Things you Wish Someone had told you about getting Married

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

I am one of the least sentimental people on the planet (not empirically verified, but a fair assumption). You want a hug? No can do, can I however interest you in a derisive snort? Need to talk about your feelings? Pay for a damn therapist. Maybe you just want to watch Titanic and have a good cry; well then you had better settle in for my rant about how a potential real life Poseidon adventure-esque story was ruined by a ridiculously boring “romance”, and don’t even get me started on that whole “there wasn’t room for both of them on the door.” thing.

So it might then surprise you to learn that I love marriage.  I love being one half of a double act. I love bailing my husband out when he gets awkward in small talk situations, and I love that he’ll pick up a grudge against someone just because I don’t like them, but most of all I love that the world knows we made a decision to pick each other. Out of all the potential partners we could have chosen, we picked each other and then we made a declaration that we were happy to stick with that pick, forever. Being married is wonderful.

Getting married? Well, that’s another story.  

1.     You will Start to Rate your Friends and Family Based Purely on Looks

Let’s get the harsh truth out of the way before we go any further: wedding photos are a big deal. You will pay a small fortune for a good photographer and spend a good deal of the blessed day trying to get those perfect shots that you can have blown up, printed, and displayed in your home forever. So, at some point, you are going to start looking at your nearest and dearest and assessing them in the most shallow and brutal of ways. Do you really want cousin Sarah’s buckteeth grinning down at you from above the mantelpiece for the rest of your days? Sure she’s like your sister and you always pictured her as your bridesmaid but those teeth are hard to look at in a wallet sized photo, could you imagine how bad they'd look on a 140x157 canvas?  

Or maybe you’ll go the other way. Danielle’s been your best friend since you were old enough to understand the concept of friends, but she’s really really pretty. If you put her in a beautiful bridesmaids dress, is anyone going to be looking at you? I mean, we all remember the Pippa Middleton debacle. We all like to think we’re above such things. We all like to think that they’re our loved ones and it doesn’t matter how they look; we just want proof that they were there, celebrating our special day with us. But on the other hand, Dave has a really weird shaped head, and you really wanted the Groomsmen in top hats and tails.

With any luck you’ll regain your senses fairly quickly and remind yourself that you’re not exactly models either. You are, in fact, being jerks of the first degree. But it’s still an unsettling experience.

 

2.     Everyone will want to Know when the Baby is Due.

Your wedding is a huge deal. Maybe not to anyone else - okay definitely not to anyone else - but to you, your wedding a huge deal. So it would be nice if other people let you enjoy the excitement, the planning, the getting swept up in all that fairy tale crap (there’s that lack of sentiment I warned you about). Wouldn’t it be nice if they could at least pretend to appreciate what a big step it is you’re taking, and how much it means? It would. But they won’t. In fact everyone will be quite happy to act as though your wedding is something to be dismissed. It’s merely a stepping stone on the path of a “normal” happy life, and as soon as you step on one stone, people are pushing for you to leap to the next. When you’re dating, everyone wants you to get engaged. When you’re getting married everyone wants to know when you will start a family. When you have a baby, everyone wants to know when you will have another, when you’ll buy a bigger house, when you’ll be expecting grandchildren, when you’ll retire. It’s like they’re trying to whisk you through all the precious moments of your life and hurry you along to the grave. You’ll be standing at your wedding reception, receiving the congratulations and well wishes of your guests and I guarantee you at least 25% of the guests will make a joke, comment, or will downright demand to know when you plan to start squeezing out the little’uns.

 

3.     It Probably won’t be the Happiest Day of your Life.

You probably have a picture in your head of what your wedding day will be like. I had visions of a stress-free day. No sit down meal, (who needs the hassle?) and no speeches because I hate all that touchy-feely rubbish. Just an elegant, simple affair that moved seamlessly from service to reception to crazy drunken party. And I have no doubt that my guests believed that is exactly what I got. But here’s the thing, you spend so long planning a wedding that when the big day finally comes, you are so obsessed with making sure all your plans go off without a hitch that you might find yourself forgetting to actually enjoy it.

You’ll be stressing about getting ready, making sure everyone else is getting ready, stopping young Bridesmaids and Page Boys ruining their outfits before the ceremony even starts, you’ll obsess over which guests show up and which ones don’t, if rowdy relatives start drinking too early in the day or people start sitting wherever they please instead of consulting the seating chart, and dear God don’t let you’re step father start talking to your mother in law!

If you’re lucky, your Best Man, your Bridesmaids, and your close friends will do their very best to manage all these behind the scenes aspects of your day. Chances are they’ll do a lot more than you’ll ever even be aware of. But that won’t stop you worrying about things. And even if everything goes off without a hitch it’s going to be a long, tiring day. Needless to say when you finally collapse into bed at night ready to celebrate you’re first night as a married couple, celebrating will probably be the last thing on your mind. I don’t know anyone who actually had sex on their wedding night. In fact, had the corset on my wedding dress not been causing me chronic back pain I don’t think I’d have even undressed before passing out in the gorgeous honeymoon suite that turned out to be a total waste of our money.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have a wonderful day. It will most likely make your “Top 5 Days” list. But happiest day of your life? Only if feeling manic, exhausted and stressed out are how you get your bliss.

 

4.     Whether you Take His Name or not, People will Disapprove.

Okay ladies, here’s the thing: we live in this weird environment right now where being a feminist is kind of frowned upon. People assume being a feminist makes you a bra-burning, man-hating, aggressive bitch. But, similarly, it’s not okay to be seen as being too “old fashioned” in your ideas. You notice this kind of thing more in certain situations. For example, let’s say you get jeered and wolf whistled at in the street. Half the people you tell will say you ought to feel flattered, and half will be filled with an outrage so volatile the Hulk would look like a stoner by comparison. You can’t let a guy hold a door open for you without someone telling you you’re “setting back the feminist movement.” And you can’t like the idea of a female Dr Who without being called a dyke. And guess what? The decision to take your husbands Surname or not is a bloody minefield of attitudes and opinions. No matter which way you tread, someone’s going to blow up. I took my husband’s name. Not because I felt like I should, not because I had some deep yearning to have the word “cheese” be part of name - although cheese is awesome, so that would have been valid reasoning - and not because I’m somehow fundamentally un-feminist. I took it because it was important to my husband to pass on his family name and I had no particular attachment to my Surname. I wanted us to share a name, to be a team and that was the decision that was right for us. But believe me, it came with plenty of unsolicited advice and views from every direction. “Why doesn’t he take your name, if it’s so important you have the same one.”; “It’s like you’re his property, I think it’s disgusting.”; “You can always give your kids his name but stay your own person.”. Everyone will have an opinion, no matter what decision you make. But it doesn’t matter what they think. Do what’s right for you and your partner, someone will hate it whatever you do so what’s the sense in stressing over it?

 

5.     You’re Wedding Day Doesn’t Matter.

Bear with me. Yes, getting married is a big commitment and yes, you’re wedding day is a wonderful celebration of that and yes, you should have the wedding you want and enjoy it. What I mean by this is that a wedding is just a party. The important thing about getting married is what comes after: the marriage. You could spend thousands of Pounds on the most lavish venue, the finest cuisine and most beautifully tailored, designer outfits. But if you don’t put that same kind of care and effort into your marriage it will have all been a waste. Similarly, having a small scale, quiet ceremony doesn’t mean you love each other any less, it doesn’t make your dedication to one another any less significant. People get carried away with weddings and sometimes they get downright competitive. And for what? To see who can spend the most money being needlessly excessive? Because the more extravagant the wedding the more people will believe you’re really in love? It doesn’t matter. Have the wedding you want, or the wedding you can afford, ideally you can have both but remember that the important part is how you treat each other waking up the next day, and the day after that and all your days together. Because it’s easy to treat someone like they’re your world when you’re dressed up to the nines and everything is so romantic and all your friends are there watching. Treating someone like they’re your world when it’s just any other day is what makes a marriage.

There you go. More advice and opinions you don’t want and didn’t ask for. Get used to it. Everyone will want to have a say in your wedding day, they’ll all feel entitled to an opinion and may well get pretty stroppy with you if you don’t listen. Just stick together and power through. After all, it may well be the only day of your lives where it’s all about the two of you and no one else matters. Enjoy it.

What is CRISPR and Why Should You be Hyped About It?

Written by Simone le Roux

If you have any geeky friends or perhaps are the geeky friend yourself, then you will most likely have heard “CRISPR” whispered on the wind by Biologists. What is CRISPR, why are people so excited, and is it actually just a neat new air fryer? Now is the chance to find out.

A Bit of Background

To understand the solution, you first need to understand the problem. For those of us who don’t remember high school Biology as well as our teachers hoped we would, here’s a quick recap on genetics. You, as a human being (or similar carbon-based alien life form; no judgement), have your own unique genome. This is essentially a set of all of the information that makes up the whole of you and dictates everything from the colour of your hair to your political views (seriously). You have approximately 700 megabytes of data in each and every DNA-containing cell in your body, which is pretty damn amazing. This information is coded into your DNA and read by tiny helper proteins which make sure that the right instructions are carried out in the correct cell. This is how it’s possible that cells in your stomach and cells in your eyes have the exact same set of DNA, but your eyes don’t secrete hydrochloric acid every time you have a snack. Incidentally, this would still be a more useful mutant super power than whatever the hell Jubilee does.

The whole incredible system is extremely complex and, like all complicated systems, it sometimes messes up. If there is a mistake in one tiny section of your DNA it can wreak havoc on your entire body and there is a very long list of genetic disorders to illustrate this. They range from a minor hindrance to utterly devastating. Unfortunately, very little can be done to treat them because there is not much we can do about something that is coded in to what makes you who you are.

And then there’s the issues that scientists face in trying to do research. In order to find out what a specific gene does or what it looks like, they go through a long, arduous process to isolate the gene, place it in to another cell or organism, check its functions and make sure they aren’t getting that gene confused with another one. It takes a lot of time and resources that could be put to better use.

Enter CRISPR

CRISPR-Cas9, as it’s formally called, sounds too simple to be true. It’s the cut-‘n’-stick solution that a toddler would have thought of, given the rudimentary explanation above (including ripping in to Jubilee because she’s honestly the worst and children need to know that too). Cas9 acts like an adorably minuscule and obedient pair of scissors, cutting DNA precisely where scientists direct it to cut. This mechanism can be used to remove a gene from a string of DNA entirely. Once the gene is removed, the cell’s natural impulse is to fix it. CRISPR allows the scientist to manipulate the repair process so that the old gene is replaced with a new one, different than before. It’s kind of like being able to cut a line of code out of the matrix and all cars suddenly become Transformers (Michael Bay, hit me up for more ideas). When that edited cell reproduces in to more cells, the new gene becomes the norm and the gene we wanted to get rid of is no longer an issue.

Essentially, this means that we can cut the bad genes (like cancer, Huntington’s, cystic fibrosis, latent evil) out of DNA and put good genes (stronger immune systems, cancer-fighting systems, super powers) in to DNA and we can do it to living cells.

Why you Should be Excited

CRISPR has literally changed the game. Not only is it faster and cheaper than alternative gene therapies, but it is also highly effective in living organisms. The fact that CRISPR is a generally more affordable technique means that it’s more accessible to labs around the globe. This has led to an explosion of developing new uses for the technology. The applications of CRISPR range wildly from more effective plant science to obliterating genetic disorders and even storing movies. It has essentially propelled us into a sci-fi movie, where suddenly new, unimaginable procedures are possible.

Most recently, scientists were able to edit heart disease-causing genes out of human embryos. This means that, if those embryos were allowed to develop in to grown humans, they would not carry the disease that ruined their parents’ quality of life nor would they pass that disease on to their offspring. CRISPR has the potential to nip debilitating diseases in the bud forever. This technology is still being further developed and refined before it is used in full-on human trials (ie. In embryos not specifically used for research purposes).

CRISPR also presents a very futuristic argument about the possibilities of designer babies. Will we one day be able to select whether our children have brown or green eyes, are more empathetic, or better at maths? Is it ethical for us to do so? Furthermore, how do we decide which genes we should and should not be able to edit out legally? Getting rid of debilitating genetic diseases seems obvious, but what about a child destined to have very low levels of empathy? Do we have the right to make them more empathetic?

Fortunately, any of these dilemmas are a very long way off from being an issue and we're nowhere near reaching GATTACA status. What makes CRISPR so exciting is that these issues are moving from a distant science-fiction future to our reality very quickly. Not only that, but we can look forward to medicine and agriculture becoming safer and more efficient. Wherever you stand in the various debates, CRISPR is certainly the technology to keep an eye on in the coming years.

