A Justification for the Criminalization of Tobacco!

Don’t let the title fool you, I’m actually a supporter of drug legalization. However, the hypocrisy in this country has to be called out. As misguided as many may view my opinion as being, I’m of the belief that as adults, we should have the right to choose what we do or don’t put into our bodies. If it were up to me, all soft-drugs would be legalized or at the very least decriminalized. We live in a world where it’s acceptable to eat, drink, and smoke yourself to death, provided you do so on the legal, taxable substances. Make no mistake: the most dangerous thing about soft-drugs is getting caught with them. Taking the government view on these matters into consideration, I’m going to explore the legality of certain substances in order to truly highlight the blatant hypocrisy and to demonstrate that public safety is not the government’s concern.

Understanding the Law

Tobacco UK

image via Wikimedia

I’m from the UK, and so I’ll be composing this argument with the UK government in mind. Depending on the information and research available, I will occasionally focus on specific countries within the UK, mostly Scotland and England. It speaks volumes that we have to travel all the way back to 1971 in order to view the law controlling drugs in the UK.

The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) serves to classify illegal substances into one of three categories, known as the ABC system. ‘A’ represents the most harmful drugs and ‘C’ represents the least harmful (as far as illegal drugs are concerned). ‘B’ represents some form of arbitrary middle ground. Unlike many other countries, the UK does not attempt to clearly define the “entry requirements” for each class in the ABC system. As the parliamentary website states:

“The Misuse of Drugs Act did not specify why particular drugs were placed in Class A, B or C but did create an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to keep the classification of drugs under review.”

Cannabis has an interesting history within the UK’s ABC system. Originally a class B, it was reclassified as class C in 2004. However, it was moved back to class B in 2008 as a result of stronger strains becoming available and the potential connection this had to mental health issues. Yet around 7.2% of adults (between 16 and 59) have used the drug, which is around 2.4 million people.

Soft Drugs vs Hard Drugs

Tobacco UK

image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned, the UK does not divide its illegal substances into categories based upon the addictive qualities and overall harm of the drugs. This distinction leads to terms such as ‘soft drugs’ and ‘hard drugs’. These are incredibly vague and don’t have a set definition, which can confuse matters. Typically, ‘soft drugs’ is used to “describe drugs like cannabis or LSD which cannot result in physical dependency.” While the term ‘hard drug’ “usually refers to drugs that are seen to be more dangerous and more likely to cause dependency such as heroin and crack cocaine…”

So, why am I mentioning the terms at all? Despite the definitions being somewhat open, there is certainly a clear distinction between the two. One group can be used in moderation without negatively impacting the induvial or society to any great extent, the other, not so much. You don’t have to have seen Trainspotting to know that weed and psilocybin don’t really compete with the harm of heroin.

My argument is formed around this simple point of view: when we explore the reasons why certain drugs are illegal (soft drugs such as marijuana, psilocybin mushroom, and DMT) and legal (such as alcohol and tobacco) we find that the justifications for each are flimsy, at best. If safety is the government’s main cause for concern, surely that must mean that alcohol and tobacco are safe to use, right?

Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via World IP Review

The UK’s history with tobacco is a little strange. Having arrived in England in 1565, tobacco didn’t seem to take with the British public. King James I spoke out publicly on the matter, describing tobacco as:

“…loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain [and] dangerous to the lungs.”

However, it soon followed the common path that most drugs take: it became a medicine. During the plague, it was believed that tobacco smoke could protect people from “disease miasmas” (a poisonous vapour carrying disease that could be detected by its bad smell) (somewhat ironic). The connections between slavery and tobacco imports are widely known, and this was a major issue until machines took over in the late 1800s.

Anti-smoking campaigners were largely regarded as “eccentrics” and yet they are primarily responsible for the introduction of a clause in the Children’s Act in 1908 which made the sale of tobacco to those under the age of 16 illegal.

Despite a connection between ill-health and smoking being widely known, the supposed stress-relief provided by tobacco came with “health benefits” that would serve as a major selling point. Sound familiar? Only recently have the supposed health benefits of “a glass of wine a day” been shown to be inaccurate from a scientific standpoint.

In the 1950s, the first reports linking smoking to the formation of lung cancer were released. The government, very aware of the economic domino effect that would follow a decline in smoking, didn’t speak out on the matter until the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1970s that cigarette packaging included a health warning. In the 1980s, the risk associated with public smoking was raised, but again, it took until 2007 for the government to ban smoking in enclosed public places. It wasn’t until this same year that the government raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 18.

Is Smoking Harmful?

Tobacco UK

image via BBC

According to the Office for National Statistics, it is estimated that 15.1% of adults in the UK smoke cigarettes as of 2017. This number varies slightly between sources as Cancer Research suggests that around 19% of UK adults smoke. This would be around 9.4 million people (which is nearly double the entire population of Scotland). They also suggest that smoking is the “largest cause of cancer” in the UK, with it being responsible for around 15% of cancer victims. It’s also worth noting that the same website reports the significantly higher prevalence of smoking within poorer areas.

We can delve into these figures a little more. For example, we can consider the hospital admissions related to smoking. According to NHS England figures, in 2016/17 there was estimated to be 484,700 admissions attributable to smoking, which is around 4% of ALL hospital admissions.

The above graph is also from the NHS England website. As you can see, adults who had never smoked were more likely to report feeling healthier than those who were ex-smokers or current smokers.42% of non-smokers described themselves as being in ‘very good health’ compared to 26% of current-smokers. 11% of current-smokers described themselves as feeling in ‘bad or very bad health’ compared to only 5% of those who have never smoked.

It’s important for people to realise that tobacco carries a mental health impact as well. You’ll often hear discussions about other drugs and how they cause mental illness (such as marijuana), and yet the same types of studies show the exact same thing for tobacco consumption. More in-depth research paints a fuller picture of the impact of smoking on neurological processes being akin to that the government/media claim is the case for marijuana consumption.

Death by Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via TidatBase

Given that we’ve explored the general health implications tobacco quite clearly has, does it cause death? Of course it does! Throughout the UK, there is alarming number of preventable deaths each year as a result of smoking. In Scotland, the number is 10,000 (one fifth of all deaths), in Wales the number is 5,500, in Northern Ireland its 2,300, and in England it’s a staggering 78,000 death. Every year in the UK, 95,800 people are dying from a drug that the government deems safe enough to be legal.

When it comes to passive smoking, which is arguably more horrifying given that nobody chooses to be a passive smoker, we find some pretty similar results. Research suggests that around 11,000 deaths in the UK each year are the result of passive smoke inhalation, with 20% of these being from smoking at the workplace and 80% being from home.

The impact of passive smoking is most noticeable in children, who rarely have a choice as to whether or not to be in the vicinity of smokers. Cancer Research suggests that there is overwhelming evidence to support that idea that second-hand smoke can lead to lung cancer (among other types), heart disease, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and more. Children who live in a household where at least 1 person smokes are more likely to develop asthma, chest infections, meningitis, ear infections, and coughs and colds.

Smoking and Pregnancy

Tobacco UK

image via OPTO

One shocking statistic relates to pregnant women. According to NHS England, 10.8% of mothers were smoking at the time of delivery. Why does this matter? During pregnancy, it isn’t just the health of the mother that is a cause for concern. Research suggests that smoking during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the child’s neurodevelopment. It has been suggested that this is a result of the carbon monoxide contained in tobacco smoke which limits the oxygen available for the baby’s brain. Smoking during pregnancy can also result in tissue damage which could include lung or brain development issue, or the development of a cleft lip.

Even pregnant women who simply inhale smoke passively (as well as those who smoke directly, obviously) are likely to give birth to a child with weaker lungs, which leads to a major increase in potential health problems in later life.

The negative health impact that smoking has isn’t limited to the development of the child though. When a mother smokes, she is more likely to enter premature labour. Given that the leading cause of death, disability, and disease among new-borns, is preterm birth, this is a huge cause for concern. This issue includes passive smokers. Mothers who smoke (either directly or passively) are more likely to give birth to a low-weight child, which typically has long-term health implications.

Even if the labour and birth seem to go smoothly, babies whose mother smoked during pregnancy or who smoke near the baby after birth are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This goes above and beyond choosing to consume a drug. This is quite clearly an epidemic that is impacting the lives of those who haven’t even been born yet! What say do they get in the matter?

Cost

Tobacco UK

image via Wallpaper Up

Since we’ve already established that widespread death and disease hasn’t been enough of an incentive to outright ban tobacco smoking, perhaps money is a better approach. The problem we have here is that the tobacco industry contributes around £12 billion in tax each year which is arguably the main reason that the government would never consider making the substance illegal. But how much does it cost?

Smoking costs NHS Scotland (a public body that gets its funding from the government) as much as £300 million each year, which in the face of £12 billion is barely a drop of water in the ocean. In England, this figure is as high as £2 billion though, which certainly begins to raise the cost.

There are other costs to take into consideration that go beyond health. For example, early death due to cigarettes causes an employee’s company to lose manpower, the costs of cleaning up cigarette butts and packaging, putting out fires caused by cigarettes, the loss of time (including in hospitals) of the extra breaks that smokers typically take, not to mention the lost time when people get ill as a result of smoking-related illnesses. When you add up all the costs of smoking, you find that it comes to around £14 billion, according to Policy Exchange.

Addiction

Tobacco UK

image via ECigarette Reviewed

The final point I want to make relates to the addictive nature of tobacco (or more accurately: nicotine). I discussed earlier that the ABC system for drug classification ignores the addictiveness of drugs and instead focuses on a more arbitrary approach based on the opinions of people who aren’t carrying out any significant research on the matter.

Most smokers would like to quit, yet only around 6% of smokers are able to quit each year. On top of that, it takes most smokers multiple attempts to successfully quit, if at all. Cigarettes contain a number of different chemicals that a person can become addicted to, but the main one is a result of the nicotine and its effect on dopamine, which ultimately results in the rewiring of neural pathways until what we consider to be addiction kicks in.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, withdrawal symptoms for nicotine can include:

 “…irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite. These withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours after the last cigarette, quickly driving people back to tobacco use…withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days of the last cigarette smoked and usually subside within a few weeks. For some people, however, symptoms may persist for months”

When it comes to addiction, it’s difficult to compare one drug to another. One study from the 1990s by Henningfield and Benowitz used a set criterion for determining addiction (which included aspects such as withdrawal, tolerance, dependence, and intoxication) to rank the most addictive drugs. When it comes to withdrawal, nicotine was tied in 3rd place with cocaine, beaten only by heroin (number 2) and alcohol (number 1). Nicotine ranked first for dependence and 2nd for tolerance.

Results from more recent versions of this study support its conclusions. Other sources place nicotine as the 5th most addictive substance on the Earth, behind barbiturates, cocaine, alcohol, and heroin. The New York Times even wrote an article in 1987 about nicotine being harder to quit that heroin.

In Conclusion

Tobacco UK

image via The Truth Revolution

We often hear that you can’t compare one drug to another, which is arguably true as each drug varies from another in a number of ways. Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK which can land you up to 5 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for possession, and up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for supply/production. Could we compare it to tobacco? In several ways, yes. One causes undeniable mental and physical health issues which leads to thousands upon thousands of deaths every single year (including newborns and children). One costs the government and taxpayer and estimated £14 billion per year, which it doesn’t cover with the £12 billion in returns in tax. And one is legal and readily available in most shops to anyone over the age of 18. The other is cannabis!

The continued outlawing of marijuana and its consumers is largely a result of the government’s failed “war on drugs”. News articles use intimidating and misleading headlines to scare the populous into believing that cannabis causes mental illness (when using correlation as a justification for concluded causation) and yet ignore the far more relevant and blatantly obvious connection between tobacco, mental and physical illness, and ultimately death.

