The World According To Fred is my blog, although no, my name is not Fred - but don't worry, that's a common misconception... My posts are a compilation of all the things that pass through my mind - a running commentary of my view of the world. Please feel free to comment and please say if there are any subjects you would like Fred to take a view on - I really do want to know!!!! In the meanwhile enjoy:
The World According To Fred

Monday, 28 March 2011

Spotting The Flaw In Spot Cream Adverts

Whilst waiting for the tedious adverts that maddeningly interrupt my evening joys to finish, I find myself watching yet another of those patronising spot cream adverts. Taking over our worshipped TV screens, they emphasise how fraudulent the advertising industry truly is.

Centred round flawlessly perfect teenagers who have clearly never had to use the treatment in their life, we less fortunate and more realistic viewers are forced to squirm in discomfort at our inequality. Yet in reality, these are likely to be twenty-two year olds who are having no luck getting actual acting work and have been Photoshopped to the point of oblivion. After 20 seconds of watching spotless teens saunter around in a dubious society, you are zoomed in on one person’s face to see a hugely grotesque spot that was never on that persons face; even in the most convincing adverts, these actors have clearly only been poked on the face with a red marker pen. Then you are shown how the teen applies this magical formula to their ‘spot’ and it miraculously disappears, displaying again the immaculate face.  Suddenly, flocking to their nearest pharmacists are hundreds of needlessly self-conscious women - and men, but obviously in a manlier manner – in order to purchase this mythical product.  Needless to say that although it is likely to help the erupting volcano on the face, it won’t have the desired Helen of Troy transformation that was publicised; thus leaving customers up and down the country feeling conned of their money.

As if it weren’t bad enough to see ordinary people disgrace themselves in these adverts, you have celebrities who also endorse this scheme. The likes of Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Love-Hewitt partake in these counterfeit commercials, in order to bring in more money. Evidently their dollar shining eyes don’t have enough already, despite the fact that we are currently in an economic crisis and they should be dispersing the wealth rather than taking in more.

However, it’s just the peak of the deceptive iceberg. It’s just the next in a long line of evidently edited commercials: “Maybe It’s Maybelline” (Maybe it’s Photoshop) or “Seize Power Today” (Yeah, sorry Oral B, but there is nothing powerful enough to make my teeth that white).  

I suppose I could suffer it if it were only every couple of shows. Yet these abhorrent commercials have found a way to sponsor my favourite TV shows, with themes that are completely irrelevant. I am sorry Freederm:  finding a man looking at you in the mirror may be slightly spooky and tie in with Vampire Diaries, but what on earth does it have to do with spot creams? They seem to be finding anyway to display it – which I suppose is the key to good advertising – but at least use something relevant! Sponsor Glee or 90210 where the show is about teenagers! Admittedly, none of these ‘teenagers’ have spots either, but it is closer to home than Big Brother or Take Me Out. True, these are real people who are more likely to have spots than the fake million-pound-tan-and-unnaturally-white-teeth-actors on American TV shows; but they will have been in make-up for the last 10 hours, meaning that they too are prepped and preened ‘til they look nothing like their true selves.

There is something strange though. If someone came a-knocking at your door, claiming to have a miracle cure for spots, you’d turn them away without a second glance, let alone invest in their over-priced products singing of false hope. So why is it different when we see it on TV? Perhaps it’s the fact that we know there are advertising regulators or that in the glory of the modern age we have become too believing of what we see on the TV. Yet maybe it’s just because the idea that there is a cure for something as small and often as seemingly insignificant as complexion catastrophes can lead to the hope that maybe, just maybe, there is a cure for the bigger, scarier issues that plague modern society.

Whatever the reason behind our fascination with these spot cream treatments, their advertisement campaigns are as annoying as the younger sibling that just used your headphones to rescue your useless spot cream that they just flushed down the toilet (by accident, of course). Spot creams need to find a new way to reach their target audience, without pointlessly disrupting my evening TV. Their blemish on my life is becoming a lot more threatening than the one on their face.

Monday, 21 March 2011

5 Things That Just Shouldn't Happen On a Duke Of Edinburgh Training Day

After a rather eventful day around Leith Hill, Surrey on my Duke of Edinburgh expedition training day, I realised that you are told very often what should happen and what is expected. However, we are very rarely told what shouldn’t happen to you. Yet in my training day, pretty much everything that could’ve happened did. So here is Fred’s guide to the top 5 Things That Just Shouldn’t Happen On a Duke Of Edinburgh Training Day.

I’d like to point out at this moment, that when I said that everything had happened to me, I meant it. I seem to be a magnet for trouble with my phone: it’s been broken and lost and violated more times than I can count. Yet, on this day, my phone’s series of unfortunate events reached its pinnacle: I lost it whilst on a trek. One moment it is in the front pocket of my hoodie; next, I am searching franticly in my backpack because I am suddenly slightly slimmer than before. A quick bout of tears (yes, I was petrified) helped me convince my partners in crime to retrace our steps whilst phoning it repetitively, hoping for a miracle. And luckily, one occurred. A lovely gentleman, he explained when answered one of the million calls, had found my phone and had called my home in order to see if anyone could pick it up. Fortunately for me, it was returned and is now safe in the kitchen. I think.
MORAL: Don’t put your phone in the front pocket of your hoodie, especially if you are walking through large fields.

Did you know that trainers aren’t waterproof? We had been advised that walking boots were best, but under the assurances that this was just a training day, I assumed that trainers would suffice. However, after being pushed into a puddle the size of the Loch Ness, I realised that these were really no good, and I found that my sodden socks tended to agree. By the time I had returned to the car park we had started and finished at, one trainer was a distinctly different colour to the other and had brought with it souvenirs of the journey.
MORAL: Don’t attempt the smart Alec route: walking boots are the only shoes worth wearing.

Having had issues with the muscle underneath my right foot previously, I wore a strap in order to help support it and protect it from further damage. However by the end of a good days vigorous walking, I find myself at home with a foot that has produced an interesting lump on one side of itself and is now wrapped in an ice pack. Although the strap had managed to support the bottom of my foot, it had callously neglected the side, meaning I am now unable to partake in my next fitness class. Such a shame really.
MORAL:  Always listen to your foot. It never lies.

Yes, it is a brilliant idea to put me in charge of navigation. Not only did it take us fifteen minutes to make it out of the car park where we started, but I also have left-right dyslexia and when put at the back of the group and told to give directions, it ended up with “Which way do we go?” “Erm, that way” “Which way is that?” “Whichever way my hand is pointing!”
MORAL: Always make sure that your navigator is at the front of the pack and/or left-right competent.

After a heated debate as to what we would bring to eat, whilst balancing the needs of those who liked to eat and those who didn’t want to carry much (which, ironically enough, happened to be the same person) we decided on Cup-a-Soup, pasta and chocolate mini rolls. However, my soup tasted like wet dog; I had the minimal amount of pasta as we only had two tiny stoves; and although the chocolate mini rolls were my saving grace, the only other food I had to eat that day was two Nutrigrain bars. This left me, rather unsurprisingly, quite hungry.
MORAL: Bring lots and LOTS of food. You can never bring enough food.

I hope that in reading this you can learn what not to do on a Duke of Edinburgh training day, rather than simply following in my disastrous footsteps; or else at least find comic value in my misadventures.

Derren Brown: Svengali Tour

“There`s no magic, no mysticism… There is nothing that defies rational thought…It`s not possible. I`m not a believer. I can`t be. But how can I deny what`s right in front of me?” It’s just a quote from a TV programme, but somehow it sums up how I felt after going to see Derren Brown live last Thursday night. After the show finished, I left with my brain alive with questions that my mouth couldn’t get out. For the first time in my life, I was genuinely speechless.

Of course, I can’t tell you anything that happened in the show because A) I don’t want to ruin it for anyone reading this who might be going to see him later on in the tour, and B) the magic man told me not to, and after everything I’ve seen, I greatly fear his powers. However, the opportunity to blog about one of (if not the) most talented man on earth, is too great to miss. So without revealing too much, I plan to give you at least a glimpse into my thoughts.

Most people have seen him on TV: predicting the lottery numbers or making a ‘Hero at 30,000 Feet’. Wherever you’ve seen him, it cannot be denied that he is a master at what he does; however, there are many sceptics who will say that it’s televised – of course it’s been edited. But take it to the stage and it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Some things were explainable; some plain freaky; and some were impossible.

Naturally, what makes it more enjoyable is to be in the company of someone who falls easily under the influence of the hypnotists ‘charm’ – like my dad. We went to a hypnotists show in Gran Canaria when I was younger, and I ended up watching some things that no young child to should see their parent doing (despite the fact he still claims that he “knew what [he] was doing the whole time, [he] was just pretending”, I know different. Nice try, but no such luck). After that, I knew we were likely to be in for an eventful evening, although unfortunately he wasn’t pulled up on stage like I had at first hoped. However, the evening was a phenomenal event – absolutely terrifying, and mind blowing but possibly the best stage show I have ever seen. Plus, front row seats meant that the magic and beauty of his art was – literally – close enough to touch.

