Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Further Familial Excretions

No, it's only okay when I do it

Optician Receptionist: Hi, can I help you?
Me: Hi, I've got an appointment at 11:40 to have an eye removed.
Optician Receptionist: <Look of horror>
Optician Receptionist: <Look of realisation>
Optician Receptionist: Hey, you shouldn't joke. That might be what it is.

Calling the parents

Mum: Your dad's set up a motion camera in the garden, so he can catch either a hedgehog eating mealworms, or a cat shoving them in its armpits.
Me: In its armpits?
Mum: Yeah, you know, like stealing them. Stuffs them in its armpits then runs across the back garden, upright, keeping its front legs pressed down so the mealworms don't fall out, to under the hedge where it can crunch them in peace.
Me: Right.
Mum: I'm going to do an impression of it now, down the hallway. You talk to your dad.
Me: If I'm talking to dad who's going to be paying attention to the impre-?
Dad: Hello.
Me: Is it any good?
Dad: Yeah. You should see her impression of a horse doing dressage.

Dad: You can go then, I want some coffee before I go out.
Me: Some coughing?
Dad: No.
Me: I can see you doing that, settling down for a good cough. When you're older it can be your hobby.
Dad: Yeah?
Me: Yeah. I mean your eyesight will go, so you won't be able to look at birds, and your body is already going so you won't be able to do the gardening, and I think you'll be too proud to admit you can't do them, so you'll pretend you've lost interest. And we'll have to pretend you never liked them, and you'll just be this hunched little grey coughing man.
Dad: 'Coffee'.
Me: Bye!
Dad: Bye

Calling the parents, redux

Mum: When we were on holiday the other week... OH!
Me: What?
Mum: Some birds are falling out of the box!
Me: What box?
Mum: The nesting box! They're falling out of the nesting box into the water!
Me: ...
Mum: Oh they're ducks! They're baby ducks in the box. Oh, phew.
Me: How are you seeing this happen? It's dark.
Mum: No, it was on Countryfile.

Only okay when I do it #2

- Chucking great grandma's ashes in with great grandad's -
Burial Guy: Yeah, I knew this grave had a bit of stone set in. I knew when I saw it.
Mum: Does dad's?
Grandma: I don't know, I never asked.
Me: Well we'll find out soon enough. WE will. You won't.
- Later -
Burial Guy: No, I don't think this has stone set. You can feel when you step on the ground.
Me: Right.
Burial Guy: Still, as you say, you'll find out soon.


Made 40 page faux-trashy magazine for girlfriend
 this Christmas:

Mum: It's fantastic... such a waste. You need to do something with that talent.
Me: *Sigh*
Mum: I was being nice!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Opinion Piece Opinion Piece

I really want to do an opinion piece. Everyone else has one and I’ve got really good opinions and, no, listen...

A friend from uni just wrote something really good, as a follow up to something else really good. They’re balanced and well-observed and forceful without being pushy. As with anything like this I wish I had written them, and will take some small part of that resentment to my grave.

It’s never, by the way, the people you had proper conversations with who end up doing really good things. The relationship is always just detached enough that a frank ‘well, that was fucking good’ would be inches out of place. I admire many people I only ever really met peripherally, and every single person with whom I have a close relationship is a pathetic waste of space, up to and including my grandma.

Actually grandma revealed last week that if she could have chosen her career freely she’d have been an archaeologist.  Along with having one nipple tattooed on I think this qualifies her as an Interesting Person. She also fought off two Alsatians with an umbrella once (they shared ownership) but I digress.

"Now I can't frolic when it rains."
Image from Renato Ganoza.

Having read the really good things I want to write my own, except I’m white. Like all over. And straight, and male, and fine financially. My parents were really nice to me, my mental state is a-okay (no, it is, fuck off.) I’m not even awkward properly. I mean if someone at a till asks if I want a bag then I freak out and give a random answer, regardless of need, but it’s like a footrace between a man and a horse; give me a second to sort my legs out and I pull ahead.

Of course white, straight, male etc. people have valid opinions, and unique ways of expressing them, and silky hair, but opinion pieces on the internet are like a million speeches going on simultaneously in a million adjoining rooms. I’m happy to get up and speak, but you do know who’s onstage next door, right?

Stories and anecdotes are different. In those my opinion, though of course inextricable, plays a minute second fiddle to my ability to make the thing. There I believe that craft justifies an audience, and I’m comfortable in hoping that you read my stories and anecdotes over other people’s. Telling a story well enhances the way the reader can use it, and that’s something I can aim for, but no matter how big the difference in presentation surely the opinion to which you should give your time is the one that hasn’t been the norm for however many thousand years. ‘Here’s what I think, from a position of no specific insight and from which the vast majority of content is pitched...’ is therefore the only starting point I can see, and it’s one I can’t justify. Not with what else is on the shelves. I’d really like to, but I can’t.

