The inadvertent beauty of opinions

The ABC has a webpage where you can have a look at all of the results of the most recent Australian opinion polls, undertaken by the likes of Newspoll, Morgan, Ipsos and Essential. While the validity of the polls and the story they tell is fodder for another time/place, I couldn’t help remark in the quiet and unintentional beauty of the images created (once rotated through 90 degrees).

Issued as Rorschach inkblots, I’d be inclined to see <<a man with a sombrero, a woman in a flamenco dress, a Balmain bug, a spinning ballerina and a couple of kangaroos dueling… >>

In many ways, this is more enjoyable that the general sense of apathy I feel when viewing the polled opinions of my peers (unrotated).

Skinny gentleman with sombrero and hands on hips; or Killbot?

 

 

 

A flamenco dancer with billowing dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mmmm Balmain Bugs

 

 

 

 

 

 

A twirling ballerina (perhaps in a jewelry box); or two faces kissing...

 

 

 

 

 

Two kangaroos locked in mortal combat

And I would get 1,000 miles…

I recently flew from Sydney to Perth with Qantas. Spoilt, entitled little twat that I am, I assumed that I would have in-flight entertainment. Gasp! I was wrong. Anyhoos, if you’d like to know how to roll in 1,000 free frequent flyer points, take note. (At the going rate of 1 cent per point, that’s ten freaking dollars people!!)

Hi There,

I flew on the SYD->PER Qantas flight QF571 on Saturday 17/01/15. I was informed by the lovely hostesses that the plane had been recently acquired from the Jetstar fleet and was in the process of being refurbished to a Qantas standard. As such, there were no ipads or backrest displays within coooeee of the plane. Sitting at the back, by the time the replacement entertainment (read: magazines) had been supplied, I was given a choice between Trailrider, InDesign or Who Weekly. Unfortunately, not being a motorcross afficionado, architect (despite a potential genealogical link to Charles Rennie Mackintosh) or 90 year old gossip, I didn’t have much in the way of entertainment for a 5 hour flight.

To make matters worse, the two films on the VHS quality dropdown screens where an Adam Sandler film (seriously, why do people keep funding his films?) and a sappy Southern US romance. I’d rather eat the tray table than subject myself to either of those abominations.

But anyways, I enquired as to the lack of entertainment to a particularly genial hostess and she informed me that her understanding was that Qantas was providing recompense to Frequent Flyer customers required to travel on these ‘as yet not refurbished planes’. While I did momentarily appreciate the quaint harking back to yesteryear, Qantas does pride itself on providing a quality service and I feel the services provided for a 5 hour domestic flight did not approach Qantas’ intended levels. After all, if I’d wanted to sit in a cramped, crowded plane with no entertainment, I would’ve flown Jetstar.

As such, if you are able to provide some additional recompense in recognition of the (lack of) services rendered and the loyalty I have shown Qantas, it would be greatly appreciated. My details have been provided above.

Kindly, James

BOOM!

Office Worker’s Lament, aka 9 to 5

In December, it occurred to me that it had been a full month, or close enough to, since I had bothered to look at the stars (the stars being a metaphor for the many things that exist outside the 9 to 5). Up with a struggle, off to work, home (maybe via basketball) and then inside until bedtime.

Around the same time, I was offered a job in the State Government and spent weeks agonising over the decision. I flipped a coin 4 times to ultimately choose which path to take. In the final days before making my decision, Storm and I were watching the sunset on a Vanuatuan beach, and then had the awesome mix of storm clouds, a half-moon and a canvas of stars. The clouds would make faces, with the moon as their eye – an old man on a cane, a beast’s face (you all know the drill I’m sure) – before drifting further afield.

In the run up to finishing my last job – vale IM4DC – I had the first makings of a song. It sums up how I felt about what is, perhaps, an illusion of choice and the fact that, every now and then, we should bother to look around and up.


Link: https://soundcloud.com/jamesesmc/tracks

I’d be interested to get your feedback, especially regarding the second vocal track. Is it annoying, distracting, or a nice addition? I’d be happy to put the solo track up for comparison.

