Monday, May 29, 2006

Brief rant

Exam week is now OVER! Well, Law Exam Week, that is. For some reason, us law students have our exams earlier than most other subjects.
Anyway, I'm now free for 3 weeks, and then i have 2 weeks of lectures (introductory lectures for next year). Law is a bit of a "work hard, play hard" subject. I had 4 exams, 3 were OK, 1 was not, but the one that went badly was for Introduction to Law and only made up 60% of that module - the other 40% of that module is coursework which i think i did better in. Overall, i think i've passed all my modules. In some subjects, you just have to get 40% overall to pass, so you can get 100% in 2 modules and 0% in the other 2 modules and you'll pass cos you got 50% overall. In Law, you have to get 40% in each module, which I think is harder than getting 40% overall. Plus, it's a subject with a high workload - although we only have about 10 hours of workshops and lectures per week, we have to do about 30-40 hours work per week, so we do a lot of studying in our own time, which people never see. So BOLLOCKS to the stereotype that "all students are lazy!"
Although adults may think that students have it easy and do nothing but party, they never see the downside of it, for example if your exams are earlier than everyone else's, you have to put up with exam-free people partying loudly all night while you're trying to revise or get a good night's sleep before an exam. I'm sick of adults saying stuff to me like, "Wait 'til you get in the real world, then you'll see how hard life is," just because they think i have it easy just cos i'm a student. I could just as easily argue that adults have it easy: they don't live in draughty old halls of residence, they don't have to put up with rowdy drunk neighbours, they don't have exams all the time, they don't have drunk people shouting in the corridor when they're trying to revise or sleep the night before an exam, they don't have to struggle to live on a student loan, and most of all they don't have to put up with people telling them that they "have it so easy" and "need to get in the real world"!
Plus, in the near future, the financial situation for students is going to get worse. Universities are replacing old standard halls with new en-suite ones due to popular demand. While on the face of it, it may look like we're going to be living in the lap of luxury from now on, it actually costs a lot more. In a lot of places, living in en-suite halls means that your entire loan goes to pay for your rent. On top of that, top-up fees are coming in. I've been trying to apply for financial support for next year, and it's really confusing because the system is completely different and i don't know what support (e.g. a grant or a loan) i'm entitled to receive. I'd get a job to earn some money, except that it is hard to find a temporary job as employers like people who can stay for a longer time, and also it's harder for young people with little job experience to find work. It's not that we're lazy and don't want to work: sometimes we just can't find work. I don't have much money in my savings and my parents can't spare any money, so what am i going to live on next year?

Rant over. Normal service shall resume again shortly.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Exams: The more you ignore them, the closer they get...

...and I'm wasting my time.
Exam week starts tomorrow, and i've really struggled to revise. Despite cutting out distractions like alcohol, parties, clubs, the gym, gigs, etc. I still struggle to revise. There is SO much to learn in Law! Contract is OK cos i can take notes into the exam, but Criminal Law has zillions of cases and you're not allowed to take any notes on them into the exam (how the hell can you learn them all by heart? will the huge amount of stuff to learn shove all previously-learned stuff out of your brain?) and Constitutional & Administrative Law is really difficult too and you can't bring notes into that either (there's fewer cases, but they always seem to have ridiculously long names, like R v Social Services Secretary Ex parte Association of Metropolitan Authorities, whereas Criminal cases have nice short names like R v Smith).
Also, despite avoiding alcohol for the last couple of weeks, I seem to be becoming less healthy, not more. I started smoking again (and i really regret it now... going to quit AGAIN) and i have been drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages too. I really hope that my body can recover in time for the exams...
In other news, yes, everyone is talking about last night's Eurovision Song Contest. Guess who won? You can watch the promo video for the winning song here, and their Eurovision performance here. Loveable nonsense. ROCK!!
Hey, it's good fun. I can support another country's Eurovision entry if i want to, can't I? (The UK's was a bit cheesy, unfortunately). On a serious note, I've heard people (normally in America or the far-right) going on about patriotism and how we should unconditionally love our countries, be proud and support absolutely everything they do... Well I think we shouldn't! If we really are democratic countries that fought for freedom, then we should be free to love - or criticise - our own countries if we want to. Everything from our Eurovision songs to our part in war should be open to free debate, instead of opinions being forced on us by the "you're unpatriotic if you disagree" argument. The way people say that it is "unpatriotic" to disagree with their beliefs about their country reminds me a bit of the blind faith people have in religion. Are they trying to make patriotism a new religion or summat?
