Archive for the 'Rant' Category

A book by any other name

Sometimes I run out of things that annoy me. It’s a weird feeling, when you’re me and you suddenly realise that for 6 months you’ve been writing about things you actually do rather than those that irritate the hell out of you. Suddenly you wonder if your purpose in life has evaporated like a damp annoyed mist in the radiant sunlight of a world filled with things that actually work.

Then you have the same conversation you have had 40 times already, the unjustifiably emphatic irritation resurfaces, and the world makes sense again.

I have a kindle. For anyone who does not know this because they have spent the last 2 years hiding under a rock with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears humming a jaunty Broadway tune they have not yet seen the Glee version of, a kindle is an e-book reader. It uses a technology called e-ink that means the display screen looks identical to a paper page. It is not backlit, and looks nothing like a computer screen of any kind. Because as previously stated it looks like paper, goddammit.

I love books. But much more to the bloody point I love reading. People for some reason view kindles as soulless objects that simply do not have the touch and feel of real books. To me this is akin to eschewing mp3 players because vinyl had character. Yeah, it did. Records are lovely, books are beautiful. Technology is BETTER. Unequivocally, totally, definitely better.

Kindles are not perfect. I will grant you that a book does not run out of battery, even after a whole 3 weeks. On the other hand, a kindle involves cutting down no trees, is the size of a small notebook, and holds three thousand books. Ah but wait, it does have a major flaw. One glaring, massive issue that I shit you not every single person I have ever talked to about a kindle has said to me. Every. Single. One.

It doesn’t smell like paper.

Yes, this is what we want from technology. That it smell different. Because Alexandre Dumas clearly has less insight into the human psyche when his words are transferred via a medium without that crisp new-book odor. Are you people fucking serious? This machine is amazing. It is compact, pretty, doesn’t strain your eyes, and can be held in one hand while lying in bed about to drop off to sleep. And it holds 3 thousand books! Is that not wondrous and amazing? Is it not lovely when you finish a book in the middle of a long train journey and just flip to the next one in the series, or switch genres because you felt like some Isaac Asimov before bedtime.

The books are cheaper, you can lose the device itself but not the data if you bought it from Amazon. You can also manually put books on it without going via the official site. I guess I am just curious as to what the hell it is you want from the damn thing. I mean granted it is not actually a flying car, but I am pretty sure its one of those “yey! We live in the future!” things. No, it doesn’t do what an iPad does. Then again it also doesn’t have a monthly bill or a battery life of 10 hours,  or cost $600 dollars.

Perhaps I am just biased. I fly constantly, I read very fast, and I have an exasperating habit of moving to a new country every few years. The kindle is not perfect, for a start it doesn’t support graphic novels and about the 17th time I drop it from a height tends to start rattling scarily when shaken. But then I am reliably informed it is not ideal to drop expensive electronics on the floor. Despite its fairly minor shortcomings though it has been one of the best things I have ever purchased, and should I lose/break/donate to Will-It-Blend a dozen more of them I will probably still buy another one.

Someday, someone will whine that those new hyper efficient skull implants that interface directly from your brain to the internet just don’t have have the feel of freshly molded matte plastics.

You know what? Fuck Israel. Seriously. Fuck it right in the ear.

I try not to write about things I don’t understand. It vexes me when idiots write about Northern Ireland and the associated conflicts without a firm grounding in its history and a healthy sprinkling of objectivity. Make that an entire bowl of objectivity. So I am not passing judgment here on whether Israel has a moral right to certain parts of the planet or not. Because frankly, I don’t feel qualified to make that judgment, and even more frankly I am not sure Israel is either.

However, this restraint does not mean I feel myself disqualified from having an opinion on any action Israel or any other country/government/gang of weirdos takes in defense or execution of whatever moral imperative it believes itself to be upholding. So for next few paragraphs I am going on a rant inhibited only by the laws of grammar and spelling which concerns this motherfucking convoy attack bullshit.

First of all, this rant is not anti-Semitic. I am not saying this because I particularly like or dislike jews, as an irish person who has only lived in the states for 2 years my main exposure to stupid Jew jokes was as a child on snippets of American TV, and it’s not like I even understood most of them. I have pretty much no opinion on Jews, they are people, they have a religion about as stupid as all other organized religions, and they mean more bacon for everyone else.  The question however of my anti-Semitism or lack thereof is – and I feel I should emphasise this – nothing to do with my opinion of Israel.

