Daniel’s Story

Snip. Snip. Snip.

What is this feeling? Thought the boy as he cut the dreads from his hair.

Am I alone?

No.

Am I lonely?

I don’t know, thought the boy.

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Being Alone

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Left in my own head, I quickly become my own worst enemy. I become prone to dark spells and a feeling that the walls are closing in around me. This year, loss has been a pretty major factor in my life and so I tend to find myself in my own company more often than not. Wasted opportunities, regrets, and self-criticism are three themes that seem to circle around in my head. I reach out often, and require more and more from the people around me.

I can be a handful when I’m forced to spend a whole day in my own company. There’s nothing more stark of a reminder that you don’t particularly like yourself when you can’t stomach the idea of spending an entire day on your own. It always goes the same way. First there’s the boredom, then that gives way to tangents in your head, which quickly leads to worries and a feeling of total aimlessness. Then the panic sets in. What am I doing with my life? How am I going to pay off all this debt? When am I going to find a job? Where will I be a year from now? Who can I speak to about this? Why do I seem unable to control my own emotions?

2016 has been a roller coaster of emotions for me, and most of the time that roller coaster has barrelled downwards faster and faster. It feels like it’s just a matter of time until the screws come loose and the ride goes flying off the track. My way of approaching this has been to try and keep myself as busy as possible. I try to fill my days with activities, schedules, ‘being productive’. It doesn’t really seem to work. That’s because doing things for the sake of doing things doesn’t fix anything.

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For the last three months, I have been living back home desperately searching for a job so I can fulfil my ambition of moving to London. I have this ridiculous idea in my head that London is this promised land full of strange, interesting, pretentious people – and that I can somehow find my calling there. I’m a walking cliche. I don’t really understand this notion that people who spend their lives unemployed doing nothing have a great life. It feels like torture most of the time. There is absolutely nothing worse than having no direction in your life – and it’s even worse if you possess the self-awareness to know you have no direction,  but have no idea how to actually find any.

It’s easy to feel like a burnout, and it’s even easier to sit around feeling sorry for yourself (I’ve spent plenty of my time doing that). The real challenge is in trying not to just cure your boredom with quick fixes – booze, fags, drugs. The real challenge is in trying to really apply yourself to something you’re passionate about and stop telling yourself it’s all pointless.

I always have gotten attached to people very strongly in the past, and I always imagined that loss would lead to a big mental breakdown where I would be sabotaging my own life and my relationships with everyone else in my life. A friend of mine pointed out to me not so long ago that that’s a fantasy you see in TV and movies. The truth is far worse. I’m just bored. Bored and going no where. What do you do at a time like this other than just try to keep trucking on?

I guess there’s just points in your life where you have to accept everything is a bit shit, and get on with it. Live day-by-day. That’s never been me though. I’m a planner. I have to keep busy, I have to feel like I’m doing something. But right now, as much as I try, I’m not. At least, not really. I’m just existing. Going through each day, ticking off my to-do lists, and continuing to frantically search for employment. But I’m not really doing anything. I feel like I’m wasting away.

First Thoughts on The Lobster

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I’m trying to do less movie and music blog posts, but I saw this film recently and I just had to share what I thought with you all. I don’t know if I just watched it at a really good time in my life, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all week.

The Lobster stars Colin Farrell as David, a recently widowed middle-aged man, who lives in a dystopian world where it is a legal requirement for everybody to be in a happy relationship. Those who find themselves single are taken to a hostel which is run by Oliva Coleman’s character. The inhabitants of this hostel have forty-five days to find a match or they are turned into an animal. I know, what? An animal. Like, a pig or a dog or whatever. It was awesome.

In the background, there is a mysterious ‘hunt’ that the guests are obliged to take part in. They are given a tranquilizer gun and sent into the woods to subdue these people who live there in return for extra days before they are to be morphed into an animal. This plot device emphasises a real sense of danger and darkness that is already in abundance in other parts of the movie – from the numerous attempts Farrell and other characters try to find a mate (and the strange undertones of desperation), to a really odd scene when he requests to be turned into a lobster at the end.

The dark humour in this scene pervades the rest of the movie, leading to some really hilarious parts when you least expect it. The film plays with your expectations all the way through, always leaving you unsure of what’s going to happen next.The film is also shot beautifully to add to the atmosphere.

