Sunday, 24 May 2015

Why I'm Not Into Fashion, Unless I Am

I was asked at a job interview recently if I was into fashion. I didn't answer the question well.

I wasn't expecting it and I gave dithery "Um, not really. If it's doing something interesting, I suppose." My attempts to elaborate did not go well either. I explained that something unique or quirky or different will interest me, but that I'm not interested in keeping up with whatever might be new at H&M. Every year, it'll have something for when it's cold, something for when it's warm, something for going out, something casual and something professional. And they'll be basically the same as last year's lines and I won't buy any of them because I already have loads of clothes.

I stick by what I said. But I realise that while I spoke enough about what I don't like, I didn't really cover what I do.

I like seeing people do interesting things with their clothes. And I mean, something really, really unique and different and unlike as much of the rest of the world as possible, in a way that still compliments their character and form.

For instance, I have this friend who... I have this friend:

This is Hollie Would. I have never seen her looking anything other than fabulous. She does clothes well. Very well.

She used to regularly host a variety night full of people who also did clothes well. Performers including singers and jugglers and burlesque dancers and drag acts, all of them really imaginative, with their performance and with their look.

They looked interesting, they look intriguing, they looked like the kind of people I wanted to pay attention to.

People like Odelia Opium, a burlesque dancer who incorporates her costume into the dance. While I have seen burlesque dancers who do the same dance in a different outfit and call it a new act, she's different. Some burlesque performers get their gigs just through the price tag of whatever they're throwing on the floor. This one makes her clothes work with her movement. They match the theme of her dance, they are an integral part of each performance. She does burlesque a credit in the way she uses her outfits.

And it is part of what makes her consistently brilliant.

Then, there was the Middle Aged Mermaid, a drag act that presents the relationship of Ariel, the Little Mermaid, a decade or so after she left the sea to get married. It's a funny act - parodied Disney songs about the high price of living in London. And the clothes are fantastically imaginative. The Middle Aged Mermaid wears a dress made of Oyster cards with a gauze tail flowing along behind her. I have no idea where the idea came from, but I love it, and I've enjoyed chatting about it to the Mermaid herself and others about how quirky and original it is.

It's that kind of weird innovation that I enjoy about the things that people wear. Even though it is just a dress, I think it makes a huge difference to my overall enjoyment of the act.

I like that kind of oddness. I like seeing when people make dresses out of Pokemon cards or Lego or bottle caps. My friend Jan went to MCM Expo this year wearing an outfit made entirely of beer cans. I have a T shirt that, while rarely worn, is cherished hugely because it changes colour as the temperature changes. In the summer, it shows off any and all sweat stains, but I think it's an incredible piece of fashion technology.

That is the kind of the fashion titbits that I enjoy. I don't keep up with what comes down catwalks, because I don't care what you wear as long as you're comfortable in it. I'll enjoy it all the more if you wear it well, if you wear it with confidence. But if you feel good in it, that's all that matters to me.

My housemate is a comedian. This is his act:

He made that mask himself. He's working on a new one. He fiddles with the costume as he gigs more often. His outfit is brilliant. It creates a character so unique that you can't help but remember him. If clothes are supposed to make you stand out, I'd come to Neuroses before I went to basically any high street or designer clothes store. We'd go round the charity shops, chop up someone else's hand-me-downs and make something of our own. We'd be creative with it. We'd make something unique and original, something that reflects us.

Which, I think, is the point of fashion.

Not to say what is good and that everyone must wear it. But to show off the way people have chosen to reflect themselves through their clothes, for other people to emulate or improve on or ignore, depending on their reactions to it.

I like the things that surprise me, the things I don't expect. The things that pique my curiosity, not because I wonder where they were bought, but because I'm wondering where the idea behind them came from. Because I want to know how they were made, why they were made, what else can be done with them - how far we can run with this idea and what more we can do with it.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Hey, look! More cool stuff I can't afford!