Now with the World Cup approaching, cars everywhere have little England flags on them, such as the one in this picture (ironically that car is German!). How is that going to make us win? Sure, going to a match and showing your support for your favourite team may give them confidence and help them win, but driving around with flags on your car, somewhere miles away from wherever-it-is that they're going to be playing in where the team can't see them, just seems a little pointless, really. Although it has inspired this comedy gem... (click it to enlarge if the writing appears too small)

















While still on the topic of the World Cup, i would like to say that I am not entirely impressed with this year's official song (it's by Embrace... can't remember the name of the song though... it just sounds like any other Embrace song) and would like to propose this (the football badger song) as a possible alternative. (The sight and sound of terraces and pubs full of people singing it would be interesting at least...)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"You're Beautiful"? You're perving on my grilfriend on the train!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Morrissey live @ Manchester Apollo, Saturday 6th May 2006

and I was there! Sorry i didn't post a review earlier.
After spending all day wandering around Manchester and Salford with friends (including the obligatory photo at Salford Lads Club and a couple of pre-gig drinks at The Star and Garter) we went to the Apollo at about 9pm. I was knackered and my body felt like jelly before the show had even begun. We were in the stalls, we started out somewhere in the middle but slowly migrated towards the stage. We caught the end of one of the support bands' sets (Sons and Daughters) and then some music played on the PA, including "You'll Never Walk Alone" which was met with a mix of cheering/singing-along and booing from the audience - mostly booing - I wondered why so many people booed it, until after the gig when I remembered that it is the song of Liverpool FC supporters. The cheering and (mostly) booing was reaching a crescendo when Morrissey emerged onto the stage, to be met by cheering, screaming and applause - no booing now, for sure! Me and the girl next to me screamed, "Oh my God, he's fucking gorgeous!" repeatedly when he came onstage. Years of a healthy vegetarian diet and avoidance of the usual rock 'n' roll lifestyle excesses (snorting cocaine off a groupie's nipples or whatever it is that rock stars do) have paid off. At 46 - almost 47 - he's looking better than some stars his age, and naturally too: no cosmetic surgery, dental surgery, botox, sunglasses, etc. here. Cool quiff, too.
First track "First Of The Gang To Die" was as much a lively, euphoric and romantic anthem as ever, and a great song to get things going with. It's one of the songs that made me a fan of him in the first place: I remember the first time i heard it, I thought it was a lovely, catchy song, and didn't really fit with all this "he's-so-depressing" rubbish that I'd heard people saying. Another thing I always liked about this song was the way that it was swooningly romantic, yet not soppy. Around every corner, there is a surprise. Let's face it, with most songs in the world of rock and pop, you can predict what's going to happen next - "love" rhyming with "above" (e.g. "I am in love, you're an angel sent from above"-type drippiness) and "together" rhyming with "forever" are typical staples. Plus, the majority of songs are always love songs. So the first time I heard "First Of The Gang...", when I heard a line starting "You have never been in love until you've seen the stars..." I thought that the line would end up something like "You have never been in love until you've seen the stars reflect in your lover's eyes." Instead, the line was: "You have never been in love until you've seen the stars reflect in the reservoirs." That was unusual and unexpected (how many songs out there feature reservoirs? not many!) and made me pay attention and think, Hmm, this bloke's interesting and different. Anyway, back to the gig, and here was a great rendition of a modern classic, with seemingly everyone in the audience singing along joyfully.
Next up was a song from his earliest days with The Smiths: "Still Ill." This has always been an aching, punchy-yet-beautiful song that carries a lot of emotion, and tonight's performance did not fail to delight. Some fans even felt that that performance was so powerful, it was more emotional than the rest of the set put together. Again, romantic and nostalgic without being soppy.
The first song from new album Ringleader of the Tormentors to be played that night was the first single, "You Have Killed Me," a steady, solid rock number, which sounds great with lots of people singing along to it. The next ROTT song to be played - and also its next single - was "The Youngest Was The Most Loved," the story of a boy who "grew up to be a killer" with catchy (if slightly disturbing) hooks (a children's choir sings "There is no such thing in life as normal!" during the chorus on the album) and a strong musical backdrop (I particularly like the wailing klaxon-like sounds at the start - is it a police car taking the killer away?). This new song managed to lift off the roof of the Apollo as much as the classics did.