I can see no real justification for the continued legalization of this substance while still outlawing recreation marijuana use. Tobacco is addictive beyond measure, it’s harmful beyond what could ever be justified, and it costs more money to the government and the country than it makes. If life, health, and money are all being neglected for the sake of keeping a harmful substance legal, then what possible precedent could any government have for outlawing other, less harmful substances?


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts on the legality of tobacco, particularly when compared to marijuana? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

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Get your Politics Out of My Movies!

When I’d originally started this post, it was titled ‘Ghostbusters 3 is NOT a Feminist Issue!’ I was simply going to discuss why forcing politics of any kind onto a movie (when the movie itself isn’t political) doesn’t do anyone any favours: fanbase and creators included. However, I rather unfortunately found that one my favourite movie franchises has been invaded by the same political self-righteousness. So, I’ve been forced to tackle the entire reason that politics and movies shouldn’t be forced together. I’m going to start with Ghostbusters 3 and then go on to discuss Captain Marvel and the future of the MCU.

Back to Sequels and Reboots

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Science Fiction

I’m sick to death of having to discuss sequels and reboots. However, with Ghostbuster 3 being announced, I have to revisit the topic. I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: Ghostbusters should never have become political. Out of all the movies that have ever been made, why would anyone pick Ghostbusters as the target of anti-male propaganda? I’ve written on this topic rather extensively (unfortunately). So, if you want to know my opinions on the Ghostbusters reboot both before and after its release, then by all means click on the corresponding links. I wouldn’t encourage it though. This topic is already saturated beyond belief.

So, what has sparked me to write, once again, about the political issues surrounding the Ghostbusters franchise? Well, with the release of Ghostbusters 3 being announced, certain individuals feel that the movie carries anti-women sentiments, which is hilarious given how blatantly anti-male publicity was for the reboot. I’m going to summarise the issue before sharing my own view on the matter.

To cut a long story short: Ghostbusters is NOT a feminist issue. It never should have been in the first place, but it certainly isn’t now that we’ve moved away from the disgraceful 2016 reboot.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Forbes

For any of you confused by the Ghostbusters franchise, here is a brief history: In 1984, the first Ghostbusters movie was released. In 1989, a sequel (imaginatively titled “Ghostbusters II) was released. In 2016, some genius decided to reboot the franchise. This reboot takes place in a separate universe from the originals i.e. the events of the original movies didn’t take place within the 2016 movie universe (that will be important in a moment). In 2020, a sequel to the second Ghostbusters movie (1989) will be released, likely starring most of the original cast and following on from the original stories. It’s likely to be a “passing of the torch” movie and will apparently star 2 males and 2 females as the new, young leads.

So, this brings us to Leslie Jones who starred in the 2016 reboot as Patty Tolan. Mrs Jones is apparently outraged and recently tweeted the following:

Ghostbuster-Reboot-Leslie-Jones-Reaction.jpg

For starters, why bring Trump into this? Suddenly, making a sequel (which as I’ve mentioned will have a 50/50 gender split anyway) to a movie about 4 men a “Trump move”? I understand that she’s trying to label the move sexist, but that brings us to our next issue. Why is it a “dick move” to make a sequel but it’s not a dick move to reboot the franchise, switch the gender of every character, and turn the movie into nothing more than a punch in the balls (quite literally, if you’ve seen the reboot)? Surely if anyone made a “dick move” it’s the people behind the all-female reboot, right?

Another aspect of Jones’ Tweet relates to the reboot not counting. She says, “We dint count”. Well, did the original cast not count when you made the 2016 movie? Secondly, the reboot was an absolute flop. You can attribute that to sexist white male misogynists if you like, but the truth of the matter is that the movie lost something like $70 million. Why the fuck would any sane person drag that shit show back for round 2? If you remove yourself from the original franchise, you can’t then be angry when the original franchise continues without you.

Ultimately…

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

What this all boils down to is nonsensical political outrage. These days, people will grasp hold of anything that allows them to feel and share outrage, at anyone, anything, or anywhere. It is a trend that is spreading like wildfire.

When researching aspects of this post, I ended up on the most weighted ScreenRant article ever, which opened with: “Ghostbusters: “Leslie Jones Is (Understandably) Mad There’s a New Reboot”, before going on to state “However, the 2016 reboot was plagued all through its production and marketing by certain folks who weren’t happy with a Ghostbusters movie starring all women.”

This sort of writing annoys me because the hate towards the reboot was NOT because it was an all-female cast. That was an aspect, a very minor aspect, but it wasn’t the fact that the cast was female, it was the fact that A) The movie was anti-male, B) The movie claimed to be some sort of feminist breakthrough and marketed itself as such, and C) Even from the trailers, it was clear that the movie was not going to do the originals justice. I can’t say this enough but Annihilation is one of my favourite movies to have come out in the last few years and it has an all-female cast. Yet people like Leslie Jones and others never raise that example when holding white men responsible for their piece of shit movies flopping!

Ghostbusters 3

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Geek Tyrant

When it comes to Ghostbusters 3, what are my thoughts? Well, I think it’s a mistake. But I think it’s a better idea that a reboot. Why? When it comes to reboots, particularly when handled like Ghostbusters, you essentially scrap the original story and replace it with a modern take. People don’t like to watch their favourite movies being recycled to suit a modern audience. Having recently re-watched the original Ghostbusters, Bill Murray portrays an incredibly sexist and inappropriate Dr Venkman. Men don’t watch that nowadays and think to themselves “ahhhh, so THAT’S how you get the woman!” Regardless, if you released a movie that glorified and laughed at such behaviour nowadays, it would be slated by certain groups.

Sequels can encounter a similar problem, but this usually relates to continuity. If you look at Star Wars or Jurassic World, the biggest issues they faced involved remaining true to the original movies. Another example would be Jumanji. Welcome to the Jungle is sort of a sequel and a reboot, but it manages to make the movie different enough that you don’t really compare it to the original, but it isn’t so different that you don’t feel a connection between the two.

I’d love to see the original Ghostbusters cast back on the big-screen, but unless the can find the right balance between the original and modern-day movies, then it’s going to fail.

Captain Marvel and Brie Larson

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Adventures in Poor Taste

Sadly, this bring me to Marvel. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll find that I’ve written about Marvel more than anything else. I love discussing my hopes and concerns, my theories, and many other topics.

Prior to the release of the Captain Marvel trailer, I wasn’t that excited for the movie. Not because it’s a female character, not because I’m a sexist, misogynistic, pro-Trump, anti-LGBT demon, but simply because I don’t know the character. I wasn’t excited for many other MCU movies and ended up loving them e.g. Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Similarly, I was excited for other MCU movies and ended up having my expectations crushed e.g. Doctor Strange and Age of Ultron.

However, when the trailer was released, I found myself feeling more excited. The Skrull concept and being able to see a young Nick Fury in action seemed compelling. Not to mention that I’ve enjoyed Brie Larson in other movies, so I’ve always looked forward to seeing her performance within the MCU, even if I wasn’t all that excited about the movie itself.

Fuck the Fans!

Ghostbusters and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

Fuck…I can’t even bring myself to write about this nonsense. So, Brie Larson made a speech at the Crystal + Lucy Awards. To sum it up: “if you’re a white male and like Marvel movies but don’t enjoy Captain Marvel, then fuck you!” Larson displayed a complete lack of understanding for how the world works. Apparently, the fact that 60% of movie reviewers are white males is evidence of the patriarchy controlling and manipulating female-led films to fail. Larson’s solution? Equality of outcome: she wants to force non-white movie reviewers into the review role, along with more white females, in order to balance things out.

This, of course, ignores the fact that ANYONE can review movies. Want to write a blog about movies? WordPress is free and easy to use. I happen to write reviews for my own blog and MovieBabble, a movie review site that takes on anyone who loves to write about movies. ANYONE can start a YouTube account and review movies, it’s free and easy to do. ANYONE can review on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, both of which are frequently referenced by people such as Mindy Kailing, Brie Larson, and others.

I’m not sure what percentage of MCU fans are white males, but I’d imagine that it’s a majority or at least close to it. According to one website, a survey carried out in 2018 found that males make up the majority of MCU viewers within the US. Now, it’s one thing to call out to fans of different demographics. If Larson has said “we need more women in these roles” or “we need more women to watch these movies” then there wouldn’t be an issue but saying that white male critics can essentially go fuck themselves, just alienates a large percentage of MCU fans who have enjoyed the franchise for A FUCKING DECADE prior to Larson’s appearance.

Is it really any surprise that the projected box office figures for Captain Marvel have already by dropped below 50% since the initial projections? People don’t want their favourite franchises (i.e. the MCU) being combined with the individual political ideological ramblings of one ill-informed individual (i.e. Brie Larson).

There is always a backlash to stuff like this, and we’re seeing it with Captain Marvel. According to Complex, “Misogynists Swarming ‘Captain Marvel’ on Rotten Tomatoes Weeks Before Release”. Of course, as is usually the case with instances such as this, they are ignoring the real issue. This has NOTHING to do with the fact that Captain Marvel is a female. It has EVERYTHING to do with Brie Larson launching an attack against fans.

Black Panther

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Marvel

There is a right way to bring politics into a movie, and it isn’t by alienating other demographics. Let’s consider Black Panther. This is a movie that had an almost entirely black cast, and as such it was hailed as being a step in the right direction for the representation of minorities within Hollywood movies.

On the run up to its release, I didn’t once see Chadwick Boseman or Michael B. Jordan stepping up to a mic to say “listen, if this film doesn’t do well, then it’s white people who are to blame”. The movie itself even tackled race issues within the world, but it did so in a manner that wasn’t just sticking a middle finger up at other groups and actually made sense within the movie’s storyline.

I’m not petty enough to not see a movie based on the actions of one member of the cast, but I’d imagine that there are people out there who are. Larson is a classic example of a social justice hypocrite. Does Larson really believe that decade-long fans of the MCU are going to hate a movie purely because the lead is a strong female character? The only reason I will hate Captain Marvel, is if it’s a shit movie. If it IS a shit movie, I’m still going to watch Endgame and Far From Home and other MCU movies!

My MCU Prediction

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

I’m almost done ranting, but I just want to touch on one issue that I can see happening over the next few years. Endgame, which will be the movie to follow Captain Marvel, marks the end of the road for many character arcs. Tony Stark, Iron-Man, Thor, and others may not die, but they won’t be returning in the same capacity after this movie. Here lies my worry: Fans have spent 10 years following these characters: we’ve watched them evolve, face increasingly-difficult challenges, and we’ll see them leave. For many, Endgame will mark the end of a story rather than the end of a chapter.

How will the MCU group the remaining heroes together? Will there be an Avengers 5? In my opinion, Endgame should be the last Avengers movie. Let’s face it, the Guardians won’t be returning for a 5th Avengers movie. So, the next group movie should be different, and it should be new, otherwise, people will get very bored very fast! We can’t just see all available MCU heroes regroup every 3 years, particularly when the MVPs will be gone. Why is this a problem?

Well, as we’ve seen with Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, the wage gap, and other such movies/ideas, people have a tendency to focus on a connection while ignoring all other factors. You didn’t like Ghostbusters? Well, you must be a female-hating Trump supporter because there’s NO way you just didn’t like the shitty reboot and its horrifically matched cast and slanted political agenda!

When we say goodbye to Tony Stark, Thor, Loki, Steve Rodgers, Bucky, and maybe more (or maybe less, I’m not sure how many actors will step down after Endgame), the viewings of MCU movies is undoubtedly going to take a knock. My worry is that people will blame this on women-hating racists, rather than exploring the real reasons. Then, the MCU will become more politicized and ultimately destroyed.

In Summary

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Stream Play TV

In my opinion, there shouldn’t have been a Ghostbusters reboot in the first place! I’m all for a sequel, provided it isn’t just a reboot disguised as a sequel, but rebooting any classic typically fails to do it justice. Look at Jumanji: the reboot/sequel was entertaining, but it just wasn’t the same as the original. Too many things change over the course of several decades and so its impossible to capture the original movies. For example, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Blade Runner, and of course Ghostbusters.

