Friday, December 30, 2011

And a happy new year to you!

As the Big Ben clock makes its final bong in 2011 and the fireworks across the country explode into the atmosphere, I contemplate the last year and wonder what will become of 2012 for little old me (little I hear you question?)

I began the year in the middle of my final year of University, completing my dissertation on the touristic legacy of Michael Jackson. The end of the semester also meant the end of one of my closest friend’s time in England as my dear friend Emily moved to Boston, MA to live with her husband and give birth to her little boy. Emily wasn’t the only one to have a baby this year as my cousin Chris and his wife had their first baby girl.

The year of 2011 sums up me finishing University and having to grow up. I graduated with excellent grades and was awarded for Outstanding Achievement with the faculty. My dissertation was also passed onto Michael Jackson’s estate and family too. I also continued Michael Jackson’s touristic legacy myself through attending a live show Man In The Mirror with my friend Kat, and attended the Forever tribute show in Cardiff (although the latter was nearly ruined as I ran around the capital of Wales looking for a hotel room).

Finishing university meant I had to go and get a job (tut) and temping at a large retail chain led me to move into my sought after career in Human Resources, a career I had desired since my University modules last year in the subject. I now recruit for one of the largest retail firms in the UK and the studying has not all together stopped as I completed an Equality and Diversity course this year and have plans to complete a part time Masters and CIPD qualification next year to help me progress with my career.

I went to V Festival where I hung out with the celebs in the VIP section and danced away to Rihanna! Me and Angus went to the Lake District where we walked up mountains which never ended (mainly because the paths had been redirected without notice) and did a spot of literary tourism in Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth’s homes.

October was a mixed month. It began with the wedding of two of my closest friends, Vanessa and Shaun but I later lost my Uncle Mick who sadly passed after being diagnosed of cancer. The month ended on a high however as my cousin’s christening brought a focus on new life in the Hatton family. Not many people can say they’ve done the full circle of life in just 4 weeks!

The year ends with close friends, who are coming to celebrate with us. And to that I raise a glass and wish all of my friends and readers a wonderful New Year and that 2012 bring everything you wish for x

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 in Review

It is safe to say that 2011 has been an eventful year with ups and downs. I tend to keep a log of major events across a year in the news as a reminder and I have filled nearly double what I had for 2010!

The year began with the New Years Eve Egyptian Terrorist Attacks where 17 people were killed after a church was bombed, bringing a less than optimistic beginning to the year. Later on in the year a revolution occurred in Egypt forcing out the government, which also occurred in Tunisia and Libya also in 2011. Egypt wasn’t the only place to receive terrorist attacks as an airport in Russia was also bombed as well as Morocco. The most shocking terrorist attacks were found in Norway where a right wing extremist set off a bomb in Oslo and killed 69 people at a summer camp. There was some good news in 2011 in the combat against terrorism as we caught Osama Bin Laden and our troops left Iraq, shortly before the 9/11 ten year anniversary.

In the UK, VAT rises and government cuts led to many strikes and protests across the country. We were offered a new way of electing in a way of an alternative vote but this was voted against coming into future elections. The UK also had a series of riots, which showed to be more of a group of vandalising looting chavs rather than a revolution.

2011 had held many natural disasters across the world including floods in Brazil and Australia, a tsunami in Japan, and earth Quakes in Spain and New Zealand. We had a repeat of a 2010 mining disaster, but unlike Chile, the Welsh were not so fortunate to escape.

There was a series of celebrity scandals this year; Charlie Sheen showed that he was no longer winning as he got too high and was fired from Two and a Half Men. Dr Conrad Murray was found guilty for his involvement in Michael Jackson’s death. Cheryl Cole was promised a job on the American X Factor, only to be fired shortly after; and Ryan Giggs realized that super injunctions do not work. But the biggest scandal of 2011 had to be the phone hacking from the News of the World, where Hugh Grant, JK Rowling, Steve Coogan and many other celebrities fought out against the phone hackers and the News of the World was shut down after 168 years of being in print.

We lost a number of famous faces in 2011 including Pete Postlethwaite, Elizabeth Taylor, Ryan Dunn, Amy Winehouse, Betty Driver, Jimmy Saville, Gary Speed and Kim Jong Il. The world was cheered up however when Prince William finally got married to Kate Middleton bringing lots of hope (and tourism income) to the UK.

And there is the sum up for 2011; who knows what is to come in 2012? The Olympics should be a huge event in 2012 as well as no doubt more strikes and protests against our forever disappointing government. But to everyone out there, have a happy new year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Crimbo and that

It is that time of year again where I try to compete with the Queen for best Christmas message... personally I think hers lacks a little edge or humor but whatever!
I finished work today at 4pm (nice!) and now I'm not in until next Thursday, which will be the longest I've had off in ages! I received a lovely secret santa gift off a work colleague: a Coronation Street Rovers Return mug and a pair of Jack Duckworth Racing Pidgeons. I don't know what gave anyone the impression that I liked Coronation Street??

I tried to be all nice and charitable (''David, are you still doing stuff for charity?'' I hear you cry!) so I bought a selection box to give to the children's hospital as they were collecting them at work. I took my selection box to work but they had already been taken the night before; so I'm stuck with all this chocolate, oh how I will suffer this Christmas.

Working in a city centre is horrible at this time of year... people don't appreciate that I don't want to be there and that I have to be there due to work being all inconsiderate and placing it in a central business hub. I try to rush past the dordellers (you know who you are) who walk at a half a mile an hour and stop at every window to see what offers on. I HAVE A BUS TO CATCH! Is murder wrong if its a Manchester shopper?

The bus home on my final day was amusing; a young child stood up and announced to the bus, ''LOOK GRANDAD, THAT STRANGE WOMAN IS ASLEEP!'', the woman opened her eyes to see a young blonde haired boy pointing at her. As I got off the bus I saved a dog, who had run away from his owner, from running into the road. As his owner came running I could understand why the poor little animal had considered suicide; the owner was a chav, didn't for a second thank me for saving the cute puppy, but did pick it and screamed ''YOU LITTLE BASTARD!' at the dog. At least I hope it was the dog... if it was aimed at me, I don't know who he was calling 'little'. Lovely Christmas spirit.

