Philip Seymour Hoffman R.I.P and the Superbowl.

Paolo Cui, Jessica Mercer and Bruce Watt talking about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Superbowl Result in a fun and friendly chat!

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The Leverage of Beverage

In this short, six-minute educated podcast, a discussion between three students debate the current drinking age in the UK and the US which currently sit at 18 and 21 respectively.

Why the Oscars Don’t Mean a Thang

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Academy Awards nominations have been announced and everybody cares, for some reason. It’s all “It’s a disgrace that…” and “Why the hell did she/he get nominated?” Everybody’s up in arms about Jennifer Lawrence getting nominated again as the backlash begins – another year, another actress being thrown out of The Best Likeable Actress category for existing all the time (remember the Dissolution of Anne Hathaway last year? She was a good actress, but she was too grateful for her Oscar apparently, the silly over-excited pair of earlobes). Meanwhile in the Best Actor category, Matthew McConaughey has risen from the cheesy rose petal-strewn ashes of How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days and The Wedding Planner with The Dallas Buyers Club, a movie which, from what I can glean from the trailer, is inspired by a true story about AIDS. Only it’s totally funny. And Jared Leto dresses up as a woman. A funny AIDS movie with Jared Leto doing what he always does on Saturday nights anyway. Academy Awards gold.

Then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio. Poor Leo. He’s like the kid in your class who gets really good marks and sits behind in the library after school to revise and answers all the questions in class – but the teacher always forgets his name. Yet 2013 was a pretty banner year for him, as he teamed up once again with the maestro of entertaining (read: bloody and mafia and sex) films, Martin Scorsese. It’s no great wonder that Wolf of Wall Street is up for an Oscar, because it’s got a lot of swearing in it so that means it’s serious and stuff (I haven’t seen the movie, to be fair, I’m just wisecrackin’). Personally, I thought he should have been nominated way back in 2006 for Catch Me If You Can, a fantastic con-man flick that remains one of my favourite films to date, or even way back in 1993 for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – a groundbreaking performance at the tender age of eighteen. Though he’s considered one of the best actors of his generation by many, year after year the Oscar gods fail to smile upon him. Could this be his year? Maybe. Who cares? He’s a great actor and the fact he doesn’t have an Academy Award says more about the awards themselves than his acting skills.

So why is such importance placed on what a bunch of white men, most of whom are over the age of 60, think a good film is? Surely judging a film is such a subjective thing that an award for it would seem a rather unspectacular accolade? Good for you, some people liked your movie. I hated Gladiator. i thought it was so, so dumb – but it won an Oscar. Does that mean I simply cannot appreciate fine cinematic art? No. Does it mean that the Oscars are wrong? Well, to me it does. But that’s the sheer beauty of opinion! It’s what divides us and it’s also what brings us together like a weirdly close-knit family.

After recently seeing Inside Llewyn Davis, it only solidified for me what I knew to be true: the Oscars aren’t called the Underdog Awards for a good reason. They don’t gun for the underdog. They gun for the blockbusters, the showstoppers and the overly trite. Sure, there were a couple of times where they went against the grain (Slumdog Millionaire was one of those magical moments of true triumph against the odds). But a low-budget underdog movie about an underdog? With folk music and depression? Even the casting of a furry friend doesn’t seal the Oscar deal anymore (looking at you and your overrated Weinstein production, The Artist). But when a movie strokes deep inside your soul in the first five minutes, you don’t need a golden statue to tell you it’s a great movie. You just know (*cue schmatlzy music score with shots of longing looks outside bus windows*)

So try not to get too pissed off if Jennifer Lawrence wins again, or if you lose a bet you made to someone that she’d trip again, because this is Hollywood, baby, and everything’s a game. Those who don’t play get locked out in the cold. Nothing’s real except the bank notes and the diamonds, and god bless you if you’re Hilary Swank and everyone’s forgotten about you and that Million Dollar Baby. That’s the Chicago way. Badda-bing, badda-bye.

P.S. If you still think the Oscars are hot shit, chew on this. A classmate reminded me today that Mark Wahlberg has an Oscar. Mark Wahlberg has an Oscar. Marky Mark can call himself an Academy Award winner. This guy.

All of us first

Asked to write a blog piece on Independence leaves me with the same feeling of erroneous responsibility that fills you up as you take the driver seat for the very first time after the L plates come off, tentatively turning the key and glancing for your absent co-driver. I have formed my own hazy opinions based primarily, I completely put my hands up and say, on my parents vibrant discussions on the debate. Despite having come to an almost definite conclusion regarding what i’ll vote, yes by the way, I definitely don’t feel armed or able to create solid arguments to involve myself in the discussions which are going on around me. And it seems that, yet again, for women across the country this is widely the case.

The current yes polls stand at around 30% of men and an estimated 22% of women. While of course polls aren’t the be all and end all, from my experience social media debates – and those had around a few pints at the pub – are too, male dominated. To me this demonstrates an issue almost as important as the very question of independence itself. Why are women not immersing themselves in the world we all share in the way that men are? For lack of a better word i’d describe myself as a feminist (although i’d prefer just a people-ist), but I definitely feel that if women are shying away and not getting involved in the current affairs which are going on around them how can we ever establish a world where gender equality isn’t a fight, but a given? Discussions with various female friends and relatives have lead me to a couple of conclusions, is it the adversarial set up of the debate (and debates in general) that puts women off? Or perhaps that we are relatively new to the whole voting system in the first place? Or, on a more intrinsic level, it could be that in general women fear contentious situations more than men, with anxieties surrounding separation – a yearning for togetherness.

For me, some of the most important issues rooted in the entire debate are in how the results will leave different groups within society feeling placed, for example English people residing in Scotland and how we guarantee they are as welcome as those born and bred in Auld Reekie.

So, while I feel completely unequipped to write a coherent and balanced piece on why my gut, heart and head are all telling me yes, I would happily get stuck into some of the remarkably pertinent issues being starkly highlighted by the Independence debate.

Scottish Independence- the infuriating campaigns

The Scottish referendum is set for the 18th September 2014, or as both campaign websites plaster all over there page- 233 days,13 hours and a couple of minutes because everyone is just dying to know that kind of information… Anyway it’s coming up and us Scot’s aged from 16 upwards are going to have to decide whether we want to be free from the apparently obvious English oppression or stay in the warm and positively “cuddly” United Kingdom. Either way its almost guaranteed that no matter the outcome, as soon as things start to go bad everyone will claim that they are free from blame as they “wurney even near wan ae they votin hings” and the problems facing the country are all ………………’s fault (insert A. Alex Salmond or B. David Cameron and the other one).

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No matter which way you’re leaning towards voting for in the referendum one thing is certain- the campaigns are infuriating. Every day we are bombarded by propaganda from both parties, either slagging the other off or inundating us with facts and statistics that are completely at ends with their rivals daily dose of useless numbers and “facts”. What’s possibly the most annoying thing is not just the lies and hate mongering told by both sides, but their frankly childish excuses for disagreeing with the opposition. To be fair I’m slightly pulled towards favouring the yes campaign at this point as they regularly detail how Scotland will be so much better without the English “oppression”, whereas the “better together” campaigns website only details three things that Scotland need from the United Kingdom- security, prosperity and interdependence. so basically without Britain we are hooped, to put it politely- and the blatant fear mongering for votes is something that I despise.

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The Yes campaign is no better in this regard however, with many of their campaigners claiming that England is the source of all our problems and if we don’t get rid of them immediately then our country shall become a totalitarian oppressive government such as the one seen in “V for Vendetta”.

Personally I think that no vote is a wrong vote, both sides have a valid point but the thing that many people don’t realise is that nothing is going to drastically change! it’s almost certain that the wealth disparity will get bigger, the Government will still continue to make cuts no matter how much money they save, and politicians will always be class A wankers.

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But a question still needs to be asked, where do the majority stand on independence? is it a good idea or will it doom us all to become a impoverished third world country begging Britain to be friends again? comment your opinions!

The Scottish Referendum from an Outsider’s Perspective

I have lived in Scotland for 5 months as part of my American study abroad program, and the one topic that is always inescapable, is the issue of Scottish independence. It is my understanding that Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, and I can see why a nation would want to be free of a greater rule. However, when I talk to most people here, I get two answers; either they are vehemently for independence or they do not really know what is going to happen.

I can already foresee a few problems if Scotland attains their independence. First, taxes will immediately rise, and no one will be happy about that, considering taxes are already very high in the United Kingdom as a whole. Secondly, the issue of which currency to use will be hotly debated. Will they use the Pound or will they revert to Euros? Lastly, the benefits of free healthcare and free university might not be so free anymore. These two things are extremely valuable and speaking as an American, I wish these came free for me as well. Yet, these problems may never exist because no one can tell the future, and we will just have to see what happens when the time comes.

 

Scotland’s Big Decision

To leave the UK or to stay, that is the question on the minds of the Scots. Will we be better off as a independent county or will we fall apart? Can we stand on our own two feet? Will we survive without England? Those are a few questions you’d find yourself asking if you are a Scottish citizen in 2014.

You’d think that people in Scotland would want to be independent but as it turns out, a lot of Scots want to stay part of the UK. This really surprises me. Maybe it’s because I am from the US and being free/independent is what I’ve grown up with. England is nothing like a dictatorship towards Scotland, Scotland does make their own decisions involving education and health care. So maybe staying part of the UK is the best choice.

If Scotland did end up leaving, could the country survive without the help from England or would they crumble under the pressure?  Does Scotland have enough resources to keep the country going strong or would it only be a matter of time before they would go running back to England? It’s hard to say what the future would hold for Scotland if they did receive their independence.

Don’t get me wrong, Scotland might become a great country on it’s own and be just fine. Really , it could go any way and there is always that fear of the unknown and the what ifs with every huge life -altering decision. But you have to risk the bad to see if the good will follow.

Patriotism also plays a role in the Scottish Referendum. Obviously there are people in every country that feel proud to be what they are and this applies to Scotland. I’m sure some people want to be independent just because they can be.

It’s hard to form an opinion on whether or not Scotland should stay or leave the UK because I have only been here for 3 weeks. A few Scots that I have talked to are leaning more towards voting no and staying part of the UK. Maybe it’s because all their lives they have lived with British influence and couldn’t think of any other way of living. Or because they don’t think Scotland can survive alone.

I guess the only thing to do now is wait for the vote and see what Scots choose to do. Take a risk and become independent or play it safe and stay in the UK.