Monday, 15 December 2008

The first day of the rest of your life...

So I've had my first week in the land of 21 and already things seem very grown up from the outside looking in.

I've been spending my days at Nintendo Wii magazine NGamer, and compared to the week before it's got a very different atmosphere, more casual and communal.

Here in Bath there's a whole different feel to things, with upwards of 40 magazines (or so, I haven't exactly counted) in the building there's plenty of people around all the time.

Guitar Hero controllers litter the floor all around, interspersed with giant flat-screen televisions and ancient issues of Future (Publishing) mags like Powerstation and Official Playstation 2 Magazine.

There's been plenty to do and get involved in, and I even managed to get my hands on the brand new issue before subscribers and anyone else will see it! The most reassuring moment was when I thought up an idea for a feature, and then was told it was in the new issue, least it means I'm on track.

Come January it's time to head back to London for DVD and Blu-Ray Review, here's hoping it brings another different experience again.

Oh and, Merry Christmas all.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Premiere of Jim Carrey's "Yes Man"

There's plenty of things worth getting excited about, but as it goes a World Premiere of a film is pretty high up the list.

Standing on the red carpet outside Vue's West End einema the excitement all around was palpable, there were screams of "I love you Jim" as Mr Carrey talked cheerily with photographers about his latest film "Yes Man".
On the chilly London evening, minor celebrities trickled in, the women posing on the red carpet pointedly...even if mose people didn't know who they were.

The biggest names amounted to a couple of people from last year's X-Factor, as well as Anthony Head, of Buffy and Little Britain fame, and BBC 5-Live presenter Richard Bacon.

The night was suitably clown-like, with Carrey putting on a show for his public and personally introducing the film in typical OTT style, complete with massive gestures and strange voices.
The film itself was distinctly average. There were some worryingly cringe-worthy moments, and an entertaining turn from New Zealander Rhys Darby as the ever-optimistic Norman (or Norm, to his friends).
The concept is a simple one: say yes to everything, no matter how bad it might be or rediculous it might seem, and you will be able to live life to the full.
Carrey's character, Carl, finds himself being dragged to a conference for the pioneer of this way of thinking, Terrence Bundley, played enthusiastically by Terence Stamp, where he is mandandled into taking it up, with typically hilarious consequences.
The problem is, as always, is that if you don't like Jim Carrey, you won't like this film.
Carrey has tried to break out of his stereotype with films like Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Number 23, which had varying success, but he just doesn't have the conviction to make a character more than an updated version of Ace Ventura 90% of the time.
For Carrey films this is another addition to fun flicks like the questionable 'Fun With Dick and Jane' or the more impressive 'Bruce Almighty' but when you make a film based on such a simple idea and don't expand on it, a simple film is what you get.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Batman storms onto DVD, but what of Blu-ray?

It feels like a long time since Christopher Nolan's masterpiece hit cinemas in July this year, but yesterday The Dark Knight hit supermarket shelves nationwide, creating a frenzied hoarde of Bat-fans.

HMV coaxed potential shoppers into pre-ordering the epic for £11.99, and throwing in a graphic novel into the bargain, but then subsequently dropped the in-store price for £9.99 in the first week.

The reason? Other than almost betraying the hard-core fans who pre-ordered back in September, the emphasis has shifted from DVD to Blu-ray.

The ultra-cool format boasts increased capacity, allowing shed-loads of special features and numerous times better picture quality, but we've heard this before now, why is it that the shift in marketing has happened now?

Blu-rays war with HDDVD ended earlier this year, with the major film companies who had backed the losing format sheepishly creeping over to Blu-ray, and with Toshiba now having developing new players, the great war is over.

Retailers have waited to strike until Christmas because plenty of people will be forking out on Blu-ray players this year, now that the latest players have the option to connect to the internet to update themselves, and are finally trickling down in price to something affordable.

The Dark Knight was just the vehicle the shops needed to force Blu-ray to the front of people's minds and is currently the highest selling Blu-ray in the USA and UK. Plus it's not just an empty vessel, there's oceans of hot action content and special features to get people's tongues wagging, particularly the Joker's altercation with an articulated lorry and the Batmobile's destruction.

But will it last? DVD is only 10 years old this year and there's little inducation of it going the way of the dodo already. The trouble is that you have to fork out on expensive full HD TVs and 7.1 sound to make it worthwhile and at £25 or so for the titles themselves, the price will have to drop a fair way before the mass market gets on board.

Public perceptions of the format are still positive, but only in another year or so will it be clear how well the retailers Christmas marketing paid off for them in the long run.

For the time being, I'll be looking forward to seeing the film on 'traditional' DVD.

Monday, 8 December 2008

A day at EMPIRE: The World's Biggest Movie Magazine

Well I've made it, the clock has struck 6pm and my first day of work placement at EMPIRE is over.

There's no question it's been overwealming, and perhaps I feel as though I could have accomplished more, but I'm happy with the day, and most importantly, I've enjoyed myself.

