Let’s NOT stay connected

Last week, a cataclysmic disaster of earth-shaking proportions struck the UK, resulting in mass panic and untold trauma for the citizens of this fair isle. No, I’m not talking about a natural disaster or a Godzilla attack but the partial service outage for customers of o2, one of our main mobile network providers. Some people struggled with basic calls and the ability to send messages but it was the data outage that triggered outrage and despair. Essentially, a worrying number of people were simply lost without access to the internet on their mobile phone…for what turned out to be a little over one day.

The only people I genuinely felt bad for were emergency services or care homes who relied on o2 in some way and had their communications severely disrupted. Everybody else though? Deal with it. I’ll admit that businesses losing trade was a bad thing (especially for the smaller businesses that perhaps can’t afford to take the hit) but in general, it was those who have decided to completely bin off landlines and go mobile-only that suffered the most. Becoming overly-reliant on mobile networks and technology in general occasionally proves to be a very bad thing. Technology that we ourselves have no control over has woven itself into much of our lives to the extent that we don’t even realise how reliant we have become on it and this – for me – is a massive mistake but that’s a separate discussion for another time.

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Of course, the stories of “tragedy” were all over the news with accompanying interviews of those we were supposed to feel bad for. It’s hard to take the BBC’s online news seriously however when they actually gave airtime to somebody who’s disruption amounted to missing out on placing ebay bids for a Christmas gift because he had no internet. Is this news? Is it even a real problem? My first thought was “why didn’t you just place a maximum bid on the item(s) beforehand?”. Then I wondered if this person was wanting to be online so that he could just keep bidding on something until he won, in which case I would say they had too much money and should have simply purchased said item from elsewhere without pissing about with bidding. Finally, I wondered why I was wasting any of my thoughtwaves even thinking about this pathetic excuse for a “problem”.

It’s ridiculous that a data outage and an inability to connect to the internet and the dreaded social media can reduce people to such frustration so quickly. You don’t HAVE to be constantly connected to the ‘net all the time, refreshing Facebook or flicking between favourite sites while on the move. How about having an actual conversation with a real person? How about looking out of the window on a bus rather than plonking your arse on a seat and instinctively whipping out your fancy iphone 986XR-S Pro Elite Widescreen handset and ignorant noise-cancelling Bose headphones? There’s lots happening all around us and so much detail to take in so look around once in a while and really LOOK at life and your world before it passes you by.

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I personally cannot stand people who can’t exist without fiddling with their phone every few seconds or sit at a table in a restaurant without having it next to their plate, easily accessible to check their notifications. Since when did other people’s “look at me!” ego chasing Facebook statuses and inane Twitter ramblings become so important to us that we’d allow them to disrupt or sit in on other activities?

The thing I detest the most is being contactable at all times. I work as a delivery driver and my phone seems to constantly be buzzing in my pocket with incoming calls from people back at base wanting to ask me questions or add to my workload. I’ll be driving between destinations and thinking that things are going pretty well around the mid-morning mark but then the calls begin and I have people informing me of problems that need sorting (usually other people’s fuck-ups), asking me how to do stuff or telling me about shit that isn’t even on that day’s schedule. This is the curse of being expected to be accessible by phone all day. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like dropping the window and launching my phone out into the next ditch. If only they didn’t cost so much to buy.

And you can’t answer a phone while you are driving. I don’t know about other parts of the world but here in the UK, it’s illegal and rightly so after the rise in car accidents and deaths associated with drivers being distracted by their phone call(s). Even so, you still see countless fuckwits speeding while on the phone or looking down at their notifications as soon as they come to a halt at a red light…just what is so fucking important? If these people were to crash and hurt/kill themselves as a result of their own stupidity and lack of prioritisation then I honestly wouldn’t give much of a shit but it’s the innocent victims in other vehicles or on the pavement that tend to pay the price.

So I refrain from answering or even looking at who is calling. I COULD keep pulling over and killing the engine to answer incoming calls but a) there isn’t always a suitable place and b) answering all of these calls just slows me down from doing the job that people are – ironically – calling me about. The inevitable result is a screen clogged with voicemails and missed call notifications or text messages that say “call me back asap”. To say it deflates me would be an understatement.

Then there are those people. “Those” are the people who keep persistently calling until you answer and when you DO answer, it’s usually something non-important that could have been relayed via a text message or voicemail. I even have some people who keep calling and leave literally a single second between every attempt. Just fuck off already! Don’t get me started on the people who know that you are most likely to be on the road but then whinge about you not answering the phone later on.

