January 23, 2011

Marmalade Awards: Surprisingly, An ACTUAL Event

I made three attempts at writing this, shortening each down with every re-write. In my first draft, I struggled to take the idea seriously, and so managed to slim it down merely by cutting out all the sarcasm. 

I've posted both the slightly longer version, and the final edited version, as I wasn't absolutely sure which one would be preferred. Looking at the example in Task 2, it seemed as though the idea was to put the article in as fewer words as possible, including all the necessary information. Obviously a different question, I've put in the longer version in incase it was a slightly more in-depth article that was required, as opposed to just the bare-bones of the story. 

'Marmalade lovers are in for a treat this February, as the prestigious MARMALADE AWARDS ceremony comes to Cumbria!

The weekend kicks off on Saturday 12th of February at the Dalemain Mansion and Gardens and continues on Sunday 13th of February, ending at 4pm both days.

The awards will be filled with captivating marmalade-related activities with plenty to do and see, including an appearance from Mr. Paddington Bear himself! As well as this, a number of celebrities and experts, including the Guardian's baking guru Dan Lepard, will give talks and workshops throughout both days. The Saturday will conclude with the Marmalade Bonfire Party, with the Awards Prize-giving Ceremony taking place on Sunday morning.

Tickets are £4.50 per adult per day, whilst kids go free. Entry to Bonfire Party is an additional £10 per adult, free entry to children. For further information and times on all the day’s activities as well as ticket information, visit www.marmaladeawards.com''

'Marmalade lovers are in for a treat this February, as the prestigious MARMALADE AWARDS ceremony comes to Cumbria!

The weekend kicks off on Saturday 12th of February at the Dalemain Mansion and Gardens, where a meet and greet with the Master of Marmalade himself Paddington Bear will precede the day’s activities. After that, visitors will get a chance to peruse the Marmalade Award entries on display, take part in artisan Marmalade tasting and watch as a Paddington Bear World Record - to create the World's Largest Jar of Marmalade – is attempted! Further than this, the morning’s selection of international celebrities features BBC Radio 4’s Ivan Day, explaining the history and origins of the popular spreadable, and after that Pam Corbin, the preserve expert from River Cottage, the Guardian's baking guru Dan Lepard, and the new product development buyer at Fortnum & Mason, Jonathan Miller, will all take part in a Marmalade Question Time.

After his grilling on Question Time, Dan Lepard will then lead a workshop on achieving the perfect bread for marmalade-making, visitors can sip from his infinite fountain of wisdom, or add to it by sharing their own tips and ideas. Saturday then concludes with the annual Marmalade Bonfire Party, which takes place from 6pm onwards.

On Sunday the marmalade expert Jane Maggs will be holding her Wild & Fruitful Marmalade-Making demonstration, meanwhile at 11.30am, the final Prize Giving ceremony will commence. After the main event is all wrapped up, Marmalade Question Time will return for another nail-biting session, answering your most incessant burning queries.

Paddington Bear will be meeting & greeting visitors at the Glenridding Pierhouse of the Ullswater Steamers from 10am on both days, whilst all the main events will be occurring at the aforementioned Dalemain Mansion. £4.50 gets you a single day adult ticket, and any nippers you’ve dragged along go for free! For further information and times on all the day’s activities as well as ticket information, visit www.marmaladeawards.com'

January 12, 2011

Task Week 9: Dame Iris Murdoch – The Dementia Adventure.

Cinema-goers will be deeply moved this weekend by the first screenings of the film Iris showing the life-long, carefree love affair between the Oxford academic John Bayley and his eccentric author-wife Iris Murdoch who struggled in her final years with Alzheimer's disease

But what is not so well publicised is that before she slipped into the void of her slowly emptying mind, the Booker Prize winning novelist made it known she wanted to donate her brain to medical research.

For in the early stages of her illness, Dame Iris, a woman of libertine spirit and tremendous intellect, described the gradual, yet relentless collapse of her mental state as going into 'a very, very bad, quiet place.'

It was an agonisingly bleak and lonely place. And Dame Iris vowed to do what she could to aid Alzheimer's research.
'It was a brave decision by both Dame Iris and her husband who carried out her wishes,' said Professor Robin Jacoby, who treated the author at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary.
It was indeed a noble move - especially by Bailey. For although many families may want to carry out the wishes of deceased relatives, to finally give up part or all of the body can be heart-breakingly difficult.

A normal adult brain weighs up to 1,500 grammes. A brain afflicted by dementia shrinks to some 1,000 grammes. For tissue donation, the brain needs to be removed within 48 hours of death.

