The Magic Money Tree

So here we are, on the eve of the 2017 general election. This will probably not be my final post on the matter but it will be the last one that can make a difference by giving a reader something they can use when going to vote.

So this week, a table was going round social media detailing how ‘life under the Tories has improved in the last seven years’. It started as a post from a Tory MP who had decided to boast about it since after all, the Tories encourage judgement on their record.

tory bullshit numbers

Now, there are many issues with this and I’m well aware that not everyone has the benefit of an analytical mind or understanding of economics but I DID expect most people to know what inflation is. Even if Theresa May herself does not (for more info on May’s ignorance of inflation and real figures, see my article The impossibility of realities). However, not only did this Tory MP display shocking mathematical ignorance, but so did a great many people who shared it, including several of my acquaintances.

In case it is not obvious, this comparison is worthless because of the change in universal price levels since 2010. Inflation is something that happens steadily each year. It’s the reason Freddos were 10p when I was a kid (in the early 2000s) and are now 30p. The non-percentage figures in this table for 2010 can all be accurately adjusted by simply using the inflation multiplier from 2010 to 2017. A quick Google search will tell you that is 1.23. And using this, almost all of these figures reveal themselves to be pro-Labour.

The minimum wage of 2010 was effectively £7.29. The NHS budget was actually HIGHER than it is now. The deficit was also higher but given this was off the back of the 2008 financial crisis, it was to be expected. The majority of these figures were incredibly dubious but using self-contained logic, even these did not work to the advantage of the Tories.

So when I confronted someone I knew about this, instead of accepting a mistake, he decided to embody Theresa May rather excellently and swerve to the subject of Labour’s promises and the classic ‘magic money tree accusation’. And while I said I wouldn’t rise to the bait…I did. And I’m glad I did.

Despite being a supporter of Labour, I was sceptical of Corbyn’s promises. He said he would nationalise the railways, the post office, the water companies, the energy companies and scrap tuition fees. He promised structured, national investment through a wide range of schemes. He promised funding into healthcare, education and security, and at least 10,000 extra policemen. That’s a lot to ask for. However, governments waste a lot of money on many schemes so of course he could do at least SOME of what he said. I was personally fine with a reasonable deliverance on the manifesto. I did not expect all of them to be achievable. So I did some digging on the big promises and here’s what I found.

Royal Mail was privatised for £3.3bn in the last couple of years. It was privatised under the coalition government and the final 30% stake was sold in 2015. So buying this back would cost just above 3.3bn. However, Labour only wants a majority of 50.1% and that’s estimated to be £2.15bn now. That’s really not as much as I expected.

Next up: Railways. The cost? Nothing.

How? Well Network Rail is the entity that owns the stations, tracks, and facilities of the rail industry and it is state owned. The operating franchises that have privatised the services will eventually lapse. Their contracts will expire and the railways will automatically be re-nationalized. 14 of the 25 franchises will have lapsed by 2023. Unfortunately this does not include the shambolic Abellio Greater Anglia, but does include utterly awful services such as Southern Rail, which expires in 2018. Only the fates of Heathrow Express and Eurostar are uncertain. This leaves only 9 franchises that will definitely still be privatised by around the time of the next election in 2022. Those may perhaps warrant further action. But so far so good. That’s about 60% of the railways nationalised just like that.

Abolishing tuition fees has been estimated at 10bn. This will be difficult to pull off. But consider the Lorenzo system for the NHS. A failed IT system that was only implemented in 220 of the several thousand NHS facilities, didn’t work, and cost £10bn. A complete waste of money that started in 2002 and inexplicably, was continued by the Conservatives. This sort of thing isn’t a one-off. For all the talk of cuts, this government has wasted immense amounts of money, like every single one before it.

It’s pretty clear that money can be found when a government wants it. It is worth noting that the Trident renewal is estimated at £179 billion over a few decades. A gradual, long-term program for weapons of mass destruction that we never intend to use.

You know what else is a gradual thing? Water and energy. This has been confirmed to be a long-term plan, unlike action on tuition fees, and estimated at £100-120bn. The widespread belief that Trident is supposedly affordable, but nationalising utilities is not, says a lot about this nation’s flawed priorities.

On a similar note, perhaps it would be prudent to stop bombing countries we don’t actively need to. I hear Donald’s favourite Tomahawk missiles cost upwards of a million dollars each, and he fired 59 of them at Syria on a whim. The UK is responsible for several such expensive air strikes and campaigns. Organising our foreign policy in a way that reduces the number of unnecessary wars would not only free up a lot of money but also do much to stop exacerbating problems of radicalisation and encouragement of retaliation and escalation. Crushing ISIS both physically, tactically, and ideologically is much more efficiently done by enhancing security at home, having more police around, and constantly foiling their plans, rendering them ineffective and incompetent. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be wiped out. But intervening constantly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya? Unnecessary.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a significant amount of money up for grabs through a clampdown on tax evasion and loopholes. Whether this can actually work remains to be seen. Another point is that these nationalised services won’t run themselves so money will be spent on maintenance of utilities and railways. But owning these services could potentially be extremely beneficial to the economy and the government. They are businesses after all. And not having to pay money to acquire large chunks of them is certainly a good start.

And now to corporation tax. Here is a comparison of the effect of corporation tax decreases over the last decade:

Corp tax 2015-16 at 20%: 44.4 bn (45.3bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.02)

Corp tax 2010-11 at 28%: 43bn (52.89bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.23)

Corp tax 2007-08 at 30%: 46bn (61.18bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.33)

The further back you go, the more you find corporation tax was worth. It is pretty clear that, contrary to popular belief, higher corporation tax does not actually make all businesses evaporate. Empirical evidence says it actually works. It is moves like Brexit which are much more concerning to businesses. Corporation tax rises however, don’t seem to have as much of a negative effect. Indeed, it seems we have lost around 15bn per year in government funding. Theresa May thinks an extra 4bn into education is a good initiative. Apparently, she thinks giving 15bn a year to corporations is a better one.

Telling the truth often isn’t always the best way forward for yourself, which is why only the best of us try. And nothing worth doing ever comes easily. The Tories have not only accepted that telling the truth doesn’t advance their cause but have tried to attack others on all their greatest initiatives. They have tried to slander people like Corbyn even when they are on the same page, as they have been on terrorism and security. This morning, Boris Johnson attacked Corbyn for his views despite voting the same way on various anti-terror legislation that was deemed to be extreme and poorly thought-out. This election is a power grab for the Tories and a possibly futile attempt at a better society by Corbyn. Amazingly, that better society isn’t as unrealistic as we would think. It just requires enough people to see through the haze of lies and push for genuine change.

