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LittleEwok

LittleEwok
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Member since: 26.12.2004

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    • Ab Belt / Sports Equipment / 66 Readings / 57 Ratings
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      10.05.2005 16:07
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      • "conductive gel pricey if bought from Rio"

      I’d consider myself a fairly active person. I take part in martial arts and kickboxing classes, I also practise yoga at home, swim frequently and play basketball and ride horses on the weekend. The one thing I hate however, is working the old stomach muscles. I do crunches in a way that strains my neck and back, and no matter how my tae kwon do teacher tries to advise me how to do them properly, I just end up with a terribly sore neck when I do them. As bad backs run in our family, this makes me understandably paranoid about doing crunches or sit-ups. I also find repetitive muscle training; like pushups and pulling weights, deadly dull. Although yoga is pretty good for sculpting your tum, it doesn’t seem to give your ab area that feeling of a vigorous workout. So I thought I’d try the lazy approach.

      Ab belts use electronic signals to cause your muscles to contract rhythmically, mimicking the way your nerve endings do naturally This is known as Faradic muscle stimulation, and this form of passive exercise has been used for 30 odd years buy medical and sports therapists. In ten minutes you can exercise your tum muscles around 600 times…how many sit-ups would that be???


      What they look like

      The Rio ab belt is basically a big fabric strap you fix around your belly, with markings on the inside to show you where the pads go. The pads are black rubbery things, and there are three of them. A battery attaches to the Ab Belt, and a little green light comes up to show you the thing is working. There are two positions for the pads, one for working your inner stomach muscles, and one for your obliques.


      How they work

      While exercising, your nerve endings send your muscles little electrical signals to stimulate a contraction. Once a muscle has contracted and the nerve is no longer sending a signal, the muscle relaxes. Body toners mimic these signals repeatedly to reproduce the muscle contractions of physical exercise.


      Using them and ease of use

      There are three pads that come with the ab belt, which can be fixed in one of two positions, to work your inner or outer ab muscles. You connect these pads as you wish, and then slap a decent amount of conductive gel on to each pad (the gel makes the belt more comfortable to use and stops you getting big red sucker marks on your stomach), and the wrap the belt around your tummy, and attach the battery. You then press programme button once to turn the belt on, and again if you want to change the programme. The belt also has plus and minus buttons for turning up the power, thus causing stronger muscle contractions.

      The Rio Ab Belt is pretty easy to use, however it doest come with any instructions, just a sheet telling you the correct way to hook up the pads. Unfortunately this means its impossible to tell which programme you are using, which is a bit of a pain in the behind, however I have worked out that the first programme is muscle toning, the second shape and trim, and the third shiatsu.


      What it feels like

      The conductive gel you have to splash on the pads is extremely cold and its rather uncomfortable when you first wrap the belt around yourself.

      The first programme is muscle toning (I’ve worked this out from a friend who has a different kind of passive exerciser). Basically it involves feeling your muscles expand and contract rhythmically. The belt starts on the lowest setting and you can up the ante as much as you feel comfortable with. This programme isn’t the most comfortable in the world, but its bearable and a lot less agonising than 300 sit-ups in a row, and at low levels its actually quite comfortable, unfortunately if you want a flat tum quick you probably need to turn up the belt some!

      The second programme is shape and trim. This one contracts your muscles slightly, and then harder and then eases off again, whilst giving you a slightly tickling sensation as well. This is easily the most comfortable programme to use and is actually quite pleasurable, almost like a massage. Even at high output levels this programme remains quite comfortable.

      The last programme is Shiatsu massage, which I suggest you avoid at all costs! I’m not sure exactly what this is supposed to do for your muscles, but it hurts like hell! It feels like someone flicking millions of tiny elastic bands on your stomach all at once. I suppose its meant to be good for you, but sticking your tongue in a wall socket is more comfortable!

      Comfort factor- programme 1- 3/5, programme 2- 5/5, programme 3- 0/5


      How often should you use them?

      You are supposed to exercise anaerobically (i.e., exercise your muscles), every other day, so I’m sure the same applies here. When I first got this belt I used it daily until my abs were as I wanted them, now I use the belt three or four times a week. Every other day is probably quite sufficient.


      Are they expensive to run?

      According to the website, if you use the belt every day for an hour, it costs less than 1p to run. The one thing I don’t like is that the belt runs off batteries. Being a bit of a greenie, I would much prefer if there was an optional adaptor included…although I suppose it might be quite inconvenient having your stomach hooked up to a plug for an hour a day! However, I use rechargeable batteries with this belt and they last a good few months before they need recharging, and I use mine for nearly 2 hours three to four times a week now.

      2/5 for requiring batteries instead of running off the mains, however still fairly cheap to run!


      Prices

      The Rio ab belt costs £29.99
      The Rio Sport ab belt also costs £29.99 and is supposed to provide a more demanding workout
      The ab belt pro costs £49.99 and has six programmes instead of three.

      You also need the conductive gel to go with the belt, however my advice is to buy it off Ebay, you can buy tonnes of it for low prices, the official Rio stuff is pretty expensive.


      Now the important part: Does it work?

      Yes. Most people get these sort of exercisers and abandon them after a day or two. You have to use these regularly and for increasing periods of time (so to challenge your muscles) for them to work. The results are not as fast as if you started a sudden fitness regime, but within a couple of weeks you will begin to see the results, your stomach will feel harder and a few weeks later it should be a belly Britney would be proud of- with half the effort and pain! My stomach wasn’t the biggest in the world as it is, but it did need shaping up and this belt managed to pull that off in two weeks.

      What the Rio people forget to mention however, is that this belt alone will not give you Britney’s tummy. In order to lose the flab from your tum you need to get a good deal of aerobic exercise, as well as working your muscles. A brisk half hour walk every day, climbing the stairs and walking to the next bus stop are all easy ways to get your heart working. No matter how rock hard your muscles are, you need to get rid of the fat on top of them before you can wear those belly tops!

      4/5- Sit-ups are faster but this is a lot more comfortable!


      Who cant use it?

      It goes without saying that pregnant women shouldn’t use this belt. Women who have a IUD (coil) should avoid it also. Anyone with diabetes, epilepsy, a pace maker, skin disorders, multiple sclerosis or heart problems shouldn’t use the belt either.


      It might be the lazy cows way to exercising but at least you can feel more virtuous when you scoff that chocolate bar! I wouldn’t recommend it as a total replacement for exercise of any kind, but if you want a flat stomach and cant be bothered with the 100’s of sit ups a day needed to maintain it, the ab belt is a pretty good addition to an existing exercise regime.

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      • Lush Cupcake / Skin Care / 40 Readings / 36 Ratings
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        05.05.2005 18:04
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        Cupcake is one of Lush’s finest products ever, I’ll wager. A cocoa butter, cocoa powder and mint mask than smells absolutely divine…like rich, dark mint chocolate, or those Options mint hot chocolate drink. The smell alone will probably make you want to eat the mask. Cupcake is designed for more oily skin, which is rather ironic! So, without further ado, here’s my guide to Cupcake…


        Ingredients

        Rhassoul Mud, Linseed Infusion (Linum usitatissimum), Glycerine, Talc, Cocoa Powder (Theobroma cacao), Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao), Fresh Mint (Mentha piperita), Sandalwood Oil (Santalum album), Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla planifolia), Spearmint Oil (Mentha viridis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), Pefume.

        As is usual for Lush, most of the ingredients in this mask are of natural origin. The Rhassoul mud gives the mask its gritty texture, the cocoa butter sooths the skin, and the mint oils remove excess oil. Cupcake is suitable for vegans (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this review!).


        What it looks like

        Cupcake comes in a little plastic 100g tub, much like the kind you get from a deli, only stamped with Lush Fresh. Open the tub and you are confronted with a gunky, gritty looking mixture the colour of plain chocolate. It looks sort of like uncooked cake mixture with ground nuts in. It looks very edible, and when combined with the smell you may have to be physically prevented from scooping it out of the pot and eating it, but please refrain, it will do your skin much better when used correctly!

        5/5


        The smell

        As I’ve already mentioned, Cupcake smells totally divine. It smells like rich, dark chocolate, and not the cheap Christmas tree chocolate smell that so many chocolate bath products have. It also has the strong whiff of mint, and just a touch of vanilla. All in all, it smells totally edible, so you might want to keep your children and pets away from it! Believe it or not, if you have a chocolate craving, slapping on a Cupcake mud mask for ten minutes does wonders for your willpower! Cupcake probably does smell a bit rich and sweet for certain people, and the smell can be overpowering as many Lush products are, but if you as big a chocoholic as me, you will love it!

        5/5


        Application

        Like all Lush Fresh products, Cupcake has to be kept in the fridge (again, warn your kids that it is not edible), so its lovely and cold when applied to your skin. It has a gritty exfoliant texture from the rhassoul mud which is great for exfoliating the skin, and its fairly thick, although when left in the fridge the mask usually get a little layer of watery stuff that has to be poured off before you apply it. At first when you put the mask on you get that slight sting that tells your skin is being well and truly cleaned. I’m not used to this with Lush products, but its not TOO harsh. After letting the mask dry, leaving it from 5-10 minutes, wash it off, rubbing well to exfoliate the skin and watch as the bath water turns a disgusting shade of gritty brown. Then smell the delightful minty chocolate smell on your skin for the rest of the day!

        5/5


        The damage

        At £4.50 for 100g, Cupcake is fairly good value as far as Lush products go. You will probably get 4-6 applications out of the tub, depending on how thickly you wear the mask, and as its more of an occasional use item than a once-a-week type mask, its fairly good value. However, like all Lush Fresh products, it does have quite a short shelf life, so make sure you use it up before it goes out of date!

        The good bits

        It bloody well works. Designed for younger, oilier skins, Cupcake balances and restores your skin without blasting the life out of it like synthetic products tend to do. The spearmint and peppermint remove excess oils from your face while the rhassoul mud exfoliates. The sandalwood and linseed oils soften your face to stop the oils being too harsh (as mint can be a bit tough on the skin). Your face feels beautifully clean and fresh afterwards, in the way only deep treating mud masks make them feel. If you use Cupcake every two or three days until the pot is finished, it sorts your skin out for a good while. And as already mentioned, the smell is another good selling point, it’s a chocoholics heaven! Everyone should have skin that smells like mint chocolate! The last great selling point is that Cupcake is great for oily skin, but doesn’t completely nuke it and leave it in a mess as harsher astringent masks might. Its great for occasional spot outbreaks, it both soothes them and prevents further ones. As my skin tends to be dry as opposed to oily, I just get a tub every few months to keep my skin balanced, but mostly I get it because it smells so bloody good.


        The bad bits

        Sadly, for us dry skinned gals, Cupcake is not the way to go. The mint in Cupcake is very drying on the skin, and thus we must be denied of our chocolatey mud mask goodness. For long term use Cupcake is also probably a bit on the harsh side, and is more aimed at teenage skins which are fairly spotty. For an occasional treat for dry skin Cupcake will do you no harm, but overuse it and you will pay the price. Sadly this means I may be reduced to buying tubs just so I can open them and smell them! Another minus point is you’ll smell so good you might have to stop people from licking your skin! And lastly, like many Lush products, it tends to leave its marks on the sink or bath if you aren’t careful to rinse after your bath!


        Overall, Cupcake has become one of my fave Lush products, despite the fact that because of my skin type I’m not supposed to use it! It smells yummy and it does wonders for the skin, and its not too expensive either! Everyone should have skin that smells like chocolate!

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        • Livefood.co.uk / Online Shop / 17 Readings / 28 Ratings
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          02.05.2005 23:07
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          Warning, if you’re squeamish about creepy crawlies you might want to give this review a miss!

          To feed my constantly growing reptilian family, I need access to a rather large amount of creepy crawlies and frozen rodents…I hear you cringing already! Livefoods is an online superstore for all stuff herp…before you ask, herp refers to reptiles, amphibians and other creepy pets like spiders, its not an STI! Livefoods sells, as you might guess from the title, live food in the form of bugs, frozen food in the form of rodents, rabbits and poultry, and a whole host of materials for housing, feeding, cleaning and caring for your creepy pets.


          The range

          Livefoods selection of reptile food is pretty darn good. They stock three varieties of crickets, locusts, flightless house and fruit flies, earthworms, mealworms and Morios (giant) mealworms, cockroaches and waxworms. They can be bought in small tubs with anything from 50 to 200 bugs in depending on size and species, or in bulk bags or half bulk bags of up to 1300 creepies. However unlike some other sites live foods doesn’t supply micro crickets (baby crickets for feeding to small and young herps) which I feel is a major pain.

