Hold.

Well it’s safe to say that my blog has been well and truly abandoned recently.

With countless assignments and a dissertation deadline looming, I have decided that until I have finished my degree (on the 6th of May!) I will be putting my blog. . . on hold.

While I understand the importance of  multitasking and time-management skills (can you tell I’ve been writing cover letters?), it is also important that I am realistic and prioritise!

I miss blogging. I miss writing for fun and not for assessment. I miss having a life!

I am already looking forward to being able to get back into writing and sharing my ideas and opinions! So I’ll see you all in May when I will be FREE!

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Small steps

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To those of you who know me well, you may be a little bit shocked about what you are about to read: for the last month or so I have been exercising.

Inspired by a blog post I read on Away From The Noise which was entitled The Smaller The Step, The Greater The Progress, I decided to begin my own health and fitness strategy. I’ve always gone through phases in the past where I’ve decided to exercise or diet, but I’ve usually done too much at once and given up after a few days. This time I decided to take it one small step at a time so that I could slowly get into a routine and progress slightly further everyday.

It started in January when I decided that I was going to drink at least 2.5 litres of water a day. I managed to do it for about two weeks, but then once I started to become busier and had a week away in London for work experience, I soon realised that it wasn’t always achievable. I did, however, get used to drinking more water each day and I could definitely feel the health benefits from it. My head felt clearer and I was getting a lot less headaches, so that was great.

I continued trying to drink a decent amount of water everyday (I now aim for around 1.5-2 litres a day) and decided to take the next step with my health and fitness plan; this time I would tackle the exercise part, and this is where I feel like I’ve really achieved. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m pretty lazy and would usually laugh at the thought of going for a run or to the gym, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I’m doing a lot of work for uni at the moment and I thought that exercise would maybe help to relieve some stress and give me a break in between work.

I knew that if I just let myself decide how much to workout each day, I wouldn’t get very far and would soon enough give up like I had before. With it being January at the time, a lot of people were talking about different apps and websites that they had been using so I decided to download the 30 day abs and 30 day squats apps.

I started off slowly completing just 15 sit ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises, a 25 second plank and 30 squats . . . and to be honest I found this pretty difficult, especially the leg raises! I stuck to the apps though as much as I could (I missed a few days but have caught up) and started to add more workouts alongside them so that I made sure I was working out different parts of my body. Yesterday I finished my 30 day challenge by doing 150 squats, 125 sit ups, 200 crunches, 65 leg raises and two 60 second planks (I managed to do 100 seconds at once the other day, but really struggled with it today due to a strained muscle), as well as a cardio routine.

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It may not be much and I know that I still have a long way to go, but for me this is a huge achievement. I never thought that I would have the willpower to actually stick to it and I have to say I’m on the way to getting addicted! The first 10 days were probably the most challenging, but after then I started to get into a routine and could already start to feel the benefits. I feel healthier and have a lot more energy; something which I didn’t have much of before! I liked using the 30 day apps as each day you get to tick off what you have done after each activity. The sense of achievement I get everyday after completing my workout feels great and it’s definitely helping me deal with stress and get through my final year of uni! I’m going to start running and swimming with my flatmate, and now just have to hope that I manage to keep up with my workouts now that I’ve finished using the apps!

I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture, as at the time I didn’t really want to take a photo of my stomach! I’m wishing I had now though so that I could see the comparison. The picture on the left was taken a couple of weeks ago, and the one on the right was taken yesterday. I can see a little bit of progress, but that could just be me! I think I’m starting to see a few little abs trying to come through. . . just got to stick to it now! I’m also starting to get muscles in places I didn’t even know existed!

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I’m already on my way to achieving my next goal – my diet. I’ve told myself that I’m not going to diet, but am just going to be sensible about what I eat. I love food too much to give it up! I have cut out my most favourite thing in the world though, which is crisps! But oddly enough, I’ve found that my attitude to food has began to change as I’ve been getting fitter and healthier; I don’t want to eat junk food all the time and when I do I feel awful about it afterwards! I really think that the idea of taking small steps to progress really works, and would definitely recommend people to try it!

Gender inequality in Disney

As I’ve mentioned previously in another post, I am writing my dissertation on Disney which is regrettably forcing me to over analyse every aspect of my favourite films. I love Disney and I don’t think that will ever change, but over the last week I’ve stumbled upon some interesting points about the the animated films which have definitely touched a nerve!

I’ve been reading a chapter from a book by Rosina Lippi-Green entitled Teaching children how to discriminate, and it has brought out my inner-feminist. In one section of the chapter, she discusses a study which she carried out on all of the Disney films out at that time (1997); she began by counting the amount of male and female speaking characters that were present. Her findings showed that almost 70% of characters with speaking roles were male, and this is the first issue that I have. As a form of entertainment with such a large audience, both male and female, why are men so overrepresented? Because men are the dominant sex in our society and women are supposed to just ‘fit in’ where necessary.

As well as the unfortunate ratio of men to women in the films, they are also trapped in stereotyped roles. Lippi-Green points out that men typically play men doctors, waiters, kings, thieves, hunters, servants, detectives and pilots; women are either mothers, princesses or daughters – with the exception of an evil villain here and there. Are these the roles that we should be teaching children to aspire to? That little girls should just accept their fate as being someone’s wife and not desire a life of their own?

Similar to this, Lippi-Green also found that men are allowed to change and develop in character; they can start off as being bad, but improve themselves and end up being a good guy. Women, however, do not have the same opportunity. A woman is either good or evil, and she cannot switch between the two.

After reading this chapter, I started thinking about my favourite Disney movies and how these themes were apparent throughout them. Another issue jumped out at me: female characters rarely interact with each other, and when they do it’s often not a pleasant encounter. Is popular culture telling girls from a young age that women should not get along with each other, and that they can only have positive encounters with men?

It’s a shame that gender inequality even stretches to family-friendly, much-loved animated films and television programmes, especially by such a large and prominent company such as Disney. I do have to say, however, that Frozen probably comes the closest to trying to resolve these issues: probably the reason why I love it so much. Even though initially it appears as though the theme of love is going to be shown between Hans and Anna, it takes a beautiful twist and ‘true love’ is shown between two sisters, and not a romantic relationship between a prince and a princess. And even though Anna and Elsa’s relationship gets a bit rocky in the middle, they’re soon back to being best friends and showing that not everything is about guys.

My three goals

It’s safe to say my blog has been slightly abandoned lately, with work experience and university deadlines taking up the majority of my time.  I’m taking part in Blogging 201 this month to get back into it, and today’s challenge is a great way to start. So here are my three goals that I want to achieve…

  1. Write at least one blog post a week
  2. Aim to comment on at least one post a day three posts a week (tried one a day but it just wasn’t realistic with my busy time schedule!)
  3. Increase my number of followers to 50 by the end of March

Not the most challenging goals, but right now it’s just about balancing my time and making myself a realistic blogging schedule. If I manage to stick to these goals by the end of March then I will set myself new and more aspiring ones 🙂 Looking forward to getting back into it!

File Sharing: Friend or Foe?

Early last week, the offices of The Pirate Bay in Sweden were raided and subsequently the site was shut down. The website provided magnet links and torrent files to enable peer-to-peer file sharing using the BitTorrent protocol, or in English; a website where you could download films, television programmes, music, games and much more. Obviously the site was illegal, and after years of creating alternate sites after the originals were found out, it was eventually completely shut down last week. For some people – mainly artists of the industries – this is a God send, however, for the many of us who can barely afford to feed themselves, this is a living nightmare.

Yes it is illegal, and yes it is technically stealing, yet there are so many people who do it. The industries may be making less money, but I don’t think it’s going to bankrupt Beyoncé or Brangelina anytime soon. When a cinema ticket for an adult costs around £8-10, can you really blame people for wanting to watch a film without having to pay this extortionate price? And the price doesn’t just stop there. Firstly you have to get to a cinema, which unless you live opposite one, you’re going to have to travel to in some way. Then you get there and would quite like to be able to have a drink or a snack whilst watching a film, so you then fork out a ridiculous amount for a Coke and a packet of sweets; it ends up being a pretty expensive 2-3 hours. Thank God for Orange Wednesdays though, right? Oh wait, as of February 2015 that will no longer exist either! I do enjoy going to the cinema and you really can’t beat watching a film on the big screen, but I can only ever afford to go once or twice a year. Just as it can be argued that it isn’t fair for people to not pay to watch films, it’s just as unfair that people who struggle financially have to miss out on such a prevalent part of popular culture.

In my first year of uni in one of my media classes, the room was divided in two with one side being for online file sharing (which I was a part of), and the other against it. We won. Our argument mainly discussed the music industry and the downloading of songs and albums, but I think we made some pretty good points. Online file sharing provides an opportunity for new and aspiring artists to become well known and create a fan base. With online file sharing often being free, it is accessible for so many people and through word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends, new artists can so easily get the recognition that they need to start their career. Our opposition then, of course, argued that these new artists would not be making enough money, but we argued that while they may not initially be earning a lot of money, this would come with time. In other words, by building up a devoted fan base and getting themselves ‘out there’, they would then have the foundations to gain money from events such as concerts and festivals, and from merchandise that they could sell at these.

I think that in the technology reliant society we live in, the film and music industries need to be prepared to accept the fact that if something is available to someone for free, they will take it. Where efforts have been made with platforms like Netflix to create an affordable viewing experience, I think that there is more that can be done. People who download films for free often do so because of the ease of access in terms of both affordability and the fact that you don’t even have to leave your bed. If there was a service where you could buy or rent films online at the same time that they were out in the cinema, and for a fraction of the price, this could start to bring in money. Cinemas offer a member scheme where you pay a certain amount a month for unlimited viewings, so why not make this accessible at home?