Global politics have changed, societal attitudes and perceptions have changed, actors have died, and a million other variables can be considered as to why making a reboot/sequel to classic movies a couple of decades after the originals will never work. Do you think a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Fight Club would succeed if rebooted within the next couple of decades? These aren’t even good examples and they still don’t work!

When it comes to movies that are changing within our modern society, we have to remember that people aren’t watching these movies to support a political agenda. I watch Marvel movies because I love the characters and losing myself in a universe where people with superpowers exist is entertaining. I don’t watch the movies because I want to support Brie Larson’s incoherent babblings!


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts? Is Brie Larson forcing her political views into the MCU? Is it unreasonable to do a Ghostbusters 3? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

 

Atlantis: Myth, History, or Both?

Atlantis: myth or history? Growing up, I believed that Atlantis was entirely mythological and held no place in history. As a child, I loved the Disney movie ‘Atlantis’ which explored the Ancient City with its advanced knowledge and wisdom that was lost after a disaster. As it happens, I seem to have been drawn to this idea of an advanced civilisation that was lost, either to a natural or man-made disaster. Assassin’s Creed would be one example of such a storyline. Graham Hancock’s work would be an example of something more academic.

But today I’m going to explore the idea that Atlantis not only existed, but its footprint can still be seen today. Whenever I’m drawing from someone else’s research, I will provide a link to the source.

What is Atlantis?

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Science Rumors

It’s possible, all be it unlikely, that you haven’t even heard of Atlantis. The origins from the story of the Ancient City are often traced back to Plato’s dialogues: ‘Timaeus and Critias’, which were published around 360BCE.

“Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent…”

“…Fifty stadia (6 miles/9km) from the coast was a mountain that was low on all sides…the central island itself was five stadia in diameter (0.57miles/0.92km).”

“But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.”

Solon and Egypt

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via The Famous People

It is possible that Atlantis is entirely fictional, meant only as an allegory for the stories of Plato. In Timaeus, a few passages stand out as being relevant to what I’m going to discuss:

“…if Solon had only…completed the tale which he brought with him from Egypt…”

“I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon and related to us.”

“And whatever happened…they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples. Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves.” (1)

Arguably, this is simply a part of the narrative that Plato was creating, but we must consider Solon if we are to explore the origins of the Atlantis legend further. Solon was an Athenian statesman and poet who was born in 636BCE and died in 558BCE. According to Herodotus (484BCE-425BCE), a historian, Solon travelled to Egypt (2). As we’ll soon see, this journey fits in with Plato’s tales.

It is said that during his time in Egypt, he visited with Pharaohs and priests, learning their history and philosophy. According to Plutarch, who was a much later biographer/historian, Solon visited with two priests in particular: Sonchis of Sais and Psenophis of Heliopolis (3). Seis is an Ancient Egyptian town that no longer exists, with very little trace remaining. Why is it important?

Seis, Egypt

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Jean CLaude Golvin

The Goddess of Seis was Neith. There is a connection here that I am willing to chalk up to coincidence, however, I still find it interesting. The Goddess Neith was believed to appear in many forms, but one of her most common non-human depictions is as a cow, connecting her to Hathor or Mehet Weret whose name literally means “Great Flood” (4). The importance of a flood within the story of Atlantis will become clear later.

The worship of Neith dates as far back as the Pre-Dynastic Period of Egypt (6000-3150BCE) and it is said that Sais was the ancient birthplace of the cult of Neith which allegedly dates back as far as the First Dynasty of Egypt (3100-3050), with Sais being officially formed in around 3000BCE (5).

Interestingly, Diodorus, Plato, and Herodotus all compared the Goddess Neith to Athena. Diodorus even connected Sais to Athena in another way: stating that while all Greek cities were destroyed during a great flood, Egyptian cities such as Sais survived.

Unfortunately, no traces of the town’s ancient routes from before 1100BCE have survived. This is due to the farmers recycling materials: anything that wasn’t currently serving a function was demolished and used.

Back to Atlantis

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Ancient Patriarchs

So, now that we have an idea of the origins of Atlantis, we can get back on track to exploring whether it exists. Plato stated that Atlantis existed 9,000 years before his time, so about 11,500 years before now. This just so happens to put Atlantis and its potential destruction at the end of the last Ice Age, which ended very rapidly and led to global flooding, possibly due to the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis.

This hypothesis proposes that one or several asteroids impacted or burst within the Earth’s atmosphere between 12,500 and 11,500 years ago. The idea was dismissed due to the lack of an impact crater, something that has only recently been discovered under the ice of Greenland.

Atlantis translates from Ancient Greek as ‘island of Atlas’, referring of course to the God of the same name. The Ancient Greeks believed that Atlas had been condemned by Zeus to stand at the Western edge of the world (6).

Why is this relevant? Well, we must consider what the edge of the world was to the Ancient Greeks. I’m going to be referencing several maps throughout this article, the first of which is by Herodotus. First, let’s recall a passage from Timaeus:
“…and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles…”

b9ba39fc182a170ccffbd0594164ec89

image via Pinterest

As you can see on this map, the Atlas Mountains (M. Atlas) stretch across Northwest Africa. This map is from 450BCE and represents the known world according to Herodotus. You will see that just below the Pillars of Heracles (between Spain and Africa) are the Atlas Mountains, and below that sits ‘Atlantes’.

This could reference the name for the top part of the river, but as this is the Nile (named Nilus on this map), it could also be the name of the area or people, much in the same way that ‘Garamantes’ is used on this map to describe a “very great nation”.

Just to demonstrate the timeline here: Solon visited Egypt prior to 558BCE, this map was created in 450BCE, and Plato didn’t publish any mention of Atlantis until 360BCE.

Exploring Maps

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Ordnance Survey

The location of Atlantes/Atlantis, as described by Herodotus on his map, is important when we consider maps that appear much later in time. There are two in particular that I’d like to explore: The World Map by al-Idrisi (1154CE) and The Piri Reis map (1513CE).

The map created by Muhammad al-Idrisi (sometimes spelt as al-Edrisi), known as the ‘Tabula Rogeriana’, is considered the most accurate map of the world to have existed within medieval times (7). Al-Idrisi compiled a collection of maps from those brought by Norman voyagers, as well as those held in Sicily, in order to create his version.

tabularogeriana_upside-down

image via Alrahalah

Above is a picture of the full map, but below is a zoomed in aspect with a rather bizarre detail. Keep in mind that Herodotus described Atlantes as being south of the Atlas Mountains.

capture2

image via Alrahalah

Another interesting map was made much later, in 1513. Similarly to the al-Idrisi map, the Piri Reis map was created using a number of other maps, somewhere between 20 and 34. He used Ptolemaic maps, the Arabic map, 4 maps from Portugal, and even the map created by Christopher Columbus. It’s also believed that Piri Reis used maps that had been moved to Constantinople from the Library of Alexandria centuries earlier. These ancient maps have led many to believe that Antarctica had been explored long before originally believed.

pirireis

image via Ancient Origins

As you can see, this map shows parts of Europe, Africa, and South America, as well as Antarctica. The general accuracy of these maps has been confirmed in the modern day. If we zoom in, we can find one area of great interest: you’ll notice it circle in red. A city surrounded by water.

InkedPiri_reis_world_map-e1379556898352_LI.jpg

image via Ancient Origins

Eye of the Sahara

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Intrepid Travel

So, what does all this mean? Well, it suggests the location of Atlantis and explores the origins of the legend, offering a possible explanation for why it hasn’t been discovered: it has long since been destroyed. As such, it would appear on earlier maps (such as those used by al-Idrisi and Piri Reis), either as a ruin or possible even a city that was rebuilt on the ruins of what was once Atlantis.

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Google Maps

So here you can see the same rough area that I’ve pointed to on the other maps. I’ve just taken screenshots from Google Maps and so I can only apologise for the unprofessional appearance of these. If we switch to the satellite view, you will get a better idea of what I’m talking about and why I’m referencing Google Maps.

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Google Maps

If you look from the upper right corner of the image, through Mauritania, and down to Noukchott, you can see that the sand appears to have been swept away, almost as if a large body of water was either permanently or temporarily flowing over the land. However, there is another detail here that is of much higher importance: notice the circular disk just above the ‘Ma’ in ‘Mauritania’?

Let’s take a closer look!

capture5

image via Google Maps

The Richat Structure

The Richat Structure, which also goes by the name ‘Eye of the Sahara’, Eye of Africa’, and ‘Guelb er Richát’, is described as a geological formation that has existed since before the emergence of homo sapiens. The structure is essentially on a dome of magma which is causing it to be pushed upwards in a similar manner to what is currently happening with Antarctica.

So far, no major archaeological digs have taken place in or around the structure, but some smaller digs have unearthed many Acheulean artefacts. This is the term given to the manufacture of stone tools by a typically non-homosapien species such as homo erectus. There have also been fish skeletons and even whale bones discovered, which means that water flowed over this area recently enough for these remains to not have fossilized.

However, while searching around the area on Google Maps, I did notice something. This was already mentioned by BrightInsight, whose videos on this topic are deeply informative (he connected almost all of these dots), but I happened to stumble across it thanks to somebody marking it as “unknown structure”.

capture6

image via Google Maps

I can only imagine (without any knowledge of archaeology) that this structure is modern, certainly within the last 1,000 years. But I’m not basing that on anything. So, if this is the location of Atlantis then why aren’t there more buildings or structures? If we assume that Atlantis was washed away by a flood or destroyed by an earthquake, these are only minor details when compared to the fact that it would have existed 11,500 years ago.

To put it in perspective, if humanity died out today, it is estimated that the Hoover Dam would be one of the longest lasting structures. Estimates put its lifespan at around 10,000 years (although its turbines would stop after just two years) (8). But how long would it last if an earthquake brought the structure to the ground or an immense flood caused it to crumble?

It’s likely that given the various levels within the Richat structure, that it would have formed natural rings of water and land. This could easily have been adapted to become a city for a civilisation.

In Summary

Atlantis Richat Structure

image via Letter Box D

So, do I believe that Atlantis was in this location? Did it exist at all? Frustratingly, we’ll probably never know. I think that the body of evidence that suggests that early humans are not exactly how we once believed them to be is expanding every day. We’re learning more about our past and one day we might have a much clearer idea.

For now, I think that it’s certainly something interesting and fun to consider and explore. I think that the worst thing we can do, is turn down an idea before exploring it simply because we’ve been led to believe that the notion is ridiculous. Was Atlantis a civilisaiton that powered flying vehicles with crystals like in the Disney movie? I highly doubt it! Does that mean we should rule out its existence entirely? Absolutely not!

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if Atlantis was an advanced civilisation of some description that allowed smart minds to grow and prosper? After all, the Ancient Egyptians seemed to have access to some sort of technology that we don’t fully understand. The Pyramids of Giza certainly weren’t tombs and we don’t even know exactly when they and the Sphinx were built. Maybe a group of survivors of the Great Flood passed this information and knowledge on, leading to some of the flood myths that exist around the world, varying from culture to culture.


Thanks for reading! Do you believe that Atlantis could have existed? Could it have been in Africa all along? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!


1) http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html
2) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D30
3) http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Solon*.html
4) https://www.ancient.eu/Neith/
5) https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/pharaonic-royal-city-sais-leaves-few-clues-researchers-002352
6) https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/atlas/
7) https://archive.org/stream/historyofmoorish03scotuoft#page/461/mode/1up
8) https://delzottoproducts.com/2017/03/15/long-will-take-concrete-hoover-dam-cure/

‘Outlaw King’: A Missed Opportunity to Remove ‘Braveheart’ as THE Scottish Wars of Independence Movie!

