Happy New Year!

The year 2009 is almost over and it's this day of the year when you sit down and think about everything you want to do and achieve in 2010.


Chances are that somewhere on that list there are the well-known points of doing more sports and losing some weight.

My own list includes graduating from university, finding a job and, most of all, moving in with my boyfriend. By the time we can actually move in together, we will have been talking about it for over a year!

Other than that, I want to pass the CBT somehow at some point during the year. But you see, I never really make New Year's resolutions, as what happens, happens, and there's no real need for me to plan these things. Yes, they are things I'd like to do, but then again, except for maybe the CBT, they are all a given for 2010 anyway.

I'm not going to reflect on the year that's just coming to an end - too many journalists and hobby bloggers do that already. The only thing worth mentioning about 2009 for me is that I think I found my soulmate in the middle of January. And because of that, 2009 has been an amazing year!

Whatever your resolutions, and however you plan to celebrate tonight: Have a Happy New Year and I hope that 2010 will be as great as you want it to be!

Christmas in the UK

This Christmas was the first I celebrated with my boyfriend, and the first I celebrated in the UK.

And although it was great, it was also.... different.

At home in Germany, we celebrate on 24th December. Usually we decorate the tree either on the 23rd or during the morning of the 24th. We go to church in the afternoon for an hour, and then the whole family gathers at my parents' flat and we open our presents. After that, we have Christmas Dinner in the form of meat fondue and later some coffee.

This year, my boyfriend and I decided to open our presents on the 23rd December already, as he'd also gotten presents for his housemates, and they left for their parents' houses that night. On Christmas Day, we then met up with nearly the entire family at my boyfriend's parents' house at 10am and opened our presents, before half of us were kicked out of the kitchen so that the rest could prepare lunch. We had turkey for lunch, complete with stuffing, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, pigs in blankets and gravy. We each had Christmas crackers, and ended up wearing those funny paper crowns. Later, most of us played Scattergories and Charades while getting drunk and eating too much cake.

It was a really nice Christmas, but it was still weird not to be home.


Panto-Time

All the people of Merrydale want is a life in peace. Yet the Giant, who lives in Cloudland above the village, is getting hungry and wants to eat 12 children, a cow and Jill, the most beautiful girl in town.

The pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk”, currently on show at the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, guarantees family fun which young children will especially enjoy. The show contains many well-known songs that even small children will be able to sing along to and ballet dancers help to tell the story of the songs even better. And of course, as you would expect from a great pantomime, there is also a lot of interaction with the audience, and not just in the form of “He’s behind you!”



Jill’s boyfriend Jack (David Flynn), his brother Silly Billy (Steps star Ian ‘H’ Watkins) and their mother, wanna-be sassy Dame Trott (Jamie Greer), have to do everything they can, to make sure that the Giant’s plan does not come true. In the meantime, they also have to fend off the evil Queen Blunderbore (Paula Bell), who is Jill’s mother and the Trotts’ landlady.

In order to afford rent, Dame Trott has to sell her pet cow Gertie, but Jack is paid in beans instead of the expected gold at the market. When Flesh Creep (Eastenders actor Marc Bannerman) manages to also kidnap Jill (Tara Wells), and take her and Gertie to the Giant, Jack has to overcome his fear and, with the help of a little bit of magic, fight for what he loves most.

“Jack and the Beanstalk” offers a great mix of entertainment for children and accompanying adults and is sure to provide Southport residents with a Christmas treat.

The pantomime is on show at the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre until Sunday 3rd January 2010.

This review was written for and published on The Champion's website.

ABBA tribute brings '70s back!


If you are a fan of Swedish cult band ABBA, then ABBA - The Show is the closest you will get to seeing the real deal live! Coverband Waterloo is probably the best ABBA since ABBA themselves!

ABBA - The Show came to Liverpool's Echo Arena last night, and they mesmerised their audience within the space of two songs. Following ABBA's career, from Ring, Ring to Mamma Mia and ending the night with 1974s hit single Waterloo and Thank you for the music the night held something in store for everyone.

By the third song, it was hard not to jump up and dance, and the audience singing along word for word probably gave goosebumps to a lot of people. During Fernando, the audience took over from leading ladies and Agnetha and Anni-Frid look-alikes Camilla Hedrén and Katja Nord and you'd be hard-pressed to find another concert with so much audience-participation.

Like ABBA, Waterloo hail from Sweden, so they gave their British audience the chance to listen to S.O.S in the Swedish version. And with all of them wearing stage costumes from the 70s, you really thought it was Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid up there on the stage, supported by the National Symphony Orchestra of London.

The coup, however, was that they managed to get original ABBA-musicians to perform on stage with them, namely Ulf Andersson on saxophone, and Roger Palm on drums. It added a lot to the authenticity, and even though you couldn't see the real ABBA, at least you got the real and original sound!

ABBA - The Show has been performing since September 2001 and it's unlikely they will stop anytime soon, as not just the audience is having a fabulous time during their performances. So if you're up for a show that transports you back to the 1970s and gives you an excuse to sing, dance and listen to ABBA all night, this show is for you! They are second only to the real deal!

For tour dates and tickets check the ABBA - The Show website.

Inspirations for By the Book

By the Book, an original musical by UoC student Scott Tomkins, will come to the stage of the Stanwix Studio Theatre on 18 December. Watch Scott talking about the inspirations that influenced him to write By the Book.




You can also listen to an interview with Scott, in which he explains the ups and downs of the casting and rehearsing process here.

Interview with Scott Tomkins

Listen to writer and director Scott Tomkins talking about the casting and rehearsing process for his original musical By the Book, which will premiere on 18th December at the Stanwix Studio Theatre.




Watch a video of Scott talking about his inspiration and influences for By the Book here.

Preview: By the Book

A new and original musical by a third year UoC student is coming to the Stanwix Studio Theatre this month. Cornelia Kaufmann had a chat with writer and director Scott Tomkins.





Sue is a librarian and absolutely loves her job. The only thing she doesn’t like is the fact that every day is the same and her boss Beryl holds her back from what she wants to be.

This is the scene for the original musical By the Book, which will be performed at the Stanwix Studio Theatre on 18th and 19th December at 9pm.

“The old library is being upgraded and Sue is really excited about the change. However, her boss is a bit old-fashioned and against it. Never in her life has Sue stood up for herself or to her boss before and you just have to see what happens when she finally does,” writer and director Scott Tomkins, a third year Musical Theatre and Technical Theatre students explains.

“The musical is very quirky, very up-beat and funny. Some of the songs are taken from already-existing musicals, although they are not too well-known. One of the key songs, I’m a librarian, is by American singer Jonathan Rundman, who kindly gave me permission to use it for By the Book. Other songs the audience will get to hear I’ve written myself,” Scott says.

