Opinion

Gillette. The right advert to highlight the wrong men.

‘Boys will be boys’. That’s such a flippant thing to say. A pre-packaged excuse for all kinds of obnoxious, rude and bordering on violent behaviour. He had a fight at school, he mocked someone over having a salad at lunch then knocked it off the table… No. More. Simply being a boy should never be a standard reason to get away with something. Boys should know better and so should the Dads.

‘Don’t be a dick’ would be a more apt slogan for men in 2018. Even then there are some men who just cannot help being a dick. Take a look at the backlash following the new Gillette advert. #GilletteBoycott is growing apace as those men who feel their masculinity has been questioned throw their shavers away. Seriously, ‘men’? Is this how fragile your egos are that you’ll willingly throw away a razor you spent good money on (probably too much good money on) to make a point to yourself?

‘You can’t tell us what to do’ seems to be the general message from the likes of Piers Morgan who deemed Gillette after the advert as, ‘man-shaming’ (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6594295/PIERS-MORGAN-Im-sick-war-masculinity-Gillette-just-cut-throat.html). Sigh. It’s telling that Morgan should set the tone for so many so-called men when he tends to bully guests rather than interview them, unless you’re Donald Trump which says a lot about the men he aligns with. He calls the advert ‘supremely patronising’, almost as if he cannot see the underpinning issue and is unwilling to face his own condescending manner. Also likely because he feels a pang of guilt at some of his own questionable behaviour.

The #MeToo movement has made waves to empower women and men to make men accountable for their improper behaviour. Those creepy, longer than necessary hands on shoulders, the staring, the ogling, the crass means of address. The advert points all those behaviours out brilliantly and even gives out instructions for how decent men should react to all kinds of scenarios. If all this is something to rebel against then there’s clearly something wrong with a lot of men.

The primary aim of any advert is to gain the public’s attention towards a product. The brilliant ones are those which fuel public debate around bigger issues. Gillette have pressed that button and the advert goes some way to back its own ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ slogan. Men should be setting better examples and we should do away with the ‘boys will be boys’ stance. The advert is brilliant BECAUSE it insists that men need to improve their actions, their choices. The advert isn’t a difficult watch if you were brought up the right way and the message is a clear one; Men, be nice, be humble. Don’t be a dick and if you do see a man be a dick politely tell him it isn’t cool. It’s not asking for much, it’s not suggesting drastic change, just don’t be a dick. If a man feels affronted by that then they’ve just identified themselves as part of the problem. Hi, Piers.

From the depths of a poisonous Trump presidency it seems that the big US brands are taking a stand. Nike opened the door by having Colin Kaepernick as the face of their newest advertising campaign in September 2018. A bold move following Kaepernick’s (undue) criticism after he took the knee against racial injustice and police brutality. There was a backlash for that too and more toys thrown out of the pram. #JustBurnIt trended as predominantly white middle-aged right wing men cut out the tick from their socks (and creating some natty wristbands in the process) while others simply tried to burn their trainers. This should set off alarm bells to the violent lengths some men will go to in order to prove a point. The wrong point.

The sort of men that hitherto haven’t realised how their attitudes were so misaligned until the right sort of advert came along.

 

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Fitness, Food, Health, Lifestyle

Same Old Me, But Better

It’s relatively candid to declare you’re giving up alcohol for a month when your mouth tastes like something crawled into it overnight and died. Almost as if the crime of three too many tequila shots needs to be punished with extended abstinence. Sure, ushering in the New Year with a hangover usually makes us feel a little sorry for ourselves but is that really why we bother with New Years resolutions?

#NewYearNewYou

Quite why we decide to reset ourselves with the Gregorian calendar is unclear. We could decide to go on a diet straight after Christmas dinner, decide to go on more dates from February 15th and decide to drink less after St Patrick’s Day. However, January 1st is the day when many of us finally decide that it’s high time we became our better selves with  a ten point list of commandments to live by.

