Summer Show Checklist (by Nox)

For anyone that has ever been to an outdoor concert you know the complications you are likely to encounter during such an event, such as how to carry all of your necessities safely without a bag and standing in the blazing sun for 3+ hours to get a good spot by the stage to see an anticipated band play. But if you have never been to an outdoor show fear not! I have composed this checklist to guide you through such an experience.

1. MOST IMPORTANTLY dress for the occasion. If it’s hot outside do not wear pants. Dress lightly, and never ever forget the sunscreen. Usually outdoor concerts are not held during cold months but if such a case were to come about, bundle up! Layer as much as you can! Socks, shirts, jackets, underwear, you get the idea.

2. Wear your most comfortable shoes. Plan to walk and/or stand most of the time you are there, but also keep in mind that whatever you wear should not be your most favorite outfit ever because it is likely to get pretty gross by the end of the day. *note: not by you but by other people around you. Take into consideration being in a crowd of sweaty people who will inevitably at some point end up pushed against you by means of moshing, skanking, surfing, or falling.

3. Pockets that close or some form of a rack trap (for girls). When you are planning to be in a crowd and walking all day the very last thing you want is a bag to worry about. So having pockets that close in some way is a good idea, so your money doesn’t work its way out while you’re skanking and nobody with slick fingers can leave you empty handed. Or girls, if pockets aren’t your thing, a rack trap is an awesome hiding place for cash. That way you won’t have sweaty money, and it’s safely concealed, tucked away behind your bra.

4. Speaking of money, BRING CASH. Most merch tents/ booths are not going to have fancy machines to swipe a credit card. Try to get your money ahead of time so you don?t get stuck paying that crappy service charge for the venue’s ATM.

5. Bandanas aren’t just fashionable they are logical. Bring one with you to use to wipe the sweat from your face. I know it sounds petty, but trust me when you are hot you don?t need salty reminders trickling down your face and into your eyes in the middle of watching your favorite band perform.

6. Stay hydrated. If you start feeling overheated go find a shady place to sit and get a drink, preferably water or something low on sugar and carbonation. You definitely don’t want to pass out mid-set and have to be carried out of the crowd by security to the on site medic while you miss half of what you paid for.

7. Don?t forget your camera. Make sure you have the wrist strap or a lanyard to carry it with so you won’t lose it in the process of jumping around in those hyper crowds. The same goes for your cell phone.

Remember these things when you’re planning for your show and you will be so happy you did. Also, make a checklist the day before and try to have everything ready to go ahead of time. That way you will be less likely to forget something. And always remember to double check that you have your ticket before you leave the house!

Star Trek reviewed by ninthandash and Nox

ninthandash’s review

I’d just like to state, first off, that I don’t consider myself a Trekkie. While it’s true that I can name all of the Starfleet captains in both chronological order according to the timeline of the show (Archer, Kirk, Picard, Janeway) and according to the order the series appeared in (Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Archer). And, of course, in order of my personal preference (Kirk, Janeway, Archer, Picard). Not to mention that I am aware I missed out Captain Sisko, but this is because he was the captain of a spacestation, not a ship, and was a Commander as opposed to a captain for the majority of the Deep Space 9 series.

But I’m not that into it. I don’t have an obsessive understanding of the themes, plots, characters. I know the different series, but I don’t really have a favourite. I can’t take part in a discussion about it at any given length. And although I’d grown up watching the original series (and of course the following ones), I wasn’t super excited about going to see the movie. Until the trailers came on, and then I couldn’t wait to see it. Still, not a Trekkie. I didn’t discuss it online, I didn’t wait anxiously for new set stills to be released (although I will admit doing this for Watchmen, but that’s a different story). I decided to go see it with my father, because we’d been watching the show together for years.

Then I saw, across the bottom of the trailer, those five fateful words. ‘Showing in selected IMAX cinemas.’ I live in one of eight cities in England that is lucky enough to have an IMAX cinema, and I make the most of this opportunity every time I can. So I didn’t hesitate to immediately go online, and book two tickets to see Star Trek in IMAX. My father and I really wanted to go see it at the midnight showing the day it came out, especially as I’d heard rumours about free Spock ears, but we were unable to make it. Nevertheless, on the 9th of May, we turned up at the IMAX and joined the already long and winding queue.