The cast, led by Alex Anstey as chief librarian Beryl and Jennifer Yeates as Sue, will encounter exaggerated versions of real-life students throughout the show. “The casting and rehearsing process was fun! There’s mature Creative Writing student Bob, portrayed by Ben Edgecombe, who’s been doing the course for eight years now; and Adrian, a student who has lost a book and now has to go on a mission to find it again, who is played by Martin Carlton,” Scott laughs.


However, the musical also shows that good things can come from a bad situation and it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. By the Book is partly based on the library situation at the University of Cumbria’s Brampton Road campus, which was closed and converted into teaching space over the summer. Watch an interview.with Scott, in which he talks about influences and inspirations that led him to write By the Book .

Tickets are available at the Stanwix Theatre Box Office, by phone on (01228) 400356 or email stanwixtickets@googlemail.com. They cost £ 4 for adults, concessionary tickets are available for £2 and members pay £1.


Weihnachtsstimmung

Only two weeks until Christmas! But it's a bit weird. Because I'm in England, I hardly get to hear all those childhood melodies that to me mean: "Christmas time!"




And



Songs by Rolf Zuckowski, especially those on the Dezembertraeume and Winterkinder albums were part of our childhood Christmas ritual. In der Weihnachtsbaeckerei would play when we were baking cookies. Even today, when my mum and sister make cookies, they still listen to those songs. We'd put Rolf Zuckowski on while decorating our Christmas tree to get in the spirit. And I miss it. There's no music anywhere, there isn't that smell of freshly baked cookies in the air or the smells of apples, cinnamon, trees, oranges, Gluehwein or anything else I usually associate with Christmas.

Published - one year too late

I have just found this on Informer Online. It's a review of the movie "Wall-E": Who needs words to be a hero? written by yours truly.

Isn't it great to see that your work does get published on the website for our university newpspaper? Even if it's a year too late? You see, I wrote this review, and posted it on Conny's Corner on 17th December 2008! I know that sometimes stories don't make it into papers right away for various reasons, like tight space or bad subbing. But waiting one year is a new extreme, I would say.

I had urged our lecturer who's responsible for IO and Online Journalism, to put features up on the website, that were written for the latest Informer print version, which came out 3 weeks ago. We need our features to be published for an assessment, but, as usual with this university, nothing is done about it. I just don't think it reflects well on us, that we say in the print version "For the full story, visit us online" and then the story isn't there. Do you think that's good journalistic practice?

Well, along with some stories written for the latest Informer, some articles that have been waiting in a folder for a year finally got to see the light of day. Apparently, who ever put these things online, didn't bother to check which stories went into the print version, but just put everything that looked unpublished on the web. Thanks for that.

Next to the Wall-E review, there's also a story about a photography competition that I wrote for Conny's Corner last December on IO now. It's great our students finally find out about this competition, however, the book that resulted from the competition hit the shelves this autumn. Is it just me, or could this be seen as taking the piss?

And I'm still waiting for my Berlin Wall story - which you can already read here, as I posted it in time for the 20th anniversary celebrations - to be published on IO, so that I can hand it in for assessment. Maybe I should check back next November. Chances are, it might have made it online by then.

CV design for journalists


For an assessment, I have to submit my CV along with a report about my career goal. So instead of handing in my box-standard Curriculum Vitae, I decided to show that I am a journalist and can work with the industry software QuarkXpress.

I based my CV on the layout of The Guardian's front page. That means, I had to incorporate the Berliner size of the newspaper, as well as the paper's layout. I did change the colour scheme, however, as I didn't want to make a replica of The Guardian, but base my CV on it and show some of my own creativity. But judge for yourself:



Since The Guardian uses its own fonts, I had to find fonts that were close in appearance. I mostly used fonts Palatino Linotype and Rockwell throughout my layout.

I made the title piece petrolium-green instead of dark blue. Where there is the price and date on the left of the Guardian's colour patch, I included the date as my birthdate, as well as my address. The "Published in" was used for my birthplace.

The Guardian's header above the colour patch usually includes one of two pictures and sells for stories in the paper. I included a picture of myself, and used the sells to state the occupational organisations I am a member of, as well as advertise my blog. I even included a barcode, with the number being my mobile phone number instead.


The four stories on my front page - style CV are my details about education, work experience, spoken languages and my volunteering and skills written out. I included a byline for each, and even put in Guardian-style standfirsts on the work experience story. The solo picture was taken on my Gap Year, and the caption explains my Gap Year jobs and route as they are not mentioned in detail again in any of the stories.


The little, orange colour patch is dressed up as an advertisement, but really includes some of my personal interests in key words. The Guardian often carries small advertisements on its front page, and this information didn't really fit into any of the articles or sells.
Let me know what you think of the idea and layout!!

Sunday night at the movies


Parbold residents flocked to the Village Hall on Sunday night to see Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.

The Parbold Community Association showed the film as part of its preview season to establish the Village Hall as Parbold Picture House. The film was only the second one to be shown in Parbold after The Godfather Part 1 on 22 November, and many residents took the opportunity to experience the film in a cinema-like atmosphere for only £3.

As the Picture House, Parbold’s village hall has the charm of an old-fashioned, small-town movie theatre. The walls are covered in red curtains, and the seating capacity can easily be adjusted to fit everyone in, so that nobody has to miss out.

It does make a nice change to see a movie and not have to sit through half an hour of commercials and previews beforehand. The advice to switch your mobile phones off does not come from a audio-recording, but from the man in the back, who’s responsible for the smooth running of the show. Although there were a few technical glitches during the showing, like the screen going blank, they were soon back under control and the Community Association apologised sincerely for the problems.

To give the community exactly what it wants, the association asks for feedback and film suggestions of all customers. Instead of going for the latest releases, the Picture House will show classics and its audiences’ favourite films.

The next screenings at Parbold’s newly established Picture House will be It’s a Wonderful Life on Sunday 20 December.at 7pm and The Muppets Christmas Carol on Monday 28 December at 3pm.

This review has also been published on The Champion's website.

Let the Christmas shopping begin...!

Yesterday was the first advent, and tomorrow it will be December already! Time really flies!
With only 24 or 25 days to go until Christmas (depending on whether you celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day), the hectic shopping season has well and truly begun.
Personally, I am still working on a present for my other half - but it will be the only present I create myself this year, as it is more time-consuming than I thought it would be.

However, just like every year, the question remains: What to get everyone? Especially since this is the first year that I will celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend's family (and repeat it all once we get to Germany to celebrate New Year's with my folks).

A Cecil Street Christmas


The Cecil Street Project opened its doors for a fun Christmas Market. Next to the existing shops at the Project, which obviously did a good job of promoting themselves, artists, jewellers and fashion designers from further afield were also invited to showcase their work.


Those of you who have been inside the Cecil Street Project's home know that the entire inside of the old, Cecil Hall has been made to look like an old market street, with individual shopfronts and working clocktower.
For the Christmas Market, those from further afield put their stalls up in the "thoroughfare", which gave the entire affair a busy and market-like feeling and you could stroll around and take it all in. And after some Christmas shopping and running around, you could even freshen up with a coffee, tea or cupcake at the café inside the CSP.
Even if you missed the Christmas Market - the Cecil Street Project is well worth checking out of you want that special, unique Christmas gift or a little something for yourself. Whether its Allsorts-shaped jewellery, or Pimpfish's funky T-shirts, there's bound to be something for everyone! They also offer workshops like jewellery-making and knitting, so if you're the crafty type, look them up!

