Category: Features

Movember Week 2: “What have I done to my face?”

Movember Week 2: “What have I done to my face?”

As November edged into its second week, I transcended from Movember novice into a fully-fledged slightly-better-than-novice.

Those who read my last entry will have noticed I had the beginnings of a slither of a – dare I say – almost trendy moustache on the way. In order to cultivate this I wore my sheepskin jacket and check shirts approximately 90% of time time – even to bed.

Over the next few days the moustache – with the help of my clothing choices and what can only be described as a 4 o’clock shadow – developed into something so hipster that it’s bought its own flat in East London and now owns an independent coffee shop.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t to last.

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As the stubble around my face threatened to suggest to people that my facial hair was intentional rather than a side-effect of peer pressure I knew I had to shave it off. Work photos were the next day as well and the idea those taking part have to look as ridiculous as possible would not be lost on anyone.

I briefly toyed with the horseshoe-esque style you can see above but had to shave the sides off after my housemate projectile-vomited at the sight of me and two police cars were called to the scene. It was not to be.

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So as I enter the second half of my Movember challenge I’m left with this unwanted tenant on my upper lip – a hairy caterpillar clinging on and making me look like Ned Flanders’ creepier and more sinister brother.

I’ll never own a coffee shop.

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If you would like to donate to my Movember page and leave requests for facial hair that I’ll probably ignore, click here!

Movember Week 1: Hot Fuzz

Movember Week 1: Hot Fuzz

As someone who hasn’t been clean-shaven in four-and-a-half years, undertaking Movember was something that left me nervous, emotional and with a trembling – yet at the time, still furry – lip.

Not since before I was locked in my room and embroiled in battle with my dissertation had my chin seen the light of day and this was something I was hoping to maintain for as long as possible.

Which is why when it was suggested at work I did my best to hide my face in my coffee and pretend I’d temporarily lost my hearing until the conversation subsided. That was before someone said the words I’d dreaded to hear.

“You’ll do it right, Steve? You can grow one no problem.”

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Me, rocking the facial hair since June ’13.

 

It was true. There was photographic and inescapable evidence that I had the capability to  allow hair to appear in and around my mouth and cheeks. But this was something I had cultivated over the period of four years, not four weeks.

Questions started to surface in my mind. How many times would I be IDed at the bar? How many tannoy announcements  for lost children would there be while I was the only customer in the store?

Still, the suggestion turned to expectation and expectation turned into submission on my part. I reluctantly agreed.

Part of the reason is obviously that it’s a great cause. As many people know, Movember isn’t just about people sporting some impressive (or embarrassing) facial hair – it exists to raise awareness for men’s issues like prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health.

Another reason is that I don’t do too much for charity – generally the limit of my generosity is an annual Big Issue and offering change to whichever homeless man is outside McDonalds on a Friday night – so I hoped the cold feeling on my face would be combatted by a warm feeling of doing my part for a good cause.

I was also intrigued as to what I would actually look like without a beard. That was probably what settled it.

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The state of that.

At first I had fun with the shave, first giving myself questionable handlebars, then some farmer’s mutton chops. After several selfies and inappropriate comments in WhatsApp groups however, I went the whole hog.

It’s a strange feeling looking at a face you’ve not seen for nearly five years. It’s an even stranger feeling when its your own.

It got a mixed reaction from the people around me as well. Some laughed immediately, while others genuinely didn’t notice for about half an hour. A few even said I looked better clean-shaven (these are people I know longer trust).

Now, a week on, I have recovered the amount of upper lip hair normal associated with a 14-year-old eyeing up the Wilkinson Sword.

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One week on. Seriously.

So, at the end of my first week as a Mo Bro, I thought I’d share some experiences:

  • People appreciate your sense of humour; colleagues at work have laugh at lot more at the things I say – sometimes before I’ve even opened my mouth.
  • I’ve not been IDed for alcohol, making me seriously question the Challenge 21 policy in South London supermarkets.
  • The ladies love it – I’ve noticed some women can’t even look me in the eye, presumably at the risk of blushing at my raw, animal magnetism.
  • It’s a lot easier to navigate the tube and getting a seat to myself has become a lot more common. Even better, parents that have seen my moustache have been considerate enough to move their children out of the way to let me pass, often at great speed.

If you enjoyed this and want to donate, you can do so here. Alternatively, if you would rather wait until you’ve seen my facial travesty in a fuller form, come back this time next week!

Draft Punks – Why Draft FPL Is The Best FPL

Draft Punks – Why Draft FPL Is The Best FPL

Have you hit a rut with Fantasy Premier League? Already tired of your average performance while your mate has tripled captained a Harry Kane hat-trick? You ain’t seen nothing yet – welcome to your new hell…

Why You NEED to play Draft Fantasy Premier League

As we finish Gameweek 28 and head into the final ten games of the season, most Fantasy Premier League players are in similar boats. The mini-league has gone to Johnny ‘I don’t even watch football’ from work, you’ve used your wildcard and almost everyone is sporting a template team with Chelsea’s defence and Alexis Sanchez or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

A number of Fantasy Premier League players (known as ‘casuals’ among the die-hard community who inexplicably know that Tom Carroll is worth £4.3m or that John Stones is somehow owned by 16% of players) have usually given up by now after forgetting to set their lineup or drunkenly transferring in Nathan Redmond thinking he was going to be anything other than a useless turd who will only score during the gameweek you benched him.

What you need is something that will keep you invested for the whole year and have fun with your mates on the way, while also making their life a misery. Welcome to draft Fantasy Premier League – your new hell…

How draft Fantasy Premier League works

Nearly four years ago to the day, my friend and I had an epiphany. We were tired of playing Fantasy Premier League against old friends from college who didn’t have any interest in football – or the random acquaintance we didn’t even know who had joined our league and turned out to be the FPL equivalent of Rain Man – and seeing the same old teams with Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Clint Dempsey (Clint Dempsey once scored 200 points in a season! I shit you not).

After binge-watching The League while we should have been finishing our university work and looking for jobs like functioning members of society, we decided we needed to shake up Fantasy Premier League and get our mates in on the act.

For those who have never seen The League and are wondering just what the hell I’m talking about, draft FPL is simple – instead of being able to select any player like in the normal Fantasy Premier League game, only one person is allowed to own each player. You can then choose whether to play for total points or have a head-to-head league.

But how do you decide who gets which players and ensure everybody doesn’t jump for Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero I hear you ask? Well, read on…

Draft day

The simplest and fairest way to do this is to have a draft day. As anybody who has ever seen NFL probably knows, this is when each person picks, in order, a player for their team from the Fantasy Premier League roster.

Deciding the order can be done in a number of ways: picked out of a hat, through who finishes where in an intellectual or physical challenge or chosen at random by the surly Wetherspoon’s waitress wondering why you’ve torn up a beer mat and scrawled your names on it. This year we did by writing the numbers on the bottom of cups in beer pong. It took bloody ages.

Draft day itself is one of the highlights of the draft Fantasy Premier League year, and the summer if you’re as sad as I am. We’ve done it prior to a barbecue, at friends’ birthdays and once at a house party while a group of girls were waiting to go to a club. League priorities meant they were sent on their way while we decided which West Bromwich Albion to choose.

Every decision counts in draft FPL

Unlike in Fantasy Premier League where you can pick anyone, you have a finite number of options in draft FPL. Players get snapped up in the thick and fast and before you know it, you’ll be scraping around the promoted sides looking for any striker who might play 60 minutes or a defender who once scored five goals in the Belgian league.

Often the bold are rewarded – when a bandwagon player starts to hit form like Riyad Mahrez and Dele Alli did last season, you have to act fast to snap them up before someone else does. Wait until the deadline and you risk someone else grabbing a player about to hit form.

Similarly a new dimension is added when it comes to hanging onto players. Is your star player out of form or injured? Let them go and they may well bag all the points for someone else, or worse, come back to bite you…

Trading players

Another thing you’ll experience with draft Fantasy Premier League that you wouldn’t see otherwise is the option to trade players. There’s nothing better than getting one over on your mate as that player who had hit a purple patch for you suddenly gets dropped, and nothing worse than letting a player go who goes on to hit double-figures against you a few weeks later.

One of my crowning glories in draft FPL is when I convinced a friend to take Enner Valencia for Harry Kane when he had just broken into the Spurs side. Kane went on to bag 21 goals that season, while the Ecuadorian got injured after losing a battle with a tea cup.

You’ll become a Fantasy Premier League expert

 

With less choice you’ll be forced to get creative with your picks. Finding that next player who will unexpectedly hit it big becomes all the more important and can potentially win you a gameweek on its own.

