Quote of the Month: February 2021

“It isn’t about whether you can or can’t: it’s whether you do or don’t.”

Before I take a look at this month’s quote, I have a confession to make: this line is actually from a videogame. I want to point that out from the offset because, as a rule, I don’t like to take philosophical advice from videogames, especially anime-styled JRPGs which can be a bit wishy-washy and idealistic at the best of times. I’m also not a big fan of people who get all of their life advice and inspiration from fictional game characters, as I see such behaviour leading to a somewhat deluded way of living whereby a piece of fantasy becomes reality in some people’s minds, distracting them from real life.

All of that said, I liked this quote from Namco’s Tales of Xillia 2 enough to take it seriously as useful life advice…even if it was spoken by a chesty anime waifu.

And that’s because it really is a positive, take-action attitude that anybody can apply to their life.

And there’s no need to engage many brain cells and formulate your own interpretation of the quote either (this ain’t no Sun Tsu quotation). Essentially, this is about not getting hung up on whether you think you can or can’t achieve something, because that isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that you bloody well try in the first place. Maybe it’s a physical challenge, or an academic obstacle. It could be approaching that person you’re attracted to. Perhaps it’s that promotion at work or an interview for a new, better job. In all of these scenarios, it’s easier to simply give up and walk away without even trying – easier to make excuses and tell yourself that you surely can’t do it.

But how do we know without trying? Sometimes it’s down to a lack of belief in ourselves; other times it really is because it’s much easier and less strenuous to not try in the first place – to retreat to the safety of our comfort zone. In either case, we will never improve ourselves or get any closer to the life that we want, and our failure to act will, ironically, only fuel the poisonous convictions we reinforce in our minds about not being able to achieve things. Thus, a vicious cycle is born and the only way to break it is to take action and do something.

The thing is, we aren’t psychic: we can’t know the outcome of our actions and expeditions before we attempt something (otherwise we’d all be buying lottery tickets!). Sure, we can make probability-based predictions (using existing data or evidence) in certain situations, but most things are dependant on a) our willingness to put ourselves out there and try something in the first place, and b) how much we are prepared to work for something. It’s far better to take action and actually do something, than to live with regret and not know what could have happened if you’d tried.

I have big respect for people with failed businesses, for example. Because, while others are mocking and criticising the downfall of those who had a go, at least that person tried something new and invested themselves (as well as money and resources) into that business. And, as is often the case, those people standing on the fringes and passing judgment on the failed ventures of others have likely never tried to better themselves. Meanwhile, the owner of the failed business will have gained valuable experience, and the knowledge that they at least tried. After all, that person will have grown through trying, and have learnt new things, while their critics are stagnating and going nowhere.

The key word is “action”. A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for inspiration to strike in order to feel motivated enough to take action. This is an incorrect approach that will only lead to procrastination and a lack of action. In essence, you are waiting for something to change, or your life to improve, by doing the same thing(s) over and over. It is the very definition of madness. The correct approach is Action >> Inspiration >> Motivation.

And it doesn’t have to be something a momentous. If you are a writer and are suffering with writer’s block, for example, just tell yourself that you will write just the one paragraph. Chances are, that one paragraph will become two, then three and so on. It’s the taking action in the first place – and breaking of the cycle – that allows inspiration to strike, and the motivation to keep going to subsequently form. It calls to mind another quote that I often refer to:

“Do something – do anything.”

Momentum (or the snowball effect) is a powerful thing, but you can’t get any momentum going if you don’t get moving in the first place (think of a huge rock atop a slope that will certainly get moving once pushed over the edge: it won’t go anywhere without that initial action of being shoved). That’s where taking action comes in.

Will you fail? Possibly. Inevitably, even. We all fail at things throughout life but we learn from our failings and grow as a result. It’s quite possible that you can’t do something, or that things don’t work out, but those are bridges to cross and outcomes to deal with when – if – you reach them. What matters is that you take the advice of that big-boobed, unsuitably-garbed anime girl, and at least try in the first place.

Book Review: Mythology – 75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition (Edith Hamilton, 2017)

Year: 2017 // Format Reviewed: Hardcover (75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition) // Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal // Pages: 371 // ISBN: 978-0-316-43852-0

Greek mythology is a subject that has always fascinated me. I think it began back in primary/junior school when we first covered ancient Greece in history. I was immediately captivated by tales of Gods and heroes, awe-inspiring architecture (such as the Parthenon), and the real-world history of the country. I didn’t actively pursue my interest in Greek mythology afterwards, but I have invariably gravitated towards any sort of entertainment media that uses Greek mythology or Greek history as its subject matter. The movie 300, for example, or the God of War videogames.

