The Internet Is Tricking You

19 Feb
Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

You may have arrived here because you like Benedict Cumberbatch. That’s fine, no reason not to, just because he once refused to share a cab with me, claiming he was allergic to my perfume. I don’t hold grudges; if anything, I pity him if it’s true that he can never enjoy the smell of lilacs (though I wonder if he’d have been so insistent had he known the bottle of scent was given to me by Terence Stamp).

Regardless. Here’s the thing. You won’t find anything here about Benedict Cumberbatch (excluding the anecdote above, obviously). You were led here under false pretenses. Because, my dears, the Internet is lying to you.

I am terribly sorry to be the one to tell you about this.

Now let me ask, what do you think of when you think of the Internet? What visual image appears in that little head of yours? Perhaps it’s a big ‘ol mess of wires connecting countries on a map. Wrong. That’s not the Internet.

Maybe you prefer to think smaller and simply picture your own little device whenever you think of the Internet. I like that you’re keen on synecdoche, but I’m afraid that is not appropriate either.

If you insist on my suggesting a concrete image for you, I’d have to say the Internet is most like a big ass, fire breathing dragon. Not unlike the dragon in those Hobbit films (hold on there, didn’t one Benedict Cumberbatch provide the voice and motion capture for that dragon? Oh my, it looks like I’ve accidentally mentioned that name again!). Anyhoo, get your mind off him for like two minutes of your life, please, and listen up. The Internet is a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm who is fucking with your head, even as we speak.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used like this. Unlike you, he doesn't have any choice.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used.

Every time you “log on” to the Internet, you are giving away a little piece of your soul. This most frequently takes the form of your privacy or your self-control. And what’s worse is that the Internet is trying to trick you into believing you want to do this. In most other circumstances (excluding the minds of many high school male athletes), this kind of trickery would be considered criminal coercion. Not so here. The Internet can get you to do most anything it wants you to by almost any means whatsoever (say, by misleading you into believing you’ll learn something new about Benedict Cumberbatch).

It’s a dirty business really, and we should all be ashamed of participating it. I know I’d be ashamed if I weren’t so sure the stats for this blog post will be exponentially higher than any of my previous ones. That’s the thing: at the moment, most of us are pretty happy with the situation. We may lose some things because of it, but we gain others. Yes, our personal details got hacked but we were able to buy something from Target without having to actually go to Target, so it’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?

I’m not suggesting you stop using the Internet (in fact, why not subscribe to this blog? I won’t even ask for your mother’s maiden name). I’m not even suggesting you stop telling strangers your mother’s maiden name, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

All I’m saying is this: be aware of what’s going on and the role you’re playing. The Internet is using you. Google is aware of that purchase you just made. The NSA knows you. I know they know you because yesterday when we had lunch together, your name came up in the conversation. It’s likely your identity will get stolen, your sex tape made public, or a good year of your life lost to Candy Crush Saga. Tread carefully.

The fact that the dragon’s got a voice that gives you fizzy knickers shouldn’t permit you to forget that ultimately what he wants is your gold. Or your soul. Both of which you should remember are the precious (yes, I know that’s Gollum, but work with me here, people, I’m trying to make a point).

Valentines, Schmalentines

14 Feb

I for one do not partake in this ridiculous “holiday.”

The reason for this is primarily that I do not trust the concept of romance that it forces upon us. Think of the men you see professing their love in adverts that are shown this time of year: bringing a woman flowers, buying her jewellery, actually listening to her when she’s speaking—all because they’re just so much “in love.” It’s baloney.

