Saturday, 9 June 2018

Less Tommy Robinson, More Akala.

Less Tommy Robinson, More Akala

Recently, the perpetually unpleasant Tommy Robinson was sent to jail for, well, breaking the law. Since then, lots of people have been taking to social media and the streets to protest him being jailed for, again, breaking the law. In case you were wondering what these enlightened individuals who are gallantly fighting for his cause look like, it's mostly something like this,

Yep, a mass horde of out-of-shape, balding white blokes never seems to be a good thing does it?

I've read/seen a little bit about Tommy Robinson in the past. One thing that stands out was this documentary I watched where (among other things) he threw stones at police officers and seemed to shit himself every time a Muslim bloke went near him. However, I haven't noticed him as much in the media spotlight recently so when he popped up in the news again I had a Google to see what it was all about and what he had been up to. The main thing I learnt from what I watched/read was that when you listen to Tommy Robinson,you learn very little. 

The best video I watched was this one where he is dealt with perfectly by my favourite living musician, Akala. Rather than entertaining the ignorance of Robinson or making fun of him, Akala simply baffles him with knowledge. Baffled perfectly describes the look on Tommy's face at the end of the video after being forced to be quiet for a second and listen to some knowledge. For instance, after listening to videos of Tommy Robinson I never learnt anything new. Conversely, in this brief video Akala teaches me about the case of Christopher Alder, someone he correctly refers to (in my case) as being, "someone you've probably never heard of." 

When I listen to Akala, whether it is his songs, interviews, talks etc, I am always learning something knew. This is why I am always recommending him as somebody you should listen to. It's good that we all have different opinions and very little should be accepted without question. Interesting people we listen to/watch can often be angry about injustice but make sure they are making you think and not just hate.           

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Who Is Paying For This Wedding?

Who Is Paying For This Wedding?

For what seems like an eternity, you haven't been able to read a news site without endless stories about the royal wedding. I wouldn't say I hate the royal family, I'm probably more indifferent to them although the fact I'm taking the time to write a blog post about them might suggest otherwise. It is the incessant nature with which it has been covered that has meant I've failed to escape something I might otherwise ignore. However, what made me want to write about who is paying for the royal wedding is the debates I've seen on social media. I've seen a few people posting their disgust at their tax money being spent on the royal wedding whilst others gallantly jump to the defence of the super wealthy groom by claiming the wedding will pay for itself via an increase in money from tourism following the media frenzy. On a side note, do people genuinely travel to Britain from abroad to stand outside Buckingham Palace? Different strokes for different folks I guess. 

Anyway, not being one to jump to conclusions (except for when I judge every human I ever meet on first impressions) I decided to do some research. So the royal wedding is predicted to cost around £32 million with approximately £30 million being spent on security. Or, if you want a conservative estimate, the security could cost as little as £24 million. So, yes, that £24-30 million will be paid for by the tax payer. Before you judge them, the royal family has kindly agreed to pay for the remaining £2 million themselves. Although, when you consider they currently get £82 million in public funding every two years, it seems a little paltry. BUT what about that huge injection of money into the economy from all that extra tourism money that the royal wedding frenzy will generate? Well, according to 'Euromonitor' (a global market intelligence publisher) the wedding is unlikely to generate an increase in tourist spending.

Of course, the royal family do bring benefits to Britain, largely through tourism. But in response to whether the taxpayer will be paying for the royal wedding? Yes, almost all of it. 


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Wrestlemania Weekend: Some Of The Good, Bad And Stupid Of Wrasslin.

Wrestlemania Weekend: Some of the Good, Bad and Stupid of Wrasslin

Everyone has things in life that they are a bit embarrassed to admit they like. You get those types of people (for example) who will only admit to liking bands that are deeply alternative, critically acclaimed and unheard of by the unwashed masses but you know, somewhere deep in their playlist, they still have a few Coldplay songs that they sing along to when nobody is listening. Well, my Coldplay has always been pro wrestling. There are many reasons why it's embarrassing to admit to liking pro wrestling, one of which is the way people always feel the need to tell you, "It's not real you know." as if they are revealing to you some deep media secret that you have definitely never heard before. In this way, you're treated like a child being told Santa doesn't exist. Here are some of the good things about pro wrestling as well as addressing the often valid claims for it being bad and/or stupid.

