Frankenstorm Plays a Trick This Halloween

As the USA is facing a hurricane which strength is being compared to that of The Great Hurricane of 1938, one issue that seems to be causing a great deal of controversy is, will we be able to trick or treat this Halloween? Affected towns are doing their best this year to keep this soggy holiday spooky and are working through the advice to reschedule their holiday celebrations. In New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced on Twitter that he will sign an Executive Order to change the date of halloween, assuming that conditions are not safe for trick or treating. Meanwhile, officials have already slashed New York’s celebration plans by announcing the cancelation of the parade in Park Slope. On Tuesday, the parade’s website announced “For the first time in our 39year history, the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the NYPD have CANCELLED the Parade… Hallelujah Halloween!” However, some parents are battling the weather in a bid not to disappoint excited children, by dusting off their costumes and setting up indoor halloween activities – all the fun of the holiday but in the shelter of your own home. Parents are trick or treating indoor, setting up scavenger hunts and having scary movie nights with friends, all in an attempt to hide from the ghoulish weather that is haunting their streets.

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Beluga whale is more than just a pretty face

 

At first glance, Noc the beluga whale provokes an “aww” and perhaps a “how cute”. However, behind his cute animal façade the nine-year-old has been hiding and honing an extraordinary skill. On the sly at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California, Noc has learnt to mimic human speech.

The discovery was made as a diver climbed out of the pool in which he was training with the whale. As he emerged from the water, he asked who had told him to get out. No answer came, and eventually researchers concluded that the noise had come from the mischievous beluga.

Noc’s ability was then proved to be more than just a one off; researchers trained him to “speak” on command, and fitted a device into his nasal cavity to monitor how he carried out his amazing feat. It soon came to light that what Noc had achieved was no easy task, involving manipulation of his vocal system to create his unique, lower pitched sound.

Of course, Noc isn’t the first creature to mimic human speech, following parrots and to some extent dolphins, but he is the first to successfully manage it untrained.

Schindler’s List Review

After his colossal success with hit movie “Jurassic Park” in 1993, Steven Spielberg continued his sensational year with the release of “Schindler’s List”, a prevailing tribute to the horrific treatment of the Jewish people throughout the Second World War, rightfully saw him win seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.

Through Spielberg’s dramatic filming in black and white, in addition to the adding of colour to a young girl’s coat, the ghastly treatment of millions of innocent people, who were merely used as a scapegoat, allows the revulsion of the holocaust to be laid bare.

Oskar Schindler, played brilliantly by Liam Neeson, is a German businessman who captures the audience’s heart from the moment he appears on screen. The film follows his story as we see him make the transition from a striking, charismatic and promiscuous man, to the self-effacing saviour of over a thousand Jewish people, who wishes he could have saved more.

We are lured into a state of suspense which remains with us throughout the entire film, as we are left watching anxiously as Schindler attempts to save over a thousand Jews from their fate within concentration camps. Through the bribery of Nazi officials and his manipulative friendship with the malevolent camp commandant, Goeth, he moves them out of the camps and gives them jobs in factories, saving the lives of so many.

Spielberg’s clever juxtaposition of Schindler and Goeth, played superbly by Ralph Fiennes, portrays them as being two sides of the same coin. Schindler plays on the fact that they both enjoy the finer things in life, as they are strongly influenced by beautiful women and money. Schindler uses their connection to show Goeth that power is not achieved by injecting the fear of death into people’s lives before taking them, but power is in fact better served by having the ability and freedom to take a person’s life, and resisting. Goeth concedes this idea, but it is clear that he would not adhere to it for long.

Spielberg concludes the film with a formidable image. Set in the present day, Spielberg shows the real Schindler survivors and their decedents visiting his grave. This reinforces to us that this is the true story of one mans gallantry, and that “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

The Day Jersey Shore was Blown Away

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So ‘Frankenstorm’ Sandy last night reached the Jersey Shore. I can only hope the cast of the show of the same name is blown away.

