Right, can I please first of all say that I am feeling a bit out of sorts. My head is really fuzzy and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. If this is shit I am sorry, but I am not going to not do it. Part of the reason I am doing this is so that I can get used to writing regularly, even when I’m not going to be any good at it. Also I have committed myself to this little project of doing a blog post every day for a whole month, and I’m not giving up that easily.

I suppose it depends what exactly you mean by “young people in Leeds”. There are a few variables I have to get my head round, such as who do I class as young? Little kids? Am I a young person? I don’t really know that many young people from Leeds, as most of my friends here (oh yeah did I mention that I live in Leeds) grew up somewhere else. Maybe I should look at what there is to do in Leeds for youngsters. Anyway, here we go.

Today we live in a media-saturated environment. I am sat in front of a computer, with access to the internet, and I can find out more or less anything I want to. I am constantly being advertised at. I am being told what looks good, sounds good, what is cool and what is hip. So is everyone else. I don’t think that there is any major difference in youth culture across different towns today because the same force-fed culture is omnipresent, we, as young citizens of the UK, if not the western world, are all subjected to the same aspirational materialistic marketing ploys, and to a degree cultural boundaries have been lessened as a result.

This has been my worst entry so far by far, so far. But I am all out of sorts.



Day 5 – Subject: Poetry

September 6, 2009

Wow, what a choice. Poetry. Poetry poetry poetry.

If I’m honest I don’t really know too much about poetry. I know that I really enjoyed reading a poetry book by William Blake, and I like the work of John Cooper Clarke, but I never got why it must be analysed to death. I remember putting forward to my teacher at school the notion that if you take each line of the poem and try to work out it’s true meaning, try to dissect every word, try to understand what the poet intended when he chose to put four words in one line yet five in the following, you lose the energy of the poem. It becomes unreadable, you lose momentum when you have to pick it apart to such a degree that it doesn’t mean anything. Obviously I didn’t put it as eloquently as that, I think Mrs. Breen thought I was taking the piss a bit, and she replied with, “Well, if you want to go and ask your head of year why you have to do the work you are more than welcome!” I thought my point was valid, I wanted to enjoy the poem (or not) for what it was, but I suppose I was being a bit cocky, so I said that I would. “GET OUT!” was the response. I was followed out soon afterwards by Mrs. Breen, who clearly didn’t see the point I was trying to make, she just thought I was protesting about having to do the work. I realise now that I was disrupting the class, and Mrs. Breen was probably very stressed within her job and saw me as a bit of a troublemaker, and for that, Mrs. Breen, I am sorry. My question hasn’t been answered though. Why am I not allowed to enjoy a poem for what it is, why do I need to know the rules? Surely that is the beauty of poetry, I see poetry as a piece of verbal art, the words that are being said are as good as they way they are said sounds. If you like it, you like it. Simple.

I won’t go on too much about this, as I think I have made my point. I shall just leave you with two of my favourite poems.

Day 4 – Subject: September

September 4, 2009

What does the month of September mean for me? I wonder.. (I am actually wondering, right now).

From between the ages of four and seventeen, again again at twenty-three, September has marked the start of my academic year. I am about to start college once more (I actually know what I want to do with my life now, so hopefully this will be a great couple of years) and, being twenty-five, about 60% of the years I have been alive have been academic ones. Even when I wasn’t preparing to study many of my friends were, so to start with I will say that September for me means school. Although it does signal the end of the summer, I don’t really see that as a bad thing. Having worked full-time all summer I don’t see this September as the end of my holiday. The rest of my housemates, and a lot of my other friends will be returning to Leeds soon, there will be loads of housewarming parties. My friends Danni and Tekla celebrate their birthday in a couple of weeks, it’s going to be fucking A. Going back to college always tends to fill me with a sense of hope, anxiousness, and definitely excitement. I feel like I am getting on with my life, moving the big plan forward, so really I suppose September is all about getting the ball rolling. Everyone is back in town, loads of fun will be had, and as opposed to being stuck in a shit job I am taking steps to get where I want to be. Fuck yeah!

Another thing about September, is that it is, season-wise, wedged in no man’s land a bit. I always try to appreciate things as they are happening, like a nice sunny day, or if it is cold, when you get in the house and have a cup of tea. It is easy to long for summer when it is pissing it down, or to complain about the heat when it hasn’t pissed it down for a couple of weeks. But in September you seem to get overcast, but not cold days, then a day of really nice weather, with the odd mega rain bastard day thrown in. You don’t know where you’re going, the clocks haven’t gone back yet so it is still light until fairly late on. Then in late September, it has started getting generally a bit colder, and supermarkets start stocking Christmas stuff. to me that is when it all really starts to change, people start wearing scarves, you can see your breath when you leave the house in the morning, and you remember that you have radiators.

