Show me your pokerface.

•September 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

Little over a year ago a friend of mine started up a poker night in my local Bar/place of work (one and the same). I would later find out it was one of many in the area that are part of the “Nuts poker league” a very clever franchise that was made famous by “Dragon’s Den” (whose creator promptly told the dragons to ram their offers!)

Without getting bogged down in too much detail It’s a basic league system that allows continual play every week that gives points for what position you finish in while playing “No Limit Texas Hold’em” (a type of poker). Usually there is a cash prize for finishing in one of the top spots every week. This happens in every venue and the top players in every venue get a spot at the regional league at the end of each season, and then some of those winners get national seats. It’s a hugely popular thing now, no longer do you have to be in  the dark back room of casino or a huge poker star with a million dollar bank roll to get involved.

The reason I tell you this is because I have become a bit of a fan/player. It is a combination of psychology, tactics, luck, bravado and skill to play and win. It’s been a great experience and it is pretty awesome seeing yourself develop as a player as you play against different people. The chance to win trophies and cash is just an added bonus. I take satisfaction in the company….and occassionally the pride of winning (mostly).

A close group of us started playing home games once every month or so, these are private games, usually all day an all night with lots of alcohol and food and always a great atmosphere (and usually STILL cheaper than a night out in Edinburgh). After several of these nights I felt It was time I hosted one and waned to get a quality table top that would last and be comfortable to play on. My friend suggested a company by the name of “Mcpoker custom tables”. They designed to spec, from the basic to the grand. I had heard that custom was the same price if not a little more expensive than the cheap nasty ones you get off the net but the quality was a lot better.

I thought it would be a great Idea so I dropped Michael McCarron (the boss you might say) an email enquiring into his services. I wanted a sleek black racetrack design with a simple white logo in the center on a smooth playing surface that would fit around 10/12  people.
What I got was a beautiful table, high quality, sturdy and just down right pretty to look at poker table. It features a “suited” speed cloth that cards just glide over. A solid frame that supports people’s weight with a comfortable foam padded “arm rest”. The print work on the logo is visually very appealing and when I hosted my very first poker night the table fit my specifications perfectly (we had an absolute blast).

Essentially if you are looking for anything custom-built (or even bog standard) Mcpoker tables are professional and personable, able to work within budget and no ask is too much. They have a great portfolio of work (including mine) on their website. I would highly recommend them and their services. This blog is a small plug as a thank you to their wonderful work, but don’t just believe me see their work in the pictures provided, or better yet get in touch and get your own made!

Photos:

Website:http://www.mcpokertables.co.uk/

Twitter: @McPOKERtables

Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/mcpokercustoms?ref=ts
So if you are a poker newbie or a seasoned pro and you want to get something to make your home games just that bit more “woo” and elicit coo’s of admiration from your friends then get in touch, like the FB page, tweet @ their twitter or just save the name for when you finally cave and decide to go custom!

Finally best of luck to any new or “vet” poker players planning on getting involved! There are literally hundreds of venues across the country (in the UK at least) on pretty much every night of the week!

My local venue is City Limits, Edinburgh every Monday and Friday 8pm (All welcome).

If you are interested in getting involved the website with all the information, leagues and venues  is : http://www.thenutspokerleague.com/

“May the cards be with you”

Conor Murray-Gauld

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“So, what’s your story?”

•August 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For any regular viewers of my blog you will know that this month has consisted of me doing a plethora of reviews during the fringe as well as spending a hefty amount of time chatting to acts. Included in that have been some fantastic poets and rappers, I even got to meet the “cast” of rap battle league “Don’t Flop”. A wonderful pleasant bunch of guys who really have some sick talents with words.

The reason I tell you all this Is I have ended up in a few clubs on my nights off (usually Opium) and one night I saw something that caught my eye…. It go inside my head and i just couldn’t shake it, it made me think, It made me want to write about it. I shook it off but ever since that night it has been praying on my mind and finally after seeing Mark Grist and Soul battle on saturday night. I cam home and put “pen to paper”.

Essentially I saw a female patron of the club dancing, her attitude, body language and the way she dance intrigued me, it was full of hate and anger. It made me think “So, what’s your story?” What turn of events led you here, to a dingy club at 3am taking your fury out on the world via the dance floor. It wasn’t just the dancing, she seemed to own the dance floor, It felt like everyone was staring and she knew it.

This is my second  ever attempt at poetry, I am committed to keep sharing this suff good or bad because I think its great for people to tap into any bit of creativity they have had and share it, after all that’s exactly what the Fringe festival was created around. This has plagued my mind for the past weeks, It’s itching to be put out there. Enjoy.

“So, what’s your story”

Fear, rage and anger all boil out
What happened to you love?
How did it all come about?

Did someone mistreat you, ruin your life?
Or did it all just go wrong , at the cruel turn of a knife.

On the dance floor its all swagger
as you stomp to the beat
everyone around you has to watch their feet!

That look on your face
screamed “don’t mess with me mate”
you probably accept the assumptions they make
because your tattooed and pierced
you’re some sort of reprobate.