And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of complaining about staying connected or social media addiction on a blog which is a form of social media in itself. By my own admission, I am often an introverted sort of guy so I have to hold my hands up and say that there may also be a streak of bias running through this post but even so, I find it quite worrying and – in the case of people’s anguish at last week’s data outage – ridiculous how mobile phones and 24/7 internet access have become so integral to so many people’s lives. Just put it down and disconnect every once in while – it really won’t hurt.

Take Some Responsibility

Taking personal responsibility: it’s a normal act that appears to have become a black art; a taboo even. We live in a toxic blame culture where everything is always somebody else’s fault and some people believe it is acceptable to sue a coffee vendor because they weren’t warned that their beverage would be…y’know, hot. Insert a Captain Picard facepalm meme here if you feel like it because it certainly fits.

It’s about time that we – as a society – learnt to hold our hands up, admit when we fucked something up and take some responsibility. Take responsibility for the state of your life. Take responsibility for your feelings. Take responsibility for your errors. Take responsibility for that sprog you brought into the world after choosing to play a game of Hide The Penis.

At this point, some of you may be dying to ask, “but why should I take responsibility for shit that wasn’t my fault?”. Recently I have been reading Mark Manson’s excellent book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and he makes some fantastic points about taking responsibility. What leapt out at me the most was learning to differentiate between “Responsibility” and “Fault” and realising that you must still take responsibility in some way even if a negative or unplanned event wasn’t your fault.

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Events beyond your control may have caused set-backs, pain or heartache in your life but you are still ultimately responsible for responding and processing the resulting feelings while pushing on with your life. Somebody may have wronged you in some way but even if was their fault, you are responsible for how you let it affect your life going forward and whether or not you decide to dwell on negativity and anger. For a more obvious example, it may be the fault of Durex that a rubber was faulty and you accidentally became a father but you better believe that you were responsible the moment you decided to explore the interior of your lady-friend’s knickers.

That last example concerns a pretty big life-changing event and I used it because it’s actually the smaller, seemingly less significant events that people have greater trouble accepting responsibility for. The problem is that blaming somebody/something else is simply the easy way out and it feels good to absolve ourselves of fault…for a short time at least. Blaming others is a quick and easy high but one of the keys to long-term life satisfaction is learning to take responsibility for feelings, situations and events even if somebody or something else was originally at fault. Remember: you must separate “Responsibility” and “Fault”.

And as much as I may be coming across as preachy as fuck here, I’ve been just as guilty as everybody else when it comes to hurling the blame around and running from responsibility. That’s why I have been taking the advice from Mark Manson’s book onboard and trying harder to take greater responsibility for my life. For example, if somebody pisses me off then I have been accepting that it’s my responsibility not to allow that person/event to keep me down and make me feel like shit for any longer than necessary.

It’s my responsibility to go out and find more money rather than moaning about not having enough to do activity X or afford product Y. It’s my responsibility to learn from mistakes and not repeat them. It’s my responsibility to stop eating junk food and chain-drinking energy drinks if I know I’m going to feel like death later on. If I want greater success with women and dating then it’s my responsibility to up my game. I can decide to NOT do any of these things but then I don’t have the right to moan about the consequences down the line. The only person I will be accountable to is myself and no matter what bravado and bullshit I decide to project, I will KNOW the real deal and that’s what counts.

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Sure, there have been external factors at work throughout my life thus far that have set me back or contributed to things not turning out the way I would have preferred (I could write a list of the damn things) but that’s where I need to separate the Fault from the responsibility to myself. Of course, there are also those times when a poor decision, mistake or collossal fuck-up HAS been my fault but the end result is the same regardless of whether the bad shit is internal or external in origin. It’s my life and I have to take responsibility.

It is difficult, I will grant that. We have been raised in a blame culture where protecting one’s ego and image trumps admitting to your shortcomings and taking responsibility for doing better next time or making amends where necessary. Switch on the TV and you will see politicians and people in authority blaming others for shit that has gone wrong. Look around you in your own life and you will see countless people jumping to blame others or announce their complete exemption from any responsibility-taking when some seriously smelly shit hits the turbo-charged fan. It’s no wonder that several generations have lost their way in this sense.

Bottom line: take fucking responsibility for your life and everything within.

Brexit is bullshit

Sometimes I wonder what this trainwreck called “Brexit” looks like to those outside of the UK. I also wonder what they think of the social media-style name for the process which was quickly adopted by the mainstream media and politicians despite being a piece of slang that somebody obviously felt well chuffed about thinking up. Even worse is when a newsreader says “Breggzit”…sorry, I forgot that leaving the European Union had something to do with the output of chickens.

