Cult of Whatever links

These are the links for my other blogging contributions:

Select your difficulty: the revival of challenging video games. https://www.cultofwhatever.com/2015/10/select-your-difficulty-the-revival-of-challenging-video-games/

Sharknado: A storming cult classic. https://www.cultofwhatever.com/2015/08/sharknado-a-storming-cult-success/

South Park’s story of satirical success. https://www.cultofwhatever.com/2015/06/south-parks-story-of-satirical-success/

Prison Break: What’s the story? https://www.cultofwhatever.com/2015/06/prison-break-whats-the-story-contains-minor-season-1-spoilers/

The Star Wars prequels of politics: why Anakin’s origin is overshadowed by Palpatine’s rise to power. https://www.cultofwhatever.com/2015/05/the-star-wars-prequels-of-politics-why-anakins-origin-is-overshadowed-by-palpatines-rise-to-power/

Different stages of life: No connection found.

I’ve talked in previous blog posts about some of my social changes throughout the years and how my social skills had improved year on year. Likewise, I delved into my education as well and the two crossed over.

However, at other times, it feels like there’s a disconnection from everything that has gone before. By this, I mean that all my past experiences haven’t all come together to mold me into who I am now. This has been something that has crossed my mind for a while.

“My life seems like a show with about three different storylines going on for one character and none of those stories link together to form one coherent story.” I posted that on Facebook a few months back and thought maybe I should expand upon what I mean.

The three storylines I’m referring to are home life, work life and social life. Now, it’s not uncommon to act in different ways depending on the situation you’re in in regards to formality and openness. Although for me, it really feels like three different people altogether.

I feel like all three of them have developed separately and not benefited from any positives that occurred in the others. Specifically, my time at university. I identified this time as my best time socially where I was able to converse very comfortably.

Now, when I go back to Portsmouth to see my uni friends, I pick up where I left off. But outside of it, I feel like I’m back to where I was in early sixth form; more willing to talk but still a bit hesistant to begin with. It honestly feels like I’d have to meet somebody new in Portsmouth in order to start an instant rapport with someone rather than cautiously chat.

This has been common since I started working. While I talk freely with one workmate (even that took a few months to flow) everybody else I talk to is purely on a work basis and because of that, it doesn’t really make me want to reveal too much about myself.

Likewise at home, since I don’t have much social outgoings, not much has changed about the way I conduct myself from a few years ago.

Also, because my work doesn’t relate to my course, it feels like the three years at uni was just an escape from everything else. It was a period spent with a balance of socialising, working and having a break. You learn things about the course, about people and about yourself and then at the end of the three years you go back to square one.

Those three years act as a time capsule to go back to when I go to Portsmouth or just see some friends from Portsmouth. You go back into that world for a short while, you pick up where you left off. Once you leave again, that becomes an isolated incident that has no bearing for you anywhere else. It doesn’t progress anything outside of uni further, it’s just an enjoyable escape from everything else.

Therefore, it feels like these are separate worlds and not only that but three separate timelines because the chronology doesn’t match up in the real world.

Chelsea and Mourinho’s lost causes.

With the news of Jose Mourinho’s sacking from Chelsea a few days old and with Chelsea’s first match post-Mourinho taking place yesterday, I thought it was time to reflect on the news. While losses in the league played a big part in his sacking, it seems as though there were plenty of other things that he had lost this season.

Chelsea lost: their matches.

The league form of Chelsea this season points to an obvious reason for Mourinho’s sacking. For a team like Chelsea, it is unthinkable to have lost nine games out of sixteen in the Premier League. There have been seasons where Chelsea have done nowhere near as bad in the league and still got rid of the manager. For Chelsea, being on the edge of a top four place is disappointment enough for Roman Abramovich to wield the axe. It was Mourinho’s popularity and past successes that kept him in the job as long as he did. People will say that to sack the manager who won the title to be ruthless and it has happened before. It happened to Carlo Ancelotti after a disappointing finish in the top four that lacked a title challenge. So, the writing was on the wall for Mourinho. Chelsea fans would have been disappointed with a top six finish under Mourinho but that finish would have given Mourinho a chance to go again for the next season. The fact that Chelsea are nowhere near the top six with half the season gone, it’s no surprise to me that Mourinho was sacked. The results weren’t good and the performances didn’t build hope for the future. The Chelsea of old would win matches without playing well but those would only be a few games. This season, the majority of their performances have been poor but the results have matched the performances.

Chelsea lost: their confidence.

