Get the lowdown on what to see when you're in Beijing - I've compiled all my Tripadvisor reviews for you here to get a flavour of whats worth visiting...
***** Great Wall at Mutianyu
The wall has lovely views of green and a sense of history even though it is very reconstructed. I’d definitely recommend going to a less crowded section such as Mutianyu so you have at least a chance of photos without other people. The tour guide who brought us to the wall told us a heartbreaking tale about how it got its name - but I'll leave the surprise for yourself. 2 hours really flies by up there, I could have walked much further up the wall! Note no ‘western’ toilets whilst up there (an issue for ladies) and it can be hot and tiring if you aren't that fit. One of the highlights asides clambering up the wall itself is the cable car ride up and a toboggan all the way down! The transport/tour cost 290RMB and the cable car/toboggan costs 100RMB.
***** Temple of LamaS
This was the first Buddhist temple I visited and was one of my favourites as it engaged my senses. I could burn incense (well, wood sticks that didn't actually smell of anything), see people praying, spin prayer wheels, throw coins and clamber through through building after building until I reached a huge almighty Buddha (they get bigger and bigger). Aside from the giant Buddha though, once you’ve seen one temple you’ve kind of seen them all.
**** Summer Palace
First I entered through the north gate where I stood on a bridge over a river with the most picturesque shops I'd ever seen. Further in there is a beautiful lake with dragon boats that is still etched in my memory. My favourite part was actually a big marble boat that was like a stationary yacht, I could imagine emperors having brunch there. There are some killer stairs to get the best views over the lake. The temple at the top of the apex is actually really underwhelming. I had to knock off a star for the impressively named sections of the Palace that don’t actually amount to much - for example, I got really excited about a Jade Garden that turned out to have no flowers, plants or green Jade.
*** Temple of Heaven
It was my first glimpse of that stereotypical Chinese architecture and therefore I was enchanted by the detail on the Temple and the Long Corridor. I also learned in one hall about the elaborate animal sacrifice ritual emperors went through. But what was even more captivating was people-watching as the locals enjoy the place as a park. There were many groups of retired folk dancing, playing graceful sports, playing cards and board games as well as mothers walking with children.
*** Beijing Zoo
I was thrilled to see pandas, giraffes, bengal tiger, elephants and hippos for the first time! But animal lovers may find the zoo a bit dystopian. The habitats aren’t very convincing - imagine a polar bear sweating in 30 degree heat. The visitors themselves weren't very well behaved: people banging on the glass, some even throwing rocks at the hippos, people feeding the zebras. Oh, and don't eat at the "restaurants" here, and note that the toilets are not western-style.
Next up: Shanghai!
Overall, a lot of the things people had told me about China were untrue and made me unnecessarily nervous before my visit so this blog post is to help set the record straight, speaking from my two weeks experience of Beijing and Shanghai.
1. Its not as bad as you've heard
Before I came to China I heard three things from people that chilled me to the bone: that people spit everywhere, it’s overcrowded and the pollution is terrible.
Expecting the floor to be a sea of saliva and paranoid someone would hack up onto my sandaled foot, I was pleasantly surprised to only see/hear about 5 people spit during my whole two weeks, and only ever outdoors.
I hate crowds so the thought of being sardined in with a lot of people was one of my main anxieties before coming to China. Imagine my surprise to find Beijing and Shanghai less crowded than London. Yes, Chinese people on the subway do push unnecessarily, and no they don’t let passengers off the train first, and yes they do stand on the right of the escalator. But the carriages are not as crowded as the Tube plus they have air conditioning!
As for the pollution, not once did I experience the black-bogies phenomenon I get after a day out in central London. The view of Shanghai was pretty misty but Beijing was fine, although to be fair we were told that only half the usual amount of cars were allowed to circulate the city at that time due an upcoming military event. Which brings me onto another myth: that everyone smokes. As someone who hacks up blood if I've been exposed to smoke for too long, I was pleased to see only the occasional smoker in China.
