A drunken rant on religion, Atheism, and everything in between.

Yes yes I know, I haven’t posted anything in well over a year. And yes, I know that nobody will deliberately read this blog because it is so rarely used and probably quite outdated (I saw WordPress had updated their UI, understood none of it, and blundered my way to a window that I think is allowing me to write more shite without really checking).

But the point remains.

I spent this evening drinking, in celebration of managing to get a temporary job despite the fact that I spent four years at university studying for two science degrees, racked up massive amounts of debt, and yet have nothing to show for it. But that is a story for another time.

Then, after watching some Youtube videos of old children’s TV shows (me and my friends felt nostalgic), I happened across a video of famed Creationist Richard Dawkins reading some ‘fan mail’. Basically, it was Creationists and Christians using some rather ungodly language while telling him what a ‘faggot’ he was and how they all hope he burns in hell.
And it made me think.
We may have a rather Western view of ‘extremism’ these days as acts of terrorism, bombing and violence, but there are plenty of examples of hate speech, as well as the various disgusting acts of abuse and abandonment carried out by devout Christians (as an example) towards members of their friends and family who may be of a different colour, creed or sexuality. This is kind of a side note, but if you are of the disposition to get a bit angry and potentially racist at people of certain religions for their acts of brutality, be sure to look closer to home as well as the other side of the world. I guess that could be a relatively universal lesson wherever you are. Well, it’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to a lesson so you’ll have to make do.

But, my main point is that before you throw me in with Dawkins’ crowd and colour me an Atheist, please think again. I agree with many of his points as a scientist; on evolution, biology and pretty much everything else, but unlike him I don’t just discount religion as ‘wrong’ and call them all delusional fools.
(At this point, please let me point out that a lot less research has gone into this post than the others, as I have had many beers and it is 2am, so don’t take my word as gospel that anyone else has called religious folk delusional fools. They probably used more rude words.)
I would agree that things like Creationism are pure nonsense and go on nothing more than selective reading of both the Bible and some early scientific texts, but again I would call this a form of extremism. Someone who alternatively said that God created the universe ‘at the very beginning…’ (i.e. circa the big bang), and sees religion as more of a moral compass to know right from wrong and as a nice answer to the unanswerable questions in life such as “where do we go when we die”, these are the religious folk I can get on with. It may be a quite narrow view of religion, but it’s one that can be applied to many practices.

I would like to think of myself as an Agnostic. And again, my understanding of that term comes purely from what I’ve read in past identity crises while trying to classify my outlook on life, but I think ‘someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, while a theist believes that God does exist and an atheist does not believe that God exists’ sums it up pretty well. I personally like to see it as the willingness to accept religion and the presence of a higher power without definite proof, because there isn’t definite proof to say that that higher power doesn’t exist. I also see it as a bit of a cop-out on the subject of religion, which suits me pretty perfectly. I like people regardless of their religion, and don’t think that it should be any reason to hate them, whatever they may choose to believe, or not believe, provided it doesn’t encompass some form of extremism and they don’t try to ram it down your throat.

There you go, that was your lesson. I think. Screw it, I’m going to bed.

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A somewhat belated return.

So, hi. Again. In fact, I’m not too sure why I’ve said again, I doubt anyone reads blogs any more without them endlessly promoting it to their friends, or it saying something either highly entertaining or thought provoking. If you have happened to stumble on this page by accident, this isn’t really any of those things. Sorry.

What it is however is me, a young recent graduate living in the UK in the early 21st century, being a cynic and either ranting or praising various things I come across. It’s something to write rather than work, and something for you to read rather than…whatever the hell you were doing before.

So anyway, I stopped writing things on here for around a year. Oops. Looking back my previous posts aren’t all too great anyway, but I’m hoping after a year of defining my career path, having new life experiences, and most importantly getting older and finding more things to complain about, this may take some shape. I haven’t anything specific to talk about, nor do I know what anyone reading this actually wants to see. So what I shall do is this. I’ll put as many of my rant-y opinions as I can think of as a few short phrases. If there are any you like the sound of and want to read/ discuss in more detail, leave a comment or something and I’ll do that. If not, it gives any passing reader a vague idea what I stand for. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing. We’ll start with the ones I’ve already covered, in case you couldn’t be arsed to scroll down the page. Here goes nothing…

– TV programmes including social experiments such as ‘Big Brother’ may have been a great idea in concept, but in actuality it all just devolved into horrifically abrasive and often idiotic members of the public arguing, dicking about, dicking each other, backstabbing and most of all; sleeping, on live television.