Informer is out!

Today, our last, proper Informer came out! So go aorund one of the Carlisle campuses (although your best bet is the Brampton Road Newsroom) to pick your copy up!

And I am proud to report, that all six stories I submitted were published as well!
They were:

  • Wild Wolf Publishing
  • "When the Wall came tumbling down" about the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise and my personal experience
  • Former student David Simister met the Prime Minister
  • Former student Rashid Adamson - from writer to PR Manager
  • Former student Claire Lewis published her first novel "A sick work of Art"
  • and former student Kirsty Wood was crowned the first-ever Spirit-Catch European Women's Wrestling Champion

I actually got Kirsty's story on the backpage - the main Sports page, which is almost as important as the front page! And the other success stories are all on centre spread!!

Flood update

Although the rivers in Carlisle are still high and it continues to rain, the water level is actually lower than it was yesterday.



Large parts of Rickerby Park were submerged today at noon, and the parking lot at the Stonyholme golf course was being shut off with a massive (flood) gate. The road through the park was still passable with care, but the fields and smaller walking paths were flooded. With the right footwear (wellies) you could still walk through, though, but expect to be at least ankle-deep in water in some places along the path. At the foot bridge near the Stonyholme car park, the water stood up to the cattle fence.


However, the heavy rain and winds are expected to continue, and severe flood warning are still in place in Cumbria and Dumfries & Galloway, with towns Cockermouth and Keswick being most at risk.

Keswick, in the Lake District, is roughly waist-high under water after the river Greta broke its banks. The surrounding Cumbrian fells received around 170mm of rain last night.

video

Cumbrian Bursary

Finally some good news!

I've just got a letter from the University of Cumbria, informing me, that I am going to receive a small bursary in form of their Cumbria Bursary for EU students!

This is the first response I've had from the university, since I wrote a letter of complaint to their Finance Department last month, after they tried to take out my tuition fee without warning or approval.

I discovered in October (embarrassingly when I wanted to pay for Sunday Lunch), that all my money was gone, although I had just paid money into my account. It turned out, that after two years of me paying my tuition fees myself, the UoC had decided to take two payments (a total of more than GBP 1,070) out in one go, without sending me a letter informing me of payments amounts and dates. I therefore decided to cancel the direct debit, and informed the university, that I am still in the process of applying for my student loan (which I still haven't heard from - all I know is they're assessing it) and I will therefore not make payments, until I have heard back from Student Finance.

Up until today, I still haven't received a letter about tuition fee payments, or an official response to my complaint. But I will count awarding me this bursary towards it - after all, why else would they all of a sudden send money my way?

Flood warning

Flood alerts have been issued for Carlisle and the county of Cumbria today, as the heavy rains, that have been hitting us since Monday, continue.

The Stoneyholme Golf Course is already under water, and warnings have been issued for all three of Carlisle's rivers: Eden, Petteril and Caldew. Rickerby Park, (above) is a swamp, but the cycle path and road were still passable today. The picture shows river Eden (top right corner shows its usual width) and Rickerby Park seen from the Eden Bridge on Scotland Road, looking towards Brampton.

After the severe floods of 2005, flood gates and flood warning systems have been installed along the shores of the rivers. Flood alerts have been issued to mostly residential areas in the vicinities of the rivers, including my street. Although we are right on the edge of the flood warning area, our house DID get flooded in 2005! And our daily route to university leads across Rickerby Park. Check the Environment Agency for a bigger map and advice!


The purple area has been issued with flood warnings. The red line shows the daily route to and from university through the flood zone.

The rains are expected to continue until the weekend with up to 100mm of rain in low-lying areas and 200mm on the Cumbrian fells, and a 112kmh-storm has been forecast as well. Residents are advised to keep emergency packs (including battery powered radios, torches, candles, matches and wellies) as well as to keep their pets indoors. Cars should be moved to higher ground and leaves removed from drains around houses.

The flood warnings cover Cumbria, Dumfries & Galloway, as well as party of Yorkshire and Lancashire. North Wales has also been hit by floods. The main West Coast railway line had delays between Penrith and Oxenholme (Lake District) due to the rising water levels.

According to the News & Star, "Floodwatch" warning are in place for:
Middle River Eden
Rivers Lowther and Eamont
Lower River Eden
Rivers Caldew and Petteril
Rivers Wampool and Ellen
Upper River Eden
Rivers Kent and Bela
Rivers Duddon, Crake & Mill Beck
Rivers Cocker, Marron and Derwent
Rivers Brathay, Rothay and Winster
Upper River Derwent, Stonethwaite Beck and Derwent Water
Rivers Greta, St Johns Beck and Bassenthwaite Lake
Rivers Esk and Irthing
Rivers Ehen, Calder, Irt & Esk, as well as Keswick Campsite.

Farmers with grazing livestock on the banks of the rivers, especially Eden and Derwent, should move the animals. Rickerby Park, usually a public pasture for sheep and cattle has been sheepless and cattleless for days.

The town of Appleby (which lies on the river Eden) was already flooded by 2pm today.

Although the water level of the Eden levelled at around 3pm today, it is expected that the worst is to come overnight.

For some reason the joked proposal of getting an inflatable raft doesn't seem so funny now. We might well need it to get to university, which is located on the other side of Eden. Let's just hope we won't need sandbags!!

The Informer

We are finally putting the finishing touches on the 53rd edition of our university paper "The Informer."

It is the last Informer that we third year journalism students will work on. It is weird, in a way. But then again: We only have two Informers per year, the other two issues are a "Words by the Water" magazine and a magazine we can choose ourselves.

But with all of us now focussing on dissertations and final projects, the second year's now have to replace us as sub-editors, page designers and proof-readers.

Production days are always mental, and I am glad, this was our last one!

Love advice


"Love the man who thinks you're "beautiful", not "sexy".
Who calls you back even though you hung up.
Who stays awake to see you sleep.
Who kisses your forehead.
Who wants to show you to the world, even though you've just gotten up.
Who doesn't care whether you gained or lost weight over the years.
The one who says "What do you want to eat tonight, I'll cook."
Who takes your hand in front of his friends.
Wait for the one, who keeps telling you how much you mean to him and how glad he is to have you.
And who introduces you to his friends with the words: "She's the One!"

Love him, because he loves you and will probably love you forever!"


I am glad that I found such a man 10 months ago, today!
I love you, Schatz!

The Big Switch-On


Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the Big Switch-On for the Carlisle Christmas Lights 2009... and I don't get it. Christmas is still 5 1/2 weeks away! "Adventszeit" or Christmas-time for that matter, doesn't really start until December 1.