In my general perusals of the internet, I've stumbled across a little gadget that I'm finding myself somewhat taken with.

And, if the pledges it's racking up on Kickstarter are anything to go by, I'm not the only one.

The video on it's Kickstarter site is really comprehensive. Obviously, that bit is designed to convince me it's a good thing, that it's worth backing, and so it will have some element of bias in it. But until the thing has been finished and reviewed, it's all I've got by which to judge it.

Regardless of how the actual gadget turns out, I have fallen in love with the concept at it's core.

The Light Phone, invented by a company called Light, is a credit-card sized gadget that only receives phone calls.

Which sounds a bit useless. But there is a lot more behind it.

It's not a replacement for your smartphone. It's for when you want a break from it.

It works with the phone you already have. You download the app, you leave your phone at home. You don't have to put up with notifications from Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat or whatever else you have installed on your smartphone that will inevitably buzz at just the right time to interrupt an important conversation or ruin the mood.

More importantly, your friends don't. Or colleagues or boss or interviewer or lover. Or whoever else gets irritated when your face is in a screen all the time you spend with them.

Your phone calls get redirected from your phone to your Light Phone, so that if there is something really important happening, you can still be contacted. People can still get through to you in emergencies.

But that's it.

You don't have to deal with the rest of that crap. You don't have to worry about Twitter notifying you that someone else said something that doesn't pertain to you at all, and perhaps not even interest you in the slightest. Which my Twitter has been doing recently. I don't like it.

I do like the Light Phone.

I know I'm broke right now, but I'm contemplating getting one. Even though there are a load of other Kickstarters I want to back that I could get more stuff from for less money. Even though I'm skint enough to buy basically only Morrisons own brand food.

And pretty much everyone I know except my nan (who doesn't have a smartphone, so is still good company) will be getting one for Christmas.

I'm twenty two years old. My generation is the one that suffers most severely from smartphone addication. I think I'm reasonably distanced from my gadgets. I recently went a week without a laptop and craved Blogger more than anything else. I'm happy leaving my phone at home when I go out. But I am close to a lot of people who can't handle doing those things. Who will be sitting in a room full of close friends and stare at their phones.

I want one, even if it just to ward off potentially ending up like that.

And I want other people to have one. I want to not feel like a third wheel when I'm hanging out with one friend. Ever.

I love that this thing is so close to existing. It's cute and it's cool and, if it all goes right, could be saviour of many, many relationships.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I'm Sick of You Already, Conservative Majority.

As anyone who caught even a passing glimpse of my various social media feeds will know, I'm not happy with the result of the recent UK election. I truly believe that having a Conservative government in power for another term will do irreparable damage to things that make the UK great. Things like the NHS.

I did everything I could to keep them out at the time - that is, I voted for another party. I shared a few stories expressing my desire for change and encouraged people to vote. And I accept that the voting system our country currently has in place ruled the Conservatives the winning party. I also think that our current voting system is hugely flawed, but whinging about that now won't make much of a difference.

Now is the time to be proactive about the things that can be changed. The next five years are going to be a struggle for every poor person, every disabled person, every LGBT person, everyone from a social minority. And instead of sitting back and taking it, I think that the time now is to make sure that the voice of every one of those people is heard. No matter what. I think that now is the time that as many people as possible need to start getting involved in politics, pestering their local MPs to do everything in their power to stop our government exploiting people.

While it means a lot of hassle that we could probably do without in lives that are stressful enough as it is, I think it's necessary.

The election was less than a week ago and already I'm distraught at some of the legislation the Tories are trying to pass, not to mention the horrific way they've arranged their cabinet. The new minister for equality, Caroline Dinenage, voted against gay marriage. The new justice minister, Dominic Raab, also has a funny idea of equal rights, having previously shown opposition to laws that protect both gender and racial equality.