Research is desperate to examine healthy as well as diseased brain tissue, says Cathy England of the Cambridge Brain Bank Laboratory based at Addenbrooke's Hospital. 'Our intention is to make brain donation as acceptable as any other donation. Just as people are now happy to donate heart and kidneys - the brain is just another organ of the body. We are trying very hard to demystify the process, to explain to relatives and the donor exactly what will happen. But Alzheimer's research is such that you have to have brain cells to study which you cannot take from a living person. There is no cure for Alzheimer's at the moment.'

Cathy adds, 'We are hoping that one day research will understand this disease - because for relatives and close friends, it is distressing beyond belief to watch such a sad end.'

November 07, 2010

How To Find Carp, Ride To Win and Arrange Your Flowers

Destructoid – Gaming website. Informal tone, technical language. Mix of short news snippets, in which opinion is allowed to hone in to view keeping with the website’s informal tone, and longer investigative features which look into the future, past and present state of the industry and up-to-date, news-related commentary. Sentences are short to mid-length, varying and lengthening from the news sections to the reviews and to the features. Clearly aimed at people in touch with gaming, palpably aware of its audience.

Kerrang Magazine – Mainstream alternative music magazine. Particularly informal tone and language considering its wide-spanning market. Large, page-consuming pictures, usually adorned with a comparatively short, block article. Focus entirely on bands and gigs, as opposed to industry or related commentary. All this suggests a target audience to be one of youth, 15-24 year old, largely male.

MCV – Magazine for Interactive Entertainment Industry & Retail. Formal tone, technical language, longer sentences that build a story whilst sticking strictly to the point. Short on pictures, large on in-depth articles. Lots of news stories and interviews with lesser known names outside of the business. Many of these involving commentary on retail aspect including marketing strategies and mass-market opportunities. Specifically tailored for an older audience who have a knowledge of industry, in interactive entertainment and/or retail.

Reader profiles

Angler’s Mail – The buyer would be a typical, middle-aged male fisher, as opposed to those merely interested in fishing, who would display a keen interest in development of his skill, and reading about the latest gear. A hobbyist who enjoyed fishing regularly enough to want to improve his equipment and ability, or to know more about the hobby in general. Perhaps as a subject for discussion. They would live somewhere with an availability for fishing close by, and would probably do so to distance himself from a day to day routine. Reading into the subject would also reflect this idea of escapism, and so he would purchase in the hope of reading perhaps on a lunch break, wherein he could simultaneously make plans to go fishing again, after being inspired by reading Angler’s Mail.

Horse – A young girl who has some experience with horse riding, perhaps who owns a horse or goes to a horse riding club regularly. The useful articles pertaining to horse care, and the development of riding technique would grab her interest and she would think of using the tips she would read practically, whilst the articles involving celebrities and their horse stories would encourage her to buy it so she could return to the idea of riding horses when not actually doing so, becoming more involved with the activity. Horse riding could be something she may do at the weekend, and the magazine would allow her to return to the idea during the week when she was, say, at school. Learning the horse care or technique development articles could be something that would be done with friends who share the interest in horse riding.

Wedding Flowers – A young woman who is getting married, or who, as a florist, is looking for ideas for new flowers or arrangements. Women typically take care of such things when weddings are concerned, and the magazine would likely be full of large colourful and detailed pictures of flowers that would help the reader build an image in her head of how she’d like them to be at her wedding. Which various types she might prefer, colours, arrangements and plans. It would be something looked at months and months in advance of the wedding and so she would perhaps buy several issues to get an idea of what looks good, what goes well and what is typically used. This would help her to also picture how other themes of the wedding may fall into place. As a florist, she could be looking for new flowers or arrangements, ideas for new stock or new ideas to suggest to customers. Weddings are a large job for florists and so the advice and information within the magazine would span across to more than just specific wedding florists.

If I were running a newspaper with falling figures such as the ones mentioned, I would have a redesign and rebrand. Keep the core content the same, but redesign depending on the market. The Guardian could be a little more pretentious in its design; The Daily Mail could be a little more outrageous. There’s always improvement to be made to tender for a market, and I would do so with a large marketing push about the redesign, a build up through advertising, get some new content in for launch, freelancers writing from outside perspectives, do something new perhaps in terms of supplements or additional content; crosswords or comic strips or weekly columns. Give something away to get people reading the first issue and hope the content that they get encourages them enough to continue buying thereafter.


November 01, 2010

The Daventry Express, Napoleonic Wars and Eating Clay

I’ve written before about my enigmatic love for the Daventry Express and the state required of me to open a copy and read it is one of complete cognitive malfunction. However for this week’s course task, it required us to read a News article. It could be any. It could be the Guardian telling me about a recent investigative release uncovering alcohol maybe worse for you than heroin. It could be Kotaku telling me that Team Fortress 2 has a new update including an impossible number of hats. It could even be The Daily Mail, telling me reading more than three times a day for extended periods will give me ‘literacy cancer’. But rather than inform, educate, or put me in hysterical fits of laughter, I masochistically chose, with a due sense of exhaustion, to see if I could find something worth analysing in the factually incorrect, poorly written, questionable Daventry Express.

Incredibly I actually managed to uncover something vaguely interesting. A historic, 16th century mask has been discovered in perfect preserved condition within in the walls of a home. (Page 2 – ‘Historic Mask is Only One of its Kind)

WHO - Julie Cassidy, Northamptonshire Archaeological Finds Liaison Officer, no mention is made of the owner of the residence it was found in.

WHAT – One of a kind, perfectly preserved 16th century mask unearthed within the walls of a Daventry house

WHY – The mask was discovered during renovations. The reasoning behind it being in the walls is still speculative, though it’s thought it was a family air loom of significance, or used to ward off evil spirits.

WHEN – The mask has been found to be from the 16th century, there is no date on its discovery in the article

WHERE – A Daventry district home.

HOW – Discovered during renovations and details were uncovered at Northampton Archaeological Finds Surgery.

Secondly, I was tasked with rewriting a press release, concentrating on the above who, what, when, where and how features. Fittingly, I chose the Napoleonic history-centric article.

‘A mysterious, historic letter has been uncovered that unveils a scientific truce of sorts, between Britain and France during the Napoleonic Wars. Humphrey Davis, a British chemist who discovered iodine, and also invented the Davy safety lamp for miners, undertook a dangerous wartime journey to France to collect a medal awarded by Napoleon Bonaparte, an award intended to “promote and share scientific knowledge.”

The newly revealed letter, dated March 14th 1808, reports the impossibility of getting through the British naval blockade to inform Davis that Napoleon wanted to give him an award for services to science. Evidently though, Davis got word of the award by 1813, and set off on a perilous journey to collect it, in the midst of the war.

RSC, the Royal Society of Chemistry, chief executive Dr Richard Pike said it was an "adventure story from which a mystery still hangs".
"The enlightened and advanced attitude of the French science community at that time, and the vision shown by Napoleon, is very special and should be acknowledged now, even if the thanks come 200 years after the event," he said. He also stated "The letter and medal are missing pieces of a very intriguing puzzle” before remarking on his enthusiasm to bring the rest of the escapade to life by finding evidence on how Davis came to know of his French tribute.’

Whilst it was taxing to get all the information chopped up into small, relevant sections whilst keeping the article readable, coherent and concise, I found it positive to have some sort of direction with what I was editing out. Using the W’s (and that straggling H) it gave me a greater sense of structure when re-writing, rather than just cutting out bits that sounded fluent. I’d certainly look to this as a guide when doing similar work again, due to the ease with which I found a task I thought beforehand might be as fun as eating clay.

October 24, 2010

Country Walking, Tony Pulis and Psycho–Analysis

So this week’s dishevelled scribbling has involved, firstly, an identification of the extent to which I dribble as opposed to write, and secondly, a tour of my local newsagents, in which at each stop I infuriate the sales assistants by reading everything and buying nothing. A friendly smile and a wave on the way out seemingly does nothing to improve my standing with them. It’s fine. I didn’t like going in those shops anyway.

Let’s start with the second one, shall we? Why not.

Upon appearing at each of my destinations scattered through-out Rugby and Daventry town centres, I seemed to have this unconscious orbital magnetism with the mainstream specialists’ magazine racks. My task was to, essentially, look at a wider range of magazines, to find out what’s being published beyond my walled area of awareness. Instinctively, I went straight to the computing/video games and music sections, and hovered nervously. I leaned across and picked up a copy of Empire, one in a seemingly colourful range of industry-standard film magazines. Whilst barely branching out from my comfort zone, it’s true that until then I’d never actually read an Empire, or if I had I couldn’t remember it. It follows basic format, sticking to small news snippets at the start, previews, then reviews followed by features and interviews, all the while adverts are bellowed at you from all corners of the page. From the articles I read, there’s a lot of love for the industry and slightly less critique going on within its pages, with its reviews and previews written with the joyous enthusiasm of genuine fans of the particular genre. Perhaps then, Empire is more a magazine for the news and previews of the film industry, rather than the reviews and features.

