Banned: “Your wife is hot” Air-con ad

It’s been a while since I made a post about some bullshit news but, to be completely honest, I no longer find it worth my time to get annoyed at the news anymore, especially when it plays into the hands of our lovely media and their determination to split us into Camp Left and Camp Right before pitting both camps against each other in a fight to the death. Perhaps I NEVER should have invested ANY of my time and energy into dissecting mind-blowingly pathetic ‘news’ but hey; you live and learn.

Sometimes however, a freshly-laid, steamer of Bullshit News comes along and, because I’m only human (as The Human League once reminded us), I cannot help but analyse the shit that pops up while I’m looking at other, actual news items of importance.

Such as this advert that got certain people screeching “won’t somebody please think of the children?!?”

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[Source]
I saw it and thought it was an amusing ad – a bit of harmless fun that raised a small smile. But I guess that makes me some sort of 1950’s sexist pig according to those who demand that all humour and fun be sucked from the atmosphere.

Before I go any further though, I will say (in the interests of being impartial and balanced) that I understand why an ad like this would irk the progressive types who see it as a throwback to ye olden days where ad agencies would drape sexy girls over cars to sell them. I get it; I really do. Furthermore, the billboard looks cheap and a bit tacky so it won’t win any awards there.

Usually I would try and write some sort of detailed analysis or debate-style piece at this point but instead, I’m just going to be lazy, quote stuff from the news article on the BBC’s website and call out the bullshit where I see it.

The air conditioning advert – described by an academic as “plain sexist” – features the line: “Your wife is hot!”

First of all, what kind of “academic” gets themselves involved in cheap journalism like this? What is their field of expertise?

It was meant to appear on seven buses in Nottingham but Adverta, which places adverts on buses and trams in the city, blocked it and said it could cause offence.

All I can say is that if you get offended by an advertising billboard like this then you clearly have little else to give a fuck about. It reminds me of those people who write into the rants section in the back of the TV guide to complain about an inaccuracy in a TV soap or the cleavage that a female host displayed at an “inappropriate” time of day. Roll your eyes and forget about it. As a man, I’m used to doing that when I see ads that make the man of the house out to be a fuck-up that can’t handle the finances without a woman’s help or is (apparently) unable to multi-task. Does it offend me though? No because I have more important shit to think about and – when it really – comes down to it? We are clueless when it comes to certain things that women are better at.

Prof Carrie Paechter, director of the Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families, said the advert was “like something out of the 1950s” and called for it to be removed.

A professor now? Gee, we really are having some high-IQ intellectual types getting involved in this. I will agree with Ms. Paechter that the ad is “like something out of the 1950’s” however. Removing it though? I’m not a supporter of that. My main concern is that old chestnut of “where does it end?”. If we have certain segments of society shouting “Ban this”, “Ban that”, “Censor this” and “don’t allow that” then we end up with an environment edited by pressure groups to suit their own vision of what the world should be like. Obviously, there ARE things that should not be permitted but on the whole, free speech and humour should not be threatened because a certain section of society disagrees with something. There was no malice or sexism intended by the creator of this advert. In fact…

The advert – at the junction of Woodborough Road and Porchester Road in Mapperley – was designed by Not Just Cooling owner Mr Davies.

“I don’t mean to offend anybody,” he said.

“I saw an advert like this in America, I chuckled to myself and thought ‘why not?’. Air conditioning is a very hard thing to advertise.”

He said he ran the idea past his team of engineers, who are all men, and discussed the idea with his mother and wife, who approved too.

“My wife knows what I’m like,” he said. “She thinks it’s funny because my wife knows my sense of humour.”

I suppose the “academics” in our midsts would say that Mr Davies’ wife and mother were brainwashed or are being subjected to some sort of toxic masculinity regime. Or – back in the real world – maybe they are just normal women who can see the joke without flying into an offended rage about it? All I can say – from my own personal experience – is that I have yet to encounter any women (or men) who bang on about banning billboards or trivial things being sexist. At work, the blokes take the piss out of the women and they take the piss out of us. We might tell them that they can gossip for the country about utter crap. They tell us that we are useless, one-track-minded blokes. Nobody takes any personal offence or gets wound up about it.

“The subliminal message about society is that it’s OK to comment on women’s bodies, and comment on women’s bodies as if they are the possession of someone else – ‘your wife’.

Ah, the convenient and vague subliminal messages. First of all, it isn’t a fact – it’s a perception of one person. Second of all, it’s a crime to comment on women’s bodies? Look, I in no way condone insulting women or making derogatory remarks about their form if their body isn’t considered ‘optimal’ by society. That shit should indeed fuck right off. Nor do I condone groups of men publicly shouting at women and giving them unwanted attention – acting like slobbering dogs who have never seen an attractive female before. But appreciative talk happens. Always has done and always will do. It’s natural among men and no more “wrong” than when women get a twinkle in their eye and gush over the likes of Magic Mike XL or whatever the fuck he/it is called.

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Saying that a woman is sexually attractive is offensive but women debating the aesthetic values of men’s abs and pecs is fine? Double standards much? [Source]
And lastly…

“It also gives the subliminal message that it’s the man of the house that’s responsible for getting the air conditioning fixed.”

Another subliminal message that I guess we normal people are just too stupid to see lurking in the background like a social assassin striking from the shadows. Or is it somebody reading way too deeply into a fucking billboard that was created as a joke? Honestly, I can see BOTH sides of the argument for most of this billboard drama but these two lines here are absolutely hilarious. For a crude advertisement supposedly stuck in the 50’s, it sure has some intelligent subliminal logic behind its seemingly blunt imagery.

What do you know? I guess I did end up wasting my time on a petty news item after all. Stories like this are intentionally broadcast to us to wind up the political right and reinforce the idea that the world has gone maaaaad and that feminists are out to ruin their lives. The reality is that the internet, social media and the news outlets have seriously warped our perception of the world around us. As I previously mentioned, I have yet to meet anybody who thinks like those who get offended so easily in these news reports. Of course, I may well be wrong, but to me that says that the ‘problem’ isn’t as big as some paranoid blokes believe.

Ultimately, I would just ignore the easily-offended snowflakes and dismiss their outrage. It is only because of social media and virtual echo chambers that people are able to make a noise about things that nobody would have gone to the effort of giving two fucks about back in the day.

This billboard isn’t classy and it isn’t highbrow but not everything has to be.

The UK MEP Elections are a waste of time

We seem to be pretty adept at squandering money here in the United Kingdom which is ironic given the relentless savaging of national and local funding that often makes me question if we ever actually escaped the 2008 recession. If the austerity measures were truly necessary then surely the government would be doing their utmost to preserve funds and not waste them?

You would think anyway.

Let me briefly travel backwards to 2nd May of this year (2019). The local council elections were taking place and temporary polling stations were rolled out to wards that didn’t have somewhere permanent i.e. a school to commandeer for the day. The polling station I am instructed to go to should I wish to cast my vote is one such temporary facility – a large container-like portable cabin that is set up on a field behind my house. Usually it is removed fairly quickly once the voting is done and dusted and the experts are busy chewing over the results but this time, it hung around for over a week. “Makes sense” I thought. “The European Parliament elections are being held later this month so perhaps they will do the efficient thing and just leave it there”.