If you haven’t seen Outlaw King yet and wish to read a spoiler-free review rather than an analysis, click here!

I’m sure most of you have heard of Braveheart while less of you have probably heard of Outlaw King. The latter is a recent Netflix movie that in essence continues from where Braveheart ends: Robert the Bruce and his battle for Scottish Independence. The problem that many people face is that there knowledge of Scottish history is lacking. Don’t get me wrong, that’s completely understandable for those of you who don’t have any ties to the country. However, the problem is doubled by the fact that Braveheart is often referred to as a historical movie. As I’ve said before, Braveheart is only beats Inglorious Basterds by a small margin as far as historical accuracy is concerned. So let’s briefly discuss why that is the case and how it relates to Outlaw King!

Click here to check out the trailer!

The Flaws of Braveheart

Outlaw King

image via History vs Movies

I don’t want to spend too much time picking away at the inaccuracies of Braveheart. If you’re interested in reading a more thorough explanation then feel free to check out my article on the matter. However, I am going to briefly summarise some of the more major deviations from historical fact. I feel like bullet points will suffice:

 

  • 14th century Scots did not paint their faces blue. This is something that the Picts did many centuries earlier but not during the Wars of Independence.
  • 14th century Scots didn’t wear kilts, particularly into battle. Kilts, while being associated with Scotland, didn’t become popular for another 500 years, around 1720.
  • Edward I didn’t die before William Wallace. In fact, they didn’t even die in the same year: Wallace was killed on August 23rd 1305 while Edward died on July 7th
  • Prime nocta (the idea that English nobles would sleep with Scottish women on the night of their wedding) didn’t exist, or certainly there isn’t any evidence to suggest that it did.
  • The Scottish Wars of Independence didn’t start because Wallace wanted to avenge his wife. While legend does speak of a Marion Braidfute, there isn’t any supporting evidence of her existence.

These are just a few of the major points that I wanted to bring up. Why are they important? It’s long been my opinion that when it comes to matters like this, the truth is far more interesting than fiction. Braveheart robs the Scottish people of their motivation to rebel against the English crown: it wasn’t over some lassie, it was because they had finally grown tired of being oppressed and essentially enslaved.

I can give a pretty good example of moments where fact beats fiction. The hanged, drawn and quartered scene in Braveheart is pretty brutal, right? Would it shock you to learn that the true events are in fact much worse? Wallace was stripped naked, dragged 6 miles by horse, had fruit, stones, and shit thrown at him, was hanged until he almost died, had his cock and balls cut off, his intestines were then pulled out of his body, he had to watch as his intestines were set on fire, had his heart removed, all before finally being beheaded. His body parts were then scatted across the country as a warning to any would-be rebels.

Outlaw King

Outlaw King

image via Den of Geek

Outlaw King begins just before the ending of Braveheart. The nobles of Scotland have accepted defeat and have made an arrangement with King Edward of England whereby they will return to their lands and begin paying taxes again. At this point in time, Wallace is in hiding and hasn’t been captured by the English. The movie demonstrates a really important aspect of history: The Scottish Wars of Independence were initially unsuccessful not because of the English, but because of the divide between Scottish nobles and their desperation to wear the crown. This is something that Braveheart does touch upon. However, Outlaw King also highlights the divide between the common people: many are sick of war but most are desperate to make the English pay.

 

There are many things that Outlaw King does perfectly that I simply couldn’t criticize it for. For starters, the attire worn by the characters is spot on in relation to what people wore in the 14th century. Chris Pine was OK; I’m still on the fence about his performance. However, Aaron-Taylor Johnson was the star of this movie, in my opinion. He plays James Douglas A.K.A The Black Douglas and he does it incredibly well. I was also impressed by both their Scottish accents which was one of my major worries when I heard they’d be starring in this movie.

Another aspect that I loved was that this movie plays on real emotions. Braveheart makes up nonsense for drama and effect but most of the emotional connections within Outlaw King are based on truth. For example, the deaths of Robert the Bruce’s brothers, the capture of his wife, the stabbing of John Comyn, the motivations of James Douglas, all of these things are true. These moments in the movie feel powerful and I have to congratulate the writers, director, and cast for that.

Similarly, the movie really makes you feel like you’re one of the people in 14th century Scotland. The death of Wallace fills you with rage, betrayal at the hands of your own countrymen fills you with hate, and the appearance of allies fills you with hope.

However…

Outlaw King

image via Choice.NPR

Unfortunately, despite being on the path to success, Outlaw King makes a few mistakes that really lower its value as a historical movie. Personally, I have no idea why these flaws weren’t noticed prior to filming but I play no role within the industry and so can’t comment on the process. The first issue is one scene in particular. I’m going to put it in a separate paragraph so you can avoid it if you don’t want to hear spoilers. The other is the ending of the movie. Well, not so much the ending but rather the content that they chose to include in the 2nd half. So let’s explore each of these and see how they could have been improved to make a GREAT movie. We’ll start with the latter of the two. Don’t worry, this one won’t contain any spoilers.

 

The Ending

Outlaw King

image via Film Goblin

I’m not actually going to discuss how the movie ends, but I am going to explore why it lacked flare. Outlaw King is a very different, and more intimate, movie than Braveheart. We’ve all seen Mel Gibson charging into many battles as the blue-faced William Wallace and so that’s almost what we expect in Outlaw King. However, as the name suggests, Robert the Bruce was an outlaw and during the start of his campaign he didn’t have massive battles in the same manner as Wallace. Instead, we see a more covert and tactical side to his attacks. I personally found these to be incredibly entertaining.

However, towards the end we needed a major battle scene and what the movie gives us just doesn’t feel like that. As I said in another post when reviewing this movie, the ending feels anticlimactic and inconclusive. When it ends, we get text across the screen which explains how events developed afterwards. I compared this to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ending with “…and then Frodo took the ring to Mordor and destroyed it”. That’s essentially what happens with Outlaw King. The set up is perfect but they don’t give us that all-important ending.

I think there were two ways to solve this problem. The first would have been to extend the movie’s run time to maybe 2 hours and 30 minutes. All we needed was one final battle, one major victory that demonstrated where the events of the movie led to. The other option would be to scrap the battle we get and replace it with a battle that occurred later in time. Alternatively, you could do both. Let’s explore the other issue I have with Outlaw King. This next paragraph will be comprised entirely of spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Spoilers!

Outlaw King

image via Roger Ebert

In the final battle, at Loudoun Hill, the Scottish army is victorious and the English are retreating. Of course not all of them, not yet. Edward II rises up from the mud to try and kill Robert the Bruce. We all knew a scene like this was coming because they foreshadowed it at the start in the cheesiest possible way (which now that I think about it was the only other major flaw of this movie). We then watch as Edward tries desperately to kill Robert, failing miserably each time. He then starts crying, is sick, and runs away. Why would the Scots let him leave? Robert the Bruce knows that the English have his wife and child and yet he lets the best bargaining chip he could possibly have escape?

 

You also have men there whose family and friends have been killed through the orders of Edward II and his father. Yet none of them try to kill him, seriously? I was fully enjoying this movie right up until this moment and then I felt like the experience shattered. It’s like if you were meditating and you’d reached this great space, then your friend grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you violently.

Final Thoughts

Outlaw King

image via Hollywood Reporter

In summary, Outlaw King most definitely had the potential to be a better movie that Braveheart. From my point of view, it still is. The fact that is stays closer to the real version of events automatically makes it a far more interesting portrayal of Scottish history. I also liked that this movie had a dirtier feel to it: characters are flawed, they aren’t miraculously saved, there are more defeats than victories, and even though the romance in Outlaw King is still a bit over the top, it feels a lot more realistic. The movie also managed to have some incredibly hilarious moments that didn’t feel remotely out of place. Where it lacks relates largely to the ending. Braveheart ends with you wanting to scream “FRREEEEEDOMM!” whereas Outlaw King just doesn’t have that effect, despite setting the emotion up perfectly.


Thanks for reading! What did you think of Outlaw King? Does it compare to Braveheart? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Finding Happiness in Work and Avoiding Deceit!

With the population of the planet nearing 8 billion people, it makes sense that finding a job you’re truly passionate about is going to become more and more challenging. After all, the more people who roam the world, the more competition there is for any given job. Working a job you hate can make your life feel truly miserable: what’s the point of working if you aren’t happy? One thing I’ve found recently, while meandering my way through the job jungle, is that most jobs suck because you’re required to behave in a manner that is ultimately not entirely moral. This post also gives me an opportunity to rant about my most recent job and warn people of its entirely sketchy nature!

The Psychic Company

image via Clyde Fitch Report

So I’m going to start off with the best example of what I’m referring to. This section will serve as a rant but also as a warning as I feel that those who take part in such activities should be made aware of the deceitful nature of these companies. So let me start off by explaining the job: I was hired by a company called “The 7th Circle” and yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. My job was to connect calls between people wishing to receive psychic readings and the psychics giving said readings. The job title was often referred to as a “psychic’s assistant”.

I took this job because desperate times call for desperate measures. The premise initially sounded fair. People call up and make appointments. I wouldn’t be selling anything, simply connecting calls. If they had so much as mentioned sales I would have been straight out the door. However, I soon learned that there is a sales aspect to the job (although my 4 days of employment prior to quitting didn’t give me enough time to reach that stage). However, there were some truly grizzly details that began to tear away at my very soul.

My Stance

image via Daily Express

I don’t believe in horoscopes, psychics, astrology, or anything that can be associated with magic crystals. However, I have no problem with connecting people to psychics if that is what they want to spend their money on. I mean it isn’t really any different to religion. One thing I realised early on was that this company knew they were being sketchy. For example, when signing up new clients one question you have to ask is “Do you receive disability payments from your government?” About half of the callers’ answer “yes” which leads to the follow-up question of “Are you financially independent?” So provided that person isn’t using someone else’s money, their disability checks can go straight into the hands of this company.

As I said already, I was only there for 4 days and within those 4 days each and every call grated away more and more of my very being. I won’t go into specifics but one call was from a woman who had just given birth a couple of months earlier and wanted a psychic to tell her whether she should break up with her current partner to be with someone she’d been chatting to online. Another call, which was truly heart-breaking, was someone who had spent all their money and had been forced to borrow money from friends just to hear what a psychic had to say about their life. The desperation was apparent even over the phone.

Calls like this were incredibly common and I started trying to find roundabout ways to basically explain that they shouldn’t use this service. My calls were still being monitored by the “higher ups” but I wasn’t far from just telling every client to use the last of their money on something more substantial than nonsensical calls, particularly when there are children involved.

The Truth about the Company!

image via The Ness

So the name of the company is “The Psychic Company” but their website is something like good-psychic.com (I’ve struggled to find the exact link). Suffice to say that it’s an incredibly popular website with an equally as popular call centre. People have spent 10s and even 100s of thousands of dollars through the service and the weight that they put on these psychics is more faith than I’ve ever witnessed anyone place on anything. As I said earlier, that’s completely fine…provided it’s only their life that they are putting in jeopardy.

The thing is (and I don’t say this lightly), it’s all a scam. As in beyond so much as a shadow of a doubt, it’s a scam. I’m not saying this as someone who doesn’t believe in the practices, I’m saying this as someone who had dealt first-hand with the so-called “psychics” and their money hungry desires. Let me explain exactly what I mean.

The way that we get new clients is via the website. People sign up for a free online reading. This involves giving the website your e-mail address and via this address you receive a “reading”. However, not long after you receive an ominous e-mail along the lines of “someone in your life is jealous of you” or “the love of your life is about to slip away” or “someone in your life is in danger”. All of these e-mails end with something like “call us immediately  to speak to Jenny”.

“Jenny” doesn’t even exist. When these people phone in (many of whom have received the exact same e-mail, word for word) we tell them that Jenny isn’t available right now but that her colleagues are.