I mean, I could keep talking about these technical reasons why I enjoyed the film, but it’s impossible to talk about it without turning to the entire premise of the plot. This idea of a world where it is compulsory to be in a relationship is thought-provoking and pretty terrifying, actually. It leads people to live essentially fake lives, forcing a smile but being dead behind the eyes. It definitely warrants discussion in the comments below.

I don’t want to go on about it too much because it’s better to watch this film with no real idea of what to expect. I’ll leave you with this quote, which was my favourite line in the movie. It is delivered as a narration (voiced gorgeously by Rachel Weisz).

“One day, as he was playing golf, he thought that it is more difficult to pretend that you do have feelings when you don’t, than it is to pretend you don’t have feelings when you do.”

 

Making Friends

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Making friends as an adult can be an incredibly hard thing to do. Today marks one month since I returned to the UK from my travels abroad, and I find myself back in my hometown with very few options when it comes to a social life. I can’t help but feel a bit like a loser, even though I know there’s nothing wrong with me.

There just aren’t that many options out there for an adult if you don’t already have a base of friends to meet new people. This probably is especially exacerbated if you live in a small town where there isn’t much going on. I stayed true to my word and have carried home with me many of the things I learned by moving to Nepal. I have been making more effort to contact acquaintances and meet up… but I was not surprised to find that most of the people who I would even have any interest in seeing back home moved away years ago. And who could blame them? I’m going to be doing the exact same thing as soon as possible.

So the only option for me is to meet entirely new people. But again, this isn’t easy as an adult either. Common advice is “join a club.” What these clubs are that people are talking about I don’t know. Where do people find these clubs? I haven’t heard of a ‘club’ since I was at university (where, admittedly, the societies were a great tool). Once you’re thrust out into the big bad world on your own, there are no ‘clubs’. Other than meeting people through your friends, you’re expected to buddy up with your work colleagues. Difficult option for me as I am currently seeking employment.

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It gets kind of frustrating, and it makes me feel pretty restless. I feel like I am waiting for something more, but I also know that I’m probably going to have to accept it being like this until I move to a new city. Sorry I don’t have any solutions here, and I hope it’s okay if I have a little whine. If nothing else, the situations I have been – and am going to – put myself through on the quest for connection are going to lead to some comedy gold for when I get down to writing my new set.

Hear Me Out: Why the Common People Should Vote to REMAIN a Member of the European Union

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So, here we are. Tomorrow we will all be going to our local polling booths and casting our vote for the most important decision in recent memory. I have decided to write this blog post to make an ideological argument for why we should stay in the European Union. Most of the people I have spoken to (working class, white, Welsh voters) are not concerned with the economic or political arguments for remaining or leaving the EU. The agenda in my part of the woods seems to be immigration, immigration, immigration… And the threat of terrorism that that brings. If you would hear me out, I’d like to take you through another perspective and hopefully open you up to a different point of view on the subject. I will not be arguing with facts or abstract statistics that most normal people (like me) cannot really visualise in our heads. This is an opinion-based argument for why the people I see in my community should reconsider their stance.

The crux of the reason why many pure-blood Labour voters are not following the party line seems to be distrust with the political elite and the fear that immigration and open borders will lead to terrorism and a burden on our public services. I will discuss these points in turn.

The Political Elite – Who needs em?!

I hear you, I hear you. Wales has suffered hugely at the hands of Tory governments and you can see the poverty all around you. Walking through the streets of Swansea, it is normal to see way too many homeless people lying in the street, left behind by a government who walks all over Wales without a care in the world. On my first day back from Nepal, I walked around the city centre and saw three men stumbling across the road with cans of cheap cider in their hands, clearly with a drug addiction, being loud and unruly. Even above that, those of you out there who are doing your best to pay the rent on a tiny council house to send your kids to school or help raise the grandkids. You work your arse off to scrape together enough money to pay the rent and the council tax, and the shitloads of other debt you’ve built up trying to raise a family. You’re angry with the government, you’re angry that you turn on the news or flick through the newspaper and you see David Cameron and George Osborne bragging about how they’ve improved the economy that Labour wrecked. It’s infuriating that these posh boys down in Westminster act like they know anything about the way you live. Maybe you still remember Thatcher, and you’re still reeling from that. Westminster doesn’t represent you. Politics is a world that you feel more and more excluded from. Really, I get it. But you are picking the wrong fight.

