Writer - Gamer - Vlogger - Bearded.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Here's looking at you, cig

Yes, I am part of the dying (quite literally) group that society likes to prefix labels to such as 'dirty' and 'filthy'.

The group that will under any form of weather condition, still find a way to get their hit.

The group that in the past decade has been shunned from our typical haunts and went from 'cool' to...'not cool'.

I am a smoker.

Not only that but I am a regular smoker.
Not one of you cool 'casual' smokers who only smokes 'when I'm really drunk, yeah'.

So why with all the health warnings, the social stigmatism and the smoking ban do I and my fellow smokers continue to partake in this habit?

Even more to the point, with all the general knowledge around smoking, why do these 'casual' smokers smoke at all?

Let's look at some of the social history of smoking.

We all remember when smoking used to be cool.
Up until recently, films have been telling us this for decades.

The tough-as-nails cop. The loose cannon in his department who arrives at the crime scene of a murder, hat tipped low and surrounded by a haze of smoke. He pops the collar of his trench coat and takes a long draw from his cigarette.

If a police officer tried doing that nowadays, he'd probably be reprimanded for smoking in the workplace and contaminating a crime scene.

The stereotypical 'bad ass' character who would wake up in his dingy apartment and throw on a grubby white vest and beaten leather jacket, emblazoned with a society defying patch like 'rebel' sewn onto it.
He would swagger downstairs to his Harley Davidson motorcycle where he would pop on his shades and spark up a cigarette as he wheelspinned and roared away, leaving bystanders in a cloud of dust with the smell of exhaust fumes and danger.

If you saw someone do that nowadays, you would think they were a complete arrogant arse but in the 50's, he was one cool character.

None of these stereotypes are deemed 'cool' anymore because of how 'cool' changes throughout the generations (however for some reason, the 00's appear to think the 80's were the best thing ever, whereas the 90's laughs at them whilst dancing to Take That in their neon legwarmers and crimped hair. Very cool.)

Smoking appears to have gone down on the same neon ship.

Somewhere around the turn of the millenium, smoking started to disappear from the movies.
I assume it had something to do with the large amount of press that cancer and it's links to smoking was receiving that finally stubbed out the Hollywood cigarette trend.

So smokers aren't lighting up because it's cool anymore, so let's look at the health aspects.

It wasn't until 1950 when Richard Doll first published his findings in the British Medical Journal showing the first evidential link between smoking and cancer and it wasn't until 1971 when the first health warning's were put on cigarette packs in the UK.

Smoking has been attributed to heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and most notably, cancer but despite our knowledge of all of this, we still smoke.
Smokers are constantly being discouraged to stop smoking due to health reasons.

The first anti-smoking campaign was started in the late 1920's in Nazi Germany, with Hitler himself even deeming cigarettes 'a waste of his money'.
The message never crossed the border of Nazi-Germany due to the Second World War and was eventually silenced at the end of WWII by American cigarette companies illegally smuggling tobacco into Germany.

The biggest tackle on smoking so far has been the public smoking ban, enforced in the UK in 2007, due to research generating evidence against the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
Conveniently, the NHS started up the 'SmokeFree' programme offering free nicotine replacement products and support and supermarkets everywhere had 'special offers' on items such as 'Nicotinell' for a good few months.
It was recorded that 164,711 UK smokers quit after the smoking ban came in.

We all know smokers who have quit. Most have had their 'last cigarette' for about the 400th time.
Most smokers and non-smokers will put this down to nicotine addiction.

Although I regularly smoke up to 5 roll-up cigarettes a day, I do not consider myself to be addicted to nicotine. I am addicted to smoking.
When I don't smoke I don't suffer the 'typical' nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

The only time I smoke is when I am at work or if I am out and unless either of these things occur over the weekend, I won't smoke then either.
This is probably more likely due to a matter of convenience as I am not permitted to smoke in my flat, whereas in our old place I would smoke all the time.

I particularly liked partaking in the stereotype of 'the smoking writer' because I like the glamourisation of the old black and white flicks of the man at the typewriter in a haze of smoke; stabbing out another cigarette into the overflowing ashtray as he takes a gulp of his coffee; black of course.

I enjoy smoking.

For quite some time I was under the impression that all smokers enjoy smoking; this is why they do it; but after talking to a lot of friends and co-workers who I have watched quit and complain about the 'gritty' nicotine gum and useless patches, each one returning to smoking a couple of weeks later, every one says that they don't actually like smoking and spark up just to quench the craving.

The group of smokers huddled outside under a dark cloud, complaining about their addiction with each drag of their 'cancer stick'.
There is a sense of camaraderie. A shared burden.

Is the social side what casual smokers like about smoking?

After all of this, I'm still not sure why there are 'casual' smokers, probably because I have never been one.

Us smokers are stuck. We're hooked despite it not being cool, healthy or socially acceptable.
You casuals have a choice.

Plus it's really irritating when you're always bumming cigarettes off of us.
It appears we've got enough problems.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Today, I made another word.

I am currently trying to finish 2 blogs that I have started writing, but due to difficulties at work and home it has proven difficult to finish them.


Today I made another word.

To be incredibly hungry for something that is especially delicious or 'nommy'.
'I could really go for some sweet and sour chicken balls right now'
'Yeah me too, I'm so nomgry!'

Use it daily.

I would like to have contributed a word to the world before the end of my days.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

You had me at 'hello hot stuff!'

How the hell do us blokes ever manage to bag a girl?

I am asking this question because I have found myself watching a small selection of chick flicks over the past few evenings.

Yes I watch chick flicks. Sometimes out of choice. Some of them are quite good.

Stop judging me.

During my feminine film fest, I have noticed that there are two types of chick flicks.

The 'find Prince Charming and my life will be fantastic' chick flick and the 'unappreciated woman overcoming her peers and becoming a strong woman' chick flick.
Most of the time these get mixed together and you get the 'unappreciated women finding Prince Charming whilst overcoming her peers and becoming a strong woman whilst looking fabulous' chick flick.

Regardless of the title on the box, you can guarantee it's always going to be pretty much the same old tired story with the latest 'it' thespians filling in the roles of 'damsel in distress' and 'Prince Charming'.

Yes I know it's meant to be fictional, film is escapism etc but these films promote some insanely high requirements for any man attempting to 'woo' a woman.

Do men 'woo' anymore?

Do we even say 'woo' anymore?

Is the fact we aren't 'wooing' or saying 'woo' part of the problem?

Divorce rates are higher than ever and people aren't getting these 'happy endings' we were promised when we were younger.
Is this because life just doesn't worj out like that or because we are preconditioned to have these set standards that chick flicks tell us?

Looking at the chick flicks key demographic, the female gender, they have been raised with the ideals of the fairytale life from childhood.

Chick flicks are the logical graduation from classic Disney.

There is even a 150,000 member strong Facebook group titled 'I blame Disney for my high expectation of men'.

This ideal is the hunky, fantastically charming (and usually British or at least very well spoken) gentleman who sweeps the insanely 'perfect' or 'nerdy, unattractive looking who gets good looking, but extremely unsuccessful and overlooked female off her feet with a backdrop of a series of moderately comedic incidents, allowing her to get the man and the success all at once.

'Get hot and even you can succeed at life!'

Women should be outraged by this message, but for some insane reason they love it!

Women always seem to want to watch these films about the young, plain (well, plain in Movieland) girl who gets the perfect guy by completley changing who she is and I just don't get why women want to watch this.
Is the fact that the protagonist changes herself to get the guy overlooked because she gets this 'perfect' man?

Maybe studios are catching on though as there are some small victories for the 'everyman' occurring within the genre.

I recently watched 'The Holiday' and with the exception of Jude Law and Kate Winslet being forced to read the Americans version of 'British' dialogue (ie 'Oh bugger it. It's all gone frightfully wrong'. It's not bloody Merry Poppins!), I enjoyed it.

This is primarily due to Jack Black's character.

Here is a short, not fantastic looking guy who is funny and charming and ends up being the object of desire for Kate Winselt's character, and it's not done in a matter of 'oh, she's settling for the funny little chubby man' but as 'heartfelt' a story as the relationship development between Cameron Diaz and Jude Law, who spent the majority of the movie humping each other and feeling 'frightfully awful' about the 'sticky wicket' they had found themselves in.

Chubby man and the Winslet's relationship has more substance. Interesting.

We need more realistic characters in chick flicks.

The world is not full of these 21st century Prince Charmings and Cinderellas yet we are encouraged to look for these people and not settle for anything less.
Even the female protagonists in these films have the same problem.
We all remember the sofa and ice cream scene from Bridget Jones...and any other generic chick flick.
But it all works out for the better once they get the man, once again reiterating that this is what they should be aspiring to.

'Shallow Hal' is one of my favourite films of all time.
It's not brilliantly written or beautifully shot, but what a story!

We have this male character who is filled with the typical chick flick ideals of the 'perfect girl' and we see how much of a jerk he comes across as for spending all his efforts trying to get the 'hot' girls.
After some psychic jiggey pokery he can only see the inner beauty of women and falls insanely in love with a rather, quite overdone, plus size woman and they have their 'happy ever after' even after he see's her for how she really is.

We need more Jack Black's in chick flicks!

Why can't we have 'normal' looking people in these films?

I am fortunate enough to have found the special gal I want to spend the rest of my days annoying and I am quite obviously not fitting the archetypal 'hunk', more of a 'chunk', that all these films are telling women that they should be chasing after so what are us blokes doing right or have women just given up the dream?

Steph loves Disney and still watches the flicks at 22 so what is it that girls love about these films?

Girls, let me know what you think.
Do women still have this idea of the fairytale ending?
Are you still after their Prince Charming or have you sculpted your own?
Are you settling for 'chunk' rather than 'hunk'?

Guys, does watching these films make you change who you are?

Leave me a comment below!

Monday, 1 March 2010

'University Challenged'

Before we being the usual ramblings I would like to state that I have just consumed some dodgy chicken dippers and my stomach appears to have decided to consume itself rather than let the dippers do it in.

As I am typing this, it is making the most intense growling and gurgling noises, serving as a pre-warning to the immense feeling of shittyness that I will be experiencing throughout the next 24 hours.

Also, for the hell of it, my left ring finger has decided to start bleeding around the cuticle.

This could be a firm indication that I am not to eat unknowingly tainted poultry products and that I am being punished for not having taken a further education by not having the 'smarts' to do so.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to the subject of todays blog.

My name is Ben Cordell and I did not attend university.

'But your vocabulary is extensive, your writing is so eloquent and your blog topics contain such worldy affairs' I hear you cry.

True, but I also eat bad chicken.

When meeting new people, I often get asked what university I attend(ed) and am quite often met with looks of surprise when I state that I didn't attend university.
I don't think this is because of how I present myself or of their knowledge of my skills but more to do with the social stigmatism of someone who hasn't attended university.

It's considered a social norm.

You grow up. Go to school Go to college. Go to university. Get a good job. Get married. Have kids. Get old. Die.

We all know this walk of life.

But there's always one part of that process that makes me smile.

'Go to university. Get a GOOD job.'

We are built with a pre-conception that you need to attend university in order to get, in whatever sense you wish to interpret the phrase, a 'good job'.

There have been many successful people who do or did not possess a university education. Some didn't even possess a basic education, so where do we come up with this idea that in order to be successful, you need to attend university?

I deem myself to be semi successful.
I have a full time semi-skilled job, I rent my own place and I still work on my career in film-making.

But I did not attend university.
I barely attended 6th Form College.

6th Form College appealed to me as students get the opportunity to select their own curriculum.
This made total sense to me as towards the end of secondary school I was getting bored by having to learn subjects I just wasn't interested in.
'Let them learn what they want to learn, that way they can't become disinterested and get bad grades'.
I believe the same ideal ties in with university.

This would have all worked out fine for me except for a few problems.

I was 'persuaded' to take English Literature because of my good grades and was promised lots of creative writing. This wasn't the case and arguments with my Eng Lit tutor leading to a stern drop in attendance.

