Tuesday, 12 February 2019

'Cancel Culture' & Critical Thinking

For a few weeks now, I've been trying to find things to write about that really matter, but it's been fruitless. There are plenty of issues that I could discuss, definitely, but I never seem to be able to find the right argument, or indeed any argument at all. Most of the posts I have started are currently sitting in my 'Drafts' box, waiting to be finished, even though most of them never will be.

So instead, I'm just going to talk about something more general that has been bugging the hell out of me lately: 'cancel culture'.

In case you're unsure of what 'cancel culture' means, it's essentially the concept of condemning a person and calling for them to be made irrelevant because of something that they have done at any point in their lives. And when I say 'at any point in their lives', I really mean at any point. Told an edgy and offensive joke as a teenager? Boom, you're cancelled, even if you're now in your late twenties and have long since grown out of that behaviour. 'Cancel culture' represents this very dangerous and very wrong belief that people cannot grow and change, and cannot admit to their past failings to become better people. We live in a bizarre world where people are barely even given a chance to defend themselves after a blunder, and instead of being educated on what they said or did that was wrong, instead of being given the chance to explain or provide context, they are blocked, silenced and demonised.

But 'cancel culture' is not always a bad thing. It gives us a chance to start fighting back against people who truly deserve it: celebrities who have abused their power over the course of decades, people who are consistently discriminatory in the things they say or do, scammers who hide their greed for money and fame under an innocent façade. In serious cases, 'cancel culture' can actually be beneficial, like the boycott against R. Kelly. It reminds us that we have the power to do good in the world when we actually put our hearts and minds into it, and when we start thinking rationally.

On the other hand, 'cancel culture' has become so toxic that people are now getting 'cancelled' left, right and centre for things that barely matter in the grand scheme of things. It's exhausting, and it makes being on the Internet an absolute drag. So, what's my solution to this?

Simple. Just use critical thinking.

I never thought that close reading would ever have a use in the real world, but now it seems that all that time I spent in secondary school reading Brighton Rock and making huge lists of notes about symbolism and subtext has actually paid off. It seems that most people nowadays have lost the ability to read between the lines, to close-read an article and pick up on the underlying mood and message, or have even lost the ability to read an article in full before commenting on the matter in hand. Most people seem to just read a headline, form an opinion based off nothing but clickbait and spectacle, and proceed to tweet something along the lines of '[insert name here] is trash and if you still support them after this, unfollow me'. It's incredibly frustrating, but it makes it very refreshing when somebody actually reads the article in full, picks up on all the little nuances in the text, and leaves an insightful comment underneath, talking things out like an adult.

Take the recent Liam Neeson drama as an example. Obviously, it caused outrage on Twitter when people simply saw headlines such as 'Liam Neeson: after a friend was raped, I wanted to kill a black man', which isn't even a line that appears in the original interview. It's a clickbait headline that lacks any of the nuance or subtext of the issue at hand, and were people to simply read that headline and not hear any other information on the matter, of course they're going to believe that Liam Neeson is a hideous racist. There's no mention of the fact that this event occurred decades ago, no mention of his obvious remorse for his actions, no mention of anything at all that might diminish the shock value of the situation. Read the article here, and I mean actually read it. There are so many little moments that add more dimension and context to the scenario. He keeps pausing and taking deep breaths. The journalist adds that his voice trembles at certain moments, like he knows how bad this is going to sound once it's out in the world. It reads like a confession from a man who understands his mistakes (although not entirely, since he glosses over the race and rape aspects of the story to simply focus on his own trauma and desire for revenge, which I feel is the REAL problem here), not a boastful or bold statement from someone who has racist views so deeply ingrained into his brain that he can't change his ways.

I might write a whole article about this situation one day because there's far too much information to go into just now in this piece. If anyone wants me to talk about it, then let me know, but until then, let's get back to 'cancel culture'.

The point I'm trying to make is that, after this interview surfaced, I saw so many tweets along the lines of 'Whoa, so Liam Neeson hates black people? Never watching his movies again,' which are so clearly from people who have not read the article and who have not understood the context. They are tweets from people who are prepared to disregard anybody who doesn't have a perfect track record. I'm far from praising Neeson for his confession (I've seen plenty of people on that side of the argument, and it makes me feel a bit ill to see people saying 'He should be APPLAUDED for this!') but there's no doubt that it was divisive enough for me to get a clearer idea of how 'cancel culture' really works. I don't have any answers here about how to deal with 'cancel culture' as a whole, but I do have some advice for those who always find themselves stuck in the middle with their views, seeing all sides and feeling unsure as to where they should stand.

