The state of British politics; what an absolute state.

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The end is nigh for the most recent Tory leadership election. But what did we learn? That we have double standards when it comes to electing our politicians . . .

A few campaigns for the leadership of the Conservative Party were nearly de-railed due to the publication of candidates’ pasts. Michael Gove was heavily criticised, and seemed to lose a substantial amount of public support, after he admitted to taking cocaine several times during his former career as a journalist.

This led to an upheaval of criticism toward Gove, and a storm of hilarious memes. My favourite of which was Gove as Tony Montana, the cocaine fuelled gangster from Scarface, sat in his office chair with a mountain of white powder on his desk.

@iamhappytoast
© @iamhappytoast

Rory Stewart was also criticised (and ridiculed, because he seems like the last person to have taken any drugs), for his admission that he once smoked opium at a wedding in Iran.

Gove’s past was by far the more heavily criticised, especially as he had written a column piece urging tougher action against cocaine use, days before hosting a party where guests were reported to have been openly taking the drug.

These dug-up confessions sparked minor public outcries of disgrace, as the choruses of Britain’s high-streets cried that they did not want to be led by a former drug user. I feel that the public seem to be themselves confused as to what they want from a Prime Minister. We seem to have double standards when it comes to choosing attributes for our leaders.

On the one hand, a large proportion of the country (myself included) would like to see somebody in office who has: led a fairly normal life; worked their way up from the bottom, earning their stripes; is personable and comfortable conversing with the whole of the Nation, no matter what socio-economic background they hail from; has the interests of the entire Nation in mind; and has preferably not gone through the traditional, old-school Eton-Oxford-PPE (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) route. Most of us want, I believe, a special representative of the majority, as opposed to yet another seemingly robotically engineered candidate from the wealthiest 1% of the UK.


©Twitter
Big fan of this edit of Rory Stewart on Question time.
Not a big fan of how the word ‘addict’ is spelt.

If this is, in fact, the type of person that we want to see in office, then we will have to soon realise that no one is infallible, and that no matter how squeaky clean somebody may seem, we all have skeletons in our closets that we regret.

I would rather have a person leading our country who has felt the pangs of addiction, battled with depression, struggled through financial hardship and, after defeating their demons, has emerged a stronger person. This shows leadership. This shows the heart, courage and ‘hutzpah’ that are necessary, for me, to run Britain.

I am not stating, however, that I would only be happy with candidates with former crack addictions and criminal records. I am, though, making the case that if someone has grown up in Eng/Ire/North Ire/Scot/Wales, they are likely to have on occasion drank excessively and suffered the consequences, and to have made mistakes that they have subsequently learned from. Those who have not are exceptional cases, and although we want an exceptional individual to run our Government, those who have sinned in the past should not be disqualified from the race.

Our pasts should not be covered up and feared for their tendencies to resurface. We should be proud of who we are now and of everything, good or ill, that has shaped the characters that we are today.

If, however, you have continually made mistakes throughout your career, it should be considered that you have perhaps not learned from your mistakes, and should not be considered for the Top Job; or any of the jobs at the top of society that give you power over other people’s livelihoods.

That being said, it looks as though the Conservative Party Membership, and a considerable portion of the public, disagree with me on this subject, as the perfect example of someone who has continually committed mistakes that have negatively impacted the lives of others – and has often not even deemed his misgivings worthy of an apology – looks set to be our next (unelected) Prime Minister.

©bbc.co.uk
©bbc.co.uk
That time our soon to be PM took out a small Japanese boy in a mock game of Rugby.

I’d rather see a crack addict at the helm if I’m honest; it would provide similar comedic value.

In all seriousness, I would much rather have seen any of the candidates who admitted to shadowy pasts than the buffoon we are to immanently open the door of No. 10 to, whose darker than mere shadowy past, like Donald Trump’s, is known by all but chosen by many to be ignored.

My vote would have gone to Rory Stewart, opium or no opium. But, then again, I didn’t get a choice; only a minor, moderately privileged fraction of the population did.

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Climate Change to Climate Crisis

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This piece’s completion has frustrated me so much that it has entirely warned me away from writing, due to my constant admission of failure in adequately expressing my opinions on the matter. It has been months in the making, and every time I have decided to again work on it, more thoughts and theories have entered my mind and rendered old ones less prevalent.

Today I decided that it did not have to be perfect, but that its publication would allow me to move on and write about other things. I don’t think I would ever be content with what I have written on this subject, and will always think that there is more to be said.

I am hoping that the publication of what I initially wrote will encourage me to continually add to what I am posting today.

So here it is, incomplete and most likely still ill informed, to take this weight off my mind. This could surely be used as a metaphor for what a difficult subject our Climate Crisis is to comprehend.

A frustrating matter at the forefront of our times

When I began gathering my thoughts on climate change, or what is now being labelled as our Climate Crisis (to highlight the seriousness of the matter), and discussing the issue with friends and family, I soon realised that it went much further than making mere personal sacrifices.

The subject is all-encompassing. To stem the tide involves everything from global politics, class segregation & poverty, to unimaginable sacrifices and deeds supposedly too outrageous & ambitious to seriously consider. To halt our climate crisis would require global cooperation on a scale of which we have never seen before.

When you attempt to put your mind to working out a solution it becomes a headache, and can seem such a depressingly impossible task.

I here offer no solutions to our problem of the climate crisis we now find ourselves in, nor do I profess to. I am simply attempting to highlight the level of action that would be necessary to evoke change on a truly global scale, and commending those who have begun the fight on our behalves.

