Bristol: A city of construction and creativity

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in Bristol and on one Saturday, I had the chance to look around and explore a new city I’ve never been to before. I was determined to track down some Banksy artwork, visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge and have a good look round. As part of my commitment to capturing more ‘moments’ in my life, I tried to take as many pictures as possible. Here’s a slideshow of some of my favourites:

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Looking back at the above photos I took, the construction of the city’s culture is an interesting thing. Bristol is a place with creativity and construction in its core. It’s amazing what art can do and the many forms it can take. Whether it be graffiti on a wall by one of the most famous anonymous artists, or a bridge with a historic value assigned to it, they’re both a part of Bristol’s life. In a sense, Banksy is the modern contributor to the city’s identity, whilst Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one from the past. It’s a city which constructs and creates its culture constructing and creating, and that is a beautiful thing.

Theresa May’s Brexit speech: A statement which failed to solve the problem of certainty

The post-Brexit debate has always been about seeing both sides of a very complicated equation. Our exit from the EU must satisfy the leave voters that wanted a return of Parliamentary sovereignty, whilst pleasing those who wanted more controls on immigration. It must be a clear removal from a union, whilst also reassuring remainers that their rights to live, work and travel around Europe won’t be affected – at least not too much. However, one of the biggest problems Theresa May failed to solve in her speech at Lancaster House yesterday was that of certainty.

Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

There is a balance to be struck ahead of triggering Article 50. Understandably, May must keep some of her cards close to her chest, as it were, when going to the negotiating table – not everything can be disclosed to the public beforehand in case it jeopardises our position. Yet, the vagueness that comes with describing Brexit with cake metaphors, colours or the popular line ‘Brexit means Brexit’ does not provide certainty to those who need it most: the remainers. Uncertainty leads to frustration and anger, which only adds to a debate which is currently dividing our country.

Of course, the first point about the PM’s 12-point plan for leaving the EU was about certainty, but whilst the transitions of EU law into British law after Brexit (until they are repealed by Parliament) was reassuring, that’s not the only thing remainers are worrying about. Sure, all this talk about a ‘Global Britain’ may reassure some business owners if they forget about the fact we’re leaving the single market, but what about dealing with the division in the UK? What about addressing the rise of anti-immigration sentiment and right-wing populism? What are you doing about those, Theresa?

In a sense, it was a statement structured like a non-fiction novel. They mostly tell us things we already know, but present some new information too so we don’t feel patronised. Unfortunately for Mrs May, telling us that we’ll need to control our immigration and that we want to make our own laws doesn’t prevent a feeling of deja vu from lingering in the air. Likewise, mentioning that we’ll be leaving the single market and protecting workers’ rights (the latter should please Labour to an extent) in passing won’t help either.

It was a speech littered with juxtapositions too. LBC’s James O’Brien mentioned on his show yesterday that it suggested “we’re a global country that doesn’t want you to come here”. Whether it’s a lack of detail or contradictory remarks, both don’t provide the clarity we need.

Finally, there came a line which will only add to the anxiety remainers have at the moment. “While I am sure a positive agreement can be reached,” said May, “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

During the referendum campaign, those who backed a vote to stay mocked and joked about Brexit having a disappointing outcome. The comments all followed the same tone of it being a magical post-Brexit future which never comes to fruition (be it told in the style of a dodgy divorce, bad plans for a night out or so on). It’s a joke which may just become possible.

After all, Theresa May plans to give Parliament a vote on the final deal. Yet, with Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party MPs all opposing the Conservative’s plan for Brexit (on varying levels), it’s unlikely that an agreement on the terms of exit will be struck in the Commons.

A disastrous ‘no deal’ remains a possibility. This, combined with May’s unclear comments on leaving the single market and resolving our country’s division, has only created more uncertainty – something forced optimism always fails to mask.

Musical Discovery: ‘Run for Your Life’ by Mako & Rat City feat. Natalola

As the winter season comes to a close, it feels weird to look ahead to summer. Yet, for DJs keen to release the next big anthem, their focus has always been on that time of the year. If they can create a track which dominates the charts from June to August, then they tend to self-proclaim that they created the ‘summer smash’ of the year. Marshmello is one artist doing this, but with their track Run for Your Life, Mako is another artist keen to keep the party spirit alive.

