Monthly Archives: December 2012

University- a hoax business?

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Sitting down once again to try and wade my way through more heavily worded critiques of a variety of literature I care very little for, I once again ask myself why, at the age of 18, I decided that a university education in Modern Languages was for me.

At that time, they said “Go study languages, so many doors will just open for you, the world will literally be your oyster”. Why is it then that four years later, I am very tempted to return to my school and demand my money back? Is it the illusion I was sold that after 3 years of intensive language training and a year abroad I would be a fully fledged linguist, able to communicate with all manner of people in any business setting? Already fully certain that I want to work in the ski industry, I have become astutely aware that whilst my good conversational level of French and German will almost certainly come in handy, the nearly £4000 a year I have paid to stress about essays which account for 70% of my degree, almost certainly will not.

The thing is, we are sold this illusion that “university will prepare you for the wider world”. We will develop analytical skills, partake in clubs and societies, become fluent in multiple fluent languages (insert other skill here) and employers will be begging for us to work for them, well maybe not quite.

At the moment, I think I am on track for a 2:2, not something that I am especially proud to admit, given the fees I am paying. However I cannot understand why I am paying approx. £150 a week for lessons which simply do not inspire. Is it my own fault for not being passionate enough about my subject? Or is it not understanding the product I was sold before signing the contract to buy it? The impression I was under, when I signed up for a Modern Languages Studies BA was that I would be studying LANGUAGES-the key word in my degree. Whilst  understood that there would be elements of essay writing, I did not quite realise that it would only make up for one third of the entire annual credits.

These “content module” credits are supposedly meant to be a form of cultural enrichment, but whilst it is all very well and good to know about issues such as immigration, gender power struggles and 19th century poetry, it is not teaching me about “real life” culture in France for when I go and visit.

On my year abroad last year, I was not equipped with the conversational etiquette needed for a casual conversation with French people my own age, nor, as a matter of fact with Germans. We were not warned that generally French people are not quite xenophobic, but a little hard to mix with. Breaking into a friendship group is the hardest thing you can try and do as a foreigner, and when your starting line is “how do you feel about gay marriage” or “what do you think about the current political climate of Europe at the moment” you are going to be considered a bit of a dick.

What I am trying to say, in a rather roundabout way, is that given the chance to study language again, I would just have spread my wings, gone abroad, and worked in a bar, whilst actually earning money and learning social skills. Throwaway the “flashy” BA in French with German and become an electrician instead. People need an electrician or plumber more than they need an analysis of Baudelaire.

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If I had a superpower…

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Back when I was at secondary school, I was OBSESSED with Heroes. Generally any sort of storyline which involves people with superhuman abilities has always kept me fascinated and entertained and I have always wondered if ever I was to be landed in a sweetie shop situation where each plastic tub contained a different power and I could only choose one, which one I would choose.

Flying- This is often the one that most children dream of, who wouldn’t want to be able to go anywhere they wanted in the world, getting the full bird’s eye view and spitting on their enemies. It has been pretty highly rated, but then if you’re not very aware of things like turbulence and vortexes then you might come to a crunchy end.

Telepathy- I’ve always kind of wanted to be able to do this, as I can be very socially awkward so it could always help me to say the right thing. Problem is, if someone is thinking something you’d rather not hear, or if you discovered a big secret, what’s to stop me from interfering with things that I shouldn’t meddle in?

Moving objects with my mind (or telekinesis as Heroes calls it)- this would be awesome, but I can only think of a few times when it would be useful. 1) When the T.V remote is too far away to reach 2) a replacement for general laziness. I think that having “telekinesis” would just result in me getting really fat and lazy.

Super-speed- I think this one appeals the most, however it does require being a bit more coordinated than me, and I’m also not really built for speed, also, how many calories would you burn off? Wouldn’t you get a stitch from running really fast?

Ability to heal- This is kind of boring, but also really cool since I seem to get into a lot of accidents. Though if I knew that every time I fell, I would instantly regenerate, I would definitely part-take in many more extreme sports.

For now though, I think it’s time I stopped fantasizing about the impossible and maybe just tried to perfect a talent a little closer to home. For 2013, I want to become good at just one thing. Time to start taking guitar lessons perhaps?

2012- a playlist.

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I have a fairly pretentious music taste, and I am one of those wankers that professes to hold contempt for “chart music” (with exceptions). With the year drawing to close, I thought I would give a long-winded round up of the songs that have kept me sane in 2012.

January

Gotye,  Somebody that I used to know– This is breaking my first rule of “no chart music”. It was very fitting for the first few months of 2012 as the then relationship was on the rock, then hit a very tearful demise. Gotye hit a nerve with anyone who has ever gone through a break-up so my story is no different. I am still listening today, but not because I am mournful, I just love the song.

February

This is around about the time I started revisiting music from times gone by. Bombay Bicycle Club, Miike Snow and Delphic gave me the uplifting beats I needed to get through a depressing Cold-War with my Berliner landlady. To wind down, Passion Pit‘s acoustic “Sleepyhead” was the perfect accompaniment to my fascination with the full collection of Sherlock Holmes novels.