There’s something exciting about going to see a film at the IMAX, I’ll confess. The atmosphere is entirely different to that of a normal cinema. Maybe it’s because of the giant screen taking up a whole wall in front of you, or maybe it’s the fact that everyone is there to watch the film — not mess around on their mobile phones, or talk loudly to their friends while chewing on popcorn. Either way, as the lights darkened and the familiar Star Trek theme music began to play, there was an almost reverent hush in the silence of the theatre.

I was spell-bound from the first moment. The story isn’t simple, as such, but it’s an easily recognisable one. It follows a young James T. Kirk, and a young Spock, as each make the decisions needed to take them to the Enterprise. It’s interesting watching each character develop, and the crew members joining them along the way — Bones, Uhura, Sulu, Chekhov and finally Scotty. Watching the movie slowly unfold to set up the world of the original Star Trek series is strangely nostalgic. But there’s no real time for that.

Star Trek is nothing if not action packed. From the first moments of the movie, in which we see James T. Kirk’s father sacrifice himself for his wife and newborn son, there are explosions and fighting and aliens, oh my! The action doesn’t let up throughout, without the plot being sacrificed in favour of CGI and special effects. The Vulcans are introduced to us as a community first, and the conflicting aspects of Spock’s heritage (half human, half Vulcan) are set up perfectly, enabling us to fully understand why he makes the decisions he does.

The same can not be said for Kirk, however. Shown as a rebel, we’re told that his aptitude tests are “off the charts” but for some reason, he doesn’t go to Starfleet Academy until he’s pushed into it. Why not? In my head, I made up the story that he doesn’t want to live in his heroic dead father’s shadow, but the true reason went unexplained. However, his character as a cocky, arrogant but charismatic teenager is believable without being annoying, and the dynamics between him and the young Spock are fantastic.

Zachary Quinto made a perfect Spock. Being a fan of Heroes, I was worried that I’d see him as Sylar first and Spock second, but he was unrecognisable as anyone other than the young Vulcan. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed him playing Spock, and my father agreed that he was amazing. And of course, the movie wouldn’t have been complete without none other than Leonard Nimroy. The original Spock, he was not only playing Spock in the movie but also given a logical (for Star Trek, at least) reason as to why he would be there.

Finally, the IMAX experience made it even better. Although sometimes it was hard to keep track of what was going on, especially in the fight scenes, the overall sounds and images made it amazing. The picture almost seemed to surround the audience, and there was a definite feeling of being a part of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, from start to finish, and would definitely reccommend it — in IMAX, if you can.

Nox’s review

Okay, so I just got home from watching Star Trek and the verdict? Pretty sweet. Now, I grew up catching an episode or two of the show every now and then, but I never really got into it. This movie, unlike most of the episodes I caught, was easy to understand and kept me interested from beginning to end. The twists were well placed and the fights were probably my favorite part.

I was waiting for the ‘Beam me up, Scottie.’ But sadly it never came. I was kind of bummed, but that little alien following Scottie around made me laugh so it was okay. I think the casting director did a great job. Spock was hella rad as a kid, young adult, and old man. Kirk was totally hardcore as a kid. No spoilers but the young Kirk was the coolest little kid ever, and I loved how the movie kind of showed the rebellious similarities between Spock and Kirk throughout the years.

Visually the movie was awesome, the fight scenes were great, the sarcastic comic relief was executed perfectly, and the all around substance of the film was stellar. I highly recommend seeing this movie if you haven’t already. I give it a five high five rating because who doesn’t love a smart ass trouble maker turned captain?

Overall rating…

5 out of 5 high-fives!

Slytherin: Uncovered by ninthandash

Everyone’s heard of Harry Potter. The wizard, the books, the movie. And everyone has an opinion about what House they’d be in. Ripper would be Ravenclaw. Nox would be a Gryffindor. And I, of course, would be a Slytherin. I’m just going to warn you now, I’m probably reading too much into these books. They are, quite simply, fun YA novels. But I also have a tendency to overanalyse Disney movies, so this isn’t anything unusual.

