Nazi Comparisons

It’s an old “rule” of internet debates that the first person to compare the opposing side to the Nazis has lost the argument. If somebody criticises the government, for example, by calling them Nazis, most people won’t take them seriously. It’s understandable. Most people that make this argument aren’t from countries where people are being sent to extermination camps while they wage war on the rest of the world. But I think there’s a lot more nuance to these Nazi comparisons which, perhaps, a lot of people don’t realise – perhaps not even people making them.

The story of Hitler and Nazi Germany is one of the best known stories of a horrible dictatorship from history. But it didn’t happen overnight. People didn’t vote for a horrible dictatorship, it was introduced very gradually. When people compare the actions of the government to the Nazis, I don’t think they necessarily mean that the people in power are just as bad as those in charge of the Nazi party and they also are probably not talking about what the Nazi party became. What I believe the concern is, is that the government are setting new precedents – each time something bad is done for the first time, a new precedent is set and later leaders are likely to do the same things… and a little more. It’s a very slow and gradual snowball effect, but one that I believe is a very valid concern. To look back at history, consider that the Nazi party was founded in 1920… 19 years before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Looking at Donald Trump, for example: the people of America have now gotten used to an American President being so openly corrupt and lying constantly. Thankfully, Trump appears to be hindered by his own incompetence – his lies are obvious, he often behaves in childish, petty ways and he finds it very difficult to speak coherently in front of others. But how many people have been watching what he’s ‘achieved’ in shifting the American political spectrum? People who are, perhaps, more charismatic and articulate? People who are better at covering their tracks? People who think they could do what he did… and more? It may never happen, but it’s definitely something people should be conscious of.

Of course, it’s not just America – in the UK, the rate at which Boris Johnson lies is quite alarming and the fact that his actions have costs thousands and thousands of lives is very distressing – what more could a prime minister get away with without consequence? I just thought it was easier to illustrate the point with Donald Trump. Simply calling someone a Nazi doesn’t really achieve anything, but there is definitely a reasonable argument to be made if you actually unpack the statement to explain the nuance behind it. Otherwise, it’s just left-wing people calling right-wing people Nazis, while right-wing people call left-wing people Stalinist and nothing is achieved, other than a few people getting stressed out online.

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Trusty Book Reviews

For almost a decade I’ve been writing reviews of (almost) every book I’ve read and then posting them here on this blog. At this point, there are over two hundred of them. I’ve really enjoyed doing it and will always continue to do so, but I’ve decided to do something else with my book reviews.

About a month and a half ago, I opened up an Instagram account called Trusty Book Reviews (@trustybook) and I am currently posting a condensed version of my reviews in a snazzy little graphic every single day. I’m really enjoying it and it’s helping me to reach a following which I don’t reach through this site alone. Plus, by engaging with the “bookstagram” community, I’m learning about all kinds of interesting books which I’d never have heard of otherwise and my “to-read” list is growing substantially.

So, anyway, I doubt that there are many (or any?) people who have read every single book review that I’ve ever posted on here and if you like that kind of content from me, then I recommend following my new Instagram account. For some people, my miniature single paragraph reviews might be preferable to the lengthier reviews I post on this blog.

It’s something I’m glad I’ve decided to start doing and something I quite enjoy. It’s nice to interact with so many people who care about books just as much as I do.

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Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken

I’m sure you’re probably familiar with the theory that the Earth was visited by advanced aliens in ancient times and that they guided the early civilisations who saw them as gods. It’s a fun concept for science fiction stories, but there are certainly some people who sincerely believe that this may have happened. One of these people is Erich von Däniken and in his book, Chariots of the Gods, he takes several examples from history in an attempt to argue his case. Though he wasn’t the first person to argue this case, he’s definitely one of the most well known advocates of the ancient astronaut theory.

Going into the book, I was open minded. I love historic mysteries and it’s statistically more likely that we’re not alone in the universe than that we are. I don’t think that it’s impossible to imagine that alien beings have visited the planet at some point in its long history. I thought it would be fun to read through some interesting unexplained phenomenon and entertain the notion that extra-terrestrials might be the explanation.

I was actually quite excited to start… only to have that enthusiasm immediately killed by three very long and bitter forewords and introductions. It seems that Von Däniken has not taken criticism of his work very well and all of these opening pieces were just angry rants about how people need to be more open-minded and so on. These felt really long and, honestly, they were kind of uncomfortable to read. Definitely not a good first impression.

By then I got into the main body of the book, mentally rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of all the historic mysteries I was going to find out about… Only to find that the bulk of his arguments boiled down to “How could primitive people possibly have done this by themselves?” and, yes, some of the things he were talking about made me think “Wow, that’s a really good question, how did they build that?” but it just made me think that there were probably methods they developed out of necessity in ways we don’t understand anymore. Some of the arguments were very tenuous, for example, he pointed to God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah in The Bible as an example, saying that it could be a “primitive” mind’s account for seeing aliens destroy a town with a nuclear bomb… but why would aliens want to nuke a random ancient city?

