”I have opinions of my own - strong opinions - but I don’t always agree with them.” - George H.W. Bush
‘The Lord of the Rings’ Best Scenes
I’m currently re-reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ books but my love for them was born from the film trilogy. I still think they’re the greatest films ever made. The writing, acting, direction is just brilliant. No other movies come close to the level of epic that these do. I can’t believe I haven’t done a countdown of my favourite scenes before, so here goes:
Mc the Life
Last month, after a total of eight years, I left my job at McDonald's to be a writer full time. Having never intended to have been there that long, I can confirm it did leave a bit of an M-shaped hole in my life. I might not miss much of it right now, but I think I will in time. Meanwhile, I'm going to try and put into words the life and times of my tenure there.
The Beasts Really Are Fantastic
I don’t often do reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. Partly because I just love going to the cinema and COVID put a stop to it for so long and now the cost of living crisis is doing the same. Thank goodness for Vodafone and their 2 for £7 vue vouchers allowing myself and my girlfriend to attend for peanuts. It wasn’t the perfect cinema experience, due to a friend (demoted now to associate) breaking all the basic laws of cinema etiquette. Arriving late, moving loudly, flashing torch everywhere, talking, eating loud food during quiet scenes, slurping drink and then getting up to go to the toilet AS WELL.
The Top 10 British Sitcoms
I love British comedy. I like how it is very self-deprecating, love the farcical nature of it as a metaphor for the hardships of life and even love the subtler aspects of British humour like wordplay. I’ve counted down my favourite examples of the best way of representing this type of humour: the sitcom. Obviously, there may be some glaring omissions (I’ve never seen the original Office) but this is based on what I’ve seen.
The Top 5 Most Shocking Deaths in ‘The Sopranos’
I recently listened to a podcast where somebody suggested that the show people need to watch right now is ‘The Sopranos.’ I agree. It’s revolutionary and has incredible insights into the human soul. It also revolutionised the TV drama. The only show that I think slightly tops it, ‘Mad Men,’ wouldn’t have been possible without it. One of ways ‘The Sopranos’ achieved this is by making the antihero it’s central character. A ruthless mob boss became someone we could identify with, which is an interesting window into human nature. And one way to explore that window, I think, is looking at the various “hits” that take place throughout the series. Despite it being a regular aspect of the protagonists’ lives, we were still regularly left shocked by what we saw. I’ve narrowed the most gut-wrenching moments to 5. Spoilers alert, obviously.
The Capital Punishment Problem
Many Newcastle United fans, like myself, were recently subject to attacks in the media when it transpired that the Saudi Arabian government, who (although not "technically") essentially own the club, executed an extraordinary 81 people on one day in March. It brought to light the subject of sports washing by regimes such as this, whereby investment in something like a struggling football club helps shift western attention away from such atrocious activites as this. Now, that in itself is a big and complicated discussion, but I want to focus on the nature of the crime here. 81 people in one day is astonishing. I think that even those in the west who believe in the death penalty would agree. And I think one of the main reasons for this is that, although we cannot know for sure, many of the crimes that are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia are not remotely as severe as what some of us in the west would deem worthy of capital punishment. The other main reason it is so shocking, I think, is that the nature of the statistic implies there isn't much time taken to have trials or investigations before the death penalty is given. Let's compare this to say, the USA, where people spend years and years on death row going through the appeal process before they are eventually executed.
It’s Not the End of the World … Until it is
The studies into the differences between generations has always been something of interest to me. When you look into it, what you tend to find is that, since time began, older generations have always complained about their younger counterparts, and people, as they get older, always seem to be of the point of view that the world is getting worse. The phrase "the world is going to hell in a handcart" goes back to the 19th century. Yet the world's still standing. That said, at the turn of the 20th century, the world experienced a World War, a global pandemic, shortly followed by a global economic depression and another World War. Those who lived and died through that period are known as the "lost generation" and their children, the oldest people in our society today (those born from the 20s-40s), are referred to as the "silent generation."
Newcastle upon Tyne: My Hero Hometown
I've been trying my hand at travel writing recently, noting that, no matter how much I love to travel to faraway places and how much I love those places, my favourite place in the world will always be my hometown. So I thought I'd write a "travel blog" as such about said town. To cement my appreciation. But it occurred to me, when I was deciding what to write about, that I'm not really entirely sure of what it is that I love about my hometown. The reason for this, probably, is that I don't fit the stereotype of a "Geordie" ie. a Newcastle resident. I don't even really have the accent, which is instantly recognisable all over the UK. I think a sense of common identity with other residents is usually what attaches people to the place they come from. But I think, for me, it's something different, and I'm going to attempt to figure out why over the next few paragraphs. I mean, I hope that this will also advertise the city to potential travellers, but I have no idea where I'm going with this.
Winter in the Sunshine State
So, after a week in New York, I was headed to Florida, firstly to Orlando and then on to St. Petersburg. The best thing about Florida upon arrival was of course the temperature, having endured the freezing climate of New York. I was also looking forward to the alligators. Whenever people write about Florida on Twitter, the emojis they use are a sun and an alligator. And there were signs next to the lake by the complex warning me of their presence. But I was saddened to never meet one. Had to settle for the one I'd seen in the New York Natural History Museum.
NYC: The Second-Greatest City on Earth
I haven't ever really tried travel writing before, but I was lucky enough recently to get to go on the trip of a lifetime to the USA, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, I was fascinated as a Brit out of water. I spent nearly a week in New York, before flying from New Jersey to Orlando for a few days and then on to St Petersberg, Florida, for my cousin's wedding. I'll talk about New York today, and if I/anyone else is happy with it, I'll write a sequel next week about Florida. So, in that unlikely event, stay tuned.
The True Meaning of the False Meaning of Christmas
Folks in the media who lament the commercialisation of the traditionally Christian festival, Christmas, will often frame it as being about "Santa vs. Jesus." Jesus's birth of course, is the origin of the festival, a time of giving an reflection, but to many secular people, Santa, a personification of the giving of gifts, is the centre of the season, a symbol of receiving, not giving, and of celebration and indulgence.
A Gift of General Ignorance
Christmas is coming and I've also just noticed this new category. One for fans of QI and similar such programmes. Or just fans of trivia in general. I enjoyed making quizzes during lockdown, and maybe this might inspire more, saying as many parts of the world are back in lockdown this winter, and many places seem to be heading in that direction. God forbid but we can never tell. I Just thought I'd give my Christmas present to this Vocal community by sharing the general ignorance I've stumbled across that I haven't seen on things like QI. A quick disclaimer is that they may have featured on QI and other such programmes, I just haven't noticed as I haven't consumed them all. Anyhow, there could be some content for your Christmas quizzes here. And UK readers will know all to well that they are allowed Christmas parties this year, so why not have a quiz? Let's just hope you do a better job of answering difficult questions than our ridiculous Prime Minister! I've tried to keep this trivia as festive-themed as possible, but there are limits to my knowledge of original general ignorance.