Film Review: Slow West

Posted on by 5WC in Film

If I’m honest, I’m really not the biggest fan of Westerns. Too often I find them reflecting their environment being dry, coarse, stifling and slow. Yet for some reason I continue to happily watch them, only to be disappointed, as again they fail to invoke any emotional response besides boredom. The Homesman being a perfect example from my recent past. So it should come as no surprise that when people started to proclaim a Western to be “the perfect Western… the real deal” I forgot all that went before and accepted the unexplainable pull of its promise.

That perfection came from John Maclean’s first feature film – Slow West. And whilst I expected it to pass me by, purely as it didn’t appear the type of film that would naturally get a widespread big screen release, I was given optimism when the poster for it appeared on the wall of my local multiplex. My fear was founded though, and even with the advertising, it never arrived so I’ve had to wait, and wait, for it to finally be released ‘on-demand’ before I could get a chance to see whether, this time, it would finally provide me with a Western I actually enjoyed. Read more

Book Review: The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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They may be yellow, and the voices in the first series may be unrecognisable to the point of rendering it unwatchable, but The Simpsons has raised a generation. As series followed series, subtly and subconsciously, Bart and Homer, Lisa, Maggie and Marge came to tease snippets of learning into the minds of all those laughing as Moe, once again, calls out for “Amanda Hugginkiss”

I grew up on The Simpsons and, in our house, they were a Sunday night staple. They were the soap opera of my childhood. Far-fetched, comedic and entertaining. But at their heart, behind the characters, lies academia. So often you hear people answer a question, recount a fact they shouldn’t realistically know and cite The Simpsons as the point of reference. I know I certainly have. The quality in The Simpsons is in its writing, its style, you learn by osmosis. You laugh and cry, enjoy and smile at their hilarity and misfortune, whilst all the time, learning. Read more

Book Review: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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After I read Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, a book which in theory is one of the most famous tales involving a balloon, only to discover it actually doesn’t, I turned to social media to find me a true lighter than air tale. A few people suggested Mike Kendrick’s biography Thursday’s Child (which I’d already read), but mainly, people just pointed me towards Enduring Love by Ian McEwan.

I don’t exactly know why, but in my mind I had this idea of Enduring Love being a very old fashioned tale, maybe it’s the word “enduring” and the slow, step back from life it invokes when you hear it, but there was something that just made me feel cold towards the book. Before I’d even turned a page I didn’t expect to enjoy it and that niggling though had actually kept it in my “to read” pile longer than it otherwise would have. Read more

Film Review: Spectre

Posted on by 5WC in Film

Bond is back, and so are Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes. Looking to follow up the phenomenal success they had together on Skyfall; Spectre, the 24th instalment in the Bond franchise, has always been stuck slightly in predecessor’s shadow with a weight of expectation to deliver upon its shoulders far greater than it really deserved. In fact, it’s fair to say that aside from Star Wars: The Force Awakens no other movie this year has been waited for with such anticipation, and I’ll admit, I am one of those piling on the pressure to deliver, after all, I named it in my 10 movies of 2015 I couldn’t wait to see.

Sadly though for me, it just doesn’t deliver. It’s not a bad film, it’s purely a case that there are more negatives than positives to come from it. My biggest complaint against it is that nothing really makes sense. The plot appears to be individualistic yet formulaic. This is the story of Daniel Craig as Bond and so, all too often, it’s trying to tie up ideas and clarify characters from any one of his previous three outings into a story that is meant to come together and complete the tale. It’s a back to the future plot. A completing of the circle. Read more

Book Review: Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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With my university psychology reading list having reverted back to its standard “textbook chapters and peer reviewed periodicals”, neither of which are really designed to be read over the morning porridge, I started to hunt for an alternative. How I came to discover Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her battle with anorexia and the contributing factors of a life under the Hollywood spotlight, I don’t know. I have an idea it was, once again, social media. But please don’t quote me.

I knew nothing about Portia de Rossi before I set about reading it. I couldn’t have described her appearance, told you her biography, or even her real name. It was purely her link to anorexia that drew me in; the same way it drew me in to Tina McGuff’s Seconds to Snap or Todd Tucker’s simplification of The Great Starvation Experiment. The fact she was famous was just context. Read more

Book Review: Children’s Minds by Margaret Donaldson

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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It’s fair to say that my Psychology department like a reading list, not quite as much as I imagine the English department do, but none-the-less, they like to suggest that you keep your head in a book; or more often than not, a journal article; drowning under monotonous descriptions of research methods and monochromatic walls of statistical data. Occasionally though the list will be kind, and an actual, proper book will appear, hidden amongst the periodicals and offering a chance to read something not formally structured or academically stifled.