Cheers 🙂

    Lyrics

Heads are down, clocks are wound to the 40-hour week.
Weeks go by, with nary an eye turned to celestial feats.

I don’t know why, I say, knowing we all fear the fall,
Why we embrace this rhyme, spend our time head’n’back to the cubicle wall.

Steady stream, as cities team with the human plight
Endless flow, stop and go, walking like soulless wights

I don’t know why I go, flipping a coin at my toes
There’s no choice at all, just tails where I head to another stall.

Water’s edge, trace the ledge between earth and sky.
Shapes are formed, as clouds forlorn pass by half-moon eye.

Rabbit bare, sit and stare for a twitch of time
Dissipate, a common fate, shared by you and I.

I don’t know why, I say, why don’t I know all the sky?
Lay off, lay down, look up. Gain respite from the 9 to 5.

Morning breaks, buzzer rakes me from slumber’s arms
Breaking fast, coffee at last, off to the animal farm.

I don’t know why, I say…
I don’t know why I go
Flipping coins at my toes,
It’s all for show.

Psychology of my drinking – some thoughts.

The other night I caught up with a mate and was chatting about my latest binge drinking escapade: after-work drinks with an ex-colleague, tracing an arc from beers, to shots of rum, to ‘negronis’ and ‘old-fashioned’s to vomiting for half an hour in my backyard after attempting to (belatedly) eat some dinner. From first sip to last shout was around seven hours, with a few handfuls of popcorn being the only other belly-filler.

As a guy who doesn’t drink much, and certainly doesn’t indulge in the kind of drinking that leads to purging, he couldn’t quite understand the psychology behind my binge-drinking. He was also surprised at how calm I was about describing what is, in essence, an issue that occurs with greater-than-desired regularity.

And it got me to thinking about my psychology of drinking. I certainly don’t claim that this is relevant to anyone else, nor even 100% of the time for me, but I think it goes some of the way to explaining some of the factors that lead to my episodes of excess.

1) I never want to miss out on ‘the fun’. I am an extrovert who thrives on social interactions and seeks validation from others. As a result, there’s a desire to be part of the action, part of the team, part of ‘the fun’. As a kid I never wanted to go to bed, and this has barely changed in the subsequent decades, when ‘the fun’ goes even later into the night.

2) Alcohol has been fundamentally incorporated into my concept of ‘the fun’. When I was growing up, I was geeky and uncool, and had to try hard to be part of the group. This extended to trying to curry favour by volunteering my parents’ spirits for the group’s rocket fuel (basically a concoction of as much alcohol as you could steal from each bottle of spirits without it being noticed, mixed with coke). When the said rocket fuel was being consumed, I felt validated: a factor in the group’s collective enjoyment and a key contributor to ‘the fun’.

Then, when I moved out of home, I didn’t even really drink. Not only that, I couldn’t stomach the taste of beer. But when you live in a house with 6 uni-students, a whole lot of time, and seemingly endless cartons of booze, well, you adapt. A house full of 6 good friends is rarely quiet at the best of times, and there’s an odds-on chance that someone will be up for a tipple on any given day. After living with parents for 17 years, this was a revelation. And while we didn’t need alcohol to have a good time, more often than not, it was there – ubiquitous, free-flowing… fun.

This has carried on from share-house to share-house, throughout university, to my year overseas, to the UQ beach volleyball club, and even to Friday after-work drinks. If something fun was on, you can be sure it was fuelled by beers.

3) I don’t want ‘the fun’ to end. If I suspect you’re near the end of your night (or your leash) I’ll be the one offering to buy the next round. If it keeps you here, I’ll buy the next 3. I quite simply don’t want ‘the fun’ to end. I don’t want to go home and watch a movie/ read a book / do my taxes. I want to stay here with you, drinking beers, and having ‘fun’. It doesn’t seem to matter that we’re getting obnoxious, that enjoyment levels are dipping, that we’ve burned through dollars… Let’s not stop, and lose ‘this’, whatever ‘this’ is… (I largely expect that ‘this’ is me feeling part of something, part of the group, part of ‘the fun’… My validation loop is complete, and fuck it… I’m riding this bad boy until the hangover comes).

