Sunday, 30 January 2011

Body Sculpting Underwear: Who Is It Really Kidding?



Women have long known about the slimming effects of sculpted underwear. Many a celebrity, wanting to look perfect on the red carpet in that haute couture gown, has pulled on a pair of Spanx or something similar to keep any unsightly bulges at bay. Now men are discovering it could work for them too.

This week I read with much amusement that at Debenhams, the UK department store, sales of men’s body sculpting t-shirts have risen by 317 per cent with men’s lifting-pants up 238 per cent.

From tummy tightening pants to t-shirts that promise to make those man boobs disappear, men seemingly can’t get enough them. But who is really being deceived – the audience or the wearer?

Having never been overweight myself, I've never had to consider wearing something that would squash or squeeze away any wobbly bits. But even if all those cakes, portions of fish and chips or pints of beer that I love so much took their toll on my waistline I am not sure I would even dream of donning a tummy flattening t-shirt or a pair of male Spanx.

I know how uncomfortable a pair of skinny jeans can be, that restricted feeling you get when everything is squashed to within an inch of its life, so I can only imagine what it would feel like to wear something like this tummy belt, pictured below.


Do these items really make people feel any better about themselves? Do they stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘I look so much slimmer/more muscular’, and as a result feel more confident/attractive?

To me these items are really just fair-weather friends that will desert the person when they need them most. 

So you’ve got your magic pants and tummy tucking t-shirt on, gone out on that date and its all going well so far. You decide to carry things on back at your place. A glass of wine later and you move into the bedroom. 

What about when it's all taken off and discarded on the floor, what happens when it all comes lolloping out? Does the body anxiety just come back again, right at that crucial moment? Is the other person thinking, ‘whoa, where did all that come from? Maybe you're just thinking, 'yes I've pulled!'

Surely nothing can beat actually having a flat stomache, rather than just appearing to have one with a few layers of clothes on? Has looking good on the outside become the most important thing?

The website for male Spanx shows buff looking men, with barely any fat on them whatsoever and who hardly appear to need Spanx before or after. A fat person is never going to look like this by slipping them on. 


I am certainly not sizeist, people are free to be the weight they choose, but if they are not happy about their size, is squeezing everything into a pair of uncomfortable looking stretchy underwear really the best answer? 

There was a time when people would turn to healthy eating and exercise in a bid to loose those extra few pounds. Now it seems, in our desire for instant gratification, it just takes too long.

So will we see gym memberships cancelled, diets out of the window and a nation of people just buying the next size up when they can no longer squeeze themselves into those miracle pants? And if so, in the long-run who will it really be kidding?

Dirtycowgirl has posted a really funny response to this post on her blog, which you can find here or go to http://dirtycowgirl.blogspot.com/2011/02/this-post-is-in-response-to.html. Check it out and let us both know what you think.
 
What do you think?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Australian Open: Will Andy Murray Finally Win A Grand Slam?


Andy Murray battled back from being a set down and 5-4 down to knock David Ferrer out of the Australian Open earlier today with a four sets victory over the seventh seed, booking his place in the final for the second year in a row.

With both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer out of the Australian Open, the latter knocked out by Novak Djokovic, Murray's opponent in the final, there has never been a better chance for Andy Murray to win his first Grand Slam and muscle his way back into the top four, but can he finally do it? I will certainly be keeping everything crossed for him!


Murray
Djokovic





After two recent Grand Slam final losses to Federer, including last year's Australian Open Final, Murray must be feeling that now is his chance.


Although Murray is 4-3 down in head to head's with Djokovic, he is 3-2 up on the hard courts so that should give him a little confidence. It won't be an easy match though and anyone who puts Federer out will be hard to overcome. But surely it is now Murray's time? We Brit's really can't take the disappointment anymore.


So I am going to lay it on the line and say Murray will come back to Britain as the Australian Open champion AND win the Sports Personality of the Year award later in the year.


So come on Murray, you can do it. Show us some muscle!

What do you think?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Facebook Sponsored Stories: Making Spammers of Us All?

The $1.8 billion in advertising revenue Facebook generates is clearly not enough. Those clever bods over at the social networking giant have now come up with a new way to rake it in from advertisers and it involves using you, or more specifically, the things you like.


According to Facebook, "When we make decisions about products we want to buy or places we want to go, we are basically looking for cues from our friends about what those things should be... when we make a decision, we're looking for information, and we want that information to come from people we trust,"


Enter Sponsored Stories, which allows advertisers to capitalise on word-of-mouth recommendations made by the people who use Facebook, by promoting check-ins to their locations, or people liking their products.


Now if you check-in to a bar or restaurant, or like a product or brand it could feature as an advert on the right-hand column on all your friend's Facebook pages. Advertisers can effectively see to it that your friends never miss out on what you like or where you are, for as long as their wallets allow. Sound good? No? Well tough, because Facebook won't even let you opt out.


Will Sponsored Stories effectively turn us into spammers, constantly bombarding our friends with endless streams of advertising about brands, products and services? Or, in a day and age where we see millions of adverts each day, is it just another bit of promotion we can choose to ignore?


Check out the video below, see how it will work and post a comment to let me know what you think.

What do you think?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Welcome to Mr Musing: Hope You'll Stay a Little While



I deliberately didn't create a welcome post when I started this blog, I thought I'd get a few posts in first to try and set the 'tone'. But now that I have some posts under by belt (5 to be precise), I thought it was time to say a big WELCOME!

You’re probably asking yourself, 'so what's this blog all about then? And why should you bother coming back again? What have I got to offer that will keep you coming back for more?

Well I'm completely ignoring all the, probably good, advice out there telling me I should focus on my niche, because, well, frankly I don't want one. There are so many interesting things to be written about and I want to try as many of them as I can.

I just like stuff and I like to talk about stuff - all day long. In fact many people say I could talk in an empty house, and I often do, so this blog is my way of doing just that.

Oh and I also quite fancy writing professionally at some stage, so this blog will be good practice for me. Hopefully you will follow me on my journey from part-time blogger to full-time freelance writer. Either that or watch me fail miserably.

So expect musings, articles, commentary and news on a range of topics such as Music, Films, the Arts, Sports, Fashion, Food, Politics, Travel, Theatre, Lifestyle and Health & Fitness. I can be opinionated at times, frank but always honest.

Some of it will be deep and some of it extremely shallow, a bit like me really, and it's just how I would want my blog to be - a mixed bag for people who like a bit of this and a bit of that. 

Check out some of my posts below and let me know what you think so far. 

See you soon. 

Mr Musing
What do you think?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mutya Buena Features on Two New songs in 2011

Apparently, it's a woman's perogative to change her mind, and boy does Mutya Buena do this often. The ex Sugababe certainly likes to keep us guessing.

One minute she is mounting a legal challenge to reclaim the 'Sugababes' name from the current line-up. Next she's telling anyone who will listen that she wants to reform the band with original members Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy. Then she announces that she is retiring from the music industry to become, of all things, a child psychologist!


Anyway that was so 2010 and true to form Mutya appears to have had yet another change of heart. Bless. Her fans will be pleased to hear that she is back in the limelight again, coming out of 'retirement' to feature on not one, but two new tracks, both of which are out now.

First up is a collaboration with DJ Paul Morrell, an infectious house track titled 'Give me Love', featuring some uplifting string sounds over the top of a great beat. Mutya does dance diva here to great effect, her vocals perfectly matched to the song.


Featuring the line 'why won't you love me...why won't you touch me?' (the words, soap and bath spring to mind) the chorus is catchy and will have people jumping up to dance. It certainly got me singing along.

Check it out below: 



As if that wasn't enough, Mutya finds herself switching genres and popping up on the new City Boy Soul Song 'Be Okay', which is out now. The song itself is quite pleasant, it doesn't exactly set the world alight but it is nice to hear a UK R&B group with a bit of soul. I think it will be a grower.

Mutya doesn't make it onto the video on this one, unfortunately, but her soulful vocals appear about a minute into the track and remind us how versatile she is and what a shame it would be if she really did quit music.


Hopefully this won't be the last we hear from Mutya, and with people seemingly lining up to work with her, I have a feeling it won't be.


See the video below:



What do you think?

Friday, 21 January 2011

Five of the Best: Designer Man Bags

With little room in the average man's trouser pockets for all the requirements of a busy modern life, any last struggle against the man bag is slowly fading away and along with it the idea that real men don't carry bags.

There is now a wide range of men's bags on offer, from the rucksack through to the shopper, in a variety of styles, colours, materials and prices. And if it's okay for Hugh 'Wolverine' Jackman to carry a bag (pictured below), then it's okay for you too!


It might not be long before we see the rise of the male IT bag, the much coveted, usually sky-high priced bags, such as the Hermes Kelly, that have women breaking out in a sweat when they are unveiled and which usually have waiting lists running into months. Particularly as Burberry have recently announced that its sales of men's bags have leapt 27% in the last year. And in a recession!

So here are five of the best designer men's bags, in no particular order. Credit cards at the ready boys...



1. The Classic: If you want a stylish hard-wearing bag that will last you for years, and mine certainly has, then you should definitely opt for the Mulberry 'Barnaby' bag. It's been around for a while but will never date and looks as good fresh out of the dust-bag as it does once it's been bashed about a bit. It has simple details such as the push-lock disguised as a buckle and comes in a range of colours (shown here in chocolate), it's a bag for any occasion. Price £506. www.mulberry.com.



2. The Budget Blower: If you've just got your banker's bonus, won the lottery or just want to treat your self to something unashamedly extravagant, this 'Bigger Cube Bag' from the mighty Fashion House Balenciaga will do the trick. With soft black leather and signature stud detailing this bag just screams indulgence and might just have your girlfriend/wife/sister attempting to steal it for themselves. Not that this bag is in any way feminine, it's just pure class. Price £1,025. Available from Matches.com.



3. The Monogrammed: If you are into monogrammed bags, and many people are (just not me personally) then keep it tasteful and simple with this Gucci messenger bag. Matches is obviously a good place to browse some quality bags as this one is available there too. This black leather GG embossed bag comes with a simple leather strap and lots of lovely details inside and out. Price £640. Matches.com



4. The Overnight Bag: This Vivienne Westwood Man 'Resort' bag is not the largest overnight bag in the world, but it sure is aesthetically pleasing. It would be fine for a single night away, if you don't pack the kitchen sink. Alternatively it would make a very stylish gym bag. The bag is black canvas and features the famous orb detailing on the front, with contrasting grey 'Vivienne Westwood' printed handles. The really exciting thing about this bag though has got to be the price. £135, down from £270. Viviennewestwood.com.



5. The One You'll Have to Wait For: Not yet in the shops, these bright and playful Burberry Prorsum totes are perfect if you want to make a statement. With detachable shoulder straps and leather bottoms, these bags are sure to fly out of the shops when they hit the stores later this year and will brighten up any outfit during those dull Autumn/Winter months. Get saving now because these babies won't come cheap. Price unknown. Burberry.com.
What do you think?

Chocolate Guilt: Conflict Cocoa and the Ivory Coast

It’s mid-January and by now you are probably either finishing off the humungous box of chocolates you bought or were given over Christmas; or have started the diet or exercise to shed the pounds gained by scoffing them all. Maybe you now feel a pang of guilt for devouring all those calories? Or possibly you are one of the lucky ones who haven’t put on a pound over Christmas?

We all know how too much chocolate can be bad for you, but a little bit in moderation is okay isn’t it? Well maybe not as it happens, there is another chocolate guilt-trip in town and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.


Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years you’ve probably heard of conflict diamonds. Whether it’s seeing Leonardo DiCaprio in the film ‘Blood Diamond’, or hearing about Naomi Campbell’s attendance at the war crimes trial of Charles Kennedy, most of us now understand the link between diamonds and war-torn countries and will hopefully choose wisely, if and when purchasing one. But can the same be said of chocolate, or more specifically cocoa?


The Ivory Coast, in West Africa, is the world's largest producer of cocoa, producing between 35 and 45 percent of the source of the delicous brown stuff we consume so much of here in the western world. It is also a country facing yet another civil war, only eight years after the bloody conflict that led to the country effectively being split into North and South. 

In November 2010 the country held presidential elections, which many hoped would finally begin to heal the wounds of the 2002 war and reunite the largely Muslim North and the Christian South. The initial election results showed Allesane Outtara, a candidate from the North, to be the victor. But after the authorities cancelled the votes of thousands of people from the North, the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo reinstated himself as president.









        
Incumbent: Laurent Gbagbo
Election Victor: Allesane Outtara


The resulting unrest caused by the election results has now turned to bloodshed, with reports of Gbagbo's army murdering hundreds of Outtara's supporters. The United Nations has been stepping up its efforts to bring peace to the troubled country, fearing that genocide and ethnic cleansing will occur. It is sending additional peacekeepers to the country and putting pressure on Gbagbo to step down. 

A significant amount of the financing for the conflict has come from the sale of cocoa the country produces, meaning that of the millions of pounds we spend on chocolate each day some of it is likely to be paying for the bloodshed in the Ivory Coast. So what can we do about it?

The Key: Chocolate Companies


Avaaz, the global campaigning organisation, with a membership of over 6.5 million people is currently running a campaign to encourage people to write to the CEO's of the mulitnational chocolate companies, such as Nestle, Mars and Hershey's to demand that they don't do business with Gbagbo. Without income from cocoa sales, Gbagbo and his army will be powerless. 
An email sent out to Avaarz members states, "it is crucial that the international community escalate pressure, but at this critical time if they act fast, cocoa companies could hold the key to removing Gbagbo's illegitimate regime."

So next time you are about to purchase that innocent looking chocolate bar, remember... a moment on the lips, possible bloodshed in the Ivory Coast... and a lifetime on the hips.

Mr Musing
What do you think?

Facial discrimination: are we all secretly faceist?

Until I saw his photograph I felt a bit sorry for Edward Woollard. The 18 year-old college student, pictured below, was recently sentenced to 32 months imprisonment for throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Tory HQ building, during the protest about university tuition fees.


I doubt he deliberately meant to cause anyone harm. More likely he was caught up in the excitement of the moment and acted not out of malice but extreme stupidity. His actions could have resulted in the death of anyone unlucky enough to be standing directly below, but fortunately the extinguisher landed without causing injury.

Now he faces a prison sentence, which could potentially affect him for the rest of his life, and I did wonder if a custodial sentence really was the best way to deal with the situation or whether he was made a scapegoat by a Government keen to assert its authority?

Anyway, I digress. As I said, I felt sorry for him. That is, until I saw his photograph; then I started to think maybe he had got what he deserved. It was his disconnected glare from those sinister looking eyes that did it; and his unruly curly mullet certainly didn’t help matters. He looked evil.

This got me thinking. What is it about the faces and features of some people that can make one person dislike, fear or suspect another without reason? Is it instinct, a throwback from our days as hunter-gathers, when we needed to decipher friend or foe in a split second? Or maybe we subconsciously pick up on certain ‘looks’ that we deem to be right or wrong, from the millions of images we are exposed to every day in the media? 

Todorov and Oosterhof, scientists at Princeton University, have been researching what it is about people's faces that cause people to fear or trust them and have even come up with a computer programme that allows them to analyse this. Todorov says, "Humans seem to be wired to look to faces to understand the person's intentions... People are always asking themselves, 'Does this person have good or bad intentions?'"


Take for example Chris Jeffries, pictured above, the landlord of murdered Joanna Yeates, who was recently brought in by police for questioning. Even without reading the story I took one look at his face and the voice inside my head screamed HE’S GUILTY. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one but as it turns out, he was released without any charge.



Was Maxine Carr, pictured below, really an innocent, naïve victim of Ian Huntley or was there something more sinister at play? Who knows, and maybe we never will, but I know what my gut says and I am convinced it is because of her face why I feel that way.


For me it is the dead-behind-the-eyes look that cause alarm bells to start ringing and a send a shiver running down my spine. 

For Cesare Lombroso, the Italian criminologist, it was hard shifty eyes, high cheekbones, upturned or twisted noses and unusual shaped ears. In his 1876 book ‘The Criminal Man’, Cesare said, “…one has to conclude that while offenders may not look fierce, there is nearly always something strange about their appearance. It can even be said that each type of crime is committed by men with particular physiognomic characteristics.”

That was nearly 140 years ago and Lombroso's work is now considered to be outdated. People may no longer consciously associate shifty eyes with a tendency to commit a crime, but that's not to say we don't make decisions each day based on our reactions to peoples faces. 

If I had never heard of Chris Jeffries or Maxine Carr and they turned up for a job interview, would I give them a job? Or would I subconsciously write them off because of an illogical reaction to their faces? I like to think I am a logical and rational person so would hope not. But can we ever be sure? Are we all secretly faceist, and if so, is there anything we can do about it?


What do you think?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Residents' anger at Norwood Park Eyesore



Angry residents in Gipsy Hill, South London, gathered in Norwood Park on Saturday January 8, to protest against a proposed Network Rail mast, fearing it will ruin the protected views of the London skyline.

Frustrated by a lack of consultation, residents on Gipsy Road have started a Stop the Mast Campaign and are urging Network Rail to halt its plans and find an alternative location.

The communications mast, which will be up to 24 metres tall and tower over nearby houses and trees, is planned for the end of January.

Hippolyte Grigg, Chairman of the Friends of Norwood Park said, “I have two issues. Number one, what extent is it going to impinge on the views from the ridge of the park? The second is damage to the original oak tree, right next to it; and what extent this construction has already damaged the roots of that tree. The trees are listed, they are protected and unless they are diseased they should not be cut down.”

Norwood Park offers panoramic views of London from one of the highest points in Lambeth and the mast will be situated less than a metre from the park perimeter. The view from Norwood Park was designated a ‘protected view’ in 1986, by what is now the Greater London Authority, and a plaque in the park marks this.

Lambeth Council’s Unitary Development Plan states, “Permission will not be granted for developments which detract from important views, backdrops or settings” and specifically lists Norwood Park as being one of those views.

Surprisingly, Network Rail does not have to obtain planning permission from Lambeth Council to install the mast as it has Permitted Development Rights, which allows it to develop the land it owns where it deems it ‘necessary’ for the running of the railway.

Residents living on Gipsy Road and Finch Avenue are also worried the view from their properties. Stephen Hodge’s house will overlook the mast. “Network Rail seem to have chosen the location because of the access, without thinking about how close it will be to people’s houses, he said.”

Bowing to the pressure of the campaign, Network Rail has now promised to meet residents before it installs the mast. Nick Gray, head of Customer relations at Network Rail said, “we are planning to hold a drop in information session for residents in the near future. Project staff will be available to answer any questions about the Mast.” The meeting will be held at Kingswood School on Gipsy Road on Tuesday January 18, between 4pm and 8pm. 

This is not the first time Network Rail has faced the fury of residents. In 2010, protesters in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, successfully prevented a rail mast being erected, using their cars to block access to the site.

Mr Musing
What do you think?
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