Wednesday, 28 May 2008

From deviantART to the world: adventures in a digital age

Recent readers of my blog will know that I have been putting up pictures from the London anime expo, but what they don't know is that, over the last few days an interesting story has occurred because of my photo's which I will share with you.

I also put a few of my photo's on deviantART, an online community for artists. One recent picture was of a girl dressed as a cat boy, pictured in the previous post. Three hours after posting the picture, I got a message from the girl to say it was her in the photo. Everyone says that the world is a big place, but I now think the digital world is a small one. I never thought that the girl I snapped would one day get in touch and so quickly too! It just goes to show how small the digital world really is.

And the story doesn't end there. I have lots of comments on my photo's, two people have favourited my photo's, one person is from America and the other is in Austria. I only put my photo's up because I thought it would be fun, never did I imagine that I would hear from people across the globe.

The lady in Austria says's they hardly get cosplay over there, so I have promised to post up more pictures. I jokingly said I've accidentally become a cosplay photographer, but if my photo's makes other's happy, then I will continue to snap my camera.

Just today three people pictured in the Vampire Knight group photo got in touch to say they like my photo. That photo is two posts below and the kids are wearing black and white outfits. They were eating rice balls by the riverbank, but they kindly let me snap them.

It's amazing how taking one photo can link you to other people in the world and for that reason alone, I will keep on taking pictures.

Also, I have now introduced an audio button in my blog. If you click on the Listen Now button at the top, my blog will come to life. You will hear an American man talking, which is quite funny, especially as I am a British woman. So far I have figured out the software can't pronounce Japanese words such as Gackt. Let's hear him say that again... Gackt! I've also added an email button at the bottom of each post, so if you like my blog entries, please email them on to friends.

At the end of the day, I would like more people to both read and listen to my blog. Whether it's about money or to learn about a little thing called anime and manga, you never know who might be listening or reading your words. That is, after all, the magic of the internet.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Cosplay Photo essay

Just thought I would put up some more cosplay pictures taken at the recent anime expo. It can be quite difficult putting together an outfit. I met Mystique, pictured below right, earlier on in the day as she was trying to put on the wig which proved to be a bit of a challenge.

I did run into quite alot of people I've seen at Deviant Art cosplay meets including Teal Pirate from Organisation 13, Samsara16 and her Soubi, Manga Girl and Chun-Li from the Guinness Book of Records meet. These cosplay picnics are even more insane than expo, which may be hard to believe and generally involve meeting at Hyde Park, heading over to Tokyo Toys for Pocky, gaming in the Trocedero and then China Town for some grub.

One of the perils of cosplay is getting glomped big time by other cosplayers and the tightest hug I got was from this little Ritsuka:

Cosplayers are very good at bringing their characters to life, no one did this better than this Hunny from Ouran Host Club, who was bouncing around full of happiness.

I nearly got run over by this skateboarding Sasuke from Naruto but I was impressed by his customized skateboard - I think Sasuke would approve, every emo kid needs some trendy wheels!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Cosplay photo's at London Expo

Yesterday was that time of the year when I head over to the ExCel centre in London for the big anime expo which happens twice a year. There were plenty of cosplayers dressed up as characters from Death Note, Ouran High School Host Club and Bleach which as ever included an impressive array of costumes.

Lots of manga, merchandise and anime was on sale as the cosplay kids danced on the DDR machines and battled it out on the computer games screens. It was a good excuse to eat lots of Pocky (not that you need one) and a chance to hug your favourite manga characters. How could I not resist the urge to glomp a super happy Hunny from Host Club with her pink Bun Bun? There were some pretty outrageous costumes but my favourite had to be a hoodie wearing Pikachu in shorts! Surely something you don't see everyday.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Credit crunching on the web

There has been lots of coverage about the credit crunch on various websites so for today's blog I thought I would do a round up of the best guides I've seen so far.

Kicking off is the MSN Money guide which lists 22 different tips on how to survive the credit crunch

Next up is Moneyfact's Credit Crunch Daily Tips on how to save money on a daily basis with lots of easy to use tips like ditching your morning latte to having fewer nights out. Practical tips that we all know that can make a difference. has a fashionable way to beat the credit crunch with tips on how to be fashionable on a budget and a handy section on things to buy which cost under a tenner.

The Daily Telegraph has a wide variety of tips to help save those pennies along with suggestions including growing your own vegetables and looks at how to audit your own lifestyle.