However, the big switch-on gathered quite a crowd in Carlisle's market square. There was ABBA karaoke and a duo singing songs everyone knew. Oh yeah, and a half-heartedly sung "Jingle Bells" in which Carlisle's Mayor was supposed to sing along - but didn't. And then there was a countdown for the lights to be switched on.

Wow. Somebody's old and clever enough to turn a switch. How exciting! It all looks the same every year, with the blue and gold lights, some of which I understand are meant to represent snow. Oh - and the best thing is: half of them (the ones right above the gathered crowd!) didn't even work properly! Although I have to say, turning the lights on in Carlisle during the winter made more sense then the Christmas lights switch-on I witnessed in Cape Town in 2006 - in the middle of summer (southern hemisphere summer). Back then, it hadn't even gone dark!

Where I come from, the Christmas lights are not celebrated. One day they're off, the next night they're on and except for illuminating the street a little more, it doesn't make a difference to anyone. Big deal.


But since everyone over here on the island seems to be into this sort of thing, I want to extend an invitation to you! Tomorrow, at 5pm, I will switch on the lights in my room! (It'll have to be tomorrow, because the bulb on my desklamp blew and I have to replace it first). And I will call it: "Conny's Big Room-Lights Switch-On 16/11/2009!!" You can either stand right in the room when I make light appear out of nowhere, or, for a more authentic experience, you might gather in the back alley and watch my window illuminate!! I'll even put on some ABBA for you, and the microphone I'll use will not work properly!

So be there or be square! It's gonna be one hell of a party!

Duden Open, Round Two

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a journalism competition called "Duden Open".
In Round One, all you have to do is answer a multiple-choice general knowledge quiz. I gave it a go, and just had word that I passed Round One, and can proceed to Round Two!!

I will have to write an article about the Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa, but it doesn't need to be about sports. I could also look at it from a historical, economical, cultural etc. angle, as long as I show creativity!

My deadline is 31st December, so wish me luck!!!

PS.: Feel free to leave article suggestions ;)

When the Wall came tumbling down


My first trip to the German Democratic Republic was not the nicest one I’ve ever been on. It was the summer of 1988, and it took my parents all the way from Solingen to the border to lull one-year-old me to sleep. We were on the way to visit friends in East-German city Dresden. “When we got to the border at Herleshausen, I was hoping they’d wave us right through, with you sleeping away on the backseat”, my mum Marion recalls. However, the border guard was not sympathetic. “We had to place you, in your car seat, on the street, they woke you up and then they completely took the back seat of our new car apart.”


The border they guarded is long gone by now. 20 years, to be exact. Communism came to an end in Germany on the night of 9th November 1989, when a slip of the tongue by Günter Schabowski, one of East Germany’s high ranking officials, opened the borders with immediate effect, and allowed East Germans to travel freely into the West.


When the Berlin Wall fell and the borders were opened, many Germans could not believe it. “I first saw it on the news that night, around 7pm. I saw the people pushing through the checkpoints, walking through the death zone and claiming onto the Wall. And all I thought was ‘Thank God! Finally! The border is open and they are free again’”, 82-year-old Hanna Kaufmann remembers. “I was surprised how peacefully it all happened! People were breaking through the barriers, and the East German border guards didn’t shoot!” Marion adds, reflecting on the guards’ order to open fire on everyone who was caught fleeing the state. Although East Germany was in a transition, due to Hungary letting German refugees escape to the West, nobody would have dared to dream that the Wall would fall. “It was unbelievable, the sheer mass of people coming through, taking their Trabis across into the West” 54-year-old Marion explains. Hanna adds “We’d been granted visas seven times, and knew what it was like over there. One time, our friends asked us to bring strawberries and a roast, because you couldn’t get these things over there. But newspapers and books were confiscated.”


News about the new travel arrangements and the opening of the border spread like a fire across both sides of the divide. Mario Ständer was working the late shift when he heard the news. “I planned to take my chance and flee into the West right after clocking off. At that time, all I knew was that those willing to leave could do so – but never return.” However, his mate refused to drive him to the border. “Fortunately, the borders stayed upon, and I eventually made it into the West”, he says.



Bernadette Hartmann was living in Lucerne, Switzerland, when the Berlin Wall fell. “Back then, although I knew something big was happening, it was too far away, in a different country, to really concern me. But now that I live in Germany, I can grasp just how big it was and how good it was for Germany to reunite.”


However, this sentiment is not shared by everyone. “Reuniting with the East only cost the West a lot of money, and we’re still spending more. They should have made the Wall 10m higher, if you ask me”, says one of Marion Kaufmann’s neighbours, who wishes to remain anonymous.


But on the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s demise, especially Berlin is celebrating with thousands of Germans gathering in front of the Brandenburg Gate. A flash-mob had been organised to form a chain of people along the former route of the Wall throughout Berlin. And Moritz van Dülmen spent one and a half years recreating pieces of the Wall out of Styrofoam for a city-wide Domino campaign. “We wanted people to really comprehend what happened back then”, 38-year-old initiator van Dülmen says. “Like a domino-effect, the opening of the Wall changed the world. And that is what we want to show by toppling these 1000 domino pieces that represent the wall over a length of 1,5 km along the former border between Reichstagufer and Potsdamer Platz.”




German Chancellor Angela Merkel was joined by former Polish president Lech Walesa and former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev for the celebrations and a walk across the bridge at Bornholmer Strasse. The checkpoint Bornholmer Strasse was the first to open in 1989 and Merkel, who herself was a citizen of the GDR, thanked Gorbachev for ultimately making a German re-unification possible.


But Berlin resident Karima Wenner says that you can still tell East and West apart – at least in the capital. “The way they talk about each other and still use stereotypes is very apparent.” However, 23-year-old Karima claims that you can even see and feel it in Berlin’s entire cityscape. “The eastern part of Berlin has this trendy vibe to it, even more so than West Berlin. Sub cultures thrive there, probably because they had a lot to catch up on. And they still have events and spontaneous street festivals everywhere, that make the East a really cool place to be.” And then there are the Plattenbausiedlungen”, of course, the high-rise blocks of flats that still dominate East Berlin’s landscape.


“I was only three when the Wall fell, so I didn’t notice much”, says 23-year-old Chris Gramke. Born in the GDR, his family finally moved to the West when he was seven. “In my new West German primary school, the kids pointed at me, and shouted ‘There’s the Ossi!’” His parents told him, that their lives are now much better, than they were on the other side of the Wall. “Apparently, you always knew when there were Stasi spies around. They’d sit in a bar all day and would be the only ones not drinking anything.” However, Chris’ parents also mentioned, that the way of life might have been a little easier in the GDR, because they didn’t know the concepts of debt or unemployment. “These things just didn’t exist in a communist state.”

Frusthansa


Have you ever tried booking plane tickets online? Were you near a nervous breakdown? Yes? Then welcome to the club!!

Last night, my other half and I decided to finally book our flights to go to Germany over New Year's. It took him 3 attempts and me 4 attempts to book our respective tickets via Lufthansa.com.