My first taste of the industry has been as entertaining as I expected, with stories and comments flying around the office and big Hollywood names being name-checked here and there throughout.

I didn't get off to the best start, having been told to go to the FIRTH floor instead of the FORTH, but there's still time to turn around those first impressions, and everyone I've met is very nice.

I won't (t)witter on about it too much, but there's no signs of the credit crunch dampening people's spirits in this festive Christmas season.

The office, littered with EMPIRE issues as you'd expect, is also complete with a pool table to unwind with, as well as a couple of shiny big screen TVs for those all-important DVD views.

Most impressively though, is the A1 cardboard representations of some of the magazine's most iconic covers, which brought a warm smile to my face as soon as I arrived.

As well as that there seems to be a large amount of Star Wars related things lying around, fingers crossed that my new T-shirt in the same vein will make a good impression later in the week.

Stay tuned for more.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Looking past Christmas madness to 2009

Why is it that whenever Christmas time comes around people all go a little bit strange. Is it the mass consumption of alcoholic beverages? Or being forced to listen to your eccentric Uncle tell one more embarrassing story about your dad?

Whatever it is, it's premature. Screaming pop rockers Slade always insist their classic Merry Xmas Everybody! is played earlier and earlier every year, when really it's a song meant to be played as you unwrap your presents (or in this year's case, credit crunch friendly lumps of coal) on that blissful morning.

No doubt I am as guilty as the masses for writing this now, not even a week into December, but I think people can get too carried away, especially when there's work still to be done.

The sick days pile higher and you suddenly remember you've inexplicably forgotten presents for a cherished love one, quickly logging onto HMV and hoping they deliver before the big day.

Nowhere is the Christmas season more exaggerated than on the high street. Shops begin pushing their seasonal deals as early as the end of October, especially this year when the financial troubles are expected to take their toll, though it's not as bad as you might think.

The trouble with it is that it's so fleeting, with New Years signs going up on Christmas Eve, and Easter treats already out in shops, we never stand still to appreciate those precious, argument-filled days.

In many ways, why would we want to, there are an incredible number of things to look forward to in 2009, here's my top 10:

1) Graduating from University - as much fun as I've had, it's time to move on
2) X-men Origins: Wolverine - Hugh Jackman returns as Woverine in a film that explains how he became the animal we met in the first X-men
3) Terminator Salvation - Christian Bale re-energises the Terminator franchise with support from newcomer Sam Worthington, who's also set to star in sci-fi flick Avatar.
4) Bad Religion's new album - The vintage punk rockers return for more operatic choruses and political lyrics, American punk at its best.
5) Resident Evil 5 (Xbox) - After the colossal success of 4 and the ultimately enjoyable Umbrella Chronicles the action moves to Africa where we begin to learn where the T-virus came from
6) Valkyrie - Tom Cruise stars in a based-on-truth thriller detailing the plot to assassinate Hitler during World War Two directed by Usual Suspects supremo Bryan Singer.
7) Muse's new album - The best British rock band around, both live and on record, will return for an epic new album, hopefully with piano solos.
8) Public Enemies - Heat and Collateral director Michael Mann returns with a 1930s gangster piece starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
9) Mass Effect 2 (Xbox) - The sage of Shepard continues with the sequel to one of my favourite RPGs of all time.
10) Green Day's new album - The California trio have a lot to prove after the colossal American Idiot, will they come back to their old sound to please fans, or sell out in a pit of pop/punk horror?

So there's mine, what about yours?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Holidays are coming...but first

With a huge sigh of relief I finally completed and handed in all my work for this term earlier on today (I might share some of it on here so watch this space). There's nothing like feeling you're actually accomplishing something in your life, don't you think?

There's not much new about this holiday season for most people, but for me it's an important and exciting one. First of all I get to turn 21 (14th of December, be sure to look out for a birthday post then!), which has been long awaited and confirms my ascent from the last remnants of childhood into an age where people accept you aren't a child, but look at you with a disapproving gaze followed by a shrewd smile whenever you try do or say something naive.

I accept this is part of the 'right' of passage into the world of working to get paid as opposed to the world of paying to study, but I wonder what age most 'real' adults think us borderliners become part of their club?

More importantly, and excitingly, than that though, is the other big event that is happening is my work placement, which begins on Monday at none other than EMPIRE magazine, a magazine which I have almost infinite respect for and a great appreciation of.

I'll be there all week, so hopefully I'll find a moment to report back about the interesting goings on, but rest assured my eyes will be peeled for tantalising glimpses of the next years hottest films.

This placement is the best 21st birthday present I could have hoped for in truth, because EMPIRE is the place I'd like to end up once I've flexed my creative muscles throughout the industry in a few years time.

Let us hope this opportunity will be everything I'm convinced it will be, because there's always a chance this time in the industry will make me realise I don't want to be a journalist anymore.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

I do, I undo, I redo

You may have noticed a change around here. On the other hand I suppose you may have never been here before, in which case welcome along, but the big change to the blog today is the name.