Nostalgia and euphoria are two feelings Alex Seaver and Logan Light are always keen to create in their music. With somewhat mellow verses leading to a loud synth melody, it’s a build-up of emotions we hear on Run for Your Life too.

This time, it’s the turn of Natalola to provide the sassy, grumbling and almost Rihanna-sounding vocals. It’s a style of singing which fits perfectly into the bouncy, upbeat and tropical feel of the song.

Then, in terms of the chorus itself, we hear a group of rhythmic and fluttering melodies which create an emotive tune to relax to – be it the hazy synth chords at the forefront of the chorus, or the fluctuating high notes played every once in a while.

Granted, it’s a laid-back type of electronica which is more suited to chilled environments, as opposed to the clubs or dance floors, but it succeeds at being a great song to play in the background as you relax at home. It’s the mix of laid-back vocals and euphoric synths which Mako gets right every time.

 

Sherlock: ‘The Final Problem’ review – A sense of closure which is hard to comprehend

Warning: This post contains spoilers for series four, episode three of Sherlock. Please do not read this post until you have watched ‘The Final Problem’.

As mentioned in my review of The Lying Detective, the mid-series episode always tends to kill time with a plot that builds up the excitement for the series finale. The first episode in the trilogy tends to solve the previous cliffhanger before introducing us to a new villain, whilst the finale tends to see Sherlock defeat another criminal. Yet, with The Final Problem, the episode not only continues this arc, but provides a sense of closure and conclusion which could mean that it’s the last series of the quality British drama.

Photo: BBC.
Photo: BBC.

At the heart of tonight’s episode was the emotions the detective had concealed and suppressed whilst he was carrying out his work. Euros was the perfect final villain for Sherlock to confront, because she played with Holmes’ ’emotional context’ – his weakness, as it were.

The case with Culverton Smith showed us that the smugness of a villain can really aggravate the sleuth, to the point where he lashes out.in anger. In this episode, the frustration came with the scene with Molly, as Sherlock destroys the coffin. It’s almost as though feelings are something which he cannot handle, and so, as he is locked in a room with Mycroft and John, he is forced to let emotions get in the way of a case. It’s the one thing he cannot comprehend – take the case with Irene Adler – and as a result, he gets angry at his own confusion.

Yet, there’s a sense that Sherlock has finally come to terms with this in the end. The death of Mary was the wake-up call to him and he is now focussed on relationships and friendships with other characters. John and Sherlock’s companionship is stronger than ever despite the blow in episode one, Holmes finally seems to be getting Greg’s name right and the sub-plot with Molly had a surprising resolution too.

Aside from the development of the show’s protagonist, Mycroft finally had his chance to shine. The mind palace scene describing Euros was sheer cinematic brilliance – delivered with confidence and not cockiness, unlike the first episode. Then, with the dilemma of whether Sherlock would kill his friend or his brother, came the last drop of character progression. Throughout the episode, it was clear that everyone disliked Mycroft (this allowed for some hilarious comedy, by the way) and all this attention on the character made this scene rather poignant. The Walking Dead taught us that when someone’s life was getting a little too cosy, things would go wrong. In the Sherlock universe, the death of Mary told us that this would be the series where normality was no longer a thing, and that the ‘one big happy family’ image which ran throughout the last three series would not be happening. With all this in mind, it did seem, for one second, that it would be the end of Mycroft.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but it was another moment which aimed to give us an insight into Sherlock’s moral compass and compassion (the fact he then turned the gun on himself showed this). Other intense moments included the ‘justice’ scene, where Holmes had to condemn one of the three brothers suspected of a crime, and the scene with the governor. In a way, it did feel a little old – the usual ‘value of a life’ ethical dilemma is something which has been done countless times before. That being said, it was clear what Moffat and Gatiss were hoping to achieve with these scenes, and it was somewhat successful.

Some other things to mention were Mrs Hudson continuing to be rather rebellious in nature (as if her flash car wasn’t enough, hoovering to Iron Maiden took things to another level) and the return of fan favourite, Jim Moriarty – albeit in flashback form.

Now, the main plot point: Euros. Much like how the A.G.R.A plot point from episode one was hard to understand, the backstory surrounding the Holmes sister is another one of those stories which will probably take a second or third viewing to fully comprehend. The mystery surrounding Redbeard was finally solved – a sense of closure which was satisfying to see. Although, aside from that, there’s a sense of confusion which comes from a lengthy backstory being crammed into part of a one hour and a half long episode. Whilst Sian Brooke did an incredible job of playing such an evil character (the point about Euros being able to ‘enslave’ people and how she convinced one man to kill himself and his family was brilliantly dark and sinister), the conclusion that it was just another case of sibling rivalry and another nonsensical metaphor – something about planes, apparently – was a little disappointing, no matter how much closure the character brought to the plot.