The Psychics

Psychics

image via Christian Courier

This brings me back to the purpose of this post: the deceit. As of day 3, I was thinking of quitting. On day 4 I almost walked out halfway through the day. By the end of day 4 my mind was pretty much made up. I can’t play a role in allowing people to believe that these psychics are the real deal. When I was being shown the ropes, one of the “tricks of the trade” was to ask clients whether they are interested in speaking to a psychic about love and relationships or careers and finances. Their answer does not matter! They are connected to the first available psychic who is then informed beforehand that this client wishes to focus on one topic or another.

The psychics themselves are miserable. I don’t mean “oh, they deal with a lot of negative energy that messes with the functionality of the heart chakra leading to energy blockages and a messed up feng shui energy”…no, I mean that these people know that they are lying to vulnerable people. They know as well as I do that everything that comes out of their mouth is absolute bullshit! Each call ends with the assistant telling the client “Grace would love to speak to you again; she even has a date in mind just for you”.

For people who claim to believe in karma and spirituality, it seems surprising that they are so happy taking up to $7.50 per minute from people who are claiming benefits from their government. Now, not to sound judgemental here, but none of these people are working on the cure for cancer. They aren’t reading books or trying to better the world. They don’t care about global warming, the bombings in Syria, space exploration, the abortion debate, sweat shops, tensions in North Korea…you get the idea. They are content living their lives week to week because psychics tell them that better things are coming. Hope is great…but remaining financially stable (particularly when you have children) is more important.

The Rat Race

Psychics

image via YouTube

This job (and other like it) is all about deception. It’s not about providing a service, it’s about convincing people that they need the service, even when it doesn’t better their lives in any way. It’s one of the reasons I find advertising to be such a shitty thing to exist. It rarely benefits us. It’s almost entirely about convincing us that we need something that we don’t.

Now, if these psychics genuinely believed in what they were doing and didn’t use sketchy tactics to lure people in, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it. Like I said earlier, people can believe what they want and spend their money on what they want.

Yet this is a pattern that emerges throughout the job industry. I recently moved to Barcelona and upon arriving I took a job as a Segway Tour salesperson. I loved the sound of it! My job was to drive around on a Segway to find people interested in paying for a tour. The tours involved a group of people riding from landmark to landmark on Segways, stopping at each to learn a little something about it. Sounds good in theory, right?

Not really. Given the size of Barcelona and all the truly remarkable sights you can visit, the tour locations are by far the least amazing areas one could think of. Not only that, those giving the tour typically didn’t speak very good English (despite there being native English speakers such as myself working there) and generally speaking they didn’t offer any great insight into the tour destinations. This job was made worse by the crazy hours in the sun (keep in mind that I’m a pale-white ginger man from Scotland: I’m used to 15 degree summers with 3 days of sun a year) and the fact that we’re only paid commission. I don’t mind selling something that is worth people’s money but selling half-assed tours to boring-ass locations…no thanks.

Hard Work and Dedication

Psychics

image via Inspired 2 Go

By this point, I’m sure some of you think I’m just recoiling at the thought of working hard. I want to take a moment to discuss the job I had prior to moving to Spain: Costco. At the time, I didn’t hugely appreciate my job there. I always felt like I was meant to do more than stock shelves…but in hindsight, I realise that the job was building up to something bigger. I worked hard in that role and I enjoyed doing so. I’d take on extra hours, I’d volunteer for training in new areas, I’d help coach the newbies, and I even went to London and Paris to help set up their stores. Had I always dreamed of working there? No…but it was honest work.

I think the problem stems from the idea that we’ve been raised to believe that jobs like that are beneath us. I know that’s how I viewed it when I worked there. I now realise that’s far from the truth. I rarely felt absolutely defeated after work (unlike with the call centre and Segway jobs) despite Costco involving heavy lifting, dragging huge weights of stock out to the floor, and dealing with customers on a near-constant basis. Leaving work I’d actually feel more accomplished than anything, even if I didn’t realise it back then. If a Costco opens up in Barcelona (which I believe it will sometime in the future) then I’d happily work there.

Whether the work itself is tiring or not isn’t actually what leaves you feeling exhausted. It’s closer related to whether you feel like you’ve A) Exploited people in order to earn a very small amount of money (I was getting less than 5€ an hour for the call centre job) and B) Do you feel like what you’re doing has benefited your life in any way? At Costco I was constantly learning new things. Would I use these things in day to day life? Probably not…but I was also being very physically active and communicating with customers face to face. If you’re doing a job that relates to point B, it will probably work perfectly fine in the short term.

Does this Apply to Freelance Work?

Psychics

image via Hub Pages

So I’m circling back around to the job that I currently do: freelance writing. You may be thinking to yourself that as a freelancer I have more scope for choosing the sort of work I do. The answer is yes and no. When starting out, I had no option but to take shitty, deceptive jobs. This would include making up reviews for Amazon products (such as violins or headphones) or copywriting the work of other people. Are these moral jobs? No, of course not…but when you start out these are the only employers who will hire you.

As I’ve improved my profile, my ratings and my presence on the site (and off it), I’ve been able to choose work that closer aligns with my core values. Currently, I’m writing the audio guide content for a app that covers cities such as Rome and Bruges. It probably works out that I’m paid less than minimum wage but I feel proud of what I’m doing and I know that people are going to benefit from my work. It also improves me portfolio as a writer.

I was about to ask if this was the choice we have to make: a job that pays well but destroys your soul or a job that offers a feel-good factor while paying your pennies? But then I realised that Costco was pretty well paid, certainly one of the higher paid jobs in the retail industry. Also, the call centre and Segway sales jobs paid nothing (which is true for both examples as I literally made no money from either venture).

Final Thoughts

Psychics

image via Deviant Art

This post doesn’t really have any major point. It doesn’t propose a ground-breaking theory or discuss a hugely relevant topic. However, I think it does offer the opportunity to consider whether this is the world we live in. Does chasing your dreams mean that you’ll struggle to pay bills each month? Do we have to abandon our preconceived notions of success and instead focus on jobs that don’t make us lose all our faith in humanity?


Thanks for reading! Are you working towards your dream job or do you believe that life involves working less than ideal jobs in order to enjoy our time outside of it? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Free Speech: Is it a thing of the past?

I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on the UK and why it’s spiralling towards chaos. I’ve discussed the impact of limiting free speech on comedy (and the larger impact this would have), the Royal Family and why they should be given the boot, the incredibly negative effect of alcohol on society (and why marijuana legalisation would fix this), and why Scottish Independence would have been the better move 4 years ago! Some of these posts will apply to everybody, some won’t…but today’s certainly does. I’m going to walk you through the problem with free speech and why fear of being considered a troll, racist or a free-thinker could land you in the hot seat, ultimately leading to the collapse of our society. Sound a little dramatic?

Gregory Alan Elliott: Background

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If you follow my blog then you’ll be fully aware that I’m not a fan of social media. I’ve written about Facebook before and I only have Twitter as a landing page for my various followers from different sites. So it frustrates me when I hear on the news that people are being charged with crimes because of behaviour on these platforms. Before we look at the UK, I want to discuss Canada (as I feel like it’s somewhat responsible for allowing these nonsensical cases to be brought forward).

So, with that in mind I want to discuss the Gregory Alan Elliott story. This is an important turning point because it was the first prosecution for “harassment” solely through twitter. Way back in 2012, Gregory was arrested on allegations that he harassed several women via Twitter. These women had blocked Gregory but accused him of using hashtags to ridicule them and include others in his mocking of them. Such a technique has been coined “weaponized hashtagging”.

All of this stems from an entirely different issue that I don’t want to discuss in too much depth here. To cut a long story short: Anita Sarkeesian began a kickstarter campaign to raise awareness of female character tropes within the industry. Bendilin Spurr created a game whereby you can punch a photograph of someone’s face (including Anita and Jack Thomson). Stephanie Guthrie then started to contact employers and news organisations in an attempt to derail Spurr’s life. At this point, in steps Gregory Alan Elliot who highlighted that these actions carried more real world implications that the silly game that Spurr had created.

Gregory Alan Elliot: Outcome

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So this is where the GAE (Gregory Alan Elliott) case really begins. After sending a tweet to Stephanie Guthrie, herself and others blocked GAE and reported his account to Twitter. He hadn’t violated any of the terms of service and so no action followed. GAE continued to tweet about Guthrie and others until they eventually held a meeting to discuss how to handle the situation. This led to the police being notified, leading to the trial.

It’s important to note that this was not a one-sided debate. GAE wasn’t simply going online and harassing people, he had simply shared an opinion on an issue he felt strongly about and in response he got into a debate (something the judge would ultimately agree on). The women claimed that GAE was being homophobic,  inciting violence but also personally threatening them with violence (including that of a sexual nature).

Throughout the 3 year trial which cost GAE his job, his life, about $100,000 in legal fees and a ban from the internet smartphones during that time, the media largely misrepresented the case, often siding with Guthrie and her friends. As of 2016, all accusations have been dismissed by the judge. He found no evidence of threatening tweets (sexual or otherwise), no calls to violence against the women and the only tweet which was homophobic in nature has since been revealed to have been fake.

Back to the UK

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So that may have felt like a bit of a detour but I promise that it is relevant. We have to keep in mind that this case started in 2012 and ended in 2016. So how have things changed since then both in the world and specifically in the UK? Well, people being arrested for online activity wouldn’t be something new to the UK. This is largely due to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (we’ll touch on that in more detail in a moment).

Consider that in 2010 Paul Chambers (25) was arrested under this act for stating that he would blow an airport “sky high” after his flight was cancelled because of snowy weather. Chambers would go on to win his appeal against the court two years later but only after losing two jobs. We can also look at Matthew Woods (19) who was sentenced to 3 months in prison for making a joke about a missing girl. I don’t think that what they said was clever or should be encouraged but are either of these individuals really deserving of long legal battles and prison? I’d have to say no!

The problem that we have (that we always fucking have with shit like this) is that what is deemed “offensive” is entirely subjective. What offends you might not offend me. I think we always need to consider the context which brings me onto a more recent example: Count Dankula.

Count Dankula and the Nazi Dog

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If you haven’t heard the case of Mark Meechan (a.k.a Count Dankula) then allow me to summarise it for you: Mark is a comedian and to annoy his girlfriend, he taught her dog (a pug) to do a Nazi salute. His reasoning was that his girlfriend always talked about how cute the dog was and so he wanted to turn it into the “least cute thing in the world… a Nazi”. Outside the court he reiterated the point by saying it was comical because of the “juxtaposition of having an adorable animal react to something vulgar”. Once again the 2003 Communications Act comes into play here. In the video Mark says things like “Sieg heil” and “do you want to gas the Jews?” to which the ugly dog responds with a Nazi salute or an excited look on its face.

A GoFundMe was started in order to cover the trial costs that Mark had to pay. The goal was £100,000 and as I type this post it currently sits at £193,545. The worrying aspect of this case actually goes beyond the charge of “inciting racial hatred” and the accompanying £800 fine (plus legal fees). The real concern comes from the fact that the judge sided with the prosecution, agreeing that “context and intent are irrelevant”. Isn’t context pretty much all that matters? As far as I’m concerned anything can be said within the context of a joke.

One hilarious moment ensued following the trial whereby Mark discusses the importance of context with a reporter. The reporter disagrees with him, saying that context isn’t important as Mark was ultimately found guilty of the crime. He goes on to say “You said the phrase gas the Jews 23 times, what’s funny about that?” and Mark responds that it’s entirely about the context. So if context isn’t important, why can the reporter say “gas the Jews” but Count Dankula can’t?

Frankie Boyle and the Importance of Context

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Frankie Boyle (another Scottish comedian) would be a great example of this. If you’ve never watched Frankie Boyle then let me summarise his approach to comedy: he doesn’t care about your comfort zone. He says offensive things and his fans love it. Frankie Boyle sued the Daily Mirror “newspaper” for labelling him a racist and said himself that context is vitally important as the instance the Mirror referred to was Boyle pretending to be a person with racist views.