For a team with so many talented players, the majority of Chelsea’s players have been dire this season. It is not down to bad luck to lose so many games. There have only been a few games that Chelsea can point to where a good performance went unrewarded. Otherwise, Chelsea have deservedly lost the games they have had. None of Chelsea’s top players have performed to anywhere near a standard they were at last season and under Mourinho this season, there hasn’t been a single match where one of those players have looked at their best. The best player for Chelsea so far has been Willian who was solid last season but was probably the least offensive player of Chelsea’s front four. Chelsea’s players seemed to have no composure on the ball with simple passes going awry whether they are passing forward or out of trouble. Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard were Chelsea’s three catalysts for goals and creativity last season but they’ve all lost something this season. Fabregas has lost his passing ability and range (even simple passes), Costa has lost his scoring instinct and Hazard has lost his skill and ability to take players on to score and assist.

Jose lost: his confidence.

No matter where he has gone, Mourinho has always had a swagger about him. He has often backed up his confident claims about his own abilities by winning league and continental titles throughout his time in management. The season didn’t start well for Jose with the incident with the doctor and drawing the first match. After the first few games, it was a reasonable assumption that Chelsea could turn their form around and Mourinho sounded confident about it. However, as one poor result followed another, Mourinho continued to insist he could turn it around but for me, his words weren’t delivered with any conviction and as the weeks went by, he truly looked defeated.

Jose and Chelsea lost their discipline:

With Mourinho’s lost confidence, his discipline was soon to follow. Mourinho has never been shy to criticise referees in the past but it feels like every match Chelsea lost this season was followed up by a rant against the referee. This lack of discipline seemed to transfer to the Chelsea players, not only were they losing their discipline in terms of shape but Chelsea’s players were giving away more fouls and have been getting sent off. The lack of discipline was on show for all at West Ham with Nemanja Matic being sent off. Last season, Matic made clean challenges to break up the play and put Chelsea on the attack. This season, it seems as though Matic has just been committing fouls to stop the opposition’s immediate attack. When he was sent off at West Ham, Mourinho reacted and he was also sent off. He has since criticised other referee’s performances which got him in more trouble with the FA. The bad results sent Chelsea and Jose’s discipline on  a downward spiral that didn’t look like stopping at any point.

Jose lost: the players.

While player power has been dismissed by Chelsea’s players, it is clear many of these Chelsea players have not performed under Mourinho this season. I hate to say it but Mourinho does have a history of critcising and alienating certain players which has affected performances. Mourinho can be very unforgiving with some players while he can give plenty of chances to other. This season, despite poor form, Mourinho rarely dropped the likes of Ivanovic, Hazard and Fabregas. However, if you go back a couple of years to a League Cup tie, Kevin de Bruyne performed badly in the eyes of Mourinho and that seemed to be enough justification to rarely use him again before selling him to Wolfsburg in the January transfer window. This is Mourinho’s one big fault during his spells at Chelsea. He has rarely given youth a chance and when he does play them, they are usually replaced if they have not made enough of an impact. Following yesterday’s performance, it seems clear that Mourinho had lost the players with Chelsea looking rejuvenated. While Sunderland are towards the bottom of the league, it was a confident performance from Chelsea in comparison to a win they had against fellow strugglers Aston Villa which was a laboured 2-0 win for Chelsea.

One Hollywood plot won’t stop the threat of ISIS.

I was planning on discussing the action the British government have taken this week to commence air strikes on ISIS as well as exploring the other options offered by people as an alternative. However, as part of the discussion, I feel I must offer a different alternative of consideration rather than a simple “this is good, this is bad” debate. Then I realised that each suggestion of how to deal with ISIS could be evaluated as if they were movie plots because that’s what it seems like to me.The decision has split the country whether it’s MPs or citizens. There are people who agree with the bombing, they’re people who think more military action needs to take place and they are those who feel there should be no involvement at all other than making sure people within the UK aren’t radicalised.

As stated in the title, I feel the problem of ISIS can’t be settled like a Hollywood movie. I don’t think one single piece of action will solve the problem. I believe each suggestion, on its own, leaves ISIS and the threat of ISIS intact. So, let’s begin the movie analogies.

This is not a Science-Fiction movie! The bombings on ISIS strongholds will obviously help to take out potential targets and decrease the immediate number of ISIS fighters in the area. However, ISIS are not machines. This is not a situation where you blow up ISIS strongholds containing some kind of central control point that deactivates ISIS fighters around the world. Killing specific targets may help reduce the influence of ISIS in certain areas for a while if those leaders are particularly charismatic or persuasive but unless you intend to bomb every single member of ISIS in Syria, some will remain and rebuild. This rebuilding would, in part, be a result of the bombings as it may motivate people inside and outside of Syria to join ISIS, particularly if innocent lives are endangered or taken.