Additionally, there was a lot of creepy casual sexism. He talks about how it would be natural for human astronauts to encounter ‘primitive’ alien women on a planet and select the best specimens for fertilisation… excuse me? So humans are exploring space just so they can rape female aliens? Jeez. Another time, he says something along the lines of a simple housewife having the same intelligence as a simple farmer a few hundred years ago… not very respectful to anybody!

What I will say in this book’s favour is that it highlighted some interesting facts about the possibility of life on alien planets. For example, he explained that tests had proven that a form of life could exist on the planet Jupiter, which is fascinating to me. He also drew my attention to some beautiful pieces of art, architecture and technology from the ancient world which I really enjoyed learning about… just because I don’t think that their existence constitutes an argument for alien intervention, doesn’t mean I don’t like reading about them!

Ultimately, I don’t think I can recommend this book. By all means, give it a try and make up your own mind, maybe you’ll be convinced that aliens really did once walk among us, but in my opinion, he comes to all kinds of alien conclusions based on practically nothing while also coming off as mildly racist and sexist.

Rating: 4.7/10

Buy it here.

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Clu Clu Land

There were a lot of games which Nintendo made for the NES which went on to become big franchises for them, receiving new instalments on various later consoles. However, there were also games which were never properly revisited. Sometimes this made sense, because the games weren’t that good, but sometimes it was a shame. Clu Clu Land is one of those games which never received a proper follow up and I think it’s a shame, because it was actually pretty fun.

In the game, you play as a little red balloonfish called Bubbles. She constantly swims forward on grid-based maps. You can have her stick out her left or right arm, which makes her grab little pegs by her side. Then she spins around the peg she’s grabbed on to and then you release her grip to send her in different directions. Moving around these little maps, she has to find golden ingots which appear between the pegs. There’s a time limit on each map and you win when you find them all. You also have to look out for enemy Unira, which will burst Bubbles if she collides with them. Though she is able to stun them with soundwaves and even squash them against walls once they’re stunned.

It’s a very unique style of gameplay and I really enjoy it. It’s the kind of puzzle game which could have been built upon in lots of ways over the years and I think it’s a shame that this game is really all Clu Clu Land ever got. After a while, it does get a bit repetitive because there’s not a large variety in level types, but it’s still a very fun slice of Nintendo history. Plus, you can play it with a friend co-operatively if you want. If you like the NES era, you should definitely give this a try.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today, it was the first of January 2011. That feels very strange to me. I had a somewhat similar feeling at the start of 2020, knowing that 2010 had been a decade ago, I wrote about it too. But knowing that we’re now ten years away from 2011 feels especially strange, perhaps because that’s the year I went to university. Perhaps because I have a clearer memory of it than 2010 – a lot of it still feels fresh in my mind.

I was invited to a New Year’s party to see the year in. A house party which I didn’t particularly enjoy. I never was fond of house parties and I remember, as I walked home alone in the darkness, I was wondering what the year ahead might hold for me. Half way through the year, I’d come to the end of my time in Sixth Form. I had no idea what I was going to do after that. Perhaps I’ll get a job in one of the local shops, I thought. I didn’t really think going to university was that likely. It would be nice, but I wasn’t sure I’d get the grades. If I was honest with myself, it felt like such an unknown, something which would require so much work and so many new experiences that the thought of it made me a bit anxious. I knew that most of my friends were thinking of going to university and that they’d almost certainly be moving away for it too. I felt anxious about losing them and finding it hard to make new friends. In general, I felt anxious for the uncertainty of my future.

What would that past me have thought if they could see the me of today? Well, I think they would be very happy indeed. Living in Bath with a good friend, one who they don’t know yet, but I’m sure they trust their future self to make a good decision. Back then, I did used to think that living with a friend in Bath would be quite a nice future. They’d be pleased that I’d stayed in touch with all the people they were in touch with in 2011. They’d be pleased I’d made lots of other friends. They’d be pleased I went to university and did well. They’d be pleased I’d had lots of writing jobs. They’d be pleased with just about everything.

I’m not someone who generally feels down about their circumstances, but if I ever do, I’d do well to think of myself walking home on that night ten years ago. They’d covet the life I lead today very much – with that thought in mind, I can only conclude that I am very lucky. But you know what? My anxious 2011 self was very lucky too. They had a lot to look forward to, including a particularly exciting new friendship which was just around the corner. I hope that the me in 2031 whose looking back on the me of today feels equally as lucky.