"I Will See You In Far-Off Places," another new song, was again magnificent and got a good response out of the crowd. Live, the exotic, Arabian-sounding riff became hard rock and the drums pounded a powerful pulse through the air and floor. Although a serious song concerning mortality (is it that of a travelling friend/lover, or of middle-eastern strangers in a war zone, or even Osama Bin Laden?), it displays Morrissey's dark sense of humour in lines such as, "If your god bestows protection upon you, and if the USA doesn't bomb you, I believe I will see you somewhere safe, looking to a camera, messing around and pulling faces." The sight and sound of him when he stood on top of a monitor for the line "and if the USA doesn't bomb you" was great - determined and strong - and so was the response from the crowd.
"My Life Is A Succession Of People Saying Goodbye," a slow and beautiful B-side from the You Are The Quarry era, also showed his dark humour as he cheekily changed the words to "My life is a succession of people saying go away!" Then the familiar chug of The Smiths' classic "Girlfriend in a Coma" blared through the amps, and, funnily enough, a stoned girl in the audience fell unconscious and had to be carted away.
A hat-trick of ROTT tracks followed, all sounding magnificent: "On The Streets I Ran," sounding even better than on the record; "At Last I Am Born" was powerful, punchy, joyous and majestic; and the beautiful, rain-strewn, evolving epic "Life Is A Pigsty" (better than its title suggests).
1997 album Maladjusted may have had a few critical maulings and didn't do well commercially, but its beautifully-sung, unconventional and witty ballad "Trouble Loves Me" was greeted with a very warm welcome in the Apollo: those fans in the know sang every word from the bottom of their hearts. If you don't know this song, the title of both the song and the album it's from will give you a pretty good indication of its lyrical content, while its musical content is simple but timeless.
Another ballad followed: "To Me You Are A Work Of Art," Ringleader's harder-rocking equivalent of Quarry's "Let Me Kiss You." New song "Ganglord" was introduced: despite it being a beautiful song, there was a bit of a lull in the crowd, as it hasn't even been released yet (it will be a B-side on the next single) - few people knew the words, so the amount of singing-along dipped dramatically. Then he sang a cover of punk band Magazine's "A Song From Under The Floorboards" - Mozzified, of course: his bittersweet moods and reputation for feeling alienation fit in perfectly with this '70s angst anthem - very good but again not everyone knew the words. The last ROTT song of the night, "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy," was sweet and got a decent reception.
The set at this point had some obscure songs that few people knew, and not much in the way of big hits. While there was nothing wrong with the performances of Morrissey or his band of Tormentors, there were people in the audience growing restless and chattering. All that was about to change, however...
The blistering, funky intro to "How Soon Is Now?" started, everybody leaped up screaming and oh-my-god-ing, and the atmosphere instantly changed from lukewarm to absolutely sizzling. Moz and co were on top form, giving us one of the best live versions of The Smiths' classic. The original studio version used masses of layered guitars and was near impossible to recreate live - even genius guitarist Johnny Marr would struggle with it. The Tormentors' version wasn't the same, but it was bloody brilliant in its own way. It sparked electrical excitement all around, with everyone singing those award-winning (well, almost) lyrics of shyness, loneliness and impatience in unision with Morrissey's distinctive falsettos. It was absolutely brilliant, and I was so excited to hear one of my favourite songs of all time live. The show was reaching another peak. I sneaked between people until I got much closer to the stage. It's good to be short. There he was, just a couple of metres away! And everyone in front of me seemed to be taller than me and I could barely see! It's bad to be short. Something had to be done, something i had seen on TV, something I had been itching to do for ages. I tapped a tall guy next to me on the shoulder and asked him to help me crowdsurf. He put his hands out, low down, and i stepped on them and he lifted me up. I was above the crowd, floating on top of rows of people, hands powering me towards God. Somehow I was flipped over onto my back, and I caught a glimpse of the audience behind me and the ceiling above me, before being flipped onto my front again. I was right at the front of the crowd. There he was, in front of me, just to my left... and there, directly in front of me, was a security guard, gesturing to another. They pulled me off the audience, my wonderful, helpful sea of people, and pulled me over the barrier into the pit. They walked me away, past Morrissey (I tried to blow him a kiss as we went past) and back into the crowd via a door in the barrier. As I was frogmarched past him, he was near the edge of the stage and the rest of the band were further back, so from where I was it looked like he was the only one on the stage. He towered above me, high quiff and light blue shirt, singing those words that had once changed my life one wintery day, during sixth form in a humdrum seaside town. The crowdsurfing techniques I had learnt from telly and gigs and clubs had been finally put into practice. I hadn't managed to shake his hand or anything, but I had got close, and I've learnt for future tries.