A few years ago, I thought that it was about time to get hold of a book that chronicled the Greek myths in a comprehensive fashion so that I could properly read about them all. Of all the books I looked at, it was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology that constantly came out on top as THE book to have. Me being me, however, I didn’t get around to ordering a copy. Fortunately, I received the 75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition as a gift for Christmas. Aside from being a very thoughtful present, from somebody that clearly knew me and listened, it was a fantastic book that I bumped up to the top of my reading pile (I must apologise to my re-read of 11.22.63 which was immediately put on hold…) and wasted no time getting stuck into.

Mythology is a very well-organised book. Hamilton transcribes the original works of the likes of Ovid and Hesiod into easily-readable stories that are more suited to the modern reader – work which still holds up today considering that Mythology was first published back in 1942. More importantly, each story is prefaced with an explanation as to which of the ancient poets originally told said tale, the variations in their writing styles, and which of the accounts is used as the basis for Hamilton’s version. This varies between stories, as explained in the prefaces, because one poet might be more reliable in one instance, but another may have gone into greater detail in another. Different ancient poets also added their own personal touches of bias or vulgarity, which is either noted by Hamilton or filtered out in order to maintain concise storytelling without unnecessary, excessive detail or the sensationalism of depravity. Hesiod’s style, for example, is described as sometimes being naive and childish, while Ovid was a cynic.

The book begins with an introduction to classical mythology, how it tied into the culture of the time, and the various writers/poets who are quoted throughout the book. Profiles of all the Greek gods follow, including “family” trees, and an explanation of how the Greek Gods and their names “convert” to their Roman counterparts i.e. Zeus = Jupiter, Aphrodite = Venus, Athena = Minerva and so on (an especially useful reference when some of the stories are only told by the Roman poets and thus the Roman names for the Gods are used).

From here on, the stories are grouped together into categories (Hamilton states that she avoided trying to unify all of these tales, preferring to keep them separate – an approach that makes sense): Stories Of Love Qnd Adventure; The Great Heroes Before The Trojan War; The Heroes Of The Trojan War; The Great Families Of Mythology; The Less Important Myths. A detailed contents at the outset of the book makes it easy to find any of the stories within each category should you wish to come back and revisit a specific one at a later date.

I really enjoyed journeying through Mythology. The reading was easier than I expected, but not at the expense of detail. I also learnt quite a lot including the origins of names and fables, and the truth about certain mythological figures who have – in some cases – been heavily stylised by various entertainment mediums over the years, or had their personalities subtly modified. For example, I had no idea that Jason (of the Argonauts) turned out to be such a tool in the years following his successful quest for the Golden Fleece!

The book itself is also of good, solid quality, presented in the hardcover format with a stylish dust cover and excellent interior illustrations by Jim Tierney that really shout “Ancient Greece”. One of my (very few) criticisms are that there just aren’t enough of these illustrations! I think about half as many again would have been spot-on.

My other criticism is that the final section on Norse Mythology is so tiny. Granted, I don’t know a whole lot about the Norse Gods aside from their names and their domain, but I’m sure that there has to be more than what is detailed here. As it is, the Norse mythology section feels like a tacked-on afterthought and little more than a flirtation with the subject. It has no direct relevance to the Greek and Roman branches of mythology, and its presence in this book feels further out-of-place given that its lack of synergy means that all other forms of ancient mythology may as well have been included since they are equally as irrelevant (though such a book would be obscenely huge!).

My Norse grumblings aside, Mythology is an essential book for your shelf if Greek mythology is your thing. It’s a comprehensive voyage through the exploits of mythical Gods and heroes. Other books may offer more imagery and dramatisation but Edith Hamilton’s work is a no-nonsense compendium that stays close and true to the original source material.

On Captain Tom Moore and Britain’s “Greatest” Generation

Captain Tom Moore has dominated the news here in the UK over the last week, following his passing on 2nd of February, at the age of 100, after a short battle with pneumonia, and then Covid-19. Tom has became a recognisable, endearing national figure here since last April but – for those not in the know – who was Captain Tom Moore, and why was he so popular?

Born in 1920, Thomas Moore served in the military for the duration of World War II, from 1939 to 1946. He served in India before taking part in the Burma campaign, fighting the Japanese invasion as part of the Fourteenth Army (also referred to as the “Forgotten Army” due to the war in Burma being overlooked by both the contemporary and modern press who were more focused on the war in the Europe, and America’s war in the Pacific).

What Tom became most famous for, however, are his fundraising efforts in 2020. Beginning on the 6th of April – then aged 99 – Tom aimed to complete one hundred lengths of his 25 metre (27 yard) garden – with the assistance of his walking frame – by the time he turned 100, targeting ten lengths a day. Proceeds from his walk were to go to the National Health Service, specifically the NHS Charities Together – a group of charities that support staff, patients, and volunteers across the NHS. Tom wanted to raise the money to help support those on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis, battling to save lives in Britain’s strained hospitals, and initially aimed to raise £1,000.