The Tremendously Awesome Information You Likely Didn’t Know About Orcas

Written by Chad Echakowitz

 Photography by Xinhua, Liu Daweii, Getty Images

Photography by Xinhua, Liu Daweii, Getty Images

Orcas are extremely badass. The Killer Whale, which is not actually a whale, but rather an oceanic dolphin, is the last remaining member of its genus, Orcinus, which translates into ‘of the kingdom of the dead’. If you are not of the age group that fell in love with these wonderful creatures through the cinematic masterpiece of Free Willy, these facts will surely blow your mind.

 Orcas live in groups, or pods, under a matrilineal social order. Out of all animal social groups, Orca pods are the most stable of any animal species. Calves often stay with their mothers for most of their lives. When the males are old enough, they leave their pods to mate with females from other pods. Every member of a pod, both male and female, care for the young, teaching it the different hunting techniques of the pod. Even after female Orcas pass their age of fertility, they live on in the pod, undergoing menopause.

Orcas can be found in every ocean throughout the world.  Orca pods act, hunt, communicate and even look, differently dependent on where they are located. They are so diverse as a species that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified their conservation status as “Data Deficient” because it is believed that two or more different types of Orcas are in fact different species. Orcas can be found both in the Arctic, Antarctic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and have been known to travel up fresh water rivers.

Because of there complete domination over every part of the seas, Orcas have developed different hunting techniques as well as different vocal behaviors. This implies that Orcas actually have different accents depending on the area in which their pod lives. Marine Biologists believe that Orcas show the best example of animal culture because they pass on these techniques and behaviors to their young through teaching.  

Much like their dolphin cousins, Orcas are incredibly smart. They have learnt to imitate their prey as part of some hunting techniques and have often been found to problem-solve. Fisherman Craig Matkin, was fishing in Orca territory. He tried to distract the Orca pod by using two boats. While the Orcas were distracted by the one boat, he’d haul fish into the other boat. The Orcas would then swim over to that boat and Craig would instruct the boat the Orcas just left to haul fish when the Orcas were out of range. In less than an hour the Orcas realized what was happening and the pod separated into two, one group going to the one ship and the other group going to the other. The Orcas were so thrilled when the figured it out, the started to play with the boats, breaching right by them. 

 The Killer Whale is an apt name for this formidable oceanic assassin. They are built for the kill, with a speed of 56 km/h and weighing an average of 6 tons, Orcas are essentially smart battering rams. While the Orca's front teeth are inclined slightly forward and outward in order to ensure that it can withstand any powerful, jerking movements from its prey, the middle and back teeth hold its prey in place.

Apart from using its formidable body, Orcas have developed different hunting techniques dependent on where they live and what prey they can find. Orcas which usually hunt fish carousal feed. This is a method of hunting where the pod will force fish into a tight ball by releasing bursts of bubbles or showing their white underbellies. Once in a tight ball, the Orca will then slap the fish with their tales, killing up to 15 fish at a time.

In New Zealand, the Orcas usually prey on sharks and rays using tonic immobility, a hunting method which turns the prey upside down. Tonic immobility provides two benefits as a hunting technique. First, it allows the Orca to hold its prey without incurring injury, and secondly, by keeping their prey still, the prey cannot breath and will die. Perhaps due to the shared competition in hunting ground, or perhaps due to the pure brutality and kick-assery of Orcas, there have been sightings of Orcas actually killing Great White Sharks.

Others beach themselves when their prey is found on steep or shallow shores. Beaching is not in the Orca’s nature to do so because of the risk that such an act involves, so it takes many years of practice to perfect the technique. Orcas with young calves will often catch their prey and teach the calves how to beach themselves in order to catch the already weakened prey.

Wave-hunting is yet another form of hunting in the Orca’s arsenal. Orcas will lift their heads out of the water (known as spy-hopping) in order to get a better view of their prey on land. The pod will then, as a single unit, rush at the landmass, creating waves in order to knock their prey off the land and into the water.

These creatures are like no other. They care deeply about their family, but ruthlessly hunt their prey. They have the brawn, but it is nothing compared to their brain. They are all around us, in every ocean we look, yet our knowledge of the Orca species is incredibly limited. They evoke so much respect and awe. We need to stop thinking of them as monstrous killers because they are so much more than that. They are smart and beautiful and kind. We are lucky to share their planet with them.

Should Shakespeare be Kept in Schools?

Written by Leah Jane

One of my loves, besides Benedict Cumberbatch, is Shakespeare. His plays (Shakespeare’s, of course, not Benedict Cumberbatch’s) still resonate with all sorts of people: theatre lovers, literature connoisseurs and even some musicians. However, I have recently read in an article published by tes, stating that Shakespeare’s plays need to be kept out of schools. Personally, I disagree. But putting my personal feelings aside, I will do my best to give a balanced argument.

 

They Say: Over Analyzing can Kill the Dream

The point of departure for those who agree that Shakespeare should get expelled from school is that most people react badly to Shakespeare. Whenever I mention Shakespeare (as one so often does) their first reaction is, “Oh god, I did Shakespeare in school and I hated it!” or I get the teeth-sucking sound like I’m about to be told my car is knackered. To an extent I understand: we did Macbeth at school and if we read Lady Macbeth’s speech about her little red spot once, we read it a million times. Taking every word and analyzing its meaning does take the joy out of it. It becomes monotonous, boring, and dull; more of a hindrance than a joy to learn.

But in no way does this mean that Shakespeare needs to be taken out of schools. All that needs to happen is for Shakespeare to be taught in a way that doesn’t suck. A more passionate teacher, or a more interactive lesson would solve this issue, instead of sticking with the, ‘So what does the double meaning of “grave man” here in Mercutio’s speech represent?’ rubbish.

For example, what if we taught our children that Macbeth had a mental illness, and that’s why he was hallucinating? Or what if we showed kids that Shakespeare had hints of homosexual characters in his plays? Or zombies? Food for thought, that’s all.

 

We Say: He Created the Basics

I’m not saying that he made The Story. People have been telling stories since there were cave walls to write on. But Shakespeare needs to be looked at because his plays are the basis for most of the stories you read today.  A friend told me once ‘If Shakespeare hasn’t done it, it doesn’t exist.’ I wont insult your intelligence by banging on about themes and conventions but the basis of what my friend said is true: love, family, and jealousy, to name a few, are all themes which Shakespeare mastered.

It is the cornerstone on which modern literature is built. Without a strong foundation, the knowledge children obtain will crumble and fall to pieces. In a world where the written word is becoming less and less important, we cannot afford for this to happen. This is why Shakespeare is necessary for schools.

 

We Say: Just a Bit at a Time

I’m not saying we need an entire module on The Bard. Start simple. Working in a school, I can comment that children are very susceptible to new ideas. Subtly introducing works like this can be a blessing. Last year, I wrote and directed a child-friendly version of Hamlet. It was just total bliss to see the children learn the names of the characters and understanding the story without being spoon-fed.  This has the potential to be the new way to teach children Shakespeare.

Teachers were accused of being too scared to take risks. Fie upon thee! Take thy face hence! This is so untrue it's laughable. What you may hear a teacher say is, 'How in the hell can I make this enjoyable without me having to spend hours getting things set up?' It's not bravery teachers lack, it's time and willpower.

Additionally, there are so many modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays that they have formed part of every child’s life without them even realizing it. Films such as Ten things I hate about You follows the plot of Taming of the shrew. The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet, Baz Lerman even made that highly divisive film Romeo + Juliet.  This is all without mentioning the plethora of adaptations of Shakespeare’s work for modern film. Shakespeare is going to be part of our lives at some point or another, so why not when we’re children?

 

We All Say: Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

These plays were written to be seen and not read. These wonderful words are great if you know what you’re talking about but you never can really understand the plot until you see it. The delivery of the lines from the actors adds another dimension.

They are plays after all, and so we should act them out. Even in schools, in the classroom. Instead of just reading it from behind a desk, get little Susie to act as Desdemona who dies so tragically at the hands of Othello, played by the talented Drake who is 14. There is no reason why children shouldn’t be energized to do these things. It’s a far better lesson than just reading the damn things.

 

We All Say: Done, Let's go home.

There are many different opinions to this topic and this is but a brief candle into the undying debate. However I do feel that there needs to be a balance. It is a new era of teaching where children want to know the merit behind what they are learning. So let’s give it to them. Even if that merit is simply seeming intelligent at parties, while swirling your glass of Merlot because you’ve read King Lear by William Shakespeare and understood it.  

The Science behind Ghosts

Written by Chad Echakowitz

 Photograph by Jesse Bowser

Photograph by Jesse Bowser

This planet is massive, the galaxy even bigger, and the Universe, absolutely immense. There is no possible way that we as humans can know everything that exists. It is therefore absurd to completely discredit something that has been part of the fabric of human culture since human culture began. Ghosts hold a special place in our hearts. Even if you do not believe in them, they are excellent for captivating the mind and tantalizing our deepest fears. It is also connected to one of the oldest philosophical and meta-physiological questions ever asked: is there life after death?

Let’s start with the science. Anomalistic psychology is the study of human behavior and experience connected with the paranormal, with the assumption that there is nothing paranormal involved. As you can see, there is already a bias against whether ghosts and the paranormal are real. Even though science is filled with proving and disproving theories, this seems greatly unfair, as it is assumed that ghosts do not exist while researching how and why people believe in ghosts. This would be like saying ‘we’ll study the effects of gravity on humans, under the assumption that gravity does not exist’. The difference, obviously, is that gravity has been irrefutably proven to exist where ghosts have not. Even so, there is still a vast majority of scientific explanation out there trying to prove that ghosts are not real, and a lot less science trying to prove that ghosts actually exist. So much time and effort goes into trying to prove that ghosts don’t exist, where that time and effort could be used to try and prove that they do exist. There is a severely negative exploration of the paranormal, and that needs to change.

The science is still important though, and it is necessary to consider it, even if the end goal is to disprove that ghosts exist. But let’s take that science and do to it what the skeptics do to believers: debunk the hell out of it.

 

Infrasound and EMF

Infrasound is a term describing low frequency vibrations which are beyond human hearing. While we can’t actually hear them, we can still feel them resonate through our bodies subconsciously. Electro-Magnetic Forces, or EMF, are disturbances or changes in the Electro-magnetic field around us. Scientists believe that these resonances beyond human hearing, as well as the changes in the Electro-magnetic field, can lead to psychological discomfort, disorientation, feelings of panic, and changes in heart-rate and blood pressure. It can also cause hallucinations. Consequently, scientists argue that ghosts are just hallucinations caused by infrasound or EMF created by things like rusty pipes or vibrations from fan units.

Hallucinations do not happen to everyone experiencing infrasound or EMF, but it does explain cases where those disturbances have been present and people see ghosts. However, it does not explain physical interaction with ghosts. No study has suggested that tactile hallucinations (hallucinations involving feeling or the touch of the hallucination) are caused by infrasound or EMF. Therefore, this explanation cannot be completely conclusive.

 

Mold

Recent studies have tried to link ghost sightings with the presence of certain types of mold in haunted areas. These molds can cause irrational fear and dementia. Some studies have been investigating buildings which are famous for hauntings, seeing if these certain types of mold are present. More often than not, there is mold present in those haunted buildings.

This mold theory may be on its way to proving that these apparitions are caused by a scary lack of TLC in these haunted houses and not the presence of actual ghosts. That being said, it does not explain open areas, or ghost vehicles, or places where ghosts have allegedly been seen but there is no mold present. Additionally, the researchers themselves say that these results, and the study itself, are too much in the early stages for any of its research to be conclusive.

 

Sleep Paralysis

This is the most common explanation skeptics turn to. When you dream, your body tries to restrict movement of the physical body so that you don’t injure yourself. Sleep paralysis occurs when you awake during your REM sleep cycle – the sleep cycle in which you have dreams – and your brain thinks it’s still asleep, so it stops your body from moving. 30%–40% of the American population have experienced sleep paralysis, and 5% of those people have said they have experienced visual and audible hallucinations during sleep paralysis.

This can explain why people say they wake up and suddenly see a ghost standing over their bed. But there are two reasons why sleep paralysis cannot completely rule out the existence of ghosts. Firstly, it is restricted to localized occurrences: this only applies to people who encounter ghosts when they wake up from sleep. It does not explain why people see ghosts when they are fully awake. Second, these sleep paralysis hallucinations only happen to about 5% of the people who have experienced sleep paralysis. This is an exceptionally small number of the population, too small to conclusively prove that all ghosts are sleep paralysis hallucinations.

