A Pint of Bitter

Trigger Warnings – None really, very light mentions of drug use/abuse

Early post, off out tonight to celebrate my birthday with some friends, one of whom is moving away before my actual birthday and that’s why the celebrations were moved forward a bit. I’m not going off down the pub, despite everyone attending being old enough for that to be an option, I don’t drink, as I’ve probably mentioned, but I figured this was a good opportunity for me to have my say with regards to the drinking culture of the British people

Now there’s plenty to be said about the detriments on society caused by alcohol, how it’s clearly much more dangerous for your health than say marijuana and here in Britain it causes so many fights and punch-ups because it’s very easy to get very drunk and with a healthcare system like ours, you’ll be patched up before going back to work on Monday, given a slap on the wrist and sent on your jolly way. America doesn’t have that issue as much, mostly because Americans have guns and are a little less brawl-happy than the British pub-goer because they know their opponent could pull a weapon. Anyway, that’s not the article I’m going for here, badmouthing booze in Britain is an act of heresy and I’m sure this one paragraph alone will earn me the scorn of anyone in my area partial to a pint, thinking I’m some nay-saying wet blanket who drinks lemonade whilst knitting myself a scarf

I’m actually more interested in the very casual but committed relationship people have with alcohol. David Mitchell had a soapbox rant about this, largely the inspiration for this article, and he hits the nail on the head by comparing a pub experience to a coffee shop experience. I’ve said before coffee shops are not as full with intellectuals and scholars as you might think, it’s more Hipster ground now (Yes those are still a thing, I think) but even so, a coffee shop experience is perhaps an hour of sitting around with a drink, talking, getting bored of what each other has to say and leaving. Done, painless. A pub, not so much. I hate standard pubs with a passion really, lots of uncomfy furniture and conversations with people who gradually get less and less eloquent the more they drink, who then either make a fool of themselves, become aggressive or cry morosely for nothing until eventually vomiting and looking for some way home via taxi or sober friend. Thankfully, I don’t drive, or at least, don’t drive with friends who like to drink a lot, or I’d be the designated driver for life. I know you can always just have the one and leave but lots of people prefer to make an evening of it and that’s just not something you’d do in a Starbucks or Costa, who wants to spend that long in one place that only serves light refreshments and drinks?  Pub patrons apparently, they’ll live off Carling and pork scratchings to enjoy the banter and odd game of darts or pool, I could maybe have a drink and a game but after that I’d get bored and go home

By all means, this is just my opinion, the opinion of a sober man. I’ve drunk alcohol before, don’t get me wrong, a few kinds in fact – wine, vodka, Jager Bombs (I was a bartender, a customer didn’t like the idea of a tea-total man serving him so bought me three and demanded I down them before taking his actual order), cider – it just doesn’t do much for me and I’m against imbibing large quantities of something that impedes brain power. I like my brain, being intelligent is a big part of what I am and if that was replaced with slurred words and vomiting, that leaves me with a lot less of my personality to go on to make a positive impression of myself. Alcohol is a drug, a socially acceptable one at that which makes any boring situation into a more interesting one, that’s why hours can pass quickly when you’re drinking but they’ll crawl by when you’re sat there with a cup of coffee or a glass of squash and so if anyone invites me out to the pub or to a party which is just “It’s us lot all in one room drinking alcohol and listening to music”, I roll my eyes because I won’t be drinking, because I don’t want to, and I’ll miss out on the biggest part of the fun. Imagine this scenario with smoking weed or snorting coke, you don’t partake in it, you sit watching other people do it whilst you’re sat with a standard cigarette or snorting… umm… sherbert? Talcon powder? I don’t know what the substitute for that could be but you get my point

