Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Cinema As Relaxation: The One Place You Can Truly Unwind?

Cinema is one of last bastions of true relaxation in a world dominated with various media competing for our attention 24/7.

This was something pointed out to me by a friend recently and it gave me food for thought. At first, I was quick to dismiss the idea because I had a full body massage the week before.

The intention of a massage is to relax your body and reduce stress or tension. So how can something else be more relaxing? Nevertheless I found myself thinking about it as I booked my next session. 

Sure, it has all the hallmarks of relaxation, the calming sounds of a Himalayan forest, the perfect temperature and the scent of fragrant oils, but am I truly relaxed during a massage?

Reasons I might not be relaxed

  • I struggle to get comfortable or even breathe correctly - something that should come naturally to me as a living human adult
  • I often don't want to readjust my arm incase it insults the masseuse, as if she will interpret my discomfort as a direct attack on her talent
  • I eat a light breakfast and force myself to go to the toilet before so that I'm not bloated or worse, accidentally fart. If you're a fellow IBS sufferer, you know what I'm talking about! 
  • As for making sound when something feels pleasurable, I focus myself not to in a vain attempt to avoid potential embarrassment or awkwardness. 


I'm so British!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

How A French Plum Pastry Broadened My Horizons

When I was a little girl, the family holidays I went on consisted of caravans, kids clubs and pebbled beaches. The idea of going anywhere outside of the holy trinity (Cornwall, Devon, Kent) seemed preposterous to my parents. 

Despite enjoying our annual summer holidays I would always trundle back to school in September, desperately trying to hide my jealousy as other students recounted their jaunts to the South of France and Spain. Worse than that, was that one kid who went to Disney World every year. 

Of course, it's only now with hindsight that I realise my parents worked hard to pay for our holidays and I appreciate the beauty of places like Cornwall. 

Plus, I definitely wouldn't want to visit another country with two squabbling children, so I get it. 

Seriously, I'm impressed my mum and dad had the restraint not to just straight up murder me or my sister during those long 6 hour car journeys. 

"No, Laura, you can't put the Smurfs CD on again, Dad, tell her!", "Muuuuum, Emma hit me", "I need to go to the toilet" rinse and repeat.  

The day I got permission to go on a school trip to France, I was elated. It was my first time abroad and I loved every minute of it. 

We visited an area near Normandy and stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast with a huge garden that backed out onto the beach. It was so luxurious compared to my past experiences of Brownie Girl Guide camps and caravan park holidays.  

We visited the Bayeux tapestry, various churches, an orchard and a vineyard (I'm guessing this was more for the teachers, than us - can't say I blame them). Whilst exploring the local area, we found a charming little bakery and I plucked up the courage to speak French. 

"Je voudrais un pâtisserie prunelle, s'il vous plaît" I announced proudly. 

What happened next, blew my little mind. 

The lady behind the counter took her tongs, removed a plum pastry, placed it in a bag and responded, "huit francs". 

Oh yes, this was pre-Euro France. I am old. 

I handed her the money, took my pastry and left. 

I stood outside, taking stock of what had just happened. I felt a smile widen across my face. 

I was understood

I had successfully communicated to a French person in their native language and they had understood me. 

That plum pastry remains to this day, the best I've ever had. I'm 99% sure it's because of the sheer joy I felt upon communicating in French. 

Monday, 2 September 2019

Embracing My (approx. 6.5%) Scandinavian Roots

In August, I travelled to the birthplace of the Vikings. I also visited the birthplace of one of my ancestors...maybe. You see, four years ago my husband bought me one of those DNA testing kits for my birthday. I was absolutely ecstatic because I find ancestry and historical curiosities fascinating.

Eager to know my genetic make up, I completed the (quite frankly) gross test. Spitting into a test tube was not my idea of a fun test. Weeks later I received my results and I was surprised to see such a vast range of geographical locales. From 0.2% Sub-Saharan Africa to 16% French and German and of course, 6.5% Scandinavian.

Image Credit: Core Knowledge http://www.coreknowledge.org.uk/year2geographyscandinavia.php
The latter covers a large area but I prefer to romanticise it and stake it as my claim to Viking heritage. Not that the Vikings were particularly romantic of course. 

When my family announced we were going on a Norwegian cruise I was initially surprised. Mostly because my parents prefer warmer climates.

Nonetheless I was excited because it's a place I'd long wanted to see. My enthusiasm even made it to my finger tips, I decided to have some nail art created by Hey Missy Beauty who designed me some beautiful Norse Mythology and runic nails. 

Photo: Emma-Jane Corsan
Nail Art: Hey Missy Beauty
I love the story of Huginn and Muninn, the ravens of Odin. I even made a short film about them a few years ago. Missy hand painted them onto my nails and turned the rest into runes symbolising, Self, Journey, Joy and Movement - all things associated with travel. 

Even my choice of reading material for the holiday was decidedly Nordic. I read Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman as I wanted to familiarise myself with Norse Mythology. For me, the mythology and symbolism of a place is just as important as the history. 

When visiting a new place, I always endeavour to learn a bit more. Last year, I visited Sligo with my husband, the place his family descend from. It was fascinating learning about Queen Maeve. She's supposedly buried upright in a 40ft cairn on top of Knocknarea and facing the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn't realised how influential she was for the West of Ireland. I was surprised to learn she rode first into battles. 

Anyway, perhaps that's a post for another day. Let's return to Norway.

Throughout our trip we visited four ports, sailed through multiple fjords and endured the choppiness of the North Sea. One particular day at sea was noticeably turbulent and as I sat on deck, with the wind pelting my face and tangling my hair into a giant mass I realised two things. 

One, it's no wonder the viking people were battle hardened and fearless. Crossing the North Sea would have been no easy task. It's said that many Vikings who left for sea never saw land again.  

Two, if I truly had Viking roots, I'd have plaited my hair thus avoiding the knots and matted locks. Viking women were definitely much smarter than me. 

The first port of call was Stavanger. This place is considered the actual birthplace of the Vikings and I knew of a monument there that I wanted to visit. Unveiled in 1983 by King Olaf and created by Fritz Røed, Sverd I Fjell or 'Swords In Rock' is a large monument consisting of three swords plunged into the ground. 

Each hilt represents different Viking kings. the larger of the three represents Harald Fairhair who is said to have unified Norway into one country in 872. The swords themselves also represent Peace, Unity and Freedom.

Photo: Emma-Jane Corsan
It was just over an hours walk from the port to the swords and though it was pouring with rain for most of our hike there, it was worth it. The landscape surrounding the swords is idyllic and there's a calming but brooding atmosphere to it.

Photo: Emma-Jane Corsan
Simultaneously knowing this is where a huge battle took place while enjoying the stunning vista is surreal. 

We spent a lot of time taking photographs and walking around the sculpture to get the best vantage points. Fortunately there are few tourists around and the majority tend to hop on and off a tour bus. We were very lucky and managed to get pictures in-between the busloads of visitors. 

Photo: Emma-Jane Corsan
I hope to write more about my trip to Norway in future posts but I'll end with an old Norwegian saying:

Å Være midt i smørøyet 

Which translates roughly to "May you be in the middle of the butter eye", meaning to be in a good place. Smørøye is the hollow left by melting butter in the middle of a warm bowl of porridge. 

Monday, 22 July 2019

When You Can Write About Any Subject...Except Yourself

I'm currently in a position I didn't think I'd be in. Due to a situation out of my control, I'm looking for a new "day job". 

My part time job in retail was only ever meant to be a stop gap but here I am 10 years later...oops. It provided me with the means to take on writing opportunities on my days off without the dreaded freelance fear that many of my self employed friends encounter.

While I'm sad to be leaving the amazing friends and colleagues there, in a way I'm grateful. I needed a kick up the bum to find a job in a more suitable sector. Something related to blogging, copywriting or my other passion, filmmaking.

Image Credit: https://thenewyorkerblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/koalifications-meme-animals-zone.jpg
I'm hoping that my search for a new "day job" turns out to be more than that. Something that isn't just a means to an end or the security of knowing I can pay the rent. 

I want to feel proud doing something I'm not just good at (because, I am damn good at my current day job) but something that suits me. 

It's a big ask to find a job you'll love and I'm aware that once a passion becomes a job it can often sour the experience but I get the feeling that's not going to happen. 

I'm motivated and positive...well, as long as I don't spend too many hours on job sites sifting through endless telesales, social care and dubious 'Business Opportunity - Work From Home' listings. Why are there so many of those!?

The job sites I've been perusing have given me some script ideas and food for thought though. I've also found some positions that look absolutely perfect for me. Of course, it all comes down to my applications - which are something I struggle with despite being an incredibly competent and experienced writer. 

It's so damn hard to write about myself in a way that sells who I am and what I can do. I write persuasive copy that entices readers to consider buying a - quite frankly - BORING 400 piece box of staples. 

I engage audiences by making seemingly complicated tech relatable. I can analyse and assess the needs of a client and produce content that attracts website views. 

And yet...writing about myself, essentially promoting my personal brand and skillset feels like the most challenging project I've faced!

Maybe it's because I've not had to job search in 10 years but yeeeeesssh it's hard. Ultimately, there's no real direction to this blog post, I think I just needed to vent. So if anyone reading this has any tips or ideas, I'm all ears!

And if you're looking to hire a copywriter or blogger...*waves* I'm over here!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

It's Asteroid Day. No, Really.

June 30th is an official UN sanctioned global awareness day. But why today? Well, it was more than likely a homage to the Tunguska disaster in Russia which took place on June 30th 1908. The asteroid in question destroyed a huge area, mostly Russian forests.

The Tunguska event is considered a lucky escape as although it flattened 770 miles of forest, there were no reported casualties. Had it been on even a slightly altered path, landing in a populated area, it may have annihilated thousands of people.

Image from expedition in 1929 near Hushmo River, Russia

However, there have been thousands of reports on close calls and near misses. In recent years, some asteroids have come worryingly close and there are multiple predictions of potential impacts including the asteroid Apophis which is currently on course to Earth. Fortunately, we've got until 2029 until it does or doesn't reach us.

And that's the thing, the majority of asteroids don't make it to Earth, they change course or burn up in our atmosphere. We've not reached Bruce Willis and friends going into space and drilling into an asteroid territory...yet.

With that in mind and as a way of celebrating Asteroid Day, or celebrating not being blown into smithereens by one, here's a quick look at two films from the same year that featured asteroids. I was thirteen when these films came out so I view them both with rose tinted nostalgia glasses of course!

Armageddon (1998)

This film made over $553.7 million and was the Summer blockbuster of 1998. It had an all-star cast, including Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi and so many more. It's one of those films that has you remarking "Oh yeah, that guy" every scene.

Coupled with a hit song by Aerosmith (clearly the director asked Liv to get her dad, Steven involved), the impact of Armageddon rippled through popular culture. Personally, I cannot stand Aerosmith's I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing, it was overplayed in my youth and in my humble opinion, Aerosmith have way better songs in their back catalogue.

Ultimately though, I forgive the film's soundtrack because of it's ridiculously silly and entertaining plot. An ex oil rigger (and his ex-con friends) are hired by NASA to drill a moving asteroid into pieces...it's just so dumb.

It has all the Michael Bay-isms you'd expect, it's action for the sake of action. Enjoyable, sure. Meaningful, not a chance. It begins with NASA director (Billy Bob Thornton) realising the Earth has just 18 days before a meteor the size of Texas hits. His only option - only - is to hire a team of oil riggers who have collectively spent a lot of time in jail and land them on an asteroid. Like I said, this was his only option apparently. It was easier to teach oil riggers how to be astronauts than it was to train astronauts to use a digger. Riiiiiight.

Anyway, this big dumb movie made a stupid sum of money at the box office despite it's blatant inaccuracies. That said, it spawned years of memes, jokes and parodies about Bruce Willis being the only one capable of saving the world.

Deep Impact (1998)

This film starring Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall and Téa Leoni didn't have quite the impact it's title was hoping. Unfortunately, it was dwarfed by Armageddon. Though this film is about an extinction level event so the stakes are incredibly high. Though this film centres on the politics and social implications of what happens if humanity are unable to stop the asteroid.

The fear of a rising sea level drowning Earth's inhabitants leads to special measures being put into place to protect the future of mankind. The world's governments have been secretly building underground shelters and a lottery chooses Leo (Elijah Wood) but not his girlfriend and her family. The pair even  marry in an attempt to both gain access but it doesn't work.

Leo's girlfriend, Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) refuses to leave her parents behind so Leo attempts to find them. Realising it's too late for them, they tell Leo to get Sarah and her baby brother to high ground. What surprised me in this film, is that unlike Armageddon, the asteroid isn't thwarted.

One hits the Earth and creates a giant tidal wave that wipes out most of America including Sarah's parents. The second asteroid is averted when the crew of the Messiah, a Russian spacecraft, unable to land safely collide with the asteroid in a suicide mission after heartfelt messages to their loved ones.

The film ends after the waters eventually recede, President Beck (Morgan Freeman) gives a speech in honour of the fallen and their sacrifice. Humanity rebuilds. It's certainly much bleaker than Armageddon and while the tension is lesser, the fact the asteroid hit makes for a more interesting film.

So, there you have it - two films where asteroids take centre stage. We haven't had one recently I can think of but if you're looking to scratch that itch, it seems the UN have set up a live feed especially for today on their website, Asteroid Day.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Love Live! How An Unlikely Idol Anime Touched My Heart

Love Live! School Idol Project is a slice of life anime that originally aired in 2013. Based on a manga series which launched in the August 2010 issue of Dengeki G's Magazine in Japan, the series has since gone on to produce not only the anime itself but a slew of other projects.

This includes a spin-off anime called Love Live! Sunshine!!, music CDs, music videos and even video games. There's rhythm based arcade title Love Live! School Idol Festival ~ After School Activity~ for example. I know, catchy title right?

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to visit Japan in 2017 and happened across the game in one of the many arcades in the Shinjuku area. Of course, I had to play it. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at it! That said, this particular genre of arcade game in Japan is incredibly popular. Unsurprisingly, more so with middle-aged business men who seemed to dominate every machine I saw. 

Me in the middle!
So why did I feel the need to play a game based on a group of teen idols when I have little to no interest in real life idols? Mainly because it's an anime series that affected me in ways I didn't think it would. 

~Naturally, there are spoilers ahead~

I began watching Love Live! on a whim but it wasn't long before I was humming along to the theme song. I enjoyed all of the character quirks and I was really rooting for them to succeed. The show begins with a high school student called Honoka. She becomes disillusioned with the fact her school, Otonokizaka Academy is soon to be closed down. This is a real issue in contemporary Japan due to the falling birth rate. Many schools are being forced to close down or merge with other schools due to fewer applications. 

This undiluted honesty regarding a current crisis is why the manga and anime have been so popular in Japan. It's also why you're so willing as an audience to root for her. 

Honoka-chan has a younger sister who is unable to follow in her footsteps in attending Otonokizaka Academy. One day, Honoka-chan visits UTX, the school her sister has applied to and finds herself immersed in a huge crowd who have amassed to watch a music video by the idol group, A-Rise. She discovers they attend UTX and are a huge influence on the high number of applicants to the school. 

Learning of their popularity, Honoko-chan decides she wants to become an idol to save her school from closure. She starts a school idol group called μ's (ミューズ Myūzu, pronounced "muse") and they become determined to save their beloved school. 

The determination and wilfulness of Honoka-chan is at the heart of this series. Her resolve and perseverance inspires the other members to work hard and do their absolute best...or their rubesty (you'll get it when you watch Love Live! Sunshine!!). They eventually hear about the ultimate idol competition called Love Live. 

Naturally, they enter in the hopes of raising their school's profile. The series follows this progression and culminates in their success. However, not in the way you think. When these girls fail, they fail haaaard. But that's what makes it so deeply satisfying when they win. Even their small wins are joyous. 

Of course, this show is also full of serious moments undercut with comedy. From Nico's ridiculous catchphrase, "Nico Nico Niii" and her over the top persona to Honoka-chan and her apparent natural laziness and clumsiness. You'll grow to love each character but will undoubtedly find a favourite to stan (mine is Nico closely followed by Honoka).

