Tuesday, 29 October 2013

LIVE: Tom Odell

Star of the sky advert, and owner of a number 1 album and top 10 single Tom Odell sold out the Institute weeks in advance, which always makes the place hot enough to fry... people. Unfortunately the Institute told me to get there half an hour earlier than I had to so I had to stand through some horrifically cliched rock and roll, although I suppose I'm no worse off through the experience minus having half an hour of my life that have disappeared to me forever.

Obviously without much of a back-catalogue Odell played every single song off his album, Long Way Down. Throwing in a few covers, and I might be a bit of a scrooge when it comes to this, but I didn't pay money for him to sing The Beatles and Etta James and to be honest I could have lived without it if it meant getting home 20 minutes earlier. Overall though he sounded good, and at least tried to liven things up which is a little hard when a lot of your songs are quite so soft - although they do translate pretty well to a live setting.

The most disappointing thing was the crowd. I was stood next to a couple who would have been more at home in Eastenders. The male kept threatening to punch almost anybody who so much as looked at his other half, who didn't seem to stop crying for an hour and a half. Constant wailing, which meant that I had to sing louder which probably disrupted everybody else's enjoyment and for that I'm sorry. The rest of the crowd were there for one song and one song only, it was like a Journey concert, and I'll give you three guesses which it was.

Anyway, a pretty solid show, and I get to cross another name off my 'to see' list, there's not a whole lot of bands left to see. Which is slightly scary, I don't want to think about the money that's cost!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Photography: WRASSLIN.

So last night I headed to London for Revolution Pro Wrestling's Uprising 2013 featuring some fairly big names in Bret Hart, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Colt Cabana, Prince Devitt and a few more besides. I've been a fairly major wrestling fan for a while now and this was my first time at RevPro. I mostly went for Devitt vs. Ricochet which didn't disappoint. Two incredible wrestlers who put on a fantastic show. Getting to see Bret Hart was just a bonus. I took some photos but alas my camera is awful in low light - I really need a more up-to-date body than the entry-level 2009 model I have now. ANYWAY. To see all the photos visit my Facebook Page, but there's a choice few beneath the break!

Monday, 14 October 2013


So, two years ago when I applied to my universities I selected the 'straight' Computer Science option so as to get my course over in the least possible time - and at that point I was pretty happy to do the general three years of university thing and then go into the real world to find a job. Pretty quickly it was apparent that the three years should probably turn to four years and you should find a job in the middle of it so as to have experience for when you go out to find a job.

The whole thing is that I'm not overly sold in the idea of sitting in an office for a year when I could be finishing my degree. Maybe I just have scenarios in my head where what ends up happening is nothing to do with Computer Science at all, and it's a year wasted on my part. After all I'm coming out of the best CS department in the country, what further reference could I possibly need?

The problem is that everybody I know is at least attempting to find a placement for next year, which would make Birmingham a very lonely place if they all succeeded. It's also causing me a great deal of stress over the thought that my third year may suffer due to my lack of work experience. Of course, I understand that they feel the need to push it, they get a nice little sum of money whilst keeping companies on their side. My problem is that I feel they've pushed too far towards a year out so that it leaves people like me, those who aren't sold on the idea and would be perfectly happy carrying on with education, feeling lost. I've updated my Linked In and in the process of getting my CV all ready, just in case.

Any help from the internet out there, what are your experiences of industrial placements and did they benefit you at all? Or did you stay at university and wish you'd gone for it?

Either way I should probably make my twitter private.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Photography: Rugby (and Respite)

On the first week that uni really kicks in I've already decided that I needed a break and have come down to my family's Devonian retreat to unwind after all the stress. Functional Programming really knows how to take it out of somebody. Couple that with the stress of living in a fractured household and staying for the weekend seems like too much effort.

This week did have some good to it, I completed my first Redbrick - the University Newspaper - assignment photographing Birmingham's Yellows take on... somebody. They started in sunshine, but by the time they finished the rain was beginning to pour. Which made for an interesting challenge. I used a Canon f/4-5.6 70-300mm lens, which got a good workout. The changing focal length does make for an interesting bit of work shooting with manual which took me a while to get right. There was a bit of post-processing to get them to a stage I was happy with, but they came out pretty well!

I was meant to have a photo-pass for Goldie Lookin' Chain at the Academy on Thursday, but the amount of my passes that vanish in this city is incredible. I've turned up to a variety of venues just to be turned away, probably more in just Birmingham than anywhere else in the country. I know I'm only one guy, but please don't be mean to me!

