Saturday, 29 September 2012

Hugely underrated artists that you have to listen to


Basically I went to a gig the other day and it's one of the best I have ever been to. The singer was so talented - much more so than many of the generic famous ones that we hear every time we switch on the radio. And because he wasn't quite as big as them, it was a really small intimate gig that was just perfect. So it made me think about who else I would like to see like that before they get the recognition they deserve and become absolutely massive (and expensive). So if you are a fan of singers like Newton Faulkner, Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Mumford and Sons, Norah Jones and Jason Mraz check out these slightly lesser known artists who I think you should see.

7. Jon McLaughlin
I believe he is a lot bigger in the US than he is over here. But he sings the most amazingly cute songs. He opened for Kelly Clarkson in 2007 and appeared in the Disney film Enchanted with Amy Adams and Patrick Demsey singing 'So Close' at the ball at the end.

6. Frank Hamilton
Currently writing a song a week which he started in January and is continuing throughout the whole of 2012. It has earned him recognition and praise from the likes of Ed Sheeran. And I am not surprised, they are all pretty amazing. So look out for them every Friday =]

5. Gabrielle Aplin
She found relative fame recently at the ITunes festival...beware other people are catching on to how good she is. See her before everyone else knows.

4. Parachute
Listen to Forever and Always. Best. Song. Ever. That is all.

3. Lucy Rose
Her voice is stunning in a laid back understated kind of way, quite similar in tone to Eva Cassidy. She has toured with Noah and the Whale and have both supported and sung with Bombay Bicycle Club. But she is stunning in her own right and recently released her own album. Buy it now. You won't regret it.

2. Nina Nesbitt
Quirky, cute and absolutely perfect. She has toured with Ed Sheeran on his latest tour who is hugely complimentary of her. Her songs are catchy and you just can't get them out of your head. Love her.

1. Joe Brooks
I could literally talk about this guy for the whole post. I saw him live the other night and he is literally the most amazing, beautiful singer in the world. Not only is he unbelievably hot but he is just the most amazing singer. He writes wonderfully cute songs and you can tell he is one of these people who actually really feels everything he is singing about. He's the definition of talent and hugely underrated. So make sure you see him, if no one else on this list.

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Why does anyone bother to be a teacher?


For anyone who undertakes any kind of teacher training course (whether this is BEd, PGCE or GTP), this is a very valid question that doesn't occur to us prior to actually starting the course. Because, contrary to popular belief, teaching is HARD. Yes we get long holidays off but that is the only truth amongst all the myths. Of course, we do get the weekends off as well but those are spent planning. So, technically, you can count those as work days. It is also not true that we only work 9am-3pm. I am only a trainee and I was in school from 8am-6pm most days. And I still had work to do when I got back home. I dread to think the kind of hours I will be working, when I have complete control of my own class.

Believe it or not, the hours in front of the class are the fun and easy bit. The aspect that people don't seem to take into account at all, is all the planning and preparation that goes on beforehand. This is what takes up the majority of my time. And it is made so much worse by the fact that the government constantly meddles with what the teachers can and can't tell the children, what should be included, the rate that children should progress (despite the fact that this is a very personal thing that shouldn't be generalised) etc etc etc. They, from their cosy little offices, dictate how schools should be run and leaves the teachers to struggle through the ensuing chaos. Something that I don't think I will ever be able to fully accept. But you don't find all this out until you actually start the job.

So it begs the question, why does anyone go through all the stress of training to be even more stressed while they are working. And the answer is quite simple: because of their love of children. Not in a creepy rapey kind of way but, when it goes well, working with kids can be absolutely amazing; rewarding, hilarious and hugely satisfying when they successfully grasp what you want them to. I have always said that being in the classroom with the children is the bit that I really enjoy. It's just everything else which I dislike. So this holiday I have been teaching some instrumental music lessons and absolutely loved it. I have been able to dictate how and what I want to teach and the pace they should be progressing at. No one is breathing over my shoulder, telling me that I am doing it wrong or that I should be teaching different things....making it much more enjoyable for both teacher and pupil. Maybe I should take this and personal tutoring up as my career instead!

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Friday, 7 September 2012

50 shades of crap? Or should I say genius?


As an English student I would say that on the whole, I tend to read pretty cultural books. Either classics that I have been forced to read, classics that I feel I should read or chick lit that I am reading to give myself a break while, at the same time, researching the market (as I want to be a chick lit author).  But at the beginning of this summer, (like so many women around me) I got seduced by a new craze that has crudely been named ‘clit lit’ which has swept through our nation.  And it all began with one little piece of writing that originally started its life as Twilight fanfiction.  I don’t think even the author could have predicted just how big 50 Shades of Grey became, outselling even Harry Potter within a few months.  I don’t know whether that says more about the book itself or about the females that populate Britain.
50 shades of grey tells the story of university student, Ana Steele who by chance meets multimillionaire Christian Grey.  Of course, she is immediately dazzled by his amazing looks and he is intrigued by her innocence.  So they then have a ‘relationship’ of sorts where he reveals some very particular sexual tastes and she spends the rest of the book trying to decide whether she loves it or is terrified.
What is most confusing about the trilogy is that, despite its huge popularity, the writing itself is actually pretty poor.  The descriptions are dull, the conversations are repetitive and the plot is somewhat unrealistic.  Furthermore, the formation of the characters is extremely weak.  You reach the end of the novel knowing very little more about the characters than you did at the beginning.  By the end of the third one you do know a bit more, particularly about Christian but all that you find out about Ana is that she is intensely annoying and gets angry about little things that don’t actually matter at all.  James took far too much effort in trying to make her feisty, so much so that her argumentative nature just seemed a little obtuse.