2. You will get bitten
No, I'm not talking about the scams that seem to terrify most Tripadvisor reviewers (the basic advice is don't trust strangers) - I'm talking about mosquitoes. I got bitten 5 times on my legs over the two weeks in both cities, one bite escalated to enormous. Apparently, eating Marmite helps repel insects from your skin so I might try this out next time!
3. Plan your journeys beforehand
You should research and print out detailed maps and directions for places you want to visit as there is no Google in China and street signage is poor. The Chinese search engine is Baidu.com which I personally found to be a quite unhelpful when searching in English (baiduinenglish.com wouldn't load for me). Tourist maps are not very detailed and so you can get lost easily as there are numerous smaller roads unmarked. Tripadvisor.com maps are based on Google so these will not load for you if you use it in China.
Also brace yourself for no Twitter, Facebook or email for the duration of your stay! On the plus side, Whatsapp is still good to go.
4. There is a big police presence
Perhaps the illusion of crowds in China is due to the fact everyone is subjected to a bag scan every time they go into the subway or enter certain areas such as Tiananmen Square. Everywhere we turned there seem to be Army, Police and Security personnel. Add that to the all the volunteers wearing red armbands and you get the feeling that everyone works for the government! But I suppose that’s what you get with Communism. The benefit for tourists is that you feel quite safe in most places.
Despite the authoritarian undercurrent, to me the people seemed happy in Beijing: old people dancing in the park, mums going for walks with their child and not many Western faces to be seen.
5. Know your cost of living
I didn’t know how much things would cost in China and made some assumptions based on some American’s bloggers costings – which in hindsight was stupid as their idea of spending $20 per meal is ridiculous. 1 Chinese Yuan = 10p and things are pretty cheap in China. Icecream 10 yuan, water 1.5 Tesco Value, cheap restaurant noodles 20 yuan, main dish 60-80 yuan in a mid-tier restaurant, subway one journey 3 yuan, transport/tour to Great Wall (Mutianyu part) with no lunch 290 yuan, entrance to tourist attractions 20-40 yuan.
Remember to change your money in England before you go to China or at least inform your bank so your card doesn’t get blocked like mine did! Knowing how much you are going to spend will minimize the amount of money you have to withdraw from ATMs while abroad so could save you money in the long run. Remember most companies won’t exchange your Chinese coins back to pounds so try to use these up on the subway before you leave; note subway machines don’t take 1 yuan notes so you might end up with a bunch of those too.
When bargaining in the market, it is true what the blogosphere says about starting your offer at about an eighth of the stated price. I was too embarrassed to haggle that much so I usually got about a third knocked off. The dance goes like this: you say a price, they lower it a bit, you say a more reasonable price, they say no, you walk away and they run after you and say yes.
I hope this post has helped prepare you and alleviate some uncertainties. One thing people were right about is that English is not widely spoken. Other than the staff at our four star hotel in Beijing and tourist attraction ticket offices, we struggled to make ourselves understood any further than pointing at menus, so I'd advise you carry around a translation book. Happy holidays!
Since joining the Marketing Graduate scheme at Tesco in September 2014 I haven't got around to writing down what I've been up to. But they say a picture tells a thousand words so I've gathered together different work photos to share some of the highlights in my journey so far. Enjoy!
Most people will remember the controversy caused by Blurred Lines, performed by Robin Thicke, Pharrell and TI. So outraged were people by the lyrics and music video, it was even banned from being played by some university student unions. In this article I'm not pointing my finger at the usual suspects who make songs with guns and swearwords; I'll be looking at songs playing on our airwaves today that have largely gone unchallenged despite their backwards or unhealthy messages.
All about that bass
Not because you like your own body, nor because you have other qualities like intelligence.
"It's pretty clear I ain't no size 2, but I can shake it shake it, like I'm supposed to do." Does she mean that girls are inherently supposed to shake their bodies for men's enjoyment? The next line confirms what I feared - that being desirable is the end goal when it comes to body image: "'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, all the right junk in all the right places."