You could decide that April 22nd is your day to change. We get a chance to change with the start of each day. Occasionally I get up early enough to see twilight, that part of the day when the birds serenade the morning and you may feel as if you’ve stolen a march on the rest of the world.

twilight1

Street lights go out, bedroom lights come on then the day truly begins. Of course, at this time of year it’s difficult to capture the sunrise yet you do get some truly eerie twilights.

twilight2

 

Judging ourselves from one year to the next only limits us to twelve months when we should be opting for continual growth. I can’t even remember last year’s resolutions though I imagine they were a mix of the specific and the fairly tedious, all equally mundane. Lose some weight, eat less meat, do exercise three times a week, read at least a book a month, travel more etc. Many of us seem to be conditioned to think that if we look better and keep our friends jealous of our movements via Instagram that we’re #winning.

This year may not be transformative, few years truly are. Setting goals usually leads to feeling pressured into hitting them which is why I’m opting for the same old me, but better.

More love, less hate.

More reading, less social media

More laughs, less scowls

More slumber, less stress

That’s it

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Film, Music, Opinion, Podcasts, TV

Top Ten Tings of 2018

Films

Swinging into top spot was arguably the greatest animated film I have ever had the pleasure to see and it only came out a few weeks ago. Seriously, if you’re reading this and unsure whether to drop into your multiplex close the computer screen, get to the cinema and thank me later. It’s jaw-droppingly great.

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  3. Avengers: Infinity War
  4. Black Kkklansman
  5. Black Panther
  6. Widows
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. Creed II
  9. The Death of Stalin
  10. Ghost Stories

 

Albums

Testament to how little space there is on my record shelves, I have physical copies of only half of this years top ten. Shameful I know, especially when I have one of the greatest record shops in the land on my doorstep in Beartree Records. In the case of top spot, I may have gone overboard with three yet this is what happens when my favourite band decides to open an exclusive shop in town. Even before hearing the album I had gold, silver and cassette copies but it took an evening in the bath for the long-player to finally hit home. Some albums just need a bit of dedication and judging by the critical reception that gold copy will remain unopened.

  1. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino
  2. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
  3. Goat Girl – Goat Girl
  4. Sunflower Bean – Twentytwo In Blue
  5. Miles Kane – Coup de Grace
  6. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake
  7. Dream Wife – Dream Wife
  8. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  9. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
  10. Hinds – I Don’t Run

 

TV Shows

There are some TV shows that are considered compulsive viewing. Not simply for plot twists but because you appreciate that most of the country has already seen it and you don’t want to miss out. That was the case with Killing Eve where I would see the show mentioned by friends on social media, then websites. Before long I had recognised Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh before even settling down to watch it. Sadly I devoured it in the space of a week. I am willing to argue that Bandersnatch is neither a film nor a TV show, it’s something uniquely brilliant that I have spent years wondering if it was ever possible (nice one, Charlie Brooker)

 

  1. Killing Eve
  2. Atlanta (S2)
  3. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
  4. The Haunting of Hill House
  5. Narcos: Mexico
  6. Making A Murderer: Part 1
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale (S2)
  8. Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema
  9. Sunderland ‘Til I Die
  10. Luther (S1 – 4)

 

Live Performances

Yes. I’m counting theatre and live orchestras alongside concerts.

Yes. Having seen Hamilton I now fully appreciate the hype (as does the lucky girl who got my spare ticket as I may have made her entire year).

Yes. More bands need to visit Sheffield.

Yes. I probably need to go to the theatre more often.

  1. Hamilton at Victoria Palace Theatre, London
  2. Arctic Monkeys at Sheffield Arena
  3. Game of Thrones Live at Manchester Arena
  4. Wolf Alice at Manchester Victoria Warehouse
  5. My Dad Wrote A Porno at Sheffield City Hall
  6. Goat Girl at Picture House Social, Sheffield
  7. Flight Of The Conchords at Manchester Arena
  8. Courtney Barnett at Manchester Academy
  9. Sunflower Bean at Leeds Festival
  10. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Tramlines Festival, Sheffield

 

Podcasts

I really do need help. That my top two podcasts of the year centre on porn and murder indicates that I really have a depraved mind. Strangely, both have mentioned each other during the year as if both appreciate the same disturbed set of listeners. It’s not just me!

