Monday, 15 February 2010

New Optimism and Kelly

Balls to my future, that'll wait. I am doing modules for my last semester of university that appear to be what can only be described as facking sweeeeet. Modules about Blaxsploitation films and 1970s literature run by bicycle-enthusiast Dutchmen. That one actually has film viewings and everything. Modules in which I am one of only two participants run by starry-eyed Californians about memories. See, doesn't this sound amazing? Doesn't it? If you're not filled with my boyish exuberance, treat those questions as rhetorical. There are also more exciting University exploits I am preparing for, which I'm not allowed to talk about until Friday afternoon. See, today's blog entry is a smorgasbord of emotions. A roller-coaster ride that only engages in loop-the-loops of pleasantries.

That said I do currently have a cold, making me feel rather naff and as such I'm not doing anything productive and am instead watching Disney films with my housemates. I did manage to venture out earlier, but only succeeding in getting a rather aggressive haircut from a woman; a woman to whom the phrase "A smile costs nothing" would have been valuable advice. But I don't tend to wisecrack to people have tattoos on their necks. I find tattoos on people's faces are usually an indicator of a person that could kick seven shades of shit out of me. Anyway let's steer this back towards Disney films and away from snobbery. You might want to stay tuned for a critical analysis of Aladdin 2. Or you may not. I'd perfectly understand that. It doesn't even have Robin Williams in.

Let's end this entry with something vaguely reminiscent of my first posting: the appraisal of popular music. I went to a gig t'other day. I don't go to gigs very often, but I went to see Kelly Clarkson. I won't beat around the bush, it was fuckin' ace. Pop music comes in for a lot of very harsh criticism from people who tend to confuse their opinions with facts and bestow great importance on their own tastes. The backup act were a bit mediocre, but most backup acts tend to be. They were quite practised though, and did their set with a bit of flair before promptly leaving on cue. I'm also quite a fan of the new Academy in Birmingham. Your feet still stick to the floor as before, but it's a much better venue than the old one. Anyhoo, that'll do for now.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Please Don't Volunteer

I now work at a charity shop. I say work, that implies you are paid. I am a selfless, altruistic and praiseworthy volunteer. Feel free to knock down commemoratory statues of Mother Teresa and build shrines in my honour. They are long overdue. I can't pretend it's all out of the goodness of my heart though. First dibs on ladies' blouses and 90s dance CDs? I'm so there, as the kids might say.

I went on Saturday, rolled out of bed only recently, and found it to be a lot more enjoyable than I had anticipated. People, young and old...mainly old, were friendly and time went quickly as I sorted through cat-hair clothing and assorted bric a brac. Also I get to use a till. The novelty of using a till has never worn off. It's not fancy touchscreen, and I don't get a swipe card. We're talking old school tills, but nevertheless it will do for my fun.

But oh dear. Oh dear oh dear Monday afternoon in a Save The Children shop. Volunteerism, as I understand it, works like the proverb about the buses. And today, after pleas for volunteers, we all appear to have arrived at once. So we were there: Elaine, Orlean (A French exchange student on what must be the most tedious work experience she could have imagined), Freda, Jean and me. Like the power-rangers, except 4/5 dressed in Dororthy Perkins and Gimbles get-up. (I of course was in the Red Ranger outfit, he being the most enviable one of the group). Ready, Set...Well, Go would be a push. More stand around for 3 hours whilst Freda regaled us with annecdotes and stories so uninteresting they could be used as a punishment for young deviants. But I shouldn't grumble: Jeanie is a bit of a peach really, and Elaine has the habit of calling you "sweetheart" after every clause in every sentence, which surprisingly doesn't really lose its warmth or sincerity.

The highlight of my day was watching a Spanish man enthusiastically ask me for his opinion on the coat he was trying on. (He may have been Spanish, or Iranian, or Greek, I'll be honest I don't have the foggiest. I am only certain he was not from France. I've got that accent down to a tee. Ask me at your next cocktail social.) I returned with gusto. It suited him very well I informed him. He paid me for the coat. A handsome salesman I clearly am. Wasted in that shop. Writing about self in third person never a good sign. Nor is missing out words in diary style and writing like some sort of Bridget Jones. Must lose weight, meet man of dreams and advance in job whilst avoiding phone calls from mother.


Sorry. I've gone a little mad. Anyway, my point was: don't go mad with the volunteering thing. Sure, do it. But don't all do it. If a few of you do it, you can spend a few hours restacking shelves, pricing things and sorting donations into relevant piles (keep and display, or what-the-fuck-is-that-pile-of-monstrosity-and-I-don't-even-want-to-know-what-that-stain-is). But when too many people do it, you just sit there listening to people compare the most economical and grandchild-friendly Sunday carvery to be found in Stannington. And fun that is not.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Ok, I did try the poetry thing. You know, for my Pulitzer. I was going to win it. But I tried writing poetry again and it simply isn't happening. I always saw it as a discipline related to what I was academically good at, therefore something I would be able to do. Then again that might be like asking a Chemistry student to make fireworks. Or some less shit analogy. I'm not saying I wouldn't like, in some capacity, to write. But poetry isn't for me - not even with that book Stephen Fry wrote that teaches you how to write poetry.

