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Dissertation Dilemma

I got back my dissertation proposal yesterday and, to my surprise, it had been given the go-ahead by my tutors. I say surprise because since submitting my idea I had began to question it. You can read the full proposal here but basically I’ve proposed to do a creative dissertation, specifically a selection of short stories, very character focused, based on strands of the existentialist philosophy. I knew my proposal was quite weak – my stories underdeveloped and my theme only a starting point at best – and had since been wondering whether I should switch to doing a discursive dissertation, a literature based investigation into a writer or theme of my choice.

Now my dilemma stands as such: do I throw myself into developing the short story suggestion? Even with the risk that always accompanies creative fiction, that being how subjectively it can be read (a bad mark on this could really affect my degree). OR do I change my whole idea without guidance from the powers above (aka my lecturers) to a discursive dissertation which allows for an essay format I am already familiar with?

Take a look at my proposal – let me know whether you think my idea has any strength and if anyone has any suggestions or starting points for research please feel free to comment or e-mail 🙂 many thanks

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Creative dissertation proposal

My dissertation proposal – feel free to pick apart and offer suggestions in any form!

A collection of short stories: An hour to exist – conceptual outline

The project will comprise of a collection of short stories based on concepts taken from the philosophy of existentialism. The stories will incorporate themes of absurdity, meaningless, angst, alienation and boredom. There will be 3 or 4 stories (around 1200-1600 words each) which will be entirely character focused with an aim to depict a ‘snapshot’ (an hour) of the characters lives. The characters will not know each other or live near each other but there will be details within each piece of fiction that ties them all together.

Hooper (2000 p.2) when talking of Edgar Allan Poe’s famously gothic short stories describes them adeptly: “In the space of a few pages and a few minutes we are offered quick but indelible glances into Poe’s dark characters.” He then furthers his view on some of Poe’s classic work such as ‘The tell-tale heart’ (1850) as offering us “peeks at the possibility of darkness in our own souls.” This sense that the reader can draw out of a story a sense of dark and quiet reflection is something that the collection proposed would aim to recreate.

“A good short story asks a question that can’t be answered in simple terms” (Mosley and Keison 2003 p.XV) The themes that the stories proposed will encapsulate will ask questions, and draw upon many worries in life that many of us think about or at least lie dormant within our subconscious. These include a sense of not fitting in, an awareness of death and a struggle to assert meaning to human life and existence. The issues raised by those who believe in the concept of existentialist philosophy can be seen as relevant to us all.

Many existentialist issues have been raised in literature such as Albert Campus’s novel ‘The Stranger’ (1942) and Satre’s play about the afterlife entitled ‘No Exit.’ (1944) Furthermore elements of such concepts can be seen woven into modern fiction such as Nick Hornby’s ‘High fidelity’ (1995.) Works such as these will be closely looked at and interpreted for their views on existentialist concepts and themes. ‘The Scream’ (1893) the famously haunting painting by Edvard Munch will be used as a starting point for inspiration as it is a beautifully captured piece that expresses intense and painful desperation.

Medium
The short story feels right for this project. There is a sense of totality in the reading of a story in one sitting, an intensity that can strengthen the message intended. “The pleasure of the quick, concentrated reading experience is more piquant.” (Hooper 2000 p.2) Every word in a short story feels precious; leading purposefully toward a predetermined effect.

The short story can also be seen as a ‘fragment,’ as a small glimpse into something immense. This ties in with the concept of the collection in that the stories would be snap-shots, focused and intense insights into individual’s lives, thoughts, and anxieties. The short story can be seen to present “in a vigorous, compressed, suggestive way, a simplification and idealization of a particular part or phase of life.” (Albright 2009 p.5) in other words it can be seen as a small piece of a puzzle, that although can seem abstract and sometimes incomplete, can still bring something to the user, and is vital and needed despite its size.

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Indesign magazine layout

This term we got instructed on how to use Adobe InDesign software in order to create magazine layouts and spreads. For one of our assignments we had to write a feature article on an aspect of Bournemouth (I choose the music scene and you can read the full feature here) we then had to produce a double page magazine spread for this feature. See what you make of mine below.

comments appreciated, to download the full PDF for a closer look click here

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The woman with the red umbrella

A short piece of fiction I wrote for a University assignment:

When you are ill you are told all sorts. Some of it bullshit, some of it helpful, some of it plain stupid. Friends and family cluster round your bed like ants in the garden, annoying and indistinguishable. “You’re bound to get better”, “Don’t think about the pain”, “stay positive.”

But when you are told you are going to die the silence that follows is the worst. Now people can’t fall back on their positive pick-you-ups because there is no positivity to be found in death, none whatsoever. You could search the dark corners of that empty and vast room for eternity and fail to find anything. So people are quiet. For the first time in fourteen months I felt as if I could hear again.

I could be cared for at home they told me; I laughed. Maybe that was rude but I couldn’t even begin to explain what it would be like to spend my last weeks trapped at home, suffocated by their pity. I didn’t blame them, not in the slightest, they loved me and they were bound to feel powerless, grief-stricken and numb, but I did not want that around me. I was happy here in my hospital bed, surrounded by people who dealt with death on a daily basis. Hell, I was practically living with death if I stayed here, maybe we could build up a rapport, a friendship. Maybe he would take me out nice and easy.

It was a week after I had been told about my date with death. My health was “deteriorating rapidly” I was told by my doctor.  “Tell me something I don’t know” I laughed. He gave me that funny look he gives me often, shaking his head. He was leaving when he stopped at the door, tentatively turning to me, “Molly, you know there is always the hospital’s minister, he can pop up and talk to you anytime you want.”

“Oh Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. I already see the counsellor. Not my thing sweetie. But thanks for the thought.” I smiled brightly. “Now some more morphine would be accepted with gratitude.” He held up his arms and clipboard defensively before leaving. I had always wondered why doctors carried around clipboards, but maybe it was to hide behind.

The hospital’s counsellor was called Mrs Sims. She tried to ‘engage’ with me, but they had the wrong woman for the job. She sat at my bedside with her pinched up eyes and cold hands and tried to talk to me for an hour every week. I dreaded it. How was I feeling? (How did she think?) What were my fears? (That these visits would over run?)

I turned to the bed on my right. An elderly woman had been admitted a few days ago but had been sleeping most of the time. When there’s a bed shortage (with the NHS when isn’t there a bed shortage?) they group you all together. The terminally ill, sarcastic young one and the old and forgotten one who is surely on her way out. C’est la vie. She stared at me now unblinking. Her eyes were small and green, the folds of skin around them had fallen down (gravity always wins) but they had once been pretty eyes, I could tell. She had had no visitors so far.

“Who’s in the photo?” I asked, pointing to the framed black and white portrait by her bedside. It appeared to be the only possession she had, apart from a slender red umbrella propped up beside her.

“That is Henry, my husband. He’s dead.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why? He died more than fifteen years ago. What have you got to be sorry about?” I felt stumped. Like my mum perhaps, who had just been told her twenty seven year old daughter was dying.

“I guess it’s just what you say.” I paused. “Do you miss him?”

“I see him everyday; the Lord makes sure of that.” If it hadn’t been disrespectful I would have snorted. Instead I just nodded vaguely.

“Child, you think you know everything about the world, about life and about death.”

“Don’t tell me I don’t know about death. I know death all right.” I felt angry now. The woman was smiling.

“Okay dear, Okay.” The nurse came to give her some medication then and the pale blue curtain that separated us was pulled firmly shut.

I lay with my eyes closed watching the soothing pattern of blood flowing in my eyelids. It pulsed slowly, a red haze blanketing it all. I could stay like this for eternity, here I was safe. The noise of the hospital was a far away buzz now, a backdrop. I thought about something Sims had said to me the other day about dealing with what would happen to me. I’d told her there was nothing to deal with, I would be gone, and I would cease to exist. People talk about coming to terms with death, about accepting it. But I would rather lie here in my red world and feel the steady pulse of my beating heart than feel sorry for myself. For I would be gone.

Over the next week the lady with the red umbrella and the dead husband, and I talked. Between pills and pain killers, drips and mushy food, she told me about her ‘God’ and I told her about my life. She didn’t look at me with sadness filled eyes, she didn’t tell me how young I was, how life was cruel. She told me I was cynical and bitter and I agreed. When she spoke to me with her straightforward attitude and the vagueness of a stranger I felt the knots in my stomach untwisting and the fears I had locked away rising to take centre place in my jumbled thoughts.

“Do you ever wonder where your God is sometimes?” I said one night. We both lay in the darkness but I knew she was awake. “Do you ever want to ask him why? Why bad things happen…“

“…to good people?” she cut in. “And no I don’t question it. My faith is all I need.”

I thought of my Mum crying, my little sister, the children I would never have, the grand children I would never have. It all made me awash with sickness. But I knew what the worst fear I had was. I just didn’t want to say it.

She died on a Tuesday. I woke to her empty bed neatly made on my right. Death makes sure it leaves no trace of its presence. I felt sadder than I’d felt all year. Later on a nurse brought round her red umbrella, she had left it for me. Attached to the slim handle was a post-it note. It read:

You fear that soon you will be gone, and that you won’t be remembered. But you should know that it is okay to be scared. For 15 years I have carried this red umbrella with me, through rain and shine. Whenever I feel my faith slipping, it reminds me that no matter how invisible I feel, God can always see me. Even if you see no God. He sees you, you will not be forgotten.

And I realised we are all just competitors in one big race trying to shout high and loud with our tiny voices: “I have lived. I was here.”

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Timesonline – A website anaylsis

The 400 word, edited, version of an the ‘timesonline website anaysis

Searchability:

Easy to locate. A quick Google search for ‘times online’ or even just ‘times’ results in the website as the top find. Within the site itself there is an integrated search tool allowing the user to search for specific articles or topics.  There is also an option to redefine your search by date or topic.

Usability:

The site is quick to load and appears technically stable; there is no random redirection to a page the user didn’t intend to click on or ‘page not found’ popping up.

Navigation:

The ‘timesonline’ site has plenty of clearly signposted links that allow the user to smoothly navigate the web page. There are two distinct navigation bars at the top of the page that offer the user first a list of broad topics and then subsidiary options within each area. This allows users to find information specific to their reading wishes.

There is a ‘where am I’ header that runs beneath the top two navigation bars which always lets you know exactly what area you are in and how to back out to a broader topic.

A box sits top left of the page displaying the most read and most commented stories of the day. This allows the user to jump to articles that are being talked about, that are recent and popular.

Design:

The ‘timesonlie’ takes a clean and professional aesthetic approach. The colour scheme is mostly greyscale, incorporating black, white and various grey tones. However this is occasionally infused with bright green or blue, which keeps the page contemporary and also breaks up large sections of text, which could blur into one another quite easily.

Content:

Videos are available,
but more could be incorporated

There are a broad spectrum of topics covered on ‘timesonline’ from breaking news and stories of the day to opinion pieces and blogs. The written quality is to a high standard also. All pieces are archived and available to search for on the site.

Multi-media:

The site does incorporate multimedia in certain places but there is definitely room to improve in this area. Although videos accompany some of the articles there are not many to be found. One benefit of getting news online is the extra dimension that video and audio bring and this needs to be utilised more by ‘timesonline.’

Interactivity:

The ‘timesonline’ enables users to create a profile and post comments on articles but there are no discussion boards or forums.

UGC:

There is little user-generated content other than the comments available to see and having more scope for this would encourage participation in the site and urge more people to get their news there.

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A matter of monotony

Feature article written for a University assignment

A matter of monotony: the search for Bournemouth’s alternative music scene

With an abundance of popular nightclubs and trendy bars Bournemouth doesn’t fail to provide its mainstream loving students and tourists with a promising night out. But is it falling short when it comes to catering for those with more alternative tastes.

It’s crowded, hot and the queue for the bar seems never ending. You know this place of by heart; you know how it will go. You ignore the pervy gaze the chav in the trainers is throwing your way and the chat up lines from the creepy old guy in the corner. Stumbling across towards the dance floor you push past the swarms of top-shop-clad girls in six-inch heels. They somehow manage to drench you in vodka lemonade (diet of course) whilst making you feel like it’s your fault – but you aren’t giving up the fight yet.

You’ve already spent more money than you intended, feel the morning’s headache creeping in and know you have to be up at nine am tomorrow for Uni but even all this would be bearable if it weren’t for the music. Endless mainstream chart songs play over and over again. Tinchy Strider, some JLS followed by a helping of Taio Cruz. You know the set nearly song for song and whilst you like it the appeal has been lost after hearing it for the 200th time. As a student at Bournemouth University I can assure you this scenario is familiar.

Bournemouth doesn’t fail in offering its many students cheap club nights. You can head out nearly any night of the week and expect to find bars and clubs that host cheesy pop and popular RnB, but when your nights out seem to merge into one you know a change of scene is needed. Now I’ll be the first to put my hands up and admit I love a good dance to some standard clubbing tunes. I’m not going to deny that some of my most memorable nights out have been at Bournemouth’s more typical student haunts such as Lava or Orange rooms. Neither will I assert a (pretentious) disdain towards mainstream music; It’s my guilty pleasure. But as a lover of alternative genres and live bands I was curious to see what else Bournemouth could offer.

