Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Thoughts on the Fresh Meat Finale

The finale of Fresh Meat was brilliant. Rather than write an overview of it (which would just be fabby-doza repeated 500 times) I think it's better to examine how each character came out of the episode, and the series overall, and the strengths and weakness of that. Just for fun, let's go alphabetically.

Howard - perhaps the most feel good ending was Howard's. He gets the first class degree that he deserves and displays clear confidence in his ability to move to London. This isn't something that magically appeared; he's been steadily growing his social skills throughout the four series and it's become especially prevalent during this last one. It was fantastic to see his parents and his cringing, and it finally explained why, in series 3, he was so adamant that his mum couldn't come in to give him his birthday card. It also explains why he felt no remorse; traveling from Scotland isn't the same as bobbing over from two streets away.
Josie - there wasn't any big finish for Josie's character, but university wasn't ending for her so one wasn't called for. She has shown signs of growing up, demonstrable through planning to move in with Sabine. Admitting that she likes JP is also a big step, although when he behaves like an absolute tit you can see the reservation. It looks like she's stayed in the house (you can see her wallpaper in the background of the deleted scene Skype call), which answers the question of what happened to JP's house.
JP - seeing JP stand up to Tomathy was brilliant, not least because JP is incapable of the London lifestyle his brother leads. This is probably the character that has grown the most. At the beginning of the show he was a one-dimensional fool; his desperation for sex was seconded only by his desperation to be liked. When he refuses to be Josie's secret he shows that he's come so far and developed some serious self-respect. How well being an estate agent will do him remains to be seen. It's highly questionable whether he'd be able to cope on such a (relatively) modest income.
Kinsley - seems to have ended up with a pipe dream, but perhaps it will make him happy. You never know, he might be right and his new employer might love his blend of music and chat and give him a radio slot during the waking hours. It's really cute that the three boys end up living with each other and this will probably prevent him from stress-killing JP.
He seemed to cope quite well with the idea of Vodstock being a disaster, or at least it seemed that way when compared to his meltdown in the last episode. Is this a sign of growth? Or just an inability to panic any more?
Oregon - even allowing for her slacking off during her presidency, it doesn't quite add up that she got a 2:2 (remember how studious she was in first year?) especially when all the scene of her cramming and hiring a tutor are considered. Additionally, it makes no sense that she was SU president and a third year as presidency is meant to entail a sabbatical year. They (Vod, if I'm remembering correctly) even mention her taking a sabbatical if she becomes president in series 3.
Now she's off to trek a foreign country in the hopes of becoming a writer. On one hand, this is an obvious dead end. She's traveled before and it hasn't changed her life for the better. On the other hand, this is indicative of her character. She came off her gap year with notions of reinventing herself as 'Oregon', and traveling with Vod was responsible for her wanting to become a leader, so perhaps this next set of travels will at least bring change, even if it doesn't bring a book.
Vod - Vod started the show as a character who was so cool it hurt but underneath it all she cared a lot. Like JP, she was desperate to be liked. It's just she was a lot more likeable. Vod couldn't bear to be thought of as anything other than a legend, and you can see where that comes from when you look at her lack of family support. Hers was a good ending, because she got a good grade and has a happy demeanor, but I'm not sure how well it will actually turn out unless she does end up carrying on her education and becoming a really cool teacher. In the deleted scene she's gone away with Oregon which seems like she's just repeating more of the same and won't settle down. On the other hand, she has her degree in the bag so a few years of wanderlust might be what she needs to expel her energy.

Overall the ending was brilliant (have I mentioned that?) and it has been said that the idea of a film hasn't been dismissed. It would be great if it centered around a reunion ten years into the future.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Fresh Meat Finale Drinking Game

I was going to write a piece on how Fresh Meat is a modern classic that touches on the contemporary issues of student life, but then I thought I'd act in true student style and write a drinking game instead.
Drink every time...