There is no question that he is a genius; it cannot be done by just anyone, not even a talented magician. The truly spectacularly gifted are few and far between, and I feel extraordinarily gifted to be one of those who were able to see him. Try as you might, you cannot explain how he does these things; you just have to have to have a little faith. Seeing is believing.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

I'm In The Kitchen LOL JK I'm Writing An Article On Why Sexism Isn't Attractive

We’ve all heard or seen the jokes that are now gracing our social networking sites: “Where’s your mother… Why isn’t she in the kitchen?” and “Wanna hear a joke? Women’s rights” For some reason, sexism has made a comeback and it’s becoming more than just a quick laugh. It seems that people are beginning to take it seriously and after all women have gone through to get their rights, I think it’s odd that – let’s face it – men are abusing these rights again.

In a modern world where men and women have – supposedly – equal rights and share both the breadwinning and the household duties, it’s wrong that the new generation are growing up reciting the sexist comments that died out decades ago. I don’t want to be a wife of the 1800’s, whose only purpose is to tend to the children and keep the house. My common sense level lies consistently at zero and unless you want to have cross-dressing two year olds; a house that is all in colour-order but an entire tip (I have an obsession that means everything coloured must be put in rainbow order. Some say OCD; I say I can’t stand it out of order); and to eventually die in a house fire because of my experimental cooking skills it’s probably best that I’m am as far away from the ‘head of the household’ duties as possible.

Still, around the world, despite assurances that women are given the same opportunities as men, there is much evidence to the contrary. There has only ever been one female Prime Minister in Britain and that hasn’t been for 21 years; and as for America we know that they’re as unlikely to elect a female President as they are to shut down all the McDonalds and replace them with organic vegetarian health bars. Add to this the fact that most female TV presenters or reality TV judges are only there for eye candy and not their opinion and you have yourself an archaic, male dominated society lacking in respect. Next thing you know, we’ll all be rounded up and put in cages only to be brought out to clean and make food.

Admittedly, we do tend to use our gender to our advantage: a quick bat of the eyelids and a low cut top can pretty much let us get away with anything. But guys do it too – not a low cut top of course, but a quick flirt and a tight top over some great muscles can have us dropping to our knees. Still, in most films and TV shows, it’s not the dude in distress with the sassy sister in shining armour.

However, one great exception to this rule is The Vampire Diaries (those of you who either know me in person or begin to read my work regularly will know that this is my favourite TV series). Although there is the traditional ‘strong guy protects vulnerable girl’ theme - Stefan and Damon Salvatore are the two key vampires who are both in love with and always protect the human girl, Elena Gilbert - that’s where it stops: even Elena is not the ordinary main female character. She’s feisty and always puts up a fight, often getting into arguments with the Salvatores for protecting her; the opposite of Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga, who epitomises the classic, pathetic female character. As well as this, Vampire Diaries has Caroline Forbes, a first-season-human-turned-second-season-vampire who becomes a strong and powerful figure; Bonnie Bennet, the forceful witch who manages to save everyone more than once, including the men; and Katherine Pierce, the vampire who turned Stefan and Damon and pretty much controls everything without anyone realising. The Vampire Diaries demonstrates how our society should be: maybe not quite filled with psychopathic, blood-thirsty vampires, but with a balance of the sexes as both weak and strong.

Guys need to stop the sexist comments now, or else find themselves alone with their thirteen cats wondering how on earth they lost all their girlfriends. The “my girlfriends upstairs watching a film LOL JK she’s in the kitchen making me a sandwich” are going to become “my girlfriends with me LOL JK I don’t have one ‘cos I’m a sexist pig” (apparently JK means ‘Just Kidding’ – don’t worry, I thought it meant ‘joke’ as well..) I’m sick of logging onto my social networking site and being greeted by an onslaught of insults. Check the date boys: We’re not in the 1800s anymore.

Libya: To Intervene Or Not To Intervene?

I’m watching the news this morning as I get ready for the day and I realise that it’s incredibly unlikely that many people my age have a clear idea of what’s going on in North Africa. I’m sure you’re all (or at least most of you are) thinking YAWN, this was not what we expected from Fred! However, I think it is a really important matter – the heads of our countries are discussing the actions of millions, and, as I discovered today, when asked whether they know what is going on in Libya, many people will either say no or reply “Who?” So this here is my attempt to bring a little light and maybe a new perspective to the situation in Libya.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what’s going on, to put it in as simple terms as possible, a group of citizens dubbed ‘The Rebels’ have led an uprising against the current Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gadafi. Many thought that the battles would be over in a few weeks with a Rebel victory, following the popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt that overturned their rulers. However, the Libyan rebels were not counting on the fact that Col. Gadafi was prepared to fight them.