It’s this sense of disappointment which continues as the final montage plays. We see Sherlock and John continuing to solve crimes together as Amanda Abbington’s Mary narrates the last bit of her farewell message. It’s not clear whether this feeling of ‘numbness’ was because of the closure the series provided was unexpected, because there was no indication of another series or because it looked as though another great BBC drama had called it a day. Either way, no clear came out on top as the credits rolled.

There has been talk about a series five being plotted and some more episodes in the future. However, with no end-of-series cliffhanger this time round and hints from the show’s writers and Cumberbatch that it may be the final series, it looks likely that this is the last time we’ll see the Baker Street boys in action – and what a goodbye it was.

Donald Trump’s #WatersportsGate: A student journalist’s concern about ‘fake news’

A student journalist complaining about fake news is nothing new. Buzzfeed’s recent article about Trump, dubbed ‘#watersportsgate’ on Twitter, included unverified allegations that Russia has embarrassing information about the President-elect of the United States. It is just the latest in a string of stories which should be double-checked ahead of publication (if it is to be published at all). We’ve been here before, but how we got in this fake news cycle and how we get out of it are the two interesting questions to answer.

The stories about ‘#watersportsgate’ and Donald Trump are just the latest in a string of unverified or fake news making the front pages when they shouldn’t have done. Photo: Gage Skidmore on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.

Journalism and politics have always been closely connected. Most of the time, the latter drives the former when it comes to news stories. However, the media’s commitment to reporting the political climate can also lead to the emotions attached to the stories bleeding through. Cue Brexit.

It was a referendum filled with emotion – fear and anger in particular. Feelings replaced facts (known as ‘post-truth’, which was the 2016 word of the year) because there were minimal, if any, statistics to show what would happen after either result. With limited facts but a whole lot of emotion to cover, the media started to become tempted by post-truth and sensationalism.
That being said, not all of the blame can be shifted onto journalists and politicians. As consumers of news, we want to process information as fast as possible, taking stories at face value before moving onto the next story. There’s no time to stop and think in the world of fast-paced media consumption, but given that we live in a world dominated by social media, that cannot be helped.

On the topic of fast-paced news consumption, this has also led to a push for viral news as well. Today, with Buzzfeed’s article… Are we really surprised that they were the ones to run with it? They are an organisation which thrives on viral content, so what better a story than one which is filled with sensationalism and controversy? It’s to be expected.

We must examine the relationship between journalists and politicians, and both of their responsibilities to share factual information. Whilst politics is slowly moving towards the facts – as and when Theresa May decides to reveal her plans for Brexit – journalists must use their power of manipulating the masses (see the hypodermic needle theory) to change public opinion once more. IPSO must be harsher on organisations breaching the accuracy clause with fake news, and as the British public face uncertainty over Brexit, the news media must come forward offering facts as a form of hope.

Although this article talks about eradicating fake news in the UK, it’s still relevant when it comes to the case with Trump is in the United States. The solutions can be applied in any Western country, at a time where nationalism and emotions are running high. Whilst, of course, these sentiments must be debated in our democracy, we cannot afford to let the emotions embed themselves in Western journalism. What’s concerning for future journalists is this: if the one place where the public goes for the truth becomes untrustworthy, to whom do they turn?

Musical Discovery: ‘Something Better’ by Audien feat. Lady Antebellum

There’s always something interesting about DJs collaborating with artists who aren’t fellow producers or pop singers. The task of creating a song which feels like familiar ground for the featured band or musician whilst incorporating electronic dance elements can be quite the challenge. In the case of Something Better, American DJ Audien teams up with the country trio Lady Antebellum to create a track with the band’s soft vocals and a groovy electronic melody.

With Scott, Kelley and Haywood all possessing a relaxed, calm vocal style, there’s a big opportunity in the track’s verses for Audien to experiment with the underlying instruments. In the first verse, we hear gentle synth chords, whilst the second verse involves synths which are more trickling in nature. In both cases, a light drum beat allows the song to move seamlessly into the chorus – one with a bouncy rhythm and a groovy electronic guitar effect.