September is all about change. Changing your attitude to life, the change in your social life, and the change in the world around you as the Earth tilts a tiny bit further away from the Sun.

Good day to you all, fine internet users. How are we fairing today? Top notch I hope.

For this blog entry, I will broach the tantalizing subject of Japanese cinema.

I can’t really say I know too much about the Japanese film industry, I have seen and enjoyed many exponents of it though. The first question that comes to my mind, is “Paul, what are your three favourite Japanese films, and why?”. Good question Paul. Thanks. My favourite Japanese film (and indeed film from any country) is without a doubt, Ping Pong (2002) (click the link to see the trailer). Ping pong is a wonderful film following the struggles of two best friends Peco, and Smile (so called because he never does). Peco is cocky and confident that he is the best player in the world, all he wants to do is play table tennis, and win. Smile on the other hand only plays to pass the time, he isn’t bothered whether he wins or not, so often lets his friend win, as he wants him to be happy. There are a lot of great characters in the film, and that really is the best thing about it. It’s not like a hollywood sports film with bad guys and underdogs, it is about each players personal journey. Even the main antagonist of the film isn’t bad, you learn about his story, and end up rooting for him as much as the protagonists. It is beautifully shot, with cool matrix-style special effects to enhance the games. I really don’t know why it isn’t as big as it deserves to be. It should in my opinion be hailed as a cult classic. An example of how to write a brilliant story. I actually only discovered it by pure accident. BBC Four had a season all about modern Japanese culture and society. Being generally interested in Japanese culture, the mixture of ultra modern westernised neon garishness with really, really old cultural heritage fascinates many people I know. I set my sky+ to record the whole series, and it took the liberty of recording everything Japanese related on that evening, including Ping Pong. If you ever get a chance to see it please grab it with both arms, and your legs. I am welling up with happy tears just writing about it.

Film number two then, would be Zatoichi (2003) (click the link to see the trailer). The character of Zatoichi was first introduced to us in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Japan, there are lots of films with him as the central character, but this version, written, directed by, and starring Takeshi Kitano, is my choice. More info about the character, and all of his incantations can be found here. A few words about the star of the film first. Takeshi Kitano is really famous in Japan. In the eighties he was Japan’s best loved comedian and light entertainer, equal to say Jonathan Ross, or Stephen Fry. The highlight of his TV career may be familiar to you, as he hosted, for three years between 1986 and 1989 Takeshi’s Castle. Then he decided to have a go at directing, and serious acting, so he made Violent Cop, a brutal, violent, slick (for it’s time) shocking thriller of a movie. Certainly not light entertainment. He followed that up with Boiling Point, and Sonatine, both just as shocking and violent.

Back to Zatoichi. Takeshi Kitano’s masterpiece. The central character, played by Takeshi, is a blind masseur. He looks harmless, doddering around with his cane. Set in feudal Japan, in the Edo period, the film starts when some gang members try to mug him, taking advantage of his disabled state. Little do they know, hidden in his cane is an extremely sharp, extremely strong blade, and being blind doesn’t seem to give him any jip. He quickly, easily, and amazingly dispatches of his enemies, and sets about de-gangstering the town. The traditional Samurai get up and awesome fight scenes are perfectly juxtaposed in this film with quirky comedy, clever timing (in a scene where a house is being built, everyone hammers/saws/planes/sands in time with the music), and plain madness. The film has a grand Stomp style tap-dance finalé, with all the principal characters, good and bad, dead and alive joining in. I’m pretty sure feudal Japan didn’t have Stomp on tour. Ridiculous, fun, amazing to look at, superb action. It really doesn’t get much better.

At number three in my list is Princess Mononoke (1997) (click the link to see the trailer). One of the best animated films I have ever seen, made by the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who founded Studio Ghibli. This film really proves that animated films can be taken seriously, and have real artistic merit. This is nothing like Disney, and although it is bathed in fantasy with odd other worldly creatures, and Gods, and strange lands. It really is beautiful, astonishingly beautiful. The film really has depth too, carrying an all too poignant message that it delivers with heartbreaking sincerity. After watching this I felt drained, emotionally and physically. It is quite cathartic, and not many films have that effect, least of all animated films. I really don’t want to talk about the plot because I fear I wouldn’t be able to recreate the fantastical world without dumbing it down or tarnishing it’s beauty in some way. I’m sure there are words to describe what an amazing film this is, but I don’t have the skill put put them down in the right order for you. I am blown away by this film, and clearly left quite speechless. Just find it and watch it, and then you will understand.