There is, so far, no one solution of which I have heard that I deem worthy of the crisis we have unwillingly developed. But what I have recently noticed is that the discussion of the problem, as well as its consistent advertisement, can cause more people to consider the magnitude of the beast we have borne, and will hopefully cause more people to consider it worthy of effort once viable and non-fantastical solutions are eventually offered.

(Sometime in mid-April)

An ode to Extinction Rebellion and the climate action front-liners

© Twitter: Extinction Rebellion York

Recent protests by climate action group Extinction Rebellion in London – as well as several other protests conducted world-wide – showcased our problems like never before, and managed to put the climate crisis on the front pages of newspapers in an inclusive, non-violent way.

These protests from have got me thinking more about popular opinion on the subject of climate change.

Most of all, I have been considering how I and most of my peers all agree that immediate action must be taken in order to save our race from extinction in the not-so-distant future, and yet how I do not personally know of anyone directly involved in the protests.

Perhaps most of us believe in the cause but deem it a little unrealistic – and therefore futile – to slow climate change and save our planet (a camp in which I have at least one foot in). Others claim that although they would have loved to have got involved in the protests, they simply didn’t have the time.  

I don’t mean to have a go at anyone here, or label anyone as a hypocrite – other than myself. I support the cause that these people are fighting for on my behalf, and yet have contributed absolutely nothing towards it – so it’s natural that I should feel a little hypocritical.

I was in the capital the other day for a job interview, and following my interview I walked over Waterloo Bridge, which XR were occupying, to meet a friend on the other side of the Thames for a drink.

As I walked past and slowly pieced together who these people on the bridge were, it struck me how peaceful and wholesome this ‘protest’ seemed: kids danced around flower pots that had been brought to create a garden atmosphere; lectures were being held where people gathered under canopies to vent their frustration and put forward their views; activists laughed and joked with the policemen who patrolled the bridge. It looked like a shanty town in which the inhabitants were having a good time for a good cause.

The main argument against these protestations came from local residents and businesses, who have been heavily affected and have even lost money as a result of the demonstrations. You see them interviewed on television – the other side of the coin: “I’ve bin ‘ere fer four hours, nuffin’s movin’” quips a black cab driver on BBC News, “Why do we have to suffer? It’s not solely us that are responsible for the well-being of the planet – I’m just trying to get to work!” groans a Businessman.

These complaints are just and, as communal as these protests may seem, they certainly don’t act in the interests of these people who are forced to suffer for something they haven’t directly contributed (more than anyone else) towards. Also cited in some newspapers was the fact that emergency services were forced to take de-tours during the week of the protests, which, for me, is an unjustified disruption.

A photo I saw online adequately expressed the sentiments of XR though, in a brilliant simile written on a wall in central London, reading: “Blaming XR for the disruption is like blaming your fire alarm for waking you up!”

These are sacrifices XR argue must be made in order to gain sufficient momentum to force the Government into action. This is not to say that the protests should last until the Government concedes; they’ve got enough on their plates at the moment. But in seeing how many people are so passionate about this cause, they must steer momentarily away from the Brexit mess we find ourselves locked in to promise the people that action will be taken; that their voices have been heard & their message received.

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Despite the fact that the protests made headlines in the UK and worldwide, not all were sympathetic towards the cause, and some tabloid newspapers (who would have thought it) took to villainising the XR protesters, even alluding to their being enemies of the people.

I went to work one Sunday to find a copy of The Sun (thankfully a colleague had bought the paper for the free Legoland tickets it contained, not for its content), which had been discarded and lay in the bin. A slow Sunday shift began, and later I curiously lifted the paper from the bin to browse its surely informative content.

I reluctantly flicked through the first few pages of the paper, and was startled by a headline that screamed: “ECO REBELLION MAYHEM”. Before long I began to notice that the language used in reference to the XR protesters was derogatory, and made them out to be the ‘Bad Guys’, disrupting people’s lives across the capital for a cause not deemed worthy.

One article on a doctor who had posted a video in support of the protests, read: “Dr. Alex Armitage posted the clip on Facebook before joining eco-warriors who brought misery to London last week.” (My italics)

Another read: “Wannabe model Laura has been key in organising protests that have caused misery and chaos.” (Again, my italics)

This naming-and-shaming of protesters, whom in other circles would surely be commended for their actions, surprised me in its lack of sympathy towards our shared crisis. Here, The Sun’s allegiance is clearly outlined.

But what exactly are XR looking to achieve from these protestations? Talking with my sister about the protests the other day, she said that she had supported them, but was confused as to what they were trying to achieve: “Do they have any sort of manifesto? Because I haven’t seen one.”

Although not heavily published during the protests, XR did come armed with a manifesto, with three specific demands:

  1. The Truth; for the Government to declare a Climate Emergency and work with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change
  2. Act Now; demanding the Government to act now to halt biodiversity loss & reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025
  3. Beyond Politics; for the Government to create and be led by a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice

The protests worked, in as much as they won a meeting with the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. However, the XR delegates were vocally disappointed in the outcome of the meeting. Gove agreed that urgent action needed to be taken, and said that planting more trees, and using new technology to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere should be pursued as a matter of urgency.

Gove also pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero, but without a time frame. He said he was open to a more ambitious target than 2025, with an ear-marked target being set for 2050, a whole 25 years after the demanded target.

This is an aspect that I have now begun to consider more seriously: the need for immediate action. I am constantly trying to convince my father, who agrees that action is needed, but believes that we are currently doing enough to make a significant impact, that we all need to make sufficient sacrifices in order to halt the destruction of our planet.