To reinforce this horrible message, in the bridge Meghan comforts non-skinny girls by assuring them that "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
The chorus "American, you know I had to cop that foreign" sounds to me like he is saying he can buy foreign women like you would a commodity, because he is an American man. A fictional foreign woman who is the object of the song has a vulnerability implied by the fact "She only been here for two weeks” but this is seemingly attractive to Trey who says he "Might pull out his Visa". This song does nothing to tell young impressionable fans that women, especially foreign women, are not something you can brag about buying.
The song is brutal with Iggy promoting unnecessary violence with lyrics such as "When this b**** hit the ground, how these Louboutins taste?" The last thing we need playing in the club is a song encouraging people to brawl. She should take her own advice and "Stop, wait, think about it" before she makes assaulting another human being seem like a cool thing to do.
Let's get one thing straight, I'm not against art about drug addiction (Sia did a great job of it with Elastic Heart) but I do think that songs shouldn't glamourise alcohol and drug abuse. In the music video Tovelo looks relatively good through her drug induced orgie highs and crying in the bathroom lows and the nastiness and pain referred to in the lyrics is downplayed. For any young viewers out there who think this is a good solution to getting an ex out of your mind, I guarantee you will feel better and move on quicker if you stay sober!
Drunk In love
Who in their right mind compares themself to a convicted rapist (Michael Tyson) when talking about his sex life with his wife? But it gets worse. "I'm Ike Turner, turn up, babe you know I don't play, now eat the cake Anna-Mae". When me and my friends heard that line, we didn't get the reference and thought he said "eat the cake, anime". And what a lot of people do when they dont understand a line in a song is look up the lyrics on Google. Imagine my shock when I found out he is quoting a scene from Tina Turner's autobiography where her abusive husband demands she eat a cake she didn't order in a restaurant. Again, I can't understand why Jay-Z would say he is like Ike, the same scumbag who said in his memoirs "Sure, I've slapped Tina.... There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her." Is this an outright description of him and Beyonce's relationship, or a pathetic attempt to assert his masculinity in one of her hugely successfully songs? Either way it is disturbing.
When you look closely at these popular songs it's easy to jump to conclusions about why the world is such a messed up place. Having said that, I grew up listening to Eminem and Britney Spears and have yet to beat my partner or shave my head. I suppose I will conclude that even if young listeners don't end up actually doing the things they hear about in songs, their existence on the charts implies that these behaviour are in fact acceptable in our society.
I am not one to spend a fortune on fancy tech. I usually buy something new when the old one is no longer working. True, my smartphone has died a few times (but been revived with prayers, rest and rice) and can only store 6 extra apps; my laptop doesn't work without the plug and is heavy enough to make me dread taking it anywhere. But nevertheless buying a tablet is pretty frivolous in my mind, even though I have a job and can afford to splash out.
So, should you buy the hudl 2? Read on to find out!
The hudl is available in a nice selection of colours. Unfortunately orange and turquoise (which are the best colours) are only sold online so instore I was forced to buy a different colour but buy the cover/case/stand in turquoise. I think my colourful hudl looks fun and is trendier than sporting something with a presumptuous Apple logo on it.
If you're like me, telling you the pixel density of the hudl won't help. What I can assure you is that the graphics look crystal clear, especially when I'm shooting a baddie in the head on Sniper 3D.
What's not so sharp is the photos taken on the selfie camera. As you can see from this indoor evening attempt, if the light isn't great, I can turn out looking like I have jaundice. Still, it's better than your average smartphone.
Unfortunately, neither of the cameras have flash so you can't be "that person" who takes your tablet to a concert to take photos.
At £129 (correct at time of writing) it offers pretty much the best performance compared to the rest in the budget tablet market - I've read enough reviews to know that much. At Tesco I got my hudl for £99, using the £20 off £100 spend electrical coupon and a further £10 off using my Clubcard Boost vouchers. Oh, and the case was 1/3 off when bought with the hudl.