This is not an Action movie! Many people who support military intervention in Syria have called for troops to be placed on the grounds to deal with ISIS. This is a good idea in the sense that it is a less, indiscriminate form of attack rather than the bombings. Ground troops sent to take out ISIS strongholds would mean that it is more likely that there would be less civilian casualties in comparison to the airstrikes. However, if this action is taken, it will be a long campaign. This won’t be settled by a crack team of soldiers within three days. We won’t have a Liam Neeson style action man or a Tom Cruise style stealth soldier who takes down ISIS all by themselves.

This is not a Political thriller! The people who are against military action are convinced that the problem with ISIS can only be settled through negotiation. You might be forgiven for thinking it is a political thriller though. Since 2011, interference from the West has left Syria in a state of political limbo. One of the main issues raised with military interference is a lack of strategy and since 2011, Syria had been left to its own devices following military action from the West which leads us back into a loop where the same situation has occurred. Even so, I believe that some people are beyond negotiation. I can’t see Jeremy Corbyn and ISIS sitting around a table discussing ways to bring peace to Syria and to end the violence. However, I could see a weakened and depleted ISIS turning to negotiation in order to save themselves and the weakening would come through military action.

This is not a Psychological thriller! Another suggestion to solve the problem is to stop the recruitment of members from across the globe to ISIS. Now, this does make a lot of sense. If you stop the supply of ISIS fighters to ISIS then their army can’t gain any more strength from across the world. On the other hand, the logistics of stopping absolutely everyone who may have a slight interest in joining ISIS aren’t easy to deal with. The idea would be for the UK to do as much as they can to stop the radicalisation of young men and women through informative talks, lectures and perhaps even therapy. There are people in and out of the UK who aim to radicalise youngsters through personal or digital communications. Any military action from the British government adds fuel to the fire for these radical promoters of ISIS. Informative talks and the tackling of these promoters will help decrease the number of people joining but it won’t stop every single one of those interested from falling through the net unless you plan individual therapy sessions for anybody even remotely interested or suspected of an interest in ISIS.

In conclusion, I feel that one individual piece of action in response to ISIS would not be enough to eliminate the threat. Therefore, I feel that military action should be taken but that it should be mixed with all the non-violent suggestions. The one argument I don’t agree with is the argument that military action will leave the UK a target for ISIS. I believe that ISIS are a threat to the UK either way. An attack is an attack, I don’t feel that ISIS will now decide to put more effort into an attack as a result of the military action.  If you just take military action, you commit to a long campaign which will likely result in civilian casualties in Syria along with ISIS casualties. If you just take non-violent action, you’re stopping the flow of new recruits to ISIS but it won’t stop the violence already occurring. If you mix these two elements together, you deplete the strength of ISIS through two different methods. You decrease the number of ISIS members already based in Syria by dealing with them fatally and then domestically, you decrease the number of people joining ISIS. Granted the military action is a double-edged sword. Its aim is to kill ISIS members which in turn may motivate domestically-based people which is why the government must take action in the UK itself to stop radicalisation. If you’re going to commit to take out ISIS, then you have to act at home and abroad to eliminate the threat. I understand though that unlike a 1950s Hollywood movie, this issue is far from black and white.

Spectre Review

James Bond is back in cinemas with the latest installment Spectre following on from the successful Skyfall which I have previously seen. I had such a positive opinion of Skyfall that I was almost destined to compare the two.

In truth, until Skyfall, I had never seen a James Bond movie all the way through. It seemed likely that that would continue when Quantum of Solace came out which was a heavily criticised Bond film. I had no real interest in James Bond and the negative reviews for that movie kept me away. However, when Skyfall came out, something seemed to change. There was the usual hype around a James Bond movie but with so many positive reviews, I became interested in seeing it not for the sake of watching Bond but for the sake of watching a good, action-packed movie.

I ended up seeing Skyfall twice at the cinema. The first time was with my university friends in Portsmouth and I saw why this movie was so well-received by movie-goers and critics alike. So, when my family made plans to see it on a weekend I was returning home, I was more than happy to watch it again. However, I only realised how good the movie was the second time I watched it. I enjoyed it the first time but the second time I was able to really analyse and assess everything about the movie. It had gone from a good film to a great film in those two views.

So, one of the most positive things I can say about Spectre is that I came out of the movie seriously debating if it was as good or better than Skyfall. At this point yesterday, I wasn’t entirely sure.

In both Skyfall and Spectre, the movie is very aware of the cliches surrounding all Bond movies and uses that for different effects. Even I, as a James Bond novice, am aware of these cliches. There are some cliches that are explicitly referred to and then brushed aside and then there are some nods to classic James Bond films like martinis and the brand of car used. It was important for Bond to not fall into one giant, formulaic cliche of a movie. I remember an episode of The Simpson saying they enjoyed the James Bond movie because he (Daniel Craig) doesn’t do any of the things that James Bond does. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xGyaQZfR_Q). While it was a joke, I think this was important for Bond movies to adapt in order to survive. By keeping the name of Bond, people know to expect a spy/action movie but not everything is so black and white with a James Bond film nowadays.

