Saturday Papers: It’s Not Completely Shite Edition

I will be at work when you guys read this, so leave me a comment for me to read on my phone on my lunch break. It’s been a shit week, generally speaking – and specifically speaking now I come to think about it – so I thought I’d collate some of the good things I’ve seen recently in the hope it reminds us all that we aren’t all just heading into a justified apocalypse.

Straight guy worries he’s being homophobic to gay roommate, realises he’s fallen in love with him

Please somebody write a sitcom or film about this. I might write a sitcom or short film about this.

OITNB is back

And I’m only one episode in but holy shit.

Somebody collated ’31 Jokes That Are Way Too Real For Anyone Who’s Had A Period’

And y’all need to read all the way to 31 I’m almost looking forward to making a couple of these.

This exists:

I hope you all have safe and happy Saturdays in your favourite clubs.

A Retrospective of the Fiscal Year and Dubious Freelancing/Artist Advice

Who’s excited for the end of the financial year? Who wants it to be 6th April already so they can relish a clean slate and make 2016/17 the year they go up an income threshold? Who sometimes wishes they had someone else to make tough decisions regarding business card expenditure?

Yep.

Since we are nearly at the end of this fiscal calendar, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learnt since 6th April 2015, as a writer, shopkeeper and digital marketing freelancer and share some of my pearls of wisdom.

  • It’s genuinely really hard to invest in necessities like business cards and packaging when you have no capital. Use some savings (or visit one of those bank things or find some investors) to get you off the ground. It will cause less stomachaches.
  • Speaking of packaging, it’s completely okay to reuse bubble envelopes if they aren’t scummy.
  • You might think you can predict what will sell, but you can’t. You just learn to guess what your customer wants, and even then they will probably surprise you.
  • If a product isn’t working, photograph it better. Or replace it with a better product.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • 80% of your time is spent marketing and organising, 10% is spent corresponding, 5% researching and developing and perfecting, and 5% making the art you sell.
  • Look after yourself, mentally, physically and financially, because freelancers don’t get sick pay, holiday pay, pension schemes or sympathy when they’re ill.
  • Always try to correspond with clients or customers in the same way your teachers wrote home to your parents: politely, firmly and with the spellchecker on.
  • As a freelancer, you make your own motivation and set your own timetable. I’ve learnt that my motivation is my desire to spite the people who think I should get a ‘real’ job, and nothing sets a timetable like knowing you have 8 hours to complete 12 hours worth of work.
  • If you’re not busy, clean your desk and do your accounts because when you are busy, you will come downstairs and realise you work in a pigsty with no recollection of where your money went. Oh and if you’re not busy, you probably need to improve your marketing.
  • Taking a step back from this blog last summer was one of the best decisions I made all year.
  • My readers and my customers are the strangest, most eccentric and most generous people. (I already knew that. You’re welcome for the reminder.)
  • Social media marketing is about being social. Not copy and pasting the high five/praying emoji onto  twelve Instagram posts alongside the phrase ‘keep up the good work!’.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing. Work out who your customer is. Work out where they are and what they want. Go to them with the thing(s) they want.
Artemis was right, Greek mythology poster postcard by Francesca Burke
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was a hit with the asexual and aromantic bloggers of Tumblr.
  • #GIRLBOSS the shit out of your life, because no one else will do it for you.
  • Read #GIRLBOSS. Even if you are a guy, non-binary or allergic to hashtags.
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, girlboss.com
from girlboss.com
  • Nothing is more isolating than being the only person you know who does what you do and working from home while you do it. Find other people who do something similar and meet for coffee, follow their blogs and write your own, or join an Etsy team. Or all of those things.
  • A wise man in a World War II film I saw recently said something along the lines of ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person. People with all the time in the world never get anything done’. TL;DR: if you really want to make art or write a book or start a business, you will make the time to do it.
  • Paying yourself with meagre wages, knowing you can account for earning every single pound, makes up for being perceived as unemployed by your nearest and dearest, explaining that you post to the Internet for a living but no, you can’t wire up a wifi connection, and working on a Saturday night because you can’t afford to go out, move out or use up the bubble bath.

Most of the time.

Now bring it, 2016/17, I want to win at this game.

