Monday, 25 November 2013

The Great Debate: 'Should the state send foreign/humanitarian aid in times of austerity?'...The YES Side.

Britain has an established reputation as an economic power. Although in recent years the British economy has experienced an economic downturn. In light of this, some UK nationals believe Britain ought to withdraw foreign aid and redirect it to the domestic economy. The G8 Accountability Report, compiled earlier in 2013, demonstrated that the UK achieved all Official Development Assistance (ODA) goals for the past decade and that the UK spends more money on foreign aid, as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI), than any other G8 country.

The UK press is saturated in devastating reports and images of Syrian refugees and Typhoon Haiyan victims making it difficult to distance oneself from the basic human instinct to help those less fortunate. Economic disparity between Britain and these distressed nations heightens the importance of basics, such as healthcare, emergency manpower and technology, food stores, housing, and evacuation centres which can save millions of lives.
Foreign aid statistics indicate that aid expenditure per the average household is 16 pence for every £10 spent. A relatively insignificant amount at home, 16 pence actually makes immensely impacts the world’s poorest, consequently assisting those in need of humanitarian aid.

Critics against foreign aid declare it to be misdirected and, particularly during austere times at home. They imply that aid is administered to corrupt governmental bodies instead of directly to the victims of these criminal institutions. But in September, David Cameron stated that: “We’ll help lead the world…and make sure vital aid gets through”. The government and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), a body responsible for scrutiny of UK aid, focusing upon maximizing the impact and effectiveness of the UK aid budget-intended beneficiaries and delivering value for money for the UK taxpayer, attempt to direct aid appropriately, but aid is not always perfect.

Syria is a classic case study for the effectiveness of British foreign aid. Despite international conferences, an effective resolution for the abominable situation, resulting in millions of refugee displacement, cannot be settled. In the meantime, aid workers and capital provided by wealthier nations, has abetted refugees with food, shelter and medical care.

International economic development increases has united the global community more than ever before. Suffering abroad affects Britain. The inundation of Syrian refugees into its neighbouring countries requires British intervention. Withdrawing aid at present would mean British nationals face the probability of aiding them at home in the future. Aid funding provides increased employment opportunities, tax collection and maintains a sustainable public sector. Aid dependency is extant; contribution enables a resolution, but without, the problem will flourish.

It is our human nature to help those less fortunate. Events like Comic Relief and Children in Need are popular for just that reason. Cutting aid would result in other nations viewing Britain negatively, degrading Britain’s reputation. Lives are transformed by aid; those lives would be at risk without Britain. This generation could abolish extreme poverty but that will never be achieved without British aid.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1: Winter is Coming....(***Spoiler Alert***)

Game of Thrones truly begins how it wishes to continue: with the introduction of White Walkers in the cold open and a beheading soon following, the themes of bloodshed, magic and realism, death and fear are alluded to. 

After rather extensive opening credits which move across the map of the Seven Kingdoms. The scene jumps from the wintery wooded scene to Winterfell, which is the seat of House Stark. The Winterfell castle is the largest castle in the centre of the north. Eddard Stark and his sons Robb, Bran and his bastard son Jon Snow, travel with other knights to speak to the deserter informant whom saw the White Walkers and beheading, Eddard kills him and subsequently questions Bran as to why he did so. He states that the person who delivers the sentence ought to carry out the punishment. Upon their return to Winterfell, they come across a dead stag, the sigil of House Baratheon, later finding a dead direwolf and her surviving pups. The direwolf has part of the stag's rack in her side. Each of the direwolf pups are given to each of the Stark children as companions.

The scene changes to King's Landing, which is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. Queen Cersei and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister, watch over the dead body of Jon Arryn, The Hand of The King. They discuss whether or not Arryn revealed any dangerous information about the both of them before his death. Jaime assures his sister that had any information about them been revealed, they would have been executed by this time.

The King, Robert Baratheon, visits Winterfell along with a small royal congregation including his wife, the Queen, their three children, Jaime Lannister and the other Lannister sibling, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister.  Robert visits the vigil of his late fiancee and Ned Stark's sister, and tells Ned that he does not trust anyone around him, offering him the post of The Hand of The King. He also offers to make an alliance between them by marrying his eldest son Joffrey and Ned's eldest daughter Sansa.