Poor Snooki, Pauly D and Co. It’s not their fault. Or is it? Why has the world suddenly become obsessed with set-up reality TV shows looking into the lives of intellectually challenged party animals? Continue reading

So Long, The Thick Of IT

The curtain has fallen on the best British comedy I can remember; the final curse loaded insults spat from the mouths of Armando Ianucci’s imperfect and feckless characters that formed our insight into our Great British Government. In its 7 year tenure TTOI has mirrored, and in some cases predicted, the inner workings of life in government and shown us the pressures of the Cabinet, the ineptitude of advisers and civil servants, the conflicts of coalition and of course, the ranting, raving, screaming and threatening Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker.

Were it not for Tucker (played icily by Peter Capaldi), TTOI wouldn’t have been half the show it was. His insults were calculated, vile, offensive and absolutely hilarious, not to mention too foul mouthed for this blog. In the show’s penultimate episode he is described nicely as “Like Iago with a BlackBerry” to which he responds, “I’ve got an application that can throw grenades into people’s dreams.” In an “art imitates life” sort of way, the program ends with Tucker facing arrest on a perjury charge, not unlike a real life PM’s former Director of Communications. Tucker could probably shout threats at 12 people and a judge in court and still be found not guilty.

The brilliant and ultimately scary thing about the show was that it wouldn’t take a giant leap of imagination to think things were actually run this way at Westminster. I can’t remember if a senior government official called policemen “plebs” and asked, “Don’t you know who I am?” in real life or on my TV one Saturday night. Did I see minister’s aide Ollie Reeder (played by Chris Addison, “Have you seen him? He looks like a Quentin Blake illustration” – Tucker) at the Leveson Enquiry?

Anyway, to use my favourite Tuckerism, “I’d love to stop and chat to you but I’d rather have type 2 diabetes.”

The ‘I want’ culture and the power of advertising

A fun and fast advert can catch your eye once, see the same advert at least four times whilst watching an hours’ programme and it can catch your interest as well. Cue the new Mircosoft Surface.

” @Microsoft launches #Windows8 & #Surface

With a slick design to rival the ipad and an attachable keyboard could this be the start of a new era for all computers? With a touch screen on all new devices whether they be tablet form or desktop, Microsoft have stepped up to the mark as Apple have dominated the technologic market in the last few years.

Although the Ipad and Apple has its loyal followers, those with a Nokia smartphone, which also runs the same Windows system as the new Surface release, may now consider displaying a newfound brand loyalty. A large bright colourful screen, a full size usb jack and near indestructable casing are just some of the specifications which makes the Surface a better inbetween tablet and laptop than others of the market.

All this learnt from a very clever 30 second advert, showing off the best points and creating a need within consumers.

Has advertising become so powerful that when stratigically placed between our favourite shows, we can be persuaded to buy almost anything?

Rebecca Barrett (@beccaabarrett)

Goverment pressures the BBC over sex abuse scandel.

Savile was best known for his TV series “Jim’ll fix it”. He became a household name throughout the 70’s and 80’s.

The BBC was given a warning yesterday from the Government over the growing sex abuse scandal and it was raising its “very real concerns” about the public trust in the broadcaster.

The BBC has been sent in to disarray over allegations that it tried to conceal the sexual abuse by one of its most popular presenters, Jimmy Savile. The broadcaster is also trying to explain why it cancelled one of its programs that aimed to investigate Savile’s abuse  of young girls.

The BBC and the police, both publicly funded, are investigating allegations that the cigar-chomping Savile, who passed-away last year, abused children as young as 12 on the BBC premises over possibly 6 decades.

The Prime Minister told parliament, “The Government will do everything it can do, other institutions must do what they can do, to make sure we can learn the lessons of this and it can never happen again.”

The comments from Cameron follow a letter from Culture Secretary Maria Miller who warned the BBC “very real concerns are being raised about public trust and confidence in the BBC.”

The Director General George Entwhistle has been heavily criticized for his uncertain and limp appearance in front of Parliament on Tuesday answering questions over the scandal.

Entwhistle’s predecessor, Mark Thompson, has also be called in for questioning and his knowledge about the scandal. Thompson’s soon-to-be employer, The New York Times, has questioned whether he is fit for the his role at the newspaper.

These allegations are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, controversy to hit BBC since it mistakenly reported that Tony Blair had “sexed up” the intelligence to invade Iraq war in 2003.