Now I’ve known a few men in my time and I’ve certainly seen many who claim to be in love. Back in the States, a gentleman in my intimate circle would often go doolally when he first met a new woman, professing to everyone he could find that he was madly in love. We all knew that when he uttered those words what he really meant was “I have met a new woman whose soul I can destroy,” for shortly after the “honeymoon” period of his new romance, he began systematically draining the life out of her, all the while complaining that she was no longer the girl he fell in love with. After witnessing him play this scene out with at least thirty-three women over the period of two years, I finally suggested he look into becoming a cowboy because that’s a lifestyle where breaking the spirit of another creature is a talent that is truly appreciated, but he claimed the chaps chafed him. I’ve no doubt that whatever filly he is romancing this February 14th will find herself crumpled in the corner of her room crying “What did I do to deserve this?” within a few months.

Now before you worry that this is a tirade against men, get it very clear in your head that it is not: the problem is so-called romance, not men. Despite the fact that statistically men are more likely to be the ones who ruin relationships (which has certainly been the case in every single one of mine), I’ve not got a word to say against them as a gender. Some of my best friends have been men. I don’t doubt some women can be mean and cruel as well.

Before you get yourself dolled up to the nines for your Valentine’s dinner, I beg you to pause for just a moment and consider your true feelings about your alleged paramour. When you look into his or her face, what is it that you really feel?

Do you feel grateful for all they have given you?

If so, that’s called being a whore. It’s a viable career choice for many, but don’t confuse it with real love.

Do you feel a flutter in your chest?

These are palpitations and can be an early symptom of coronary artery disease. Instead of seeing a date movie, you should be at your GP surgery, getting a cardiac catheterisation.

Do you feel safe and/or comfortable?

If so, please be aware that, according to the American Psychological Association, 74% of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners. Make sure you have an escape route planned is all I’m saying.

If you have answered the question honestly and are still one hundred percent convinced that what you feel when you look at your partner’s face is honest-to-god true love, then go ahead and go out to your romantic dinner. You’re clearly living in a state of denial, but who am I to judge?

No Raccoon Has Ever Lied To Me

2 Feb

Raccoons-bite-baby-sleeping-in-cribI’ve never seen a raccoon in England. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re furry grey animals with fluffy tails. A bit like squirrels except less squirrel-ish and more raccoon-ish. Their most distinct feature is the black mask across their face, making them look like fluffy bandits. Cute! What I like most about raccoons, though, is that they are incredibly trustworthy.

This may come as a shock to you, but as a child, I lived for eight months in Canada. My mother led me to believe that this location change was due to my father’s draft dodging. Alas, I was too young to realise that not only was the draft not enacted at the time, the US was not even at war. Nonetheless, to this day, I still see my father as a conscientious objector, and I look back at those months with great fondness.

One afternoon I decided to head out for a long walk in the Canadian wilderness. I went out with one of my brothers (or sisters, I don’t remember exactly, and does it really matter?). We hiked through the woodland, making small talk and pausing frequently for me to capture nature with my Kodak Instamatic.

It was mid-July. While most of us tend to think of cold when we think of Canada, I can assure you it was well hot. After an hour or so, my brother (or sister) and I were regretting not bringing drinks with us and decided to head home. However, we had lost our way and raccoon-wallpaper-10-752390neither of us had a compass with us. As we were plotting out our plan back to safety, I noticed a little raccoon with her kits in a nearby tree. I stood up to take a snap (even in times of danger, I am committed to my work as a documentarian) when I swear the mother beckoned me towards her. I cried out, and she and her babes scuttled down the tree and took off. We ran over to where the raccoons had been, and spelled out in pebbles at the root of the tree was the word “wow.”

“What do you think it means?” my puzzled sibling asked me.

I walked slowly around the message. From a different angle, it spelled out “mom.” So I determined that the raccoon was either directing us towards something worth seeing or leading us to our mother. Either way, we decided to follow and took off in the direction in which the animals had fled.

We quickly caught up with the raccoon family, primarily because they had thoughtfully stopped to wait for us. Again the mother used her little paw to urge us forward. As we made our way through the trees, we began to hear the sounds of a waterfall and then of gleeful laughter. We were almost home safe!