The following paragraph is written fully in the understanding that I am starting to channel Bridget Jones if she was more worried about her career and less worried about showing her fanny to Hugh Grant:

It's quite disheartening actually, as I'm still trying to find a bit of direction. Graduate schemes, careers, actual current work. I am of course giving in the Max Factor (see previous posting), but the enormous number of people running for the position (something I wasn't previously aware of) makes that unlikely. I am quite aware that most reasonable people don't expect you to have a career plan laid out by the time you're 21 but having some idea might help. Also, as third year progressed, the idea I had in First Year, that I was a shoe-in for a 2.1. has evaporated. We're now looking at a 2.1. just about, if things go according to plan next semester, but quite possibly a 2.2.

If that was in a more obviously employable degree, or from Durham, I'd be a bit less worried. But university is a troubling place, that tells you how very special you are, before spitting you out the other end with a hundred thousand other people with a 2nd class honours and a hostile jobs market. Basically, third year has sucked the optimism out of me.

I'm a worker. I don't want to spend however an indefinite number of months back living with my parents whilst trying to find any form of gainful employment. All this would, as said before, be greatly aided by me knowing what I wanted to do: advertising, teaching, retail, hospitality, social work, political work, PR, journalism etc. The list of possible avenues is as long as one's proverbial arm, yet none of them feel like I should be pursuing them for one reason or another. Maybe it's a cliché, but I might genuinely need to spend a bit of time away from university and work, and, how to do they say "find myself". If nothing else it'd be a good excuse for a relaxing holiday.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Give It The Max Factor

Some time ago I decided to enter the circus that is student politics. To do this, I am running for election to be the Students' Union Welfare Officer. Everybody loves the shallow nature of politics, imagine it for young people. I'm not saying that student politicians don't do good work (I'd not be interested if I didn't think it was worthwhile) but the rigmarole of actually getting elected worries me. It's not real politics because you don't get handed briefcases of money or cut ribbons. But the job basically involves providing support and representation for students in issues of Welfare, and raise the awareness of mental health, physical health and safety issues. Housing, financial responsibility. To coordinate the Students' Union's response to these issues. I think it sounds fun. And interesting. And quite frankly, I think I'd be good at it.

I had a conversation today though that illuminated for me the level to which I am up against it. Nominations have not yet opened, yet I can name half a dozen candidates, and there are more than that. Which means the next step of my plan is going to be getting noticed. So input required now Maxfans, as I need a slogan. Giving Welfare the Max Factor. MaxWelFare, Welfare: Take it to the Max. I have had many suggestions. I am going to have to whore out every waking hour of my time talking to people, handing out leaflets and talking in lectures. Kissing of babies and giving the V for peace sign I presume is optional.

So if you're reading this and go to Sheffield University, you are now morally obliged to put your trust in me to be your Welfare Officer. If you do not, you are now morally obliged to befriend people who do go to University at Sheffield and tell them to. Student Officers do hard, unrewarded work (well, it is a salaried role, but when I say unrewarded I mean people assume their job is easy, which it really isn't). So we're going to do it. I have a dream. Ask not what your Union can do for you etc etc.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Blue Screen of Death

I was having a conversation with my housemate (the one who has a new found thing about going to Wales) and we were browsing Wikipedia, comparing today's modern wrestlers to the ones we remember as a child. We don't much watch it any more, because we're not 12. But his younger brother does, and I like to fondly remember my days of the WWE before it harvested anti-Arabian sentiment in a politically unstable climate and used it for entertainment.

But we think we have a fresh angle. A positive stereotype to reinforce. A young, Asian man...who is an I.T. technician. He will be called: The Blue Screen. He will dress in a smart pair of trousers and white shirt. Smart slick hair, bespectacled, pens in his top pocket. This guy looks like he's going to wipe your hard drive into a submission. In preparation for this new character, we have compiled a list of his specialist moves and techniques:

The Loading Screen: A submission move, very painful. Whilst in effect, he aggressively shouts PLEASE WAIT, LOADING IN PROGRESS at you.

Windows Crash: The Blue Screen drags an old monitor into the ring, and kicks your head into it.

DOS Dive: I dunno, some sort of flying maneouvre from the top rope.

Blue Screen of Death: A specialist clothesline, rendering you unconscious.