          If you like small furry animals you might wanna miss this part…live foods also does a good range of frozen foods for snakes and larger reptiles. This includes gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, rabbits, day old chicks, quails and Snake Steaks, which are a processed snake food. The gerbils, chicks and quails come in small to large sizes, the rabbits and guinea pigs medium to large, and the rats and mice in pinkie (a few days old), weaner/fuzzy (around a week or two old), and small, medium and large sizes.

          Livefoods also do a large range of prepared foods for reptiles, including bearded dragons, monitors and geckos, including for the gecko species that tend to live off fruit and nectar mixes. All in all, the range of foods available at Livefoods is much greater than you will find on any other site or in a pet superstore.

          As well as the food, Livefoods stocks all manner of lotions and potions to keep your reps fit and healthy. There are reptile safe cage disinfectants, iodine wound cleansers (which you could no doubt get elsewhere for a fraction of the price), and a nice selection of vitamin and mineral supplements, including the harder to find varieties.

          Also on offer is a good range of the standard heating and lighting equipment. All of the ranges are very extensive. In particular the heating section contains all the usual suspects of incandescent bulb heaters, spot lamps for larger enclosures, heat mats and ceramic heaters. Also available are harder to find items like reptile egg incubators, heating cables for heating racks of hatchlings, and a new product called the “reptile radiator” which I haven’t tried out yet. The range of thermostats and humidity regulators is also impressive, however the lighting section could be doing with a bit more choice of brands.

          Lastly, Livefoods has a small selection of vivariums for sale, however like most shop bought reptile vivs, they are grossly overpriced, and the mesh vivariums they sell aren’t much use for anything!


          The price

          Livefoods tends to be quite a bit cheaper than most pet shops or other sites on the web. Their prices for insects are particularly competitive, although as with most places the locusts are rather overpriced. Certain products, like heaters and light, tend to be about five pound cheaper than you might find elsewhere, but in general it’s the savings on the food that is the best, crickets are far cheaper on here than anywhere else, and locusts too, which is good because they are incredibly expensive! The bulk bags of crickets sometimes work out slightly cheaper on another site, global live foods, but in smaller quantities Livefoods is better price wise.


          Delivery

          A variety of delivery options are available, with all the usual suspects…royal mail standard, signed for, special delivery, next day courier, next day before noon courier, and Saturday before noon courier. The prices are pretty cheap at £3.20 for first class post.

          Every time I have ordered from here my items have arrived perfectly on time, I have yet to have any delays with them, which is just as well given what they are sending by post!

          Everything arrives very securely boxed (obviously especially the live food). Small amounts of live food are sent in tubs which are handy for tipping into tanks until feeding time, but the bulk live foods come in bags which is an absolute nightmare trying to open without thousands of insects escaping into your house.

          Frozen food has to be ordered in bulk for it to arrive frozen…at the least you need to order around 6-10 items to be sure it hasn’t defrosted by the time it gets to you. For smaller frozen food orders you can add an icepack to the packaging, but these cost £1.29 and I rather feel they should be free! You also need to pay for extra packaging to prevent escapes if you live somewhere other than the UK! I don’t order frozen foods from them as I like to make sure my snake food comes from a humane source and live foods don’t give much information on this, but a friend told me the frozen stuff usually arrives in good nick.


          All in all if you keep pet reptiles Livefoods is pretty much the best place to get everything, it’s a lot cheaper than any high street pet shop or even pet supermarket. One or two items you will find cheaper elsewhere if you look, but generally speaking Livefoods is the best company for all your lizard related needs!

          Hope I didn’t gross you guys out too much and thanks for reading!

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          • Rotastak Cages / Small Pet Accessory / 10 Readings / 23 Ratings
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            30.04.2005 16:23
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            • "Impossible to get your pet out of them!"

            Rotastak cages are a popular choice for pet Syrian hamsters. Basically they are plastic cage units that connect together to form a little maze for your hammy to get lost in. Some of the basic units include…

            The starter unit and traditional system- consists of a small circular living section connected to a small system of tubes that leads to a small round “attic bedroom” type thingie. Comes with a small water bottle and an exercise wheel for hammy to run on.

            The “Pod” systems- A triangular shaped living space, half plastic, half wire cage. Contains a second shelf level, small water bottle and food bowl. You can also get “mega” and “super” pod units with extras like tubing and running wheels that join on the one of the “tube” holes in the side of the cage.

            The Maxi units- Kidney shaped plastic living units with an “attic” bedroom, running wheel, water bottle and food dish. The extras come with add-on units (“dining” rooms etc) and tubes.

            Themed units- there is also a grossly overpriced range of “theme” units, which cost about £40 for a small cage and add on bedroom. These include “Jungle” and “Fairground” themes.

            Basically the Rotastak cages are designed to mimic the burrow system of the Syrian Hamster in the wild, connections of tubes are used to add all the cage units together to form a tunnel system much like hamster would inhabit in the wild.


            Good points

            If you add enough of the units together, you have a large and stimulating area for your pet to play in.

            Its also great fun to watch them climb through all the tubes and explore their nice big home. If you can afford it, or can afford to buy one more unit a month, you can end up with a veritable fairground for your pets. This is a really fun project, especially for kids. I currently have a colony of mice living in a huge set-up of this type of cage, and its really interesting and fun to add bits and watch them play (although a nightmare when it needs cleaning). When cleaning out the unit, you also have the option of putting it back together in a completely different fashion, giving your pets an entirely new home to explore.

            It may well be more natural than traditional type cages, as hamsters live in burrows in the wild.

            They are a great fun type of home for kids to watch them play in. One of the big problems of buying kids pets like hamsters is the fact that they tend to lose interest, but with multi-coloured space-age homes like these, its less likely that the kiddies will lose interest in their pets.

            They are particularly suitable for mice, gerbils and smaller types of hamster like Russians and Chinese. Chinese hamsters, like mice, are able to squeeze their bodies through a space not much bigger than a pencils circumference, and for this reason, caging with less cage wire and more plastic are particularly suitable for these little Houdini’s. All of the above species are far less likely to chew their way out of this sort of home than an adult Syrian hamster.


            Bad points

            Rotastak cage units are really far too small for adult Syrian hamsters, unless you have a very large amount of them connected together, even then the fatties might have trouble getting through the tubes. For an animal the size of an adult Syrian hamster, you are really better with a traditional-type cage with lots of toys for interest, rather than a smaller living area with lots of add-ons. Most people using this type of cage only have one or two units, and this is really unfair to the animal. To make this system work, you really need a lot of the little cages added together, otherwise you are cooping up an animal in a small space and being pretty cruel. People tend to think that one or two of these units is enough for a hamster, but its really not enough for any pet.

            Secondly, Syrian hamsters are very capable of chewing their way out of these cage. Russian and Chinese hamsters and pet mice are much less likely to do this, but adult Syrians will happily eat their way out of one of these cages. You have been warned!

            Another problem is that Syrian hamster pups and full-size dwarf hamsters and mice might have problems reaching up to get into the actual tubing to make full use of their home. This can be solved by adding little “mouse ladders” found in pet shops. Also a big problem is that an animal might get stuck in one section of the cage. It may literally forget or not realise that there is a tube and not know how to get back to the main unit. If there is no water in the area they are stuck in, they may well dehydrate.

            Ventilation is one of the major problems of this type of cage. Mice in particular are susceptible to illness if they don’t have plenty of fresh air, and the small ventilation areas in some of these cages simply aren’t enough for them, and they may well get ill. The “Pod” type cages are better in this respect than the traditional types.

            Small animals love to climb cage wire, especially mice, and this type of caging denies this natural instinct, although if there is lots of tubing there is some climbing area. I like to add a “net” of very thick thread to some of the walls to allow them climbing space.

            Lastly, this kind of cage is a total b****r to take apart and clean. Mice in particular are messy animals and you really need to be cleaning them out once a week. Even if you only have a small set of units, taking it all apart, cleaning it thoroughly and putting it back together are a total pain. For the same reasons, its much more difficult to take the animals out of the cage for a cuddle…anyone who has tried to chase a nervous hamster through a Rotastak system will know what I mean, so perhaps they are better for putting a tame pet in, rather than a new one.

            Finally, these cages are really poor value for money, especially given that they are fairly poor quality. The plastic tube endings snap and break easily, and an industrious rodent can quite easily escape. One small unit will only cost you twenty quid, but consider that this will definitely NOT be enough space for even the smallest of pet mice, you really need at least three and probably more large units to make a suitable cage space, and the cost of this will easily reach £60. As for the themed units, you are paying twice the amount you’d pay for a normal unit without any decent increase in size or materials used, which is just a silly gimmick really.


            Final thoughts

            I would say that this form of caging is suitable only for dwarf hamsters and mice, and maybe gerbils too. Even for these animals, the use of this type of caging is pretty questionable. While a few mice could be perfectly happy in many connected units, ventilation and cleaning of this type of unit are major problems. Another thing to note is that gerbils and mice are much harder to tame than hamsters, and again the issue of easily getting them in and out of these cages is a major pain in the butt. If you would like your hamster or gerbil to live a “natural” existence in a cage type that mimics their natural habitat, the best thing to do is to get a big old aquarium and fill it with sterile soil and sand they can dig into and create their own tunnel system, such as sand. I think these cages are very bad quality for the money they cost to buy one, you are far better buying a large traditional type cage, it will more likely be better for your pets and more convenient for you.

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            • More +
              28.04.2005 13:57
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              Us girls love a bit of glitter, whether we admit to it or not, and Lush have been quick to cash in on this. They have a huge range of glittery bath ballistics, with more still coming out at Christmas, and now they have a new, fabby glittery product. Lush’s Glitterbugs are a range of little bars of solid moisturiser with different coloured glitter through. Fantastic both for partying and keeping skin silky soft and smooth, they are yet another fantabulous and innovative Lush products. Described as a massage bar, which it really isn’t in the traditional sense, here’s the deal on the Shimmy Shimmy Glitterbug…


              Ingredients

              Cocoa butter, pink glitter, Shea butter, perfume, vanilla absolute, clary sage oil, lavender oil, benzoic resinoid.

              As usual for Lush, this glitterbug is low on artificial ingredients. The cocoa butter and shea butter are there for moisturising, and of course the glitter there to make you shine! The resin would probably be used to bind the item together, and the vanilla, clary sage and lavender give the bug its sweet scent.


              What it looks like

              Shimmy Shimmy Glitterbug is a little 30g lump shaped as a lop-sided white heart shaped soap. You can see the lovely pink sparkly stuff all through it. Its all very cute and girly!


              The scent

              Shimmy Shimmy has a gorgeous delicate scent that is sweet and fruity with just a hint of floral tones to it. The vanilla is the strongest scent, and I’m addicted to this stuff as I’m a huge fan of the smell of vanilla. The smell is detectable but subtle on the skin, its nice and sweet but not too overpowering. If you are wearing it out and about (and lets face it you will be unless your boss can tolerate mass amounts of glitter in the workplace), you might want to consider applying it fairly lightly if your wearing perfume, you wouldn’t want to clash! However, you might find that Shimmy Shimmy goes quite well with sweet, fruity smelling perfumes, and anything that smells slightly of vanilla or coconut.


              Applying it

              Basically you glide the dry Glitterbug over your arms, cleavage and anywhere else you want glitter! You might consider avoiding your face as the moisturising elements in the Glitterbug are probably a bit heavy for your facial skin. It feels lovely to apply, the bug glides smoothly over your skin and leaves it feeling silky soft and wonderfully glittery!


              Wearing it

              One problem with Shimmy Shimmy is that the glitter sticks to your skin forever. Use it once and you will still be finding glitter on your arms six or seven baths later. Some people love this, but your boss might wonder why you are wearing pink glitter all over your arms when you go into work! The glitter might also attach itself to your clothes, your friends or your boyfriend…the latter tend to get rather upset when their manly arms are covered in pink glitter. Just tell them it’s a little reminder of you. Aside from this, Shimmy Shimmy is great to wear. The glitter is fairly subtle and not too over the top unless you use up a whole bar on yourself, and better still, it makes your skin as soft as silk for the entire evening. Bonus!


              The price

              At £2.90 for 30grams, Shimmy Shimmy is one of Lush’s more reasonable products. Unless you want to be a glitter fiend every day of your life, the product will last you ages. In fact the chances are it will go out of date before you use it all up, so get Shimmying!