I see how you neck your drink
and it makes me think
what is it about you
that makes me want to know how you tick

Maybe I’m over thinking
looking too deep
when it’s actually you like the music
and the booze is just so cheap

There is no family problems
no deep dark past
just some girl at the club
who completely kicks ass

This isn’t some sort of love poem
Far from that in fact
Just something about her made me want to stop
and take a step back

Inspiration hit me, like a bolt from the blue
made me want to come over
and just talk to you.

I didn’t do that
Instead I came home
with you on my mind
no, no, not like that
something about you just caught my eye
you sparked something in me that felt raw and real
evoked thoughts of fire brimstone
and the clash of cold hard steel.

So this poem I dedicate to you
’cause of that strange dance that you do.

Feel free to leave any comments on here or tweet me @conor_strife

Conor Murray-Gauld.

Edinburgh Fringe Bucket List & Reviews *UPDATED*

•August 3, 2012 • 24 Comments

Edinburgh Fringe 2012 Bucket List:

Latest review:“Freedom Family Circus”

Poet Spoken Word:

Mark Grist – “Rogue Teacher”  Reviewed: 03/08/2012

Mixy – “Contenet” Reviewed: 13/08/12

Cabaret:

Freedom Family Circus – “Xtreme Sideshow” Reviewed: 15/08/2012

Comedy:

Adam Hill – “Mess Around”

 Andrew O’Neil – “Easily Distracted” Reviewed 11/08/2012

Daniel Sloss – “The Show”

Jason Byrne – “People’s Puppeteer”

Bronston Jones – “life’s short im not” Reviewed 11/082012

Theatre/Play:

Rasing Eddie

Eccentronic – “We wont rock you” Reviewed 14/08/2012

*** This is A wish list of sorts and will be updated with more as the month goes on: Please feel free to mae any recommedations in the comment section if you feel I should add anything!***

Now to the meat of these Blog posts, the reviews: I will do this in Chronological order give the links and info for all acts plus my own little review plus things like twitter etc!

 

Name: Freedom Family Circus

Act: Xtreme sideshow

Type: Cabaret/burlesque/stunt

Venue: Gryphon venues @ point hotel

Cost: £10

Time: 10.15 PM

Rating: 4/5

Xtreme Sideshow, is the ronseal of this years Fringe, It does EXACTLY what it advertises, This rag tag bunch of performers from across the states with hundreds of hours of performances and dozen of tours with other companies under their belt, have banded together to form their own unique act that will not only amaze and shock but horrify and probably have you laughing throughout.

The group is full of energy and passion and it seeps into their show, Not only are they immensely talented, performing tricks that genuinely had the audience picking its jaw off the floor only for it to hit the floor again but They also bring a positive energy to every show, and every trick is laced with humour and some clever crowd interaction.

Whether they are doing an ode to Shakespeare ( with deadly juggling to boot), insertion and removal of pointy objects or showing you the filthiest and crudest things you thought NOT possibly with everything from balloon animals to rubber bands this is a class act that will leave you genuinely impressed. They may be personable fun loving guys but they are by no mean slack, a group of highly trained professionals that love to push the envelope and continually change their shows up to not only grow their own talents but to make the show better for audiences.

Finally they do a slightly(read as a severely) less filthy show for kids that is a lot more family friendly and just as entertaining during the day.

A genuinely great act that got more and more outrageous and absorbing as the show progressed. A fairly new company that will continue to grow into something big if they continue to work with so much passion, dedication and hard work and of course hilarious slapstick as well as a bit of filth!!

Tickets can be purchased here http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/cabaret/xtreme-sideshow

or on the door of the venue (see above for venue).

P.S this fringe act even did some crazy stuff including climb up on the Olympic rings, I was lucky enough to grab some photos!

 

 

Name: Eccentronic

Act: We won’t rock you

Type: Play/Comedy/Musical

Venue: Espionage

Cost: FREE

Time: 7.30 PM

Rating: 4/5

Eccentronic’s “We won’t rock you” Is at the heart of it is a parody, steeped in Irony, self deprecating humour and cheese toasties.

The Two people act, take the audience on a high paced, fast moving, loud and probably the most crowd interactive show I’ve ever seen. The main plot is about creating a commercially successful musical that isn’t about “socks and Doctor Who”. It’s as much of a parody and look at how artists have to balance mainstream success with artistic intent/integrity. While also poking fun at the whole thing Including the modern “conventions” all hit musicals MUST HAVE. “The comedy musical stool – with added lemon”.

The act itself is highly entertaining but most certainly out there, the songs are unique and quirky and many of the references will be lost on some viewers but for anyone who knows their pop culture, or understand the phrase LOL-cats you’ll be giggling along at the clever lines and sometimes even just the absurdity of it all. The show features such future hits as “Loves Boring” and “Cook like common people”.

The act won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, (or flask) as the case may be. If your in to not so serious musicals, a bit of parody infused with very likeable characters and amazing personalities sprinkled with lots of humour and finally getting involved in the play yourself, and most importantly there is most definitely #NOUKES in this show . Then this is the show for you.(and if nothing else there’s always the chance of a free cheese toastie).

Their run at the fringe may be finished but they are most definitely an act to watch out for next time!