  1. Firstly, I'd advise not getting involved in anything straight away. After a shocking story breaks, the Internet is usually full of extreme opinions and loud voices clamouring to be the first to say something. It's a very intimidating place to be, and I wouldn't recommend it. They're the first ones to 'cancel' someone without knowing the full story, and the first ones to blindly defend their heroes. No one ends up happy by diving into the issue immediately. Once several days have gone by, more information will have emerged (hopefully), and it'll be easier to form an opinion.
  2. Bear in mind that context always matters. If the issue at hand is important to you (and if it's a big divisive issue on the Internet, it's usually important to me), find out as much about it as you can before forming a very extreme opinion based on limited knowledge. 
  3. Learn to be critical, and learn how to read between the lines. Plenty of stories have more nuance to them than headlines and hashtags would suggest. Close reading is such an important skill to have when it comes to scandals, because it involves weighing up the good and the bad, working people out by paying attention to the words they use, the attitudes they portray, and of course, their actions.
  4. Each scandalous story is its own entity. Treat it as such. I'm not a fan of broad generalisations, and the idea that every scenario needs to be handled in the same way is ridiculous. Try not to grade on a curve or compare stories, because that will inevitably lead to a lot of context getting lost in the comparison.
  5. Ask yourself if it really matters. So many people are 'cancelled' every day over things that really don't matter in the real world. If it's not important to you, if it's not an issue that's close to your heart, if it's not outwardly hurting anybody or detrimental to society as a whole, then please just leave it. Don't bother yourself with pointless negativity. Hypocritical of me to say this since I constantly involve myself in issues that don't concern me (this article being Exhibit A), but hey, I never said I was good at taking my own advice. 
And I hasten to add, at the end of the day, it's totally your opinion as to whether or not someone should be 'cancelled'. If something they have said or done offends you and you don't wish to be a fan of theirs anymore, then that's fine. You do you, after all. It's your life, and you should be allowed to support people who you admire, as well as avoid those who you dislike or disagree with. It's a very personal decision. There will be people who will never again watch a movie starring Liam Neeson because of this confession. Longtime fans of his will turn their backs on him, and that's their choice. I'm not here to change anybody's minds; I'm just here to give my thoughts on the matter. 

I'd like to leave you with this. This is a quote from an article I wrote a while back about James Gunn being fired from Disney because of his history of offensive jokes:

'...I urge you to please consider what I have written about people changing and improving from their past behaviour the next time that somebody is condemned on any kind of social media. If it were you, you would be quick to defend yourself and try to convince the faceless mob of Twitter trolls that you have changed, and that your past behaviour does not represent you anymore. Please do not be so quick to lose faith in people before you understand their journey. They might just surprise you.'

And it's here that I would also like to bring up an opinion that has always stuck with me since the first moment I heard it: Eddie Izzard's opinion that we don't need as many as TEN commandments, and that if we all simply followed the one rule 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you', the world would be a much better place. I 100% agree, and I think that's what I'm trying to say to end this piece. Try a little bit of empathy, and put yourself in this person's shoes. If their intentions are pure or if they are trying to change their ways, why would you try to make out that they are a villain? If it were you, you wouldn't appreciate people spreading lies about you, claiming that you cannot change or grow or become a better version of yourself. Everybody has skeletons in their closet. Everybody. We can't keep 'cancelling' everybody who slips up or makes one little mistake, or even those who have controversial pasts but have changed their ways, because then we will have nobody left. If you're holding out for perfection in those you idolise, you'll never ever be satisfied. It's another one of those scenarios in which you need to pick your battles, and decide who is worthy of your support and time. Make your decisions, but be rational. That's all I'm saying.
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Saturday, 26 January 2019

Random (& Cheap!) Makeup & Beauty Finds

A few days ago, my best friend came down to Dundee to spend 24 hours in the city. You probably would expect us to have visited the V&A or the McManus Galleries, to have seen a show at the Rep Theatre or watched a critically-acclaimed film at the DCA.

But instead, we went on a scavenger hunt around the city to find makeup bargains because we're both a bit makeup-mad. 

I should say right at the outset that my bestie undoubtedly had the best find. Sitting on the makeup table in TKMaxx was an Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture palette, untouched and almost half the recommended retail price. She would have been mad not to pick it up. We had fun swatching the shades once we were back at mine, and the colours were ridiculously beautiful and buttery-smooth, quite different from what I was expecting considering the negative reviews that had surrounded the palette upon its release. Maybe my mate found one from a good batch because there didn't seem to be much fall-out at all. 

This post isn't a full-on review of the Subculture palette, though. This is about all the little bits and bobs that I picked up while we were out in town together, because the evening after I had loaded my bag and pockets full of new makeup goodies, I sat down in front of my mirror to try them all out with the kind of excitement that only new makeup can bring. Here's a quick list of what I picked up before we get into things:

Bodycare:
Cyclax Nature Pure Apricot Facial Scrub
Eye Candy Dramatise Strip Lashes

Primark:
PS...Coconut Ice Lip Scrub
PS...Primer Water
PS...Brow Enhancing Serum

Poundland:
Make Up Gallery Good To Glow Matte Bronzer in the shade Matte Medium 2
Make Up Gallery Soft Kohl Eyeliner in the shade Brown 4

B&M:
W7 On The Rocks Eye Colour Palette
NYX Turnt Up! Lipsticks, including the shades Mirage & Flawless

Secondhand makeup that my lovely friend gifted to me:
Soph X Revolution Highlighter Palette
No. 7 Stay Perfect Liquid Eyeliner
NARS Lip Gloss in the shade Turkish Delight


And now, here's what happened when I tried everything out:

Cyclax Nature Pure Apricot Facial Scrub
Before starting with the makeup, I took the apricot face scrub for a spin. I suppose it was my fault that my face felt a little raw after I had scrubbed it onto my skin since the instructions specify that you should apply it 'gently', and I was practically attacking my spot-prone cheeks, but oh well. I'll remember for next time. It left my skin feeling very smooth, I'll give it that, plus the tub is huge and it only cost me 99p! Absolute bargain for something that only needs to be used 1-2 times a week. I'm willing to bet this will last me at least six months if not a whole year. 

PS...Coconut Ice Lip Scrub
I may have reluctantly turned my back on the (extremely delicious) bubblegum lip scrub from Lush, but I couldn't resist a coconut-flavoured scrub for half the price from Primark, and I'm glad that I didn't stifle the urge. I have been struggling with an old New Look lip scrub which is oddly clumpy and sticky, unlike this one which is gritty and fine, and actually felt like it was exfoliating my lips when I used it. I'm sure that the ingredients in the Primark lip scrub don't exactly make it as safe for consumption as the Lush ones, but I just had to sneak a taste of the coconut one, and it was pretty darn tasty. If I suddenly fall ill, it's probably because I've been poisoned by flavoured cosmetics. Taste aside, it left my lips feeling soft, and once I added my usual Maybelline Babylips Balm on top, they felt smoother than they had in ages.

PS...Primer Water
Another Primark find was a large bottle of priming water, a type of product that I had only tried once before. As much as I enjoyed priming water, I never really trusted it to work on my oily skin, but what harm would it do to add a priming water to my collection, even to use in addition to my usual silicone primer before a night out to ensure that my makeup looks flawless? I was pleasantly surprised by this Primark water, as it turns out - it left my skin feeling slightly tacky and ready for makeup.

Make Up Gallery Good To Glow Matte Bronzer in the shade Matte Medium 2
I dragged my friend into Poundland after seeing their makeup stand through the window, and since every product was only (you guessed it) £1 each, I felt no regrets by adding this bronzer to my makeup collection. That's what I love about cheaper makeup - if it's garbage, you didn't waste much money, and if it's great, you've found a hidden gem! This bronzer, while not quite a hidden gem, was nevertheless very nice: warm-toned (perhaps a little too warm-toned for me, but I'm trying to warm up my appearance by tanning, so it might work on me eventually) and buildable. 

Soph X Revolution Highlighter Palette
My friend knows that I'm a bit of a Revolution Beauty nut, so when she heard that I didn't yet have the Soph X Revolution Highlighter Palette while she was debating whether or not to give hers away, the solution was obvious. Her secondhand palette has clearly been used and loved, but for someone who had moved on to Becca highlighters a long time ago, she had no real use for it anymore, and placed it into my eager hands when she arrived in Dundee. It's not on the same level as my favourite highlighter palette (the Revolution Beauty Incandescent Face Quad, the best thing you can buy with a £10 note), but it's lovely nonetheless, with a beautiful range of shades for any occasion and any look. Genuinely feel like SophDoesNails can do no wrong when it comes to her makeup collaborations!

PS...Brow Enhancing Serum
As someone with very sparse and light natural brows, I was curious to know what this brow serum was. It doesn't come with an ingredients list or any instructions, simply a slogan on the tube that says 'for thicker, longer and fuller looking brows'. I added it to my basket anyway, keen to know whether or not I'll see a difference in my brows as a result of using it. I'll keep you posted. All I know is that it seems like a nice alternative to using a clear mascara to prime my brows before adding pomade and gel. Please make my brows thicker and fuller - I'm counting on you!

Make Up Gallery Soft Kohl Eyeliner in the shade Brown 4
And once again, I have to reveal that I'm a bit of a dingus. I was sure that I was buying an eyebrow pencil, but instead picked up a dark brown eyeliner. Nevertheless, I gave it a go on my eyebrows just in case, but it is clearly not meant to be used anywhere but the eyes. It's surprisingly soft and pigmented, I must say, considering the fact that I have bought eyeliner pencils from Rimmel and Maybelline in the past that were so stiff that I could barely get any colour out of them. Embarrassing that eyeliner pencils from these well-known drugstore brands are being outperformed by Poundland cosmetics. I can imagine that this eyeliner will actually perform very well once I get around to using it on my eyes. It was too dark for my eyebrows anyway, so using it for them was an all-round bad decision. Well done, me.

W7 On The Rocks Eye Colour Palette - Outside

W7 On The Rocks Eye Colour Palette - Inside
While my friend snagged a true ABH Subculture palette, I made the decision to add the same colours to my collection but in a different form. This dupe palette cost me £4, and the colours are pretty much identical apart from the names, the undertones in the white shade, and the fact that one of the glitters is a lot greener in the cheaper version than the real one. I was skeptical while I was in the store, and swatched a couple of the colours in a palette that had already been opened and pawed by other shoppers, and while it's obviously not even in the same league as ABH, it's a suitable substitute. It's actually quite nice - the shadows work well with the double-ended brush that comes with it, and even the brush itself is very fluffy and soft, much like the actual ABH brush that my friend let me keep (did I mention that I love her?). So yes, this one is a win. Never thought I'd say that I like a product from W7, but here we are.

No. 7 Stay Perfect Liquid Eyeliner
Here, we have one of the few products that didn't work out, but luckily, it's one of the products that I got for free. Once a part of my friend's makeup collection, she offered it to me in the hopes that I would like it, although she warned me that the applicator was a bit weird. I'm so used to the ultra-thin brush of my favourite NYX liquid liner that this spongey and slightly thicker applicator was difficult to use. My liner turned out uneven. The formula is good, so that's a plus, but I definitely won't be reaching for this when I next feel like doing a cat eye.

Eye Candy Dramatise Strip Lashes
I'm not exactly the biggest fan of false lashes. Every time I try them, it never seems to work out. However, when I saw these wispy and more natural-looking lashes staring at me from a shelf in Bodycare, I knew I needed to try them out. And boy, am I glad that I did! These were fairly easy to apply, even for a novice like me, and once they were on, they simply looked like my lashes but longer! I only had to add a little mascara to blend everything together, and voilà! I'll definitely try out other lashes from this brand when I get the chance.

NYX Turnt Up! Lipsticks in the shades Mirage & Flawless
I did a double-take when I saw NYX lipsticks in B&M. It's a store that seems to be good for finding products that have recently been discontinued, things you thought were gone forever but which are still clinging on. With these NYX lippies, it was a choice between a set of brights or nudes, and I went for the nude ones. Once I applied the palest shade Mirage to my lips, I realised that the shade was too pale for my skin tone, and for a moment, I had a 'foundation lips' moment. I used the mid shade in the set named Flawless instead, which turned out a little better. However, as someone who favours thick, matte lipsticks, this sheer formula was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste. I've tried them since and they work well when they're layered up and blotted with a tissue between applications, but as I looked at myself in the mirror after trying them for the first time, I decided the look needed a little something else.

NARS Lip Gloss in the shade Turkish Delight
Enter the high-end lip gloss that I had been gifted by my bestie. I'm not a huge fan of glosses, but having never tried any NARS products before, I thought I'd give it a go to see how it differed from other cheaper glosses that I had used previously. It's thick and sticky, not something that I would pile on in layers or wear on its own, but which gave new life to my lipstick. It's a beautiful shade of pink that warmed up my lips too, for which I was grateful since the two nude NYX lipsticks are both on the cool side of the colour spectrum.



Overall, I was happy with how everything turned out. Buying makeup is always a gamble, but I always find it's less risk to buy things that are less expensive, as I mentioned above. I always like experimenting with new things too, hence why I bought the facial scrub, the wispy false lashes, the priming water, and the brow serum, and the places to look for these things are normally places in which you wouldn't expect to find good makeup: the cosmetics sections of clothing stores, pound shops, and even charity and secondhand shops, which is where I once found Urban Decay eyeshadow primers. Don't forget TKMaxx either, which is a fantastic place to rummage around in search of some bargains on high-end makeup. Basically, doing your makeup on a budget shouldn't have to be boring or infuriating, and there's makeup everywhere you turn these days, so there are products to suit any budget. Cheap makeup isn't always poor quality, just as high-end makeup isn't always worth the money.

I'd quite like to write a little more about makeup and beauty products in the future. I'm by no means a guru, but I love finding weird items and cheap products that I think will add something to my makeup routine. Writing about makeup feels like a copout in terms of blog material, but it's a lot of fun to sit down in front of your mirror with a load of new things to try, although I know from experience what little fun it is when one product manages to ruin your whole look. I'll count myself lucky on this occasion that I found products that work. Now, excuse me while I go and mess around with my face again.
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Monday, 7 January 2019

Harry Potter & The Downward Spiral

As is the case for most people my age, the Harry Potter series is a huge part of my life, and was an even bigger part of my childhood. I grew up reading those books and picking on the flaws in the movies, and I believe that the franchise will forever be in the hearts of those who were raised on the tales of the iconic characters and their magical adventures.

But recently, I've found that I've become less and less interested in the new developments in the world of Harry Potter. The franchise is still evolving, but I've tuned a lot of it out. Partly, it's because I've grown up, and while the stories will always be important to me, they've simply taken a back seat now that I'm an adult. However, another huge reason for this sense of ennui is the simple fact that the Harry Potter franchise has been so unnecessarily drawn out for a long time now, and I'm only just noticing it.

I suppose it started with Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (although in my opinion, it started when the HP film series began the ridiculous trend of splitting the last movie into two parts, but that's just me). I thought it was an interesting concept, but the execution fell really flat in retrospect. The first time I read it, I enjoyed it. But the more I look back over it and remember the events that unfold in the script, the more it seems like fanfiction, not an actual published work by an established author. It's the sort of thing you'd expect to find on WattPad - a story that had been written by a teenage fan who wanted to bring their own '19 years later' idea to life, and to continue the story in a way that satisfied them. And there's nothing wrong with fanfiction, for the record, but I'm starting to feel that fanfiction has actually started seeping into the mainstream.