 

Photography

Many people try to disprove photographic evidence of ghosts by saying the photographs which capture ghosts are either caused by faulty camera equipment or doctored photographs. A new theory is that ghosts are just faulty HDR photography, which is found in most modern smartphones. HDR photography is a setting which takes three photos of the photographic subject: an overexposed, underexposed, and normal picture. It then puts all three together to provide a perfectly exposed picture, allowing for better lighting, and a clearer picture. Some theorize that when using HDR photography on a person, if the person moved, it may cause the appearance of a ghost-like figure.

While this argument has a lot of weight, it cannot disprove all ghostly photographs. There are plenty of fakes, the photographs are usually blurry, have been left out in the sun, or used a weird setting that caused a ghost to appear. But this cannot be true of 100% of all ghost photographs. Again, it is a choice of what you believe or not, even if the photographic evidence of ghosts would be decent proof of the existence of ghosts. Perhaps that is why people try so hard to prove that ghost photographs are fake.

 

Anthropomorphism and Pareidolia

Anthropomorphism is the ability of the human mind to assert human characteristics on to none-human things (for example: talking animals). Pareidolia is a form of anthropomorphism where the mind sees human faces on random images. The brain does this instinctively due to empathy being an evolutionary advantageous feeling. As such, psychologists argue that ghosts are just anthropomorphized things, which our brains automatically assume are human. Because they are dark or hazy, we assume they are ghosts, when they can just be, in reality, nothing.

This seems to be a pretty strong argument. We look at any object and we immediately think of it as having two eyes, a nose, and a mouth; so long as there is some basic resemblance to a human face (think, for example, of your car: the headlights look like eyes and the grill, a mouth). This could explain ghost sightings which people catch from a distance, but it cannot fully explain interactions with ghosts, where they touch people. There can be no anthropomorphism there.

 

Sensed Presence

This usually occurs when people are isolated, or in an extreme or unusual environment often with high levels of stress. The person will perceive or feel that another person is there with them to help cope with the hazardous situation. This can range from a vague feeling of being watched to a clearly perceived, seemingly flesh and blood entity.

Again, another strong contender for proving that ghosts do not exist, except for the fact that the person experiencing this is usually in a stressful environment. It does not explain ghost sightings when people are relaxed, nor ghosts caught on camera.

 

The Power of Suggestion

A recent study has shown that when people are told that a place is haunted, or that the hauntings have been more frequent lately, the person will see a greater number of sightings than a person who was not told this information. It has also been shown that believers are more likely to see a ghost when suggested to, that ghosts will be present, and that even non-believers will see ghosts if told by a believer that ghosts are likely to be present. Suggestion is extremely powerful. Another study showed that when persons were told that a table had moved or that a bell had wrung, some participants believed it, even when they had not seen the table move or the bell ring themselves.

This is also tied to the ideomotor effect, where our bodies will move unconsciously by mere suggestion. This type of thing often occurs where participants have to hold on to something, such as the planchette on an Ouija board, and the muscles of the body will move involuntary by mere suggestion that the object should move by itself.

This is also a really strong argument for disproving ghosts. The human mind is easily suggestible and influenced. That being said, it cannot disprove all ghost sightings, especially those where the person or people have not been suggested to, and have had tactile encounters with ghosts.

 

Final Thoughts

It is in the defence of the mystical that I write this article. But it is also in the defence of myself. In my life I have had two experiences with ghosts. When I was younger I was sleeping over at my grandparents’ house in Scotland. I turned off the lamp in the lounge to go to sleep and as I did so, a hand grabbed hold of my arm and would not let go until I turned the light back on. Two nights later, out of the darkness came a deep rumbling voice that spoke to me in a language I did not understand. These two encounters cannot be explained by any of the science above. I was not sleeping, I was not stressed or agitated, no one else felt uneasy as if there was infrasound or EMF, there was no mold in the house, my parents and grandparents do not believe in ghosts so there was no suggestion to me that ghosts were present and there was no way I imposed my thoughts in an anthropomorphic way. I truly believe these were real ghosts incursions, and you can be skeptical and you can try and explain my encounters any way you want but what you can’t do is prove them irrefutably false.

Whether ghosts are real or not is still far from being proven. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, there is no hard evidence to sway the argument in one way or the other. But wouldn’t it be nice if ghosts were real? The Universe would be so much more mystical, amazing and fascinating. If you don’t believe, that’s okay; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I like to believe that my Universe is inexplicably complex and mysterious, and isn’t that an awesome way to live? 

Films that were Better than the Book

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

Calm down. I know what you're thinking. I know we've all had our hearts broken when our favourite stories that swept us up into beautiful new worlds and made us wonder and feel beyond anything we believed was possible were turned into third-rate movies that played fast and loose with storyline, hired actors who looked nothing like the characters and traded intricate detailed moments for yet another action sequence that wasn't even in the damn book! Believe me, I feel your pain, I really do. But sometimes, just sometimes the right director gets their hands on the right script and the right actors show an interest and the whole thing comes together in a way that actually surpasses the source material. It's not that the book wasn't good and it's not that the film is better in every way, it just means that it tells the story in a way where we can go back and watch over and over and over again while the book gathers dust on the shelf (or gathers some virtual kind of dust or decay within your kindle).

1. Jurassic Park

Try and argue with me, I dare you! Jurassic park was, and will always be, a phenomenal film. From the minute it starts, through Sam Neil terrifying snot-nosed kids, and Samuel L Jackson playing the calmest character of his entire career, and Richard Attenborough sparing no expense, and Velociraptors being all-round clever girls, the movie never leaves you wanting. It doesn't matter that Jeff Goldblum takes longer to  deliver a line than I take to do the Times crossword. It doesn't matter that we all know that if you touched a live electric fence you would actually find yourself fused in place, not sailing 15ft through the air. We forgive the film for these moments because it's just spectacularly entertaining. 

Now, don't get me wrong, the original novel by Michael Crichton is very good. It gives the characters so much more depth and is a great read throughout. I would recommend the novel to anyone. But the film works so beautifully on every level: the acting, the soundtrack, the perfect blend of CGI and animatronics, with the result that it has aged incredibly well. The book is good but the film is iconic.


2. Jaws

For the moment, we're sticking with Spielberg here because, boy does that guy know how to bring a book to life. Peter Benchley's book is a brilliant little thriller. The tension throughout is palpable; a feat that is not easy to achieve with nothing but your words and the reader’s imagination. However, once again, it was the film that made this story iconic. The movie is a contender for a spot on this list for a lot of reasons. The portrayal the actors give of their characters reluctant camaraderie for starters is simply beautiful. Not to mention the suspense from seeing only fleeting glimpses of the shark that builds to a wonderfully excruciating climax. But we all know there is really one reason and one reason alone why, in this case, the film surpasses the book:

Duuuun dun
Duuuun dun
Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun

That awful, tense, bloody brilliant, ‘Dear God, don't go in there!’ music. If the book had come with that theme tune it would be much harder to see the film as competition. But the perfectly executed paired association of that orchestral glory and the flashes of shark fin, teeth or shadow moving through the water made this film what it is. And what it is, is a brilliant piece of cinema that gave shark phobia to an entire generation.
 

3. 50 shades of Grey

Before you say anything, no I don't think 50 shades of Grey is a good film. In fact I think it's just about one of the most boring, gimmicky, badly acted pieces of trash to ever grace the screens. I could have happily gone my whole life without seeing Dakota Johnson's bedroom eyes (which are so vacant it's actually a little haunting) or Jamie Dornan's surprisingly bushy happy trail. But as much as this film felt like torture to both my intellect and my libido it was still better than book. The movie, for one, does not feel the need to give us endless glimpses into Anastasia's vapid thoughts and thankfully doesn't once mention her inner goddess. The film also manages to cut out a literal ton of awkward clunky dialogue. Now, granted, it does replace this dialogue with long wistful silences and brooding looks but, believe me, that is the lesser of two evils. The biggest reason the film wins out though is simply because it's quicker to get through. The movie will steal significantly less of your precious time and boasts a couple of okay songs on its soundtrack. 


4. The Silence of the Lambs.

This is more like it. I love The Silence of the Lambs. Book, film, spin offs, spooky Anthony Hopkins filled dreams that leave you strangely aroused (just me?). Basically if Hannibal Lector is in it I want to know about it. Thomas Harris' book is excellent. Gripping and sinister, a real page turner right from the off. But once you've heard those immortal lines, dripping off Anthony Hopkins tongue like honey, and seen the haunted look in Jodie foster's eyes as she recounts her ordeal, how can you go back to the book? The film wins out because the chemistry between Hopkins and Foster is unbelievably gripping. He masters the quiet intensity and elusive charm of Lector and she beautifully portrays Starling's untried bravado and almost naïve sense of right and wrong. 


5. The Princess Bride

This one is tough for me. William Goldman's quaint and endearing little tale is one of my favourite books. I have read it more times than I can count and take it with me almost everywhere. The book is so unrelentingly charming that every page is like being sucker punched by Simon Bakers' boyish half smile. It isn't a story that will rock your world view or lead you to any startling moments of self-reflection. But what it will do is fill you with that warm, hard-to-define feeling that someway, somehow everything is going to work out okay. As such, it genuinely hurts me a little bit to say that this is one of those times when the movie was better than the book. If you have never watched The Princess Bride go and do it. Right now. Seriously, right this very second.

If anything, the film actually manages to be more charming than the book. It is literally stuffed to bursting with throw-away jokes, cheeky one-liners and ridiculously polite fight scenes. Once you factor in Cary Elwes acing the part he was obviously born to play and Mandy Patinkin's spot on performance as Inigo Montoya, then you consider the wonderfully over dramatic soundtrack, the brilliant cameos, and, of course,  Andre the flipping Giant. There's nothing that isn't brilliant about this movie. They just got it so right.

I will never advocate for watching the film instead of reading the book. Books are the best thing the human race ever created (yes, I know that's a ridiculous claim but I'm standing by it). And part of me will never forgive Hollywood for the amount of beautiful stories they have utterly destroyed with their total lack of subtlety and constant mis-casting. However, as I wrote this article, I was genuinely surprised by how many examples there were of when the movies got it right: Blade Runner, Labyrinth, Total Recall, The Godfather, The Graduate, Die Hard, Psycho, Shawshank Redemption. It turns out that the film studios get it right more often than we give them credit for. Maybe the problem is that when they get it wrong, they get it so very very wrong. But I guess we shouldn't give up on big screen adaptations just yet.

5 Cute Ways To Remind Your Long-Distance Lover You’re Thinking Of Them

Written by Sophie Jayne Whitrick

 Taken by Ryan Franco

Taken by Ryan Franco

Long distance relationships can be really hard. Like really, really hard. Often, you feel like a jigsaw with a missing piece, constantly longing to be with the one person that fills your mind pretty much 100% of the day. During this trying time, it was the little things we did for each other that made each day easier. Here are five cute gestures that will tie those bonds so you can feel the electricity flow through the continents.

1. Write a Surprise Letter

I don’t mean by email or text. A proper letter, written on paper, sent in the post. Write exactly what you are thinking about at that moment in time. Tell them why you miss them. Be sure to date it and write the time on the letter. Your partner won’t be able help but smile. You can take this one step further and spray the paper with your favourite sent (for me, it was coconut). Whether your paramour realizes it or not, it doesn’t matter – it adds another dimension. It’s the idea, the subtly of each little added touch which makes it really special.

In the future, you'll be able to look back at those letters, see how much has changed since then and you have physical proof of surviving such a horrible part of your relationship when you were away from each other. 

2. Play your Song at the Same Time

Organise to play your favourite song together at the same time, so even across the miles you are sharing the same moment in time whilst enjoying your special tune. Not only will you feel comforted because it is your song, but music can hack into your emotions. Let the tune guide you home and into each other’s arms.

Along with this, look up at the night sky together. Try find the moon. Let the other person know that you’re looking up at it and even though you may be miles apart, you can still see the same beautiful things together.

3. Have a Text Race

This was one of my favourite games, usually because I always won. So, the aim of the game is that whoever wakes up first has to write a text for the other to wake up to. Whether it’s a poem or just ‘I love you’, your lover will feel comforted, special and loved when they wake up, with your words being the first to fill their mind for the day.

Cheeky tip: if you wake up in the middle of the night, send your message then, you’re bound to win the race that way; it’s the only way my boyfriend ever won. Even though it’s technically cheating.