That’s contrasted with wanting to voice support for causes I value. I’m a feminist (gold-trimmed certificate self-awarded), am happy for every sexuality or lack of and hope those still searching find a state that makes them happy, and would happily put ramps on every building ever even if that’s in the place of stairs. Pop a hand rail on, we’ll climb, it’ll be fine. My heart goes out to those whose gender doesn’t correspond to the body in which they were born (although I’m not using ‘cis’. I mean I agree there has to be a word, but that’s the evil city from a 1.5 star fantasy novella.) Honest to the God that isn’t there, if two people who have given informed consent sincerely want to engage in cannibalistic acts then I’m cool with that too. The list of things that I am fine with, despite my opinion being totally irrelevant and my consent superfluous, is near endless.

And that’s the problem again, really. I can respect a Whitey McStraighto who has a platform publicising issues pertinent to groups who don’t, but I don’t have a platform. This is more of a ‘hey he had a blog before he was a famous author’ type thing (no, it is, fuck off.) A lengthy ‘I agree with that too’ feels like an attempt to grab the mic. I’d really love the mic, I’d have the mic surgically grafted to my hand if I could, but there are so many other people who can do so much cooler tricks with it.

I’ll give not enough of my money, and not enough of my time, and I’ll back up anyone I see talking about ‘issues’, and I’ll argue (um... debate?) with anyone expressing views I think are ignorant or misguided or intended to hurt others, depending on how many of them there are and if I think they’ll kick me once I’m down. I’ll try to listen and remind myself that I don’t understand, but shouldn't stop trying and should opt for trust and respect in the meantime, but I can’t find a reason to indulge myself in opinion pieces.

Stories it will have to be, and hopefully there’ll be a shared humanity in them that extends to people who aren’t like me. There pretty much has to be, because no-one is like me. I am an especially good one.

I’m terribly sorry if you’re an etc. etc. white male reading this and feel your interestingness is being sold short. Whatever you make should, of course, be judged by the same standards as what everyone else makes. It’s just that your viewpoint, on its own, is beef. I’ve had a lot of beef, I produce beef myself (cannibalism again), but culturally we’re at a point where we need to be trying other foods because, and here the metaphor breaks down just a little bit, those foods are whole cultures and people’s lives and if we don’t try a bit of seafood instead then they’re going to have shitter lives than they should.

In conclusion I hope those who I want to support will forgive me for doing so in the ways I do, and not in the ways I don’t. I just don’t think I’d be very good at it.

And, as I said, the woman in the next room is killing it.

Opinion pieces always have a bit of italic writing at the end. This has been that italic writing.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Letter to Cineworld Part III

(Part 3)

Could you supply some other ice cream? There was a Ben and Jerry's mini-freezer behind the drinks people but it was empty. If you can't then can you get rid of the freezer? It's going to give her hope every time and her sad face upsets me. Not as much as the (not) ice cream did, but enough.

Also could you look into how Baskin Robbins makes their very cold awfulness? Either no cows are involved or there's something wrong with the cows. If the former don't make them get cows involved, let's not spread the taint of involvement around.

That's all, thanks for listening. I will continue going to your cinemas because you have better popcorn than ODEON, but I'm not buying any more Baskin Robbins unless I get away with murder or something and I need to administer self-flagellation to stave off guilt madness.

Not that I'm planning any murders. I'm not. But what kind of person makes you eat something to confirm the badness? Come to think of it, who acquiesces to that request? Boyfriends and poison testers. That's it. Food critics. But food critics wouldn't eat any of that ice cream, because it wasn't really food, it just so happened to be digestible.

I'm going to leave before word count forces a part 4. Does it count hyphenated words as one or two? Could-I-just-do-this? So. Yeah: Yuck.

Love you.




Letter to Cineworld Part II

(Part 2)

Did you like that joke? ‘Indulgently paced absurdity'? I made it in the line last night but no-one laughed. They were all really cross because of the aforementioned dithering. So yeah, didn't bother me but might be worth looking into the training you're giving people on the (not) ice cream booth because he didn't know where anything was. He also didn't care, that's why it was funny, but I imagine you'd probably prefer one of those at a time. Or in a perfect world, neither. But then in a perfect world you wouldn't be selling Baskin Robbins.

So we won't be buying ice cream from you again. Which is a significant loss of purchase because she doesn't need much of a prompt, my girlfriend, to buy ice cream. We might smuggle in a tub we've bought elsewhere, even. And you should know that that means a lot, because I'm one of those people who normally tells off their friends for bringing in their own snacks. I mean the mark-up on popcorn is like 4000% or something but that's always struck me as part of the fun.

So, anyway, awful ice cream. Properly not nice, no good, plastic and coconut flavour ice cream. I think the flavour was 'love potion', if you want to try it for confirmation. Don't though. I'm a bit cross we wasted money on the stuff but I don't want you to do that to yourself. It's weird putting something you know will taste bad into your mouth. You feel used even though no-one else was really involved.

Tch, world limit, look for part 3.

Part three.

Letter to Cineworld Part I

(Sent 21/07/14)

Dear Cineworld,

Last night while watching Monty Python Live my girlfriend did something really awful to me. She turned to me and said 'have some ice cream', and then she gave me some.

It was Baskin Robbins and it was awful, Cineworld. It was like cold, cheap plastic. And I made a face, and she looked at me and went 'right?' And then she said 'try the chocolate bit, it's worse.' And I did, because you do crazy things when you're in love.

Now I know it's not entirely your fault that I had this awful experience. I understand that Cineworld is in no way responsible for my choice of paramour. But you do have to cop to having awful taste in ice cream. And awful-tasting ice cream.

I mean I don't know how Baskin Robbins won the franchise off the brilliant Ben and Jerry's but with the difference in taste they must have massively slashed their prices. You probably wondered how they could go so low. That mystery, at least, is solved: that's not ice cream.

As a side note the service at the (not) ice cream booth was terrible. The server had a line of twenty people, at least, and he was dithering like he was trying for a dithering bonus. It may have been that he knew what he was serving and was trying to save us. Now this part of the email isn't a complaint because, actually, I found it hilarious. I had a big bag of popcorn and I'd come to see Monty Python so indulgently paced absurdity was absolutely what I wanted. Oh bugger, you've a max wordcount. I'll send a part 2.

Part two.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Never Say 'Die'

I’m in town looking for some dice, because girlfriend and I are very cool and make board games sometimes.
‘Pound Plus’ seems like a good bet for miscellaneous objects, although if their sales pitch is that everything costs a quid or more they’re not going to be around long. I browse for a while, enjoying the randomness of the stock. Since I don’t need a rake head or some knock-off Power Ranger figures I end up in the games/stationery/home decoration aisle.

A fellow of the same ethnic background as the guy behind the till is prodding at the shelves. I throw him a few test glances to make sure he’s definitely a member of staff and then, suspicions unconfirmed, I plunge in anyway.

Me: Hi.
Employee?: Yes.
Me: Do you have any dice?
Employee!: Ummmm… what is?
Me: Ahhhhhhhh… like little boxes. Cubes. Squares!
Employee!: Boxes! Yes!
Me: No. Cubes you throw in board games to see how far you can go.
Employee!: No.
Me: No? Board game cubes, dots on every side. One to six.
Employee!: Oh! Yes!

He hurtles round the corner and reappears a second later, triumphant. He thrusts his discovery at me and I grin.

Me: Yes! Exactly.

Hurdling the language barrier thrills us both until he proffers it again and I remember it’s not actually what I want.

Me: Yeah, right. Like this but the actual thing. Not an ash tray.
Employee!: We do not have.
Me: Alright then.

Later on I buy 20 on eBay for a pound. There might be a selection of colours, but they’ll never get anywhere without that face-to-face customer service.


And then I went home and had a cup of tea and sighed and got my mobile and walked back to town and went back in the pound shop and took photos of the novelty ash tray.

From multiple angles.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Interrogation

She looked nervous, so I tried some small talk.

Me: How did you hear about this?
Perp: I saw a poster.
Me: Yeah, me too.
Perp: The one with Gollum on?
Me: Yeah.

I’d fallen out of love with bits of paper stuck around uni since finding a cardboard label that read ‘You are beautiful just the way you are’. After a few weeks of abstinence, long enough for my soul to stop vomiting, I’d made a cautious re-entry to reading wall literature. The poster we’d both seen featured Gollum and some pound signs, so I’d been reasonably confident it wouldn’t try to brighten my day.

It turned out to be an advertisement for a psychological study. The researcher claimed to be investigating the body language of lying, and was looking for some white British participants and some participants from another, specific racial group. It’s been a few years now and so rather than playing an ill-advised game of ‘guess that race’ I’m going to go ahead and say she was Arstotzkan.

Get the reference? Yeah? Doesn’t fond recognition feel similar to actual amusement?
Image from http://papersplease.wikia.com/wiki/Arstotzka.

I called the number on the poster (I don’t know why Gollum was there, I’m sorry) and a few days later I was standing in a cupboard with my specifically raced partner. She looked nervous so I… no, we did that bit.

Perp: Do I know you?
Me: I don’t know.
Perp: I think we live in the same building. Did you have a fire drill last night?
Me: Yeah, oh, yeah, hi.
Perp: Do you recognise me?
Me: Mmm, yeah.

The researcher explained the purpose of the study and how things would work. The Arstotzkan and I would be hooked up to motion capture sensors (the same ones used to animate Gollum! That’s why!) My partner would then claim to have viewed two art exhibits before I arrived, one in the university library and one on a digital tour of the Louvre. She might have seen one, both, or neither. I’d be given some set questions to ask then she’d answer and her body language would be recorded and used in the wider study. Having the benefit of A-level psychology I was far too savvy to fall for this.

Social Conscience: What’s up?
Me: It messes up the results if participants know the goal of a study. They start acting how they think they should, or trying to prove you wrong. And why would she advertise for these specific races? She never mentioned how race came into it. Why am I even hooked up to these sensors, why would she need to study my body language?
Social Conscience: So what is she studying?
Me: I dunno. Body language in white interrogators when dealing with minorities.
Social Conscience: So it’s actually all about you.

Velcro corsets are the future.

The researcher turned on the motion sensors and some digital stick-men appeared on a screen behind her. We did some calibration poses, mainly to stop my avatar’s head spinning. Being seven years old, whenever the researcher looked at the screen I’d start doing improbable poses to make her think the sensors were broken. Once she realised they weren’t she asked the Arstotzkan and I to take our places on either side of a desk and we got started.

Me: Where have you been?
Perp: To the library.
Me: What did you see?
Perp: A, um, paintings.
Me: Is… what of?
Perp: Shapes.
Me: Just shapes?
Perp: Coloured shapes. Yellow triangles.
Me: How did you get there?
Perp: I walked.
Me: Did you see anyone you knew on the way?
Perp: I, ah, no. No friends.
Me: Anyone you knew?
Perp: Some people from seminars.
Researcher: Sorry, can you stick to the questions on the card?
Me: Oh yeah, sorry.
Researcher: That’s fine. Where did we leave the card?
Me: Ahhh ‘what did you see?’ was the last one.
Researcher: From there then, please.

I glanced at my digital self. He was a very angry polygonal man, gripping the table with one hand and leaning over slightly into the digital Arstotzkan’s face.

Artist’s Impression

Me: Where have you been?
Perp: On a digital tour of the Louvre.
Me: Did you like the triangle thing at the entrance?
Perp: I, ah, didn’t seen that.
Me: What did you see?
Researcher: Achem.
Me: Sorry. What did you see?

Question cards finished we were both given questionnaires.

Me: Look!
Social Conscience: What?
Me: ‘Do you think the subject saw exhibit A?’ ‘How sure are you from 1 to 10?’ These aren’t body language questions. Why would she even need this information?
Social Conscience: To see how the body language was perceived?
Me: Nahhh.
Social Conscience: If you suspect the study is for something else doesn’t that change your behaviour too? Shouldn’t you tell her so she can decide whether to use the data?
Me: I am pretty sure she was lying about exhibit B. How sure am I? Nine sure.

We handed in our questionnaires and I waggled my eyebrows at the researcher.

Just subtly using my first gif. Stay casual, no-one'll notice.
Image from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/86201780340883834/

Researcher: Um?
Me: How did I do?
Researcher: Sorry?
Me: Did I catch the lies?
Researcher: Oh. Hang on.
Me: Which exhibit did you see?
Perp: A, not B.
Me: Waheyyy.
Researcher: Yes, well done. You were good at spotting the lies.

Me: She thinks she’s being clever, because I didn’t spot her lies.
Social Conscience: Uh huh.
Me: But she’s not, because I did.
Social Conscience: Uh huh.
Me: I wonder if I can do this again.

Me: Can you use me again, in another interview?
Researcher: I’m afraid not.
Me: Ah well.

She looked at the screen and I started shaking my head around.

Perp: So… I’ll see you around.
Me: Sure.

The researcher glanced back at me, but I managed to stop shaking just in time. When she looked back to the screen I started again.

Me: This was great. I’m a genius.
Social Conscience: Sure.