Game of Thrones Season 5 Thoughts [SPOILERS!!!]

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I’m a massive fan of the show Game of Thrones. Yet despite being a bookworm, I’m not ashamed to say I haven’t read the books. I just don’t have time or the staying-power for 1,770,000 words (and counting). But maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t read them; I’m coming to the series with fresh eyes.

Season 5 finished last night. Summing it up in a single word is easy: bleak. Depressing works quite well, too.

Whereas in previous seasons the characters were able to carve out small green spaces for themselves in a vast desert wilderness — be it the “normal” loving family moments in the Stark household, the nobles all getting behind the true “King in the North”, or the tender love affairs such as Tyrion and Shea’s — this season is just dark, dark, bleak, dark, depressing, gloomy, and dark.

It may be Season 5 of a probable 8, but I feel that only now are we well and truly into Act II: all the characters we’re rooting for (those who still have their heads, that is) are at their lowest ebb, it would appear. And winter is almost come.

More good guys are dead, loss of purpose and morale for others, rape of innocents, child sacrifice, favourite characters going blind or catching incurable diseases, and a general sense that everything is pretty much effed up.

But the most depressing thing about Game of Thrones Season 5 is: I have to wait a whole year for Season 6!!

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://admin.bol.it/images/external/contenuti/gameofthrones5.jpg

Why Is God Obsessed With Hair?

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God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent Creator, the Exceedingly Beneficent, the Gentle, the Boundless, He Who Is Able To Do Anything, the Supremely Exalted, the Lord of Majesty and Generosity, the Owner of All Sovereignty, &c.

Those titles (and many more) are His, and nobody can doubt their accuracy (for it is written).

So here’s a question for the religious amongst us, given God’s undoubted perfection:

Why is God the Magnificent and Super Duper Excellent (etc.) so obsessed with… hair?

Sikhs can’t cut their hair. To protect it, they wrap it in a turban. And they grow their beards their whole life. If you’re a woman and really want to show how holy you are, you too can wear a turban!

Muslim men also must display a beard. But shaving off the ‘tache is fine. Conversely, Muslim women need to cover their head hair, and any beard they grow is irrelevant to the glorification of God. Male hair = good, female hair = bad??

Christians have to cover their hair in church — but only the women!

Jewish men grow beards, like Muslims, and Jewish women must cover their hair in Synogogue, like Christians. But Hasidic Jewish women shave their hair off and put on a wig. Jewish men must grow curly, long sideburns. They also need to cover their hair! …But only the crown (I think this is more to cover the bald spot).

Rastafarians must mat their hair into dreadlocks. The holiest type is where all of the hair has matted into one long lock.

Aren’t there more pressing moral issues than how to display or conceal one’s hair? Things such as rape (Gen 19:5-8), child abuse (2 Kings 2:23-24), genocide (1 Sam 15:2-8, 15:18-19), oppression of gay people (Lev 20:13), and so on. And grown-ups mutilating the genitals of helpless children, because God commanded them to (Gen 17:10-11).

So again, I ask: given the multiplicity of problems that beset mankind, problems that seem to be on the exponential increase:

Why the hell is God so obsessed with hair?

Over to you, people of God.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://quran2hadith.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/allah_names_with_english.jpeg

Boycott Qatar 2022

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I’ve been calling for this for a while now, but the events of the last few days are making it clear to all: England must boycott the Qatar 2022 FIFA world cup.

The bidding process was a shambles. And even if it was all above board, the concept of hosting a world cup in Qatar is absurd. This nation has no footballing infrastructure or culture, almost 90% of the population is foreign-born workers, and slave labour is being used to build the stadiums: an unprecedented 1200+ people have already died.

Worse still, Qatar’s bid was for a summer world cup. FIFA has now changed this to winter. So let’s forget the chaos that a winter world cup will wreak on domestic football. The point is that FIFA has moved the goalposts. Qatar’s bid was for one thing, yet now they will be delivering something else — all with FIFA sanction. This is unfair. Either host it in the Summer as per the bid, and let the dangerous fiasco unfold, or put the tournament up for a rebid again. A precedent exists: the 1986 world cup in Columbia ended up being moved to Mexico.

England should boycott Qatar 2022 and take part in our own “Friendship Cup” involving any nation that wants to join us — perhaps even a one-off revival of the Home Nations Championship. And if UEFA can be big enough to boycott FIFA, then I suggest a special (summer) edition of the European Championships in 2022. The major European footballing nations all have the ability to put on such a major event as we already have all of the relevant infrastructure.

I would hate to see football split as boxing has been, with several “world champions” strutting around. But I doubt that will ever occur. We need to stand up to FIFA and say “enough is enough!” England, as the nation which gave the world the beautiful game, should take the lead. I look forward to the World Friendship Cup in 2022, even if it means England might be squaring off against San Marino, Gibraltar, and East Timor.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://footyjuice.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/venturesonsite-qatar-2022-worldcup.jpg

European Football Needs Fixing

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I’m a big football fan. But I just can’t make myself care about the Europa League. I don’t watch any of the matches, apart from the final and maybe the semis — and even then, I’m not that bothered. Case in point: I forgot the final was on yesterday, so missed it.

I just don’t see the point of the tournament.

Back when I was a kid, European football made sense.

  1. All the Champions of the various nations’ leagues would play each other in the European Champions’ Cup.
  2. All the Champions of the various nations’ cups would play each other in the European Cup Winners Cup.
  3. And all the really excellent also-rans would play in the UEFA Cup.

All three competitions had their own niche. The three worked together well conceptually. And all three were exciting in their own ways.

But I don’t just get the point anymore.

Sure, the winner of the Champions League is the best team in Europe — whether or not they won their own nation’s league. But what are the Europa League winners the champions of, exactly? The not-quite-as-good-as-the-also-rans?

More to the point: the Europa League is a bloated pseudo-epic — like all the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. The tournament just goes on forever, pointlessly.

It’s clear that European football needs reforming. But how?

A return to the old days clearly isn’t going to happen (national champions to the European Cup, all the other best teams to the UEFA Cup/Europa League). And what’s more, I wouldn’t want it to — not least ‘cos it would mean Arsenal would never get into the Champions League again! But actually, despite being a bit bloated, and a flagrant misnomer!, I actually rather like the modern Champions League.

I make two simple proposals which I think would fix European football.

1. Change the Europa League to the “Europa Challenge Cup”

It would be a pure knock-out tournament. The model would be the FA cup. So, yeah, the better teams would enter the tourney in later stages (think the 3rd Round entrance of Premier League teams in the FA Cup). But, just like the FA Cup, any team could otherwise be drawn against any other team — there would be no seedings.

Unlike the FA Cup, though, I think a two-leg format might be best, except for the final — and possibly the semis.

AND ABSOLUTELY NO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REJECTS WOULD BE ALLOWED TO JOIN! (currently, clubs that finish third in the group stage of the Champions’ League enter into the Europa League).

Also, this set up would make conceptual sense: every nation has its league tournament and its league tournament; we would now have a Europe-wide league tourney and a Europe-wide cup one.

2. The European Super League: Merge the Two Tourneys

The more radical option: expand the Champs league further by scrapping the Europa League.

Instead of European spots being divvied up between the two competitions, all European qualifying teams go through to the same tournament.

What do you reckon?

featured image from http://romanews.eu/img/1213/logo_competizioni/europa_league_top.jpg

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

Fatty Parry 6 (Update)

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The goals:

  1. To get down to a healthy weight, 12st 7lb – 13st 7lb, by the end of the year.
  2. To get down to my wedding weight (Oct. 2013) of 14st 5lb by the Summer.
  3. To maintain the above weight indefinitely.
  4. To do the above in a healthy and balanced way. Therefore, to increase my overall levels of fitness and mental health.

It’s been over two months since my last Fatty Parry update. I was 16st 3.5lb (227.5lbs, 103kg). So how am I getting on?

Well, if Project Fatty Parry was a sport, it’d be golf: the lower your number (read: pounds), the better. Unfortunately, I seem to think it’s rugby: gain as many points as possible.

For you see, the sad fact is, I am now 16st 8.25lbs (232.25lbs, 105.3kg). Yeah… that’d be a gain of 4lb 12oz since March.

I feel rotten. But then again, what did I expect? No gym for the last two months + lots of junk food = weight gain. In a way, I’m happy I gained a mere pound a fortnight such has been the depth of my depraved and unhealthy lifestyle.

I seriously need to get a grip here. I’ll update you again around the beginning of June. Wish me willpower!

See my previous posts on the subject here: https://doggerelizer.wordpress.com/category/fatty-parry/

This post was written at the beginning of May but not published due to technical difficulties.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

Stop Ruining Game of Thrones for Me!!!!! [SPOILERS…ish]

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I sent the following letter to the Metro newspaper (London, UK) on Thursday.

Thank you, Metro, for COMPLETELY RUINING the latest episode of Game of Thrones for me. The large headline and picture (21 May, p23) gave the plot away without me even having to read the article.