This claim by the Mirror ultimately led the comedian to quit the TV show ‘Mock the Week’ and as such, the payout from them was even larger (£50,400 + £4,250). Boyle has always stated very clearly both in his comedy and outside it that context is essential! During his trial with the Daily Mirror, he stated that he uses racial points of view and opinions to highlight the fact that such views exist. He isn’t approving of them and certainly isn’t supporting those who hold such views, but rather he wishes to ostracise them.

I’m not going to discuss comedians too much within this article as I’ve written a little about this before but I think it’s important to highlight one point: comedians are only considered funny if people laugh at their jokes. When you watch a comedian, you understand that whatever they say is purely to make you laugh. Sure, they may include some societal issues in there but ultimately their goal is to have you leave their show with positive things to say. Otherwise, they would fail as comedians and wouldn’t make it in the industry.

Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act

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Considering that in 2017, it was reported that an average of 9 people are being arrested per day in the UK for “posting allegedly offensive messages online” and with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, starting a £1.7m (over two years) crime hub for online activities, despite knife crime in the capital being at a 4-year high and with Theresa May slashing police budget left, right and centre, you have to wonder: are internet trolls really a priority?

Ultimately, this brings us back to the dreaded 2003 Communications Act. I’m not going to bore you to death (unless I have already) by copy and pasting the entire document. Instead, let me just highlight some of the important phrases used within Section 127 of this Act. What makes a person guilty of this offense? Well, if they: “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

What does that even mean? Grossly offensive…Grossly offensive to who? I’m grossly offended by the fact that the UK government wanted to go on holiday a week early despite Brexit being as far from being organised as it was 2 years ago. I’m grossly offended by the final verse of the “British” national anthem containing the line “Rebellious Scots to crush”. So who defines what is offensive? At the end of the day, we are leaning more towards some sort of system of social justice whereby we’re supposed to essentially cave into mob demands. Thanks…but not thanks!

Double Standards

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The thing that is perhaps most concerning about all of this is that there exists a very noticeable double standard. It’s perfectly acceptable for these same individuals who complain that being offended should result in arrests to do the exact same thing to other people. This in part is my problem with social justice. If you don’t agree with the mob then whatever you’re doing is essentially wrong…but if you agree with the mob then you can basically do whatever you want. Why is it acceptable to phone somebody’s work to try and get somebody fired but it’s unacceptable to send a tweet saying that that is unacceptable? Why can a reporter say that context is irrelevant while also saying “gas the Jews” in the same sentence?

In order to understand this further, I want to draw upon some real-world examples of terms like “bigot”, “racist” and more being used solely because an individual shared a point of view or comment that went against the mob.

Terry Gilliam: The Black Lesbian

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Take Gerry Gilliam for example. The legendary comedian, famous for his involvement in Monty Python, was subject to many disapproving tweets after he stated “I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian”. Out of context this may seem a little strange but it was after a comment was made against the lack of diversity within Monty Python where Shane Allen (BBC comedy chief) described them as “six Oxbridge white blokes” under the assumption of that being a bad thing. I have views on this but perhaps they are better saved for another post.

Ultimately, while Gilliam’s comment may seem offensive to some, what is he saying is a reflection of our current society. People are defining gender irrespective of their biological sex, are they not? There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s the truth. On top of that he’s simply commenting that a lack of diversity in today’s society is only ever an issue with white men. If it was a group of white women then there wouldn’t be a complaint, if it was a group of only black men there would be no complaint. He’s simply highlighting this issue and relating it to the fact that today, anyone can be anything so why is diversity within a group that hasn’t worked together (properly) for decades such a major issue?

In one sense, it’s a witch hunt (interestingly something the Monty Python have covered before) since people are simply searching for issues to get offended by. Why does the race or sex of Monty Python members matter in today’s world? I’m shocked that Gilliam hasn’t been chased from Twitter yet, which brings me to Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins Doesn’t Give a Fuck!

Censorship
I think this example will work perfectly for highlighting exactly what I’ve been talking about: offense is entirely subjective. Let’s look at a recent Tweet by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins. While outside a church he stated:

“Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great medieval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding Allahu Akbar. Or is that just my cultural upbringing?”

Now…is it possible to be offended by this comment? Sure…but should you be? No. Here’s what I see why I read such a tweet: someone has an opinion…that’s it!

First of all, we all have individual preferences. I don’t like EDM and I think it sounds absolutely moronic. Do people have the right to be offended by that just because they enjoy the music? Nope. What if I say that the Bible is a violent book, should that offend people? No. What if I move on to the Qu’ran? Tensions would certainly begin to rise but any idea should be able to be criticized. Right?

What I’m trying to get at is that certain people have a right to be offended more than others (apparently). So if Richard Dawkins can’t share his preferences for church bells over yelling, then what can we share opinions on? Dawkins was instantly slammed as a bigot and a racist but why? He even mentions within the Tweet that it could be his cultural upbringing. I’m quite surprised that Twitter didn’t remove the tweet.

Noticing the Double Standard

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The double standards, particularly in relation to Twitter, do not come few and far between. Just at the end of last year Ben Shapiro called Twitter out on the double standard by reporting Rosie O’Donnell for targeted and abusive Tweets. Only after Shapiro repeatedly called out Twitter for the double standard, claiming that “Everyone knows if Rosie were conservative, Twitter would suspend her in a hot second.” did Twitter remove O’Donnell’s tweet.

Twitter is the prime suspect in many of these cases. Why? Put simply, they have an allegiance to one side and not the other. Just recently, Candace Owens, a famous (or infamous) conservative recently demonstrated the hypocrisy of Twitter. Sarah Jeong (editor of the NY Times) tweeted the following:

“White people are only fit to live underground like grovelling goblins. They have stopped breeding and will all go extinct soon. I enjoy being cruel to old white women.”

Twitter took zero action against this Tweet. Yet when Candace Owens retweeted the exact same thing but swapped the word ‘white’ for ‘black’ she was banned from Twitter, leading to the company issuing an apology for the oversight. Varying theories surround this event with some believing that Twitter doesn’t agree that you can be racist towards white people, and other suggesting that it was Candace Owen’s status as a conservative that led to her ban.

Twitter Isn’t Alone!

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Interestingly, Twitter isn’t actually the worst example of this form of censorship (although it’s certainly the most common). Just the other day, both YouTube and Facebook banned Alex Jones and InfoWars, deleting much of their content as they did so. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey stated that the reason Twitter didn’t delete Jones is because he didn’t violate any of the terms of service. He went on to say that others started to “succumb and simply react to outside pressure”. Considering Twitter’s blatant overview of other similar matters, it’s hard to give them any brownie points for being in the right just once.

Another issue that we’re frequently seeing, particularly with YouTube is the use of the word “extremism”. To an average person “extremism” would be flying planes into buildings or blowing up buses…but in today’s political climate pretty much anything can get stuck with the label. Just look at the example of Lauren Southern being banned from the UK for that very reason. Again, as much as I’d prefer to avoid generalising, it seems that people on the left are able to label people on the right “extremists” and ultimately have them denied entry to a country. Southern is just one of many such examples.

Considering that the Theresa May (the old, dry bat corpse) is putting pressure on major companies to speed up the rate that they remove extremist content, I’m a little concerned as to what this means. Are we nearing a society where any opinion could potentially be extremist? We only need to look as far as the Lauren Southern examples to see that criticizing a belief system is enough to have you labelled a “racist” and banned from entering the UK.

The Next Step

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Of course we need to consider where such a path leads. If comedians have to consult a censorship panel before going on tour or sending a simple Tweet can land you a prison sentence, what comes next? Will private communications with friends suddenly be used as evidence of racist thoughts? Would calling your brother “gay” for showing affection become grounds for prosecution?

I want to share another quote from Frankie Boyle:

“We don’t live in a shared reality, we each live in a reality of our own, and causing upset is often the price of trying to reach each other. It’s always easier to dismiss other people than to go through the awkward and time consuming process of understanding them. We have given taking offence a social status it doesn’t deserve: it’s not much more than a way of avoiding difficult conversations.”

Personally, I think he hits the nail on the head. He also stated that often the reason people get offended is simply because what is being said hits truth in one way or another. People are too quick to ignore the fact that a commentary on society holds some truth.

Does Hate Speech Exist?

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Through writing this post I’ve stumbled across the term “hate speech” on several occasions and it has led me to question whether there really is such a thing. Couldn’t you consider any speech to be hate speech? Where do we draw the line on free speech and hate speech or does free speech include hate speech? If we can’t clearly define an idea then what use is having a label for it? Just to clarify, I’m not implying that hateful things aren’t said but rather I’m suggesting that anything can be deemed hateful and simply because one person labels an opinion as “hate speech” doesn’t entitle them stop others hearing that opinion.

Not that this applies to everyone but it certainly seems that in many cases the term “hate speech” is used simply to shut down opinions: People like Milo Yiannopolous, Ben Shapiro, ETC whose events are being shut down by violent protestors. Having an opinion is now less acceptable than violence! We’re essentially the same as the parents who give in to their child as soon as it throws a tantrum. If somebody is saying something that you don’t want to hear then don’t listen! You do not have the right to decide what other people listen to or what other people say!

This fear of saying something that might offend somebody in itself has consequences. Just look at the case of the Rotherham grooming gangs. Here we have a span of 12 years whereby police and local governments were aware of Pakistani grooming gangs and yet did nothing. Why? Because “police forces lean over backwards to avoid the accusation of racism” and keeping the peace within different parts of a community were viewed as more important than potentially disrupting the community through investigation. The founder of the British Muslim Youth, Muhbeen Hussain said “The fact these guys were predominantly Pakistani heritage men should not be a reason for providing a cloak of invisibility.”

Conclusion

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Ultimately, I think it’s important to remember the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Considering we live in a society where you can literally block people from contacting you, I don’t understand why people take such offense to certain Tweets (or other platforms). It offends my intelligence that people can believe that the Earth is flat. Do I think that their opinions should be shut down? Absolutely not!

I think we need to all take a step back and ask whether something is really worth being offended over. Even when you are offended, so what? Why does being offended give you power over the voice and opinions of others? Do you really want to live in a world where opinions have to be filtered before being shared? If somebody wants their country to close its borders to migrants (for example) shouldn’t they be able to express that opinion without being called a racist or a fascist? Particularly when such labels don’t even apply to the situation!

I think that everything should be challenged, everything should be criticised and everyone should be able to say whatever they want without being arrested over bizarre and irrational “online troll” charges. If the UK is insistent on heading down this path of speech control then I don’t want to be a part of it.


Thanks for reading! What do you think? Is online censorship becoming a problem and is free speech on its way out in the UK?  Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

My First Psilocybin (Magic Mushroom) Experience!

So today (or at least the day I wrote this), after many, many years of building up to being in the right frame of mind, I’m going to experience a magic mushroom trip. I’m writing this prior to taking anything so that you can understand my frame of mind and my expectations. To let you know exactly what my plan is, I have liquid psilocybin and I’ll be taking the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. If I begin to trip and it’s not too intense then I might take more with my maximum amount being 2 grams. I’d imagine I’ll probably stick to the 1 gram for today: Testing the waters, so to speak.

I’ve never taken any psychedelics before. I’ve experienced minor trips on MDMA after taking slightly too much (one time I thought I was flying a plane and the other I felt like I was in Assassin’s Creed) but this will be my first time properly delving into this realm. I’ve taken a range of precautions to ensure I have not only a safe trip but an enjoyable one.

For example, I have a reliable person babysitting me (or more accurately, being sober minded and in the same flat just in case I hit a bump in the road). I’ve also written a note to myself explaining that the trip is temporary and that if I start thinking negatively, I should carry out one of several steps. I have a ton of chilled and happy music on my phone that I’m going to listen to at least for the start of the trip to keep me in a positive mind-set.