Climbing into the crowd and performing

Follow Eccentronic Twitter: @eccentronic
Follow Me : Twitter: @conor_strife

Name: Mixy

Act: “Content”

Type: Spoken word/Rap/Poet

Venue: The Royal Oak

Cost: FREE

Time: 2pm

Rating: 5/5

Mixy is known for being one half of the smash hit double act “Dead Poets” with Mark Grist. Can his solo stuff come as hard?

Mixy is back at this years Fringe with his new show “Content”, Mixy’s High energy and swagger shines throughout his performance, even through the lows. Occasionally laying his words over deeply hypnotic trance beats that pulsate through the venue, which comes to be an engrossing and intimate gig, I found myself smiling deliciously hanging off of every word, nodding along not just rhythmically to the beat but also a feeling of understanding as personal memories floated to the surface, from the depth of the Dead poets words. From Falling in love and breaking up to self loathing and anguish. From a chance meeting of Mixy’s past to his eventual redemption.

This one hour show take you through the highs and lows, much like a real relationship You’ll be introduced, laugh, flirt, share intimate moments and stories, fall head over heels, feel the pang of lost love and heartbreak. Then realise the other persons flaws and reach that eventual end point where you are told “it isn’t you it’s me”.Mixy’s personal account of his experience with education will echo with much of today’s youth. A class act, clever, funny intense and bags of charm and perfect comic timing, Mixy is a tour de force in his own right.

TLDR: A journey through the mind of an intelligent, creative MC that slipped through the cracks, turning negatives into positives and expressing himself how he does best.

 

 

Folllow Mixy

Twitter: @mixyric

Follow Me

Twitter: @Conor_strife

Name: Branston Jones

Act: “Lifes short, I’m Not”

Type: Comedy

Venue: Meadows Bar

Cost: FREE (TIP IF YOU ENJOY)

Time: 11.45pm

Rating: 5/5

Bronston Jones is a 6ft 7 American Comedian who spends just over an hour Telling hilarious and filthy stories about his life, Covering his battle with alcohol and his “Interesting” romantic interests spattered with political views and some brilliant crowd Interaction. A genuine funny comedian at an unbelievable price (FREE). Stories of pornstars  on cocaine and how hotel hookers look down on sluts as well as the mad things we all do for love are just a few of the things you’ll hear as the night goes along. If you’ve ever dated, or fallen in love you’ll find yourself nodding along to Bronstons preachings and stories . A truely fantastic hidden gem of the free Fringe and a genuinely “Stand up guy” as well as probably the smoothest flirt you’ll ever meet. Bronston is worth checking out, be careful about taking your girlfriend with you though, because Bronston is packing some of the greatest chat up lines EVER.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The link to theshow listings can be found here http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/life-s-short-i-m-not-free

Twitter: @Bronicus

——————————————————————————————————

Name: Andrew O’Neil

Act: Easily Distracted

Type: Comedian

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard

Cost: £12.00/£10.00

Rating: 4/5

Time: 10:45 pm

Cross dresser and Self proclaimed ADD sufferer Andrew O’Neill Is most definatley the werid brand of comedy. A bit of a underground legend with almost a cult following (which is oddly ironic seeing as his last shows were entitled “Occult Comedian”). Andrew’s show is funny, Insightful and a little out there, but is worth checking out for anyone with an open mind. For anyone who likes the fast paced intelligence of Dara O’Brien or Ed Byrne combined with the quirky clever-ness of Tim Minch Then “Easily Distracted” is well worth it’s money. Be prepared to here about the norse pantheon, why the royals are pants and of course how his ADD which used to be a blessing for creating comedy has now become a huge distraction for writing full length shows! A personal favourite comic of mine and as someone I have seen twice now I can’t recommend this man enough, not everyones cup of tea but most definatly one of a kind.

Tickets can be bought here: http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/andrew-o-neill-is-easily-distracted
Twitter: @destructo9000

Name: Mark Grist

Act: Rogue Teacher

Type: Spoken word

Venue: Underbelly

Cost: £10.50/£9.50

Rating: 5/5

Two years ago Mark Grist Left his Nice secure job as an English teacher to pursue his dreams of being a poet. Tough times and hilarity ensues before eventually shooting to internet and international stardom after rapping and winning 8mile style in a “student vs teacher” rap battle on Youtube. Through Comical stories and clever and witty spoken word Mark Grist takes the audience on a wonderful journey through his personal voyage of the last few years. The self proclaimed Dead Poet regales with stories of his past, and some of the events that led him to his current situation. The self proclaimed “Dead poet” has an abundance of charm and his happy go lucky attitude and occasional self deprecating humour shine throughout the course of his show audiences are completely immersed lost in the natural rhythm and flow of his work. Not only will you laugh but you will get a fantastic insight of someone who’s been through the looking glass of Secondary education along with his views on the media and perceptions of youth and youth culture. A vastly talented yet humble poet who is a true gentleman and I had the pleasure of finally meeting. HE IS A MUST SEE.

Tickets can be bought at :http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/spoken-word/mark-grist-rogue-teacher or purchased from the Fringe box office.

Mark Grist can be followed on Twitter under the guise of @montygristo

Check out Mark’s viral Youtube battle here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp4wEewrQdU

Dead poets website: http://www.deadpoetry.co.uk/

My personal Favourite Mark Grist poem can be found here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWwXJT4LA5A

I personally love it it really hits home and the situation is very much one I have been in before!

I will just update this page as Each review Comes.

“GET YOUR CULTURE OOT”

•August 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Image

It’s that magic time of the year again, the city bustles, the streets brim with magic and art. The tourists gather in crowds of hundreds on the streets frozen and transfixed as some street performer does their best to impress, horrify and amaze the crowd. That’s right, It’s the Edinburgh Fringe 2012!

My all time favourite part of the year from August to September the city becomes a brimming cultural bastion. The amount of unique acts that pour into the city to astound and amaze is astonishing, Every step you take in the city centre is someone pushing one star studded show after another, The breadth and depth of art, comedy, music, spoken word or a mash up of any of these means you’ll never ever ever see it all, but that’s what makes it great. You’ll make friends with randoms, have the strangest conversations while waiting in queues and don’t be surprised if you bump into someone you adore while having a pint that’s a bit of a celebrity in their respective field.

I have grown up in Edinburgh and nowadays the Fringe is a really family affair with lots of the shows family friendly etc. But I never really had much to do with it as a kid or teenager. I do have many many fond memories over the years of wandering the High street just soaking up the atmosphere though. It truly is a wonderful experience just to see all the tit bits of free shows that are going on. In true Fringe spirit it’s all about sharing and celebrating culture, diversity and the passion for the Arts we pride ourselves in for both the performers and the audiences.

The difference with the Fringe and the thing I personally love it is the intimacy of it all, You always feel very close to the acts and pretty much everyone from the acts in the smallest of venues to the power house stars like Daniel Sloss and Micheal Mcintyre wander around the streets of Edinburgh and are generally always very pleasant and approachable, there is a real communal spirit and the small cosy nature of Edinburgh plays a part in that. I’m always bumping into return visitors to the Fringe ever year who say they have never felt so welcome in a city before. Last night one of the techies I was talking to outside a gig said I’m very lucky to live in one of the best cities in the world. I beamed with pride when she said this, We truly do have this phenomenal opportunity with the Fringe and I encourage you all to take advantage of it. Here are some tips to getting the most out of this years Fringe!

  1. My number one Tip is Get out there and just look and listen! Speak to tech’s! They aren’t paid to promote shows but they spend a hell of a lot of time working on a lot of them so they know what they are talking about so any recommendation from them is worthwhile!
  2. The big acts are great but you’ll be amazed how many of those big acts were obscure acts on the Fringe 5 years ago, Its worth checking out some of the smaller acts (especially if someone has recommended them) because It’ll probably relatively cheap and great obscure acts never stay obscure for long!Finally
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something a bit out there, the fringe is full of weird, quirky and plain old batshit crazy! Sometimes you need that and if nothing else the uber nonsense shows is something you can laugh at!

Now I plan this year to really bust a gut in between work and all my responsibilities to see as much as I can! Some will be free some will cost My plan Is to write up some reviews on the shows I see plus the 5W’s if anyone wants to check them out too! I plan to post up A review of some of the preview shows I saw last night plus a “Bucket list” of Things I want to see And I will just update the list as the month goes on. So keep checking back if any of them appear on your list too, Heck feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

So with that Welcome to “Chronicles of a nerd: The Fringe show”

It’s been a long time coming…

•July 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

First of all this post title isn’t just aimed at the fact I haven’t updated since NUS national conference way back when in march, and believe me PLENTY of things have happened since then! I think I will cover that in a second post as a sort of “wrap up of summer” come September.

This post is directed at the “Shocking” news that Scottish universities aren’t doing enough on “widening access and retention”.

One of the most startling being St.Andrews University which took only 5 students from the poorest backgrounds last year.

NUS Scotland (If you are a regular reader of  my blog posts you should know by now this stands for National Union of Students) has this week published a very large and comprehensive report on the issue of widening access in Scotland.

The full report can be found here: http://www.nus.org.uk/Documents/NUS%20Scotland/Unlocking%20Scotland%27s%20Potential.pdf

The jist of which is there are programs in place to help the most disadvantaged students into Higher education, but nowhere near the scope or as well-funded as they ned to be to start really making a difference.  Looking at programs like LEAPS (Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools). Which are essentially summer schools that students who meet a certain criteria can go to essentially “top up” if they feel their school grades won’t be enough as well as spend a summer learning useful university skills in their chosen field they want to study because many of them come from families where they are the first to go to university. I am a graduate of this exact program over 3 years ago and wouldn’t be where i am today at university if it wasn’t for that opportunity, so i understand the importance of these programs to students, The problem is they are very small and very competitive to get into and just not putting through the numbers needed to ever see realistic change any time soon. I will proudly be attending this summers LEAPS graduation tomorrow at Napier university as a special guest an NUS representative and will be looking forward to seeing another round of hopeful students move forward on their journey into education.
Secondly it should be noted that universities are not the sole culprits in any finger-pointing towards poor widening access the government has done very little in recent years at tackling the causes of this, they have done wonderful things for people who manage to make it to uni, No fee’s for Scottish students, increased student support to name a few. but these are the symptoms of the cause not the root of it. The blunt fact of the matter is lots of potential talented students are lost long before they ever open a prospectus.