  1. My Dad Wrote A Porno
  2. S’laughter: True Crime Podcast
  3. Distraction Pieces
  4. Reasons To Be Cheerful
  5. The Totally Football Show
  6. The Cinemile
  7. Football Weekly
  8. United We Stand Podcast
  9. The Adam Buxton Podcast
  10. Myths and Legends
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Health, Lifestyle, Mens Health, Opinion

Why the moustache? Movember and men’s health in 2018

At its peak, my moustache resembled a cross between a 70s porn star and Fu Manchu. Not necessarily a bad combination yet it itched and I could not resist stroking it like a Bond villain. This is my seventh year as a Mo Bro, essentially the seventh time I have spent November growing a moustache to raise funds and awareness of men’s health. I may look ridiculous, the effect may be off-putting and I don’t care as it is such a worthy cause.

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So far over 1,200 projects have been launched for the benefit of men’s health which includes vital funding for prostate and testicular cancer. However, men’s health is not just physical and of great personal interest is their research into mental health and suicide prevention. Considering that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and in the past year have firsthand knowledge of the pitfalls from depression and anxiety, it needs to be said that men have to talk. Recently, public awareness has improved regarding the need to get mental health out into the open. This includes some thoughtfully made, thought provoking TV adverts and a plethora of academic studies as well as column inches. There is still work to be done.

Research conducted by the Movember Foundation is both staggering and alarming. Just in the UK;

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime

Three out of four suicides are men.

That last statistic really jumped out at me. Men seem adept at holding in their emotions amid an effort to keep it together but to what end? To impress the opposite sex? To keep in line with what their father told them how to act? Whatever the reasons may be, such reluctance appears flawed, even tragic.

Thankfully, the taboo surrounding mental health is being lifted and men are starting to make their feelings known. On another personal note I can vouch for discussing emotional well-being to close friends and family to open up and let people know what’s going on. Support can be sought from those individuals as well as professional help in the form of therapy. The suffering can only be prolonged if left to manifest and though it takes courage and bravery to tell people, the pros far outweigh the cons.

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My own personal effort in growing a moustache has presented me with an insider account of the benefits of tackling men’s health head on. Sure, the fuzz around my upper lip has meant bus drivers and bar staff have to stifle a laugh. The Half Mo Mast provoked one snide comment, one bemused conversion and several confused glances at The Good Food Show yet I have been quick to point to my 5 Year Mo Bro badge to explain that it’s for charidee. If growing an itchy, embarrassing moustache then shaving half of it off for a day means that more men talk, and even raises money to help the cause, then I’ve done my bit.

If you know someone who’s doing Movember then please donate what you can and search for their fundraising page at https://uk.movember.com/mospace/

If you’d like to donate to myself then you can at https://mobro.co/omarsoliman

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Travel, TV

Visit Seville and imagine yourself in the exotic locations of Dorne and Meereen from Game of Thrones

With its blissful warm climate, strategic history and regal architecture, Seville looks fit for the big screen. Throw in some real world tribulations having been founded by the Romans, conquered by the Muslims then enduring the Spanish Civil War and it seems reality mirrored fiction when the city was selected to film the more exotic locations in Game of Thrones.

The city still carries an air of pride and importance, in fact Spanish royalty still have a residence at Real Alcázar which is the Royal Palace and Gardens and should be your first stop too. The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and the palace’s walls faithfully depicts its myriad of monarchs and influences. From its Arabic occupancy to late Middle Ages Mudéjar then jumping to the Renaissance, Baroque and the 19th century in it’s very own Game of Thrones. Oh, and have you heard of the executed royal? The alleged brutal murder of Muhammed VI, with his blood told to stain the palace’s marble floor to this day, is the sort of backstabbing that George R.R. Martin could have used for inspiration and makes it perfect to masquerade as the Kingdom of Dorne.

Inside the palaces at Real Alcázar

Inside the palaces at Real Alcázar

Even the climate is a natural fit. With average summer high temperatures of above 35c Seville is considered the hottest city in Europe which makes it ideal for Dorne as the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms. Granted, the plotlines may have been somewhat tedious but the Kingdom of Dorne always appeared the most opulent in the medieval-era world, Dornish outfits were majestically coloured and the surroundings had a brilliant exotic, indulgent charm. Most of that extravagance has been garnered over centuries and centred on Real Alcázar which played the Water Gardens of Dorne, the private estate of the House of Martell during series five.

