Sunday, 31 January 2010

Neighbourhood Death-Watch 2

You know how I said my neighbours were driving me mad? And how one was like the Laughing Policeman and the other Frankenstein's Monster? Well, that's because you couldn't be arsed to read anything else I've written. But I shan't be offended given that you haven't immediately hit the back button.

Frankenstein's Monster has not been walking around this afternoon. No, he has been antagonising me with his other little trick. It is a repeated rumbling noise. The closest I can get to describing it is if you were playing fake drums on a wooden desk but tunelessly. It goes on for hours and indeed is most days. WHAT, for the love of my sanity could it possibly be??

Jog On Freak

I saw the strangest thing today. I was walking along the street just slightly behind a woman who, from what I could make out, looked perfectly normal. I’m quite a fast walker (for that read impatient) - so was she. It was one of those annoying situations where the person in front is only very slightly slower than you. You’re left with 2 choices:

1) Break into a jog to get past. Somewhat freakish.
2) Continue at your normal pace but suffer the uncomfortable minute or so that it takes to get past.

The latter is a sticky social encounter. You’re both aware that the other is there but on no account must you look at, or in any way acknowledge, the other. It’s uncomfortable but do-able for the dedicatedly aloof.

I made my choice and decided I was going to take her. I had good walking shoes on, she was no match. I hadn’t even got level with her when she suddenly broke into a jog and raced on ahead. She opted for the freak’s choice!

I was a momentarily perturbed I was otherwise unbothered.

Until a guy who has been about 20 feet away from this incident, walking towards us, got to us both. He looked at her with a neutral expression, then got to me and gave me a look that would have been more fitting had I run up behind her a squeezed her arse. And I thought, “Typical”.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A Quite Interesting Fact About Me

Isn’t QI brilliant? Not only is it funny yet informative, reverent of facts while cocking a snook, calmly reassuring with an irritating klaxon - it has informed me that I am a victim of social prejudice while tuning in with a glass of wine and apple pie.

It turns out, I’m a victim of heightism. I don’t have to admit to this you realise, I’m sat at a computer screen. I could save myself the humiliation by hiding behind my anonymity. But no, this issue needs to challenged and championed! I will stand up and be counted. Albeit as a half.

Actually, this isn’t news to me, nor I daresay to anyone else who’s short. I knew that it was recognised by psychologists, that short people are treated as infantile and self esteem issues can follow - and boy do I know it. But I was surprised to discover the discriminatory aspects, such as pay gaps that can match those of sexism and racism.

Heightism, at least according to the brief bit of blurb I’ve just read about it, seems to be more of an acknowledged problem for men but I’d say it’s swings and roundabouts. Short men may get fewer jobs as CEOs and are less of a hit with the ladies than their taller rivals, but I’ll put money on them hearing “aw bless” a lot less than I do.

I’m not sure if this is totally relevant but I have long had a real thing about the perils of walking down the street when you’re short. Two people walking towards one another, not enough room on the path. Assumed etiquette would suggest that both move, both give equal space to the other - a 50/50 job. Not so. I’m left having to step, leap or dive roll out of the way, lest I get smacked sideways which I have been many a time. And it is ALWAYS considered my fault despite the fact that I’m the only one who moved.

The same principal applies to trains, planes and cinema seats. It's a matter of personal space, and in these 3 cases, leg room. I sympathise with people with long legs who have to endure crippling agony for the duration. I sympathise because often I have to go through it on their behalf. I have many a time had to give over my comfort and space to someone who feels they have the right to stretch out and occupy my leg room. After all, it's not like I was using it anyway. Well actually I was using it, enjoying it and was perfectly happy in it, not to mention paid for it as well. I have never agreed to carry a Leg Room Donor Card stating that I happily donate any leg room I don't need to strangers who do.

So, proof, were it needed, that tall people are a menace to decent society.