Before I could even use my hudl I had to wait well over 30 minutes for it to update its systems and apps. Which was a massive anticlimax and I imagine a bit of an issue when it came to kids opening it excitedly on Christmas day!
The system itself is Android so because I have a Samsung smartphone, getting to grips with the tablet's system was quite easy. Plus the hudl has a cute tutorial at startup to walk you through it.
It's quite easy to lose yourself in the hudl for hours at a time, and the decent battery life permits this.
I love being able to have more than 5 apps. I can play games, check my Tesco Bank (they tempted me to switch by offering £50 worth of Clubcard points) balance, Skype and everything else you would expect from a tablet. In fact, my ultimate challenge to the hudl is that I've written this entire article on it in an hour, on the Weebly app, using Swipe, voice-typing and good old tapping on the generously sized onscreen keyboard.
Because Tesco made this tablet, there is a screen which shows you your Clubcard points and other social content like recipes or Blinkbox TV offers. You don't have to look at this though, nor use any of the preinstalled apps.
If I was to complain about something, it would be that the Halifax mobile banking app "isn't available on this device" and that additional languages don't seem to come as standard on the keyboard prediction.
So, should you buy it?
My answer is a resounding YES!!! If you aren't bothered about designer brands, love a good bargain and want to indulge in the tablet trend then you should go for it! It's the best you are going to get for such a relatively low cost and can be shared amongst family as it has multiple user profiles and child safety controls.
Do you already own the hudl 2? What do you think? Share your comments below!
Few people know that I spent a year working in the Army Reserve. I've not broadcasted it until now, and I took it off my CV a while ago to make way for my more relevant marketing experience. On reflection, this work experience is probably what helped get my foot in the marketing door of big companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Tesco.
You did what?!
I joined the Birmingham branch of the UOTC (University Officers' Training Corps). The UOTC is a non-deployable part of the Army Reserve, which was called the Territorial Army back in my day. In other words, I got paid to do basic infantry soldier training without the commitment of being on call to join any wars. All training is based roughly around full-time university studies so I worked every Wednesday afternoon - evening (at the training centre), and then every other weekend, Friday evening - Sunday afternoon (in the field at various locations).
How did you get in?
As we all know by now, its pretty hard to get any job as a student, and even the army has its own quirky assessments. First I had an informal interview with an officer at the Freshers fair, then signed up for the Selection Day. You can only join at the beginning of the academic year.
On selection day a coach came to pick up the candidates. We were taken god knows where and did about 4 group tasks e.g. get the whole team across a distance without touching the ground, using a few planks. We then had to run 1.5 miles as fast as possible, then we were drug tested. From what I remember at this stage, everyone was let in, despite the fact that many didn't pass the run time. I then underwent a medical examination, which involved ear and sight tests, as well as walking like a duck in my underwear in front of the doctor (men have to do it naked)! A few people were sifted out at this stage, I assume because of psychological stability, drug abuse or medical issues such as asthma.
What happened then?
Once I was all official, myself and my peers started on Military Leadership Development Programme 1, the first year of a three year curriculum created by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. My year's intake (B Company) were sorted into three groups (platoons), then within those, into a team of 8 (section) with which to work for the rest of the year.
I was trained in map reading, weapons handling (A2 5.56mm caliber rifle and hand grenades), camouflage, battlefield casualty drills (first aid), and fieldcraft (attack, defence, communication, travel and camping in the battlefield). Some Wednesdays they held PE sessions to toughen us up for upcoming weekends.
Exams took place for each of the above after we had finished our training and practice of them. Some of the learning was tested later in the year with a written exam. In February the final PFA (Personal Fitness Assessment) took place, which was where they measured whether we could now meet the officer benchmarks for the run, sit-ups and press-ups. The hardest test of all was the CFT (Combat Fitness Test), which was a 6 mile march carrying over 25kg.
Why it is amazing work experience
Make your CV stand out. If you are applying for a unrelated job, I guarantee it will catch the recruiter's eye. The other lady to who got hired on my Tesco assessment day had also done UOTC - coincidence? I think not!
