This Is About Children

This is not an immigration debate.

One of the roles of a first-world country, is to forever balance immigration from countries that aren’t as privileged. If you live in an idealised land, people are going to want to be there. You can’t have a desirable country and not expect a flow of illegal immigration from people escaping war, famine and crime-ridden cities. That’s just not the reality we live in. People, yourself included, want the best possible life for themselves and their families.

If you were born into a horrific situation, through no fault of your own, you would fight and claw your way out of it, to give your children the life they deserve.

We can debate statistics on contributions that immigrants make to America vs what they take from it. We can discuss appropriate immigration levels until we’re blue in the face. We can even enter into arguments over what defines an immigrant to the public, and whether or not it has anything to do with race.

But, this is not an immigration debate. Because a debate on appropriate levels of immigration, is a debate worth having. It’s a conversation that major countries should expect to have for as long as our species continues.

I say our species, but I don’t recognise Corey Lewandowski as human. If you’re already finding yourself in a position of defending Lewandowski’s response to the news that a ten-year-old girl with Down syndrome was separated  from her mother, then these words aren’t for you. Nobody can help you now, you are lost and I am sorry for whatever happened to you along the journey of life.

Equally, if you understand that the footage we’ve seen in the last few days of children in cages is an abject, waking nightmare of human-rights violations. Then these words also aren’t for you. Please feel free to read on, but I’m not one for preaching to the choir.

This morning, between bouts of anger and sorrow for the nation I’ve found myself in, I want to open a dialogue with everyone else. Anyone who feels as though this isn’t the worst crisis of our time, but also feels uneasy about conservative talking-heads mocking disabled children live on television. You are the beautiful middle-ground who deserve to have your voices heard. Now more than ever.

So, here are two open letters to people who identify with particular ideologies. In the hope that you’ll put this crisis within a context of your long-held morals and beliefs, and not whatever a biased media outlet, or government, tells you.


Dear 2016 Republican Voters,

You don’t have to agree with the GOP on everything. You haven’t lost a battle if you call your party out when they cross a line. One of the more horrific leadership decisions in my lifetime has been Obama’s call to excessively use drone-strikes on the middle-east, during which he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocents. I vocally condemned him at the time, and continue to do so whenever people try to portray his legacy as one without fault. No party does a perfect job, and to believe so is foolish.

Making a decision at election time is a balance of the positive and the negative. Having had nearly two years to analyse the fallout, I can understand why you backed a Trump presidency. It took some time, but I do finally comprehend the complexity of it all. You voting for Trump initially, that no longer scares me. What breaks my heart is seeing evil, bigoted people across media outlets, defend the inhumane treatment of children, who then have the audacity to claim that they represent you.

You wanted a shake-up, you wanted something new and different. I ask you now, is this what you wanted? It’s okay to admit that it isn’t. If we surrender our morals to a party line, we lose a significant aspect of what makes America free. Please, continue to debate with us, snowflake liberals, when it comes to immigration reform. I’d love to have these conversations back. But stand-up for basic human rights when they’re violated. Call your party leader out when he crosses a line, he’s going to listen to you when you doubt him, because you put him on the throne and have the power to keep him there.

For now, America is still a democracy, and no voice is heard more by an incumbent government than those who voted them into power. Use that voice to call this what it is. It doesn’t mean you’re not a true-Republican or any less of a patriot. If anything, the courage to disagree with your party shows the independence and free-will that makes American people so great.

Thank you for reading.


Dear Pro-Life Activists,

As a someone who is pro-choice, we might disagree on the moment at which human life begins, or the autonomy women should have over their own bodies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a united front on this issue. We can both agree that these children are, in-fact, alive. They’re children who need our help, love and support. Even if all you can spare is a heart-full of empathy at this time, then you are human and your heart is aching at an appropriate moment, and that is beautiful.

I know that a lot of Pro-Life groups are heavily linked to the Christian faith, and I also know that as an agnostic, it would be hypocritical of me to quote the Biblical words of Jesus on this issue. In the last half hour I’ve read several passages that highlight where Jesus stands on protecting children, and I’m going to make the assumption that you know where to find these words.

This is not an attempt to throw your faith back at you, but rather an understanding from an ethical non-believer that you’ll hold-true to the words you live your life by.

Governments love it when we’re neatly placed into ideological boxes that can be marketed to. They’ll assume, based on their demographics and data, that because you oppose abortion you also support this administration on child detention centers. I ask you not to abandon your morals, but to stand by them. Go out, mobilise, and defend the lives of children. I’ll be marching on June 30th to protest the treatment of immigrant children, and I’d be proud to stand beside you on this issue.

Thank you for reading.


No words that I can thread together can possibly match the horror of it all. You’ve all seen the videos, listened to the audio and searched your hearts and minds. We can no longer just hope that there’s an end to the madness, we have to act. You can start by calling your representatives and marching freely in peaceful protest. Or by donating to charities that aid in providing legal council to separated children.