But mostly I wonder what people think because as a UK resident who duly went to polling station on that fateful day, I’m just fed up of hearing about it. Right now, it feels like Brexit is simply not going to deliver what either camp of voters wants. All that has been achieved is greater division and resentment. Hardcore “Brexiteers” shouting about shutting the borders as soon as possible while “Remainers” keep banging on about having another referendum, hoping to reverse the vote no doubt. Overall, I think that Brexit has brought out the worst in everybody who is passionate about the subject one way or another.

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For my part, I find myself trapped in the middle. I voted to remain in the EU but not necessarily for the reason that many others did i.e. the economical benefits of the partnership. Basically, I liked the romantic concept of leaving the EU and going our own way without having an additional layer of “management” on top of our own government, forcing their rules through. Make Britain Great Again and all that. Unfortunately, logic and reason must have a say and so I ultimately ended up voted the opposite way.

The thing is, the Leave campaign was pure vapour with those promoting it (such as Boris Johnson) arguing their case without solid facts or – more importantly – a solid PLAN of how Brexit would work. Words such as “could”, “can” or “might” do not make for a convincing campaign for anybody analysing the situation carefully rather than voting with their heart. What it amounted to was various politicians shouting “take back control!” and the like. No concrete strategy or timeline of how we would leave and achieve these benefits of going solo. Worse still, if voters actually stopped to think about it, none of those standing on stages around the UK shouting about immigration or money for the NHS were actually in the driving seat at Westminster i.e. they had no power to control negotiations or steer the ship once the destination was decided so why should we have put any trust in them?

Fast forward to December 2018 and where are we? The prominent faces of the Leave campaign have gone quiet or resigned from their ministerial positions, we have a Prime Minister who didn’t support Brexit negotiating Brexit and the likes of UKIP (UK Independence Party) have imploded before evaporating into a steamy cloud of irrelevance. A deal has been put together which doesn’t exactly reek of victory and there is the constant threat of the Remain camp achieving their wish of a re-vote which would contradict democracy itself.

On a side-note, even though I “lost” at the polls and pretty much disagree with a lot of Brexit, I still believe it would be a crime against democracy to have a re-vote and alter the decision. Aside from the fact that going back on the all of the negotiations thus far would firmly place our balls in the EU’s vice, you can’t just keep having votes and referendums until you get what you or your side desires at the polls. If it went 52-48% in the opposite direction, I can pretty much guarantee that the Remain side wouldn’t even entertain the notion of a second vote, no matter how loud the Leave camp shouted.

The vote happened and this is the result. Democracy is a fantastic thing but it comes with risks and you have to accept that unexpected results can and will happen.

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I have to give a shout out to the old-school brigade shouting about binning the EU off, slamming the borders shut and getting back to being British. While I do agree with tightening right up on immigration, giving the EU’s daft rules the finger and being proud of our country, it is an inescapable fact that times have changed and globalisation is a thing. The older generation love to bang on about how Britain was great in the past and how we “were alright before the EU so let’s go back to those times” but you cannot simply “go back”. Practically everything in our economy and society is intertwined with those of other countries across the globe – for better or for worse – and simply ripping those connections out could well be like walking up to a complex computer system and ripping cables out at random, assuming that everything will continue to function as normal. Times have changed yet there are many who choose to ignore basic facts/logic and carry on shouting about foreigners ruining the “cun’ry”.

I would love to leave, do our own thing and have a selection-based immigration system and all that good stuff but it isn’t as simple as that and unfortunately, negative consequences have a tendency to topple like dominoes. Cast your mind back to the financial crisis of 2008 (something the world still hasn’t recovered from) and remember how fragile the framework of our everyday lives really is. One aspect that has never sat right with me is that a lot of older people voted to leave based on their memories of how wonderful the past apparently was (you can unearth plenty of reasons why it wasn’t all that rosy…) but it isn’t their generation that will have to deal with the fallout of Brexit should it go sour. Without sounding too harsh, thousands will have passed on from this mortal realm, potentially leaving their descendants a fractured future as an inheritance.

