Thursday, 27 July 2017

Awesome Series (You May Not Have Seen).

Awesome Series (You May Not Have Seen)

Having recently got up to date with Game of Thrones, I am still a fully fledged member of the masses of people who are a bit obsessed with it. In fact, my two favourite series of all time are probably Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad which are the two least surprising and most obvious choices for someone my age. I can't help it, they're awesome. However, it did make me think, what are series I have loved but haven't really heard many other people talk about? Here's what I came up with: 

#5 - Nathan for You.

Nathan for you is a comedy series about a person who 'helps' struggling businesses by coming up with marketing schemes for them. The ideas are ludicrous and (I think) that not everyone else is in on the joke. It is hilarious watching people awkwardly agree to try these ideas, driven by Nathan's apparent sincerity. The reactions remind me a bit of those from 'Da Ali G Show' from years before and are just as funny. 



#4 - Roots (2016 remake).

Probably the most well known series on this list. Roots was an epic, beautifully shot and perfectly acted remake that I didn't hear that many people talking about. The scope of it is huge as it follows generations of the same family, telling their personal history as well as the historical events surrounding their fight against such extreme inequality. Possibly suffered by only being on BBC Four but well worth a watch. 



#3 - On Death Row.

After watching 'Making a Murderer' I went through a brief phase of being a bit obsessed over programs about the American justice system. The best of which was a film called 'Dear Zachary' which everybody should watch. However, I also really enjoyed 'On Death Row' which was made by the incredible Werner Herzog. The thing I really liked about it was Herzog's interview technique which I feel gets very interesting results from the people he speaks to. 



#2 - The Incredible Human Journey. 

This is probably my favourite documentary series of all time. Largely because when I first watched it, it taught me so much I didn't know about the early history of mankind. It explains the theory that humans started in Africa before eventually spreading out over the rest of the world. However, that description doesn't do it justice as it actually teaches so much more than that. I know that it helped to open up my own mind about how I view our connection to each other as humans and I am sure it could do the same for others. 



#1 - The Street.

The Street is an incredible series by Jimmy McGovern. Simply put, it tells the individual stories of people living on a street. Each episode tells a different story and, therefore, can be watched and enjoyed in any order. My personal favourite is episode 5 of series 3 which tells the story of a man finding out he is the father to a 16-year-old son. Each episode is superbly made and tells an interesting and completely believable story. Not one that I hear people talk about very often but well worth giving some time to. 


I'm sure you will have watched some of these but hopefully it gives at least one new series you could give a go. What hidden gem of a series would you recommend? 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Conservative Party And The Working Class.

The Conservative party and the working class

When you think of your 'typical' Conservative voter you might think of a rich, chubby, white guy with too much money and a disregard for the working classes. Well, if only rich people voted for them then they wouldn't keep winning elections. Of course, lots of people who vote Conservative are normal, working class people like you and me. They aren't absurdly rich; they work hard, have money worries and want life to be a bit easier for hard working people like them. 

I have seen/heard some people express the view that a party like Labour only want to reward people who are unemployed, live here illegally or have thirteen children, don't work and drive Porches, drink Champagne for breakfast and enjoy twice-yearly holidays ON OUR MONEY (said angrily by a bald, white bloke who spits when he talks). They believe that the Conservative party is a party who want to stop money going to these 'undeserving scroungers' and instead give it to good, honest, hard working people like themselves.

Well, here are a few ways that Conservative leadership has affected ordinary, working class people in this country.

#1 - Fall in value of real wages.

UK wages have dropped 10% which is literally worse than anywhere else in Europe apart from Greece. Numbers from the OECD's (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showed that only three countries have seen wage declines since the financial crisis and those are Portugal, Greece and the UK. It is the longest and steepest decline in real wages since 1830.

#2 - Austerity hasn't helped working people.

If you Google austerity it says 'difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure'. This is what happened after the financial crisis. The Conservatives pointed at what happened in Greece and said that we needed to make severe cuts in order to protect the economy so the same thing doesn't happen to ordinary people here that happened to ordinary people there. So, how have these harsh austerity measures benefited ordinary, working class people like you and me? They haven't. Research has actually shown that more austere countries have a lower rate of GDP growth!

#3 - Cuts to important job sectors.