We must first fix the inhumane injustices before opening up debates about the specifics of immigration reform. Children’s lives should not be used as a ransom for political policy.

This isn’t about party politics, this is not an immigration debate.

This is about children.

Today is Wednesday, June 20th and I wasn’t sure about the Nazi-Germany comparisons until now.

Pulling Teeth

Watching the England game yesterday felt like pulling teeth, and I should know, because two hours after the final whistle I had all four wisdom teeth out. Apparently, in football, if you raise your arm to someone, it’s a penalty. But a full-on Roman Reigns-style spear in the box doesn’t qualify as a foul.

BAR! (Huh, yeah) What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

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About an hour before my surgery I watched an online instructional video. It appeared as though it had been filmed by students, sometime between 1997 and 2003. Although, thinking about it, the cavalier nature of both the script and editing can only have come from a pre-9/11 America. One of the actors, playing the role of “concerned patient #2”, looked like a brunette Gillian Jacobs. She even acted the way Jacobs acts in Community, whenever she’s playing Britta acting badly in a class play. I then remembered to stop laughing, and paid attention.

The video was complete with mis-matched cuts, where we see the host turn her head away from camera one, as we begin the shot from camera two. Even though, if I were to guess, it was a single-camera set-up. Meaning that camera two was in fact just a repositioned camera one. It’s the sort of cut you’d get in a 70s documentary, an 80s news report, or apparently, a 90s dental video.

The video told me that I might die, as is the case for all surgery. I told Audra that if that happens she should self-publish my terrible novels, and donate all proceeds to whoever Donald has screwed over that given week. This week, innocent migrant children. Next week, who knows? I decided to make that joke directly to her before we arrived, just in case my surgeon supports the current regime, and would find himself in a position where he could nick a major artery while his liberal, snowflake cuck of a patient was under.

“Yeah, I did it, I killed him. But it was worth it to have one less lefty in the world!”

“He defends freedom of speech! Give him 48-hours community service and a medal!”

“We have the best dental surgeons. The best. They might kill a few people, sure, but they’re all crisis actors. My hands are big.”

I arrived at the dental surgery, hungry and thirsty from the whole eight-hour ban on anything that keeps you alive. A few signatures on an electronic pad, and my mouth was in their hands. Or more, their hands would be in my mouth.

Hopefully not their whole hand, of course. Although today I feel like someone decided to fist away at my face at some point in the last twenty-four hours.

After a short wait, and a joke that the receptionist didn’t find very funny:

“Sorry for keeping you. He’ll be ready for you in a couple of minutes.”

“That’s okay. He’s got to have his double-whiskey and a Twix.”

*Stunned silence*

“Don’t worry, he’s only having half a Twix.”

I make jokes when I’m anxious. Humour, meet brain and procreate to develop an unhealthy defence mechanism.

After a few more minutes, I was called through to the pulling-room and quickly reminded my loving but mischievous wife not to film the aftermath of the surgery. They hook me up with all the usual surgical garb; Some pads on my chest, a blood pressure armband, an IV, the giant oxygen cucumber. Then, I was left alone for quite a while.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been left alone with nothing but your visible vital-signs for company, but speaking from recent experience, it’s a pretty fun game. I began some controlled breathing and light meditation, and watched my blood pressure slowly drop from “bloody hell is he going to explode?” to a healthy level.

Then there was the heart monitor, this one’s more of a tricky mistress to tame, because the louder the beeps become, the higher your BPM gets. The noise is pretty stressful.

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So you have to point the finger-sensor away from the monitor. For whatever reason, this reduces the pitch of the sound output. That way you can focus, become zen and get your heart-rate down to a healthy resting 75 BPM.

Which is pretty good for someone with a load of tubes and wires hooked up to them, who doesn’t exercise much, and has an anxiety disorder. I’m proud of my 75, okay?

After my wait, which was about the length of a standard half of association football, the dental surgeon interrupted my vital games and briefed me on the surgery. He had a very serious face, so I decided to abstain from making jokes. I came to the conclusion that he definitely wouldn’t like the comment about Trump, or the bit about the whiskey. He looked like a gin man anyway.

After some final checks of my medical history, he began legally drugging me with a general anaesthetic. Four tubes of the knock-out juice were tapped into my IV, but by the time he loaded up the third I could feel myself passing beyond waking existence. I hope that’s how I get to die. None of this murder nonsense. Just pump a load of liquid into my pipes after I’ve said goodbye. I suppose that’s all any of us can hope for.

I wasn’t dying today. I came around in what felt like a blink of both eyes. It took me about five minutes to be totally lucid, at least to the point where I could ask the nurse how things went. I don’t think I said anything inappropriate before becoming fully conscious, and if I did, she was too polite to say anything.

They wheeled me out to the car, where Audra was waiting for me. As we pulled away from the surgery, we immediately passed by a store that excessively sold olive oils. I found myself compelled to shout “Olive oil!”, then proceeded to give two-thumbs up and a smile to all of the olive oil patrons inside.