In both films, the action sequences were good, the villains were played convincingly and the story was engaging.However, after reflection, I feel ultimately that Skyfall had the stronger narrative for both the story and the villain’s motivation. In Skyfall, Raoul Silva wanted to bring MI6 to its knees not just to create disorder and chaos, he had a personal vendetta against MI6 and its employees, particularly M for what had occurred in the past.

For me, Christoph Waltz’s character falls slightly more into the generic bad guy with a less creative motivation for his actions. This is a shame because Christoph Waltz’s mannerisms, accent and look all add up to the perfect Bond villain. He still did a very good job in Spectre but it feels like his character did not have as much presence as it could have done.

All in all, Spectre is a welcome addition to the Bond franchise and keeps the franchise on a high following the success of Skyfall. My nitpicking of Spectre in this review is only because I hold Skyfall in such high regard. Spectre keeps the fun, the action and the drama in Bond and is well worth a watch, not because it’s a Bond film but because it’s a great film in general.

A rant on Americans who oppose gun control.

Usually, my blog posts would have some kind of structure and my title would be very concise and may involve some kind of word play. However, for this post, I need to just say what’s on my mind in regards to the USA and their views on guns following the most recent shootings occurring last week.

There have been far too many incidents in the last few years in the USA where a gunman has walked into a school/college or wherever it may be and opened fire on people inside and almost always ended with them shooting themselves afterwards. To be honest, whilst these are sad occurrences, I actually feel more angry than sad because of the American reaction when this happens. I see plenty of stories in the news that are bleak or sad but they never really get to me because it’s pretty much what I have come to expect from the news.

There are some Americans who use these incidents to call for tighter restrictions on gun laws and this latest incident has sparked a reaction from Barack Obama which is good. However, it also tends to remind me how many gun supporting American people exist and social media has only extended the ways in which you can hear these opinions. I am not even going to sugarcoat this at all so I will say, if you are an American and you don’t think there is any need to change gun laws then you must be stupid. I usually wouldn’t be that blunt with a statement like that but it’s just how I really feel. There are opinions people may have on some topics that I would disagree with but I can accept their view. However, I can’t with this.

Every time I read an article or comment that gives a “pro” of guns, it’s always filled with the same kind of comments. Comments I have read so many times from people with blind faith in guns. They discuss freedom and protection mainly which is the ultimate irony. I read these comments and I feel like that have to be a parody or something satirical, much like an episode of South Park that feature stereotypical gun-toting rednecks.

Where else can you start other than the Constitution? This is the set of governing rules that includes the rule that says that Americans have the right to bear arms, to legally own a gun. This is a 200 year old rule that many Americans will quote blindly when a shooting incident occurs without taking into account that rules need to change to reflect the times. Maybe the rules were made in relation to hunting or in response to any British attempt to reclaim the USA as a territory. The hunting makes sense because at that time, a lot of the US was open space and they wouldn’t have built thriving cities with sky high towers in the early years. Either way, the US is made up of well-built up towns and cities and I’m pretty sure they don’t need to fight off a British invasion. The only change that seems to have been made to it is make it harder for people to get guns with background checks and waiting periods beforehand. In theory, that should help a lot, only giving dangerous weapons to dependable people but many of the shooters of recent years have been cleared with no history of mental illness

Straying slightly away from the shootings, let’s take a moment to talk about the US Police. Now, it makes sense that they always carry guns on them but they seem to be too reliant on them. If you look at British police, they are not given guns or even tasers unless they have a pre-planned mission to deal with a dangerous person or group of people. This means that the British police have to chase, catch and wrestle with these criminals, bringing them to justice without causing major bodily harm. In the US, it seems that using guns on criminals is the first instinct and while it can help ‘encourage’ criminals to freeze, it means the police will probably use little effort to catch a criminal if they decide to flee resorting to shooting them, often dead. The only kind of instances like this in places like the UK occurs is when the criminal has a weapon and can cause serious damage to the general public.

That brings me to my next point, the next argument for pro guns that I detest. Some will say that people in America will get guns even if they are banned, it won’t stop them being used. To a certain extent, they are right. There is gun crime in Britain, Australia and other places where guns are banned because people have gone to great lengths to illegally acquire that gun. Anybody who goes to those lengths to acquire a gun is obviously planning to use it whether it is for murder or robbery but those are special instances. In America, you could legally own a gun and could one day decide to commit a crime. For example, if somebody with a clear past was struggling to feed their family, they may decide to commit an armed robbery. If they have the gun readily available to them, they can carry out the crime right away. Otherwise, they would have to illegally attain the gun in which time, they may decide that it is no longer worth the risk.

