Viewing Politicians as Human Beings

I’m overly empathetic. I always have been, and I usually consider it to be more of an ‘Achilles Heel’ than a positive thing. I watch people saunter through life with a high degree of self absorption, and think: I wish I could do that. Because – and I might sound self-pitying when I say this – looking around you and seeing all the hurt that exists in the everyday, and feeling that tug at your heart just a little bit, gets really grating after a while.

It’s been a manic 36 hours, a mere 3 of which I have spent asleep. Last night was the night that Donald J. Trump was made the President Elect over Hillary Clinton, against all odds – “the most extraordinary event in politics ever”, if you ask the majority of newscasters. The irony comes in that it occurs just five months after the last “most extraordinary political event”, Britain’s shock exit from the European Union. Where the previously disenchanted members of society have risen up and made for a some rather questionable revolutions in 2016, the previously engaged audience of educated young people like myself are newly forced out and alienated. After all, every democratic decision I’ve ever been old enough to invest myself in has gone completely the opposite way than I wanted it to.

I’m getting off topic; this isn’t another rant about the frankly devastating decision to elect a misogynist racist with no experience to the Leader of the Free World. I want to talk about the concession speech from Hillary Clinton – 10 minutes of television that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Like many others, I view Clinton and Trump as far from the ideal candidates, though I’m pretty sure you can guess which one I preferred. Hillary Clinton has made some very questionable calls in her career – Wikileaks’ exposure of the Clinton Foundation for instance, her nasty smear campaign against dear ol’ Bernie, those emails. None of which are anywhere near as bad as Mr Trump, I hasten to add – God forbid, that Hillary would send some emails whilst doing her job! She’s 69 – I’d like to see my grandma understand rules about private servers. I went into November 8th with slight indignance at the thought that ‘crooked’ Hillary Clinton would be gifted with the honourable title of ‘First Female President of the United States of America’. I shouldn’t have been worried.

But as the chips fell into Trump’s lap, not only did I feel a sense of dread, I also felt a pang of empathy for Hillary. Because let’s be honest, while she might not be the best politician in history, she’s given a lot in service of her country. 3o years, serving as First Lady, Senator for New York, and Secretary of State in that time. A resume which really should have been enough to get her in against a man with no experience (whoops, danger of ranting again). It’s also another failed venture for Secretary Clinton, who has pushed so hard to get to the White House in previous years, but failed (and quite rightly so, when she’s up against a candidate like Barack Obama). Now, I don’t care what you say, everyone in life has experienced a setback, not getting a major goal they’ve tried so hard to reach. Imagine that, times a thousand, for what Hillary must be feeling, not only to have lost the presidency when it was so close to her grasp – but to have lost it to a man like Donald Trump.

It may have been the fact I’d only had 3 hours sleep, but I found Hillary Clinton’s concession speech extremely emotionally powerful. I saw her not as a politician, but as a human being; a 69-year-old grandmother, whose 30 years of tireless service to her country has ended on such a sour note as this. My thoughts turned to how incredibly difficult it must have been for her to take to that stage, face the fans that she had let down, and then hear their cheers, despite her failure. To be loved – but not loved enough. To see everything that she and her colleagues have worked so hard on in the last eight years on the brink of being destroyed. To see the values that she, and good moral people, hold so dear – equality, anti-discrimination, kindness – corrupted.

Despite her frankly LEGO-esque hair (has anyone ever seen it move?), her rather robotic walk, and her awkward conversational manner making her hard to relate to, people need to just take a moment to pause and remember that Hillary Clinton is a human being, and shouldn’t be remembered as anything less than a fighter, that kept going until she had nothing left. Perhaps, when I’m feeling a little less tired and more mentally prepared, I’ll attempt to look at Donald Trump as a human being. But right now, I have nothing but contempt for that man.

hillaryclinton

Thoughts on my new life as an Editor

When thinking of a title for this particular muse, I nearly went for ‘Thoughts on my new job as an Editor’. In a way, it is a job, though it’s not paid (I mean, that’s the dream eventually); a voluntary role, but one which requires quite a lot of work. But after thinking about it, I decided to go with ‘my new life’, as it seems more apt. I am now forever glued to whatever electronic device is on hand, checking the pending folder for new articles ready for me to edit, sinking my teeth into whatever juicy bite of culture someone has sent my way. I do it all with absolute glee.

It’s great fun, though at times hard work. It means I get a whole new depth to reading someone’s work, as I have to think about every, individual word that lies before me. Now, this is of course for editing reasons, making sure it makes grammatical sense (e.g. ‘Are the commas in the right place?’), but I think it both adds and subtracts from the experience of being a reader. I have to really think about what I’m reading, so I’m spending far more time than the average browser on this person’s fine work, and perhaps gaining more from it than those who only read it once, and quite quickly at that. However, I also think it can take away from that experience, as the whole ‘re-reading, re-reading, re-reading’ thing gets quite monotonous the more I’ve had to do it in that day.