As we rounded a corner, though, it quickly became clear that we were not at the Whitt-Wellington homestead but rather the raccoon had led us to a park for nudists. My brother (or sister, whatever) and I stood transfixed as we watched the nudie grown-ups frolicking in the water, lying in the sun and bending over to pick flowers. For a few moments, we were frozen in our tracks. Then, we turned our heads away from the spectacle and saw the raccoons running away, so we followed again for quite some time until we ended up behind a police station. We went in, our folks were called, and eventually we got home. Neither my sibling nor I mentioned the nudists to the cops, our parents or each other. That day I learned what a naked man looks like, and all I could say was “wow” (read whatever tone you want into that). The other thing I learned was that raccoons can be trusted.

I bring this up today because it is 2 February, also known as Groundhog Day in America. In Pennsylvania, a whole bunch of people get together to listen to a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil predict Groundhogs are Liarsthe weather. (If you’re not familiar with groundhogs, they look nothing like raccoons.) If Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring is coming. The problem is, of course, that groundhogs are notorious liars, and Phil’s predictions are usually wrong.

Don’t go to groundhogs for your information. If you want the truth—however harsh, wrinkly or dangly it might be—a raccoon will lead you to it. If you want to know the weather, however, simply look out your window.

Cruel To Be Kind

3 Jan

picklesMy dear friend Alice Wintergreen seems to have gotten herself in a pickle again. She really does have a knack at that, which is both charming and maddening as her pickles always seem to correspond with needing something from me at a time when I just don’t have much energy left to give (yes, dear readers, I am not perfect). However, once again I came to her rescue, despite the fact it meant that I was unable to listen to a radio programme to which I was looking forward all week. Why must I always be the good friend? I suppose it’s my curse.

Alice spends each Thursday afternoon at our local library. She calls it her “me time” and claims that she uses the hours to look at the newspapers, read aloud to the children’s group, and peruse the biography section. However, Christopher (who, on occasion, has witnessed Alice in action) tells me that what she is actually doing is what his mates call “cruising.”

Now, as you know, I’m not one to sit in judgment of anyone’s choices, and certainly not the choices of a dear friend whose poor taste in lovers has left her bereft of gentlemanly company. More power to her, I say. However, participating in this kind of activity can have its consequences and had led to the pickle in which Alice now finds herself within.

What it boils down to is this: she has caught the favour of a certain man about whom she says she would rather kill herself than sleep with. Apparently this man is a nice enough sort, and she doesn’t wish to hurt his feelings in any way. But she definitely does not want to sleep with him (nor does she want to kill herself), and it is over this that she has been crying at my kitchen table for the past few hours.

Per usual, my advice was thoughtful, correct and succinct: shut the fucker down.

So many of us are taught that other people’s feelings matter and far be it from me to suggest that they don’t (but they don’t). The truth is that when we try to “spare another’s feelings,” we rarely do so. Instead, we drag it out, making things better for neither party. When we delay being honest in an effort to be kind, we risk one of two things: being weaseled into doing something we don’t want to do – or – hurting the other party even more

Let’s examine those two options more closely. When I was younger, I briefly went through a stage, as most teenagers do, when I thought “Sod my parents’ millions, I want to make it on my own.” I therefore sought employ with a telemarketing agency (I had a seductive telephone voice even as a youth). The first rule we learned was keep them talking. The longer we could keep a person talking, no matter how politely they were rejecting our sales pitch, the easier it would be to finally reel them in. If Alice were to sit down with this man and try to soften her rejection with a drawn out explanation, I don’t doubt her evening would end with the dreaded walk of shame. Sadly, I say this out of personal experience. Even clever people like my good self can be talked into changing our minds after a while. If only I had heeded my own advice, I could have avoided that Maryland jail time for Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices. I guess sometimes we’ve got to learn the very hard way.