Back in the mosh, and I was still near the front but unable to see a lot. The crowd at the front was much denser than further back where I had started off. The song ended and he briefly went offstage to prepare for the encore. During this short break, the crowd chanted two modified football chants: "Morrissey" to the tune of "'Ere We Go" and "Steven" to the tune of "England." He returned in a red shirt (the third of the evening - he started out in a dark blue one, then changed into a pale blue one which was fed to the hungry audience) and the tense guitar riff intro of "Irish Blood, English Heart" started up. Again, this classic anthem fired up the audience into frenzy, heightened by him taking off his shirt and throwing it into the audience. It landed near me, and I was dragged right into the heart of the struggle for it by the sheer force of people all around me darting towards it all at the same time. I decided to go for it as I was there already, and managed to grab a hold of it. So did loads of other people. Despite the sheer number of folk all tugging at his shirt, it didn't rip easily.
I was touching Morrissey's shirt! It had been on him! It was the modern musical equivalent of the Turin Shroud! It smellt so damn good! (Mmm, the advantages of fame and fortune, being able to afford quality clothes and aftershaves/colognes...) A bit of a tussle with a couple of other fans who managed to tear off a large portion and were trying to divide it up between themselves resulted in me managing to tear out some thread for myself. The venue's security guards were chasing people away and breaking up shirt-struggles (Afterwards I heard rumours of the guards trying to stop fans making off with shirt bits... Why? Unless the guards are fans, what would they want with them? Sell them on eBay to supplement their wages? I mean the fans are hardly stealing or anything, Moz gave that shirt to us, it was his and he chooses what to do with it, that's his decision not that of the guards! With my rudimentary knowledge of Property Law, I know that if you have property rights to something, you can do whatever you like with that property, you can destroy it if you want. Therefore Moz can throw it to us to tear it apart if he wants!) so I sneaked off and slowly made my way to the cloakroom to claim my stuff back. I looked around for the nice people I'd come with. My glasses had been really badly damaged: I noticed after my crowdsurf that they had been bent a little but still wearable, but it was the shirt incident, particularly the bit where I was dragged into the circle of people around the shirt like a black hole, that had totally twisted my glasses. They were wonky and at a weird angle, not fitting properly at all. It was difficult to see with them and I ended up taking them off a lot as they were nearly useless. I kept my little bit of Morrissey's shirt-thread clenched tight in my left hand, never letting it go, not even for a moment. I'd fought hard for it, and i wasn't about to let go of it! One day i can bore my grandchildren with tales of how I fought in two shirt wars to secure this piece of thread. I wandered around in a daze in the cloakroom queue, occasionally telling people in a starstruck voice, "I caught Morrissey's shirt, I did..."
I got my stuff and met Grim outside. He's a gig veteran and a bit of a legend in the Moz fan community. He called me a star and seemed proud of my crowdsurfing and shirt-stealing attempts, even though he was disappointed with the setlist. I didn't mind the setlist too much, it was the first time I'd seen Our Steven live and I was seriously impressed. We wandered among the T-shirt sellers and exiting fans, and had a peek round the back of the Apollo, meeting bassist Gary Day! :D I was dumbstruck but Grim said hello like they met all the time (they probably did as well). We bought some (probably fake) merch outside (I got a couple of T-shirts to add to my rapidly expanding collection), met loads of people (Grim seems to know everybody!) and got in a taxi. I was invited to a Smiths/Moz disco at The Firehouse but declined because of my glasses: If i didn't wear them, I got headaches from eye strain, but if I did wear them, I got headaches from eye strain too as I couldn't see properly through them.
Finally crashed into bed at a 24/7 youth hostel late that night. I had experienced so much in less than 24 hours! I'd been all around Manchester and to SLC (and scratched a little bit of paint from the famous front door as a souvenir... shhh... well, I've unfortunately lost that paint now, so I guess that means there's no evidence against me now...) and met a fan from LA who looked spookily like Morrissey (people were queueing up to have their photos taken with him, he was very obliging with them) and been to see the real Moz... Wow. The next day was like a bad hangover as I had headaches from tiredness and eye-strain, but at least the plane trip home wasn't too long (just under 1 hour) and then I went to CinSoc with some mates to see "Walk The Line," which was good. On Monday I got my glasses fixed (more or less bent back into their original shape, although they are weak from damage and could break, so i'm going to get some new ones... they're bloody expensive cos i need special lenses... :( not good as i'm severely skint now!) and now i'm struggling to revise for my exams, which start in 11 days. Aaarrrggghhh!!!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lazy days

Good weather has been coming and going lately, and on the few sunny days we've had, the entire area has been carpeted in sunbathers. Two evenings last week, me and some Duryard posse went for a stroll around the Duryard area and ended up playing ball games and frisbee in the grounds of the nearby Thomas Hall (Duryard's grounds were full of athletic people, it was crowded and we felt inferior), and had a surprisingly awesome time (well, apart from Dan probably, as he got hit in the crotch with the ball a couple of times... hey, at least i didn't throw it, so you can't blame me!). Then we crashed out in Dan's room, watching movies (Battle Royale, 28 Days Later* and Family Guy) and drinking port that Tom had got for Christmas... far less effort, but also enjoyable.
