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Notes From the Bleak Midwinter (Magazine Excerpt)

The weather has been rather dreary in what little of this year has transpired, so it is almost logical that my first article of the year for this publication might be similarly pessimistic. I was invited specifically to write about my expectations for 2023, so I invite readers to prepare to be depressed over the next couple of pages.

In short, 2023 will probably be a continuation of 2022 in many ways. For example, the war between Ukraine and Russia will remain an orgy of bloodshed and hysterical moralising with no end in sight. Ergo, Western political actors will continue to exploit the war for global brownie points, weakening their militaries and frittering away their citizens’ taxes to keep the useful distraction to the burden of responsible governance the war has provided since last February. That said, the overwhelming worldwide focus on that war should stop some (but not all) flashpoints elsewhere from becoming all-out conflicts, notably in Taiwan, Kosovo and the Aegean Sea. Not all proxy sponsors are in the right places to give a space where armed conflict could occur, but it might end up a different story for the possibility of Turkish intervention into northern Syria and of Azerbaijan into Armenia.

Speaking of domestic politics, the picture is not much rosier. Yes, Rishi Sunak might fulfil his “promise” of falling inflation through simple laws of economics at the bottom of a cycle, but his inevitable attempt to take credit will undoubtedly ring hollow with the masses. One cannot read inflation like poll numbers, meaning the price rises are already embedded into economic reality alongside the below-inflation wage growth. Consequently, the strikes will rumble on for at least the first half of this year as the trade unions try to extract a victory from kicking a government when it is down. It has seemed to me that Mick Lynch and company want to re-enact the ‘Winter of Discontent’, but the reduced scale of unionised workers in proportion to the overall workforce will not make life as holistically dysfunctional from striking alone as it was during the mass strikes of the 1970s. I guess their ambitions, borne out by romanticised period role-playing, are at least typical of the present time. After all, similar fantasies which only the children of later Cold War politics are capable of conjuring drives the foreign policy situation I discussed earlier.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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It’s Over/We’re Back or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rollercoaster (Magazine Excerpt)

In short, the year started badly but was peppered with good moments. By mid-2022 it was going excellently, and I thought I was finally past the worst of what this year could throw at me. My hubris was rewarded with some of the worst few months of my life so far. I know that, in the grand scheme of things, I should be thankful for all that I have, and I certainly recognise that I have it much better than most people. It helps to remember that, but it doesn’t change how I felt and acted at the time.

I suppose that that is the nature of life and hindsight. At the time, these moments seemed to mean everything. They either crush your soul and spirit or bring you to the highest heights. I think that this sentiment is expressed quite well in the ‘it’s over/we’re back’ memes that have propagated themselves across my twitter timeline for the past few years. We outright refuse to recognise our own mundane victories and losses, and instead focus on the peaks and troughs – this is natural of course, we would go completely insane otherwise.

I don’t think it is bad to allow these experiences to hit you. Part of the human experience is to be hit by these ups and downs. It is the dwelling on these events that becomes a problem. Holding on to fading hurt and fleeting success instead of moving on in some sort of twisted nostalgia for our best and worst moments can lead us down a very dark and dangerous road. It makes us forget who we are and who we can be. Our lessons learnt, we should embrace the change and simply move on. It is in these moments that we grow and mature as people, and become a better version of ourselves.

For me personally, this year has been an absolute rollercoaster of highs and lows, and that has been very hard to deal with. Things seem to be better now, however, and I am filled with enthusiasm for what the new year can bring me. I think that 2023 will be an amazing time for personal growth and development. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but I am steadfast in my determination to see it through this year. Coming to terms with my situation and state of mind will not be easy, but life is not supposed to be easy. Nothing worth doing is easy.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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Predictions for 2023 (Magazine Excerpt)

The 2022 midterms should have been a bloodbath. It should have been a huge sweep for the Republicans, relegating the Democrats to the depths of minority rule. Instead, the Republicans managed to win the House only respectably, whilst the Dems kept the house. It’s widely believed that better candidates could have kept the house.

Good candidates do exist. Ron DeSantis managed to make gains in Florida. Glenn Youngkin flipped Virginia. Brian Kemp safely won re-election in Georgia. Unfortunately, there were also many poor candidates. A competent Republican could have beaten John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Somebody else could have beaten Katie Hobbs.

The same is true for Presidential elections. The Republicans have only won one election in the 21st century outright, with both the Electoral College and popular vote – George W. Bush in 2004. 2000 and 2016 both saw Electoral College wins but popular vote losses. Whilst external events came into play, it’s not a great look.

That being said, it almost seems that the Republicans like losing. They’re not making any real attempt at winning. Whilst they might choose decent candidates, there’s a high chance they won’t.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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Avatar: The Way of Water Review (Magazine Excerpt)

It has been almost 12 years since the release of one of the highest grossing films of all time – that being 2009’s Avatar, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic.

There has been a running meme for the last couple years that despite the first Avatar film’s wild success in the box office, it isn’t a memorable film. The characters aren’t memorable, the storyline is a copy and paste of 1990’s Dances With Wolves, and that its success hinged on the technological breakthroughs in CGI and 3D film that were a staple feature of the film.

In retrospect, the running joke isn’t far from the truth. Avatar is a film that hasn’t held up for casual viewers on its own merits, but rather through nostalgia of a time that has long passed – a time before the insanity of the last 10 years in the social and political scene, where most people were more concerned about the film’s core messages; that being a deeply environmentalist film, a critique on colonialism, and the insatiable appetite of human discovery wreaking havoc on innocent and more noble creatures.

While there are aspects of the original film I enjoy, such as the detailed world-building that Cameron is known for, and the cutting edge visual effects, it still failed to resonate with me the way it has with many other viewers.

The preaching was exhausting when I watched it the first time in 2009, and it is still exhausting today. I get it. Humans are bad, save the trees, the military industrial complex is so evil, etc, etc.While the second installment Avatar: The Way of Water certainly delves a little deeper into the lore and ups the stakes for the protagonists, it still carries the same bare-bones environmentalist sermon that has become all too exhausting in this day and age, especially when we have Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil cronies ruining fine art and causing general inconvenience to all those around them in our current reality.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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