However, the other possible consequence of “trying to be nice” is making it a thousand times worse for the other person. How many times does anyone need to be told “I would rather eat glass than go to bed with you” before they finally just step in front of the #3808 at Trenton Transit Center? The answer is surprisingly few, I found out to my dismay (rest in peace, Homeless Tim).  Sugarcoating a rejection is like sugarcoating cyanide: they’re equally destructive but at least cyanide kills within seconds. Injuries from being hit by a train may lead a person to linger at death’s door for weeks.

If we’ve learned nothing from the Jerry Springer Show, we’ve learned that putting one’s hand up to someone’s face and simply saying no is the cleanest way to break off a relationship.  Yes, there may be some shouting and a few chairs broken over the audience’s heads, but it is still the quickest and most morally correct way to deal with the situation.

Merry Christmas, Peeps

25 Dec

Christmas

I hope your Christmas day is gorgeous, darlings.

 

Happy Christmas Eve

24 Dec

vintage_fruit_cake_ad

 

I hope you’ve got all your shopping and cooking all finished and can enjoy the evening drunk off your asses, as Jesus intended!

What Your Christmas Card Reveals

19 Dec

Christmas_Mailing_1921_0When I was a young girl growing up in Trenton (NJ), sending Christmas cards was a good citizen’s duty. Thanks to an overzealous mayor with good intentions but a serious drinking problem, mailing cards was actually required by law for most of my career as a child (which at least gave the ACLU something to do over the holidays). The tradition was less about Christmas itself and more about community building — reminding friends, family and neighbours that they were in our thoughts during the season of giving.

Sending holiday cards is a rather time consuming act, which explains why it has fallen out of favour these days. We live in a world where the only loved ones we’re willing to invest more than ten minutes at a time in are spouses and young children, and this is usually only done to preemptively build evidence for a subsequent divorce/custody court case. I confess that I myself have not sent cards this year; it’s not because I don’t care, because you know I do (especially about you, yes, you). Unfortunately, my address book includes more than two thousand entries and I’m conflicted about giving that much money to Royal Mail now that it’s been privatised (and last year Christopher sprained his tongue licking envelopes and I will not go through that trauma again).

However, there are still a few hold outs who maintain the tradition, and I say good on you. Nowadays, we have more options about the types of card that can be sent and the one you choose says quite a bit about you. You may think you’ve chosen the prettiest or the cheapest, but you are actually revealing some essential aspects of your self-identity. Let’s have a look.

EMAIL CARDS

These say you’re a modern person, you know how the Internet works and you’re not afraid to use it. However, this choice is also quite impersonal because it’s likely you’re copying and pasting the same message into every one you send. While I’m sure the recipients appreciate the thought, it’s bound to sting a little that to you they are clearly just a name on a distribution list. That’s especially hurtful to those out of whose body you came (according to my brother who received a rather spiteful voicemail message from my mother last week).

CARDS PURCHASED FROM CHARITIES

These say that you are a giving, compassionate person who, rather than volunteer your valuable time or make a substantial monetary donation, will only contribute to a charity’s work if you get something in return.

RELIGIOUS CARDS

These show that you are serious about the birth of Jesus Christ which implies one of two things: you are a Christian, which is fine, though you should be aware that these cards will probably not be on display on non-Christian fridges. I mean, think about it — would a good Christian like yourself hang up a Ramadan card with Mohammad’s face on it? (This is a trick question, by the way.) The other possibility is that you are a Fox News viewer/Daily Mail reader who is committed to fighting the war on Christmas. If this is the case, well done you. You’re a twat.

FUNNY CARDS

These show you don’t want to get all heavy during the holiday season. You hope to keep it light — give people a smile. You just want to share your sense of humour because you are a hilarious person. I mean, you’re really funny. Really. Why you’re still on your own, I don’t doubt you’ll never understand.

HOMEMADE CARDS

Fine, you’ve got artistic talent and the luxury of the funds to purchase supplies and the time to waste gluing crystals onto cardstock. Everyone is very envious of you and your charmed life.

