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Thursday, 17 August 2017

«Disconnect» - Film Review & Official Trailer

"I'm living with a family of fake people."
So says a text message sent by Ben Boyd, a moody, introspective, Radiohead-loving adolescent who's more at home in his head, in his music and online than he is with his own family.
Ironically, the person Ben thinks he's communicating with, a young woman named Jessica who's friended him on his social media page and taken a liking to music Ben's posted, really is fake. "She" is actually two bullies who are preying upon the unsuspecting Ben the way hungry lions go after vulnerable wildebeest calves. By the time he realizes Jessica isn't Jessica, Ben has been baited into sending a naked picture of himself, a picture that soon goes viral … and prompts the horrified youngster to hang himself.
That's just the first of four seriously cautionary tales in Disconnect, a movie about how Internet-enabled relationships promise more intimacy than they deliver, even as digital connections unwittingly undermine our most important real-world relationships.
Disconnect's second story revolves around an alienated husband and wife. Derek and Cindy are struggling with the loss of their one-year-old baby and their inability to get pregnant again. Derek has shut down emotionally, retreating into his work (which requires lots of travel) and into online gambling. Meanwhile, Cindy is desperate to talk, and she finds a compassionate ear in a widower who goes by the username "fearandloathing" in a grief-and-loss Internet chat room.
But when Derek and Cindy become the victims of identity theft, online security specialist Mike Dixon tracks down fearandloathing and discovers that Cindy's confidant—real name Stephen Schumacher—is actually a savvy thief milking her for information. When Derek asks Mike what he'd do in their situation, the latter replies, "I'd strangle the son of a b‑‑ch." Thus, Derek and Cindy perilously seek to turn the tables on the thief.
Mike, however, has problems of his own. A widower, he's doing the best he can to raise his adolescent son. But even though he's adept at sorting through other people's online missteps, he's not so good at it with his own flesh and blood. His son, Jason, is one of Ben Boyd's bullies—yet another blow to the father and son's already troubled relationship.
Finally, putting an exclamation point on 21st-century society's damaged ideas about intimacy is Kyle, a formerly homeless 17-year-old who now lives in a house with other teens doing sex webcam work under the watchful eye of their digital pimp. It's a story that ambitious reporter Nina Dunham wants to tell. But when she convinces Kyle to talk—anonymously, of course—it ends up on the national news and invites the attention of the FBI. If Nina wants to keep her job, high-powered lawyer Rich Boyd—Ben's father—tells her she's going to have to turn Kyle and his outfit in.
Disconnect invites viewers to wrestle with the suggestion that many people in the Internet age are more likely to seek emotional (and sexual) intimacy with complete strangers online than they are with the people they're closest to. The results, the film further suggests, can be devastating.
Ben is an artsy, quiet, misunderstood kid who's not only an outcast at school, but an outsider in his own home. When he tries to commit suicide, his action serves as a catalyst for the family to take a hard look at what they value and how they're living. Dad spends hours going through Ben's pictures and music, really getting to know his son and lamenting the fact that he didn't do so earlier. Sis mourns the fact that she did nothing to protect her brother from those who taunted him. And the family comes together in a way that they never have before.
Rich also reaches out to "Jessica," who at this point is being personified via texts by Jason. Jason feels guilty about a prank that got out of hand, and begins an odd relationship with the older man—one in which Rich acts as a kind of accidental surrogate father. It's clear that Jason's relationship with his own father, Mike Dixon, is damaged, and Rich's willingness to reach out and "talk" proves strangely cathartic for both … until, that is, Rich learns the truth about Jason's role in his son's suicide attempt. Still, this odd relationship once again illustrates the film's main point about how easy—and dangerous—it is for complete strangers to fill important emotional roles in one another's lives online.
Meanwhile, Derek and Cindy's quest to track down Schumacher is fraught with peril. But as they go forward, the couple begins to talk again. And in the end it turns out that Schumacher is also a victim of identity theft, a fact that ultimately stays Derek and Cindy from perhaps assaulting the man. He's "just another victim," Mike tells them, reinforcing the movie's theme that the Internet claims many such victims.
As for Nina and Kyle's relationship, it's a muddy one, to say the least. At some level, Nina genuinely wants Kyle to get out of his "career" doing sex work on webcams. On another level, though, Kyle (brutally) helps Nina see that she was just using him to get a story that would burnish her career. Kyle accuses her of being even more exploitative than the job he's in, an accusation that clearly rocks Nina.
Thanks to social media and the Internet, we're digitally connected to more people than ever before. But as many social commentators have noted as of late, the word digital may make all the difference between those connections being a great thing or a devastating thing. Instead of real, life-giving connections with others, many people get conned by counterfeit intimacy—virtual relationships that ultimately serve as a shallow substitute for the genuine article. Or worse.
Disconnect locates the scabs of online wounds and then digs underneath them, relentlessly picking at this painful reality.
It's brutal to see the end result of a young boy's longing for love and affirmation get turned so horrifically against him, an outcome that leaves him dangling at the end of rope.
It's brutal to hear a 17-year-old argue that performing sex acts in front of strangers is a fulfilling vocation for him—not to mention seeing the other young men and women deceived by this lie.
It's brutal to see a veteran reporter come to the realization that she herself is willing to exploit someone if it means furthering her career.
It's brutal to see parents and husbands and wives learn, too late in some cases, how badly they've failed one another.
It's brutal to watch Disconnect, an unflinching movie—and unflinchingly graphic at times—that paints a dark portrait of the even darker side of our technological age.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Write the colours

