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'. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Revisiting Overplayed 'Kerrang' Videos From My Teens.

Revisiting Overplayed Kerrang Videos From My Teens

When I was a teenager I spent HOURS (as many others did) just obsessively watching music videos. My channel of choice was 'Kerrang' because, as I have mentioned previously, I only wore clothes that looked liked this: 

When thinking back to these times, there were certain videos that I remember getting a ridiculous amount of airtime. They seemed to get played a few times a day for literally years on end. Here's my thoughts on a few I remember.

#1 - By The Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

The video mostly consists of Anthony Kiedis being stuck in a taxi driven by a crazy fan. It is a good example of the light-hearted humour you used to see in their music videos. The taxi driver reminds me of many other quirky/goofy characters of the era (think officer Doofy in Scary Movie).

Nostalgia moment: the strange dance in the tunnel.

My rating now: 6/10.

#2 - Girl All The Bad Guys Want - Bowling For Soup.

This actually holds up very well. The video is mostly a spoof of other rock music videos of the time that took themselves a bit too seriously. A generous amount of time is spent taking the piss out of Staind who were of the 'we're tough but tender' brand of rock stars. 

Nostalgia moment: the picture of a fluffy dog.

My rating now: 8/10

#3 - Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus. 

It seems as if it is another spoof, this time of the classic high school movie where the nerdy guy wins over the beautiful girl. However, Wikipedia tells me that the music video is mostly made of up of an actual movie called 'Loser'. This is okay though because it fits the song pretty much perfectly.

Nostalgia moment: the guy with the shakers.

My rating now: 7/10.

#4 - Chop Suey! - System Of A Down. 

The only non-comedy video on this list. It's about as typical as a rock music video can be; sweaty, bearded men playing rock music to an audience of pale people who are occasionally topless. Still, the rammed in crowd, huge drum kit and harsh lighting fit the intensity of the song well. 

Nostalgia moment: when he literally eats chop suey. 

My rating now: 6/10. 

#5 - Tribute - Tenacious D.

When you talk about overplayed 'Kerrang' videos, this has to have been the most overplayed when I was watching. Literally multiple times everyday for years. It's actually a great video but watching it so many times as a teen was equivalent to the millionth time 'Little Britain' showed you David Walliams screeching "I'm a lady" or Catherine Tate quipped "Am I bothered though?" and still expected you to find it funny. But yeah, great video anyway. 

Nostalgia moment: when Dave Grohl oinks. 

My rating now: 9/10. 

There are many more overplayed music videos I remember, which ones did I miss out?     

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!