR towers on Monday, and the website is a-okay. There will hopefully be a new blog up there soon, telling of the exciting trip to Europe that other (significantly less impoverished) members took very recently. It'll be good to have some different voices up there, and with it ready to go we can start inviting writers from the general student populace to get involved. Pretty soon we'll have enough for our own journal. I've also started work on the final bit of the re-brand: a new banner. I'm gathering ideas for designs - it's going to be enormous, and may feature some faces. Now that's immortality.

Employability Week News: it's chugging along gloriously well. Speakers are coming forward, and I even got an email from someone today who's keen to "synergise" and "utilise economies of scale" and quite possibly "vertically integrate," though that last one sounds vaguely sexual so let's hope it's not that.

Over to Thirty Rock. What do we think of that presentation?

Aaaaaand back to me.

It's a mere 10 days away, and what makes it even better is that I'm out of office for a day next week. If I currently have an addiction to caffeine and my phone, then I don't think there's a word for the way I'll be during that conference.

Just to demonstrate my reliance on my black mirror: today I gave a presentation on body language, one that I'd never done before, entirely in French. My phone also switched itself off and wouldn't switch itself back on.

Take one guess which of these had me sweating like an ice cube on a blowtorch?

Speaking of which: that presentation was definitely one of the worst I've ever done, by virtue of a drastic misapprehension of the assignment. I understood I'd be talking for 45 minutes, and had it well spaced out and timed. I was actually going to be talking for 10 minutes. Have you ever seen someone accidentally change down to second gear going at 120 miles per hour?

That was what happened to my brain. The engine leapt out of the bonnet.

Still, we live and learn. Sometimes we live and learn by watching other people doing a much better job, which brings me to the presentation I watched. It was delivered by Eloise Leeson, who's a force of nature, and is on the subject of Public Speaking. I'd highly recommend looking over it, if you want to improve your Public Speaking - you'll find it at the end of this post and at this link if you're especially impatient.

I also had a fantastically productive meeting with the point-person for Global Jam - I'm doing my best not to be a micro-managing hoverfly but I can't help myself, especially when I know that because I'm relatively well-known (my narcissism is endless, matched only by my self-loathing) I can help smooth things over.

I've also taken part in an Interview Skills workshop, which was very useful, and now feel slightly more prepared for the interviews coming up. Oh hey, I've got an entire day of assessments in a fortnight. Smashing. I have time to prepare for that.

In opposite land.

Speaking of interviews - I had a fantastic phone call with an entrepreneurial hero. There might possibly maybe be a slim chance of a job in the quaintest, most glorious part of Englandshire there is - Gloucester.

Such England. Much pretty.
By contrast, Anna got an interview with Edelman and had it today. She kicked its ass all the way to Employment City, population (hopefully) us. We'll see how it goes, but it looks like the next month or two are going to be incredibly expensive, especially with the trips back and forth, graduation (with costs like forty-five British pounds to hold a plastic facsimile of one's degree) and moving to wherever we find employment.

Please let there be an employment-coloured light at the end of this tunnel.

That's been my week - teaching, logo design, and marketing-flavoured stuff are all light weekend projects.

Yup. Light weekend projects.

Up next: public speaking!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Kingsman: Go and see this movie right now

Well, one caveat before we crack on. There is a scene set in your stereotypical hate-group church, and out of absolutely fucking nowhere a homophobic slur and a racist slur are used one after the other. Obviously that's to set up the fact that these are truly irredeemably hateful people, and they really deserve the righteous destruction laid down upon them by Galahad.

Yes, the Kingsmen's codenames are the names of Arthur's knights. Yes, the fact that Percival is the one who completes the quest gives me a tiny pang of history nerd joy. And yes, the fact that the code name is passed on to the next holder of the position is a very clever nod to a fan-theory about James Bond.

All of these clever winks and nudges are small fry, however, to the balls-out action-packed quick-camera witty-dialogue trope-filled taking-the-piss-out-of-itself remainder of the film. There are a few examples I'd like to bring to the fore, and one of those is sponsorship.

Films need a lot of money, and some of that money comes from sponsorship. This comes in three flavours: subtle, obvious but we're not talking about it, and Kingsman.

Subtle examples can be found in Mad Men; the whisky they drink, the cigarettes they smoke, the cars they drive. Obvious but we're not talking about it, well...

Transformers: absolutely not sponsored by Bud Light but shit, Bud Light is accidentally in this movie a lot.

Then you can do it the Kingsman way, which is getting motherfucking Colin Firth, holder of an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, two BAFTAs, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire to say "Happy Meal" on screen.

There are no fucks to be given with this film and product placement. Guinness want to sponsor it? Great, let's have Colin Firth beat the spit out of five guys after they refuse to let him - and this is a direct quote from the film - "finish my lovely pint of Guinness."