Have unusual answers to competency questions. I used UOTC experiences to answer interview questions about leadership, contributing to team success, improving myself and communication.
Perform well under pressure. You try loading 30 rounds into a magazine within 60 seconds when being watched by a scary officer!
Learn new skills and build self-confidence. Aside from the cool soldier skills I mentioned, over the summer the army offers opportunities for you to get your driving license or subsidised nationally-recognised adventure training qualifications.
Expand your network. UOTC has catchment areas that include more universities than just your own, so you'll make friends and work with people from all over.
Have so much fun. Thanks to UOTC I got to go to my first ever ball. We also celebrated Burns Night with a regimental dinner. To put it mildly, lets just say there was an epic social scene at the Officers' Mess (bar) and further afield.
Sense of achievement. I drew a lot of personal satisfaction from being the only female in B Company to complete the CFT and come top in the PFA.
Prove you are disciplined. In my opinion, this is what our country lacks these days. Thanks to time management, discipline and commitment I did not miss a single day of work until I chose to resign to go on my year abroad.
Why it sucked sometimes
So stressful. You are given about 60 seconds to do everything - get out your sleeping bag, put it away, and get into the prone position, watching out for a non-existent enemy. Or the number of times I got indigestion from wolfing down a cold curry from a sachet!
Weight gain. Contrary to popular belief, the army lifestyle doesn't make you look like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. The ration pack of food you are supplied with every 24 hours when out on the field is like 10,000 calories and far too much for lady.
Discomfort and pain. Every other weekend I'd get back from training covered in cuts and bruises. Several people were hospitalised during the CFT because their foot blisters had swollen so much. Constantly hurling yourself to the ground into stinging nettles and getting about 4 hours sleep a night in the open air can wear you down a bit.
Can take over your life. There's more to UOTC than just getting onto the coach in time. There's a lot of admin involved. You must wash and iron your filthy uniform before the next training session (or risk a bollocking during inspection), check what specific kit you need to bring for each session, and exercise in your spare time to ensure you can survive the next field weekend. This can all eat into your study and social time.
So that's why I think this tough but incredible experience helped get me ahead in my business career. It may be the only job that doesn't let you shower for three days, but it might just shoot down the competition for a grad job.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re a bit (or very) afraid of spiders. Arachnophobia is one of the most common fears for Brits, and unfortunately for those people, this autumn heralds the arrival of more spiders into our homes.
Experts claim that male spiders return indoors not only to seek warmth from impeding frost but also to mate with female spiders who we don’t usually notice living under our floorboards already. If you believe they are actually out to terrorize you, then this article should inspire you to deal* with the spiders without calling for help from non-spider-fearing friends or family.
*NB: Spiders do not always survive the following methods
1. Vacuum cleaner
Simply use the nozzle end of a vacuum cleaner to suddenly hoover up the spider from a relatively safe distance. This method works particularly well if the spider is located on a ceiling or on the sofa. Potential pitfalls are that the spider will fall if you don’t have a steady hand to guide the vacuum tube and that you have to empty the vacuum container afterwards. After using this tactic I usually continue vacuuming other bits of the house to make sure the spider is dazed and compacted down under more dirt.
2. Hair dryer
This approach is most suitable if you have your spider trapped in the corner of a room. You will require a relatively powerful hair dryer and an electric socket to plug in near enough to the spider’s area. Turn the heat intensity up to maximum and point the hairdryer at the spider. After a few seconds the heat should kill the spider. You can tell a spider is dead by its curled up posture.
The idea behind this method is that you use a large, heavy book in order to crush your nemesis. If the spider is on the floor but very near to the wall/skirting board you will find that throwing a shoe at it nearly always fails because it bounces, leaving the spider unharmed. Place your heavy book, or weighted box on the floor and slide it forcefully against the wall where the spider is. The right angles of the book should match the wall/floor therefore leaving no gap for the spider to hide. A large hard-backed book such as the Oxford English Dictionary normally comes with a shiny plastic cover which is easy to wipe clean afterwards.