All of our bunch probably need to get in shape. I've been to the gym a few times this term, branching out onto different machines, and I think my limbs are doing OK but my tummy isn't doing so well (stuff like running/cycling machines don't really work on that area, unfortunately). For the last couple of months i've been doing loads of sit-ups, but sort of gave up as it sometimes hurt my back, so the other day I bought one of those ab-belts that gives your stomach muscles little electric shocks which are supposed to simulate the nerve impulses that you get during exercise - they say that this should give the same results as sit-ups (Yes, you can call me lazy if you want, although actually i'm just too busy). The only problem is, after buying it, i've realised that electrocuting yourself for half an hour every day all in the name of vanity probably ain't the brightest (or healthiest) idea ever. I can't wait til next year when I'm in self-catered halls (the pricey and posh Rowe House - in a 6-person flat with Harriet and 4 strangers) as I'll be able to cook for myself so hopefully i can choose a healthier diet. I'm thinking of going vegan, cos I once read that, provided you get it right and make sure it includes all the nutrients you need, it's the healthiest diet you can have. Plus, I would be able to wear my Meat Is Murder T-shirt completely without irony! The only problem is getting back next year - I have to pass all my exams otherwise I'm kicked out! For some subjects, you just need to get 40%+ overall, so it doesn't matter if you fail one exam as long as you did well enough in all the others. For other subjects, you need to get 40%+ in each exam - if you fail one, you're out. Guess which of those groups of subjects Law comes under. Just my luck.

*There were some hilarious moments during 28 Days Later (incidentially not a comedy but a horror movie... we make our own comedy): Me, Chris and Tom had been drinking and were only slightly drunk while Dan was at a party, getting really drunk (and possibly stoned too). The rest of us were in his room using his telly to watch the DVD we'd borrowed off someone else, and Chris had shut the door because of some people in the corridor getting into the roof via a ceiling trapdoor (this term there has been a bunch that go up there about once or twice a week, we have no idea what they're doing up there, so Chris shut the door just in case they came out stoned or something and staggered into Dan's room). Dan burst into the room, crashing through the door and onto the floor noisily, crawling around the floor, covered in scratches (from jumping into a hedge outside... don't ask why, it's just one of those things you do when drunk!), right behind Chris, scaring the living daylights out of him! I think that actually scared Chris far more than the film did. Then Dan sat on the floor with his coat on his head, devouring cereals straight out of the packet (no milk... he had the munchies and couldn't be bothered to find or buy any milk), and sometimes falling asleep. It sounds silly but he looked funny. In one bit when Dan was actually awake, Christopher Eccleston was in the film, so we both cheered, "Hooray! it's Doctor Who!", but then it turned out that he was playing a baddie instead.
The next day, I met Dan at lunch, tired and still with scratches on his face and arms but luckily (and probably miraculously) not hungover, we chatted for a bit and afterwards I almost smacked myself on the forehead (d'oh!) as I realised that he may have been hinting in that conversation that he more than just likes me a bit. I dunno, I'm shite at reading "signals" sometimes. I hope he does, cos I more than like him just a bit, I like him a heck of a lot actually. I know that people and problem pages and whatever always say that you have to be honest and let your feelings show and all that, but it's not that easy in real life, especially when (a) you're shy, (b) the guy you like is shy too, and (c) you're scared of losing him as a friend if you confess that you fancy him - what if it changes your current relationship with him?
On the plus side, we went to CinSoc again yesterday, and saw a film called The Matador. There were some good bits, but Pierce Brosnan's accent bugged us and we talked about it the whole way home - it sounded like he was trying to do some sort of British accent, but which? At times I thought he sounded Brummie, Cockney, an American approximation of a generally English accent (you know the type of English accent in American movies/TV that is normally used by a character called Nigel... I think it might be called the Limey accent), and Dan thought he even sounded South African at one point. I came to the conclusion that PB spent most of the film trying to sound like a taxi driver (I half expected him to call people "guv'nor" or something). We all concluded that he can't really do accents.