The Double Click: Some sort of double kick combo. These ideas are getting a bit half-formed now.

We've not yet decided what music he would enter to, but perhaps some sort of extended remix of the Intel Inside jingle. Or I liked the idea of the Tetris theme tune. Needless to say his video would begin with a lot of green, Matrix-style text scrolling across the screen followed by him looking very serious, installing new software onto your laptop and browsing for affordable replacement parts on Ebay. He naturally, comes from:,_Indiana

Though if that is not good enough, Silicon Valley would probably do.

Anyway, this has been enough procrastination for now. All further ideas for the character would be appreciated, and casting will begin shortly.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Not Just Deadlines!

Ha, how could I forget. Not just essays loom large over the horizon for the student. But equally, the prospect of exams. I worry how I will adjust to life after university, when evaluation of my performance won't take place in a disused canteen, in silence...with my phone turned two hour blocks. I am not naive, and know whatever I end up doing after university, I will have to jump through hoops and present myself for the approval of those above me in the food chain. However, I do dearly look forward to it feeling a little less arbitrary and concentrated.

I only actually have two exams. I live with a girl who has 5. I don't mention people by name in this blog very often, so let's have a bit of trivia. Her name is Sarah. She hails from North Wales, and that rhymes. She has a hot water bottle and is a vegetarian. There we go. I hope you're taking notes by the way, there will be questions at the end. But two exams feels like a lot when you've only understood half the course. I know, I know, people make their own beds and lie in them. People who don't understand things by this point in life should understand the necessity of humbling themselves and asking for help. But when you haven't understood half the lectures, there becomes a point when it becomes both embarrassing and a little impolite to send your tutor an email telling him how inpenetrable and tedious his course is. And I love that guy, anyway.

The problem is that whenever I attempt the very difficult bits of philosophy, I always fall short. I should stick to Ancient Philosophy, when it was all very simple because they were the first people to say anything, or the wishy washy ethics modules. I do not have that extra motivation, intuition and intelligence to simply understand it. I will buy myself a really big cake and invite everyone I know to eat it, if I ever understand Descartes to the required levels as stipulated by my university. This cake'll be fucking huge.

But I shall return to Wales for a moment, like the devolution debate, or Dawn French. She's from Angelsey. Don't say you don't learn things reading my blog, Maxfans. My other housemate, whose name is James, has recently received two rather large pieces of post. Combined, they comprise seven separate brochures for holidaying in Wales. The Valleys, Carmarthenshire, Brecon Beacons, the lot. Glossy, slick and utterly unenticing. Who would ever want to holiday in this country? I'm not disparaging about the UK, and there's much to do here. But why anyone would want to spend a long weekend in Haverfordwest as opposed to Barcelona eludes me. The only way I can positively summarise my experiences of Welsh holidays as a child would be: character-building. And even that sounds ambiguous.

I've not posted much on this recently, having been somewhat deflated. Of the various rights of passage to becoming an adult, I consider some of them achieved for me, some not. Losing one's virginity, graduating from school/university, learning to drive, leaving home, that sort of thing. Anyway, I've been going through the "first serious breakup" stage of becoming a fabulous young adult. This is where relationships as represented through films, music and tele let me down. For all the representations of dizzying butterflies in the stomach, blazing rows and gut-wrenching heartache, I was taken utterly by surprise by the overwhelming sense of sad, heavy disappointment and heightened-emotion that sits on you like...a big elephant, sitting on you. But not like in India, where they go mental and kill people, and George Orwell has to write an essay about having to shoot it (though really it was about imperialism and the role of the colonist, clearly). See, the mood got light again? Anyone who has ever read Shooting An Elephant will be right on board with me here.

But yes, I shall endeavour to instead dazzle my reader(s), (I sense that pluralised form was optimistic) with my spunky resiliance, my gallows humour and psuedo-intellectual asides about people like George Orwell.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

This Is What The Blog Was For: Dawdling

Deadlines. Monday. Big Essay. Biggest of the Degree so far. 3000 short words for 70% of a module. Enquiring minds wanted to know what I was going to do with the rest of my life before. Now, one enquiring mind (maybe two, I can't remember if this gets double-marked) want to know what I think about Victorian Literature. I'm tapping out the draft, which will have all the important ideas in, probably in the wrong order and all in need of rephrasing. But I don't mind that, because the rephrasing bit makes me feel like an important speechwriter of some sort.

Needless to say as the essay deadline draws closer, I've got good at procrastinating. This morning I have already slept in, tided my room a bit and made a frankly indulgently complicated omlette. I have not yet opened my curtains. Red pepper, mushroom, garlic, bacon, cheddar. My omlette, not my curtains. Honestly, I should've submitted the omlette instead. The edge was slightly overdone, but it was at least a 2.1.