By banning guns, you won’t stop gun crime but you would stop massacres. If somebody wanted to illegally attain a gun, there is a possibility their attempt may be intercepted by police. Banning guns would make it clear that anybody who then tries to get a gun is most likely acquiring it for criminal reasons and so if they were found out, they could be stopped. Instead, people have guns that they call upon at anytime. In the heat of arguments, fist fights may break out amongst people. While these can be fatal, these usually end with wounds and the fighters being apprehended. If you have a gun in the heat of the moment, you may call upon that to end the fight straight away but more than likely end a life. If people in the UK were allowed guns, these fist fights would probably descend into a shooting incident but because people don’t have that option, these fights aren’t often fatal. There was a recent article about a young boy shooting and killing a young girl with a shotgun simply because they had a disagreement. Without the gun being available, the boy would have probably resorted to hair pulling and may well have dealt physical abuse but surely not to that extent.

Finally, comes the argument that Americans need guns for their own protection……from people with guns. It’s pretty much the same as countries with nuclear weapons. Top countries spend millions (probably billions) on improving their nuclear weapons which, in theory, they will never use. Countries keep their nuclear weapons to deter other countries from using their nuclear weapons. Right now, this actually works. It doesn’t work in the USA though. Americans need guns in case they come across someone who has a gun, that should deter everybody from ever having to fire a gun by their logic. This has led to some ridiculous comments that guns need to be made more readily available to the American public in order to protect from guns with one suggestion from a pastor that the kids should have had guns. It’s an endless, ludicrous cycle of guns being given as a means of stopping people with guns. Now, I’m sure there are instances of people breaking into houses only to be threatened by the homeowner with a gun which prevents the crime. However, if nobody is legally allowed to have a gun, then fewer people would have guns to attempt burglaries. Like I said, that won’t stop people having guns or stop people committing crimes but these instances would occur less often and if a burglary did take place, it could at least not end with a fatality. The most determined criminals will find a way but give anyone a gun and they could readily use it for crime if they desired.

Ultimately, gun control won’t mean that there is never another gun crime in the USA but if you compare the US with countries where guns are banned, you’ll see a huge difference in the number of instances that take place. I find it very unlikely that the laws in the USA will change and I fear that any presidential candidate who supports the use of guns will be the more popular candidate among Americans rather than those who oppose it. I’m not going to end this in a very politically correct way. Instead, I’ll repeat what I said earlier; if you are an American and you don’t think there is any need to change gun laws then you must be stupid.

Transfer Window: Top 5 ‘value for money’ transfers.

So, with the transfer window shutting yesterday, I thought I would reflect on the business done by Premier League clubs and to pick out the top 5 value for money signings in my eyes. While there isn’t much to judge at the moment, some signings have hit the ground running and some are just finding their feet. Value for money signings aren’t necessarily going to make to the biggest impact on the Premier League or be the most successful but with such a modest price tag, these players should be more than worth their fee.

1. Petr Cech: £10m

When it comes to value for money signings, Petr Cech would have to be the immediate name that comes to mind. Petr Cech has shown himself to be a world class goalkeeper over the last ten years at Chelsea and it was not due to a drop in standards that Cech was eventually sold. Last season, Cech was replaced as first choice keeper at Chelsea by Thibaut Courtois, a goalkeeper ten years younger than him with the potential to be world class, just like Petr Cech. When it came down to it, Chelsea wanted to make Courtois their new number one because they felt Courtois can be as good as Cech (or even better) with plenty of years ahead of him. Chelsea had two quality goalkeepers but one had to stay on the bench and, in this case, it was Cech. Understandably, Cech wanted to leave at the start of this season because he knew he was now considered back-up but also knew that he still had the quality to play at the top level. Combine all those factors along with him wanting to stay in London made Arsenal an obvious choice. While Chelsea wouldn’t have wanted to sell a player to a rival, Cech’s years of service to Chelsea was rewarded with a transfer that was best for him. Cech is still at the peak of his powers so £10m is a steal when many other world class goalkeepers are valued at around £25-30m.

2. Nathaniel Clyne: £12.5m

It seems some of the best full-backs in the Premier League often arrive for reasonably cheap prices. It can be said of Pablo Zabaleta,Leighton Baines, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic (maybe not this season). The same is true of Nathaniel Clyne. He has proven himself in the Premier League with Southampton over the past few years and with Luke Shaw having left for £30m+ the previous season, £12.5m for Clyne seems like a bargain. Luke Shaw is certainly the better attacker but Clyne seems a more well rounded full back.