But then there are the Remainers, the sore losers who simply cannot stand the fact that a sure-fire win for their side could actually fail to materialise. Protests marches calling for a second vote, individuals going to the courts to block Brexit and even those suggesting that London could remain inside the EU…it’s been a pretty desperate show. It seems that everybody loves democracy but only when the ‘safe’ result comes up. The truth is that there is no smoke without fire and excluding the influence of outside parties and misleading campaigns, there is a reason why events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump happened. People are fed up the status quo and tired of voting for the same people who peddle the same lies or feed us the same bitter pills and expect us to obediently swallow them. I’m not saying that either Brexit or Trump are positive things but they were always going to happen eventually.

If you exist in the middle as I do and support pieces of each argument as well as disagree with points put forward by both sides then Brexit is just a big stinking turd blocking up the u-bend and refusing to flush. In reality, nobody won and we are now seeing some very ugly sides to people before (likely) accepting a deal that fails to achieve anything other than needless unsettlement with the rewards for sticking with it still not that clear. I just want it to be over and to get the fuck off my TV screen.

Movie Talk: Demolition Man (1993)

I love a good old-school action film that doesn’t pretend to be anything else other than big, loud, dumb and macho. These sorts of movies are in shorter and shorter supply these days and if you want to stay away from the arty-farty, insightful releases that the critics and award-givers love to wank themselves into a frenzy over then you mostly have to fall back on comic book adaptations or shameful cash-ins of old franchises being resurrected for the modern day. The 80’s is home to the bulk of the truly good stuff but the 90’s also had it’s share of classic action such as 1993’s Demolition Man.

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Right from the off, it’s terrible one-liners, massive explosions and bulging muscles so you can immediately throw your brain out of the window, kick back and enjoy some simple entertainment. The basic premise is this: maverick, OTT cop John Spartan (Stallone) is placed into cryogenic imprisonment following his latest battle with the deadly criminal, Simon Phoenix (Snipes) due to the death of thirty hostages that Spartan’s superiors believe were killed as a result of his reckless battle with Phoenix. Phoenix is also cryogenically frozen and manages to escape in the year 2032 during a routine parole hearing.

The future has become a utopian society however where the police force haven’t had to deal with violent criminals or non-natural deaths for over twenty years so they are woefully unprepared to deal with a psychopath like Phoenix who immediately kicks off a rampage of murders and destruction. The only way they can combat Phoenix is to (reluctantly) release John Spartan prematurely.

The plot of Demolition Man is nothing special but really, it is just a vehicle for the two stars to pick up where they left off before imprisonment and wreak havoc in the future. The film has very little lulls and is either a rollercoaster of punch-ups, shoot-outs and explosions or Stallone’s character trying to get to grips with the future, leading to several comical moments and amusing quips.

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Bizarrely – and in direct contradiction to what I’ve just said about about this being a simplistic action film – Demolition Man‘s 2032 setting actually feels a lot more relevant today and is a right-wingers worst nightmare come true. Crime has been eradicated completely in order to create a peaceful utopia but as a result, a lot has had to be sacrificed. Anything deemed “bad” has been made illegal be that salt on your meal, swearing and even physical contact. So no high-fives, no kissing and certainly no sex. Everybody looks perma-happy and perfectly fine with having absolutely nothing happening at all – ever. Is this the direction that we are heading in reality? It’s possible to see some parallels, especially here in the UK where an increasing number of things are classed as “hate crimes” (resulting in murky waters where a casual, jokey insult might be interpreted as “offensive”) and unhealthy foods are constantly being watered down or taxed in order to protect unhealthy people from themselves.

Putting all of that political/social crap aside though (there are other sites out there that have explored the parallels and the films accurate predictions in much greater depth), the star of the movie is undoubtedly Wesley Snipes in full flow as the nutty Simon Phoenix. His performance as the crazy psychopathic killer is fantastic fun to behold and there is never a dull moment when his character is on-screen. Certainly one of those times where an otherwise repulsive character becomes almost lovable and I would go as far as to say that Demolition Man is worth watching for Snipes/Phoenix alone.

Many look down on movies like Demolition Man as lesser, braindead fodder for those who can’t comprehend “thoughtful” cinema but there’s nothing wrong with simple entertainment at all. Demolition Man is just a lot of fun and sometimes that’s all you require from a movie. Oh and Sandra Bullock looking dynamite in very tight trousers for the duration is pretty nice too.

Bullshit News: M&S window display “vomit-inducing”

At the time of writing, this is an admittedly “old” story but it’s things like this that encouraged me to create this blog in the first place so I couldn’t resist analysing such a ridiculous news item. It is of course, one of many daily attempts by the BBC to wind up right-wing readers and keep them at war with left-wing liberals in the interests of generating clicks and ad revenue. Nevertheless, the quotes from the article are real as crazy as they may sound.