I have argued that if we wait any longer than we already have, we will fail to halt the preemptive destruction of our planet, which we have ourselves cultivated.

This, above all other difficult admissions concerning climate change, is the most difficult for me (and certainly my father) to come to terms with: that huge, world-wide & inclusive sacrifices are necessary with immediate effect.

Although there is lots going on in the world at the moment (as there always is), we must realise that if we do not make this our current priority, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves when it eventually becomes too late to take action.

JG

COMPUTER LOVE

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Dating has changed unimaginably over the past decade or so, and what began as ‘Online dating’ on websites such as match.com soon became a highly-competitive industry of dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble and Hinge.

Adjusting to these new vehicles of dating can be overwhelming, and the new methods, profiles, restrictions and benefits that accompany these apps bare talking about in detail. The world of dating has undergone a profound change, and will only move forward from here to include more complex and potentially alienating tactics.

So have modernistic ways of dating killed romance forever, or should we instead be praising these new innovations in optimising our compatibilities and improving our chances of finding The One?

I had never used any dating apps (old fashioned and under-confident as I have been) until I downloaded Tinder in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after becoming frustrated at my attempts in nightclubs and bars to court the beautiful women of Argentina. 

At this point I had already spent a month in Brazil and a week or so in Uruguay. All of the male friends I had met up to that point (especially in Brazil) urged me to download Tinder and never look back. These urges were communicated with some urgency, which repelled me even further from the app: “Just do it. Just download it. You will not regret it. The girls I’ve been getting with are sooo fit, man.”

These friends who advised me to download Tinder claimed that they were meeting with a different Brazilian girl every night, and that they were all gorgeous. Tempting as this advice was, I still held off and tried my hardest with the old fashioned approach, enjoying a little success – enough to ward me off the apps for a time, at-least.

In Buenos Aires I cracked and, although a little disappointed in myself, some of the beautiful Argentinian girls I was matching with consoled me in my disappointment.

After a few months I had met some great girls on Tinder in three different countries and, just as my friends had told me that I would not, I most certainly did not regret my decision to give in and download the app.

Despite the fact I didn’t regret my decision to join my peers in the world of modern romance, I soon became increasingly addicted to Tinder. Essentially it is the same thing as Facebook, Snapchat or any other social media app. Yes, the object of the app is somewhat different, but it is yet another app to get easily hooked to and scroll through; procrastinating to kill spare time in a day.

It proved useful, however, to practice the languages I was learning, and was an interactive and fun way to learn a new language. I would take flirting with a Colombian girl on Tinder to forcing myself to sit and tap away at Duolingo or Memrise any day of the week – and I believe the former to be more educational.

Talking to real people of the same or similar age as yourself enables you to learn about the language that these people use; and that you yourself can adopt in order to communicate in this foreign land. In studying languages in this interactive way you are more likely to learn the less-traditional terms that people use in every-day conversation; of which you are unlikely to learn from language applications.

The time is 3:57am, and Lisa has just received her 7,000th match. Could this be The One?!
Woman photo created by Dragana_Gordic – www.freepik.com

Like all social media applications after a while Tinder, and apps like Tinder, can be used as a way of killing time – a boredom killer. Equally, if my travelling companion were to take ill and I had not become acquainted with – or didn’t like – the other people in the hostel where we were staying, I could always resort to swiping to my heart’s content and trying to find a nice girl who might fancy a drink.

Most of the dates I have embarked on through Tinder have been lots of fun, regardless of whether or not there was any romantic feelings or second dates. Anonymous as it is, there are little to no worries about how you act and to whom she will discuss this date with – you won’t know them, so it doesn’t really matter!

I have considered before whether or not a relationship borne of Tinder, or (to use an app more engineered towards relationships as opposed to one-night-stands and one-off dates) borne of Bumble, can be viewed of as a less-respectable relationship than those that are formed more naturally. After consultation with friends and personal consideration, I can confirm that I believe nothing to be further from the truth.

I know of many couples who have met through Tinder or other dating apps, some of whom are amongst the most compatible I can think of – often seemingly possessing a stronger relationship than those who met without the external assistance of an app.

To meet through these dating apps is now the norm; perhaps equal to or even surpassing relationships shaped through friends or coincidental meetings. I think we as a society shall always romanticise random occurrences that lead to relationships, but the truth is that if you hold out for something like this to happen you could find yourself left behind.

If the rest of the world is looking for love on one of many available apps, where does that leave you?

On my travels, Tinder often provided me with a necessary confidence boost. Whenever I felt in need of one, I knew I could open the app and begin swiping to be met (sooner or later) with a small dose of dopamine that accompanies the ‘It’s a match!’ notification.

It has occurred to me recently that perhaps due to these new vehicles of dating, young people may be less eager to meet new potential romantic candidates on nights out. The disappointment of failing to meet new people can now be considered somewhat quelled due to these new means of finding love interests through swiping at your phone screen.

Despite the quest for finding a mate being made arguably ever-easier, it is still a hard graft to find someone you really like by these new means. You have to be committed to wading through potentially hundreds of profiles before finding someone with whom you genuinely have interests in common with and, more importantly, someone you are attracted to physically.

You can now browse people’s Spotify accounts in collaboration with their profiles on most apps, an asset I personally consider highly useful when deciding whether to swipe left or right, but an asset that I believe a lot of users to overlook in favour of their attraction towards someone’s pictures.