Good: nostalgia. As with things like Nintendo, Sega, superhero cartoons and Goosebumps, wrestling is an important part of many peoples childhoods and therefore, will always evoke a strong sense of nostalgia whenever people watch it or read about it. WWE know this and will often bring back wrestlers way past their prime to get a nostalgia pop from the audience. Even though the wrestler you once viewed as a hero might now have sagging pecs and the agility of a newly born giraffe, it still feels good to see them come back now and again. They might now be old but they're still my childhood heroes.

Bad: negative stereotypes. This is probably the most common 'serious' criticism you will see of WWE these days. And it is very valid. In the past especially, female wrestlers were often presented as unintelligent eye-candy and both black wrestlers and foreign wrestlers were too regularly given the comic relief gimmicks. However, there were exceptions to this and things are changing. For example, The Rock was possibly the most popular wrestler of the late 90's and is of Samoan heritage and female wrestlers are now much more valued for their athletic abilities rather than just their looks. 

WWE's Lana.

Stupid: in 2000, there was a story-line where 77 year-old retired wrestler, Mae Young, gave birth to a rubber hand. Yes, that happened. 

Good: multi-media. Wrestling isn't limited to just watching wrestling. You also have a huge number of video games that have been made for it, as a kid who didn't have Sky TV to watch WWE, being able to play 'WWF Smackdown' on the Playstation was a bit of an obsession of mine. There are also the entrance theme songs that are often made or chosen to perfectly showcase and create an atmosphere for the character they are helping to portray. Entering the classroom everyday to the sound of Stone Cold Steve Austin's entrance theme would definitely benefit my teaching, although might be frowned upon by leadership. 

Bad: injury and drug abuse. When I was a kid, it wasn't uncommon to see a wrestler get repeatedly hit over the head with a steel chair. Shockingly, it eventually turned out that this wasn't good for their brain. Many wrestlers are now suing WWE for the concussions and brain damage this caused. As well as this, having to maintain a bodybuilder physique whilst living with the physical pain and injury caused by wrestling means that many wrestlers have died young due to addictions to bodybuilding and pain-relieving drugs. However, WWE wrestlers are no longer hit over the head with steel chairs and the WWE's 'wellness policy' is helping to deal with the drug problem. 

Stupid: Wrestler 'Max Moon' came to the ring looking like this and it wasn't supposed to be funny.

As stated previously, everyone has embarrassing things they enjoy whether it be listening to Coldplay, wearing Tapout clothing, voting Conservative or watching pro wrestling. On the one hand, you should probably try to live and let live when it comes to other peoples interests. On the other hand, if you like something then you should be able to deal with people having different opinions about it to yourself. Enjoy Wrestlemania tomorrow! 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Teachers With Guns.

Teachers With Guns

On February 14th there was another tragic school shooting in America, this time at Stoneman Douglas High School and seventeen people were killed. In the USA in 2018 there have, so far, been eight school shootings that have resulted in death or injury and we are only seven weeks into the year. In the UK by comparison, there have been zero school shootings since the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Shortly after Dunblane, the ownership of handguns was banned in the UK and you would have to be pretty determined to not see the link between the two. 

People have posted lots of opinions about how we can stop school shootings from happening. The most common opinion I've seen is that there needs to be tighter gun control laws in the USA. Other common opinions include increased security in schools, more help for young people with mental health problems and more research into the drugs being prescribed to young people with mental health problems. However, another stranger solution I've seen a few people put forward is that of arming teachers with guns themselves; this grabbed my attention as I am currently a school teacher. 