Most sane people can probably agree that nurses and firefighters are ordinary people who work hard, aren't generally super rich and provide an invaluable service to our country. How have they fared under a conservative leadership that rewards hard working people? Well, the number of mental health nurses has been cut by 15% and the number of firefighters has been cut by 6,700. 

#4 - Benefit cuts have cost workers money.

A common argument for support of a party such as the Conservatives is that they will cut benefits to save taxpayers money. However, the National Audit Office have said that fining claimants for failing to meet certain conditions has actually cost the government almost twice what it gained. The Department of Work and Pensions said that £30-50 million a year was spent applying sanctions and £200 million monitoring the new terms but in 2015 had saved just £132 million. That means that even even if think all those benefit cuts are fair and justified, they have actually cost you more money than they have saved!

In conclusion, don't just believe Conservative politicians when they tell you they want to punish 'lazy' people and reward hard working people like yourself. Look at the facts and figures and see whether ordinary, working class people like you and me have actually benefited from living under a Conservative government. 


"How can you trust Jeremy Corbyn? I mean, he looks so scruffy!"

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Things That Started Good Then Got Awful.

Things that started good then got awful

There are many things in life that you become interested in only to witness its gradual decline in quality. Here are a few things that I enjoyed in their earlier stages only to watch them become awful, or at least worse. Obviously, these are just my own opinions

#1 - Coldplay. 

Liking Coldplay has become an easy way of letting the world know that you are white and uncool. However, I will be the first to admit that I think their first two albums, 'Parachutes' and 'A Rush of Blood to the Head' are actually full of great songs. I honestly think that the main reason it has become embarrassing to admit this is because of how bloody awful everything they have done after that has been. I'm am by no means a music snob but their sound has become so painfully generic and uninteresting that it is impossible to enjoy anything they put out these days. 


#2 - The Simpsons.

Do you remember when The Simpsons was genuinely one of the best written shows on television? 90's nostalgia is very en vogue these days but there is no denying that getting home after school to watch The Simpsons, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was pretty good. All three shows were well written, funny, portrayed characters you actually cared about and had just the right amount  of emotional content thrown in (we all remember that amazing Fresh Prince episode). The difference between the three? The other two knew when to stop. The Simpsons has been on a steady decline for years and is unrecognisable when compared to its earlier incarnation. 


#3 - Star Wars.

Probably the most obvious one on this list. The first three films were brilliant although, even as a kid the Ewoks did seem kinda stupid. Even a lot of the tie-in stuff back then was good. The Star Wars arcade game is probably my favourite arcade game of all time. However, after sitting through three long, awful prequels and 'The Force Awakens' which received great reviews but I personally found completely forgettable,  I no longer want to taint my experience. I'll just stick to the original trilogy and that old arcade game thanks. 


#4 - Prank Videos. 

There was a time when I used to love prank videos. They seemed like harmless fun. Do you remember Trigger Happy TV when they staged abductions of people by a gang of squirrels or when Tom Green simply went up to people and asked them, 'What are you doing today'? Well, it got warped by people like the Bradberry brothers who performed 'pranks in the hood' where two white people go into predominantly black areas and harass black people until they get a reaction. Thankfully, the likes of Youtubers such as 'H3H3' have now pointed out how awful this and we are seeing a return to genuinely funny prank videos. 

Papa bless.

#5 - Sunny Delight.

It doesn't taste as good anymore...right?




   

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Debunking Reasons To Hate The FA Cup.

Debunking reasons to hate the FA Cup

You hear a lot of criticism about the FA Cup not having the prestige it once had. I personally still love the competition and all the surprises it throws up. Here is a quick list of why I think some of the common arguments against the FA Cup are wrong.

#1 - The big clubs only play their second teams!

This is largely true but there are two main reasons why I don't really think this is such a problem. The first is that OBVIOUSLY they are going to have to rotate their teams with the amount of matches that top British clubs have to play. Not doing so would result in an increase in injury and a drop in standard. It just makes practical sense. The second is that the players who don't get to play week in, week out in the Premier League need at least some sort of stage to shine on. Even though you do see some of the big clubs not playing as well, you also see players who exceed expectations when given this opportunity. 

#2 - Attendances are awful. 

