Sunday, 27 September 2009

The State I am in

People have shown sympathy to me for my having to move back in with my parents. Quelle horreur! I even received a phone call from someone making sure I hadn't "committed suicide" over the situation.

Okay, so it's not exactly ideal for a 24 year old to be living with her parents, but it's not that bad. It's certainly not as terrible an experience as the media seems to be making it out to be for people in my situation. I lived in, paid for, and maintained my own rented digs on the other side of the country for six years. I paid my own way to the landlord, to the gas company, and to the Council (because I was a part-time student for two years). The Council even owes me money because I overpaid! I'm only back home because after handing in my thesis, and uh, inter-railing around Slovakia and Ireland, I had no money left to pay the rent in my leafy student neighbourhood. I also have great parents.

My parents are incredibly understanding. This is partly because they were in my position during the late 1980s (I have young parents) and partly because I've proved myself to be a hard-working, independent individual under normal circumstances. In that context, getting free accommodation through the Parental Housing Association doesn't seem so bad, for now. It's not unconditional though. My part of the deal is to do my share of the housework, cook most of the dinners, and not use up too much hard drive space on the Sky Plus box. I also have to prove that I am applying for jobs, and I need to learn to drive.

So far I'm doing pretty well, except for recording lots of foreign movies on Sky Plus. I just bought some fabulous, cheap "nhs chic" glasses because I'm going blind in my old age and don't want to drive over sheep or into ravines while I'm learning to drive, so lessons will start soon. My parents enjoy not having to cook every night, and seem to be impressed with my culinary skills (I had a flatmate who worked in a greengrocer's so we all became pretty good at healthy, well-seasoned feasts; I also wholly recommend this book to anyone). So far, so good.

There are some downsides though. First, most of my friends are back in the city where I left them, and I can't meet up with them for a pot of tea or a pint at a moment's notice. Second, my parents live the country, so I can't just pop down to the local Spar at 4 in the morning for magazines and chocolates. Third, I don't know how long I'm going to be stationed here, or where I am going to next.

The last point isn't too much of an issue right now, and is part of what makes this whole experience kind of exciting. From here the only way is up, as long as I make sure there's enough space for my mum to record Project Runway.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Somewhere between lol scum and lolitician

I can say whatever I like about James Bond and you have to believe me. That's because I did Film and Television Studies at University. It gives me the right to get away with an air of superiority after a trip to the cinema. A comedian during Freshers' Week a few years ago (not mine, one I was 'helping' at) asked the audience who was studying the most useless degree. A number of folks called out "Philosophy" but a few of us cried "Film and TV!" to which the comedian retorted "Film and TV!? That's not a degree, that's just learning how to spoil a trip to the cinema for everyone else!" Needless to say, my degree won the dubious title of "most useless", but at least I get to spoil the cinema for everybody else.

The Boyfriend and I went to see Inglourious Basterds a few weeks ago [spoiler alert]:

Boyfriend: What did you think?

Me: Well, obviously it was a theatrical, farcical, and elaborate set-up for Tarantino to play a big joke on the audience. The final scene, where the cinema-goer is invited to laugh at Hitler's misfortune, while Hitler is portrayed on-screen as sitting in a cinema, laughing at the misfortune of American soldiers was beautifully ironic. Not only was it potentially self-aware in that the allure of the extreme violence of Tarantino's movies were referred to in this scene, because the graphic violence is one of the most notable features of a Tarantino movie; but it was also a comment on our feelings towards the horrors of the World Wars. In our generation, anything goes when it comes to attacking Hitler with comedy or vitriol, and Tarantino did both absolutely. But what would I know?

Boyfriend: You have a degree in film.

Me: Oh, yeah. Sorry. It was good.

But, to make it worse, I studied Film and TV jointly with Politics, and I have just finished a Master's in European Politics as well. The same holds true for Politics as for Film and TV: I can trump any political argument in the pub, even if I can't name more than ten British PMs or know nothing about the recent Ghanian election. Of course I'm only joking, but sometimes people make the assumption that studying politics gives me a stronger or more valid opinion than anyone else. It doesn't.

That's not to say I'm not glad I did these degrees, by the way, because I am. I did my Master's part-time while working full-time for most of it in order to fund it and to be able to eat. It's been a tough two years, but now I have an even tougher task ahead of me: Trying to start a career in a terrible job market. This should be a laugh.