But no; it stayed there for over a week and was then suddenly loaded onto a lorry and removed…only for it to be brought back today on the 23rd May for the MEP elections. Now imagine this happening all over the country and think of all the transport costs incurred for moving something that need only ever have been removed once after BOTH of these elections had concluded. What a waste of time. More importantly, what a waste of money. Yes, it’s a relatively minor thing to gripe about but that wasted money comes to mind when you’re driving along on roads that look and feel as if they’ve been the target of several airstrikes.

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While I’m on the subject of the European Parliament elections though, they are a monumental waste of time and money the UK. That’s right folks, here we are going to the polls to select who we want to represent us in a parliament we should no longer be part of, in a union we should also no longer be part of. We should have left the EU a long time ago but thanks to the staggering incompetence of our politicians, here we still are. Rather than banding together to put a good deal together for the people of Britain, the government and opposing political parties are more interested in taking shots at one another and scoring points, Brexit being the vehicle for their war of words and embarassing slanging matches in the Commons.

We will be exiting the EU in October with or without a deal so whoever we elect will be swiftly ejected from the EU parliament, making the voting process and all the costs involved even more of a joke. Nobody’s laughing though.

I didn’t bother to cast a vote in the MEP elections because of this. As far as I could make out, voting meant making one of two non-productive choices:

  1. Choosing candidates representing the current warring parties who have already failed to sort this mess out over the course of several years.
  2. Choosing candidates from the likes of the Brexit Party or UKIP – MEP elects who would aim to cause maximum disruption in the EU parliament and would be unlikely to help anything. Voting this way is essentially blowing a raspberry in the face of the EU.

I’m pretty sure we’re all fed up of this shitshow now. I voted “remain” in the original refurendum (based on the Leave campaign’s complete lack of substance or concrete facts about the aftermath of a Leave result) but I also have no love for the EU.

But I have even less love for our own politicians and this crap that they can’t seem to solve much to the country’s frustration.

And on top of that? We now face a leadership change in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation this week…

Head in Hands

Bullshit News Special: Clickbait Digest Vol.1

Sometimes I see some seriously bad “news” on the internet that has me questioning humanity and what we feel the need to read about. I want to rip these excuses for journalism a new one but don’t think I could put together full-fat posts. Here then is Vol.1 of Clickbait Digest, a new (potentially) regular spot on Unfiltered Opinion where I sell my soul to the ad revenue machine, click on attention-seeking stories and review them for the masochistic fun of it all.

“What to do if your boss is an algorithm”

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[Link to original story HERE]

BBC News prides itself on being a respectable, global leader in news and journalism but it can’t help joining in the clickbait party and invariably comes up trumps. Here is a headline that promises some real HAL 9000 shit and shows what appears to be a still taken directly from Terminator 5: Rise of the Cash-Cow Sequel. The video I am taken to also features an intriguing blurb: “Digital sociologist Karen Gregory on how to cope when your boss isn’t actually human“. So it’s a disappointment then to see that the video is just talking about employees working to for computer AI and automated data systems in workplaces. Worse still, the video serves up some bleak predictions of 20% of the UK workforce being displaced by computers and only the privileged and wealthy – with access to higher levels of learning – being able to succeed and move up the ladder in this environment. The video offers no realistic solutions other than vaguely saying that workers need to band together and come up with their own organisational solutions to prevent becoming displaced. Thanks for that. 10/10 for clickbait though.

“Circumcision: I’m scared of my own penis”

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[Link to original story HERE]

This one did at least turn out to be more of a “real” story, concerning the horror stories of male circumcision and the condition known as phimosis. Unlike most of this crap cluttering up the news sites, I did actually learn something here. I just wish a large news broadcaster like the BBC could use a more conventional title for the story other than “I’m scared of my own penis”. It’s unnecessary baiting and almost – almost – makes a joke out of genuine issues. The article begins by recounting somebody’s suicide FFS. Get it together, BBC.

“My son died after fellow pupil threw cheese at him”

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[Link to original video HERE]

If you aren’t familiar with it, we have a daytime TV show here in the UK called “This Morning”. I suppose it’s classed as a “magazine” show. It runs for several hours and features guests talking about real life issues, advice segments, fashion and phone-in competitions to win holidays – all that sort of crap. It’s the kind of ‘informative’ daytime TV that should only real appeal to gossips or the retired. It certainly encourages you to get off your arse and get a job if you’re stuck at home with this tripe all morning. Speaking as a man, the only reason to pay any attention at all is presenter Holly Willoughby but even then, is it worth it if having a perv also means suffering crap like this? Unfortunately, This Morning’s Youtube channel is one of the clickbaitiest things I have ever seen on Youtube’s home page and makes a mockery of truly tragic stories. This story is a case in point: a schoolboy died from anaphylactic shock after a piece of cheese was thrown at him and made contact with the back of his neck.

The tone of interview is understandably sombre but you can’t help but feel that the producers of This Morning only care about twisting a freak tragedy and a mother’s grief into a clickbait headline and carefully selected thumbnail in order to grab the views. This kind of stuff really pisses me off and makes me feel increasingly disgusted with the world we live in. The headline of “MY SON DIED AFTER FELLOW PUPIL THREW CHEESE AT HIM” is also plastered along the bottom of the screen for the OMG factor while the poor woman is relating her story.

I took a look at the suggested videos also from This Morning and it was a series of clickbait titles that seemed to be making light of pretty serious stuff, inviting people in to gawp as if it were a zoo exhibition.

“Our daughter died after eating a Pret a Manger aguette”

“Teacher who was viciously assaulted breaks down”

“Strangers think my girlfriend in my nurse”

“My husband cheated on me with our daughter’s friend”

“I married a homeless man living under a bush”

It’s the kind of sensationalist stuff that makes you want to run the fuck AWAY from our society and go live in a shed atop a mountain. The blend of “dramatic” I-can’t-believe-that-would-ever-happen stories sharing space with genuinely horrible recountings of abuse and death is just very bad in my opinion. And these segments on the show will be immediately followed-up with a competition to win a car!

And that’s about all I can deal with for Vol.1 of Clickbait Digest. Join me next time for more of the internet’s sewage. Maybe.

 

Bullshit News: Jeremy Corbyn’s £10 per hour bribe

It’s been a while since I delved into some Bullshit News but the truth is, I actively avoid the news as much as possible these days – taking a proactive approach to not allowing more negativity than necessary into my already-poisoned chalice. Unfortunately, the news is a goldmine for that rich, potent BS that makes for fun writing and scathing analysis pieces.

So it is with a mixture of regret and eagerness that I have returned to the world of clickbait and twisted facts for this latest entry in Bullshit News. This time, it’s because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is banging the £10-per-hour drum again, vowing to end the Minimum Wage boundaries here in the UK and ensure that workers below the age of 18 receive the same wage as their older colleagues. This follows a previous promise to increase the National Living Wage for workers over 25 to £10-per-hour.

If he and his party are elected in next year’s general election of course.

