Right now in Britain we seem to have a myriad of political issues. The big one is, of course, the EU referendum. Much has been written/shouted/detailed in fancy graphics about whether or not we should stay or go and which option is completely definitely going to lead to World War Three (Hint: It’s probably neither). This blog post is not dealing with that referendum. Another big ongoing political scandal is the kerfuffle over the junior doctors’ strike, as human blancmange Jeremy Hunt tries eagerly to work out a deal that will cause hundreds of thousands of overworked doctors to work that little bit more for the good of, err, someone or other. This post is also not really about that.
Rather, this post is going to have a brief look at the proposed Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill that our government wants desperately to push through. In essence, what seems to have happened is that the government’s long-running, not-at-all-disruptive plans to build HS2 have been stalled slightly due to a lack of archaeologists to carry out the necessary surveying and/or excavation work to make sure that people can get to London about 10 minutes earlier without having to permanently destroy thousands of years of Britain’s past. The news broke that there was a shortage of archaeologists, which you know, could be due to the fact that they have low pay and very poor job security. Instead of thinking about all the possible policies that could be implemented to combat this by, for example, giving the sector a bit of extra funding (creating more jobs) or not trying to raise tuition fees yet again and discouraging people from getting qualifications to allow them to become archaeologists (did someone mention jobs?), our beloved Etonian overlords decided to try and push through some legislation that means they don’t need to bother with that troublesome business of protecting heritage or nature or any of the other nuisances that get in the way of hugely expensive propaganda projects.
When the news of a lack of archaeologists broke, some cynical and pessimistic corners of the sector claimed it’d only be a few years before the government tried to just stop archaeology happening at all. Turns out those pessimists were just a tad too optimistic, as it took a bit less time. 3 days. Hmm, really feels like the last resort. But clearly they’re in the right here, as no one cares about old stuff anyway! It’s not like one of the nation’s biggest tourist attractions is filled with archaeological objects. Nope, we’ve filled the British Museum now, we don’t need any more stuff. Or knowledge. Or jobs. Instead we’ll get HS2 slightly earlier, so that all of those out-of-work archaeologists and recent graduates can get to the hub of British commerce a bit quicker. Except for the bit where they have to pay to get on it, that’s less likely to happen.
I really did want to wait until the government responded to the 17,000 signature-strong petition against this bill before writing this, but as there’s no indication as of yet that they’re bothering with it, I thought I’d get cracking. I emplore you to point out to the Tories that some people quite like Britain’s exquisite heritage and don’t particularly want it destroyed without any consideration. The petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/130783.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything at all on this here blog. One could probably say that a fair amount has happened since. A few days after my last post I turned 20. Not a huge achievement, but just about significant enough to warrant inclusion. The most significant thing to’ve happened however is almost undoubtedly starting university. Thus far I’ve found university to be both an odd, and an oddly normal, experience. Obviously leaving home and blah blah is a big deal. And then there’s the culture of being a student that I found myself thrown into. Funnily enough, very little changed. I’m still not big on clubbing and the associated activities, and I still prefer to have smaller gatherings with a few friends. In that way, little really changed. There’s some work to do a lot of the time, although, being a first year, I only technically need to do 40% of it (I do try and do a tad more).
As well as the social (read drinking) side of university and the academia that we’re all actually here to get on with, there were a whole host of societies and sports clubs to try out. In terms of non-sporting activities, the CU was really the only one I paid much attention to. Although I also had a look at the possibility of writing articles for the uni’s newspaper. Unfortunately it transpired that the news section of that at least is full of proper articles written by proper journalists who demand a fee for their services taken and re-written by students before being lumped together in the form of a free paper. That didn’t appeal to me massively. So a few days later I went to the sports fair to see what my options were in that area. I disregarded the normal sports in general, I’d never get near the football team, I’m far too small and weak for rugby, and I’m 5’8”, hardly the size for basketball. I knew I was going to attend the taster sessions for 3 sports already, and those were table tennis, squash and korfball. Table tennis because I’ve always been ok at it, it’s fun, and it’s not too energetic. Squash is a fantastic sport that I love, but the taster for that was difficult, being split into groups of varying ability with very little basis for the decisions and having to hit only single sporadic shots made for an unappealing session. Korfball I thought I’d try as my friend had got into it the previous year at his university and had raved about the sport. It was fun actually, and I’d recommend it (look it up, it’s Dutch and really rather fun).