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Reflecting on 2020

I thought to myself “writing a summary of my year on New Year’s Eve/early New Year’s Day has started to become an annual tradition, hasn’t it?” but taking a look, it seems I didn’t do that last year, which is odd. Either way, I’m writing one this year.

Obviously, on the world stage, this year has been pretty bad. There’s been a global pandemic which has claimed countless lives and the UK has been particularly badly hit due to our evil incompetent government. This year has been the year that I’ve stopped reading the news and I’m sure that many people have done the same. As a consequence of all that’s been going on, my life changed quite a lot. I used to be visiting friends in different places, sometimes as often as four days a week. I’d be going to different towns, different restaurants, different pubs and generally leading the life of a highly social person. This year I’ve gone out to visit friends only a very small number of times.

On top of all that, I was made redundant from the nice, well paying job which I was enjoying this time last year. Furthermore, I was more ill this year than I’ve ever been before, with various trips to the doctor and the hospital, including an emergency trip to the hospital in what I would later learn was a life-threatening condition – one which could only be treated with an extremely painful procedure and took months to full recover from.

But despite all that… it’s not really been a bad year for me, personally. My house friend Sophie and I have sat peacefully in our little bubble while not thinking too hard about the problems that we have no power to influence. In terms of the things which society at large places value on, I’ve achieved nothing – I’ve lost a lot of money and I’ve not used the lockdown to cultivate a new skill or anything like that. But I’ve enjoyed having more time to read (and I’ve done a lot of reading this year) and I’ve enjoyed having more time for video games and, also, I’ve very much enjoyed having more time to write. I don’t mind that everything went came to a standstill (or go-backwards) for me this year.

I’ve missed a lot of friends who I haven’t had a chance to see… but they’re still there. The bonds formed are strong enough that things will resume and be just as they were once it is safe for us to see one another again. Plus, I also heard from a penpal I’d not heard from in a long time (nice to know she’s alive) and I made a new friend who I was introduced to online. So there were definite positives. In some ways, I wonder how I ever had the energy to do all the things I did before the lockdown first started and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to enjoy an easier way of life. Though, I have to admit, a big part of that is down to having a very comfortable living situation at the moment. I know that it won’t have been so easy for some. Who knows what my life will be like this time next year? Not me. I have no goals or expectations, I’ll just wait and see what happens. At very least, I know I’ll be watching a new episode of Doctor Who on the first day of 2021. That’s a good start.

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Looking at Christmas Trees

I like Christmas tress. I think they look great and nothing gets me into the festive spirit quite like seeing a nicely decorated Christmas tree. But this year, I started to think about something Christmas tree-related which is a bit of a quandary.

When taking my evening walks, I always enjoy taking a look at the beautiful Christmas tree displays that people have created in their homes… but this year I stopped to think, am I supposed to be looking at them? When enjoying the view of a nice tree, it’s a bit awkward when there’s somebody in the room standing next to it staring back at you. Is it an invasion of privacy to look at the tree? If it is, why would you put something so beautiful and eye catching at the window? Of course it’s going to catch the eyes of passers by and they’ll end up looking through the window.
By saying that, am I no different from a man leering at a woman in a bikini saying “She wouldn’t dress that way if she didn’t want me to stare at her and try desperately to save a mental image of her for future reference.”?

An argument could be made that it is a coincidence that Christmas trees tend to be put up right next to windows. They’re pretty big, after all, and it’s not as though you can put them up anywhere. Although I distinctly remember that when I decorated the Christmas tree as a child, I always hoped that people would look at it and think that it looked nice… that’s not to suggest that just because I thought that as a child, everybody in the world must agree with me.

But then, have a think about other things your average person puts in their windows: “I Voted Conservative”, “Thank you, NHS!” and “No coloureds”, to give a few examples. These are obviously there to be read and you have to look through windows to see them… so people do want people passing by to look through their windows. So I think it’s safe to look at a nice Christmas tree that you happen to see when taking a walk… but I don’t think it changes the fact that it’s awkward when people are in the same room. Maybe it would be less awkward if you made eye contact and shouted “Nice tree!”?

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

Pretty much everybody has heard of Santa Claus. The story of the man who delivers presents to children across the world every year on Christmas Eve is one which most of us will have been told as children… but have you ever heard an origin story for Santa Claus? Have you ever wondered how somebody might find themselves living the life that he leads?

In The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, L. Frank Baum gives us a story that explains who Santa Claus is and why he does what he does. At the start of the book, Claus is just a baby and one who finds himself adopted by the immortals of the forest after being abandoned by his parents. How many other stories introduce you to Santa’s adoptive mother? Or explain how he became immortal? Or how he first met the reindeer? Or why he’s called Santa Claus?