– Pretty much every variation of ‘talent’ show in recent years (such as X Factor, Pop Idol, and god knows what else) either has no time for unique and talented musicians who don’t sound like everything else that’s been forced into the public eye, or they work to process these once individually talented people into the same dull, dreary and diluted pop musicians, year after year. At the end of the day, it is essentially a popularity contest.

– As a complete non-smoker who’s only ever tried weed a couple of time while drunk, I have no problem with regular users provided they keep their business to themselves. Although I don’t support drug use, I think trying to track down and punish people for doing a relatively harmless substance is only going to lead to people doing it more out of a sense of ‘rebellion’, those being fined resorting to more desperate measures like crime to keep affording it, and those imprisoned contributing to prison overcrowding. I don’t think it should be legalised, just perhaps decriminalised.

– Old PS1-era strategy games were immersive, engaging and very clever, and despite pretty limited graphics were better in some senses than most games bought out in the last few years.

– Some nice ‘gentlemanly’ guys don’t get much of a chance with the opposite sex, due to a pretty crap image of men portrayed by the media, some women looking for a ‘bad boy’ image and then complaining when they get hurt by said arsehole, and the age-old ‘friend-zone’. This is of course a pretty case-by-case thing, but if you’re someone that gets your heart broken by guys who treat you like shit and usually have one particular male friend who is there to pick up the pieces (and isn’t gay), why not go out on a date with him?

And some new, more current rants:

– British footballers (and I expect some variation thereof in most developed countries) are paid far too much money for what should be a fun sport and pass time, or even as professional athletes, and considering most of them end up being involved in sex scandals, fights, and general thuggery, they don’t deserve the fame they get. Far too much money is involved with the entire system, from how much the tickets cost to how every brand with some cash to throw around will pay a bloke who can kick a ball to be in their advert. And now that it seems nothing is actually made in Britain any more for us to have some national pride about, sport is the only thing people seem to get patriotic about these days.

– No matter who a politician is, what he originally stands for, or how nice a person he is, the political system will turn pretty much anyone into a dick you love to hate (Especially in Britain). Policies are most likely bought about by government officials behind the scenes, who can hide away somewhere deciding what’s best for the country while leaving your chosen Minister/ Prime Minister/ Governor/ Senator/ President etc. to stutter their way through defending these actions and usually taking the flak for it. I admittedly don’t know the first thing about in-depth politics, but I do know the entire system is long overdue a complete overhaul.

– Technology is becoming less about actual progress, and more about making something cool for coolness-sake. Space program? Nah. New ways to make our lives greener and help us stop relying on fossil fuels? Who cares! A new way of playing Angry Birds on a bigger screen, smaller screen, or even with glasses you can wear? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY. People were happy with the mobile phones they had a decade ago, and the same goes for games consoles, TV’s and most other forms of entertainment you find yourself now replacing every few years because something’s broken or it doesn’t do enough things in your life that you used to have to walk somewhere for. Science is cool people, look at things like the 3D printer and maybe you’ll start to see what we should be sinking money into.

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‘So how does it taste?’

There are many things on the internet which you see and find mildly amusing. Some even give you a slight chuckle. And then every so often you find something which has you uncontrollably crying with laughter and gives you a headache from the lack of oxygen. This was the latest such thing I found.

Following on from my love of the game Metal Gear Solid, here is a collaboration of Flash animations dedicated to the game. The last one is pure genius.

Enjoy.

http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/447506

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Nice guys finish last; all women’s fault?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a misogynist rant! …Well, it may be a rant. Just a little. 

Anyways, firstly on an unrelated note I have seen that my reader number (although never huge) has dropped off over the past few weeks, so I guess I shall have to find more frequent and interesting posts to write!