Carrying on with David Mitchell again here, he asks if our society is in denial that our social activities and interactions revolve around being slightly pissed. I wonder too, it’s not as much fun being the sober guy at the party or in the club, everyone is so loose and stupid and I’m sat there with Dignity sat on one side and Anxiety on the other going “Well aren’t you a stupid twat? You gonna dance with the cute blonde? No, thought not. Tosser”. I mean I could try getting drunk but given the number of mental barriers I enforce on myself not to do a lot of things, being drunk would undo that and a lot of people would then come to realise that without those barriers in place, I might be a total fuckwad. I’ve come a long way and had to invest a lot of hard work in holding back things that aren’t kind to say or indeed overcoming my violent history so I don’t want to take the risk of getting totally trollied, punching someone in the face and calling them every single foul thing I’ve ever wanted to call them, because I’d remember doing it eventually and then I’d never look at myself the same way again

There we go, I’m afraid of what alcohol might help me discover about myself. I like to think I’m a good guy but maybe that’s because I try to be, maybe deep down I’m a piece of filth. Still, as it stands, British socialising does revolve a lot around drinking – clubs, pubs, bars, parties – it’ll be curious to see who heads for the bar tonight in my birthday celebration and how a sober social activity plays out

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Infectious Panic

Trigger Warnings – Death, Infection, Illness

Ebola. The dreaded word surfaces here on my blog as it does across the news, with screening for this virus commencing in airports across the western world as people fear infection in both the UK and the USA. At this point, only a hermit hasn’t heard of the virus and it has become a topic for discussion in all corners of the media, even the obscure blog of a nerd from Shrewsbury but I digress, this is too big of an issue to pass up and the truth needs to be heard, as well as pulled apart from the hysteria

Shepard Smith of Fox News managed to summarise the situation with a cold calm logic and whilst I might never again suggest you watch Fox News coverage, this man detaches himself from his political and professional affiliations to state the facts in a well-presented manner so by all means search him on YouTube as “Shepard Smith Ebola” and watch what he has to say if you feel worried by what you hear in the news, especially if you are from the USA

The facts are as follows – A man contracted Ebola overseas and was dying of the illness in a hospital in Texas, the illness being at its most contagious when someone is dying of the symptoms. A health care worker caught the virus from this man and is now in isolation but she appears to be doing well. The CDC expected more people to become infected and this was true, another health worker has caught the virus and she will transferred to isolation. However, it is true that before she showed symptoms she boarded a plane but as we know, Ebola is only contagious when the symptoms are showing and so the passengers of that plane should be fine but just in case, each passenger is being contacted and monitored through health checks. The chance of infection on the plane is slim to none. Screening operations are now in place across the USA and the UK

Now I know you’re worried, you’ve seen the headlines marking the coming of a plague but you must remember that headlines such as “EBOLA TERROR!” or “WIDESPREAD PANIC!” sell, headlines like “A FEW PEOPLE ARE ILL” or “SLIGHT OVERSIGHT ON A PLANE” or not shocking. You may also note that David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, called Ebola the single biggest threat to the health and safety of the British people but this is simply untrue – leaders need to appear strong, David Cameron is trying to look like a man protecting the nation from a horrid threat but in truth, here in the west, we are blessed with doctors, hospitals and exhaustive counter-measures against epidemics. Elections are coming, in the UK and the USA, the leaders need to seem strong, the opponents need to undermine them, so whilst the parties in power play the hero, their opponents call them out as inefficient imbeciles and so a cycle of fear is created as the people don’t know who to trust but the truth is this – Ebola is a deadly disease, it has killed thousands, but the thousands it has killed have been those without access to medical facilities, clean water or professional support. If you have a computer to read this on, you will not be at risk unless your doctor has contacted you specifically with their own concerns

Frankly, I think we’re being insulting to the thousands affected by this disease in Central and Western Africa by making a lot of fuss when there has yet to be an outbreak. Thousands are dying, numbers so difficult to track that even the UN admitted to fucking up, and here we are buying ourselves face masks and hand wipes and screaming bloody mercy when it has yet to kill even ten of us.I admit, as I write this, I am lumping in those deaths in Africa as a number, I am not exploring the depth of the damage, I don’t know the families, I don’t know the communities and I don’t know just how many have died but we westerners have a way of seeing deaths in places like Sudan and the Congo Republic as just a sad reality we like to ignore except when we feel generous. You are safe, you live in a world of hygiene and safety procedures, the dead are buried correctly and you can access clean water. The people affected in Africa can not, they are dying because they do not have the sophisticated medical systems we have available to them, they have to simply make do, unlike us