As we got back to our apartment building, I attempted to convince Audra to park in a disabled spot.

“I’m going to feel pretty disabled for the next thirty minutes, so it only seems fair. If they have any problems, they can take it up with my bloody mouth!”

I was pretty out of it for another fifteen minutes or so. I remember watching an episode of Peep Show and trying desperately to decide if I’m Mark, Jeremy or Super Hans. Probably some awful cocktail of the three. Which obviously makes me a Jeremy.

My wonderful mother-in-law arrived with lots of cold, soft foods. Ice-cream and milkshakes have been a life-saver. It feels good being able to eat unhealthy for a bit, even though sugary snacks are what got me in this mess to begin with.

I’m feeling good today, and would give multiple wisdom tooth extraction a 7/10. As long as you actually need the procedure. Don’t just start yanking them out for the hell of it.

Unless you’re really bored.

Today is Tuesday, June 19th and according to recent statistics I had a 33% chance of being able to make jokes about Trump around my dentist.

Rousey vs Jax – An Analysis

Last night, at Money in the Bank, Ronda Rousey wrestled her second televised match for the WWE. How did she do? Let’s find out.

The Match – Ronda Rousey vs Nia Jax (c) – Raw Women’s Championship

Around an hour into the show, we get shots of both Ronda and Nia preparing for their match backstage. For me, this telegraphed the championship bout as being the main event of the show. It was certainly the headlining championship match, but the men’s ladder match went on to close the PPV. For a couple of hours I thought that they were going to go down the UFC main event path, of having Ronda main event and win in seconds.

Nia enters first, as the champion. I’m never a fan of this, but I guess they’re projecting the idea that Ronda is bigger than the title. She technically is, but I’m not so sure it’s something they should actively promote. Nobody, not even the second coming of Jesus Christ himself, should be bigger than a championship.

Ronda makes her way to the ring, met with cheers from the Chicago fans. She’s brining more intensity than she does on Raw, but still can’t stop herself from smiling. I’m still on the fence as to whether this harms her bad-ass persona, or endears her to an unforgiving WWE Universe.

The bell rings and immediately Nia tackles Ronda, repeatedly ramming her into the turnbuckle. A huge throw, followed by a corner splash, sees Nia take early dominance. Commentary puts over the idea that any moves go in the WWE, which isn’t strictly true, and they discuss UFC as though it’s some other kayfabe wrestling promotion.

Ronda sidesteps another splash and throws some early strikes into Nia’s midsection, before Nia silences her with a head-butt. Ronda sell it like death, because Nia is samoan and WWE still use tropes routed in racism.

Nia lifts Rousey into a fireman’s carry, but Rousey counters with a kimura lock attempt, followed by an armbar, and a triangle hold. Nia powers through and lifts Rousey for an awkward looking sit-out power-bomb. Ronda’s body was slightly angled, and Nia did absolutely nothing to protect her on the fall.

Ronda sells and stumbles out of the ring, taking the bump much harder than she needed to. Nia follows and swings Rousey into the barricade, before rolling her back in the ring for a two-count. Rousey fights back with more strikes, but Nia hits her with a great looking gorilla-press slam. More submission attempts from Ronda that don’t seem to phase the powerhouse, who repeatedly rag-dolls Rousey headfirst into the mat.

Nia locks in a bearhug, and the idiotic broadcaster that is Coach calls this moment a “rest” for Ronda. A submission has been locked in by a larger opponent, and Coach (in kayfabe!) refers to it as the rest-hold that it is (in reality).

I could even hear Vince screaming in my ear. Dammit!

The hold is broken and a partially botched samoan-drop is hit by Nia. It’s hard to tell who is at fault here, Ronda wasn’t caught properly but she also didn’t make a full rotation. They replay it anyway, and it looks even worse. Ronda avoids a leg-drop, and locks in an arm-bar over the ropes. Then, she climbs to the top rope for the first time in her career and hits a textbook crossbody for a near-fall.

Ronda “Hulks Up”, hits some rapid strikes and a beautiful high-knee. A huge judo-throw to Nia gets another two-count and showcases the superhuman strength of the much smaller fighter.

For the closing sequence, Ronda attempts an armbar but receives a rollup, which she kicks out of and hits a sort-of Rock-Bottom onto Nia. After some struggle, Rousey finally locks in the armbar and threatens an arm snap, only for Alexa Bliss to storm the ring and destroy both women with her freshly-won briefcase.

After several thudding shots to both competitors, a cash-in is made and your new Raw women’s champion is Alexa Bliss.

judorousey

The Verdict

All Ronda matches in the first year of her career must be viewed through a lens. She’s an experienced legit fighter, but is relatively new to this whole scripted reality business. However, she looked more comfortable between the ropes than her opponent. Nia has been wrestling for three years now, yet she still moves and delivers bigger slams in an awkward manner.