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[Source]
For those outside of the UK who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick lowdown. We have a National Minimum Wage; a legally-binding hourly rate that employers must pay to their employees at a bare minimum. This was originally introduced to prevent unscrupulous employers from paying people peanuts or hiring cheap, foreign labour at the expense of British workers. The Minimum Wage isn’t a one-size-fits-all however. 16-17 year-olds receive £4.35 p/h, 18-20: £6.35, 21-24: £7.70 and 25+ get £8.21.

Obviously there are many flaws to this system. Disgruntled younger workers being paid less for doing the same job for instance thus affecting motivation and sparking much anger over equality. On the flipside, you must factor in lack of experience and effectiveness in a job role which would make a reasonable argument for established employees receiving a higher wage in the first place. You can’t expect the ladder to have only one rung after all. But the counter to the counter comes along when you have new blood in a company eager to impress and working hard while their older counterpart – on a higher rate of pay – does the bare minimum and slacks off, taking home more money for performing the same role…even though their output may be worse.

Another problem is that businesses have gotten around having to pay higher wages by simply employing people for less hours on part-time contracts. In a lot of businesses here in the UK, this gives the employer a bonus secondary benefit because employees don’t necessary receive the same contractual benefits unless they are classed as “full time”. It also gives them greater control over moving employees’ shifts around to benefit the business, meaning that people desperate for work will end up having to take crappy, unsociable shifts with inconsistent hours.

So in short, the National Minimum Wage was a well-meaning idea but like most legalities, businesses will always find loopholes and ways to work the system to their advantage, not the supposed beneficiaries – the workforce. And as is usual, the government are far too slow and ponderous when it comes to closing said loopholes and keeping pace with the wily tactics of large businesses.

So you would think that a £10-per-hour wage would at least be some sort of consolation for being an employee trapped in The System. It really isn’t though and Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to deliver this is equally as ineffective in combatting the problems facing the UK’s working-class people.

Yes, companies will be required to pay their employees £10 p/h and in doing so will be adhering to the law of the land and going about their business with (mostly) clean hands. But you’d better believe that they will subsidise that cost somehow, ultimately leading to worse working conditions for those very same employees reaping the “benefits” of an increased pay packet. To use a first-hand example, the company I work for suspended quarterly bonuses one year in order to cover the cost of raising the workforce’s Minimum Wage mid-financial year – a cost that hadn’t been foreseen in the financial planning for the year.

An increased minimum wage will also result in an increase of part-time contracts (weighted in the employer’s favour) and – more depressingly – greater cost-cutting. The fatcats at the top don’t want their large salaries to be affected by the grunts at the bottom receiving their (comparitively minor) wage top-up. They want to continue driving around in company BMWs, sitting in offices drinking coffee and making decisions based on no hands-on experience of what it’s like for those doing the actual work that keeps their wallets bulging.

The solution is to reduce investment and hack away at employee perks until all that is left is the bare minimum required by law (and they will push the boundaries even thenbelieve me). It means an end to subsidised staff canteens and vending machines. It means cutting jobs and not replacing those who jump ship thus piling greater pressure on the remaining employees who are expected to deliver the same results with diminishing resources. It means reducing investment into the likes of facility maintenance and equipment purchases. Ultimately it means a harder life for the working man.

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[Source]
But the thing that earns Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge a free admission into the Bullshit News segment of my blog is the fact that his words are a mere bribe. He and his Labour party have a history of telling the younger generation what they want to hear in order to win their votes. They know that the UK’s youth is a politically dormant vein waiting to be tapped. Instead of gold or crude oil, that vein will yield votes – important votes. You see, many young people in this country take no interest in politics and don’t exercise their right to vote and it’s completely understandable. They see old people in positions of power that they can’t relate to. They see politicians making decisions that benefit the rich and established, not them or their aspirations. They see the lies, U-turns and constantly-swelling landfill site that needs ever more space to accomodate all of those false promises and undelivered pledges.

So nobody can blame Corbyn and Labour for trying to win the vote of this age group because they know that they feel ignored or disadvantaged by the current status quo. We can debate these points and the rights/wrongs all day long but what I’m saying is that it’s important to remember that the £10 p/h promise is just a bribe – the same as being offered £50 in exchange for voting Labour in the next election. There’s no guarantee that the wage increase and an end to a scale system will actually happen.

But it makes for a good, attention-grabbing headline that will make young people take notice and that’s what politics is all about. It’s about talking big and shouting loudly on volatile subjects. It’s about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about making voters believe that their interests are actually at heart – not the power games at Westminster and the battle for the Iron Throne keys to No.10, Downing Street.

If you need any further evidence of undelivered promises, attention-grabbing soundbites and ideas that sound great without looking into the actual implementation(s) and knock-on effects/consequences then look no further than the appalling embarassment to our nation that is Brexit. If you, valued reader, live outside of the UK and laugh at us then I genuinely can’t fault you for doing so. It’s some shitshow alright.

The bottom line is that it’s the businesses and corporations that actually control our lives, not the governments. Corbyn’s promise is great on paper but it is ultimately just another bribe and workplace life will suffer as a result once the big employers start making their cost-cutting measures to fund not only a wage increase but also a wage scale dissolution that would shake up everything.

I’m not saying that it’s all bad or that you – as a younger voter – shouldn’t want to vote for more money and fairness. I’m saying don’t take such promises at face value without digging deeper or being prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

The Great British political disillusion

[Side note 1: it feels like forever since I last posted here. Things have been shit and motivation to write has been M.I.A. To anybody who cares, I’m back (I think)]

[Side note 2: the title of this post may be a mouthful but the second-rate hack of a writer in me wasn’t happy with the rather vague “Political Apathy” or overly-blunt “British politics is bullshit”. The latter is 100% accurate though]

So…we have just had our local council elections here in the UK. For those living outside of Britain, the locals aren’t the big elections that decide our MPs (Members of Parliament) or governance of the country itself but the vote to decide on the political make-up of local councils. For example, having a majority of Labour councillers in your local council just means that they will have the majority and therefore a greater influence on deciding what goes down in your district.

As you might have guessed – we citizens are SUPPOSED to vote in these local council elections based on issues in our local area(s) and the pledges/previous work of those standing for election. Unfortunately, the colossal shit show that is Brexit has overshadowed the whole thing and people have voted based on national events to make a statement about the ineptitude of the two largest parties – Conservatives and Labour. The glaring problem with this is that local councillers have no input into national events. They have no influence on Brexit. Yet, councillers either lost or gained ground in their local area because of the party they are a member of, not for anything that they have done or promised to do. I’m no fan of BBC news (aside from when they provide me with perfect blog post fodder in the form of bullshit “news” and biased, agenda-driven narratives) but this quote from their coverage of the election results did sum things up neatly:

“The elephant stalking the voting halls is Brexit”

The summary of the results is this: the Conservatives lost a massive 1000+ council seats while the other “main” party, Labour, didn’t lose nearly as many but still lost a lot and – more importantly – failed once again to capitalise on the impotence and general lack of public faith in the ruling Conservative government and their piss-poor handling of Brexit. The winners were the previously-obliterated Liberal Democrats (who rose from the ashes to claim hundreds of council positions), Greens and independents. Interestingly, even the mis-management of Brexit and (apparently) large anti-EU sentiment couldn’t prevent UKIP (UK Independence Party) from losing ground – again.