The virus is not easily caught, it is not like the cold or the flu, you are only at risk if you handle the bodily fluids or dead body of someone infected, thus why the health care workers were affected, they were treating a dying man, some part of them was inevitably going to contact some fluid. The virus is fragile, it can survive in a pool of blood or sweat but can be destroyed by cleaning products or hot soapy water. Experimental vaccines are being tested and if caught early, the symptoms can be treated and support will be put in place. You are not going to die, calm down. If you are scared, consider where you read the information – a newspaper, an online article, on the TV? The media profits from your panic, businesses will sell you protection you don’t need (Such as the snake oil scam) and the leaders of the world will tell you it is a difficult challenge they face to eradicate a fearsome curse when in truth, Ebola is only a real concern if you are living in squalor. I have no profit to be made in telling you anything, I am not paid to blog, I am simply a man with an opinion, some facts and a computer, it is entirely your trust whether or not you trust my words but a thorough search will support me, from a logical standpoint

If you are scared about your health, make sure you get your flu jab, the flu kills tens of thousands every year because people underestimate it. Heck, the plague, the flippin’ plague, kills a thousand American people a year, you’re more likely to catch that than Ebola. Scared of the plague? Of the flu? Of Malaria? No, well then Ebola is nothing to you, Ebola is far from reaching the death count of those diseases and that’s not because of time, Ebola has existed as long as Star Wars has and has yet to reach ten thousand deaths, the flu tops that in a year. Stay calm, ignore the hysteria and do what you would normally do to stay healthy – wash your hands, bin your tissues, see a doctor if you are unsure of anything. If we continue to shout like madmen over anything slightly wrong and scrabble around for safety, how will we ever band together in a real crisis? Don’t cry wolf over this because if it does become an actual worldwide epidemic, we need to be calm, we need to be united and we need to take action, not cower in fear crying

I hope that has brought you peace of mind readers and if Ebola still concerns you, donate to a charity working to fight the spread of the virus. Thank you

The Debate About Debates (Originally Published – 7th November 2012)

Well folks, it seems that in the end of it all, Barack Obama managed to hold onto his position for four more years and personally, I’m looking at the fella and thinking ‘You got lucky this time round, now you’ve really got to pull your finger out your ass and fix America or they may well take up lynching again’ However, I suppose Obama worked hard to get re-elected and Romney presented him a real challenge in the early stages of the debate (Not so much of a challenge after the 47% statement and the Republican’s response to Hurricane Sandy) So now America is looking towards Mr Obama and hoping, with what they have left, and in all honesty, I’m really not sure what’s gonna happen at this stage. To be honest, this win for Barack Obama will either mark a new age of hope and happiness, or reconfirm the fact we’re all up shit creek without a paddle.

The democratic systems of the western world have forever been flawed concepts, having been based on flawed predecessors and though perhaps a better alternative to a single dictatorship that some countries have or had, we essentially see the same thing each time round in every country. America falls into a two horse race between Republicans and Democrats then get to choose the shiniest of two turds to make decisions for them for four years. I have no right to judge, being a Brit commenting on the entire thing, but America essentially got to choose between the world’s greatest optimist who lacked substance or a religious tycoon with an ego bigger than the United States themselves, whoop de fucking do. I mean, Barack Obama essentially bleated on about ‘Gimme another chance, I can make a change’ like he was desperately clawing back his ex-girlfriend, the USA, and eventually the USA gave in with rosy red cheeks and open arms, whereas Romney just based everything on being rich and powerful and whilst he probably had the ability to dig the country out of debt, he’s more messed in the head than Charlie Sheen’s nightmares. I don’t even know where to start with the earlier candidates, like motherfucking Vermin Supreme and Sarah Palin… yeah, less said about them, the better… Though running for president on the basis of giving away ponies and dressing like Gandalf survived an explosion in his garden shed is impressively bizarre.