Baby steps lead me on to What Hi-Fi, further down the shelf. As its name suggests, sort of, What Hi-Fi is a buyer’s guide, these days dedicated to all things electrical, but its precedence still lies in home audio. Whilst the magazine is bursting with reviews from all angles, the issue I looked at was certainly thin on the ground for features. Interestingly, on P112 there was a short ‘Advertisement Feature’, as it was entitled in the header. This seems a little backwards to me, though its text was to the point, perhaps only 200-300 words, it was still teeming with speculative praise, ‘the best HDMI cable in the world’ etc. and evidently still written by What Hi-Fi staff.

Digital SLR User, a magazine dedicated to an incomprehensibly expensive camera... I think, brought me a definitively interesting learning experience, an article on the changing face of photography as a whole, and its efforts to stay a fresh medium. Written by a landscape photographer, the writer began with anecdotal cutaways of his own experiences concerning how photography has changed over the years. The technicality surrounding the subject didn’t overbear the article, but it did cause a certain trough in attention in the middle of the 3-page long piece. This ‘reflective’ tone, coupled with a limited use of technical language helped to keep it interesting though, and he concluded by quickly looking at the future of photography technology and how it may be implemented into his own daily work with landscapes. Likely the most informative article I read.

It wasn’t until I finally hauled myself away from the centre gondola, the one that contained the type of magazines I’d at least stand near, given the opportunity, in WH Smiths in Rugby that it dawned on me just how many different types of magazines there are in regular circulation. With WH Smiths always having that aura of public library to me anyway, I continued to browse down the aisle that lead me on to Trucking Magazine, Canal Boat Weekly, Country Walking, Cycling Plus, Practical Classics and AutoCar, just about all on the first browser. Autocar had an obscene amount of pictures, meaning features went across hundreds of pages, and the wording was generally technical. An article in Today’s Golf featured an interview with Tony Pulis, manager of Stoke City football club. Whilst the subject was generally kept on football and not on golf, the language and editorial interjections that split up the quotes made it an enjoyable read. Interviews are a bit of a mystery to me, and when I’ve tried writing them in the past, I don’t seem to be able to get that thin line between quotes and main-body writing quite right. Informative and agreeable, the article did what it was supposed to do effectively. I attempted flicking through the others, but by that point I’m sure I caught the lady at the till sharpening a peculiarly shaped kitchen knife and glaring at me. So it may have been environmental distraction or the content that meant I couldn’t finish an article in Country Walking, and Practical Classics, a classic car buyer’s guide, made me feel like David Dickinson was peering over my shoulder as I read. Safe to say I’d gathered information enough to better understand the wide range of magazines still being written and printed and published every week.

And lastly, the first task was to ascertain my strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve battled through that, I’m sure you can agree that I ‘don’t half go on’. I’d like to make my writing more consistent, and to the point, whilst being an entertaining read. Sometimes I can spiel out paragraph after irrelevant paragraph without actually coming to a point or conclusion. I feel I lack the ability to be secure in what I’m writing, constantly feeling it isn’t a solid read, and this often holds me back. Writing to a particular word count is something I struggle with, be it too long or too short, and it often takes me what feels like an eternity to write a short-ish, thousand-odd word article. Lastly, I’m not always so sure of myself when it comes to what I’m actually saying, worried that there may be a way to completely disprove everything I’ve written. To combat this, I tend to sit on the fence. I’ve been there a while now. It’s a bit boring. And uncomfy. Probably.

My strength I’d say, is my enthusiasm to write, and through that, the vivacity with which I do. I’ve always tended to write in a particular style, even back to the days when I’d be writing English essays in school. This is a good thing, I think, but also has its distinct negatives too. The enjoyment I get out writing counter acts, to some degree, the insecurities I often also get whilst writing. Probably.

I’m sorry, were we talking about strengths and weaknesses? I thought we said vague, unsupported psycho-analysis.

October 17, 2010

Internet Custard

I wrote this on Monday, so not only is it out of date and irrelevant, but it also doesn't make any sense! Hooray. I thrust it infront of a disgruntled Facebook earlier in the week, and thought I'd post it up here too, primarily because my page looks empty, but also because I have far too much to say. Enjoy. Or tolerate, at least.

So, it’s taken me to the back end of 2010 to decide to get off my face and do something that will proactively keep me writing, other than blabbering on to the echoing corridors of the internet. Or you, if you’d prefer. Hopefully it will also help me stop using that same corridor metaphor. So really, we’re also talking an Alcoholics Anonymous for the metaphorically challenged here.