I didn’t even cast a vote in this election. The first reason was that I had had a huge day at work and by the time I was released from my prison, I was too exhausted and fed up to do anything other than go home, eat and sleep. I can’t deny that it’s a terrible, grossly lazy reason for waiving my opportunity to vote but I completely accept that, as a result, I also waived my right to bitch and moan about the election result.

The second reason is more relevant to the title of this post and that is my general disillusion with politics here in Britain at the moment. On a national scale, the two main parties (the only two with a realistic chance of getting into power) are an embarassment. The ruling Conservatives are constantly on the ropes and led by a Prime Minister who seems to be clinging on by her fingernails, fighting for survival on a daily basis. Their largest rival, Labour, are unable to take advantage of the situation and gain any more public support – shocking given how the current Conservative government is the weakest in years. Both parties are constantly rocked by scandals and resignations that have completely destroyed any credibility in the eyes of many.

On a local scale, the candidates spam our letterboxes with their promise-laden flyers but every year, they are the same promises to tackle the same issues. In short, nothing actually happens between elections or else the councillers wouldn’t still be promising to solve the same problems. The big issues round here are potholes, traffic problems, countryside-consuming housing overdevelopment and crime but reading the pledges on these issues from the candidates gave me a major sense of deja vu. What is the point in voting for people based on promises when the exact same promises haven’t been fulfilled in the time since the previous council elections?

And the flyers they shove through our letterboxes are hilarious. I have to give credit to the Conservative candidate (who did actually win) for sending several letters with pretty candid content that actually criticised his own party for how they have let the country down. The others though? The flyer for Labour’s candidate featured a horrendously pixellated photograph on the front that looked like it had been blown up from a 100×150 JPEG. UKIP’s on the other hand contained spelling errors, the bloke’s mobile phone number scrubbed out with marker pen (but still readable through the dried ink…) and a photograph of the town’s council offices photoshopped to look purple/yellow – the UKIP colours.

UKIP is a populist party as far as I am concerned and the party that people vote for when they feel like casting a protest vote in order to give the establishment their middle finger. They are nowhere near as unsavoury as the far-right BNP (British National Party) but are still difficult to take seriously. Oh and their logo looks like it belongs on the front of a bargain-bin “pound shop” store – always makes me smile.

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Completing my disillusionment is the simple fact that local councillers can promise anything and everything but at the end of the day, if funding from central government isn’t available (which it isn’t these days thanks to never-ending cuts) then there’s nothing that they can do to deliver on their vows to increase spending in specific areas. So even though you are supposed to be voting on local issues and not the national stuff in the news, everything is still ultimately controlled by national budgets.

In conclusion, there is a definite lack of trust in our politics here in Britain and it feels standard to assume that all politicians are self-serving liars, unfairly tarring the decent ones with the same brush. At the same time, we don’t like to rock the boat too much and so the same two parties will continually trade power no matter how poor their performances are. What it adds up to is a glum resignation to the fact that whoever you vote for, nothing will ever change. Anybody offering radical change or a break from the status quo are dismissed as “nutters” and only ever manage to secure a few seats.

TL;DR: British politics suck and if you are laughing at us from the outside, I honestly can’t blame you.

Sick

Do you ever have those moments where you feel sick of life and the world around you? That’s how I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks. Admittedly, a big chunk of the contributing factors to my down-in-the-dumps mood are a) things that I am already aware of and b) things that can be ignored or forcibly blocked out. I’m not seeking sympathy here. I know that I must actively try to reject the negativity around me and work on myself to tackle the things affecting me personally. That’s all on me.

As for being ground down by things that I’m already aware of, this is the danger of waking up. We are surrounded by bullshit and falseness but we walk through life not seeing it even when it dances before our eyes. I’m talking about the rampant materialism, commercialism and blatant corruption that we all KNOW is there but forget to question. Turning a critical eye on all of this is a double-edged sword because while it’s a good thing to analyse something rather than accepting it at face value, doing so can also spawn an entirely unnecessary resentment towards the world and its mechanations. I say “entirely unnecessary” because in most cases, there is absolutely nothing that we as individuals can do to change anything.

But you don’t want to hear my half-baked musings do you? You want to know just what it is that is killing my mood and bringing me down, don’t you? Well, there’s too much to list so I will just briefly mention the stuff that is swimming close to the surface…like sinister aquatic nightmares lurking in the shallows.

I put the news on this morning (a big mistake in itself) while I eat breakfast. Somebody has detonated bombs at multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing around 180 people and injuring more than 400 (at the time of me writing this post) in cold blood. So much for celebrating Easter.

Ads on the radio bigging up the increase in both the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, featuring upbeat backing music and “down-to-earth”, working-class, just-like-you (honest!) voiceovers to promote this tiny, mandatory pay packet increase. Just don’t mention the fact that wages still don’t increase fast enough to match rising costs or that employers can still work their employees into the ground in shit jobs because ten others are lining up to take your place should you decide to throw in the towel.

TV ads set in bright, expensive homes where wide-eyed unnaturally enthusiastic pensioners talk about funeral plans. You get a £100 M&S voucher for joining! Wow!

Ads in general with people and companies just trying to sell you shit all the time. Want to listen to music on the radio? Want to watch an episode of your favourite TV show uninterrupted? Tough. Here, buy this shit instead.

The masses blindly inviting crap like Alexa and “smart” technology into their homes, completely oblivious to the fact that they are handing over more and more control of their lives to the corporations as well as inviting it’s maker or any internet hacker to eavesdrop on their privacy. Real stories of smart technology getting a little too smart and doing crazy Terminator shit are apparently just comical anecdotes to chuckle at then forget. If somebody said, “hey, can I just install this speaker in your house and connect it to the internet?”, you’d say “fuck off, mate” or “get off my property”. Sell it as a convenience however for those people too fucking lazy to get off their fat asses and turn a light on with the switch and suddenly they can’t get enough of the idea, even PAYING for it. Idiots.

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The rollout of “smart” energy meters that allegedly save you money. Do your research. The savings aren’t that monumental. Worse still, why is nobody listening to the people who are warning us that the energy companies can control your energy useage remotely with these things? How about the fact that they will be able to charge you different rates depending on what you are using the electricity for? Or how about being stone-walled by your provider when the “smart” technology combines the readings for everybody in the street and sends you a ludicrous bill for everybody’s power consumption?

The government and companies putting all of their eggs into one basket and making more and more critical technology reliant on 4G and 5G despite the blinding danger of terrorists and rogue states taking out the whole lot in one go, tech failure or the ability for people to hack and take control of more and more of our lives. Let’s not even mention the fact that the UK pays foreign companies to build most of this tech and infrastructure…

All of these eco protests that have been happening. I see the people being arrested and all I see are rich-looking, suited types who can AFFORD things like expensive electric vehicles while us working-class normal types CAN’T. I see hippie students flying high on their massive student grants who aren’t holding down crappy jobs to get the bills paid and need their battered-up, dino juice-consuming transportation to get shit done. I see thick-rimmed faux-nerd-glasses-wearing, organic London coffee-shop-dwelling hipster morons who don’t have a clue about normal jobs and life outside of social media and The City.