              All in all Shimmy Shimmy is a fantastic fun item for girlies (or girly boys!) Unlike a lot of Lush stuff its really good value for money, and as far as I’m concerned we all need a bit of glitter in our lives!

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              • Festivals in general / Musical Event / 9 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                26.04.2005 17:58
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                • "the few idiots who spoil it for the rest of us"

                WARNING- this is a pretty long review. Feel free to get bored and wander off halfway through.

                I consider myself a bit of a festival veteran at the grand old age of 20, and I’ve been reading some of the festivals in general reviews. I thought I’d take a different spin on it and give a guide to how to survive festivals with at least some of your mental health intact, followed by some of my personal experiences…sorry it’s a bit long! So here’s my no holds barred guide to how to get through a festival in one piece (and hopefully still with your liver intact).


                Things you should take


                Absolute essentials

                Tent- Where else are you going to hide your booze?

                Sleeping bag- Most useful for sneaking illegal items into festivals grounds…sorry did I say that out loud?

                Ground mat- more comfy than lying on stony ground, although if you get p***ed enough it wont matter.

                Torch- For climbing over those totally unnecessary guy ropes at 3am and avoiding falling asleep in the wrong tent (which you will probably do anyway).

                Bog roll- lots of it. Useful for paper maiche, wetting and throwing at people, toilet rolling tents…oh and possibly for going to the bathroom.

                Matches/lighter- to set fire to the tents of the people “Next door” when they refuse to stop playing happy hardcore at 7am.

                Water container- one of the huge square bottles of water that carry about 5 litres is a good idea, plus a small one for carrying about during the day

                Sun block/lotion- sensible although this might seem wildly optimistic.

                Rainproof jacket- much more realistic.

                Bin bag- for sitting on when it gets wet and putting your rubbish in if you are have any sense of common decency, which evidently festival goers don’t. Also doubles as a rainproof jacket.

                Heavy boots/trainers/wellies- for wearing and hammering in tent pegs.

                At least one complete change of clothing- There is always one idiot who thinks they can not change all weekend, forgetting about the fact that this IS Britain and there is likely to be rain/wind/snow/hurricanes at some point.

                Money- this might come in handy, though I don’t know what for.

                Condoms- Because every hairy looking hippies look good when you’re that smashed.

                Booze- What? Of course its essential!


                Handy

                Plastic bags- for the inside of you shoes (put on a pair of socks, then a plastic bag, then another pair of socks then your shoes. Keeps your feet dry).

                Tarpaulin- to sit on

                Penknife- Not at T in the park thought unless you want it shoved through your eye by someone tanked on Buckfast and speed.

                Basic Toiletries- Not totally essential, because if you abuse enough booze during the weekend you probably will not remember to use any of these, but for the sake of other people you should at least attempt to smell presentable. Note for the girly girls reading this, basic toiletries does not include a 5kg makeup case or two litres of Chanel perfume.

                Plasters and painkillers- especially the latter. You will probably need morphine for your headache by Monday morning though, so don’t expect miracles.

                Vaseline- now don’t be dirty. Great for when you wake up with dry lips after too much Somerset cider, and unsticking stuck zips. Also handy for situations where idiots decide to get their fingers stuck in glass beer bottles, as my friend done last year.

                Camping stove- plus easy food like baked beans, pot noodles etc. If you know how to make Chai tea, take stuff for that too…nothing better than Chai in the morning after a heavy night.

                Portable CD player- will get nicked so get a cheapie!

                Air mattress- if you can really be bothered it makes things way comfier until some idiot punctures it.
                Fags/Rizlas, etc.

                Chairs- try to get a few if you are going in a group., you always wish you have them when your sitting on the wet grass.


                Don’t take

                A camping mallet- boots work fine

                Glass bottles- banned at most festivals but they don’t usually check. They smash too easily and there might always be some nutter around who may use them as a weapon. Best to decant everything into plastic bottles as cans are messy for the cleanup crew as well.

                Anything you are afraid of losing

                Fireworks- Not really so funny if you set someone’s tent on fire, as I have seen happen (fortunately its occupant was out so we saw the funny side).

                Three gallons of makeup- You’re not going clubbing at G.A.Y so get over yourself.


                Festivals for girls

                Whilst not a particularly girly girl, I don’t particularly like wandering around looking like a troll. For both girly and non girly girlies to look their best, a few minimum bits and bobs will keep you looking reasonably cute.

                Firstly, to avoid looking like a total idiot, avoid packing an enormous bag of clothes, makeup and total non-essentials. It just makes you look stupid and you will NOT look good after lugging it around for ages, unless you like sweating eyeliner all over your face.

                Get one of those Ziploc food bags and fill it with the following essentials- one waterproof eyeliner pencil, waterproof mascara, one lip liner pencil (mixed with Vaseline works as lippy), Vaseline, and a book of that powder paper that takes shine off your face…Superdrug do cheap ones. Pick one or two fave eyeshadows if you really fancy, but remember it will all slide off after a couple of hours. Forget the expensive face cleansing wipes…get cheap unscented, unbranded baby wipes, they will do the trick fine. Plus a small bottle of moisturiser. This should stop you from looking TOO much like Swampy.


                Festivals on a shoestring budget (or how to do the student thang)

                Firstly, avoid the biggies like Glastonbury. On the off chance you are lucky enough to get a bloody ticket, you will be forking out way over a hundred quid. Instead look for smaller local festivals, The Wickerman in Scotland, for example, is a great example of festival that you have to pay under £50 quid to get into. They are just as much fun and usually friendlier than the biggies, and there’s lots less crime!

                A good way of getting free entry to festivals is working for your ticket. The biggies like Glasto have thousands of places for Oxfam stewards, plus car park staff and perimeter fence staff, plus litter pickers and the like. Usually what happens is you pay a deposit, work your shifts at the festival and then get your deposit back. This is a great way to meet new people as well as get lots of festival fun!

                Take your own booze. Expect to pay well over the odds for alcohol at the festival. Try sneaking a little bottle into the main site as well, but if you get caught don’t blame me. Take a water bottle for filling up instead of buying tonnes of water at £1.50 a pop while you’re there.

                If they are allowed, take a small camping stove and be prepared to live off baked beans, pot noodles and the like. Works out tonnes less than buying meals at a fiver each! Alternately take lots of drugs and don’t eat at all (just kidding).

                Stay away from the stalls. No-one needs an ironic “Paralytic” T-shirt or a giant Guinness hat.

                Be enterprising. I know more than one mate whose made a fast buck at festivals by selling one of the following- Chai tea, spare tent pegs and hash cookies. If you get arrested for selling something naughty I take no responsibility!


                Security-

                Camp as far away from central area as possible. More people traffic means more pinching. Never tell people if you are camping alone. Don’t bring anything you cant afford to lose. Consider things that aren’t costly but are valuable to you anyway…favourite band t-shirts etc. My friend had a signed Franz Ferdinand T nicked and he was VERY upset, so old clothes only! Try and make your tent identifiable with flag poles or spray paint so you can find it in the dark when utterly wasted. However, use your noggin…flying an English flag at T in the Park will get you scalped. Making friends with your neighbours will mean you can look after each others stuff. Don’t padlock your tent…if someone really wants in they can slash it, and a padlock just says…lookie I have something worth stealing!

                While sleeping hide your money in several different places in your tent, so if some gets nicked its not too tragic. Better still, sleep with your wallet in your pocket and zipped right up into your bag…unless you’ve been at Michael Eavis’s scrumpy you should wake up if someone tries to pickpocket you! Whilst in the main arena, have all your money on you…in a zipped pocket or bag.


                Health advice

                Make sure and drink a couple of litres of water in a day. Don’t guzzle though as you will constantly be at the toilet. Using electrolyte powders to replace lost minerals and fluids is good, as is the odd isotonic sports drink.

                If you aren’t a vegetarian, being one for the festival weekend is not a bad idea…food poisoning abounds in places like this and any meat you do eat will probably be dog food quality.

                If you get totally drunk you will spend your festival throwing up and sleeping…did you really pay £100 for a ticket just to do that?

                Pack for all weather conditions…waterproofs and sun lotion (you never know).

                For your own sanity do not arrive so late that you have to pitch your tent in the dark. Unless you like having the same stress levels as a Wall Street investment guy.

                Contrary to popular opinion, festivals really are not a good place to try drugs for the first time. They are too loud, too crowded and too trippy.


                Common courtesy

                Don’t pinch other peoples stuff. People like you are what makes festivals crap.

                Don’t buy those bloody foghorns…they are very irritating and asking for a slap. Same goes for stupid hats!

                There is no need for guy ropes at festivals…we’re in Britain not Cuba during hurricane season! All they are is a health hazard!

                Guys, if you want to pee there are plenty of bloody urinals to visit. Michael Eavis nearly got prosecuted for polluting the water because of all the lazy swines who couldn’t be bothered to find the toilets. DON’T DO IT!

                Please leave the place as you found it. Most festivals are situated in beautiful areas and lets keep them that way please!


                Why?

                Festivals rock. The first thing to know about going to a festival is DON’T go just to see one band. The chances that they will cancel (a’la Bowie at last years T in the Park) are not altogether slim. The great thing about a festival is the variety, You are bound to discover one new favourite band that weekend what with all the random music tents to wander into. The bigger festivals are great for learning new things…everything from reverse bungee jumping to ska dancing, and being catapulted over the perimeter fence in a bid to get in free is also a new experience. The atmosphere at festivals is completely unbeatable, everyone’s so hyper and usually pretty friendly, its nice to be in a crowd of people that doesn’t involve everyone scowling and avoiding each others gaze, as we are so commonly used to. Its also fantastic for meeting new people. Of course, the chances are you will never see them again in your life, but you can always bank on meeting some interesting characters at festivals.

                You will undoubtedly see some hilarious, insane and ridiculous sights during your festival visits…some of my favourite moments include seeing a truck dressed as an elephant driving slowly through the Glastonbury ground playing techno with girls dressed as fairies dancing on top, and seeing a pair of enterprising lads carrying a SOFA to their tent area at T in the Park. Not an inflatable sofa, a regular one. Without a doubt, my greatest festival moment was at last years Glastonbury, climbing up the hill at the back of the green fields. When you reach the top and turn around, all you can see is this enormous, beautiful site with ant-like people, thousands of tents and beautiful shimmering lights everywhere. I wish I could bottle that feeling I had and have it with me at all times!


                Why not?

                For the more comfort loving types among us, festivals can be hell on earth. British festivals are more often than not muddy pits during a weekend of rain, gales and freezing temperatures. Festivals get really uncomfortable unless you spend your entire weekend trashed or are a very frugal person…the lumpy ground, the cramp in the morning from sleeping with soggy jeans on, the freezingness of the early morning followed by the intense heat in your tent when (if) the sun comes out. Its definitely not a place for girlie girls…high heels, lip gloss and Glastonbury just don’t go! Some people get stupidly drunk and wasted and not only ruin their weekend, feel the need to ruin yours as well!

                Travelling to and from festivals is a real pain, and the car park/bus station is ALWAYS miles from the nearest camping spot, meaning you have to lug a heavy bag for miles and miles which is horrible, because of course you wanted to arrive all fresh and clean knowing you wouldn’t have a bath for three days, now you’re sweating like a pig. My friend gets around this by taking a sledge to festivals and piling the booze in it…easier than carrying it! Festivals are not cheap either, especially the biggies. You have to sell a kidney to get to Glasto these days, but if cost is a factor its worth checking out the smaller festivals like Scotland’s Wicker Man because they are a lot cheaper, but being smaller are much more friendly, suitable for kids and dogs and nearly always have great music.

                Having your stuff nicked is the nightmare of all festival goers. Our booze got pinched last year, luckily that was all that got taken. See my hints for keeping your stuff as safe as possible. Festivals have no small amount of health risks involved…hypothermia, sunstroke, alcohol and food poisoning are all possibilities! What with the bad food and the toilets, you’d expect more people to get sick!

                On that note, the number one worst thing about any festival is the toilets. You know something is wrong when Portaloos are the best of several bad options. The slurry pits with the metal cubicles suspended over them are even worse…yuck! There is always an idiot who thinks its funny to tip a portaloo over while someone is in it…if you see one of these people scalp them. If only there was some way of stopping yourself from needing the bathroom for the entire weekend.