4. Send Pictures

Send each other a picture of yourself every now and again. They don’t have to be sexual, in fact stupid ones are usually the most comforting, as it is your relationship in its most natural form. Plus, it gives your partner something to look back on when they’re feeling super low from missing you. In this digital age, it is easier than ever to still be in each other’s lives. But no relationship works from just texting. It’s nice to see the other person’s face.

If you have the means, try to video chat sometimes too. It’s not the same as seeing your lover in person, but it’s better than a faceless phone call or text. It is the next best thing and it will make your distance that little bit easier to bare.

5. Share

Share a favourite memory you had together, or a reason why you love the other so much. Just let them know they are living in your heart always. Never be afraid to show your feelings to each other, you can’t help each other through the hard times if you don't share. In this case, sharing is always caring.

Long distance is hard. If you keep things bottled up inside you, you will resent your lover. Also, your lover will have no idea what’s going on in your life and so can’t help you when things get tough. Be open. Share the doom and gloom. That’s why your partner is there: to help you carry your baggage.

We used to play the game, "Why do you Love me Today?" Where we would ask the other this simple question. Finding a new reason every day can be tough in a long distance relationship but it keeps things fresh and it keeps you fighting for what you love.

Long distance relationships suck. They’re hard, lonely, and you’re bound to fight. There will be times where you wonder if it’s worth it and I promise you it is. These are five of the many things that made my long-distance relationship keep flourishing. Hang in there. Love is the strongest force of all, so no matter what, it will pull you back together. Remember, long distance isn’t forever.

Humming a slightly varied tune,
Opposite angles of the moon,
Buried in layers of ourselves,
Leaves room for no one else,
~ Motion City Soundtrack, True Romance ~

 

Why we should all take John McCain’s Speech to Heart

Written by Chad Echakowitz

When I woke up this morning, I was not ready to be flummoxed by Senator John McCain. When John McCain ran for President in 2008 he said some things that I found disagreeable to say the least. So when I heard the news that he had made a “heartfelt speech” in the Senate yesterday following his return from a hiatus due to his recent diagnosis with brain cancer, I thought it was going to be a sympathy plea in favour of the Republican agenda. I was wrong.

The following were words I thought I would never say: John McCain’s speech was amazing. Everything he said was correct. It wasn’t a speech filled with prejudice or slander but rather a plea for a return to true democratic values, imploring opposing sides to work together to achieve a better future for all. It was beautiful.

As the decade has progressed, we’ve seen more and more division between opposing sides, not just in the United States but all over the world. It’s an “us” against “them” mentality, with no party wishing to co-operate with the other. We have seen it recently in the United Kingdom, with the hung Parliament between the Conservatives and Labour parties. Back in the U.S, the Democrats in the U.S have been slated recently for their focus on negating Trump, and not focusing on their own policies and what they will bring to the table if elected.

This is why Senator John McCain’s speech is so important for all of us. Whether you’re a Liberal, a Democrat, a Republican, a Conservative, a Labour, it does not matter. We need to start working together. The world is so much smaller now and everyone can know almost everything about anyone else. We all have a collected stake in the future of the human race and we need to work together as one collective to keep the human race going.

Below is a transcript of the more pertinent parts of Senator McCain’s speech. I want you to apply what he has said to your own country. Then you’ll see how important this speech is. Even if you don’t agree with his policies, or the Republican policies in general, just read it with no bias. I reckon you’ll be pleasantly moved.

…I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history. True Statesmen, giants of American politics, that come from both parties and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict; they held different views on the issues of the day and they often had very serious disagreements about how to serve the national interest. But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the senate discharged its Constitutional responsibilities effectively.  Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of the Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad co-operation to function well at all.

The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and defend her from her adversaries. That principal mindset and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today. I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous years either. But I’m sure there’s been times when it was and I was privileged to witnesse some of those occasions. Our deliberations today, not just our debates but the exercise of all of our responsibilities… are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled but they are more partisan, more tribal, more of the time than at any time that I can remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful but I think we’d all agree, they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of “who shot first?” to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it, certainly I have. Sometimes I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes I’ve made it harder to find common ground, because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes I wanted to win more for the sake of winning, than to achieve a contested policy.

Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But its usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours. Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

Our system does not depend on our nobility; it accounts for our imperfections, and gives us an order to our individual strivings, that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than “winning”, even when we must give a little to get a little, even when our efforts manage just three yards in a cloud of dust while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to “triumph”.  I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to co-operate, on our dependence on each other, to learn how to trust each other again, and by so doing, better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loud-mouths on the radio, television and the Internet; to hell with them! They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood. Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides: mandating legislation from the top-down, without any support from the other side, with all the Parliamentary maneuvers that requires, we are getting nothing done, my friends, we are getting nothing done…

…What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting done much apart. I don’t think any of us feel very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and help protect the American people. The Senate is capable of that; we know that, we’ve seen it before…

This is a message the world has been waiting for. Let us return to Democracy, of working together for the good of everyone, not just our own political agendas. This speech highlights the difference between politics and democracy. Thank you Senator McCain. Thank you. 

5 Good Guys in Movies Who are Actually Bad Guys

Written by Chad Echakowitz

 Courtesy of http://media.gunaxin.com/best-batman-movie-villains/194175

Courtesy of http://media.gunaxin.com/best-batman-movie-villains/194175

Movies are tricky. They make you feel things that the creators want you to feel. The bad guy is given an evil name like Scar, or Dr. Evil, so that you know they’re the bad guys. The same goes for the good guys. They usually have names like John Everyman. But, if you delve deeper into the movies you watch, you’ll find out quickly enough that things are not so black and white. Here are five movie characters who are not as good as you think.

 

1.     Mufasa from The Lion King

 Mufasa is a racist. I’m just going to put it out there, plain and simple. He creates segregation based on species, and he does so with his powers as King. Mufasa intentionally separates the hyena population by placing them in the Shadowlands so that he doesn’t have to look after them because the arbitrary system by which he delineates his kingdom excludes their home from that which he has authority over (‘Everything the light touches.’ Is a crappy way to set your jurisdiction). He is also just really mean to his subjects. In the scene where Mufasa teaches a young Simba to hunt, he makes Zazu stand on a rock and when Zazu contests, he is told to shut up and take it, because the Prince needs to learn how to kill things. That seems like a pretty big party-foul when it comes to encouraging loyalty in your subjects.

Scar is actually the good guy in this whole mess. During his brief stint as King, he allows the hyenas to come back into the Pride Lands, and his main agenda is to create equality for all. Now, I hear you saying, “Ah! But didn’t he kill his brother in cold blood just to climb the throne?” Well, yes he did, but even so, he clearly recognized the racism of his brother and so wanted to usurp his tyrannical reign. It is clear from the lyrics, “You will never go hungry again!” that his biggest policy was to feed the hungry, no mater what species. It’s not Scar’s fault that while he was King, the rains stopped and the grass didn’t grow and the herbivores moved on to more plentiful lands. If you know anything about the geology of Africa, you would know this happens annually. And if you know anything about lions, you know that male lions fight to claim leadership over their pride. Killing Mufasa was just a normal part of the Circle of Life.

 

2.     The Pirates from The Pirates of the Caribbean

 This one should be obvious. They are pirates! Pirates are notoriously known for being bad people. Being a pirate is still a crime in International Law to this day (bonus fact: committing any crime at sea makes you a pirate. Do with this information what you will). The East-Indian Trading Company weren’t great people, but they were still acting under the laws of that time. Pirates broke those laws habitually, committing actual crimes such as murder, rape, pillaging, smuggling, forgery, sailing under false colours, looting, poaching, brigandage, depravity, vandalism, arson, kidnapping, and perjury to name a few. These are all really serious crimes, and we, as movie-watchers, are supposed to just ignore this and enjoy as Jack Sparrow just romps about breaking the law. Yes, we are forced to do so because the movies are shot from the perspective of the pirates as the protagonists, but that doesn’t make what they do right or even justified.

 

3.     Batman from Batman

 This hurts me as much as it hurts you, I can promise you that. I love Batman. The Dark Knight is a piece of cinematic mastery… but that doesn’t change the fact that Batman is a bad dude, and for so many reasons.  

Vigilantism is a crime. It is taking justice into your own hands without any legal authority. Even if the public agrees with the justification, it still lacks legal authority and is therefore illegal. We pay the police to protect our streets and they act within certain guidelines as dispensed by the law (even if they do it badly at times). When the police act beyond those boundaries, they can be called to account through the legal process. Batman cannot. He acts outside of the law. There is no one to stop him or call his actions to account should he decide one day to just go rogue and start killing everyone with his armoured tank or crazy airplane-thing.

Batman doesn’t kill his enemies. Rather he just drops them from buildings, or has them tied up and hanging from buildings, or breaks their bones until they are incapacitated. This is bad. Killing is obviously worse, but to leave a henchmen with a fractured skull or a twisted back means that for the foreseeable future, that henchmen is out of work. On top of that he has to undergo painful and strenuous physical rehabilitation, and will live with the severe mental instability that often comes with such injuries. By beating these criminals senseless, Batman is actually causing an increase in admissions to Gotham’s hospitals as well as increasing poverty and unemployment. Instead of just distributing his massive wealth into Gotham’s economy, increasing the opportunities for henchmen to leave a life of crime, he just exacerbates the problem and squanders his wealth on his armoured tank and crazy airplane-thing. 

Essentially, Batman – or rather Bruce Wayne – is just a bored rich guy who has no regard for consequence. He falls asleep in board meetings, he commissions his staff to build him crazy machines, he does a bad job of fighting crime, and he is atrocious at hiding the fact that he is Batman. Bruce Wayne is essentially a teenager who was allowed to squander and enormous inheritance and is lashing out because he can’t accept that his parents died.

 

4.     The Rebels from Star Wars

 I’m not saying The Empire was good because they’re not. But, the rebels were awful people too. The rebels murdered without a thought. Yes, they were in a war, but they killed a lot of people. Like a lot. Just taking it from the original trilogy, we have the general murder of Storm Troopers all over the place, the murder of a Tauntaun, a Wampa, some Exogorths (the leech things inside the giant Space Worm), Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, and everyone on both Death Stars! That is a truly ridiculous amount of people to kill for a group who believe in preserving life, justice and peace.

The rebels were also really bad at their job. In A New Hope the ship gets boarded immediately and The Empire would have taken the plans back if it hadn’t been for the oversight of the gunner, who decided not to shoot down the escape pod. What follows is a series of escapes and recaptures followed by the murder of everyone on the first Death Star. This major strategic attack didn’t even end The Empire. The Empire came back and made an even bigger Death Star, which was only destroyed because of the help from the Ewoks. With the destruction of The Empire, the New Republic was born… Which was destroyed by the First Order just thirty years after the formation of the New Republic. The First Order was made from surviving Galatcic Imperialists and Imperialist sympathizers from the rebel forces. Even with the destruction of The Emperor, The Dark Side of the Force, and most of the Empire, the rebels still could not completely end the Galactic War and destroy the Empire. They were the good guys in the sense that they fought against tyranny, but they were bad at how they went about it.

 

5.     The Spartans from 300

 The film 300 is based very loosely on the battle of Thermopylae, where the Persian Empire launched a second attempt to take over the whole of Greece. Sparta, along with a bunch of other Greek city-states didn’t want this to happen so they launched an army to cover the “Hot Gates” at Thermopylae, and a navy to cover the coast of Euboea. The Alliance – as it was known – believed that this would stop the opposing Persian force from coming through into mainland Greece, and thus, stop a takeover. The Alliance was defeated at Thermopylae when they were betrayed by a Greek farmer, Ephialtes, who told the Persians about a secret mountain pass, which would allow the Persians to outflank the Grecians, and win the battle. Persia took control of Athens, as well as a few other Greek city-states.

Though the battle of Thermopylae was a Grecian tale of heroism and something truly magical to read about – seriously, I beg you to read into the rest of the history after the battle, it is amazing – the Spartans weren’t actually all that great, and the Persians were actually pretty cool people. Let’s start with the Persian Empire. This empire was founded by Cyrus the Great and was one of the largest empires in history, providing a lot to the lands it invaded, such as roads, postal and other civil services, a unified national language, and the freedom to believe in whatever religion you wished. The Persian Empire even had its own professional army, paid for by the taxes of the Empire. Xerxes I, who was the villain of the 300 movie, was actually a really cool guy. He was made King of the Persian Empire after his father’s death. But here’s where it gets crazy. Xerxes I was assisted in his ascension to the throne by a Spartan. An exiled Spartan King who was replaced by Leonidas stood by Xerxes I to help him gain the throne just a few years before the Persians fought the Spartans. Once king, Xerxes I continued the Persian Empire’s long streak of awesomeness, creating the Gate of All Nations, which is one of the wonders of the ancient world.