Failures in primary and secondary education leads to drop-outs and the belief people can’t or shouldnt go to university long before they ever get to a prospectus. A career advice service that is inconsistent and inadequate, stuck in Ideals of “perfect careers” that would make most feminists recoil in horror. Thinking back on hearing my career advisor saying to some of the females in my year “well you could always be a hairdresser, or a nursery teacher”. Now please before you jump down my throat and say “whats wrong with those professions?”. Absolutely nothing I am proud to have both of my parents run their own salon and hold HNC’s in Hairdressing. It is the idea that these “professional career advisors” can think of nothing better than such generic career paths based on gender and school grades further than those bland pitiful suggestions of boy= mechanic or doctor and girl = hairdresser or dancer. Is quite disappointing in this day and age.

The fact that in many high schools there is no encouragement to aspire to more. It is not that everyone most go to university, far from it, it is about flexible learner journeys. Its having the chance to go to university. Not the assumption you should drop out at 16 and get a trade because your grades aren’t very good. It’s about changing that belief in people. So no matter what your background they KNOW they can do whatever they want…that’s the dream right? surely? That is how i see it. We as students play a role in creating that aspiration and that drive, education is ironically a key part of that, it’s about going back  into local schools, local primaries and introducing the idea anyone can make it. It’s about educating parents that there are opportunities, support for their kids and that university is just as beneficial as going to get a “real job”. It’s about saying” I walked these halls, I know how you feel, but i went on to university and here I stand now and it was the best decision ever”.

It’s a mindset and societal changes we are talking about, from the ground up. These don’t happen over night and we are a long way off. If we want these changes we need action from the top, universities MUST do more, they must strive to be bastions of learning that reflect our varied society. We need government legislation with real incentive to get universities to shape up.  Widening access agreements that have university buy-in with achievable goals and tailored in a way that truly strives for better. This means more than just students from poor backgrounds, This should tackle the make up of specific courses. Now is the time when we can try to push for more women in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) . As well at looking at the ethnic make up of our universities.

Now is the time, universities are more than ever publicly funded bodies and because of this they have greater accountability and if they wish to continue to use the phrase “A public good” then they must do good. A fairer more equal society is what we strive for.

So “what does this all mean to me?” I hear you ask! “What can I do?”. You can get involved in NUS Scotland’s widening access campaign which launches very soon. If you’re a student on a campus in Scotland go see your students union and ask what involvement they have in their universities “widening access” agreement that is currently in the process of being negotiated with the SFC (Scottish Funding Council).

You can look at getting in touch with your old high school or primary to talk about Your story and your journey and the benefits of further and higher education (That’s something I am doing come september).

You could write a letter to your MSP to support any moves by the Government to really pull their finger out and show them that this is bigger than just students, It’s about a fairer society, Its about families, and it’s about Scotland’s future. We are pioneers on pushing Equality and access Just look at us having no fees for Scottish students and the recent Equal marriage announcement. We as a nation must continue to strive for more and better for everyone, to aim for a society where background matters not in your progression through education and work.

That Iswhy I got involved with NUS and this issue is one I hold particularly close to my heart, I have seen how education can transform someones life, I have seen it in happen for my friends, family and even for myself.

Also on a sidenote (and rather topical might i add) I will be appearing on a BBC 3 show called “free speech” In just a few weeks (August 15th) Talking about Education and Employability on the day of High school exam results. You should totally check it out!

I will try not to be so lazy with updates, but I assure you I will have plenty to blog about in the coming year.

Conor M-G

And from conference we march…

•April 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

At National Union of Students national conference 2012 (Sheffield) after a long furious debate session, the motion was passed for a national demo on the streets of London in the new academic term.

A range of other motions supporting College walkouts, outcry on  UKBA’s draconian policy on immigration and heightened activism on local campus issues passed, eventually the phrase coined by the excellent Mark Bergfield was the forthcoming “Autumn of Activism”.

Now many readers and many of my friends in and out with NUS, on my campus and in my workplace, will view the demo as “the students having a moan”, “education cant be subsidised”. “there will be riots”. I can see those criticisms coming, and we have to prepare the counter arguments. Dear readers, originally I was against a demo, even though we brought the government to its knees with still the narrowest policy passed by this government since it took office at the 2010 demo. I openly and regretfully voted against this motion at conference, not because I didn’t want to fight cuts because I do believe in free and accessible education, but because I couldn’t see the benefit. That is the wonderful thing about conference, opinions can be changed and swayed and the right arguments can convince people.

We far too long have been knee jerk and reactionary, and Liam Burns rightly didn’t call a demo last year, because conference voted against it, and we needed time to build up our strength and engage locally.

We have done that across the country the anti-cuts movements and officers alike, volunteers, SABB’s and everyday ordinary students have worked tirelessly on local issues effecting students and campuses. The nations alone have made amazing wins, you only have to look at Scotland’s college win on an 11.4 million pound reversal on funding to see the power we have as a movement.