And if you haven't read my own suggestions on how you can beat the credit crisis, check out my recent blog entry.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Nodame Cantabile

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Recently, I've become addicted to the Nodame Cantabile drama series. There's a manga and anime series too but what I love about the drama is the way the story sometimes strays from the original, which creates lots of surprises!

Now whilst everyone says Nodame, a piano student who lives in a room full of trash, is the heroine of the story, personally I think the real hero is Chiaki, Nodame's neighbour and sometimes cook.

Due to a fear of flying he is stranded in Japan away from his favourite teacher who lives in Europe. Disillusioned with music, Chiaki has an arrogant personality and thinks all the other students at the Music Academy are rubbish. But the girls and boys at the school let him get away with it because, well... he's rather hot!

Whilst he learns to play piano, his real dream is to become a conductor and he is put in charge of the student orchestra, which basically comprises of all the worst students in the school, where he learns how to get on with others and the true meaning of how to play music from the heart.

Add to the drama, a suspicious teacher who plays truant so that he can go to host clubs, a timpanist with the biggest Afro you've ever seen and a flashy violin player who wants to rock the orchestra and you have the most charming drama I've seen in a long time.

Then there's the strangely odd Nodame herself who never plays the piano properly, but is a big fan of a fictional anime series, so how could I not warm to someone like that?

It's about hopes, dreams and friendships and watching them grasp the possibilities and fears of youth is both endearing and compelling. I've never been a classical music fan but if music is food for the soul, then Nodame Cantabile will most certainly be an enjoyable feast.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Can eating out really be cheaper than eating in?

I found an interesting article on the web about Americans opting to eat out rather than eating in as rising prices mean that it's now cheaper to eat at a restaurant than at home. Which really surprised me, but I couldn't help thinking that whilst this might work in America, could it really work here in the UK?

The last time me and my family went out to a restaurant, the bill came to £50($100) to feed five of us, which was a rather pricey evening meal. And I can't help but wonder whether the rise in food inflation in the UK will have a knock on effect to the cost of dinning out, especially as many chain restaurants have fixed prices.

Add this to the large portion sizes which critics have blamed for the increase in obesity in the States and you have a growing problem. The last time I was in America, the ethos I experienced was that 'bigger is better.' Walking into a fast food joint my younger brother ordered a large sized drink which turned out to be about four sizes bigger than the large size we get in the UK. The whole incident resulted in laughter as we watched him contemplate how on earth he was going to drink it all. It did raise a question as to whether bigger really is better especially with teenage obesity rates heading the same way as in America.

Mind you, if food was cheaper I would probably be tempted to eat out more often, but then again, there's nothing quite like a home cooked meal.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Budget beauty buys for the holidays

With the summer holiday season just around the corner, many stores have already introduced mini versions of products aimed at globe trotters and handbag ladies who want sleek beauty products on the go. But whether you're jet setting abroad or want to de-clutter your heavy handbag, here are my tips to help you along the way:

1) Decant into pots - You don't have to buy new products, head to Muji instead and get a collection of jar and squeezable bottles and decant your favourite products to take with you. Even cheekier, go to department stores and nab free samples. Next time you go on holiday, nab a couple of those shampoo/shower gel bottles you find in hotel rooms, they are the perfect size for holidays.

2) Overhaul your handbag - If you have everything including the kitchen sink in your handbag, it's time to give your handbag a makeover. Tip everything out and wipe the inside and out with antibacterial wipes.

Next get all you cosmetics and chuck make up you have had for more than two year (six months for mascara) and divide the remainder into two piles, what you use everyday and stuff you only use occasionally. Anything, you seldom use, leave at home and take the other one's with you.

Not sure what's enough? Think minimal - powder foundation, lip balm, lipstick/gloss, mascara and that's it.

3) Mini make up - If you plan to buy new make up, opt for mini versions or multi purpose make up that do more than one function such as lip gloss/blush. I'm currently loving the Mini Borjois range where a tiny lipstick can fit on the end of a mobile phone strap which costs £3.50. No need to buy a full sized version.

4) Basics over luxury - Drugstore brands like Vaseline and Nivea are just as good as the more expensive brands, even check out supermarket own brands which are just as good. Follow the above tips and this way you won't have spent all your money before you have even set foot on the place.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Supermarket shopping gets more expensive

I knew that food prices were really rising the moment my mum came back from the local shops complaining that the price of meat is going up. I came across this interesting article on food prices which had some unconventional suggestions such as baking your own bread.

The article went on to say basic food stuffs are up 20% on this time last year with the biggest increases seen on dairy and wheat products, with fruit and vegetables not too far behind. Shoppers will need to be that more savvy the next time they push their trolley around the supermarket if they really want to get some deals.

The Government states food inflation is around 6% but the article states that prices in the supermarkets are actually up between 40-80% depending on what you buy. So this week, I will be exploring my local area to see what I can save.

Friday, 16 May 2008

the GazettE: Music, drama and growing up

After a week's absence to focus on uni work, I'm back to blogging and a good place to kick things off are with this pretty awesome band, the GazettE, who will quite possible steal the title of my 'new favourite band' from Hyde and company.

What I really like about them is how emotive their songs are and I adore their fashion style, rather tempted to steal Ruki's flamboyant jacket. But this got me thinking about what music means to different people. On a forum I noticed other GazettE fans saying that the people around them think this is all 'just a phase' and they will grow out of it. Well, by that definition, I've been in a phase for the last two years, but I'm okay with that.

People are inspired by different things and music has always had a profound effect on me, it's seen me through some tough times and on a certain level I think music can help people relate to the world. I've lost count of songs that I've heard where I suddenly thought, oh! That's what I'm feeling!

And the GazettE do that surprisingly well. Reading the other posts I realised for a lot of teenagers, music is important, it was for me and I remember watching the kids at the recent An Cafe gig, thinking how lucky they must be to have discovered Visual Kei music at that age.

Music has a way of shaping things, it can help to create your identity and as people get older, music can fade into the backdrop, but sometimes, as I found recently, it can come bursting to the very front. Music has a way of saying the things you can't really say in words. Perhaps people need to justify the way they feel, or at the very least acknowledge that this is something real. That makes music so very powerful. In some ways, no matter how old we get, a part of us is always 17 and that's why no matter what changes happen in my life, there is always a little space for music on my bookshelf, even when my words fail you, music can speak volumes instead.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Would you throw away £10bn a year?

Amazingly, that's what us Brits do! According to a Government report, British households throw away £10bn worth of food every year. An average household wastes £420 whilst those with kids throw away £610 a year. Which is a heck of a lot of money if you ask me!

So here are my tips on how not to throw away good money:

1) Write and stick to your shopping list - Now that we know how much food goes in the bin, it makes even more sense to stick to a list when we go food shopping. Think of it this way, by not buying food that you will only throw away, you have an extra £600 to go in your ISA. Now isn't that a good incentive?

2) Check the expiry dates before you buy - Whenever I went food shopping as a kid, my dad would always ask me what's the expiry date on any products for the fridge and with hindsight, I can see why. Remember supermarkets put the items that are about to expire at the front, so pick your food from the back of the shelf as this will give you three or four more days to use it. A cheeky tactic, but it works!

3) Smaller portions - The sure fire way to cut waste is to cook less, my family has been doing this recently and the portions are just the right size to fill us up.

4) Reuse leftovers - If you do cook more or make a large dish, freeze the rest for another day, or re use vegetable or meat in salad, pasta or stir-fry dishes.

5) Use a Post-It note - Stick a brightly coloured Post-It note on the fridge listing what is about to go off and aim to use those ingredients in your dinner, solving food waste and that time honoured dilemma of, "What should I cook tonight?."

6) Fruit bowl - Even healthy people with good intentions can get bored with eating fruit so apples and pear can find their way into the bin. So buy fruit which haven't ripened yet (such as green bananas) and allow them to ripen naturally in your fruit bowl.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Tips to beat the credit crisis

As consumers start to feel the impact of the credit crunch, the financial sections of newspapers and websites are brimming with tips on how to survive the credit crisis, so today's blog is all about the practical steps you can take to stay on top of your finances:

1) Budget wisely - If you've never stuck to a budget, now's the time to start. All it takes is a little discipline to live on an allocated amount of money each week, which will not only make you a good saver but also make you a much more thrifty spender.

2) Save more money - The easy way is to put your £2 coins that you get in change straight into a jar when you get home. It's the way of saving without really saving and you may think £2 is a small amount of money, but it all adds up very quickly.

Try to put money into your ISA as all the interest you earn will be tax free. It helps to have a savings goal, start with £50 a month and aim to increase this the following month. Having a target will spur you on.

3) Curb your spending - When you walk into a store ask yourself do you really need this? Then think have I already got something similar at home? Chances are you probably have so walk away.