Yes, that's right, I've finally realised that no one except me and old people in Vatican City with big beards understands Latin anymore, so it was out with "Ex virborum auditorum" and in with "This is Entertainment". I thought I'd opt for a name which reflected a little more the content of the page, something which I hope to build up on in future.

Also there's a snazzy banner at the top (comments?), which I knocked up on trusty Photoshop Elements (6.0, none of this archaic 4.0 University nonsense) so hopefully it gives things a little more cohesion, I suppose only time will tell.

The name of the post, for those who are interested, is from an artistic work I saw (above) in the Tate Modern in London a few years ago by Louise Bourgeois, which consisted of three large metal towers called "I Do", "I Undo" and "I Redo".

I just the symbolism reflected here quite nicely, I hope you'll read on...

Monday, 1 December 2008

The great film ticket price problem

Do you ever find yourself visiting your local cinema and thinking: “Blimey, those nachos are a bit expensive!” The truth is, the price gap between the real world and movie-land is vast, a bag of Minstrels in a high street shop or local convenience store might set you back £1.50-£2.00, whereas in cinemas this price jumps up to £2.75 or even £3.00.

Of course, this is nothing new, there are endless ways to cheekily nab money off us these days, but what’s the real reason? Shameless money grabbing, or something more?

Cinemas generally don’t get all the money from the tickets they sell, as you might assume, in fact the figure is closer to 20%, with most of the money going to film distribution companies, not even to the actors and actresses themselves.

When you hear news of Quantum of Solace raking in the most money at the box office in history on opening day then you have to take that into account, since it’s likely Daniel Craig won’t be seeing any of that money, he’s on a fixed contract from Sony for £5million, which goes up to £8million for Bond 23.

Spiralling film budgets from the last few years have only fuelled the fire, with the cost of a typical Hollywood film breaking the $100million mark in 1997, which jumped to over $200million by 2004, but suffered in 2006, when the average Hollywood budget dropped by $2.5million.

The biggest budget film in recent years was Bryan Singer's shaky hit Superman Returns which set Warner Brothers back a whopping $268million (£170million), not including the marketing and promotion, meaning the film had to collect over $600million worldwide just to break even.

Interestingly, low budget films continue to be the only area of film making which is consistently profitable, with Saw II taking $4million and turning it into $144million.

The ever-increasing cost of film-making is causing audiences pockets to be left bare, tickets are far more expensive these days compared to the 1970s, when an average adult film ticket was around 61p (£2.20 in 2008 money).

Of course, things are a lot different here up North compared to if you venture into the nation’s bustling capital, where West End cinemas can see tickets rise as high as £12.50 for adults, making it all the more un-appealing to fork out for a tub of popcorn rather than sneaking in some Jaffa Cakes.

In Stockport earlier this year, Adam Glennon was physically thrown out of the Cineworld cinema for taking in his own sweets.

He said he’d bought about £5 worth of sweets, crisps and bottled drink to take in, which would have cost well over £10 if bought inside the cinema, but Cineworld operates a strict ‘no food’ policy.

He told the Stockport Express:
"It costs a small fortune to buy sweets from the cinema and they don’t take this into account when people with little money just want to watch a film."

Vue specifies in its legal terms and conditions that
“Hot food brought from outside of the cinema may not be consumed on the premises”
but doesn’t saying anything about cold food, such as chocolate, or drinks.

Odeon have no problem with customers taking in their own food, providing it’s not a take-away and there’s no alcohol involved. The cinema giants are more worried about film piracy and people bringing in recording equipment, the results of which are difficult to appreciate when faced with the ever-increasing amount of films available on the internet.

Another pillar of cinema money-making is advertising, which is estimated to create £214million this year, and cinemas will take a fair chunk of that, but its not an astronomical figure when you consider generally 3.5million people visit the cinema each week.

Pearl and Dean, which represents a third of the cinema advertising market, reports that £26.4million so far this year has been spent on car advertising, meaning it isn’t just our collective imagination that car adverts are never-ending, but it comes as no surprise that the oft comical Orange mobile phone adverts are the biggest single earners, handing over £10.9million.

With all this money flying around the industry, it’s easy to feel put out by the ‘evil’ corporations, but in reality a student cinema ticket (fellow students, don’t forget that NUS extra card!) will only set you back around £5, which is about the same as you pay for a couple of pints of beer and a bag of crisps on a typical night, so compared to those West End film lovers; we’ve got it good.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Real James Bond

I was watching The Italian Job (Michael Caine original, naturally) the other day and it struck me there are similarities between Daniel Craig's new gritty Bond and Caine's wise-cracking Charlie Croker.

Let me explain what I mean. Take it from the top, you've got a man who's a definite character: from Bond's urgent banter with his team to Croker's cheeky shout of "Cheerio lads!" as he leaves prison.

