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Monday, 2 December 2013

The Road Goes Ever On: WhatCulture and the Culture of Artistic Exploitation

I've just excised a venomous influence from my life. And, as a dedicated yet chronically suffering writer with "little or no money in my purse", I would like to take this opportunity to post a sobering caution to all those who live by the pen.

I've been writing on topics that inspire me for a long time. I've rarely had the pleasure of being paid to do so; it's simply such a vital part of my being that it would be unthinkable not to.

When it comes to writing for money, however, I've had to resign myself to the reality that my options are limited; I have successfully pursued careers in both journalism and copywriting, and have personally found both to be soul-sappingly dissatisfying. Reporting the facts and representing a client's brand left little room for my own voice and creativity.

When I found an advert on TotalJobs for a fully paid content producer position for a successful entertainment website, therefore, I was intrigued. WhatCulture were offering a permanent writing role with a salary of £13,500 per annum (a modest sum, but one that did not faze me given the opportunity at hand). Employees would be required to write on the topics of film, TV, gaming, music and sport - several of which I take an unhealthily avid interest in.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Gone Home review: A house is not a home




Version reviewed: PC (also available on Mac and Linux)
Available from: Steam or www.GoneHomeGame.com


How well do you really know the people closest to you? When Kaitlin Greenbriar returns home from a gap year in Europe to find her entire family gone, it’s up to her to uncover the secrets that didn’t make it into those long-distance letters.

Picking up the threads of her family’s lives, the player must explore the colossal house they have since moved into, examining letters, newspaper clippings and, if one so chooses, the hundred thousand other details that make up a life. If it’s the people, and not the house, that make a home, then this game shows how each individual has inhabited every room with their cares, uncertainties and basic humanity.

From hastily scrawled notes passed between friends during class, to adult magazines buried under work documents, Gone Home is teeming with meticulously authentic details of family life that the player is at liberty to snoop through, turning each find over to yield further hidden notes or features.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Joys of Josei


Manga and anime character tropes are a lot like gravity in that they can be said to follow a kind of unwritten law; the silver-haired pretty-boy, the bespectacled brain, the plucky but naive hero.

These archetypes stay in circulation because, for the most part, they work. But for fans drawn to the medium for its idiosyncrasy, these cookie cutter characters, though comforting, can get kinda tedious.

Sadly, I know people who have given up on manga and anime altogether out of sheer exhaustion at these recurring clich├ęs - and Japanese anime fans are getting just as fed up as everyone else.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Epic Moments

Do you ever wish that life had a soundtrack playing in the background? The soundtracks to Gladiator and Batman have gotten me through many late-night study sessions. Just today I woke up to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 (guaranteed to instill instant belief that today will be beautiful and grand), cleaned the kitchen with the excitement of Vivaldi's Spring, and then proceeded to make scones with melancholy and foreboding thanks to part of Dvorak's New World Symphony. Music just makes everyday moments so much more epic.

I used to live waiting for epic moments. How could I possibly enjoy the day's hum-drum assignments when there would be a party at the weekend, or a wedding next month, or a vacation abroad soon? As a young teenager, the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness caught my imagination, and somehow I got round to believing that life would be incomplete unless I did something as similarly glorious and noteworthy as leading orphan children to safety in China. I felt that I wouldn't have really lived unless I had an epic moment of my own.

I now think differently. What if epic moments are disguised as part of the everyday? What if the moments that I'll look back on someday with most appreciation are snippets from this summer such as...

Monday, 24 June 2013

A case of the muzzled muse

Entering the working world can be riddled with paradoxes for the creative type. Since you have an artistic temperament, it makes sense that you should gravitate towards more creative careers.

But herein lies the dilemma. Once you transfer your creativity to the workplace, others start putting sanctions on it. Regulating it, directing it. Compressing it into a cramped and clinical office cubicle.

Because when you're working for the man, man, it's all about the profit - which can sometimes mean muzzling your muse.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

"You Must Be Brazilian!" and other snapshots of summer teaching

The sudden strains of my ringtone pierced through my sleep, and my grogginess evaporated as I realized who was calling. It was my supervisor. "I'm sorry to disturb you," he said. "I know you're not supposed to be working today, but can you teach today? One of our teachers is in A&E."

Image

During the summer, I teach English to groups of Brazilian students who come through our schools near London, and this morning I had just one hour from leaping out of bed until I had to be in the classroom. My brain scrambled to think of what I could do with the classes. Flexibility, I've been told, is the first rule of teaching.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

There's a first time for everything...

...and I'd given up hoping that my first time driving a car would come any time before my 25th birthday, after which I might finally have the time and money to learn. However, I got my first taste of driving a couple of weeks ago.

first time driver
I watched from the safety of a picnic rug as my brother and two of his friends raced around a field in my brother's black Vauxhall Corsa SRi.  "That looks like so much fun," I thought. "Such a shame I don't know how to drive." I looked back down at my book and determined to content myself, but somehow the pages had lost a little of their charm.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Rise and Fall of a Kitchen Goddess

I began the spring semester of my second year at university with the firm resolve to be a kitchen goddess. Four months before, I had finally moved out of the residence halls into a stylish little apartment (albeit university-owned), and I was still enormously excited at the thought of having a proper "home" with lots of space to entertain, and without having to rely on the campus cafeteria for my meals.

I pored over recipe books like "The Bean Book" and "Vegetarian Meals in Minutes" (acquired during Christmas break back home in England) with all the joy of a 1950s housewife. I made menus and shopping lists and planned dinner parties.

"Just wait," smiled my senior-class friends knowingly. "You'll soon be living off Ramen and sandwiches like the rest of us."

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Greetings, friend

Starting a story could well be the most difficult part of the creative writing process of all. A blank page can be terrifying in its openness; words feverishly penned at 4am in a seeming revelation can result in the writer's equivalent to morning-after remorse.

When I set about writing my first blog post, I had a strange impulse to begin as my primary school English teachers told me I should never, under any circumstances, open a story. "Hi, my name is Sarah", "Hey, kids, you wanna hear a story?", or perhaps even "It was a dark and stormy night" - you know - to set the scene.