A Women’s Best Friend Part One: Standing up for friends

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In the media dogs have not had a great time: with reports of dog attacks, the branding of certain dogs as dangerous breeds and the demonization of their species, over the past few decades. Once described as man’s best friend these creatures have found themselves slowly becoming ostracized from society by humans, with many being abandoned, put down and left to become aggressive. So who will come to these canines’ rescue? How about women?

Growing up I made a lot of assumptions of how humans view dogs, believing that the rest of humanity viewed them in the same way I did. Not once in my childhood did I see dogs as aggressive, only as protective; never as dangerous, only as powerful; never as monsters, only as friends (and some of them as jack asses). It also never in a million years crossed my mind that my gender would be a problem when it came to owning a dog. Growing up with and around powerful breeds, I never thought being a girl would disqualify me from owning one of these breeds. However as an adult not only have I been warned against adopting powerful breeds, due to the fact that as a woman, I would be too weak to control one. I have also been told quite frankly that as a woman, I should never own a dog, as woman can never really train any dog without a man.

In these collections of articles, I want to put my argument forward as to why women (without male supervision) not only should adopt dogs, but also why women should consider adopting some of the more powerful breeds. I also want to  set the record straight about the myths about breeds, why some dogs become aggressive,  and how it can easily be prevented. Dogs can bring so much to a human’s life, why can’t they be our best friend too?

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The Lord of the Lies: House of Lies Returns

If you’re wondering why I’ve locked my doors, drawn my curtains and settled myself down in a bunker filled with food, it’s because House of Lies is back (I never said my motive would be reasonable).

House of Lies is back and shipping Marty and Jeannie more than ever. Seriously, how cute would their in-show babies be?

House of Lies is back and shipping Marty and Jeannie more than ever. Seriously, how cute would their in-show babies be?

Now in its third season, the series centres around the antics of Marty Kaan (played by Don Cheadle), unscrupulous management consultant doubling as Hugh Heffner, and his ‘pod’, consisting of hot shot Jeannie (Kristen Bell), clueless Doug (Josh Lawson), and wannabe sleaze Clyde (Ben Schwartz), who go about conning horrible rich people out of horrible amounts of money, and then proceed to go on a bender until their next flight out.

Of course, a show doesn’t get to three seasons without a ‘will they won’t they’, and with House of Lies it is all about Team Jeannie and Marty- to the extent that when Marty spurred Jeannie at the end of season 2 and they didn’t get together it ruined my day.

But its a new season now, and it seems like season 3 is going to be the best yet- so far we’ve had none of the frantic cramming of season 1 episodes, and none of the bland filler of season 2. The episodes are pacing themselves with confidence and the season is setting itself up to be a cracker.

I could pretend that my love of House of Lies has something to do with its dark humour, great characterisation and vicious look at corporation politics.

Marty and his pod work hard, and they're gonna play hard, dammit!

Marty and his pod work hard, and they’re gonna play hard, dammit!

But I don’t.

And I don’t enjoy it for its supposed realism either.

The reason I love House of Lies is because, somewhere in its sexy and yet slightly trashy portrayal of boardroom and bedroom antics, it seems to have lost whatever grip on reality it may have had and created a world that is supposed to contemporary and luxurious, but that actually teeters on dystopian. This is a show that has gone beyond entertainment, shot past mild escapism, and currently orbits around me in the stratosphere of pure fantasy. House of Lies is often as grounded in reality as Game of Thrones and I love it for it.

People don’t act like this! I sometimes sniff as Marty and his ex-wife Monica (an amazing Dawn Olivieri) have yet another tryst in yet another random setting, but I get the same enjoyment from watching these bastards scam each other as I do watching elves fight dragons. Sure, the show’s characters are horrendously nasty at times, but then, so is Sauron! Even the scenes of the consultants travelling through customs with their itty-bitty suitcases begin to take on the same epic connotations of Finn and Jake setting out on a quest with a sword made of demon’s blood. House of Lies makes me want to buy a suit and go out and consult people in the same way Labyrinth made me wish David Bowie would steal my sister so I could sing with goblins. It’s never gonna happen, but it’d be nice if it did.

One Management Consultant to rule them all...

One Management Consultant to rule them all…

As hippies once read The Lord of the Rings with wide eyed amazement and changed their names to that of their favourite hobbit, so am I shocked, awed and undeniably entertained by the antics of Marty and his associates. Move over Game of Thrones, I’ve found my fantasy of choice!

Is it the best show on the box? Nope, but it’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, I’m off to change my name to Olivia Jeannie Van der Hooven.

Only joking, that would be a shit name.

