Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Fangirl Generation

It has been brought to my attention, more often than I care to believe, that there is now a whole new level to "fandom." Fangirls. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, basically it means girls who are overly obsessed with a celebrity figure such as a popstar.

Now call me old fashioned but it really bugs me. When I'm on Twitter, there is not a day goes by where I don't see something trending that is something completely pointless about some singer or boyband. It's actually embarrassing. The main "idols" seem to be Justin Bieber, One Direction and JLS. And Jedward but I'm not even going to bother going into that one. So these "fangirls" trend things like "JUSTIN IS GOD" or "1DFAMILYRTHEBEST" or similarly stupid things like that. And it just drives me mad. Do these girls have no life whatsoever? Have they neglected basic grammar skills? I understand that when you like a singer, actor or whatever, you do talk about them a bit. We all have our idols. But I mean, come on. Justin Bieber? Really? He's some kid that gets paid an insane amount of money to sing whilst girls throw themselves at him and cry hysterically at merely being in the same room as him. He isn't anything special. So he can sing, and what? So can a lot of other people. He put a video on YouTube and was spotted by a celebrity. He hardly worked his arse off to get into the industry, he doesn't write his own songs. He just got lucky. He is not God.

It even makes me a little bit sad that THESE are the people that girls feel are worth worshipping, who are their role models and who they look up to. Whatever happened to your idol being someone inspirational, with immense talent who has worked extremely hard to get to where they are rather than having been on a talent show? As you know, my inspiration is J.K. Rowling. She was a single parent, raising her young baby whilst working, struggling financially and spending any spare time writing. She was rejected by around 12 publishers before she had her first book published. It took her years to write it and even more time to get someone to print it. She then carried on writing for a total of 17 years until her books were finally complete. That is dedication and someone worthy of being a role model and someone who deserves their fame. Not to mention all the other countless inspirational people from Martin Luther King to Stephen Hawking. People that actually made a difference to the world through intelligence, bravery, being strong-willed and hard-working. Not some 16 year olds who got lucky.

Yes, they might have the talent. We all have talents. And no doubt these popstars work hard doing albums and concerts. But they are NOT inspirational. I would be absolutely devastated if my daughter grew up having some teeny bopper as the person she looks up to. That she won't even know names like Hemmingway or Curie because she's too busy sat in her room making a Justin Bieber collage and reading teen pop magazines. It wouldn't bother me as much if the people these girls obsessed over were popstars who have worked their way up, who've had it tough and found it hard to break into the music industry. But the main offenders haven't. Justin Bieber was spotted on YouTube by chance, One Direction were a bunch of failed solo singers who were thrown together as a band on X Factor and got lucky, as with JLS who were also on X Factor. None of these people worked hard to get themselves out there. I just hope that one day, when those girls have to emerge from their poster-filled rooms into the real world they realise that actually, success isn't handed to you on a plate and that they can fill up their airheads with actual knowledge and awareness of people worth idolising.

Rant over.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Murder or principle: Defending your home

Imagine this scenario; you're in bed one evening when you hear a noise downstairs. Your partner is asleep next to you and your children are sleeping in the room next door. You pluck up the courage to investigate and you are confronted by an intruder. The intruder tries to wrestle you out of the way, maybe they even have a weapon. You know your family are possibly in danger. What do you do? You could step aside, allow this person to steal your belongings, knowing there is every possibility they may go upstairs and harm a member of your family, call the police although you know by the time they get there the intruder and your personal belongings will be well gone. That is what the law expects you to do. Human nature however is a different matter. Instinct tells you to protect yourself, your family and your possessions to the death. This person has broken into your home, putting your family at risk and is taking your things. They have no right to be there. So if you go with your instinct and try to defend your home, surely that is the correct thing to do. But the law doesn't expect you to do this.

On September 17th 2011, Vincent Cook was arrested for stabbing an armed intruder, that forced his way into his home, to death. The intruder, Raymond Jacob who was a common criminal and a drug addict, held Mr Cook at knifepoint after breaking into his house with another man. Mr Cook knew his wife and son would soon be returning home and so instinct caused him to stab the burglar to defend himself and his family. Yesterday, he was cleared with no charges after the CPS agreed that he acted in self-defence. Many would argue that there is a fine line between self-defence and murder. That killing someone for breaking into your home is unacceptable. But it begs the question, why is it unacceptable? There would be no need to act in self-defence if the intruders hadn't broken in in the first place.

I live alone with my daughter. I am meticulous when it comes to locking doors and windows. The thought of someone coming into my house, taking my things and putting our lives at risk makes me feel sick. And I don't condone murder in the slightest but if I was within reach of a harmful weapon when faced with an intruder, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would use all the strength I had to defend myself and my child. At least, that's what I'd like to think anyway. And I daresay that in those circumstances, most people would do the same.