Alec: “Yeah, I got her flowers bro. It’s going really well!”
Natasha: “I FUCKING HATE roses. It’s on my bio! Did he not read my bio or what?!”
Flowers photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

In essence, these apps are justifiably considered by many to be quite shallow. Aside from Spotify accounts and short bios, we swipe one way or another based almost entirely on how someone looks.

In fact, Bios are considered so unimportant by some that theirs consist of a short line or two bitching about bios: “Apparently I need a bio . . .”, or other such witty gems as: “Dunno hi” and “Avid gin drinker.. if you can show me photos of a dog; 10/10”, or an all-in-one short stereotypical spree like this girl: “Gin, Gym and Food” – only missing a mention of dogs to complete the set!

It always strikes me that, on an app where your primary aim is surely to stand-out as an individual, most English girls instead opt to conform to the extreme. There are countless stereotypes when it comes to a girl’s Tinder/Bumble profile that always astound me in their conformity and likeness to most other profiles. Let’s have some fun . . .

To create a bog-standard, classic Tinder profile you will need the following key ingredients, in no particular order: Pictures of you with dogs, with Pornstar Martinis, and several taken with Snapchat filters that ensure anyone looking at your profile has no way of knowing what you actually look like. Other photo options include: a picture of you taken in the mirror at the gym, next to neon signs in bars with quotes about drinking and an obligatory bikini photo.

If you’re Spotify account is connected to your profile, you will want to set your anthem to ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ by Ariana Grande, and your selection of artists should include: David Guetta, Post Malone, The 1975, Drake, Ed Sheeran, 5 Seconds of Summer and, again, Ariana Grande.

If answering the statement posed by Bumble to express your personality, ‘My dream dinner guest is . . .’ you should answer under all circumstances with ‘David Attenborough’ – even if you have no idea who he is. 

Also be sure to include travel stories and pictures with Elephants from South East Asia, admit that you’re ‘a bit of a nerd’ and boast of your love of food, Netflix, Gin and napping. Finally, after saying anything, no matter how out of place, never hesitate to use that emoji of a girl with one hand held above her shoulders like she’s carrying an invisible tray, expressing apparent perplexity in emoji form.

“So, you got sucked into Tinder too, huh?” “Yeah . . . isn’t life funny?”
“Yeah . . I’m Dave by the way, 32 years young, I love the gym, gin and gingerbread”
“Hi Dave, I’m Anna, and I’m a serial killer LOL”
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It is worth mentioning here that I am aware of the fact that this compliance with stereotypes is not exclusive to female profiles, but that with my lack of ability to view male profiles, I am at a disadvantage in discussing the similarities in profiles of men.

Because of this lack of exposure to the other side of the coin, I often beckon female friends & family to show me the view from the other side, interested as I am in knowing into which stereotypes that I too fall victim too.
What I think would be fascinating would be to compare the variances in conversation starters that men use; a delicate situation that can be difficult to decide upon.

To conclude, with the introduction of these new means of modern romance, finding a mate (or a shag) has surely never been easier. We also have more choice than our parents ever could have imagined. But have our relationships with one another, our personalities and our willingness to meet new people suffered as a consequence?

Anyone looking to investigate further should invest in the hilarious and eye-opening book Modern Romance from American comedian Aziz Ansari, which provides in-depth analysis of the modern dating sphere across the globe.

JG

The dangerous trap of cannabis

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I regularly look back upon my time as a student in Liverpool as being somewhat wasted, and often associate my then lack of will to achieve both at University and socially with my habit of smoking weed.

Experimenting with different drugs is seen as a ‘coming of age’ activity, and for a lot of students University provides an appropriate environment in which to experiment – more so than when living at home with parents. However, without limits like not being able to smoke when parents are around, this experimentation can grow to become a mundane part of life.

My habit of smoking weed was so prevalent that I could not at times go to sleep without having a joint, and would be socially inept come the weekend after smoking every weeknight, and often in the days.

The addictiveness of marijuana, in my case, came from becoming comfortable in my situation as a stoner. I would justify the habit by telling myself that it was simply a way to relax – but before long it became a lifestyle that I could not and did not want to escape from.

Despite my inability to recognise my increasingly damaging habit I still hold fond memories with great friends that I made at University, but also look back on my time in Liverpool with a pang of regret, believing now that had I not been stoned half of the time I could have achieved a better grade and better utilised my time in general.

Recently I have begun collecting my thoughts on marijuana and both the psychological and physical effects it can have on a life, as well as the culture associated with the drug and the social boundaries it can unwillingly form.

When I started University in Liverpool I was a fresh-faced eighteen year-old who was far from mature, a little unmotivated and very unsure of the world and my place in it. I had often smoked weed with friends since around 15/16 years old, mostly at friends’ houses when their parents were away. We would all excitedly anticipate our parents going away so we could be left alone to smoke and watch films.

Back then in my immaturity I thought that marijuana was the be-all-and-end-all; not just a drug but: ‘A lifestyle choice, man. It opens your mind’. All these years later I see weed for what I have learnt it to be: a time and boredom killer with the potential to be addictive and harmful. It can be dangerous when smoked regularly – especially when one begins smoking on their own – and can render one lazy, unsociable, paranoid – even depressed.

In order to visually envisage these side effects, may I introduce my long-time colleague and former lover, John:

People photo created by kues1 – www.freepik.com

Thus it was for me in Liverpool. I arrived at my student accommodation and moved into my room. I had ruptured the cruciate ligament in my right knee and could therefore not participate in strenuous exercise – though I’m not entirely convinced I would have had I been able to – and was left to fend for myself for the first time in my then short eighteen years.