                Some of my favourite festival moments

                Watching the sun rise at Glastonbury 2004 right up at the top of the Greenfields. OK, so it was cloudy and it took a lot longer for the sun to come out than it should have done (in fact I believe it was about 8am), but when it did, it was truly spectacular…its an incredibly beautiful place, even with the portaloos.

                Orbital at Glasto 2004- I wanted to see their last ever gig at T in the Park, but sadly the Pixies were playing at the same time…what kind of idiots made the schedule! Anyway, the atmosphere at Glasto was probably better, seeing as they played outside and the crowd was enormous…and of course, their version of the Dr Who theme was pretty unbeatable. Truly the end of an era.

                Snow Patrol singing “Run” at last years Glastonbury- The most evocative and gorgeous song I’ve heard in a long while, not kidding you when I say a good portion of the audience were in buckets of tears.

                Pixies at T in the Park 2004- Sadly I was a bit on the drunk side and cannot remember this as well as I’d like, but it was still a wonderful experience, despite their reserved stage manner they have the ability to hold the audience totally captive…possibly because Frank Black now resembles a young killer whale and takes up most of the video screens…see you at the next reunion tour!

                T in the Park 2002- everything about it was just perfect. The weather was beautiful, the line-up was perfect, and Idlewild singing their anthem American English just as the sun was going down was absolutely wonderful.

                Cooper temple clause at TITP 2001 (I think)- Their first T in the Park performance, most of the baggy indie fans looked rather bemused as much guitar abuse and screaming went on upon the stage, but I loved every minute of it and they became my new favourite band. You gotta love a band with the daftest haircuts on the planet and a bassist called “Didz”.

                Glastonbury 1998- Also known as “The year of the mud”. It was wet, it was horrible, it was disgusting, but it was my first Glastonbury and I had a bloody good time anyway! Needless to say the moving mud statues and mudmen did not discourage me from going again!

                The Wicker Man festival- its always brilliant, just because its so small and friendly, much less scary than some of the biggies…good for a virgin festival goer! Also the tickets are about half what you pay for some of the biggies.


                And some of the worst-

                Paul McCartney at Glasto 04- Sorry Paul, but you were bad. Really, really bad. Sort of like watching your embarrassing granddad trying to be “down and hip” with the young people. Pains me to say this, as I love Paul McCartney, but it must be said. I was a bit disappointed.

                Coming home from Glastonbury 1998- do you have any idea what its like travelling home for around 12 hours in a Jeep that cant go more than 60mph, on the motorway for hours, absolutely covered top to toe in mud? I was in tears by the end of that.

                Leeds festival- OK, it was the year of Metallica so I really shouldn’t have expected much, but I found it all a bit intimidating. There was a lot of aggressive people around (even more so than at T in the Park, where everyone is smashed on Buckfast and looking for a fight), and way too many fires (camp fires, bin fires, peoples heads on fire, etc.) for my liking.

                Losing a shoe crowd surfing whilst listening to Super Furry Animals- one of my favourite shoes. Which then got thrown at the Super Furry Animals. Not by me. Lesson number one learned: Girls should not crowd surf unless they want to get groped and lose many items of clothing.

                Insects, and hail…yes HAIL at Palgowan dance festival- Held in the sunny heart of Dumfries/Galloway (I.e. out in the middle of nowhere by a pine forest full of the biggest insects you have every seen), this was really more of a rave than a festival. But it was really out in the sticks, more so than most other festivals and as such the midges where an unbelievable nightmare. I came home covered in huge red welts…I think they were vampire midges. And just to top off the midge bites, on the last day of the festival it starting HAILING!!!! I kid you not. Hail in the middle of August, after a boiling hot weekend. Trust the Scottish weather.



                I’m looking forward to five festivals this year…Glastonbury, Glade festival, T in the park, Leeds and the Wicker Man. If you can stomach the rough living and the toilets for a few days, festivals are really worth the money and the squalor. I think its something everyone should try at least once, because you just cant beat a big music festival for the great people, the atmosphere and the music!

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                • Utonagan Dogs / Pet / Animal / 9 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                  23.04.2005 14:00
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                  Its unbelievable to think our pet dogs have descended from the wolf. The single Domestic Dog species has animals, if you came across for the first time in your life, you wouldn’t even believe were related…Great Danes and poodles, St. Bernard’s and Chihuahuas. But they all come from one ancestor, the mighty wolf.

                  Many people, including me, remain fascinated by the wolf. Long maligned; wolves are stunningly beautiful, intelligent and powerful. They could easily rip a human to shreds, but (contrary to common myth), they are not likely to, far less likely than a big cat would be. There’s something majestic and wonderful about these animals. I have had the fortune to meet a wild wolf, while I was holidaying in America. I was riding a horse at the time, in the early evening. And a wolf crossed our path, just stopped dead in front of us. The horse stopped too, but for some reason she didn’t seem scared. The wolf just watched us for a minute, looked straight at me with its cool gaze, and then went on its way.

                  As such a big fan of wolves, when I learned there is a species of dog bred to look just like the wolf, I jumped at the chance of finding out more. Utonagans are a mixture of Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and German Shepard blood. Some sources say there is actually some wolf blood in these dogs, although I’m not sure of the truth of this, it could be true, as wolves and part wolves are occasionally kept as pets in America. Either way, the Utonagan is an unbelievable creature that makes you think you are face to face with a wolf- the name Utonagan means Spirit of the Wolf. The breed standard from the dog is taken from an expert opinion of the Timber Wolf.

                  Now generally I don’t like buy into the trade of pedigree animal breeding. When I get animals they pretty much always come from rescue shelters, I prefer to give a home to a dog that needs it than spend £400 on a pedigree spaniel. I fell in love with Utonagan dogs, and I lucked out and managed to find a pair of young pedigrees in a rescue shelter after a very lengthy search! This was pretty lucky as the Utonagan isn’t a common or well-known dog.


                  What they look like

                  Utonagans are massive, strong and muscular dogs, but generally quite wiry, like a wolf. Adult males tend to weigh from 70-110 lbs and stand 25-33” at the shoulder. Females weigh in at around 24-26” at the shoulder . They have slightly slanting wolfy eyes which are dark to amber coloured, and pricked ears with rounded tops. They have long bodies and sickle tails, and are usually silvery grey, cream, or brown with dark overlay and sometimes a wolf-life mask. They may also be black or white. They have a long, loping gait.


                  A bit of breed history

                  As I’ve mentioned, Utonagans were bred from Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and German Shepard’s, with the aim of producing the most wolf-life dog possible. They have been bred in Britain since the late eighties, but only recently named Utonagans. I’m not sure if they are the same breed as what used to be called the “Northern Inuit Dog” or not.


                  Getting hold of one.

                  Damn near impossible! I really lucked out with mine, but these are still very uncommon dogs. The Utonagan society (http://www.utonagan.net/) has a message board where puppies are sometimes advertised, but if you want one of these kind of dogs, be prepared for a long, hard searching process and possibly travelling a good distance to find them…and they cost about £600 plus a puppy!


                  Utonagans as pets

                  Naturally, the first thing to notice about Utonagan dogs is that they are rather on the large size. My male Sampson cant be far off the size of a miniature Shetland pony, but doubtless this has a lot to do with the fact that he wasn’t neutered until full-grown. To have one of these mutts you need a big house and preferably a garden they can roam in. We’ve got a big walled garden they get access to during the day, and they get three walks a day from one or another member of the household. They need a lot of space, and a lot of exercise. They are probably much more the dog to keep on a farm in the countryside rather than the city, although having said this I like in the centre of Edinburgh and my mutts seem to enjoy the city lifestyle, although they usually get a nice long run in the hills or on the beach at the weekend, and we have a very big house and garden.

                  On this note, Utonagans have the rather husky-like habit of doing a runner when you let them off the leash, so good lead training in the garden is essential before taking them outside of it. If you cant deal with a dog that likes a run, don’t get a Utonagan (or a husky for that matter), because its not really fair to keep a dog of that size on the leash all the time.

                  If you think you can provide this, then Utonagans make fantastic pets. They have quite reserved and aloof temperaments, they don’t go into highly-strung hyper drive like a lot of pedigree dogs seem to, they seem to enjoy keeping an air of mystique, like their wild brothers! We have no problems keeping them with other animals, including small creatures like ferrets and rabbits, and although obviously I don’t have kids, they have been used to children from a young age, and again, if they are introduced early on, there is no problem. They tend to act fairly aloof with children.

                  Naturally with a dog the size of a Utonagan you need to set ground rules at an early age. While it might be fun to play rough with a cocker spaniel, and indeed with a Utonagan puppy, it wont be so fun when you have a full-grown Utonagan that likes to play rough…and bite! As with all big dogs, I advise serious training from puppy hood to stop biting, but generally I have found them to be exceptionally gentle dogs for their size.

                  Probably due to their German Shepard blood, mine took to training like ducks to water. They are exceptionally quick learning and clever dogs, I suspect if they were more popular they might well be used in all the same disciplines that German Shepards are.

                  They are fairly effective guard dogs if well trained. Some of them tend to be a bit friendly to be a guard dog, but they have a very effective bark, and lets face it, if you were a burglar, would you be willing to risk your chances with a dog you would swear was a real wolf?

                  However, as many doggie people no, intelligence and quick learning skills usually come with a dog that NEEDS to be kept occupied, or it will go mad…as anyone who has ever tried to keep a border collie as a house pet will tell you. These dogs need to be given plenty to do. Its not really fair to leave any dog in the house all day alone while you go to work, but if you do it with one of these you will probably come home to find your house destroyed! Mine have the run of the house and garden when I’m out and plenty of toys to keep them occupied. Keeping them with another dog will also benefit them as the twosome can keep each other company.

                  I’m not sure if Utonagans are particularly susceptible to any illnesses, as they are a new breed there isn’t much information on this front. Its always wise to make sure your puppy has been tested for all the usual suspects, heart and hip problems for example. Dogs with health problems need love and homes too, but often these illnesses mean saying goodbye to your beloved pooch early, and also some illnesses need specialist care.

                  All in all, Utonagans make fantastic pets for the right owner. If you have the space for one and are looking for an unusual and slightly more reserved character, Utonagans make wonderful pets. They are beautiful animals with charming personalities and endearing habits, and if, like me, you are in love with wolves, you will fall head over heels for them.


                  And the obligatory bottom line…

                  A dog is a huge commitment. Please make sure you can fully provide for any dog you buy, whether a pedigree or a mongrel, in terms of time, space, love and money. Also bear in mind that there are thousands of dogs, pedigree and otherwise, looking for homes at shelters. Why not give a home to a dog that really needs it, instead of paying massive prices for a pedigree puppy who is more likely to find a good owner than a poor mutt at the rescue shelter?

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                  • Chai Recipes / Tea / 6 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                    21.04.2005 17:03
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                    So what exactly is Chai?

                    Chai is simply the Indian name for tea. Traditionally Masala Chai is made with various ingredients, ginger, pepper and cardamom among them, then milk is added and the tea is sweetened with honey or sugar. Properly made Chai is very sweet, with ginger and cinnamon usually being the most prominent spiced tastes. It sounds truly bizarre and disgusting, a spicy tea loaded with sugar, but properly made Chai tastes totally divine, it doesn’t taste “hot“ as you‘d expect it to, but it does make your belly feel all warm in a way no other hot drink does. Its fantastically warming on winter mornings, and it wakes you right up (as you’d imagine pepper and ginger tea might). There are a million and one recipes for making Chai, however I thought I’d share a couple of methods with you.


                    The slow method

                    You will need…

                    Black tea or Assam tea
                    3 Cloves
                    A small piece of Cinnamon stick
                    A pea sized piece of Ginger, crushed (preferably fresh)
                    One Whole black pepper
                    3 Cardamom pods (peeled if possible)
                    Half fat milk (or Soya milk)


                    In a deep container, add half a cup of milk and a teaspoon of tea to ¾ of a cup of water. Crush the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and cardamom pods and add to the milk and water. Heat in a pan for 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Add sugar or honey and strain the tea, then drink it. This is definitely the superior way of making Chai, however not all of us have time for this sort of malarkey, so…


                    The quick method

                    Buy plenty of the above spices, crush them and keep them in an airtight jar.

                    When you fancy some Chai, boil a cup of water, add a tea bag of whichever kind of tea you prefer, let it steep for around seven minutes (alternately if your in a hurry add two teabags instead of one and leave for a shorter time), add sugar or honey, the crushed Chai mixture and half a cup of milk, and boil until the Chai takes on a red-brown colour.