But is it ever ok to kill in self-defence? And where do we draw the line? Somebody kills their partner and claims they were defending themselves. Somebody kills someone with who they were having an argument with and claim they were defending themselves. Surely murder to ensure your own safety cannot be condoned? Are material possessions worth taking someone's life over? Like I said, I don't agree with murder in most of its forms such as the death penalty. But we are programmed to protect our own. Look at animals in the wild, like lions for example. They protect their pride and every other lioness and cub within it, they even fight off other animals who try to take their food, a fresh kill or otherwise, because it belongs to them. It doesn't belong to anyone else and so other animals have no right to take it. It's all in principle. Your personal items may seem insignificant but they are your items, not to be stolen.

That said, if someone in the street came up to me and stole my purse, I wouldn't hunt them down and kill them. Yes, I would be angry and I would report them to the police. But after all, it's only a purse. It may have been mine, it may have had my cards and my money in it, but they are things that can be replaced. It is a whole different ball game when you start bringing loved ones into the equation. If someone broke into my house and tried to harm my daughter, I would take the biggest knife I could find and I wouldn't stop until they were dead. Because nobody hurts my child, she cannot be replaced if something happens to her. A person who has the nerve to come into a house that isn't theirs and try to harm someone whether they are a brother, daughter, mother or son to somebody, there is no excuse and in my opinion, they deserve everything they get. I would rather a scumbag drug addict was left dead than a member of my family at their hands. It doesn't make me a lunatic looking for an excuse to spill some blood. It makes me human.

Whether you think that murder in self-defence is right or not, the fact still remains that an intruder should not have entered your home in the first place. So why then, if they are consequently killed while the homeowner is defending themselves, is the homeowner the one that becomes the subject of scrutiny? Why does all the blame fall on them, these "knife-wielding maniacs" that absent mindedly stab at burglars until they're dead rather than the deadbeat low-life criminals that shouldn't have even been there in the first place? Why does nobody seem to question them? So many criminals break into houses as if it were second nature, harming its inhabitants and taking their belongings. And I don't doubt that, if caught, they would be punished accordingly. But more often than not, they aren't caught. I know people who have woken up one morning to find the downstairs of their home has been completely gutted of anything that was of any value. They can report it but the burglar will have since moved on and the likeliness of them being traced back there is small.

So just to reiterate what I have already said, anyone who thinks it is ok to force their way into someone's home deserves everything they get and I say good on those who stick up for themselves and try to fight off these criminals as a matter of principle and to protect what they hold dear. Because if we can't even defend our own, then what hope do we really have? And I for one will always go with my gut instinct to ensure me and my child come to no harm at the hands of a petty criminal. I whole heartedly believe that such circumstances shouldn't be punishable by law. Maybe then, burglars will think twice about breaking into people's homes in the first place.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Are we born to be great?

When we are born, we are like seemingly small and empty vessels with the ability to learn and develop skills which will help us in our day-to-day life. We learn to walk, we learn to talk. All of of the basics. But what about everything else? What about a top scientist? A doctor at the height of their profession? An Olympic athelete? Where do all of their outstanding skills come from? Is it something they have learnt over time by being influenced by the world around them or were they simply born to do what they do?

You often hear people say that someone was "born" to do something. Born to be a writer, a singer, a mathematician. But is this really the case? Can you really be "born" with all of these abilities already in you?

Imagine two children. One of the children has attended state schools all of their life from pre-school up to secondary. The other child has attended a private school for the same time. Which of the children then is most likely to leave school with the highest grades and level of education? Possibly the second child, who has had the best education that money can buy, attending a succesful school where they will have most likely encountered stricter rules and more one-on-one tutoring, you might think. But I actually believe that both children have every chance of achieving high grades regardless of their school. That is because I believe that a child has a natural ability to learn. If the first child is naturally bright yet attends an ordinary state school, they will achieve good grades because they have the intellect to do so. Similarly, if a child with little capacity to learn attends an expensive private school, they may not achieve good grades because if you don't have that capacity, you cannot force it upon someone and make them intelligent.

I used to have this argument with my daughter's father. He wants her to attend a private school and I want her to stick to state school. I find the idea of private schools stuffy and quite devoid of reality. I went to state school and, although I'm not the brightest person in the world, far from Oxbridge standards at least, I left with fairly good grades because I enjoy learning to a degree. There were people in my classes who were hopeless and no amount of money poured into their education would have made an ounce of difference.

Which brings me on to my original statement; are we born to be great? In a word; yes. In my opinion, you cannot create a great person. You cannot take someone who is a terrible singer, give them a few lessons and expect them to end up as the next Celine Dion. They can either sing or they can't. I think this is the case with pretty much everything that I can think of. I am very interested in space. I love everything about it and I have even visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One of my "things to do before you die" is to go to a rocket launch. I watch programmes about space on TV sometimes, about the big bang theory, star formations and far-off galaxies. It is all really fascinating. However, I could never be say, an astrologist. As much as space and all it comes with amazes me, I don't have the capacity to do it. I have never been very good at science or maths, no matter how hard I tried. It doesn't come naturally to me, numbers confuse me and I couldn't tell you the names of any chemical reactions. Even if I studied those subjects for years (which I did) it would never come to me because I wasn't born with the ability to understand it.