I’m going to have a notepad with me wherever I am just in case I feel like taking notes but since I have no real experience with tripping, I have no idea what I’ll feel like doing or even be capable of doing. I’ve read up on the topic rather extensively so I understand (as best as one can without having experienced it oneself) what I should feel during the trip. What do I hope to accomplish? At this stage, my only real aim is to experience the trip. If all goes well then I’ll up the dose next time in search of a more spiritual experience. I guess I’ll see you on the other side!

During the Trip

Trip

Image via Faze

So I’ve taken the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. I can certainly feel the initial stages. The movement in my stomach was very noticeable at first. Not quite a pain but certainly a discomfort. What is really weird is that I am typing all of this without remotely looking at the keyboard. Somewhat strange that my typing ability has improved while on psychedelics. I DEFINITELY felt the waves that everyone has described. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would feel like. Waves? I wondered…but I totally get it. ‘Waves’ is just the perfect way to describe it.

I felt like I was getting the first set of visuals but that seems to have passed now. I was staring at the duvet cover hanging on the door which is grey with black swirls. To me, it looked as if the duvet cover was being pulled over the door from the other side. I stared at my pupils for a little bit in the mirror while I was in the bathroom peeing there and they almost seemed like they were pulsating but I don’t actually know if your pupils change at all on shrooms or whether it was just part of the visual effects.

I’ve reached the point that I sort of half expected whereby I’ve felt the waves and had some minor visuals but that’s it and I feel like I’ve already passed the peak. So I’m going to take the other 1g worth. I still feel like there is stuff going on but it does seem very minor and not hugely intense. People described it as feeling high or stoned which is very true but even that seems to have worn off a little bit. Like if I was smoking weed I’d smoke another joint by this level. Damn, I wish I had weed…

Dose #2

Trip

image via Tumblr

So here we go, I’ve already taken a 2nd dose. My slight concern (which mostly stems from my experience of taking MDMA) is that just as I take the 2nd dose, I’d fully come up on the first dose. Speaking of which, I can feel it starting to take effect already. I’m getting the same stomach pain (although it’s not so much pain as simply my stomach feeling like its doing stuff) and I’m getting very, very slight nausea but I’d eaten between doses so that’s to be expected.

After the Trip

Trip

image via Daily Express

So I stopped being able to type after my 2nd dose but I did occasionally make small notes in my notebook which I expanded on towards the end of the trip. Where the first dose had led to very minor visuals, the 2nd dose caused colours to change, the floor to move like a conveyor belt, cupboards to appear to breathe and other such things. I stared out the window of my flat a lot and simply watched the goings on outside. There is a square with a play park in it and I was amazed at these kids using their imagination. One of them was pretending to be injured while the other pretended to cast a spell. I felt like I was watching some intense moment of a film.

I did come close to darkness though. During the trip I couldn’t work out what a bad trip would feel like. It was almost like the very notion was beyond my imagination. However, one of the times I was looking out of the window,  I felt it. Luckily I managed to avoid the bad trip itself but here is how I described it in my notepad:

I felt like a bad trip just narrowly avoided me like an asteroid whizzing past the Earth. It was like the shadow was over me. It made me think of Venom in Spider-Man.”

I remember the bad trip almost felt like a life or a presence. If I follow on with the asteroid example, it was like the asteroid was alive and trying to hit Earth. Almost like a Galactus figure (Marvel reference) or something. It was like I could sense impending doom. Sort of like the bad trip eclipsed the sun. Luckily, as I mentioned, the feeling passed by and I was able to continue with my trip.

Back to the Fun Visuals

Trip

image via Today’s Christian Woman

I saw some pretty crazy visuals after the 2nd dose. The ones I made note of in particular were as follows:

  • I looked outside at a line of trees visible from the window of my flat. At this time of year they are incredibly green on a normal day but on shrooms this was even more the case. One tree in particular looked insane! It was almost like it was on fire but without burning (Moses eat your heart out). The flames weren’t red or orange but rather they were gold or silver. They reminded me of one thing in particular. If you’ve ever driven on a hot, dry day you occasionally see puddles that aren’t there. It was like the tree was glowing and burning but with these puddles rather than fire.
  • There is a clock on the wall in the living room which I found myself staring at for what felt like a long time (it probably wasn’t). The clock was like a planet being bombarded with colourful dust which made me think of like solar radiation. Everything other than the clock was almost blurred by this dust/radiation but the clock itself was crystal clear.
  • I had lined up some photos from the Hubble Telescope to view during my trip. I enjoy looking at these photos sober-minded but I figured staring into the universe might be quite fun under the influence of psilocybin. It was certainly an experience. I found that the pictures not only changed colour but also appeared to move. At times it felt like I was watching a live stream of some distance galaxy. The fun thing was that new aspects of the images would appear such as stars I hadn’t noticed before. It became a little too intense so after 5 or so photos I decided to move on.

Embracing the Darkness

Trip

image via Science News

I found myself (after the peak of the 2nd dose) going to bed. Not to sleep but rather to meditate. My eyes were super sensitive to light and even with an eye mask on and my eyes closed, my brain was still detecting too much light. I closed the blinds and all the doors, put the eye mask on, closed my eyes and found myself still not in complete darkness. I could feel myself being drawn towards the geometric swirl that to me resembled a black hole. As I drifted towards and into it, a calming, quiet darkness enveloped me and I felt at ease. I was listening to a Sam Harris meditation from YouTube which I turned off about 5 minutes in because it was actually more distracting than silence.

Unfortunately, silence opened me up to hearing neighbours arguing or at least talking very loudly. Music and voices were too much for my brain so I decided to put some white noise on. The static was actually very relaxing and the strange thing was that it started to sound like a waterfall.

Eventually, when the shrooms were really beginning to wear off, I decided to just look through photos and videos on my phone while curled up in bed. Hunger soon overwhelmed me and getting out of bed marked the end of my trip. I still felt the presence of the drug in my brain but there were no physicals effects or visuals.

Reflecting on the Experience

Trip

image via Flickr

As I mentioned at the start, the purpose of this trip wasn’t to blow my brain or search for a spiritual experience. It was simply a test run to allow myself to adjust to the effects of the drug. Now that I know the stages and have an idea of the feelings, what works for me and what doesn’t, I can increase the dose during my next trip to 2.5/3 grams worth of magic mushrooms.

I would love to try it out in nature. Perhaps not in Spain because I think the feeling of being in “unknown” territory would play on my mind a little but in Scotland I can think of several locations that would be isolated enough to comfortably take shrooms out in nature. I think that I’ll also be sure to have weed (in the form of pre-rolled joints) during my next trip. The comedown wasn’t horrible at all but I think it would have been drastically improved be a little smokey smoke.


Thanks for reading! Have you ever tried psilocybin? Is an experience that intrigues you? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Should the UK Abolish the Royal Family? YES!

When you’re looking at where tax payer’s money is spent, you’d expect a priority to be towards the police service, healthcare, education, etc. So whether you live in the UK or not, it may shock you to learn that £80+ million is paid to the Queen. Given that we don’t live under a monarchy and that the Royal Family in itself is little more than a living, breathing tourist attraction (and not a very effective one at that), why are we still funding their extremely luxurious lifestyle?

The “British” Royal Family

Royal Family

image via English Crown

Many people in Britain love the Royal Family. I’m not one of them. I have nothing against the family personally, they didn’t choose to be born into such a position. But the very notion that this family deserves our time, our respect, or more importantly: our money is beyond me. The Royal Family may sell many souvenirs, plates and t-shirts or make foreign officials feel privileged when introduced to its members but other than that they serve no purpose.

What part of the Royal Family is British? As someone from Scotland, I feel no connection to them. This ties into British nationalism or Unionism but there are many reasons why we shouldn’t view them as symbols of our country.

For starters, even if you view the family as having “Royal Blood”, do they really? The paternal side of the family is German. You may know the family as “The Windsors” but actually that name only came to be in 1917 due to anti-German sentiment. The family name before its British reboot was ‘Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’ due to the marriage between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. We view this family as inherently British but there isn’t really anything particularly special about them (or British about them). On principle alone I’m against celebrating a family (or an individual) based solely on their relatives.

We also have to consider the British National anthem “God Save the Queen”. I don’t consider this a British National Anthem by any means. There are two reasons for this:

  • As I already mentioned, the Royal Family is of no special significance to me. They are simply remnants of a feudal society that claimed land and oppressed populations. There is still land all across the UK that is owned by the Royal Family as a result of taking land by force or claiming it as their right. To me, this is absolutely disgusting (even more so when you consider the Royal Family profits from this).
  • The 6th verse in the “British” national anthem goes as follows:

“Lord grant that Marshal Wade

May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!”

I don’t think that ANYONE would argue that having a verse targeting one of the countries within a “United” Kingdom doesn’t seem a bit bizarre. Don’t even get me started on the British passports which show the Scottish national animal: the unicorn, with a chain around its neck. I’m going a little off-topic here but I had to share these points.

The Cost

Royal Family

image via CNBC

So when we look at the value of the Royal Family, we have to consider whether what we pay them is worth it in the long run. Many people argue that the Royal Family are responsible for a lot of the tourism in the UK. I’d have to disagree. The Royal Family may very well benefit the people of London, particularly those in businesses located anywhere near Buckingham Palace. But considering that tax money from ALL of the UK is used to pay the Royal Family, I fail to see the benefits to the rest of us.

ALVA, a company focused on leading visitor’s attractions, Tweeted the following at the time of the Royal Wedding:

“The 2011 wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge saw an additional 600k ppl visit London for the weekend, 60% from UK, 40% from overseas, spending £107m (£8.4m in West End theatres).”

Yet when we actually look at the evidence, you’ll find that even Visit Britain can’t find evidence to support the tourism benefit of keeping the Royal Family around. If Windsor Castle (the only occupied Royal Residence to attract a large number of visitors) was included in ALVA’s analysis of top tourist attractions, it would be lucky to come in at 24th. Stonehenge, The British Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Roman Baths, National Museum of Scotland and the Science museum are all examples of attractions which reel in higher numbers of tourists. This is supported by evidence which shows most tourists come for our wide range of museums, wonderful scenery, to engage in British history and to shop….as opposed to visiting an old bag, her racist husband and her ginger grandchildren.

Royal Weddings, Annual Income and Security

Royal Family

image via Pinterest

Since we mentioned the Royal Wedding already, let’s delve into the costs. In 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton got married. While most of the finance was covered by the incredibly wealthy Royal Family (how nice of them) the UK taxpayer had to cover the cost of security and transport (as per the agreement of the Family’s grant) which was to the sum of at least £7 million.

Of course we have another Royal Wedding on the way with petitions already in motion to avoid tax payers having to pay out for any of the costs. I mean I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we don’t have to fund weddings.

The Sovereign Grant

Royal Family

image via Google

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world’s richest women, according to The Times. So where does she get her money? Well, most of her money comes from the Sovereign Grant. To understand what exactly this is, we have to look back to 1760 when King George III agreed to hand over the crown estate to the treasury. This mass of land includes obvious areas such as Buckingham Palace and Regent Street but also most of the UK’s seabed. Where does all the land come from? It comes from the areas conquered by the Monarchy throughout history.

As I’m arguing a lot of this from a Scottish perspective, let’s take a look at Scotland. It’s estimated that The Crown owns about £261.5 million worth of land in Scotland. This includes (but is not limited to) four estates that cover 37,000 hectares of land, ownership of the seabed up to 12 nautical miles from the shore as well as more retail-orientated areas such as 50% of Fort Kinnaird retail park just outside Edinburgh. The Queen gets 15% of the Crown Estate profits.