Click on the picture and... have fun!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sunday, 13 August 2017

«Paradise Lost» - Infographic & Plot Summary

In the tradition of ancient Greek epics, John Milton begins his poem by calling on the guidance of a heavenly muse to help tell his tale, stating that his goal is to justify the ways of God to man. He begins his story in medias res (in the middle of things). God has cast Satan and his rebel army of fallen angels out of Heaven, and they are floating on a fiery lake in Hell. These angels become devils and form a council to debate how to overthrow God. Through his second-in-command, Satan convinces them that the best target is man, God's newest creation. Satan volunteers to fly to the world full of God's new creatures. His daughter, Sin, and their incestuous son, Death, help him escape from Hell. The personifications of Chaos and Night also help pave the way for Satan to enter the new world, because they have no particular allegiance to God.
God, in his omniscience, already knows that Satan will succeed in tempting and corrupting mankind. He announces that man will be punished for his disobedience, because he created humans to be strong enough to withstand temptation. He claims that his new creations will be punished by death unless someone in Heaven is willing to die on their behalf. Only God's Son volunteers.
Satan lands in the new world and sneaks into the Garden of Eden disguised as a cherub. Once inside the garden, he spies God's new creations, Adam and Eve, and is deeply envious of their innocence and happiness. Though he has a moment of doubt and almost feels love for the humans, he resolves to continue with his plan to corrupt them. It is the only revenge he can get against God. He overhears Adam and Eve discussing how God forbade them from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and decides that he will trick them into disobeying God by eating the fruit.
Uriel, the angel guarding Paradise, realizes that the cherub is Satan in disguise and sends for the archangel Gabriel to find the intruder. Gabriel confronts him, and Satan reveals himself and prepares for battle. God then sends Satan a warning: a pair of Golden Scales in the sky that demonstrates how pointless it is to fight. Satan flees, recognizing that God does have the ultimate power and advantage.
Satan whispers an upsetting dream about eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in Eve's ear while she is sleeping. God decides that although he cannot control their actions, he must warn Adam and Eve about Satan. He sends his archangel Raphael to discuss with Adam the idea that they have the free will to make their own choices and to warn them about the temptation they will face and its consequences.
Raphael also tells Adam the story of Satan's rebellion in Heaven—which began when Satan, then a high-ranking angel, became envious of the Son, who would become King of Heaven. Satan then convinced other angels to rebel against God and forms an army. Yet all angels are immortal—while they can be wounded, they can't be killed. The battle that Raphael describes to Adam seems pointless, especially because the all-powerful God can call an end to the war whenever he likes. He does so on the third day, telling his Son to banish the rebel angels to Hell.
After Raphael finishes telling Adam the story, Satan returns to the Garden of Eden, taking on the disguise of a serpent. He finds Eve alone and speaks to her. Eve is curious about how he came to be able to speak, and he tells her that he learned by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He tells her that if she eats the fruit she can become a goddess and gain knowledge as well. After hesitating, she eats the fruit and then offers it to Adam. Though he realizes that she has disobeyed God's orders, he eats the fruit so they will share the same fate.
God then sends the Son to the Garden of Eden, where he condemns Eve and all future women to experience pain when they give birth. He also condemns Adam to have to labor to grow his food and tells Eve she must submit to Adam. Satan is gleeful that he has accomplished his plan, and his children, Sin and Death, build a bridge between Hell and Earth. Though Satan arrives triumphantly in Hell, believing he has outsmarted God, God punishes Satan by turning him and the other devils into serpents, doomed to eternally hunger for fruit that turns to ashes when they bite into it.
God next orders angels to make the new world more hostile to mirror Adam and Eve's fall. The angels create storms and turn creatures against each other to create discord and suffering. Adam and Eve begin fighting and blame each other for the punishment they are enduring. Ultimately they decide to repent to God, swearing to be obedient. God agrees to be merciful, allowing them and their offspring into Heaven in the afterlife if they are obedient to him.
God sends the archangel Michael to show Adam what his and Eve's future will look like: their sons will murder each other, tyrants will rule, and biblical floods will wipe out most people. Yet he offers them hope in addition to depicting the suffering that future humans will endure: he shows Adam a rainbow meant to reflect God's mercy and biblical characters such as Noah, Enoch, and Jesus—men who will redeem humanity through their selfless acts. Adam and Eve finally leave Paradise, accepting their fate.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Queen Victoria’s appetites