I have always been good at English. Literature in particular. When I was in my first year of Primary school, which would have made me about 5/6, I had the reading age of a sixteen year old. The year after I was given the reading age of an eighteen year old. Since I was about 7 or 8, I have written stories. I wrote a full story when I was just 9 (which I have still got as it is written in a notebook) When I was in Year 8 of secondary school when I was about thirteen, we were given the task to come up with and write an extra chapter for a book we had been reading in class. When we all got given ours back, my teacher made me stand up in front of everyone to tell me she had graded my work with a 7 even though the highest grade you could get for our year was a 6 because she had been so impressed. Another old teacher of mine once asked my mum if I had taken English Lit at University and was surprised when she told her I was doing Philosophy. Give me a pen and some paper and I can write pretty much anything. Give me a calculator or a test tube and I will most likely have a nervous breakdown.

I suppose it's all down to our want to embrace our abilities. If you grow up with a particular gift but you don't act on it then it can easily go to waste. Some skills can be learnt and built upon but there always has to be a passion for it. Your natural ability to do calculations could make you a good accountant. Your natural ability to run could make you a good athlete. But even if you have the ability, if there is no passion then the talent will go to waste. If you don't enjoy sport, it makes no difference if you are a fast runner because you will never put it into practice.

To put it more plainly, I believe we are all born with our abilities, skills and intellectual capacity already built within us. It is then up to us to use them and express them so that we can fulfil their potential. I do agree that our surroundings, the way we are brought up and the paths we choose will have an effect on them to a certain degree. But the basis of it is always there. Everybody has a natural-born talent whether it be that they can dance down to their ability to listen well to others, it is only when you embrace it that you will truly know what yours is.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

We meet again...

Wow, I have really neglected this blog lately! I've been so busy with my new story that I've barely had time. That and nothing interesting has happened to me.

Since the last time I wrote, like I said I have started (another) new story. As it stands I'm almost 110 pages and 25,000 words in, so about a quarter of the way. This is the furthest I've ever actually got with a story before, usually I write about 20 pages then stick it into my "attempts" pile because I've had a better idea for another story. But no, I've stuck with this one so hopefully I'll be able to finish it.

One of my characters has been a little bit influenced by my ultimate teenage crush. To understand the intensity of this crush I feel I must explain a little. He is "famous" so to speak. I first saw him in Holby City (for those who don't know, it's a medical drama and one that I was absolutely obsessed with from I was about 13) and he played a doctor. I was actually in love with him. I watched every single episode he was in and I cried my little heart out when he was killed off. Usually my crushes come and go but this one has remained and I will not rest until I have married him. His name is Noah Huntley and he is my future husband. He is also in the very beginning of the film Your Highness (hilarious film by the way) and I also hear on the grapevine that he is currently filming Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen "I'm so rich and famous but I'm still a miserable bitch" Stewart of Twilight fame. I even managed to find a new episode of Midsomer Murders from a couple of weeks ago with him in as well as trawling Youtube for old Holby City episodes the he was in, including the one where he was cruelly killed in a bizarre scaffolding incident and yes, I did cry all over again. The whole thing has made me remember the terrible fact that the personal signed photo that he sent me all those years ago has been lost in transit during my many moves. Just heartbreaking.

This is the very man I will marry. Becki & Noah 4eva...

Anyway, yes. There was a point to all of this. So, one of my characters, who happens to be my favourite of the story, is based (loosely) on the character Noah played in Holby City. It wasn't originally but as I've written more, he has just popped into my head hence the re-living of my teenage years of lust for Mr Huntley. But the book (and its characters) are all coming along well and when it is finished, and I will finish it I promise, I'm thinking of getting it published as an e-book on Amazon. It would only go for about 75p a copy but if I promoted it on Facebook, Twitter, my website and on here, someone might buy it and then technically I will be a published author and publishing houses have no excuse to turn me down. Well, they can still turn me down but not for being an unpublished author.

I shall stick in my prologue anyhow. I don't want to give too much away. Well actually, I don't want to give anything away and the prologue is short and pretty vague as to the storyline so here it is for your reading enjoyment. Or not if you think it's crap.

It’s funny how we never really live our lives until tragedy strikes and reminds us that we’re all living on borrowed time. I am guilty of it. We all are. Not living to our full potential, always assuming there will be tomorrow. It’s not until you or someone you love comes close to death that we stand up, re-evaluate and appreciate how fragile life is. People diagnosed with terminal illness battle to live each day as if it is their last because there is every chance it might be. A car crash injures a loved one and once they’ve been patched up and sent home, they vow never to take their life for granted again having cheated death and by a miracle, survived. It is a bittersweet moment, when good comes from sadness. Someone may have left this world behind but often, from their death, blooms one, two, maybe a dozen people who begin to take in everything around them; the sounds; the smells. Who never forget to tell their family and friends how much they are loved.  Who wake up every morning ready to face the world head on and appreciate that they are alive, breathing and are able to seize the day and take everything they can from it.
I was not one of those people.