We found the cheapest flights for our travel dates, and wanted to book via their website. However, since neither of us has a credit card, we had to ask our parents to provide their card details. The only problem with that was: We were meant to use that credit card as proof of identity at check-in. Since when is a credit card, without photo, birthdate or nationality on it sufficient ID? Try going down to the liquor store and use that as ID and I can guarantee it'll be refused!

We then tried to phone the booking hotline, and the "nice" operator wanted to charge an extra 20GBP for the privilege of talking to him. I declined - especially since my boyfriend managed to book his tickets via a hotline that refused to help me minutes later and he didn't have to pay for the privilege either.

I then tried to make a third party booking, which didn't work either. So I called them up again, and again was told to try what I'd just done. Somebody calls you and outlines a problem to you, and all the things they've already done to make that problem go away, and the only advice you can give them is to do the exact same thing again?? Honestly, I was so angry at one point, that I was shaking, and that doesn't happen very often!! If that's what they call good customer service, I think they've got it wrong!!

We'll be in Germany from 29th December to 6th January (my boyfriend) and 16th January (me - I'll be working over there), but I'm sorry to say Lufthansa have just lost a quite loyal customer. I guess I'll just fly with someone else from now on - preferably an airline, that has decent costumer service and easy online booking forms.

Dissertation? Read this first!

If you're in your final year at university, you probably stress out about having to write a dissertation just as much as I am at the moment.

Because I have no clue, really, how to actually produce said epic of 10,000 words, I tried to get a little help and inspiration from books. Three books, to be exact. Joan Bolker's "Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day" seemed like a good idea, but didn't really help me. Swetnam's "Writing your dissertation" is better and would have been my favourite, if I hadn't found this: "Excellent Dissertations" by Peter Levin!

Honestly, for writing my dissertation, Levin's book is rapidly turning into my bible! Written in a personal style, constantly addressing the reader and explaining everything in simple language, this book makes you feel like you've got your personal tutor sitting right next to you! It has definitely helped me already,to sort out a timescale for my dissertation, as well as organising my thoughts and outlining a draft contents list!

As a former lecturer at London School of Economics, Dr. Peter Levin has seen thousands of students attempting their dissertations and given advice to them to see them through. The chapters are short and don't contain any "academic speak". I can only recommend this book! Trust me, it will help you realise that a good dissertation is achievable!

Solinger Tageblatt on iPhone


After 200 years, the Solinger Tageblatt, the local paper I write for when I'm in Germany, just went digital! It has officially become Germany's first newspaper to be fully accessible via an Apple application.


"mein ST" is an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch and offers all of the Solinger Tageblatt's content - including latest news, photo galleries, ST TV and sport news - for you to enjoy wherever you are. It has really gone pocket-size!


JCS in Solingen's Clemens Galerien will load the new application onto its Apple products on Saturday, so you can see first hand how this innovative application from Medienhaus B. Boll works and looks.

Advice for next Halloween


From author to PR manager

A short story about growing up with mixed heritage has set UoC Creative Writing and Journalism graduate Rashid Adamson on the path of success. He talks to Conny Kaufmann about writing to promoting.


The story “Torn”, which Rashid wrote for a writing competition of the Arts Council’s diversity branch Decibel and Penguin books, was published in the book “The Map of Me” in 2008.

“It meant a great deal to me to have recognition for the work I was doing”, Rashid explains. Currently, he is working on a memoire, which will be the full-length version of “Torn”. “The BBC had read the book and invited me to London to take part in a workshop. All participants were then invited to submit some scripts for radio plays. So I'm working on a couple I had in mind.”

But the writing is not enough for Rashid. Having over 20 years of business experience, the mature UoC graduate is just in the process of setting up his own PR, Media and Marketing business Yellow (“Red Yellow”) in Middlesbrough. “We big-up our clients’ public persona, get them noticed in the local and national press, analyse their target markets and come-up with dynamic ways to reach them.”

“I was always interested in PR and marketing, and the journalism and creative writing gave me insight into the media world. So it made sense to fuse my skills together and set up my business”, Rashid explains.

Publishing with the dark, wicked Wolf


A small group of like-minded and slightly warped people who wanted to specialise in the really hard hitting, dark fiction was all it took. Wild Wolf Publishing was born. That was a year ago, and already nine authors, including UoC’s very own Claire Lewis, have published their stories with the independent, Newcastle-based label.

“We’re looking for the darkest of dark – anything that falls through the cracks of civilised life. Where the reader sometimes roots for the bad guy, where the good guys don’t always win, where horrendous crimes or injustices abound, where the reader can delve into the twisted recesses of the human soul”, editor-in-chief Ed Wolf explains. Over the last twelve months, he reckons he saw over 200 manuscripts. “But the wicked subject matter and sharp, readable writing style which made reading compulsive is what made those nine authors stand out so far.”

Wild Wolf’s selection process can take between two and four months. Ed Wolf advises everyone to re-draft their stories several times. “Make sure you have an attention grabbing intro letter and synopsis. The author should be bursting with enthusiasm! If the author can’t be bothered to try to sell his work then a publisher isn’t going to either.”

Wir wollen Sonne!

The clocks have turned back, the orange leaves have almost all fallen to the ground already and are making the pavements treacherously slippery... autumn is well and truly upon us!

I can't help it, I'm a summer child. I don't like it being dark at 5pm, needing the heating on just to keep warm and most winter coats are not the most fashionable either.

So I had a little scoop around on Youtube, and I found one of my favourite childhood songs. It is called "Wir wollen Sonne" (We want Sun) by Rolf Zuckowski (everybody, and I mean everybody born after 1975 grew up with songs by Rolf Zuckowski und seine Freunde). His "friends" are local kids singing the songs with him, and if I'd lived anywhere near Hamburg when I was growing up, I would have loved to sing with him! I still know all the lyrics by heart!

As you might be able to tell by the people in the video, this song was recorded in the early 90s. And it played all day on the car's radio when my family was en route to our (summer) holiday destinations! On one of our 3-week holidays on the island of Wangerooge, it rained on all but four days - and I kept playing this song over and over, hoping that the weather would get better if I just played the song long enough (I want to add that I was roughly 6 years old or younger at that time!)

So all you Germans: relive your Rolf Zuckowski - memories! Everyone else - sit back, relax, and think of summer! It's only about 8 months away!!!


For your consideration

This has been on the internet for a few days now, but it still cracks me up.



If you don't know what this is about: Nick Griffin is the leader of the BNP (British National Party), which have very racist views. He was invited onto BBC's programme Question Time last week, where he was asked by the panel, led by journalist David Dimbleby (green tie), and the audience about his politics.

This little video cut together his responses, and probably reflects what many think Griffin really should have said.

UoC graduate Claire publishes novel

Getting her novel published was Claire’s big aim. Now that her first work is in print, she talks to Conny Kaufmann about her novel, similarities between her and the protagonist and how she finally got published.