3. Gerard Deulofeu: £4m

Deulofeu lit up the Premier League in his first spell at Everton while he was on loan from Barcelona. Since then, he had struggled to make his way into contention for the Barcelona team which meant that a promising career had stalled. As a talented youngster, Deulofeu was valued at over £20m but having not made the kind of progress he would have liked, his value has decreased. Even so, I was surprised that Everton managed to get him so cheap. He is still a young player with plenty of potential and while he may not be good enough for the Barcelona team, there is no real shame in that. Yet, in a few years time, he may prove them wrong. For now, £4m seems like a worthwhile investment on a player who is potentially worth a lot more.

4. Yohan Cabaye: £13m

While it might be strange that a record transfer fee for Crystal Palace could be considered value for money, it is correct in terms of Yohan Cabaye. Having survived in the Premier League for the last two seasons, Palace’s signing of Cabaye was a statement of intent that they want to push on and improve rather than just simply surviving. Yohan Cabaye had signed for the French champions PSG for £25m in January 2014 and was well worth the fee. However, he struggled to get into the side despite his obvious quality and this meant his value decreased, which was good news for Palace. Cabaye is the complete midfielder, with great ball control, the ability to pull off a wide range of passes and a great set-piece taker. He should prove a great asset to Palace and be able to pay them back with plenty of assists.

5. Gokhan Inler: (£5m)

With Leicester losing Esteban Cambiasso last season, they needed to find a worthy replacement for him. Though Cambiasso was in the later stages of his career, he was a key player for Leicester in the heart of their midfield with his composed passing. A few years ago, Gokhan Inler was valued much higher than his fee this transfer window and that is mainly due to his age. I can see Inler performing a very similar role to Cambiasso, sitting in midfield keeping good ball possession but perhaps with more attacking intent.

A quick mention for a few of the free transfers that were a steal for these clubs to get for free:

Bakary Sako: Was a prolific maker and scorer of goals in the Football League with Wolves. Has had a good start with Crystal Palace scoring two goals in his two games. He is a winger with plenty of pace and a dangerous left foot that will help add to Palace’s dangerous wing play.

Andre Ayew: Another player who has started well, this time at Swansea. Some of my knowledge comes from Football Manager which made me think that getting Ayew for free was a huge coup. On the game, he’s a pacy winger with good finishing ability. In real life, he has surprised me with his power and physical presence whilst he retains his pace and finishing ability.

James Milner: A solid and reliable player across the whole midfield with plenty of experience playing at the very top level of league football and he still has plenty of years left in him.

Ibrahim Afellay: A very talented player who has been stunted by injuries in the last few years which stopped him having any chance challenging for a place in the Barcelona team. Now he is at Stoke, along with other former Barcelona players, and if he stays fit, he could provide Stoke with more creativity upfront.

Statistically speaking: The Conservative obsession with numbers.

I don’t anticipate this being a very long post but I felt like I should post something. I won’t claim to know all the ins and outs of UK politics but there is one thing I have noticed with the Tory government, they are obsessed with numbers and statistics. This all seems to come down to trying to convince people that a Tory government is better than a Labour government and to be fair, that’s definitely what they should be doing. That is most of the battle in politics. Now I’m not trying to sway people either way by claiming I have deep political knowledge on this, it is simply something I have noticed.

So, what raised this point with me. It was the news released today of an unwanted statistic from the Department of Work and Pensions: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34074557) which says that more than 2,300 people have died who were once disabled but deemed fit for work as the Tory government cracks down on benefits. Now, it’s fair to say that statistics can be manipulated to raise a certain point in the media but even so, it’s a concerning figure.

The Tory government have made some controversial decisions in regards to cuts to certain services in England in order to reduce the financial deficit but ultimately it is something that needs to be happen and it will affect someone. The government is right to crack down on benefits but their approach to cutting benefits hasn’t been handled very well.

Speaking from experience of being on Job Seeker’s Allowance, I expected the Job Centre to help me find a job which they didn’t. Then, when I was moved on to A4E after 9 months unemployed, they went the opposite way. A4E is one of many institutions set up by the Tory government to get people into work and they seemed to do this by any means necessary. I told them of my work experience so far and what I wanted to do and that seemed to be of no relevance whatsoever. Instead, they were determined for me to help the statistic of unemployment lower by trying to put me in for every job ever.

I am aware that not everybody can have a job they really want to do but if after one week of being with an employment agency, they try to make you work in Mcdonalds or as a kitchen assistant (no disrespect to anyone in that profession) when I have told them I have retail experience and not one retail job was offered. Instead, they offered a job they know people would hate but shame them so much about their unemployment that they consider taking it. If you hate a job, it will never end well but hey at least you are one more person employed which the government can say shows they are improving the job market.

The Tories are determined to point to a lower deficit and lower unemployment in comparison to Labour’s run in government at the expense of the happiness and well-being of its citizens.

Premier League Opening Weekend: Saturday’s fixtures

The Premier League is back so it only makes sense to write about the aftermath of the matches from Saturday.