I work 15 hour shifts and Game of Thrones is my one crumb of pleasure. I haven’t been able to catch up yet this week due to my long hours.

So, once again, THANKS.

Bryan Parry

Click here for the photo they posted. The headline was “‘Disgusting’ rape scene is attacked by Thrones fans”. Doesn’t take an absolute genius to put two and two together.

Grrr.

Voting Reform

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The results of the General Election have thrown up some intriguing uncertainties. For example, will the SNP’s unprecedented success precipitate the break up of the UK?

But one thing is certain from the results: the voting system needs to be changed in time for the next General Election.

Consider this. The UK Independence Party received almost four million votes. That’s the third highest and a total 12.6% share of the vote. Yet the party only received one seat in Parliament. Yet 12.6% of the 650 House of Commons is 82 seats!

Whatever you may think of UKIP, this is a travesty and makes a mockery of any notion of British “democracy”.

But it’s not just UKIP who were done over by our voting system.

The LibDems got two and a half million votes, a 7.9% share. Yet they received 1% of the seats.

The Greens gained 1.15 million votes, a 3.8% share. They only received a single seat.

On the other hand, the SNP got 50% of the vote in Scotland, yet a whopping 95% of all seats! Not quite as dramatic, but the Conservatives won 51% of the seats on a mere 36.9% of the vote.

And bear in mind that 33.9% of the eligible population didn’t even vote! That means the Conservatives were only supported by 24% of the voting age population, yet got more than half the seats.

Our system really is winner takes all.

A lot of people I’ve been speaking to have been really quite confused. So I’ll explain our system.

The country is divided into voting areas (constituencies). Whichever candidate gets the most votes in any area wins that seat. Everyone else gets nothing. This was UKIP’s problem: they came second in 120 seats nationwide! But first in one seat is better than second in a hundred under our system.

Perhaps in the era of two party politics, our current system worked well (for example, in the 1950 General Election, the Conservatives and Labour respectively gained 40% and 46.1% of the vote and 35.2% and 46.1% of the seats). But we no longer exist in that era, and never will again. So it’s time to change.

The only arguments in favour our system are that it’s easy to understand and produces stable government. Well, I think the idea our politics is stable is now laughable. And easy to understand? How can anyone understand a party receiving 12.6% of the vote getting a mere 0.15% of the seats?

The system needs to change. That is clear. But change to what? There are so many alternatives that the mind boggles.

Luckily for us, however, the UK has been engaged in numerous pilot schemes trialling different voting systems for a while now.

  • In the London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament, the Additional Member System is used. It is semi-proportional; winners are chosen as in the General Election, but there are extra seats for each area which are awarded proportionally.
  • The London Mayor is selected by the Supplementary Vote system. Everyone picks their first choice and second choice. If no one candidate receives 50% of the vote, then all candidates except the top two are eliminated, and all second preference votes are redistributed. The candidate with most votes after these supplementary votes are added is the winner.
  • European Parliament elections are done according to the d’Hondt method which, more-or-less accurately, gives a proportional share of seats based on share of vote. For example, in the 2014 European Parliament Elections, the percentage of votes/seats won was: UKIP 26.6/32.88, Labour 24.43/27.40, Conservative 23.05/26.03, Green 6.91/4.11, SNP 2.37/2.74, and so on.
  • In London council elections, each ward elects up to three representatives.
  • There are many other systems in use in the UK. See here for all the details.

Clearly, no voting system is perfect (this is actually scientific fact: just see New Scientist‘s article if you don’t believe me), but we need to make votes count. Some ways include more even-sized constituencies so each vote is equally valuable, instant easy right to sack any MP / call a by-election, direct voting by the population, easily triggerable referenda, and so on. But changing the electoral system is key.

My proposal

Whilst I don’t want to break the link between MP and constituency, nor introduce two kinds of MP, I think the best solution is either a proportional system based on voting regions, e.g., the four nations or sub-regions thereof, or a London-style Additional member system with the current system supplemented by proportional elected regional MPs.

The 2015 General Election results were a travesty and a miscarriage of justice. Indeed, they were a farce. Let’s move into the twenty-first century.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

References
Full results: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

Scottish Parliament Electoral System: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/Education/16285.aspx
European Parliament Electoral System: http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/european_elections/the_voting_system.html
Other voting systems used in the UK: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/voting-systems/
European Parliament Election Results 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(United_Kingdom)
New Scientist on the impossibility of fair elections: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html#.VVYou2dFCM8

Featured image from http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/06.11/images/vote-toss.jpg