I didn’t enjoy Nia’s short reign as champion, but pre-match I was concerned about them putting the belt onto Ronda, so early on in her career. So, personally, I had no issue with the finish of this match. Alexa is a natural heel champion, who may not be a gifted technical wrestler, but understands that the WWE is about character work also. She’s essentially The Miz of her division.

The problems with Alexa’s title reigns aren’t Alexa, it’s the booking of the faces who give chase. Long heel reigns are good for developing new faces, and they failed with Alexa/Nia at the start of the year, by having Nia cut terrible promos and the near-immediate heel turn. So, if they’ve learned from their mistakes (ha), they can have Ronda chase the title for the rest of the year. Alexa can continue to generate heat, giving talent like Ember Moon some experience in championship matches. While Ronda makes her way through the heels on the roster.

Because that’s what Ronda needs. She needs more experience. Her WrestleMania outing blew everyone away, and this was a decent-enough singles match for someone so fresh. A match that, if anything, had more botches from the “veteran”.

Her strikes are on form, and she’s clearly learned how to work a punch. In fact, her offence in general is leaps and bounds above any other year-one rookies. I think you’d have to go back to Kurt Angle to find natural talent like that. She still has a lot to learn when it comes to taking a bump, to make sure she doesn’t injure herself. Going forward I’d like to see her in matches with experienced, safer workers, like Natalya, Mickie James or Sasha Banks. Who also happen to be three women who’d sell extremely well for her.

Ultimately, it appears as though Ronda was rushed to a title match to sell tickets, but at least no premature triggers were pulled. And if the championship is going to be on a superstar who can’t wrestle quite as well, I’d rather it be held by the person with character skills.

Today is Monday, June 18th and in about six hours I’m getting my wisdom teeth pulled out. 

What did you think of the match? How do you feel about the result? Let me know, in the comments below!

Images courtesy of WWE, for the purposes of review.

The Incredibles 2 – Review

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Pixar are about the only studio that can get me to the cinema to see a super hero franchise. When the sequel was first announced, I thought that they were leaving it a little too late in the superhero zeitgeist, but it turns out that the fad never ends. With the core Avengers series not wrapping up until next year, and several franchises in various phases of reboots and reimagines, it appears as though Pixar were right on the money.

Their were children in the theatre, which was weird. I assumed that this franchise was for people who watched the original fourteen years ago, and had spent the time in between not doing much of anything. Except waiting.

It’s only just occurred to me that some of us could’ve had kids of our own in that time. I’m glad I’m not one of them. 80% of the toddlers were screaming louder than Jack-Jack. During a dramatic and emotional highpoint of the film, a presumed three-year-old bellowed out…

“How long is this film!”

“This is only the end of the first act kid, I’m sorry not all media is as swift as a round of Fortnight.”

Incredibles 2 dives straight back into the action, with the opening sequence being the chaotic battle with The Underminer. I didn’t think it was entirely necessary to go back to this particular villain, as he felt like a throwaway exclamation mark at the end of the original. But, Pixar proved me wrong. The first ten minutes served as a reintroduction to the Parr family, showcasing how they dysfunctionally manage to get the job done. The core themes for the movie were telegraphed, rocky relationships were established and we were off.

The sequel revolves around the idea that Supers need to be made legal again. Elastigirl takes centre stage for this outing, which is a welcome shift from the first. She works with an ominously named telecommunications company, DEVTECH, in order to lobby for the legalisation of Supers, by carrying out heroic acts across the city.

Alarm bells ring out all over the place when we’re introduced to Winston and Evelyn Deavor, the sibling duo that own DEVTECH. They talk a lot about perception management; The idea that truth doesn’t matter, only the point of view shown. While this is absolutely true of the real world, it only tends to be shady men in shady rooms that openly have these conversations. Or men behind men in white houses.

All of that, along with the slogan of “Make Superheroes Legal Again”, was enough to make me second-guess just who the evil mastermind was. Right until around the middle of the second act, when the unrevealed villain swirled a drink and said something that may as well have been:

“I am the bad guy. Look at me. I’m very evil.”

The villain, The Screenslaver, was a perfectly constructed antagonist for both Elastigirl and our times. During their first extended monologue, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things they had to say. They railed against the disposable and passive nature of our culture, as well as drawing parallels between Helen Parr and themselves. A good villain should always speak with a grain of truth, but go about “fixing” that truth in selfish ways. A well constructed villain should also have faced the same hardships as the protagonist, but taken the easier pathway through those problems. Screenslaver ticked both of these boxes, making them one of the better cinematic superhero villains.

Mr Incredible played stay-at-home Dad for the majority of the movie. He wrestles with the fact that he’s not the one out saving the day, as he attempts to manage the chaotic lives of his lovesick teenage daughter, his hyper-energetic son and a baby that’s developing superpowers. At least two out of three of those are relatable to audiences. Although I’ve seen some babies, and Jack-Jack might be easier.