Israel is a country. Judaism is a religion. Yes, the faith is heavily identified with its homeland etc. So fucking what? If I said I disapproved of the Italian mob, would I be accused of being anti-Catholic as a result? I somehow doubt it, but it’s an identical concept. Throughout history, religions have taken previous persecution (mass crucifixions, or being fed to the lions for all followers of Christ in the time of Rome for example) as a reason for holy wars and other such belligerent and determined idiocy (the Crusades and the witch hunts to name only the most widely known of Christian-perpetrated atrocities. See? Impartial).

The Jews had the worst and most effectively executed atrocity of all time perpetrated against them, no-one is denying that. But even leaving aside the fact that this mostly happened to people long gone from their native land or descended from converted Polish or German gentiles and therefore not exactly under the remit of Israel the country, why in the name of anyone at all would that make anything Israel does now acceptable? When did vengeance and petulance become justice? Two wrongs never have made or will make a right, but Israel have somehow gotten it into their heads that 2 million and one wrongs will somehow manage it.

Israel just attacked a convoy of ships bringing aid to the Gaza strip. Not armies, not weapons, but food and building materials. They boarded the ships and hijacked them, and now have the gall to claim they will send the contents by land? If that were the case they could have saved some time and their much be-laboured  army budget by just leaving them the hell alone. Justifications I have seen include “There were materials aboard that could be used as weapons or to make weapons.” Yes, probably. Personally I am pretty confident I could kill someone with a pen, but that doesn’t mean they should be wrestled from my grasp at every meeting. “The soldiers were attacked when they boarded”. Riiight. Because if you were stopped at a traffic light and someone smashed your car window and climbed into the back seat it would never occur to you to slap the shit out of them, instead you would keep driving and ask if there was anywhere they’d like a ride to, and while they are here would they like to have a look through your groceries for a snack.

The Israeli army have published video footage of soldiers being beaten by lead pipes when they boarded the convoy. Em, yes? You expect sympathy for this? If I climbed a fence with a giant “Keep Out” to get into my neighbour’s yard I would feel pretty damn silly complaining to him about the bites I got from his dog. Particularly if I had climbed in there with a fucking gun. The Israelis claim their soldiers boarded with paintball guns and had no intention of killing anyone. So let’s review that statement. The soldiers have guns. The guns do not shoot real bullets. Presumably they also do not advertise that fact, who the fuck is intimidated by a soldier with a paintball gun. So they look like real guns, and In fact they are real guns because the same statement claims that when the violence escalated they swopped out the paint for live ammo.

News for you Israel – when faced with what appear to be armed soldiers attacking them with guns, people generally assume that armed soldiers are attacking them with guns. Overall, it’s an assumption you are safer making than not. Civil actions do not generally involve automatic weapons. They involve riot shields, they involve batons, they involve mace and pepper spray and tasers. If the Israeli army had given two tugs of a dead dogs cock whether they killed anyone or not there would not have been any goddamn guns on the boat. To the claim that shots were fired upon the soldiers I would say that the army’s own video evidence appears to contradict that. Maybe one or two of those aboard ship had guns, but clearly the majority didn’t, or surely believing themselves to be under deadly attack they would have used them before resorting to whatever was lying on the deck.

Should they have thrown down their lead pipes and surrendered to the scary-looking but actually secretly (temporarily) harmless and people-friendly guns? Perhaps. But Israel is not exactly known for its kindly treatment of those it decides are Palestinian sympathizers, so what kind of fate awaited these people if they gave themselves up? Had I been in their situation I hope I would have had the courage to defend myself. Not just to fight to stay out of an Israeli prison, but because they had no right.

Israel may have their self-proclaimed magic pass to heaven, and they are welcome to it. But they do not have one for this earth and for the life of me I cannot understand why they think that they do. They have no right whatsoever to that cargo, they have no right whatsoever to hold those people. They have been edging their toe over and back across the line for years and now they have firmly leaped across it. This was an act of piracy at best and war at worst. So enough with the get out of jail free cards. The Israeli government are acting like fucking assholes, and they should be held accountable for their actions. I don’t give a damn whose land they used to live on or who exterminated their ancestors.