David Cameron and George Osbourne at Northern Rock Conference
I don’t like them either – and I certainly don’t trust them. But they are right about this.

I come from one of these families – a working class, average little family in Swansea. I live in Townhill – one of the scariest and (arguably) most unsafe and underfunded part of the city. My mother works two jobs to keep the house running – one in a school as a TA, and the other cleaning our local market. My older sister had a kid at 16 who we are all collectively doing our bit to raise in whatever way we can – to give her the luxuries in life that a child deserves. A lot of the time it feels like there isn’t really much hope. The opportunities that the government tells us are all around simply aren’t there. There is very little space to get away from Swansea, and even if you could, you’re probably afraid because the education system let you down, you don’t really feel like you have the ability to move away from everything you’ve ever known. A holiday once a year to a nice warm beach is adventure enough for you.

I am extremely fortunate as I was able to get away. I detached myself from that kind of lifestyle at a young age, I was naturally good at exams (it’s not down to working hard and being a bookworm, trust me) and I scraped the grades to get to uni. There, I was educated in more depth about the world and why things are the way they are. It is not because of the EU that your life is not where you want it to be. The EU stands for all the core Labour values that the Welsh are fond of – workers rights, equal pay, social justice. They are improving welfare for people like you.

Maybe you have read arguments online that the EU actually stands for creating a free market and in that respect is actually interested in creating ways for massive corporations to make as much money as possible. Even if that were true, you need to ask yourself: who do you trust more? The EU or the Tories? If we leave the EU, we will have no protection from them as they introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the current Human Rights Act (below). Many of the freedoms we take for granted, such as a right to free education, would no longer be guaranteed. Do you really think the Tories, who tripled the tuition fees for university, bang on about the reintroduction of grammar schools/academies and have a long history of privatising public services, care about you or your children’s right to free education? Consider the lack of opportunities out there for young people now, think about future generations, and ask yourself whether you feel safe with the Tories being left to their own devices before casting your vote tomorrow.

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None of these rights will be guaranteed if we leave the EU.

Immigration & Terrorism

Something I have been hearing a lot since getting back is that the open borders that the EU grants European citizens will lead to an increase in terrorism. I am sorry, but that simply isn’t the case. First, we have to split terrorism into two categories: domestic terrorism and international terrorism.

Domestic terrorism is what has been plaguing Europe recently, with the shootings in France, the bombings in  Belgium etc. These acts were carried out by individuals who lived in Europe before the killings. I was recently in an airport, and let me tell you that the border controls that are already in place in British airports are far stricter than any in the rest of Europe. It is with the help of our European partners that we have already foiled many attempted terrorist activity in the UK – do you think they will support us quite so much if we choose to leave? It won’t be a simple cutting of the ties with Europe, but we’ll still remain buddies. We will trade, sure, but we will still essentially be telling other European countries – who work hard to make the EU work – that we don’t believe in their passion project. There will be political fallout. They will have less reason to help us in matters of national security. We will be even more at risk.

And now international terrorism. Leaving the EU will make absolutely no difference to terrorists who travel from the Middle East to carry out these acts. It won’t make any difference to our immigration figures in anywhere other than the EU. There isn’t really much else to say here. Leaving the EU will make zero impact. It’s as simple as that.

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Don’t let the terrorists win! They attack our Western democracies and openness to other cultures. By voting to leave the EU, you will be saying that you wish to become a more isolated country, a more self-serving nation. A country that is closing off from the rest of the world. This is exactly what these terrorists want. We have to stand together and deal with terrorism and the reasons for it, not run away from it because we are scared.

Immigration & Public Services

This issue is actually similar to the first one. It is true that our NHS and schools are under intense pressure because of high patient numbers. And yes, part of this is inevitably because of immigration. But take a look at what brought our public services to this point – funding which has been reduced over the years by (primarily) a right wing government who believes inherently that our public services should not be run by the state. Education and health services have been neglected for years, and I am not saying that this is the only reason that they are struggling right now… But surely the right way to correct a problem when you have sick or injured people in need of help is to give them more money, not take it away from them. Your anger here should be directed at the government for not doing more to help those in need, not the EU or immigration.