March– The month that I took the time to try out some covers. Walk off the Earth, Boyce Avenue, Orto Pilot. I did however go to see the Jezabels in concert at the beginning. Watching “A little piece” and “mace spray” live was one of my musical highlights of 2012.

April- – On April 16th, I moved back out to Germany to start my adventures in Heidelberg. I got my comfort music on as I made another journey into the unknown, just to “keep things real”, ya know. April was for my “go to” bands like Explosions in the Sky, Those Dancing Days, Death Cab for Cutie and Frightened Rabbit

May– I got into House M.D. during May. Probably a terrible idea when you’re on the year abroad and supposed to be socialising. I know the theme tune “Tear drop” (Massive Attack) a bit too well now. This was a time when I was generally trying to find German-produced music which I would actually listen to, but my efforts were fairly futile, and I am not ashamed to admit that there are few German musicians which have made it onto my MP3 player. I can recommend the following to discerning wannabe Germans though: Moonbootica, Tomte and the usual Deichkind/ other terrible German party music, which gets strangely addictive.

June– I can’t quite pinpoint when I decided Alex Clare was the next big thing for me, but I decided I liked his “edgy take” on sounding a lot like Maroon 5. The novelty wore off by September and I haven’t choice-fully played it since. I was also heavily stuck into the Decemberists’ “June Hymn” which was the perfect sound track to the summer landscape in which I was living.

July–  was a time of tying bonds and making promises to see all the friends I’d made in Germany again. Katie hooked me up to Neutral Milk Hotel and in return I gave her Ben Howard, particularly The Wolves, which we listened to on a boat trip to Neckarsteinach whilst getting illegally tipsy and opening bottles of beer on whatever we could suitably lay our hands on.

AugustOf Monsters and Men captured my imagination in August. I am very open to music from other destinations and always admire artists that write songs and music in a tongue which is not their own. I’m not sure how well “Little Talks” fared in the charts, but I know they have made a couple of guest appearances on BBC Radio 1. Something about the choice of trumpets, a female voice (they feature little in my playlists, usually because a lot of female singers make some really annoying sort of sighing noises which I cannot stand) and the sort of faraway fairytale type lyrics pumped me with energy and imagination. At the same time, August is always a time of year when it never hurts to listen to the charts, as often there are uplifting beats, which I really needed as motivation for my cycle rides to the Gym and however annoying “Wiley” is, he made for lots of amusing house mate jokes in September.

September– wasn’t all that interesting musically as months go, however I should definitely use this paragraph to give a bit of love to all those bands which have shaped my taste in music for the better.

Quick run-down 1) Death Cab- the most comforting, if a little emo, music produced. 2) The Shins- masters of indie, catchy and addictive but such good quality, New Slang has been one of my favourite songs since I was 17. 3) All Time Low– tacky, I know, but Remembering Sunday is a song which should be on EVERY MP3 and it’s really good for exercising to. 4) Kishi Bashi– a recent discovery, but so addictive. Songs: Bright Whites and Manchester could soon be reaching the “most played” list. 5) Yann Tiersen– the guy who composed the really beautiful score for Goodbye Lenin! and la vie fabuleux d’Amelie Poulain, some perfect melodies.

October– My house mates all seem to have a big thing for “Florence and the Machine”. I am personally not a fan, mostly because I don’t actually like the sound of her voice which sounds a bit off-key to me. In an effort to drown out this noise I would turn up The Naked and the Famous really loud on the CD player. A band I will never tire of due to punchy beats and brilliant lyrics and energy. Other remedies to  das Florencewelchproblem included: Young Rebel Set (“If I Was” had me hooked instantly), Anberlin and of course Placebo

November was all about Ben Howard. The day finally rolled around when I saw him live and it was amazing. I immediately downloaded his latest EP and listened to “Oats in the Water” on repeat. Something about it kind of reminded me of previous trips to Scotland and cold but peaceful places where I desperately wanted to be as the “Rabb-ture” (a pun on the name of one of my tutors, ignore this) doom of immigration essay deadline loomed. The first tings and bings of Christmas musak started to seep in gradually. Ears burned.

December I should probably dedicate December to Mike,  a friend of top musical guidance who has led me into the realms of things I may not have known about otherwise. I see my friend Mike once every year or so, and when we do see each other, he never fails to find music which I will inevitably love. After about 12 months of trying, he FINALLY managed to get me into Taking Back Sunday, and now I cannot stop listening to. Everything must go, Live From Orensanz has taken the Number 1 spot in my “most played” on my Creative Zen in the space of a week and “What’s it feel like to be a Ghost?” is blasting out at an almost intolerable number of decibels from my laptop. My other favourite recommendations which I have not yet downloaded (legally) are Lakes of Canada and Ramona Falls. 

Songs which are very much worthy of a mention:

Menomena: Plumage

Johnny Foreigner– Salt, pepper and Spindarella.

Jordan Klassen– Go to me

Saint Motel– Puzzle Pieces

The Cinematic Orchestra– To build a home

Descent– The Album Leaf