Media Studies at 'A Level' grade felt the same as GCSE Media Studies, so again my attention wandered until the practicals came around and I got to utilise my skills and passions, which would frequently pay off.

Film Studies was a given for me but my tutor had to call for technical help when trying to operate a DVD player, so you can imagine my feelings towards that aspect of my education.

Theatre Studies was a secondary option to Photography.
Now I wish I had pushed for it more as it would be a lot more useful to me now as opposed to learning Stanislavskian acting techniques, however I did meet a lot of good people, especially Mr Ed Hallwood who also shared my passion for film and shared similair aspirations of cinema glory.
He now teaches English is Vietnam and is still the sickest freestyle rapper I know.

My experience at 6th Form for me was an insight into what university had in store for me.

I remember towards the end everyone had begun starting to look at universities, talk about prospectus', go to open days and stress about the grades they needed to get in.

This all just breezed by me.
Maybe it was the my battle with alcohol at the time or perhaps I was just desperate to try and get out of this part of education with something relatively decent to show for it that I didn't care what came after.

I think I looked at 2 universities during my final year at BHASVIC.
One was the New York Film Academy and the other was a school in Canada.

They were obviously both incredibly unrealistic options but I think I felt that I needed to look to convince myself that university, or any sort of further education, is not what I wanted but I think I wanted to check just to fit in (back to the social norm!).

In my last year I had taken some great steps towards reaching my goal of breaking into the film business.

I had worked as a runner and assistant adjudicator on a game show at London Television Studios.
I had started up my own 'production company' titled 'Cathartic Studios' and was shooting live videos for bands I knew (as you know, I still run this company now and progressed onto shooting live videos for bands I didn't know, as well as some non-linear interview pieces).
A friend of the family, Guy Feldman, started giving me editing work and became a mentor to me. He eventually scored me a junior editor position at 'Back2Back Productions' in Brighton where I got to work on the Paul Potts piece that was shown on ITV and got my first national credit and admittance to the IMDB.
Closer to home, my practical pieces had picked up great grades and 'BHASVICTORS', which are basically awards the college gives out and I had curbed my drinking.

Everything out in the real world seemed to be working out great.
I didn't need to stay in education.

These were steps to being successful.

The majority of my friends went off to university, either to better themselves or as my dear friend Dave Wells stated, 'put off the inevitable'.
A few stayed behind or travelled to far off lands, to either 'find themselves' or...put off the inevitable.

I was one of the ones who stayed behind. In a sense.

I attended 'The School Of Life' (or 'The Cheesy Cliche Academy')

For me, only two types of people go to university.
Those who want to better their education and those who want to put off 'real life' and I didn't fit into either of those categories.

My passion for film-making took me all across the UK and I got to see some incredible things, and a lot of disturbing things too (touring with bands is an experience for sure).
I got to meet new people and made some amazing new friends who am still very close to.

Unfortunately as I grew, the place in which I grew up got much smaller and soon wasn't enough for me anymore.
After about a year, film-making wasn't taking me to these places anymore and the new 'big' me (quite literally as well. The School Of Life involves a terrible diet!) was stuck in the the small place.

I went back to familiar territory and started to film local bands again to gain some income and keep the portfolio growing but it soon wasn't enough for my Mum and Step-Dad and I was told I had to get a real job.

I was a builder. I worked as a checkout operator and eventually landed at Addaction as a Modality Administrator. And I'm still there today.

So what if I didn't go to university and what I'm doing right now isn't anything to do with film making? Does that make me unsuccessful?

In the years since the end of college to now, I have pursued my career, travelled the country, met the girl I want to spend my life with, got my own place and I am still working towards hitting my dream career.

In the years since the end of college to now, friends of mine have dropped out of college, stayed on because they still don't know what to do and graduated and are in exactly the same position I am. And they still have to do everything I just did.

I'm not saying university is right or wrong.
It gives people an option.

An option to better there education.
An option to increase their career prospects.
An option to put off 'real life' for just a bit longer.
An option to not go to university.

Just because someone hasn't attended university it doesn't mean they will be unsuccessful.

It just means they've probably got better things to do.