This is James Bond for the 21st century, but also for people who are turned off by the newer, darker Bond. This takes the campiness of Moonraker, dials it up to the point where the dial falls off and then keeps going. This is not any cheese, my friends, this is M&S, matured in the mind of a man who grew up on Roger Moore's Bond and delivered fresh to your eyeballs. From the cheesy villain to the 100% 80s Bond ending, this is a film for 25 year old men and women who grew up on their dad's 007 collection.

Men and women, mind. There is a whole lot of man candy to be viewed, and we get not one but two "strong" female characters. One: double-amputee assassin (not actually played by a double-amputee, which is deeply disconcerting because can there really be so few disabled actors?); and two: the secondary protagonist who has a deeply unsatisfying story arc involving being afraid of heights and then having to something at a high altitude. 

There's also a scene in which a whole host of people's heads explode in stylised, colourised mushroom clouds to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth. So that's something to keep an eye out for.

This film is, in the end, a riotous, ridiculous romp. The camera work is incredible. The music is perfect. At one point Colin Firth sets a person's face on fire with a lighter/flamethrower.

It's absurd, amazing fun.

Just could have done without those two words.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Joy of Work

Here's something: I am not happy, not content, unless I am just upon the cusp of too much to do. As example: I have at present three relatively major projects, a slew of applications to complete, and a lot - a lot - of reading to do.
And I am cheerful. I am elated. I am absolutely full of energy.
My lap, regretfully, is full of cat - and cats, as has been proven by Science, are furry drainers of energy. They store it up until 3am, when they need it to do laps of your domicile. As such, the emails I should be sending, the phone calls I should be making, and the documents I should be writing are being put temporarily aside while I watch Borgias, because I'm doing a course on the Renaissance and this production is clearly faithful to history.
There is a certain peace in not being entirely full of energy, entirely 'on' all the time. Cats are good. Partners are good. Big budget adaptations of particularly interesting bits of European history - they're good too. Tomorrow morning I start again, powering through more work, setting up and chasing down. And writing. And making a video for yet another application!
What glorious days and perfect evenings, when there's a cat on your lap and you can dream all the things you could do.

Murder, in his case. Furry silent murder.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year, Same Old Me

Today is a Thursday. It is a Thursday much like any other Thursday, aside from the entirely inconsequential fact that it marks the end of the 2014th lap of the Earth around the Sun since the last time we reset to 0. It's a totally arbitrary point, and yet for some marks the beginning of a month without alcohol, a "new them", or any number of completely boring attempts to revitalise their crushingly empty lives.

January 1 is not a magic wand or a sci-fi portal that will just fix the things you want fixed in your life. There are literally a million different factors that will lead to that: your own well-being, the people around you, the stress at your job - and of course, there are a thousand factors influencing that. You can't stop yourself getting suddenly ill because someone sneezed on you; you can't prevent your partner from leaving because they've got wunderlust to head to Borneo; and you can't sidestep your boss' ire because his daughter got a tattoo he didn't approve of.

All of these things are utterly out of your control, and they will colour and affect your projects in the year ahead. There are a few things to do when faced with your total powerlessness in the face of the universe, and they are as follows:

  1. Laugh, embrace the absurdity of it all, and do your best to struggle through.
  2. Become incredibly angry at the sheer unjust nonsense of it all, and do your best to struggle through.
  3. Adopt a Stoic approach, become unemotional, and wall yourself off from humanity. Struggle through, though this time alone.
This year there will be failures by the truckload. If I have learnt anything this year - and the jury's still out on that one - it's this, and only this: embrace failure because it helps you learn. Helps, mind you. It doesn't make you learn. That's one of the few areas where only you can effect change; a tiny little micro-space where it's just you and your failure. Embrace it. Learn from it so you can fail a bit better next time. Be like Buzz Lightyear; eventually, you'll start failing with style, and when that happens you'll fool everyone into thinking you're flying.

This year I'm going to keep learning how to code; I'm going to keep learning how to manipulate images; I'm going to keep learning Russian and I'm going to get a job. Not because it's January 1, but because yesterday happened, and tomorrow will happen, and in a week it'll be Thursday again. In a year this planet will be back here, relative to the Sun, but the Sun will have moved and so will everything else.

Relative to all of the billions of moving planets and stars and clouds of gas out there, we're not in the same place we were last year. We're not even in the same place we were when you started reading this blog. Everything is always moving, and that includes us. So here's my suggestion: sling out arbitrary lines and make a plan that suits you. Draw, write, carve onto a mysterious monolith that appeared overnight and hums in D minor. Any way that you can, get a plan. Stick to it (but remember you'll probably fail.) Re-assess. Draw, write, paint in the blood of a pure-white lamb. Fail again, but with more success. Rinse, repeat, and before you know it you'll be flying.

You might also start wondering about other arbitrary dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. Do not question them. They are for others to mark the passage of time. It is best not to ask why, because they might tell you.