The Tories have provided only lies when they have bothered to use results and statistics at all. They have pinned their hopes on empty soundbites and smears because they know that attempts at costing won’t help them. And Labour seemingly haven’t realised just how good some of their sums are. Perhaps Diane Abbott doesn’t know that Labour’s sums add up. But amazingly, I have discovered that they do.

Please do not waste your vote in this election. Many people I know are considering spoiling their ballots. This may seem like a good way to indicate your disenchantment with the system but by default, you have supported the Tories. They won’t care about your disengagement. My hope is that some people will use this information to be a positive force for change and progression. You do not realise how much power you have. You can change things for the better. Start now.

The impossibility of reality

The 29th of May 2017 saw a face-off of sorts between the two major candidates in the general election. This was a night that we saw a particularly impressive performance from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, an especially dreadful performance from Prime Minister Theresa May, and a distinctly shoddy and imbalanced performance from interviewer Jeremy Paxman. A lot happened and yet, one moment stood out to me that it seems most people may have overlooked that showed quite literally how out of touch with reality our Prime Minister is.

Midway through the audience Q&A, Theresa May promised an extra £4 billion of spending on education, then was told by Faisal Islam of Sky News that real levels of funding per pupil would still fall. She responded by telling him that it was impossible to guarantee an increase in funding in real terms.

It isn’t impossible. Calculating real terms is very simple mathematics. Real figures are nominal figures adjusted for inflation. Here is how it’s done:

  • According to the 2016 Budget, the spend on education was £102 billion
  • Inflation has been at 1.8% which means a multiplier of 1.02 will convert 2016 prices to 2017 ones
  • There were 121,000 more schoolchildren in 2016, which is a 1.4% increase. Numbers have been rising consistently over the years and there are indications of even higher 2017 numbers but let’s use this figure (1.4% means a multiplier of 1.014)

This is all the information that is needed. So quite simply, the real value of the 2016 education spend in 2017 terms is: 102 bn × 1.02 ×1.014 = £105.6 billion

May’s proposed 2017 spend: 102+4 = £106 billion

So despite not knowing the exact numbers of schoolchildren this year, we can already see that May’s increase is worth virtually nothing. It is not even an increase. Faisal Islam went one step further and said that the real value per pupil had actually DECREASED. Perhaps he had access to the numbers of schoolchildren in 2017 rather than quickly using the 2016 figures as I have. For this to be true, the increase this year would have to be only 1.884%, which is an increase of 0.484% on the original 1.4% (121,000). That’s only 41, 831.4 extra kids (Well…more like 41,831 kids). That’s all it would take for Theresa May’s funding increase to be entirely worthless.

Using this calculation, we can figure out that virtually ANY value of funding above the total of 106 billion she quoted would have been good for education. She could have said an extra 10 billion and all would have been fine. She could have said as little as 5 billion for her statement to have held up and she wouldn’t have had to lie to Faisal Islam and the audience. But this wasn’t an on-the-spot thing. Someone at Tory HQ spent time working out a figure for educational spend that either forgets the real impact, or doesn’t care about it.

Theresa May is technically right, it is impossible to know with 100% certainty. If for example, 200 million extra schoolchildren turned up, the UK would definitely have an issue. But that isn’t the case. Numbers of schoolchildren can be easily calculated and an appropriate level of funding allocated, as evidenced above. May’s figure has been proven to completely inadequate in dealing with increased strain on national education services. When informed of this, she implied that these figures couldn’t be determined and followed that up by making fun of the Labour Party’s mathematics. This was possibly the stupidest thing she said all night and I’m glad she was heckled straight after, even though is seems most people did not understand the enormity of her lie.

This may be the reason that the Tory manifesto is uncosted, why May keeps U-turning on social care, and perhaps why the Tory party is against investment into so many important sectors in the first place. They simply don’t understand any of it, and are clearly the last people to be making fun of anyone else for poor mathematics. Perhaps they are just incompetent, perhaps they are liars, perhaps they are both. No matter which way you look at it, this is bad for Theresa May, and the manner in which she compulsively lies even when the truth is right in front of her should have ended her career already. But as Trump and his kind have proven, humanity has a tendency to let imbeciles get far further than they should in their quests for power.

Long story short: Theresa May needs to get real.

Elections and elecshams

This week, we saw a Theresa May U-turn that will genuinely make or break the United Kingdom. With several issues at stake that it seems no one truly understands, it is important to apply logic and evidence to proceedings. This piece will aim to separate the fact from the fiction before the country shoots itself not just in the foot, but all the way up the body, straight to the heart.

(All of this is important and the sources are included. I don’t do fake news. For ease, I have split the content into three distinct sections. It’s a bit lengthy but if you read this, you genuinely shouldn’t have to read much else.)

corbyn may 3

PART I: THERESA MAY LIE TO YOU

Despite Theresa May’s previous assertions, a general election is to be held in seven weeks, on June 8th 2017. Seven crucial weeks of the remaining hundred and one til Brexit occurs on March 29th 2019. Some say that this was her plan all along, but these people are too generous when judging May’s intellect. If this was true, she could have invoked Article 50 later. No, this sudden change of heart is May finally realising that in the long-term, she is doomed.

May speaks of those ‘frustrating’ the Brexit process, and her wish to end the division in Parliament so that she has no obstacles. Considering the fact that both Houses voted to allow the government’s Brexit plan with zero checks, this is a straightforward lie. And if May is genuinely worried about the nine Lib Dems in Parliament ‘grinding the government to a standstill’, then frankly she must be the weakest leader in British history. When Theresa May talks about wanting ‘unity’ in Westminster, the word she is actually looking for is ‘dominance’. She wants zero opposition.

Anyone who is happy at the prospect of other political parties being buried clearly doesn’t understand democracy, or simple competition. Competition keeps us on our toes and pushes us to be better, instead of lazy, inefficient and self-serving. The desire for zero accountability is one of the few things Theresa May has been honest about, and the acceptance of this by so many so that she can ‘get on with Brexit’ is astounding. This is the encouragement of poor governance and autocracy.