When Claire Lewis was studying towards her degree in Creative Writing and Film at the University of Cumbria, she had a dream. This dream stayed with her so much, that she wrote a short story about it while she was in her third year. However, feeling that there was more to it still, she successfully turned her dream into her first novel “A sick work of Art”, which was published in August.


“The story’s main character is 24-year-old Maxie, who works in the coffee shop of an Art Gallery. One day, she finds a video on the internet, in which an artist kills someone. Through her work, she gets mixed up with the art scene and the story really gets quite dark from there”, Claire outlines her novel. “Because of the subject matter, one of my friends was worried I might have turned into a serial killer – but I can assure you I haven’t” she laughs. “And although 40 per cent of Maxie’s personality are based on me – we both live in Newcastle and our boyfriends are in the Royal Navy – there are still quite a few differences between us.”

When she couldn’t find a job as a writer after her graduation in 2006, Claire decided to put her novel on hold and do a fast-track journalism course. “I guess, in the end, it all worked out for me as an author. But that was the hardest course I’ve ever done!”

Claire had been sending her manuscript to publishers all over the country. In the end, Newcastle-based Wild Wolf Publishing, who specialise in dark fiction, thought she has potential. “It’s very exciting to have a proper book. It was published a little early and nobody told me, so imagine my excitement when I found it on Amazon!” She admits that one day she might go down to a bookstore just to see it on the shelf. “But at the moment, I just try to get reviews and feedback.”

“A sick work of Art” by Claire Lewis is available online and can be ordered in every bookshop. Wild Wolf Publishing, £ 8,99.



Hear and see Claire reading an excerpt from her novel:
(The sound is pretty quiet, due to technical problems, I'm afraid!)

When the Unthinkable becomes real


I have just read Clay Shirky's views on "Newspapers and thinking the Unthinkable". In his blog, he argues that the unthinkable scenario of newspapers dying because of the rise of the internet is already a reality - it is just a question of how we cope and adapt to these changes for journalism to survive.

Take media mogul Rupert Murdoch's rant, for example. He is not amused, that the internet provides news content for free, and is eager to charge readers for News Ltd's content. Murdoch even went so far as to call search engines plagiarists, for linking his headlines to the search and getting visitors to his websites. Something's not right there! Just like iTunes uses micropayments for their content, newspapers should follow suit. But, according to Shirky, these models only work when the provider can avoid competitive business models. The New York Times has tried twice before to charge for their content, with QPass and TimesSelect, but those models must obviously have failed, because their content is now free for everyone to read!

I can can see, however, where both Clay Shirky and Rupert Murdoch are coming from. Murdoch, who made his fame and (most importantly) fortune by selling news, doesn't want to let "his" content get out of hand. To him, internet users should pay for the privilege of reading the news. All it would take for him to stop Google accessing his content, is a little line of html code on his websites, that will keep crawler bots away. But then again, who would read his news, if they weren't specifically looking for it? Google News and other such websites give their users a digest of headlines that might be of interest to them, and then go on to send those users to the respective websites to read the full content. That does not count as copyright infringement! That would be like sueing the library lady for pointing out where a specific book can be found!
Shirky argues that news providers saw the internet coming and taking over, and reacted too late. A decade ago, the use of the internet began spreading and users from the general public picked up on it. We are now so used to free content, that we don't see why we should suddenly start paying for the privilege.

The problem is, that there is no new model for journalism. We all just have to adapt. Although newspaper sales might decrease, there will still be readers buying the hard copy. Especially when it comes to local news and general interest. And I personally think it would look stupid if we all sat around the Saturday/Sunday breakfast table with our laptops out, reading our way through the internet, instead of passing the Sports/Business/Entertainment sections around. I can understand why we pay for newspapers. After all, they have to be printed, and ink and paper in those quantities cost a fair amount of money. And yes, every journalist, whether he/she is working for print or online, wants to get paid. The problem is in the advertising revenue. It is far easier, and more people read the ads, when they are posted on the web. But I know I'd still be looking for an ad of my local car dealership in my local paper first.

I guess we will have to see what happens. Experiment a bit. As Shirky points out: "Experiments are only revealed in retrospect to be turning points." I agree with him on the point that society does not necessarily need newspapers. But what it will always need is journalism. And for it to be available to the public. I don't think that charging for the content is the right or best solution Ruoert Murdoch came up with. If Google cut all of his content off the search engines for a month, I am sure that Murdoch's sites will have less visitors than anticipated. An his Australian blog, Peter Ricci gives Rupert Murdich a little primer on how search engines work. The comments that blog received, suggest that Murdoch should let the next generation, the digital-savvy generation take over, before it's too late.

I don't know about you, but I suddenly have images of a man in my head. His name was William McMaster Murdoch (aptly enough), and he was the First Officer on board the Titanic, who saw the iceberg too late and who's actions led the safest ship in the world to sink....
Now that's something to think about.

Bye bye, Aaron!


Aaron, pronounced the German way "Ah-ron" is or rather was our horse. We've had him since spring 1999, and he is now 15 years old. Today, his new owner picked him up and moved him to his new stable.

My mum inherited a horse from one of her clients in 1996. His name was Power Game (Power, for short) and he was a show jumping horse, and the kindest horse you ever met. However, standing 1,80m at his back, he was also quite tall for 9- and 6-year-old girls. Although we rode him regularly, we decided in 1998 to buy an Icelandic Pony, called Lucky Boy, as ponies are not that tall. However, Lucky turned out to be a little devil (he constantly threw even Western Champions off...), so we decided to sell him and found Aaron instead, who at 1,65m was taller than Lucky (1,32m) and shorter than Power. Power Game died 24 years old in 2007 out on the pasture.
Aaron was only 4 when we first rode him and like Power a "Westfale". We agreed to take him for a two-week trial period, before we finalised the contract. That first night we had him, I rode him around the arena at night. Slowly walking him, long reigns, just so he could get used to the new surroundings. Then "Popeye", a stallion, played up next to the arena (the wall is only should-high, so you can see the boxes and horses on that side of the arena) and Aaron saw and heard it, and well, freaked. Off he went, and I tried to hang on. I'd lost the reigns when he bolted, and one of my feet had slipped through the stirrup. I'd lost the other. Somehow, I managed to get him to slow down again, got him to go on a circle and eventually was told by a fellow rider to just let him run into her horse, as her horse (coincidently a cousin of Power) was so old, he wouldn't be bothered. I did that and it worked, until Aaron turned around and cantered off in the other direction, the stallion still playing up. That threw me so much, that I lost balance and fell off, but because my foot was caught in the stirrup, I couldn't quite roll off. I landed halfway across Aaron's path and thought he'd run me over, but as soon as he felt my weight shift, he stopped. And when I was laying there in the sand, he touched my face with his nose and had a look in his eyes, as if he wanted to say "Oh no, did I cause that? Please don't be mad!!"
I believe all my back problems started that night, as I was taken to hospital, x-rayed three times and then told: "You've broken a vertebrae", "You've splintered a facet joint" and "You've just twisted your neck a bit" in that order, without ever getting it fixed properly. I don't blame Aaron for what happened. He was new, he freaked. I blame the stallion's owner, who slapped the stallion and caused him to play up and didn't stop or ever apologise when I fell off.
Don't get me wrong! I LOVE this horse!!! But in horseback riding, you should get back in the saddle as soon as you've fallen off. Maybe it's the fact that I wasn't able to, but I was always cautious riding him. Never letting the reigns get too long again. Every other horse I didn't know, I could take cross country, jump with it and be fine with everything, but although I did jump with Aaron, and rode him regularly when I was younger, and I trusted him, there was always this feeling of "if you fall off again, it'll really hurt!"
In a just-for-fun competition at our stable, I therefore opted to ride Power instead. I did fall off him a few times as well (especially when I tried to jump with him, and he stopped in front of the caveletti - and I fell off, cos I'd already shifted balance for the jump - and he looked at me as if to say "That's beneath my dignity!". After all, when he was a professional show jumping horse, he regularly entered the second hardest and hardest competition classes). But with Power, I could always get back on right away.
I stopped riding regularly, when I went to New Zealand. The fact, that the stable was a 30-minute drive to the end of town away from our house, buses only run there irregularly, and I focused on school, meant that over the last few years my sister and my mum took over looking after Aaron (my sister and I were co-owners of Aaron). Aaron and Power became really close friends, woud hesitate to go anywhere, where they couldn't see each other. When Power died, Aaron spent weeks looking and grieving for him.
Although there was only one horse to look after when Power died, the time and money factor became issues. My sister found other interests and I live in a different country, so most nights it was my mum and a girl from the stable who rode him or at least got him inside from the paddock. We love Aaron, but in the end we weren't doing him any favours. That, and the people who took over the stable concentrated on Western style riders, and ignored "us" English style (dressage, jumping) people.
However, the new owner doesn't live too far away! And according to my mother, who made the deal, we are allowed to visit and also ride him if we want to! It's a bit sad I never really got to say goodbye to Aaron, but I'm sure I will see him again!
So long, "Hörnchen"!

Not one of uni's prouder moments...

Yesterday afternoon: I open the front door, and find a letter on the floor, beneath the letter box. An official letter from the University of Cumbria.

Turns out, that after three weeks of being a Third Year student, I finally got to know whether I actually passed my second year or not!

We finished our second year of the Travel Journalism course in the first week of May. Everbody else got their results in July and August. But apparently, a certain Media Law lecturer had first of all got the results in too late and put the results in the wrong system, so it took this university five months and 2 weeks to process our results! Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that's acceptable at all. After all, we students get marks deducted if we hand assessments in a day late. So leaving it until after we signed up for another year, to officially tell us whether we passed the last year, seems just a tiny bit hypocritical!

I did pass the Second Year.
With 454 overall points last year, I got 56,75% - which in uni-speak is a Lower Second Class. However, if you count in my 516 points in Year 1 (thanks to the 85% I got on one of my tourism modules), which equals 64,5% or an Upper Second Class, I've just about got an overall Upper Second Class degree so far! The magic threshold from Lower to Upper Second is 60% - if you do your maths, I come out at 60,625% ! Which is why I need to pass most of my assignments with 60%+ to maintain that degree!

For those of you who are not familiar with the British marking system:
35 - 39%: Condoned Fail
40 - 49%: Third Class (D)
50 - 59%: Lower Second Class (C)
60 - 69%: Upper Second Class (B)
70%+ : First Class (A)
80%+ : First Class (AA)

My course leader was nice enough to email me a screenshot of my results (minus the Media Law one) in August, so I knew I had passed. But it still took the university almost two months, to actually confirm this!

Postcards

From here on in, you can find my "Postcards from..." on Postcards from Conny.

So check my first blog entry there, for the story of my North Eastern adventure ;)

Writing your dissertation in 15 mins a day...

...yeah, as if!

My third year at university has only just started, and already I feel kinda overwhelmed by the whole "Write your dissertation"-situation. I am trying to really put in a lot of effort this year, copying lecture notes, doing all the necessary reading etc. and I'm fine with that. But when it comes to my dissertation - the thing I've been working towards for the last 2 years - I don't know where to start.

I know what I want to write about. I'd love to compare different travel magazines and newspaper travel supplements and determine how their content, style, tone, symbolism, semantics relate to their readership. I want to look at it both from a journalistic point of view (ie styles etc.),but also from a marketing point of view; analysing how readers can be split up into different market segments, what would appeal to these segments and whether they overlap or not. Is there a segment missing? Then why is that? And do travel publications vary from country to country? I want to find out, whether Britain, as an island nation, developed a different travel market than for example Germany, which has 9 land borders.

The problem is: I can't word my question. And without one, I can't work. Don't get me wrong, I've done my research proposal, I'm halfway through my literature review - but I need to formulate my question in order to get started. I'm the same in journalism. I need my headline first, to give me an angle on the story, to focus. At the moment, I feel like I'm hanging in limbo. If you have any suggestions, on how to put all that into a proper, academic-sounding dissertation topic, let me know!

I know I'll need to write about 10,000 words (without counting quotations) until mid-March and that I'll have to write a certain number of words per day or week to get there. We get tutorials at uni, on how to reference in the Harvard-System, but what I for one need, would be a look at a previous dissertation. How did they lay it all out? Did they include an appendix? How structured were the dissertations? I know that this is just about style, but once again, this helps me focus and getting the job done.

Over the next week, I'll have to read the books (including the ones about writing dissertations - like the "15 mins a day" one) and make a start. Get my first few paragraphs on paper. March seems miles away from now, and yet I know it'll come around too soon!

Wish me luck!

Cheese or font?

Can you tell a cheese from a typeface?

All you journalists, editors, designers out there, test your knowledge with the Cheese or Font Quiz! It's harder than it looks!

There are two versions of this quiz. A practice version, and the game version which actually counts your score! So go ahead and try whether you can distinguish world cheeses from computer fonts!

DVD Review: "Angels and Demons"


Robert Langdon is back. The Harvard professor who had to solve the DaVinci Code, has to rescue Vatican City from destruction in the movie adaption of Dan Brown's bestseller.

Although the script for "The DaVinci Code" was close to the version of the book, the writers took too much creative freedome with "Angels and Demons." Characters, which are vital to the story in the book are omitted or changed. Even the story itself had to be altered, and key elements are left out. It is impossible, of course, to summarise a 700+ pages book within 2 1/2 hours without having to make compromises, but book and movie can almost be seen as two different works of art now. Dan Brown explains in the bonus section, how he helped working on the movie script and what changes had to be made an why.

The film itself is outstanding. Tom Hanks convinces as American art historian Robert Langdon, who has to find the legendary "Path of Illumination" through Rome with the involuntary help of the Vatican. He has to stop a ticking anti-matter time bomb that could destroy the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. The centuries-old secret society of the Illuminati plans to bring the church to its knees through science. A race against time begins. While Conclave is being held in the Sixtine Chapel, four cardinals shall die on the "Altars of Science" - one every hour, on the hour.