The Spartans, on the other hand, were a civilization which held that Oligarchies were the best form of government, and even later went to war with Athens, a democracy, over this point. The Spartans also practiced slavery, having these slaves perform the jobs such as farming and industry, which Spartans were legally prohibited from doing. The population of Sparta as such was divided in to the few Spartiates – who had full rights, but were soldiers by law and could only vote after the age of 30 – some other non-Spartans and freed slaves, and the Helots, who were slaves. The Helots were often killed to quell any signs of revolt, and it is reported that there was a mandatory number of times a Spartiate had to beat his slave per year, whether the slave deserved it or not. Sparta also fought with Greece later when it fell to in-fighting amongst many Grecian city-states. It is often held that Sparta actually helped end the Golden age of Grecian history.

It is clear here that the Spartans were not the good guys, and Persia got a seriously raw deal from that film.

 The film industry may be able to make you feel things, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking for yourselves. No one is just good or just bad, even in the movies. An in-depth look at many characters in films will show you that they are way more three-dimensional than you initially thought. Of course, I could just be reading way too much into these films, and you should probably just enjoy them for what they are. If that’s what you’re in to. I may just be the bad guy.

Six Things You Wish Someone Had Told You About Becoming a Mum

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

There are probably some things on this list some of you have heard before. Someone - a kindly aunt or an older sibling - took the time to enlighten you about the not-so-glamorous aspects of motherhood. The things Hollywood movies never touch on and other mothers (including our own) daren't tell us in case it puts us off having a family, refusing to provide them with grandchildren (seemingly, the holy grail for the post menopausal). However the point is these are things conspicuously missing from the Sex Education classes and almost never spoken about by new mothers who must convince the world that every second of having a newborn baby is unrivaled bliss, lest anyone accuse them of being a bad mother. So, with that in mind, here are some of the things I really wish someone had warned me about when it comes to being a mother.

1.  Your Modesty will be Completely Disregarded and You’re Expected to be Perfectly Okay with this

Now, considering the exit strategy when it comes to childbirth, of course you're anticipating your modesty to be somewhat compromised. I would bet you are not expecting every Doctor, nurse and midwife you come across to want to look, feel, and comment on the most private part of your anatomy. Yes, I said comment. From declaring you have a tilted pelvis or mucussy discharge or a spongy cervix, medical professionals will delight in telling you all these wonderful tidbits about a part of your body you probably still refer to by a childish nickname (for me it's a "Penelope").

Don't get me wrong, I know that they're just being professional and if the doctors were as weird and awkward about these exams as we feel, the whole experience would be roughly a million times worse. But that doesn't mean it's easy to welcome the world and its wife to come and take a gander at your privates. Oh yes, that's another thing, not only will your Doctor or midwife want to have a good old look around, but they may well invite anyone else they feel like to join in the fun too. From trainee paramedics, to first year Doctors, to specialists or other midwives who were just popping in to borrow equipment; your delivery room can feel busier than Waterloo station; and not one of these people is going to give a damn for your modesty. A necessary evil but one I would have liked to have been forewarned about nonetheless.

2. You’re not done when the Baby is Out

So this one came as a real shock to me. My only knowledge of the actual process of delivering a baby came from movies and television. I expected contractions to hurt, I expected it to take a very long time and to be allowed to curse and scream at the man who got me into this mess in the first place. But then... then they hand you you're baby, you get that perfect moment of heart stopping wonderment as you stare at your baby's beautiful little face and then you're done, right? Right? Wrong. Because what no one tells you is you still have to deliver the placenta. Yep, that's right. That big old bag of goodies and nutrients that's been keeping your child alive still has to come out, and it's coming out the only way it can. I'm not going to pretend that this is anywhere near as painful as delivering a baby, but it is uncomfortable and can take an extra half an hour or so of work which is something you simply do not have the energy for after the ordeal you've just been through.

But that's not all the post childbirth fun in store for you. You see, on its way out,  your little bundle of joy may have decided to get in an awkward position, or wriggle suddenly and do some extra damage. Sometimes you'll get a little torn, (it makes my eyes water too) and once the baby's out and safe the midwife will want to stitch you back up. Yep, stitches... there. And if you're really lucky you'll get some pain relief in the form of a suppository whilst they're down there. They certainly never showed you that in the movies. 

3.  Mothers are the Most Competitive People in the World

You did it. You had a baby. You went through the agonizing labour and now you have a little angry bundle of demanding-ness, who wants to eat every two hours and only naps for a few minutes at a time. Now would be a great time to have some other new mothers to talk to. Well, maybe not. It won't be all mothers, probably not even most mothers, but I guarantee you that you will meet at least one über-competitive mother who seems to have made it her personal mission to pick holes in everything you're doing, whilst boasting about how amazing she is and somehow making her child sound simultaneously like the most challenging and the most angelic child in the world.

These are the women who will tell you that their baby was sleeping through the night the instant they brought them home. They'll look at you in abject horror if you give your child a dummy because, ‘Don't you want your child to learn how to self soothe?’ and then they'll look at you in utter disgust if you don't use dummies because, ‘Don't you think it's cruel to just leave your child to cry themselves to sleep?’ You literally cannot win with these women. If you put your child in its own room they'll be spouting the virtues of the family bed and telling you that "real" mothers want to form proper attachments with their baby. If you opt for the family bed they'll have a hundred horror stories about parents who have accidentally crushed or smothered their children by having them in their bed. There is no avoiding these women, all you can do is know that their kind is out there and ignore their unrelenting negativity. Being a parent is hard. Do your best and surround yourself with people who know how to be supportive.

4.  Poop, Poop, and More Poop

Babies poop. A lot. But I would expect you to already know that. What you may not be prepared for is the amount of your life that will become consumed with thinking about, and talking about, poop. You will become poop obsessed and your non-parent friends will worry for your sanity. They'll probably start trying to avoid you to save themselves from the endless poop talk. Now, your new found obsession will not be due to your development of some kind of strange new love for all things poop. It will happen because your baby's poop is a gross little insight into their health.

How much they poop, the colour, and the consistency can tell you all sorts of things that your child’s pained screaming cannot. It can be quite a shock to go from never talking about poop with your significant other to talking about it roughly 80% of the time; basically whenever you're not talking about whose turn it is to get up and do the next feed. The good news is this passes, or at least becomes dormant for a while. Then you start potty training and you're right back in the poop (quite literally). The good news here is you'll finally have someone to share in your obsession, because nobody is fascinated by poop like a toddler is.

5.  The Umbilical Cord

This is a little thing, but I really think it's something you should be warned about. You know the umbilical cord: that strange, gristly tube that tethers you and your baby together? You'll have seen the touching scenes in films where the uncertain first time father is handed the scissors and cuts the cord with trembling hands. What you probably won't have seen is the weird little stump of cord left over that sticks out of your child's belly. Or how the midwife will put a clip on this little stump to cut off it's blood supply, or how you'll take your baby home like that and watch this strange leftover piece of cord slowly turn black and die until it falls off in your hand one day when you're cleaning around it. It's gross and fascinating and kind of smelly and definitely something I'd like to have known beforehand.

6. Breastfeeding is Hard

Breastfeeding is quite a hot topic right now. In this culture of so-called “Nipple Nazis”, and the “Breast is Best brigade”, there is a tremendous pressure on new mothers to breastfeed. Some mothers will never experience this pressure. They'll plan to breastfeed, put their baby to their breast, the baby will latch on instantly and that'll be an end to it. Some women won't want to breastfeed; and that's fine, it's their body, their baby and 100% their call to make. Maybe they don't want to leak milk all over their shirt every time they hear a baby cry (yes, that's a thing). Maybe they're busy with another child and can't stop what their doing every couple of hours, maybe they just don't like the sensation or the idea of being milked. It doesn't matter, it's their choice. But these women will be faced with judgmental looks and comments and that's a real shame.

But then there's another category of women. Women who desperately want to breastfeed but can't because what no one tells you is that breastfeeding can be really hard. Your body might not produce much milk, your nipples might be an awkward size for your baby to latch on to, your child might pull away from you or be too impatient to suck for long enough to draw your milk out. Or maybe you'll be plagued with cracked nipples and mastitis and simply find the whole thing too painful. These women will already feel like failures for not being able to feed their child, the last thing they need is to be shamed by other people who have no idea what their individual circumstances are. I guess what I'm saying is, it's hard. People make it out to be easy and straightforward but that isn't always the case. Don't be too down on yourself if you can't breastfeed. 

I guess there's a lot of things I wish I'd been told before I became a mum. Like the fact that a baby's first nappy has the consistency of tar and is harder to clean off your child’s skin than superglue, or how you'll have to use one of those weird bogey sucking devices to clear your baby's blocked nose. But I suppose the thing I really wish someone had told me was to stop worrying about what the books say and what the other mums are doing and just enjoy my child, because the one absolutely true thing that everyone will tell you is how fast it goes.

Arunachalam Muruganantham: India’s Pad Man

Written by Chad Echakowitz

Being a woman is hard. I cannot say this from personal experience, but being a feminist, I can see what a nightmare life can be for women all over the world. For some, it is easier than others. For others, such as the women of India, it is much harder than it is for most. Menstruation is something that most, if not all, women have to undergo every month from puberty. It is a biological process as natural as breathing. Yet it still carries a massive taboo in India, so much so that one in five women drop out of school due to their menstruation. Only ten to twenty percent of India’s women have access to proper menstrual hygiene products, leaving over 300 million women to use old rags and cloth when menstruating. Proper hygiene products are grossly overpriced. However, nothing is done about it because of the social stigma attached to menstruation.

But then, in 1998, Arunachalam Muruganantham of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu began a revolution. Shortly after marrying his wife, Shanthi, Muruganantham noticed that She would gather up old rags whenever she was about to begin her period. When Muruganantham asked her about this, and asked why she did not buy proper hygienic pads, she said it was too expensive. As a sentimental gift to his wife, he bought her some proper pads, but he could only afford one pack. Muruganantham was outraged by this, knowing that the majority of impoverished Indian women could not afford the pads. So began his journey in to creating and supplying the rural areas of India with affordable sanitary pads.

At first, Muruganantham used cotton as the base material for the pads, wrapping shredded cotton around a cotton-padded sheet. He tested this pad on his sisters and wife. After months of trials, the pads continued to fail. They were not absorbent enough, nor were they comfortable for wearing on a day-to-day basis.  The work was slow, seeing as menstruation usually only occurs once a month. After months of frustration and social embarrassment, Shanthi left him to go live with her mother, and she and Muruganantham’s sisters went back to using old rags.

But this did not deter Muruganantham. Instead, he created an artificial uterus and connected it to a sanitary pad he wore in his own underpants. He organized to collect sheep and cow blood from a local butcher to simulate the blood flow that occurs during menstruation. He was ridiculed and ostracized by his village for his experiments once it was discovered that he was wearing sanitary pads. The taboo that surrounds periods and menstruation is so systemic in India that the shame Muruganantham had brought upon himself should have stopped all his work, but it didn’t. Instead, for two long years he altered and manipulated and tested his sanitary pads, finally leading to a breakthrough.

One day, after ordering tester samples from one of the large industrial sanitary pad producing companies, he found a box lying by his front door. This box, filled with those samples, had been ripped apart by his dog. The remains of the sanitary pads were strewn everywhere. But this unfortunate mishap lead Muruganantham to discover the material used inside sanitary pads: Cellulose fibers derived from Pine bark wood pulp. After this discovery, it took Muruganantham another four years to develop a way to process and produce these cheap sanitary pads made of absorbent Cellulose material.

Finally, he developed a machine that only cost $950 to make. The machine would grind, de-fibrate, press and then sterilize the pads under ultraviolet light, before packaging them for sale. To give some prospective, a machine made by a big sanitary pad company costs, on average, $500,000 to make. To date, Muruganantham has sold over 1300 machines in 27 of the 29 States of India. He refuses to sell them to big companies, solely selling them to women’s self-help groups and other rural Indian women. His goal was to provide cheap sanitary pads to all the women of India, and at a third of the price of normal sanitary pads, he has done so.

In 2014, Muruganantham was named one of Times’ 100 most influential people, and in 2016 he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian Government. This is the fourth highest award given to the members of the public for their distinguished contribution to India. There is also a documentary about his life and work directed by Amit Virmani. Additionally, he has given many lectures about his work at Universities such as Harvard. Muruganantham wants to now start distributing his machines internationally, helping other underdeveloped countries throughout the world.