Here is where Audien is truly able to show off his talents as a musician. The chorus adopts an electronic style which fits perfectly alongside Lady Antebellum’s vocals, whilst still creating a sense of euphoria which successful dance songs can establish. This winning combination of vocals and instrumentals is also shown in the final minute of the track, as the lyrics are combined with the electronic melody we hear in the first two choruses. In a final nod to Lady Antebellum’s original country style, the single ends with an acoustic guitar riff establishing a soothing, mellow tone – creating the right balance between the band and the DJ’s contrasting genres.

Sherlock: ‘The Lying Detective’ review – The perfect mid-series episode packed with darkness and intensity

Warning: This post contains spoilers for series four, episode two of Sherlock. Please do not read this post until you have watched ‘The Lying Detective’.

A three-episode series has its advantages and disadvantages for the BBC series, Sherlock. Like the ‘beginning, middle and end’, each time the large, underlying plot is developed until it climaxes in the final episode. Yet, at the same time, it must try hard not to be an episode which is just filling space. Much like a good novel, the beginning must draw us in and the ending must be dramatic, but the plot points in-between have to be intriguing too. The Blind Banker, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Sign of Three either failed at having an interesting case or that sense of progression we needed as we neared the series finale. At last, The Lying Detective has solved that problem.

Photo: BBC.
Photo: BBC.

It started with Culverton Smith, another villain who fits perfectly into Sherlock’s rogue gallery, but in a way which sets him apart from Moriarty and Magnussen. If there are any similarities to be struck between the previous two villains, then Culverton shares Magnusson’s business mindset and the feeling that he is untouchable. This time, however, it comes with a new twist. Unlike Magnusson, who was secretive in both his blackmail and affairs, Smith was in the public eye whilst concealing his murderous background. The blackmailer was elusive, and now the serial killer is too. However, Culverton goes one step further by boasting in the spotlight about how evasive he is from Sherlock Holmes. It’s a smugness that frustrates Sherlock – as explained in the episode. It’s what led to him killing someone at the end of series three and in this episode, him almost stabbing Culverton. Nevertheless, Toby Jones’ portrayal of such a villain was commendable and brilliantly unique.

It was a case which had us all intrigued: how was Sherlock going to wipe that grin off of Smith’s face? The answer lied with John Watson, in a scene that was reminiscent of the doctor saving the day in series one, episode one (where John arrived just in time – conveniently – to shoot the cab driver). Although, this repetition was justified, as the ghost of Mary allowed us to see John’s character develop even more. At first, I was a bit disappointed that yet another character had been revived (either in a spiritual form or in a more literal sense), but Mary’s moral support revealed a part of John Watson we’ve never seen before: the man he wants to become. It was a brilliant sub-plot for character development and coincided with the main plot perfectly.

Speaking of character development, another fan favourite who really came out of her shell was Mrs Hudson, who seemed to have reached breaking point in tonight’s episode as she finally told Mycroft what she thought of him. Well, then there’s the scene with the high-speed chase and the car, which made me respect the landlady even more. The first episode of this series offered a sprinkle of character development for the landlady with the whole ‘Norberry’ codeword, but now Mrs Hudson moved away from being some light comic relief, as she gave John the wake-up call he needed in the episode.

Finally, there was the plot twist at the end which no one was expecting. Granted, the three-year wait since the last series gave the fanbase plenty of time to speculate about the third Holmes sibling (thanks to Mycroft’s comment about ‘the other one’ in series three), but once again, Moffat and Gatiss remind us not to be too set on one particular theory, as it wasn’t a brother, but a sister.

Three years is a long time for the Sherlock fandom, but seven days is enough time for them to debate and discuss the previous episode. In amongst the talks about Mary not being dead (which this episode debunked), people picked up on the poster by the bus stop in the scene with the mysterious ‘E’ and John. Some of us may have predicted that ‘E’ would play an even bigger part near the end of the series, but none of us knew that the ‘E’ stood for Euros, and that she, along with Faith and the therapist were all the same person. Whilst we may know who was behind the ‘miss me’ message, what we’re yet to find out is this: what does all this have to do with ‘Sherringford’?

It’s these questions, mixed in with character development, emotions and twists, which made The Lying Detective the best mid-series episode yet. With another shocking cliffhanger, it builds up to a finale which brings the phenomenal trilogy to a close in the best way possible.