Rule for happiness: Do not expect large wild animals not to kill you

Last month, an experienced whale trainer at SeaWorld was killed when the orca she was working with dragged her into its tank. Wait no, it was a killer whale. Hang on, those are exactly the same thing, its just that when the media are reviewing Free Willy they use “orca” and when they are creating unnecessary hysteria they use “killer whale”.

Naturally some charming christian fundamentalist groups are calling for the whale to be executed. Oh wait, only a person can be executed, animals are slaughtered. In some ways, I can understand this perspective. The whale in question has “attacked” 2 previous trainers in the last 20 years, so it could be considered a threat to human life. But here is where we insert a great big “however”.

However.

First – It’s a fucking whale. It’s not a dog, or a cat, or a domesticated creature. how the bloody hell were you expecting it to behave? The fact that there have been only three incidents so far is the truly surprising part. Humans have taken this creature out of the wild, held it as captive entertainment for 20 years, and taught it to do tricks for its supper, a situation which in itself raises many moral questions. But its a damn whale, the things weigh up to ten tons and their natural habitat is sea water. How the hell could anyone expect a ten ton water dwelling animal to understand or care that it is hurting a human?

Second – That someone has died through accident or chance is always a sad thing. But that trainer not only knew she was dealing with a huge dangerous wild animal, she knew it was one that had been aggressive or dangerous to individuals on 2 previous occasions. she knew the risks, and she did the job anyway. If it was for the fame or the cash then she took a gamble and lost. If it was for the love of the job (which by all media accounts it probably was), then I very much doubt she’d want her pet condemned to death.

One tabloid has actually quoted a christian group as claiming they want the whale stoned to death. Em, what? Am I the only one who wants to know how they actually intend to go about this? Seriously, if that request were granted right now, how exactly would they implement it? Stand beside his tank and roll boulders in? somehow drag the whale out of said tank and throw rocks at it? I won’t even go into the part about the biblical quote condemning the owners of the whale to death too for not having it killed the first time. Frankly, this sounds like blatant journalist bullshit to me, because I do not think even rabid christian fundamentalist groups are stupid enough to propose this, and I think they are pretty damn stupid.

Only self-aware conscious life forms can bear responsibility. If the whale is one, then keeping it in captivity has been a serious crime. If it is not one, then the death was not its fault, and furthermore there is no reason to believe that any whale would not repeat these actions – in fact to the contrary, many whales have. Waiting until it happens to say “oh, this whale must be dangerous” is like waiting until someone falls into the tiger enclosure to conclude that this particular tiger is dangerous. Either this is accepted as a peril of the showing of wild creatures, or organisations like Seaworld are simply no longer allowed to operate. Frankly, I think I am in favour of the latter.

Price tags are just another type of opinion.

Never buy anything because it is cheap, never buy anything because it is expensive. Obvious? In theory yes, in practice, we use these as subconscious metrics far too often.

Everyone has heard “A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn’t need” – A neat little phrase which nonetheless fails to include my roommate’s mother, who will spend $30 on 100 x $1 items that we will eventually use up at some point, because they were on sale at Costco. Too often imagined value is a real problem, the hunt for a bargain is sufficiently compelling to encourage us to buy things we wouldn’t bother owning otherwise, and we end up with a three foot stack of paper cups. No really, we do. There is one beside my fridge. I have bought items of clothing I have thrown out a year later having never worn, simply because I could get three of them for a fiver. But as I become a grown-up and continue doing my real job in the big bad world I have slowly kicked this habit, and discovered a whole new way of being fiscally stupid.

Cartographer once asked me why people buy designer handbags. The cause of the question was a particular designer handbag which aside from its maker being Chanel entirely failed to be in any way noteworthy, and was being sold secondhand by someone in her place of employ. The only answer I could give her as to why anyone would want this unremarkable piece of leather was that it was – to anyone who cares to know about these things – Chanel couture. Theoretically meaning it is a classic and timeless accessory, suitable for use at all occasions and times of life, actually meaning it cannot have cost less than a thousand dollars as couture items never go on sale. Grasping this with her usual intelligence, candour and utter disregard for things that make no sense, she posed the question of whether this was then only a slightly more subtle way of pinning hundred dollar bills to your hat, and I had to admit she was irrefutably correct.