There are moments in the show where the usual anime themes and tropes lead you to a crescendo that never comes. That's what makes the series feel so real. It's grounded in realism and things don't pan out like you want them to. You expect the group to reach the dizzying heights of success only to see them fail or doubt themselves at crucial moments. 

But they get back up again and again, overcoming setback after setback even when it all seems pointless or without hope. The determination these characters possess is inspiring, the namesake μ's (albeit hard to read) is most definitely accurate. 

The scene featuring their first performance is particularly poignant and will resonate with anyone who creates any form of art. After months of hard work, practice and training they walk out on stage only to be confronted with an empty auditorium. IT BROKE MY HEART. 💔

I sobbed for μ's but mostly I think I was crying for myself. I was crying for my own disappointments, for all those times I've put my heart and soul into something only for it to amount to nothing. All the times I've made the effort to create something only to end up feeling like I was never good enough in the first place. Or that my best just wasn't enough. 

Worse still is when they do eventually succeed, the girls end up disbanding and you're left feeling lost and want to tell these characters how big a mistake they're making! The spin-off series Love Live! Sunshine!! follows a group of girls who become inspired by μ's and when that was first established, all of the emotional turmoil I'd been through in the original series felt worth it.

Thus, I began it all over again with the band Aqours (アクア pronounced "aqua") in Sunshine!! The ups and downs of Love Live! especially those gut punch moments make this show and Sunshine!! an incredibly emotional ordeal to watch. I don't see that as a negative though, so please, go and watch it for yourself.

One of the locations where the girls train and where the character Nozomi is a shrine maiden actually exists in Tokyo. Check out how accurate the animation team were!

Kanda Shrine during my trip to Japan in 2017
Kanda Shrine as seen in the anime!
My husband and I made the pilgrimage specially to Kanda Shrine in Chiyoda so that we could imitate μ's running up the steps to it. We thought we might be the only ones but it turns out we're not alone! This was my original Instagram post:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma-Jane (@emmajanemint) on

The shrine itself has embraced a surge in popularity and has seen a boost to the number of donations. There are prayer boards dedicated to the fictional characters of both the Love Live! series and other anime series. From wishing them well to simply being thankful they exist, the number of dedications is impressive.

All the various prayer boards at Kanda Shrine, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Even now, I find it odd that this series left such a mark on me. I took time out of my holiday in Japan to visit a shrine I didn't even know existed until seeing it immortalised in an anime that I never even intended to become invested in. 

I always appreciate when an art form strongly affects me (for better or for worse). But the fact a slice of life anime had the ability to illicit such intense emotional responses from me astounds me. That's why I'll always stan this series, why I own figurines of these idols and why I even paid homage to the show at Kanda Shrine.

Me checking out the shrine

Monday, 8 April 2019

How Accurate Is Fallout In Its Representation of Post-Nuclear War?

I’ve always felt an affinity with the Fallout game series, somehow the franchise has continued to resonate with me despite being a highly stylised post-apocalyptic alternate version of 1950s America set in the future. 

What can I say? I enjoy the brown, arid, dusty Wasteland with its mutated inhabitants and homemade nuclear weaponry. However, if we ground the series in reality for a moment, I often wonder how it would match up. Would a nuclear war and the fallout that followed lead to brown and ochre tones as far as the eye could see? Which animals would mutate? And would I really find a canine companion as loyal and invincible as Dogmeat?

I wanted to attempt to answer some of these questions and more, so I did some research and read a few scientific studies, of which there are many. After all, numerous studies began in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively and continued long into the 1960s only to regain traction again in the 1980s. 

Ultimately, no one truly knows what the world would look like or resemble after a full-scale nuclear war. Though, many of these studies explored what would be left behind after a thermo-nuclear blast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US government were extremely interested in nuclear fallout and the defence department working alongside the Atomic Energy Commission produced multiple in-depth studies. 

Their findings uncovered that the fallout of a nuclear attack was just as much a threat as the attack itself. This is because plant and animal life were discovered to have different susceptibilities to the ionising radiation emitted by nuclear bombs. 

So what would happen to us, post nuclear blast? Despite humans not possessing much resistance to radiation, we’re not the ones that would be the most affected suggesting that the Fallout series’ Ghouls or Super Mutants are entirely fictional which is quite frankly, a relief. 