Due to these reasons and a combination of other factors such as weed being more readily available (for some time during first year one of my flatmates sold weed), being able to smoke in our flat; my room, friend’s rooms, the kitchen – even the fucking corridor! – I put on weight like never before and became a weed-smoking hermit who rarely left his room.

I was constantly stoned, shopping for myself for the first time ever (oven pizzas, crisps, milkshakes, ice cream & other unhealthy foods), and doing no exercise what-so-ever. All I did was watch films/TV on my laptop, smoke, eat and watch porn. I was a stoned loser; constantly paranoid, gaining weight and becoming ever more lonesome by the day.

That first year was truly wasted and I can hardly remember anything memorable happening. This is another thing I have noticed. I can remember some great nights out, parties, concerts, dinners – even nights in watching a film – yet I can hardly recall a really great night getting stoned. There are a few nights with friends I can think of, but in comparison to nights spent drinking or otherwise enjoying myself, none of the best nights of my life have involved me smoking weed.

I passed that first year at University by the skin of my teeth, and still cannot understand how I was allowed to continue on the course having hardly attended lectures and been unproductive and half-stoned whenever I did manage to attend class. Eventually I failed and re-took nearly every module I needed to pass – sober – at home during the summer.

I now still occasionally smoke weed with friends when offered, but am constantly wary of again falling into the trap of returning to my past state. When stoned these days I am less paranoid than I used to be and tend to smoke a lot less, as it doesn’t take much for me to be really stoned. I get flashbacks of the stoner I used to be when smoking these days, and quickly begin to recall and again regret my wasted former years and repeat to myself that it is not worth it.

Unless you’re John:

People photo created by kues1 – www.freepik.com

Attempting to re-call times I have utilised my creativity when stoned, I cannot think of anything worth mentioning. I can however remember several notes I have written when stoned, thinking at the time that my words were comparable to the wisest of men, only to read it the next day and question what the hell I was thinking when I thought it was good: “What the hell was I smoking?! Oh yeah *stoner chuckle*” The same goes for any recordings of guitar I had written when stoned: however brilliant I had thought them to be they were soon discarded and ridiculed by Sober Me.

More so than ‘mind-opening’ I find that weed can close the mind, numbing the brain, body and emotions of the user and temporarily removing them from their life. This numbing effect is what I think is wanted from many people that smoke weed regularly: turn off the lights, light up and forget the hardships of life. In this way as well as becoming habitual, or even ritualistic, weed can again be addictive as a pain killing technique.

I used to crave this state of numbness, but now prefer to reject it. Nowadays I like to be sharp, on the ball and using my time so as not to waste minutes in the day procrastinating; things I simply can’t do stoned.

I have observed recently the similarities in terms of language and manner of stoners. They all seem to adopt the same sayings, ill-concocted theories and confused outlook on life that I now find tiresome and annoying.

Of course the effects of any drug can differ from person to person, and I have friends who still regularly smoke weed and lead perfectly functioning lives with successful careers and relationships. Some can thrive on the stuff (like John here), but I am not one of them.

People photo created by kues1 – www.freepik.com

Where did the jacket and wooden plane come from?! Only John knows . . .

I sometimes find myself jealous of those who can smoke whilst retaining their in-tact lives. For me though, I have learned that smoking weed is a poor lifestyle choice which fast develops into addiction, and I hope to continue living without the resurgence of this habit. 

Recently the debate on whether marijuana should be legalised has become more a question of when, and no longer if it will be legalised. There are strong cases on both sides, but I wonder if it will have a wholly positive effect on our country if we do choose to legalise weed.

I have witnessed first-hand the potential dangers of the plant, and therefore believe that we should think hard before legalising without implementing measures to protect people from taking it too far and damaging their physical, and especially their mental health.

Thanks for your help, John.

People photo created by kues1 – www.freepik.com

Aye go on then, John. A few puffs couldn’t do any harm!

Music photo created by kues1 – www.freepik.com

JG

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Online Sports Betting: A slippery slope

Online sports betting has slowly become integrated into British culture and is now so cemented in sport that it is likely only to remain and grow in influence.

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From 2017 to 2018 the Great British Gambling industry grossed a massive 14.4 billion pounds; a 4.5% increase from the previous year, with online sports betting also steadily increasing each year (3% rise in market shares last year in online sports betting, bingo and casino games) according to the Gambling Commission.

I myself have experienced the pull and addictive tendencies of online betting, and am forever quitting altogether before suddenly relapsing and depositing more money into my betting accounts.

I started betting at University after watching friends win the occasional £20 on a football match that we were already watching. I watched a lot of football at University, mostly as a source of entertainment and admittedly also as a way to kill some time in the evenings. However I soon became convinced that if I was watching the match anyway, then I might as well invest in the games I was watching and try to profit from my entertainment.

I would never put much money on the games, but as I mentioned earlier I was watching a lot of football and betting on the matches added another element of entertainment; I could now pay to be personally invested in any game I watched between any two teams, with the added potential of winning some money if I correctly predicted the outcome of the games.

Since my days at University I have won and lost enough times to firmly categorise my ‘hobby’ of betting as an addiction. I would choose to classify it as a ‘minor’ addiction because, although I do put at least five pounds on the football a week (usually more, perhaps an average of £10 every 6/7 days) I have never lost a significant amount of money. It’s not as though I have been gambling with this money instead of buying food or going out with my friends. Instead I have been fortunate enough to have a sufficient amount of disposable income with which to play.