In meetings in Brussels today are the heads of Europe, to decide whether to intervene in Libyan affairs. There have been talks of a ‘no-fly zone’ to protect the civilians from air attacks, and saying that it’s time for Col. Gadafi to step down. However, does this feel like déjà vu to anyone else? Although it was for a quite different reason, eight years ago we entered Iraq on the basis that there were rumours that they were stockpiling nuclear weapons. Nearly a decade on, and we are still there, some would say unnecessarily – over 100,000 civilian life lost, without counting the amount of British and American soldiers. When David Cameron of the Conservatives came to power, he said that he would not repeat the mistakes of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and yet only a year after the election, he is faced with the same decision – and he’s choosing wrong! To invade Libya or to even impose a no-fly zone over the country would be to further aggravate Col. Gaddafi; his son has already openly said that if western powers intervene, they will fight and there will be severe repercussions. I know that the situation in Libya is severe and we can’t be expected to act like it’s not happening; however, I don’t think it’s rational to invade and risk – no not even risk: ascertain that many will die for something that we cannot control. In addition to this, what if Col. Gadafi was to return to full power? Are we supposed to say, “Only joking, we thought you were a great leader all along”? I think that to invade now is a rash and badly made decision, especially when the eyes of the world are avidly watching, waiting for the call to arms – the next thing we know we’ll be caught up in WW3 and everyone knows that that truly will be the war to end all wars: a nuclear war.

I hope that the respected and elected leaders of our world will think hard about the impact on their people, rather than their aspirations to be World Peace Keeper before they make a decision.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Biggest Discrimination

After flicking through several copies of the latest fashion magazines, I have to come to the conclusion that big women still aren't seen as beautiful. I'm not one to spend my days idly looking over the waste of paper that is Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire as I find them pricey, superficial and an utter con; however, I had time to waste.

I'm not entirely into fashion and therefore I wouldn't exactly put myself in a position to criticise. Yet, the fundamental flaw in the industry screams at me from every glossy image of a sickenly thin model, pouting like a guppy fish wearing barely anything; fashion can't just be scaled upwards. Designers envisage something fabulous on a size zero skeleton, and then expect it to fit a size 18, which apparently in this current climate, is about as repulsive as announcing that you are a rabid hippo that has sprouted wings and is about to take flight over London.

I can almost put my finger on the point where I truly began to hate the fashion industry for their discrimination towards size. It was the moment where I could no longer fit into children's jeans: simply because the waistband was beginning to act like a gastric band, even though my tiny little legs still weren't poking out the bottom. It's sick - even at ten, they were designing jeans for skinny girls with long legs. Since then, I have watched as my peers bought items from Jack Wills, Abercrombie and Fitch and Superdry - who, incidentally, barely stock anything above a size 12, let alone employ anyone that 'large' - and detested it all more each second, knowing I never could shop from there, as the vests could hardly cover a single arm.

Despite the fact that it's obvious that those clothes just weren't designed for us, I see women all around who have forced themselves into crop tops, huggy leggings and tiny shoes with massive heels: tottering around, body parts wobbling everywhere and generally making an utter fool of themselves. Somehow they cannot understand why everyone sniggers at them. After all, aren't they wearing what's in? It is, however, better to look good than fashionable, and no, they are, in fact, not the same thing.

I won't deny that the industry seems to be improving slightly, if only thanks to the hit TV series Ugly Betty. Working in an office full of 'six feet tall, perfectly waxed Glamazon women', Betty Suarez manages to prove that you don't have to be fashion forward, let alone look perfect in order to make it in the industry. Yet still, most are still fixated on the fact that she's neither beautiful nor skinny. Well, yes she is - on the inside. And isn't that the essence of the show? To prove that it's the inside that matters, not the out? Oh, and to all the narcissistic, pessimistic and pathetic nay-sayers out there who say that inner beauty doesn't get you a boyfriend: erm, at the last count, Betty has had at least five boyfriends and is currently being pursued by the gorgeous yet notorious ladies man, Daniel Meade - so there!

Given that a small portion of the media has come to realise how harsh 'fashion' is, you'd hope that the rest would follow suit? But no, we still have to play along with the media's perception of beautiful, which - no surprise - passes over the bigger women. We are shunned to the side like the pervy uncle you don't want to meet; the office guy fling who still follows you, only hoping for a smile; and that half blind cat who you fed once and now sits on your garden wall staring into your window.

In addition to this, you have a new super breed of exercise DVD's, full of perfectly toned, perfectly tanned and perfectly beautiful women who, realistically, never had to exercise a day in their life. I take one look at them and decide it's better to leave the aerobic workout to another who wants to see someone else's perfect body. Yet there are still some who will slave away for hours and then cry their heart out during Coronation Street because of their non-existent social life and the fact that their perfect body is showing no signs of appearing any time soon.

The fashion industry needs to re-evaluate its perception of beauty and fast. We bigger women are finished with only finding socks in our size. There's a storm coming.