Anyway, the trouble is, I don’t really know what you do about it. It’s true that the fight against other prejudices have made significant progress and the lives of millions improved. But their success I feel largely boils down to people running out of reasons, once challenged, to pick on a member of these groups. Women become doctors, black people become Presidents - you can no longer claim they’re not capable, you’d appear illogical.

Not all forms of bullying would respond so well to the same treatment. Tall people aren’t better people, but they are very often stronger or more intimidating. It’s a simple reckoning and one that people make unconsciously. If push came to shove, they surmise, I could beat this person up, ergo, I can patronise or jokingly insult them without fear of consequence. It may be very basic, but there IS a kind of logic to it, it‘s following nature‘s law. I’m certainly not condoning it but let’s face it, we’ve been trying to tell ourselves that it’s what is on the inside that counts for God knows how long and we still reject ugly people. Ingrained or hardwired, I am not fit to judge but some things seem impossible to stamp out.

You may wonder at why I’m so unsympathetic to the plight of the little person given that I am one. The truth is I’m not, being treated like a twelve year old is the bane of my life. I don’t recall being a victim of heightism in the workplace but have seen enough machismo and posturing to know that such a bullshit reason for exclusion like a person’s height would fit in a treat.

It may be because jokes about short people are considerably funnier than jokes about tall people and I’m secretly proud of that. It may be because I just read this guy’s essay on his experiences and winced at his blatant bitterness and impotent rage (he’d literally kill me for saying that, particularly as I actually agree with half of what he said). Or it may be that I would miss the benefits of being able to manipulate people and not having to take full responsibility for my actions like a proper grown up.

Friday, 22 January 2010

If a Smile Crosses Your Face and No-One's There To See It, Does It Exist?

I am in LOVE with my own company. When I’m away from it for any length of time my thoughts are pulled back to it, missing it, wondering what it’s doing and whether it’s missing me too. It makes me feel almost giggly thinking about it.

So it follows that it always surprises me when people who I class as deep thinkers express an aversion to being by themselves. Why, I wonder (to myself)? The theory goes that it’s down to people fearing what they’ll start thinking, torturing themselves even, all the bad stuff coming out. It’s true that it can be an invite to a plus none pity party. An all nighter that never knows when to stop. But otherwise, is it always so bad? Should we only ever see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others? And is it odd that I find that I’m the opposite?

Confession time - I can be quite grumpy. I don’t need much to prompt it but when a cloud descends I find it hard to gee up and snap out of it. It’s not that I don’t like people or their company but the only thing that will get me back to a reasonable mood is a bit of quiet time to reset the soul. Then I’m fine, can join in again and act like a half normal human being.

But while people who know me would agree that I’m a grouch, it’s not a side of me that ‘I’ know. That’s a side reserved for the social me. On my own, I’m happy and a contented a little sunbeam. I potter, I mutter, I pontificate and I acknowledge that there is a world out there that I am happy to rejoin when the time comes. But I’m rarely moody.

Part of this comes from the fact that it’s what other people say that makes me feel bad and will readily accept that I don’t deal with criticism well. But who does?? And listening to opinion after opinion on what I should be doing with my life, or what others would do in my shoes and what they have done which led to them being so great and everything is not my idea of a good time. But bless them, they only have my best interests at heart!

I have no plans to spend my life as a recluse. I repeat, I like other people, I really do. I’m simply saying that I champion the inner realm. It’s not selfish, it’s not wallowing in it, it’s not to be feared. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll grab one of life’s simplest of pleasures whenever you can. Preferably now, because you being here is putting me in a bad mood.

No News Is Good News - Or At Least Sanity Saving

There is an episode of Have I Got News for You that is rendered unwatchable to me by a woman's relentlessly annoying laughter. I know she's only having a good time but jeez, did she have to do it at everyone else's expense? She stands out a mile. It was presented by Alexander Armstrong and I know no more on account of the fact that I have to switch it off. Maybe it's a gem.

Should you ever catch it as a repeat - on Dave no doubt - for the love of God tell me that you feel the same way as me?! Or at least that it stood out enough for you to notice.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Oliver Stone's Hitler - Too Far or Not Far Enough?

Oliver Stone is sick of the good/bad narrative that has been taught in schools when it comes to Hitler and wants to redress the balance. The western world’s most famous evil dictator will be placed "in context" which means a history lesson on what was happening around him at the time - at least I gather this to be what’s happening seeing as the TV series is called Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America. The premise seems to be Stone inferring that history, environment and Politics all played a significant part in creating Hitler - that it's "cause and effect" - and it is neither true nor helpful to paint Hitler as a one off baddie.

He is, of course, in a hot water already which is precisely where he wanted to be in the first place. To be fair to Stone, he doesn’t seem to be saying that there are excuses for the atrocities Hitler committed (and others of his type as this is a series) but that there are reasons and they are not discussed often enough. He is right on that point but there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new about it either. We have long acknowledged that there is a dark side in all of us and that human beings are capable of doing terrible things when pushed to our limits. Not all of us are capable of committing genocide but to separate Hitler as if he were from another species is to cast off blame.

Maybe it’s hyperbole but much has been made in the media about how Hitler is apparently to be presented as someone who was perfectly charming in person and who took tea with his secretaries. Possibly this brings a whole new meaning to the phrase charm offensive. Some people have objected to this gentler side being shown but if this is what he did, then this is what he did. Facts are facts and shouldn’t be hidden. And neither are they likely to sway many people into thinking he was an alright chap. This is just the other end of the spectrum to those who want to eulogise Princess Diana and doesn't reflect how the majority think.

To argue that Hitler should not be related to as a fellow human being who drank tea in a civilised manner is also to deny that he is human for being violent, egotistical, power hungry and for revelling in delusions of his own, and his people’s, supremacy. If he was capable of being all of those things, we should surely be capable of understanding it. We need to be clever enough to understand this for our own survival. Personally speaking, some of the biggest shits I’ve ever met in my life have been utterly charming and I wish I’d found out earlier that this is more often than not the case.

But this aside, I suspect it will not be the programme I’d like to see made. Hitler did not operate alone but with accomplices, allies and, most worryingly of all, a seemingly complicit nation. Milgrim’s experiment perfectly illustrates how good people can do bad things and so there is nothing to say that the German people all shared Hitler’s beliefs and world view, let alone his methods of making them a reality. Individual’s consciences would have remained intact even if their actions, or lack of them, told a different story.

But the fact that they even so much as tolerated it is so far removed from most of our understanding that I would genuinely like to see it further explored whatever the terrifying possible conclusions. Where does our desire for safety in numbers, our herd mentality, and our tendancy to try to avoid cognitive dissonance, end and a moral sense of duty kick in? After all, our survival instincts should equally be roused by the proximity of violent retribution from those we wrong as they are by a fear of disobeying our immediate leader.

If Hitler was ‘of his time’ as Stone seems to suggest then his people were too and so maybe I’m doing him a disservice to suggest he is not going to open up the debate far enough. But I have a feeling that if many prospective viewers are not prepared to believe that by allowing Hitler flawed human status you do not diminish his crimes, then there is little hope of it being truly educational.

From such tragedy, what can be learned? Well, maybe that the human race is not all bad. For all the Jewish people will have endured in Nazi Germany, no Jewish equivalent to Hitler came out of this time with quite the same zeal for blame or a steely determination to eliminate further strife for his people. No-one was ‘of his time’ to quite the same level as Hitler was. Maybe that can give us all hope.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Neighbourhood Death-Watch

I have quite literally come to hate my neighbours. Terribly unfair I’m sure as they are undoubtedly nice people - I wouldn’t know, I’ve not bothered to get to know them. But for those who live in flats (that’s an apartment to any US readers) you will be more than used to the daily assault of noise and irritation that neighbours inflict.

I live next door to Frankenstein’s monster and below the laughing policeman - the latter is, as I type, ruining my afternoon. He sounds like this:

My neighbours will tragically bring about the death of my soul.