Slytherins get a raw deal, in my opinion. There’s a common view of them as being either cruel Death Eaters-to-be or just, for some reason, disliked. There also seems to be a double standard; what’s acceptable for the other Houses — and this is particularly evident in Gryffindor — isn’t in Slytherins. People have a preconceived view of Slytherins, and are always anxious to find details to support that. (Again, I realise I’m taking this way too seriously. Feel free to close this tab right now.)

The Slytherins are described in the Sorting Hat’s first song as “cunning folks [who] use any means to achieve their ends,” and in another song, the Sorting Hat also states that Salazar Slytherin said he’d “teach just those/Whose ancestry is purest.” Taken out of context, it’s easy to understand why Slytherins have such a bad reputation. But it’s not that simple. The Sorting Hat also says that Slytherin is where “you’ll make your real friends.” This appears to be overlooked a lot. The Sorting Hat does not mention friendship when referring to any other House, and yet Slytherins are always seen as power-hungry and very Machiavellian. This doesn’t seem to add up.

Of course, the Sorting Hat does make a reference to the pureblood/’mudblood’ divide so evident in Slytherin, that a lot of people use to view Slytherins as, basically, racist. “For instance,” the Sorting Hat tells us, “Slytherin took only pureblood wizards/Of great cunning just like him.” But, Rowena Ravenclaw taught “only those of sharpest mind,” which, while perhaps not as bad as judging students purely on ancestry, still isn’t fair or equal. Not only that, but this is referring to events that happened possibly hundreds of years ago. Tom Riddle, one of the most infamous Slytherin students, wasn’t pureblood. His mother was a witch, and his father was a Muggle. Or Severus Snape, again a halfblood, whose mother was witch and father was Muggle. It’s also thought that Millicent Bulstrode was a halfblood, although this is not definite.

So clearly, Slytherin doesn’t discriminate as much as it is thought to. One stereotype down, lots to go. Slytherins are thought of as only looking out for themselves, and for being ‘Mudblood haters’. It’s true that Slytherins would prefer the Muggles not to be mixed with the Wizarding world, but is it any wonder? Muggles used to burn wizards and witches at the stake, whether they knew Freezing Charms or not. Now that Muggles have advanced, including their technology, there’s no way of knowing if they could be a danger. Clearly, the wizarding world think they could, as they go to great pains to keep their existence a secret. Is it any wonder that Slytherins want as few Muggles as possible being a part of their world? It’s also understandable that Slytherins are the ones to have these fears; coming from pureblood families, they’re the ones with ancestors most likely to be affected by this.

Of course, any kind of prejudice is inexcusable, don’t get me wrong. But imagine growing up, finding out that great-great-aunt whoever was burned for… for what, exactly? For doing nothing wrong. No wonder the Slytherins didn’t want this to happen a second time. And people such as the Dursleys did nothing to help that view.

The Slytherins are definitely loyal only to each other. They couldn’t care less about people in other Houses, but they definitely have no reason to. Whenever something happens, Slytherins are automatically blamed. There’s a quote where Hagrid says to Harry, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.” If that’s the mentality surrounding them, is it any wonder that Slytherins do go bad? They would never be accepted or trusted by what is perceived as the ‘good’ side, so they feel they have no other option. Sirius Black put it well when he told Harry that “the world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters,” something that never seems to be fully grasped.

In the Goblet of Fire, Professor Moody (obviously not him, but that’s what it’s easier to refer to him as) transfigures Draco Malfoy into a ferret, and bounces him down the corridor. Harry and friends all find this hilarious, Ron in particular. But this is a fourteen or fifteen year old boy (most likely fourteen) who is being thrown against hard, stone walls and surfaces. And yet, hardly anyone does anything. Professor McGonagall appears to be the only one who understands the severity of the situation, but even then no action is taken against Moody. He is allowed to keep his place at Hogwarts, none of the students appear frightened of him (except, understandably, Draco). If this had happened to any Gryffindor student, or even a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, the consequences would have been much more severe.