  • Kingsley says something pretentious about music
  • JP wears red trousers
  • Vod doesn't swear in a complete sentence (I don't want you all to die)
  • Someone on screen takes a drink
  • Howard wears a classic jumper
  • Josie mentions pharmacology 
  • JP rhymes 
  • Oregon changes her hair 
  • JP and Josie get it on 
  • If anyone's parents appear 
  • The Old Stoic (JP's posh pseudo-friends) boys appear
  • If they all sit around and talk about that first day when they all sat around and drank tea (like Kingsley said they would) 
  • Sabine appears 
  • Kingsley mentions his mum
  • Tony Shales tries to win Oregon's affections
  • Howard gets a first
  • Vod mentions drugs
  • Anyone fails an exam
  • There's a happy ending, and then cry miserably because it's all over
  • Down your drink if there's a group hug!

 This game is best enjoyed over the course of a full four series binge. Of course, you can always revisit my interview with Dale Jones, aka 'Gary the goth' if you want a bit more Meat on your plate; if you can still see after all that Samuel Bucca, that is. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review: Miss Fit Skinny Tea

I'm a lover of the health food shop and I will throw a fistful of euros at anything that claims to improve my health. I especially love a teatox as it puts me back on the healthy eating track if I've had a slip but also leaves me feeling energised and renewed. I was excited to try Miss Fit Skinny Tea as it's an Irish brand and I try to buy Irish whenever I can. Here's how I got on.

The Tea: The first thing I thought when I opened the tea was oh hell. It's loose tea, which is fiddly and annoying as you have to clean the infuser. You fill the infuser once every morning and make about 2/3 cups from it.
Sounds lovely, but this will leave your cup looking mank. I had to designate one cup to the teatox and then bleach it at the end of the fortnight because of the tea stains. Even the infuser will discolour if you don't give it a good scrub.
Another problem with loose tea is being unsure of exactly how much to put in the infuser and whether it will be the correct mix. Common sense tells you that, much like cereal with berries, the contents of the tea will settle into layers and won't be evenly mixed.

The Taste: There's only one tea to review here, unlike other teatoxes which have a morning and evening tea. If you like herbal tea then you'll likely enjoy this. It has a mild flavour, but make sure you get a goji berry into every infuser to add sweetness. It really makes a difference.

Restrictions: I was surprised by the free eating plan Miss Fit Skinny Tea provided as it was less restrictive than other teatoxes. At first I thought whoopee, but after two weeks I realised it was also less effective.
In fact, the whole plan was far too relaxed. It suggested giving up alcohol, but then says "[i]f you find this too much to give up, that’s OK, substitute soft drinks in spirits with soda water/tonic water and a DASH of cordial". Hang on now, if you can't give up alcohol for a fortnight...you have problems. Also how can you expect to detoxify your body if you continue to load in toxins? This was a real red flag.
You're meant to avoid citrus fruits, except for the liver cleansing lemon, lime and grapefruit, but it's not explained why you need to do this. Also, that only leaves oranges. What's wrong with oranges?
Besides from avoiding fatty meats, the plan is just basic healthy eating. It suggests replacing dairy with non-dairy substitutes, but then says unsweetened yogurt is okay. That doesn't really make sense as why is yogurt okay but not milk? They may have an explanation for this (I would guess because of healthy bacteria in yogurt) but, on the other hand, they might have plucked it out of thin air, or Instagram.
Finally, this is a minor point, the eating plan varied the use of ok, OK, and okay. That's not okay. That shows ineptitude and low business skill.

Results: None worth speaking about.

The price: You can purchase directly from the Miss Fit Skinny Tea website where a 14 day teatox will set you back €24.99/£18.26 plus €5/£3.65 for the infuser plus €1.99/£3.65 for P&P, if you're some kind of fool that is.
You can also buy them in certain stores around the country. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you're dead set on trying this then either keep a look out in your local health food shop or chemist, or email them to ask for a list of suppliers.