Anyhow dispensing with self-deprecating tangents, today was technically the first day I began the online course ‘Writing Features and Articles for Publication’. Good eh? It’d have been better if my first correspondence from the course hadn’t been hidden by my mischievous, and over active email Junk filter. However far from eluding me entirely, it merely meant that I was a little bit late, which, let’s face it, is something they’re likely going to have to get used to, seeing as I have all the time keeping skills of a referee at a Man Utd game. See? I can make a football joke. I may not understand it entirely, but that’s never stopped me before. Seriously though, what’s a Man Utd?

After staring blinkingly at my empty inbox this evening (after I’d turfed out all the useless Facebook notification alerts) I decided I should probably look further into why I hadn’t received any emails on the first day of term. That was because evidently, Warwick Uni expect you to DO THINGS YOURSELF. So I did. I logged in to the Uni site, and began to click my way through what may as well have been internet custard. And it didn’t even taste nice. The website’s about as easy to navigate as a Frenchman’s shopping list. However, at long last, I found the homepage for my course and logged in. And things began to run suspiciously smoothly. I browsed the course route plan, I perused the assignments, and I even took a QUIZ so the website could tell if I was listening hard enough (I’m a good guesser, apparently.) As all I had to do this week was read through the site, and acclimatize myself with course, the week's tasks were written under the heading WEEK ZERO, to precede week one. Which sort of makes it sound like an apt title for an 80's zombie flick. And I don't know if that metaphor belongs somewhere I haven't had the experience to put it yet. Regardless, the idea amused me for what must have been nearly twenty seconds.  Finally I took a look at the forum etiquette. Naturally, this is an online course, and so we’re required to communicate through internet message boards, which I hope doesn’t merely mean I’m going to spend my entire time looking at impossible abbreviations and sifting through incomprehensible internet memes (lol wut). Though I think at this point it’s fairly safe to say they won’t be asking us to converse via 4Chan or anything. Worryingly though, amongst the typical guidelines for How To Be Nice To People On Forums (the rest of the internet clearly haven’t had this memo) were two bullet points that looked rather more, bullety... to me.

Don't be wry or ironic. The other person could think you're being rude


Avoid humour. It could be interpreted as offensive

To which my first reaction was, of course


However momentarily, I calmed myself down, had a chocolate digestive, and resumed being a rational person (lol wut.)

My next obstacle, in an evening that was already a bit much to contend with on a single cup of tea, was the forums themselves. I’ve used forums before, and generally considering myself able to be incontestably polite, not to blow one’s own trumpet, I thought I’d saddle on in and introduce myself. No such luck. Apparently the website decided to 'REFUSED ENTRY'. Yeah, that one. It then gave me some jargon, and instructed me to email someone. So it looks like I’m not introducing myself tonight then. Before long, I ended up here, scribbling away to the confines of cyberspace again. Which, for once, is quite handy really, so there’s a nice change. I’m instructed to keep this blog up to date over my time on the course, and so, presuming that this illegible spieling is actually acceptable, and it doesn’t force my disembodied online tutor into early retirement, I’ll be back with LOADS MORE. You lucky, lucky people. (lol wut*.)

*Also if anyone’s actually aware where the internet meme ‘lol wut’ comes from, I’d be grateful to know what it is I’m actually saying. Actually. Thanks.

Blog by Blog

If there's a consistently riling aspect of signing up for a blog, it's choosing a theme. I detest choosing a theme. If choosing a theme had a face, I'd punch it. Actually, being honest, I'd probably just call it names.

The problem is, I can't meet a theme half way. Once I've spent forty five minutes churning through the first 300 of roughly 80 billion theme variations, and my brain has finally become similar in form to that of a puddle, I end up settling on one I didn't like anyway. The next 20 minutes are then spent identifying which bit of the design I dislike the most, before searching in vain for the CSS code that will fix it, which then either doesn't exist or I can't figure out how to use the thing. This blog was albeit slightly easier, giving me a mere 30 or so different themes that I didn't really like.

It sounds like a trial doesn't it? Well it is. Sort of. In the same way going out in the rain is a trial.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

Anyhow, welcome to my blog. Feel free to look around, there's not alot here so you'll find navigation easy, and if you can read anything I managed to post without an integral part of your body dropping off in sheer disbelief, feel free to write an obscure comment. Also we think there's a lion in the broom cupboard, so don't go in there.

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