But yes, this post comes after several days of me bickering with people and feeling a bit sorry for myself. Not a good way to think up inspiration for a blog you may think, but surprisingly it has given me a few theories and ideas of why nice normal gentlemen like you and me sit here in the solitude of singledom (for all you out there who aren’t single, congratulations :D). And my overall conclusion is that guys have a pretty raw deal when it comes to women.

Why? Well, several reasons. Misrepresentation being the foremost one. How many times in the media or when overhearing your brokenhearted friend will you get the impression, “Wow, guys really are dicks.” You don’t see nearly as many stories on TV about women who beat their husbands, or a man desperately trying to make his relationship work while his other half treats him like a doormat (except maybe on British TV soaps, but they’ll probably make storylines out of anything). Even with real-life shows like Jeremy Kyle *shudder* or some 18-30 club rep documentary, the guys you see on there are indeed complete scumbags most of the time. But the problem is, it’s only guys like that who are so full of themselves (and most of the time drunk) that they will go on television and act like an idiot, whereas the nice, normal down-to-Earth gents have a bit more self-respect than that.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Point is, so far men are looking pretty bad. And yet at the same time, for some reason it’s the macho, self-important idiotic men who make men look bad that women always seem to go for. And then when they inevitably get their hearts broken by them, men look even more awful. It’s a vicious cycle. All the while, the nice guys are the ones who are left to pick up the pieces, forever stuck in the ‘friend zone’ and yet doing more for the women than their ‘bad-boy image’ boyfriends ever did. But the women never seem to notice these individuals, and therein lies the problem.

Now as we all know, women are impossible to understand. But I’m going to try to make a start for the sake of mankind. As far as I can tell, women seem to have a very close-minded view of men. It’s the stereotype you see all the time; we’re all lazy, unthoughtful, messy, and we all LOVE football. No. Just no. A lot of men (myself included) take pride in the fact we can clean our own houses, remember birthdays and anniversaries, know when we’ve said something wrong and try to make up for it. Oh, and I cannot stand football (soccer to some of you?). These kind of traits are something which women talk about like they’re the holy grail of men; if they’re intelligent, or clean, or have the ability to think for themselves. But at the same time, sorry girls, but most of you are pretty shallow.

How many times has a man been rejected or turned down because he’s too fat, too short, too skinny, too hairy, or something to that effect? A fair few. And sometimes, women aren’t even nice about it. So they shall never know the shining examples of manhood who fit perfectly into their self-proclaimed category of ‘not being like every other guy out there’.

So to all the nice guys out there I say this; you’re not alone, and keep trying. Maybe one day women will see the error of their ways, or you’ll meet a girl who isn’t typically mental.

And girls, if any of you are actually still reading this, take my advice. If you’re the kind of girl who is constantly getting your heart-broken by guys who treat you badly and take you for granted, try taking your guy-friend out for a date instead. You know the one…no, not the gay one. The guy who always offers to buy you a drink when you’re out of money, or will walk that bit further than he has to to make sure you get home safe. The one who is always there to give you a hug and a shoulder to cry on when some macho idiot breaks your heart. The one who in your eyes is a bit plain, or ‘is like a brother to you’. I can almost guarantee that he will treat you with the respect you deserve, and be incredibly grateful even if it goes nowhere and the two of you just stay friends. And you never know, he may just be a romantic and will ‘sweep you off your feet’.

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Cannabis: Unbiased opinions from someone who doesn’t smoke…

I’m not sure why, but this just suddenly came to me in my kitchen and I thought I’d type down my thoughts.

Now I’m sure you’d all expect being with me being a student that I either love drugs, or am a massive killjoy and could spend hours going on about the various medical implications of them. Truth is, I’m neither. Like most things you will discover, I’m not especially bothered one way or the other and can see both sides of most stories. However, I do have an opinion about dope/weed/marijuana etc.

I’ve never really smoked it myself (I may have had a ‘toke’ or two when drunk at a party) but then again, I don’t smoke in general. Not for any moral or ethical reason, but purely because it feels horrible and my lungs hate it. I might as well stand next to a campfire breathing deeply for the same experience. But as far as I’m concerned, that hasn’t biased me in any way on the subject. I know plenty of people who do it, some more than others, and as far as I’m concerned it’s their business.  My problem lies not with the people who use it, quite the opposite in fact. I’m talking about the legality and enforcement of law around it.

Before you all groan and think to yourself “Oh no, not another ‘legalize it’ speech”, hear me out. As many of you here in the UK may know, weed has in the last few years been upgraded from ‘Class C’ to ‘Class B’. For those of you not in the know, this means that it has become more illegal, and therefore carries stronger penalties for those caught using or selling it. Now on the surface this may seem like a great idea, it’ll deter people and make an example out of those who are caught. Bullshit.

What this in fact means is that people caught using or carrying it can get up to five years in prison, and an unlimited fine. If you’ve got enough to be selling, make that fourteen years. Now this may sound good for ‘showing the little buggers’, but in fact I would say this only makes the problem worse.

For a start, there’s the old physiological issue that when young, rebellious types are told they shouldn’t do something, it becomes ever more appealing to them. Making weed even more illegal just makes them feel they’re sticking it to the man that bit more when they light up a spliff. Then of course there is the fact that although prison sounds good in theory, it is likely that the people they will meet in their far less than 5 year sentence also do it, and if anything they’ll just come out with better ideas how not to get caught, and a new list of contacts for buying or selling. Some kids today even want to go to prison, as they see it as a status symbol that makes you seem cool and ‘hard’. Sounds cynical I know, but all these documentaries being shown on British TV (such as ’16 and pregnant’, ‘young dumb and living off mum’ and ‘Jeremy Kyle’) it’s easy to see why.

Then there’s the issue of fines. Again great in theory, as it takes cash off the culprits so they can’t buy more drugs. Problem is, the people they catch are either rich enough that it doesn’t bother them, they grow their own so can just make the money back by selling it, or if they really are the poor lower class (who are mostly on benefits, so our taxes just go through them into the Police coffers) then the scenario becomes the same as any other drug user: they will turn to stealing, mugging people and other more serious crimes to get their money back. Then you end up with a problem even worse than the one it started with.

Am I saying we should legalize cannabis? Not necessarily. Am I saying we should consider reclassifying and possibly decriminalizing it? Yes.

Why? Because despite all the various arguments about whether or not it’s as harmful as other drugs (most points about how ‘harmless’ it is are half-truths and paraphrases used by stoners to justify their usage), it is mostly used in a recreational manner that doesn’t bother those around. You’re more likely to get attacked on the street by a drunk than someone who is stoned. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning it for a second. However I think the less emphasis there is on how wrong it is and the punishments you’ll incur if you’re caught with it, the less people will think it’s the cool thing to do and the more people will feel comfortable talking about getting off of it and getting help. This was seen when cannabis was reclassified as Class C in 2004.

But at the end of the day, these are all just my opinions. I may well be wrong, but it seems to me that making the class higher has bought about more problems than solutions. Feel free to discuss with comments, maybe someone who has been closer to the scene has a more informed insight?

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An ode to old school strategy games

Thought I would go on a lighter note with this one, and take you all back in time by a decade or so…

So I’m not a massive gamer, but the games I do play generally tend to be in the realm of Strategy, RPG, Sci-Fi and the occasional Driving Simulator. The reason I play these a lot more is that they tend to hold my attention for a lot longer, whereas your more publicly popular First Person Shooter etc. can get boring unless there are friends and alcohol involved. I suppose you could say I’m strange in the way I look at games, as things like amazing super-awesome graphics and accurate physics when you headshot someone from a mile away don’t draw me to something. I tend more to be interested by an engaging storyline, challenges that involve a little lateral thinking and strategy, and characters that you can actually imagine yourself being stood alongside them (albeit usually killing or maiming something).

So with that in mind, and the fact I’m currently limited to playing my PS2 for the forseeable future, I thought I would talk about two of my favorite games of late. And guess what; they’re both from 11 years ago. 🙂

CHASE THE EXPRESS (COVERT OPS: NUCLEAR DAWN IN THE U.S.)

So this was a game I bought not long after it came out in 2000, and remember a significant portion of my childhood playing it, getting frustrated with not being able to complete it, and trying to replicate it with LEGO. It was a relatively simple game in some respects, you ran up and down a 16-carriage armoured train killing terrorists, rescuing members of the French ambassador’s family and picking up items. But it had a lot of subtle levels to it that when playing at a young age I didn’t appreciate, however when I went back through it last week I picked up on and ended up completing the game (and with good time may I add).