From ‘fancy breads’ and smoked haddock to whisky and mulled wine, Queen Victoria displayed a healthy enjoyment of food and drink throughout her life. Food historian Professor Rebecca Earle explores the five-foot monarch’s hearty appetites…

Queen Victoria was certainly an enthusiastic eater. “Her little majesty”, as one observer called the five-foot monarch, had a hearty appetite, and displayed a healthy enjoyment of food from her earliest years. According to historian Cecil Woodham Smith, this worried Victoria’s relatives, who urged her to take more exercise and slow down. They fretted that the teenaged princess “eats a little too much, and almost always a little too fast”. 
As a child, Victoria was subjected to a rigorous regime of controlled eating – dinner might consist of bread and milk. As a result, the young Victoria vowed to eat mutton every day when she grew up – and she certainly showed no intention of depriving herself once she reached adulthood. 

An engraving of the young princess Victoria, who “displayed a healthy enjoyment of food from her earliest years”, says Rebecca Earle. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Mealtimes with the queen

Once queen, Victoria’s breakfast usually included porridge, fish, eggs on toast, ‘fancy breads’, and in later years, finnan haddies, a form of smoked haddock. Of course, she did not necessarily eat everything on offer, but felt it was important to have a choice. 
Dinners might entail soup, fish, cold boiled chicken or roast beef, dessert and fruits, perhaps some of the pineapples grown specially for the royal household. She was also a fan of seasonal eating: “She never permits her own table or that of her household to be served with anything that is out of season,” it was noted in The Private Life of the Queen by a Member of the Royal Household, an anonymous account published in 1901. “Her Majesty confesses to a great weakness for potatoes, which are cooked for her in every conceivable way,” the same observer reported.
The queen particularly enjoyed sweet foods – her wedding to Albert in 1840 offered a taste of things to come. The mammoth bride cake (a slice of which was recently sold at auction for £1,500) weighed nearly 300lb and measured three yards across. Meanwhile, satirical ballads at the time suggested that the German Albert was equally attracted to “England’s fat queen and England’s fatter purse”.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's wedding cake, which weighed nearly 300lb and was three yards across. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mulled wine, ice creams, cakes, and pastries of all sorts were an enduring pleasure. According to the anonymous account from 1901, she had a great appetite for: “chocolate sponges, plain sponges, wafers of two or three different shapes, langues de chat, biscuits and drop cakes of all kinds, tablets, petit fours, princess and rice cakes, pralines, almond sweets, and a large variety of mixed sweets.” “Her Majesty”, it added, “is very fond of all kinds of pies, and a cranberry tart with cream is one of her favourite dishes”. 
In contrast, Victoria’s children were fed on the plain roasts and broths that she viewed as appropriate for the nursery. She also selected the meals of her grandchildren, using a violet pencil to annotate the day’s proposed menu.
Alongside tea, which “has ever ranked high in the royal favour”, the queen was also a lover of whisky, particularly in later years, when her tastes were influenced by John Brown, her Scottish ghillie and close confidante. A small distillery near Balmoral produced a version specially for her, which she took with soda water. Her taste for the spirit however predated her relationship with Brown. For instance, on a visit to Scotland in 1842 the queen enjoyed a glass of Atholl brose (a mixture of whisky and honey) served out of a glass said to have belonged to Niel Gow, the legendary Scottish fiddler.