Across the Narrow Sea, the exiled prince Viserys Targaryen plots to overthrow the King and reclaim his father's throne. To accomplish this, he intends to broker a marriage between his sister Daenerys and the powerful warlord Khal Drogo who is the leader of a nomadic horde of Dothraki.

That night, Ned Stark's wife, Catelyn receives a message from her sister, Lord Arryn's widow stating that her husband was murdered by the Lannisters. Although, Ned does not wish to leave Winterfell and his family, he accepts the job as The Hand of The King to protect his good friend the King, Robert Baratheon. 

During the wedding ceremony between Daenerys and Khal Drogo, displays of seemingly inhumane and savage acts are displayed. Throughout, Daenerys receives wedding gifts: first is a collection of books from the Seven Kingdoms, given by Ser Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight loyal to the Taygaryens. The second gift is three petrified dragon eggs, given by Magister Illyrio Mopatis, the man who helped to arrange the union. She also receives a white horse from her husband, Khal Drogo.

Bran, an avid climber, witnesses incest between the Lannister twins once he climbs part of the castle to look over the Winterfell lands. After seeing Bran watching them, Jaime Lannister pushes Bran from the window and he falls, possibly to his death, from a great height.

Games of Thrones: Serialised Blogging...

A couple of months ago, after much coercion from friends, I decided to watch Games of Thrones. I did not realise how addicted I would become to the series: it is the "unputdownable" book equivalent. I do plan to read the original novel series upon which the televised series is based and I shall as soon as I have the time to wholly commit to that.

I am going to re-watch Game of Thrones in preparation for the fourth season in 2014. I shall blog episode by episode to review the series gradually in order to provide a more detailed and effective review of the series. 

Let the blogging begin...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Movie Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) was released yesterday across British cinemas. Being an avid fan of the texts written by Suzanne Collins and the first film which was released in 2012. The second instalment in The Hunger Games series is personally my favourite in the fictional trilogy and the film certainly did not disappoint. 

Jennifer Lawrence performed spectacularly as Katniss Everdeen alongside her co-stars Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne. This classic tale revives the classic and popular love triangle theme between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. 

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta must undertake a tour of the twelve districts of Panem. Prior to their departure, President Snow visits Katniss to indicate that her act of adoration towards Peeta is simply not effective enough; and that the districts are beginning to rebel against the Capitol due to her defiance in the arena. To avoid the wrath of President Snow Katniss must convince him of her love for Peeta.  Whilst conducting the tour, the spark of rebellion amongst the districts is distinct, despite the overbearing power of President Snow and his peacekeepers attempting to stamp out all indications of rebellion, in addition to Katniss and Peeta attempting to present a performance of love and adoration.

Their tour performance fails to successfully convince President Snow and quell the spark of rebellion across Panem. Infuriated by the rising status of mockingjay Katniss as the emblem for anti-government activism, President Snow decides to utilise the existing pool of Hunger Games victors for the third Quarter Quell, so that she will be murdered and consequentially the rebellion will die along with her. 

The 75th Hunger Games introduces a number of important characters whom shock and excite the audience in a number of ways. Although the novelty of this human-hunting contest has somewhat dwindled from the impact of the first film, this second film effectively flourishes audience interest and excitement for this world of Panem. The Hunger Games franchise shall be exceedingly well-received by all demographics, and I predict that it will be a hit at the box office. In fact, despite seeing the movie not 24 hours ago, I am already craving a second viewing and rather anxious for the DVD release. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Satirical News Post 2: John Lewis Bear Makes A Real Whoopsie

Christmas cheer sweeps across the nation, as the annual John Lewis Christmas advert is unveiled. However, the star of the advertising campaign, the bear has recently been papped defecating in the Epping Forest region. He has shocked the nation by resorting to such behaviour, which has impacted the entire English community.

   A spokesperson from John Lewis has issued a heartfelt apology on behalf of the retail chain and their acting bear, who has been named after A. A. Milne’s anthropomorphic ‘Pooh Bear’. He claimed that Pooh Bear has been suffering from intense pressure, particularly in light of the fact his annual hibernation was disrupted in order to this national advertising campaign. “One is always on edge when their sleeping pattern is interrupted.”