And this is where it all goes downhill… This is where we don’t eat; where we switch to spirits; where we could be responsible for hefty RSA fines if anyone ever bothered to open their eyes. This is where the night goes from ‘a couple of quiet ones’ to vomit/tears/or worse…

4) There’s no shame in it. I revel in telling the stories – the time I passed out in front of Maccas after tearfully calling Storm to come and pick me up, throwing up when we got home, and falling to sleep on the tiles in the bathroom in a distraught bundle of confused human emotion… I’ve told that story, multiple times. I’ve told the story about last Friday night a few times as well… As though there’s some honour in it. As though I’m somehow cooler for having spent half an hour talking to my shoes in my backyard. What a fucking hero… And the funny thing is, people groan and empathise, or quietly listen and don’t sympathise. No one says “don’t you think you do this too often, too hard?”. No one says “you’re a fucking idiot man… you should try and sell your vomit because lord knows you paid enough for it.”

I feel there’s something in this, in terms of social normalisation of behaviours, but maybe that’s for another time/place.

5) I have like-minded friends. I don’t binge drink alone. That should tell you something.

So there you go. These are my preliminary thoughts about the psychology of my binge drinking. I’d be happy to hear thoughts or objections. Hell, throw some solutions into the mix if you’d like.

Conversations with Aliens…

Last night while washing up and keeping my hands away from the frigid cold, I got to reflecting. When you boil things down, strip them back to their most basic elements, human life can be pretty humorous and absurd. The thought was brought about by the upcoming Wimbledon final, with the winner sure to secure a lucrative payday, both fiscal and reputational. For what? Hitting a thing over another thing into a space.

I’ve been following the trades in the NBA during the free-agency period. Chris Paul just committed to a contract of $107,000,000 over 5 years: $411,500 a week to put a thing into a thing, or help 4 others near him do so.

And I wondered how would you explain this to an alien that had no experience whatsoever with human civilization. How could you phrase it in a way that it made sense that a thing-hitter or thing-putter earns insane amounts of money (a valuation of self-worth or value to the species?) compared with someone who does what their counterparts in most other species do – nurture, feed, support and/or keep others alive and well.

And as always with a rambling mind, it started getting silly…

How would you explain the idea of a doorman? Is his value and currency inferiority? He opens a door for people who are perfectly able to; all they have to do is place a hand on a surface and push! Is his sole purpose to conspicuously advertise to his clients that he is not as good as them, to let the world know that these people have no need for the low act of door pushing!?! And the absurdity is he probably earns more than people that bathe, feed and open doors (among many other tasks) for people that aren’t physically able to…

There are so many jobs, roles and activities that descend into this odd realm when broken down to their base. I can go into the gym and do 2 hours of solid weights with a final outcome that the weights are in exactly the same position as they were before. My take away is that I will soon be able to move bigger and bigger weights around before returning them to the same spot! Is that not quirky?

I guess there’s an implicit valuation of ‘enjoyment’ – living vicariously through sportspeople, being part of a community, an increase in self-worth, a physiological response, or combination of these. But suffice to say, we are odd creatures… I mean, is the entire porn industry built on the enjoyable physiological reaction we get from orgasm? That’s a lot of money for a happy feeling…

You can’t spell Homer without ‘meh’

‘Meh’…

It’s descriptive, succinct and entirely encapsulates the feeling / moment / apathy in just one syllable and three measly letters.

It can be written, spoken and probably even gesticulated without vocal articulation – an underwhelmed shrug of the shoulders or sideways puff of apathetic air between bored lips.

But did you know, that every time you mutter or scribe it, you’re giving a metaphorical hat tilt to one Lisa Simpson (well, at least her non-fictional creator)?