There are those who believe this election will take the strongest government into Brexit negotiations, somehow forgetting that a post-election Tory government would be identical to this one. There may be more backbenchers and a couple more years on the clock but the negotiating power of Britain doesn’t change. Nor does the reality that there will be no trade deal with the EU or any other country by 2019, and the UK is almost certainly going to lose a large amount of its trade.

At this point, the government has already confessed that not only will the NHS never see that promised £350 million, but immigration is likely to remain high even after Brexit. With that, the main two reasons for voting Leave have been undermined already. With continued failures on the Brexit front and constant backtracking from the government, it is mind-boggling that the public have not yet turned on Theresa May. In time however, they will, and May knows this.

A word on Brexit: it is objectively a negative move. The referendum result should be respected but that doesn’t mean all sense is abandoned and all facts are ignored. Firstly, the UK does not actually pay the ‘membership fee’ of 18-19 billion (£350 million a week). In 2016, the UK received an instant rebate of £4 million, plus funding of £4.5 million, resulting in a total of £8.6 billion (£165 million a week), less than half the touted figure. And what do we get for this? The ability for businesses to operate across borders with expanded reach, collective security and anti-terrorism efforts, visa and permit-free movement, and HUGE economic gain. About 44% of UK exports in goods and services went to EU countries in 2016 – £240 billion out of £550 billion total exports. Similarly, 2015 exports were £230 billion, and imports were £290 billion (tariff-free). These exports are worth about 13% of the UK’s economy. These benefits will all soon be lost or drastically reduced and the UK will also have to tackle the EU’s proposed 60 billion euro ‘divorce bill’.

The effects of Brexit are being felt. However, we seem to respond more to the little things over economics and logic. Amazingly, it seems people only began to realise what was happening on seeing the 25% price hike on Apple’s App Store. It is only going to get worse. Price increases are being observed and wages rises are not. Inflation is set to exceed 3% and GDP growth is projected to be extremely slow (0.5% at best, zero at worst). The lives of everyday voters are going to get harder but it may take a while for this to sink in. I hope this realisation comes early so that they may be spared the painful sight of even larger gaps in Toblerones.

We stand to lose an enormous amount if there is no deal ready by 2019. This seems impossible and negotiations are not going well. We will revert to WTO rules and be forced to determine our tariffs and quotas with every country. Big changes require thorough negotiations and a lot of time. Time is something the UK does not have. And none of this changes if the Tories win. The opposition is what will change. A loss will almost certainly spell the end of Jeremy Corbyn, and may well result in a heavy Tory majority. And this is the ONLY reason that Theresa May has called a snap election. She has finally realised that this is the only time she could actually win. After May makes a mess of Brexit in 2019, she will have no time to salvage anything before a 2020 election. Even someone as divisive as Corbyn would beat her. Anyone with a brain would have realised this months ago but it seems to have only just dawned on our intellectually-challenged leader. So we have a snap election. And while smart, it is the most pathetic, selfish, and unpatriotic act that she could have pursued.

Silencing those who disagree with you is not democracy. Ignoring economic experts and refusing to disclose so-called ‘clear plans’ is not good governance. Rejecting a Scottish independence referendum because it is “not the right time” then announcing a general election is not good faith. Everything Theresa May says is either contradictory or repetitive as she desperately tries to convince you that she has it all together. To that end, she will repeat the phrases ‘best possible deal’ and ‘strong, stable leadership’ til her vocal cords burn.

European leaders have flat out rejected the notion of parallel talks, or allowing a cherry-picked deal that would make a mockery of the Union. Attempting to bully a Union of 27 nations never seemed like a particularly fruitful effort. May was alone in that corner, trying to put on a brave face and desperately bluff. She fooled no one with her empty bravado, except certain portions of the British electorate. Her claim that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ is absolutely ludicrous, and screams extreme delusion and self-importance. Not having a deal doesn’t mean we get out of paying the EU for leaving, they could just retaliate and further limit our trade. The lack of a deal just means we get absolutely nothing from them, which in May’s eyes, is somehow better than not getting everything. The EU were under no pressure to be nice to May. Her response was that of a petulant child throwing a tantrum, not of a leader.

What makes a leader? The ability to make rational decisions, not be swayed by anything except logic and morality, and display genuine courage. Surprisingly, this leads us to Jeremy Corbyn.

PART II: SOCIAL CORBYNISM

Corbyn is a man who has been arrested for campaigning against apartheid, supported LGBT rights before they were widely acknowledged, and consistently shown astute and level-headed judgement in terms of military involvement, opposing the ultimately failed interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria. He has shown courage in fighting for his beliefs, no matter how divisive or unpopular they might make him. He has shown integrity and principle and that he actually stands for something, which is far more than can be said for Theresa May.

Corbyn has also taken a stand against the unfair and undemocratic press, determind to break up the monopolies of mainstream media. (three companies control over 71% of national newspaper circulation and 80% of audience share in broadcast media goes to Rupert Murdoch or the BBC). So it’s unsurprising to see opposition to him in the form of extreme character assassination. Corbyn has been inaccurately labelled a terrorist sympathiser, anti-Semite, and ‘unelectable’ economic illiterate. Yesterday, he was even likened to Donald Trump. And all of these accusations can be easily debunked with a bit of research (as they have been here). Corbyn has made powerful enemies in the likes of Murdoch, Phillip Green, and Mike Ashley. These people fear Corbyn’s dedication to change the status quo. He actually stands for something.

Well…apart from when he sits for something. On train floors. To be fair, public transport in the UK is appalling and while I disagree with lying (if that’s what it was), I can forgive using subterfuge to make that point. Corbyn got worse than he deserved, again through an aggressive media eager to embarrass him. Worse lies have been told. Expenses have been claimed, pigs have been inappropriately touched. This incident was a relatively minor one but Corbyn has always been an easy target.

Other criticism centres on his lack of presence compared to classic statesmen, and his ‘socialist’ nature. When exactly did having compassion for your fellow human beings become a weakness? Corbyn’s branch of ‘socialism’ does not mean the ‘communist’ regimes of the world. Those states do not properly follow Marx’s ideas and are actually ‘state capitalist’ societies. Corbyn is pushing to make the welfare state and public sector more dependable, which crafts a society in which everyone can contribute and collectively progress. This means free universal education, a reliable NHS, and not bombing other countries needlessly. This is precisely the opposite of the U.S., as they shell out on overseas military campaigns while ignoring the healthcare and educational needs of their people. It doesn’t seem to be a particularly great system. Corbyn’s form of socialism done right is an absolute positive and anyone demonising him for that admits that they have selfishness and indecency driving them.

