On June 1st, after a month of preparations, the Heads of Xmedia (a group of representatives from Exeposé, Xpression FM and XTV) successfully delivered an enjoyable night of entertainment for over 130 of our members.
I took a key organisational role in these preparations: liaising with Reed Hall, setting up Excel spreadsheets of all our guests’ food requirements, and organising entertainment on our limited budget. I also created a Snapchat filter which lasted the duration of the night, which was viewed by 5216 people:
On the night itself, I also presented awards to some of our hard-working committee members, and it was an absolute pleasure to show our appreciation for a year of hard work.
This weekend saw the Student Publication Association National Conference and Awards – #SPANC17 – and it was great fun to meet some other creative types (and I managed to nab millions of publications from various universities, which will make for some inspirational reading)…
I was very proud to have been nominated for Best Interview for my Josh Widdicombe piece, and even happier to be awarded Highly Commended for Best Design! Obviously Ben and I have had a lot of fun redesigning the paper this year, and it’s an extra pleasure to be recognised for our work.
Over the summer, I’ve been working on a very exciting project…
PearShaped is a student music magazine at the University of Exeter, and although they publish primarily on an online platform, they also have a print annual. This year, I was approached to design it myself (the society President had been impressed by my design work for Exeposé).
I was given a very generous brief: they were simply looking for a black/white/green theme, and my stylish, minimalist preferences were clearly expected.
I worked incredibly long hours putting together this 60-page Freshers’ Week annual, and had the first draft submitted after a week or so. Aside from setting up an exciting, original design – based loosely on the previous year’s edition – I also really wanted to make use of the opportunity by setting up pages which can only ever be seen in a magazine form. For me, this meant the opportunity to have full-page background images with text laid on top.
I established an ‘edgy’ angular title text box for each page in PearShaped’s (lovely) signature green, and sometimes with a black header – labelling it as a ‘Feature’ or an ‘Introducing’ piece, for example. And I also set up some funky pull quotes: each one featuring its own mini green symbol relating to the article or quote.
Anyway, here’s a selection of some of my favourite double-page spreads…
Despite the considerable – and often knackering – task, I completed it ahead of schedule, and I’m incredibly proud of the finished design: from front, to back…
Wow. The week after this piece was posted online was, to put it mildly, an interesting one. Thousands of views, dozens of comments, and a hell of a lot of criticism. Luckily, I received fantastic support from family, friends and fellow writers just before the backlash hit, so I was ultimately able to laugh it off and share the more vivid/explicit comments with them. I wouldn’t say these comments from Hitchens’ fans class as ‘trolling’ particularly, but the experience certainly gave me a great insight into the dark side of the internet.
It all started on Friday the 13th (of November) — which probably should have been a clue that this interview wouldn’t go as hoped. Contrary to some of the comments I later received, I was truly interested to hear from Mr Hitchens, and I wanted to write a piece focusing entirely on his fascinating viewpoints: we even had a few overlapping opinions, which I hoped to discuss. I’d seen his wonderful interview with Owen Jones, and fully expected that we could replicate that friendly, engaging conversation:
Unfortunately, I instead received half an hour of difficult answers and, at times, surprising rudeness. The only explanation I have is that Hitchens presumed from the outset that I was a left-wing student journalist preparing to insult him whatever he said, and so he decided to put up a defensive wall. The post on his blog certainly suggests he changed his responses pre-emptively, and ironically it was this which created the lack of material, and also which made the experience so painful: both reasons for the final interview focusing largely on the conversation itself.
There are a few parts of the interview which, in hindsight, we should have removed in the editing stages: for example, there was a furore around the sentence in which I said I’d “agreed to a phone call” with Hitchens; this simply referred to my agreement with the (brilliant) Features editors at Exeposé, and wasn’t at all an arrogant ‘agreement’ to talk to Hitchens, but ultimately I should have re-worded it.
I was amazed by some of the other responses, however. Quite a few chose to attack me personally — or even my short, friendly introduction after the article, in which I exaggerate my perfectionist tendencies for comic effect.
A lot of people were critical of my comparison between Hitchens and Katie Hopkins, but I’d stand behind that decision. My personal opinion is that both of these writers make controversial statements purely to get media attention, and often resort to hate-fuelled or cruel language. Hitchens is a clever man — I said as much in the interview — but ultimately I think they’re very similar.
To conclude, I’m glad I wrote what I did, and I hope Hitchens will be more open in future. Alternatively, he could just refuse to take interviews. As his blog post noted, it’s very nice of him to support student journalists, but not if he’s going to be difficult simply for the sake of it.