Bournemouth’s town centre is jam packed with clubs and bars, some of which dedicate specific nights to different genres of music. The popular venue Dusk till Dawn hosts ‘Big in Japan’ every Thursday playing the best of electro, old/nu disco and techno. Popular with AUCB kids don’t let the dark ‘basement’ interior of the club put you off, it actually adds to the atmosphere and the music. Just up the road you can find more indie, electro and dubstep nights being held at student union The Old Fire Station, but I was disappointed to find out how frequent the nights occurred. The hugely popular events ‘We Are Your Friends’ and ‘Dubnium’ held once monthly only. However more efforts seem to be being made with the introduction of ‘Milk’ the latest weekly addition to The Old Fire Station. A night dedicated to indie and rock playing everything from The Strokes and Maximo Park to Rage Against the Machine.

Despite the clubs attempts at accommodating to a more alternative taste, venues offering live music seem to be dwindling. The Gander and Metrapole used to host an array of live bands but have recently been replaced with a branch from the well-known chain pub Whetherspoons. More discouragingly a recent revelation has been made to demolish much-loved punk venue Sound Circus (formerly The Villa) to make way for (another) hotel. Tony Grey, long time resident of Bournemouth said with regards to this news “The town already has very few venues catering for alternative music, this would be another nail in the coffin for any potential cultural growth here.” Similarly current student Geo Willis felt that Bournemouth “doesn’t cater for the whole gamut of sub-genres, it’s a bit rubbish only having a few places to choose from.”

However there are a few saving graces to the dire music scene of present. Bournemouth’s recently refurbished 02 Academy is playing host to part of Slam Dunk By The Sea this summer headlined by New Found Glory, Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals. Welsh rock band Lost Prophets are also set to play this April. Close by Bournemouth’s International Centre (BIC) try to weave in some heavier music between their usual theatre productions and mainstream pop tours. I was working recently behind the bar at the BIC when British indie rock group Kasabian performed. It was an understatement to say the crowd were enjoying themselves. The energy coming from the main stage was phenomenal and when sweat covered fans came panting to the bar to pause for some water they sang nothing but praises for the band.

In addition to these larger venues Ibar also plays host to some well-known and undiscovered talent. As one of the few independent bars in Bournemouth live bands go down a storm, whether its Electro, Punk, Metal or something more off the wall. Music fanatic Charlie Keating recently saw hard-core punk group ‘The computers’ at Ibar. “It was £7.25, which I thought was quite expensive and would probably put a lot of people off, considering not many people have heard of the band.” However she was pleased to get out and go to something a bit different. When asked about the Bournemouth clubbing scene she said: “We usually end up going to the same clubs that play the same music, Its always a fun night when your with good friends but I feel I miss out on going to gigs around this area.” When asked what could be done to improve the situation Charlie felt more venues needed to dedicate nights to live music “It would be great to see more new talent out there but we need somewhere to see it first. They need to advertise bands more, perhaps online to spread the word that there are places to go and listen to some quality music.”

It appears Bournemouth’s alternative music scene, while maybe not extinct, is certainly endangered. With the majority of clubs playing commercial chart music to please the crowds it seems those with more niche tastes aren’t catered for. With much loved venues on their way out and no plans to provide more live music, those like me with a partiality for something a bit different will just have to keep looking. In the mean time check out The Cellar bar in Boscombe which offers six nights of live music a week. 60 Million Postcards and Buffalo Bar, both quirky independent bars, also offer a chilled atmosphere and some great music. Don’t forget to check the listings for the 02 Academy and the BIC so you don’t miss any of the great bands that appear there.

It seems then that there are places to go if you fancy a bit of punk, rock or even acoustic. However you have to search thoroughly just to find a good venue or night. With monotonous music pumped out of every club around Bournemouth needs to put some effort into nurturing the growth of its alternative music scene.

Click here to see this article in my InDesign layout

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Vintage photography

“Digital photography never looked so analog” that’s what’s said about the Hipstamatic app for the iphone on the app’s website. The app turns your phone’s camera into a replica of the old skool plastic cameras from the past, claiming to capture the look, feel and unpredicted beauty of them. After seeing some friends posting their hipstamatic prints on facebook I was pretty impressed and wanted to try out this app for myself. It was £1.19 (the first app I’ve ever paid for I must add) and after purchasing I got snaping straight away. With a flick of a finger you can change the lens, flash and film used each one creating a slightly different effect. The attention to detail is great, check out the screen shots from my phone (left) I’ll let you decide for yourselves in a minute what you think of the photos this app produces but I’m very impressed.

You get the textures and colours a vintage camera would produce and are left with some wonderful shots. Take a look at my test shots taken with the hipstamatic app. As you can probably tell I favoured the ‘John S’ lens which keeps the colour of the shot but has a grainy texture. I also liked the ‘Kaimal mark 2’ lens which gives that washed out red effect. Enjoy.

Hope you liked my images 🙂 Most of these were taken at my house, my boyfriends, out in Winton or at Uni. More coming soon!