Continue reading “On Captain Tom Moore and Britain’s “Greatest” Generation”

Reviewing my Car (Honda Civic Type-R FN2)

Cars are one of my main interests yet I haven’t written too much about cars (or motoring in general) here on this blog. I suppose this is partly down to the fact that I don’t consider myself any sort of expert, partly because I tend to talk about cars quite a bit at work (and am “talked out” after that), and – to a lesser extent – because the future of motoring simply looks bleak in my humble opinion. I have no interest in electric cars or current trends, for example, and it’s difficult to talk about current/future cars without broaching into these territories.

[Friendly note: I do, however, have SOME previous car posts, under the category of “Car Talk”, which you can find in the “Old Shit” drop-down on the right >>>>>]

So, with that in mind, it’s no surprise that I have owned my current car for just over five years now but have yet to review it, despite having a firm grasp on the pros and cons in my mind. On the upside, a Civic Type-R never really goes out of fashion, so there’s no such a thing as a “late” review, is there? Plus, it’s always better to read a review of a car from somebody who has ran it long-term.

Continue reading “Reviewing my Car (Honda Civic Type-R FN2)”

Knowledge: Power and Curse

I’m sure that you have come across the sayings…

“Knowledge is power”

…and…

“Knowledge is a dangerous thing”

These two nuggets of philosophy are both brimming with truth, yet appear to be in direct contradiction to one another. How can something that is beneficial to us also cause us great harm? The simple truth is that there are many such dualities in life – many double-sided coins. On a surface level, there are the obvious addictive substances and pursuits which are perfectly harmless (and sometimes healthy) in moderation, but have the capability to ruin us if we fail to exercise self-control and restraint. This is what the saying, “too much of a good thing is bad for you” warns us of.

The aforementioned saying can also be applied to the subject of knowledge…to an extent. History is littered with tales of those who pursued knowledge doggedly, their thirst for information isatiable. Some of them were driven mad or into extreme seclusion. However, this is pretty much as far as the relevancy of “too much of a good thing is bad for you” goes with regards to knowledge. Why? Because a single item of knowledge could prove to be too much. Knowledge – depending on its form – can be dangerous regardless of its size or the time taken to obtain it.

Continue reading “Knowledge: Power and Curse”

Book Review: If It Bleeds (Stephen King, 2020)

Year: 2020 // Format Reviewed: Hardback // Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (UK) // Pages: 369 // ISBN: 978-1-529-391534

“In January of 2021, a small padded envelope addressed to Detective Ralph Anderson is delivered to the Conrads, the Anderson’s next door neighbours. The Anderson family is on an extended vacation in the Bahamas. Printed on this envelope, in large letters, is DO NOT FORWARD. HOLD FOR ARRIVAL.

When Ralph opens the package, he finds a flash drive titled If it Bleeds, presumably referring to the old news trope which proclaims ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. The drive holds a kind of report, or spoken word diary, from Holly Gibney. The final words are from an entry dated December 19th, 2020. She sounds out of breath.

“I have done the best I can, Ralph, but it may not be enough. In spite of all my planning there’s a chance I won’t come out of this alive…””

It’s been a few years since we had a short story collection from Stephen King so If It Bleeds was very welcome indeed. That said, I went in warily given that some of the author’s recent standalone short stories (Elevation, Gwendy’s Button Box) have fallen a little flat with me personally, leaving me hanging with – what I considered to be – abrupt, unsatisfying conclusions to their tales.

First thing’s first though: the blurb on the back of the book (as quoted above) is a bit misleading and I feel that I should address it for anybody who hasn’t yet picked this book up. First of all, it gives the false impression that the entirity of If It Bleeds is one big follow-up to 2018’s The Outsider, failing to mention that the titular story is actually one of four short tales. Secondly, Ralph Anderson – The Outsider‘s lead character – doesn’t actually feature in If It Bleeds. I get why the publisher focused fully on marketing this book as the next chapter in the Mr. Mercedes saga, including name-dropping multiple characters already known to the Stephen King faithful, but I thought it was worth mentioning that If It Bleeds is actually just the headline act of a four act show.

Starting off with the main reason that many will purchase this book, If It Bleeds is indeed the next part of the ongoing Mr. Mercedes ‘series’, although it is more of a direct follow-up to The Outsider than the preceding Bill Hodges trilogy. The glue that binds all of these stories together is, of course, Holly Gibney, who is still running her own private investigation company as we saw in The Outsider. If It Bleeds is Holly’s first solo story, which sees the endearing investigator stumble upon the existence of yet another eery, supernatural predator – another ‘Outsider’. The story itself is compulsive reading (as all of the books featuring Ms. Gibney have been guilty of), but the real draw of If It Bleeds is being able to catch up with old friends again, including the recurring supporting cast of Jerome, Barbara, and Pete. There are also plenty of references to events past that make all of these books feel like one continuous series, even if The Outsider and If It Bleeds are somewhat separate to the Bill Hodges trilogy.