Today, instead of writing something, I’m just offering up some food-for-thought about the horrors of media-savvy politics. I’d advise you try to ignore the content, and focus instead on the presentation (although admittedly it might be hard to ignore the delicious irony of Ed saying we should “put aside the rhetoric”).
Here’s a transcript of George’s speech, with those hilarious duplicated phrases colour-coded:
This is what I presume his soundbite script looked like:
[This review contains a few spoilers, but (as I come to explain) it was all so predictable it hardly matters]
I’m back in Sheffield, my first year of university is at an end, and I’m online, arranging a catch-up with my old school friends. The cheeky Nandos goes without saying. But what afterwards?
‘How about a film?’ someone asks. Mad Max immediately flashes into my mind – the smell of rubber flows into my nostrils, and the scorching heat of the desert sun scalds my back – but I don’t get to my computer in time to put forward my proposition before the treacherous words appear on screen – ‘Jurassic World?’ – soon followed by a whole host of approvals and agreements. I sigh…
With box office takings as massive as, well, an oversized dinosaur, I presumed Jurassic World was going to be awe-inspiring, inspirational, and thrilling, all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve actually seen Jurassic Park (for some unknown reason, presumably because my brother had liked it), so I had no idea what to expect – other than the dinosaurs. I hadn’t even realised there were two other films. But by the end of the film, I had an incredible clash of emotions. On the one hand, there was an undeniable, overwhelming disappointment. But on the other? I couldn’t stop laughing.
Jurassic World was the most cringeworthy film I’ve ever seen. Each line seemed more predictable than the last, even down to inconsequential scenes – like the moment Owen pointlessly decides to tell Claire to “stay in the car”, forcing her to get out of the vehicle immediately. The plot was just the same – that classic bad-guy-releases-monster-good-guy-saves-the-day story we all know and… love? The entire film felt as if a nervous golden retriever had been put on a giant Hollywood conveyor belt, pumped through the machine, and come out the other end a pristine, pampered poodle called Fido: presumably a male hero with a female love interest, which ends in a marriage – happily ever after. In other words, fat characters die after a short, humorous chase, the evil villain (who thinks velociraptors can be tamed) is killed by a velociraptor, and the male and female lead characters get together at the end – in a sickening silhouetted moment.
Then there was the product placement. In fairness, this mostly added to the amusement, as my friend and I couldn’t help but laugh when another brand jumped aboard. Mercedes, for example, comes off very well from the film, with extended scenes focusing completely on the beautiful cars as they speed through the jungle – visually reminiscent of every car advert ever. Perhaps surprisingly, all vehicles on the island are made by Mercedes: except presumably the ones which were destroyed, but of course you don’t see their logos. The Samsung Innovation Center was also a highlight, as were the Beats headphones in the opening scene. Other brands included Starbucks, Coca Cola, Verizon Wireless, Jurassic Park (no, seriously) – oh, and did I mention Mercedes?
I suppose I should speak about the actual plot too. It was definitely acceptable, but I personally found there were far too many similar-looking dinosaurs, which became very confusing. The clichés were painful of course, and so were the coincidences, especially the moment when the big, deadly dinosaur accidentally stops next to the aquatic enclosure where a bigger, deadlier dinosaur lives. Cue destruction. And the number of times a protagonist was easily within striking range of a carnivore and yet escaped unscathed was infuriating.
However, it wasn’t all awful. The visual effects were impressive, and of course this is arguably the most important feature of a Jurassic film. The dinosaurs are mostly believable, especially the small velociraptors which were up-close-and-personal and yet still impressively animalistic. Scientifically, however, I’m not so sure. A BBC article by Chi Chi Izundu points out that there have been huge leaps in the world of palaeontology recently – above all the discovery that dinosaurs would have had some feathers – but this was completely ignored by the producers.
Chris Pratt – one of my favourite new actors, and clearly a lively and humorous personality – was an impressive hero, but felt slightly tamed-down and held-back in his role as expert zookeeper Owen. Meanwhile, Bryce Dallas Howard gave a solid performance as park manager Claire, although why she didn’t swap her high heels for some sturdy trainers before sprinting across the entire island I will never know. From an acting point of view, however, I suppose this only makes her work even more impressive.
In conclusion, GO AND WATCH JURASSIC WORLD. Not because it’s a beautiful film, not because the plot’s any good, but because – quite simply – I was laughing out loud throughout. This is entertainment: pure, unadulterated, unashamed Hollywood, and you can hardly blame it for that.