 

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Chicks On Lit: “The Bone Season” By Samantha Shannon

Boy do I love a good Dystopian text. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. I love the genre and everything about it. I love reading it, I love writing it and I love adaptations that include barely legal heartthrobs and smoldering yet artsy posters (I’m looking at you, Divergent!). But my only issue is that they all seem to be extremely American. Even the ones set in England tend to have a United States twang to them. Maybe it’s me, but I feel that a good Dystopian novel set in Britain is just what the world needs as we continue to grieve the loss of Harry Potter.

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Enter Samantha Shannon and her best-selling novel, The Bone Season. The title may give you all the wrong ideas as this is a fabulously delicious tale of modern day witch trials that infuses the universal action and mystery we expect of its genre as well as a good dollop of tasteful Britishness. The story tells us of Paige Mahoney (Who is actually Irish, but we’ll move on), a clairvoyant living in Scion occupied London in 2059. She lives in a secret world where the abnormal is deemed wrong and is punishable by death. As a “dreamwalker” she able to walk in and out of people’s minds and as such she must keep her gift a secret. After a fatal incident on a train, she is kidnapped and taken to Oxford, now a lost city, where the secrets of the world she lives in are revealed.

It’s a pretty meaty subject matter that spans different timelines. One chapter we’re in the nitty gritty with Paige as she rebels against the new order she’s placed in when the next chapter shows us her life before as a questioning young girl falling in love for the first time. As a romantic, and a fan of strong female characters, I have to say that Shannon really does kill it in that regard. Paige is pretty bad ass. She fights the power by no mistake and her actions are the perfect blend of enthralling and endearing. The story is so intricate you get the sense the Shannon totally knows what’s going on and we’re left in the dark struggling to piece together the clues she leaves us. Also, I’m all for a love triangle. Who isn’t, right? But this one takes the crown. God, I wish I could tell you but you’re going to have to read it for yourselves! It’s so modern and cool, I mean you absolutely see it coming but that doesn’t make it any less gratifying when it arrives.

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Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season

Hoooooowever, the book is not without its flaws. As a seven part series, I understand that there is still more to learn about Paige but sometimes I found myself wanting the book to just get to the bloody point! The suspense is great and I truly had no idea where the plot was going, but sometimes I found some chapters felt more like filler than anything else. It ebbs and it flows as a novel but a lot of the things I found more intriguing come very late in the book. Also, the world of The Bone Season is a complicated one. The way Paige’s gift works and the language used could be very confusing in places. Shannon does a terrific job in explaining the mechanics of the “aether” and how Paige’s gift of using it works but as a novel, the golden rule of showing and not telling intervenes and I’m left scratching my head. Luckily for me, Shannon announced quite recently that she will be releasing a series of blog post explaining whatever her fans want to know. You can find her blog here.       

At the tender age of twenty-two Samantha Shannon has achieved more than some novelists dare to dream. A six-figure book deal with Bloomsbury, a commissioned seven-book deal, Andy Serkis overseeing the film adaptation and a sequel novel only round the corner. She’s brilliant at what she does she creates an exceptional world from her own lovely London town and writes characters you not only care about, but want to know more about.

In summary: It’s pretty damn good.

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VFM’s Top Singles of 2013

Alright, so there were more than a couple of duds that stank up the charts in 2013. However, as we wait for the results of BBC’s Sound of 2014 Poll, our VFM writers cast their minds back over the Year of Miley and reminded themselves of the great songs that kept them sane…

***WARNING: CONTAINS ONLY AWESOME SONGS***

CHVRCHES- GUN

What a year it’s been for girls in the music industry. Scottish gal Lauren Mayberry and her band of merry men formed the band Chrvches a few years ago and last year they made my summer with their single “Gun” from their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. I’ve already gushed about these guys to my friends, family and online family (including my lovely VFM relatives) but what’s once more right?

The reason “Gun” rocked my world this year was a collection of things. Firstly, there is the totally synthetic beat, which is so stark and electronic and yet feels deeply connected to nature. Also, let’s mention the fabulously sassy lyrics that tells tales of girls threatening their bad men with tubular weaponry as they run away from the scene. Who doesn’t like a pissed off Scot with a pistol? In a world of ten-a-penny electropop bands Chvrches stand out as one of the most exciting because they are both accessible and fantastic, appealing to the masses and self-appointed prestige music critics alike. “Gun” represents their sound perfectly: raw, obtainable and just so wonderful!
JamesTaylorrr

LITTLE GREEN CARS- SPIDER LEGS

An Irish mix of singer/songwriter and folk has finally pushed the Dublin scene’s image away from the bland banquet of The Script. Harper Lee, their second release has something for everyone. It is well worth sitting down and listing to this CD all the way through, as it seems to be one of the few indie releases these days that have paid good attention to song ordering.