Bob Parr’s character development was, for the sake of a one-time pun, incredible. He begins by being frustrated with his role, until he takes is in his stride and works himself to near-death in order to raise his family. This story spoke to shifting gender roles in our society, that stay-at-home Dads are now just as common as stay-at-home Moms. That it doesn’t matter who is in which position, as both are working as a team in saving their own worlds.

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This subplot is what puts The Incredibles head and shoulders above any other superhero franchise, for me. They constantly ground the story in real, relatable human struggles. For every ridiculous comic-book moment, we have a thirty second conversation that could be had in any family household in the world.

My dislike of the superhero genre comes from the lack of imagination. I like my stories to be either grounded, gritty and realistic; Or out of this world, dream-like nonsense, that push and question the limits of reality. Everything in the middle feels like, wow, you tapped into your imagination and all you saw was a guy in a cape?

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I know this makes me biased in reviewing a superhero film, but an entirely animated feature managed to tick the first of my two boxes, where most movies in the genre fail to do so. It’s a story about a dysfunctional, realistic family, who happen to be superheroes.

I also enjoyed the imagery of a group of generic, yet colourful superheroes being villainous for the third act. For me, it felt as though Pixar were poking fun at the Marvel model of shoving as many heroes into a movie as possible, by having the Parr kids fight their way through a variety pack of spandex-clad characters.

Secondary characters, like Frozone, Edna and the newly introduced Void, were used well. Each of them had a good reason for helping the family at specific moments, and weren’t just their for window-dressing.

Any concerns I had about the visual and tonal styles from the first feature, were washed away within minutes. Michael Giacchino’s score emulates and evolves from his own offering fourteen years prior. And the colour schemes, animation style and visuals of a generic urban sprawl are that perfect cocktail of familiar, yet progressive.

My only real criticism was that it didn’t feel as smart as the original. But when half of the genius comes from creating a family that have powers reflecting their role in the nuclear family, it’s impossible to recreate that realisation in a sequel of already-established characters.

We already know that a Dad wants to feel strong, that a Mom wants to be flexible, a teenage girl feels invisible, and a boy has a lot of energy.

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All in all, The Incredibles 2 can be considered another successful sequel for Pixar. Similar to Monsters University and Finding Dory, it managed to re-establish the world and push the driving, emotive force of the original, but without quite reaching the magical heights. Which is no disrespect to any of these films, more a testament to the benchmark that Pixar sets itself.

I’d see a third film, partly because the genre already has a set precedent for sequels, meaning it won’t seem jarring or unnecessary. Also because I’ve already pitched a couple of ideas to myself that I like. The main one being that Jack-Jack is kidnapped by a “collector”, due to his unique multitude of powers. This can allow for Dash and Violet to take centre stage for the final act, in order to tell a real explosive, thrilling and heartfelt sibling A-story.

Go see The Incredibles 2. It’s solidly an 8/10, 4 star flick. And if this cynic was pleased, you won’t be disappointed.

Today is Saturday, 17th of June and some cinemas in America have reclining armchairs, which is amazing.

What did you think of The Incredibles 2? Let me know, in the comments below!

World Cups

It’s back and more corrupt than ever before, it’s the FIFA World Cup! The tournament of tournaments is the only football I can bring myself to watch religiously, because it feels like the Olympics. There’s a sense of national pride and achievement without undertones of racism. I’m sure if you go to the right pubs and bars, in the right corners of the world, you’ll still find lashings of prejudice that go along with following football. But, for the most part, the World Cup is free-range and cruelty free.

Unless you look at the governing bodies.

Or the host nation.

You know what, let’s just watch the football.

As I’m typing these words I’m watching a game between Egypt and Uruguay, without the benefit of BBC commentary. Instead I have a couple of Americans, who’re attempting to get through the terminology of a game of football; One that’s played with actual feet. It’s familiar, in a way, because they sound like me when I’m trying to talk about football to anyone.

“And the player is really going for it, he’s got the ball right in the- area.”

“The referee is only just now reaching into his pocket for that yellow rectangle!”

“They’ve got to focus on the defence, there’s no two ways about it, at three to nothing you have to focus on the defence.”

“Well that was a-! Wow! What an awesome event!”

They’re getting most of the words wrong, but their accents and cadences do inject a certain level of excitement and unpredictability into each game.

The United States don’t seem to mind about the World Cup, any American I’ve spoken to about the current tournament just starts talking about the fact that they’ll be hosting in 2026. Can’t be left out of the tournament if you bribe your way into hosting it, can you? That’s some pretty sound logic from our non-soccer playing American brothers and sisters.

I don’t think I’ll be too torn in who to support eight years from now. I’ll still be one year away from potentially applying for American citizenship, so I’ll be trapped in the nightmare vacuum that is being a part-time England supporter. As far as I know, the entire MO of an English football player is to be amazing for 3.9 years of your career, and then be a sentient pile of hot garbage for the remaining 0.1.