The vast majority of teachers I know, regardless of personality, want the children in their class/classes to be safe and protected because why would you not? Also, I do think the majority of teachers would go above and beyond to protect the children in their school because you do feel a profound responsibility for their safety. You only have to look at the heroic actions of some of the teachers on February 14th to know that. However, I can't help but feel that people who genuinely think giving all teachers guns is a sensible solution probably look at this as reality:

That is Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop', where the most sensible solution to protecting an at risk child is to send an undercover police detective to work as his teacher whilst waiting for his violent, criminal father to arrive. Yes, it's a brilliantly awful film ("Who is your daddy and what does he do?") but it definitely wouldn't be a good idea in the real world. Here are just a few reasons why: 

  • Most teachers are ordinary, peaceful people and, even with training, would not perform as well as Arnie in an armed fight. 
  • Most classes I've worked in have around 30 children in one fairly small room. No matter how many precautions you take, having that many children so close to a firearm is an accident waiting to happen.
  • You are completely normalising children to being around weapons.
  • A child might decide they want to get get hold of the weapon.
  • You are trusting teachers, who are constantly distracted by the needs of 30 separate children, to always be completely responsible with the firearm. 
  • Many teachers could easily be overpowered by another adult (or even child in some cases) trying to get the gun.
  • Having weapons in a school might make it easier to sneak in more weapons.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on. I love the thought of being a hero and saving a class of children from some scumbag who wants to hurt them but the dangers of teachers having guns themselves are far too obvious and plentiful to ever make it a sensible option. Despite this, we should still remember the heroic actions of teachers and children when tragedies like this occur. On February 14th you had: Aaron Feis who died shielding students from gunfire; Scott Beigel who was killed whilst locking a door to prevent the gunman from getting to his students; Peter Wang who, despite only being fifteen, spent his last moments holding a door open for others to get to safety as well as many others. We need more people like this, not more guns.   

Thursday, 4 January 2018

How NOT To Raise Mental Health Awareness.

How NOT To Raise Mental Health Awareness

According to 'Mind', 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. If, like me, you've been part of that statistic at some point in your life you will know that some people still have awful attitudes towards mental health problems. I should say that I think attitudes are vastly improving and, in my experience, most people won't give a negative response if you talk about mental health. However, many of us will still have experienced ignorance from people on the subject. It could be anything from the self confessed 'expert' who over diagnoses themselves to the person who says depressed people just need to 'cheer up'. 

I remember being in a university seminar where mental health problems were being discussed and one woman loudly mocked the issue. I know her words and tone will have affected people in that room who had personal experiences on the subject. Therefore, I can only imagine how the family of a suicide victim must have felt when they saw that Youtuber, Logan Paul, had made an incredibly insensitive video about their newly deceased family member. 

In the video, Logan Paul visits the Aokigahara forest in Japan which is known for being a place where unusual amounts of people commit suicide. For what should obviously be a sensitive video, Logan sets his tone straight away by choosing to wear this,

Yep, a hat with one of the Aliens from 'Toy Story' and a Gucci jacket which he proudly tells the camera, "If I'm gonna get haunted by a ghost I'm gonna do it in my fucking Gucci jacket, I wanna look good". Keep in mind, this is literally as he is about to enter a forest where he knows people regularly take their own life. Still, you shouldn't judge someone on their clothes, I'm sure his behaviour will show more consideration and maturity...right? Not at all. He is laughing and joking the whole way, including when discovering and standing near the body of a recently deceased suicide victim. There are the odd moments of seriousness thrown in but they lose all credibility when alongside all the footage of him being completely inconsiderate. 

The mainstream media have largely focused on a moment when he approaches the body and says, "What, you never stand next to a dead guy?" before laughing. However, there are so many other moments such as when someone politely tells him it's a restricted area and he responds with, "You told us a little too late bro, we've seen a little too much already." whilst laughing. One part I found particularly disturbing was when he says to a little girl, "Don't go over there." with a grin on his face whilst pointing to the location of the dead body. The little girl he says this to is of a similar age to large parts of his fan base. I know this because I'm a year six teacher and many of the kids in my class regularly talk about him, quote him and ask if we can watch his videos. Yeah, I know.  

After receiving a huge amount of backlash from the mainstream media, other YouTubers and large numbers of the internet community, Logan Paul did what many others have done before and released an apology video. This can be risky because if you come across as insincere or say the wrong thing, you can just make it worse. For me, the response video that I most agreed with was this one by YouTuber, True Geordie. He puts it much better than I ever could.     