On top of that they're part of an organisation, but have a certain disregard for the rules, for both of them one of their greatest strengths, and to top it off have a shaky relationship with their superiors - Dame Judi Dench's M and Noel Coward's Mr. Bridger respectively.

One area where you'd think they differ is the law. There's no escaping Croker's 'bad streak' as he finds himself in a stolen car almost as soon as he's out of prison, but despite Bond working for Queen and Country, he's had scrapes with the wrong side of the law for decades, none more so that in his latest iteration, which has seen him being arrested by airport police, almost arrested by the Nambutu Embassy and hunted down by members of MI6 after going rogue.

The pair are also alike in their ruthlessness, though Bond is far more suited to brutality, killing left, right and centre, Croker puts on a stern face as he tells the leader of the Italian mafia that retribution for killing him and his crew will be swift and catastrophic for the Italians of Britain.

There's one major difference, which is women. A product of the 21st century, Bond's women are strong and ruthless and not treated like sex objects, in complete contrast to his first regeneration through Sean Connery, but also, notably, one Charlie Croker.

Though any activity with women is only implied in the Italian Job, there's plenty of them around in the films opening act, painting a picture of a man who uses charisma, unlike Bond, whose use of his now limits to sporadic one-liners in Quantum of Solace.

Of course, I'm not suggesting the two should team up to take on the world in a bizarre mix of espionage and criminality, but the similarities of the two are notable.

So next time you see a Bond film, just think of the kind of man he could have been if he'd gone the other way. What if he'd joined Spectre (or Quantum in the new world order of Bond) and been dispatched as an agent on the other side. All he'd need was a trusty crew of dependable cockneys/toffs on his side and he'd be unstoppable, nothing short of a criminal genius.

Friday, 28 November 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it?

Times are changing, theres no doubt about it, and when the world turns to bring in 2009, things definitely will change, but will it be for the better or worse.

For me, 2009 is key. It sees the end of my spell at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the beginning of my life in the world of work.

The certainty that journalism is changing is absolute, the number of times I've heard the word 'convergence' in the past three years begs belief, but despite this I remain optimistic.

The truth of the matter is, getting into an industry as diverse and enthralling as journalism was never easy. Even back in the 'good old days' there was just as much stress and competition for the top jobs. Maybe it was easier to get a job in any old regional newspaper, but that's not what I'm aiming for in any case.

Truth be told, I don't mind where I start, so long as I get to where I want in the end. Right now, that place is behind the Editor's desk of my very own magazine. Of course this idealist vision may change as all of my young naivities wash away, but the importance of having something to aim for is always strong.

The financial crisis is a talking point, and I don't wish to dwell on it now, but one thing it does represent is the power of confidence. These volatile times call for a strong stand, and I'm going to make sure I'm ready.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sequels Suck

“Sequels suck!”: the iconic (ironic sp?) words of Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) in the horror film parody Scream 2, but where did the world's obsession with seeing the same characters in a slightly 'darker' environment with more sex, death and explosions than the first time around come from?
Sequels are by no means a new phenomenon, you only have to think back to Rocky I-V and the countless Dirty Harry follow-ups, but the constant dominance of the sequel risks making the movie industry lazy and complacent.
The most obvious reason for a sequel is the studio executives' “if it ain't broke don't fix it” mentality, since it's proven that audiences engrossed with the first in a series will check out later films, even if they know little or nothing about them apart from what they've already seen.
Lately releases from the “...Movie” series have been increasing in frequency, the latest being the imaginatively named “Disaster Movie”. Strictly speaking these films are not sequels, but their humble beginnings were with Scary Movie and its latter incarnations, and all the films follow the same pattern and style, having generally been produced by the same people.
Now it's not to say there isn't a place for parody or pastiche in modern film (“Airplane!” being the most impressive example from history), but when it gets to a stage where a film merely 'steals' parts of other recent blockbusters for cheap laughs, the public deserves better.
Some films have benefited from recent sequels, such as Sylvester Stallone's “Rocky Balboa”, which shows our favourite hard-as-nails boxer battling with his age to prove to everyone he wasn't the wash-out he became by Rocky V (irony anyone?), but sadly for every Balboa there is a “John Rambo”.
A different take on the same idea is another strategy used in recent years, particularly in the guise of the superhero. “The Incredible Hulk”, “Superman Returns” and “Batman Begins”/”The Dark Knight” are all positive that they aren't 're-makes', but 're-imaginings'. These take existing characters which have already been immortalised on film, to varying success, and re-invent them for a modern audience.
Batman lost the over the top clown that was Jack Nicholson's joker and gained a dark, moody, but still comical replacement in the form of a top-form Heath Ledger, a risky but well executed move that made “The Dark Knight” the second best-selling sequels of all time, grossing over $949million worldwide, but still falling short of Titanic's whopping $1.84billion.
Sadly though, other attempts weren't so successful. In the case of Superman, whose return was directed by the legendary Bryan Singer, helmsman of “The Usual Suspects” and “Xmen”, the plot focused too much on love and family and neglected action, despite an excellent performance from newcomer Brandon Routh and impressive visual effects.
Hand-in-hand with sequels come trilogies, audiences have come to expect them and movie bosses will not disappoint, obediently churning out further incarnations, which often go from bad to worse.
“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is the most recent tragedy; having lost director Stephen Sommers and co-star Rachel Wiesz, to be replaced by Rob Cohen and Maria Bello respectively, the franchise faultered, leaving John Hannah's comic relief Jonathan Carnahan stranded and overlooked and the plot in pieces. It just goes to show that even when the previous films flaws are considered, mistakes can still be made.
All of this bodes ill for the return of James Bond in October. “Quantum of Solace” (based on a Fleming short story) will be the first true Bond sequel, set between a few minutes and an hour after the end of “Casino Royale”, but surely with 007's pedigree the film-makers can avoid the typical pitfalls and produce a truly stunning follow-up, right?
The long and the short of it is that sequels aren't going away, but remember in the midst of the “Terminator 4”s and “High School Musical 8: The Pension Years” there will always be original classics tucked away waiting to be discovered.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Charity run at Preston Docklands for St. Catherine's Hospice