Postcards vs Greetings Cards

S0 you might have noticed that I sell quite a lot postcards. One of the most frequent questions I’ve had since stocking them is ‘do you do envelopes with these?’ or ‘why don’t you do these as proper cards?’ Good question, I beam. The answer is threefold (pun intended) and since I just released seven more postcard designs, I thought I’d itemise my reasoning.

  1. I actually wanted to make greetings cards originally. Back when I first started to migrate from fan art into original designs, everything I did was in poster format – text whacked on a Photoshop document. When I decided to try out Etsy, I actually bought a bunch of blank photo cards and foldable blank greetings cards to print myself… they are still in a box, because they are fucking fiddly. Also, my printer is about 10 years old and a lot of things come out wonky. If I wanted to be a pro, outsourcing the printing was the only way to work. When I looked into professional printers, I discovered that greetings cards are mad expensive. I have five different lines in my Etsy, each with a minimum of four designs. I’d get a quote for 3 of each design and pass out. Most postcards weren’t much cheaper. Then I was recommended Moo, which although its greetings cards were out of my budget, their postcards weren’t. They also let you print up to 10 designs in each pack of 10 cards – perfect! Thus my postcards were born.
  2. I don’t sell envelopes alongside them because they are another cost, another product to store and another material to source. I’ve made entire products because friends have said ‘that’s a great idea, I’d buy that!’ only for them to go unnoticed by the universe. One day I might add them as an option if there’s a large demand and I find a stockist I like (Etsy is fairly strict about its handcrafted ethics, too, most of the time and I don’t really want to bulk import tree-ruining crap from China).
  3. Postcards are actually way better than greetings cards. Think about it. There’s a nice sized space to write a note, but not so much you have to spend hours writing a memoir. They are so light they cost very little to send, and all you need to do is plop on a stamp and the address. No cuts from envelopes. No wasting of paper. No envelope-licking. They double as gift tags or little presents by themselves. You can stick them on the wall as mini posters (some of my favourite Etsy sellers actually sell their art on Moo’s postcards as gloss prints). You can write insults to the postman. You can buy them anywhere in the world and send them anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, postcards are a fun, tiny and greatly under-appreciated like myself.

Vintage Postcard from scottakyle.wordpress.com
from scottakyle.wordpress.com

Feminist and Fangirl Definitions by Francesca's Words. francescaburke.etsy.com

The Visitor Pink Postbox. Photo is by Jean Nelson.
I MUST HAVE ONE. Photo is by Jean Nelson. from thevisitor.co.uk

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2015

Here we go again…

Record of the Year

My stereo has been home to two CDs more than any others this year: Chantal Claret’s Battles of a Heavy Heart, which if God existed would be available in all good music shops with a world tour. As it is you can buy it directly from Chantal’s site and follow her on social media to pretend she’s on a world tour.

The second CD actually came out last year, but I am always late to the music party, so I would like to highly recommend this Hozier chap. I think he may go on to big things. Remember when I lost my shit over the Take Me to Church video? Make a sequel.

I’ve also recently fallen back in love with Fall Out Boy (thank you to whoever made a Tumblr edit to The Kids Aren’t Alright and The Raven Cycle). FOB are a band I forget I love until I’m listening to them, then I can’t remember why I don’t listen more often. I got American Beauty/American Psycho a few weeks ago and my ears are so happy they want to set something on fire.

Video of the Year

I forgive you for Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve also come to really love Call Me Maybe.

Book of the Year

This is hard. There’s The Raven Cycle, which has stolen my heart (and will break my heart when it concludes in April), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit… but because I didn’t do book reviews when I read them, and because I went to a talk with the authors who were lovely:

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

I wish this had existed five or ten years ago. Basic summary: there is a kid who is transgender. I can’t tell you any more than that because there are twists (don’t worry, she doesn’t ‘go back to normal’), but I finished it in an afternoon and it’s amazing.

Trouble by Non Pratt

A girl called Hannah gets in trouble. Some random guy offers to help her out. ‘In trouble’ means pregnant, by the way.

The ‘I Saw This Shit Live’ News Story

Once upon a time there was a Liberal Democrat named Paddy Ashdown. As it became apparent that his party lost a general election more severely than Sepp Blatter lost his morals, he refused to believe the exit poll and threatened to eat his hat if the poll turned out to be correct.