A small piece of me will want to r- oh, Uruguay just scored, dammit, I was backing Egypt – a part of me will want to root for the USA. They’ll certainly be underdogs in the tournament, but they never behave in such a manner. Iceland and Egypt are two teams that really know how to act like the plucky, yet humble, chancer. The USA aren’t capable of acting like the underdog in any situation. They’ll boldly and boisterously lose every single match in a flourishing, and almost impressive, display of arrogance.

“We may have lost, but we definitely won” has been the slogan for American wars over the last fifty years, why not apply it to a friendly kick-around?

No, I’ll be with the England squad. The group of men who show up to a host nation, having brought a helping of overcast weather above their hair-plugs. It doesn’t matter which generation it is, they always set themselves up to fail before the tournament begins.

“How do you feel England will fair this year?”

“Well, you know, if we can just about kick the ball then I reckon we’ll have done our country proud.”

“How far would you like to make it in the tournament?”

“Well, you know, the ninetieth minute is a good achievement, but substitutions can happen.”

“Okay…And what will you be having for dinner tonight?”

“Woah! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves!”

It’ll be fun to attend a World Cup game though. Denver is hotly rumoured to be one of the host cities. Which will be fun for the teams unlucky enough to play here. The altitude will exhaust anyone who’s not used to it. I still get out of breath here, when climbing flights of stairs that extend for more than two floors. Plus, there’s the dryness. So any health drink company would do well to sponsor the Denver events. I suppose by 2026 Coca-Cola will be considered a health drink, having pulled some strings in the great brand-rebranding scandal of 2022.

2026 seems so far away. Canada, USA and Mexico are currently involved in what can be trivially described as a “trade-tiff”. I’m sure by 2026, we’ll either all no longer be here, or we’ll have entered another period of relative peace. If it’s the former then I reckon the last surviving, mutated members of the human race will find a way of continuing on with the tournament.

“You can’t kill football. Not with knives or guns. Not with nuclear bombs or chemical weapons. Football will always live on. After the dust has settled, all that will be left is the old pig-skin and FIFA board members. You see, they have this bunker…

– David Beckhamm

Four teams will put down their pointy sticks for a weekend, in order to play the shortest tournament in World Cup history.

The Human Republic vs The Mexican Cold-Lands

Help, Everything is Burning vs The New Kingdom

The winners of each match will clash in a final that decides who gets all of the remaining fuel, fertile women and glowing yams!

Let’s face it, it’s more likely that this whole terrible charade of society will continue, and we’ll have a handful of leaders that promote peace and unity for a decade. The 2026 World Cup can be used as a great international PR event, in order to convince the world that North America isn’t the fragmented mess it was during the Donald and Ivanka Trump administrations.

Back in 2018, Morocco and Iran are about to start playing, and I’m sure that’ll be something. Later it’ll be Portugal vs Spain which, sarcasm aside, sounds genuinely exciting. Peninsula warfare!

For as much as I jest about the decline in stable international relations, it’s really important that tournaments like the World Cup continue to exist. It brings people together, and is a culture that most countries can share in. Afterall, the first world war was ended by a game of football (don’t look that up). Kicking something around for ninety minutes, with not a lot of anything happening, could be what eventually brings about world peace.

Today is Saturday, June 16th and are Walkers doing all of the football flavoured crisps this time? The red card flavour was always my favourite.

Fakebook

We’ve always had misinformation, only now it’s branded as “Fake News” and on everyone’s Facebook timeline. It used to be found exclusively in tabloid newspapers and cable news channels, ones that aren’t legally eligible for any journalism awards. Because they don’t abide by any standards, and are typically owned by men named Rupert.

People have always consumed biased pieces of media, that lie and distort the truth in order to reinforce their readers long-held world-views. Except now you don’t need access to a $60 a month cable package, or to thumb through your physical tabloid of choice.

There’s a commercial that Facebook have been circulating recently that essentially apologises for their behaviour in the last few years. It’s a typical tech-company advertisement, with a white background and lots of images of everyday people enjoying everyday life. With a little section in the middle that mentions fake news, data-breaches and mistrust. All before sharply cutting back to “normal” people enjoying “normal” things. Whatever that means.

As this is an opinion piece about misinformation; Here’s a disclaimer to say that the following quotations have been made-up for comedic purposes.

“We’re sorry we stored information about your newborn baby, so that we can begin marketing to her when she sets up a Facebook account in a few years time.”

“Wait, you did- what was that?”

“We’re sorry we showed you false information about candidates in the election. We thought you wanted to read about school-shootings being hoaxed by liberals, before you went to the polls.”

“Well you said they were so-“

“We’re sorry we made-up that terror attack and had you worried for your friend who’s on holiday in Morocco. She’s actually fine, and from her search terms she may be pregnant. It’ll be a boy and we’re harvesting his information too! Yay!”

“Hang on a minute!”

Here is a link to the actual advert. They never specify how they’re going to solve the problem, and the whole agonising minute digests like some Orwellian nightmare.

I check Facebook once a day, to quickly see what family members are up to. I live abroad, so at its core, Facebook provides an excellent service for me and my loved ones. Only, as I’m catching up on the daily antics of people in the UK, I still see “Fake News” stories shared. Despite the well-lit commercial promises to combat such misinformation.

Out of the first thirty posts on my timeline, three of them were what would be considered Fake News by anyones standards.

The first was a made-up terror threat from 2016, presented as though it had happened today. Judging by the comments below the article, it convinced the person sharing the “story” that it had taken place. This sews false seeds of both terror and racism, in a world already filled with too much of both.

The second was more of a comedic fabrication about a serious incident, but one that had at least convinced the sharer that it was real. This establishes the outlet as a credible source of information to that particular user.

The third was false information about a rape case, that sought to defend the rapist. Which was easily disproved with a quick read of an article from a well-established and reputable source. The purpose of this article is to encourage misogyny and perpetuate a dangerous myth about victims of sexual assault.

All three of these stories had the appearance of mainstream news. They were formatted in similar ways to official news stories from reputable outlets, but they always have names like…

thenewsaroundtheworldtoday.biz

onlytrueamericannews.net

everythingwesayistrue.yes.it.is

believeusandnobodyelse.conspiracy

I really hope those links aren’t real.

It amazes me that someone would share something without first checking the source, but then again, people have always bought tabloid newspapers that spout fear-mongering stories, designed to sway opinion and spread chaos in our democracy.

The game’s still the same, but it’s instantaneous now.

facebookphone

The hype-train of ‘Facebook is entirely terrible’, is one that I can’t bring myself to board completely. I’ve bought a ticket, sure, but I haven’t packed by suitcase just yet.

It’s the social media platform that older demographics have latched on to, for a multitude of reasons, and I think it’s incredibly important for people of all generations to stay connected in an increasingly digital world. It must be terrifying to be entirely disconnected in a society that encourages as many connections as possible.

Plus, there isn’t a single billion-dollar media company out there that isn’t doing something nefarious. I use Twitter and they certainly have their own issues.

Personally, I like the idea of media literary classes for all. Some schools in Europe already have it on the curriculum, but I’d like to see every citizen take some kind of test that qualifies them to use social media platforms. Although attempting to educate society doesn’t usually go down well with most of the political classes.

It’d be similar to driving tests. You take a test to ensure your safety on the road, so that you aren’t a danger to yourself or others. Misinformation in one country can lead to deaths in another. Voting one way based on false-promises can lead to a chain reaction of global events that sees the slow dismantling of 20th century democracy.

I’m looking at you Brexit Leave Campaign.

Growing up during the rise of the internet, I remember teachers telling us regularly to not believe anything we read online. They said that Wikipedia wasn’t a good source of information because “anyone can just say anything they want”. Despite the fact that citations are given, and it’s clear whenever they’re not.

And now we’re in a place where that same generation of teachers are believing everything they see on their Facebook feeds, simply because it’s muddled among Sharon’s drunken posts about her ex-husband and Claire’s advertisements for her luxury bath-bombs.

You’re involved in a pyramid scheme Claire, they don’t have the heart to tell you, but I do. Believe in yourself Claire, make your own bath-bombs!

bath bombs
I love stock photos

It’s not entirely generational. I know people older than me who’re just as savvy with their media literacy as I am, if not more-so. And equally I have old school-friends who blindly share misinformation like it’s going out of style.

It’s not, it’s very on-trend. Fake News is vogue. I think I used that word right.

Ultimately, I don’t mind which way elections swing. I just want the playing field to be fair and balanced. What scares me is that we have ruling parties across the West who’re doing very little to challenge Fake-News. Zuckerberg keeps getting off lightly in his hearings, and I can’t help but feel like he’s just at them for show.

The rapid spread of misinformation is going to continue to be one of the key problems of the century. All I can encourage anyone to do is to check sources and recognise when an opinion piece is an opinion piece. I’ll give you a clue, this is an opinion piece.

And at election time, search your hearts and minds. Gather information from reputable sources and have discussions with friends and family. Prove each other wrong with facts and statistics, and be open to each other’s world-views before coming to your own, private decision that’s fact-based.

I’ll leave you with a snippet of conversation my London-based friends and I had with an Uber driver a couple of months back.

“So aren’t they banning screwdrivers and scissors from the UK now? Because of all the crime.”

“No, that’s not true. Where are you getting your news from?”

“Facebook.”

Today is Friday, June 15th and it’s difficult to inject comedy into such a serious topic.

Have any thoughts on all of this? Do you have any examples of Fake News you’ve seen online? Let me know in the comments below!

NXT Report Cards: Part 2

Welcome to NXT Report Cards! Where the students of WWE’s NXT get mid-term updates on their work from an unqualified human on the internet. My opinions are my own and every performer I critique is a better person than I am!