Pirates and fairies threw on their best running shoes last week for a charity run to raise money for St. Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall.

Two races saw almost 200 runners of all ages stampede around Preston Riversway Docklands on Sunday April 13 to support the hospice, which needs £3.6million to run per year.

Event organiser Sam McKenna said:

“These sponsored events appeal to many people - people take part to raise money, help their local hospice, in memory of loved ones who spent time in the hospice or to say thank you for treatment help received by their families/friends.”

The hospice was established in 1985, and can help around 20 patients at any one time, meaning countless people have benefited over the years from palliative care, which is the treatment and care of incurable diseases such as diabetes.

The first race was a 1.6m run around the Docklands in fancy dress and brought a host of interesting outfits along with enthusiastic youngsters, some barely old enough to walk.

The winner of the race was 11 year-old George Banks in an impressive nine minutes and nine seconds, closely followed by friends David Robinson and Danny Sumner, all from Clitheroe.

All have the runners had their own stories of why they were running. Kerry Hull, 10, brother Liam Hull, 11, and friend Eden Ashdown, 9, said:

“Our auntie’s got cancer so we’re running to give her treatment.”

Naomi Cox, 15, said:

“I’m running for my granddad because he died in St. Catherine’s Hospice.”

One pair had given up a traditional 16th birthday party to attend the event:

“I was forced into it by a number of people! But I wanted to run today for my birthday.”
said Amy Wright, 16 and dressed in full pirate gear. She was accompanied by other friends including Chloe Dale, who turned 16 this week.

The second race was a five mile run, a mammoth three-and-a-half laps around the Docklands, and understandably things were a bit more serious:

“It’s a measured route”, said Sam McKenna, “so we get people from professional running clubs taking part, particularly since the 5 mile run is a recognized event by UK Athletics.”

The winner was running professional Steve Hallas, who is a member of Preston Harriers, in 27 minutes and 42 seconds. Hallas has previously taken part in the NoEAA 10,000m Championships at Cudworth and came away with a silver medal.

The hospice hopes the event has raised a few thousand pounds, since a massive £2.6million needs to be raised each year through fundraising and appeals in one form or another.

The Docklands area was overrun during the event:

“The event went well and we were happy with the overall event and the turnout of runners and spectators.”
Sam McKenna added.

Other events are planned for the future, including a Plant Sale on Sunday April 26 between 10am and 3pm at the Garden room in the hospice itself, all of which will continue to raise the funds needed to allow the hospice to give help to people around Lancashire.

Related Links:

St. Catherine’s Hospice -

Preston Harriers -

Listening to: Led Zeppelin - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
via FoxyTunes

A History of St. Catherine's Hospice

St. Catherine’s Hospice has been caring for patients in Lostock Hall since 1985, but some historians believe the original building at the site was first founded as early as 1212 when the original owner, James de Lostock, lived in the area.

Hospices as an idea have existed since the Middle Ages, when sick or weary travellers would be taken into the safety of a certain part of a monastery where they were fed and watered and in some cases nursed back to health.

According to the National Association of Hospice Fundraisers, the word ‘hospice’ originated from the Latin ‘hospitum’, meaning ‘guest’ or ‘host’, and has been used by Christians since the 4th century.

The key difference between hospices and National Health Service hospitals is that a hospice provides palliative care to those who have illnesses which pose long term difficulties for patients, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.

Essentially palliative care deals with illness which is treatable, but not curable, and doesn’t attempt to hasten or postpone death, but make the quality of life of the effected people as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

As well as physical help, hospices give spiritual and emotional support, partly achieved by ensuring the patient is in a comfortable environment around others who know what they are experiencing, allowing them to be themselves.

Literally the term ‘palliative’ (from ‘pallum’) means ‘cloak’, and this is a principle which strives to maximise quality of life through hospices, the application of which has diversified in recent years to include chronic conditions and non-malignant disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis.