Corbyn is also criticised for his appearance. Yes, Corbyn looks somewhat unremarkable and nondescript and yes, his tie is sometimes askew but if that is what your vote hinges on then you are beyond help.

PART III: BREXIT IS BETTER WITH THEREXIT

Brexitists can find comfort in the Tory all-or-nothing policy, and the staunch Remainers have an option in the Lib Dems. Labour are attempting to appeal to both sides with a Brexit that can still be successful with reasonable cooperation with the EU. In doing so, Labour actually have the most pragmatic, pro-Britain approach. So Labour SHOULD appeal to most voters. However, many who have accepted the need to oppose the Tories are unable to look past their negative views of Corbyn, which is one of the most sickening things of all. The politicians who would “not countenance ever voting to make Corbyn Prime Minister” are frankly unfit to be working as public servants. In that comment, John Woodcock underlined his complete inability to see the bigger picture.

This election is not about Corbyn. It is about deciding what kind of nation we are. The will of the people should be respected. But we must ensure that Brexit will not mean economic devastation. We also need a government that has meaningful policies for all. So we need a government that is willing to compromise, accept its mistakes, and forge meaningful partnerships. This is a rare moment where there is a very obvious wrong path in front of us. The Tories have already shown that they are more concerned with consolidation of power and political game-playing. This is not a game.

Here are a few reasons not to vote Tory:

  • The national debt is currently at an incredible £1.7 trillion (85.4% of GDP). Plans to return to surplus by 2020 were abandoned by George Osbourne in 2016.
  • Jeremy Hunt claimed that in 2016/17, the NHS will receive the sixth biggest funding increase in its history. This is a lie. Accounting for factors such as inflation, it is actually the 28th. (Fun fact: For 2010-11, the first year of the Tory-led coalition, NHS spending decreased for the first time since 1997 and only the third time ever)
  • Virgin Care was recently awarded a £700m contract to run some NHS services. Such outsourcing may lead to privatisation.
  • There is no ‘Brexit plan’. It is a lie. We are at the mercy of the EU. The government can do nothing but try its best in the negotiations. There is no more to it.
  • The ‘backup plan’ is to entice businesses by transforming the UK into a tax-haven.
  • Theresa May is routinely bullied by world leaders and was no-one’s choice for Prime Minister. She is wrong to consider herself as the ‘strong and stable leadership’ that the country needs. Count the number of times she has used that phrase this week.
  • This election is an attempt to consolidate power. Do not enable them.

UK_Debt_to_GDP_ratio.png

Here are some reasons to vote Labour:

  • They didn’t want a referendum on the EU purely for political points which is now leading to a Brexit that is akin to economic suicide.
  • They want to respect the public mandate with Brexit but not cripple the country by not having any deals in place to cover the losses.
  • They don’t want to cut funding to healthcare or education.
  • They want to raise the minimum wage to £10 per hour to deal with rising prices and hopefully provide decent standards of living.
  • They disapprove of sucking up to racist, misogynistic egomaniacs for trade deals.

Even if you think Corbyn is utterly incompetent, what makes you think Theresa May is not? Between two incompetent people, wouldn’t you rather have the one who at least tries hard and has a conscience? Theresa May has shown she does not give a damn about you. Put your trust in literally anyone else.

tory same tweet

I voted Conservative in the last election. I did not think very hard about that and I regret it. I put far more thought into every subsequent decision. I did some reading and voted Remain in the referendum. I read some more and now I think it is obvious how to proceed with Brexit, and crucially, what kind of government should proceed with it. Educating yourself is unbelievably important. You cannot rely on the media. There is rhetoric, slander, and misinformation everywhere. We elected this party and made a mistake. We voted Leave based on lies. We must learn from our mistakes.

With the crippling of our international relations, trade, NHS, education and public sector services to look forward to, as well as the potential breakup of the UK, one thing is clear: If you have a conscience, or a brain, you must tactically vote against the Tories in this election. Ideally, we would vote for a man of integrity. But this isn’t the time for idealism, this is a state of emergency. On that note, I understand the people voting for the Lib Dems, and may do so myself if necessary. We must vote together and show Theresa May what true unity and pursuit of national interest looks like. If we play this right, June could be the end of May, rather than the end of the UK.

Vitandum mortis

(This article was originally going to be posted on the 19th of April, exactly 4 weeks after the incident in question. However, due to our darling wannabe Iron Lady, I now have another article on the upcoming election to publish. So it is time to accelerate…)

You know what’s surreal? Coming to terms with the fact that you could quite easily have been dead just a few weeks ago.

This isn’t some attention-seeking sob story or anything. I despise that and wouldn’t use social media for it. I barely use social media at all, which is probably why a lot of people are unaware that since graduating from university last year, I have been working in Parliament. I do some cool work as part of Labour’s Foreign Office Team and specifically, the Shadow Minister for Europe, as well as the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and the Leader, Jeremy Corbyn. They’re pretty great bosses to be frank and they hand me a ton of really engaging work that actually means something. Westminster is a cool place to be and I have been loving it.

Then that happened.

I’m not afraid of death. In a strange and perhaps psychotic way, I have already accepted the simple fact that I won’t live forever. I certainly hope to live a reasonably full and healthy life though. There is much that I need to accomplish, to ensure that I don’t waste my limited time. But isn’t that strange? If not for an act of utter stupidity and foolish oversight, I might well have died already.

I’m going to shun convention here and put the moral of the story up front. You only have a limited time so make sure that you make the most of it. Not YOLO exactly. Try something better than that. Basically, you never know which day might be your last. So make sure that whatever it is you set out to do, you do. Whatever you want to say to someone, you say. Whatever you want to be, you just ARE. There may be more than one moral to this story (if my ramblings can be called that) but I think that is a definite takeaway.

So…to the story. Around mid-March, I suddenly felt a bit homesick. My family is currently a bit scattered, with my mum and little sister living abroad since 2012. After a great concert in Hyde Park a few years ago, I remember a similar feeling, probably brought on as a side-effect of my post-gig euphoria vibes. I woke up the next morning to find that I had done more than just enquire; I’d actually gone ahead and booked flights to Pakistan. It was impulsive, quite accidental, and it drained my bank account, but I was pretty pleased about it anyway.

I basically did this again in March and booked the first flight out, which was on the 22nd. I had work in London that day and a huge project to present on British foreign policy relating to the reunification of Cyprus. I had arranged it all nicely so I would do my thing in Westminster, leave in the afternoon, pick up my stuff from my sister’s place, and get to Heathrow for my evening flight. I allowed myself around 4 hours to do all of this and thought I would have enough flexibility to leave around 2.30pm to make the 7.25pm flight.

However, as I went over my reports while simultaneously checking my bags the night before my flight, it suddenly hit me that my visa was not with me. I knew it before I looked. The government of Pakistan has helpfully provided me with an identity card that basically gives me nationality as an overseas Pakistani, which means I don’t need a visa. I usually don’t have to worry about this since it’s tucked away with my passport. However, it had been a year since I’d taken a trip out there and I had not expected to go back for a while. I had decided to avoid risk by putting it in a safe place til I needed it. I had also moved house after graduating. I had a list of places it could be but did not know exactly. The only thing I did know was that my visa was definitely not near me in London. Great job past-Sahir. You tried to learn from your mistakes but just ended up playing yourself.

All of this hit me at once and I tried to quell panic. As my sister justifiably raged at me for being a moron, I resolved not to stress, grabbed my laptop bag, and headed for the station at 4am. I had 17 hours to sort this, at least 1.5 of which would be wasted at check-in at the airport. I also had to finish my work and somehow send it in. I obviously wouldn’t be going in to work that day.

Long story short, I travelled to my home in Warwickshire (I recently moved after losing patience with the appalling state of London accommodation) only to find my visa was not there either. So I went straight to Southampton to check the storage space that I had used after leaving university. At around 1.15pm, I found it and fucking hell was that a relief. The lack of sleep was hitting me hard but through rugged determination, I was just about managing it.

So at 2.30pm, I was almost back in London, exhausted and annoyed (mostly at myself) but relieved. I had basically done a triangular trek across the entirety of England. My sister had decided to bring my bags to me in central London, saving a couple of valuable hours and also my sorry ass. The huge diversion had been overcome and all was about to go according to the original plan of action.

Then the first message arrives.

Almost immediately, another follows as my friends Penn and Will ask if I’m near Westminster because something bad has gone down. I didn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, assuming some drunk tourist was causing a ruckus. But departure lounges and planes give you time to think and take stock. I had just regained some measure of calm as I sat down, finally free of pre-flight stress. Calm which was quickly shattered as more news and messages flooded in. I rushed to check that my colleagues were all ok. They were on lockdown inside the chambers but safe, also wondering what precisely had gone on outside.

I cannot help but feel incredibly thankful for all those who thought of me, which was a lot more people than I thought. The strange reality is that when the attack took place at 2.40pm, I would have been getting ready to leave the Parliamentary Estate. My boss would have been in the Commons chamber and I would have been vaguely nearby. There are many exits to Westminster and a lot of us opt for the one into the Underground station. That requires walking across New Palace Yard to Big Ben, and under the main road. However, I prefer going straight out of the palace gates, walking north for a while til I reach Victoria station. One way or another, it was entirely possible that I would have been either in the courtyard, or worse, going out of the EXACT exit where it all happened.

new palace yard

Through an insane twist of fate, I wasn’t there at all. But a police officer named Keith Palmer was. And just around the corner were the hundreds of people on Westminster Bridge.

I have walked around those halls and that courtyard countless times. I have merrily chatted to those security guards with assault rifles and wondered if they were really necessary, at least inside the buildings. Perhaps they aren’t. Assault weapons can’t stop a lunatic using a car as a battering ram. Any of us could do that. But regardless of their necessity, I never imagined that they would actually be used.

The response of all those involved in an incident of pure malevolence like this was absolutely amazing. And for the first time in a long time, there was a huge downplay on an Islamophobic angle. ISIS claimed responsibility but were ignored. The perpetrator, going by the name Khalid Masood, had been a Christian from Kent with violent tendencies and a long-running cocaine habit. He had also been called Adrian Ajao for the majority of his life. The Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu stated on the 25th of March that Masood seemed to have acted alone, adding: “there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this”. The motivations were unclear and did not matter. For the mind of a deranged idiot determined to hurt is not worth anyone’s time. Even a group of them like ISIS are not deserving of anything but disgust and resistance. The attack served to unite people, at least from what I saw.

The funeral of PC Keith Palmer was held at Southwark Cathedral on the 10th of April. Thousands lined the streets, coming together to honour and pay tribute to him. And four weeks on, there is still a whirlwind of emotion and conflicting viewpoints. The realisation that this man died doing his job and his job was keeping us safe. The idea of families waiting for days in hospitals only to have to decide when to turn off the life support of their loved ones. The news that the boyfriend of a woman who was killed on the bridge had been planning to propose to her that day…

I’m not entirely sure where we go from here. I hope that as a nation, we prove that these incidents are cruel one-offs, an unfortunate and natural side effect of freedom and human nature. I hope that we do not let them divide us, particularly since we choose such stupid reasons to divide ourselves in the first place. With Brexit, a new rise of fascism, and a ridiculous array of inequality and discrimination, we did not need more emotional confusion yet we received another tsunami. Heartbreak, anger, sorrow, thankfulness, fear, misanthropy. The actions of one man caused all of this. And perhaps that’s the most important thing. One person may be capable of a lot of harm. But if so…perhaps we are all capable of an enormous amount of good too.

An evening with Axl Rose

This week, Axl Rose decided to make a rather impromptu appearance at the China Exchange in London. The purpose of this appeared to be…just a chat with fans. After initially believing the entire thing to be a practical joke or a tribute act, I elected to attend.

Since Guns N’ Roses were the first band I ever listened to and Axl is the man I credit with igniting my passion for music, it would be reasonable to assume that I am biased. However, I wrote an article several years ago entitled ‘The Fall of Axl Rose’ in which I displayed my capacity to be his harshest critic. His lack of effort and care in terms of performances, punctuality, vocal technique and everything else, made me actively oppose the idea of a GNR reunion, and I expressed doubts about an Axl-fronted ACDC. It was not the voice I lost faith in, but the man himself.However, since the GNR Troubadour performance, he seems to have been reborn. And the China Exchange event provided invaluable insight into a man it seems the world simply never understood at all.

Axl arrived half an hour late to the hourlong talk, as I had predicted based on prior evidence. In a strange twist however, it turned out the he was not at fault for this particular delay and had been ready for some time. It’s also worth noting that he has not been late for a single concert this year with either of his bands. Promising signs. Axl walked in to rapturous applause from an audience of barely a hundred fans and took his seat.

For a supposedly feisty and unhinged rockstar, Axl appeared withdrawn and shy at the beginning of the event, even audibly questioning why anyone would want to come and see him. More concerning was the increasingly arrogant and dickish behaviour of the host, Sir David Tang, who bizarrely began by asking about the last time Axl had felt ‘tenderness’. After an awkward few minutes, an acknowledgement that Axl liked dogs and cats, and the revelation that he unwinds and has showers like regular humans, it was thankfully decided that the audience Q&A should begin.

With everyone aware that this was not something Axl was used to, the opening questions were very respectful and broad, and Axl did his best to provide in-depth and relevant answers to all of them. With one of the first questions, I kept it light and asked whether he had ever felt a yearning for something outside hard rock. He replied that he had many diverse sources of musical inspiration such as Frank Sinatra, though he deemed it unlikely that he’d dabble too much in other genres, or join a jazz band as I’d suggested. Instead, he expressed his love for film soundtracks and was very keen on the idea of scoring a film one day.

Despite his initial unease, Axl quickly relaxed,seemingly enjoying the atmosphere. A running gag soon developed as I had opened my question with ‘Big fan’, and each successive person attempted to top this with increasingly complicated pre-question compliments. Realising that this was an environment of respect, admiration and adoration, rather than a a press conference, Axl invited further discussion. At one point, Tang lambasted the crowd for recording the talk, perhaps trying to be clever given Axl’s previous incidents involving recording equipment, but Axl himself was not at all bothered. Axl was busy giving lengthy, satisfying answers to each and every question as the Q&A vibe ebbed away to be replaced by something akin to a friendly group discussion. He not only made an effort, but was happily telling stories and cracking jokes for the entire session, even calling himself a ‘dictator’ in one instance.

I’ll break down what we actually learned here:

  1. Axl has always been keen to work on a film soundtrack and may do so in the future, saying ‘I was more interested in that than staying in Guns N’ Roses’.
  2. Axl does regular vocal exercises and has resumed work with a vocal coach he had stopped working with 20 years prior, since the Back In Black material is particularly demanding.
  3. Axl has a varied music taste and particularly enjoys Frank Sinatra, but doesn’t see too much branching into genres such as jazz.
  4. Axl apparently made a concious effort to make his voice ‘clearer’ for the Chinese Democracy album which he feels people did not respond to.
  5. Axl is working on new music which has been received positively by Duff McKagan and Slash.
  6. There no plans for a solo album.
  7. Axl may release his own book.
  8. Axl believes that Slash fabricated some details in his book and told him so over the phone when they patched things up in 2015.
  9. Axl feels that he and Angus Young have good chemistry and is open to working on new music with him.
  10. Slash’s new work ethic impressed Axl, as he and Duff learned the Chinese Democracy material without being prompted.
  11. There are definite plans for a Guns N’ Roses tour in the UK
  12. The current Guns N’ Roses arrangement is one that Axl hopes to keep ‘going for quite a while’
  13. In retrospect, Axl believes he should have self-released more music rather than use a large record label.
  14. Sir David Tang is a douchebag

At the end of the event, the organisers attempted to rush Axl out, and stated that he should not be approached, only for Axl to cut across and say he was happy to stay and do some signing, with his exact words being ‘I’ll do whatever you want’. Here was a man regularly depicted as high maintenance and easily provoked, who proceeded to lay waste to each and every misconception simply by being his timid and appreciative self. In that moment, we learned the most important thing about Axl Rose: He’s sincere and sensitive to the extent that he will act like he doesn’t give a fuck if he thinks the whole world is against him, but when he’s treated with a little love, he responds in kind.

This was underlined as he ignored his entourage and posed for every photo he could, and signed everything thrust in his direction. After he was ushered into the lift, I turned for the stairs and descended three floors to street level, where I was surprised to run into him again as he had opted to spend more time with fans.

As he approached his car however, he gestured to one person near him and told his entourage to call the police, then followed up with a weary ‘Fuck off man’. This behaviour was completely at odds with that of the man we had gotten to know over the last couple of hours, and it threw off all of the surrounding fans, who began to wonder what had been said to him. It was in that moment that I remembered the Zinedine Zidane headbutt of 2008.  Axl Rose has had many such moments over the course of his career, but perhaps these ‘Zidane headbutts’ have been exaggerated into a persona that doesn’t exist. He is simply a human like all of us, and he will respond to people who mess with him.

After spending over an hour with him, there was new-found respect for this man that I had misjudged. This is not some uncaring, messed-up, controlling  has-been. This is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve in an almost childlike manner. That much is apparent by simple things, such as how happy he looked to be reunited with his old bandmates at the Troubadour. And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that these small things occur as Axl’s voice appears to be making a strong recovery. When Axl is happy to be somewhere and do something, you can get more out of him. In an informal setting with the fans, he opted for sincerity  and straightforwardness in his answers and it revealed a lot about his character. Perhaps the poor understanding of Axl’s nature is his own fault for being such a recluse and avoiding interviews or public appearances. While there are still questionable elements about Axl, such as the allegations of domestic violence, he is easily one of the most sincere and genuine people I’ve ever met, and it’s clear he gets far more bad press than he deserves. Whatever Axl Rose is, he’s not a dick.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Take a look for yourself.

A Band-Aid Nation by Farah Mirza

[The following article is one that I did not write. However I found it impressive and am therefore compelled to share it.]

It was exactly one year ago today that we lost our children to hate. That heart wrenching cold morning was not the first for we have lost thousands of our children to this same sick hatred-filled mindset, and we continue to lose our loved ones to this day to the same sickening murdering spree in the name of religion and freedom. But the APS massacre stood out. It was unthinkable that the terrorists could enter in broad daylight so brazenly, and kill so many in cold blood. We cried as we watched on TV channels as December 16th unfolded. We cried until our tears dried up…

One year on, the question arises have we as a nation learned anything from the cold massacre of our children on Dec 16th? For over 2-3 decades, have we united as a nation to beat the enemy? The answer that boldly stares back at us is a NO…on the contrary we are divided and even more fragmented today than we were yesterday.