The title track takes you by the hand with well crafted vocal hooks to set you completely in the mood for the next 15 minutes. You are introduced to their American gothic lyrical styles, it’s very easy to find yourself quoting lines from all of these songs! However it’s the last two tracks “Red (Demo)” and “Spider Legs” that really make this band stand out. “Red” is a beautiful a capella with strong ties to Americana folk. They truly show off their harmonizing here, allowing you to be haunted by these cold lyrics. “Spider Legs” makes you truly question whether you are listening to a guitar based band at all. Melodies that leave you with goose bumps, textures so delicate that make you feel that if you were to pause the track, it would shatter like glass. That’s why “Spider Legs” is my track of the year.
MattLightbound

NYPC- THINGS LIKE YOU

While I had some problems with their album, I do feel that in this, the third single off NYPC, the duo well and truly knocked it out of the ballpark.

With its stuttering riff and typical shouty vocals from Tahita Bulmer, this is a song that takes a while to announce itself. Instead it stands in your living room, and slowly inspects everything you own before turning your world on its head by shedding its dark cloak to reveal party clothes and shouting ‘SURPISE DUET!’ And yes, Morgan Quaintance’s added vocals on the irresistible chorus raise this from just a very good song to one of the best pop songs released this year. It plants trumpeting synths, churning guitars, and vocals and watches calmly as they come together and pay off, creating a dark pop anthem that hurtles with purpose towards the ‘replay’ button. NYPC were always good at creating music that sweeps you up and surrounds you, but this is beautiful.

“Things Like You” is a slice of musical perfection that commands you to dance and sing along, and you would be incredibly churlish if you declined its invitation.
LassoMagicaRescarte

DEAP VALLEY- BAD FOR MY BODY

Okay, so it hasn’t officially been released as a ‘single’, but coming from an album that’s had accolades thrown at it this past year, I think you’ll forgive me.

From the very first ring of that crisp distortion, I knew there was something special about these two girls from California. Intent on catching our attention at the biggest festivals this year, they’ve got the U.K sitting up and listening! Indeed, the duo has fast become one of my favourite bands and, judging by the time their debut album has lived inside my car’s stereo system, my favourite album of the year. So, why this song in particular?

The answer? Because it’s simple. Because it’s clever. Because it’s empowering. With its sharp, stabby verses, catchy refrains and explosive energy, this is a song for some good ol’ foot-stomping, air-punching, hairbrush-singing, head-banging female rebellion. And god knows we’re due for some Rock’n’Roll freedom. Lindsey Troy’s rough vocals are emotion-packed and her carefree attitude and lyrics something to aspire to. As is the duo’s stage presence and playing. Their song lyrics are blunt, bold, and (in this case) dare to criticise the hypocrisy of older generations. They sing about not being made ashamed by others for being young, for being a bit reckless; something I feel is more resonant in recent society than ever before.

There’s something raw about their music, an authenticity that’s been lost along the way. There’s a dash of Rock’n’Roll rebellion, a spoonful of classic rock ethos, and a whole heap of sticking it to the man; this is a song that (hopefully) marks a new era for girls with guitars and drumsticks everywhere. This is a band for the modern day feminist.

Check out Deap Vally’s debut album, Sistrionix!
Alicia Ballard

FOALS- BAD HABIT

“Bad Habit”, a single off Foals’ third studio album, Holy Fire, is one of those tracks that you can keep playing again and again, yet it still feels fresh as the first time. Holy Fire as an album was a tremendous follow-up to their critically acclaimed predecessor Total Life Forever, and even though the album holds some great tracks such as “My Number” and “Inhaler”, I have to go with Bad Habit being my song of the year. I think it’s hard to describe music without sounding a little pretentious—so bear with me on this—but it’s just a song that stays with you. Yougetme? It’s a track filled with poignant lyrics, but because it’s quite upbeat you miss that the first time round. And that’s what I like in my music! Layers. Like an onion. “Bad Habit” was the perfect soundtrack to my own memories of 2013, and if you’ve not checked it out—do so.
CatSmith92

CARO EMERALD- LIQUID LUNCH

My favorite single of 2013 has to be “Liquid Lunch” by Dutch performer Caro Emerald. The song was released on 21 May 2013 as the second single from her second studio album The Shocking Miss Emerald. Caro Emerald’s music has been described as a fusion of Jazz and pop and that is clearly shown in “Liquid Lunch”. It’s Jazzy, upbeat, beautifully sung and is such a fun song. Liquid Lunch is a tongue in cheek song from one sassy gal. What makes “Liquid Lunch” different from other contemporary pop music songs is that not only does it have a mix of jazz but it also breaks away with the running theme of singing about going to the club, instead focusing on a more realistic and relatable aspect of what happens when we have a little too much fun on a night out. It is a song aimed for anyone who has gone out with a group of friends (maybe just to get something to eat) and woken up the next day with a banging head ache and an empty wallet. It is the ultimate hangover song.
KerrySlater

So there you have it! What were your favourite tunes of 2013? Leave us a comment below!

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