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Stories To Finish 2017.

Happy Stories To Finish 2017

I recently watched this brilliant video from comedian Russell Howard where he explains why 2017 has actually been an amazing year despite horrors such as Trump, Brexit and other negatives that have started or continued this year. It made me realise that I have actually seen/read a lot of uplifting stories this December which have helped to finish the year on a high and make 2017 seem like maybe it has been a good year after all. An uplifting story can often be a difficult thing to pull off well. For example, it's popular for Youtubers to record and release videos of them feeding homeless people. Sometimes this comes across as genuine and kind. Other times, it doesn't work out quite as well, such as when popular Youtuber Vitaly released a video of him feeding the homeless that included him shouting at groups of homeless people for not lining up properly as he handed out sandwiches. Some of these examples were brilliantly lampooned by Youtubers H3H3Productions in this video. Here are four of my favourite uplifting stories I have seen/read this month.

#4 - Couple open their shop on Christmas day for lonely people.

This article tells the story of Shasi and Pallu Patel who open their newsagents on Christmas day, play carols and hand out free mince pies to anyone who drops by. They have actually been doing this for a number of years ever since one of their elderly customers told them she had been robbed near Christmas time and they noticed there was an outpouring of support from the local community to help provide the victim with presents to give her a good Christmas. They've been doing their bit ever since. They even look as kind as you would expect them to. 

 #3 - Scottish island takes in Syrian refugees who give back in return.

Bute is a small Scottish island of just 6,500 people who, two years ago, took in 24 families of Syrian refugees who were fleeing the threat of death and persecution. There was initially some skepticism from some of the locals over the news but the refugees have now brought many positives to the island including opening shops and businesses in an area where the opposite was happening beforehand. Also, some of the Syrians are now helping a local food bank to deliver parcels of food to those who need it in the local area during the festive period. You can read more about it here

#2 - American football coach takes in one of his players. 

Sam Greiner was an American football coach who realised whilst dropping one of his players (Braheam Murphy) off that he didn't actually have a fixed abode. Upon finding this out he decided to actually take Braheam to live with him and his family in his own home. The article tells us that Braheam now gets straight A's at school and has a scholarship. We can only assume that this is probably largely due to somebody having the kindness to offer him some security and consistency at a time when he had neither. 

#1 - Teenager buys his classmate a WWE belt. 

Not much to say about this one other than it was one of those viral videos that definitely seemed worth a share. 

What videos/stories of people being bros have you enjoyed this winter?

Also, I'm volunteering for a brilliant, local charity this Christmas who give homeless people in Leicester a bed, a roof over their head, a meal and some company over the difficult winter period. You can donate to them here.   


Sunday, 15 October 2017

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Taken Off Reading List.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Taken Off Reading List

'To Kill a Mockingbird' has recently been taken off a reading list in a Mississippi school district due to some of the language making people feel uncomfortable. I think one of the reasons this story has gone somewhat viral (think front page of Reddit) is due to the ridiculousness anyone thinking that a novel about racism in 1930's America SHOULDN'T make people feel uncomfortable. To say children  shouldn't read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is to say they shouldn't read a Pulitzer prize winning novel that is one of the (if not the) foremost literary commentary on racial, gender and class inequality. Also, to say that children shouldn't read anything that makes them feel uncomfortable is to stop them from ever being challenged by literature.  

You only have to go back to this news article from July 2017 to read about a black teenager being made the first black valedictorian in her Mississippi schools history, only to receive a slew of racist messages in response. This shows that racism still exists in the states schools and makes it even more important that they are providing their schoolchildren with books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' that tackle the same issues still being faced today. The vice-president of the school board did say 'we can teach the same lesson with other books'. I would argue that if these 'other books' are tackling such serious issues without making anyone feel uncomfortable then they aren't doing it as honestly, powerfully or realistically as Harper Lee. 

Hiding parts of our history, literary or otherwise, because they make people uncomfortable takes away our chance to learn from them. A much more effective way to address it is to teach why these things make us uncomfortable to hopefully help prevent history from repeating itself. 

Voted number one by librarians ahead of The Bible as the book 'every adult should read before they die'.