There are of course, many other aspects of Japanese cinema that I haven’t really looked at. The Godzilla movies of the 1960’s, classic samurai tales such as Yojimbo (Which was the direct inspiration for Sergio Leone’s A Fist Full of Dollars), and The Seven Samurai, and even manga/anime from the eighties and nineties eg Akira or Ghost in the Shell have all had a massive impact on film worldwide. Japanese film really does seem to be the same as Japan itself, mixing old traditions and new bright, shiny technology, Mixing its own culture with western culture to produce a new Japanese culture, and with it, Japanese cinema.

Wahey, what will I prattle on about tomorrow?


Day 2 – Subject: Cake

September 2, 2009

Today’s topic children, will be cake.

Let us start by looking at why Ellen has chosen this as the specialist subject. Well, on Tuesday I will start my new college course. I am going to be a Full-time student studying BAKING! The proper course title is actually VRQ LV2 Food Manufacture, but really it is BAKING! I’m thinking that she thinks that I have a more considered opinion to cake than most other people, she may just have something.

See the things I love about cake are not the things most people love about cake. I love the fact that, if you are given the same ingredients, even sometimes in the same quantities, if you mix them together using different methods, you get a dazzling array of different results. I love learning things about what goes on when you combine certain ingredients, for example: When you make a sponge cake you might be asked to beat the sugar and the fat together vigorously. Why? Because the recipe said to? What are you, a lifeless sheep? Sheep are not known for their cakes. The bit I like is the fact that sugar is kept in a crystalline state, and it has sharp edges, like a tiny, tiny knife. When you beat it through the fat you are actually making itty bitty incisions in the fat, which heal straight away, but trap air inside (not in order to rise, just so you retain the little pockets). This is why when you mix the egg in you have to be careful about it. the egg and other ingredients then fill the holes and the mixture is now a suspension and doesn’t curdle. If your cake mix does curdle, and someone tells you to add more flour, please punch them immediately. Use your loaf (hahaha), why would that help? that would just soak up excess water and fuck up your measurements. The most likely reason that you bollocksed it up is that the egg mix was too cold. To make sure it all goops together again, just gently heat it by putting the mixing bowl in your sink with some hot water in, and mix it like a bastard.

Oh, sorry about that. I went off on one there. Back on course. Phew

I was asked about my earliest memories of cake, and how I saw cake as a child. I am so much more a savoury person. When I was a kid it was all about cheese. I don’t really have any associations with cake in my childhood. If it was offered to me I would accept, but I don’t think I would ever ask for it. I think that stands to this day. Last night I was bored/hungry, and I spent about an hour perving over TasteSpotting, I did a search for “cheesy”. It was goooood.

So, in summary: I like cake, who doesn’t? I appreciate the inner workings of cake, but on the whole I prefer cheese. Thank you

Day 1 – Subject: This blog.

September 1, 2009

Okay, so to start things off I am writing my first post all about the fact that I am writing this blog.

I don’t see myself as being (oooh thunderstorm is going mad) particularly good at writing. I got an E in GCSE English, and although I can spell and use grammar correctly, and I have an expansive and capacious vocabulary (see what I did there), I find it really difficult to get things down on paper/screen. In a typical exam in English at school I would have fully answered the question, giving a clear and concise answer, but filling about half a page, whereas the girl next to me would be on the sixth sheet (both sides) and asking the teacher for more paper. I would like to think that I am quite creative, I have lots of ideas, but transforming an idea into something that someone else can enjoy is not easy. At the moment I am trying to write a screenplay. I have fully constructed the idea, and most of the plot, but when it comes to the actual writing of it I am at a complete loss. I have been trying to do this for the best part of a year, and I have written 6 pages.

So back today, why am I writing this, and not my film? (Which is, by the way, the best idea for a film, I am quite excited about it). If you look to the top of this page, the link entitled Explain yourself, boy! will briefly outline for you that my good old pal Ellen had the idea of creating a blog that she posted on once a day for a month. She said she wants to do it because she needs to write more, and has persuaded me to join in to help me get better too.

I have told her that I am willing to do this, but only with the proviso that she chooses the subject I have to write about every day. I hope she comes up with some crackers 😀