            Furthermore, the renowned and beloved Bugs Bunny, who was the desired actor for the part, was already engaged when filming for the John Lewis campaign commenced. The only option for the retail franchise John Lewis was to employ Thackery Earwicket, also known as The March Hare from Alice in Wonderland, whom is recognised as perennially agitated and thoroughly frenzied. He suffers from psychotic tendencies and has been hospitalised on a number of occasions at the institute of Bellevue. Associating with this personality resulted in a number of personality and physical clashes between bear and hare and has had a number of negative impacts upon Pooh Bear’s demeanour.

In fact, Pooh Bear has been driven into the association with celebrities who have been in the public eye for less than philanthropic actions. For the past couple of weeks, twitter has been have inundated with images of Pooh Bear twerking with Miley Cyrus, lighting up suspicious cigarettes with Justin Bieber and practicing his boxing punch on unsuspecting women with Chris Brown.

Parents have been up in arms about the bear’s unruly behaviour and showing concern that their children may emulate the bear’s actions. Mr and Mrs Dunny, from Piddle River, Dorset, had just managed to toilet-train their three year old; however, after seeing these scenes of defecation, little tyke Johnny has resorted to public mimicry of the vilest sort. His potty-training lessons forgotten, Johnny now relieves himself against trees, squats in forests and sniffs scat trails from other creatures. They blame John Lewis for promoting Pooh Bear, who they say, is clearly unable to handle the demands of being a role model for children. They wish to petition for Pooh Bear’s replacement in John Lewis’ Christmas advertisement.   

  Pooh bear has been unavailable for comment.

Satirical News Post 1: British Glee as Weather Cools

British citizens have been jumping for joy at the return of the cold winter season. They are ecstatic to revive their moaning regime about the weather and lamenting it with others as a means of introductory chatter.

The summer heat rise in Britain allowed all to moan on a daily basis about the weather being just too darned hot. However, in the past few weeks, the weather has been steadily cooling, mixing sporadic sunshine and warmth with cooler winds. The mild weather has been too balmy to enable the British to truly grumble. Hale and Rayne Storm, who reside in Cold Blow near Tenby, Pembrokeshire, have stated that this hot summer and the impending glacial winter has saved their marriage; “We’ve been together for thirty years and there’s only a finite amount of words. The weather is always changing, it provides us with fresh material to speak about.”

The general population are now delirious at the prospect of record-breaking snowfall due throughout November, providing ample opportunity for protest. In fact, the community comes to the complete standstill as soon as the snow falls, creating absolute British pandemonium. Citizens sit in public domains, frowning into their teas, and grumpily glaring at children who deign to enjoy frolicking like deer’s about in the snow. 

BBC Health correspondent, Doctor Chills, has released a statement suggesting that snow be employed as an extra supply of water for British citizens. He suggests that “The snow may be used as a source of liquid for when our pipes freeze over during this cold months ahead, as long as the snow is not utilised until it has reached boiling temperature. I would however, like to warn the blind and the elderly that it is just not worth the risk of using any snow that has been tampered with. Snow which is brown or yellowish in colour is just not worth the risk to anyone’s health. In addition, the impact upon taste would be rather dire.”

Weather forecasters across the country suggest that the incoming snow ought to continue for the whole of November. However, from December, it is not clear as to how the weather will develop. But, they can guarantee UK residents that there should be abundant opportunity for maximum levels of moaning and groaning for the rest of the month.

Re-Reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Dickens' serialised text Oliver Twist is a classic example of social commentary and criticism of the Victorian era; particularly concerning the New Poor Law and the state of child labourers under Parochial influences and in Workhouses. 

Oliver Twist is a typical rags to riches story of an endearing child, whose angelic face immediately earns the empathy and love of adults who surround him. The novel effectively demonstrates the journey of a moral character, forced into the company of the criminal class who use Oliver Twist as a pawn in their criminal warfare. 

The first time that I read this novel I was only about twelve years old, so re-reading it recently was particularly interesting, and almost as if I was reading it for the first time. 

Due to the original serialised nature of the text, each chapter is filled with action. There are no elongated sections of background or "plot fluff" which helps to depict the entirety of the fictional scene, instead, as Dickens had to create each chapter as a standalone piece, maintaining enough interest to intrigue readers to keep their attention hyped on a monthly basis.