Quite simply now is the time, there is more to this demo than free education, it is about fighting an ideology, its about youth unemployment, RACIST, YES RACIST UKBA policy that systematically will result in deportation of amazing international students who not only give us richer academic experiences and broaden multiculturalism on our campuses but provide huge economic revenue. Quite simply a quick fix by the tory government to rapidly pull down “immigration” figures and score political points. Youth unemployment, in fact unemployment itself at an all time high, deeper and gruelling cuts, privatisation of not only the NHS but our police force and our public services. An ideological driven agenda that is not aiding this country and right now I do sound like a trot ready to overthrow the government but right now maybe that’s what we need. We can no longer sit around and wait for the vote to be called then march, we can no longer hope politicians stick to pledges, we can no longer rely on parties, or hope labour reduce the fees to £6k. In a week when the trade unions announce ballot for an even bigger walk out in the autumn of 2012 we must stand united and say is enough is enough. We must step up and show students we are leading the fight, that is what we were elected to do, and anything else I know see would be weak on our part in failing the voices of the 7 million students we represent.

Quite simply Education is a force for good, and i’m not preaching that “everyone should go to uni” as many of my friends flip the argument around to say. That is not the case, it’s about stopping loans for people aged 23+ trying to access college level 3 courses and only receiving half the money required for uncapped fees, its about abolishing ANY ATTEMPT at making apprentices having to PAY to go to work. That we must strive to allow everyone a fair and equal chance at education which has retention not just take their money and leave them to fail. It’s about standing up and saying some things are too important, if we do not stand now , then when? And how?

I am an elected officer for NUS Scotland SEC for education.

I am Heriot Watt Student union Exec member for campaigns

I Vote labour and believe in the principles of free education

I am a citizen of this country.

I have a duty, and so does everyone else to make a stand, to lead the charge.

Education may be free in Scotland but £9k fees are something we should not settle for our “comrades” across the border coming to study.

Label me a lefty or a trot if you will (which honestly if you had heard me at conference you’d call me anything but with some of the arguments I had with that particular political movement). But some issues are too important, some issues are so fundamentally core to everything I hold dear I will march, I will stand up on my campus and convince students however I can to mobilise, to have national wide action,as well as local led tailored action, to lead workshops on the importance of it, and stand firmly resolute with the mandate of conference. If we fail to act now then we have signed away another generation to the scrap heap, we have given up when the fight isn’t even over.

This will not be easy to engage our students in the nations, N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales will have difficulty getting students on board when it will feel very much like an HE/FE England bubble, so we must strive to do everything in our power to lead the charge engage students and win them over and make the demo more than what its perceived, public support will be key, the media too, lobbying MP’s who voted against fees to come out in open support and march with us. We must have a cohesive strategy and robust arguements working in tangent with Anti-cuts movement with their phenomenal mobilising strength combined ith the strategy and planning of NUS and the dedication of the officers and volunteers at every level to truly show strength of our movement and win vital public support in our forthcoming campaign.

Most importantly come this autumn we will build a momentum, we will put in place a plan to mobilise and possibly show the world the strength of our movement, undefeated, forward thinking and willing to fight tooth and nail on the ground and then win the arguments about the policy on the floor of parliament.

The H.E bill may have been shelved but it isn’t gone, we must expose its weaknesses.

Finally the most important thing of all, the world will be watching, and we must hold ourselves in higher esteem in our actions and behaviour than that of the betrayal from the politicians and ideology we march against.

We ignited a spark in 2010, and we have fanned a flame, it has burned quietly and flickered these past 18 months, but now we add logs and grab the kerosene to set the stage on fire for something that shall not be forgotten.. As I write these words I become more amped and ready to embrace the coming months, as I mulled over the opportunity we have in front of us, I regret my decision at conference and now fully support the demo, and we must win over all the others who thought what I thought.

The students are marching.

The world will watch.

Conor Murray-Gauld

It started with a reviw and ended with my thoughts…..

•April 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I recently finished playing the great game that is Uncharted 3 : Drakes Deception, and almost straight from the get go I wanted to write a blog on it, I wanted to talk about some of the themes of the game, some of the phenomenally strong characters and how even though many claim the game isn’t as strong as its predecessors in terms of “cinematic or gameplay” highs I think the game digs a little deeper and packs a little more punch, and in turn does a few more clever things than most triple A titles do. Also this isn’t so much of a review but me looking at some of the themes and my thoughts on MY experience of my play through of the game, It is all subjective so keep that in mind, you won’t find a ratings or scores on this “review”.

Now firstly a warning, that I do not like to give away spoilers, however this blog will be discussing the various themes of the game, characters, scenes and acts within the game that have very significant impacts on the story and I would not be able to discuss these in-depth without spoiling some of the game. I will do my best as I write this but before the flame war starts with comments like “YOU RUINED THE GAME ENDING FOR ME”. I wanted to put up a SPOILER ALERT and warn you all now. With that being said lets put on our critical thinking caps and let me show you video games are more than cathartic sadistic games that turn our children into serial killers.

Secondly some people reading this won’t know much about Uncharted. So a little back story is necessary. The easiest way to explain it is you are Nathan Drake a modern-day descendant of sir Francis Drake (a pioneering famous historical figure whom spent most of his life travelling distant lands and discovering great secrets). The family motto being “greatness from small beginnings” rather fitting considering Nathan started life as a cast away street child in south America to being what I’d call a more bad ass, smarter, funnier version of Indiana Jones.

