The Bandwagon Bandwagon

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.

It’s Been A Slow News Year

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.

Prince George Butterfly

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.

The House of Mirrors

All jobs require very different skills. For example, to work in retail you need to be able to smile on cue and finish every sentence with an upwards inflection. To work on a bar you have to have the cheery outlook of a cat living on a catnip farm and to work in politics you have to be able to look slightly less ridiculous than your opponents while trying to complete normal people activities like eating a bacon sandwich, riding on a zipwire and articulating an original thought.

Recently I’ve been driven to madness thinking about politics a lot by a brief and mostly indirect encounter with a particular British politician. I won’t mention his or her (what am I saying? When would a woman get into a position of power in the British government?) identity but let’s just say he’s often pictured as being as happy as Nick Griffin in a Mosque and has the power and influence of Brazil without Neymar. For the purpose of this post we’ll refer to him as Mick. Now, Mick taught me so many things about the workings of politics in this once by nature, but now only by name, Great Britain. He taught me that politics is not, as it once was, about changing things, not for the better, not for the worse. What politics is about is convincing people that they are valued and agreed with by the people in positions of (relative) power. People want to know not only that their representatives share their views but also that they’re down-to-earth, that they’re really no different from anyone else. But the sorry truth seems to be that they see themselves as above everything, and they have to work ever so hard to repress this feeling when they’re slumming it by listening to their ignorant supporters ranting about this and that while they nod their head mumbling ‘mmm’ ‘yes’ or ‘you’re right’.

They wouldn’t dare disagree with vital support, and as a result they end up being little more than reflective surfaces when they’re actually with the underlings of the party, the proles. No progress is made, no ideas are challenged, and thanks to the monstrous ego of the politician, no possibility of their own ideas being altered is entertained, even in the realms of imagination. There’s a theory that there’s a infinite number of parallel universes yet I still can’t fathom one where politicians’ ideas could be impacted by the words of their loyal party grunts. This rejection of taking to heart the concerns of the ordinary people highlights the shift in politics that’s occurred in recent times. Politics isn’t something one gets into in order to change the nation to help the majority but rather a career path where games are played and people are manipulated almost as much as statistics in order to gain votes. Whoever gets the most votes, whether they’ve been completely above board or not, wins the game. It’s chess, with an election clock and plenty of disposable pawns.

Mick tried to come across as caring and understanding when faced with his potential votes but had a remarkable sense of entitlement. I was frankly a little taken aback at that. For someone to have such a blatantly inflated opinion of his own importance after years of being the media’s whipping boy was admirable. Satire has failed us. I shudder to imagine the level of self-worth needed for people to rise to the top of the political toilet.

Freedom of the Press

PressTerry 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.

Britain’s Long-Awaited Saviours (Apparently)

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.

 

 

Paper, Scissors, Goat?

It’s not long ago (in real terms rather than internet years) that that fun little game Flappy Bird was all the rage. And I do mean all the rage. I’m almost certain you’ll have noticed the phenomenon fly by were you not dropped in the midst of it, but for clarification I’ll explain it. There were some Super Mario-style pipes, with a gap in between. You played as a small bird (that changed colour! Oh the wonder of the modern age!), tapping the screen to go up with the objective being to fly unharmed through the gaps to progress on to the next exciting set of pipes that might be considerably higher or lower than the previous pipes. Oh, and there’s a lovely cartoony NYC-esque skyline in the background to create the perfect ambience for playing a game that a woodpecker could beat you at.

After the excitement around Flappy Bird died down, there came a new video game that tickled the fancy of many. A video game that broke boundaries. A game that showed us that there was a different way. A game that allowed you into another world. A game called Goat Simulator. That’s right goat fans, now you can get answers to the age-old question, what is it like to be a goat? The game allows one to roam around in the guise of the mild-mannered mammal, butting and eating along the way. Here’s a game safe from trolls. Kids love it too.

But I know that for some the burden of knowledge about a goat’s life is too much to bear. Some things are just too exciting, so for you restful types, there’s something to allow you a way into the joyful world of simulator games. Where others step into the shoes of a pilot, train driver or goat, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show from the point of view of a humble stone. Yes, you read that right, now stop excitedly jumping around and we can explore the possibilities.

For now it’s only an app, but there are surely big things in the future for this game. Stone Simulator is the pinnacle of technology. Edison, Logie Baird, Berners-Lee, Gates, Jobs. They all dedicated their lives to the advancement of technology available to the humble Homo Sapiens and now we can state with certainty that all the toil was oh so very worthwile.

Stone Simulator 1

Yes, that is a screenshot from the wondrous app.

Serene, beautiful, slightly pixelated. All the things one could ever want for their first venture into stonedom! The green cut out only by the roundish grey protagonist, this is a startlingly captured piece of art. The peaks rising and falling, perpendicular to the wind that only the rock can feel, so strong, yet our hero is unmoved.

But I know what you’re thinking, that looks like it would get dull quite quickly. Well fret not dear friend because we are not stuck with the one view, no, stones are famously 3 dimensional, and to know the ins and outs of the stone’s life we must be treated to the whole picture

Stone Simulator 2

Here we are treated to a changed point of view, that encourages as to do as the stone does, look at the world differently, step into others’ shoes and let your empathy grow. See the stone let itself be covered by grass, shifting our focus to the valley created by the looming monuments to nature that guide the eye into the distance, piquing the desire to explore, and yet the stone’s lack of movement reminds us to sit back and enjoy it before going forth in search of new stimulation.

But wait! There’s more!

Stone Simulator 3

We conclude our journey with a front-on look at the stretched mountain. The bare land, devoid of vibrant plant life, emoting emotions most people would think a stone incapable of experiencing.

I hope you’ll take something away from the adventures of our humble friend, its journey is far from over. If you’re just not content, you too can get acquainted with the agile-minded philosopher on the play store.

Your move, paper.

“A Problem With Society”

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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