Queen Victoria taking tea with her relatives. Tea “has ever ranked high in the royal favour”, says Rebecca Earle. (Getty Images)


The ‘dangers’ of a hearty appetite

Over the years, all this food and drink took its toll. “She is more like a barrel than anything else”, observed one doctor in the 1840s, who predicted that if the queen carried on eating she would become enormously corpulent. She soon abandoned her corset and was described as “very large, ruddy and fat”. By the 1880s, when she was in her sixties, Victoria’s body mass index was over 32, which would qualify her as obese by today’s standards. When advised to reduce her intake, she simply ate patented diet foods on top of her existing programme.
Victoria’s enthusiastic eating did not conform to the dietary advice typically dispensed to women at the time. Good table manners demanded sedate and measured eating and discouraged visible surrender to gustatory delight. The female digestive system was moreover said to require soft, dainty and bland foods. William Alcott’s A Young Woman’s Book of Health (1855) recommended avoiding “high-seasoned and exciting foods… as if they were rank poison”. 
One reason for this was that too hearty an enjoyment of food suggested a dangerously enthusiastic attitude towards other bodily pleasures. After all, as the doctor and social reformer Mary Ward-Allen warned, an unnatural appetite for spicy, exciting food was the inevitable result of the equally unnatural practice of masturbation. A bird-like appetite, accompanied by a disregard for food, demonstrated a woman’s moral state, at the same time as enabling her to maintain a slim and dainty physique. 
Queen Victoria herself, on the other hand, also enjoyed a tumble between the sheets. Things got off to a good start with her marriage to Prince Albert on 10 February 1840. “We did not sleep much”, she noted in her diary a few days later, describing their first nights together. According to historian Paula Bartley, the royal couple possessed a fine collection of erotic art, and Victoria responded with dismay when advised by her doctor to forgo sexual activity so as to prevent further pregnancies. She regarded her nine pregnancies as a tiresome impediment to married life.

Queen Victoria at her jubilee service in 1887. (Getty Images)

It has been suggested that the cultural roots of anorexia nervosa lie in the Victorian era’s denigration of eating as inherently unfeminine and dangerously sexual. Medical accounts from the 1890s began to describe cases of teenagers who stopped eating “on account of her mother talking to her about being so fat”, or because of a “fear of being seen as a bit heavy”. By not eating, young women distanced themselves from the taint of sexuality, and demonstrated their proper, genteel, and moral status. Deprived of other avenues for self-expression, young women could at least decline to eat; refusing food provided these women with a voice. As the historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has argued, “young women searching for an idiom in which to say things about themselves focused on food and the body”.
If appetite was a voice, then Victoria was speaking loudly when she relished roast beef and whisky. Her uniquely powerful position allowed her to ignore some of the social constraints imposed on other young women, and make her own choices about her diet and her body.
Today, over 60 per cent of the UK population is classified as overweight, and sexual pleasure is considered something to celebrate. These may not be the ‘Victorian values’ that the Conservative Party urged us to adopt in 2006, but Victoria herself might endorse both aspects of contemporary British society, at least when applied to her own life. Certainly, sex and eating were activities dear to ‘her little majesty’.
Professor Rebecca Earle is a food historian and professor of history at the University of Warwick and the author of The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America (CUP 2012)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