I came home where I found a flustered Angus who informed me that I had used up all his Christmas paper. He wasn't happy I had used it all up. What am I? A shop keeper? I don't do stock checks. Anyway he's off finding Christmas paper two days before Christmas. Fun.

Christmas will be spent with my lovely family in Preston. New Year will be enjoyed with my good friends Finn and Shelley who I'm hoping will bring some of Finn's Scottish heritage to our festivities. We have a Scot, we only need Travis now and it will be Hogmanay in our own house!

Anyway Have a Wonderful Christmas too all my wonderful friends and family!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

a personal note after an emotional week

I am not going to advertise this on Facebook or Twitter but if you manage to find it then you will have come across something very personal and one of the saddest weeks of my adult life. On Tuesday evening I found out that two incredibly close friends of mine are HIV positive. I will never mention names, as it is not my place to; this a mere week in my shoes as their friend.

Devastated is the only word I can think of to sum up what I’ve been feeling. I was shocked, horrified and in fear for their welfare. In the past I have dealt with people having cancer and all sorts of illnesses, but this I have no idea how to handle because I have never come across it before. I am not belittling other illnesses, I merely want to express that I understand those illnesses and therefore feel I can cope with them, but this has been something else.

I’ve felt sick, tired, saddened and in a way quite mournful over the fact that my friends have an incurable disease. This isn’t even my body. I cannot imagine what the last few months have been like for my dear friends. My heart bleeds when I think of the day they found out or how they’ve managed to tell other people when there is so much stigma out there.

Knowledge is power and that is the only thing that has got me through this week. Knowing how good the drugs are to keep sufferers alive and healthy gives me a great peace of mind. If they are reading this (or if anyone who is positive is reading) my heart goes out to you and I’ll think of you everyday. To my two in particular friends, I love you both so very much and hope you remain happy and healthy for a very very long time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Union Debate

I write not today to press an opinion on the public sector strikes; I have enough friends on both sides and I do not wish to partake in this debate and have kept many of my opinions of it to myself. I write today to talk about the Unions who push for these strikes and how I disagree with the Unions and not those on strike.

After my research at University and my past experience with them myself and through my nearest and dearest, I have become increasingly disgusted with the unions who supposedly hold our welfare and our rights so dear to them. A friend of mine who is a teacher wondered whether to strike; he couldn't afford to take the day off work and he didn't really feel the strike was justified, but his union turned around and told him that if he didn't strike he shouldn't bother coming to them for help again in the future, despite them taking some of his salary every month so that they will be there to support him should the time come. I would be horrified but after studying organisations such as Unite and other unions, I am more than aware of their reputations.

Unite, a union always in the news, particularly for their association with British Airways staff, have on numerous occasions accused companies of bullying their staff, and yet Unite have infamously 'named and shamed' those who haven't gone on strike and actively encouraged union members to bully those who dare not go on strike. Many unions have also had alternative motives to strike (especially with Unite with their links with the Labour government) and is not always for the concern of the workers who have lost their pay to fight.

I realize that unions can be a lot of good; I realize there has to be a balance and that they have brought justice because sometimes an organisation is in the wrong. I also believe that when your employer is the government that yes there should be someone there to make sure that the workers have their say. But some of the horrific counts of bullying have made me never want to join a Union. As someone with quite unitary views, I see joining a union as distancing myself away from my employer, rather being a part of the company who have employed me. I also don't hold it against others for joining them as that is their right and they hold differing views to mine. Maybe I have just had good employers who have embraced their employees and maybe my views will change in the future, but for now I commit to not being a part of a union and embrace the organisation I work within rather than fight against it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Transexual Summer

While the final moments of last night's episode of My Transexual Summer was supposed to provide an air of hope and joy for a transgender girl finding a job around accepting people, it instead made me angry, unoptimistic and reduced me to tears. All this male to female transexual person wanted was to have a job and for once not be judged. Channel 4 watched her as she traveled from shop to shop asking for work. I was horrified to see how many people rejected her (on camera!) saying that she would make the customers feel uncomfortable and therefore could not give her a job. Is this legal? How can it be? If it is, it is disgusting. A flamboyant gay man, a disfigured or disabled person could make someone feel uncomfortable, but you would not dare reject them from a job they were perfectly be suitable and could easily do surely?

It probably didn't help that Channel 4 kept going up to customers and asking what they thought of the new transexual barista, they probably wouldn't have even noticed she was trans if they hadn't shaken bigotry out of these elderly customers.

I could not believe how horrificly these people are still treated in this country today; Britain claims it is a cosmopolitan and accepting place, but seeing how transgender people suffer on a daily basis shows that we are far from it. These people struggle a life time of pain just to be able to enjoy the simple luxury of being able to wear the clothes they wish to wear and feel comfortable in their own skin, which many of us take for granted on a daily basis.

The government need to crack down and make more clear that the poor treatment of these minorities will not be tolerated. Jobs should not be restricted from them because they might put off a bigoted customer. We need to open our arms and welcome these people who have suffered enough quietly themselves without the rest of the world looking in and judging them too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ticket Inspector Bullies

The other day a good friend of mine was traveling on a train. She was tired and decided to rest her legs on a metal bar which sat beneith the seat in front of her. The ticket inspector passed and noticed her feet on this bar and without warning or even asking her to take her feet down, issued her a fine and threatened to have her arrested. The way they spoke to her was dispicable and had she not been so shook up by the whole process, she would have likely called the police herself for the way she had been treated. This was not some teenager causing a riot on a train, this was a twenty-something IT professional who was commuting for work purproses. Had she been asked to take her feet off the metal bar, she would have done so immediately and yet she hadn't and now faces a penalty.

Wind back a few months, I was traveling from Manchester to Leeds. A gentleman in the seat behind me gave a printed out confirmation receipt from his email to the ticket inspector after the ticket machine in Manchester had not worked. The Network Rail representative in Manchester had told the gentleman to just get on the train as he would miss his connection and to just explain to the ticket inspector. The ticket inspector did not believe the gentleman, despite him having full confirmation printed out with him. He demanded another ticket or he would have him arrested at Leeds station.