Allow me to give you an example of this trend: a little film that came out in 2018 called Solo: A Star Wars Story. I saw it once, and I probably wouldn't watch it again, partly because I'm not a massive Star Wars fan, but also because it was boring and unnecessary. It's an amazing example of retroactive justification, and an example of how filmmakers have the ability to sap any sense of audience imagination out of a franchise. What I mean by that is they explain the backstories of things that the audience probably never even wanted to know because they were content with Han Solo simply being a character in the original Star Wars universe. If somebody wanted to speculate about his past and any aspects of his life before he first appeared in the movies, it was up to the audience members to create little backstories in their heads, to use their imaginations, to debate where his name came from, how he became a pilot, etc. But now, all of that creative leeway has been stolen by those who made this wholly-unnecessary film. It's as if someone took their sub-standard Han Solo fanfiction and brought it to life on the big screen. I feel as if I shouldn't be so harsh on a film that most people seemed to enjoy and which is perfectly harmless viewing, but it just irks me so much that this kind of content is lapped up by audiences. It's the reason I can actually defend The Last Jedi (and there goes any credibility I may have had): because at least that film talks about moving forwards and leaving the past behind to die. It tries to do something different with the franchise instead of rehashing the same storylines.

But I digress. This post is about Harry Potter, not Star Wars, and for me, the moment that the Harry Potter franchise started to go in a similar direction was the release of the first Fantastic Beasts movie. It was a perfectly fine film - I even went to see it at the cinema with a guy I was seeing at the time because we were both huge Harry Potter fans - but it didn't make me feel anything stronger than 'Huh, that was alright, I guess'. And no, I haven't seen The Crimes of Grindelwald, and I'm not interested in watching it at all if it contradicts the original seven books/eight films. I don't find spinoffs particularly exciting because they almost always come across like a quick cash-grab. After all, people will go and see any film if you slap the name of a massive franchise on the posters.

The Harry Potter books were special because they were about Harry Potter and his adventures at Hogwarts. The magical world felt real and uncomplicated, as if wizards and witches could actually exist alongside us Muggles without us knowing. But that magic starts to fizzle out when you introduce far too many characters to this world, as well as a hundred new magical abilities that were never mentioned in the modern Harry Potter novels. The wizarding world has started to feel too chaotic, too overcrowded, and for the first time, it doesn't feel believable. It's odd to say that adding too much detail into a world makes it feel less real, but it's true.

Up until now, though, I've been ignoring the most obvious problem with all Harry Potter material released after the original series: J.K. Rowling herself. The longer that this franchise drags itself along, the stronger I feel that she is a person who doesn't know when to quit. Imagine for a moment that the original seven books and eight films were the only parts of the HP franchise that existed. It would be blissful. The characters would be revered, and there would still be plenty of imaginative space left for fans of the series to come up with their own stories that existed outside of the canon. But J.K. Rowling has essentially run her own creation into the ground at this point with too much world-building, too many spinoffs, and just too much STUFF. Some good things have come out of it, like certain aspects of Pottermore: giving fans a chance to be officially sorted into a Hogwarts house and find out what form their Patronus would take is a real treat. Although I've never been, the Harry Potter Studios sound wonderful, allowing the fans a glimpse behind the scenes of the films, and giving them a chance to explore the wizarding world for themselves. There are plenty of parts of the Harry Potter franchise that give back to the fans, and I'm grateful for those things.

However, I'm not particularly grateful for the gratuitous information that J.K. Rowling inserts into the canon at random. If anybody has been paying attention to Harry Potter news at all in the past week, you'll know the tweet that I'm referencing here, and that tweet (and the subsequent backlash) is the reason I'm writing any of this at all.


Yes, I'm talking about the infamous 'wizards used to relieve themselves where they stood and vanish the evidence' tweet. Does J.K. not realise that this nugget of 'trivia' completely destroys the entire plot of the second book? That's not an observation that I made, by the way, although I wish I had. Some absolute genius replied to Pottermore's tweet with this:


I cracked up before realising that he was absolutely right. The Chamber of Secrets, a chamber which can only be accessed via bathroom plumbing, would have no reason to exist if wizards could simply vanish away their own bodily fluids. People with far more knowledge of the HP universe than me have also observed the fact that Vanishing charms are only taught in fourth/fifth year, so how did young wizards cope with this scenario? Also, are you telling me that MUGGLES came up with an idea for a human waste disposal system before, you know, WIZARDS? Get outta here.

There's so much wrong with this tweet that I can't get into it all here. Just do what I did and look at the replies on Twitter. I guarantee it's a good laugh. But J.K. has done worse than making up unbelievable facts about what wizards did before bathrooms. She is the queen of retroactive justification, saying that Hermione was never specified to be white in the books, and also hinting at Albus Dumbledore's homosexuality. However, it's easy to realise that these facts were simply made up long after the books were published to gain brownie points - there are moments in the books where Hermione's face is described as 'white' or 'pale', rendering that first point moot, and the question of Dumbledore's sexuality is never raised in the books, nor in The Crimes of Grindelwald, which would have been the ideal time to expand upon that concept since fans believed that Grindelwald and Dumbledore were more than friends. If those characters truly had those characteristics, they would have been mentioned in the original material, and not thrown in as an afterthought.