So you’re probably wondering what I am actually ranting about? I can’t really be specific this time round; I’d say politics but that’s too vague and a true rant about politics would take me forever to write. I guess I’m just being my usual cynical self and looking at the world of politics as steadily getting more and more shit. At least America has some interesting characters over there they can vote for, the beloved soul-singing, hoop-shooting cool guy or the unashamedly brass mega man of money and Mormonism. Americans amongst you, let me tell you what Britain has to show for their political leaders.

Firstly, there is current Prime Minister David Cameron, a rich and posh imbecile who reckons he’s a man’s man, but doesn’t even sniff a common sausage roll without travelling across the country to find one to prove he’s just like everyone else, only he has money and we don’t.  Apart from the fact he loosely resembles a featherless penguin’s abortion, David Cameron is a man so monumentally out of touch with the real world, he thinks that £65 a week (In the region of $50) is enough to buy a house, pay the bills, have all the latest technological gadgetry available and have a HDTV with satellite. Excuse me but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. £6500 a week, maybe, but £65? Really? Scarily enough, this fantasy land fucktard runs the nation and thinks he’s made it all better. If he has, anyone living in a house and not a mansion has yet to notice.

Second to David Cameron is his trusted sidekick Nick Clegg. Nick Clegg was supposed to ushering in an age of liberty, freedom and happiness but in the end, Cameron beat him but not by enough to be the sole party in charge and so Clegg joined with him to form a Coalition. The combination of these two is paramount to seeing Lucas and Spielberg work together on a film, the world is gonna suffer through a contorted mess that might have been great once upon a time, but never again. During the debate prior to our last election, Nick Clegg was the only candidate not focused on slagging off his competition and actually sounded promising but I suppose a bright future is too much to ask for this grey country. Nick Clegg is now only known by the reputation he has as David’s lapdog and the most charismatic thing he’s done in ages is become an auto-tuned parody on YouTube, courtesy of disappointed university students (Who are probably bankrupt and in massive debt thanks to his inability to keep a simple promise. You had one job Clegg, ONE JOB)

And the third horse in the race actually resembles a horse, Ed Milliband. You know it’s a shame his teeth can’t just bite through the heads of his opponents or he’d be the Emperor of the Universe. Gordon Brown finally melted, having looked like dripping wax during his time as PM, and they replaced him with one of the Inbetweeners. Ed is the photo perfect image of a nerdy stereotype but with none of the Star Wars trivia and an addiction to repeating his previous sentence at least twelve times in slightly different ways. For a long period of time, this man faced a career in which none of the general public quite remembered his name or knew that he was leader of the Labour party but now, he’s fairly easy to point out to anyone, bar the odd hermit and floating voter. Ed Milliband completes Britain’s terrible triumvirate of gormless faces that will be trying to run the country, each one an expressionless, mindless drone that wasn’t born from their mother’s womb but rather, assembled by suicidal elves.

I worry about the future of modern society all the time but the most worrying thing about the world is the people who run it. To me, the entire planet is controlled by people who know fuck all about the places they live in and the people they represent. I suppose politics is such a complex business you can’t have the people represent themselves, they wouldn’t understand how to do such a thing. By the same token, I don’t promote anarchy because we do need a government, sadly. However, I feel like the higher-ups need a reality check, a reminder that the people of the world are relying on them to serve the greater good. A radical move here would be to do away with the lot of them and start over fresh, including the economy, but that would take forever to do and is most likely impossible. I won’t pretend to know shit about economics, other than; I’m poor but probably better off than a Greek housewife. I hope to God that one day, there is a politician who genuinely stands up for the common man, isn’t in it for money or power, and says ‘Look, this is a fucked up system. Too much money for too little people, how about I even that out and make some changes’ I won’t be that man in my lifetime, haven’t got the ability, and no doubt if ever there was a man who would genuinely make life fair, he’d be shot in the head by a man with more bullets than brain cells. I’m surprised Obama wasn’t shot in 2008 to be honest, thought his dreams of change would be his death warrant. I think it says a lot about this world that we want things to improve but without too much change or by despising those who can make our lives genuinely better.