This can be true and you can see some pretty woeful attendances (especially in the early stages). However, I don't think the status of the cup is totally to blame, it is probably largely to do with the fact that attending football matches has already become so bloody expensive that many fans can't afford to attend all the cup matches as well. Also, you do see the flip side to this. For example, yesterday, Huddersfield town set a new club record attendance at their current attendance when Manchester City came to play. These matches are still a huge draw and an excellent cash cow for the 'smaller' clubs. 

#3 - Clubs don't care about winning it any more. 

When you have a team that is focused on winning the Premier League/Champions League then it may be difficult to care as much about winning the FA Cup. However, tell that to Lincoln City. There are still plenty of teams who put their heart and soul into trying to progress in this competition. Even if you are playing against a rotated squad there is still a huge amount of pride in taking a Premier League scalp and the possibility of even winning the cup could be the highlight of the season for many fans. Scenes like the ones you saw when Lincoln City beat Burnley are one of the times when domestic football has a genuine, emotional pull. 


Monday, 2 January 2017

10 GOOD Things About 2016.

10 GOOD Things About 2016 (Not Ordered By Importance).


It would be easy to hate on 2016. I mean; Trump became president despite being disliked by every human I personally know, we were (as a guy from 'Muslims Like Us' put it) knocked out of the Euros by Iceland and voted out of Europe by people who shop at Iceland and we lost so many celebrities that there was an actual campaign to save Betty White from 2016. But an entire year can't be all bad, right? I've racked my brains (and Google) to find 10 positive things that happened in the year 2016. 


10) We finally got another female Prime Minister. She may be a Conservative and she may be Theresa May but still, about time! I know I'm pointing out the blindingly obvious but it is pretty shocking that women make up half our population yet we are only just seeing our second female leader. Perhaps a step in the right direction for gender equality.

9) Gove didn't become Prime Minister and anyone who has worked in Education breathed a huge sigh of relief.

8) Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewable energy in 2016. A positive sign for the future of the world. If they can do it then perhaps other countries will follow. Importantly, it simply shows that it can be done.

7) Las Vegas city government is now completely powered by renewable energy. When you think of all those bright lights it is probably the last place you would imagine to be shining the light (terrible pun) for renewable energy in the Unites States, but it is! 

6) The unity of large parts of society AGAINST the intolerance and prejudice of Trump/Brexit. Despite the polls it was also obvious that there were huge amounts of people disgusted with the xenophobia showed in the presidential race and the leave campaign. Even in defeat it is important to take note of all the people fighting the good fight. 

5) Lots of developing countries are pledging support for renewable energy. Not just the aforementioned Costa Rica. Other countries such as Uruguay, Tanzania and Kenya have also pledged to help protect the future of our planet.  

4) Leicester City won the Premier League. Probably the most incredible underdog story I have witnessed since becoming a football fan. It was nice to see that the richest clubs don't always get to call the shots. 

3) Great Britain did amazingly at the Olympics. Maybe I shouldn't go all patriotic after talking about unity between countries but I do tend to reserve most my patriotism purely for sporting events which I like to think is a fairly safe release. A smaller nation doing so well at such a huge event hints at very positive investments being made in sport and fitness which is only a good thing for the future. 

2) Leo got an Oscar. Before 2016 Leonardo DiCaprio was just a poor multi-millionaire comforted only by his huge wealth, multiple homes and string of beautiful girlfriends. Now we can stop feeling sorry for him because he has a shiny trophy as well. 

1) Betty White survived!

 

Monday, 28 November 2016

6 Games I Wish Were On The NES Classic.

6 Games I Wish Were On The NES Classic

When the NES Classic was released I thought it was a really good idea by Nintendo and, judging by how quickly it sold out, so did they. Hopefully we will see lots more retro throwbacks from gaming companies in the future (and less people buying them just to resell them for extortionate amounts on Ebay). The list of games on the NES Classic was very impressive but for some reason Nintendo decided against asking me personally which games I wanted included so they missed out some of my favourites. Here are my top 6 games I wish had been included on the NES Classic. 

6) California Games.

California Games is such a ridiculous game. It is the only game I can think of where you can play frisbee or hackey sack. There isn't too much depth to it but it would have made a nice addition as something you can just pick up and play for a couple of minutes. I was pretty good at BMX and roller skating but all these years later and I still can't work out how to do anything on that bloody half-pipe. 