I've never been a fan of the idea that a single person can 'destroy a franchise' or 'ruin my childhood', but I'm starting to understand it now. The magic of Harry Potter was that it was a story of good vs. evil set in a secret world that exists alongside our own. The books were intriguing, memorable and well-written, driven by fleshed-out characters and an almost immaculately-built world. There were plot-holes, of course, but it was hard to care when the stories were such a joy to read. The series ended on a satisfactory note with Harry, Ron and Hermione sending off their children to Hogwarts, and there was no need to add anything else to it that might contradict the source material. But now, we are stuck with two Fantastic Beasts movies that add nothing to the original canon and feature characters I couldn't care less about, and a play that needlessly tacks a hastily-written fanfiction-y Part 8 onto the end of an iconic book series, which also features new characters that I couldn't care less about, as well as characters who would have been better left as memories from the final chapter of The Deathly Hallows. The issue here is that the people behind the Harry Potter franchise don't seem to know when enough is enough, and although this is not an issue that is specific to Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling's creation is certainly one that springs to mind when it comes to creators ruining their own beloved characters and stories.

Of course, there are easy solutions to some of these problems. Don't read The Cursed Child. Don't watch the Fantastic Beasts films. Unfollow Pottermore and J.K. on Twitter so you don't see any more of these ridiculous 'facts'. Reread the original books and rewatch the original films to remember how much you love Harry Potter.

But I'm writing this article anyway because I want to send out a message to all creators out there: KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. Yes, creators and artists need to take risks, and some may not pay off. Maybe these were J.K. Rowling's risks that blew up in her face, and if they are, then that sucks (although she should have seen the backlash coming with that trivia tweet). But creators also need to know when enough is enough. If you want to create a quick, cheap spinoff that has nothing to do with the source material and even ends up contradicting it, you've gone too far. It just ends up looking greedy and thoughtless, like you're neglecting the world that you YOURSELF created. If you create something that people love and go crazy for, push it as far as you can, but know when to pull back. It's for this very reason that I'm nervous to watch the reunion episode of The Inbetweeners that aired on New Year's Day: I love the original series so much that any more stuff that's added to it is guaranteed to be a disappointment. It's the reason that I went into screenings of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Deadpool 2 with a feeling of trepidation, since I had loved the first instalments of the series so much that the second parts were sure to be let-downs (although in both cases, they weren't).

Know when to go forward with a project, know when to let it die. That's pretty much what I'm saying. And it sucks that I have to aim a comment like that at someone like J.K. Rowling, who I admired so much when I was young and attempting to write my own blockbuster series. But times change, and franchises change, not always for the better.
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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Looking Back On 2018: July to December

Alright, Part 2 of my round-up of this crazy year! Shall we continue?

- JULY -

July was a good one. It started with a trip down to Dawlish in the south of England for a get-together with my dad's side of the family, which may as well have been a trip to the south of France because of how beautiful the weather was! I went a bit mad with the Huji Cam filter around about this time, so the sea and the sky are extra blue in these pics. Love it!







And because I only really care about food, one of the highlights of the trip was trying a combo that my dad's work mate had recommended to him: clotted cream and ice cream. Surprisingly, it wasn't as sickly as I had expected, and it was a lovely way to cool down on such a hot day.




It was great to be in England while the World Cup was on TV. Since I have an English family, of course I was going to support the England team, but while that pretty much makes you an outcast in Scotland, it's highly encouraged in England. My entire extended family and I sat in the hotel lounge in front of the TV and watched one of the England games (I forget which one, but we won, so it must have been good!), and the atmosphere was incredible. There was no escaping the football mania - even the lifeguard signs at the beach were cheering on the team!


I made sure to piss off my friends as much as possible with all my 'it's coming home' talk, and a friend of mine (incidentally the same one who suggested the saucy alternative ending to Avengers: Infinity War) made a meme about it. I'm honoured.


One thing that (almost) ruined the wee holiday was the fact that our flight got cancelled (thanks, BMI), so we were forced to hire a car and drive from the south of England all the way back to Aberdeen Airport in the north-east of Scotland. Dad is a hero for doing all that driving. I kept myself occupied in the back of the car like an obedient child by doing some writing and snapping pictures along the way.



July was also a weird one in the sense that I was working full-time, and that was essentially my life. This wasn't just a transition period between one year of university and the next, not just a temporary job until I could scuttle back to Dundee again. Nope, it was my life. It meant that I spent a lot of time looking back over my university journey and reminiscing.


I didn't go to the cinema many times in 2018 (something that I need to rectify in 2019 by getting some sort of cinema pass), but one film that I just HAD to see was Incredibles 2. It was everything that I hoped it would be, and being a huge Disney Pixar nerd, I loved it to bits, so much so that I even posed in the little cardboard cutout in the cinema lobby like the child I am. 


July was pretty much a month of self-care and outings and getting my act together in terms of health. I lost about a stone in weight, and I was more confident in my body than I had ever been. My folks and I spent a lot of time together whenever we all had a day off, taking trips up to Spey Bay on the Moray Coast, Haddo House for evening walks, and up to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would thanks to a room full of lights and mirrors that made me feel like I was tripping.












- AUGUST -

Three words: New York City!! I've already written many blog posts about our trip to the Big Apple, but I'm still going to share my favourite pics from the holiday, including travelling in business class on the outward flight, visiting the September 11th Memorial & Museum, walking around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and buying a pair of Tiffany earrings in the iconic store on Fifth Avenue. I'll never forget it. I'm still amazed that my parents managed to keep it a secret for so long!















- SEPTEMBER -

September was probably the toughest month of the entire year. As I write this list of things that have happened to me this year, I realise that so many great things have happened, and that I should be very grateful and very happy for everything that I have been lucky enough to experience. But underneath everything, there has been this undercurrent of unhappiness, like there is a void that needs to be filled, and in September, those negative feelings finally rose to the surface. I was fed up with everything, and I felt awful for it, because what did I really have to be unhappy about? I had a full-time job, parents who had taken me back in after studying away from them for four years, supportive friends...hell, I had just come back from a holiday in New York! Surely I should have been happy, and I felt incredibly guilty that I wasn't. And it wasn't even anybody's fault: it was my brain being an evil little gremlin, and telling me that I was miserable. One Friday evening when I came home from work, I broke down in tears because I was fed up, and Mum suggested that I book a weekend in Dundee to take a break from the 9-5 grind. So, that night, I booked a night at the Malmaison hotel, and took the train down to my favourite city the next morning. 

I hadn't seen Dundee for several months, and it had gone through a total glow-up since I'd been gone! The new train station was complete, the V&A was about to open, and everything seemed more colourful and more impressive than it had ever been before. I didn't want to get on the train back home, and the second I was whisked out of the city, I started to miss it so much that it felt like a constant dull pain in my chest. I confessed these feelings to my best friend, and she told me that she reckoned I'd be back in Dundee by Christmas. She could tell how much I wanted to go back. I took up the challenge.












September was a month of difficult conversations and even more difficult feelings. I ended up writing a poem entitled '13 reasons why I stay', and plenty of concerned friends and family members got in contact with me to make sure that I was alright. In all honesty, I had no idea. I knew that I didn't want to actually die, but I didn't feel like I was doing enough to warrant staying alive. I just felt like I was in limbo, and that I couldn't do anything right. Of course, I've already written about all this, and I'd rather not go into it again because it really really sucked, but I will just reiterate that talking things out, as daunting a prospect as that may seem, will get you the help and the support that you need. Please don't keep things bottled up because it will just make things seem worse than they are. Your brain is your own worst enemy.


On September 15th, the V&A Dundee opened, and I wore my little badge that I had bought from the Flame Tree Café on my lapel that day to keep Dundee close to me. 



- OCTOBER -

I turned 22 in October. It didn't really feel like a birthday (which seems to happen the older you get, I guess), but it was a good day at work nonetheless. October was also the month that I tried to reinvent myself for the hundredth time, and that meant that it was time for a dramatic haircut. For the first time in years, I found myself sporting a pixie cut, and I'm so unbelievably glad I did it. You'll never know how hassle-free life can be until you have short hair. It did mean that I spent a lot of time in front of the camera doing my best Cersei Lannister impression, but hey ho.




Since my best friend's birthday is only four days after mine, I went out to dinner with her and a bunch of her uni friends (most of whom I had never met before and whom I was nervous about meeting, but who were all super friendly!) and met up for a coffee with her the next day to exchange presents. A highlight was definitely the beautiful Primark eyeshadow palette that performs surprisingly well on the eyes, a palette that she bought for me because she knows how much I love a good makeup bargain!



One thing that really cheered me up in October was starting art lessons. The taster session that I attended was probably my favourite of the entire block of lessons, and learning effective watercolour techniques was so much fun that I subsequently bought myself a load of watercolour supplies (just cheap ones, although hopefully I'll invest in better quality ones when I have the money and skill to do so) and tried my hand at watercolour painting at home. I'm so glad to have found a new hobby that's incredibly relaxing and very rewarding when you feel like you've actually created something aesthetically-pleasing. Drinking herbal tea and playing with watercolours became a part of my life.





I was asked by the owner of a local art gallery and framing store if I would like to help with promotion for an upcoming event. They are currently organising an art fair in Dundee at the Caird Hall which (shameless promotion time) is taking place on the 24th, 25th and 26th May 2019, and they wanted me to help out since I love social media and, of course, the lovely city of Dundee. I was super excited at the prospect and said I would help out in any way I could. I agreed to work at the gallery on Saturdays, reducing my hours at my coffee shop job. It was my chance to be part of something big.


I was keen to get into bullet journalling, and began to map out a 'year in pixels' grid in a new dot-grid notebook. The concept is as follows: every day for a whole year, you keep a track of your mood by filling in each grid with a colour as indicated by a key, and at the end of the year, you will be able to see what the predominant mood was throughout the last twelve months. I hope I'll be able to fill out my bullet journal for the entirety of 2019, and I've also started a period tracker, a habit tracker for each month, and plenty of other stuff. 


October also brought another opportunity for me to head down to Dundee, and this time, I managed to visit the newly-opened V&A with a friend. Surprisingly, I was a little underwhelmed by what I found inside, although I maintain that the outside is stunning. Being in Dundee once again felt like home, and I felt like I became unapologetically 'me' again, wearing a weird lipstick colour and sitting around in a coffee shop, writing poetry. Bliss.




Once again, I found myself home alone - my parents were off on another getaway, and they left me notes for each day of the week, reminding me to put the bins out and assorted other tasks. On the Thursday, however, they couldn't think of anything, so just reminded me to have a good day off. So cute!


And just because I wanted to get into the Halloween spirit at the tail-end of the month, I dabbled in liquid latex makeup and became a devil in disguise. It was the first time I'd ever tried it, so I was pretty much just following Instagram tutorials, and those don't really prepare you for how strong the latex actually smells. Sheesh.



- NOVEMBER -

We kicked off November with a get-together at a family friend's home, where there was a stunning firework display and plenty of marshmallows to toast over a wood fire. No alcohol for me because I was driving, but it was fun nonetheless! I had gone off alcohol anyway ever since my bout of labyrinthitis; I didn't want to feel any dizzier or more nauseous than I already did. 


It was also my first day at my second job at the gallery, and I found myself nervous but also excited (hence the 'omg i'm screaming' emoji in the snap below). However, I didn't end up lasting long in the new role. Long story short, I was offered a full-time job at the gallery and accepted, handing in my notice at the coffee shop, but soon realised that, by taking another job in the same town, I would just be stagnating more and more in life, not being able to move out of my parents' home because of ridiculous living costs in the area, and earning the same amount of money. As great an opportunity as the new job was, I told them that I had had a change of heart: I wanted to move back to Dundee, and although I would still help with the preparations for the art fair in any way I could once I was settled, I simply couldn't stay in Aberdeenshire any longer. I'm very fortunate that the owners of the business are the sort of people who preach following your dreams, and they advised me to get on the next train down to Dundee and start my new life. And that's essentially what I did.





But until then, there were still art classes to attend and my last few days at the coffee shop to get out of the way. As anxious as I was about the hasty decisions that I had made, I was calmed down by concentrating on my paintings and by the support of everybody around me. 









This was also the month that I wrote my most popular poem of the year. It was inspired by one of the more risqué Instagram challenge prompts, but personally, I think it sounds more romantic than sexy, and plenty of others seemed to like it like that! It's the only one of my poems that showed up on my Instagram Top 9, so make of that what you will. 


I genuinely think I went a bit mad in November, or at least started living out a very VERY late 'teen rebellion' phase. Stage 1 of this phase was getting my first ever tattoo - a cute little ampersand on my right forearm, a.k.a. my writing arm. I've always had a thing for ampersands, and they are hugely symbolic of both continuation (there is always an 'and') and a 'broken infinity', of nothing truly lasting forever. I'm so glad that I got it done, and it wasn't as painful as I had anticipated, which surprised me! I thought I would have been squirming the entire time, but nope! 



Stage 2 was dyeing my hair for the first time in what felt like forever. I had been blonde for too long and I needed a change, so I went for red in an attempt to feel more badass. I was getting major Black Widow vibes whenever I looked in the mirror, and I loved it. If only I had Scarlett Johansson's face as well as the hair...



Both of my parents turned fifty this year, and while I didn't get many photos of the surprise party that was arranged for Mum back in April, I got plenty of photos from my dad's 80s-themed party in November. Or at least, I got plenty of selfies. An 80s party called for an 80s palette, after all, and I'd just bought the I Heart Revolution Now That's What I Call Makeup 80s eyeshadow palette. Not the best pigmentation, but such a great selection of colours.



- DECEMBER -

The twist-ending of the year! I began my mission to get back to Dundee, taking a train down on December 2nd to search for jobs and flats. I was in the city for around five days, and in that time, I put down a deposit on a flat and got offered a job! It was ridiculous, and there were moments when I was almost crying from stress and pressure, but it was all worth it in the end!







I was home for a few days before I moved into my new place, and in those few days, my dad and I sold my car, and I packed up my room. It felt totally bizarre.


On December 12th, I both moved in to my new flat in Dundee's West End and started my new job. I only lasted a week or two in the job since I ended up not enjoying it at all, but the flat has been fine so far, with any major issues being sorted within a few days! I still haven't got WiFi or a smart meter, but those things are on their way. 


It was a month of firsts, and one of those firsts was building flatpack furniture. I managed to build a bed frame and a clothes rail with my own two hands, and they haven't fallen apart yet, so that's got to be a good sign, right? Also, I bagged myself a total bargain with the adorable little blue couch in the photos below. I snapped it up when it was reduced to just £10 in a charity shop, and I couldn't be happier with it!







I was fully prepared to spend Christmas alone as I had no idea whether or not I would be working on Boxing Day, but since I had Christmas Eve off and was only working from 1pm on the 26th, I had a small window of time that I could spend with my folks. I spent Christmas Day in my family home, enjoying my mum's delicious Christmas dinner as always, and my dad drove me back to Dundee the next morning with a bag full of presents and bellies full of turkey. 






For the second year running, I spent New Year's Eve in Dundee. I got a last-minute invite to a 1920s-themed murder mystery night at a friend's flat, and it turned out to be great fun! I'd never been to anything like it before, but it was fun having a few drinks and trying out a funny accent for my character! As the clock struck midnight, I was standing in Dundee's City Quay, looking out over the river and feeling like everything would be okay. 

And that's it for 2018. It was a bizarre year that brought so much change my way, and for that, I'm so grateful. But I'm also glad to see the back of the anxiety and depression and self-loathing that I had felt creeping up on me throughout the year, undermining my achievements and making me feel small. Screw you, negative feelings. I achieved so many things in 2018, and I want 2019 to be even better. I want 2019 to be a do-over: a year full of achievements and great times like 2018, but without the self-doubt and low self-esteem. 

Wishing everybody all the best for 2019. Hope it's everything you want it to be and more!
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