I have no objection to paying large quantities of money for beautiful things. I myself have something of a weakness for designer shoes*. I can see the value in a rare or difficult design, or in a perfectly cut suit, or a distinctive dress. As I gradually earn more I find my objection to paying a lot for something I want dissipating somewhat, but thats not a reason to assume something that costs less is inferior.

There is an innate tendency in the human mind to conform to an accepted concept of value. The aphorism that something is worth what people are willing to pay for it is not entirely accurate when thus phrased, what we should be saying is that something is worth to you what you would be willing to pay for it. To me, some things are just not worth it no matter what the rest of the world thinks. Which is why I will never own a Dior handbag, an antique desk, or a house in Dublin city, though I certainly wouldn’t mind owning all 3. Unless of course I become a millionaire, at which point I imagine my interpretation of value will change.

The real problem arises when you let other people’s judgments of value become your own. That handbag is worth two thousand dollars, this house is worth six hundred thousand, or the most ludicrous of all – that diamond is worth five grand (I could rant about the stupidity of diamonds for days). Know what you really want, and never let anyone else tell you the value of anything.

*It has been my considered decision that spending $500 on something because I really like it is perfectly justifiable as long as it is my $500. In fact I can imagine few better reasons.

“You do not use science in order to prove yourself right, you use science in order to become right”

I was recently given an excellent book by Ben Goldacre called “Bad Science” (by cheese, who is consistently awesome and sometimes gives me things just because I might like them). I am only about 100 pages through it so far, and I already wish to give the man some sort of award for universal competence. Perhaps my opinion will change when I reach the end of the book, but he has already touched on several of my favourite things to despise and mock, so even if the remainder of the book is a let-down I suspect my overall impression will still be favourable.

“Bad Science” does not seek to champion reforms in scientific methods so much as attempt to give the layperson an understanding of what makes a method or a study scientifically good or bad (good or bad meaning reliable and relevant results versus meaningless noise). People accept a shocking amount of tripe purely on the basis of  “a study” without understanding anything about that study or how it was conducted. A close friend of mine pursuing a career in medical lab science is constantly ranting about the complete ludicrousness of journalistic spins on studies, complete lack of background, and an immediate adherence to the most dramatic possible interpretation of results.

I have ranted before on this blog about the astonishing willingness of individuals to accept blatantly ridiculous facts as gospel (“we eat spiders in our sleep” being my favourite example). Sometimes I think we accept these things because they are so damn stupid, not in spite of it. The logic runs something like: “Science proves amazing and unbelievable things all the time, like that the earth revolves around the sun or we are all made of tiny atoms or that energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared. Therefore, amazing and unbelievable facts which I hear must have been scientifically proven by someone, or no-one would ever believe them. Yey, spiders!”. Yeah. Right.

What Bad Science attempts to disclose is not what to think, but how to think. How to logically evaluate the conclusions that have been drawn from a given set of facts, and to reach not only your own independent conclusion, but an understanding of why another conclusion might be lacking or indeed superior. While I am all for expressing my opinion and hammering it home with a blunt instrument if necessary, this book definitely goes one better.

One of the most worrying trends in the modern world is the easy acceptance of unsubstantiated conclusions as scientific facts because of buzzwords on a par with the flux capacitor, and the assumption that all studies are done with the same level of professionalism and rational thought.  So please,  don’t be one of the people who think somebody once conducted a scientific study on nocturnal spider consumption. Display some motherfucking ability to reason. Read this book if you are not sure how.

Please enjoy my unique blend of cynicism and good-natured offensiveness

Someone described me like that today and I found it physically impossible to go a whole day without repeating it somehow, because its brilliant.

The theme of today’s post is essentially “bugger this for a game of soldiers”. Today I found out how long a green card takes to get. No wait, sorry, I should clarify that. Today I found how long a green card takes to get if you are not married to an american, related to an american or winning the green card lottery. In other words today I found out how long it takes to get permission to work long-term in america based solely on what you would actually be working at in america. Just so you know, it takes considerably longer this way than any of the above, which appears to me to fly in the face of all logic and good sense.

I asked for this from my employer about 8 months ago. I wanted them to start the green card process, because I wanted to have some sort of fallback should the arse fall out of the job market again and I find myself not only without employment but without a right to reside at my address anymore. It is one thing to abruptly lose your job and another to abruptly lose residence of a country 3000 miles from your native one. It would be not only disgustingly inconvenient but frightfully expensive to rectify. So the request seemed like a sensible one.