This figure is set to double to £82.2 million so that the Royal Family can carry out repairs at Buckingham Palace. As any tourism increases in the UK, so does the income of the Royal Family with the Crown Estate raking in an extra 8% compared to previous years. Imagine if the land was actually owned by the people who had it ripped away from them by force throughout history. Rather than funding Prince Philip’s £18,690 train trip to Plymouth.

The Principle Alone

Royal Family

image via RT

Even if we put the economics to the side for a moment, how can anybody POSSIBLY ignore the gross comparison of the Royal Family to most of the country they live in? The NHS is in crisis, the UK police force is all but crumbling, the education of the nation’s youth is lagging behind that of other countries…need I say more? When there are people living in poverty in this country I found it grotesque that ANYBODY would argue that the Royal Family deserves even a penny.

What can we do about it?

Royal Family

image via Gizmodo

Honestly? Probably nothing. If you live in the UK, you could try signing this petition to see an end to the monarchy and all payments towards the Royal Family. Will it work? I highly doubt it. As I’ve said before, the petition system in the UK serves no real purpose other than providing people with a feel-good feeling alongside a feeling of involvement and having the ability to create change. In reality, nothing changes that Parliament weren’t already considering. For example, you won’t find weed becoming legal through this petition system despite receiving over 4 million signatures. You won’t even find MPs turning up for the debate.

When the Queen dies (if she dies, I think she shattered her soul into several horcruxes) there may be a window of opportunity to have a discussion on the topic with parliament. If England wants to keep the Royal Family in their life of luxury then by all means, let them. I know very few Scottish people who want to continue paying tax to such an unworthy cause.


Thanks for reading! Do you have an opinion on the Royal Family? Let me know down below! 

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Robot-Enforced Religion: Would you feel safe?

This is probably going to be one of the most random posts I’ve ever written (arguably) and it’s going to involve the use of your imagination. Whether you’re religious or not, I hope that this post causes you to think not only about your own actions but also about the influence of interpretation within religion. I feel like this could be an interesting movie or book but since it sounds like a more religious and AI-oriented version of 1984, maybe not.

The Premise

holy book

image via Geek Tyrant

So imagine for a moment that we live in a more technologically advanced world. AI has long been a functional part of our world. If you’ve ever seen I-Robot with Will Smith, imagine the robots are basically the same as that. They are almost like drones controlled from a central AI hub, so to speak. The key difference being that in this world, these robots serve only one function: upholding a holy book.

I’m going to try my best to avoid using a specific holy book, just for arguments sake. Obviously each holy book has varying sins and punishment. There is no room for interpretation by these robots. They are fed the closest to the original holy book texts as possible and that’s it. Humans don’t get the opportunity to add in “oh we think this means X” or “it’s long been known that Y is an exception”. All sins are punishable exactly in the stated way. If no punishment is stated or the deity within the holy book is the one to judge, the robots make an informed decision based on the crimes/sins and corresponding punishments that are mentioned (more on that in a moment).

For example (and I’m going to make this ridiculous rather than use a real-world example): If it was stated that naming your dog Brian was to be punished with head shaving then that would be one of the functions these robots would carry out. If they witness someone calling their dog Brian, they’d gather enough evidence and then carry out the punishment. These robots wouldn’t be law enforcement or do anything related to society’s laws. These robots would uphold only restrictions, laws, commandments, etc mentioned within a religion’s holy book.

Exceptions

holy book

image via IT Business

There would be some variations of course. There are many sins or crimes within holy books that God can forgive if he so chooses. As such, this worldwide AI would possess a database with profiles for every single person. One of the many things within this profile would be your sin sheet. This would contain all the sins you’ve ever committed. Sins which aren’t punishable by anyone other than God would be tallied up and after each new sin of this type, an equation would be used to determine whether a punishment should be carried out.

So, for example, let’s assume that calling your cat Simba is a sin which isn’t punishable by anyone other than God. This AI has evidence of you doing it 4 times. What would happen, is that your odds would change each time and essentially a dice roll or coin toss would decide your fate. Just to keep things simple, you earn 10% each time such a sin is committed and now you’re on 50%. A random generator within the AI would determine whether you’re to be punished or not. Almost like a coin toss. This is the AI’s way of letting God decide. If the random generator (which is weighted based on your sin percentage) decides it’s punishment time, then the AI views God as allowing that outcome to take place.

The odds would never bee 100% in favour of punishment. That way there would always be the possibility of that 1% being chosen through divine intervention. It’s also worth noting that there wouldn’t be multiple holy books used. Worldwide there would just be one: whether from Christianity or Islam or another isn’t important. If you’re thinking of answering this question, you should use your holy book or the holy book used most within your society.

The Question

holy book

image via ITpro

My question to you is this: would you feel safe? I’d particularly love to hear your point of view if you are indeed religious. If all interpretations that you attach to your faith were removed and all that was left was the holy book, would you feel safe in such a society? Would the world be a better place than it is now or would it be worse?

To be clear, these robots aren’t like those in the films. I’m not talking about Skynet or Ultron or anything, these robots are doing EXACTLY what they were programmed to with no misinterpretation. They aren’t malfunctioning or making decisions outside what they’re programmed to.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts and opinions? Let me know down below! 

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Peace!

Why Sense8 is a Great Show!

Sense8, beyond being a truly interesting premise, tackles a wide number of issues. It touches on homophobia, transphobia, mental illness, abusive relationships, drug use, poverty, crime, violence, government corruption, morality, love,  I mean it casts a wide net but not in a way that removes anything from the story elements (apart from a few times in the 2nd season). So for once on this blog I’m going to have a positive rant. The focus being on Sense8 and why I love it. For the most part, I’m going to focus on the first season as I’ve just re-watched it whereas I haven’t seen the 2nd season since it was released. There are likely to be spoilers here and there but I don’t focus too much on the plot as a whole.

The Basic Premise

Sense8

image via Netflix

Sense8 is sort of hard to explain but I’ll try my best to cover the overall idea. The show follows 8 main characters who all share one consciousness hub (so to speak). They can learn from each other’s experiences, connect to memories, experience what another member of their “cluster” (the word used to describe each group of 8) is feeling and much more. The first season essentially covers the group getting used to this new part of their lives. It also introduces us to the villain of the show: Whispers.

The 2nd season isn’t as great as the first (in my opinion) but tensions are certainly higher and with much more at stake. The 2nd season of Sense8 is more of a battle against Whispers. One important aspect of the show is that while there is this threat casting a show over the group’s lives, they all have individual battles to face as well.

Sense8 was cancelled after the 2nd season…but fans rallied together (myself included) and signed a petition to the Netflix to continue making the show. Unable to make an entire season, Netflix will be releasing a finale episode which will be two hours long. Essentially fans are getting a Sense8 movie that doesn’t have to appeal to a wider audience. Personally, I think this adds merit to the benefits of Netflix (I’ll be posting an article soon about my predictions for the future of the company). I’ve lost so many shows to cancellation…like so many. Most of which ended on cliffhangers, leaving questions unanswered and essentially opening up a door in my mind that will never be closed. So while I would have preferred a full season, I’m just happy that the show will be wrapped up.

Interesting Characters

Sense8

image via YouTube

One thing that makes a great TV shows is the characters. Whether you watch Game of Thrones, Lost, Rick and Morty, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds or Still Game, what makes these shows great is the characters. If the characters in a show suck or aren’t consistent (for example, The Path) then no matter how good the premise of a TV show is, you’ll never get hooked on it.

Luckily, Sense8 has a character for everyone. Whether you like Riley (Tuppence Middleton) the Icelandic DJ, Capheus (Aml Ameen/Toby Onwumere) the legendary Van Damme bus driver of Nairobi or Sun (Donna Bae) the bad-ass martial artist from Seoul, there is someone who we can all relate to in some form or another. Some characters are funny, some are romantic, some are brave, some are smart…the whole purpose of Sense8 is that while all these characters may be one, they are still unique and individual in their own ways.

Sense8 has characters (or more importantly, actors) who are able to portray all the necessary emotions. No matter how tense the situation is some moments are funny not through forced comedy but actually just by characters being themselves. Like Sun who responds to the news that there are 4 guards on that floor with “is that all?” It’s hilarious because she’s totally right. 4 guards to her is nothing.

Unique and Interesting Storyline

Sense8

image via Market Watch

I think that Sense8 really does add something to the world of television and for the life of me, I have no idea why it isn’t more popular. As soon as I heard the plot for it, I was hooked. I think I binge-watched the entire season in one day actually. You get all the drama and thrill you would from any other show but with such a compelling idea, I think it’s great.

One thing they do really well is explain some of the science but never all of it. Many characters even describe what they are doing or feeling in such a vague sense as to leave something to the imagination. So while they touch on theories as to what sense8’s actually are, they don’t go too far down the rabbit hole which I think is important. I mean we don’t want another mitoclorian incident, do we? Or even worse: Lost, where there are too many loose ends to keep track of. I think for the most part they make you feel like you are indeed just watching a phenomenon that is completely legit.

The Issues

Sense8

image via Hollywood Reporter

Sense8 very much plays into the social commentary domain and sometimes it’s a bit on the nose. I think this might be why the audience doesn’t grow. I happen to think it works really well because you feel a certain realism inside this fictional world. For example, you can believe that in parts of the world, being gay could end your career. You can believe that cops are alienated for helping gangbangers or that Gods and religion are standing in the way of a marriage. I wouldn’t question someone telling me that gangs are a problem in Africa or that being a woman in the business world can start you off disadvantaged. It is this level of realism that allows the fiction side to seem possible.

I think they tried to top Game of Thrones for sex scenes which by the 2nd season had become a bit stale. Sense8 tries a little too hard to shove certain views down your throat (no pun intended). I personally don’t care, as long as its consensual, I don’t care who fucks who. It’s a free world and people should do whatever makes them happy. That doesn’t mean I want to watch a gay sex scene every episode.

Drugs also play a major role in the show. Riley seems to be the main consumer: weed, ecstasy and DMT are some of the substances she takes on-screen. I have to admit that I love a show’s willingness to show drugs in a positive light. I mean I wish the DMT scene hadn’t ended in a bunch of murders…but it did work very well. I think one base idea the show tries to push is acceptance: accept people regardless of their sexuality, regardless of their gender and regardless of what drugs they use.

Controversy

Sense8

image via Alta Peli

It did appear that there was some controversy on set. Aml Ameen who plays Capheus in season 1 was traded out for Toby Onwumere in the 2nd season. I’m personally a big fan of Aml Ameen’s acting. I remember watching him in the film Kidulthood when I was younger but he’s great in Maze Runner as well. It seems that he didn’t agree with certain scenes: whether it was gay scenes, trans scenes or just the group sex scenes in general is anyone’s guess. Many entertainment news sites were eager to label it but as the full picture is being kept under wraps (for the most part) we can only make assumptions.

Given that the show is so open in terms of sexuality, it sort of makes sense that showrunners wouldn’t keep Aml Ameen on if anything homophobic or transphobic was going down. Given that Jamie Clayton tweeted about it, we can only assume she was involved to some extent.

I think it always sucks when an actor is switched in a show or movie. Some of the time it doesn’t matter greatly: Game of Thrones or Harry Potter but other times it’s more noticeable: Dumb and Dumber (the prequel). While I don’t think that Toby Oneumere is a bad actor by any means, I think the character of Capheus has changed drastically between seasons.

Summary

Sense8

image via Variety

Overall, when you include the excellent direction of the show and the limit of 12 episodes per season (which stops things getting boring), you get is a great show. I think season 2 should have been a bit more story driven than it was but overall I still thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait for the finale! If you have some spare time and need something to watch, I’d recommend Sense8. Give it one episode and if you’re not remotely interested then you’ve wasted less than an hour of your life and it’s no big deal.


Thanks for reading! Are you a fan of Sense8? Who is your favourite character and how do you want the show to end? Let me know down below! Similarly, if you’re not a fan, let me know why!

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!