Holly herself undergoes plenty of personal development throughout If It Bleeds, and she has a lot of interaction with her controlling mother which encourages said development. In classic Stephen King fashion, her personal battles run parallel to Holly’s pursuit of the latest Outsider creature, but both plotlines ultimately cross over in a satisfying way towards the story’s conclusion. It’s perhaps only correct then that the marketing gurus chose to focus on If It Bleeds alone because this is easily the best of the four stories here. It’s extremely moreish and I was genuinely disappointed that it couldn’t have been a longer, standalone book. I’m sure that we haven’t seen the last of these characters though – King seems to enjoy them as much as his audience – so I’m not too worried.

Thankfully the other three stories hold up on their own merit, even if they must live in the shadow of If It Bleeds. The opener, Mr Harrigan’s Phone, was my favourite of the supporting acts. It begins in 2004 when nine year-old Craig starts helping out retired billionaire businessman Mr. Harrigan, forming a friendly bond with the man. Fast-forward to 2007, and Craig becomes the proud owner of the brand-new iPhone, a gadget that he can’t get enough of. Mr. Harrigan however – a man with a somewhat luddite attitude towards new technology – isn’t having any of it. Four times a year, Mr. Harrigan sends Craig a two-dollar scratch card and, in 2008, one of the tickets finally comes in for Craig, netting him three thousand dollars. As a gesture of thanks to Mr. Harrigan, Craig buys him an iPhone of his own, which he initially rejects before Craig demonstrates the power of the internet and instant access to real-time business information. As the story progresses, a chilling supernatural thread – that follows Craig through his adolescent years – is introduced but, without spoiling the story, it didn’t really seem to go anywhere. What DID resonate with me, and got me thinking (always dangerous), were the philosophical questions raised about the effect of technology on society, the consumption of instantly-accessible information, and how it would change us all.

“”We may be looking at a huge mistake here, Craig, one being made by people who understand the practical aspects of a thing like this – the ramifications – no more than I do. An economic earthquake may be coming. For all I know, it’s already here. An earthquake that’s going to change how we get our information, when we get it, where we get it, and hence how we look at the world.” He paused. “And deal with it, of course.”

“…if I were the Wall Street Journal…or The Times…even the damn Reader’s Digest…I’d be very frightened by this gizmo.” He picked up the iPhone again; couldn’t seem to leave it alone. “It’s like a broken watermain, one spewing information instead of water. I thought it was just a phone we were talking about, but now I see…or begin to see…””

Additionally, it’s pretty cool to be cast back to a time – the mid-2000’s – that doesn’t feel that long ago, and to be reminded of how much simpler things were, even then, before the iPhone blew up and technology/social media really got us all – as Mr Harrigan would say – by the balls…and squeezed.

The Life of Chuck was the weak link for me. It tells the story of a man’s life in three acts, starting at the very end, travelling in reverse. Each act feels completely different though, and somewhat disjointed when put together as a whole. That said, each part is excellent as a standalone mini-story, and I really enjoyed the twist at the end of the first act that explained the crazy apocalyptic events unfolding for a group of characters that you assume are going to be the main cast. The third and final act sort-of ties it all together, although the new supernatural element introduced here felt slightly unnecessary when the story was being told in reverse. It IS clever though, and was certainly a different way of telling a story. I have a feeling that I might enjoy The Life of Chuck a little more the second time around.

Bringing up the rear is Rat, the latest in a long line of Stephen King tales that focuses on a writer, no doubt drawing inspiration from the author’s own life experience. This story was the closest one of the four to the classic, old-school King flavour of the 80’s that I wish we saw more of in the modern era. It tells the story of Drew Larson, an English teacher with a few published short stories, who dreams of being able to finally go the whole hog and successfully complete a novel. His previous unsuccessful attempt ended in a mental breakdown so it’s no wonder that his wife is absolutely not in favour of Drew heading up to his father’s old cabin, alone, in the remote woodlands of North Maine, so that he can seize the opportunity when a crystal-clear inspiration for a Western strikes him like a bolt from the blue. What happens next has shades of Poe’s The Raven, as Drew comes down with a bad case of the flu, his inspiration begins to run dry, and a powerful storm traps him in the cabin. A rat appears to him and offers him a macabre deal: the ability to finish his novel in exchange for the life of somebody close to Drew…

“The rat cocked his head, as if unable to believe a supposedly smart man – a college English teacher who had been published in The New Yorker! – could be so stupid. ‘You were going to kill me with a shovel, and why not? I’m just a lowly rat after all. But you took me in instead. You saved me.’
‘So as a reward you give me three wishes.’ Drew said it with a smile. This was familiar ground: Hans Christian Anderson, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, the Brothers Grimm.
‘Just one,’ the rat said. ‘A very specific one. You can wish to finish your book.’ He lifted his tail and slapped it down on the manuscript of Bitter River for emphasis. ‘But it comes with one condition.’
‘And that would be?’
‘Someone you care for will have to die.’