But this self-justification to myself that ‘I am addicted, but it’s only a minor addiction,’ is a tell-tale sign of addiction, amongst other stereotypical gems such as: ‘I’ll quit next year’, ‘Just one more won’t hurt!’, and ‘I simply must sell my kidneys by Thursday in order to put a large bet on Chelsea vs Tottenham! Spurs have got that one for sure . . .’

I have not for example been stealing jewellery from my family, nor holding up corner shops at knifepoint – something that did happen in Liverpool a few years back when a boy of 21 had spent all of his and subsequently his father’s money on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, and decided to rob a corner shop at knife-point in order to re-pay his debts.

I have often noticed these ways in which I casually justify to myself that what I’m doing, and further how much I am spending, is OK.

Sports betting can be controlled but is increasingly addictive. One impact upon my life I have noticed is that I will now struggle to watch a football match that I do not have money on, whereas before I started betting I would happily watch a game without needing the added incentive of profiting from my entertainment. I also certainly watch a lot more football matches, when I could be utilising my time more productively.

The entertainment value that online sports betting provides can be exhilarating. It can make a good match a great match, can pay in part or in full for an otherwise expensive weekend, and can make you feel like a sports genius when you successfully predict the outcome of the games without any (or little) external assistance.

But is the entertainment value worth the money you inevitably lose on betting? How much more entertaining is the game when you have money on, as opposed to when you do not?

What has struck me recently about addictions is how subtle they can be. It is easy to convince yourself that you are not addicted when in fact you are, and in being so abstract it is often difficult to fully recognise and admit to an addiction before it starts to do some damage.

I can recall nights/days that have been ruined as a result of losing an accumulator (which is when you bet on the outcome of several matches to increase the odds), by unsuccessfully predicting the outcome of one or two matches out of ten to fifteen – only resulting in the loss of a pound, but narrowly missing out on winning a hundred. Equally I can recall great nights/weekends that have been buoyed by a win of 50-100 pounds from a stake of just a quid.

I calculated my profits and losses one year (2016-17) and was left deflated by the realisation that I had deposited a total of £120 pounds and had withdrawn/won the same amount. The time & effort I had invested in watching these matches and researching betting tips resulted in me breaking even, which seemed to me a waste of my time.

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Whenever I place a pound or two on a big-odds accumulator I nearly always feel a necessity to plan what I will spend my winnings on once my 120/1 bet inevitably comes in: maybe I’ll go to London? Or maybe to Liverpool, or Bristol? ‘I’ll get all of my friends out and pay for a drink for them all!’ I stupidly think to myself. This is the excitement that follows after having placed a bet.

Then once the first of two or three fixtures begin to turn against my favour I slowly begin to realise that I will have to adjust my plans for the evening to be £5 poorer as opposed to £120 richer; cursing the stupidity with which I had acted when I had placed the bet earlier that same day.

Research shows us that addicted gamblers receive releases of dopamine in the brain every time that they place a bet – and not only when they win. They are no longer betting to win, they are placing bets for the release of endorphins they experience once they have pressed the button, whether it is the ‘Place bet’ icon on their phone/laptop, a flashing button on a fruit machine or the lever they pull to rotate the wheels of a slot machine. They are essentially betting for the sake of it.

I would personally hold sports betting above playing the lottery, as betting at-least requires some element of skill and knowledge, whereas with the lottery the only trait required is incredible luck – it’s out of your hands. Obviously sports betting can in some cases require a little luck in order for all of your selections to fall into place, but overall you choose your selections on your inherent – or inherited – knowledge of the sports that you are betting on.

There are ways to make a guaranteed profit from placing bets, though this requires a hell of a lot more effort than simply guessing the correct results of the games and requires some hefty spreadsheets, which is beyond my capabilities. I get a headache just thinking about spreadsheets.

People are known to make a significant profit through these means and although it isn’t considered an occupation, if you’re willing to commit the time & energy (& spreadsheets), then it can provide a guaranteed source of income.

The object of betting, as well as a form of entertainment, is to inherit a fortune: to make money. However as a means of income it should be regarded as lazy. Instead of studying and working to earn your fortune, in this case we want our fortune handed to us with the least amount of required effort we can exert.

However there already exists ignoble industries that turn little work into lots of money, usually through substantial capital invested from the beginning, which only the very privileged are able to afford.

Want an example? Just look at how the current President of the United States ‘earned’ his fortune. It all began at the very bottom of the food chain with a humble loan of just a million dollars from his billionaire Father . . .

More posts on sports betting are to follow, during which I shall attempt to investigate whether this harmless fun, even in moderation, is worth the money you are inevitably likely to lose.

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Shunning Social Media: Observations a month in

Although the task of ‘turning my back’ on most Social Media platforms seemed achievable in the early stages, soon enough I realised that the apps I had deleted were easily accessible from the internet, and that the task in hand would not be as simple as I had first envisaged . . .

28th January, 2018:

Facebook and Instagram, two of the apps I have deleted from my mobile phone, still hold some kind of reign over me. I find myself logging onto Facebook (through Google Chrome) at-least once a day.

The most notable observation I have made since deleting these apps is that I am more readily aware of how long I am lingering and scrolling on pages such as Facebook – more aware than when I had the apps.

After ten or so minutes staring at my phone screen glowing blue & white with countless uninteresting posts from pages like the ‘Lad Bible’ – formerly a page for drinking games and sports, now apparently a social media empire of sorts – I notice what I am doing and find it easier than before (with the apps) to pull myself away.

Other apps such as Snapchat are not accessible (I don’t think) on the internet, and therefore I have been free of it for a little over a month now. I have not noticed many – if any – differences in my life since this personal abolition of Snapchat. However it has made me increasingly aware of other people Snapchatting at gigs, in bars, out for a meal etc.