Then, like all good politicians, he did a U turn. The end.

The ‘My Twitter Timeline United Like It Never Has Before’ News Story: Equal Marriage

I’ve never seen so many people so happy as when Ireland held its referendum and when the US Supreme Court sorted their shit. I do have quite a selective timeline, apart from that one day I accidentally followed the Westboro Baptists, but it’s not usually entirely focussed on one thing. So I think everyone should be allowed to get married, all the time, because it makes everyone stupidly happy.

Equal Marriage Celebration.png
Even lawyers win when love wins

The Homophobic Dick Award: Kim Davis

So it turns out not everyone was stupidly happy about letting the queers get married. Some were stupidly stupid. I will devote no more of my time to her than this paragraph.

The Indifferent Ignorance Ignorance Fuck Award: Donald Trump and Daesh

I am upset that this year, like most others, one winner of this particular category is American. Come on, rest of the world, raise your game. Although reluctant to pay either of them any more attention, I felt that both Trump and Daesh deserve the award for similar reasons: they are both ignorant of human empathy, dangerous when armed and an embarrassment to their respective cultural and racial groups. I actually chose Trump before Muslim Visa Gate, but that clinched it. America, if you’re reading, kindly do not allow this gentleman to run your country. Sincerely, everyone. I was going to ignore Daesh as one does an attention-seeking child and Katie Hopkins, but if they are reading this then they’ve sat through Tom Hanks lipsyncing, a video of two men kissing and Paddy Ashdown, so they’ve got a good idea of what hell will look like when they get there.


 

All right, that’s it for 2015. I think next year I will keep track of people who are doing their bit to eradicate ignorance of the likes of Trump and co. Doctors, artists, civil rights activists, etc. Balance the decent person:motherfucker ratio. My instinct tells me we’ll need them when the US election heats up if not before.

Happy new year to everyone!

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2014

This year has some new categories and tough competition!

Books of the Year

I’ve stopped trying to pick one.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which I thought was going to be about whiny teenagers and is actually a lovely story about twins with great names who go to university in Nebraska. One of them writes a fanfiction that has thirty thousand hits a day. Whatever you think it will be like, you’re wrong. Read it if you’ve ever read or written fanfiction.

Or How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper, which I read in Greece. It’s about Doug, a 29-year-old widower who hasn’t left his house in a year except to buy Jack Daniels until his sister comes to stay. The characters are incredibly real and although they’re not nice, you want to spend time with them… I wasn’t sure at first but it is A*.

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. Because Nico and Reyna got their airtime and it was beautiful.

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I tried re-reading this recently and I couldn’t because after the first page I remembered how much my stomach was tied in knots the whole flipping book. If I could write like anyone, I’d pick Khaled Hosseini. The power to make your readers cry, man..

The True Lives of My Chemical Romance by Tom Bryant. I read this the Sunday after the #revenge10 meetup in Camden, which was the fist time I’d been able to listen to live MCR since MCR ended. It was lovely hanging out with other fans and not having to explain or justify how much I love this band. The book made me sad in a lot of ways because it opened a window to the inside of MCR, and it was contrary to the image portrayed by the media (and maybe the band) at the time… But by reading the entire history, told objectively by someone who understood and respected the magnitude of MCR, I felt like I could really start to enjoy MCR again. Listening to songs didn’t make me sad any more; I was genuinely excited for the guys’ new work. So thank you to Tom Bryant! Also I met him at #revenge10 and he is a good dude.

Best New Musician

Lorde. Lorde Lorde Lorde. I ignored her stuff for ages because I was bitter and twisted that someone younger than me had a) such great hair and b) worldwide success. I am now over that. Partly because girls should support girls on their quests for awesomedom, and partly because her music is excellent.

Best New Album

Stomachaches.. Hesitant Alien. May Death Never Stop You. Come on, was I going to pick anything else? I haven’t bought anything else! I am turning into an old lady when it comes to new music. I hope to change this in 2015 buy physical copies of the music I like.