The current building can be dated back to 1764 in some parts, since the original building was destroyed by fire, and over the years it changed hands many times being owned by many prominent local figures such as Robert Orrell Esq. of Cuerden Mills from 1847-1861 and Harry Dewhurst of Messrs Geo & R. Dewhurst in 1881-1918.

After being formally established as St. Catherine’s Hospice (Lancashire) Limited in November 1981, the hospice began active care duties in 1984 with the appointment of a Home Care Sister, who oversees the care of patients, administration of medication and overall well-being of everyone at the hospice.

Soon the capacity of the building was too small, and so a £750,000 extension was built to provide around eight beds, which were opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1993.

In recent years, the hospice has grown and developed to one of the most prominent and successful hospices in the UK, and is able to take care of over 20 patients at any one time.

Only last year being granted £650,000 from the Department of Health, one of the largest NHS grants in the UK, and was part of £40million of Government funding dedicated to the UK’s 146 officially recognised hospices (the NAHF puts the figure at over 200).

Funding for the hospice is continually in flux though, and as a result funds must be secured six to 12 months in advance, to ensure financial security.

Overall it is funding comprises of: 30% from the NHS, 26% from the National Lottery, 20% from public donations and 18% from personal legacies, amounting to around £2.5million a year.

On top of that, St. Catherine’s gains about 20% of its funding from fundraising events, which emphasises how important things like the fun run are to the continued running of a charity which helps many people around Lostock Hall and Lancashire.

Listening to: Led Zeppelin - Good Times Bad Times
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Health and the NHS

The hot topics in the health agenda this week are the NHS, unsurprisingly, but also the day to day health of Britons.

The Tories have vowed to outspend Labour on the NHS, but I thought that NHS standards were still falling even though New Labour have put more money into the NHS than ever before? In fact Gordon Brown has increased spending on the NHS overall by £40billion since 2002.

Surely the clever thing to pledge is to make existing money go further to economise and improve efficiency in the service.

According to the Telegraph some Tory right wingers agree with this view:

It risks angering Tory right-wingers who think Labour has wasted taxpayers' money on public services and want David Cameron to fight the next election promising tax cuts. Source:
These tax cuts however, are looking less likely because shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has said the Tories plan to increase NHS spending by £28billion a year.

One question of course, is where this money will magically come from, but according to Mr Lansley the funds will come from "tough" cuts in other government services, though the report doesn't make it clear which services or what "tough" means.

Along with this announcement comes news that the NHS faces a £1.8billion surplus, a mere 2.8% of turnover, according to details released by the Department of Health.

The issue raised here, aside from why the Tories would want to put more money into a service already underspending, is why patients are being refused vital treatments on financial grounds if there is 'money to burn'.

Though no one seems to have an answer, the Times reports the NHS has turned a £547million deficit in 2005/6 into a £515million surplus in only a year, and because increases in efficiency have been to effective the surplus has reached these recently announced unprecedented high levels. Source:

Therefore the Tories proposals, which are likely to put David Cameron and his Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne under a lot of pressure from back-benchers, will most likely be re-thought since more money in a service in surplus makes no economic sense without a complex re-structuring of the distribution of funds.

The second issue in the press is the fact people are not going to the gym as much as they used to, partly because the celebrity mums on TV make women feel bad about themselves (

The golden age of the treadmill has passed, and the British public has turned to eating healthily as a replacement for working off those problem pounds.

The Times reports:

Five years ago, when gyms and health clubs were at the peak of their popularity, 8.7 million of us in Britain were members. But statistics from the accountancy firm Deloitte reveal that 54,000 fewer people took out gym membership during 2007 than they had 18 months previously.
The real question at the end of all this is: are people becoming less interested in their health and more in whether things are healthy or not? (regardless whether they are eating them or doing them)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A Preston Walk

This is a video we were all asked to make by our seminar tutor Andy Dickinson, feel free to let me know what you think and enjoy walking around Preston:

Monday, 25 February 2008

My Preston Map

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Sunday, 17 February 2008

What's up doc(s)?

Apparently doctors, nurses and dentists would rather chose private health care than that of their own organisation: the National Health Service.

There are two sides to this of course, since if a doctor is ill he won't be able to treat anyone, it makes sense to get better as quickly as possible, and if you want speed you have to pay, which means private health care.

On the other hand if doctors don't appear to have any faith in the care given by them and their colleagues then what should Jo Public think?

It might be unfair to say that medical staff don't have faith in the NHS, but that's the signal they are sending out with this latest set of findings, which say 5% of doctors and 2% of nurses use Bupa, Britain's biggest private health insurer.

The results come as Bupa announces staff discounts for NHS workers of up to £636 a year. Senior doctors and interest groups were quick to criticise the move since it suggests doctors and nurses have no faith in the service they are providing.