The narrative is constantly amusing and filled with material for analytical investment: it is rich with material to evaluate and is a perfect piece for discussion and debate. 

Hey! Hey! Hey! Blurred lines.....

In a world that has recently been thriving on a rivalry in terms of controversial impact, perpetually asking the question of who can outdo the other in terms of social taboos and so forth. Robin Thicke’s song has been considered scandalous by a number of the public, however, it has also been recognised as a hugely popular song. Is that due to its scandalous nature or is it genuinely a piece of musical genius? The Blurred lines debate is something which has spread across all social classes, into each and every societal grouping: in a manner connecting each by their diverse reactions to this song. As a married artist, there is a seeming conjunction between the lyrics of blurred lines and the background of the main artist Robin Thicke. 
In my opinion this song was written in reaction to contemporary ideas and emotions, and thereby to condemn the song is condemn the nature of society. I personally believe Blurred Lines is extremely catchy and I quite enjoy it: misogynist lyrics and all. But it is a case of each to their own.

Below is the best parody of the song that I've come across...A Classic Feminist Parody: 

She by Rider Haggard (1887)

This novel written by Haggard is a truly enjoyable read. It effectively navigates between the boyish adventure travel novel such as Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and the feminist landscape of Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
In Haggard’s most popular work She, he chronicles the journey of a “beast” Horace Holly with his ward, Leo Vincey and his servant Job to an unchartered region in Africa in order to discover the truth of Leo Vincey’s familial history and meet the infamous She, who murdered Leo Vincey’s ancestral father Kallikrates, because he did not wish to abandon his wife to be with Ayesha. 

Ayesha, the mystical, immortal, beautiful queen of this African region is an important figure in terms of challenging female stereotypes. Ayesha is representative of the femme fatale archetype for femininity. It is an important text in regard to its treatment of women, Gilbert and Gubar, prominent feminist literary critics, have in fact written about Haggard’s text entitled SheThe eponymous She is essential to the narrative and is in fact the overseeing influence which permeates every inch of the text, her rule overpowers the story. 
The novel has clear allusions to feminist, postcolonial, gothic, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, and romantic generic stylings, which is why I believe it has such a strong impact as a text: it filters into so many areas and appeals to many different types of reader interests. I would thoroughly recommend this text for anyone that truly enjoys a book that is truly difficult to put down. 

Movie Trailer - Rush (2013)

Having seen the trailer for Rush at a previous movie screening, I immediately put Rush on my “Films to Watch” list. This may, of course, been mainly fuelled by the fact that Chris Hemsworth is absolutely gorgeous, however, on top of that, the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda intrigued me. Never having actually been interested in racing cars in this manner, I was a complete and utter novice when it came to this infamous competition between the pair. 
Throughout the course of the film, which followed the rises and falls of the two rivals, I found that I was heartily engaged with the plot and emotionally connected to both characters. Although, Niki Lauda did appear to have some problems in terms of social interaction. 

I was shocked at how much I found that I was drawn into the world of Formula 1, when previously I have been utterly repelled by the annoying sounds of the cars whizzing around the tracks. My heart racing in time with each shift of gear and each time a car was overtaken, or in the mortifying case of Niki Lauda, taken out. 
As Chris Hemsworth’s character James Hunt states, humanity is attracted by racing drivers due to the danger element in what they do. Everyday they wake up and their daily employment is facing death right in the eyes. It is a petrifying prospect, but a riveting one all the same.
I would 100% recommend a trip to see Rush: it is packed with humour, excitement, glamour, rivalry, shock, in addition to a whole load of crashes, bangs and booms. Definitely a must-see!

Review of Lived a Lie by You Me At Six:

You Me At Six are a classic British band who hail from Surrey. Their tunes which became the background music for our teenage years are exceedingly addictive and catchy. Pre-empting every new album release I experience a great amount of worry in regard to whether their new release will live up to the exceptional standard of their musical repertoire. When Sinners Never Sleep, the third album by You Me At Six, was released, a number of songs became new additions to my ‘Most Played’ playlist on my iPod. In light of this first single release from the highly anticipated Cavalier Youth album, my excitement and enthusiasm for this next album has truly been piqued.
Lived a Lie by You Me At Six (Released 3rd September 2013).