4. fly swat
Revel in the irony of using a fly-killing tool to kill a fly-killing creature. This way of dealing with spiders is pretty obvious. The spider should be on a hard, flat surface (curtains, sofa or bed sheets are a no-no) and you should have decent hand-eye coordination in order to hit it. As with flies, swatting the spider too hard could leave a mess, but going too gentle may just startle it and allow it to escape.
5. Hair Spray
Again, you needn’t use this specific item to take on the spider. Wood polish spray, or any aerosol with an alcohol or nasty chemical element should be sufficient to gas the spider when sprayed directly. I suggest a potent hairspray for two reasons: firstly, the smell is enough to make even humans gag, let alone choke a spider, and secondly, it’s less likely to stain whichever surface gets sprayed. A few seconds blast of hair spray should kill the spider, and even if it survives it will be glued stiff.
The vital compound of water is an easy and clean way to get rid of a spider. Spiders often become trapped in baths or kitchen sinks. At our disposal we have taps or showers we can jet our spiders with until they are swept away down through the drain. As with the vacuum cleaner, you may wish to keep the water flowing a little longer after the spider is gone to ensure it has really been transported far, far away.
Building on the traditional method of catching spiders using a glass, a deep, wide brimmed Tupperware provides the arachnophobic person with a little more distance between themselves and the spider. This method requires a lot of bravery as it involves trapping the spider by placing the tupper over it, as well as sealing the spider in and transporting it. Most people throw spiders out of the window, but this is unlikely to keep it out of your house for very long. For this reason I suggest putting the lid back onto the tupper and dumping the hostage far away in another neighbourhood.
So there you have it, 7 ways to deal with a spider all by yourself, covering a range of possible scenarios and using typical household items. All jokes aside, being able to handle a spider when you’re alone without descending into panic is an empowering skill to have, so I hope I’ve helped someone out there to deal effectively with their fear. Have I missed out any crucial tips? Comment below!
Most "How to get a first" articles will give advice on revision, practice and hard work. Mine, on the other hand, will provide simple tricks to give you a natural, biological advantage. My mantra is work smarter, not harder. These worked out pretty well for me, and I still had time to go to cheeky Justin Timberlake concert up in Manchester with my girl.
1. Food glorious food
I love eating so I figured having brain food was an excellent way to help my grades at uni. To boost your memory snack on blueberries, walnuts and dark chocolate through revision season. I would also eat half a tuna sandwich an hour before my exams, and a banana right as I walked into the exam (so the magic would kick in the whole way through).
Omega-3 also improves your cognitive function, but its a long term effect so start taking cod liver oil tablets once a day starting at the beginning of the year. Throw in a multivitamin tablet too if you struggle to get your five a day of fruit and veg.
2. Zzz. . .
Studying is well boring right? Reading a textbook is like a cure for insomnia. If you are about to drift off, set yourself an alarm for 10-20 mins to keep you alert upon waking. To memorize what you've studied, indulge in a 1 hour nap, about 7 hours after the time you wake up in the morning. The above is confirmed by scientific studies.
My second sleep tip is to get a consistent night time routine. Forget about pulling an all-nighter before a deadline or exam. As I always told myself, this is the time when the brain assimilates information, without you even trying. Invest in some silicon earplugs if outside noises threaten your brains'n'beauty sleep.
What I liked about term 3 at Warwick with no lectures was that I could go to the gym whenever I wanted. This point is super important: DON'T stop going to the gym in order to study more. Again, exercise is scientifically proven to improve your cognitive performance, so a revision sesh after a workout is awesome. Working out also makes you feel better with endorphins so it could cheer you up after horrible moment of degree doom.
The same principle applies before a test. If you can, jog to your exam to get your blood flowing and brain ready to rock it.
A lot of people will have heard that listening to Mozart's music supposedly makes you brainier. However I saw a documentary that put the theory to the test and found that listening to heavy metal temporarily improved cognitive function more than Mozart. This was is because the extreme sounds stimulate your brain more than the soothing notes of classical music. I didn't listen to heavy metal, but I did use lyric-less classical music to drown out other noises when studying, and I listened to some lively tunes just before I headed into exams.