You can catch Part One by hitting the words that say Part One, not the second pair of words that say Part One, but the first or third.

shayna

Name: Shayna Baszler

Time in NXT: 11 Months

In-Ring Ability: C+

Promo Skills: C-

Superstar Factor: B-

The current NXT Women’s champion and ex-UFC fighter has risen rapidly to the top of the women’s division. Given her limited experience, she’s doing extremely well in the ring and all of her matches have a certain level of intensity to them. She’s improved so much since her WWE debut in the Mae Young Classic last summer, and proven herself as a competitor who’s here for more reasons than being friend to Ronda Rousey.

Her interviews are a little shaky when they’re live, but she does well enough in pre-recorded segments. While Ronda had the best match at WrestleMania this year, we don’t yet know how well Ronda will fair in regular singles competition. Shayna’s ability is at a place where she could be paired with Ronda on the main roster tomorrow, or go her own way and survive on Smackdown. She also has a unique look for the women’s division, which only helps her superstar status.

kassiusohno

Name: Kassius Ohno

Time in NXT: 1 Year, 5 Months (This Run)

In-Ring Ability: A

Promo Skills: B-

Superstar Factor: C

Kassius Ohno is veteran who was brought back to NXT to work with the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. He’s a proven in-ring technician, capable of having twenty minute classics on NXT TV whenever a star is on the rise. His placid personality sometimes lets him down in promos, but the moves he performs between the ropes more than make up for his shortcomings.

I don’t see Kassius ever making it to Raw or Smackdown on a full-time basis, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d like to see Ohno become the “heart and soul” of NXT, the man that’s the benchmark for performers joining the yellow and black brand. It’ll be a badge of honour to defeat him, and he can still score regular TV victories over fresher, performance-centre talent.

streetprofits

Name: Street Profits

Time in NXT: 6 Years (Angelo Dawkins, left) 2 Years, 8 Months (Montez Ford, right)

In-Ring Ability: C+

Promo Skills: B-

Superstar Factor: C+

The happy-go-lucky babyface tag-team of NXT have enjoyed as many wins as they have losses in the year that they’ve been paired together. Every time I see this duo, it’s a tale of two performers. They gel well as a duo and have proven themselves to have great in-ring chemistry. But as far as personality goes, they couldn’t be more different.

Montez Ford oozes personality, and convinces me in every shot that he’s having a great time doing what he’s doing. Plus, he has comedy chops to boot and has showcased some excellent athleticism over the last six months. Angelo Dawkins, on the other hand, is just there. His time in NXT is telling, and he’s been through several partners and gimmicks in that time without ever switching on his personality. I see a bright future for Ford, but not necessarily for the team.

larssullivan

Name: Lars Sullivan

Time in NXT: 3 Years, 3 Months

In-Ring Ability: B+

Promo Skills: B

Superstar Factor: A

For a long time I’ve considered Lars to be the best kept secret of NXT. Until about four months ago he was used few and far between, but every time he was featured in a match, he brought a big-guy intensity that’s only matched by Braun Strowman. He executes his power moves perfectly and can keep the pace with much smaller and faster competitors.

Then there’s his promos. While they’re not perfect, they’re certainly unique. He speaks methodically and with purpose, as though every word was carefully chosen to convey a certain message. It’s rare for a big-guy to speak with such intelligence, but it will help him stand out on the main roster from guys like Strowman. I like to think of Lars as both Doctor Frankenstein and his monster.

kairisane

Name: Kairi Sane

Time in NXT: 10 Months

In-Ring Ability: A+

Promo Skills: C

Superstar Factor: B

The pirate princess was the inaugural winner of the Mae Young Classic and deservedly so. She hasn’t had the opportunity for any singles Takeover matches yet, but she might be one of the most technically gifted performers the company has. Every single movement Kairi makes has a purpose, and that’s what separates the good storytellers from the great.

Her winning smile and contagious positivity should be enough to push beyond the language barrier, and she does seem to be picking English up faster than Asuka, but it’s difficult to rate her promo ability as of now. Hopefully Kairi is given the chance to shine at a Takeover this year, because she’s a performer who’s clearly capable of putting on MOTY candidates.

velveteendream

Name: Velveteen Dream

Time in NXT: 2 Years, 4 Months

In-Ring Ability: B+

Promo Skills: A+

Superstar Factor: A+++

Where do I even begin? The Dream is a once in a generation performer, with charisma levels we haven’t seen since prime Rock. The craziest part is that he’s only 22! He’s someone who completely understands the character he’s playing, the subtleties, the nuances in the delivery of his dialogue; Velveteen Dream is sports entertainment.

I expect nothing but the brightest of futures for The Dream, I’m talking face-of-the-company heights. We’ve seen him perfectly play both face, heel and everything in between. He offers a unique character and his in-ring work is only improving with every big-match he’s put in. He brings out the best in his opponents and injects a must-watch atmosphere into every segment. Keep both eyes on The Dream, he’s the face you’ll be seeing for the next twenty years of the business.

Today is Thursday, June 14th and if you’re new to wrestling, watch NXT Takeover: Chicago this Saturday to see what it’s all about.

All images belong to WWE and are used for the purposes of review only.

Do you agree with the report cards? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll bring Part 3, next week.