                    The Quickest method of all!

                    Buy some Chai teabags and boil! Chai teabags don’t have quite the same effect as a slow-brewed cup of Chai, but if you’ve never tried the stuff before or cant be bothered making your own, its an acceptable substitute.


                    Some interesting variations on regular Chai

                    Mocha Chai- My Indian friend would probably hit me if she heard this, but adding chocolate milk (or chocolate Soya milk-Plamil do some nice stuff) adds an interesting twist to the Chai. Much nicer than it sounds!

                    Herbal Chai- use one teaspoon each of chamomile, fennel and peppermint instead of tea.

                    Ice cream Chai- Blend Chai with ice cream…another bizarre but surprisingly tasty variation of the original!

                    Mint Chai- fantastic if you have a cold, simply add a couple of mint leaves to the Chai.

                    Chai coffee…I haven’t tried this one, I’m afraid to, but a friend of mine adds a pinch of Masala Chai to her morning coffee. Sounds a bit too rocket fuel like for my liking!


                    Its my experience that people are usually fairly reluctant to try Chai for the first time, I know I was convinced it was going to be horrible and I’d look so uncultured for not liking it, but give it a try and I bet you wont be disappointed.

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                    • Frogs / Pet / Animal / 5 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                      20.04.2005 16:51
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                      The first thing I say to people who tell me they want a pet reptile, is “Start with an amphibian”. Amphibians may not be nearly as impressive as telling someone you have a five foot monitor, but they are just as interesting, much easier to set up and easier to care for. There is a huge range of frogs and toads available on the market, from the Ornate Horned Frog (also called the Pac-Man frog because it NEVER stops eating), to the beautifully patterned Dendrobates (poison dart frogs). It is much easier to provide a suitable micro-environment for a frog or toad than a reptile, because they are so much smaller.


                      A bit about frogs and toads

                      Frogs and toads share the amphibian family with salamanders, newts and caecilians (which I think are a type of salamander). They are poikilothermic, or cold blooded, like reptiles (this doesn’t mean literally cold-blooded, it means they need heat from their surrounding environment, whereas mammals tend to have a constant temperature, if not placed in extremes). The biggest frog in the world is the Goliath frog from Cameroon. To see an amazing picture comparing this frog to a baby deer, follow this link… http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/strange/big.html


                      Frog or toad?

                      All toads ARE frogs. However we distinguish between them. Frogs have slimmer bodies and longer legs than toads, and slimy skin where toads skin is dry and warty. To make things confusing some toads are referred to as frogs and vice versa, and some carry characteristics of both families. A group of frogs is called an army. For simplicity in this review I’ll use the blanket term “frog” to refer to both frogs and toads


                      How to keep frogs as pets in general

                      This is just a general guide, each species will have different requirements and you should check out these on the web or in a book before you buy a pet frog.


                      A home for a frog

                      An all-glass aquarium is suitable home for a pet frog, so long as you get a tight-fitting mesh screen top made specially for it, as opposed to a fish tank hood. The provides ventilation and prevents escapes. Another ideal, and cheap home for a frog are those plastic tanks (sometimes called faunariums or fauna tanks) with the colourful lid sometimes sold as fish tanks or homes for reptiles. While they aren’t suitable for anything but the smallest reptile species, or perhaps hatchling reptiles, the bigger ones make good homes for smaller and more sedentary types of frog, and come with a custom, fitted lid, which is always good. You could also fashion your own terrarium (home) for a frog…however, the easiest way to do this would be making it out of wood and glass, and unfortunately frogs need a very damp environment which isn’t much good for wood, unless it is coated with special varnish.

                      Fashioning a realistic habitat for a frog in a tank can be great fun. If you find out where your species is from, you can add rocks and plants from that area, for more aquatic species you could include a waterfall or a rock pool for swimming, the choice is yours. Its more fun to go all out and create a really realistic living space for a frog, as well as better for them. At least, you should have a few rocks in the tank, plus a hide for the frogs to go in when feeling shy.

                      Most pet frogs are from warm regions and need heating. Commercial heat mats are a good choice. Low-light reptile bulbs are good too, so long as they are caged off so the frog doesn’t get burned. Deep pools of water needs to be heated with an aquarium tank heater.

                      Some species of frog, such as clawed frogs, are wholly aquatic, and need to be kept in a filtered and heated aquarium. More on them later.


                      Substrate

                      Some people use dampened paper towels, however these don’t look very natural and dry out quite quickly. Aquarium gravel is another choice, but some kinds of frog will eat this, which wont do them much good! Other people use bark chips, which work quite well, potting soil (must be pesticide free) and may include some sphagnum moss (this is a good idea as most frogs require high humidity, and spraying the moss daily keeps the tank humid). I personally use potting soil for most of my frog species, with a mixture of sphagnum moss, and aquarium gravel for the aquatic species. I feel this looks most natural in a tank, its quite easy to replace and the frogs can burrow if they wish.


                      What frogs eat

                      Frogs are confirmed bug-eaters. If this grosses you out (as it does me), either get over it or choose another pet. Again, you need to check requirements for your particular species, but good places to start would be crickets, locusts, flightless house and fruit flies (these are specially cultured so they cant fly off and take over your house), king and regular mealworms, earthworms, cut worms and wax worms. Smaller species like poison dart frogs will feed on fruit flies, aphids and the like. If you cant find pet shops near you that supply these, there are plenty of places online that will. Larger species of frog will also take the pre-frozen pinkie mice and day-old chicks that snakes eat, smaller lizards and frogs if you can get hold of them, and all species of frog will relish the occasional treat of fish (if they have a bowl or a pool of water, putting the live fish in and letting them catch it is good fun for them). An occasional treat of a piece of cooked meat may also be relished.

                      Food for aquatic frogs might include tubifex, bloodworms, minnows and other small fish.


                      Handling frogs

                      In a word, don’t. Frogs are not handleable pets. They are small, delicate and most will not appreciate handling. They have very delicate skin that will be damaged by warm, dry hands, so if you have to handle them, wet your hands first. Some frogs also give out toxic skin secretions which will irritate your skin. Larger ones like Pixie and Pac-man frogs can deliver a substantial bite…usually more out of mistaking your hand for food than aggression, but still.


                      Some common first pet frogs

                      African clawed frogs- a totally aquatic species. A 20 gallon aquarium will do a pair. The water temperature should be around 72-81 F degrees, and a depth of 8 inches is a minimum for these frogs. Some people have the water so shallow that the frogs can sit on the bottom of the tank with their heads out of the water, but I think its better to have deep water and build a little “Island” from rock where they can sit if they need to. A water filter isn’t necessary but you should change the water every few weeks if you don’t have one. These frogs can be fed on strips of lean, raw meat, trout pellets or specialist amphibian food pellets, earthworms, brine shrimp, guppies, minnows, fresh and dried tubifex and bloodworms. A mixture of different types of food will result in a happy frog. Its best not to keep frogs with aquarium fish for various reasons, but you do choose to keep them choose tank-mates of a similar size and a gentle temperament. You may well find the frogs might bully the fish Floating plants will make the aquarium nicer, and put in a clay plant pot for hiding, but rooted plants will just get dug up.

                      Oriental fire-bellied toads- These pretty toads unfortunately sometimes lose the orange belly they are famed for in captivity, probably due to dietary differences. These do best in an aqua-terrarium…part water, part land…half and half or three quarters water is good. This can be achieved by having a plastic tub sunk into the substrate to allow froggie swimming time, or, more naturally, by building a gravel “bank” and submerging part of the tank, which looks much nicer. The temperature should be 72-77 degrees F. They are chlorine sensitive so adding something to dechlorinate the water is essential, or let the water sit for a day before adding it to the tank, the chlorine will evaporate. The same goes for all amphibians, and reptiles and fish for that matter. 20 gallon is a good size for one of these froggies, if you go bigger you can design cool landscapes for them, they are also quite active frogs, so it’s a good idea to give them space. They will eat crickets, earthworms, locusts, mealworms and any moth larvae (cut worms, silkworms and wax worms are all moth larvae). They have quite toxic skin so don’t touch.

                      Pixie frogs or African Bullfrogs- Males of this species get to 9 inches, so they need some space, but they are fat and lazy, so don’t move so much. They have quite a nasty bite, so handle them with care. They can have either a terrestrial tank with a very large water bowl (big enough for them to sit in), or half water, half land, which they might appreciate more. Temperature should be 77-82 degrees F. They need quite a big tank, maybe 30 gallons, although seeing as they don’t move much, 25 might be OK. A good substrate is potting soil with sphagnum moss added. A depth of five inches or more is good, they like to burrow. They will eat anything, including each other, so one to a talk is a must. They feed on larger insects and invertebrates, frozen pink mice and chicks (defrosted), plus, if you can get them, other smaller frogs and lizards, or possibly newts. They are impressive looking big frogs, they don’t do much apart from eat though, so not the most interesting of species to keep.

                      Horned frogs- in America these are usually Ornate horned frogs which are more colourful, over here you usually get Cranwell’s Horned frogs. They come in regular or albino, and are beautifully coloured in bright green with dark stripes. They are aggressive frogs that don’t do much apart from eat, but they are very pretty to look at. Females are larger and can grow to 14cm. The best description I can find for them is half mouth, half stomach. They will eat anything, including each other, hence the popular and rather cute name, Pac-man frog. A 15 gallon terrarium will do a single frog, you cant keep more than one of these to a tank. You could go smaller as they don’t move much, but I like to give them space. Again an aqua-terrarium or a big bowl of water is needed for this species, and a temperature of 77-83 degrees F. Potting soil and moss is the best substrate, at least five inches deep so the frog can burrow. These frogs will eat anything, including your fingers, so a minimum of handling is a good idea. Feed them on bugs, defrosted mice, day old chicks, smaller frogs and lizards if you can get them, and fish.


                      My favourite frog species- Dendrobates

                      The dendrobate frogs are the beautiful poison dart frogs. You have probably seen pictures or zoo animals…they come in an amazing array of colours, and are famed for being used to make poison darts for the Choco-Indians from Columbia to hunt with. Only three species are truly dangerous, the most poisonous is Phylobates terriblis…a single frog has enough venom to kill 8 people or 20’000 mice (not quite sure I want to know how that theory was tested). They tend to lose their poison in captivity for dietary reasons, in the wild they eat ants which are hard to provide in captivity, unless you like a colony of ants taking over your home. Poison dart frogs are the type most people want to keep, but they are not for beginners, I’d suggest a few years frog-keeping experience first as they are delicate and have specific care needs. They are amazingly pretty animals though, and there is lots of interesting info available about them on the ‘net.


                      Why frogs make good pets

                      Firstly, a tank for most species of frog is small and wont take up much room. This is great if you want something more interesting than a fish but don’t have room for a big cage. A frog tank will sit happily in a small corner of any room of your house. A home for a frog could quite easily be one of those cheap plastic tanks with the colourful lids you can get from pet shops.

                      Most frog species are quiet easy to care for in captivity. This makes them ideal first “exotic” pets, as most exotic pets are a much harder type of animal to care for. If you are interested in keeping reptiles, phibs are a good place to start. They don’t require much care once their tank is set-up, just regular cleaning and feeding. They are interesting low maintenance pets, IF you get their conditions right.

                      Thirdly, amphibians, especially the more mobile ones, are interesting to watch. Its quite an amazing experience to have a tropical rainforest pet in your own home. Setting up tanks for your species are great fun, you can spend ages researching what sort of plants you would find in that area and what the habitat is like, making it more interesting for you, and more natural for the frog.

                      They are ideal pets for children who keep bugging you to get them an unusual pet like a lizard. Lizards are NOT good pets for kids, with no exceptions, but as long as your child knows that you cant really handle frogs, they make great, interesting pets for kids. You can encourage your kids to do research on the frogs and watch the frogs behaviour in captivity, maybe even raise some tadpoles! They are great for getting kids interested in the environment and how to help care for it, also, I’ve found/.

                      As ugly as a lot of people find them, most frog species kept as pets have lovely colourings. Pac-man frogs, mantellas and poison dart frogs, are very beautiful in particular. Even if they are not active species of frogs, they can often be very pretty, especially tree-frogs, which are really just very cute.

                      A bonus most people never mention, but apparently there are some species of toad that make you high if you lick them. Not that I suggest you lick a toad, it would be rather gross and probably bordering on animal abuse...still an amusing factoid to know and tell.


                      On the other hand…

                      Frogs are not pets to handle. It harms their delicate skin and is probably bad for yours too.