We are a band-aid nation covering a deep and oozing wound that has become infected and threatens to shut down our vital organs. We, the people and our leaders are afraid to look for a permanent treatment and cure for this infection..afraid to raise our voices against the wrongs in our society..living with the thought of “as long as it doesn’t happen to me it’s fine”. Well it’s not fine! Nothing is fine and will not be fine until we take a united stand against everything that is wrong in us and with us.

The notion that we can sit back and watch while an angry mob attacks a Hindu/Christian/Sikh community by burning their homes down and killing them is okay because someone allegedly disrespected the prophet PBUH…is wrong. It is unthinkable, it is inhumane..it is unacceptable!

Hazara and Shia killings continue in the land of the pure at an alarming rate but no one takes a step to stop the killings and protect them.

The callous attitude toward Ahmedis is unacceptable. Their mosques are attacked and “reclaimed”, their homes and businesses burned down  and their people murdered. A man in Lahore inciting hate and putting up banners stating Ahmedis were banned from entering shops and local businesses was released from custody, garlanded and hailed a hero by hundreds.

Hypocrisy has become a part of our DNA. I have watched many times as senior journalists and (self proclaimed) analysts on TV condemn Shiv Sena for targeting a Bollywood actor for his remarks about tolerance in India. He says “India is as much Shiv Sena’s as its Amir Khan’s” and he has the right to live the way he wishes to with freedom in India, but the same condemning journalists and analysts have not uttered a word against the people in Lahore who took out a rally against the government for removing anti-Ahmedi banners or against mullahs who preach hatred against religious minorities. I watched in horror when Gov Taseer’s murderer was showered with rose petals by lawyers as he appeared in court. We turn a blind eye, our ears go deaf and our minds cease functioning or rationalising when the fault is ours..

We are all responsible and collectively at fault for the demise of our society. The need for introspection is great and urgent in order to control this downward spiral or we may suffer more APS tragedies. We must stop being a Band-aid nation and treat the infection within us effectively before it devours us completely.

By Farah Mirza

Bella Stellaria

A lot of my posts have had an overly serious tone recently. Here’s a slightly different direction. Pretty nice title isn’t it? The title could mean a lot of things. Bella means ‘beautiful’ in Italian. Is it some philosophical dialogue on love? Astronomy maybe? Some usual otherworldly discussion with existential meaning?

As it happens, no. Bella Stellaria is Latin for Star Wars.

*The following contains spoilers for the 6 films in the Star Wars series and speculation on the upcoming installment*

Yes I know what you’re thinking but actually Star Wars is quite an intriguing concept. The original films were groundbreaking and spawned a series with a sizeable legacy and now, with an upcoming trilogy being kicked off with The Force Awakens, it seems Jedi-fever will grip the world. This week, the release of a new trailer generated incredible buzz and hype, as was the point. It seems likely that the film will be a smash hit.

The first film was revolutionary for its use of special FX back in 1977. It pushed the boundaries of film-making and the limitations of technology. It allowed schoolboy fantasies and dreams to be realised. However, the actual story of Star Wars is not actually that groundbreaking or intriguing at all. In fact, it’s laughably simple and pathetically childish at times. The story of the original trilogy can be summarised as follows:

An unassuming youth named Skywalker is forced to step up to be a hero and teams up with a couple of sidekicks and an old guy. Skywalker learns the truth, the old guy ends up dying, someone is revealed as someone’s father and they defeat the dark side.

I have seen all the films. I have to say that while entertained, I am not a hardcore fan. They were alright. I grew up while the prequel trilogy was being released and I didn’t think they were particularly memorable. In fact, I thought they were downright awful at times, mainly due to the pathetic screenwriting and dialogue and laughably poor acting of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. I watched the original trilogy as an adult. I enjoyed them but I felt they would have had more impact on me if I had seen them when they were originally released. Those films don’t have the same ‘wow’ effect when you’ve watched Michael Bay’s eye-gouging CGI fest of large sentient robots destroying cities and flinging Megan Fox through walls. 

Even so, one watch of the trailer for the new film filled me with incredible nostalgia and satisfaction. I like seeing things like that. I had only seen a couple of episodes of The US Office but I still ended up watching the finale and I loved the tying up of story arcs and the return of a certain character. I became a proper fan of the series afterwards. I like continuity and I love being a part of the buzz. I liked the imagery from the trailer that seemed to bring the series right back to its roots on Tatooine in A New Hope. I loved the return of the Millenium Falcon and the appearance of Han, Chewie, and even a hand that could belong to Luke. I loved the tease of more lightsaber battles. It looked great. However, with that out of my system, a second harder look at the Star Wars trailer gave me an idea of the plot. And I saw the following:

An unassuming youth named Skywalker is forced to step up to be a hero and teams up with a couple of sidekicks and an old guy. Skywalker learns the truth, the old guy ends up dying, someone is revealed as someone’s father and they defeat the dark side.

That’s what I took away from the trailer. That would be worst case scenario. Lazy, unoriginal writing. Repetition disguised as nostalgia. I would demand a refund if I saw that.

Bear with me here. We are introduced to the protagonist Rey, a runaway soldier called Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). At some point, they all team up to travel the Galaxy and defeat the villain Kylo Ren.

Now a word on Rey, the staff-wielding, lone wolf ‘scavenger’ type played by Daisy Ridley. Here’s a character I’m very much looking forward to. She’s pretty attractive, can clearly handle herself and she rocks that staff. She also has a touch of the Kiera Knightley pout in certain shots. She looks totally badass and I can’t wait to see her pummel Sith Lords. 

  

Now here’s where the parallels come in and seem like more than parallels. It’s also where I display my incredible nerd capacity. When I get involved in something, I am not satisfied until I know answers to EVERYTHING and can fully immerse myself in the universe. Game of Thrones has given me sufficient practice with this, given its ridiculous array of characters and unresolved plot threads. So I have an decent understanding of Star Wars despite my distaste for some of the earlier films. So here is logic and some totally plausible options based on the established Star Wars lore. Try not to be weirded out by my nerdiness.

First off, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Rey is one of the next generation of the Skywalker family. The parallels with the previous Skywalker protagonists could not be more in-your-face. She’s unlikely to be some random kid. The original trilogy was about Luke and Leia while the prequels were about their parents. It seems natural that the sequels are about their children as George Lucas admitted himself (Disney didn’t want to use his story ideas after buying him out in 2012 but I don’t think they’d change this).