4) Pay off as much debt as you can - As lenders are cracking down on credit cards, now's the time to beat that habit for good. Focus on clearing your most expensive debt first and paying the minimum on the others. Once the biggest one is cleared, move on to the next one.

5) Emergency savings - If you do one thing, make sure it's starting an emergency savings account, preferably an easy access account in case you need to get to your money in a hurry. No one knows what will happen in the future but having a little money tucked away will give you peace of mind.

For more tips, check out this credit crunch survival checklist.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

What is kindness?

Earlier today, I was on a bus on my way into university and I saw a lady who was shaking as she got off. I asked her if she was okay and she didn't respond. As the bus doors closed she collapsed on a grassy area by the bus stop. I yelled to the driver to stop the bus and jumped off to help her.

She assured me she didn't need an ambulance and I helped her to where she worked. After a while she calmed down and was better. Leaving her with her colleagues, I turned to say goodbye and as I did I was embraced in a hug. All I could think was, 'Oh, I'm being hugged.' Walking me to the door, her colleague said, "Thank you for your kindness." It took me a second for it to click but then I thought, so that is kindness.

To be honest, when I was on that bus, I didn't think if I get off I'm going to be late for class, I did it instinctively without really thinking, I couldn't do nothing. But there were twenty people on the bus and I was the only one who stepped off. Afterwards, I dunno, I kept thinking, if that happened to me, I would hope that someone would help me.

And this got me thinking about what kindness really is. I'm reading volume 21 of Fruits Basket and Yuki comments that Tohru is always kind to him. Always smiling. But it wasn't until Kakeru notices that her smile was a painful form of kindness. Not a smile for oneself, but a smile worn for others. This is why I think there are many forms of kindness, some types we can't always see.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Brits waste £314 in unspent loyalty points

Supermarkets and stores are constantly reminding us about their loyalty card schemes but I recently learnt that us Brits waste £314 on unspent loyalty points, vouchers and credit notes.

The article went on to say that eight in ten of us don't bother to use up these points which can account for £4.3bn worth of freebies every year. Many of us have a loyalty card, some of us even having three or four, so I was more than a little surprised by these findings.

For the last few years I've been following my friend's lead and using my points for gifts and presents at Christmas time and frequently buy products on triple points evenings to get the most back.

So if you have a loyalty card, you may well have free money sitting in your wallet, so make sure you spend it.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Hana Kimi: The manga soundtrack to my life

For the last two and a half years I have been reading the Hana Kimi manga and yesterday I read the very last volume with both feelings of joy and a tinge of sadness.

Hana Kimi was the first manga series that I started following and has had a rather bigger impact on my life than even I could have imagined.

It introduced me to J-rockers Hyde and Gackt, started my fascination with all things Harajuku as well as giving me the confidence to change things; if Sano was going to fight back, then so was I!

It was Sano's words that he won't loose anymore that spurred me on when I lost my job. It was Doctor Umeda's advice on friendship that taught me sometimes people have to overcome their hurdles on their own. Hana Kimi saw me through my crush on a guy, realising that my friends weren't really friends, but most importantly it gave me a reason to change.

Hana Kimi was the manga equivalent to the soundtrack to my life. Okay, I have never cross dressed (wait... I have... I've been Light from Death Note) and snuck into an all boys school (now that I haven't done) but each volume is sprinkled with memories that mean something special to me.

Which is surprising given that Hana Kimi is a fun comedy, shockingly racey at times and still manages to chuck in a bit of Boys Love and get away with it!

So much about life is about bad memories but as Mizuki decides to leave the school, she is surrounded by friends who support her and only want her to be happy.

So it was much sadness that I read the last book, but as the manga is a romantic comedy, it wasn't long before I was laughing and thought, you know what, this is actually a good way to end things.

It's going to be strange not having Hana Kimi in my life but I can honestly say, my journey in manga has been fun!

Friday, 2 May 2008

How to save money on food as prices go up

Many newspapers have recently been talking about food inflation and the rising costs of food, so today's blog is all about how to save money on the weekly food bill:

1) Go for own brands - Often cheaper than more famous brands, start swapping food to a cheaper brand every week and see if you notice the difference in taste.

You don't need to swap everything, but build in swaps along the way, taking a closer look at the prices on the shelf.

2) Only bulk buy if you will use it - This is the famous pitfall of the, "But it's cheap," syndrome, only bulk buy if you really will use it, otherwise, it's not worth spending the money.