For starters, a lot of the puzzle/problem solving elements of the game are pretty easy, e.g. you find a door which needs a keycard to open, and in the next room if you press the ‘action’ button against enough inanimate bits of furniture you find a pad of paper with the indentation of four numbers. Voila! Door opens using the same code. However, there will also be items that you pick up which seem to have no relevance to anything. You store them away in an item store box when you save, and forget about them. But it then turns out several carriages later that it was actually an important plot point, and something which earlier was just a nonsensical image on a microfilm actually starts to all fit together.  Some would call this annoying, I call it pretty damn clever.

Another thing I loved about this game was that it was one of the first I played that had several different endings depending on what you did (or didn’t) do during the game. For example something you pick up can be given to an NPC, and if you do that the NPC’s story arc is completely different. The first time I played the game obviously I was too young and ignorant to pick up on any of this, so most of the NPC’s died and I got a ‘you completed the game, but everything’s a bit wrong and now Europe is in big trouble’ ending. Either way, I’m a big fan of non-linear storylines and it was impressive for the time.

Lt. Jack Morton going all Chuck Norris on some terrorist scum

So who cares the graphics were blocky, the voice acting was wooden and the background sound clip of the train moving made you want to put forks in your ears. To me it was an awesome puzzle game, nicely balanced with guns, terrorists in gas masks, and a rather satisfying blood spatter that was too pixellated to be considered gore.

METAL GEAR SOLID

This game needs no real introduction does it? Oh well OK then if you insist. This game is a stealth-based action shooter/runner-thing, in which you play Solid Snake; probably the most badass video game character in existence. Now my earlier point of having a great and engaging storyline kind of goes out the window with this game, as although brilliantly in-depth and treated more like a film than a game in some places (as illustrated by the sometimes painfully long cut scenes and codec voice-over conversations), the story becomes a bit convoluted and hard to follow in places. But if you’ve ever watched anything Japanese that dips into the realm of fantasy or sci-fi, you’ll probably be used to that feeling of ‘…eh?’.

What’s brilliant about this game as well as the attention-to-detail in creating background for all the characters, and having such an in-depth storyline that you almost forget in places how detached from reality it can be, is that stealth plays a big part in completing the game. Admittedly you could just run around gunning down every bad guy you see, but you’d most likely run out of either bullets or health way before you ran out of evil cloned henchmen. Instead, it’s far more fun to hug walls, creep around in boxes, and listen to the guards come out with excellent choice lines such as ‘what was that noise?’ and ‘who’s footprints are these?’. Then you can do all the shooting and running around like a man possessed when the boss fights come.

But I think the best thing about the entire MGS series is how many silly little easter eggs you can find in the game. Admittedly the original doesn’t quite have as many as it’s sequels, but if you look hard enough you can find some little laughs here and there. For example, if you look at the female love interest character for long enough in first-person view she begins to blush, if you call the save-game woman enough times and don’t actually save she sticks her tongue out at you, and of course the staple of the series is that when hiding in lockers you occasionally find posters of Japanese girls in their underwear. And if you press the right button, Snake kisses them.

The mighty Solid Snake hiding behind a tank.

Legend.

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Having the ‘X’ Factor; is it a replacement for individuality?

I thought I’d lead on from my last post discussing so-called ‘Celebrities’ on TV, to the chain of shows that create most of them in the first place; The X Factor, Britain/America/anywhere else with a TV station’s Got Talent, Pop Idol etc.

Now these used to be one of my many pet hates, mainly because the entire country if not most of the world jumped on the bandwagon and became obsessed with watching someone try (and usually fail) to show off their various talents in front of a panel of ‘expert’ judges, only for them to then be insulted and usually run off crying. Now this is funny for a short while, but after a while gets a little repetitive and just plain sad. I was of course one of the many who rejoiced and was all too happy to support Rage Against The Machine in beating the X Factor winner for Britain’s Christmas number one in 2009.