At the time the process was described to me it seemed a tad lengthy but potentially very worthwhile. 6 months of PERM (aka: the can-we-replace-you-with-a-citizen test), a year of waiting for PERM certification, another year to process the application for a green card along with an adjustment of status in order to extend my visa. So at best, this process takes 2-3 years. What escaped me at the time is that this is merely the timescale involved in _applying_. The backlog of people waiting for the aforementioned verdant immigration card is a minimum of FIVE FUCKING YEARS. So that means, as of right now, it will take a good 7 years for me to actually get one of these. If during that time I am let go or change jobs, the whole process crashes and burns and has to start all over again.

My current state of mind can be summarised in 3 words. Fuck. That . Shit.

Happy 19th January everyone. Yes, I know its not January 19th. But it was when I wrote this.

I have a few personal rules about New Years Eve. Some of them are obvious, and based on logistics, like “never go somewhere you can’t get back from on foot unless you are in a country with real public transport”, “never go to a niteclub”, “make sure you have bought enough to drink and give away” and so on and so forth. I find it requires more careful planning than your average night out, mostly due to the fact that everyone is an exuberantly drunk moron. Not that this is necessarily a problem until one throws up on your shoes.

But my most rigidly adhered to rule in recent years is to never make a New Year’s resolution. Firstly, it’s a completely arbitrary day, and so I refuse to conform to such a ludicrous convention, mostly out of sheer contrariness. Secondly, any resolution not important enough to be made as soon as you thought of it is clearly not going to be adhered to and is a damn waste of time and effort by definition.

So I hereby declare some January 19th resolutions which I have just thought of and decided were important. Ahem.

  • I will save some fucking money. I have a habit of spending everything I earn in a great big happy flow of joy and whatever-I-feel-like-ness. This is not a long term plan.
  • I will fly less than I did last year. This would be really easy for most people. But I think even I can keep it under  50,000 miles in 12 months

Not exactly lofty aspirations, and admittedly rather vague, but the more specific versions that contain actual numbers are in my head. Of course these are just the new ones, there are perpetually ongoing resolutions like “try to drink a little less”, “go to the gym more” and the ever popular “stop being so chubby”. But essentially, these are the plan.

I will be interested to see how this progresses. Oh, and happy fucking new year everyone. Ain’t life just grand?

Humble opinions are for losers, I haven’t had a humble opinion in years

I think I can safely say without fear of contradiction (because this is my blog and I can fiendishly delete comments that contradict me) that the irish government largely consists of corrupt, incompetent assholes. Now one could make an argument that this is to some extent true for all governments, and one would not be incredibly unreasonable to do so. However for some reason I have never quite figured out the consequences of corruption and incompetence seem to be practically non-existent in Ireland.They involve a few newspaper articles, maybe a slap on the wrist and some public censure, or perhaps in a severe case the odd custard pie. They rarely if ever appear to involve seizure of assets, jail time, or facing the motherfucking consequences of your actions.

The current hot topic in irish politics is the Lisbon treaty, an EU treaty basically designed to streamline the European parliamentary structure. Ireland has already rejected this treaty once, as far as I can tell just out of general assholery and slight panic. Basically, it appears the irish government was hoping to get away with quietly pushing this through and obtaining a yes vote without people really noticing. So there wasn’t really a whole lot of information going around aside from “Vote YES” in big red letters. Naturally the paranoid elements of the populace were perturbed, questions were asked, it turned out that several top tier irish politicians had not even managed to get through the summary document, and the majority of people voted against the treaty out of general frustration and confusion. Naturally our government then wrote to the EU saying “eh, sorry about that, how embarrassing, let’s take another shot at it” and we are now having the same referendum again, in a beautiful tribute to democracy. Yes we know you have a vote, but you voted wrong, try again.

The Lisbon treaty is a long. complicated boring legal document outlining the re-arranging of the EU in order to try to be a bit less monstrously complicated, and to streamline things like the voting process. I do not at this point claim to understand everything in it, but the part that people seem to be objecting to in our tiny island nation is the bit that says EU law takes primacy over the laws of an individual country. Of fucking course it does, you arseholes. It has since we joined the damn thing in the 80s, we bought into this idea quite some time ago, what the hell are you pissing around now for?

We appear to be terrified at the prospect that our constitution could be overruled by the EU. Well kids, I have to confess, what I really don’t get is why the hell we are so protective of our damn constitution. What is so amazingly great about how ireland works? Even if this treaty did make it possible for the EU to overrule more of irish law (which it doesn’t), we are talking about a constitution that contains the line “The State recognises the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.”, as well as another of my favourites “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”. Don’t even get me started on the fucking preamble.

What exactly are we protecting here? Our outmoded links with religion? Our sexism? Our neutrality? We are neutral until America decides they need somewhere to re-fuel, then we are a fucking military air-base. What the hell are we afraid of? The primacy of European law is not news, and the specific concerns of the irish people, retarded and irrelevant as they were, have been consummately addressed not only within the treaty we helped to fucking write but in the form of further legal declarations on top of said treaty that were basically just put there to say “No really, we mean it, ireland can deal with abortion itself. It’s like, in the treaty already. Did you not read it?”.

The EU is an essentially good thing, that enables us to better organise everything, fight climate change, and ensure that essential human rights are equally enforced across a multitude of countries. Enlightened self-interest seems to be the most positive force available these days, so now that we have the self-interest part down pat perhaps we can try for some enlightenment, and realise that the EU is actually in our best interests, and that pointless nationalism is inherently fucking stupid. And while I’m at it, why is neutrality so goddamn important? because as far as I can see our reasoning goes along the lines of “we are a tiny island nation subject to easy potential annihilation” which would be rendered less potent as an argument by say, joining a large association of 27 countries.

I don’t give a flying fuck about neutrality,  and I’d vote to legalize abortion, and so I am desperately disappointed because these issue are both nothing whatsoever to do with the Lisbon treaty. The blatant scaremongering by the Vote No lobby is a disgusting travesty rivaled only by the utter bullcrap of the Vote Yes lobby.

The treaty has already been summarised extremely well by people who are not me, so instead of regurgitating I shall point you in the direction of this excellently written and particularly amusing and informative guide by Jason O’Mahony. Complete with Eval Kanieval references. I urge you in the spirit of democracy to consider your decision carefully and make up your own mind, in full posession of the pertinent facts. However, should this be too much effort or otherwise an unattainable achievement, there is one simple step you can take to resolve the whole issue:

Just fucking well vote yes.

A series of unfortunate events

Thats a lie, it’s one unfortunate event really. Namely that there is piss in my kitchen.

Oh how I wish I was joking. And before anyone asks, no I did not have a late-night accident while sleep-walking. As people may or may not be aware, about 3 months ago I moved to Brooklyn to live with a friend of mine (E/the Cuban). The cuban owns a nice 2-bed in Park Slopes, and is a raving loony, so you can see how this was an ideal situation. My recent affection for the US and NY in particular are, I must admit, largely due to a combination of Brooklyn and my roommate.

The apartment is about half a storey above street level, and has the awesome feature of an outside deck at the back overlooking a garden. I have a big room, the living area is spacious, and the whole apartment is filled with natural light. In other words, its great. With one minor issue, namely that due to the way the building was originally designed its not the same layout as the other apartments. So our kitchen, instead of being below a kitchen, is in fact below a bathroom.

This should, in theory, not really pose a problem. However it transpires that the apartment above us has some bathroom plumbing issues. A year ago E was nearly deluged with a pile of bath water when the kitchen light fixture basically burst from the soggy plaster revealing some rather substantial leak problems from above, and the aforementioned light was only replaced a few weeks ago when we had a handyman round to do a variety of small jobs.

The new kitchen light fixture basically resembles a large glass bowl which is stuck to the ceiling. On monday night we were sitting in the living room when we suddenly heard the sound of water gurgling loudly. With a soon to be justified sense of foreboding we inspected the kitchen and saw the steady stream of liquid falling from above and gradually both filling the ceiling bowl that is our fucking light and trickling happily onto the floor. E sprinted up the stairs to yell at our rather slow upstairs neighbours and I started damage control using a trash can and some paper towels.

When E reappeared we inspected the situation and at about the time I was noticing the rather odd hue of the “water” that had almost completely filled the bubble that is our kitchen light he remarked that the idiots upstairs were trying to reduce the overflow from their toilet using a saucepan.