What follows is a kind of epic fantasy adventure, with Santa Claus at its heart. At one point there’s a giant war between races, during which time various sentient beings are completed wiped out. It’s kind of crazy, but, also, I love it. There’s so much lore behind it, with so many immortal beings, gods and races across the Earth. At first, I thought that they’d probably been borrowed from folklore, but as it turns out, Baum invented every one of them, which only makes the story all the more impressive. It genuinely felt like something which was drawn from a complex string of folktales.

The book also amused me in the sense that while some chapters focus on the excessive bloodshed of war, or assassination attempts on Santa Claus’s life, others are about the invention of a new kind of toy, or the invention of the Christmas tree. The shift in tone from chapter to chapter meant I never knew what to expect when going into a new chapter – and no matter what happened, I always enjoyed myself.

So if you’re ever in the mood for a dark origin story for Santa Claus, then I heartily recommend this book. If you’re just looking for a bit of Christmas fun, you’ll probably like it too. I’d go so far as to say it contains my favourite depiction of Santa, simply because I’ve never seen the character taken quite so seriously before.

Rating: 8.6/10

Buy it here.

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Kindness and Guilt

There’s a certain toxic behaviour that I see quite a lot of. Thankfully, this is very rare among the people in my life, but I see it a lot on television (and other fiction) and I know that my friends have trouble with people acting this way. What’s the behaviour I’m talking about? Well, it’s when somebody does something nice for somebody, but then uses that fact against the person later. Sometimes I feel like people actively do something “kind” because they want to make the person feel guilty due to whatever issues they’re failing to communicate properly (or because they do the so-called act of kindness because they want something in return).

In my opinion, if somebody does something nice for somebody and then later uses it against them, it’s no longer an act of kindness, it’s one cog in an act of manipulation. It’s the equivalent of baking somebody a cake… but it’s actually made of something they’re allergic to for a prank, or giving somebody a nice teddy bear… but it’s actually stuffed with cocaine and you’re giving it to them because you need to hide it, or buying somebody some nice clothes… but you intentionally bought them a size to small because you think the person is overweight and want them to lose weight. Yes, in isolation, the action might seem kind, but when you see the whole picture, you realise there was no kindness involved – only manipulation.

It’s always wrong to intentionally make somebody feel guilty. The only motivation you should have behind any act of kindness is to make the other person happy, because when you care about somebody, their happiness should be its own reward. I can understand doing something for someone because you hope it will improve your relationship with someone, that’s fine as far as “ulterior motives” go. It’s even fine if you’re doing something to make someone happy, but also partly thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if this encouraged them to do the same for me one day?” it’s natural to hope people will do nice things for you or that people will like you… but it becomes not okay when you start to expect people to reciprocate all of your actions of kindness.

Love and kindness are not an economy. You don’t pay someone with one act of kindness in exchange for something from them – yes, it might generally work out like that, but sometimes it won’t (which is okay) and keeping score and trying to coerce people is not “kind” by any means. If people are doing things for people and thinking about what they can get out of the person as a result of it, or hoping to make them feel guilty or anything like that, I think they seriously need to reassess the dynamics of the relationships in their life. Nobody appreciates this kind of behaviour.

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Could COVID-19 be a hoax?

I was out taking my evening walk the other day when I noticed that some local graffiti artists had made a statement over a COVID-19 information poster at the bus station. They had just written two words one was “HOAX” and the other was “LIES” and so I thought it would make an interesting blog post to explore whether or not COVID-19 could actually be a hoax.

I suppose I can see why some people think that it’s not real. After all, it’s a serious thing which has affected all our lives in a detrimental way and people are frustrated. It’s invisible, so we can only conceptualise the harm that it does, plus there are lots of people who have ignored all guidance and have seemingly had no consequences. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t know anyone with COVID-19 and never had… it makes sense that it seems like a hoax, right?

Well, while I can understand why some people might think that way, it only takes a little bit of critical thinking to debunk it. Look at all the countries which are currently enforcing measures to deal with COVID-19… are they all in on the hoax? If so, who came up with the idea? To what end was this hoax invented? It would require some all-powerful person (or organisation) to be pulling the strings of all the world’s major powers and I feel as though that thought is so outlandish that it doesn’t need anyone to debunk it.

Furthermore, there are plenty of doctors and nurses who are very happy to verify that COVID-19 are real. I know a few and have spoken to them directly about it… why would they lie? Doctors and nurses would have no reason to spread misinformation. They’re primarily concerned with helping people and so you can safely trust anything which comes from them. Plus, it’s not really hard to find heart breaking accounts of people who have lost friends and family to COVID-19 just by looking around online. There are even a few people who thought it was a hoax and then changed their mind once they were struck down with it.

I almost feel like people who believe it is a hoax want it to be one, because the reality is quite horrible. Nonetheless, with a bit of analysis, it’s easy to see that the idea of COVID-19 being a hoax holds no weight whatsoever.

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