A by-product of this is that you will start to do your own research. A lot of it. I’ve spent more than one evening scouring the weekend fixtures and finding out who’s had the most shots in the box when looking for a new midfielder and which defence is looking shaky when choosing a captain.

As a result, you’ll become a much better Fantasy League player – the season after I started playing, my other team made for fun finished 13,000th after finishing outside the top 250k the season before, while one of our group was once in the top 1k for half a season.

It’s a great way to get into Fantasy Premier League

For those who don’t follow football religiously, getting into Fantasy Premier League can be a bit daunting. Most would only go as far as joining a work league, playing for two weeks before forgetting to set their lineup and giving up for the season.

In our current ten-man league, we have at least four members who didn’t take a blind bit of interest in football or Fantasy Premier League and thought Per Mertesacker was a name for waxing your testicles. The saps.

Now they are fully-fledged FPL gurus who could give you Bournemouth’s starting lineup from the weekend without breaking a sweat. In draft Fantasy Premier League, everyone generally starts on a level-playing field. Even if they don’t finish on one…

Make forfeits for your draft Fantasy Premier League loser

As anybody who has seen The League knows, the person who finishes last suffers the indignity of being labelled the ‘Sacko’ and given a series of degrading forfeits over the season.

Being the creative, punny and witty human beings we are, my group decided to dub the bottom player in our league, the ‘Sakho’ after Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho (currently at Crystal Palace).

Currently we’ve been rather lenient with our punishments, although we never did see the reaction of the last Sakho’s new wife when we left a message at their wedding…

You’ll never look at Fantasy Premier League the same way

Each member of our group agrees that changing to a draft Fantasy Premier League format has been one of the best – and most stressful – decisions we ever made. There are highs, there are lows, there are disgustingly crude photoshopped pictures of other participants in crude sexual positions. There are even times when Jonathan Walters will only play 58 minutes meaning you lose your place in the final after a 63-63 draw (I will never forgive you Mark Hughes).

And you’ll love every minute of it.

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If you enjoyed this and want to see more, click here for more silly blogs, like my Facebook page and follow @FPLSteve for more FPL content and @SpeltWithAV for generally weirder content.

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Is Going to the Cinema Alone Weird?

Is going to the cinema alone weird, or an accepted hobby in 2016?

Before I even start, allow me to offer a piece of advice. If you’re going to the cinema alone, do not sit in the middle.

I made that mistake about a week ago. I had a relatively free day and decided I wanted to watch Arrival (which I also reviewed here; thanks for asking!), but it was the afternoon and all of my friends were at work. I’d been in this situation before; you wait for an evening you and your friends are free and, before you know it, the film is out of the cinema and you refuse to buy the DVD full price – it’d be Mad Max all over again.

Not being someone to download films (just to clarify incase Theresa May is reading) and also being a fan of the cinema experience, I decided to go into town to watch it – forgetting that it’s ridiculously expensive since I lost student privileges and Orange Wednesdays bit the dust years ago.

Before doing so I did text a couple of friends to ask – is going to the cinema alone still considered weird? Are you seen as a big screen enthusiast, or held with the same contempt as someone who dines alone in restaurants on Valentines Day, passing themselves presents and taking selfies with their steak.

The general consensus was that nobody knew. One friend called it “bold” another said it “might look a bit sad.” Neither, however, had ever done it – it was unchartered territory.

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Even the aliens in Arrival didn’t come alone – Image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

Weirdly when I got to the desk, I had a little trepidation about asking for the dreaded ‘Ticket for One’. Would the receptionist look at me with pity? Disgust? Admiration? Would she call for security in her earpiece and put me in a padded room with the bloke who came to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop on his lonesome years ago?

Of course, none of that happened. She printed my ticket and told me which screen it was with the indifference of someone who didn’t care for my internal plight. Perhaps going to the cinema alone was less of a big deal than I thought?

Once I’d entered the theatre I was in dreamland. The screen was completely free; no smooching couples or rabbles of kids throwing popcorn (it was daytime so you’d hope not). I decided to sit in the middle and dump my jacket like I owned the place. It looked as though I was having my own private viewing – like a billionaire or anybody that watched the new Ghostbusters.

At least it did to start with.

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Who you gonna call? Literally anyone else. Image taken from ‘GHOSTBUSTERS – OFFICIAL TRAILER (HD) available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ugHP-yZXw

After the trailers started they started coming in. First a happy couple who, like me, clearly thought it was going to be empty and stopped in their tracks when they saw my lone figure. Sat in the middle. Looking back at them. They kept their heads down at moved to the end, not daring to make eye contact.