The other thing I wanted to rant about was the fact I’m a harsh critic. I strive for perfection, so reading and editing an article can be very difficult. I want to change everything so it’s the best it can be, but I also don’t want to over-edit, at the risk of removing that writer’s voice, just because it’s not the way I want it to be. It’s a real tightrope balance. It also means I hate seeing people give anything five stars ever. Myself, I have only given two things five stars in over forty reviews – the BBC’s adaptation of And Then There Were None, and Raleigh Ritchie’s album You’re A Man Now, Boy. In hindsight, I’m almost regretful of those five stars too – I struggle to find anything perfect. Therefore, if someone even points out the slightest flaw in their review, I hate to see they have still given it five stars. Call me picky.

Okay, I’ve ranted now, but really, I’m in love with my role as an Editor. From the little admin jobs, such as checking the email account twice a day, to the tight-knit committee which is getting ever closer, to the Surge Radio show we do once a week (listen to the final show, this Wednesday, 2pm-3pm on Surge Radio) – everything about it is great. Just, please, think before you give something five stars.

(I’m giving this blog post ***. It’s not very interesting if you’re not a Writer. See, I’m picky!)

So that was First Year

University was always this massive, looming thing in my life. Even before GCSEs, I was set on it – a place where I could study just what I wanted, be independent and live on my own, meet the people that are going to be a part of my life forever. September 2015 was the biggest, most exhilarating month of my life. I moved into halls, met an amazing group of people, started and loved my course, got drunk most nights and partied my way through a number of experiences I either can’t remember or would rather forget.

Now, nine months have passed, and I’m in the last week of my first year. Wow, that went fast. I’m sure I speak for the majority of freshers when I say ‘Where did that time go?’. Yeah, I’ve done alright in my course, went out drinking quite a lot, but really, the only minutes that went past slowly were the ones spent in the Glen Eyre laundrette. But despite how quick it felt, the biggest things in my life have happened to me in this time. And university hasn’t disappointed.

I’ve met some of the most incredible people I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing. Being from a small town and spending 7 years with the same people can be very suffocating, but in one day, I was suddenly surrounded by new people on all sides. Flatmates, coursemates, random people you’re not sure whether you know or not that you befriend drunkenly on nights out – latch on to them and don’t let go. In particular, I’ve had my ‘flamily’ (our nickname, comes from ‘flat family’). We were all thrown together, with no idea whether we would like each other, all from different walks of life. Luckily, I don’t mind my lot (I’m joking, I love you guys). They really are like my family.

I’ve got some big stories to tell. I always envisioned myself as the sort of dad, like Ted from How I Met Your Mother, forcing my children to listen to the crazy stories of my youth. Remember that time you sliced your finger open chopping an onion and spent three hours in A&E? Or that time we all dressed up as characters from the Nativity? Or Halloween, the night where everyone has a different embarrassing drunk story to tell?

My advice for next year’s freshers is this. Throw – yourself – in. Live every moment to the full. Don’t worry about your assignments too much, (most of) you only need 40% to pass and then next year is what counts. Join societies! The Edge is by far and away one of the best things I’ve ever done, and crazily I’m now an Editor of a whole magazine section, even though I’ve only been writing for five months. Get drunk, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – even big ones. It’s the only way you’ll learn, and even though they are often messy to clear up, the biggest nights out are the best times you’ll ever have. Don’t be afraid of having your heart broken. Love the people around you, force your flatmates or coursemates, whoever takes your pleasing, to be your very own ‘flamily’.

Second year’s another adventure. Hell, I’m gonna make it an even better one.

 

For the flamily. ❤

Waving a White Flag: How the White Paper is somewhat of a surrender to the BBC for the government

As many of these blog posts will be, this is an article I wrote for The Edge last week, surrounding the White Paper and the BBC. However, just for you blog readers, you get ‘extra features’ as it were. As The Edge is an entertainment magazine, I mostly left out the more political side of the argument, but, ever opinionated, I’ve got some extra stuff I wanna rant about (see the last paragraph, basically). The original article is here.

Having recently been made The Edge‘s Culture Editor, I have more than a vested interest in the future of the BBC. The world’s oldest broadcasting organisation is, to this day, the pioneer for television across the globe. Without the BBC, we wouldn’t have Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, the Great British Bake Off, Poldark, EastEnders, Top Gear, the Graham Norton Show – I could go on and on and on, until this post would turn into a long list of successful TV shows we all know and love. So, why, oh why, would someone want to attack it?

Ok, ‘attack’ is a strong word. Let’s not get too political here. But, unless you’ve been hiding away from the news, you would have seen that things haven’t been harmonious between the BBC and the new government for some time now. To give you a basic rundown, the new Tory government, led by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale (or, John Whippingdale, as Ian Hislop joked on this week’s Have I Got News for You), have decided that, after years of letting the BBC do its own thing, it needs a major overhaul. The BBC’s money comes from the license fee, which is legislated by the government. Due to the upcoming renewal of the ‘Royal Charter’ (an agreement between the BBC and the government over the next 11 years of BBC future), the government holds the power – and has some big changes they want to make before they agree to sign. Today, they have published these changes in something called ‘The White Paper’.

Got it? No? I don’t blame you, it’s quite complicated. The main question is: what does the White Paper mean for the BBC, and its entertainment output – the shows we at The Edge love to bang on about? Here are the big changes you need to know about…

1) The BBC must focus on ‘distinctive content’

Does the BBC have its fingers in too many pies? [Image from homemadebyyou.com]

The White Paper’s first and most re-iterated point is that the BBC must focus on the content that makes it so distinctive. The report dictates: “Commissioning editors should ask consistently of new programming: ‘Is this idea sufficiently innovative and high quality?’” Now, this is a great idea in principle, but perhaps not in practice. As I said earlier, the BBC has been around for a long time, and has commissioned the most innovative shows in the world in its time. However, we are a generation fixated with nostalgia. We see something good in our history, take it, and try and make it even better second time around. One example of this is Still Open Hours, which has had two successful series in the last two years, but is simply a recreation of the original Open All Hours – even using the same sets. Nothing really innovative about that, but it’s definitely worked well. And who can really say what’s going to be innovative, and of high quality, until there’s an audience to receive it?

2) ‘Star Pay’ could unmask some of the biggest BBC earners

A new requirement of the White Paper is to have employees earning over £450,000 named. Though it claims their exact salaries won’t be publicised, as was earlier feared by them, the move does affect some of the BBC’s biggest stars – I’m talking Graham Norton and Chris Evans. Now, this could put stars off working with the BBC, as it feels like they are being ‘named and shamed’, causing them to move to private broadcasting corporations such as ITV and Channel 4. The government have already pressured the BBC into cutting talent bills by 15%, which for some reason is making the Tories happy. 15% less talent is surely not a good thing. Whittingdale was quoted this week saying that star talent is ‘replaceable’ – I’d like to see anyone doing Eurovision as well as Graham Norton handled it last night. Sorry, Whittingdale, the only person that’s replaceable is you.

3) You’re gonna have to start paying for BBC iPlayer

'Nothing's free these days!' [Image from dailymail.com]

“Nooooooooo!” I hear the university students among you scream. Yes, the White Paper is firmly telling the BBC to close the current loophole which means you can watch all of the BBC’s original content free on the iPlayer. You will have to purchase a TV license like you would if you wanted to watch an actual television, and further bad news – the price (currently £145.50 a year) is going up and will keep going up with inflation. I wince for my bank balance. But in reality, we’ve been quite lucky to have this service be free for as long as we have had it, and the money should (hopefully) go back into the BBC and help them make more ‘high quality and innovative’ drama.

Politically, the White Paper is nowhere near as bad as everyone feared. With rumours of the Tory vendetta against the BBC meaning the broadcaster might have to go independent over the last year, the White Paper’s changes are a small price to pay. It’s like the government are finally waving a white flag, surrendering their indignant and pointless vendetta at last. As Ian Hislop so well put it: The government said ‘We’re gonna do this’, everyone said ‘That’s a terrible idea’, so the government said ‘Oh right, we won’t do that then’. There was even word of David Cameron interfering with Whippingdale’s (whoops, again) more strong suggestions. Nobody, other than Whippingdale and perhaps the BBC’s commercial rivals, aka ITV, wants to see the BBC change at all. For many a decade, they have been doing everything right. From its original content, to its world-leading professional news coverage, we should all be dazzled by what a good job they do.

 

The First Blog

Hello world! This is James here, embarking on a mission to the great unknown; blogging. I spend my life writing things so I thought I’d choose the best bits to put out to the big wide world. (And I’m procrastinating from the world of exams and assignments).

Some of the stuff you’ll find on here will cross over with the fantastic entertainment website I am pleased to announce I am the new Culture Editor (2016/17) of, The Edge. You can see a backlog of all my Edge musings here

H0pe you enjoy the site, which I will hopefully remember to keep updating.