Chelsea 2-2 Swansea:

So, let’s start with the current Premier League champions and their match against Swansea. The match, in itself, was a very entertaining yet odd contest. In the first half, both teams were passing the ball smoothly and, at the same time, the match was quite physical with Swansea’s debutant Andre Ayew showing surprising strength. My knowledge of Ayew before he came to Swansea was that he was a pacy winger with a decent finish which paints the picture of him being a lightweight. That was far from the case though as he matched Chelsea’s defence and Nemanja Matic for strength and physicality. He looks like a good fit in a Swansea team that looked like they hadn’t missed a beat from last season. The only difference this time was that they had looked vulnerable in their matches against Chelsea last season. This time, they matched and even bettered Chelsea with Swansea’s pace on the wing causing problems for Chelsea’s full backs. It was a worrying sign for Chelsea that their defence looked sluggish allowing Swansea’s attackers in behind several times, including letting Gomis through which led to the conceding of the penalty where Courtois was sent off.

Chelsea’s attacking play looked promising up until they reached the final third and ultimately, their goals came with big slices of luck. Swansea must have left this match feeling slightly despondent, which shows how far they have come, as this was definitely their best chance of beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Swansea look like they can only improve on last season but what about Chelsea? Chelsea won the title convincingly last season but they rather stuttered over the line towards the end. The problem for Chelsea is that on the evidence of this match (and pre-season), they haven’t rediscovered the fluency they had the start of last season. The only additions Chelsea have made is replacements for outgoing players who were bit part players last season anyway. While Chelsea shouldn’t have to change a winning formula too much, a couple of fresh faces or Chelsea youngsters would help to offer something different when things aren’t going Chelsea’s way.

Leicester 4-2 Sunderland:

I would say this feels like a continuation of last season but that’s not entirely true. For Leicester, it was more like a continuation of their second half of last season but for Sunderland, it was as if they reverted to how they were in the first half of last season. For the past few seasons, Sunderland’s form has followed a similar pattern. They start poorly, replace the current manager between December-February and the new manager comes in and drags them to safety and the process repeats. Dick Advocaat took a lot into consideration to return to manage Sunderland so it would be a shame if he suffers halfway through the season. Sunderland usually end the season well but they never seem to carry that into the next season. On the flip side of that, Leicester looked like they had never been away. They continued their free-flowing, high scoring play with the only difference being the manager, Claudio Ranieri in for Nigel Pearson. While it’s only the opening weekend, Leicester fans will feel optimistic that they can show the kind of form that led them to safety last season so that relegation won’t even be a worry this season. Sunderland won’t want to be drawn into another relegation battle but on the evidence of yesterday, they may be in for another long season.

Norwich 1-3 Crystal Palace

This was quite an important match for both clubs. Norwich have returned to the Premier League and they would have wanted to start with a win to give them a positive start, being one of the relegation favourites. It was an important match for Crystal Palace as well. Over their Premier League years, Palace have often experienced relegation after one season but despite facing relegation fears for the last two seasons, a change of manager in each had the desired impact of helping Palace survive. This season, however, there is a sense of optimism among Palace’s fans, players, the manager and the board. Palace have ambitions of cementing themselves as a Premier League side where the threat of relegation is non-existent. The signing of Yohan Cabaye was a statement of intent from Palace to attempt to establish themselves in the mid-table. Palace had started their last two seasons badly and a defeat to Norwich could have dented their confidence in achieving their goals. Norwich’s luck wasn’t in yesterday with Alan Pardew admitting Norwich were much better in the first twenty minutes before Palace eventually took a two goal led. When Norwich pulled a goal back, Crystal Palace’s composure fell apart and Norwich can be rightfully aggrieved about a disallowed goal and a penalty appeal that fell on deaf ears before Palace sealed the game at the end. It may not have been a pretty win but it’s the kind of match that Palace might not have won in the previous seasons. Palace’s strength from last season came from wing play and this is where they threatened again, even without Yannick Bolasie starting. Norwich will take heart from the performance but on reflection, they will feel they might have got something from the match even without the disallowed goal and turned down penalty appeal.

Everton 2-2 Watford & Bournemouth 0-1 Aston Villa

To the other newly promoted sides now, starting with Watford against Everton. Everton have been slow starters in their two seasons under Roberto Martinez and like last season, they looked leaky in defence. This suited Watford perfectly, notorious for their high scoring over the past few seasons in the Championship and they continued in the same style against Everton. While Everton finished last season in a stable condition, the fans will be expecting them to push on and will expect more from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku. As for Watford, it seems likely that they will be around the relegation zone but they seem to have the firepower to potentially survive by outscoring opponents. Likewise, Bournemouth look set to stick to their slick passing and attacking principles with almost exactly the same players who got them promoted. Meanwhile, Aston Villa have been rebuilding their team following the sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph. There didn’t appear to be much between the two teams but Bournemouth would have felt that Aston Villa at home was a potentially winnable game for their first match in the Premier League and will probably be disappointed at the lack of efforts on goal. Given that the match was tight, there isn’t too much we can learn so far about both teams chances of survival but Villa scraping a win will be an encouraging sign but for Bournemouth’s sake, at least they weren’t swept away.