I’m not saying that illegal file sharing and downloading things for free is a good thing, because of course it is not. But I am saying that I can understand why it is done, and that surely there needs to be an alternative which suits both the industries and the consumers?

Unrealistic life lessons learnt from Disney

As it’s the weekend I decided to write a different kind of post today, and wanted to go for something a bit more fun!

I’m writing my dissertation on language and gender in Disney films which is a great excuse to spend hours of my life watching The Little Mermaid and all the other classics. However, watching them at this age has unfortunately caused me to start criticising the logic of the films and has got me thinking about what Disney did to my expectations of life. Similar to the video that Jenna Marbles uploaded a few years ago, I decided to list the ‘life lessons’ I received from watching Disney and Pixar films growing up.

1. I remember being about five years old and thinking that if I grew my hair long enough, it would automatically make me become a princess. It did not.

2. From watching Edgar make the milk in Aristocats I was lead to believe that if you mix together milk, sugar and anything else you can find in your cupboard it makes a delicious drink. I tried this when I was about eight and was bitterly disappointed. Also cats are lactose intolerant, something which I found hard to believe due to this film making me think all cats drank milk.

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3. As the song tells us, “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true“, with no input from yourself needed. In other words, don’t work hard for the things you want in life, just wish for them to happen! It wasn’t until last year that I eventually gave up on this.

4. Simliarly, Cinderella sings “a dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re asleep”. If this is true then according to last night’s dream I want to be chased by spiders? I definitely do not!

5. If you sing to an animal it will instantly become your best friend. I’ve tried this with my dog several times and she just looks at me like I’m crazy.

6. I thought that all Godmothers were Fairy Godmothers; magical women who were fairies and could grant any wish you made to come true. I was always disappointed that I never a Godmother…

7. If you’re going through a rough patch or just having a bad day, the best thing to do is to lay down on the nearest thing you can find and have a good cry about it.

8. For quite a while, I genuinely believed that all stepmothers were evil women who wanted to ruin your life, or even have you killed.

9. The Lion King also lead me to believe that all hyenas were evil.

10. It also made me think that all animals in the wild were friends. I’m pretty sure this scene would end in mass murder.

11. Thanks to Toy Story, I secretly hoped that one day I’d walk in on my toys and teddies running around my room. While this never happened, I still to this day believe that my teddies have feelings, and that they’ll be deeply hurt if I ever abandon them.

12. Making a dress is easy, all you have to do is place some fabric over your head, tie it in the right places and cut some parts out, and voilà. I made a dress once and it was certainly not this easy.

13. You can fall in love with someone just by looking at them. You don’t even have to speak to them. Just wait until they rescue you – which often just entails kissing you – and then ride off into the sunset with them to live happily ever after.

Although all of these obscurities aside, I’m still a massive Disney fan!

Black Friday

It’s almost impossible to have not realised that today is Black Friday and after receiving 36 emails today, the majority of which were related to it, I decided that as I can’t avoid its existence, I may as well just blog about it. So firstly, what actually is Black Friday?

I’m from the UK, and so Black Friday is not something that I have really experienced before and I was only previously aware of its existence due to references in my favourite American sitcoms. Black Friday is the day which follows Thanksgiving Day in the USA (which was yesterday), and is often seen to be the signifier of the start of the Christmas season. Unfortunately for us living in the UK, the Christmas season pretty much started here straight after Halloween on the 1st of November. Historically, the term Black Friday originates from Philadelphia, where it was originally used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would appear the day after Thanksgiving. But more simply, Black Friday is basically our equivalent to the infamous Boxing Day sales, where shops and online retailers apply discounts across their stock, drawing in hundreds of crazed sale shoppers.

While this is a long running American tradition, why is it that this year it seems to have made its way over to the UK? Apart from the obvious reasons of stores generating more sales in time with Christmas, I just don’t understand why it is relevant to our country. I don’t know of any British people who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, so why are we participating in Black Friday?

After thinking about it, I realised that it probably stemmed from the internet. Online shopping has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with sales across Europe expected to reach over £111.2 billion this year. Mobile shopping is also becoming increasingly popular, because who has time to sit down at a computer or laptop and shop? With large online retailers such as Amazon and Apple promoting Black Friday in the UK in 2011, and Asda (a sister company of the American store, Walmart) jumping on the bandwagon in 2013 launching its “Walmart’s Black Friday by ASDA” campaign, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the UK’s stores saw the opportunity to increase their sales and entice Christmas shoppers.

The shopping event has caused chaos across the country, both in high street stores and online with many websites being down due to the high volume of shoppers. Unsurprisingly, Black Friday has managed to stretch itself onto a whole weekend and is followed by Cyber Monday on, well, Monday. So, if you’re a poor student like me who can barely afford to buy food, let alone a new TV or clothes, I suggest that you stay inside this weekend, hidden away from the scary sale shoppers hoping to grab themselves a bargain! And just in case you’re tempted to risk it, I’ve attached a video showing what you’re getting yourself into!