                      Although conditions are easy to maintain, getting them set up correctly is a must. If the tank is too hot, cold, dry or humid, your poor froggie will suffer.

                      Most tanks have to be kept humid, which means unless there is adequate ventilation, there is great scope for parasites and disease, and smell if not cleaned regularly.

                      Most eat insects and this grosses people out. If you have a problem with this, get an aquatic species of frog and feed it on pellets, frozen foods, and minnows, although they will still appreciate the occasional live worm.

                      On the whole, I think if you interested in nature, the pet frog makes a great pet. They may not be pets you can cuddle, and a lot of them wont do much, but they are still interesting creatures to have and look at. They are a bit of an environmentalists pet I think, setting up their habitat is great fun for people like me. Maybe I need to get out more, but hey, I like them.

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                      • Room 101 / Discussion / 3 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                        19.04.2005 13:03
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                        Hi everyone, its finally that time in my life when I feel like having a spew about the things that really, really tick me off. So without further ado....


                        Celebrity worship

                        Number one on my hate list, I cant stand all this “Hello” and “OK” nonsense…I mean do we really care if Britney’s thong is showing or J Lo is acting like a diva? It kind of upsets me when certain tabloid newspapers have Posh ‘n’ Becks latest scandal on the front page, and then something about the tsunami on page 25, after the adverts for the latest models of cars. I realise we will eternally be interested in the lives of the rich and famous (or some of us anyway), but when someone can tell you the latest details in the Michael Jackson case without knowing what’s going on in politics and the world, it really upsets me. I have to admit I do tend to read these silly magazines in work, but that’s because its impossible to read anything in depth at work (on account of being “interrupted” by customers all the time). There is a wonderfully celebrity-obsessed girl in my class who rather sums it up…I was describing this girl to my friend, and I described her as very pretty and Asian. This absolute genius butted in and said, “She isn’t Asian, she’s Chinese”. Dumb as a plug. Please people, if you subscribe to celebrity worship, please remember there is a world of important news outside of the latest Paris Hilton scandal.


                        The anti-vegetarian brigade

                        I went into more detail in my vegetarianism op, but this is one of my main rants. I abstain from meat, I’m not a child-molesting axe-murderer! It really irritates me when people who live of steak, chips and pints of Tennants suddenly become experts in nutrition and start waggling their fingers at me as if they know better. Strangely enough, I’ve been a vegetarian forever and a vegan for many years now, and I’m about as healthy as they come. I have plenty energy, my diet is not deficient in anything (something I’m paranoid about so I make sure of it) and my doc gives me a clean bill of health at every check-up. Some people just seem threatened by the fact that you choose not to eat meat, and a lot of people automatically assume that vegetarians see themselves as superior. I know some veggies are really irritating in getting their points across, but we aint all like that, so PLEASE treat us and our views with some respect. And those people who say that parents don’t have the right to “force” vegetarianism on to their children…how is that different from having a baby christened (as the child has no choice), or making a child go to church or Brownies, as many parents do?


                        The stigma attached to mental illness

                        Its one of the last taboos, despite the world and his wifey being diagnosed with depression. I am studying psychology and today we were looking at “abnormality”. One girl in the class said charmingly “but they always put them in high rise flats full of people…shouldn’t they be somewhere more quiet, where they cant hurt people?”. I really wanted to slap her.

                        People seem to have this idea that everyone who suffers from a mental illness is violent, when in fact very few are. My mum practically physically prevented me from seeing my now ex-boyfriend a while back because she thought he had schizophrenia (he didn’t), which of course means he’s automatically going to try and axe-murder me and bury me in his back garden. With certain notable exceptions, I believe sociopaths are one, most mental illnesses do not equal violence. Employers discriminate when it comes to those who are recovered or suffering from an illness in a way that they could not get away with any other section of society…fair enough, if its an illness that prevents them doing a job, but if they are recovered or the illness will not affect the job in hand its just not fair. Research indicates that 20% of people in Britain will suffer from depression at some point in their life…and that’s not taking into account all the other forms of mental illness, some of which affect vast numbers of people. I think its time we stopped treating these people like pariahs, because one day we might be suffering from a mental illness, and we wouldn’t like being treated that way.


                        Butt grabbing and general harassment when out and about

                        Last time I checked, I should be allowed to go out and have fun with my mates without have my butt, breasts or any other part of my body groped by some drunken pervy git (who is usually about 30 years older than me). I don’t know what century these blokes were raised in, but what makes them think they have the right to do that? If they did that in the workplace they could get sued instantly, but because a girl is out clubbing and/or wearing a revealing outfit she’s obviously a tramp whose “up for it”. I mean, do they do it just to get a rise out of you, or do they honestly think grabbing someone’s butt is going to get them somewhere? I go to clubs to dance and spend time with friends, not to “pull” like some women do, and I hate feeling like a piece of meat when I’m out and about. I do have quite a few flesh-baring outfits, but they’re worn more for my sake than to attract men. I don’t feel I should have to put up with someone else’s issues just because I look good and have fun when I go out. So if anyone reading this ever gets round to grabbing my butt, expect a fist in the face (or a knee somewhere else) in return.


                        Ned (chav) culture

                        This is probably going to sound rampantly elitist and snobbish, but its not intended that way. I’m not taking a dig at the working class, being working class myself. But this whole new “Ned culture” drives me insane. Firstly, the clothes. I mean, who the hell decided that tucking trackie bottoms into SOCKS was a good look? And then there’s the blinding whiteness of the trainers…I mean, do they get bleached every weekend or what? And of course, the ever popular “Shark fin” style of wearing a baseball cap which involves perching it on the very, very top of your head so it looks as if its about to fall off. Then there’s the big, chunky fake gold, and the girls with bleach blonde hair and dark roots. Customised Fiestas blaring out hard house at full blast, and hanging around chippies giving everyone dirty looks. I grew up in a really rough town on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and most of the people I went to school with fulfilled this description. I was hated and despised at me school (because I like being original and not acting like a clone), and as such I spent most of my time terrified of these people. Why? They act all big and hard in groups, catch one of them on their own, and they’re total wimps. There is just no excuse for the rudeness, shouting at you across the street, and threatening you and calling you a Goth/lesbian/poof/Paki whatever if you don’t live up to their bizarre standards. Fortunately most Neds seem to be under the age of 20 and tend to grow out of it. Thank the goddess.


                        God we Brits love a good moan. Other contenders for Room 101 included wasps (they terrify me), carob, anything “Ghetto fabulous” or “Bling” and the paparazzi. Hope you enjoyed reading my review!

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                        • Rats / Pet / Animal / 5 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                          17.04.2005 18:49
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                          Some people might find them horrible, but the popularity of rats as pets has soared in the last thirty or so years, and not without good reason. Rats are incredibly sweet and friendly animals that tame to a degree other small animals never do. Once you’ve had a pet rat you will be fanatical about them, mark my words. They make a perfect pet for a child (in fact the only pet I’d recommend for a kid under teenage years), as they are sweet, sociable, friendly and loveable, plus great fun to watch.


                          A bit of ratstory

                          Fancy rats are domestic cousins of the brown rat. The rat was first seen in Europe in 1728, being a species that originates in Asia. These rats subsequently spread to the UK and the US. Over here, the brown rat was a much more successful animal than the black rat and quickly pushed the native species aside. Pet rats first occurred during contests where a pit was dug, a number of rats put in the pit, and then a terrier like dog sent in to the pit to see how quickly it could dispatch the rats. Increasingly rats were bred solely for that purpose, and some found their way into peoples homes as pets, and many found their way into laboratories. Sadly, the fact that most of today’s pet rats are descended from either those who bred them indiscriminately for killing (thus with no interest in keeping them genetically healthy), or for laboratories where they have been specifically bred for develop cancer, most pet rats die at around two years from cancers and other assorted inherited nasties.


                          Where to get one

                          The best thing is to avoid pet shops. Most pet shop animals are bred like factory objects…females being made pregnant constantly and thus creating less and less healthy babies. Although, unlike most small animals, a rat from a pet shop will likely be very tame, they are much less healthy than rats from breeders. If you go for a breeder for a pet rat do just that, don’t be fussed about fancy colourings unless you want to show or breed your rats…very often beautifully coloured and marked rats are more prone to illness due to inbreeding. However, generally a rat from a breeder will be tamer and healthier than a rat from a pet shop. Before you go to a breeder however, it’s a good idea to check out any local animal rescue centres and see if there are any rats needing homes.


                          A home for a rat

                          Rats grow surprisingly big, especially male rats, so they need big cages. Cages designed for rats tend to be a little on the small side, I always suggest going for a cage built for a larger animal like a ferret. I’d suggest a bare minimum of three feet of floor space for a pair of rats, going considerably bigger the more rats that are added to the cage. Multi-level cages are particularly good as they give a rat more space without taking up more of your floor space! The best kind of cage is a wire one. Rats are very prone to chest problems and overheating in aquariums, and all but the biggest ones are usually far too small for them anyway. Horizontal wires give the rats plenty of scope for climbing, which they love. I suggest you fit some sort of extra lock on the cage. You would be surprised how agile and clever rats re with their little feet, and I’ve known many a rat to open the cage door with little problems!

                          Making your own rat cage is good fun, and homemade cages are usually nice and spacious. There’s plenty of info on the net on building animal cages so just have a Google!

                          Rats love, and need toys. They are very intelligent animals and boredom will give them behavioural problems. Pieces of drainpipe are a particular ratty fave, as are glass jars and hammocks (which can be bought or made from old clothes). Twigs and little branches of trees will be appreciated for gnawing (make sure the wood isn’t poisonous), and ropes in the cage provide climbing and tug-of-war fun. Basically any pet toys that are hard and durable will be appreciated, as will a sand-filled box for digging in. Adding a ratty “swimming pool” a few times a week will also be appreciated. Most rats wont actually use an exercise wheel, but if you do get one make sure it is solid and not spoked because the rats can get tails and feet caught and broken in the spokes. Rats need variety, adding a toy or changing the layout of the cage every now and then will keep them on their toes. A couple of nest boxes are needed too, one for each rat so they can take a break from one another is best.

                          Bedding can be wood shavings, although some authorities say that the oils and the smell of pine and cedar shavings are very bad for small animals, and some rats may develop allergies to them. Hay will be eaten and straw gets very smelly when wet. Corn cob granule s are another option, but if swallowed they swell in the gut. I use recycled paper pellet litter for my pets and it seems to work fine…its absorbent and dust-free. Cloth rags, shredded paper or soft hay can be used for next box bedding, although some rats wont use it. Avoid cotton wool type beddings if swallowed these can cause hairballs, and because rats can’t vomit this can be fatal. Change the cage out around once a week, depending on size and number of rats. Give it a thorough disinfecting (with pet-safe disinfectant) and scrubbing every six weeks or so.


                          Feeding

                          A commercial mixed food is a good basis for rats, the problem is that they tend to pick out the bits they like and leave the bits they don’t, which of course isn’t very good for them! A good idea is to alternate this type of food with “lab blocks” which are a boring looking pelleted food. They will be healthier for it.

                          For treats, rats can have anything you are having. They should have fresh food three times a week. Avoid iceberg lettuce because its not particularly nutritional. A mix of different fruits and veg is good, so long as you avoid citrus fruits. If your rats are white you might also want to avoid carrots and anything else that will stain their fur orange! Rats also need animal protein. You can provide this with a little cooked meat or chicken once a week, a piece of hard-boiled egg, a little yoghurt, a small handful of dried cat or dog food, or bones of any kind (chicken bones are safe to give to rats, they chew them well before eating). You can safely give a rat a little bit of whatever you are having…besides sugary things and chocolate. Some ratty treats include dog biscuits, popped popcorn, a bran mash, insects (if you find a creepy crawlie wandering your house your rat would probably love it), dairy products (only a little or they stink), pasta, rice, etc etc. I have known rats to enjoy a bit of Indian or Chinese foods! Literally they will eat ANYTHING.

                          Provided your rat gets lots of exercise and you don’t go overboard, feeding ad lib is OK. Young and nursing rats need twice the amount of food adults do.

                          Rats drink a great deal of water, so provide them with a big water bottle and make sure its always full.


                          Male or female?