Psychology, obviously, covers a vast array of topics and ideas. I have mentioned Neuroscience (the study of the physical structures and workings of the brain) in my review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and it’s a field that I find fascinating, but vast amount of psychological research and time is spent on developmental psychology. The study of children and how we grow to become the adults that live and exist as we do in society within specific social, cognitive and behavioural boundaries. Read more

Book Review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat By Oliver Sacks

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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I am 5 weeks into a psychology degree at the University of Reading and whilst there are various reasons why I have chosen to go “back to school” as it were, and study psychology specifically, I will keep the explanations for another time, after all, this is meant to be a book review. But, it was during my first ever Neuroscience lecture that Oliver Sacks entered my life. He appeared as a throw away remark at the bottom of a slide, mentioned briefly and forgotten quickly, as the lecturer orated her topic.

I, however, was coming to the end of Once Upon A List by Robin Gold, and was looking for something new to read and being in a excitatory mood and wanting to jump fully clothed into the deep end of my new subject, this seemed perfect. After all, whether you’re fascinated by the mind or not, a book entitled “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” should never be passed by! Read more

Book Review: Once Upon A List by Robin Gold

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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Whilst I was searching for images to adorn my review of What Milo Saw by Virginia MacGregor I stumbled across a photograph of a table covered in books, and before I’d notice the finer, important detail (all the books were German translations), I was instantly drawn to one cover with a picture of a hot air balloon on it. The fact it was titled in German meant it took a few google translations and searches later to turn up the original, Robin Gold’s Once Upon A List, but the mere decoration of a balloon was enough to make me decide to read it. I truly was judging the book by it’s cover because I had no idea what it was about and the only reason it had entered my life was that single image.

Having put it in the “To Read” pile in the online book store I actually um’d and ah’d for quite a while about reading it. For you see, the British cover doesn’t have a balloon on it, in fact it has a lady in pink wellington boots and blue skinny jeans walking a dog. It’s a very feminine cover. And I wondered if I was about to read a light and frivolous piece of “chic lit”. But a book’s and book, and a story’s a story right? Read more

Book Review: The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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Over the past 12 months there has only been one answer if you’ve talked to anybody about psychological thrillers. It didn’t matter whether it was in literacy or cinematic form, want a story that will worm inside your mind and twist and warp and freak you out? Then Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the answer. I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the film (which is why I now won’t read the book as I know the twists), so when I wanted a psychological thriller to read myself, I started at Gone Girl and looked at the novels people recommended afterwards. The name coming up time and again was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

I knew nothing about it as I started reading, I purely went on the strength of a few recommendations and Google’s own comparison of: Rear Window meets Gone Girl – not that, that means anything as I’ve never heard of Rear Window! However, within the opening few pages, reading the first few lines and the prologue, my heart sank. I was expecting a dark, teasing story, keeping it’s secrets hidden until the end and suddenly, light was being thrown upon it. It felt as though the book wanted desperately to release the tension I wanted it to hold on to and I wondered, whether, by not skipping to the actual first page, I’d naively, spoiled the entire book. Read more

Flight Reports: Royal County Of Berkshire Show 2015

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
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The Royal County of Berkshire Show, or Newbury Show as it was previously known (and still is locally), always takes place on the third full weekend of September and for me, represents the culmination of the hot air ballooning calendar. It’s not a true “end of season” but in my mind commercial ballooning in the UK starts with the London Marathon in April and ends at Newbury in September. Over the years there have been mass launches of 20-30 balloons, and during the hey-day of the 1990s bore witness to flying strawberries, cheeses and liquorice allsorts, to keep with the agriculture theme!

The hot air balloon display at the Show has been organised by my family for many, many years, in fact, my father has been “in charge” for so long now that I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess to the exact length. Sadly though, with the decline in commercial ballooning over the past decade, as well as, a general malaise to ballooning in the area, the event has got smaller and smaller and now there are usually only 15-20 balloons registering and 10-15 actually flying from the launches. It’s still just enough to put on a spectacle for the public, but it isn’t as impressive as it once was. Read more