The increase in random stabbings and the heart-breaking murders of young adults who did nothing wrong and had nothing to do with these vile cunts. All the while, the government expresses sympathy before sticking it’s fingers back in it’s ears and continuing to cut police funding.

The drawn-out misery that is Brexit and having to constantly hear about it.

Pressure and stress at work getting so bad that I have been feeling physically ill and angry enough to kick things, punch things and get shouty. At the same time, I don’t have the confidence to start all over somewhere else with new people even though I know that this is the next logical step that HAS to happen soon for the sake of my health.

Obsession with celebrity and looking up to these people as if they are important or awe-inspiring. No thanks.

People drooling over the latest phone(s) and paying insane contract charges just to have the newest handset. Each to their own but I don’t get it. Queuing outside Apple stores for a phone that you will rave about for the first week then bin without hesitation next year for whatever ‘+’, ‘R’, ‘XS’ or whatever update is released is the dictionary definition of materialism running rampant. Last week I had to listen to a 20+ minute monologue (I won’t use the term “conversation” because I only had the chance to input the words “Uh-huh” or “Right” at the correct places) from a work colleague about how he phoned up his network provider multiple times and had all of this back-and-forth hassle to get a contract upgrade. It was enthralling.

My email inbox drowning in reminders to address Facebook notifications, view what people have shared or to check out somebody’s status.

All the pop-ups on my PC reminding me that my anti-virus and firewalls are out-of-date and MUST be upgraded or else I am at risk. Hackers CAN see me and my files WILL be stolen. Honestly, the wording and fear tactics that AVG use is absolutely disgusting.

I could go on forever but you get the gist (hopefully). Paranoid ranting? Angry childish tantrums? Possibly, possibly. As I said near the beginning of this post, I know that I need to be ignoring almost all of this and just getting on with my life but sometimes I look around and see so much shit that is just heading in the wrong direction with gaping problems. Any legitimate concerns about overly-intelligent tech for example would just be brushed off as “stupid” worries inspired by fantasy like The Terminator. I see stupidity and monstrous naivete. I see society breaking down. I see our “free” world gradually becoming more and more censored as the SJW and “think of the children” nutters demand that we are choked by restrictions and a growing list of what and what isn’t “allowed”. I see companies caving to their demands and people actually buying into this shit. I see people drugged-up on tech and material possessions, kept in their places just as the corporations and governments WANT.

I see all of this (and so much more) and sometimes wonder what the future holds and how I’m going to deal with this crap only swelling in prominence. The do-gooders are already trying to take away my love of cars and motoring by demanding that we all drive around in yawnsome dishwashers loaded with smart technology that carries the kind of morons who shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place.

I feel sick of it all and sometimes want a way off of this planet before it’s too late.

Next Time: something more positive!

 

My problem with “Hate Crimes”…

Yesterday I wrote about the movie, Blade Runner, a futuristic vision which is just one of many possible futures that we may well face. We can laugh about such movies now and brand them sci-fi fantasy nonsense but the downsides of corporate-controlled, heavily censored, technology-ruled, dystopian futures are very real and will be with us soon depending on how careful we are with our decision-making NOW. After all, self-aware computers such as HAL and Skynet were once “just” sci-fi but here we are, inviting smart technology such as Alexa into our homes and giving it increasing access to the controls. Do a quick search on the internet and you will already find stories of Alexa getting a little too smart. People are laughing about it now but for how much longer?

Anyway – as I said – the avoidance of such futures will be based on intelligent decision-making now but unfortunately, I don’t have any faith in our species to make those calculated choices. Every time I dare to look at the news I see the planet’s sanity slipping away bit by bit as my brothers and sisters persist with their determination to flush common sense down the toilet.

And it’s that key phrase – “Common Sense” – that links my waffling about Terminator-style futures and that bitch, Alexa, to so-called Hate Crimes (we got there in the end). What does any of that have to do with current social issues, I hear you ask? Well, it’s the same lack of common-sense when dealing with today’s social issues that will see us ruled by our washing machines at some point in the future. It’s one of those classic “where does it all end?” questions.

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[image: pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com]
But first, what exactly IS a hate crime? Well, let me go straight to the top and retrieve the definition from our own Metropolitan Police website here in the UK.

“A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference.”

“It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.”

And it goes further…

“A hate crime is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’

A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.

Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but it is equally important that these are reported and recorded by the police.

Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”

A prime example of our country’s definition of a hate crime was reported back in March (I meant to post about it sooner but quite honestly, couldn’t be bothered…) when a Catholic journalist made the mistake of referring to a transgender woman as a man on good old Twitter.

From MSN News:

“Caroline Farrow appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain alongside Susie Green, whose daughter Jackie Green is transgender, to discuss Girlguiding’s decision to let children who have changed their gender join the organisation.

On Tuesday Farrow tweeted that she did not “remember said tweets”, adding: “I probably said ‘he’ or ‘son’ or something. All I have been told is that following an appearance on Good Morning Britain I made some tweets misgendering Susie Green’s child and that I need to attend a taped interview.””

“Using the wrong pronoun could be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which makes it a crime to send messages that are indecent or grossly offensive, threatening, or contain information which is false or believed to be false, if the purpose for sending it is to cause distress or anxiety. Breaking the law carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.”

The first issue here is that I titled this post “My Problem with Hate Crimes…” when I really should have used the plural, ProblemS. If you’re of a calm, common-sense orientated mindset, as I am, then you will no doubt have picked up on them already after reading the quotes above. I wouldn’t want you to do all the work though so in the interests of not being lazy, here are the glaring faults as I see them:

  1. We are constantly being reminded to respect the faith and religious beliefs of others and I assume that NOT doing that would also be classed as a hate crime. With that in mind, why are Caroline Farrow’s CATHOLIC beliefs on the subject of gender change being criminalised?
  2. What part of this so-called “crime” was motivated by hostility or prejudice? Farrow later stated that she tries “really hard not to misgender people” and that’s despite her Catholic beliefs, let’s not forget. Anybody with a brain (a dying breed it would seem) would realise that she simply made a mistake when choosing her terminology on Twitter. I don’t believe for a second that there was any malice or deliberate attempt to defy the “victim”s transgender lifestyle by selecting the words “him” or “he”.
  3. We need to talk about this Malicious Communications Act because being sentenced for two years in prison for using the wrong pronoun is bonkers. I’ve heard of ACTUAL criminals getting less time for doing far worse. The positive side of the Act is that it deters internet trolls and low-level, neanderthal types from targeting specific people with racial or sexual slurs for the sole purpose of attacking them with words and causing psychological harm. This is GOOD. This is why such legislation was needed in the first place. The problem is that the definition of Hate Crimes becomes far too loose and grey around the edges as a result. In the case of the Caroline Farrow story, the wrong pronoun may have been used but it was an innocent mistake. Unfortunately it seems that even non-malicious errors potentially carry the same consequences as intentionally setting out to spread hate. My big issue here is that if the transgender “victim” still looks and sounds like their original sex then it is highly likely that you are going to accidentally refer to them by their original gender out of pure INSTINCT. It is a MISTAKE, not an intentional attack which brings me to my next point…
  4. When did everybody decide to become so incredibly sensitive? In my mind, the normal reaction to accidentally being referred to by your original sex would be either to calmly point out the mistake or simply accept that people make mistakes and will be doing so for some time to come. As long as that person didn’t purposely set out to offend or ridicule your life decisions then I see no issue. To me it seems that so many people are simply waiting to leap to irrational conclusions and are prepared to see attacks and hatred coming at them from every angle, like a tripped-out stoner having hallucinations of ten copies of the same person sharing a room with them.