                          Male rats can reach the size of guinea pigs, so bear this in mind. If not neutered they are also rather more “fragrant”, and more likely to scent mark you and your sofa with pee. Buck rats are more placid and cuddly than does, but on the other hand less interesting to watch in the cage. Although rats introduced as babies generally don’t fight as they are so sociable, bucks are more likely to fight than does, and introducing two adult bucks who have never met to each other is asking for trouble. They are cleaner in the cage, they tend to pick a toilet corner, unlike does. Bucks tend to become more attached to people and places, which is lovely, but if you have to give them up for any reason, they can pine away or become aggressive.

                          Doe rats tend to be more fidgety and active, and a little more intelligent than bucks (just like in humans ;-).


                          Playtime

                          If you cant give a rat a couple of hours out of its cage a day, then don’t get one! This doesn’t have to be all handling time, just letting them scuttle about a room is fine (keep electrical cables out of the way!) Contrary to common opinion rats are very intelligent and they need things to occupy their mind. A rat kept in a cage all the time will not be a happy one.


                          One rat or more?

                          Never keep a lone rat, its very cruel. Even if you can provide a rat with the hours of attention it needs if its to be a lone rat each day, you cannot make up for the lack of company of another of the species. If you are keeping males, buy two youngsters and introduce them, or get two brothers. Female rats can and will happily live in colonies. The more playmates the better, but remember the cage will need to be big enough to allow each rat enough space to get away from their cage mates.


                          Taming rats

                          Taming rats is much less of a problem than with other small animals. They usually come from the breeder or the pet shop tamed already, they love human company, are very friendly and seldom bite (I haven’t been bitten once in about 12 years of keeping rats) Bucks will enjoy sitting on your lap for cuddles and does will enjoy playing with you and exploring the room. Handling a rat for five to ten minutes a day from the day you get it will usually result in a tame rat in a few weeks. By the way, never pick a rat up by the tail…their bodies are far too heavy.


                          Why rats are the best pets in the world

                          Rats are the only pet I’d ever recommend for children. They are more friendly and sociable than hamsters and gerbils, and smaller, easier to tame and handle than guinea pigs and rabbits. It is very rare for a rat to bite and they love people so much that they make brilliant pets for children, for all the following reasons-

                          They have wonderful personalities. Rats are incredibly intelligent and can learn to come when you shout their name, and some can do tricks. They are basically like a dog in a pint-sized body, and incredibly devoted and loving pets. If you want a playmate, go for a doe, if you want a cuddle-mate, go for a buck.

                          They are very easy to tame. No chasing frightened little animals about a cage, a rat is bolshy and boisterous and will get to know and love you very quickly. From day one they don’t mind being handled, they don’t wriggle and squirm like other small pets and unless you really hurt them they wont bite.

                          They are relatively easy to care for. Harder than hamsters or gerbils, because they need a lot more attention, but the general day to day feeding and cleaning out is pretty easy. So long as you keep them in new toys, clean bedding, fresh food and cuddles, they’ll be as happy as a rat in a dustbin.

                          Rats are quite hardy and strong animals. So long as they have enough water and are kept reasonably cool they don’t tend to get ill, they usually stay healthy for a couple of years at least.

                          Another reason that makes them great for children is that if dropped they almost always land on their feet like cats…making them far less prone to a broken back than a guinea pig.

                          With almost no exceptions, rats don’t bite. Many small pets bite freely until properly tamed, but if a rat comes into your home biting its either in pain or it’s a very odd rat!

                          Another great one for kids, once the cage is bought, they are cheap to buy, feed and house. Vets bills for rats are usually non existent although you should get them check over every now and again anyway!


                          Some bad bits

                          Rats don’t live very long. Although they are usually hardy for the first couple of years, the sad fact is they usually die at around two of cancer or other nasty things, because they are bred from lab rats. Rats can reach six years of age but its pretty rare. And saying goodbye to them is always horrible as they are such wonderful companions.

                          They chew anything and everything…your clothes, anything that gets close enough to the cage for them to snatch, the sofa, etc etc. For this reason a plastic cage is a bad idea!

                          Boy rats are a bit on the stinky side. If neutered they smell less however.


                          Generally, rats make fantastic house pets. They don’t require walking, they don’t take up much space and they are just as lovable and full of character as a dog. A lot of people find them creepy but I think they have been sold way short in the pet stakes…if you ask me they are better than pet hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs all put together. They just bond to you in a way other small rodents don’t. If you are looking for a friendly cage pet or a pet for a kid, you couldn’t do better.


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                          • More +
                            14.04.2005 17:37
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                            Continuing in my series of “Ode to Lush” reviews comes this review of Lush’s delightful perfume, Karma.

                            One of the sucky things about being vegetarian is that most fragrances are off limits, either because of ingredients tested on animals, or possibly even containing bits of animal, although many of these ingredients have artificial versions available these days, a lot of more expensive perfumes still do contain this stuff.

                            This is where good ol’ Lush comes in. Karma is their original and best fragrance.


                            The ingredients

                            DRF alcohol, perfume, patchouli oil, orange oil, lavendin oil, pine oil, lemongrass oil, Elemi oil, Cassie absolute.

                            The fab thing about this perfume is its totally suitable for vegans like me, and as is usual for Lush most of the ingredients are fairly natural, its mostly made up of essential oils instead of chemical perfumes.


                            The packaging

                            Karma comes in a cute little glass bottle, the shape of a half circle, with a gold coloured lid. The bottle brings to mind a rising sun, of half an orange, both of which are pretty evocative of what the perfume smells like. The logo itself is a vibrant and sunny red and yellow, and the perfume itself a clear yellowy colour.

                            4/5


                            What it smells like

                            Absolutely gorgeous. Karma has a fairly delicate scent, not an overpowering one, but at the same time it is memorable and instantly recognisable. It has a strange, warm and almost smoky scent to it, a sort of incensey smell, which is overlaid with a nice sharp bite of citrus. The lemongrass and pine smell give it a fresh, summery sort of scent, while the more subtle lavender oil lends a softer, more floral scent to the perfume. It is a very hippy sort of scent, it does bring to mind incense and yoga classes, but the same time its also quite feminine, but not in a sweet sickly way, more a strong but graceful womanly. Its definitely a grown up perfume, not an overly sweet, girly one. I cant stand overly sweet smelling perfumes, or ones that are overpowering even if you only apply a tiny amount, so this is totally perfect for me. Also great for attracting men, I’ve been complimented on my smell many a time while wearing this little number, which proves that being distinctive in your look (or smell) can work wonders!

                            5/5


                            Wearability

                            Another great thing about this perfume is its very versatile. Its subtle enough to be used as an everyday perfume, but memorable enough for an evening out. It has a distinctive and unusual scent, and its bound to make you stand out from all the Clinique Happy’s and Elizabeth Arden’s. So all in all, it manages to pull off being striking and memorable without being overpowering and sickly.

                            5/5


                            The damage

                            All of us Lush addicts are constantly worrying about how much our habit costs us, but here Lush comes out on top. At £16.50 for 30 grams, this stuff isn’t bad price-wise. When you consider what all those posh YSL perfumes cost, its actually pretty small in comparison. Plus, a dab or Karma is more than enough to last you a good while. So not massively cheap, but its proper perfume so you cant really expect it to be!

                            4/5


                            The Karma range

                            Lush, ever able to pull off a weird mixture of capitalism and apparent leftie trendiness, have released an entire range of items to go with the Karma perfume, so you can smell all Karma-like without having to use up your precious scent. There is Karma soap, which is self explanatory, Karma ballistic which is wonderful but stinks out the bathroom for hours, and Karma Kream, which is a body moisturiser, unfortunately it’s a little heavy on the scent. There’s even a Karma hair bar, which is wonderful because EVERYONE should have hair that smells like Karma! All this stuff is great for layering the scent slightly, but lets no go overboard, we don’t want you smelling like a giant orange!

                            5/5


                            All in all, if the bland samey-ness of the high street and designer perfumes bore you, and you cant tell the difference between any of them, this is a great fragrance to get hold of, even if you don’t normally wear perfume. Its just unusual enough to catch peoples attention, and once you wear it it’s a smell you will remember forever! it’s the perfume of choice for the fragrant hippy!

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                            • Ebay Addiction / Archive Shopping / 4 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                              13.04.2005 14:58
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                              There are three things I’m addicted to in life…partying, Ebay and Lush…one of these habits will kill me and honestly sometimes I don’t know which. Ebay started as a bit of a hobby for me, I pride myself on having an unusual and eclectic wardrobe and scouring Ebay for unusual items has the same fun qualities as charity shop shopping…only with less exercise and much more choice. Unfortunately rather swiftly this occasional shopping habit has blown into a full grown habit of looking for crazy patterned tights, wristbands and of course, my perennial fave, non-leather Doc Martens (I now have no less than nine pairs of these in all sorts of insane colours). Another fave is those Converse style baseball boots…which I have eight pairs of.

                              There are just so many things Ebay is better for than anywhere else. You tend to find cheap DVDs and CDs here, often they will be lower than the Amazon marketplace. I managed to get hold of every season of Buffy for little over £20 a series, typically you’d pay at least £10 more on Ebay. Ebay is also great for consumer electrics, mobile phones and the like. You do need to be careful to check the feedback of sellers on these items, in case you end up with a dud object, but all in all it’s a great way to get hold of stuff like this…I got a fantastic eight track for next to nothing on this site. There are some great electronic bargains to be picked up on Ebay if your handy with a soldering iron, and if you know how to fix Playstations you can pick up broken ones for a tenner and make forty or fifty profit on them!

                              On the other hand, there are idiots who will sell anything on Ebay. Many sellers will sell an item saying it’s the actual item, then in a tiny disclaimer mention its just a link to “buy” the item. This happened to me. A seller said he was selling 20 o2 Genie cards for £20, but in actual fact he was selling a link, a link that’s available elsewhere on Ebay for 99p! He was nice and gave me my money back, but there are many more sellers who wouldn’t do that. I’ve seen people selling links on how to get Glastonbury tickets for this year, which must be a rip-off as there’s only one legit site selling these tickets.

                              All in all however, Ebay is a fantastic site, the biggest downside is the Ebay addiction…once you buy one item you want more and more and become completely hooked. All jokes aside, its quite easy to become psychologically addicted to Ebay, and it can be both bad for your health (I.e., spending hours in front of a computer screen and the stress of buying more than you can pay for, which is very easy if you don’t keep tabs on your outgoings) and your pocket book. So here’s some tips to avoid overspending. Ebay addiction itself is a more complicated matter, which I wont comment on (I would want to suggest cold turkey, as it might send you off the deep end!)



                              Some tips on avoiding overspending on Ebay

                              Make a list of things you normally buy from the shops that might be found on Ebay but you might not normally think to look for. Examples might be cosmetics or body care products, household items like batteries and the like. Have a look on Ebay and see if you can find them cheaper there than in the shops. If they aren’t less expensive don’t bid on them, simple as that.

                              Make a list of items you need or really really want and stick to it. Also ask yourself if you really need those items or just want them. “Need” might cover a new car, “Want” would probably cover a par of pink and white two tone Doc Martens…don’t fall in to that trap (I have and I’m still stuck in it).

                              Shop around. Don’t bid on the first auction you see for the item you want, see what sellers are offering it at what price. Also consider using shopping comparison sites like Kelkoo to see if Amazon or other sites are selling the item cheaper.

                              Search for those vital items only, and be specific. For example, searching for a “Squier Fender Stratocaster” will find you items in your price range, type in electric guitar and you may come up with a £2000 Les Paul you fall in love with and decide to sell your house just so you can have it.

                              Buying from sellers with low feedback is a bit of a gamble. Less people will bid on their item because of the lack of feedback, so it will be going cheap, but there’s always the chance your going to get done. On the other hand you may get a good item for pennies! Use your judgment.

                              Avoid looking at sellers other items. If a seller has something you really want, the chances are they will have other things along the same lines that you will really want if you see them. Try to ignore cross-promotions and DON’T view other items for the seller. Unless of course that seller is me, in which case you are allowed to look and bid to your hearts content ;-).

                              Decide the absolute maximum you will pay for an item, and DON’T go above it. There are very few true one-offs on Ebay and you might be better to wait than overspend. Bid near the close of the auction.

                              Remember to take postage into account BEFORE you bid. Many sellers sell items cheap but tack ridiculous postage prices on top to make up the money they are losing. The glut of o2 Genie Cards being sold at 99p with £4.00 postage is an excellent example of this. Don’t be tricked by this sort of low-down behaviour.

                              If you buy multiple items from one seller, ask that they combine postage. Even if it isn’t mentioned in their postage information, most sellers should be happy to do this.