5. Smart choices
When it comes to choosing subjects, pick easy modules that play to your strengths. Simples! Don't pick something challenging just because your friends are doing it or because you think it will look good on your CV. You probably won't use that knowledge for the rest of your life and in my experience employers don't check your modules anyway. You will be more proud of getting a first in your overall degree than about having taken a "hard" module. Use any past papers/assignment questions you can get your hands on to decide how to load up your coursework/exam ratio.
To work smarter not harder, follow these simple tips. This might be controversial, but don't revise for more than hour at a time! Its scientifically proven that our concentration dips after 35 minutes anyway, so take a break and do something else for a while. Don't study when it doesn't suit you either. I'm a morning person so I refused to work on anything new after 5pm. I'd just chill then leaf through the day's work once near bedtime.
Cut out as much material as you can from your revision. I'm not saying to take crazy risks, but don't study crap "just incase". Things to drop might be topics that your professor presented weakly, topics that require too much extra research or things that you personally don't like (therefore you would be unlikely to bring up in an answer). Try to get synergies across subjects, for example, a lot of business modules have sustainability or culture as their last topic.
I hope this article helps you in achieving your goals. As you've seen, these are the easy ways to boost your performance in your degree that go beyond the obvious components of being clever or putting in lots of effort. Do you agree? Comment below!
So this is one of the craziest blog titles I've ever come up with, but I'm in a weird mood and I'm procrastinating prepping my competency interview questions. This article is my quick two cents on three of the hottest videos blowing up on Youtube now, and so this title is am amalgamation of these.
First up we have Diary of an ex Disney Employee #2. Uploaded just yesterday, in the video this guy Adande (AKA Swoozie) talks about how his previous Youtube videos "Confessions of a Disney employee" apparently caught the attention of the Disney's senior management. After exchanging a few emails with an "executive" called Michael, who offers Adande a tour of the California film studios and dinner, Adande takes him up on his offer and pays for a flight to visit. Oddly, Michael stops replying to Adande and the meeting never takes place.
Getting stood up by someone is not a pleasant experience and this video raises more than a few questions. Was Michael (who wrote from an @disney.com email address) a rogue employee who pranked Adande in revenge for humoursly exposing Disneyland Orlando employees (as well as his own frustrated antics) on his Youtube channel? Was it a clever hack? Was Michael really a director? And how should Disney, or any company for that matter, react when an ex or current employee broadcasts company issues in a negative light?
I personally think the whole executive tour and dinner thing with Adande would have been a good move if it had actually happened. Adande has always complimented Disneyland along with making fun of his time there and so he is by no means a bitter twisted ex-employee. Adande also has a large social media following, and so getting him "on-side" could be beneficial (and snubbing him a bad idea, as his video is currently Most Popular under the People & Blogs Youtube category). The viewers who think Disney were really behind the emails quite justifiably think it was in bad taste and in my view its definitely added to the pile of reasons to dislike Disney (check out this creepy academic study).
Moving more specifically into the music side of the entertainment industry, the next video causing a sensation on Youtube is Lily Allen's song Hard Out Here. In this undeniably catchy pop song, Lily uses her lyrics to make a direct and indirect social commentary on gender discrimination (I would say she limits this to the music industry/celebdom). The video depicts the very gender stereotypes she is attacking with her words through females dancing provocatively in little clothing, as happens in other music videos (for instance the song/video parodies Blurred Lines and Drinking From The Bottle).
This video has generated loads of controversy, opinions and even has reviews. Amongst some of the comments are: Why did she choose to make the bulk of the video look like a "traditional" sexist hip-hop video? That the video is racist as it uses black dancers. Is she saying that girls who shake their butts don't have a brain?