I’m also not happy about the constant use of the word “perceived”. Rather than have concrete definitions of a crime, it’s as if the victim gets to make the judgment call on whether something was a crime or not. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that sort of thing for the police, a jury or a court judge to decide? After all, somebody might say the same thing to two different transgender people and one will shrug it off while the other defines it as a criminal act. You can’t do that with other types of crime such as murder or theft; it either happened or it didn’t. And of course, Perception loves to share a bed with Overreaction.

Oh and let’s not forget this little nugget from the police’s description of hate crime:

“Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement”

So now we have “crimes” that don’t require evidence? Fuck.

Obviously, it isn’t my intention here to play down genuine offences or the struggles that the transgender community face because I know it is happening right now, all over the world, and that some of the legitimate hostility is quite aggressive and foul. But is it so far-fetched to believe that some people are overreacting over simple mistakes when they should be saving their fight for the REAL haters? Is it a case of the overall cause being so important that common-sense and rationale need to be sacrificed at the altar of progression? I think we need to be careful. It’s brilliant that the law here in the UK is offering protection for these relatively new movements but it shouldn’t also offer a blank canvas for people to decide what is and isn’t a crime, making the perpertrators of genuine mistakes out to be bad human beings.

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[image: thewomensuniverse.com]
There’s also another issue here that I think needs to be brought into the light: the difference between accepting something and agreeing with it. I sometimes feel that people think in black-and-white and can’t understand that it’s possible to disagree with something and still accept it. I personally don’t agree with people changing their sex, especially when they are children well below the age where the law classes them as an adult. BUT I accept that this is happening and I wouldn’t dream of insulting a transgender person or taking the piss out of them. As far as I am concerned, it is their life and they can do what they like with it. They aren’t hurting anybody after all and I have always bought into the philosopy of doing what you need to do in order to be happy considering that our lives are short and can end at any time. After all, the haters can spew their bile and waste their energy but if it’s YOU who are happy with your life and the choices that have got you to that point then who really gets the last laugh?

But I can’t help but see people searching for injustice and actively seeking it out; twisting even the most minor of things into a full-blown outrage that deserves media coverage and a Twitter-storm so that like-minded self-victimisers can get together in the echo chambers of the internet, their numbers bolstered by hoardes of tag alongs that have nothing to do with the issue but want to look fashionable by liking or commenting on whatever is trending. And once all of that has escalated to Red Alert status and the furious meltdowns begin, the trivial root cause of all the screaming is forgotten and somebody who perhaps said the wrong word by mistake has already been metaphorically tried and executed by social media as the devil incarnate.

If you think I’m making too big of a deal out of it then read the following news excerpts and tell me that these aren’t the signs of a society descending into madness…a society where people are furious about everything and set on turning non-malicious errors of speech into criminal acts.

“In February, a teacher who was accused of misgendering a child was told by police that she had committed a hate crime.

The teacher reportedly refused to acknowledge that the pupil self-identified as a boy and failed to use the pupil’s preferred pronouns of “he” or “him”.

Okay, I can only half give this one because the teacher in question did actively refuse to acknowledge the pupil but even so…how do we know that the student in question hadn’t just decided off their own (non-adult) back to “be” a boy? Is it fair to call this a hate crime? Is it right to force society to agree with it and not give the option to retain an opinion?

“Last year, it was reported that a teacher was suing a school after he faced disciplinary action for referring to a transgender pupil as a girl.

Joshua Sutcliffe, from Oxford, said he was investigated after he said “well done, girls” to a group that included a student who identifies as a boy.”

In this case, this has to have been a simple mistake. Let’s face it, if you were teaching a class of girls, wouldn’t it be easy – understandable, even – to accidentally forget that one of them identified as a boy? Let’s not forget that “identifying” as a boy doesn’t mean that you actually look like one so the mistake would be even easier to make. Finally, did the pupil even tell the teacher/school that they identified as a boy or did they use witheld/private knowledge after the so-called “incident” to retroactively lodge a complaint? This one is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Teachers shouldn’t have to go and do their job (difficult enough anyway with budget cuts and lack of discipline amongst school-age children these days) and then have to deal with this bullshit on top. I would ask those who are offended to put themselves in the position of the teacher and look at the situation from a different perspective, their own beliefs set to one side for a moment…

“Last October, a transgender lawyer launched the UK’s first “deadnaming” case in the high court against Father Ted’s screenplay writer after he referred to her using her birth name. The transgender activist Stephanie Hayden is suing Graham Linehan, the co-writer of the comedy TV series, for defamation and harassment after he allegedly published a series of tweets “deliberately misgendering” her by using her previous male name, otherwise known as “deadnaming”.

Hayden said Linehan “caused her distress” and that his actions constituted harassment, a misuse of private information, and were a “gross affront to her dignity as a woman”.

So now we have “deadnaming” too? And our old friend, Perception as well as that amazing word “allegedly”. We don’t know that Linehan intentionally used Hayden’s original name in his tweets. Could it simply be a conclusion that was leapt to without even asking Linehan? There’s no concrete evidence or fact to this one and yet it warranted a court case and the extreme terms of “defamation”, “harassment”, “distress” and a “gross affront”. How about that misuse of private information? The original name of a TV actor that was already out there in the public eye and no-doubt in the end credits of many TV episodes? Come on: get real here. Maybe Linehan DID do it on purpose but if he didn’t, I bet he was sitting there thinking “huh?” and wondering what kind of parallel universe he’d fallen into during his sleep.

And that’s about all I can stomach, I’m afraid. The whole hate crime thing is deeply flawed and far too open to any old rumours and personal perceptions being classified as criminal acts. There is well-meaning there and I am 100% in agreement that unnecessary prejudice and hate is out there and a real obstacle. But how about this: save the energy and passion for taking down the REAL hate-speakers, not the poor guy who saw a woman, didn’t know that ‘she’ identified as a man and ended up having to take a police interview for an honest mistake that anybody would make.

I need to go now anyway. I have to complete the move into my new house:

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[image: stevehamiltonphoto.com]

The Captain Marvel controversy is bullshit

I was recently surprised at the intense outpouring of hate and anger being directed at the new Captain Marvel film and as much as I planned to just ignore it, I simply had to read some more about just what the hell was going on. Turns out that I shouldn’t have been so surprised because as usual, it was internet keyboard warriors screaming into their echo chamber and raging about a movie that they hadn’t even seen yet. It was internet keyboard warriors ignoring the fact that this could well be another great Marvel film and urging a mass boycott based on lead actress Brie Larson’s views outside of her role as Captain Marvel.