I really enjoyed this one. It was psychological, and the isolated nature of the cabin paired with Drew’s obsession, and his fever-induced delerium, had shades of The Shining. Plus, I always enjoy a deal-with-the-devil scenario, where a desperate protagonist makes the mistake of bargaining with dark forces, only to find that they have been hoodwinked by said force(s).

All in all, If It Bleeds is a most enjoyable collection of short stories. I would happily recommend the price of admission for the titular story itself, but all four are worth your time. True, I may have been a little critical of The Life of Chuck, but even so, these stories are – in my opinion – the best short stories to have come from the pen of Stephen King in a good while. A very strong collection indeed.

On lockdowns

I didn’t want my first post since my return to this blog to be about Covid-19 but here it is anyway.

What I’m going to talk about is something that pretty much everybody is chewing over, and that’s the topic of more fucking lockdown measures and rules. A few disclaimers before I get going though. Firstly, I smile when people in my country (the UK) use the term “lockdown” and cry about how difficult the spring/summer were for the country. Yes, it was shit and, yes, reality has been altered for the worse in every way, but I would hardly describe what we had as a REAL lockdown. I see what happened in other, more authoritarian countries (maybe some of you reading this are familiar with it) and said, “THAT’s a lockdown.”

The second disclaimer is that I’m not trying to promote money or business above lives. This post will have an anti-lockdown flavour but be more focused on the bigger, more uncomfortable picture, and some questions that I have. I’ve heard a lot of calls for another lockdown to contain this second wave of cases – people in support of tightening the leash once again. I could get into the discussion about willingly handing over our rights and freedoms to people who certainly don’t care about preserving or restoring them, but I won’t because that’s a different can of worms for a different time.

The observation that I DO want to make however, is that the people who strongly support such a course of action are the people who aren’t likely to be affected by economic disaster. Scientists won’t be put out of a job. Ditto for the government and MPs. And the civilians being vocal about shutting everything down again are those in middle/high tier jobs that can comfortably work from home with laptops, video conferencing and all that stuff. Unfortunately, not everybody is able to enjoy such occupations and the larger safety nets that come with them. If you work in a shop or the hospitality sector, further lockdowns could mean the end of your employment. The government dished out some bloody generous financial aid earlier in the year that kept such business afloat and countless jobs secure, but the magic money pit isn’t bottomless. Furlough schemes have long since stopped paying 100% of wages for example, and there will certainly come a point where the flow of “free” money simply dries up. Businesses are already going under and unemployment is already rising.

But there are those in well-paid office jobs working from home who couldn’t care less about that. It’s not them that will lose their jobs or be directly affected. “Tough titty,” they think. “It’s their fault for not having a better career,” they say. Likewise, the people in government making these decisions won’t have to worry about paying the bills. For anybody living from paycheck to paycheck, with little savings in the bank, and no way of transferring themselves into a different, more secure field of work, these are incredibly stressful and unsettling times.

It’s not my intention to divert onto an us-versus-them rant because that doesn’t solve anything, and it’s a lack of unity amongst us as human beings (push all that class nonsense aside) that historically causes most problems, but it would be a nice thing if the more affluent members of society remembered that the people working in warehouses, the retail sector, and hospitality venues are crucial cogs in the economic machine. I saw it during the initial lockdown period in the summer while working in the wholesale sector: well-off people having a blast, being paid 100% of their wages to have barbeque after barbeque, and guzzle crates of alcohol. There was a definite divide between the haves (said customers) and the have-nots (those of us still working to keep everybody else going, despite the threat of the virus in the workplace, and the rotten attitudes of customers). It should be noted that I didn’t mind the work as it gave me an ongoing routine and sense of normality as well as job security, but I witnessed bitter attitudes from co-workers not happy about others being paid by their employers to relax in their gardens, eat food, and drink, drink, drink.

I can’t lie: I too was guilty of the occasional flash of resentment, largely due to the fact that work was busier than ever, we were getting a heap of abuse from non-compliant customers due to stock shortages and restrictions, and I genuinely felt ill through the stress of it all at times. But, all of that said, I couldn’t blame the others. After all, would anybody say “no” to being paid in full to stay off work and just chill out?

But, now, I get the sense that those capable of working from home – and those whose employers won’t go out of business as a result of new restrictions – would happily support another lockdown, even if it means job losses. I have read comments online from people who claim they are sick of bars, restaurants, and retail outlets complaining about the fact that they will go under if their doors must once again close. To me, it’s a very narrow-minded and ignorant attitude to take for I’m sure that these same people would see things very differently if they were forced to switch places. Thinking, “Ah well, sucks to be them” when another business goes under – taking hundreds or thousands of low-skilled jobs with it – isn’t actually very intelligent. We all saw what happened in 2008 with the banking crisis and the resulting cataclysmic domino effect. And it’s with this point that I will move away from people’s attitudes, and onto the topic of whether another full-fat lockdown is actually a good idea.

The scientists are saying that it is the most effective way – the only way – of dealing with a Covid-19 resurgence, and that we only have to look into our history at previous pandemics (the Bubonic Plague, Spanish Flu, Cholera etc.) to see that this is how those diseases were stopped. But I don’t see how the same approach can be so easily applied to the world in 2020. We are so globalised now, and the world economy is ridiculously fragile – far more so than it was hundreds of years ago. The slightest imbalance or sudden shift in demand for a product/service can send huge, damaging ripples through the markets and trigger a mind-blowing butterfly effect that can grow exponentially and cause untold damage further down the domino chain.

But I’m putting business in front of lives again, aren’t I? Well, you can look at it that way, and I can’t blame you for seeing it like that. I guess there’s no way around it.

However, I believe that we will reach a point where we can no longer avoid the possibility that Covid-19 will never go away. Covid-19 is a Coronavirus (many mistakenly refer to the former as the latter), and do you know what else is a part of the Coronavirus family? The common cold. I’m not at all playing down Covid-19, but think about it: colds never go away. There is no cure for them (due to how quickly they mutate and shift forms) and they stay with us all year. For more dangerous examples of a Coronavirus, see SARS and MERS, two more diseases that have no vaccine for either the treatment or prevention of infections. So it seems crazy that the world is banking on a forthcoming vaccine to bring all of this to a neat end. I just don’t believe that there will be a vaccine for Covid-19, or else it would have been possible to vaccinate against SARS, MERS and colds by now.

And without a vaccine, and an inevitable dehydration of financial handouts, I believe that we will ultimately be forced to try and return to normal because there will be no other choice. Lockdowns will temporarily suppress the virus but it only stalls infections. As the T-101 stated in Terminator 3, “You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.” Unless it can be 100% eradicated, then it will never go away. If even a single person remains infected with Covid-19 (and that is inevitable given how many asymptomatic cases there are), it will simply once again spread out into the community, just as it did when the first infected individual set foot on the doorstep of a Covid-free country and set it loose when this all began in the first place.

A functioning vaccine is the only the way but – as I have just pointed out – based on the evidence that no previous Coronavirus has been successfully vaccinated against, should we really be putting so many eggs in that basket?

Otherwise, we will soon not have the luxury of hiding away and keeping everywhere closed. Not unless we wish to face mass unemployment and the dire social, economic, and mental consequences that such a scenario would entail. And the thing is, unemployment is a much bigger issue than many believe. For starters, you can forget the stats and figures that governments and their agencies put out as they are so skewed by false reporting, technicalities, zero-hours contracts, and a host of other variables.

Travel back in time hundreds or even thousands of years, and you would find that the majority of people’s jobs were classed as essential. Farming, warfare, construction, the manufacturing of clothes – all of these were essential jobs that needed to be done. Fast-forward to the modern day, and so many of us work in utterly non-essential industries and service sectors that have nothing to do with basic living and basic survival. Anything to do with leisure, entertainment, the arts, non-food retail, hospitality, travel, e-commerce and much, much more…all of it absolutely non-essential if an economic situation is so bleak that paying the bills, keeping a roof over your head, and eating are the only things that matter. Our ancestors probably could weather quarantines as they were a) more self-sufficient b) less reliant on income from non-essential trade and c) not living in such complex and easily damaged economies.

To that end, anybody currently working in a non-essential role can consider themself “unemployed”, since a major disaster will render all of those jobs irrelevant and all of the people in them with no income. And it isn’t as if they could all suddenly transfer into essential jobs because the sheer volume of roles isn’t there, and the population of working-age people is much too large versus that of our ancient ancestors.

I’m not proclaiming to have the answers but I am concerned that the world seems to be going all-in on the vaccine solution when there is ample reason to suggest that a truly effective vaccine will not be possible. In the meantime, there will be tough choices to make if we wish to strike a balance between protecting ourselves and protecting our ability to keep a roof above our head.

I’m not dead

Does that sound big-headed of me? To assume that anybody was actually wondering where I’d gotten to? Well, it can’t be helped. It was the first post title that popped into my head and it sounded right: punchy and straight to the point.

My writing juices had simply expired, and my head has been spinning thanks to its attempt to process the madness that is 2020, what I believe, and where I stand on the whole virus thing. I’ve also been dealing with injuries and plenty of other crap, so blogging has been the furthest thing from my mind.

But now?

So what’s new (other than this janky new WordPress editor)? Well, I’ve just called time on a dedicated videogame blog that I was writing in tandem with this one. It was no big deal (it only attracted around sixty followers in 2-3 years…) but I enjoyed writing for it – for fun – until recently. I’m still a gamer (albeit to a much lesser degree these days…) but I’d just fallen out of love with posting my thoughts on the latest videogame news, and constructing reviews for the stuff I’d been playing.

That said, I would like to continue writing about games, just without the self-inflicted pressure from feeling that I need to post something for the sake of keeping a blog active. To that end, I will be introducing videogame reviews and musings here, on Unfiltered Opinion, from time to time.

This won’t become a videogame blog, so if you’re only here for the stuff that I was already posting then there’s no need to worry. I have a bunch of life/self-development themed topics in mind, as well as a determination to carry on reviewing and talking about books (something that seems to do well here). I also fully intend to continue The Big Goosebumps Re-read series.

Let’s crack on with it then.

Bullshit News: Sex = Banned

Honestly, I’d hoped not to ever revive the Bullshit News series, as I don’t enjoy watching it anymore, let alone commentating on the latest outrage or twisted facts. Unfortunately, there is an excess of fuel for the bullshit furnace thanks to the biggest topic of 2020. Particularly here, in the UK. Have you seen our hypocritical, self-contradicting shambles of a government? We haven’t fought our way to the top-tier of the Covid-19 death league table by fluke, you know.

The latest? Sex is banned – apparently. That’s how the outraged mob on social media are spinning it anyway. The government didn’t actually come out and SAY that, though. What actually happened was that a new regulation was passed in order to control people’s movement under an easing of lockdown restrictions. So now you can meet up with people – to socialise – outside of your household…as long as you remain outside and two metres apart of course. The outrage stems from the fact that couples not living together can now finally see each other, but they aren’t permitted to make physical contact.

In reality, nothing has changed. However, people have been riled-up by the fact that the new regulation specifically forbids people from having private gatherings, of two or more people, indoors. This specific clause has sparked considerable public anger, simply because it didn’t exist before. However, it didn’t need to exist before. After all, we were instructed to stay in our homes unless it was absolutely essential to leave i.e. for food or work (if you were unable to work from home and weren’t furloughed), so we weren’t really permitted to go and enter other people’s houses anyway. Beyond all the bluster about sex being banned, nothing has really changed. There has actually been a loosening so, if you were being a good lil’ egg and staying away from your partner, you can now physically see them. The new rule has been brought in to prevent people from skipping the (hopefully) forthcoming future easing of distancing.

As usual, the media has transformed yet another distancing rule into an outrage-inducing headline to whip up a controversy and generate ad revenue, viewing figures, and newspaper sales.

Now, all of that said, does that mean that I’m in favour of this continued clamp-down on humanity? Fuck no. If you’re married, or living with a partner, then you’re probably laughing at a sex “ban”. “Sucks to be them” and all that. It’s not so great for those of us who aren’t locked-down with our significant other, though. And I’m not just talking about being denied the main course – I’m talking about not even being able to show regular affection, such as kissing, hugging, or holding hands. I know it’s easy to overplay these things (especially if you aren’t an especially affectionate person), but it’s also easy to take them for granted.

As I said in my last post, any measures that take away our humanity must be regarded with extreme caution. That doesn’t mean that I think we should decide for ourselves that the virus has gone and just do whatever the fuck we want (that’s just dumb, and a direct insult to those who have died or are fighting the virus in our hospitals), but we need to keep a close eye on the status of our freedoms and what the government is doing with them.

And I haven’t even got to the bullshit yet. Oh, no. So far I’ve discussed how people have taken the new regulations out of context. I’ve touched on how the news media have twisted the information to play the public like a fiddle, and get them foaming at the mouth. And I’ve talked about how frustrating it is for couples living apart. But all of that is poodle poop compared to the steaming mountain of elephant crap that comes next, and it ties into the strain being put on couples living apart.

It’s the double-standards, hypocrisy and blatant contradiction that is impossible to ignore. This is the kind of stuff that we should really question, and direct our anger at.

So…sex with your girlfriend at her house is a big NO, but it was okay for scientist and health advisor, Professor Neil Ferguson, to allow his (married) lover to enter his home and get her knickers off? After he’d preached the importance of social distancing?

Don’t worry though; I’m sure he was dealt with just as firmly as any of us would for being caught sneaking into our partner’s home by a nosy neighbour. No immunity for a top government advisor, right?

Scotland Yard said Prof Ferguson’s behaviour was “plainly disappointing” but officers “do not intend to take any further action”.

BBC News

Oh.

Moving on…

Meeting up with your boyfriend and giving him a hug is an AWFUL thing to do, but nobody gets fined or prosecuted for hitting the beach and observing zero social distancing?