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For those outside of the UK, M&S (Marks & Spencer) are a large high-street retailer often placed in the supermarket sector in direct competition with the likes of Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s etc. but are considered a cut above when it comes to the quality of their food and clothing. Naturally, the price tags are in line with the additional quality and there are many who will happily brand the M&S shopper a “snob” or say that they must be “getting paid too much” if they do their shopping there. Stupid assumptions and insta-judgments of course but hey, no surprise there.

Anyway, a photograph of a store display in Nottingham which advertised suits for men and lingerie for women was posted up on a Facebook group called “Feminists Friends Nottingham” and the ensuing outrage was typical of our easily-offended society in 2018 where conclusions are leapt toward in a microsecond and bizarre interpretations attempt to overcomplicate everything. For a prime example of reading far too much into a fucking window display, check out what one female interviewee gave the BBC (who must have been rubbing their hands together in glee):

“Ok, M&S Nottingham, have we really not learned anything in the last 35 years? Or am I alone in finding this, their major window display, completely vomit inducing?”

“I also feel very, very strongly about the representation of women as being preoccupied with fancy little knickers, whereas men are presented as powerful and needing to be impressive.

“I don’t have a problem with people choosing to wear whatever they want to wear, I just feel like the juxtaposition is what’s grossly, grossly offensive.

“We are surrounded by sexual images of both men and women. M&S are not by any means the only offenders but that particular window just epitomises everything that’s wrong with current marketing and how far backwards we’ve gone.”

First of all, I have to say that “vomit-inducing” is a fucking extreme reaction to this. If the particular individual in question feels that ill after looking at a photograph of a window display then I dread to think how they will cope with seeing something truly sickening.

I do understand where her core displeasure at M&S’s advertising is coming from but last time I checked, it was completely normal for men to buy suits and women to buy fancy knickers. Should we be hiding sexy lingerie at the back of the store in a dark corner like a dirty secret? When women purchase underwear a step above the basic variety, it isn’t solely to impress the man in their life in the bedroom; it’s also because it makes them feel attractive. Men don’t just buy suits to impress the ladies: they also want to feel smart and look well-presented.

If you thought the above was an overreaction then get a load of this:

Another post, from a man, said the window display was “far too provocative and rapey”.

“It is not the right sort of message especially during this current season when people drink more and their filters are thrown out of the window,” he wrote.

I struggled to wrap my head around this one. A window display advertising underwear for women being sexist might have made some sort of warped sense but to suggest it promotes rape is flat-out laughable and plain daft. And what exactly does getting merry over the seasonal period have to do with this anyway? Is he suggesting that a woman is more likely to be raped after a few drinks if the man finds that she’s wearing an M&S bra? Because that means that she must have been “well up for it”? I don’t even know what sort of nutty angle this guy was coming from and I’m not convinced that this is even a legitimate quote.

There was one more feminist reaction reported on the BBC’s news site:

“As a feminist and a mother to a young daughter I felt embarrassed that I had to yet again explain why women are depicted with so little respect,” she said.

“When companies insist on men being fully clothed and women showcasing lingerie only, it sends a message about women’s place in society as objects to titillate.”

A perfect example of somebody seeing insinuations and subliminal messages and blowing them out of proportion. Women buy lingerie. M&S are advertising lingerie to women. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. Yes, the men have a display of suits but must we really over-analyse every window display as it is being constructed and painstakingly pump it full of equality just to prevent people seeing offence and subtle suppression in every single bloody thing? As I have already pointed out, fancy knickers and bras don’t exist solely for the benefit of men and this window display doesn’t actually try and suggest otherwise. M&S aren’t sending out messages. They are simply providing and advertising what women want to buy, whatever the motivation behind the purchase is.

Thankfully – in this case at least – M&S have confirmed that they won’t be making any changes to their store window displays in light of the complaints and I salute them for not immediately caving beneath a bit of social media pressure as countless other retailers tend to.

Welcome to Unfiltered Opinion

Welcome to this blog where I will be publishing my thoughts and opinions on all manner of topics. I fully intend to call it how I see it and simply be honest, a trait that seems to be in short supply these days. If you prefer your opinions on subjects such as the news, society or life to be put through a political correctness filter before consumption then this probably isn’t the place for you. That form of writing is at direct odds with honesty and truth and I have set up this blog because I felt like creating something ‘raw’ that simply is what it is.

For more, please refer to the “Why This is Here” tab at the top of this blog.