A Short Month Of Health and High Water

Now it’s February  I can let you all in on this month’s resolution. (For those wondering, January’s resolve to touch my toes is progressing millimetre by painful millimetre). You always hear tell of how people went on detoxes and cleanses and how it made them feel so good and new and practically bionic with vitality. I think these claims are, to put it bluntly, bullshit. Yet for the sake of science (and perhaps certain internal organs) I have decided to refrain from drinking, smoking, red meat, and junk food for the month of February. Instead I will be dedicating myself to a month of exercise, green leafy things, fancy teas, remaining hydrated with bucketfuls of water and juice. It’s going to be exactly as much fun as it sounds.

While some of you may think me hasty, I remind you that February is the shortest month and that my suffering will last a mere 28 days. Part of me really wants to give this all a go so I can tumble out the back end of the month no different than when I came in, but now equipped with scientific data (paltry though the sample size is) to reinforce my long held belief that alcohol et al. have few longer term effects on me shy of liver damage in my 50s. Granted, I entered February with my body pumping nicotine, gin, and vodka round my system but I did need a bit of a last hurrah before swear off such pleasures.

Perhaps I will begin to feel somewhat better. There is a myth amongst men my age that whatever we put into our bodies will do no harm. While that might have been true back when I was 18 and never got hangovers despite knocking back two bottles of wine in a night (sweet youth where hast thou gone?), there comes a time – perhaps around graduation* – where your body begins to behave like everyone else’s. Not to mention the study that concluded that smoking makes your hangover worse. No shit guys. Why waste money researching that when you can just ask me on a Sunday morning? And contrary to popular belief, I can put on weight – I’ve just become a master at losing it (which I know y’all hate me for but the trade off is that I’m a human radiator and I feel like a nuclear reactor as my body burns off all unwanted saturates within a day). So in some ways, deciding to skip life’s little pleasures for February might have a couple of upsides.

Oh come on I’m not all that bad. Worse than some of you perhaps, but that’s your sad life choice, not mine. I honestly don’t understand why people don’t drink all the time (now there’s a sentence that’s going to bite me in the ass) It’s fun, it tastes yummy, and life gets a little cuddlier when you’re sauced. Not to mention that it comes in all sorts of pretty colours and shapes. I know why some people don’t smoke but when people ask me why I do the answer is simple: “I enjoy it”. And none of you can tell me that stuffing your greedy little faces with a late night meat feast pizza isn’t fun. Pizza is a pure circle of joy.

Farewell sweet, sweet vices. I shall miss you all terribly. Perhaps it is fitting that February 1st is also the Satanic New Year. It’s going to be a hellish month at any rate.

*Some part of me believes that stepping onto the stage to collect your degree binds you in a secret magical curse that makes you get fat and have trouble specifying realistic life goals.

Year Of The Sloth

SlotPretty sure this year’s going to be a slow year. Sure, some crazy stuff will happen around the world, old diseases might be cured, new ones panicked about, some people will get married, others won’t, and blah blah blah. But for me, it’s going to be a slow burn, perhaps even a slog, to December. Not that  waiting for things is necessarily bad, I’m patiently holding out for baby Prince George’s emo phase that I hope is due in about 15 years.

Now I’m not wanting to make this a negative year, I’ve come to detest negativity for negativity’s sake, but rather due to the fact that impatience runs strong in my family, I (perhaps along with my siblings) will find that 2014’s developments come at a slower pace than I’d like.

Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle and the fact that I am all but surgically attached to what’s happening in the world (this is different to what’s happening on the streets (streetz?) – I usually catch up to that four years too late) and who’s shooting whom, and why tax X is wrong but tax Y is a vital social necessity and all that boring politicobabble, that I just want my life milestones to arrive within 2014’s first quarter so that I’m settled down by the fire with a husband, two kids, four novels written, a sinfully large paycheque, and a rock solid pension fund by mid-July.

As it happens, precisely 0% of these goals are currently on the horizon, or even in the works. Sure there are plans in my head, but there are also plans for the first habitable spacecraft with synthesised gravity floating about* up there somewhere and I’m not quite sure how to move things from the cranial ether to the real world. As one person put it “I think I have too many tabs open in my brain, and I can’t find the one that’s playing that awful song”.

2013 moved rather quickly as luck had it. I was whisked off my feet then I zoomed round the world and had a marvellous time. Shenanigans left right and centre, firsts at every turn (first time in drag, first time cooking a roast dinner (complete with giant bird), first time being paid for things I wrote online, first sibling in law… the list goes on). I hardly had time to check my bags on arrival 12 months ago but I seem to have meandered into a more thoughtful year and have been randomly selected for the slower queue at the airport of life… this metaphor got away from me somewhat.

I’ve made a number of resolutions already but I intend to share them slowly and not announce them with great fanfare lest I fail so quickly. While I’m still of the opinion that new year’s resolutions should only be things that you enjoy (eat more cake, never refuse bacon, learn about wine etc) I have grown as a human being – and who saw that coming? – to enjoy things that make me better either in my body or my person. For example, one of my first resolutions is to be able to touch my toes by the end of the year.

While some of you may gasp at my apparent inflexitude, May I remind you that there is literally no obligatory activity experienced by the majority of human-kind that actually requires you to touch your toes without bending your knees. Yet on I must plod with such a pointless goal as I’m now yoga-ing on a semi-regular basis and blending it with snippets of Tai-Chi I’ve managed to glean from the shed-load of martial arts films I’ve binge watched. My plan is to be a bit of a Miyagi-lite by December and see if my new and elongated muscles have done me any good. If they have, then I may take continue in my vague attempt at health. Then again, wine calls.

*I totally missed this pun (or is it simply irony) on first typing but liked it so much I let it stay

Quarter Life Crisis?

im-adult-nowThe difficulty rating for waking up in the morning can be expressed as the following equation:

Where omega is my overall mood from the previous day, p and e are the people and events that I will see in the coming day (if I have anything planned) a is the ABV of my blood upon waking up, w is the number of hours I have to work that day and m is the money in my bank. There is an x-factor that I’m beginning to think is controlled by the phases of the moon multiplied by our distance from Jupiter when it’s raining in the Amazon with a bit of cosine thrown in for good measure, but I think this rudimentary formula suits the purposes of this blog.

I’m in my twenties, my mid-twenties even. It’s only a couple more years before I qualify for being made into a mediocre sit-com and only a few more before parts of my body start falling off. I know I’m not supposed to have it all worked out yet, and this is great because I most emphatically do not have anything worked out.

Oh I’m fine – honestly! I have a cushy job, I live with one of my best friends in the middle of an amazing city. I waltz out of my front door to this amazing view (no seriously, that photo was taken from right outside my front door), I am disease free, I enjoy immense privileges just for being an educated white male in a western country, and most importantly: I’ve discovered what types of wine go with what. Some people spend years hopelessly chugging Merlot.

But everyone seems to have some sort of plan, a scheme, a conspicuously full diary filled out with life things and targets. And here’s me being perfectly happy just rolling down the hill of life and scrabbling at daisies on the way to the bottom. Then again, that’s not even true is it? Well, I’m sure some of you are very planned out and organised – you’re probably the type of people who frequently check unimportant things like the oil levels on their car, how much their radiators need bleeding (in July), and whether or not they remembered to mail their tax return. Sure, some of you are settled but I get the feeling that the majority of us are largely not. Or at least we plan to be settled in a few years time but we’re just going to throw our arms up and say “wheeeeeeeeeee” for now. I am, obviously, talking to my peers in their twenties here. If you’re fifty, have kids, a house, a car, and still haven’t worked out definitively whether or not you like olives, you may have problems.

Why do we need a plan though? Isn’t a plan something the Baby Boomers did? As a whiny, self-centred, ungrateful Millennial (as Time magazine would love to describe me) I can just meander through this and hope the government (read: mum and dad) pick up the pieces right? Well, sort of. I don’t actually care about plans and ambitions and whether or not my pension will be able to cover my impending alcohol problem in my eighties; at least, I don’t care yet – I might do in a bit; but what I do care about is what I really want to do.

I just don’t know.

And that’s lie number one. I do know. I want to be any of the following: Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader (only if the previous two are taken), commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next, Magneto, Wolverine, Indiana Jones…

Seeing as all of those are weirdly unattainable, I think I’d rather be a writer. Like  a big writer. A writer of big things and famous characters. Someone who makes people laugh while crying. You know the type. But the road to there is a slow a tortuous one which I intend to plod along while I continue also doing other life stuff. So what to do while I actually live? Well who the fuck cares as long as I’m happy right? Right? I guess that’s the question that keeps popping up like a rigged fairground gamestand. Do I have to squeeze my life to fit other people’s expectations? I think not. To fit other people’s needs, even if they encroach on my own? Probably, but I can be a selfish twonk who won’t like it. To placate others? No, but it’s sometimes best to I guess. What about just to be kind? I think I quite like being kind – it’s like a drug and I should probably up my dosage. Then again, with questions like that, I generally begin to whittle down at whatever life I’d mentally sculpted and the end result is different and I’m unsure how I feel about that if I’m honest. And oh, look, I’ve just discovered the ancient philosophical battle between the self and other.

I like to hope that everyone drives through this part of mental road blockage in their twenties but some of you are just so damn smooth that you look like you’ve got it made. What with your weddings and your baby bumps and pictures of the above. However the internet repeatedly tells me that everyone is just as befuddled as I am when it really comes down to it; and I think I truly believe that this blog sounds incredibly like something that goes through each of your heads from time to time. Perhaps I simply needed to type it out to feel better about myself. And perhaps it can make you feel like you’re not the only one who feels like they missed the class at school where everyone was told how to do stuff and things.

I hope that if I’m to have a quarter life crisis, this is it. I don’t have the money to go buy a Porsche.

Incredibly Related Video Of The Day That Also Covers All Of This But In A Much Better Way Than I Ever Could:

Facebook: A Love Story

heart-facebookWhen this most social of all the social networks came out and we all piled on the bandwagon, we adored Facebook. 2007-8 were Facebook’s golden years of unbridled and unabashed fanboy love. Here was the thing we’d all not known that we’d been waiting for – the answer to days of boredom and the perfect excuse to put off essays. Long live the internet!

As the years went on, our marriage to Facebook deteriorated and now many of us are barely holding on and keeping up a pretence at affection. We openly cheat on the side with Twitter and Tumblr (they really know know to make us feel good) and spend the rest of our time resenting all the quirky little things that made us fall in love in the first place. Some have even divorced Facebook and gone to live in happier parts of the internet, like BuzzFeed.

I frequently see blog posts (not dissimilar to many of my own I might add) in which the blogger outlines the many ways to be insufferable on Facebook (that article truly is quite insightful) and we’re constantly reminded just how annoying people whose online “friendship” (that word is always in quotes) that we accepted of our own volition can be on this free internet service that we are in no way obliged to continue using. It’s torture, really, it is! It’s getting to the point that if I saw a Facebook status that read “Grrrr! I’m so ANNOYED at cryptic Facebook statuses!” I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not it was intentionally ironic or if it was an actual thing that somebody wrote in all seriousness.

But let’s just slow this hate-mobile down a tad shall we? Why do we still use Facebook if it’s just so gosh-darn shite? Yes, it’s useful for inviting people to events that they will passive-agressively click “Maybe Attending” to. It’s sometimes fun to revel in just how good your life is compared to that of that person you always despised back in school. And sometimes people post funny things (I mean, where else on the internet can we find such delights…). No, the truth is that we use Facebook because we like it. If you’re on Facebook right now, you actually like it. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be on it or it will have been seven days since your last login (bless them Father, for they have sinned). I do have friends who hate Facebook, and you know how I know they hate Facebook? Because they’re not on it. They’ve bitten the bullet, cut the cord, eaten the cake, and all other manner of bizarre idioms. The rest of us who are still here actually and actively enjoy the experience, it’s just that we’ve been told that we don’t or that we shouldn’t.

The internet has latched onto the small nugget of discontent for Facebook and informed us that Actually, We All Hate Facebook Now And Nobody On There Is Really Your Friend Except Maybe Your Mum (But Even She’s More Interested In Farmville). By blowing the slight grating of certain aspects on the site (and there are many little things that irk us) we are now reliably informed that although we must keep on using it, we have to hate it at the same time. Cyber-Sadomasochism at its finest.

The truth is, I rarely get that annoyed on Facebook. Even when people keep their wedding photos as their profile pictures for over a year, change them and even go back to the photos (we get it, you’re blissfully married, has nothing else developed in your life?) When people post endlessly about sport (Was anybody truly outraged by Gareth Bale’s transfer amount? Literally everybody knew that the day would come where a man would be sold for that much money). On Sundays when people Jesus the place up (seriously, it’s as if you’ve all been given God homework – “Go home and post a random verse of a hymn and you’ll get an extra acre in heaven” or something). Not to mention when people brag endlessly, complain eternally, or just wont stop posting pictures of their fugly kids. Honestly, it’s only moderately annoying. I’m a big boy, I can get over it. In fact, if you ever do something that honestly annoys me, I’ll either tell you, hide you from my newsfeed (who said Facebook updates were useless?) or just unfriend you. It’s pretty simple.

And yes, the people I have on Facebook may not be as engaged with my life as the friends I see on a regular basis but there’s a reason I added them. I to whatever extent am interested in your life and would like to know that you’re not dead yet and are in fact having a nice time. No, I probably will never see you ever again but at least we can enjoy the planet together and bitch about it on this website.

I Am Dying

ekg_flatlineWhoa there people, hold your horses.

Yes I’m dying, but at the same rate as you. Or at least I hope it’s at the same rate as you. Sorry for freaking you all out with my catchy title which is clearly only there to up my blog views which I obviously don’t care about…

I had a weird experience the other day and it’s stayed with me. I was waiting at the train station in Oxford and sat next to me on the rather uncomfortable metal bench was a soldier. A soldier in full soldiery get-up: helmet, camo, kevlar, the lot. The only thing missing was his rifle. He had with him two massive bags – the type you could carry two medium sized people (or oversized children), and I remember being glad that I never chose to go into the army as the mere sight of those bags made me blanch. Eurgh – hard work. Lifting. My hands are made for finer things, like writing snarky comments on my amazing new phone while being thousands of miles away from the hapless recipient of my wit. On the bags was the soldier’s name. I’ve forgotten the soldier’s real name but let’s just call him Harper.

I thought very little about him if I’m honest. I spared a thought for the guys I went to school with who subsequently went out to sandy places to shoot, be shot at, and disarm IEDs while advancing under fire (true story). I then promptly forgot about the whole thing and went back to listening to Bon Iver.

The journey progressed and we arrived at Birmingham, where I was to change one grubby train for another, even grubbier train. I stood, and down the other end of the carriage the soldier stood up and walked out. Exiting the door myself, I glanced down at the luggage rack and saw a massive bag in which one could fit a medium sized adult (or an oversized child). See where I’m going here? On the bag was the name Harper.

He probably left it by accident. Though quite how you’d forget a bag that big I don’t know. Perhaps it was ransom money and he was instructed to leave it on the train or his pet bunny would be slaughtered. I have no idea. But if you think that last suggestion sounded unrealistic, wait till you hear what my brain actually chose to believe for the next ten minutes.

In my mind, that bag – big enough to hold a medium sized adult (or an oversized child) in fact held a titanic sized brick of plastic explosive. My writer’s brain was in overdrive. Every action film I’d ever seen came screaming back to me in one massive download of “You’re going to die in a terrorist attack, a terrorist attack committed by a British soldier against this mass of the unsuspecting (and by the smell of them, unwashed) British public. You’re gonna die sonny!”

Was I ready? I quickly weighed up my options. I knew deep down that the chances of a massive bomb going off were about the same as me winning the lottery without actually buying a ticket, but the topsoil of my cerebral cinema at that moment was awash with adrenaline and what little testosterone my body could scrounge together.

When faced with the (utterly incredulous and entirely fanciful) possibility of violent death (or victorious stardom through helping people through the rubble!) my mind did a weird thing. It just shut down. All I thought was:
“Are you ready?
– Yup
– Really?
– Think so.
– Cool.”