Finally, in the Deathly Hallows, the book preaches constantly a message of togetherness, and friendship. About being more than people expect you to be, about being a hero. And then JK, in my opinion, lets it all down at the end. The Slytherins have the option of staying and fighting, of proving the negative stereotypes wrong, and yet not one of them stays. Wouldn’t the book have had a stronger message over all if the Slytherins had proved everyone wrong? If at least one of them had fought for the side of Light?

Slytherins are associated with evil, this is true. But they have no one to rely on but each other, and are clearly more loyal, intelligent and stronger than any of the other Houses. And this is why I would be proud to be a Slytherin.

The Sims Have Got It Made by ninthandash

I’ve been on a big The Sims kick lately. I’ve been playing everything, apart from the original: The Sims 3, The Sims 2 complete with most of the expansion packs, and had a quick go on the PS2 game although I never really got the hang of it. This is mostly because, with deadlines and exams coming up, I felt the need to procrastinate. I never find quite so many ways to waste my time as I do when there are important things that affect my future that I’m not doing. The Sims, in all incarnations, is a big time waster.

But then I wandered onto The Sims 2 University, and it started to piss me off a bit. The thing is, it’s easy for the sims. Tiny little simulated people that they are, it’s obviously easier for them because they have some big person up above telling them what to do (although this can also lead to disasters in the form of fire, drowning and just general death and unhappiness). I even started comparing my own life to the sims’, and sadly my own life came off worse.

#1: Love.
The biggest hurdle in life, I find. The Beatles (because it seems I can no longer write anything without slipping them in there) famously sang, love is all you need. Or, alternatively, love is all you need. Which makes me think, we should start a matchmaking service for homeless people, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the sims have it easier. Not because they have a matchmaking service which costs five thousands simoleons or so, because we have online dating. Both probably have the same success rate and online dating is, most of the time, much cheaper (although I’ll admit I don’t know the exchange rate between pounds and simoleons).

The sims have love potions, for a start. Drink a nice, pink coloured potion from a crystal decanter and you get flowers springing up beneath your feet and the option to make someone fall in love with you. But even without that, it’s pretty easy. They can be made to find each other attractive, for one thing. They can be literally made for each other. If I’m attracted to black-haired boys with piercings, can I make someone exactly like that and move them in next door to me? No. No, I can not.

And even overlooking that, all the sims have to do is wander up to someone, chat for a bit then throw in an ‘admire’. Follow that up with a flirt option, and they’re in love. From there, it’s easy to take it as fast or as slowly as you want. The sims only seem to hate each other if they cheat on each other, and that’s easy enough to avoid. So I feel that in this case, the sims win.

#2: Friends.
Some people find it difficult to make friends, right? Not on the Sims! For starters, people come around to welcome them into the neighbourhood. Greet these people and they wander into your house, you can call them for a chat without asking for their number, and it’s not like before you’re friends. There’s no such thing as just not getting along with someone. Not to mention, your sims can bring friends home from work. The parents and children usually get on. Obviously there are ways to change this, but if you play the game without purposely trying to make their lives hard, it’s fairly easy to make friends.

Not so in real life. Sometimes people don’t get on. You can’t just wander up to someone in a shop and start a conversation. And if someone I barely knew called me up at 7am to chat, I wouldn’t be impressed. I definitely think this is another win for the sims.

#3: Job/School.
I’m putting these as one, because the idea is generally the same. At work, it’s easy to get a promotion. The sims don’t have to have been to uni. They can start a job with no skills whatsoever and completely work their way up. In real life, could I get a job as a medical test subject and become a scientist simply by playing lots of chess? Or could I get a job as a golf caddy and become a professional freelance photographer? I believe the answer is ‘no’.

Not to mention school. All the sims do is their homework and their grades go shooting up. They never struggle to understand it. They never get upset if they can’t do it. And university? While I accept there is some value to doing term papers and studying books to pass, it still has the whether or not they understand it value. I could read book after book but if I don’t understand the material, I’m not going to get on the Dean’s list. It just seems so much easier on the sims and so much less hard work than it is in real life. Again, I feel this is a point to the sims.