Uncharted 3 is obviously the 3rd title in the series and starts with a deal gone wrong in London that leads to a bar fight, a 400 year old mystery dating back to Elizabeth the 1st, the original 007, Lawrence of Arabia , a thrilling escape from a sinking boat that pushes the concept of using your environment to parkour to an ENTIRELY NEW LEVEL , and eventually leading to what seems like a hopeless journey across the sands of the middle east in search of “The Atlantis of the Sands”.

I just wanted to get this out-of-the-way first, The game is visually stunning (bar the odd weird interaction with stationery scenery) and has the cinematic feeling that truly blows you away but this won’t be covered too much throughout, however there’s a great advert I will put at below featuring Harrison ford in awe at the sheer scope and wonder of the game quoting that “this game is more exciting than my whole life”

The Story is bloody awesome, As it always is in the Uncharted series, Like many of the conspiracy theory books and films about the darker side of history and the general whimsical nature of ancient cultures. There is a blurred line, where the story weaves in real characters, events and history but adds in a new twist that at points is almost believable, and what’s even better is characters within the world don’t swallow it all blindly, they take real reactions, they call it nonsense and impossible much like how real people would react until the dig further and further. There is this wonderful aspect to the story where you know its nonsense, much like The Da’vinci Code but the story is so well done you can’t help but go “It sounds plausible”.

So that is the basic back story and I will touch on the any event and some of my favourite bits throughout right now I want to discuss some of the truly brilliant themes that really surprised me and drew me In even more to the game

Very rarely in games, or in any medium do we challenge the protagonist, whether it’s the swashbuckling adventurer with the heart of gold or the cold and twisted anti-hero who always ends up doing the right thing but may just be willing to get his hands dirty along the way. In Drake’s deception I was intrigued by the fact Drake is constantly questioned, I don’t remember anyone saying “why do you keep going on these adventures Indiana Jones. After the ark of death why don’t you just stay home and have a cuppa?”. I’m sure “Indiana Jones and the Brilliant cup of Tetley” didn’t have quite the same ring to it though…. The character Drake is chasing an object that spans back to the beginning of his life in “Treasure hunting”. A decoder that takes his family ring and leads to some ancient mystery his ancestor tried to hide from the world, his first encounter over 20 years ago with this item is also the same time he met his partner in crime and father figure Victor Sullivan and in fact the same time he first crossed swords with the games villain Marlo (or that’s how it sounds throughout the game I may have heard wrong).

What’s interesting is this is Drakes white whale, “his unrelenting pursuit of evil” to quote my favourite line from Criminal Intent. Better yet it is a clear sign of humans and their want to overreach, the same force driving drake to discover the unknown for the sake of knowing is the same reason we build telescopes to stare at stars and then built rocket ships so we could touch them. The game constantly questions Drakes Intentions, it cites the dangers, near death experiences and momentous f**k ups from their previous escapades and asks why Nathan needs to do it one more time, when there really isn’t anything to gain this time, no pressure to succeed and no need for money. To which at times , Drake has no answer, This journey, this adventure pushes The main character, his friends, his loved ones, their relationships and their actual lives to the edge and the other characters point out the suicidal nature, the recklessness of drake in his pursuit of his white whale and how one time his luck will run out, and for what?

I loved this about the game, it drew me in more and more, even the character expressions, the setting tone and written and spoken dialogue of the characters flows brilliantly, never a word is uttered that doesn’t hold value, even the in-game throw away lines that Drake says while you interact with the world have gravitas or bring a deeper set of immersion, cracking jokes about the fact guards are trying to kill you as the building you are in is burning to the ground pointing out the ridiculous nature of the genre itself at times (in all the mediums it covers especially gaming and cinema). Or better yet questioning “which way is up” as the room turns upside down for the 3rd time in as you clamber out of a sinking cruise liner.

Another theme I noticed throughout playing the game is helplessness. Not only is Nathan Drake fighting a dark brotherhood that is hunting the same thing as him as well as trying to keep all the people he cares about safe, but he is also fighting his own demons and pursuing his white whale. The excellent thing about Uncharted games is almost everything that can go wrong will go wrong for the protagonist, sure you solve puzzles make daring jumps, beat the crap out of bad guys and pull of some BAD ASS set pieces, but the amount of times you as the character are beaten, bruised, fall through buildings, ledges, scenery, pipes. Crash bikes, trains, planes and have to flee burning buildings, sinking ships, exploding fortresses, and navigate lost in the desert with no signs of aid or water is unreal. In fact it makes up almost the whole game, now of course you overcome all these adversities, and rightly so but the key part is the game doesn’t just let the character walk through the story, it’s not a Hollywood Film where everything works out perfect with every decision the hero makes, Drake is flawed, he makes bad decisions like anybody else and he gets punished for it, usually physically and sometimes he only gets out by the skin of his teeth, because of his resilience quick thinking and determination to survive.