A Final Word: Miss Fit Skinny Tea boasts about how its product doesn't produce a laxative effect like some other teatoxes can. It specifically points at Bootea. I've reviewed Bootea and I can tell you, don't worry. Two friends of mine tried Bootea, after reading my review, and the world didn't fall out of their arses either. The warning is there in case you experience that as a side effect, it's not guaranteed.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Answer to The Holylands

If the 17th of March is a day for drinking and celebration, the 18th of March is a day for moaning and whining. And yes, residents, I'm looking at you.
We can't pretend that the actions on the 16th of March - namely the bottles thrown at the police - were right, but we also can't pretend that such behaviour is the norm of the Holylands. Scenes from the St Patrick's Day celebrations paint the place quite badly but it's an isolated incident on one day of the year.

What is more concerning are the residents calling for Stormont to take action against it and the universities' promises to have officers roaming around the place (which basically equates to a fun police). Reports on the matter are entirely one-sided and exaggerated. One resident claimed that "every night during term time" there was "drunkenness" and "nastiness". Having lived on Agincourt Avenue for a year I can attest that the majority of students go home every weekend so immediately the idea of drunkenness every night is defeated. Admittedly, Monday and Wednesday nights would be loud (thanks to Fly and The Bot) but besides from that the place was fine. I've never seen nastiness, high spirits due to high spirit consumption yes, but nastiness no.

When interviewing a landlord, BBC NI asked whether he should be doing more to police his tenants. Sorry, but what part of a tenancy agreement includes your landlord becoming your quasi-guardian? The interviewer had the cheek to suggest that he should be out making sure they're not drinking on the street or dropping litter. Why on earth should blame be apportioned to a private landlord? Do we not have the PSNI to ensure that people aren't drinking on the street? Are there not council wardens who watch out for litter bugs? A landlord has enough to worry about without playing daddy to Carmel Street.

The real kicker is the way that the reports have dismissed student input. One boy suggested having more bins about the place to reduce the amount of littering. The interviewer all but laughed in his face. Why? He made a good point. There used to be a bin outside my house and every morning it would be overflowing with rubbish from the night before. If that's happening on a regular basis what can the council expect when large crowds gather? A bit of foresight, perhaps bringing in a few temporary skips for the day, could have saved a lot of hassle. The fact is, a lot of the people in the Holylands would use a bin if it was convenient.

Finally, it is true that the Holylands cause problems but instead of throwing more disciplinary measures and CCTV at the students we need to go to the root of the issue. Students live there because it's cheap, but the houses are often cramped and in disrepair. No one is going to respect a shoddy place. In addition, the Holylands has a huge student population in a small concentration. All this creates an environment for havoc. If the universities really want to tackle the issue they should focus on creating more affordable student housing (frigg off, John Bell House) so instead of one giant disruptive area students are dispersed and integrated with the rest of Belfast.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Budget 2016 Breakdown