There is no question about it: wherever you are in the world, female hygiene products are way too expensive. This is not a rant about how unfair it is to be a woman, or how the world favours men. Though that is true, this issue is about the economic predicament women find themselves in every month. People like Muruganantham are not accepting the status quo. They are refusing to let these archaic prejudices stand. And we must therefore ask ourselves: if this is changing in India, why are things not changing in our countries?

Microdosing

Written by Ignatius Harling 

I was recently asked by a friend – a respectable fellow and, interestingly, a former Evangelical Christian – for my views on the phenomenon of microdosing. Flattered as I was to be asked about such a thing (I used to consider myself something of a psychic explorer in my younger days) I was nevertheless intrigued. Why would anyone go to the trouble of taking small doses – anything from one quarter to one tenth of a "full" dose – of Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD or any other psychoactive drug? Where would they obtain it and what would it do to them?

Information on microdosing is, as can be expected, sketchy. Whilst microdosers are happy to describe measuring and chopping up their psychedelics, they are a bit more guarded about their sources. LSD, Psilocybin, Cannabis and MDMA are all controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK and under similar legislation across most of Europe and the US. And whilst research into the therapeutic use of hallucinogens has continued sporadically, such legislation has discouraged this.

However, microdosing seems to be catching on in Silicon Valley and other well-heeled, Hi-tech industries. The rationale for microdosing is to do with experiencing the benefits of psychoactive substances without the risk of a 'bad trip' or other ill effects. Many people of my generation will remember stories about the brown acid at Woodstock in 1969. It was rumoured that strychnine had been used in the lab process. Many users became ill and warnings were issued from the stage. No, I wasn't there either!

In popular culture, the bad trip has been mythologised. Syd Barret, Pink Floyd's original brilliant, wayward and mercurial guitarist – the subject of Wish You Were Here – burned himself out at the end of the 60's. Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac's bluesy, husky voiced singer, guitarist and writer of Black Magic Woman was featured, disheveled and long fingernailed, in Richmond High Street, in the Daily Mirror in the early '80's: another "acid casualty". And of course there was Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze; (We all knew what that was about), and what happened to Jimi, though that's another story.

So what are the microdosers looking for? Many believe that psychedelics enhance the ability to “think outside the box”, enhancing creativity. The psychedelic experience is thought to be one of egolessness, a dissolving of boundaries between “self" and "other” – a realisation of the “interconnectedness of all things”. LSD in particular acted as a major stimulus to popular culture in the 1960's, especially in the US and Europe. Its impact was immense, influencing music, art, literature and graphic design whilst also fueling protest movements in the US and Europe. 

But the new generation of microdosers are not wanting to “Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out”. They believe instead that microdosing may give them an edge in an intensely competitive industry. And many of them may be looking back to the heady garage industry days of Apple, Microsoft and other former hip – and to some extent, hippy - pioneers of the new age. 

Whatever the reasons, the final word goes to the late Steve Jobs who, speaking on taking LSD, described it as 'One of the two or three most important things I have done in my life'.

If you would like to read more about the effects of narcotics and their role in society, check out:

Being Original and Creative is Going to Kill Your Career

Written by Chad Echakowitz

You are a unique snowflake. You are your own person and there is no other person like you out of the six billion other people who inhabit this little blue dot. That’s great. Well done to you for being you. But you’re originality should end there. So should your creativity. Because in today’s world, if you’re creative or have a new idea, well… you might as well bury it in the ground because it’s never going to become a reality.

To be fair, that’s not totally true. Maybe if your idea has five sequels, then it could be turned in to a film or a book. But if it’s a one-hit-wonder, don’t expect to get your dues.

If you haven’t noticed the trend that film and television are going down by now, then you can stop reading this article because it clearly doesn’t affect or concern you. But if you have noticed the trend, then you know exactly what I’m about to write: The film and television industry is drowning in sequels and spin-offs. The sequel craze has been growing at an alarming rate, with a new film in a franchise out every month. For example, Cars 3 has just been released, Avengers: Infinity War is coming out soon, and yet another Star Wars film will be released later this year. The cherry on the cake – and what inspired this article – was the release of the trailer for Bladerunner 2049. The original Bladerunner was released in 1982 and now, 35 years later, they’re making a sequel.

There have always been sequels in the film industry. Many children could learn to count just by naming the Rocky films, the weight of the combined box set of Friday the 13th films would give anyone backache; but this new, rapid influx of sequels is unprecedented.

Perhaps the reason behind this sequel explosion, much like everything in the world, is that they are safe cash-cows. Seeing a film with a familiar title makes people feel safer in their movie choice because they know that the first film was good. It also makes people believe that the studios felt safe in spending all that money making the sequel, so it must be good. And, consequently, you are more likely to go see a sequel than something you have never or barely heard of.

Due to its prospect as a safe investment, and because it’s easier than coming up with new ideas, the studios that create films are more comfortable signing up to multi-film contracts from the same franchise. It is also a guaranteed profit because the previous film in the franchise acts as a PR move for the next film, making you want to see the next one in the series. We are creatures of habit and the studios are exploiting that.

Power Rangers was only picked up as a film because there are five sequels already in the pipeline. Avatar has four sequels ready and waiting, and the writer for the Transformers franchise has said that there are 14 scripts already prepared for the making. Of course, there are new original films being released but they are in short supply, compared to the 23 films named above originating from only three of many franchises.

This is why your career as a unique and original-idea-creating writer or film-maker is dead in the water. The chances of your script being turned in to a film are outrageously small. So just give up.

Or don’t. Let’s look at the films that won Oscars this year. Moonlight. La La Land. Hacksaw Ridge. And lets not forget one of the most revered films of this year: Get Out. All of these films have one thing in common – they do not have sequels. They are not part of any franchise either. They are stand-alone films worth so much merit that the Academy awarded them for it. I am not saying that franchises can't be good, some if not most of them are, all I'm saying is that they have very little originality, especially once you've reached the sixth or seventh film in the franchise.

Another reason to keep your creative, unique, metaphorical candle aflame would be the prospect of your idea becoming a cult classic. Quentin Tarantino is known for his violence, his swearing and his spectacular films which feature both in abundance. His films all stand alone, brilliant in their own merit. Pulp Fiction (1994). Reservoir Dogs (1992). Inglorious Bastards (2009). Death Proof (2007). All of these are cult classics and all of these do not have sequels. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry. ‘What about Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2?’ to which I reply, there is an exception to every rule, and that is why the rule exists. It is true that Quentin Tarantino made his debut in a different time, when unique ideas were encouraged, and art, instead of money, took preference, but hey, you could do it; you could bring us back to this pre-greed era with your unique and wonderful ideas. Maybe we’re all just waiting for that one film to inspire us, to return us to a better time of film and television.

For a second, let’s just forget about all the fandom and world-wide acclaim your unique film could bring you. I just want you to think of this one argument that will absolutely convince you to keep producing unique work in this not-so-unique world: if you don’t make the thing in your head, the thing in your head will never be made. It’s a simple argument but that does not take anything away from its potency. If you stop writing whatever you’re writing, if you stop making that film - your film - it will never be made. Sure, someone else might one day come close, but it will never be exactly the same as it is in your head. You owe it to yourself to bring into this world your unique piece of work – to say you were here.  Even if it was never made because the studios were too busy making Captain America 64: How is this Guy still Alive?, you cannot leave this world without doing this unique thing. You’d regret it.

Therefore, there is only one logical conclusion. If you write original, thought-provoking, tear-inducing, emotion-splurging stories you will not be producing films for the masses. They will not become franchises, and they are likely to be left in the dustbin of the assistant of the assistant of some famous Producer. But if it is picked up, and someone enjoys your story enough, you may win an Oscar and be hailed for your brilliance. And even if none of this happens, if no one ever sees or reads your work but you, at least you can hold your head up high and say ‘I did a thing. A thing no one else has ever done before me.’ Of course, franchises are great too if you’re in to that kind of thing.

Is Shakespeare in Need of Constant Change?

Written by Leah Nichols

This question carries the weight of so many opinions given by so many people. Some of these people know every single minute detail of every piece of work produced by The Bard, while others don't know Shakespeare from a pack of wafer thin ham. I feel that I can give my opinion with some gravitas because not only have I made my - admittedly small - mark on the Shakespearian stage, I have also been a dedicated follower of the Stratford star and have enjoyed reading and viewing the various masterpieces throughout my years. Here are a few aspects on which I would like to draw attention to.

He recently celebrated his 401st Death-day

Being 401 years old means that it's going to be tough to stay modern and trendy. Naturally, people struggle to get their heads around the long, beautiful monologues and soliloquies. That being said, theaters all across the world are still packed to see his timeless plays. There must be a reason that makes this quadruple-centenarian's plays draw in so many people.

Directors who take on the exhausting task, put it upon themselves to constantly find new ways to reinvent the same old pieces. For example, I was lucky enough to see the award-winning Hamlet on the West End, starring the handsome A-Lister, Benedict Cumberbatch. Having seen many different versions of Hamlet, this was visually the best; using slow motion, current music, and slight non-naturalism. The visual feast that lay before me instantly took me in. This, to me, was a joy to watch. That being said, the film adaptation of Hamlet, starring David Tennant, had the same words and plot, yet the two adaptations were so different in their characterization, settings, and directorial choices, that they could be considered two completely different sides of the same sexy-British-lead-actor coin.

This is partly what keeps Shakespeare alive. The ability to adapt the same piece of work, work that has been circulated and viewed countless times over the past 400 years or so, and make it unrecognizable to any adaptation that has been put on before. And this, in itself, is a testament to Shakespeare: the fact that his work can be moulded and changed but still keep its core essence, means that he was able to write plays that are truly timeless.

Respecting the Words and Honouring the Aesthetics  

Conversely, there is a sense of respect owed to Shakespeare to which the most severe actor doth like to adhere. This camp of Shakespeare lovers suggest that there is a sense of duty, that deference should be paid to the original work, and that there is no way that any cuts should be made to the script, believing that the lines should never be adjusted or any kind of modernism added to it.

While this can be an unpopular opinion, there is a strong argument for it. A lot of actors and directors feel that Shakespeare wrote his plays in that particular way for a damn good reason and who are we to edit it in any way? We do not have his genius and so we shouldn’t tinker with his perfection.

There is, undeniably, a rhythm to each piece of Shakespeare's writing. From the beautiful soliloquies to the quick-paced duologues, there is a reason a line has been set in that specific place. For example, looking back, yet again, to the incomparable Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the Danish Prince, in Hamlet, the director chose to put the most famous speech in the play – you know the one (To be or not to be…) – at the beginning of the show. Now, some, including myself, found this to be a refreshing change to a 400 year-old speech, created by a sense of uncertainty as to the order of things. This, in my mind, was a soaring eagle of theatrical genius (but being a Contemporary Theatre Graduate, I would). This was, unfortunately, changed later: the speech had been put back into it's ordinary, uninspired, place. This – according to most – was seen as the best option because the words of the speech did not make sense at the beginning of the play and created less impact. 

There are two different types of people when it comes to Shakespeare: either you embrace the whole new age, modern dress aspect of Shakespeare's works, or you thoroughly enjoy seeing women in bone-crunching corsets and men with tights so tight they spend the entire show reciting lines in a higher octave.

In my opinion, we need to embrace change. Life have undergone a drastic shift in the last 400 years, and as Shakespeare himself said, “To beguile the time, look like the time.” Personally, I enjoy seeing new, contemporary versions of a classic, coupled with outstanding literary genius. Having stated my view, one must always keep in mind that many people prefer to see Shakespeare’s plays with absolute originality out of respect and a sense of deference. And that’s fine too. Both views are, of course, valid and justified. It is almost guaranteed that there will always be two camps of Shakespeare enthusiasts, and thank The Bard for it. Both styles are necessary to keep theatre alive. No matter what camp you belong to, we all go see Shakespeare for the words, because it is in the words that the beauty, and our hearts, truly lie.

Whether you prefer Original Gangsta Shakespeare, or New, Hip and Modern Shakespeare, it does not matter. You love Shakespeare all the same. We may be divided but we still fly that Shakespearean flag together. And if you don’t know under which camp you fall, perhaps you should go book a ticket to a Shakespeare performance near you.

In Defence of Horror

Written by Chad Echakowitz

It’s okay to be scared. It’s actually a good thing. From an evolutionary stand-point, it would be the more scared of our ancestors who would have survived. The Caveman who saw a Saber-toothed Tiger and decided to take it on probably died, while the Caveman who gave anything with sharp teeth a wide birth was more likely to have survived and, consequently, procreated. These cautious beings were the reason our species survived, and as a result, Homo-Sapiens passed stories down the generations, from cave walls to written books, followed by film and television. Now we have horror films which we give consent to scare us in a much safer environment. It’s okay if you don’t enjoy horror films; it’s in our nature to avoid scary things. But there are a few good reasons why horror films are worth our respect and adoration, if not world-wide affinity.

  1. The Story

Every horror film has more or less the same basic plot. There are the good guys who embark on some adventure – such as moving to a new house, or going on a vacation. When the good guys enter the scene, some magic or evil or guy with a hook-hand emerges to terrorize them. Blood and guts and screaming follow for a good 50 minutes until the good guys find some wonderful way to defeat the bad guy. The majority of the time, the bad guy dies, but there are those rare occasions when the bad guy somehow survives, or has an evil brother, or just defeats the good guys. Even though this basic template exists as the backbone for all horror films, the horror genre is unique in its attempt to continuously reinvent itself. For some reason, Hollywood seems to be churning out spinoffs, remakes and sequels while providing a small amount of original content. While the Horror genre does have this general template, producers, writers, and directors are finding new ways to reinvent that plot. For example, The Blaire Witch Project (1999) used an inspired film technique, having the audience view the film as if the protagonist was filming it on a camcorder, giving a first-person perspective. This was followed by films like Rec (2007) and Cloverfield (2008). It is true that horror films are just as guilty for producing numerous sequels and spinoffs, but at least they are trying to release a healthy amount of new content too. 

        2. The Money

Horror films also seem to generate more profit in relation to their smaller budgets. Let us perform a comparison between two franchise films from different genres. The Conjuring saga represents Horror in its classic form: drawing from a true story, a family defeats demons with the help of some plucky ghost hunters. And what better contender than a franchise that has come back in full force: The Star Wars saga. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was released in 2015 to the excitement of the whole world. The Conjuring was released two years earlier to a much quieter reception. Star Wars VII cost $306 million to make and grossed $2.068 billion in Box Office sales. The Conjuring only cost $40 million and grossed $320.3 million. In simple mathematical terms, Star Wars only made six times more than its budget, while The Conjuring made eight times more. This is also true of the spinoff films from both franchises. Rogue One only made five times its budget, while Annabelle made a momentous 40 times its budget (which is saying something, because it really wasn't that good). This may just be one example, and there are probably other examples that prove the opposite, but it should be clear that horror films are cheaper to make, and therefore have a higher potential of grossing more than non-horror films relative to their budget.

         3. The Health

Horror films also have certain health benefits which other film genres generally do not. Horror films can help burn calories, increase energy and alertness, relieve stress, and can lead to the release of chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate into the bloodstream, giving one a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Psychologically speaking, it is also the best first-date idea ever: taking a prospective paramour to go see a horror film will raise their heart rate and release those chemicals spoken of above. The brain will then associate you with those feelings, which are closely linked to feelings of love and happiness.

You are not obliged to watch horror films, even if they have been proven to be better for the economy, film-making as an art-form, and your general health and happiness. If being scared isn’t your idea of a good time, then enjoy watching something else. But if you’re an aspiring screen-writer or cinematographer looking for a new idea, or you really want this new person in your life to like you, or you just want to increase your happiness and well-being, I suggest you sit down, grab your favourite blanket, and put on something a little bit sinister.  

 

5 Strange Things almost All of us Do

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

il_570xN.531257138_l5ig.jpg

We all have little odd impulses and behaviours, and some of us do things that seem downright weird and maybe even a little crazy. Have you ever had the strange feeling when your walking on a cliff or high bridge that if you get too close to edge you might just jump off? You don't want to, but part of you is paranoid that you might do it anyway? Well, it's totally normal. Freud observed this side of human nature and wrote extensively on the topic. There's lots of peculiar things we do that we assume are abnormal or unique to us. Chances are, most people do exactly the same thing. Sorry, but you may not be a one of a kind, precious snowflake after all.

1. Having Imaginary Arguments

Someone has done something to annoy you. Fred at the office used your milk again, even though it was clearly labeled and you know he must have seen it, but Fred's a cheapskate and refuses to buy his own milk. You desperately want to have it out with him. This office needs a hero and, damnit, you're not going to let this tyranny go on unchallenged! You're shaking with righteous anger, but before you confront the fiend, you take a moment to imagine how it might go. 

You'd storm up to his office with a gallon of milk and dump the whole thing all over his damn desk. "There! Now you have all the milk, Fred!" But then what if he has a good comeback? What if he brings up that time you accidentally threw out his lunch because you thought it was old food? Trust Fred to bring that up. That was totally different. How dare he? Then he might make a comment about how you got your promotion. Sleazebag Fred is exactly the sort to imply you're sleeping your way to top. Oh my god, I can't believe he would say that! What the hell, Fred? Nobody even likes you, you dairy delinquent!

Before you know it an hour has passed, you've not actually said a word to Fred but you're beyond furious with him and you will hold the things Imaginary Fred has said against Real Life Fred forever.

This phenomena is not unusual. To survive as social creatures we have to develop a knack for second guessing other people’s intentions and reactions. Otherwise we'd all go around saying whatever popped into our heads, consequences be dammed, and the world would descend into total chaos. So, we need to anticipate how people might respond to a confrontation and if our imagined outcome is unfavourable, we'll probably decide to keep our anger to ourselves. More anxious people tend to imagine the worst possible outcomes, making them decidedly less likely to seek out confrontations.

2. Interrupt Conversations because Someone Said Something that Reminded you of a Song

This is one I'm guilty of. You'll be having a perfectly nice and normal conversation with someone. Maybe they're even trying to tell you something important. They might tell you their world is falling down and you are listening, really you are! But...remember that song from Labyrinth about the world falling down? That was a good song. It would be totally inappropriate to bring that up right now. You won't do it. You won't do it. You won't... you did it. You sang those lyrics right into their startled face with your best David Bowie impression. Oops. Maybe you'll stop at just a couple of lines... or just the chorus. By the time you're finished there's air guitar and power hands and you've all but forgotten the person you were talking to.

This happens because the neural pathway that leads to the memory of this song has been used so often that it requires little to no effort on your brain's part to zip on down to long-term storage and retrieve it for you. It's practically an instinct, like remembering your address, the information is just there. And once that song's at the forefront of your mind, resisting the urge to let it come bursting out can be extremely difficult. In fact the more you resist the harder it will seem. 

3. Lying about Things that Literally Don't Matter in the Slightest

‘Have you ever been to Oxford?’ Someone might ask. You haven't. You know whether you've been or not is irrelevant, they're going to tell you what happened when they went there regardless of your past travels. There's no judgment on you, they won't belittle you for being uncultured if you tell them you've never been. So why, when you open your mouth, do you find yourself saying ‘of course I've been to Oxford. Who hasn't?’ 

Why? Why would you do this to yourself? Now they're going to ask you what you did, what sites you saw and you'll just have to keep lying. Either just making up stuff you did and winging it, or saying something like ‘oh, it was so long ago I barely remember it.’ In which case you might as well have told the truth in the first place.

You might be pleased to know that this compulsive need to have other people think you're just as smart, cultured, well read etc. as they are is quite normal. You might be less pleased to hear that tends to arise from having something of an inferiority complex.

4. Complimenting People when you Feel Awkward

This happens most when there's a lull in conversation and things have been silent a beat too long. Most people are intensely uncomfortable with silence when they're in a group setting. In fact, on average, one of the group will crack and blurt something out after only 4 seconds of silence. Sometimes you get lucky and wind up saying something interesting enough to spark up the conversation again (phew, crisis averted). I personally have a terrible habit of pointing out how awkward things feel because I'm a social pariah with all the people skills of a houseplant. But some of you do something so much worse. You're so desperate to end the silence; the 4-second mark has come and gone and the situation is too tense. You're going to crack, there's nothing you can do to stop the words coming out of your mouth. ‘I really like your moustache!’ The poorly thought out compliment. This kills a conversation faster than cat videos kill your work productivity. Do you know why? Because the only thing that makes people feel more awkward than long silences, is being complimented. What's more is most people will respond to a compliment with a self-deprecating comment (awkward) or by paying you a compliment in return (even more awkward). Before you know it you're trapped in an infinite loop of clumsy compliments until one of you literally dies of embarrassment.

5. Groping Around for the Light Switch Rather than Step into a Dark Room

Who here believes in monsters? No one? That's what I thought. So why do we find it so hard to walk into a dark room and flip on the light? Why instead do we keep our bodies firmly planted in the hallway, reach our arm into the room and feel blindly around for the light switch? The same reason we won't let our feet stick out the bottom of the quilt. Because, even though we know it's ridiculous a small part of us thinks a monster might just reach out and grab us. But why do we think this? Have we watched too many horror movies? Well that probably is part of it. I know I didn't shower for a good long while after watching Stephen King's IT for the first time. But the main culprit behind this behaviour is actually a hang up from our Cave Man days. When humans were still busy running around in fur bikinis and rocking that wild back hair, we were far from being the top of the food chain. Everything wanted to gobble us up like the nummy treats we are. Predators were everywhere and many of them were nocturnal. Of course, we developed a healthy level of fear for the dark. Heightened anxiety levels make you more receptive to the stimulus around you. If you're scared to walk into a dark cave, you'll be more alert to things like the sound of a predator moving around in their. It's a basic survival skill that has managed to stick with us for a very long time.

Next time you rehearse conversations you might have with someone, or apologise to an inanimate object you bump into, or say wed-nes-day in your head to help you spell Wednesday (even though you know 100% how to spell it without doing this). Next time you do any of those weird little quirky things you do, just remember you're not alone. Chances are there are millions of other freaks out there all doing exactly the same thing.

Travelling on a Shoestring

Written by Sophie Jayne Whitrick 

Sometimes in life you've got to shut one door in order to open another, otherwise it lets in a draft and the door in front of you slams shut. My boyfriend and I decided to shut that door: we left our jobs and became f-unemployed. And what do you do when you're f-unemployed? Well you go on holiday.

We decided to jet off to Italy for a month, tour the main cities and see all the sights. And I mean all of them. Traveling with no income means you have to set a budget and strictly stick to it. We learned how to be the thriftiest of tourist. This is my guide on how to travel on a shoestring. 

1.     Book Ahead

Booking flights, busses, trains and other travel means, as well as hotels and other accommodation in advance often means you'll get a cheaper deal. It also gives you more time to save for adventures up until the point of your holiday because you’ve already paid for the travel and accommodation. Get the most expensive things out the way first and see what money you have left.

2.     Apartment vs. Hotel

Hotels are great if you want that breakfast-included, room service, fresh sheets everyday lifestyle on your holiday, but if you’re willing to forgo these luxuries to save a few pennies, renting an apartment is a much cheaper option.  You spend much less on food as you can make lunch and dinner at home, so you’re not spending exorbitant amounts at restaurants twice a day. Additionally, you can indulge in the culture more, pretending to be Italiano while you live in your own appartmento. While we rented an apartment in Verona, we would go to local food markets and try make food that had inspired us on our travels. It also meant we didn’t just have to eat Italian food every night, which can get tiring after a month.

3.     Go Local

If your looking for somewhere to eat or drink, always look where the locals are going. It tends to be cheaper, and table service charges (yes they charge you extra for taking your order) are much lower. Plus, the food and wine tends to be much better; it's not been made tourist-friendly so you get those 16% volume wines and traditional wild boar pasta. We always found the service much more tentative and friendly too, sometimes they'd throw free tasters in just because you spoke funny.

4.     Make a Pack-up

We would often buy a few bits and bobs from the local supermarket for lunch and eat them in beautiful areas in front of monuments or by canals. It can be a nice change to watch the world go by and get a front row seat, watching the culture zoom past you, rather than feeling cramped inside a noisy restaurant. It was thrifty too: we'd usually spend around €10 in a shop, compared to €30 in a restaurant. 

5.     Pick up some Tourist Passes

Most cities offer a tourist pass. These passes give you free entry or a large discount into museums, free or reduced transport, queue jumping and free city WiFi, and a decent map. They seem pricey at first, but you save a lot more money in the long run, especially if you're going to lots of cities and, like us, want to see everything. The pick up points are easy to locate. You just go to the pick up point indicated online, give them your name and I.D, as well as a receipt of your purchase, and just like that, you get to see all the wonders of the city for a fraction of the price.  

6.     Walk the Walk

If you have issues with walking then fair enough, it's going to spoil your holiday and I don’t advise you to do it. But if you love to walk, then get a decent pair of shoes and get to stepping. Transport is expensive - walking is free, so you will save a good proportion of your holiday budget. Yes, it does take a bit longer to get from place to place, and I’m not saying that you cannot take the bus under any circumstances, but walking has its benefits: you see so much more of the city that you would have missed had you travelled by bus, you also get to hear the conversations of the people, listen to the music blasting out from the houses, smell the foods and spices from restaurants that disperse in the streets. You can get up close to the city and find your personal favourite hidden gems. 

I hope you find my little tips useful for your holiday. Don't let money be the worry of your holiday. Don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Just plan carefully and use these tips and you will be fine, I promise. After all, we have to remember, what is life but a grand adventure?

Why Octopuses are Absolutely Incredible and should be your Favourite Animal

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

 Photo by Jilly Bennet

Photo by Jilly Bennet

First things first. Yes,“octopuses”is the correct plural. Well, if we're going to get really technical we could use “octopods”, but “octopuses” is generally used even for scientific purposes. I know “octopi” seems a better fit and I know it's easier to say but it's wrong. Deal with it. Now that the grammar is out of the way we can move on to more interesting things. "What? More interesting than the pluralisation of words derived from ancient Greek, versus those derived from Latin?" I hear you cry out. I know, it seems impossible but bear with me. I'd wager that octopuses are so flipping amazing you won't even remember how to correctly conjugate a verb by the time we're through. 

1. They're Camouflage Geniuses (Yes, That's the Correct Plural for "Genius")

I'm sure a good deal of you already know that octopuses can change the colour of their skin in order to blend in with the background. Whilst that is pretty awesome, what's really incredible is how this camouflage works. Octopuses, and other cephalopods like squids and cuttlefish, have cells called chromatophores. Thousands of these cells lie beneath the surface of their skin, and at the center of the chromatophores is an elastic sac filled with pigment. A complex network of nerves and muscles can cause the sac to contract and expand, making the pigment more or less visible. Some octopuses also have cells called leucophores that can mirror back the colours of the environment. They can basically make themselves completely invisible to predators, much like the actual predator, only without the weird clicky noise. But the octopus's talents don't end there. You see, not only can the octopus change the colour of its skin it can also change the texture to match coral, rocks and nearby objects. They can create anything from small bumps and indentations to protruding spikes. And if that wasn't enough, you then have the Mimic Octopus that changes colour and contorts its body in order to look like other sea creatures. To date, it's known to be able to imitate 15 different marine species including lionfish and sea snakes. I like to imagine them as the T-1000's of the sea.

2. They've Got Brains all over the Place

Octopuses’ brains are big. It's believed they contain around 500 million neurons. That's pretty good by mammal standards (similar to a dog) but by invertebrate standards it's off the charts. It's Stephen Hawkins, world chess champion, head of MENSA, Sheldon Cooper, kind of good. Not only is the size of their grey matter impressive, the structure is just wonderfully alien. Mammal brains are quite tidy: different lobes for different types of processing all wrapped around the more primitive brain structures at the center with the skull to keep it all safe and together. Like a gooey chocolate, coated in a crunchy shell (actually don't picture it that way – that's awful). Gross imagery aside, octopus brains are not neat and orderly in the slightest. They're all over the damn show. In fact the highest concentration of neurons is in their arms, which allows them to independently feel and move without conscious effort. Can you imagine if your arms were able to move independently of your mind's control? (‘No, I wasn't planning on eating the whole cake. My arm just kept bringing more and more of it up to my mouth of it's own volition!’) Actually, come to think of it, that doesn't sound all that different to how things are already. 
The really weird thing about the octopuses brain is that although it shares no structural similarities with our brains, it's capable of some of the same functions including a capacity for short and long term memory, facial recognition and a version of sleep. 

3. They're Playful like a Puppy - A Weird, Underwater, Eight-Legged Puppy

With great intelligence comes great... playfulness, apparently. Well, perhaps mischievousness is a better word. There's an absolute butt load - not literally because a butt load is a measurement for alcohol and is equal to two hogsheads worth of liquid - of anecdotal evidence showcasing all the hijinks and shenanigans octopuses get up to. Some of it is quite sweet, they play with toys put into their tanks and can open boxes and jars to retrieve food. They'll wrap around the arms of their favourite keepers to pull themselves out of the water to get a closer look. They've even been known to shoot jets of water at a ball in order to bounce it around their tanks. However there is a somewhat darker side to their nature. Octopuses have an uncanny ability to remember people and, what's more, to remember when they don't like someone. There are countless stories of poor aquarium staff or research assistants who have somehow incurred the wrath of the octopus and are treated to regular soakings and jets of ice-cold water down their backs whenever they pass by the tank. In a German lab, octopuses caused all sorts of trouble when they realised they could turn out the lights by shooting water at the bulbs and short-circuiting the system. And lets not forget that octopuses are legendary escape artists. The only hard point on an octopuses body is its beak; this is the only part of themselves they can't squish down or contort. Therefore they are able to squeeze through any gap larger than their beak and this makes them veritable Houdinis. They've been known to slip out of cracks in their tanks, walk across the room (yes they can walk about on land for short periods of time) and slip into a neighbouring tank just to gobble up all the food before returning home. Octopuses so enjoy playing, that the aquariums that keep them must provide enrichment activities and be sure to interact with them often. 

4. They're Solitary Creatures with Horrible Sex Lives

That's right, bit of sympathy for our eight-legged friends please. The octopus lives most of its life completely alone. When it's time to mate, they do so using something called external fertilisation. Males have a modified arm which holds rows of their sperm. They can insert their spermatophores into the female’s oviduct but many tend to just hand it over to the female (who always takes it with one of her right arms - nobody has the faintest idea why). She then stores it in her mantle to spread over her eggs at a later time. Phew, things are really heating up here. Unfortunately after that steamy session the male soon dies. The female however has a rough road ahead. She will lay up to 400,000 eggs. 400,000! Let that sink in a minute. Whilst she waits for the eggs to hatch she does nothing but care for and protect them; she even stops eating. The moment the eggs safely hatch she undergoes what can only be described as a form of total cellular destruction. Her body turns on her, starting with her optic glands and progressing through all her tissues and organs until she dies.

5. They're Adorable

Okay, maybe not all of them. Although I happen to think there's an ethereal kind of beauty to all octopuses. But some of them are just too cute for words. They make me do that weird high pitch squealing thing whilst I talk about how I could just smoosh them. I defy you to look at the Dumbo octopus and not feel the same way. What's more, science is on my side. Scientists in California discovered a new species of octopus so cute they named it Opisthoteuthis adoribilis. It literally has adorable in its name, and if it's all official sounding and Latin it must be true.

There's lots of cool things about octopuses that should secure their place at the top of everyone's favourite animal list. Three hearts, blue blood, (because their blood is copper based rather than our red, iron based blood) they're basically aliens! And if you don't think that's incredible, you're just plain wrong.

 

Beating Writer’s Block

Written by Chad Echakowitz

I don’t think there is anything more frustrating. You sit down, cup of coffee to your left, your notepad and pen to your right. Microsoft Word is open on your screen and that little black line just sits there, blinking at you, tormenting you to write something. Blink. Blink. Blink. Still waiting for words that just aren’t presenting themselves. The silence of the room around you becomes evermore present and somehow your brain is completely blank. There is a clear lack of signal from the station of inspiration and your mind produces a fuzzy screen of snowy nothingness. I would wish a lot of things on my enemies, but Writer’s Block is not one of them.

Everyone gets Writer’s Block. It is so prominent that it has it’s own term and everyone knows what it means. It’s not just writers who get it either: musicians, dancers, mathematicians, artists; we all suffer at some time or another with the inability to produce something from nothing. And that’s okay. That is totally fine – it happens. What is not okay in any way, shape or form, is to give up.

If you feel that what you’re creating is pure garbage or you can’t think of anything new to produce, you may be tempted to just throw it away or stop working on it and turn to more constructive tasks. Bad idea. It is the biggest waist of potential that there ever was, or will be. Though what you write may be terrible, it is still you who wrote it. In the history of the world, no one has ever sat where you sat, and strung those words together. By throwing it away, you never complete the task and you waist that unique moment. Even if that doesn’t inspire you to keep going, just think of your accomplishment once you’ve finished. Once it’s done, it’s done. No one can take that away from you. Besides, sifting through the garbage is what the editing process is for. No diamond sparkles as soon as it is lifted from the ground.

A new study shows that when a person is being creative, the medial prefrontal cortex (which is linked to learning association, context, events, and emotional responses) is activated, and the part of the brain which is used for executive tasks becomes largely inactive. This is similar to our brain activity when we are asleep. This shows that we are at our most creative when we are relaxed, and not going about functional tasks, like problem-solving, planning and other executive functions. However, this is not all that is needed to be creative. Neuroscientist Alice Flaherty says that dopamine, the chemical associated with happiness, is also necessary. The more dopamine released in the brain, the more creative a person can be. Dopamine is often released when we do things that are relaxing and that we enjoy doing, such as exercising or taking a shower. But dopamine cannot work alone to bring about creativity. Studies have shown that the brain needs to be distracted from the task at hand in order for the problem-solving abilities of the subconscious mind to come to the fray. The subconscious is always solving problems, but it is harder for the subconscious to create solutions to the problem while the conscious mind is focused on that problem. When we let the mind wonder while we’re exercising, or we’re taking a shower, we allow the subconscious to solve the problem (in this case, Writer’s Block) and provide us with creative ideas.

Personally, when I have Writer’s Block, I like to stare out the window and think. I look at the trees and think about the direction the wind is blowing the branches. I look at the man in the red shirt walking down the road and I wonder where he has been and where he is going. Then I’ll check my Facebook and, eventually, when I feel guilty enough for not fulfilling my personal quota of contributing to the uniqueness of the world, an idea will usually come to me. Other times, I go running. Some of my best ideas have come to me while my legs are aching and my breathing, hard. The point is you have to figure out what works for you. I have given you the science, now you have to apply it. Go for a run, do a pushup or ten, try yoga or something.

It is very hard to be creative. The act of creating something new is getting harder and harder as the years go on, and that makes sense. Two Million years of human existence we have told stories in one form or another and so, by now, in 2017, creating something new is difficult. But it is also beautiful. Whatever you do, do not give up. Being creative is important. You have a duty to the furtherance of mankind to be creative. We all do.

Mindfulness: What’s it all About?

Written by Ignatius Harling 

Mindfulness. It's a word you hear a lot these days: mindful living, mindful eating, mindful breathing. They're even teaching mindfulness in primary and secondary schools. But what is mindfulness, and what can it do for you?

Ruby Wax, a funny, feisty proponent of mindfulness practice claims that we are all just too busy - and not only that - we are also prone to high levels of stress. It's hard to argue with that. The trouble is we don't want to admit it. Not admitting to feeling stressed has lead to some 45 million working days per year being lost. Stress is linked to anxiety, depressive illnesses, and alcohol and drug misuse. And stress doesn't care whether you own up to it or not. Those lost days tell the real story. The fact is stress is making many of us very ill.

Interestingly, the human 'fight or flight' response is involved in what causes stress. Paleolithic-pre-agricultural-humans were 'hunter-gatherers': foragers of food, shelter and warmth. Life was hazardous and the overwhelming preoccupation that consumed these humans, apart from procreation (well, some things never change) was survival. The human brain has not evolved significantly since the Paleolithic era. Whilst science and technology have made the world unrecognisable to our ancestors, our troublesome brains are still issuing their dire warnings. 

That's not to say, of course, that modern life is without hazard. The trouble lies in the appropriateness of the stress response. And this is where mindfulness practice can help.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and is, in essence, a practice derived from Hindu and Buddhist teaching. The practice involves sitting quietly and becoming aware of your breathing. That's easy. We all do it. This awareness of the breath - and as you go along, awareness of sound and bodily sensation - is used as an anchor, a point to which to return every time you find your mind getting busy.

This is not to say your thinking is the enemy. It isn't. The human brain is the most complex - some would say beautiful - natural object in creation. But regular observation of thought processes can show even the most skeptical amongst us just how random, inconsequential and irrelevant some of our thoughts actually are. But many of them still worry us.

Over time, those who practice mindfulness report a decrease in stress and an increased ability to think clearly. Research suggests a significant reduction in Cortisol, the brain chemical associated with stress. Daily practice of anything from ten minutes is thought to boost creativity, diminish anxiety and depression and enhance general wellbeing.

The last word on mindfulness goes to Ruby: "If any other organ of our body was this sick we'd get sympathy cards".

Suggested reading:
Ruby Wax: Mindfulness for the Frazzled
Steve Hagen: Buddhism Plain and Simple