More photos below the jump!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Life: Weekend In Review

So, my weekend started on Thursday evening owing to the fact that my university timetable allows me Fridays off, on the most part. That said, all that happened on Friday was I popped into UoB to talk to the Redbrick photographers hoping that I could get some stuff to shoot. Turns out I'm photographing one of the rugby teams on Wednesday, and I set up my own photopass for Goldie Lookin' Chain on Thursday so it's not a bad week!

In the evening I picked up my brother from the train station and we headed home for a nap before the LoL World Championship Final, although having to listen to my house mates playing blaring club tunes for two hours before they finally went out wasn't the ideal preparation for getting up at 2:30 in the morning.

After having to go back to the house for the tickets that Tim forgot we ended up in the oldest working cinema in the UK, The Electric in Birmingham. I don't really play League of Legends, and I've never seriously watched an eSport so this was a new experience but it was actually really good to watch. eSports may have a certain stigma attached but they're going to be huge, it's just a question of how long it takes. The production values on the final were so high, and the only problem was the ceremony to give the winners the cup. I mean, we did have to watch off Timmy's iPhone for a while but we got it sorted...

Seeing as one of the teams (we don't do spoilers here) demolished (okay slight spoilers) the other it meant that we were out of the cinema pretty early, and ended up getting Tim's second ever subway, even if it was a rather stodgy Sausage Breakfast Thing. For some reason he left pretty much straight away and spent a grand total of 15 hours in Birmingham, dedication to the sport that is. Was alright though, as NHL 13 came through the post and I spend the day playing that. World's most difficult game.

On Saturday evening I had a bar crawl, which isn't advisable after a two hour nap the night before. I crashed around 6pm and missed the first bar, but overall our first CSS Barcrawl was a nice success. Ended up in Fab 'n' Fresh, the Uni's club night which no longer plays Blurred Lines. Absolutely packed as freshers was still going on, but then again we got there in time for me to dance around an empty club dancefloor in my semi-drunken state.

Sunday was spent doing absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Nowt. I don't think I got out of my dressing gown. Those are the best days though, eh?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sport: Let The eSports Commence!

So Friday night saw the final of the League of Legends World Championships at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In an ever growing eSports market the winners took home a $1m purse, and the runners up a measly $250,000. There were viewing parties all over the world in something reminiscent of Wrestlemania, and millions more watched at home. I was dragged, at three in the morning, to the Electric Cinema in Birmingham, England to watch the action. A beautiful irony that the UK's oldest working cinema should be chosen to host such an event.

This is a turning point in Western culture that we're on the brink of. On any given weekend you can choose to rock up to your local football, rugby, [insert sport here] and watch a match. Endless hours of television are dedicated to traditional sports and there's almost no professional sport that won't have some sort of coverage. That's exactly where the world of eSports is heading. The event sold out the venue in an hour. By any stretch of the imagination that's incredible, and this is just the beginning. ESports in the west still hasn't become mainstream despite the inordinate amount of people who play video games.

ESports, obviously, have less physical constraints - you can play them no matter what state your body is in - and you can play with whoever you want, wherever they are in the world; which is obviously one of the unique advantages over a 'sport'. It's summed up pretty well in the video below.

Yes, there's still going to be some hostility toward eSports in the years to come because they're radically different to what's come before and, at the moment at least, Riot is using it as a marketing tool for LoL. They actually lose a lot of money on the big tournaments, so at some point they're going to have to make sure it's actually financially viable to run these big events.

Obviously it's not just LoL but pretty much any game you can play online. Counter Strike, Call of Duty, DOTA 2, FIFA, Starcraft. The people who tend to make decisions in the big companies tend to be people who haven't grown up with video games, and therefore I don't think a big shift is going to happen in the immediate future, but within my lifetime I expect eSports to become something on a par with their traditional counterpart.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Television: Castle

Earlier in the year I was browsing Lovefilm Instant and I came across the crime drama, Castle. I think I managed to watch the first four seasons in under a week, and gave myself pretty bad eye strain in the process. Richard Castle is a mystery writer who is called to help on a case where the perpetrator is copying scenarios from his books. He becomes infatuated with Kate Beckett, a detective, and after asking his friend The Mayor he's granted access to her cases for research purposes.

One of the main reasons I started watching Castle is due to the fact that I'd just finished Firefly, and Nathan Fillion, who plays the protagonist in the sci-fi show is cast as the aforementioned Castle; in a fairly familiar goofy-yet-loveable role. Cast opposite him is the absolutely stunning Stana Katic in her first major part - or at least as far as I can tell anyway. The most noticeable change in her since the first show is her hair, it changes more often than the wind.

The chemistry between the two is incredible, and really the focal point of the show. Away from the main characters there's two other families. Castle's own, which features his mother (Susan Sullivan), and his daughter (Molly Quinn). Inevitably many cases are broken by an off-handed remark or by something that happens in his personal life which tends to mirror that of his place of research; where his other family are based.  Javi Esposito (Jon Huertas), and Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) make up the rest of the three-man detective team. Obviously Castle uses the two guys to get information and tips on Beckett alongside Dr. Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) who mainly plays Kate's confidant alongside her job as M.E.

What makes Castle something different than the general detective shows is its ability to not take itself too seriously. Yes there are tense moments, hard life lessons, and - at the heart - murder, but its considerably lighter than your Criminal Minds or CSI. Probably stemming from the fact that the majority of the story is actually based around Kate and Castle rather than the crimes that they're trying to solve. I even think my own mother would probably enjoy it.

The USA have just started the sixth season, with its second highest season premiere audience, which can only be a good thing. Couple that with the second season finale was the highest rated show in its time slot on ABC for 14 years, and that it's won 16 awards since the beginning of 2011... I just hope that its not going anywhere for a the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Film: The Sweeney

I had been excited to watch The Sweeney ever since the indirect advertising campaign kicked into gear, and thousands of programmes regurgitating every little known fact about the original series. This time, however, Dennis Waterman is replaced with rap-star Ben Drew and Ray Winstone steps into the role of Jack Regan.  It's a good action film, and the production values are one of the finer aspects - although my appraisal may be due to the fact I haven't properly watched a film in a while.

Ben Drew makes a surprisingly convincing copper, especially seeing as my overbearing memory of Plan B is always the fact that he broke into Glastonbury and got off his face on drugs - I do hope the organisers docked him that ticket fee from his payment when he played.  Steven Mackintosh plays a rather indignant internal-affairs officer, who's wife is sleeping with Ray Winstone.

And really, that's where the film breaks down. I cannot think of anybody I want to see in a 'sex-scene' less than Ray Winstone, and so much it just feels like somebody's given their dad a 'be in a movie' voucher. In an interview with BBC Breakfast Drew made mention to the fact that the car chase scenes are filmed by Winstone having a fake steering wheel, whilst sitting beside the actual driver and the scene being flipped so it looks like old Ray's in the driver's seat. Mr B also said that you can tell how terrified Winstone is, and you really can. It's strange having a car chase where somebody looks unduly frightened.

The rest of the film is a pretty decent affair, over the top action combined with an alright story. There's a few points where it feels like the film drags but in the overall scheme of things it doesn't affect the film too much. If the casting was slightly better this would've been an excellent film, in the end though a solid affair is slightly tarred by the main man.

3/5 ***

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


So we're into October, and apparently it's time to get the NHL Season underway. Obviously last year there wasn't any play until January, due to the lockout, and less than 50% of games ended up being played. Although that's still better than 2004 when the entire season was cancelled! The New York Rangers don't get underway until Friday, which means that uni won't have to suffer until next week but Toronto and Montreal contest the first fight of the campaign. If you want to give it a go it starts at midnight and well worth a watch. To be fair it is a long sport to watch if you're not properly into it, but well worth it!

Plus obviously there's The Champions League to watch before hand. Hopefully Chelsea don't ruin my treble this week, and Celtic don't somehow pull off that shock result they managed against Barca last time.

Barcelona @ 1.44
Dortmund @ 1.30
Chelsea @ 1.75

Treble @ 3.28

I've put 50p on that, but I've risked a pound on a Championship treble. What with Reading being in the league this year I feel like I know it a bit better than last year. My beloved hoops travel up to Barnsley, and I can't believe that we're evens to beat them. I'm hoping for a fairly routine win after taking 13 points from 15! Brighton and Leicester are both in good form too, so I'm quietly confident that I'll be winning £5 tonight.

Reading @ 2.00
Brighton @ 1.75
Leicester @ 1.72

Treble @ 6.02

I managed to get £15 off a free £5 playing Bingo yesterday, alongside £2 on a BTTS & Everton to win. Considering that I started this betting spree with a £2 free on Paddy Power's games I've now got £19.33 on the account, hoping that after tonight I'll have broken £25! Yay, money!


Champions League Treble WON:

Celtic 0-1 Barcelona, Dormund 3-0 Marseille, Bucharest 0-4 Chelsea

Championship Treble LOST:

Barnsley 1-1 Reading, Brighton 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Yeovil 1-2 Leicester