100 Prompts for Writing About Yourself

How do you get back into writing again? How do you beat writer’s block? Writing about yourself can be a great place to start.
Some of these writing prompts might lead to great blog posts, and other ideas might be more suited for your personal journal. You may not be able to relate to all of them, but I tried to make them pretty general! These creative writing exercises can also help you develop the characters in your short story, novel, or screenplay — just imagine your character answering them instead of you.

  1. Describe one of your earliest childhood memories.
  2. Write about what you see as one of your best qualities.
  3. Do you have the same religious beliefs that you had as a child? If so, why? If not, how and why did they change?
  1. Write about the benefits of being an only child—or the advantages of having siblings.
  2. Write about how a person can tell if they’re really in love. If you don’t know, write about how you don’t know.
  3. Are you shy about your body, such as when you change clothes in a locker room? Or are you comfortable with it? Why?
  4. Describe your favorite spot in your home, and why you like it.
  5. Write about one of the most admirable classmates or coworkers you’ve ever had.
  6. Write about one of the worst classmates or coworkers you’ve ever had.
  7. Tell your story about the time you succeeded at something because you just. Didn’t. Give. Up.
  8. Write about how you’re a typical resident of your city or town… or about how you’re different from most people there.
  9. Write about how you fit the stereotype of people from your country… or about how you don’t fit it at all.
  10. Describe your favorite toy or game when you were five years old.
  11. Write about one of your most useful talents.
  12. What superstitions do you believe in or follow? Do you do certain things to avoid bad luck, or make wishes in certain ways?
  13. Write about a death in your family.
  14. Write about a birth in your family.
  15. Tell your story about how you made a friend in the past five years or so. How did you meet them? What do you like about them?
  16. Tell your story about your first best friend as a child. How did you meet them? How did you play together?
  17. Describe a physical feature of yours that you really like.
  18. Is your home usually neat, or usually messy? Why is that? Do you think it matters? Why or why not?
  19. Describe a part of your job or everyday work that you love.
  20. Describe a part of your job or everyday work that you loathe.
  21. Tell your story about how you won something, like a contest, a game, or a raffle.
  22. Do you think your hometown is a good place to live? Why or why not?
  23. Do you fit your astrological sign? Why or why not?
  24. Write about when you think it’s morally acceptable to lie. If your answer is “never,” write about why you think that.
  25. Write about a trait you inherited or picked up from a parent.
  26. Write about a way in which you are very different from a parent.
  27. Discuss one of the most important qualities you think people should look for in a romantic partner.
  28. Discuss a quality that you think is overrated when choosing a romantic partner.
  29. Write about a kind of exercise or physical activity you enjoy.
  30. Describe the contents of a desk drawer or junk drawer in your home, and write about the thoughts or memories that the objects in there inspire.
  31. Write about what you wish people knew about your job, profession, or calling in life.
  32. Write about a habit or addiction that you’ve been struggling with for years.
  33. Write about an external situation that you’ve been struggling with for years.
  34. Discuss something you love about the people in your country.
  35. Discuss something you wish you could change about the people in your country.
  36. What was something you misunderstood as a child? It could be the definition of a word, or something about adult life.
  37. Describe the benefits of being an introvert or an extrovert (whichever one you are.)
  38. Describe the challenges of being an introvert or an extrovert (whichever one you are.)
  39. Tell your story about the time you spoke up for something you believed in. How did it feel? Were there any consequences?
  40. If you don’t have children – do you or did you want them? Why or why not?
  41. If you have children – what is one thing that surprised you about being a parent?
  42. Tell your story about when a friend (or a group of them) made your day.