The fountain in Real Alcázar Gardens where Myrcella and Trystane are filmed strolling

The fountain in Real Alcázar Gardens where Myrcella and Trystane are filmed strolling

The fountain as depicted in the show

The fountain as depicted in the show

The show first visits the Martells in episode two after Trystane has been betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon. The pair are playing in the gardens below as Prince Doran Martell has a feisty chat with Ellaria Sand on the terrace overlooking Mercury’s Pool. The terrace itself is outside King Pedro’s Palace and out of bounds to the general public though the gardens, including the Italian ‘Grutesco Gallery’, are well worth exploring.

Mercury's Pool in the Real Alcázar Gardens

Mercury’s Pool in the Real Alcázar Gardens

In episode five Jamie Lannister arrives to attempt to retrieve Myrcella from her beloved Trystane and runs into Ellaria Sand’s daughters; the Sand Snakes, in the gardens next to Pavilion of Carlos V before all of them are apprehended by Martell soldiers. Another elaborate location is the beautifully lit domes of Maria de Padilla’s Baths where Ellaria secretly convened with the Sand Snakes to plot revenge for Prince Oberyn’s death. While the Martells were known for their promiscuity, fittingly Maria de Padilla was caught up in her own Thrones-esque plot as King Pedro’s mistress.

Maria De Padilla Baths

Maria De Padilla Baths

The baths as depicted in the show

The baths as depicted in the show

Episode nine featured The Ambassador’s Hall where Prince Doran received Jaime along with Myrcella, Trystane and Ellaria, though the star of the show is the hall’s gorgeous gold ceiling. The palace must have been manna from above for the producers as such glorious elegance would have been impractical to reproduce. From the Arabic three arches to the domed ceiling, ornate furniture, exquisite plasterwork and coloured Moorish ceramic tiles, all they had to was shoot as the backdrop was so sublime. Later on the in the same episode, Ellaria finally swore allegiance to Prince Doran with the paved courtyard of the Patio de las Doncellas in the background.

The Ambassador's Hall at Real Alcázar

The Ambassador’s Hall at Real Alcázar

The Ambassador's Hall as depicted in the show

The Ambassador’s Hall as depicted in the show

For those wanting to venture a bit further, there are two other filming locations outside of the city. Santiponce was once considered one of the most important cities in the Roman age and the ruins themselves are free to visit for EU citizens. The Italica ruins have been an attraction since 1989 when it was declared an Archaeological Site by a decree of the Andalusian Regional Government. Most importantly, the amphitheatre was used as The Dragonpit in the finale to season seven which saw Cersei Lannister face up to Jon Snow and Danaerys Targaryen. The ruins are about a half hour bus ride away on the M170 which is a local bus you can catch from the main bus station at the Plaza D’Armas up to every 15 minutes for €1.60. Keep gazing out of the window as the rolling hills on the approach through the village of Camas can be likened to those in Gladiator and you can see why the Romans took a fancy.

The Amphitheatre at the Italica ruins in Santiponce

The Amphitheatre at the Italica ruins in Santiponce

The amphitheatre as it appeared as The Dragonpit

The amphitheatre as it appeared as The Dragonpit

Danaerys Targaryen as featured in The Dragonpit

Danaerys Targaryen as featured in The Dragonpit

The same spot in the amphitheatre

The same spot in the amphitheatre

The entrance to the amphitheatre was also used to feature The Hound

The entrance to the amphitheatre was also used to feature The Hound

The entrance to the amphitheatre as depicted in the show

The entrance to the amphitheatre as depicted in the show

If large, open-air arenas are your thing then you should also visit the bullring at Plaza de Toros in Osuna which was Danzak’s Fighting Pit in Meereen in episode nine of series five when Daenerys Targaryen escaped on the the back of her dragon, Drogon, after an ambush attack by the Sons of the Harpy. You will have to imagine the dragon but the bullring itself dates from 1904 and is one of the widest and most prestigious in Spain, still seating around 5000 spectators. Osuna is about 85 minutes away on a coach from Plaza de San Sebastian and costs €8 one-way, though you could get the roomy, air conditioned train for €3 more. The train trip is also a far cry from Britain’s equivalent as the ticket price stays consistent and the Renfe train itself even comes with vending machines.

