Archive for February 2013

The cult of early and the race for calm

February 26, 2013

I do a weekly yoga class, to help with my rage and anxiety issues, which are many and legion. The class starts at 9:30am. I usually find myself leaving the house slightly later than planned, but getting into the building roughly on time and then bounding up the three flights of stairs like a much younger person. Then I get into the room and see everybody else already there, lying on their mats as if they’ve been there for centuries. And I feel awkward and embarrassed about being late, so I kick off my shoes, get my mat out, go to switch my mobile phone off – and then spot from the time display that it’s still 9:25am. I’m in the room and ready a full five minutes before the start of the class, yet I feel stressed about being late because most of my fellow yoga practitioners are so fucking early, every time.

I once tried turning up at 9:15am, a full fifteen minutes before the start of the class. That’s early to the point of being sodding rude, in my worldview; what if the teacher needs that time to prepare in peace? But it made no difference. The fuckers were still already there, stretched out on their mats like beached whales. There’s only one person who ever arrives after me and she’s my favourite person in the class because I suspect her of having an interesting life.

I’m the youngest person in the class and I think I’m the only one who works full-time, which may have some bearing on this. I’ve written in passing about how older people seem to get up naturally early (hell-o, have you SEEN them queueing outside the post office before it opens?) and how the fewer responsibilities you have, the less sleep you need. I’m also the only person in the class who doesn’t travel there by car, which makes my journey slightly more difficult; there’s a free car park less than a minute’s walk away from the building, while the nearest bike parking is further away and you have to cross several busy roads to get from it.

Many people would say that I should stop moaning about the factors outside my control and just start leaving the house early enough to get to the class as early as everybody else. But it winds me up. Why agree a start time at all if nobody’s going to respect it? If the class started at 9:15am or 9am, I would be there for 9:15am or 9am. But why the fuck should I turn up at 9am if the class is scheduled to start at 9:30am? It’s dishonest and frankly loopy behaviour. Do you think you’re going to attain enlightenment faster by swapping 20 minutes lying in bed for 20 minutes lying on a mat?

This morning, I was actually bona fide late for the first time ever – as in, I got through the door at 9:31am. And the beached whales were all lying there, smugly doing their deep breathing. And you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to run around the room kicking them all as they lay there and screaming at them. So yes, the yoga is really helping with my rage and anxiety issues.

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It’s a hard-knock life

February 25, 2013

Apparently an Associated Press reporter told actress Quvenzhané Wallis: “I’m calling you Annie now.” Quvenzhané’s response is all over the blogosphere: people are talking about how assertive she is, what a smart comeback it was, to remind the reporter of her real name.

Within a few hours of this, The Onion “hilariously” called this award-winning child actress a c***, in a tweet which has since been deleted.

I hope nobody doubts that names have a serious role to play when we’re thrashing out power differentials.

Drinking from skulls: a guide

February 15, 2013

A skull makes a lousy drinking vessel. There are holes where the eyes used to be, and the mouth/jaw bit just makes everything even more awkward. Yeah, you can cut those bits off and just use what used to be the top of the head, but even then, it’s awkward. When you’re ranking drinking vessels for ease of use, a skull comes low on the list. Even below those tiny white cups they always have in the office kitchen, the ones that hold a mouthful of tea and somehow make it go cold before you’ve got from kitchen to meeting room. (The cups that persuaded you to bring your own mug into work, or maybe keep “borrowing” a colleague’s.)

So why is drinking wine out of your enemy’s skull considered so de rigeur? To read the cultural references, you’d think it was up there with visiting Paris in the spring as a must-do. But it makes no sense. After all, if you must drink wine out of a skull, wouldn’t it be more fun if it was the skull of someone you admired? And let’s face it, you’re going to spill wine all over yourself whatever happens.

I’m asking the wrong question, of course. Nobody thinks “What would be a good thing to drink wine out of?” and comes up with the answer “My enemy’s skull.” People start by asking “What can I do with my enemy’s skull?” and “Drink wine out of it” doesn’t seem quite so unreasonable then. Especially if you’ve already drunk quite a lot of wine. Most things seem like more of a good idea after drinking quite a lot of wine.

When you’re drinking wine out of a skull, you have a choice. You can bellow in a Brian Blessed voice about vengeance and take big swigs, sloshing wine all over your clothes as if you’re too much of a Nordic god to care about petty things like stain removal.

Or you can talk about upcycling and how you found this darling little skull-of-your-enemy at a vintage market and converted it into a wine vessel by pouring wine into it really badly. Then photograph it on some barn wood.

Clue: if you’re trying to impress people, the Nordic god stuff wins over upcycling every time.

I just met you, and this is perfectly reasonable

February 6, 2013

I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe?

When you’ve just met someone, there are basically two outcomes: either you’ll see them again, or you won’t see them again. Is it crazy to desire one outcome rather than another, and take steps towards that desired outcome?

If not, are her methods crazy? She’s not following the guy home. She’s not even insisting on his phone number. She’s just giving him her phone number so that if he also wants future contact, he won’t find it difficult or impossible to get in touch. Her request – “call me” – is softened with a submissive “maybe?” so that it won’t look like a command.

Wanting further contact with someone is perfectly reasonable, and furnishing them with contact details as a step towards that outcome is therefore also perfectly reasonable. She just has to say it’s “crazy” so she doesn’t sound too much like she’s taken a rational decision to continue contact with a man in which she has a romantic interest. That kind of behaviour is for sluts and feminists. If you carry on that way, he’ll never put a ring on it.

Lie-to-word ratios: Men with Pens

February 1, 2013

As well as collecting crap acronyms, I also collect examples of phrases with a high lie-to-word ratio.

I’ve been interested in the idea since reading a New Yorker profile of George Meyer many years ago (full article only available to subscribers, sorry). He gave the example of Country Crock:

“It’s not from the country; there is no crock. Two words, two lies.”

(Obviously, if you’re ploughing the rich linguistic seam of oddly-named butter substitutes, the UK’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is practically a PhD thesis in a tub, but let’s not go there.)

Since I collect them in real life, I might as well start putting examples on this blog. Today’s example is Men with Pens. For many years, this copywriting agency bigged up its macho, no-nonsense credentials and became very successful indeed. Business owner James Chartrand attracted criticism for sexist comments, but basically all was well. Until December 2009, when Chartrand outed herself as a woman.

In this example, the word “men” is actually two lies. She’s not male and she’s not plural (although she gave a very convincing impression of being a whole agency with several staff members). So the first word is two lies.

I assume there’s debate in the world of lie-to-word collectors about whether prepositions count. Should the “with” count as a word when you’re working out the ratio? I’m still not sure about this one myself.

As for the “pens” bit… well, it’s a metaphor, innit? Nobody literally expects them to do their work with pens rather than keyboards. And anyway, James Chartrand probably does own multiple pens. She can afford it. So I think she gets a pass on that one.

So Men with Pens comes out as three words, two lies. A lie-to-word ratio of 2:3.