Plus I don’t think Simon Cowell, Louie Walsh and the rest of them wouldn’t know talent if it jumped up and bit them. Especially Sheryl Cole, uuuurrrgh *shudder*.

Anyway, after my few years of hatred I decided to give the show a chance (if you can’t beat them, join them) and watched the majority of last year’s series with my housemates. To my surprise I thought the show wasn’t too bad, however as it got further on I started to notice something rather concerning. I would consider myself a musician of sorts (I’ve played in bands composing our own stuff for years) and from my time on the music scene I’d say that a band or artist’s main unique selling point is just that; being unique and not sounding like everything else out there. But to me it seems like these shows do exactly the opposite, producing year after year of samey, identically talentless pop musicians who churn out one generic album and then disappear into obscurity until they’re seen on Big Brother or a documentary on ITV4. Those who I did see in the first auditions with genuine talent and an individual sound all seemed to either be put through the grinder and turned into a generic sounding pop artists, or kicked to the curb early into the show. By the last couple of rounds, it seemed to just be a popularity contest of who could cry the most during the eliminations, and who did the best job of butchering cover songs.

So here’s where I hand it over to you, the public. Would you agree that these musical talent shows just seem to take musicians and mould them into what they think we want to hear over and over again on the radio? Do you think like me that there should be more shows that actually welcome musicians of different genres, or look more towards bands or instrument-based music? Or do you think these shows should just be taken off TV completely?

Oh, and just to show you what happens when a somewhat talented musician gets re-moulded and the process goes wrong somewhere along the way, here’s last year’s X Factor runner-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdbyG2MrBHk&ob=av2e (Sorry for anyone trying to forget this song exists, but hopefully this will highlight just how bad the situation has become.)

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So, I’m Alex. Hi…

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, so here’s a little bit of my story and what this blog will be about.

Basically, I’m a student in the UK. And like most students, I’m pretty cynical or opinionated about most things. Problem is, I usually don’t voice my stronger opinions to friends as of course they will most likely disagree and a long and usually rather repetitive debate will ensue.Which is fine, except for the fact many of my friends (also being students) are so bull-headed about their beliefs that if yours differ, you’re wrong and that’s that. Can be pretty maddening.

And of course there’s the possibility that some of your really strong opinions will be misunderstood as offensive or racist/sexist/ageist etc., and you lose friends or start fights that way. None of which I want, as I am none of those things. I thought of doing one of these ‘vlogs’ that are popular on the Youtubz these days, but I lack the humour or pretty face that most of the guys on there have. Plus I like the anonymity of written blogs, means if I say something you don’t agree with, you’re less likely to kick my ass in the street if you see me.

So basically, my intention with this blog is to have a bit of a rant about a matter of subjects, try to get my opinion across and justify why they are the way they are, and give all you guys out there a chance to read them and maybe see something from a new angle or think ‘I’m glad it isn’t just me who thinks that’.

Stay tuned, I’ll try to cover a range of subjects so you don’t get bored. Expect rants on religion, politics, TV, media, popular culture, celebrities and more. Sound controversial? You bet your ass.

*

As a bit of a taster; for anyone who is familiar with a British series called ‘Big Brother’ (I have no idea how many countries have their own version, so it may be different for some of you) it’s just been relaunched under their ‘Celebrity’ guise. Truth is, their idea of ‘Celebrities’ are the kind of scum who have tried achieving fame through some kind of pop culture reality series, been portrayed by the media as god’s gift and insist we know about every little thing they do, no matter how unremarkable it is, had their 15 minutes of fame too many and now should just kindly bugger off back into obscurity.

But no, instead we now have to endure the screens being taken up by however many weeks of them arguing, doing idiotic tasks, getting off with one another, and of course the fantastic early morning live shows where we all get to watch them sleep. Don’t get me wrong, although I was too young to tear my eyes away from cartoons and my Pokémon cards when the series started at the turn of the millennium, I admire the concept of it as a social experiment of locking people away for several weeks, isolated from the outside world and with no form of entertainment other than talking to each other. But then, like all other British TV in recent years, it became all about putting the most abrasive, loud and usually idiotic people together to deliberately cause conflict, and as a result we get all this pond life clogging up the TV and newspapers. If you can call most of it ‘news’ anyway. BOOM.

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