I'm going to put it out there now - I LOVE this song/video and think she really hits the nail on the head. She chose to exaggerate the classic female objectification in the video because the visuals are obviously contrasted with the message coming from the audio. Lily is great at this kind of juxtaposition, has perfected the art of sarcasm and has used this in her other work such as LDN (sounds like a happy tune but actually is describing unsavoury aspects of London life) and Everything's Wonderful (upbeat melody, but it's about financial troubles, social pressures to be thin, and bureaucracy among other things). I do, however, think it would be interesting to see another version of the video depicting females dealing with the hard realities of sexism in other aspects of life, so more people can relate to it.
Secondly, merely having black female backing dancers does not make the video racist. By this logic a rap video that features no non-black models would be racist. Besides, if you take a closer look, you can see two of Lily's six dancers aren't even black. Finally, in the "making of" video, Lily did express concern that her video would be construed as an attack on arse-shaking singers like Miley Cyrus, so I don't think that is her intention. Rather its a point about how she as an artist is not going to conform to that industry pressure. As you can see, I'm a bit of Lily Allen fan and have been ever since she dropped her breakthrough album Alright, Still.
This last video came out less than 4 hours ago and already has over ten thousand views, which I predict will take off exponentially in the coming week. I personally discovered this video when a gay friend of mine shared it with me on Facebook in the hopes to devastate me with the news - luckily for me, I didn't have a huge crush on Tom so I wasn't badly affected.
What is the "news" anyway? Basically, a young Olympic medal-winning British diver addresses this video to the world to announce for the first time that he currently dating a man. Big deal, right? As Tom rightly points out, such a video shouldn't really be necessary but at this point in time in society, admitting you aren't heterosexual is a still a big deal. (Please note: the title of my article was my artistic choice, and Tom has not labelled himself as gay). If it's hard out here for a bitch, is it even harder for gay athletes? Coming out as anything other than heterosexual has historically had an impact on people's careers. For instance, basketball player Jason Collins struggled to get signed by team after coming out as gay. Why is this? I like the theory put forward by one writer on PolicyMic, that it is because cultural notions of masculinity do not include being gay, and masculinity is deeply rooted in sports. This urgently needs to change!
I admire Tom's honesty and bravery and was pleased to see so far on Youtube that he is getting loads of support (perhaps the bigoted internet haters are still asleep?). And in the wider picture, his video couldn't have come at a better time: Vladimir Putin, President of Russia - a country that is due to host the 2014 Winter Olympics - signed a law in June banning promotion of "nontraditional sexual relations" to minors. Gay rights activists have been urging the otherwise inclusive International Olympic Committee to take a look at how these anti-gay laws could affect the upcoming games.
Okay, so I've written a lot more than I thought I would. Sorry! I turned to Youtube to switch off my brain for a bit - little did I know it would make me think!
Back in May this year, American teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire when CEO Michael Jeffries told Salon magazine in an interview:
In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
It became painfully clear to the general public that his idea of "cool" did not include fat, older or poor individuals when it was revealed that the company does not stock women's apparel above a UK size 14 and reportedly burns unsold clothes rather than donate them (to maintain their exclusivity).
In essence, Michael Jeffries' brand identity, reflected by its staff, models and exclusive policies was meant to look something like this:
Unfortunately for him, the sort of association people are making with the A&F brand looks something more like this:
Taking an Organic View of the Brand we can see that A&F's brand identity is not in control of the managers, but is co-created as a result of individuals' experiences with its interfaces (be they employees or leaked statements to the public), and importantly, brand communities.
The latter has played a huge role in putting A&F clothes onto Michael's unintended, excluded, target market: homeless people. Writer Greg Karber started a popular campaign with his viral video "Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless" which got people and celebrities donating their A&F clothes to the homeless, protesting outside of stores, tweeting about it, outraged by the brand. After all, Westerners live in a society that likes to think it's inclusive - and dislike being told what we can and cannot wear.
So how can I fix this?
A&F need to take back the brand into their own hands and give it a good makeover that will rinse the bad taste that's been left in consumers' mouths.
- REVIEW: Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott