Monday, April 10, 2006

Brighton PierThe only thing worse than a Muzaked Greenselves is...

James Blunt. A tinny, oddly static ridden version of James Blunt. ...riding high-e-i... All our operatives are busy helping other customers. You call will be answered in _ _ 3 minutes _ ...I want to die-e-i...

Thank you Orange. And does anyone find there's something a bit different in Orange's AVR? When I first rang to top up my credit (and ta muchly to my brother for leaving a long rambling message on my voicemail, which killed off my credit before it finished) it wouldn't let me through. It didn't say the system was busy, simply that my call could not be processed at this time.

The next time round it let me in, to join the Blunted upon in the queue of doom. But it takes such an unusual tone. Instead of saying the standard "all our operatives are busy, please hold" followed by endless rounds of "your call is important to us" or "we value your call", Orange use [and this isn't verbatim because I've just met my new flatmate and already I've forgotten his name] something along the lines of "All our operatives are busy helping other people. If you would like to wait until one becomes available, please stay on the line. If you do not wish to hold, please hang up and try again later"

I think the reason it sounds so odd is that it allows for the option that people might not want to hold, and that hanging up and trying again is a valid action. So many automated systems bark endless commands at people in which everyone sits in a queue obeying the system. Please press one. Please enter your four-digit security code followed by the hash key. Please hold while your call is transferred to an operative. Please... Thank you for your call. Please hang up.

But not with Orange. Not only do Orange banish the BT standard "Please hang up", which most systems will bleat endlessly once you reach the end, but Orange use "Thank you for calling. Goodbye" as the connection is terminated. I'd imagine it would be annoying if something went wrong and you ended up there prematurely, but while the system vaguely works, a slightly curt woman hanging up is much better than being instructed to do something which should be instinctive.

So how long do we reckon it'll be before I post another "I've forgotten my four-digit security code yet again"? Will it be before or after I forget my Amazon password and have to invent yet another account due to their astounding ineptitude (just look in the archives; unable to offer password assistance comes up every month).

All this is my way of saying the highlights of the weekend haven't been quite as dazzling as they might.

Thursday was the disk-skipping greatness of Spirited Away (seaweed girl, who is becoming a permanent fixture in my flat here at Pebbledash Towers, although that's probably because if I kick the radiator we could communicate between our respective residences via plumbing Morse). Disk-skipping in that certain chapters of the DVD lead into the beginning of that chapter rather than the next chapter. This was followed by discovery that no map of Shanghai matches any other and despite having lived in Shanghai, seaweed girl can't navigate her way round it (well, not using the satellite images on Google Maps anyway).

Friday was the Tate and non-feeding parentage (how dare they coax me out with the offer of food and then eat before I get there?).

Saturday was the Grand National chez seaweed, followed by the Grand Narration as I try to explain the finer points of the Second World War, the First World War, The Napoleonic Wars, a few illustrative wars going back to 1066, a bit of stuff before then, some Roman stuff, the American War of Independence thrown in just for shits and giggles, the shifting roles of the English Monarchy and Parliamentary system, international monetary systems and economic theories, the role of consumerism as a driver for colonialism and the potential for private companies to govern, the military imposition and protection of trade, the wealth redistribution activities and mechanisms available and used by populaces, the role of xenophobia and isolationism in European cultures and its economic and political impact, the inherent fallibility of soviet collectivism (yep I know that's tautologous) or communism in the face of greed, laziness and jealousy, the demonstration that communism is not a ecologically sustainable strategy if the occurrence of capitalism is permitted, the role of black markets in maintaining the appearance of communism, the effects of fluidity of capital and labour, the relatively recent development of a multitude of individual nation-states, other knowledge cribbed mostly from the same book, oh, and a poor joke about Earl Grey which might have worked better if SG knew what it was.

I've forgotten what she originally asked about, but I have a hunch she didn't need quite so much detail. But cultural stuff is quite had to do with getting into politics, economics and the history of the nation, and once one gets into history, there's just so much of it, and it's nearly all linked. Actually I remember what her first question was about; which is the best Coldplay CD?