When the contract on my previous job ended in February, a friend advised that I sign on the dole. I responded “actually I think I might sign on the lol scum” which started a whole thread of jokes from my friends:

i can has benefits?

am in ur country, claimin ur taxez

oh hai, i just upgraded ur tax creditz 4 single motherz

employment, ur doin it rong

I'm in ur dole office, bein degraded.

I have moved back in with my (very understanding) parents, who suggested I start a blog about my time as a University graduate on the job hunt during the first recession of the 21st Century. My parents are pretty smart, so I've taken their advice. I'm not aiming to catalogue every job that I apply for, or even document the interviews that I (hopefully) get invited to, but I'll extrapolate on what I do with my time and things I have learned and will learn as I try to find my way in the world. Crucially, I won't use this as a sounding board for angry rants about the economy, the job market, or my situation. I make that promise because it's not a productive approach to job hunting and it doesn't make for interesting reading either. I'm hoping this will be a light-hearted account of being in recession limbo, somewhere between lol scum and lolitician.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Stirred, not Shaken

This week The Guardian posed a philosophical question about UK pop group The Sugababes: There are now no original members left in this musical temp agency, so does the band really still exist? The paradox has already been cited as a modern day example of the Ship of Theseus, which led to a very heated dinner table debate amongst my family about James Bond. Every time a new actor plays James Bond, is it still the same James Bond?

My family agreed that we don't have a problem with calling the new Sugababes line-up The Sugababes, in the same way we can accept that when new actors are drafted into play original characters in soap operas, the character is supposed to be the same. They sing the same songs and say the same lines. The overall effect is the same. No big deal.

So how about Dr Who, then? The Timelord has been played by various actors, but we know that while Dr Who is the same character ( kind of) he 'regenerates' every once in a while. While he is technically the same Timelord, he is a different kind of character. And that's allowed, because of the 'regeneration' process. Well done on the exposition, BBC.

Things got a little more contentious when I brought up a slightly different existential problem to the Sugababes/Ship issue, the Calvin and Hobbes question. Is Hobbes a real tiger, or is he a stuffed toy? Does it really matter? Creator Bill Watterson deliberately left that to the imagination of the reader, so there is no true answer. The answer relies on personal preference or an acceptance that sometimes Hobbes is animate and sometimes he isn't, depending on the circumstance.

But James Bond poses a greater problem (on which there is already a philosophy book, it seems). My mum gets in a tizz over James Bond, and not because he's dashing, mysterious and suave. It's because the movies only link up very tenuously, and James Bond's existence is never explained. Are replacement actors different people, or the same? Why, in Daniel Craig's Casino Royale, did M refer to the Cold War being over when this is supposed to be an introduction to James Bond? What is he? Theories abound:

1. He is one guy with a very exciting life in the SIS.
2. He is one guy, but because the franchise is just an allegory for an exciting life in the SIS, all of these things haven't actually happened to him.
3. There are different guys, because 007 and James Bond are just code names. When one dies or retires another is activated (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
4. There are different guys, but many exist at one time. Therefore 007/James Bond is just a title or status and the movies are about different guys with the same status/assumed persona.
5. A combination, where James Bond is just a title or status, there is only one, but he regenerates in a fashion similar to Dr Who, or as wikipedia suggests, by having plastic surgery.

I pitch for number 2, and to back up my case I refer to Sex and the City. There are four main characters of Sex and the City, and over the course of six seasons each had a large number of dates, liaisons and relationships. This caused media uproar over the image it portrayed of the modern woman, of its regression from feminism, of debates over lipstick feminism and the like. These naysayers were all missing the point. If TV was realistic, we'd get bored because real life is usually really boring! So (concentrate, philosophy bit) we follow the same characters for multiple seasons because it takes a while to get to know them, and the stories are just examples of funny date stories. Rather than introduce new girls every episode or every season, Tellyworld lets us have the same familiar characters, which saves us from having to think too much and saves Tellyworld from having to work too hard to promote a new product. The long-term storylines keep us hooked from episode to episode and from season to season.

James Bond is the same. It's just a kind of allegorical story using the same character because the first incarnation of James Bond was so successful. Why go to the effort of creating and promoting a different secret agent when the original formula works so well? Viewers/readers get to feel like a part of the story by knowing details about shaken martinis etcetera, and know what kind of storyline they're going to expect when a new movie gets released. Mr Bond, like Hobbes, is a literary device adhering only to rules of poetic license; and a money-saving promotional device, just like the Sugababes. The Sugababes themselves are less important than the franchise itself: It's their singles sales that count, so stop asking questions.

But this leaves one last question after all this philosopop. What is this blog all about anyway? Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion...