‘Inpats’ and a brilliant new project

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Maria’s first cartoon! (For me, anyway)

For the last couple of months, I have been working on a wonderful project at work, called A Postcard from the UK. It’s aimed at people 25-45 who are thinking of moving to work in the UK, and as a result I have been speaking to an incredibly varied bunch of individuals, each with different but equally amazing stories.

I became a journalist partly because I wanted to entertain people, and partly because I am FASCINATED by people but don’t want to dig through their bins. This project means I get to listen to stories about amazing lives. Continue reading

The rise of the girl gamer

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In 2010 I wrote a feature for GamesMaster about the then-future new Tomb Raider reboot which has just come out – I was genuinely blown away. Partly because the new Lara Croft looked like a person, rather than a hastily assembled bundle of boy-pleasing pixels.

The piece I’ve published below was written by me in June last year for a women’s glossy. This was the piece I ALWAYS wanted to write: that would bring female gamers mainstream, about women who play video games – women in their millions, not just as a rarity.

Sadly it got killed off after the Anita Sarkeesian blow-up, and the news that the new Tomb Raider game would feature an attempted sexual assault on Lara Croft. FYI – a month or so later, I saw that sequence and happily, it’s not what is seemed in print at the time.

I am still really proud of this piece, so here it is. Female gamers (and other ‘geeky’ hobbies), for all my ladies who play games – on their phones, on their 3DS and Vitas, and on their hardcore consoles. Games are amazing – and here’s why.

Kat x Continue reading

Thank you, Kerrang!

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About 12 years ago now, I remember my sixth form boyfriend enthusing wildly about the band Biffy Clyro. We shared a lot of musical interests – or rather, I’d stopped only listening to Suede, Britpop and 60s compilations and started listening to his – but their name was so curious I chalked them up as yet another one of his adored comedy ska bands, and went back to my Idlewild albums.

But it turns out I should have paid more attention. Not that I would have known back then, with minimal dial-up internet, and phones that could only store 10 text messages at one time – then, all you knew about bands was what went into your favourite magazines. And back when I read and loved Kerrang! (I even worked on their website briefly), I just wanted to read what inspired the bands I loved.

I wish I had had this week’s Biffy Clyro feature to read when I was 18. Or 17. or 16, 15, 19, 21, 22, any of the years when I was a Kerrang! reader crippled with the absolute mortifying hell that is depression: undiagnosed, and then diagnosed but only sporadically treated. But I am so utterly thrilled that this generation gets to have that. Continue reading

“You download this stuff for free, but you actually eat the culture that your children want to take part in”

Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran, columnist, writer and wielder of extraordinary hair, has a new book out. Last night, she did an interview at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night to launch it, and as Friday tends to be my day of tedious filling things in and building things admin, I’ve been listening to the video recording.

Among the many funny and endearing bits about work, virginity and Chris Brown (not endearing), there was a particularly passionate, eloquent reasoning as to why Moran does not work for the guardian, and instead, has been at The Times for 20 years. More importantly, it is also a reasoning as to why the arts and journalism need to safeguard its future, and that of those people ahead.

As a long-standing Times reader and someone who works there, this sums up my feelings pretty well too. I’ve typed it out in case you don’t have a handy video player.

(Starts at 00:56:30) Continue reading

Why zombies are taking over Britain

You might have read the story about scientists figuring out how to survive a zombie attack. Or the Reading zombie shopping mall. Or 2.8 Hours Later selling out all its London dates. But why do we give a crap anyway?

The zombies are coming! Toronto zombie parade, 2009 ( Eric.Parker, Flickr)

If you have kinemortophobia – fear of the undead – then look away now. Around Britain, the dead are coming back to life. What nobody expected was that they would be wearing quite so much make-up.

Thankfully it’s not a genuine zombie apocalypse, but the craze for all things undead has resulted in immersive theatrical games that give thrill-seekers the chance to fend off ‘zombies’ with replica weaponry, or simply try to outwit them for long enough to stay alive.

“It’s like a ghost train, but you take away the train,” says Lee Fields, a former special effects designer who created the Zombie Mall Experience in Reading to combine his love of Airsoft – a sort of paintball without the paint – with zombies.

“Zombie culture has been building for years,” he told me. “The draw is constant, impending doom: it’s like real life, death’s always going to get you in the end. The zombie apocalypse is one of those genres where people genuinely wonder what they would do.” Continue reading

Confirmation Diary Week 2: Jesus, problematic fig trees and going Bible hunting

After a boozy party chez parents to bid farewell to my emigrating brother, I come back to London with two Bibles to complement each of my hangovers. First up, we have my mother’s: a slim, navy blue volume that she used for bible study classes in the ’80s, then we have my enormous childhood brick of 365 illustrated stories.

Now, I really love that book, but at 27 it doesn’t seem wholly appropriate that my primary source of bible info should be a tome where everything’s lovingly rendered in watercolours. I need to read the Bible. Properly. I’ve spent the last few weeks using the internet to research points, but as most of what I look at is analytical, that raises more questions than it answers. This is emphasised when I read Cracked.com’s Five Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t In The Bible which shows that at least three of the things I thought I knew actually stem from culture and/or Hallmark cards.  Continue reading

Confirmation Diary Week 1: How much of the Bible do you actually have to like?

I’ve got a horrendous attack of the new-schools as I get off the train and head to my first class. I haven’t returned to the area since Ben’s memorial service 18 months ago, and as I walk into the church hall I feel shy and incredibly awkward. Am I religious enough? Is it allowed that I think a lot of the Bible is bunk? Is my outfit even vaguely appropriate? Are my reasons for doing this as valid as everyone else’s?  Will they let me join in, or will I get that teenage feeling of being “unsuitable” again. Argh. Continue reading

Confirmation Diary: Why I’m getting confirmed

Earlier this year, after two years of dithering and 17 years after I decided I wouldn’t bother at all, I decided to get confirmed.

There was no Damascene conversion, no flash of light, no gravelly disembodied voice from above. I was bought up in a C of E family that goes to Church on Sundays. But at 10, I looked around at the congregation and decided with the black-and-white morality of the very young, that everyone there was a Sunday-only hypocrite and I didn’t want to get confirmed just because it was the done thing. Continue reading

Ignore the Bishop of Chester: at funerals, we should celebrate life however it was lived

I think we’re all agreed that funerals are not fun. But tell that to the Bishop of Chester: apparently we’re enjoying ourselves too much – all those ‘hallelujahs’ from across the pond have been having a negative aspect on our solemnity.

The Rt Rev Peter Forster, has written in his diocese newsletter how he “regrets” the current social trend for memorials that don’t involve a coffin, for private funerals or cremations followed by memorial services: “especially when it invades the Church”. Really? Of all things to invade churches (junkies, tourists, the other week’s Doctor Who), people tearfully blaring out ‘My Way’ at a separate service after the family have said their goodbyes in private seems fairly low on the scale of concerns. Continue reading