Live Show of the Year

King Lear (amateur production) in my town. Lear almost dropped Cordelia. Unlike the Sam Mendes production, there was a little room for audience participation – mostly because there was all of 50 people watching and you could make eye contact with most of them.

Most Interesting TV Event

Eurovision… Conchita winning was pretty brilliant in itself, but I think this part of the show may have been the most entertaining for the viewer:

Rudest Person on the Internet

Either most of Tumblr, the person on DeviantART who told me they’d ‘just print’ my artwork instead of buying an official copy, or the people featured in @TheDMReporter’s screen shots.

Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award

This was such a hard one to choose I was wondering if you guys would like to suggest any examples? I mean, there’s the usual US-pastor-saying-something-offensive, and recently a UKIP MEP who is actually gay called equal marriage “false bollocks”. I dunno, I feel like we need to expand our horizons. Anyone got any horror stories

Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award

It was very hard to narrow the nominations down this year. So I haven’t.

The purportedly Muslim group calling itself Islamic State. You sirs are giving Islam a terrible name and you ought to be ashamed. My knowledge of Muslim theology is not as thorough as my knowledge of Christianity (A Levels, huh) but I’m pretty sure the Quran is not telling people to behead aid workers and use people as slaves.

Vladimir Putin and his inner government group. (I am not sure what the Russian name for that is.) Do you actually think no one minds or has noticed that you’re rebuilding the Iron Curtain? Please stop. I would like to go to Eastern Europe and Russia in my lifetime without feeling like I’ve stepped into 1965.

The citizens of America who think it is 1965. It’s not. Shooting people is not even remotely a good thing. Shooting them based on their skin colour is even worse. You’re embarrassing your country.

Okay I think that is enough for one post. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions for different winners or new categories? I couldn’t think up a category for Chantal Claret’s Pledge campaign, for example, or one for Lola, the chimp who does Gerard Way’s PR. 2014 has been an action-packed, sometimes-hilarious-but-mostly-depressing-news-stories year!

The Six O’Clock News: Quickfire Commentary

Audioblog time! I decided to commentate on each of these stories (don’t worry there are things to look at while you listen):

Taken 29th August 2014 at 4:45pm-ish
Taken 29th August 2014 at 4:45pm-ish

Too bad I talked about things in the wrong order and forgot how to talk and read simultaneously.

Story One, in which we should perhaps panic.

Story Two, in which I haven’t heard of an actor

Story Three, in which a judge tells a lawyer that he looks like something out of Harry Potter

Story Four, where an MP got egged by passionate (or stupid) pro-independence campaigners

Story Five (which I actually thought was six) about rich philanthropists who are going all vigilante since someone has to

From stunningpicture.tumblr
From stunningpicture.tumblr

Story Six (which I thought was five), in which people crash cars

Story Seven (totally lost now) when some people set the precedent for the London riots

Story Eight in which parents are well-meaning but misguided

Story Nine, where cats are even more popular when they’re dead

Story Ten, in which I am bitter about the Bake Off, although so are several other people

This may have taken longer than in-depth analysis.

Going Back to Hell 101

No one ever did confess to being under the age of 11 so I’m going to assume you guys are in the same-ish age bracket as me and are school-age. By ‘school age’ I mean ‘in compulsory education’. I’m technically university age but am also technically on a gap year and I don’t have a clue how you degree-types work so I’m going to assume you guys have your shit together because this post is a guide to…

Going Back to Hell*

*In this instance “hell” can be taken to mean “school”.

Let’s level with each other first of all. I kind of hated school. I liked to learn – mostly – but I loathed deadlines and homework and pressure (seven years in a grammar school and a talent for being too conscientious made for one mini heart palpitation per day and cold sweats every fortnight. Oh, I’m kind of tense? Really? Ihadn’tnoticedI’monadeadlinefuckoffI’mfine). My favourite parts of lessons were when you could have conversations with friends and the teacher and learn without realising you were learning. Too bad it took until year 13 for that teaching method to really be okay with senior management…

So I was always reluctant to go back to school after the holidays. Every holiday, up to and including Easter 2014, I dreaded not just the first day back but all the days until my next piece of freedom. Once I was there I was fine. But I always resented my school for not being more like Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood. (Why can’t we have 12 Christmas trees and a lava wall? What is wrong with singing furniture and classes lead by students with the best monster-killing record?)