Yet still we read it which I can only put down to a fairly enticing plot and even though you can guess the end, you do want to see whether or not the characters manage to settle down nicely.  On top of this it is quite educational on how you shouldn’t write a novel and includes every single ‘don’t’ that is on a teacher’s tip list (take that from a trainee teacher).  However, if you are willing to ignore this and are desperate for something relaxing to read that takes no brain power at all, then this is definitely for you. So sit back and enjoy…but not too much.
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Avengers vs The New Avengers

This year has seen an amazing number of  massive blockbusters hit our cinema screens to the joy of cinema geeks, such as myself. These included Men in Black III, The Avengers, Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises and sometime in the near future, Superman is jumping on the sequel bandwagon as well. I can proudly report that I have seen every single one, despite not having viewed any of the previous ones in any of the series. I guess I will have to watch them all backwards.

It did get me thinking though...what if all the superheroes got together to form their own alternative Avengers group....made up of Agents Jay and Kay, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Clark Kent. Against Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton, Thor and Natasha Romanoff of the original avengers group. Who would win?

The first thing that the New Avengers (N.A) would do is break up The Avengers because they are so much stronger as a team, than when they are on their own. Each of the N.A would then take up battle against only one of the avengers apart from Agents Jay and Kay who stuck together to take down Clint Barton pretty quickly effectively stopping him from picking off the rest of their group one by one. They would then work hard and manage to get Bruce Banner into a space prison where he can't harm anyone before they return to the battle and are promptly killed by The Black Widow in revenge of Barton.

Catwoman decides to pick her fight against Romanoff, thinking that as the only other female among the group, she will be the easiest to pick off. She is much surprised however by Romanoff's skill which is more than a match for her. They both have similarly equal skills but Romanoff's strength and stamina is what makes her almost win the long fight. However, just as Kyle is about to lose, Romanoff is distracted by Agent Jay and Kay's return and she turns her attention to them. And, although Kyle doesn't act quite quickly enough to save the two Men in Black, she does manage to kill Romanoff.

Next Peter Parker takes on Steve Rogers. Even though Captain America is good, Spiderman is better. He confuses him through his amazing spidery moves, so Captain America doesn't know which way to turn. There are some hairy moments when his weapons are effective on Spiderman before Parker is able to block them up with his web, but once they are disabled it is easy for him to defeat Captain America.

The next battle is between Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. Both have machinery that rivals anything else the rest of the avengers or the NA can achieve. But the fact that Tony Stark's is more personalised and easier to get around means that he wins as he can dart around and damage the Batmobile fairly effortlessly.

Thor is a bit jealous that Clark Kent is known as Superman so goes after him and wipes him out quite quickly...hmmmm not such a super man after all. He then goes after Parker who is not only injured, but infinitely less strong and agile than Thor anyway. He stands no chance against the god. Selina Kyle meanwhile is taking on Ironman, hugely angry that he has killed her love. He succumbs to her flirting and charms and once he is out of his suit, it is easy to defeat him.

Which means it is just Catwoman and Thor left. Both are exhausted from their previous fights and decide that they quite fancy the other. So they decide to leave the fighting behind them and live happily ever after with all their God babies.

And this is what would happen if all the superheroes turned on each other. Just as well they are too busy protecting the earth huh? If you think the battles would finish a slightly different way, then let me know in a comment :D

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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wizard of Oz

On 24th August 2012 I made Coster history, and went to see my first ever West End show.   And what a one I managed to pick.  Sneaking into one of the last showings of Wizard of Oz (as it is due to close on the 2nd September), I was lucky even to get a ticket.  The theatre was absolutely rammed, as the audience all wanted to say farewell to the classic musical and I don’t doubt that it’s going to stay just as packed throughout the remaining 8 days.

Resurrected by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s somewhat cheesy hand, I was impressed at how true the musical stayed to the original film.  Obviously, it had all the main recognizable hits such as ‘Ding Dong the Witch is dead, ‘Follow the yellow brick road’ and, of course, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’  These were beautifully performed by Sophie Evans, who played a red haired version of Dorothy to absolute perfection.  She was feisty yet totally sweet at the right moments, maintained a realistic Kansas twang and handled ‘Toto’ with well-practiced control, displaying she was clearly a dog lover.  Most importantly, she was also pitch perfect.  I watched her on the BBC talent programme a couple of years ago, that landed her the role (after she was declared runner up) and, although back then she displayed her ability, it still didn’t really prepare me for just how good she was.  The two extra years of training meant that she gave a super polished performance throughout the whole show that I wouldn’t be able to fault, even if I had wanted to.
The rest of the cast were of a similarly high standard; particularly Des O’Connor (Wizard); Edward Baker-Duly (Tin Man); Paul Keating (Scarecrow); Martin Callaghan (Lion) and Marianne Benedict (Wicked Witch of the West); with no one putting a foot or a note wrong.  The gently humourous script made the three companions of Dorothy hugely entertaining and a favourite amongst the children in the audience. Similarly Benedict's flight over the audience and her blunt 'Shut it, you' aimed at one member who was booing a little too vocally, softened her mean character, allowing her to be given hearty cheers when her curtain call came at the end.
Finally, what added to the show in a way I have never seen to the same high standard, were the great use of sound and stage effects, used constantly throughout.  There was not only the normal ones you would expect, but also fire, (yes, real fire. I was sitting in the second row and could feel the heat of it); a revolving stage, animations using not only a video but also a house that moved around in a simulated kind of way...and of course there was a fair bit of flying as well from both the witches and some flying monkeys. These are unequal to anything that a regional theatre can offer and enhanced the whole fantastic experience in such a way that I am sure it is one I will never ever forget.
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