Then two mates with way too much food to eat between them. Then another couple. Then a group of three students. And I was on my own, proudly in the centre. I was the weirdo.

By the time the trailers were finishing there was around a dozen people and I was wondering what they must think of me sat on my own. My jacket was on the seat next to me – perhaps they thought it was for a friend? They would eventually find out that was not the case.

I wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d be lying if I said leaving didn’t cross my mind. People would think I needed a different screen or had the wrong time. Not being able to read single digit numbers would be less embarrassing than this.

Once the trailers finished, however, I eased up and within 20 minutes of the film starting I’d forgotten all my worries. There were no sniggers and nobody was texting or tweeting about ‘the sad loner’ in the cinema. If truth be told, nobody seemed to care as much as me.  Perhaps if I was laughing alone to a comedy I’d look strange, but in a film where everyone was focused on the screen and not talking I didn’t feel out of place at all.

So is going to the pictures alone still a taboo? Possibly not. If you say you’re going, will people frown at you like you’ve told them you like toe nail clippings on top of your porridge? Possibly. Did I write this so if anyone I asked I could justify my solo cinema trip as a social experiment? Absolutely.

But if you’re someone who loves the movies and there’s a film you really want to see, you’ll barely notice once the curtains open.

Just don’t sit in the middle.

Walking Dead Suffers Lowest Ratings Since Season 3 – and Here’s Why

Walking Dead Suffers Lowest Ratings Since Season 3 – and Here’s Why

Walking Dead Suffers Lowest Ratings Since Season 3

Spoilers for The Walking Dead season 7 below, as well as key plot elements from the first six seasons.

When hit drama The Walking Dead batted it’s way back onto our television screens with its season 7 premiere, it looked as though it was here to stay.

An astounding 17.03 million people in the US tuned in to see whose brains Negan decorated the ground with – the second highest behind the season five premiere (17.23).

Since the premiere however, the viewing figures have plummeted week-by-week and now sit at just under 11m, the lowest since season three.

In each season, TWD has seen it’s ratings dropped steadily from episode one before rising at the season premiere. It had however enjoyed consistent figures between seasons four and six, with the number only once dropping below 12m in that period.

So why are people tuning out?

NEGAN FACTOR NOT ENOUGH

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Perhaps ironically judging by the above figures, I’m someone who stopped watching after season 3.

The early seasons of TWD came at the perfect time for me as I was at university and willing to fill my time with anything that didn’t involve me doing work or changing out of my pyjamas.

I was pulled back in however by reading about the season six finale and once I’d watched a YouTube video of the charismatic Negan’s introduction (played brilliantly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) I went back and binge-watched all of seasons four, five and six. After the premiere, I couldn’t wait to see more of him.

Although he still has the same blend of menace and charm, the leather-clad dictator hasn’t been given any depth as of yet. It seems just having a sharp smile isn’t enough to keep people on board.

FOCUS ON SINGLE STORYLINES DOESN’T WORK

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One thing that seems to be the bugbear of many fans is the insistence on focusing on one plot line per episode.

It has been a common tactic since season three – following one character or a small group for a full 45 minutes – and is vastly different to shows like Game of Thrones, which checks in at different places.

This was fine when the group was mainly together, such as in Alexandria, but becomes incredibly frustrating when the protagonists are split up as they are now.

I enjoyed the episode with Daryl and the Saviors as it made you empathise with how isolated he must feel, but there’s no need to imprison the viewers as well.

MORE PEOPLE ARE BINGE-WATCHING

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There is a chance that people have wised up to TWD’s template of a huge premiere, big mid-season action episode and exciting finale.

With more and more options of television due to the advent of Netflix, Amazon and also just generally better writing, people may just decide they don’t have the time to set aside each week and would rather watch a few episodes at a time.

When the audience twigs that they won’t miss anything for a few weeks, they’re more likely to take a break and tune in when something starts happening.

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Header image taken from ‘The Walking Dead Season 7 Trailer’ on FOX UK YouTube channel available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eklTw0iuMaE
Other images taken from ‘The Walking Dead Season 7 Trailer’ on FOX UK’s YouTube channel available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eklTw0iuMaE and ‘Season 7 ‘Negan’ Trailer’ on FOX UK’s channel available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuOtNfceSeg