Tuesday, 1 March 2011

You may say I'm a dreamer

So John Galliano is to join the likes of Richard Keys & Andy Gray languishing in the insufferable class - the lowest of all social classes in modern times. They are the intolerable intolerants and the outrageous outcasts. Say what you like about them (they would about you), they know how to get people who normally don't give a shit to give a shit.

You're in one camp or the other, usually. Either you think awful opinions should be punishable or you believe they should be kept separate from other areas of life. Mostly, discussion focuses on one person's ability to do his (have there been any hers yet?) job properly but that's not the main issue for me. I'm in the good riddance camp simply because I'm fine with the possibility of someone much nicer coming along and having all their money instead. That, frankly, strikes me as being a much better version of the sort of world I'd like to live in.

(Please feel free to point me in the direction of my own words when John McCririck gets made the next head designer at Christian Dior.)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Drinking Pill (patent pending)

You know that scene in Withnail and I where Richard E Grant gets pulled over by the police for being drunk and and slurs, "I ashure I'm not you offisher, I've only had a few ales"? That's me after half a pint/glass of wine. Not driving of course, I'm not a total degenerate. But suffice to say, me and booze do not mix - and it's embarrassing.

It's also incredibly difficult to know when one has had enough as it happens so instantaneously. Mid sip I'd warrant (if I had any recollection). Much as I'm amused by the idea of suddenly spitting a mouthful of wine across a room full of friends/family/civilised people and boldy announcing, "no more for me, that's my limit" I very much doubt I will ever be aware enough to do it.

Add to this the fact that I don't really like being drunk and it may even seem like I'm building up to an actual point. Which is this. I love being a bit tipsy whilst sat in front of a big glass of wine, waffling on and giggling like there's no tomorrow. Conversely, I hate waking up the next day and realising that there isn't really going to be one due to the fact that the only thing about me that can move with any kind of expedition is my paranoia-drenched, phone-call dreading brain. And I've got a suspicion that, despite my fun being considerably more short-lived than most people's, I'm not alone in hating the after effects.

But where can we turn for help, my fellow dipso dodgers? My ingenious drinking pill, that's where. I haven't actually invented it yet on account of having no scientific or medical skills, but it would operate like this:
  1. Start drinking
  2. Reach optimum level of tipsy congeniality and sexual allure
  3. Discreetly pop your Drinking Pill (choose from strawberry, banana, chocolate and Tennents Super)
  4. Carry on drinking!
  5. Hey presto, the affects of alcohol halt for 2-3 hours allowing you adequate time to sip elegantly, chat coherently, order a taxi successfully and comprehend the boundaries of good taste in polite company without incident
Surely it would be a winner wouldn't it? I mean, I'm not suggesting you use it as a substitute for common sense or kindly acknowledging your liver's existence once in a while*. It's merely to further one's enjoyment of one of life's little joys without fear of being arrested.

And please don't tell me it's not possible as I know for a fact that it is*. I've had l. casei immunitas. I know scientific versions of miracles exist.

*make jokes about drinking, sensibly
**if 'facts' means possibly maybe.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The size of your arse and the size of your ego

Why does the bully in human beings round so mercilessly on characteristics that individuals have no control over? I mean really, really - what's the reason? In case you think I'm just churning out one of the the most basic, zeitgeisty concepts of the decade, I'm actually considering the reasons why. I'm not debating the rights and wrongs of it as they're obvious. I'm not going all Jeremy Kyle on you and am not about to ask you if you even think you should care what others think, like yeah? You and me, we're on another level to that. We're philosophers...in a sort of bloggish way...we're blogosphers. But it's a genuine curiosity that I have seeing as humans are so very capable of understanding the most complex of ideas and yet fail miserably on some of the most basic ones.

The way we look in particular seems to attract ridicule, condemnation even, as if it were in any way changeable or the subject (object?) of our scorn could be somehow responsible. It's particularly baffling in view of the fact that, socially speaking, we're well versed on how to think - don't judge a book by its cover, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, all that glitters (pedants - that's glisters to you) is not gold. We love trotting out clich├ęs yet demonstrably hate allowing them to restrict our sanctimonious and judgmental sides. I guess wisdom is only word deep.

Typical example: I know it's not exactly current anymore but the Susan Boyle saga clearly illustrated how ingrained our knee-jerk, superficial jeering can be. Was it really such a great revelation to discover that she was more talented than she looked? I know the whole thing felt incredibly scripted but the fuss made about it was still largely made by the public and thereby exposed the fact that we haven't moved on one iota. What was presented to us as some kind of a moral lesson showed that we are incapable of learning it however many times it's drummed into us. If we felt patronised, consider that maybe we deserved it.

So back to my question - why? To what end do we act in such a nonsensical manner? My first guess, when it comes to looks at any rate, is that it's because there is a much louder message being rammed down our throats day and night. The beauty industry has adeptly scratched the surface to feed off our deeper insecurities. "Because we're worth it," it tells us with a sultry wink. You can look better, feel better and be better. With a little effort you have earnt your place at the top of the pile and the esteemed beauty industry gives you the green light to look down on others.

But it's not just a lack of good looks that encourages people to bestow privileges upon themselves. I would argue this behaviour can be found in other types of prejudices too - skin colour, gender and sexuality to name a few. Picking spurious features of a person and then demeaning them because of it is a fantastic way to trap someone within themselves and from there to gain control. Their exterior is the symbol of their "inferiority" I suppose? Not that I'm suggesting it's the cause of the prejudices in the first place, there are myriad complicated, historical factors involved. But I'm just pulling together the examples where the same method is employed to attack and demean others because I'm not sure I find it comparable to the judgements made on people for their actions or views.

Is this because we start to humanise people the deeper in we go? Views and actions give us an insight to the inner workings of the mind. This is the first step to seeing them as more than a shell but also it means that our responses and arguments need to start being cleverer too. We start to worry about how we'll measure up and points are not so easy to score.

So, what do you think? Why on earth do we make fools of others in such a way that makes total fools of ourselves? Is the human soul really no more than Nelson from the Simpsons?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Floppy, flappy faces = good

Having spent the evening glancing at the TV slightly more than usual it's occurred to me to that we have reached the stage where the most dignified, and in fact sane, thing you can do in the public eye these days is avoid cosmetic surgery. Are we agreed, people of the tele watching republic?

Every time I see a floppy, flappy face in a state of natural motion I feel fine. Relaxed even. Perfectly ok with the world. Contrast that with being confronted with the sight of the apparently recently embalmed and I'm unnerved.

Actually, that's not always strictly true. Often I'm fixated - particularly if I can't quite work out at first whether they've actually had surgery - and then all I do is stare. I scan the face for tell tale signs - wondering if that's just really puffy lipstick, trying to remember what shape their face used to be before and finally zooming in on the forehead and watching for movement like a cat in a bush. Now I think of it surgery must be on the up because the amount of times I've pounced face-first into the TV screen has gone right down lately.

But what I don't do is listen to a word that they say. At some point I realise this and, most likely equating the inability to concentrate with boredom, switch over. I've got a feeling this isn't what programme makers are aiming for.

Obviously I'm generalising. I don't always automatically turn over. And I don't mean to give women who are under pressure to look good a hard time. Nor do I wish to suggest that they have nothing of interest to contribute.

But I am saying that I'm not twelve. I am more than capable of dealing with a woman who looks like an adult presenting TV shows or the news. I don't jerk back in horror if she furrows her brow in thought and demonstrates that she's done that a few times before in her life. And I'm less likely to value the judgement of programme makers who value cosmetic procedures over the normal, human face.

Mind you, I shall be forty this year. Would it be a really jolly pun if I were to say 'watch this face'?!... Oh.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Captain Caveman is responsible for boring sex differences talk

Ah, gender differences - the gift that keeps on dividing. Is there a single conversation, newspaper article or point-scoring argument that can’t be enriched and enlivened by a bit of boys vs. girls blah? We’re each of us seemingly obsessed and, let’s face it, a bit of an expert. All it takes is the mere mention of map reading and the rush of being unequivocally right is too good to miss - next thing you know we feel like we’re positively log fluming our way through the entire debate, hurtling towards inevitable glory.

Well done you. Yes, YOU. Because we’ve all done it. Brushing aside the fact that it’s been studied since forever (inconclusively - so must therefore be proper complicated) we congratulate ourselves on getting it in a nutshell. Unfortunately a nutshell that contains a load of media bullshit, everyday bullshit and pseudoscience. Here’s three examples that I particularly hate:

  • Men are from Mars (by which I think is meant they are odd looking, icy, and feature sticky out bits) and of course women are from Venus (bright, beautiful, vague about what it really looks like beneath the outer cover).
  • Women are like milk (contents clearly marked by one of 3 different colours on the top) and men are like fine wine (not as good a selection in Tesco as you might have hoped).
  • It all goes back to when we were cavemen.
It’s the last one that baffles me the most. Since when did your average Jo/Joe become so knowledgeable about prehistoric life on earth? Are they hiding huge, great anthropology sections in their book collections at home? How did pubman get to be caveman’s spokesman for the modern era?

Generally I find the rich and complex caveman/modern gender differences argument goes like this:

"People" as they are today…

…are near identical to

…"people" as they were 3 million years ago.

…and by crikey, I’m sure you can see the astonishing similarities. We’d just have so much to talk about wouldn’t we? (Actually prehistoric man might like The X Factor - my choice of picture may well have been ill-advised.)

The main thrust of the “when we were cavemen” argument is this: when we were evolving to be who we are now our environment was tough and unyielding and successful behaviours were rewarded by survival and shagging. Gender roles developed because they had to. It worked then, therefore it should work now. Political correctness has been sent to destroy us, blah blah blah.

However, goes my response, why fixate on this period of time as an especially important benchmark of human development? And why have so much faith in a time that none of us have ever seen or can produce much in the way of proof of over what we see with our own eyes right here, right now? Why assign so much meaning to behaviour that may have developed purely by accident? And when the hell are our capital traits of language and rational thought going to crop up in this argument? (Answer: not long after I’ve buggered them by using long-winded sentences.)

It’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination to guess that it’s become received opinion masquerading as fact. It has an irresistible combination of both science and history so it seems positively dripping in academia. However, virtually none of us has any real knowledge on the matter and so it’s speculation. Using cartoon cavemen.

It often sounds like proof in its no-nonsense harshness. Lacking sentimentality, it excuses all manner of terrible behaviour. And this really is its main purpose isn’t it? It’s used to justify aggression, cheating, lying, gold-digging, porn, shopping addictions, all manner of emotional dysfunction and Top Gear to name but a few.

Here’s a conversation I’ve never heard - “Let’s talk about it as, when were cavemen, communication was an essential element of survival so we’re practically made for it.” Nor have I heard, “I’m just off to check up on the old lady next door in a way that suggests I’m a tribal, social creature with great capacity for altruism. Must be the caveman tendencies coming out again.” (Although to be fair, who in their right mind would say such a stupid thing.) These behaviours are much more readily ascribed to the taming of the beast and social civilisation. How so - isn’t that just cherry picking?

Now before you round on me, I fully understand that there is plenty of research indicating real differences between the sexes and that it‘s perfectly reasonable to mention this. I am also aware that there is plenty of research to indicate that we are more different to those within our own gender group than our “opposites” and that this is routinely ignored. Not even the most experty expert knows all the answers in other words. So I think I’m just narked by people adopting a fake scientific opinion without any awareness of how little they've bothered to find out. They just don a metaphorical white lab coat and specs but then start free-styling the sciency bits.

I think this is a shame as it’s a fascinating subject when you look at real evidence. Likely there are differences between the sexes because it makes good sense. We are pickled in different chemicals for starters. Equally, I’m sure that we do carry similar behaviours to those of our ancestors, prehistoric or otherwise. But I fall short of saying undoubtedly because I don’t have the necessary knowledge to do so. I don’t see enough consistency in the little scientific research that I have read and also note that it’s ever-changing. If we are a mystery to ourselves, it’s because we fail to understand who and what we are in our current form - caveman can’t save us from that.

Alas it’s become society’s obsession to compare and contrast the sexes - embedded in our brains like a flint axe. Maybe that’s what we are biologically predisposed to do. Or ‘hardwired’ like those who think computers are our closest genetic cousins like to say.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The key to happiness

I consider myself quite rare in that I have a very defined definition of happiness. It is as follows:
  • A car
  • Money in the bank
  • A good companion
  • Sat Nav
I'm a woman of modest needs I'm sure you'll agree. And yet you'd be surprised at how few of the above I've actually got.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

You know how to whistle don't you? Arf arf

When your hair is as crap and lacklustre as mine, one shampoo is the same as the next. But little did I know when I partook of a BOGOF deal for Herbal Essences that I was going to get an education too. In a cunning ploy to get you to buy the shampoo and conditioner they have put Herbal Head Games on the back of the bottles - read the question on one bottle, find out the answer on the other. Herbal Mind Fuck wasn't congruent with their brand I guess.

So, what did I learn today?

Shampoo asks: What is rated as the best unconscious way to attract the opposite sex?
Conditioner answers: Whistling

Keen as I am to attract members of the opposite sex, doing so while unconscious is a bit worrying. But what is NOT worrying, and is in fact rather exciting, is that this strikes me as being all a bit One Man and His Dog. If only I'd have worked this out before! A bit of whistling here, a 'come by' there and you can literally round up dozens of hapless victims lovers for your delectation. And maybe even win a rosette too.

As we all know, an independent mind and free spirit is a total no no in a partner so how can this approach fail?  Who wants to bother with chat up lines and little black dresses when you can turn heads with an authorative, commanding whistle? I imagine if you get into a relationship with someone you attract in this way you'd need to eventually spice things up by snapping your fingers at them occasionally but it's these little romantic gestures that make such a difference.

The trouble is, I don't really know how to whistle. I'm no expert when it comes to what men think but I imagine that going up to them and making blowing noises is not going to send out the right message. That would make me more of a Pantene kind of girl.