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So…not so surprising then. Hate to say it guys but if you don’t want to watch something (for whatever reason) then just vote with your wallet and don’t watch it. What a concept! Heading to the ‘net to start getting angry and firing hateful shots doesn’t paint you in a very sophisticated light. Cinema operators probably don’t want people like you there anyway.

That’s not an attack on all detractors by the way, just the type I have described. It’s always okay to have an opinion and to decide that you don’t agree with something – whatever the reason – but putting it across in a calm, structured manner is always more likely to get people to listen to your view. Making Youtube videos to rage at a camera or posting Tweets comparing Brie Larson to Adolf Hitler is frankly embarassing. Sadly, this is the world we live in now. A world where the internet has given everybody a platform to mount and spew their ignorant, angry view and say things that they wouldn’t dare say in public or to somebody’s face.

The first grumblings I heard about Captain Marvel were from fans complaining that Brie Larson didn’t have the right figure to play a character like Captain Marvel. Given that comic books are primarily sold to a male audience who have grown up devouring artwork that depicts voluptuous, amazonian women in the role of superheroes then that wasn’t surprising. I do personally somewhat agree because the image I have of Captain Marvel (or her aliases, Ms Marvel and Warbird) is something like this:

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[Frank Cho is GOD by the way]

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything or attempt to be apologetic because that isn’t the way here on Unfiltered Opinion. I would fucking love it if the MCU version of Captain Marvel had the hips and bust of her comic book counterpart. Imagine somebody like Kate Upton in the costume for example.

BUT this is no reason to slag off Brie Larson and get all personal about things. Also, if you were a true geek, you would recall that Carol Danvers was originally a fighter pilot for the US military so you could in fact reasonably put forward the idea that her statuesque glamour model figure was never realistic to begin with. I certainly don’t remember her filling out as a result of gaining her superhuman powers (correct me if I’m wrong). She has always been a military woman and this would also blow away another of the complaints about the character not smiling enough in the film’s promotional shots. Why would a hardened ex-military woman fighting off alien invasions stand around smiling?

Some fans have taken this the wrong way and assumed that the dark, conspirational powers-that-be in the decision-making roles cast somebody like Larson as the character for this very reason. They think that political correctness is out to get them, remove all traces of sexuality from our movies and sterilise our entertainment in order to satisfy the militant feminists and vocal #metoo crowd. Looking at the wider picture outside of this specific movie, I do think that there is an element of truth in this idea but I cannot believe that it is being driven on a conscious basis, one movie at a time. It is merely a reflection of the times we live in.

Thing is, comic books were – for the longest time – sold to men and teenage boys and written/illustrated by men. Of course, the women were going to be sexy and appealing. It was how they sold comics and also how the creators of said characters wanted them to look. I’m not condemning that because as a man, I’ve certainly enjoyed comics over the years and how the likes of Emma Frost, Captain Marvel and Black Widow were drawn. I will continue to do so too. The movies on the other hand have exploded in popularity and now have to cater to a wider audience if they want to keep on growing. Yeah, it sucks that they can’t look exactly how we want them to but do you expect Marvel to turn away Larson based on her measurements or cup size?

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But this was only the tip of the monolithic iceberg of hate and resentment that I came across. I ventured below the icy waters a bit further to see just how large this ‘berg was but was careful not to go too deep. You see, the biggest source of anger was surrounding Larson’s comments about Captain Marvel‘s press tour being more diverse and inclusive. Traditional male fans hit back, leaping to the conclusion that the actress was saying that the movie wasn’t for them and that it was a vehicle for political correctness and encouraging diversity.

I don’t want to get too deep into this because I will openly admit that I don’t know enough to start throwing judgments about. What I will say is this: when did superhero films suddenly need to get so deep and involved in social events? We saw it with Black Panther and all the praise for it being a ‘black’ film in the mainstream. I heard more about that than the actual film itself. The fact that it featured a black cast should have been a given since the fictional country of Wakanda is in Africa. Yet somehow it generated this massive buzz as if people were excited that Marvel Studios hadn’t cast white actors in the place of black actors. As far as I was concerned, it was just a very accurate and successful, common-sense casting that anybody would have seen as the only way forward.

And now we have Captain Marvel being in the news for all the wrong reasons and all of this debate about Brie Larson’s comments and beliefs rather than the movie itself. The only thing I’m hulking out about is the superhero genre becoming such a battleground for social issues. Stop all of this bullshit. These are meant to be popcorn films and simple escapism, not Oscar-winning productions or reasons to start debating sexism or discrimination. It was always this way and that was fine.

To the riled-up haters: grow up and just don’t watch Captain Marvel if it offends you. Yes, not everything lines up with what us comic book fans might want to see but flinging shitty insults and ignorant views around in an aggressive manner won’t get anybody to take you seriously. Brie Larson was hired to play the part based on her acting skills and you really don’t need to dig deeper and berate a movie based on an actor/actress’s comments outside of the film. No, I’m not saying that you should like her (or anybody) and you are one-hundred percent entitled to disagree with what she is saying (I don’t agree with a lot of it) but does it need to get any more serious than that?

To the film industry and actors/actresses: stop turning brain-off entertainment and escapism into debates on social issues, sexism, equality, discrimination etc. These are all important talking points but we are exposed to them constantly through the media and society. We don’t need it spilling over into comic book films for fuck’s sake. I want to watch these movies for what they are and decide whether I enjoyed them or if they were shit without all of this background context going on. It’s getting hard to just be a geek for fuck’s sake.

 

Car Talk: Honda turn their back on Swindon

Last month, Honda shocked Britain by announcing the closure of its Swindon factory, scheduled to cease producing the Civic by 2021. As a British bloke, a petrolhead and – above all – a Honda owner this was pretty disappointing news. Of greatest importance however is the impending loss of well in excess of 3,000 jobs from the factory with further reprocussions likely as supply chains and other associated businesses (even down to the snack vans and local eateries that benefit from the trade of the Honda workforce) are hit by the domino effect. Honda’s Swindon factory has been producing cars since 1989 and so Swindon IS Honda. The plug being pulled on operations there is going to hit the town harder than the Honda-powered Mclaren MP4/4 pummelled the rest of the Formula 1 grid in ’88.

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But why was this decision taken? The first inevitable suspect is the big bad arch-demon in the room that some whisper can be summoned by sitting in the centre of a pentagram and chanting the word “Brexit”. So far though, Honda have denied that the economic uncertainty being felt as a result of our embarassing divorce from the EU is to blame and I actually believe them (for reasons I will explain in a moment). Instead they have cited vague global market shifts and a need to adapt quickly. Sales of diesel cars are falling and electrification is now seen as essential.