If Wikipedia is to be believed, and so help me God you shall believe it(!), the term has come into common usage via that cartoon family from Springfield, IL, with its first airing being in 1992.

16 years later, it was added to the Collins English Dictionary, and is now also resident in the Oxford English Dictionary – that lexicographic leviathan.

Perhaps non-coincidentally, the rise of the internet has seen a massive increase in mehness, currently 69,900,000 pages’ worth to be non-precise*. Given that we all now have a voice, and we all experience Mondays, rainy weather, and post-lunch food coma, is it really that surprising?

In the States, NY leads the way; whereas, in Australia, WA is the land of ‘meh’ (surprisingly, NT doesn’t even show – likely because they’re too busy eating mangoes and sinking piss to wait for the dial-up to connect 😉 In Canada, Ontario is king – presumably with the utterance ‘meh ay’…

Funnily enough, worldwide, Trinidad and Tobago leads the way, largely due to the song “Come to Meh” by Iwer George (which upon first listen I can attest that I came to ‘meh’ without too much prompting…)

The mehnanigans could go on and on and on and on… but, seriously, why bother…?

Bleh…

* This includes non-English phrases which include ‘meh’, for example – Lontong Cap Go Meh: a dish of rice cake served with either chicken or vegetable curry, a fusion of Chinese and Indonesian cuisines; or the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office (Miniszterelnöki Hivatal (MeH)).

In other news, I’ve updated my post, To Wale, wail or not to whale…

To Wale, wail or not to whale…

There are terms that seem to live almost exclusively in the realm of written or verbal communication, with limited crossover between the two. I very rarely hear the terms ‘recidivism’ or ‘ethereal’, for example. I rarely see the word ‘tracky-daks’…

I think informal and conversational ‘write it as you’d say it’ communication through social media is increasing the cross-over from verbal to written, especially with regards to slang terms – ‘farking’, ‘ca’an’ (or ‘carn’), and ‘jeebers’ for example, but I think there are a range of euphemisms, sayings and terms that just aren’t written that often.

One that got me to thinking was the term ‘to wale on’. I’m sure some of the older folk – those that copped a cane or two perhaps – may be well across what a ‘wale‘ is. But I had limited exposure to this form, especially compared with its homophones.

So when it came time to write it, I didn’t know what to write. In fact, what I’d always thought to it be – ‘wail’ – was WAY off the mark…

If you were to ‘ask the audience’, using Google-Fu as a guide, your ignorance would be affirmed rather than countered. A simple Google search for the three terms shows:

“To whale on” – 1,100,000 pages
“To wail on” – 744,000 pages
“To wale on” – 76,000 pages

The imagery around ‘whaling’ or ‘wailing’ on someone is kind of comedic, but if Google is to believed, they will likely persist in being the most common forms of the saying – simultaneously…

Are there other examples of lesser known homophones being the correct term, but where another, more popular form has taken precedence? Or was I in the minority with my acute ignorance in this manner?

UPDATE:

I’ve thought of one other case ‘champing at the bit‘ and some near-cases (thanks Steph for being a wily one).

“Champing at the bit” – 279,000
“Chomping at the bit” – 15,900,000

“One foul swoop” – 518,000
“One fowl swoop” – 477,000
“One foul sweep” – 387,000
One fell swoop” – 2,120,000

“While away the time” – 2,390,000
“wile away the time” – 746,000

Some Observations from my Hot Desk

My boss took this week off for a bit of well-earned R&R following a pretty stressful end to the year. The way she managed the handover and delegation of tasks, however, has led me to make a few observations:

1) If you know that you’ll require someone to take on a range of tasks on your behalf during your absence, meet with them well in advance. Advise them of the nature of the tasks, any potential change in circumstances (if the tasks are based on previous work), the anticipated steps they’ll have to make, what information you’re likely to send through and any issues that may arise. This will enable them to prepare themselves for the tasks they’ll be required to do and allocate time and effort accordingly. Two people do not necessarily approach tasks in the same manner – this is the realm of automatons. Sending through 15 emails in quick succession with the assumption that the information contained therein will be clear, and required steps elucidated, is not helpful. Without any prior knowledge, the information is not parsed in a logical and practical way, likely resulting in inefficiencies.