After that came the joy of grabbing food rapidly while changing out of deckshoes (one thing at time would probably work better) and then the hurry to the shops before they shut. Which of course means discovering that Morrissons close at 10, but have barricaded the doors early, and Sainsbury's, where we arrive at 10, also shut at ten, have someone paid to stand in the door saying not-today-thank-you. So why do they stay open until midnight on a Monday, but 10 pm on Saturday?

So instead we ended up Tesco's Metro; Small Shop, Big Prices, where I sought out the reductions buried in fridge. Went out to buy bread, milk, vegetables; came back with apples, kiwi fruit and milk. As I walked back with SG munching her way through half a Hovis (why buy half loaves?), I discover the daft girl has only eaten apples all day.

Then back to email various people, including a random pesterer, who quite churlishly admits he has no intention of stalking me (not that I want, or was even suggesting such a thing, but it was a case of "what's he got that I haven't". Apparently the answer is elusiveness. I reply to emails and comments, and er... he's him. But to borrow the CofE slogan, that's ok too. Oh, and Dan, as MQ mentioned it, we weren't saying anything bad about you, merely noting that you're fairly wary of people [based on our huge sample of two]. Basically I still want to know what happened last year to upset you some much, but have never dared to ask in case it reupset you, or made you notice just how nosy I really am [hey, you've seen the nose, so you can't really blame me. I know that makes as much sense as phrenology, but, well...]. I know making someone's ears burn is a bad thing to do, but we weren't saying bad stuff about you, and I was still struggling to figure out how to handle someone who apparently had taken a sudden interest in me and you were common, neutral ground. But I'm not sure why I'm writing this because I don't think you read this anymore, although if I'm being honest [well, prentending to be] I'm probably not trying my hardest to encourage people to return. For a start this should be at least three paragraphs and this post should be many. And I'm still writing inside brackets).

Other random communications include discovering that Hobart is stuck in timewarp (literally apparently), and that the Gujarati for stupid is sal+suitable_vowel and that swearing in Gujarati basically consists of calling things stupid.

Sunday included the joys of going shopping, only to discover Morrissons shut early yet again, followed by a nine-penny bonanza in Sainsbury's, which included free (buy two for a pound, was 69p now 19p, automated discount) hot cross buns. Yep, I went through the self-scan thing just to ensure no self-important matriarchs could overrule me this time. By the way, what does one do with Jerusalem artichokes? A small case of "I've never had them before, and they're cheap, and they do look reassuringly like potatoes".

This was followed by an examination of various CDs purloined by SG from one of her flatmates. They included Crash, a few obscure films, the Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy film, a documentary about Israeli actions in the Gaza strip [NTTY], some random Greek stuff, and both series of Fawlty Towers.

So we watched Crash. Some films deserve Oscars, some just win them. Oh wow, racism. Oh look, they're all racist. And watch this really funny bit where the guy who is a rapper in real life slates the current state of hip-hop (which would have been really funny if I'd know this at the time rather than inferring it from the presence Ludacris [a subsidiary of Ludicorp] in the end credits. But as when he was on screen I tended to think "someone ought to tell him he needs to shave" rather than "ooh, he's famous", possibly I'm not quite the target audience). But oh look, they're all brave, noble, compassionate humans in the end. Merry Christmas one and all!

Even the traditional snowy ending was predictably not quite what it seemed, even though we'd already got there (and how can a car produce that much ash? Plastics don't burn like that). But hey, it's really cunning, because the film's called Crash and it's raining ash, so all we need to do know is figure out what the Cr means. Maybe it's missing an -ap.

So a not very in depth look at racism in Los Angeles, and not very entertaining film tacked on the side. About the only thing it did was reawaken an uncomfortable feeling, which resulted from something someone once wrote in the Guardian. It was written by one of the playwrights (I think he's a playwright) who pops up on Newsnight review; Kwame something? Anyway, someone with vaguely African ancestry. He wrote about the ingrained racism demonstrated by people on the Tube. When he, a black man, gets on, people automatically move their bags closer to them, which is apparently a sign of their deep-seated fear of black men.

My initial response to this is "don't be daft". Yeah, people probably do move their bags, but that's either so he has somewhere to sit, or so he doesn't fall over it (or at least stand on it and damage the contents). It is not necessarily a marker of latent racism. Except, now that's someone's written it, and that thought has got into my head, I now have to wonder. The next time a black guy got on the Tube, I moved my bag closer to my feet. I know I did it because otherwise he would have to step on it to get past, but I don't know what he knows. Does he see me as considerate, removing an obstacle of him, or as someone shrinking in fear while girding their loins; the latter actions borne of inner terror of those who are different?