The UK is a strong country. It is our responsibility to help those less fortunate than us. If people from poorer EU countries move to the UK, contribute to their community and country, and are in need of public services (like anybody else), then where is the problem in that? The ‘benefit scrounging’ argument that is under everything is, for the most part, a myth. Sure, there probably are those who come here to take advantage of the system, but I know plenty of people who have taken advantage who have lived in the UK their entire lives. But even then, it’s not as rampant as it made out by the UK media who have a specific agenda – class war. They seek to turn the lower classes against anybody who is lower down the pecking order than them – immigrants, the homeless, those on benefits. Don’t believe their lies.

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Then what reason do you have to vote to REMAIN instead?

Take a moment to consider the future. America is a massive superpower. China and Russia are also absolutely huge. Tensions between countries become more apparent as natural resources run out on this planet. If the EU was just a band of individual countries, we could be squashed as the world moves on without us. But the EU gives us a way to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Make no mistake, the UK will tank if it leaves – in every way imaginable. We will become the old disgruntled man, still bitter about that car accident in the prime of our lives that means we didn’t make it onto the football team. We’ll be alone – and trapped. I’m not interested in this ‘project fear’ garbage. I’m talking 500 years down the line. I’m talking about how the history of the world has developed, how countries have operated in the past, and how exposed we will be by leaving.

I would also  make this case. I think most people can agree that tolerance and acceptance of other cultures is a virtue. Right now, there are so many clashes with our European counterparts when it comes to culture. It is slightly unnerving to see your city change as new kinds of people come, who look different and practice different beliefs. But the EU is a relatively new institution. If we remained in the EU, within a few generations the idea that these people are different and ‘other’ from us would be laughable. The world is becoming increasingly connected, cultures are mingling more than ever – and at an increasing rate. Don’t close yourself off from that and stick your fingers in your ears. Embrace it. It is a good thing. Maybe you don’t feel that, but your grandchildren will, and their grandchildren definitely will.

There is a wider context to this EU referendum. It’s not just about whether you want to stay in the EU, it’s about who you are as a person and what you value in life. Place value on being connected with those around you. With empathy and love. I know that might sound like hippie BS, but come on! Think about humanity and where it’s come from… Our bloody history of violence and hatred. Of drawing up borders and boundaries around us. Of persecuting others for being different. We are reaching a point of civilization now where the world has a lot of soul searching to do… Do we finally throw off the shackles of our ancestors and become a more united earth, trying to save the environment and create happiness for all, or do we continue to squabble over queueing before getting to see a doctor? Do you see yourself as someone who thinks the world should be, above all, good? Or do you believe that countries should fend for themselves? There is a bigger picture. There is a brighter future, if we want it. We just have to not just stand for these principles, but fight for them too.

Please, vote remain on June 23rd.

 

Why I Love… LCD Soundsystem

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Like many of my favourite bands today, I was introduced to LCD Soundsystem when a friend of mine asked me to go along with him to a gig. I was at university and lacking friends, so I agreed to go. I spent the week up until the gig listening to Dance Yrself Clean on repeat and generally getting to know their music. LCD Soundsystem were one of the first electronic (if you can call them that) artists that I got in to. I discovered how different beats could be put together to create all sorts of interesting new sounds and threw myself in to their back catalogue.

Their songs can vary from energetic and fast paced (Drunk Girls, Daft Punk Is Playing At My House) to more slower atmospheric tracks (Someone Great, Home). Overall they have a unique minimalistic style which I find really catchy. LCD Soundsystem also have some rather strange lyrics which cover topics ranging from their feelings about fame to obscure references to relationships. I would urge everybody to give their music a try because they are the kind of band that stand alone in your digital record collection. You can be in to all kinds of music but still find something to appreciate about LCD Soundsystem.

I would also recommend the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits. It’s a live show mixed with interviews with the band the day before their last ever show in Madison Square Garden, New York. The music sounds fantastic, the band are clearly really emotional, and the audience are really in love with the show. There is something so melancholic and vulnerable about James Murphy’s voice which is pushed to its limit in this show, where he cracks up a few times in the last song; New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. It brought more than a few tears to my eyes.

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Here are my top three LCD Soundsystem songs for you to have a bit of a chew on. For the record, while none of my favourite songs are on this album, This Is Happening is by far their best album overall.

  1. All My FriendsSound Of Silver
  2. TribulationsLCD Soundsystem
  3. Yeah (Crass Version)LCD Soundsystem

So yeah, that about sums up the band for me. There is definitely nothing else out there quite like them. And by the way, new fans, if you’ve just discovered this band then you’re in luck. They recently got back together and are currently recording a new album and touring at the moment! You got into them at just the right time. See you at one of their shows, I’ll be at the next one I can get to.

First Thoughts on Warcraft

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Warcraft is the new movie from Duncan Jones based on the popular video game franchise of the same name. My experience with Warcraft only extends to Warcraft III, which I played obsessively for a few years before realising I sucked at it. While achieving a respectable rating of 7.7 on IMDB, it’s been panned by critics for taking itself “too seriously.” I would certainly agree that when you sit down to watch Warcraft, you are in for a very serious story with no room for self-awareness or self-parody. But this is a staple of any fantasy movie. Look at Lord of the Rings – arguably the hallmark of fantasy movies. That series is incredibly heavy and everybody loves it. With Warcraft, you’re are similarly getting a solid fantasy blockbuster that ticks all the boxes.

This argument about Warcraft being too serious comes about because in the Warcraft universe there are gags that poke fun at the fantasy genre, and the games don’t take themselves too seriously. While that is true, it would be denying that at its core Warcraft has tons of serious lore, quests and plot. The less serious parts of the Warcraft video games are always bolted on as additional side content. When I think of Warcraft, I don’t think of the more light hearted parts of the franchise. I think of the unintentionally hilarious accents of Uther and Arthas, characters which take themselves so seriously I found myself cringing. This is an internal battle that the fantasy genre as a whole is constantly having with itself. If you’re gonna make a fantasy movie or game or whatever, just go for it. Don’t hold back, and just hope that you rope people in enough to go along with you. It’s not going to be for everyone and God knows I have my criticisms of the Warcraft movie, but to attack it on the grounds that it takes itself too seriously is a bit of a stretch.

For my part, I found the movie absolutely stunning. The aesthetic draws you in and I was reminded heavily of the Dungeons and Dragons movie which, although is rubbish, does feel rich and full of lore. The orcs look fantastic and the settings are created with such finesse that I couldn’t tell how much of it was CGI. Honestly, it looks like no other movie I’ve ever seen and, when you’re allowing a movie to transport you to a new world, it’s important that the CGI doesn’t distract you. I found it to be wonderfully engrossing.

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As far as the plot goes, we’re treading very familiar ground with Warcraft. It hits just about every single generic fantasy plot point you can imagine. I have seen some reviews trying to hold this movie up as an example that video game adaptations can be just as deep as original screenplays or book adaptations, but that isn’t the case. While certainly better than the majority of video game adaptation movies out there, a breakthrough success this is not. The plot completely lacks depth, but if you can enjoy it for what it is – an action packed thrill ride – then it is definitely solid, watchable, popcorn fun.

A major criticism I would put against this movie is the quality of the acting. Travis Fimmel, who plays the lead human character in the film, was pretty bad. He took me out of it on numerous occasions when he didn’t deliver lines with anything like the kind of gusto that his character would. He plays the grumpy old-school soldier trope who is judgemental of his new sidekick (Ben Schnetzer). While I find that dynamic in fantasy movies to be really tiring, here it was even worse because I didn’t even feel like they believed in the lines they were delivering. All of the human characters in the movie were pretty terrible, but that is more down to my inability to go along with fantasy movies without cringing. Dominic Cooper, who played the king, was suitably cheesy and I laughed out loud at some of his lines. The cheesiness of some parts of the human’s story pushed the quality of this into B-movie territory for me, which would be fine if it wasn’t for the obviously massive budget backing this film.

A debate I’ve seen raging on about this movie is whether you need to have played any of the games to get the movie. I would say definitely not. While there is the occasional nod towards different races, locations and characters already established in the Warcraft universe, you lose nothing by coming into this movie totally blind and enjoying it for what it is. I think the fact that the name ‘Warcraft’ has been attached to this movie has obscured a lot of people’s judgement on it. On the one hand you have the disappointed Warcraft fanatics who didn’t get the movie they wanted because it tried to appeal to a mass audience, and on the other you get those who love the movie just because it is in the Warcraft universe. I don’t think it would have gotten that 7.7 on IMDB if this movie was released under a different title, look at it that way. At the same time, I don’t think it deserves quite as much criticism as it’s been getting. It’s an average fantasy movie which passes the time, but it’s nothing more than that.