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham

This was an intriguing fixture to begin the season with, on paper that is. However, the truth is that the match wasn’t very eventful. The question surrounding Manchester United was “can they mount a title challenge?” and as for Spurs, the question is if they could mount a challenge for a Champions League spot. This match didn’t give too much away in that sense. Neither team disgraced themselves and yet neither showcased their best talents with United having some significant new talents on show. However, the second half of Manchester United’s season last season was built on winning matches without playing well and they continued in that vein against Spurs. For Spurs, they may be relying on Harry Kane for goals again this season but they will need more contributions from the entire team if they wish to challenge for the Champions League places.

‘What is life?’

Now, I should mention that the article title isn’t as deep and philosophical as it seems. In truth, it’s something that I often ask myself when I’m having a bad day. When I ponder ‘what is life,’ what I am really thinking about is the ups and downs of life and how they balance out. For example, I first thought about writing this article on Tuesday when I was having a bad day which would have been laden with negatives about the nature of life. However, today my outlook on life is positive but I will be giving a balanced view on the positive and negative thoughts that go through my mind. Many of the points are the same but it really depends on your outlook.

A lot of negativity came about as a result of the holiday ending. For five months since the holiday was booked, I knew that was in my future and no matter what else was happening up until then, I had the holiday to look forward to. Similar to the end of university, it left me with the thought of ‘what now?’ I knew I had my job to start properly after just a four day spell before going away where before I had no job up until the holiday. Even so, the stark realisation of starting work is that it is now time to work week in week out for almost fifty years. Now, that’s the situation most working people will find themselves in but starting work after a long break out of work and education, you realise there are no long breaks from work. You’re not working towards something at the end of term/year, you’re just working and working.

When reflecting on the past, this is something that depends on your mood as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. You can have nostalgia for a previous event/television show/relationships/routine/period of your life and other happy times in your life. It’s nice to be able to reflect on these moments to remind you (when you’re having a bad day) that there are always things to enjoy in life and you look forward to creating new moments and memories for the future. On the flip side of that. reflecting on the past can have a negative effect. The problem with nostalgia in particular is that you remember the good times but then you realise those times have passed you by and you start to wonder if any feeling will be better. When you’re in a positive mood, you’ll believe that you will create new moments but when you’re negative, you doubt that anything can match your memories.

Then there are regrets about the past that might arise when you think back. The positive outlook is the ‘glad it happened’ option which sums up my thoughts on going to university whatever happens from then on. Then, the negative side of that is the ‘why did things have to change’ and ‘what if’ when looking back. For me, university represented the perfect routine. I was living away from home, I had a good balance of socialising and work being in university only on certain days and the ‘what now’ question wasn’t an issue. Now, that balance has all gone and I’m back to square one where I was before I left university. On one hand, I’m pleased because it was a great experience all round but on other days, I yearn for those days to be back even though they won’t be. The same situation applies to people’s relationships and infatuations from the past. You look back on these situations and you think it was great at the time and you may still look back with some fondness but ultimately, it was an experience that didn’t last. Life has a horrible way of making your enjoyment in the past come back to bite you in the present. You enjoy the situation at the time and that part of your life and even if it ends badly, the likelihood is you can look back with some fondness. Particularly when good things end badly, the ‘what if’ question is one that will pop up in your head every now and again. This makes you remember the good times but then ruins it by questioning yourself with ‘what could’ve I have done to extend that good time?’

So, what is life? Life is about creating memories. Depending on your mood, these memories evoke nostalgia, a longing for the past or regret. The longer you live, the more memories you’ll create, good and bad. Ultimately, you’ll need the bad to appreciate the good. In keeping with the article, creating memories and moments for your life has a negative and positive outlook.

Negative: With memories, it doesn’t matter if you have lived 20 years or 80 years, you’ll have likely acquired good and bad memories. Living longer means you’ll acquire more to reflect on but, in truth, no matter what age you meet your maker, the memories leave with you.

Postive: If you have created loads of memories, you’ll have done a lot of interesting things in your life that has shaped your outlook, your character and the other choices you made in life. You will have gone through the good times and the bad times that all add to your rich tapestry of life and the longer you live gives you more chances to create moments worth living for. Use your old memories as proof that there is more to come in life and there’s much more to experience because in all likelihood, there will be new shows/events/people who leave an impression on your life, leaving you wanting more.