FAMILY PHOTO CARDS

BradychristmasIf you’ve had an addition to your family this year (a baby, puppy, housekeeper, etc), it’s entirely appropriate to share a photo, especially with those people who live far away and have yet to meet the new family member. If you’re just showing off your newest plastic surgery results, it is significantly less appropriate.

ROUND ROBIN LETTERS

These, I’m afraid, never make you look good. They are impersonal and no matter how hard you try to make them seem otherwise, they are essentially just a Wikipedia entry for your experience this year. As such, they are likely to be awkwardly worded and full of inaccuracies. They are also usually typed out and no one should be sending typed letters to their loved ones: unless you’re sending a ransom note, you should take the time to hand write things. Cursive writing is preferable.

Of course, I’ve already received examples of all of these this year. I try to fireplacesee the positives in everything so I focus more on the fact that the senders have remembered me and less on the obvious flaws in their personalities. As the cards are delivered, I’ve hung each one along the windowsills, as my mother used to do. Unlike her, though, I do not plan to rip them all down in a drunken, bitter rage on Christmas Eve and throw them into the fire.

Another Innocent Victim of Ignorance

1 Dec

I made the mistake this weekend of venturing into the city to pick up a few bits and bobs for the upcoming Christmas party season (I always feel it’s polite to arrive at a do with a dish, gift or floral arrangement that is equal to if not better than anything the hostess has prepared). I cannot say I enjoyed my trip out. I’m not going to bang on about the commercialism of the holiday season, for this has been done ad nauseam elsewhere by people more qualified than I to pass such judgments. Suffice it to say that I agree we should all be less materialistic. However, I also know that people will indeed continue to spend money at the holiday season so instead I would like to speak for a moment on what I see as a terrible injustice. And this is the unfair marketing of other precious stones over the beautiful emerald.

EmeraldNow this may seem a small example of villainy in a time when wars abound and bad people are continually doing bad things. And I suppose it is. But I have always believed that inequality at any level should be challenged and therefore I have nominated myself to this role of advocate for a jewel that cannot (and should not have to) speak for itself.

I cannot comprehend why emeralds are so often overlooked when one is shopping for jewellery. Rubies, of course, are red which we all know is the colour of whores, so why anyone would buy one of those is beyond my comprehension. Sapphires are a dime a dozen. Amethysts are pretty but I’m afraid have just too many new age connotations. Pearls are disgusting—do you know how they are created? I am not going to even pretend that an opal is precious, now that’s just silly talk. And I bet you’ve never even heard of a spinel, have you? Diamonds get serious press coverage, what with their inclusion into a deck of cards and their support from Miss Elizabeth Taylor. However, need I remind you that having violet eyes does not automatically qualify one as an expert in gems? Surely, something as important as a jewellery purchase should not be influenced by some celebrity’s opinion. Besides Leonardo DiCaprio once told me that there are some pretty dodgy dealings behind the diamond trade. What’s the worst that could happen when purchasing an emerald—a leprechaun might get his wings?

This leads me to what I think is behind this exclusion. Racism. Pure and simple. When people think of emeralds, they don’t think of their exquisite colour, their glorious clarity or the lovely way they set off a woman’s décolletage. They think of the Emerald Isle, and they want no part of it. Now it is not for me to judge whether theIrish are bastards, what with their ginger hair and penchant for overindulgence. That is for God alone to judge. As you know, I am an open-minded woman who abhors bigotry. This is why I beg those of you who are considering purchasing a piece of jewellery for a special lady this holiday season to put your petty prejudices aside and consider the emerald.  And to remember that my ring size is 4.5.

Please don’t let hatred spoil my Christmas morning. Is that too much to ask during the season of peace?

Make A Little Effort Please, People, It’s A Holiday For Christ’s Sake

28 Nov

Dorothy Parker said gratitude is the meanest and most snivelling attribute in the world, and she makes a good point.  In fact, that’s probably the simplest explanation for why I’ve never married: there’s little less appealing than a person who can’t stop telling everyone how thankful he is to have me in his life. Restating the obvious does get tiresome rather quickly.