"Angels and Demons" is just as gripping, mysterious and brilliant as its predecessor "The DaVinci Code." But those of you who are fans of the book and expect a one-to-one copy will be disappointed.

Time Management

Right, it's that time of the academic year again.

University has started, and before I fall into the same trap I fell in last year - doing everything last minute - I've now planned my weekly time wisely. The plan is simple, really. I'll spend 1 - 2 hours every day writing up the lecture notes, doing the assignments as soon as I get them and reading in the relevant text books.

Then in the afternoons (except for Modays, when it's in the mornings before class), I'll spend 2 hours researching / reading and eventually writing my dissertation. This way I hope I'll be keeping on top of things and don't have to worry about deadlines too much.

I really need to focus this year. After all, I want a fairly good degree. Last year, I didn't really give it my best. I still got quite good marks in most of my subjects, but because the people at this university kept screwing my course around (and that has nothing to do with the lecturers - just with the fact that they didn't give us the lectures we were supposed to have).

But this year really counts. It's my final year! So I'd better put some effort in!

Marge goes Playboy


She has just turned 20, and boasts an hour-glass figure. Despite having three children (a rude and mischievous ten-year-old called Bart, a smart and sensible eight-year-old called Lisa and a baby called Maggie who has already been a murder-suspect), being a strict mother and having yellow skin and blue, curly hair, she has many male admirers the world over. Now, America's favourite TV mum is set to disrobe for the well-known Playboy magazine.

Marge Simpsons, the matriarch of The Simpsons, is the first-ever cartoon character to appear in Hugh Hefner's magazine - let alone on the front cover! Her "strip" is part of a public relations offensive, celebrating the 20th anniversary of America's longest-running TV sitcom. According to The Independent, a Playboy spokesperson stated that Marge Simpson granted the magazine an interview, which will appear next to three pages of portraits that are "sexy" and feature "implied nudity".
Playboy magazine is hoping to attract more younger readers with this PR stunt. CEO Scott Flanders, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Marge's cover shoot is "obviously somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It has never been done before and we thought it would be kind of hip, cool and unusual."


The magazine hits the stands next month as a limited collector's edition. Subscribers will receive their magazines with human playboy bunny on the cover.

NASA on crash course


In a bid to find water-ice on the moon, NASA has crashed two unmanned spacecraft into the moon's southpole today. The first spacecraft hit the surface at 12.31pm and the second one followed minutes later, to detect water in the debris the first spacecraft had kicked up.

NASA had anticipated a cloud of 350 tonnes of debris to reach heights of up to 10km. However, neither on the video stream nor from earth could such a cloud be detected, proving a disappointment to watchers. The LCROSS mission (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellit) cost approx. GBP 49,000,000. But to fully answer the question whether there is water on the moon, NASA now has to evaluate all the data collected.

The lunar mission is supposed to help return men to the moon by 2020. However, President Obama has ordered a review of the manned spaceflight programmes, and the plans have been under scrutiny since then.

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize


US president Barack Obama is the surprise winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the BBC, the Nobel Committee stated that Obama was awarded the prestigious prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples".

Obama, who was surprised and humbled by the committee's decision, sees his win more as a call to action than a recognition of his accomplishments. He had only been in office two weeks before the nomination deadline.

As reported by CNN, Thorbjörn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee, recognises Obama's efforts at dialogue with world leaders to solve "complex global problems" and working towards "a world free of nuclear weapons." He also stated that "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." It is understood that the decision was unanimous and came with ease.
Although there is scepticism by the public as to whether this award was too much too soon for Obama, world leaders congratulated him. The committee defended their decision, stating that they wanted to encourage Barack Obama just as they had encouraged Mikhail Gorbachov in 1990 for his efforts to open the Soviet Union. "Obama's diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population," the committee said.
Barack Obama is the fourth US president (and the third while in office) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Former recipients were Jimmy Carter in 2002, Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

Newsroom Madness

Over the last two days, we third year journalism students have been quite busy. We had to get the Freshers' edition of "The Informer" designed, subbed and proof-read.

With only two weeks from the start of term until getting the pages ready to go to print (offstone), this edition mostly features articles written by the new first years.

In our first week back, we had to read and sub the stories they'd written during Freshers Week - and every first year group always comes up with the same ideas. "Where to drink in Carlisle", "How to live on the cheap", "Where to get books from" and "How to find a job" are usually along them. I had to oversee two stories written about Carlisle's bookstores. They listed Waterstones, WHSmith, Bookends and Book Case, but forgot to mention the aspect of the City Library and online second-hand book shops. I had to rewrite those two stories into one publishable version, and asked the two first years to get me 2 more quotes each - they came up with two quotes in total. Ah well, when you want something done properly...

Yesterday and today, we third years spend the day in the newsroom, slaving away on QuarkXpress, working on the page layout and subbing. I had spent Monday night working on my own version of Quark on my laptop and designed my pages, only to find that I couldn't open them on the university's newer system. So I had to start from scratch, creating two pages. This edition of Informer is a 12-page tabloid, but there are only 10 third years working on it, so two of us had to do an extra page.

On page 4, I had two articles. My page lead was Carlisle's City of Culture bid, while the anchor piece was a story I'd written about a Swedish designer. I used four pictures on the page, and also used crossheads and pullquotes, to make it look interesting and break up the text every now and then. I still can't believe I got away with the headline "The City of Culture, eh?", taking Carlisle's linguistic phenomenon of "eh?" into account. Terry just laughed and although he thought that it might be considered patronising, we kept the headline.

Page 2 was a bit more difficult to lay out. The front page held a story on the library closure, and there was a page turn onto my page. Which means, the story starts on one page, but finishes on another. I also had to place the imprint, a vox pop and a Students' Union story on the page. I finally decided to put the five vox pops on a green, 2-column wide colour patch and use pullquotes to make the words stand out. The imprint stayed in its traditional place at the bottom left corner of the page, while the SU story became page lead.

We were all very busy working on our pages, sometimes to the extend of not wanting to be bothered at all. However, at the same time we tried to help each other as much as possible. Luckily, the second year students helped proof read and so on, which made it a bit easier for us. Although we're Offstone today, we won't get to see the printed version til after the weekend. That has to do with CN groups printing schedule and our slot within that schedule.

Today, we had to check the pages again with fresh eyes. Check for consistency, house style, grammar, punctuation etc. and get everything converted into pdf files which can then be sent to the printers.

When all was done yesterday, the third year students went to the pub together. Technically, we only wanted to have a celebratory pint at the Crown Inn, our local behind the uni, after all the work was done, but we ended up staying more than 5 hours, having dinner there, and some even stayed on for the pub quiz as well. Good times. Now that's what I call journalism. After all, they say that you can pick up some of the best stories at the pub! ;)

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