In retrospect, not fully embracing my fate as a pupil at an all-girls English grammar school probably set me back. No lesbian jokes please.

Because when I think about it, if I had fully considered the workload, if I had understood that sometimes you have to play the game in order to finish it – woa I’ve been watching too much sport – I would have made the correct preparations. In, say, August.

Since I care very much that you all don’t spend nine months of your life wanting to stab your eyes out with you HB pencil, I have put together a short list about how anyone – yep, even you with your weird as shit academic situation – can make school slightly less shit. You’re welcome.

Step 1: Prepare

Did Mo Farrah just turn up to the Olympic Stadium and go for a jog to win those medals in 2012? No. I presume he planned that gig, preparing himself for the utter tedium of a 5 billion lap run. He was not taken by surprise by the circus he was in.

From madmanmadeofstraw.tumblr.com
From madmanmadeofstraw.tumblr.com

So let’s confront the facts: you have to go to school. No matter how late you stay up playing Sims pretending tomorrow is Saturday, you’re going to have to get yourself out of bed and learn some information at an absurdly early hour. Take a moment to fully appreciate this, since acceptance that you have a problem is the first step to solving it. (I hear the same concept applies to quitting drugs.)

Now you’ve faced the butt-ugly truth, it’s time to review your physical belongings. Your uniform if you have one. Your bag. Your pencil case. It has been pointed out to me that I buy more time buying stationery than I do clothes, which is totally justifiable because you can’t see every piece of clothing you wear but you do have to get your pencil case out five times a day, five days a week. So it’s got to look damn cute and actually hold pencils for more than a term. Now get yourself down to Staples and if your parents don’t want to pay for functional equipment, point out that if fineliners are the tools of Oscar winners, you need them to not fail A Levels.

Step 2: Organise

… and stay organised for as long as possible. That goes for setting deadlines, completing projects, revising for exams, planning your actual life around school, etc. You will definitely fuck up somewhere along the line – I once forgot to go on a school trip; Ellen forgot to go to an AS module. But you can keep your shit together for more than the first week of September by doing one teeny tiny thing: using the brain cells you just exercised in class to remember all the stuff you have to get done. Or if that’s not your gig, then by utilising your school planner and covering your calendar in so many notes it looks like a courtroom puked. Use colour coding if it helps/you want your calendar to look like pride week puked. Keep your timetable safe. Keep your passwords noted. If you’re planning to skip school to see your favourite band play in Camden, do that day’s work in advance. That way you’ll get to see JBiebs or Green Day or whoever floats your boat and your teachers won’t think you’re a delinquent arsehole for missing a topic for the immortal sight of Jimmy Urine sticking a phone down his pants.

For the record I never skipped class for a band. MSI was playing Camden on a godly scheduled teacher training day. No one had to negotiate homework to see Jimmy do something freaky.**

Ah, regrets.

Step 3: Retain Your Sense of Humour

 Sometimes your attitude toward the dickheads with whom you spend 35 hours a week is this:

From let-it-be-infinite.tumblr.com
From let-it-be-infinite.tumblr.com

Sometimes you and your non-dickhead friends will experience this attitude:

Intense Contemplation black-white-and-perfect.tumblr
From black-white-and-perfect.tumblr.com

But mostly you’ll be like this:

Psychos from clairedelunes.tumblr.com
From clairedelunes.tumblr.com

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is compulsory reading for anyone who’s school age, by the way. But seriously, the ability to laugh will get you through those lessons where the clock has definitely slowed down or the lunchtimes when your friends are gloating that they got higher marks in some test no one will remember in two years’ time. You might be laughing at yourself or the situation you’re in or maybe at somebody else (don’t be a dickhead to others to make yourself feel better though, it’s very year six).

Sometimes things will be very grey and if you’re having more than just a few low days, do everyone a favour and talk to someone – turns out teachers are people too, how about that – because if you’re going to get through school it should be in one relatively happy piece.

So there we have it.

Three golden nuggets of advice to make your life superduper perfect less shit. Hopefully.

**For the record, I can’t remember if Jimmy did actually put a phone in his pants. I do know, however, that he fake-called the Queen.

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!