  43. Tell your story about when a friend (or a group of them) broke your heart.
  44. Describe an experience at a doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or hospital.
  45. Describe your dream home in detail.
  46. Tell your story about how a teacher, coach, or boss supported or inspired you.
  47. Tell your story about how a teacher, coach, or boss was so awful, they didn’t deserve to have their job.
  48. Write about something you did in the past year that made you proud.
  49. Do you live in the city you grew up in? Why or why not?
  50. Tell your story about a trip or a visit you enjoyed when you were little.
  51. In what ways do you fit the stereotypes of your gender, and in what ways do you differ from the stereotypes?
  52. Discuss whether you think people should share their religious beliefs openly, or whether they should keep it private.
  53. Discuss why you do or don’t consider pets to be family members.
  54. Describe what you think would be a perfect romantic date.
  55. Write about a type or style of clothing that you feel uncomfortable wearing, or that you simply dislike.
  56. Describe your personal style in clothing and whether it’s changed over the years.
  57. Write about the worst house or apartment you’ve ever lived in.
  58. Tell your story about a time when, rightly or wrongly, you got in trouble at school or at work.
  59. Do you always vote in elections? Why or why not?
  60. Do you think people make snap judgments about you based on your appearance? Are they accurate or not?
  61. What’s something that people don’t learn about your personality unless they get to know you very well?
  62. Write about something that terrified you as a child.
  63. Write about a particular phobia or fear you have now. If you’re not scared of anything, write about that!
  64. Write about something you believe that isn’t a particularly popular belief.
  65. What’s something you wanted badly as a child? Did you get it? If so, was it everything you hoped? If not, did it matter?
  66. When you’re feeling sad or down, what are ways that you make yourself feel better?
  67. What is something that makes you almost irrationally angry?
  68. Write about an object you own that has religious, spiritual, or symbolic significance to you.
  69. If you were a billionaire, what gifts would you give to your immediate family?
  70. Do you consider yourself hopeful or cynical about romance? Why?
  71. Write a note apologizing to a part of your body for insulting it in the past.
  72. Write a note thanking a part of your body for doing such a good job.
  73. Tell your story about when you had a delightful guest in your home.
  74. Tell your story about when you had an unwelcome visitor in your home.
  75. Describe the time you were a guest in an unusual home.
  76. What was the strangest course or class you ever took?
  77. Write about a time when you tried your best – and it didn’t pan out. How did you get over it?
  78. Write about a small thing you accomplished this week.
  79. Write about the ways that your hometown has changed over the years.
  80. Write about a way your country is changing for the better.
  81. Describe someone who bullied you as a child. Why do you think they did it?
  82. Do you believe that things happen for a reason, or do they just happen randomly? Why do you think this?
  83. Do you believe that you have a lot of control over your destiny or future? Why or why not?
  84. Write down a funny story that your family likes to tell again and again.
  85. What do you consider to be “deal breakers” in a marriage or romantic relationship?
  86. Tell your story about a time you got injured or you were in an accident.
  87. Write about some of the things you do at home when you’re completely alone.
  88. Tell your story about how you learned a new skill.
  89. Describe the way you get to school or to work every day.
  90. Propose a frivolous or ridiculous law that you would like to implement, and explain your reasoning.
  91. Write about something you did (or didn’t do) that you’re proud of from a moral or religious standpoint.
  92. Tell your story about having a great time at a party.
  93. Tell your story about a party you wish you had never attended or hosted.
  94. Write about a tattoo you have and its significance, a tattoo you would like to get… or why you would never, ever get a tattoo.
  95. Tell a story that has to do with your hair, or the lack of it.
  96. Write about a feud or rift in your family.
  97. If you had a whole day free of responsibilities or chores, how would you spend it?