But there was one other sport I knew of vaguely that I thought I’d try, and that’s the one that stuck, the wonderful, if lesser-known, Ultimate Frisbee. I wasn’t expecting to love it really, but my word it’s fun. If you’re not aware of the sport, it’s sort of like an odd mix of football, American football and netball, but played with a Frisbee. I know, weird right. The basic objective is to throw the disc to someone stood in the endzone and have them catch it. Simple stuff. Then there are forces, which is when the defender tries to stop the disc being thrown, and all the many different throws. You might be able to think of one, maybe two. There’s the flat backhand (that’s the one you’re thinking of) and then roll curves, IOs, flick, blades, hammers, scoobers, chicken wings and other similarly ridiculously named throws. Enticed yet? Of course you are. But on the off-chance that you’ve not just bought a disc and formed a club, let me tell you one more thing about it. Puns. Puns everywhere. Never has a professional, IOC-recognised, sport had so many puns. Teams are named with puns. Clubs are, draft leagues are, plays are, even tournaments are. It’s practically inescapable. And why would you want to escape it? There’s more to the sport of course, but I think I’ve said enough to heartily convince even the most stone-hearted amongst you to buy an officially licensed round lump of plastic, gather some friends and blade it at them with the passion of a thousands suns while shouting ‘up!’.
Happy days! There’s a new craze sweeping the internet and it involves celebrities (and the occasional normal person) pouring buckets of ice water over their heads in an (occasional) effort to raise awareness for ALS. If you’re not aware of ALS, and by now you really should be, it’s a degenerative illness also known as Motor Neurone Disease or, in the USA, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and it affects limbs, and brain function, meaning that sufferers will usually first lose use of arms or legs and it will progress to impair breathing, speaking and movement of any kind. The most famous sufferer of ALS is undoubtedly Stephen Hawking.
Now, back to the ice water challenge. As with everything ever, it’s split opinions. And there are plenty of people around who are oh so happy to air those views. One group is just the people who leapt at the chance to jump on the cold, wet bandwagon and ‘help’ people without actually having to do much or know anything about those they’re ‘helping’. However plenty of people have taken issue with one aspect or another of the challenge, including some celebrities.
One argument against it is that it’s a waste of water to just throw bucketloads of the stuff over oneself. Each one wastes almost as much as a shower! And I don’t know about you, but I have showers every day, I must be killing the environment, or something. Maybe the answer is for everyone to stop showering. And flushing the toilet uses water, stop that too. Just go in the street, it’ll be like a hyper-realistic renaissance fair, and if we’re lucky cholera will pop back up and take out a few people in the formerly developed world, making more water available for the rest of us.
Others have argued that this challenge is nothing more than a social exercise and in fact it does virtually nothing to support, or contribute towards treatment for, ALS sufferers. A portion of the videos will be accompanied by a link to the ALS donation website (http://www.alsa.org/donate/) and the person undertaking the challenge will have themselves donated. This is a good scenario. Others doing the challenge have made no reference to the disease while in some cases the ice challenge was done in lieu of donating, with the catch that if one didn’t complete the challenge they would have to donate, as a punishment or forfeit. I feel this might be giving the wrong impression. Although it may have led to money being raised, which is great, it suggests that donation is something to be avoided, something that is only done when one has done wrong. Donating to charity isn’t a chore, and this view may prove to be counter-productive. One famous face who’s picked up on and responded to the lack of donation is the ol’ winner, Charlie Sheen. He decided that instead of ice water he’d throw the $10,000 dollars he planned to donate over his head. Again, the money is great and will go a long way, but the method used, while yielding a strong message, suggested that people needed to be guilted into donating, again, a negative connotation attached to the act of giving money to charity.
Further gifts that this craze has bestowed upon us is for article fodder. Celebrities, who are often perceived as good-looking, being involved has allowed sites such as Buzzfeed to churn out piece after piece calling for the craze to be stopped because [Celebrity A] has won or telling of how seeing [Celebrity B] in a wet t shirt is the best thing ever and that as a direct result they can’t.
The ALS Ice Water Bucket challenge has brought about many a bandwagon, whether it was the original or a bandwagon that complained about, mocked, or celebrated the challenge and its many facets. Within the traffic however, it has raised awareness of a horrible disease and has raised lots of money through various means of both sound and questionable motives. So if you decide to donate to ALS research that’s great, if you just help to make people aware of it, that’s great too, you never know where it might lead, and if you just want to be part of the craze and don’t want to or can’t afford to donate, that’s ok too. To those complaining of the water wastage, stop trying to find fault in every popular social phenomenon, pack some stuff and go and help install a water pump in a small village in Sierra Leone.