[Image: Phys.org]

And you must, MUST stay two metres away from your estranged partner…even while idiots queue up for hours for an utterly non-essential McDonalds.

[Image: BBC]

I’m NOT here to advocate breaking the rules (that have been implemented for the good of the country’s health and safety) on the basis that other people are taking the piss. The well-he-does-it-so-am-I philosophy is a slippery slope that never ends well. But being told to keep apart from your partner while all of this is happening right before your eyes is a slap in the face. We should all be in this together, and facing the same hardships, so that we can come out the other side as quickly as possible and get on with our damn lives. But it’s clear that this isn’t the case, and I absolutely cannot fault people for kicking off about being unable to touch their significant other when mass gatherings and utterly non-essential, selfish activities go unpunished. We are told to do one thing and then shown the opposite. Made to feel afraid about being caught doing one thing while hundreds – if not thousands – get away with taking part in something far worse. Ordered to keep our genitals in check while the science men issuing the advice are busy banging married women.

And don’t even get me started on the Black Lives Matter protests. I agree with your cause and your anger but you’re creating a nice breeding ground for Covid-19 in those densely-packed crowds. I know that a lot of people are afraid to come out criticise because of the backlash that they will receive but I don’t give a fuck. You – and the dumbass beachgoers who prioritise a day out over a national effort – are making an invaluable contribution to a second wave that will keep us all locked-down for longer than we could have.

Why you should reject the “New Normal”

There’s a new phrase that has established itself in the media: The New Normal.

I’m not a fan of this particular string of words. In fact, I utterly despise it. But what is “The New Normal”?

It’s a phrase to describe our lockdown lives right now. It’s a way of coming to terms with and accepting our current circumstances. And I’m all down with that if it’s going to make a difference and minimise the infection rate. But, just as we are being cautious about spreading the virus, we also need to be careful that this New Normal remains a temporary state, and that elements don’t linger in our post-Covid societies. In fact, I’m more worried about living in some sort of paranoid, contact-shy dystopian world than I am about Covid-19. A temporary acceptance of the new rules is fine. It’s required, and to flippantly disregard the measures would be a great display of ignorance to those who have succumbed to Covid-19, those fighting it on the frontlines, and those who have lost loved ones. But, at the same time, we must not fall into the trap of becoming desensitised to it all and allowing the New Normal to become simply Normal.

It is NOT normal to wear face masks.
It is NOT normal to steer around other people in the street.
It is NOT normal to be so scared of catching something.
It is NOT normal to go on virtual dates, rather than be face-to-face.
It is NOT normal to have our towns and cities covered in tape and “keep your distance” signage.
It is NOT normal to have every TV commercial referencing the virus and lockdown.

As I’ve already said, we need to do these things right now because Covid-19 is far from a done deal. But realise that we have willingly given up our freedoms to our governments and that we get them back when they (backed up by scientific advice) say so. Previous generations have endured far worse changes to everyday life that lasted a lot longer, so we can do this.

But don’t accept these things as permanent changes. Do I think the masses will remain fearful and in favour of digital communion in the long-term? No, I don’t actually think that. The thousands of people that have been breaking distancing rules to pack themselves onto beaches are proof enough (though they are still fucking idiots). So what do I think COULD happen?

First of all – without wanting to become a conspiracy theorist – I think governments around the world will be watching and taking note of just how easy it was to force the populance to remain indoors and surrender basic freedoms. I don’t buy into the theories out there that the virus was released on purpose to trigger a lockdown response that would cow society. But the lockdown will remain invaluable data to leaders should they wish to impose these measures on us again. And next time, it might not even be for a valid reason. All they need to do is to sell us a reason that makes us all feel like heroes.

I think there is going to be a lot of unemployment as businesses fold, and others realise that they have managed just fine without their full workforce. And all this “free” money that has been thrown about will come at a great cost. Public funding is going to be cut and the tax bill is going to be bigger than Christina Hendricks’ boobs. We’re going to be living with the financial aftermath for a long-ass time.

But we can deal with those things. It’s the subtle, creeping social changes that we need to be wary of. Everything that we are doing right now is not human. Virtual communication without the senses of smell, taste and touch isn’t human. Queuing up outside stores in masks with big gaps between us certainly isn’t human. I DO think that we will get over all of this and move on but social changes tend to happen gradually, and subtlety, often without us noticing until, one day, we look back and think about the old ways of living. And that’s why we need to be careful because the longer this pandemic drags on, the more opportunity these temporary practices have to take root and be normalised in society.

I have several other Covid-19/Lockdown-related posts brewing in the back of my mind but I’m not sure if I’ll actually have the energy to publish them. Like most of us, I’m tired of it all, and tired of talking about the whole damn situation. Furthermore, I’m no expert and I have my own biases that make these kinds posts difficult to write.