It is only in these moments I remember that I have given up this form of sharing; the sort of sharing where we record or take pictures of ourselves having a good time in an attempt to convince those we share the app with that our lives are fantastic.

I possessed this belief of Snapchat and other Social Media platforms before my decision to delete these apps, but now feel as though I can interact with and study this theory more than ever, having taken a back-seated approach to observing it.

Don’t get me wrong though: I am not necessarily preaching that apps like Snapchat make you a particularly vain person. I am merely making the point that these apps are used in the most popular sense by people set on proving they are out having fun and their lives are great which, again, there is nothing wrong with.

I am also finding that I have more spare time to do things like read books (I have finished 2 books already this year and am half-way through my third, a noticeable increase), improve my guitar playing ability and learn new languages.

Overall though, as previously mentioned, I am still logging into these apps I deleted and becoming lost in their fake realities. For this experiment – or life choice, I have not yet decided – it is surely essential that I truly deny myself access to these worlds in order to properly immerse myself in a lack of Social Media.

An attribute and yet a downside of Social Media is the question of loneliness. I was going to make the argument that since shunning Social Media apps I feel lonelier, as I get much less notifications on my phone now than before. However I have read articles recently discussing the fact that social media can amplify loneliness, by way of receiving a lack of likes on shared pictures and status updates.

This argument could be and is posed both ways (either for or against Social Media) as it can make us feel more interconnected with the world through apps, and yet can make us feel less popular when we do not receive sufficient feedback on posts that we share.

We can also miss out on key news stories happening either in the world or in our social circles without access to these platforms. The question of loneliness is one that I hope to continue to investigate and ponder, as it is an interesting and potentially controversial subject surrounding Social Media and the internet in general.

I recently discussed how Social Media can influence loneliness with a friend, who had similar feelings: “I think Social Media can do a pretty good job of making people depressed/down due to everyone only really sharing the positive aspects of their lives, which can leave you feeling inferior”.

This idea that Social Media focuses exclusively on positive aspects of people’s lives is an interesting point. Everyone struggles with their lives in different ways; but when scrolling through your Social Media feeds it can often feel as though it is only you who is struggling and that everyone else is getting married, having children and being promoted.

The point is that these are fake realities which are not true reflections on people’s lives and the reality in which we all actually live. Although someone may seem happy on their Facebook profile it is not always the truth. Just imagine how depressing these platforms would be if everyone posted about the bad things that happened in their lives . . .

JG

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Blogs/Bloggers/Blogging

Why start a blog? No idea . . .

I have been meaning to start a blog ever since I left University back in 2016 and have only now got round to propelling myself to do it.

Despite not starting a blog I have been writing about anything and everything for a long time now (dreams, politics, music, relationships, football, life) and the only difference now is that hopefully with the creation of this ‘Blog’ I will have the courage to publish my writings and receive feedback on what I have written in order to improve.

For those who don’t know me I will first give a brief background of my recent life.

I graduated from Liverpool John Moore’s University in 2016 and have since worked part-time in bars, pubs and restaurants – usually behind the bar which is where I feel most comfortable – as well as writing for a local magazine for a brief period.

In September of 2017 I worked in Connecticut, United States for 3 months on an Internship for the company my father works for. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the States, but I found the work to be a little uninteresting.

I have just returned from 9 months in South America, where I first travelled with a friend from home for 5/6 months, visiting (in order): Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

After my travels – as I had not wanted to return to England – I took up another Internship in São Paulo, Brazil, in a coaxial cable company there, doing much the same sort of thing as I had done in America. My time there was unforgettable, but the work was again uninspiring.

I feel this is all the context you would need to follow anything I post on here; most of which should be universally understandable and, I would hope, relatable.

Also, after speaking and writing solely in Portuguese for the past 3 months, and having been learning & speaking Spanish for the 5/6 months that preceded these, I have noticed that my normally sufficient ability to spell has been somewhat lost for the moment, so bear with me.

I hope somebody gets some entertainment from my shambolic and often messy/unorganised rantings.

A brief note on Blogging/Blogs/Bloggers

I’ve never been a fan of blogging/blogs/bloggers myself; which may have had a part to play in my reluctance to start one. I’ve always considered those who write blogs to be self-centred and a little vain; as though their opinion in particular on any given subject was worth reading more so than any other opinion.

In January of this year, when I had originally planned to commence blogging before my travels, I did some research into what it takes to run a successful blog. In my research I read advice to new bloggers to look and even model themselves on the most popular blogs on the internet. So, heeding the advice of the blogging community, I began researching popular blogs.

I encountered one mad, self-obsessed American guy called ‘Gary Vee’, whom was said to be one of the most famous bloggers on the planet, so I went through his page expecting to find some worldly views and elite writing. What I encountered was very different. Gary Vee’s latest project was called something like: ‘The Airplane Project’, which I will provide a brief and worthy explanation of.

The big-man himself: Gary Vaynerchuk
© Twitter, Gary Vaynerchuk

This latest of GV’s projects came about when he was sat on a long-haul flight and had no internet access for around 8 hours or more. The obvious solution for this sheer travesty of an internet-less aeroplane journey was, of course (you’ve guessed it already), to record himself ranting about everything that dropped into his head for the full eight hours; to the joy of the other passengers on the flight, I can only imagine.

If this is what it takes to be a top-dog in the blogging world – or a Top-Blog-Dog as is often said in the industry – I have decided to have nothing to do with it. I strongly advise anyone to attempt to endure five minutes of the insightful ‘Airplane Project’ from Mr. Vee, out of sheer curiosity.