Yes, a fucking saucepan. More to the point yes, the overflow from their bloody toilet. So yes, our kitchen was, as we stood there, gradually filling with urine. When we got up the next morning, we had a trash can full of piss, a floor spattered with piss and a kitchen light fixture still half filled with piss. If anyone doubts the veracity of this I have photographic evidence, which I may edit this post to add later.

Even better than this, for our threat to sue the landlord of the upstairs flat to be at all potent, E has decided that he has to see the fucking piss. And he comes round either today or tomorrow. So right at this moment I can say with a reasonably high degree of certainty that at the very least our kitchen light fixture is still filled with fucking piss.

I have always been against living with a landlord. Not that I think of E as a landlord, more like an eccentric older brother with a life like something out of a soap opera and the attention span of an epileptic goldfish. But one of the most crucial benefits to living with the owner of your dwelling is one that had not previously occurred to me:

It’s his job to empty the bin full of wee.

“I’d kill for a pint of porter, get that wasp off me sandwich!”

Recently I heard a radio DJ talking about Jade Goody’s death. I have to admit that my usual attitude toward any story involving anyone who has made themselves famous through either a) banal stupidity, b) being on reality tv, or c) being fat and getting thin (or vice versa) is one of blissful ignorance, and I am fairly certain she has done all three. So forgive me if I write something blatantly inaccurate about her, because it will be entirely besides the point I’m trying to make, I swear. As I understand it though, she died rather suddenly of cancer.

The point of the radio discussion was not so much her death itself as the reaction of various people to it. The radio guy in question was incredulously picking on a woman who claimed to feel absolutely devastated for her, “and it wasn’t it terrible what was happening to her, and her leaving two kids behind”, and other extremely irish ways of saying “isn’t this sad”. Radio guy was trying to hammer it into this lady that perhaps instead of crying over a complete stranger she’d read about in the paper wouldn’t it be a better idea to turn her attention to something closer to home. All the woman could say was that she was just very upset by it, and was crying her eyes out over it, and couldn’t think anything else about it only that it was a tragedy.

I sat there listening to this, quite characteristically thinking “That woman is a fucking idiot.”, when suddenly I realised that thought this was probably true, radio guy was wrong. He was trying to persuade this woman that something that she found tragic didn’t matter because it was happening to someone she didn’t know. That she should be ignoring it, and saving her feelings for when they were for the people around her.

I think this brings home how fucking retarded our ludicrous psycho-analysis-obsessed culture is. We spend half our time telling people to express their feelings, and the other half telling them they are being expressed the wrong direction. Who cares if the woman is dehydrating herself daily over a tv personality? If it so happens that something about the situation evokes empathy in her, so fucking what?

 Movies and books do it all the time, that’s the entire bloody point. To create something that touches people. What the hell is the difference between that woman crying over Jade Goody, and me crying when I read Jane Eyre? (yes, I did actually do this. Really, really deep down I’m a romantic). Frankly, the difference was that she was feeling something for a real person, albeit a person she’s never met. I’ve felt more real emotion for people that don’t even exist than for a shocking quantity of those I’ve known.

Humans constantly love things that aren’t real. People name their cars, their musical instruments, I know a girl who has a pair of garden shears named Lorraine (though granted that was less affection and more striking fear into the hearts of young men).  Hell, I challenge you to find a kid who didn’t anthropomorphise a stuffed toy and love it as much as their own siblings, I certainly did. Why is that more socially acceptable?  We should be fucking delighted that people have proper goddamn feelings at all, because if they had none they’d be even more awful than they already are.

If someone is moved by art or poetry we think they are cultured, if they are moved by a human being they don’t know contracting a fatal disease we think they are impractical and foolish. Do we have a limited supply of emotional reactions? Should I be saving mine up for an appropriate time? I guess there is a chance that woman would be finding joy in the beauty of poetry if she wasn’t busy crying over famous people, but frankly I doubt it.

You can’t save up emotions and spend them in a way you consciously choose, the human subconscious is a lot more subtle than that. If you can’t react to something beautiful then you might as well react to something stupid, it’s better than not reacting.

If we don’t want people having dumbass emotional outbursts then we should just put valium in the drinking water, because those are pretty much the only kind.

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