While I could go on — there’s no hairdye, they can just change their hair and if they don’t like it, change it back, it can go from long to short, piercings aren’t permanent and tattoos come off with a change of clothes — I won’t, because I feel that I’ve made my point. Final score: 3-0 to the sims. So between being a real person and being a simulated one, I’d take the Sims every time.

A series of shorter reviews by ninthandash

Camera Obscura — My Maudlin Career.
I adore this, definitely my album of the summer. Lazy, summer-fused indie pop with a female vocalist, the songs are golden brown and induce images of laying half-asleep in the grass with heart-shaped sunglasses. This is the band’s fourth album and, as usual, betters the standards they’ve previously set. With a hint of irony — of course, the album was rated 8.3 on Pitchfork — Tracyanne Campbell sings, “This maudlin career has come to an end/ I don’t want to be sad again.” But the entire album showcases what Camera Obscura do best — the maudlin and nostalgic songs that inspire a strange feeling of melancholy. Compared perhaps too often to Belle & Sebastian, the similarities are there without a doubt, but in my opinion Camera Obscura do it better. This is one not to be missed.

Japandroids — Post-Nothing (Promo).
The quality is obviously sub-par, but this can be easily overlooked due to the fact this album is only a promo. That said, this builds an incredible level of anticipation to hear what the Japandroids will come up with for their official debut. The album opens with The Boys Are In Town, catchy and rough. The unpolished feel to all the tracks, instead of detracting from the music, simply adds a raw and honest energy to the tracks. The music takes the listener up and down on a rollercoaster, the melodies at first sounding entirely random but in fact acting as a common thread to pull the songs together. It’s exactly the kind of music that stays on repeat; dizzy and disorientating, with a catchy rush after each track. A+ for effort.

Sunn O))) — Monoliths and Dimensions.
While technically, this is a great album, nothing about drone or black metal is appealing. Two of the album’s four tracks are over sixteen minutes long, and the ‘drone’ genre is aptly named. While Sunn O))) are doing well for the genre, and are perhaps one of the best bands to come out of it, it’s like making the comparison to a Disney star; while they may be the best to come out of the Disney machine, it’s still not a notable achievement. The majority of the album sounds like nothing more than a single note being played repeatedly on a guitar, while the worst of it sounds like feedback from a slightly broken amp. This is definitely an album to avoid.

Cymbals Eat Guitars — Why There Are Mountains.
While Why There Are Mountains has moments of sheer genius; melodies rising above the lyrics, unexpected crashes and soars, sadly this isn’t enough. Described as the ‘indie road trip album’, this does sum it up, though not exactly in a good way. The album may be boring in a CD player or on an iPod, but would provide the perfect soundtrack to a road trip, acting as background music with friends and coming second to the landscape outside the window. The repetitive crescendos sound overly theatrical, and the band are simply trying to pack too many ideas into their music, leading parts to sound messy and like the band need a definitive idea of what they are trying to achieve. However, for a young band, and considering this is a self-released debut, it’s a strong effort and leaves the listener, while not overly impressed, anticipatory for what Cymbals Eat Guitars pull out of their hats next.

David Cook — S/T.
Yes, that’s right, the 2008 American Idol winner. I know, American Idol is nothing more than a glorified karaoke contest, and a fast-track to insta-fame. Believe me, I felt the same way. Fame — or, at least, success — should be earned. It should come from years of touring in a shitty van, playing to no one but a few friends and family, et cetera. But David Cook has done all that. He already has one album out pre-Idol that was self-released. He’s done the touring thing, done the working hard thing, and American Idol was his one last hurrah. Of course, this in no way justifies my guilty enjoyment of this album. But it’s so ironic that the man who fell so neatly into Idol’s ‘rockstar’ stereotype was entirely the type of man who, before, would have railed against the Idol-machine with the rest of us. And the album is catchy; Come Back To Me, for example, is upbeat and so fun that listeners will be humming it under their breaths all day. While the lyrics are, mostly, the cliched love songs that enspan most generic rock albums, there are a few gems. Permanent is one of them, a heart-wrenching lament to the singer’s (now deceased) brother, who suffered from brain cancer. And who can’t love Bar Ba Sol, a song unshamedly using words like ‘fugue’?