Last year, my friend's boyfriend traveled from London to Manchester. There were two trains departing at the same time and he accidentally got on the wrong one. Easy mistake. When the inspector inspected his ticket, he informed him he had got the wrong one and demanded he pay a full fair up to Manchester which cost over £100 because his ticket was not valid on this train, despite it being the same train company and was obviously an easy mistake to be made.

A few months before that, another friend of mine was traveling from Hull to Leeds. It was late at night, he was exhausted and had fallen asleep on the train and woke up in Manchester. He quickly got on the return train to Leeds and tried explaining his fault to the inspector who demanded he buys another ticket. My friend had no money on him at all and he had left his debit card at home. The inspector demanded he got off at Stockport or once again would be arrested. My friend pleaded with the driver explaining that if he got off at Stockport he would have no way of getting home and would have no where to stay. He would have had to have slept rough. He showed his ticket, showing the exact times he bought the ticket which would show he would have had to have got off and back on again in seconds to prove his mistake. The inspector continued to push my friend to buy a ticket and once again threatened him with the police. My friend had no choice and so he called his bluff on his threat of the police. The inspector instead of calling the cops went over to the tannoy and told the passengers that train would not be moving until my friend had got off, hoping that the passengers would begin an angry mob to get my friend off the train, unfortunately for the inspector it backfired and the angry mob was actually turned around onto the inspector and the train service who eventually had to set off.

These are just four of many stories I hear frequently. Who the hell are these bullies from these train companies? Who do they think they are? They would allow someone to remain homeless for the night or to be fined ludicrous fines because of innocent mistakes. They threaten with the police because the majority of people would respond to that, but clearly they know the police have more important cases on their hands. They resort to angry passengers to force these people off the trains. They are bullies, pure and simple, on a power trip. With rising fair tickets, the train companies are forgetting how much the public pay for this service and forget that we are customers. We get crushed on a daily basis on busy services because the companies will not provide an extra carriage. The facilities are a joke and the journey is pure hell. And yet we pay high prices for these poor facilities and are made to feel guilty for using them.

I want to put a stop to these Ticket Inspector bullies. I know we have to stop fair dodgers and yes if people are generally causing a nuscience on a train then sort it out. But don't try and send your message through the punishment of good, hard working people who just want to get from A to B and just want to get home and have paid to use the rubbish service this country provides. They threaten us with the police but evidence has shown that actually they are bluffing. I ask everyone to stand up to these nasty power-mad imbeciles. Call their bluff! Let them try and arrest you! You are in the right and these companies need to know that we are the customer and they cannot force us to be out of pocket because of innocent mistakes! I am not asking to cause a riot; no way. I'm not suggesting you break the law; far from it! But don't bend over and take it if these petty people demand us to be fined and treated poorly for innocent mistakes! I will happily face being arrested for any of the above incidents and I will happily meet them in court if it means an end to the disgusting way they treat us!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Darkness Rock Manchester

It had been several years since The Darkness had performed since Justin Hawkin's departure in 2006 and the world wondered whether they could live up to their name in their reunion tour. On the 12th November 2011, The Darkness proved at the Manchester Academy that their glam rocking days were not over.

Despite not having the flexibility of an arena for stage tricks, they managed to fill the stage with a large cage and a number of light illusions made it a terrific show. Justin and his brother managed to create some amazing guitar solos and Justin's voice is still just as high.

They played a number of new songs which ensured the audience that the new album will include some terrific tracks which relay the sounds of their rock n' roll legacy. But everyone was there for the oldies and they didn't let us down with tracks such as Black Shuck, I believe In a Thing Called Love and Growing On Me. They also played a few tracks off their second album, One Way Ticket and their famous Christmas Track, which despite being a little early, got everyone in the festive mood.

It was surprising to see them not perform any Queen tracks, which they usually did, but the lengthy show was filled with the Permission To Land classics which everyone loves. They are back next year with a new album and tour, and I cannot wait to see more from the rock legends!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Heavy D: 1967-2011

I was saddened to hear the news that rapper Heavy D died suddenly this week. While I hadn't followed Heavy's career closely, he had collaborated with my favourite artist of all time Michael Jackson on no other than my favourite Michael Jackson's song: Jam!

I saw Heavy live in his final weeks at the Michael Jackson Tribute Show in Cardiff in which he joined Michael's sister Latoya in the performance of Jam.

So in tribute to heavy here are his lyrics from one of the greatest collaborations of all time; Jam:

Jam Jam
Here Comes The Man
Hot Damn
The Big Boy Stands
Movin' Up A Hand
Makin' Funky Tracks
With My Man
Michael Jackson
Smooth Criminal
That's The Man
Mike's So Relaxed
Mingle Mingle Jingle
In The Jungle
Bum Rushed The Door
3 And 4's In A Bundle
Execute The Plan
First I Cooled Like A Fan
Got With Janet
Then With Guy
Now With Michael
Cause It Ain't Hard To...


Sally Morgan's Psychic Skeptics

Sally Morgan is in hot water again after Derren Brown managed to expose her as a fraud on his Secret of Luck show. The ''medium'' went to visit a 'lucky dog' and confirmed its powers, unbeknownst to her that Derren had planted the dog and made up the rumor that it had any form of lucky powers.

After years of incresing success and popularity, especially with high profile celebrity admirers, Sally's career seems to be these days facing increasing scruitny. Recently she has been accused of having back stage helpers feeding information to her as audience members in Dublin said they heard a man reading out messages which Sally would seconds later repeat. Her reviews on Ticketmaster of her shows also show that her fans have been very disapointed and that her tv show really does show the best of her guess work.

In October of this year a skeptic group in Liverpool invited Sally to come and prove her powers, offering £1 million if she was able to prove it. Derren Brown has even been involved urging her it is more for a matter of science than exposure. Sally declined the invitation.

Is this the end of Sally Morgan's career? It is doubtful, no matter how much evidence is presented against her, people will still believe her. Derren Brown proved this in a documentary on mediums as he did the same tricks as mediums but explained he was just using guess work; a girl he tested his theory on still believed he was 'magic' despite him telling her otherwise.

All we can do is urge Sally to come forward and do this test, it could after all save her credibility and line her pockets with £1million; but with the amount of proof against her and the number of sold books and contracts with Living TV/ITV2, she is most likely to earn more than the million proposed and her credibility will always be strong with those who will believe almost anything.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Conrad Murray: Dr Death

I awaited for the verdict as it came out live on Sky News on Monday evening. It was unbelivably intense as we awaited the fate of Conrad Murray and the verdict which would outline his part in Michael Jackson's death. Unlike many fans, I wanted to give him a fair trial and let him have his day in court like we gave Michael in 2005; but the evidence was clear soon into the trial that this man had been irresponsible and had to face punishment.

Fans across the world have deemed a murderer and a monster. I don't believe him to be either. I believe that he was idiotic and money hungry; he gave into whatever Michael Jackson demanded and for that he needs to be stripped of his medical liscence. While he may have felt he was giving Michael everything he wanted, he was letting him down. I have no doubt that Michael thanked him everyday for going against the law to end his insomnia. Conrad, instead of finding him help, he sat and fed his addiction, even recording Jackson's drugged up slurs.

Conrad Murray isn't the only one to blame; AEG, everyone involved with the This Is It tour, his management and anyone who had access to him in those last few weeks were just as much as to blame for Jackson's death as Murray. They made the world believe Michael was ok and encouraged him onto a stage when he was obviously in no fit state to perform. Instead of getting him to recuperate and come off the drugs, they fed him whatever he wanted to get him on that stage and ready to go.

Of course Michael too was to blame, but he was an addict, he didn't know any better. If your friend, family member or colleague is an addict, you help them and say ''please don't die''. You don't ignore it or (in Murray's case) feed the addiction. Michael relied on those closest to him and today only Conrad Murray is the one who is on trial.

The world has lost an icon and it is all down to an entourage of money-hungry men who felt it better to line their own pockets, rather than considering the welfare of a human being. Should Murray serve time? Possibly, anyone responsible for someone else's death should have some of their own life taken away. Prison is probably the safest place for him right now; I know I wouldn't want to face billions of angry Michael Jackson fans after being blamed for killing their hero. But more than anything he should have his medical liscence away, he went against the oath that as a Doctor he had to take. There is no doubt he will find some fortune at the end of this, the media are already beginning to make programmes and when he is released he will be able to exploit the media attention in interviews, books and television documentaries.

But if nothing else, Michael's family and fans will be able to at last have closure on what did happen to him on his final weeks, they have got that person to blame and he is now being punished. While there are people out there who should still be blamed, it will never replace the King of Pop, and now the world should let him go and embrace his musical legacy that he leaves behind.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Michael Jackson: An Innocent Man

Away from the drama of the court battle between the people and Conrad Murray, it seems that people still, long after his death, believe Michael Jackson was a pedophile. Whether it comes within a joke or just discussions between friends, television or debates. People always come up with the same arguments about him; why did he sleep in the same bed as children? Why did he pay out $20million to the Chandler family in 1993. Why was he so eccentric?

After reading various books, both balanced biographical accounts, Jermaine Jackson's memoirs and the book Redemption (a book written by someone who worked for Chandler's soliciter) there are many answers to all those questions and how Jackson was set up to suck money out of the billionaire popstar. I wanted to portray a few facts to those who are in disbelief or cannot make up their minds.

I will begin with the big one, the one that always asks... why did Michael Jackson pay out $20million to spare him from jail if he was an innocent man? Well... he didn't. That agreement was never to stop the family taking Michael Jackson to court, it was to stop them going to the media. Michael wanted the court case, he wanted to prove his innocence, but the family only wanted money. The family could have taken the money and still taken him to court, but they didn't. Funny how no one turns the question around to ask why the parents of Jordy Chandler accepted money instead of making sure a man they called a predator to serve time. Surely if someone harmed your child, justice would be preferred instead of money? And yet they could have had both... but they didn't they only took the money. The media never report this fact.

So why did Michael Jackson not just sue the family for the lies they were telling rather than trying to buy their silence? He was a drug addict at the time, addicted to prescription pain killers, and he wasn't strong enough for a fight against the family or the media. He paid out to stop them from ruining his reputation because he didn't have the energy to be able to fight himself. What the media also didn't report was that Jordy Chandler became estranged from his parents after this, he didn't speak to his father again, who later killed himself after trying to sue another person.

Jordy Chandler was asked in 1993 to identify Michael Jackson's body by giving descriptions of his naked frame. Michael posed naked to give evidence. All of Chandler's descriptions were incorrect. The second family who accused him were also suckers for suing people. They tried to make a claim against a security guard at a department store a couple of years before, accusing the security guard of assaulting them, however CCTV proved otherwise. Another set of liars.

Why did Michael Jackson sleep in the same bed as children? He didn't! He slept on the floor in a sleeping bag while more than one child would sleep in the bed. The media never mention that the children's parents would also come and stay and would agree to let their children sleep in the room and would often join in themselves. Jermaine Jackson provides a wonderful description of Michael's love of slumber parties with candy and pillow fights; mainly down to the closeness he and his brothers had as a child. On the Victory Tour, Michael wanted to share a room with his brothers once again, but the others felt they were too old and wanted their own hotel rooms. Jermaine Jackson also provides wonderful descriptions of Michael's childhood which inspired areas of Neverland, poems, Peter Pan and many many other artifacts have come from Michael's nostalgia, rather than planning an entrapment for children like something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Neverland? Why the fairgrounds? Well Michael has said many times he is a child at heart and that was seen very clearly in Martin Bashire's documentary. But Whoopi Goldberg made a clear analysis in 2009 that when someone is as famous as Michael Jackson, they cannot go out to a theme park like the rest of us without being mobbed; therefore he had to build it in his own home. Many Holywood stars have had to resort to building elements within their homes so that they don't have to go out and Michael was doing just that; Neverland was his haven, his safe place and he didn't want to leave until the media drove him out in 2005. Whoopi Goldberg also stood up for her friend Michael Jackson when asked whether she would ''seriously let him look after her children'', Whoopi Goldberg said ''I would let Michael Jackson babysit my child, and Michael Jackson has babysat my children''.

People say he is an eccentric freak; but if they find his actions strange or different to theirs, is it any wonder? He has not had the most normal of upbringings has he? Listen to the song 'Childhood', Jackson's autobiographical song. The answers all lie within there.

These many many elements the media never demonstrate; the world likes a negative story. It is in our nature to respond to the negative rather than the positive. But when it comes to reporting pure lies, it is surely just another evil. I hope this post changes opinions or at least allows people to consider the possibility that he might just not be the predator that the world made him out to be. Michael Jackson may have died an innocent man in the eyes of the law, but his critics may never hold the same opinion.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nostalgia of my American Dream

When leaving America after spending a year living and working there, I never felt saddened that I was leaving. I loved my friends there and I would surely miss them, but I was so excited to see all my friends back home that it overshadowed the life I was leaving behind. This is not to say I had a bad time out there, I had the most amazing year with the most amazing people and in some ways I felt my life was better out there. I lived like a king, I ate out at the best restaurants every day, lived in a massive house and my bills were hilariously little cost. Back here I can barely stretch to a Boots Meal Deal on a daily basis!

Since returning to England I've looked over my photos many times and wanted to go and visit and see my friends, but never once did I cry or feel saddened that I was here in England and not there. I suppose in a way my photographs were of events and holidays over there, which like any holiday can be looked back on with joy but not saddened that we are no longer there.

But then a few weeks back, I was looking through a suitcase. I opened a pocket that I hadn't opened in 2 years. There I found a bank statement from Chase, my bank account provider over in Chicago. It showed a month of my life, the places I would eat out everyday, a trip down to Chicago, the different activities that I would get up to on the daily basis whether that was just a trip to Starbucks in Woodfield Mall or hanging out in Hot Topic. I suddenly burst into tears. It was so strange that a bank statement could cause such emotion, which a photograph couldn't. I think with the photograph, like earlier, is more like capturing an event or a holiday; we don't take photos of our daily lives of walking to work. But with a bank statement, it made me remember the life I had out there, the daily routine and the comfortableness of my daily life.

I am so happy to be here in England, but part of me wishes I could just live just a week or two back within my old routine. A visit back there for a holiday is indeed needed one day , although no doubt much of what I remember will have changed. My closest of friends have moved away from the town I lived in and the employees of the hotel I worked have all moved on too. But just to walk along memory lane and see the sites and go to the shops would be amazing to see and to recapture the American Dream that I was once a part of.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Time I Was Hypnotized

After watching Derren Brown this evening hypnotize a man to assassinate the much loved Stephen Fry, it reminded me of the time I was hypnotized myself back in 2004. On a holiday with my family, we watched hypnotist, Morpheus on a couple of occasions, in which my dad believed it was all fake. However, each evening I was falling asleep just sitting in the audience, and the hypnotist's stage hand had to keep poking me to wake me up as being in the audience and not in the spotlight, they couldn't keep me under control. I decided to give it a go and be hypnotized!

We took the evening very seriously, especially since my mum was rather concerned with what I was about to undertake. The stories of people falling unconcious and never waking up again deeply scared her. I didn't drink any alcohol before as advised and when called I went up and sat with the other volunteers. The first test was similar to Derren's tricks of making our hands stick together and being unable to pull them apart. Those that could pull them apart were asked to return to their seat. Mine, however, were unable to break apart; a feeling so very strange and defied all logic to me.

After Morpheus broke my hands apart, he began the trance. I was told to picture walking down hundreds of steps going down down down, deeper, deeper deeper. And that's the last I remember of it. The next I knew, people were applauding me and I'd assumed the whole experiment hadn't worked. What my family and anyone who has watched the DVD saw was me believing I was a kangaroo, having sex with a chair (not literally) and physically crying on stage (both with laughter and with sadness). At one point I was asked to rejoin my family under the trance, to which my best friend, Rob and my parents said it was as if I wasn't really there, like my mind was some place else.

After I was awoke up to the applaud, my family's reaction said it all that it had been a success. People came up to me and told me how hilarious I was. We bought the DVD so I could go home and watch it. After waking up I felt so awake and alive with energy. It was very late into the night, and yet it felt like it was mid-afternoon. I felt so unbelievably happy and alive with life and I wanted to party the night away. It was if I had taken some sort of drug.

I can understand how dangerous hypnosis could be being in the wrong hands, as Derren has demonstrated in his show, but at the same time it shows how remarkable the human body is. For those who don't believe in it, I only suggest you try it (and let yourself go rather than stubbornly fighting against it) or take my word for it, as it was a truly remarkable experience, one which I will never forget.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ricky Gervais

Once again the world and its’ tabloids have turned against comedian Ricky Gervais for his supposedly offensive humour. This time for using the word ‘mong’ a derogatory word for Down Syndrome people. However Ricky repeated time and time again that the word does not mean that anymore and he is not using that word to use those people. In which case, it is those who are making that connection who are becoming the offensive ones, not Gervais.

Many people say Ricky Gervais has always been offensive, however this is far from the truth. Those who have actually spent time to listen to Ricky’s jokes in context (rather than the snippets in the press) will understand that his jokes are aimed to make fun of the morons that are bigoted. He tells the joke because we are like-minded and not agreeing with the statement. Those who actually listen to the joke in context and still think he’s offensive are just ignorant and quite honestly, unintelligent if they can’t understand the joke. They don’t have to like the joke, but to say he is an offensive man is ludicrous.

Ricky has said time and time again that he does not mean to offend. My favourite quote of his is ‘’You have the right to be offended, and I have to the right to offend you. Being offended does not make you right’’. He’s right; it doesn’t make them right. There are people who are offended by homophobia and black people, are they right?

Like I’ve said over and over again with other ‘’offensive’’ television or comedians, if you don’t like it, turn it off. He’s not thrusting his humour in your face. He’s on the television or on twitter. Don’t follow him or switch the television off. I could understand if he turned up at your house and shouted ‘’MONG’’ at you or even began screaming it a Downs Syndrome child in the street. But he hasn’t, and he never will.

Ricky Gervais is a highly intelligent, artistic and articulate man who is incredibly liberal. Whether you disagree with that is your right, but to call him offensive is just far from the truth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Michael Jackson Forever

Like Michael Jackson’s life, his tribute concert came with just as much controversy. Fans across the world had shunned the show saying its’ timing with the trial of Dr Murray was not appropriate, but as Neyo who opened the show with Billie Jean pointed out that this show was not about the trial, but about celebrating a musical genius.

I had travelled to Cardiff on the Saturday morning and as soon as I got on the train in Manchester I was pleased to see how many MJ fans had made the effort to travel for the show. Rumors of it being cancelled and poor ticket sales had circled for weeks, but the day before it was announced that all standing tickets had completely sold out. I was quite glad that there were other fans on the train as I was slightly concerned that all the train stations were signed in Welsh; I didn’t know if I would know where to get off!

I arrived in Cardiff which is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in the UK, and with its friendly nation, I could see myself one day living here. I collected my ticket and walked a mile and a half to the guest house which was to be my accommodation for the night, only to be told that I had booked the room for the wrong year! I walked around Cardiff looking for somewhere to stay, but they were all sold out. I had visions of sleeping rough at the train station but thankfully a Travel Lodge had one room left, which was actually right in the city centre and had a view of the Millenium Stadium from my room where the concert was to be held that night.

On the way to the concert I passed dozens of bars all blasting out Jackson songs and dancers in the street impersonating his moves. As I was walking towards the stadium a huge black car with high security passed and inside I spied a perfect silhouette of Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine, who when I flashed her my t-shirt gave me a wave!

I arrived at the stadium, which suddenly seemed very dark upon entry, when I realized they had pulled the roof over it to keep out the poor weather that had been predicted for that evening. The stage was spectacular and the fans had already been gathering for hours for the best spots.

I grabbed a beer and that’s when I bumped into Navi, the world’s most famous MJ impersonator who had crowds around him; he was nearly as a popular as the man himself! Before the concert began I met some lovely people from Birmingham and Africa and together we celebrated the music and the legacy of our hero, Michael Jackson!

After Neyo’s entrance to the show, JLS came on with the Jackson brothers to sing a collection of Jackson 5 hits. Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight sang a collection of MJ songs both as soloists and as a duet and brought the Motown Michael to the stage. Christina, Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke were also fantastic acts, but it was the unknown Yolandis Adams who stole the show. When Yolandis came to the stage, people were questioning who she was, but by the end of her rendition of Earth Song, she had the biggest applaud of the night.

Michael Jackson’s children came out to talk to the fans. Paris and Prince were really getting into the night, but I think Blanket is still a little young to appreciate who his father was as he looked less than impressed to be there. They introduced Beyonce who did a video link performance from the USA, but to be honest I’m not too sure whey they bothered, it wouldn’t be impressive unless she was performing at the stadium itself.

The show went on for over four hours and hadn’t even covered half of Michael’s most famous hits, which shows how many hits he really had. The night finished with everyone coming on stage together to sing ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’.

Everyone left the concert singing the songs of our hero back into the city centre. We dispersed and I returned to the Travel Lodge where I heard local clubs and bars playing Michael Jackson songs late into the night. There are rumours that the Jackson family plan to do an annual tribute concert, which I will certainly be doing… especially if its in Cardiff as I have a room booked there for next year!

The best part of the evening was being in a city full of people with the same love for music, it was wonderful to see how many different generations of fans were there, especially the young children who were not even around in Michael's most successful of years. It proves that Michael's music, like the same of his concert, will live on forever.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dollywood comes to Manchester

It was a miserable September day; the edges of a hurricane made the already dark and miserable Manchester even colder and bleaker. The date was September 11th, and the world was mourning the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. So there was a lot to go against the Queen of Country achieving her goal of everyone singing and dancing in the MEN Arena… but Dolly managed it anyway!

With a two and a half hour show filled with old songs and new, Dolly Parton rocked the stage like it was 1967. Dolly was here to promote her new album, Better Day, an album, which certainly lives up to her musical legacy.

But like any living legend, the crowd wanted the hits, and she didn’t let her fans down, as she played the classics such as 9-5, Coat of Many Colours and Jolene. She even did some covers such as Walking on Sunshine and Stairway to Heaven.

The atmosphere was electric as the audience embraced the fact that they were in a room with one of the most famous women in the world. Dolly is 65 now, an age in the UK when many are getting ready for retirement, but she showed that she was far from it.

She ended the show with I Will Always Love You, which she mocked Whitney Houston’s version, but pointed out that she liked the cash back she gets every time Whitney’s cover gets played. It was a perfect ending to a fabulous show and it was clear that everyone in the audience will always love Dolly too.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

10 years ago, I was sat in Mr Nunn’s class in a History lesson at school. We were in the middle of reading about the Holocaust; an historic event we thought we certainly wouldn't see of again in the Western World. Suddenly another teacher came in and went up to Mr Nunns and whispered something in his ear. He turned to us and told us that when we went home that night we would hear news that would change the world forever.

On the bus people were mumbling, something about bombs, planes, explosions. People have been killed. No one would explain to us what had happened. Fear surrounded the bus, but no one could understand why.

While walking home with my friend Barry, a friend of his mum’s ran out of his house and told us the World Trade Centre had been blown up and that World War III was about to begin. I had never heard of the World Trace Centre; I was 13 years old; but I knew what I had just heard was big. Bigger than big.

I ran home and switched on the news. The horrific view before me suddenly put everything into focus. The visions on the news were something that you saw in movies. It was scary, frightening and inhumane. I knew Mr Nunns was right. The world really had changed forever.

10 years later the world is a different place. It is hard to find an area of the world the event hasn’t affected or even an area of our lives. It has hit all of us some way, whether it is trying to get on a plane or simply logging onto the Internet. Even at work, we have processes in place in case anything like 9/11 was to occur again, we have an evacuation procedure to make sure no one has to die like they did back on that dreadful day.

10 years on, I remember the events of that day like they were yesterday. I still see the towers collapse and people jumping to their deaths to save themselves from burning. I don’t believe that what happened that day will ever leave me. The fact that people died simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time will scare me for eternity.

In 2007 I was on the subway in New York. Suddenly four Asian men stood up and together lined up across the train. For those few seconds the colour in everyone’s faces disappeared while everyone froze in fear. Suddenly the four men began to sing and collect money for charity. As much as it was those men trying to spread a message, it showed the fear that was still distilled in all of us all those years later.

As much as I hate the extra security checks at the airports and often feel like Big Brother really is watching me, I focus on the fact that these processes are in place so that none of us ever have to go through what happened on that day ever again.

I’ll be sparing a moment for all those that died that day today; those who reluctantly and unknowingly became martyrs for the freedom of the western world that each and every one of us take advantage of daily.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recruitment in a Recession

I have recently begun a job working within the Human Resources department for one of the largest retail chains in the UK. My role is focused mainly within recruitment and I have to sift through applications to decide who is suitable and legally acceptable for each job. I speak with applicants on a daily basis and I cannot believe how many applicants we have come to us who used to be senior management or even CEOs applying for a 12 hour a week role as a shelf stacker or a trolley collector. It is so eye opening to the problems in this country today.

It is so sad and yet on the other hand I have so much admiration for these people who are willing to start at the bottom all over again, rather than claiming benefits which so many happily abuse.

I have to give bad news on a daily basis, informing people they haven't made the cut because they either were not within legal requirements to fulfill the job or were unsuitable; the despair in their voices is heartbreaking at times. Thankfully my job also provides good news on a daily basis. I give hope and opportunity to people and the joy within the applicant is overwhelming; at these times I feel I am doing a good thing.

More than anything I am thankful I am within a job, at the beginning of a career I do want to pursue and one that I am very much enjoying; one which I appreciate more and more everyday after hearing the stories and struggles of our applicants.

Monday, August 22, 2011

V Festival: VIP Style

After his hard work over the last several months in his job, Angus received two complimentary tickets for a VIP experience at V Festival, and very kindly took me along with him. Unfortunately the show we had to attend was in Chelmsford, which (with traffic and several accidents on the way down) took us seven hours to get to! However once we were there, we were delighted with the set up. The campsite held a quiet tranquillity, unlike the over crowded campsites I had previously experienced; however there was still enough people for a good party on a Saturday night! The campsite was mainly filled with people like us, who belonged with companies from Nokia, Virgin Media and various other promoters.

The best part about the campsite had to be how little we had to walk anywhere. It took us no more than five minutes to walk from the car, to the campsite and then onto the main stage within the arena, which made it so easy to move our heavy belongings between the two; not that we needed to struggle, as golfing buggys were on hand to shuffle our belongings around! It was also helpful to have real toilets and access to warm showers.

The next day we got our first taste of the Louder Lounge VIP experience. We entered and the decorative flowers, fountains and hippyish garden party themed tents made it a haven. I began to call the area ‘Happy Land’. We had lunch and dinner everyday within the place for free and all drinks were free throughout the weekend, which we were allowed to take into the arena with us. To get in and out of the area we had to walk through a highly secured gap in the fencing which seemed quite ominous, but the very friendly staff began to know who we are and before long they didn’t even bother to ask for our passes.

Louder Lounge is famous for its celebrity guests and across the weekend we bumped into Ralph Little (2 pints, Royale Family), Matt Smith (Dr Who) who happened to go to the same school as Angus, Sam Pepper (Big Brother), Robert Sheehan (Nathan from Misfits), Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) and the only way is essex crew. What was rather shocking was that every entrance of V festival has police dogs and sniffer dogs.... every entrance, that is, except the VIP section and it was quite clear why. The VIP section was rifled with drugs, with some people openly snorting cocaine in the bar without any subtlety at all. It does seem sometimes that there is one rule for one, and a different rule for another.

On Saturday the bands we went to see were Fun Lovin Criminals, Kids in Glass Houses, Bruno Mars, Lost Prophets, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight and Gomez. We had many, many cocktails and spent the evening dancing the evening away in the Louder Lounge bar and singing on the Sing Star stage. Afterwards a sing-song around a grand piano in the camp site went on into the early hours.

On Sunday we packed up our things in the morning so that we could leave after the show. That day we went to see Wolfgang, Fitz and the Tantrums, Mummies, Ellie Goulding, Manic Street Preachers, Hard Fi (who made a surprise appearance) and Rihanna. We left after Rihanna’s set as we wanted to get back and half way through the four-hour trip home, I really appreciated it as I was shattered and couldn’t wait to curl up on a comfy bed which I had been deprived of since Thursday. We finally got in after 1am, burnt to a crisp and ready for a shower!

The best acts amongst the weekend had to be Rihanna, Manic Street Preachers and Kaiser Chiefs. The most surprisingly good performance was Bruno Mars, who are such fun guys and got everyone dancing and enjoying themselves (it was also nice to see new talent appreciate having an audience so big). We had the most amazing time at the festival, unfortunately I think it has broken us for all future festivals as we now expect a certain standard, which sucks for Angus who is going to Leeds Festival on Wednesday, where there wont be any VIP treatment.

As for now, it is back to work, away from the ‘Happy Land’ which is Louder Lounge, which was sad to leave, but it doesn’t even compare to the comfort of my own bed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Concerns Over Michael Jackson Tribute Concert

Last month, the Jackson Estate announced plans of a tribute to the late King of Pop. The concert planned to bring some of the world's biggest selling artists together to celebrate the music and life of Michael Jackson. Details of who was performing were supposed to be announced leading up to the day of the ticket release, and on the day of the ticket release, earlier this month, no bands had been announced and the website distributing tickets had little else but a 'Coming Soon' sign. Meanwhile the Jackson Brothers discussed their disgust at the concert being planned at the same time as the trial of the Doctor accused of killing Jackson.

Now the tickets are out and the artists are released, and whom were these great artists we were all eagerly awaiting for? Alexander Burke, Cee Lo Green, Craig David, JLS, Leona Lewis and Pixie Lott. Now I am not here to critisize these name's music or their success, but are these the caliber of musicians we want playing to remember Jackson's life? I think not.

Where are the people who Jackson befriended and performed with? Where are the people from Motwown? Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin? Where are those who Jackson has inspired? Justin Timberlake? Usher? Not that I'm a fan of the latter, but at least they are remembered for their association with Jackson. The others had little to no connection and it is a disgrace that the promoters have found such a poor line up.