                              If you are spending more than a fiver on the item, ask the seller to send it recorded. Even if its not mentioned in postage information, if you ask nicely and offer to pay the extra sellers will often do this. Recorded delivery is pretty cheap considering, and worth it for your peace of mind.

                              Be careful with items that say “postage to be calculated at sale”. I bought a poster from one seller at £3.99, and he told me this was far too cheap and said I’d have to add £20 postage!!! Of course I flatly refused and got negative feedback because of it. There is often no reason why a seller cant estimate a postage cost or perhaps check with the post office before selling the item, and if they cant you should ask why, and they should give a legit reason.

                              Check feedback thoroughly. Negative feedback is often a lot more telling than positive feedback, as it lets you know how a seller behaves when something does go wrong, whether they are helpful not. Rude or insolent replies to negative feedback are a good indicator of what the seller is like. Remember they are in the business of selling, and people who sell should always do their very best to make sure the customer is happy. Of course you get many customers who are a pain in the behind, but still, they should try to be courteous and solve reasonable problems.

                              Keep a list of your outgoings on Ebay, so you can determine whether you are spending too much. A fiver here and there adds up very quickly. If you sell, match your incomings to your outgoings…its not uncommon for a seller to spend all the money they make on Ebay!

                              Naughty as it is, snipe bidding can be a buyers best friend. If you can bid at the last minute, you can prevent a bidding war and sometimes win yourself an item for less. If a person is sure they are going to win an auction, they are often unprepared for a snipe bid. If you cant be online when the auction is closing, there are several snipe web programmes you can use, just have a Google to find them.

                              If you are addicted to buying non-essential items like clothes or kitsch item, make a list of things you would really like to spend your money on that you have to save for…a holiday, a guitar, a new PC, and tack a picture that reminds you of that thing on your computer. Every time you find yourself on the bidding page, hopefully that little picture will discourage you from frivolous spending.

                              If you sell and have a Paypal account, be patient and wait until your account reaches at least £50 before you withdraw cash from it, this way there are less in the way of charges. Consider not using Paypal and switching to Nochex. Nochex don’t charge for their service, and customers don’t need to go through an awkward verification process before paying as they do with Paypal. If you explain Nochex thoroughly in your listing, customers should be happy to use it.

                              Listing in two categories is only worth it for more expensive items. If you’re selling something small like an item of clothing, it isn’t really worth it.

                              Likewise, be careful of the options you use when selling your item. Listing designers are an unnecessary expense. If you want an attractive auction page learn HTML, but try not to go to extremes. Clogged listings take ages to load, are hard to read and irritating and just detract from the item your selling…especially listings which make noises or play music or have little designs following the cursor of your mouse. DON’T BOTHER! Bold and featured options should really only be used when selling expensive items, when they will be worth the extra publicity.


                              I am now trying to transfer my Ebay addiction to selling rather than buying. I have promised myself I will buy NOTHING more from Ebay (after I get hold of that pair of pink two-tone Doc Martens and that yoga video I wanted, of course) and instead transfer those addictive qualities to MAKING money. At the moment I’m just getting rid of old clothes and stuff I have lying around the house, however I have found a few sources of goods to sell once I run out. I figure this way I can live the proper student lifestyle…not have a job, occasional show up to my college classes and make enough money to party four nights a week. Problem solved!

                              Edit: This is the weirdest item I have EVER seen for sale on Ebay…check it out…One cheesy Dorito shaped like the Pope's Hat! I kid you not! Go and search for it!



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                              • More +
                                06.04.2005 20:55
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                                You have to love the pop culture references in the products from Lush…the Strokes hair conditioner, Marilyn hair conditioner, and the wonderful Buffy the Backside Slayer. Its only so long before they get sued.

                                Buffy the Backside Slayer is an unappetising (as opposed to most of Lush’s stuff, which looks like food) looking greyish-beige blob. It doesn’t look like much on first sight, but hell your in for a surprise. The main ingredients are cocoa and shea butter, and ground rice, almonds and aduki beans. Buffy is here with a mission, that mission would be giving you a smoother, sexier butt. It can be used all over the body despite the name, and if you want skin like silk, this is the best way to do it without resorting to surgery! Whether you are cellulite-o-rific or just want smoother skin, Buffy is here to help. Here’s the lowdown…


                                Ingredients

                                Cocoa butter, shea butter, ground rice, ground almonds, ground aduki beans, perfume, lavender oil and lemon oil.

                                Basically, the cocoa butter and the shea butter are fantastic for making your skin silky smooth, whilst the ground rice, almonds and beans exfoliate the skin, but gently. Obviously the lavender and lemon oil are there for perfume. Like most of Lush’s products, Buffy is fairly low on the chemicals, which is always nice to know. Buffy the Backside Slayer is suitable for vegans...not to eat though, obviously!


                                What it looks like

                                Not much really. Just a blob of beige gunk with brown spots, a little like some sort of pale and slightly off cheese. It comes unexcitingly wrapped in Lush’s white paper, all ready for use. It comes in two sizes, 90 grams and an enormous 200 gram block.


                                What it smells like

                                When Buffy first came out, it sort of smelled like cat pee…probably too much in the way of lemon oil. Fortunately Lush have toned down on the smells and currently this stuff has a soft, sweetish and slightly floral scent, thanks to the lavender oil. Its not unpleasant but not particularly interesting or strong either, which is OK because it does its job just fine, and some of Lush’s stuff is way too aromatic, and as long as Buffy works, which it does, the smell doesn't really matter.


                                Using it

                                Basically rub the dry block over your wet skin and scrub it in using circular motions. The bar melts quite quick, so to save it for longer swipe it over your skin and then scrub in the stuff it leave on your skin, this way you’ll save a bit more of the bar. Although Buffy is made for use on the bum and thighs, it can be used all over to great effect. Its fairly simple to use, although it can be quite tiring on the arms if you are very gung ho about rubbing it in. Buffy works by the ground rice, nuts and beans grinding away all the dead, rought skin, and the butters conditioning the skin underneath and making it silky smooth and nicely scented of lemon and lavender.


                                The Cost

                                A £90g bar of Buffy costs £3.45. This will do you around three all over body uses, if you are conservative about using the bar. You can also get a 200g bar for £8.75. Buying the bigger bar is better as its easier to hold on to in the tub! Also, obviously it lasts longer. It should last around two weeks if you use it three times a week.


                                The good

                                God it works. Giving yourself a Buffy three times a week gives you skin to die for. It leaves your skin silky soft and smooth and you just won’t be able to stop touching your legs (and neither will anyone else!) Interestingly, using Buffy in the bath or shower is also pretty good for toning up those arms, which is an unexpected bonus! Lastly, its fantastic for waking you up, rubbing the stuff into your skin makes you feel invigorated and very healthy, and you will leave the bath with a lovely tingly feeling! Obviously, Buffy cant work miracles and we all know cellulite doesn’t magically disappear on its own, but using this a few times a week certainly firms and conditions the skin. Lush is honest about this, stating that there is no way to GET RID of cellulite, but regular use of Buffy will certainly help. Even if you don't have cellulite Buffy conditions your skin and makes it gorgeous.


                                The bad and the ugly

                                Like a lot of the Lush soaps Buffy has the tendency to do a disappearing act rather fast. Leave it in a warm or wet place and it will turn to gunk in minutes, and even when your using it seems to shrink ridiculously quick. Also, after you use it your body is coated in this rather nasty greasy film until the product soaks in properly, which can take a while. Its quite disconcerting and it means water just sits on your skin as opposed to drying in. The best time to use Buffy is probably an evening when you're staying in so the oily layer can dry in without you having to go out anywhere! It also works out pretty expensive. The smaller bar will last two or three all over body scrubs at the most, and the big one maybe six. If you plan on using Buffy regularly (and you will once you try it!) it can cause quite a dent in the fundage. However, when you compare it to these ridiculously priced anti-cellulite scrubs that cost about £30 for 50grams, it doesn’t seem so expensive after all!


                                Worth it?

                                Absolutely! As a Lush addict, I’m bound to say that, but Buffy certainly is one of Lush’s best products. If you can bear parting with a few quid every week, its certainly worth it…and hey, its easier than going to the gym! And bonus points to any Buffy fan who can tell me which episode of Buffy I nicked my title quote from!


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                                • Kids (DVD) / DVD / 6 Readings / 38 Ratings
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                                  26.03.2005 20:44
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                                  Kids is a mockumentary filmed in 1995 by Larry Smith. Its about a bunch of kids hanging around, taking drugs, getting laid and passing the HIV virus between each other.

                                  Kids tells the tale of Telly, an irritating and immature little muppet whose only love in life is taking the virginity of young girls, usually under 16. A self-styled "Virgin surgeon", we see him spin the usual lines young lads spin to get girls into the bed with them, with the exception that these young ladies average age 13. Oh, and Telly is HIV positive, although we assume he doesn’t know this. We also see Jenny, a girl who finds out she is HIV positive, and only having slept with one guy, Telly, knows instantly who it is. Basically the tale is about Telly getting wasted and hitting on young women (sorry, girls), and Jenny trying to find him and tell him he has HIV.

                                  The basic point of this film is to shock parents, and in that it succeeds. Apart from that it’s a lame piece of nonsense. To be honest though, there is only so much shock factor in the film. After the opening sequence where the repulsive Telly deflowers another innocent virgin, who cant be much more than thirteen, which is rather graphic and basically brings to mind a phrase from Carrie in Sex and the City- “masturbating with a woman instead of your hand”, you cant really get much more shocked, not even when you watch an unconscious girl being raped, a bunch of kids who must be about eight or nine smoking joints, or a young man being beaten near to death (or possibly to death) by a mob of brats.

                                  Obviously there are moral messages in their ,but the way they’re portrayed isn’t particularly helpful…its pretty hard to feel sorry for such a bunch of gullible little idiots. The films also portrays the issues of HIV, underage sex, drinking and drugs in a way that is a strange mix of blasé and sensationalist, with the result that you feel as if the movie is saying “Look how terrible this is but its really just another day in the life of a New York kid”. The moral messages just don’t work purely because the characters aren’t human, they’re just paper caricatures of nightmare kids. They don’t seem like real people, so its impossible to take anything away from this film, even the moral message it carries.

                                  The plot is beyond basic and its pretty much impossible to describe even the basic synopsis without giving everything away, its so basic. Bunch of kids get wasted, have sex, fight, pop pills in a club…blah blah blah. Basically its 24 hours following a bunch of kids around New York.

                                  The characters are truly awful and flat. They serve no purpose other than to provide a base for a finger-wagging “don’t do this, don’t do that” session. They are lifeless, sub-human and unlikeable, and its pretty hard to feel sorry for anyone involved in this movie.

                                  One of the only funny things about this film is the completely not understandable sex appeal of main character Telly…he’s vile and irritating and you just want to hit him all the time. Not only this, he’s clearly thick as a plank, with absolutely no redeemable features to be spoken of. Its just not possible to understand how this little rat has slept with so many pretty little underagers.

                                  You’re supposed to feel sorry for the girls he’s infecting with the HIV virus but its hard not to think about how stupid they would be having sex with an imbecile like this…sorry that wasn’t very PC and was rather harsh, but watch the film and you will know what I‘m talking about. In real life no-one would sleep with this nasty little boy and we all know it.

                                  Casper, Telly’s best friend, isn’t much better. At first he seems slightly more likeable than Telly, but really he’s just an extra vehicle to show more naughty exploits of under age teens. He seems little more likeable or intelligent than Telly, and after a disgusting scene at the end of the movie you hate him just as much as you hate Telly.

                                  The only decent character in this film is the lovely Jenny, the girl who has just found out Telly has given her HIV. Its possible to feel very bad for her as she wanders the city on her own trying to find Telly, while his friends make jibes at her and people continually exploit her. You can see her genuine grief and her impulsive behaviour as a result of it. She has a sweet and naïve vulnerability about her which makes her seem much more likeable than the nasty little brats around her.

                                  In the end this is just another movie about the dehumanising process of growing up. All those cheap shocks just don’t add up to a good movie, and all it is is a bunch of disapproving middle class idiots looking down their noses at a bunch of teens who have been left by their parents to do as they please. It doesn’t bring any new ideas, or perhaps better solutions, to the long exploited genre of shock-factor teen movies, it is nothing more than an hour-and-a-half advertisement to terrify parents. Utter trash. The only reason it should have been “Banned in the UK” is because its an insult to decent film-makers everywhere.


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