Moreover, do not do all this the afternoon before taking leave, just prior to saying that the tasks must be undertaken as a matter of urgency, preferably on the next work morning. What if contexts have changed, or background information provided is incomplete or out of date? Is speed or accuracy more important?

2) Undertaking a portion of a task prior to handover is often worse than leaving the entire task to the delegate. Every task, whether implicitly or explicitly, has a number of steps and sub-tasks that must be completed to ensure systematic completion and correctness. By undertaking some of these steps, but not all, you create uncertainty as to what has been updated and what remains to be done. Again, two people do not approach the same task with the same process and so seeing that some sub-tasks have been completed can lead to an assumption that the entire task is completed. Alternatively, if you can only hand over a partial update, at the very least, provide information as to what remains to be done.

My case was fairly simple – providing Australian Visa Application assistance to potential short course participants – but quite frustrating in any event: we were utilizing a new process for African participants, visa processes had changed in some but not all countries, I was going in knowing nothing of these visa shenanigans, and the background emails were like drunken trains of thought – all over the place and with a fair degree of assumed knowledge. Lastly, the visa support letter we were providing was incorrect in terms of dates and some course titling. While I should’ve done a better job at reviewing/verifying the information, my assumption that it was correct (due to its partial updatedness (not really a word)) resulted in having to resend letters to all parties – both inefficient and a little bit ‘amateur hour’.

Example aside, I think the principles are valid. And your subordinates will thank you… well probably not for the extra work… who wants extra work!?!

An audience member reflects

I’ve seen a lot of dance in the last 3 and a bit years. In fact, you can take that back further as I saw a relatively large number of hip hop performances and (the end of) classes when Storm was based at MadDance.

I’ve seen the full range of student works and showcases, from raw first year pieces through to the big graduation show. I’ve borne witness to an increase in ability, flexibility, maturity and performance quality, in both the physical and mental sense(s).

I’ve enjoyed (and suffered through) a number of professional works as well, and most recently have had the privilege of watching my newly-graduated friends (and loved one) mould themselves to the desires and whims of upcoming and established choreographers in a series of creative developments.

Not bad for someone that has less than an ounce of sober dancing ability/inclination…

I occasionally joke that I should become a dance critic, to ensure that my occupation is, at least in part, symbiotic with Storm’s dance trajectory. Or better yet, learn to compose music for dance pieces, using hitherto undeveloped musical (and computer) skills and patience.

But writing about dance is hard – it’s ephemeral, dynamic, highly variable – depending on the performers’ mood, or yours – subjective, interpretive, self-indulgent, and not always malleable into a world of words. To be a critic is to know, be involved, informed, opinionated, insinuated in a world of dance… and dancers. At the same time, in order to critique it is necessary to lose many of the elements of being a casual audience member – a lack of knowledge and preconceptions, a casual apathy towards the finer details, an absence of the need to manufacture/force/share an opinion.

And on the absence of any evidence whatsoever – and judging purely from what I’ve read from local food critics – there’s a foreboding sense that with criticism comes a inflated sense of self-importance, a (perceived) bestowal of the title of ‘Arbiter’ of good and bad dance. Fuck that…

But on the other hand, if I’m gonna be doing this for the foreseeable future, then maybe I need to ask Dance “What have you done for me lately?!?”

Now where’s that drum machine??

Hacked and Shackled

Ahh, the frustrations of being hacked… The relatively simple oversight of some boring internet hosting protocol and bam!, your website is offline (again)…

So (once again) I’ve flogged the dead horse, pumped away at some last-ditch CPR, and breathed some life into this silly little venture.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to restore all of my old posts – including my legendary (Indian) Man from Snowy River Munnar tribute and have taken the opportunity to tweak the layout… opting for white and simplicity over black and busy.

Hope you like it, and get some enjoyment from >1 pieces of future weblogging…

Cheers…