Ben Ummat, a first year medical student at University College London, said:

"The private sector is still ahead of the public one, and even if the two were neck and neck I'd probably still pay rather than wait. It comes down to personal choice, but there's no doubt the medical community is on shaky ground."
Despite this apparent faith in private practice, the BBC reports this week that private clinics are not seeing as many patients as they should.

Many private institutions still carry out NHS care, but figures from the Department of Health suggest only four of the 25 centres opened are meeting standards.

The centres were set up to treat minor diagnostic tests and do minor surgeries in a bid to cut waiting times.

When it comes down to it the workers in the NHS have enough medical expertise to make up their own minds what's best for them, and 5% of the whole doctor population of the UK is hardly an overwhelming majority, which might suggest it's an overreaction to say workers are 'losing faith' in the health service.

For the public, the most important thing is that they get the treatment they want, and have access to it at all times, since it's their taxes which pay for it, but if they do chose to go private to save some time then who are we to blame them?


Now playing: Yellowcard - Five Becomes Four
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Cannabis: Drugs are bad, (m'kay)

Of all the drugs in all the world, illegal ones are by far the most 'cool'.

Sadly this doesn't amount to the level of street cred films and American TV shows give it, since generally drug users which every day people come into contact are frowned upon, just as cigarette smokers are beginning to be more and more.

Today campaigners for mental health called for warnings on the dangers of cannabis use to be printed on hand-rolled cigarette papers. The company in question, Imperial tobacco, which owns Rizla; the best selling brand of cigarette papers in the UK.

The campaign has been launched by Rethink, a national mental health charity, to call attention to how the company is 'being irresponsible' over it's marketing and representation, claiming more members of the public associate the product with cannabis than tobacco.

It's true Risla's are popular among the cannabis smoking festival crowd at least, since year after year the grass at Reading Festival the floor is littered with empty packets, but there are many other negative associations which haven't had attention called to them to the extent of a campaign.

In many ways it isn't the company's fault, the product they sell just happens to have a use which is outside the realms of the law, but how far can that defence hold? Are Limewire, Morpheus and other p2p programs innocent of the piracy going on within them?

Whether the company intended it to be used that way or not, what is true is that warnings do have an impact, and cannabis is a rising concern for police, particularly in young people, since it was down classified to a class C drug in 2004, which led to many young people now believing it to be 'basically legal'.

The head of campaigns at Rethink, Jane Harris, said:

'Health warnings work: 12% of people quit smoking as a result of warnings on
cigarette packets. Our research shows that young people want this information -
we think they should receive it as a right.'


Despite the negative press and public scepticism the company remains adamant, a spokesman said:
'We don't endorse the illegal use of cannabis using any of our products, and we
meet all the legal requirements with regard to packaging'.

Now playing: The Vapors - Turning Japanese
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

A life in film: Heath Ledger

The death of Heath Ledger on January 22 came as one of the biggest shocks to the film industry in recent years. The news travelled quickly, with candlelit shrines being erected, tears being shed and mournful tributes held.

To most he will be remembered for his Oscar Nominated performance as quiet Ennis Del Mar from Brookeback Mountain or perhaps the sadistic psychopath the Joker in the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins: The Dark Knight, but for every admirer there is another person who has never heard of him.

This mixed reaction has been echoed amongst students: “I barely knew who he was until he died.” Said second year Cheryl Pennant-Jones, “As someone who's only ever seen him in 10 Things I Hate About You, I didn't know too much about him before.

“It's a tragic incident though, and I especially feel sorry for his daughter Matilda [2].”

Keen fan Elizabeth Norman, a first year Philosophy and Media student added: “He was someone with great talent, who loved his daughter and will never get to see her grow up which is tragic. He wasn't afraid to show his emotions and express how much he loved fact it was his unfailing power of emotion that made his name.

“Whatever the film it is clear Heath could both feel and express what he feels deeply on screen.”

Born in Perth, Australia, on April 4 1979, Ledger was only 28 when he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment by his housekeeper. Police Commissioner of the New York Police Paul Browne said “there were pills within the vicinity of the bed” and there was a possibility of drugs being related, but they had no suspicion of ‘foul play’ in his death.

The latest reports suggest Ledger may have suffered a heart attack, since the level of drugs in his system was apparently too low to cause an overdose.

Ledger’s family described the traumatic event as “accidental”, his father Kim said: “We, Heath's family, can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son.

“Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life that few had the pleasure of truly knowing him”

Ledger’s impressively vibrant career began on Australian television in 1992 as an extra, but his first breakthrough was on 1996 TV series Sweat, which saw a group of athletically gifted youngsters training in an academy tackled their personal problems.

The first well-known show for Ledger to come into contact with was down under take on Baywatch: Home and Away, when he joined as Scott Irwin. This performance gave him the credibility he needed to play a part in the US-financed series Roar, a medieval drama inspired by Braveheart which earned him a cult following in the US, despite quickly being axed by its US distributor.

Ledger also met the first of his older female partners Lisa Zane, 14 years his senior, who he shared a relationship with in 1997 and followed across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles in an attempt to find work.