5) Joust. 

There was a time when I had some embarrssingly good high scores on Joust. They included Balloon Fight on the NES Classic but it is pretty much just a poor mans version of Joust. This is a beautifully simplistic game where you fly around on some type of giant Ostrich with the goal of knocking other people off their own giant Ostriche's. Oh, and you have to collect eggs whilst occassionally getting attacked by a Pterodactyl. They really don't make them like this anymore. 



4) Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja.
 
This game has two clear distinictions. One for possibly having the best name of any game ever made and the other for having possibly the best intro to any game ever made: 'The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?'. This was a simpler time when that was all the storyline you needed before being thrown into the action. The NES port of this game is genuinely quite undderrated in my opinion.



3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This is a genuinely brilliant game that would have been an excellent addition to the NES Classic. It could have possibly even been number one on this list if it wasn't for one thing; that bloody water level. 



2) Marble Madness.

Another strange premise for a game. You control a marble through various obstacle courses. It sounds dull but the gameplay is so perfectly balanced and satisfying to control that it really is a bit of an underrated classic. There are only a few levels so you can complete quite quickly but other than that there really isn't much to fault about it. Definitely deserving of more attention that it gets.



1) Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. 

Disney made so many great games back in the day. The Lion King, DuckTales, Aladdin and many more. However, for me, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers is the best of the lot. A platformer so perfect I honestly rate it as being almost as good as Super Mario Bros. 3. Maybe I'm biased due to the nostalgia of being a 90's kid but I think the 90's were the greatest decade for Disney in regards to both films and video games.  



Honourable mention: Tetris. How did they not include Tetris?
  

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Great Films You May Have Not Seen Yet.

Great Films You May Have Not Seen Yet

When I am trying to choose a film I often feel as if I have seen most of the 'classics' I want to watch. Therefore, I find myself looking up; 'best films I haven't watched', 'best unheard of films', 'best under the radar films' etc to try and find something new that I might find interesting. 

Due to my own reliance on these types of lists I thought I would have a go myself at writing a small list of films that I really enjoyed but don't think everyone will have watched. I based my choices on films that I had not heard much about myself before I watched them. 

If you have already watched all of these, well...sorry. 

#6 - Blue Ruin.

This film is about a man attempting to take revenge for something that happened to his family a long time ago. What makes it a bit different is that, unlike most films like this, the main character isn't brave, tough, cool or even well prepared. It is his unusual character that kept me so interested in the story. 



#5 - Blue Valentine.

Carrying on the theme of having blue in the title this is possibly the most well known film on the list. It looks at a couples relationship by switching the story between two very different time periods in their relationship. It is probably the best acting I have ever seen from Ryan Gosling and he and Michelle Williams feel very believable as a couple.



#4 - Choke. 

The only film on this list that doesn't have great reviews. I only watched it initially because I love Fight Club and this is also based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It is a dark comedy and I like how it switches between seeming completely ridiculous and somewhat believable. Does have some gross out humour but also has a good amount of substance to it. 



#3 - Lilya 4-Ever.

I'll warn you now, this film is REALLY bloody depressing. However, it is about human trafficking so if it is upsetting then it is doing its job right. Really can't think of many times that I have felt more sorry for a character than I do for Lilya in this film. Parts of it are very difficult to watch but it is a strong example of fiction shedding light on a real issue. 



#2 - Shooting Dogs.

Really surprised that I haven't heard many people talk about this film. It is about the Rwandan genocide and another example of a film that creates true empathy for its characters. Lots of extremely tense moments where you don't know what will happen next. Also important because it is one of the few films tackling this important piece of recent history. 



#1 - Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father.

This film. Wow. Only just watched it today and was amazed at what a good piece of filmmaking it is. It is a documentary about the true story of a man, his son and his parents. For me, it was an exploration of how evil people can be but also how much people can love each other and how much of a positive impact one person can have on the lives of the people that knew them.



Bonus - Lizzie & Sarah.

Not a film but a pilot episode of a dark comedy that never got a series starring the awesome Jessica Hynes. I watched this not knowing anything about what it was going to be like and thought that it was genuinely hilarious. A real shame that it never got a series but the pilot episode is definitely worth a watch.