Other mammals, especially those we use as cattle and livestock would suffer the results more obviously. This means that the games’ two headed Brahmin may well be close to the truth, though you definitely wouldn’t want to chow down on an actual Brahmin steak. We may have better resistance than our bovine friends but we’re not immune! Speaking of mammals…do we even know how we’d classify a Deathclaw? Because, I’d really hate to know that they could exist, even hypothetically. 

Lifeforms that would thrive in the aftermath are insects and arachnids such as ants, cockroaches and scorpions meaning that Radscorpions, Radroaches and Fallout : New Vegas’ Giant Fire Ants are definitely based on non-fiction.

As for the Wasteland depicted in the games, it’s extremely likely that plant life and trees would be massively affected and die off. In Tennessee in the 1960s, a small nuclear reactor was built for research and development however, something went wrong during its construction and the nuclear material wasn’t shielded properly. 

This meant that the reactor had begun emitting ionising radiation, scientists noticed that in the area around the laboratory, pine trees were beginning to die of as faster rate than normal. Biologists and ecologists then found that soft wood trees are more susceptible than hardwood trees meaning in a society made up of timber, many of our structures and buildings would become vulnerable. This is what happens when you skimp on building costs or buy all of your furniture from Ikea. 

Is your furniture susceptible to radiation? Perhaps you could try and barter the price down next time you’re shopping for a coffee table. So, because most of our building material is susceptible, what would we rebuild with? In Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, players craft items and build settlements but would these really hold up in the post-apocalyptic aftermath? The short answer is probably not. 

Unless you were building with hardwood or concrete (which although isn’t as vulnerable, still is) or lead, eventually everything would deteriorate. Incidentally, if you look up the images from the reactor with faulty shielding, the area actually does resemble the Fallout games. 

With shelter covered, what about sustenance? What will we be able to eat and drink? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that a 1957 published US government study which was part of a bigger study called Operation Teapot found that bottled beer and soda would in fact be safe to drink, the further away from the blast the better though even though close to the blast were found to be only slightly radioactive and while the taste was affected, it wasn’t that bad. Yep…they actually had someone drink it. 

So there’s some truth to the idea that we’d all be enjoying Nuka-Cola or Sunset Sarsaparillas. What about food though? Well for starters, unless you’re lucky enough to live near some crops that didn’t get destroyed in the blast then you can forget fresh produce. 

Most of our food these days is transport based and with railway lines and roads destroyed and little fuel available for planes, crops wouldn’t be able to be transported where there was high demand and it was most in need, like a city for example. Perhaps a reason to take up gardening and become self-sufficient that isn’t just a result of reaching retiring age? That said with insects being least vulnerable to radiation, any crops you did have could be wiped out. 

And what about the economy? Well, without the systems in place money would well and truly be worthless and we’d definitely have to result to a bartering system of some kind or utilise a new replacement for money, which is why Bottlecaps in the Fallout franchise might be close to the truth.

Perhaps the closest we can get to understanding what a nuclear aftermath might be like is Chernobyl in eastern Ukraine. As the humans that once resided there left, the ecosystem and flora in the area has flourished. Perhaps, the Fallout games are more inaccurate than we might imagine. Or perhaps it’s the absence of human life which has aided the ecosystem meaning that post nuclear war, with humans gone the Earth might become a thriving ecosystem of plant and bug life.  

It seems that overall the Fallout series is grounded in many ways with much of the nuclear research from the 50s onwards and in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear event perhaps it comes close but because the franchise is actually set hundreds of years after 2077 and 25 years after in Fallout 76, it’s more likely that the world would look very different to how it’s portrayed. Mostly, with evolved plant life having benefitted from the decline of us filthy humans. 

Ultimately, the thing about studies into the fallout of a nuclear reaction is that none can say with any certainty what would actually happen, they can only predict. Without it happening, we will never know…and let’s hope we never live to find out, unless we’re virtually gathering codes in Fallout 76 in order to detonate a fictional atom bomb, that is.

Here are some links to some useful research I found (I read others but felt they might be too heavy for a casual read - if you're interested though, drop me a message):