One bit of praise I can give Mr. Vee is that although he is more of a video blogger (or ‘Vlogger’), he is one of what seems to be very few bloggers these days that still writes at-least a short introduction to his daily (FUCKING DAILY! This guy can’t get enough of himself) video posts.

(30/12/18): Just watched it again . . . Christ this guy is insufferable!

“Don’t expect this to be a blog like any other!” – Is probably what other bloggers would advise me to say. It won’t be like any other blog; but that may not be a good thing. I can be cynical, can ramble for days on most given subjects, and still don’t possess complete confidence in my writing ability. The difference now is: I don’t really care. Why not. Here it is; This is Me.

JG

Shunning Social Media

I began writing these pieces on Social Media in late January of last year after making it a New Years’ aim to ‘Shun social media’. It is interesting to look back on my thoughts then, how they have changed, and how I have struggled and altogether failed in my quest to quell my social media addiction.

This is the first of the pieces I wrote on 24th January, 2018. I have written more further down the road which will follow, as my thoughts developed and I began to realise how difficult it would be to quit.

As well as this I am in the process of writing a follow-up piece around a year after the ideas’ inception, in which I will reflect on how difficult I found my task and how I eventually neglected my aim and ultimately failed in my mission. Maybe I’ll try it again? And maybe you should too.

24th January, 2018: A New Year free from the shackles of Social Media

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to shun the Social Media world, if for no other reason than to again experience the childhood-like world outside of this modern sphere and to peer in from the outside; outlining the differences and general feeling of being a 22/23 year old in 2018 sans/sem/sin/without Social Media.

Although my accounts are still active on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, I have deleted the apps on my phone – making it more difficult to access them whilst also eradicating the addictive & easy tendency to scroll through the apps when I become bored.

Facebook Messenger deserves a special mention as it is the only app I have not deleted on my phone. This is because it serves as a modern phonebook, and can provide the sole way of contacting some people nowadays. Interestingly I have already noticed (12 days in) that I have used this excuse as my Social Media kaleidoscope that I use to peer into and distract myself with as I would usually do with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc.

I find myself bored, tap the messenger icon and observe who is online as a boredom combatant tactic; when in reality it provides no entertainment what-so-ever. It will be interesting to monitor whether my messaging increases as an impact of having no other Social Media apps to waste my time on.

I would not say that I necessarily disagree with nor hate Social Media, but seeing as it is now such a huge part of our lives I feel it is well worth observing the effects and influence it has on our modernistic ways. I have myself noticed the addictive tendencies of Social Media apps and how they constantly interfere with daily life, never really providing any sort of useful information or stimulating content.

I have also grown accustomed to the ‘Internet Coma’ which I have experienced a minimum of once a week for the past few years. These can occur at any time of day, in any position, and the worst thing about them is that you never fully realise how long you have been endlessly scrolling for. After half an hour to an hour of scrolling I often say aloud to myself “What the fuck am I doing? I need to do something, I’m wasting my life!” before scrolling for a further half an hour due to an unseen interview with that retired boxer what’s-his-name about his drug addiction in the early 90’s.

Gary has just received a video of a cat attacking a small child from his mate John. In the excitement of watching the video, Gary has missed his bus . . . still think social media is harmless?
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That’s the second worst thing about these ‘comas’: if you do not quickly snap out of the scrolling, you will soon forget all about your sudden realisation and continue to thumb away at your screen seemingly forevermore.

What irritates me about this is that we all know that we have an addiction to scrolling, and yet treat it as natural human development that we must give in to and not think about. It’s not like there isn’t another option? People say they wouldn’t be able to survive a day without checking Insta/FB/Snap, but would you really?

Think about the last time something you saw on any platform of Social Media had a lasting positive impact on your life. I cannot personally think of one memorable piece that I have watched/read/listened to recently. It is true that I may be looking at this cynically and from a position of bias; and so I want to know if anyone can actually pinpoint the last time they were stimulated for more than 2-3 minutes on Social Media (If you have been, please let me know in the comments).

The Dopamine factor has a huge part to play in our addiction to the screen, as I’m sure you, dear reader, are aware. We see a picture or video that we enjoy and our brains release the endorphin ‘Dopamine’, which stimulates our brains – but the level of endorphins released is just enough to make us want to search for more – much like the addictive & moreish effects of cocaine and other substances.

These small amounts of endorphins released can convince us that there is much more waiting just around the corner (or just below the screen). In this mindless state we can spend hours sucking up complete bullshit and never understanding what we are doing.

Grace has just received a picture of Gary in his new boxers and another cat video from John, whom she hardly knows. Someone is calling for her in Starbucks: “Grace, Grace! Large white mocha for Grace?!”, but she is yet to notice.
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What I have immediately noticed is that I find myself more frequently bored and searching for something to do; surely due to the lack of access to Social Media that I have afforded myself. However I believe that this is due to the fact that I have grown accustomed to the perks of this boredom killing machine, and I think with time I’ll find that I have more and more time on my hands to utilize productively instead of wasting time staring at a screen. Perhaps boredom, like hunger, is healthy to experience and can incentivise you to find new, more productive ways of killing time.

On another note, the idea of Social Media being utilised as a boredom killing vice could be seen as a positive. Even though you may not achieve anything, it can still be classified as a form of entertainment – in the same way that you could argue that you gain nothing from watching film/television, as they are first and foremost a form of entertainment.

Let’s see how it goes.

JG