Maybe those close to him have turned it down due to personal reasons, or like his brothers have disliked the timing. We have to remember that a tribute concert has been canceled before due to the lack of sign ups. It is quite sad that we can't get a decent line up to celebrate a musical legend.

What has been most disturbing has been the announcement of the most recent line up, KISS. Now I am a fan of KISS, but Gene Simmons has publicly criticized Jackson and in his words is ''in doubt a pedophile''.

This show is clearly not a a tribute to Michael Jackson, but a way for promoters to get as much money as possible, rather than the charitable causes they at first claimed they were setting out to do. This show is a mockery of Michael Jackson's successes and I, like many fans, will not be attending. Hopefully, his brothers, who have Jackson and his fans' concerns at heart will eventually bring out an appropriate tribute to a man who made music what it is today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Raging About Riots

I’m not often angry within my blogs, if anything I’m often attempting to be comical (whether that comes across can be left to you to judge), but today I am angry. Angry at the people across this country who are destroying cities and lives.

This is not a political movement. This has nothing to do even with the policeman who shot a member of the public. There will be no ‘liberation’ for anyone at the end of this. This is nothing more than a few 17-18 year old chavs with no political agenda, who are doing nothing more than causing disruption and looting. Pure criminals.

Martin Luther King said that riots are caused by the unheard. Well tonight the BBC asked those rioting why they were doing it, providing them a stage to be heard, and did they have a response? Did they bollocks.

If for whatever reason people are out there with a political agenda, nothing justifies this mess. We are not in poverty. We are not having are human rights removed or being persecuted. Your actions are sickening and only hurting the general public, who do not deserve this.

I had to quickly run out of the city centre and luckily managed to catch a taxi home; if it had been a few minutes later I wouldn’t have been able to get home.

I am now sat at home in fear of the coming days or whether it will spread to my local area. Nobody should have to be in fear leaving work or being at home.

These people are scum. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, August 8, 2011

BeatleMania 50 Years On

My avid Beatle fan friend, Janet, approached me about going to Liverpool to see the sites and sounds of The Beatles. As someone who isn’t a big fan, but who is a tourism student who has just completed a dissertation in celebrity and music tourism, I couldn’t resist.

We arrived in Liverpool at 11am on a Sunny North Western Day (for a change), unfortunately we arrived in a Northern Rail train, one of the worst transport providers in the UK. It took over an hour to arrive on a slow shack of a carriage, which stopped at nearly every station available between Preston and Liverpool.

Upon arrival, we realized we had no idea where to go to get to the Beatles Story Museum; after asking the Travel Office, we were told it would take us over half an hour to get to the Albert Dock from the station; it took us no more than 15 minutes.

It was magnificent walking through Liverpool, a city that has had such regeneration over the years; much of this has been down to being nominated Capital of Culture. Liverpool has transformed into a modern city but still hosts some magnificent historic architecture; Albert Dock (home to The Beatles Story) is a prime example of development.

Upon arriving at the museum, I was surprised at the £12.50 entry fee to the museum (especially since most museums today have no entry fee) but I’m glad to say that it is worth every penny. From birth to death, along with the continued living legacy of The Beatles, the museum covered everything. With some amazing artifacts, such as original recording contracts, awards and birth certificates. There was also an Elvis exhibition, which held artifacts such as his clothing and shoes that have been let out of Graceland for the first time.

With inspiration for their hit songs and the details of how the Beatles made it to such high levels of success, the museum truly covered the story of The Beatles; they also featured many of the artists they have inspired over the years.

My only criticism was that there was no mention of Michael Jackson within the museum; this is not just because I am an avid Jackson fan, but more for the fact that he had a huge musical relationship with The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, who wrote many hits together such as The Girl Is Mine and Say, Say, Say. Michael Jackson even owned some of the back catalog of Beatles tracks up until his death in 2009, when he returned the music to Paul. Now his name may have not been mentioned to overshadow the legacy of The Beatles or it could have been down to his turbulent friendship with Sir Paul in the final decades of Jackson’s life, but some mention should surely have been noted.

I will say this, however, The Beatles Story Museum is there for everyone. You do not have to be a fan of The Beatles to enjoy this museum. It is significant within the history of music and is a must see for any music fan. They have inspired musicians world wide, some of whom you may not have even considered.

The museum ended with a beautiful tribute to John Lennon with an Imagine area with his famous grand white piano, glasses and lyrics displayed across the museum. It was an elegant and moving tribute to a man who before going to the museum, I knew little about.

After leaving the museum, we traveled over to St Mathew Street to The Cavern Club, which is described as The Most Famous Club in the World. The Beatles were the first performers at The Cavern and led to the club becoming one of the most popular choices for the world's greatest artists to perform. Outside is a very subtle statue of Lennon resting casually against the Wall Of Fame, which lists the many artists who have played over the years from Elton John and Stevie Wonder, to Oasis and Arctic Monkeys; it was hard to find anyone who hadn't played there!

We entered The Cavern and walked down into the club, which is still open today. The bar is propped open and ready to serve and bands still continue to play day and night for punters. It was unbelievable how tiny the club was compared to today’s extensive arenas and stadiums, which host our most famous artists. The lack of security surrounding the stage was the most interesting; it would be doubtful that such famous acts could play there today with fan hysteria. It must have been amazing for the performers who play there today to be on a stage which has held some of the world’s greatest musical performers.

What I liked the most was how this famous club, which boasts so much musical history, is hidden in a tiny back street in Liverpool city centre. Liverpool quite rightly got the Capital of Culture because it has an amazing history of culture, not only from The Beatles but other musical legends and a whole host of British comedians and writers whom have come from this great city.

I am so glad that I chose to go to Liverpool and would suggest it to any music fan. It is certainly fitting for many of my American friends, whom I would gladly escort there to be entertained with the North West’s musical legacy; many Americans certainly filled the museum on the day of our arrival. Many people slate celebrity culture, but in terms of The Beatles and Liverpool’s musical history, I say Let It Be.

‘’I don’t think anyone comes close to The Beatles, including Oasis’’ – Brian May