A year ago today Britain was blessed by the birth of George. The prince, not any of the other Georges that have been born in the last year, of course they don’t matter. But however ridiculous last year’s nationwide coverage of the few days leading up and after his birth was, we’re continuing to top it. Birth is quite a big thing, I suppose. It’s the very beginning, a brand new circumstance opened up. But the fact that the boy prince is now doing the sort of things you’d expect a one year old to do should be widely ignored. If he grew a beard, I’d be impressed. If he cracked cold fusion he’d definitely be categorised as unusual. If he writes, directs, choreographs and stars in a hit one-man West End musical about a middle-aged Chinese man’s adventures when attempting to knit the world’s greatest scarf I’ll nod to his right to make news. If he crawls a bit and mumbles some sounds, I won’t be calling for people to read all about it.
Right now there are roughly 7 billion people milling around the planet. My guess is that the vast majority of them were once one and most likely crawled, ate and slept before their first birthday. And a fair few were probably photographed. I’d also venture that not many are celebrated for being small humans and aren’t praised by various news outlets for being tiny little fashion icons. I’ve even seen other children enjoy butterflies, as the future monarch is seen doing here in a photo described as ‘incredibly cute’ by Buzzfeed that was released to commemorate his surviving a whole 365 days.
Isn’t it incredible, an infant showing apparent curiosity. No other child could possibly do that and look cute at the same time! It’s a balancing act only a child born into royalty could ever hope to achieve.
Terry had just finished his shift at the local shop. He was a simple man of simple pleasures, as far as pleasures were allowed in these days. It was almost as if people had forgotten how to laugh. Walking down the street Terry looked around and saw a host of things that in one day and age people would have looked upon with a smirk and a chuckle. But in this time that wasn’t the response you’d have. As he passed the local grocer’s a few bananas were blown off the stall by the wind. A stranger who’d been browsing the apples stood on one and slid across the pathway, ending up grounded, sat on the ground like a dejected monkey whose last nut had been stolen by a brave and persistent squirrel.
As he watched the unfortunate gentleman slip and fall on the fruit Terry felt confused, as if his human nature was grappling with what he’d been taught throughout his life for control of his reactions. That very morning he’d watched a report of a man who smiled when a co-worker of his had experience the heartbreak of a exploding pen in his shirt pocket. A white shirt it was, moderate to highly priced and ironed to perfection. It had been a harrowing sight for so early in the day. The man who’d smiled at him had been accused of Schadenfreude and was scheduled to appear in national decency court the following week. Although the event had happened in a crowded office it was during the mandatory tea and light superficial chatter break that it had occurred. As such there were no eye witnesses, meaning evidence was sparse and there was a fairly high chance of the accused being found innocent. Although he did have a history, having, as the news had reported, previous record of exaggerating events of a tale he was telling in an attempt to extract mirth from his colleagues. For that he’d been given a warning.
Terry felt as though he wanted some fruit after watching this unfortunate incident, and proceeded to enter the grocer’s despite the fact he should have been attending to the fallen man as members of polite society were expected to. This time however he ignored the man, as was his right, as there were whispers of a new law being passed, making it a minor offence to blatantly ignore the needs of any person injured by an edible item. He entered the small green shop and wandered over to the portion of the store dedicated to the more exotic fruits of the world. He picked up an oval product, of a yellow-green complexion. He’d never seen one of these before. He took it to the counter and purchased the item, exchanging a small piece of talk with the man who worked in the shop. They discussed the weather, deciding it had been quite mild, and the recent results of their town’s sport team. The team had been successful recently, scoring a higher than average number of points per game than usual.
Walking back out of the shop, two men were carrying a large pane of glass down the street. A woman who was not as attentive to where she was going didn’t notice the glass and ended up walking into it. Terry felt an unfamiliar feeling in his chest. It was a sort of warming bubble, rising through it body, culminating in the upturn of the sides of his mouth and a small exhalation of air. He’d laughed. He begin to feel anxious, the press would surely be after him, condemning him for finding another innocent person’s accident and subsequent pain funny. Sweat started to trickle down his face and his hands were trembling so much with anxiety that he dropped his newly-acquired exotic fruit. The fruit rolled down the street and interrupted a couple sitting on a bench. The man on the bench kicked it away slightly. This act of violence drew attention from a nearby photographer, who took a multitude of pictures, chronicling the move that would be touted as an unacceptable display of aggressive behaviour that cannot be tolerated by this society. How would the world survive if people could show that much aggression without proper punishment? It made Terry wonder about the ramifications of his accidental laugh. He stumbled to a nearby patch of grass where a young woman was walking her dog. Terry noticed that it had no nose. It smelt awful.
That evening, when Terry sat down to watch the reports of people displaying unacceptable behaviours he noticed that there was no reporting of his accidental enjoyment of the misfortune of another. He’d found something funny and shown it outwardly in the middle of the street. He’d faced no consequences for it. He could never get away with it again, he knew the level of offense would be too high, especially if someone had seen him, but he’d laughed and got away with it. The press hadn’t got him, he’d won.
In recent times, a new political movement has popped up in the UK. No, I’m not talking about Ukip, not this time anyway, but rather the Facebook-based group ‘Britain First’. Now, if you’re reading this from outside the UK, you probably won’t have been subjected to their ramblings, although if you do live on the island, I’d say there’s a fair chance at least one of their photos has been redirected to your poor little timeline. Britain First professes to be some sort of saviour of Britain, saving it from the millions of imaginary benefit-frauding Muslim extremists who are shoving halal food in everyone’s faces as they think about having a bacon sandwich. I’d suggest that maybe their estimations of how many Muslim people live in the UK are a little off. One supporter’s claim that there are “28 million male Muslims… going to cost the taxpayer a fortune” seems slightly fabricated. 28 million men suggests a further 28 million or so women, resulting in a Muslim population of 56 million. As the total population of Britain is around 63 million, it seems unlikely. As for the idea that they’re going to “cost the taxpayer a fortune”, well, I’m not sure this person’s done their research. I’ve managed to draw out of a trusted source that not every person who identifies as a Muslim is unemployed. A shocking suggestion I know, but one that seems to stand to reason, regardless of how obviously impossible it is for that to be the case.
Putting to one side the questionable statistics professed by some of the group’s members, we must consider the evil they’re protecting us from. Erm, anyone got any suggestions? No? Ah. Well after perusing their page (while struggling to refrain from ripping my eyes from their sockets) I’ve ascertained that they’re protecting us from two things: Halal meat, and Muslims, who are subtly brought in to many a debate. To support this, I quote Britain First’s caption of a picture of a sign that states “Rape: The only crime where the victim becomes the accused”: “Very true, we’ve seen it in all the Muslim grooming cases”. Subtlety and genuine concern in abundance there.
We should of course not accuse them of hating immigrants, as they’ve clearly stated that Poles, “Our comrades in the battle… are very welcome”. Polish people aren’t dangerous, they’ve come to work hard not slap children with halal lamp chops. At least they’re not just pulling ideas out of thin air though, there are world leaders they look up to, people whose good work serves as inspiration, and they salute and admire Vladimir Putin, “true defender of HIS people”.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a nice, moderate choice that Britain First’s supporters offer Muslims. “if muslins and other ppl wnt to stay in my country then u work work hard and contribut to our economie otherwise go bk to were u came frm uneducated lowlife scums” [sic]. You can almost see it written on the back of a dove.
In my humble group of friends, there’s quite a high proportion of bloggers. And when one friend and I went to visit another couple of mates at their universities, only one of us wasn’t a blogger. Now this friend has some opinions on blogging, however vague they may be. The main part of his attitude towards the pastime is summed up in his telling me that blogging is “not a problem with you, it’s a problem with society”. It’ll come as no surprise that this quip intrigued me somewhat, so much so that I decided I’d like to blog about his attitude to blogging.
Before beginning to write, I felt I needed to get a bit more from him on the subject, he gave me a few, frankly glorious, quotes which I will use to drive my writing on the subject.
He began by impersonating the typical blogger – “Ooh look at how creative I am” being his interpretation. Now, blogging is often a place to showcase creative talent, or what the author staunchly believes to be creative talent, and although he phrased it in a way a five year old may’ve done, he was probably on to something. It’s a very attention-seeking pursuit, is blogging, done often by those craving not only attention but positive reinforcement. It’s definitely one of the more competitive environments, with thousands offering interchangeable products, a marketplace crammed full of millions of the not-quite-good-enoughs and the everyone-said-it’s-bad-but-I-know-I’m-really-a-creative-genius Kanye West types. My friend’s quotes support this, as he eloquently claimed “everyone thinks they’re a creative genius”, going on to complain that “the Internet gives everyone a stage”. I agree with him on this, it’s far too crowded, lots of people are being stopped from witnessing my creative genius on this blog!
My friend’s next irritation was in regards to bloggers’ hipsterish characteristics, as his annoyance lay in the fact that “everyone thinks they’re bohemian, talking about big/abstract things they don’t actually understand”. Well, I think this is pretty similar to the situation with Russia and Crimea as one party thinks they’re the clever one, and everyone should listen to their point of view because they know best while the others just complain about what they’re doing.
He got a bit distracted after that last thought, looking out of the train window, making observations and changing his attitude towards people in general, mumbling “That building was quite cool, everyone’s quite cool”. His ability to focus really is uncanny.
But then we reboarded his faltering train of thought, we got back on track and he came to a sort of conclusion, with him abandoning his objections to the whole concept of blogging and deciding that it’s “not really a problem”. So now we’ve pinpointed that blogging’s not one of the world’s pressing problems, you can all go on with your fears and worries truly allayed. You’re welcome.
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