3) Look in the cupboards - This is the sure fire way of saving money, my family only go shopping every fortnight. Why? Because you are guaranteed to have unused food in the freezer and cupboards, so we take a week out and use up the remaining food before the next trip to the supermarket.

4) Cheap supermarkets - Don't overlook those smaller supermarkets like Lidl which stock foreign brands and are often cheaper, they are extremely good for chocolate and other treats and if you are a chocoholic like me, check out Poundland which sell cheap chocolate too.

5) Your local store - Supermarkets may make you think they are the cheapest place to buy food, but I've noticed that our local newsagents stocks certain products like bread and biscuits at a cheaper price than our usual supermarket.

For more information, check out this article on how to
save money on food

Thursday, 1 May 2008

London Votes: Boris or Ken?

Yesterday, I returned tired from two weeks up in Scotland, only to be dragged out of the house to go and vote in the London Mayor election. Apparently my family were waiting for me to come home, before they all go and vote. Enquiring as to why they were waiting for me, my mum said that its because I studied politics so local politics would be of interest to me.

Great. I knew that one day doing politics would come back and bite me.

So making it to the polling station with half an hour to spare, the attendant asked whether I needed to know the instructions. I said I studied politics, so I knew the drew. She smiled and as I walked away to cast my vote her colleague said, "Great, so there will be at least one clean vote."

Politics as personality

There has been much debate in the papers about the two candidates but what strikes me about this race was that how similar their policies are and I don't think people will be voting on these, this time, it's politics as personality.

Does London want the clumsy one who appeared on Have I Got News For You or the other one who maybe anti-semantic.

At the end of the day, it's all about who we think will do a better job, now, this is no guarantee that they will, but this all part of the fun and perils of local politics.

Local politics

The last time we had a local election in my hometown, it was buzzing with excitement, politicians paraded the streets and a couple of party representatives knocked on my front door.

This was in the run up to the London anime expo and I had dyed my hair bright red to look like Kira/Light from Death Note. A humbly dressed Conservative lady asked if I was going to vote after a ten second stare at my hair, the look on her face was... what's the word? Priceless.

Apparently, I was giving the impression that I might be a Labour supporter, but you can learn a lot from a persons reaction, just as she was judging me, I was judging her. When my brother came home and saw my hair, he was rendered completely speechless, which was a first, he later told me, I looked like a wannabe teenage punk rocker, which in hindsight was probably true.

London finds out today who their new Mayor will be, but like many things in this world, politics is all about who people think you are, not who you really may ve.

Military reporting in Scotland

For the last two weeks I have been up at a Navy base in Helensburgh, taking part in Joint Warrior, a major multinational military exercise involving 17 NATO countries with 70 aircraft and 36 warships.

I wrote news, features and commentary pieces about a made up ‘international crisis’ writing copy for broadsheets, tabloid, propaganda publications and the web as the crisis escalated. It was an amazing experience and the closest thing I’ve ever had to war reporting.

I even had the opportunity to travel up to the Highlands to Loch Ewe and visited two mine sweeping vessels, the HMS Shoreham and HMS Whaley to learn more about how the Navy fights war at sea.

To get to the ships, we had to travel by a dingy and wear dinbins which are yellow waterproof suits, a life jacket and a helmet. An officer warned me that if you get splashed too much, your life jacket will inflate. Ten seconds later, my jacket inflated and I looked like one of those hip hop gangsters in puffa jackets that you see in slick MTV videos. Well, if I fell off the boat now, I’d have no problem floating.

Once onboard we met the captain and I interviewed a diver to find out more about mine sweeping, he really wanted us to understand what it was like to be a diver and the tour of the ship ended in the decompression chamber. It was an eye opening experience and I learnt so much.

Producing the articles made me realise the varying roles the media plays during times of war and the different players who try to influence the media and the reality of correspondence reporting. I even had my first stab at broadcasting, doing a TV interview.

Travelling back, we drove past Loch Ness, Nessie unfortunately wasn’t home. I spent my birthday today traveling back to London, on a National Express coach no less, and it was nothing like the song by The Divine Comedy!

I learnt so much, both from the hands-on reporting and talking to the other journalists to find out about how their careers develped. Special thanks go to Andy, Kevin, Ben and Tim who answered all my troublesome questions, no matter how nosey I was! It was a great experience and I would love to do this again.