Unfortunately the now 18 year old actor was less successful in Hollywood than in his native country and was saved when he made his name in the film industry through the Australian film Two Hands in 1999.

Shortly after came one of Ledger’s most well known roles, as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern take on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew alongside teenage heartthrob of the day Julia Stiles.

With this first wave of international success came a downside, Heath felt he was at risk of being typecast into shallow teen-movie roles, and turned down numerous scripts over the next year, his increasingly low finances forcing him to live on noodles and water.

His resolve paid off though when he was cast alongside Mel Gibson in millennium success The Patriot. Ledger played Gabriel Martin, the son of Gibson’s Benjamin Martin, which went a long way in shaking his ‘toy boy’ image and established him in Hollywood as a well-rounded actor.

Along with his latest step up the showbiz ladder came relationships. The first came during the filming of A Knight’s Tale in Prague when Heath met actress Heather Graham (Austin Powers 2) but it went on for only a few months.

In 2001 Ledger began a two year relationship with the star of The Ring Niomi Watts after they met on the set of Ned Kelly. The American, 10 years older than Mr Ledger, was unphased by the age gap: “I think it's about life experience and not about age. I fell in love with a soul and a person, and his life experience was rich enough that it stimulated me.”

By 2004 Ledger had faded a little from the spotlight as The Sin Eater (a.k.a. The Order) floundered at the box office and he focused more on his private life. The filming of Brookeback Mountain the same year threw Ledger together with Michelle Williams, with whom he had a serious two year relationship and his daughter Matilda.

The film itself had been often dubbed ‘that gay cow boy movie’ in the industry since the story had been floating around for years before it was taken on by the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee.

Ledger teamed up with Jake Gyllenhaal, who’d previously auditioned for his part in The Patriot, in a story which earned him the Best Actor Oscar Nomination and Best Supporting Actor nominations for his co-stars Gyllenhaal and Williams. Unfortunately for the cast, the films only win was Best Director.

Soon after the media frenzy surrounding Brookeback Mountain died down, Ledger was approached and asked to portray one of the most iconic villains of all time: The Joker.

Seemingly epitomised by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s original Batman film in 1989, Ledger made it clear he wasn’t going to try to ‘do a Jack’ and would play a far darker and more psychotic character, in line with director Christopher Nolan’s gritty re-vision of Gotham City in Batman Begins.

Internet servers went into meltdown when the first picture of how Ledger would look in the film found its way onto the internet in May 2007, and every trailer, poster and interview since has had fans and critics alike ripe with curiosity as to how it will turn out.

However history remembers him there is no doubt that the death of such a young actor is significant, particularly in such delicate times with the recent strikes and the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

To his fans in particular, Heath Ledger will remain a symbol of the achievements of the film industry in recent years and proof that the talent seen in glory days of Marlon Brando and Cary Grant’s Golden Age live on through the performances of young actors and actresses.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Introduction and Britain's water supply

So, 'blogs', they tell me.

I was under the impression they were just something to update people about the latest Big Brother gossip or rant about things they don't like, like a glorified letters section of a broadsheet or, heaven forbid, electronic agony aunt stories.

In fact there's a code of conduct, a list of ethics by which we should all abide. Many are obvious such as don't copy people without asking or clearly distinguish opinion from fact, but others are more cryptic, such as 'recognise common standards of decency', which raises the question what the definition of all those words is in this complex modern world.

I suppose in order to fill the aforementioned criteria I should point out that they came from an information pack for my Journalism module, for which this blog was created.

We have been split into groups of our own choosing and must each tackle a topic from the following four: Sport, Entertainment, Health and Politics. Since my group members (who's blogs you can find in the links list on the right) chose politics and entertainment, I chose health, since I have no strong interest in sport whatsoever.

So, without further ado I must endeavour to educate about health, but first what is health? It could mean the National Health Service, which has had numerous trials and tribulations over the last decade to do with improvement of services and efficiency, or perhaps it refers to the day to day health of people and the onslaught of healthy eating and living, or even how new diets and new packaging on products in our supermarkets drive us towards 'the healthy option' in a move by government watchdogs to attempt to combat obesity.

Today health ministers have said they back plans to add fluoride to drinking water, because it strengthens children's teeth. Fluoride itself, commonly found in and advertised on toothpaste tubes across the country, is found in around 10% of the country's water supply, but only a couple of areas, namely Hartlepool in the North West and parts of Essex, have high enough level to benefit dental health. (source:

This is what has led to the idea of intruducing it into the water supply as: "effective and relatively easy way" to reduce tooth decay among children in poorer areas. (source: Opponents to the idea claim there is risk of bone cancer from increased levels of the element, and it's difficult to know how long-term exposure could effect children, since the 6 million people already benefiting from the increased levels in the North West are a minority of the total population, and many water companies are apprehensive to take the idea forward, despite MPs making the process easier in 2003.