  

We don’t know her surname or indeed anything about her. According to JJ Abrams, her lack of a surname is intentional (drop MORE obvious clues why don’t you..). Now I believe that Rey is the daughter of Han Solo and Leia. I’m also willing to accept that she’s Luke’s daughter but my money is on the former. Rey also looks a lot like her possible grandmother Padme Amidala. However, officially we don’t know anything. Apart from the fact that she has some connection to Kylo Ren based on this not-so-subtle imagery in the poster..

  

We also know that she picks up a gun at some point while her companion Finn, has acquired a blue Lightsaber. Kylo Ren has a red lightsaber with a weird cross guard and is somehow very adept with the Force.

But wait…how is he adept with the Force? How does he even have that lightsaber? The Jedi build their own lightsabers which is considered a very difficult task that can take years to accomplish. They must travel to distant areas of the Galaxy and collect lightsaber crystals, then assemble them whilst subjected to Force-visions. And usually you need a mentor to show you all this. Kylo Ren’s lightsaber has never been seen before and there are no surviving Jedi or Sith left after the demise of Darth Vader and Sidious (besides Luke). So where has this guy come from? Self-taught? They better have a convincing explanation for that.

So to bring it all together, Rey is a Skywalker (though she may not even know it) and picks up her two sidekicks, a wannabe Jedi and a skilled pilot. She then meets an old Han Solo. Han provides all that exposition and at some point it gets revealed that Rey and Kylo Ren are twins and that she must take him down. Han Solo dies but not before directing Rey to the last Jedi, Master Luke Skywalker, so that she may be trained in the ways of the Force. Luke has been in exile for years, hiding from his former apprentice Kylo Ren, who fell to the dark side. He is initially reluctant but then decides to train Rey after all. Destiny and all that.

That…would be cliched, unoriginal and downright pathetic. A complete retread of the original trilogy only with a female lead. Imagine if Leia was the star of Episodes IV-VI and Luke was the sidekick along with Han. Leia is the one on Tatooine, the one who weilds the lightsaber and becomes a Jedi and the one Vader delivers that classic line to. While Luke err…makes out with Han I guess. That’s basically what this is. Right now, all signs point to something really lame like this happening. Apparently this is exactly what happens in the post-Episode VI comic series (which I’ve never bothered with). Han and Leia have twins and one of them, Jacen Solo, becomes a Sith while his sister must oppose him. That’s now non-canon and irrelevant thanks to the new films but it could still happen. And I think that isn’t the way to go.

The choice of director doesn’t fill me with confidence. I like JJ Abrams and his last film, Star Trek into Darkness, was pretty damn good. However, I noticed the obvious storytelling tropes he misused in that film. He basically reworked the story of the previous hit film The Wrath of Khan for his alternate continuity and reversed roles. This time Kirk made a heroic sacrifice and Spock led the team, both of them commenting ‘This is what you would have done’ in a moment that pretty much broke the fourth wall. I sat there going ‘Ah I get it’ to myself. Is that moment of brief acknowledgment worth being so cavalier with a huge series? And before release, Abrams and the entire cast constantly shot down reports that the villain was Khan. They fooled no-one. When Benedict Cumberbatch delivered that big reveal in the film, my reaction wasn’t quite the ‘Oh my god, I didn’t see that coming, how incredible!!’ that he was probably going for. I had been reduced to taking guesses on when exactly it would happen. The same thing has happened with Game Of Thrones. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jon Snow will be re-appearing in Season 6. It’s difficult to keep that kind of secret under wraps when you have an actor who has to travel to film scenes in a social-media heavy world where almost all devices have cameras. The last time I was genuinely surprised by a reveal was in Iron Man 3, and that came at the expense of legendary comic-book character. Yes I was shocked but ultimately I was disappointed and it could have been done better. People know what to expect and are harder to surprise and impress. But the last thing they want is cheap tricks.

The ‘I am your father’ thing was not a cheap trick. It was a masterstroke that has been permanently embedded into popular culture. It was great and original but that’s not going to work a second time. And it’s not going to be quirky or different or ironic if suddenly the father is the good guy while the son is a Sith, or they’re brother and sister or anything like that. The prequel trilogy was filled with silly connections, incredibly cliched moments and well-intentioned but mis-delivered quips in its attempt to recapture the success of the originals. Star Wars isn’t defined by that nonsense. It’s a sci-fi action space opera which means space battles, alien races, lightsaber duels and ambitious story-telling. That means keeping with the themes but not doing the SAME THING OVER AND OVER. Michael Bay should teach them that, after numerous films eith plenty of cool fighting robots but NO PLOT WHATSOEVER. I felt the same after Man of Steel when a so-called superhero turns a city into a battlefield with devastation 1000 times worse than 9/11. No matter how cool the CGI, the lack of good story can and will bring a film down. They need to go a different way and create a moment that’s entirely different but equally gripping and dramatic.

Disney also happens to own a wildly successful production studio called Pixar for a perfect example of what I’m trying to get across. Toy Story, Frozen and Inside Out are not the same in any way but are incredible in their own way. Monsters Inc. remains my favourite film of all time. You don’t need to do the same things again and again to get those special moments. Yeah, it’s a series so they should keep the Star Wars themes throughout. But for the plot, they need something different that actually catches the audience by surprise. 

When the initial cast list came out, I’ll admit I was not blown away. It struck me as a very strange arbitrary collection of actors and I couldn’t make much sense of it given the talent that was literally queuing up to be part of the film (Yes I mean the likes of Benedict Cunberbatch). But now I understand the ‘cast new young talent’ policy that worked so well the first time. It seems to have found true gems in the form of John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, who seem to be hardworking and enthusiastic. I’ve already detailed how Ridley could easily steal my heart. And Boyega’s joyous reaction to seeing himself with a lightsaber struck a chord with me and solidified my faith in the guy. If I saw myself wielding a lightsaber, I’d do exactly that (I had a hunch and synced the audio up with the trailer to figure out what he was reacting to, it wasn’t hard)

https://instagram.com/p/9DN_LbsCtp/

That’s not to mention the presence of Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and so many others with proven acting chops. This film could be amazing and I hope the script doesn’t let these talented actors down. They’ve kept Kylo Ren’s identity a mystery so far and they shouldn’t mess that one up. All I see so far is the director and writers playing it safe, counting on what worked well the first time. It looks the same and that’s what I really hope the Force Awakens will not be. I guess we shall see in a couple of months.

That’s probably the least conclusive conclusion I’ve ever written but hey, this is just speculation after all. There isn’t really a conclusion.