*****REAL SPOILER ALERT*****

One of my favourite moments of feeling helpless comes about ¾ of the way through, Drake escapes imprisonment on a boat yard from pirates to only have to escape a sinking cruise liner, washes back up upon shore to board a cargo plane destined to where his friend is being held captured on a travelling caravan in the middle of the desert. Now the real helplessness comes when the cargo plane crashes, Drake has no food, no water and no idea where he is going. You simply have to walk, and I would also like to note the detail and texture in the physics as drakes walks is unbelievable.

even better than the stunning water physics that set the game apart from the rest at the beginning of the PS3’s life span. (see below) The way the sand is whipped up by the wind and how the sand sinks beneath your feet a Drake labours his weight from one leg to the next is truly impressive from not only a performance/technical point of view but just looks simply stunning and realistic.

Anyway, this part of the game makes the player feel truly helpless, there is no goal, no right way to walk, literally just miles and miles of dunes, as you walk the game cuts in and out, fades from night to day, to different angles. You as the character walk slowly, he talks and mutters to himself, even a few delusions of oasis’ and long-lost friends and the such like only to have it turn into dust and sand in your hands. Eventually you hear the words of the villain speaking to you, you crawl under rocks for comfort and finally when all hope feels lost, at a point where I genuinely asked myself if I would Drake get out of this alive or would the desert be his shallow grave? A village appears in the far distance, albeit more disappointment upon reaching it as it turns out to be abandoned but it offers refuge and hope and is a fantastic end to what was a gripping chapter that truly made the player, and the character feel weak and helpless as you had to fight nature itself in a chapter that contained no enemies to kill and no real objective but to try to survive and no visible way to tell if you were doing it right.

Uncharted 3, many have said didn’t reach the highs of past instalments, and I feel this is a little unjust, I really feel the game gives some spectacular moments, the cruise liner escape, the chase scene through the streets of Jordan and the scenes where Drake trips out and finally the trek across the sands being particular high points for myself. I don’t think this iteration of the series was to be as spectacular as previous instalments, I genuinely think this game aimed to challenge the motivations of Drake, show a weaker more helpless side, a more dangerous , reckless and selfish side of our hero, that he is also flawed and that the life he leads isn’t always filled with the good kind of adrenaline pumping, hair-raising moments of danger we all imagine from Hollywood. Behind it all there are people who get hurt, Drake lost a love, endangered his friends and almost dies several times throughout and in the final scenes realises what is important and realises some secrets aren’t meant to be discovered.

I have rambled on for a while now, and I think the point of this post is to show that even triple A titles like Uncharted can be more than lip service to the idea that everything is wonderful and perfect in the life of what is seen as a “Hero”. He is a real person with real issues and real flaws, The game goes out of its way from its setting, story, set pieces and even the actual combat to make your character feel weak, helpless and overwhelmed at times, however Drakes sheer determination, cunning and grit gets him through these situations (with some luck and good friends).

There is always this huge argument about video games becoming art, and how this isn’t possible, how It hasn’t been done yet, simply because art exists simply to be art, and games require input and an end purpose, it has constraints otherwise it wouldn’t function. Now while games like “Dear Esther” are a step in the right direction (a game with no real gameplay merely a meandering into the world of story and spoken world through pure exploration MOST DEFO WORTH CHECKING OUT) http://dear-esther.com/ .Personally I think art is anything that challenges your perceptions, whether that be about your views on life, society or yourself. Uncharted 3 made me think enough about all those things to write a very long and hopefully interesting blog post on just that, now I’m not calling Naughty Dog developers he next Da’Vinci but to claim there isn’t merit in what they set out to do, that there was no love, passion or vision scribed into the polygons, words and world of uncharted 3 is an insult to everything art stands for.

So in short, gaming brings wonder, joy and happiness to millions of people, It has most certainly come along way from the days of two lines and a dot with and a few blip bloop sounds, it certainly isn’t the terrible beast that other media portrays it to be, and it has a long way to go and the industry and the gamers themselves will have to step up their game if they ever want to be taken seriously by a world that slaps gamers as 12-year-old ADD sufferers who do nothing but shoot “sand-people” and teabag each other for fun (on and off the internet).

I’m a gamer, and like many others out their I see the value, depth and believe that games can be used for so much more, in fact they have already I cut my teeth on final fantasy and other brilliant games that had themes and stories that enriched my life, educated me, gave me a moral compass, and challenged me to think about the world around me and left a lasting impact on who I am today. Sometimes I wonder if the depth that came with games like final fantasy 7 is no longer in games as well as the things it can teach. The message conveyed by a game director wanting people to understand the death of a loved one, or to understand the burning rage to destroy the world and everything in it, or how companies are tearing our planet apart with dirty energy and fossil fuels, is lost because publishers want safe games like COD generic shooters. Then I play games like Bioshock and Uncharted and that feeling of wonder and joy comes rushing back, that longing to understand, pick apart, discuss with others and challenge my own beliefs. Restores my faith in the medium.

As long as we exist, as long as there are other people out their following their dreams, then people will always be creating art, exploring the stars and reaching above and beyond what any one person could be, Ideas and dreams are bigger than individuals but that doesn’t stop us somehow making them a reality.

That was most defiantly a meandering long-winded and long overdue blog post. I hope you enjoyed, please feel free to drop me a comment, repost, like or message me. Heres a little gameplay montage of uncharted 3 that I think everyone should check out.