The Bullring at Plaza Del Toros in Osuna

The Bullring at Plaza Del Toros in Osuna

Filming the bullring as Danzak's Fighting Pit

Filming the bullring as Danzak’s Fighting Pit

The sheer variety of historical landmarks combined with it’s easy accessibility and warm climate make Seville a great destination for a mini-break. Given the brutal history that the Andaluscian capital has endured makes it a no-brainer that the city was chosen to masquerade as Dorne and Meereen. Even without your own dragon, there are few better cities to immerse yourself in the show.

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Lifestyle, Opinion, Travel

New Years Resolutions 2018

At some point after posting this I’ll take a look at last year’s list and accept that there are several things I want to change in my life and I simply haven’t bothered putting them into action for another year. I know it is shameful so I’ll try a bit harder this time I promise.

  1. Lose some weight by eating well and exercising more. Simple really and I have begun the New Year by starting Dry January (though I won’t be doing it for sponsorship because that’s pretty lame), walking more and starting to plan my weekly eating.
  2. At least two runs a week, fitness permitting. Obviously when I begin half marathon training this will be pretty simple to follow yet it’s the weeks after that when I need to kick on.
  3. Go out on more dates. This will likely follow the correct implementation of the above two resolutions yet it is galling that I again spent a large amount of the festive period wishing I had someone special to spend it with, especially considering how easy it is seeing how happy couples are on social media. This has to change and I’m determined that I can conquer my shyness and at least ask a few girls out so I don’t face the ignominy of telling my Mum/boss/friends that ‘Operation Tibbles (where I end up living alone with a cat called Tibbles) is going really well.
  4. Eat out more. Again, this will hopefully follow the above resolution. Sheffield has some really fantastic restaurants and I’ve barely been to any of them. Yes, I’m aware I’m a more than half decent cook but it’ll be nice to try some new eateries.
  5. Read at least one book every month. Better still, join a reading club.
  6. Get my ‘Films To Watch’ list down to at least 50 (https://letterboxd.com/wiz52/list/films-i-need-to-watch/)
  7. Limit the time I spend on my phone. After 10pm I should have it off and spend my time in bed reading
  8. Meditate every morning. It only takes ten minutes and has certainly helped my SAD as well as help manage my thinking at work, plus the Headspace app is free thanks to my work.
  9. Participate more in the arts. In December I took part in a ten day study with the University of Sheffield which measured my wellbeing against how much I participated in the arts. One of the points I soon realised was that I really need to go to the theatre more, especially as Sheffield has the Lyceum and Crucible.
  10. Take more care of my herb garden
  11. Smile more
  12. Drink more water
  13. Learn a new skill, possibly a new language such as Arabic
  14. Visit two new countries as I have the holiday days to spare; this could include Iceland, Poland, Turkey, Egypt (yes, I’ve never been) or Cuba
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Film, Music, Opinion, TV

Top Tens of 2017

This is likely not the only ‘Top Tens’ blog post you have seen in the last few weeks and now I’ll add my choices to the mix. The lists fail to include that many leftfield choices though The Florida Project was one film I read a review of then viewed on a whim and now I expect it to win a couple of Oscars (it’s a genuinely remarkable piece of work and I’d highly recommend it to anyone).

Female fronted acts have also dominated my musical choices with gig highlights for the year including the first date of Lorde’s world tour at Manchester Apollo and The Big Moon at Tramlines and Sheffield Plug. I’ve also spent way too much time on Netflix (admittedly without the ‘chill’ aspect) and managed to blitz my way through The Crown, Rick ‘n’ Morty and The Keepers in a matter of days. There’s still several series’ I hope to get through in these cold opening months of 2018 so feel free to comment if there’s anything else you think I’d like.

Films

  1. Thor: Ragnorak
  2. Get Out
  3. Baby Driver
  4. The Florida Project
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  6. Paddington 2
  7. Dunkirk
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. War for the Planet of the Apes
  10. The Big Sick

 

Albums

  1. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
  2. The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension
  3. Alvvays – Antisocialities
  4. Lorde – Melodrama
  5. Baby Driver OST
  6. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
  7. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
  8. Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
  9. Kendrick Lamar – Damn
  10. The Horrors – V

 

Television Shows

  1. Game of Thrones: Season Seven
  2. Stranger Things: Season Two
  3. The Crown: Season Two
  4. GLOW
  5. Rick n Morty
  6. Bojack Horseman
  7. Riverdale
  8. Making A Murderer
  9. Line of Duty: Season Four
  10. The Keepers
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