That said, I think more obnoxious are the people who can’t find a single thing in the world to be grateful for. Right now in America, I don’t doubt there are millions who, having wept over their TV turkey dinners, are watching King Kong and wondering why they are alone and miserable on Thanksgiving Day. The smiling faces of families at the Macy’s Parade, the constant commercials for Black Friday sales they cannot afford to take advantage of and the piles of empties lined up on the kitchen counter only serve as evidence that there is nothing for which they can give thanks.  You know who you are (my guess is if you’re online reading this instead of spending time with loved ones, you are probably one of the saddos of which I speak). Pull yourself together and try a bit harder.

Everyone can find something to be grateful for this holiday, if you really put your mind to it.  Out of the goodness of my heart, let me offer some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Be grateful that fluffy little puppies exist
  • Be grateful that modern dentistry uses anesthesia
  • Be grateful that your hair is still full of bounce (disregard if you are bald)
  • Be grateful that shards of glass aren’t a dietary staple
  • Be grateful that you do not have to have a boil on your eyeball lanced
  • Be grateful that Dina and Michael Lohan are not your parents (disregard if they are)
  • Be grateful that your suicide attempt did not leave you alive but essentially a vegetable

See? With a little effort and imagination, you will be able to find something that makes you can appreciate. If all fails, be thankful I took the time out of my busy schedule to write this thoughtful message. I don’t do this for my health, you know.

My Final Word on Men’s Facial Hair

11 Nov

I am sick of being asked about this.

At least twice a day, someone contacts me via telephone, post, email or “tweet” to ask my advice about men’s facial hair. While it is an important and complicated issue, I’m bloody sick of addressing it. So I am going to do it one final time: this is it. Pay attention and take notes because I shan’t be saying it again.

Cleanly Shaved Face:

This is an ideal option for very young and very old men. Because the whole hair-on-the-face-thing is new and fascinating to young men, they tend to want to show it off; however, wearing a sparse moustache or beard indicates their newness to puberty, and for legal reasons, women find it less than appealing. Also, many employers refuse to hire young men because they think they are stupid and lazy. Because both are likely to be true, shaving one’s face can counteract this by showing one is bright enough at least to maneuver a possibly deadly weapon and take the time to do a nice job.

The primary issue old men have with hair is that it is disappearing from their head and sprouting in their ears. Shaving their faces helps them hold on to some kind of control.

Moustache Alone:

In my heart of hearts, I would never suggest that any man wear a moustache but no beard. It’s shameful.

Beard Alone:

Too many men refuse to consider this option and therefore it is ideal for a man who wants to stand out among his peers (without going overboard, see below). It’s ideal for men with especially fanciable lips, those in artistic professions or those trying to unite a divided nation. I personally find it strangely alluring.

Moustache and Beard Combo:

“Hide your flaws” is a famous beauty maxim: all butt ugly men should keep as much hair on their faces as possible. Luckily, others can wear beards and moustaches so the presence of a lot of facial hair doesn’t necessarily indicate a hideous face underneath. In fact, particularly good looking men are encouraged to let their facial hair grow for at least one month out of the year, as long as they permit women to stroke their faces the day they shave it off.

This choice is also appropriate for men who like adventure, those who live in cold climates, and those who have lost their hands in tragic farming accidents. Generally, this type of facial hair should be kept tidy and relatively short, though men with nubs needn’t bother about that.

Unusual Variations:

The only men who wear bizarre facial hairstyles are complete geniuses or utter twats. If you think you’re a genius, you’re likely a twat so you’re safe either way.

Why I’ve tired of addressing this issue is because ultimately there are three things that should guide a man’s choice about how to shave this face: his god, his partner and his common sense. Apparently if he’s lacking all three, he turns to me. Aren’t I the lucky one?

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