One of the first things the Conservatives did following their recent freedom from their coalition with the Liberal Democrats (who, we are learning, did a lot more over the past five years than most of us gave them credit for) has been to scrap the Human Rights Act. It's all very well them saying they have another idea for how to go about it, but the idea as a whole utterly undermines the importance of human rights in the first place. The fact that they can just do that is horrifying. The one ray of sunshine this situation has is Nicola Sturgeon. Her, and e-petitions.

As well as this, they've pushed to restore the legality of fox hunting, shown support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and pushed forward the "snoopers' charters" bill that will require online organisations to retain and share individuals' private information.

All of this horrifies me. And it's all happened in less than a week. If I'm this distraught at what they can do to this country in such a short space of time, I can't imagine what they'll do to it in five whole years.

I will be doing everything in my power to stop them ruining the UK for everyone who lives here. For everyone who depends on it having a government that actually serves it people. This means I'll be writing about a million letters to my MP.

Who I do not expect to listen much to my concerns.

My MP is Iain Duncan Smith, who is quite well known now for figure-heading a lot of the legislation that caused a lot of people a lot of pain and suffering. His bigotry and total of lack of compassion is clear in his voting record, which shows him consistently cutting benefits, voting against gay and other minority rights and supporting war and nuclear weapon development funding.

I'm ashamed to live in his constituency. Which is a shame because I really like my house. And my area. And if I lived a few streets down, I'd have someone else. And literally anyone would have been an improvement on Iain Duncan Smith, as far as I'm concerned.

But I am still going to try. I will do whatever I can to make his toxic decisions difficult to make. I don't care how much it takes out of me or how impossible it might seem.

I suppose I shall start by writing to my MP about the things I am already taking issue with following his party's success. I will write as many letters as it takes to get his attention, to remind him that he is supposed to represent the opinions of his constituents and that I will make my opinion known at every opportunity.

After that, I'll do whatever else I have to. I hope I'm not alone.

I will not let any government tear apart my country without putting up a fight.

Friday, 8 May 2015

A Reflection on the 2015 Election.

(I really didn't mean that to rhyme, but hey, it happens.)

Last night, I knew I wouldn't stay up until morning watching the election results get gradually revealed. I might have enjoyed it, but I'd been up since 6am so it wasn't going to happen.

I looked away from the results quite early in. Otherwise they would've distracted me or maybe upset me. When I shut down my computer and started winding down, though, the country was in pretty good shape. There were three female Labour MPs in parliament. And no one else. I liked that.

I woke up this morning and everything had changed.

Somehow, the Tories were back in power.

A similar thing struck me then as it had at the last election. My social media news feeds are full of people like me. Loud liberal people. It gave off a false sense of security. Not so secure that I didn't vote, of course. But secure enough that I wasn't too afraid of what would happen come morning. I figured, whoever was going to get in, it wasn't going to be any of the far right crazies and it wouldn't still be the Conservatives, so it's all good. Any of the others would at least have been an improvement.

I was wrong. I don't think I'm the only one to have experienced that this morning.

My news feeds now are full of people saying that they're going back to bed for the next five years.

On the one hand, is hugely reassuring that a lot of the people in my life understand what this means for the country and aren't prepared to tolerate it. Whatever unrealistically comforting impression it gives me of humanity, I'm glad that those are the people surrounding me.

On the other hand, no matter how disappointing things are, that is not productive. It doesn't make a difference. It doesn't get rid of them. It doesn't put pressure on them to pay more attention to their people. It doesn't let them know that we are not prepared just to bend over for them for the next five years.

Instead, let's not go back to bed. Let's use these next five years positively. Let's do what we didn't do last time and be proactive throughout this entire period.

Everyone who is disappointed now still gets a say at some level. Giving in just because we didn't get the leader we wanted is an option, but it will suck for everyone. For everyone who didn't want the Tories back in, I say, make them aware of your disapproval at every opportunity, get involved in local politics and make sure that your representative knows your views on every issue that is raised in the next five years.

Let's continue fighting it and let's do it harder.