The Liquids: surprisingly, fuel duty has been frozen again. Huzzah. Beer, cider, and spirits too (nothing else would have been acceptable on St Patrick's Day Eve). However, the wine-ers and smokers have something to whine about, as they're subject to inflation and above inflation rises on existing duties. 
Moolah: I realise a lot of my audience are young people, like myself, and therefore are unlikely to have enough money to be affected by these changes, but what the heck. Let's talk about them anyway. There's a new 'lifetime' ISA which means you can save up to £4,000 a year and the government will top you up a pound for every four. You can only withdraw the cash (with the bonus) if you want to buy your first house or after 60, so basically a pension saving. 
The ISA limit will rise from its current £15-ish thousand to £20,0000. Great, now I can save that full spare £20,000 instead of keeping £5,000 under my mattress. 
Capital gains tax is being cut. Don't boohoo this as a rich person's saving, there will come an unfortunate day when you inherit a house from your parents. Or a good day when you sell your first home to buy a bigger one. 
The 40% income tax rate is rising to £45,000. However, perhaps more relevant is that tax-free personal allowance is rising to £11,000 in April and £11,500 the April after. 
Schools: All schools are to become academies. Same faeces different title. 
Rail: Crossrail 2 in London (because London gets everything) and HS3 between Leeds and Manchester (you can almost hear George Osborne screaming Northern Powerhouse). 
Disability: There are changes being made to the Personal Independence Payments and a reduction to employment and support allowance. I won't pretend to have a firm grasp on this subject, and if you read the budget itself it's not explained very well. It's bad though, and the fact it comes with increased support to get more disabled people into work/support them at work doesn't cover up the dastardliness of it. Disability Rights UK has a response to it here
Business: Corporation tax is being reduced to 17% next year. Business rates are being changed, but I won't break this down. I've always hoped my readership is busy people living their lives, not insomniacs looking for a cure. 
Arts: Museums and orchestras are getting some tax relief. 
Soft Drinks: There's a new soft drinks levy which will be paid by producers, and undoubtedly passed onto consumers. Whilst I didn't agree that the proposed sugar tax would make a difference to people's habits, I do support this. Soft drinks are a menace for sugars and should be a treat. Some people may say that it unfairly punishes those who enjoy them in moderation, but if you truly enjoy them in moderation this new tax will barely affect you. 
The tax is to be staggered, so if a drink has >5g of sugar per 100ml it will be be cheaper than one containing >8g. Put into perspective, the lower band would mean a 500ml bottle of pop could contain up to 25g of sugar, that's 6 teaspoons of sugar! 
However, sugary milk drinks won't be subject to this tax, nor will fruit juices. So there's plenty of semi-indulgent options as well as good auld water. 
Also, the revenue from this tax is to go into schools and sports in England, and, thanks to devolution revolution, NI, Scotland and Wales can do what they like with it. It has been tipped that Scotland will introduce a third tap onto all sinks which dispenses free Irn Bru. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Response to Joan Bakewell

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Joan Bakewell has stated that the rise in teenage eating disorders is down to "narcissism". Making the observation that eating disorders don't occur in poverty ridden countries, mentioning Syria especially, she attributes the UK's own problems with food to mindless self-indulgence.

Nevermind the countless medical studies which have shown a wide variety of factors which influence the illnesses, such as social, economic, environmental, psychological, and familial conditions. No, it's all down to navel gazing.
Let's ignore that 50% of people who suffer from eating disorders also suffer from depression 1 (a surprisingly low percentage if nothing else) which is a recognised mental illness, unlike narcissism. Let's ignore that less than half of sufferers will recover, which for something supposedly caused by trivial narcissism is ridiculous when you consider that some of these people will go on to kill themselves - either through their illness or by suicide. But the real kicker here is ignoring that sufferers often report hiding their bodies and feeling ashamed of their looks the further they enter their illness. Which doesn't really compute with people willfully starving themselves in order to be attractive.
As far as the argument about eating disorders not occurring in impoverished countries goes, I would direct Joan to do some incredibly simple research into psychology; Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs springs to mind. Very briefly, it's the theory that people's needs are stacked in a pyramid. Their basic needs (food, shelter etc) are on the bottom and only once these are met can they move on to worrying about the next set of needs. Sufferers of eating disorders often come from a comfortable background, they don't need to worry about food. Instead they're worrying about a, yes, their appearance, but also education, pressures to meet work demands, pressures to achieve. Eating disorders are a way of managing these pressures. It's far more complicated than a boy or a girl loading up an Instagram account, seeing #goals and deciding to take on a mental illness.

My advice to Baroness Bakewell would be to keep her suggestions to herself, until she has conducted a study which backs up these ludicrous claims. Suggesting possible causes willy-nilly only contributes to a culture of misunderstanding. People die from this, they lose their ability to have children, they sentence themselves to osteoporosis, their mental health is shredded. Many never really recover. Brushing it all aside as some teenage self-indulgence is not only incredibly insulting to sufferers, but serves to highlight Joan's own ignorance on the matter.

beat is the leading eating disorder charity in the UK.