None of which really explains why Swindon had to close; not in black-and-white plain-speaking terms at least. One rumour I read online (and I have to stress the word “rumour” given that I have no hard evidence to back it up) claimed that the equipment and robotics necessary to manufacture electric vehicles was actually on the way from Japan but the ships were turned back. Other inside sources claim that Honda had been promising upgrades to the factory to enable production of more technologically advanced vehicles for years now.

So it seems like a very sudden snap deicision and I would be accusing Honda of side-stepping the citation of Brexit as the true reason but the company also announced the closure of a Civic plant in Turkey. Obviously, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will not help any business make decisions and long-term commitments to the UK but I don’t believe that Brexit itself is the sole motivator for Swindon being axed. Honda, it seems, are simply pulling out of Europe.

As dire as this is for the town of Swindon and the UK economy, I do want to take a balanced viewpoint and ask if this was really such a surprise. After all, the Swindon plant only produces Civics out of Honda’s current range of cars. Additionally, one of the production lines has been dormant for some time now. Finally, should warning signs have been visible? The automotive landscape is shifting towards electric vehicles and it’s odd that Honda has lagged behind the likes of Toyota and Nissan in this field, especially since they were one of the first manufacturers to “go green” and sell the hybrid car to the masses with the gen one Insight and hybrid Civic saloon.

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[image: carscoops.com]
Then you have to consider the fact that Honda, as a Japanese business, will always want to be seen prioritising the industry and workforce in their homeland and that could well be another reason for bringing more work home. That and cheaper wages + reduced costs in an industry that has slumped sales-wise. This is understandable of course because if it were the other way around, I’m positive that British people would want manufacturing to return to the UK with little regard for overseas job losses. It sounds harsh but it’s the truth, as cold as it may sound.

Whatever the reasons behind Honda’s decision, one thing must certainly be held against them and that is the way in which the workforce at Swindon became aware of their upcoming job losses. Employees didn’t get the word from their employer; it broke on social media first and the first that many knew of it was when their exit from work was met by TV cameras and reporters. Clearly somebody from higher up said “fuck that” to confidentiality and squealed. It’s a shitty business and make no mistake about it.

Finally, I have to mention the ridiculous idea that Civic Type-R production is going to be axed altogether with the current FK8 generation since Swindon is the only Honda factory producing these winged hyper-hatches. Production is just going to shift to Japan and these cars will still be sold to us as usual…at a higher price no doubt once taxes and import duties have had their say.

Should you still listen to the music of disgraced artists? [ft. R Kelly and Lostprophets]

Back when I was a sixth form student (or “college” in other words), I didn’t have much money at all and I wasn’t clued-up on the dark arts of ‘acquiring’ music for zero outlay so I used to listen to the same handful of CDs – ripped to my MP3 player – over and over. Liberation Transmission by Lostprophets was the soundtrack of my sixth form days and the singles released from the album (Rooftops, A Town Called Hypocrisy and Can’t Catch Tomorrow) were still being played over and over on Kerrang Radio so there was no escaping the Welsh band’s sound…not that I wanted to anyway.

I left education behind in 2008, just as the job market was at a seriously bad point. The recession (sparked by the banking crisis) had hit and jobs were thin on the ground. CV’s went ignored and countless applications for basic office roles were turned down again and again. Eventually, the Job Centre (a government-run set-up here in the UK that is supposed to help you find employment and also ensure that you ARE properly looking for work if you want to keep your unemployment benefit money) sent me on an ’employability’ course which was probably one of the most miserable, demeaning experiences of my life. That’s a story for another day though. Why I mention it at all is because Lostprophets’ music (still on that ancient MP3 player!) got me through those dark days.

So to say I liked their music would be an understatement.

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[image: NME.com]
But then, in December 2012, front man Ian Watkins was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of sexual offences against children including the attempted rape of a one-year-old girl. To say that the news came as a shock was as much an understatement as me saying that I thought his band’s music was just “all right”. It was the sort of headline that you hope isn’t true but unfortunately, Watkins later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

After that, I was left with a moral dilemma: do I still listen to Lostprophets as I had done before Watkins’ terrible crimes came to light? All around me, others had made up their minds. The band’s music vanished from the airwaves, Music Magpie (a company that buys unwanted CDs/DVDs/Games) wouldn’t accept my Lostprophets albums when I was having a clear-out and people were saying that they felt dirty themselves if they listened to the band.

I’ve even been told that listening to Lostprophets means that YOU are also a paedophile which is utterly ridiculous and a fucking stupid thing to say.

In the end, I decided that I WOULD continue to listen to Lostprophets for several reasons.

  1. I’ve never been the kind of person to ‘follow’ bands/artists closely beyond enjoying their music so in many cases, I don’t even know what they look like in real life. Ian Watkins was one such case so I didn’t have that problem of seeing and hearing ‘him’ when listening to the music, something that others have cited as their reason(s) for no longer being able to listen to Lostprophets.
  2. I remembered that Lostprophets was more than just Watkins. Yes, he sang the songs but they were the work of a group and the rest of the guys weren’t to blame for what had happened.
  3. Because fuck everybody else and what they thought. I liked Lostprophets’ music and their songs meant something to me, taking my head back to the times (for better or worse…) where I hammered the Liberation Transmission and Start Something albums.

I can see why people chose to sever ties completely though. After all, buying and playing their music is kind of supporting a convicted sex criminal in a way. You also can’t cruise around with their tunes belting from your car either because the majority of people simply don’t see it as the done thing.

The uncomfortable truth however is that good music doesn’t stop sounding good just because the singer got banged up for heinous crimes. I genuinely believe that overly vocal former Lostprophets fans who loudly reject the music they once adored still like what they hear but refuse to admit it. Because doing so is seen as taking the side of criminal or even condoning his despicable actions. Bullshit in my opinion. Does a beautiful woman look any less sexy for being a murderer? Is vast wealth and power any less appealing despite being the cause of devastating wars and the oppression of the less fortunate? Do fast cars become any less desirable even though they pollute the atmosphere more than sensible vehicles?

Me, I prefer to just be honest and simplify the whole thing. After all, you can say the ‘correct’ thing in public but lying to yourself is foolish and impossible to boot. So…

I like Lostprophets’ music.

I don’t like Ian Watkins. What he did is fucking disgusting and (by all accounts) utterly predatory. I don’t give a fuck what happens to him in prison.

But now it is happening again, this time with R&B singer R Kelly who turned himself into the police last week. Kelly is accused of multiple sexual assaults, several of the alleged victims being minors at the time. Now this isn’t such a big deal for me personally as I’ve never been a massive R Kelly fan beyond a few songs (a quick look at the bloated music library on my phone revealed that I only have She’s Got That Vibe and Bump N’ Grind) but even so, if Kelly is convicted, will we have to ask ourselves the same questions again? Will his songs be removed from existence as if they never happened?

FILE PHOTO: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 41st American Music Awards in Los Angeles
[image: tekportal.net]
In the case of R Kelly I can take it or leave it. I like the couple of tracks I have but I’m not bothered either way. They certainly don’t feature in my “Most Played” playlist.

Real fans will have a decision to make however and it will be interesting to see the outcome although I’m already made up on how I think it will go down based on the fallout of Ian Watkins’ crimes.

What would you do?