Have you ever tired to function when afflicted with such doubt. If you move the bag you're a racist. If you don't move it you're challenging the guy to accept it or do something about, which is an extremely agressive approach, and if it differs from the reaction a white guy would get, then it's racist. And if you flinch towards the bag, but then leave it, that means you're either trying to hide your racism, or deciding that guy's only black, so he's not worth the effort of moving it. So everything you do is racist. And if you stop carrying a bag, then there's probably someway that can be construed as racist.

Gee, thanks Mr Grauniad, for damning me at every turn.

Oddly, my brother read the same thing, and had exactly the same paralysing reaction. Well done the G. Now instead of a nation of people who might include some racists, you've now got a land of paranoia and some racists. And surely if the writings of one man manage to induce a sense of panic in people whenever they sight a black man, well that's generating racism, isn't it? It's causing people to react differently to someone simply because of the colour of that person's skin. So one short, sloppy article manages to become a tool for promoting what it claims to be against.

And that's what Crash felt like. The suggestion that every woman who entwines herself with her husband is secretly afraid in the presence of a different race will only serve to add doubt to, and thereby manipulate the behaviour of, those most likely to be concerned anyway.

It's that manipulative - and what would it take to make you a racist; are you sure you aren't already? - tone which irritates me. Well done for upsetting the bluerinses, and if upset them or made them think (it doesn't matter what the thoughts are, just that they occur) it must be good, right? Oscaroony.

Watch it for the good-looking men (and I include Ms Bullock in that category), nothing more.

Yeah, so um, instead we nearly watched HHGTTG (or H2G2 - that still going?), but I dug out the Radio 4 original first. Half an hour of that and SG decides maybe she'll do the original first. The other option is the latest Harry Potter, which we skip as we've both only seen the first one. So instead it's onto my DVDs, and the only example of Hugh Grant.

Yep, we watched the film with the worst line in cinematic history - Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed - Four Weddings and Funeral, because apparently it never reached Shanghai. Strangely it was just a tad more enjoyable than Crash, which can't all have been the KST factor.

Although I hadn't seen it for a few years, and had forgotten (maybe never noticed) just how manipulative Carrie really is. But the most interesting part of the film, which wasn't actually in the film, was SG, as the weddings pictures flash up at the end, asking "is he a homosexual?"

Oh boy, has she got a lot to learn. Another not noticed before; the heavy use of how-gay-are-they extras at the funeral. I know it's a rom-com, but does it have to be so blatant?

And now is quite late, so I'd better stop.


Aww SG sounds cute.
And did you like Spirited Away? Subarashi des neh?

And Guardian guy, do you mean Ras Kwame? As in the Radio 1Xtra presenter?

suggestion that every woman who entwines herself with her husband is secretly afraid in the presence of a different race
Having seen Crash when it came out, I dont have as fresh a recollection of it, but I didn't think it suggested that she was afraid because he was a different race. More like because he was a perv who wanted to sexually assult her.

Ms Bullock - eugh, so wooden, she can't act to save her life.
SG Cute: as cute as rabbit in a saucepan. Actually she gave me a chocolate rabbit today, and told me it looked like me, which I take to mean I have one floppy ear.

Spirited Away: Yes, I did, but I haven't foggiest what SDN means.

G guy: No, it was Kwame Tiddypush-Something. Kwei Armah?

But the character who comments on says something like "she's walking along and when she sees a black guy, suddenly, then, she gets cold".

But the film's not worth arguing about.

Bullock: Wooden? No, it's method acting, only she thought she was playing an Ent.

WV: issoh.
Lol, can't stand her.

SDN - Nihon for Cool isn't it!

And thats nice of her to give you a choc rabbit. And someone who eats apples all day and is generally a little lost (for want of a better word) is cute.
Hmmm... think I'm glad he doesn't read it any more. Hope I haven't upset you as much as this post suggests I might have! :-) but would also appreciate you not posting quite so publicly about things I say or think in future... if you see what i mean. Thanks! :)
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