I then emerged from my weird state of death-readiness and realised that there was no bomb, but instead I’d just watched a guy get off a train without his luggage and done nothing to alert him of the fact. In short, I was a dick. In my defence, there are so many announcements telling you to take your belongings with you, I’d like to think that it’s his own ruddy fault.

But encountering what my bizarrely wired brain interpreted as imminent firey death was a new experience for me, no matter how moronic. I was reading Reddit today and came across a story about a paramedic who was in an ambulance treating a guy. The guy was in pretty bad shape and sadly things got the better of him. His last words were “I feel OK about dying now, I’ve had a good life. I danced a lot.”

I’m happy I had quite a zen reaction to death. Had I panicked in any way I would have felt rather uneasy for quite some time. The fact that it fazed me not a whit makes me smile. I’d like to keep this attitude until the day I actually die. I’d like to be lying there and be able to say that I feel ok, I’ve had a good run, and that I danced a lot.

Might need to take dance lessons first though.

On Thatcher And Etiquette

Margaret Thatcher's papersMargaret Thatcher, the first and only female British Prime Minister is dead. There’s a saying I often hear in regard to Thatcher and it goes something like this: “Depending on who you are, Margaret Thatcher is either God or Satan”. I’m not a massive fan of branding famous people in such Marmite-esque diametric terms but it seems that with Maggie, this is somewhat true.

And so it can come as little surprise that on the occasion of her death, some people are sad and others are having a party with fireworks to, as one of my Facebook friends put it, rival the ending of Return Of The Jedi. The second of these reactions I fail to understand.

I mean, I hate just about everything that woman did when she was in power, and I was only alive for a year of it. I disagree on just about every point with Conservatives in general and Maggie was the greatest of them and so it stands to reason that I would quite happily happy slap her, but why have a party when she’s dead?

Now I’m not on a “respect the dead” rant because I struggle to logically justify that position. What I’m questioning is why people are partying now. Is Margaret Thatcher less of a political threat now she’s gone? Was she breathing threats and devising elaborate schemes to further impoverish the poor yesterday? No. The truth is, that Margaret Thatcher, an elderly lady who suffered from dementia, was no more of an influential figure alive than she is dead. Her time has been and it went many years ago. The party should have been in 1990.

You can whine about hurting her family’s feelings, or quote that you don’t rejoice in the death of anyone (though I find it hard to believe as I for one breathed a sigh of relief upon learning of the deaths of Osama Bin Laden, Col. Gaddaffi, and Kim Jong-Il) but the real mystery is why people are making this a bigger deal than it is. All that has happened is that a previously immensely powerful, influential, and divisive political figure who retired from professional life many years ago and eventually grew less and less herself due to illness, has finally and quietly ceased to be. The main show was over before I even knew there was a show.

Anyway, as much as I disagreed with Lady Thatcher’s ideals, I honestly have to hand it to her for being the first woman to smash through the glass ceiling, defy the patriarchy, and lead our country. That, ladies and gentlefolk, takes balls.

To Be Or Not To Be On The Internet

header 1I often wonder why we use social media. Well, aside from the obvious uses of keeping in touch with friends far away, organising events, and things of that nature. I mean, why tweet? Why write that status that you just know will annoy people and generate comments like bacteria swarm and multiply in a droplet of water? Why write a blog? Sometimes I think it all is simply a technological way of grabbing your friends, or indeed complete strangers from the internet, by the lapels and screaming “Love me! I’m important! Listen to my ground breaking opinions which I stole from somebody else!”

Of course, there is this side to things, and we are all guilty of such narcissistic technological sins from time to time (some more than others that’s for sure) but for the most part I think we can see why some people are like that when it really comes down to it.

But I find that the bigger question is “Why not?” Ok, so let’s all not ask why not when it comes to mind-numbingly moronic Facebook statuses; but when it comes to the question of whether or not to write something and put it out there, if you feel that you have talent as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this tweet “Be uprooted from the depths of my brain and be planted on the internet for all eternity”.

After all, how else can I fully enjoy this hilarious thought unless I share it with hundreds of other mindless internet pilgrims? That, at least, is how I choose to look at the world. I write because I can. I tweet in the vain hope that you find me as funny as I do. I blog because I have bugger all else to do with these words in my head. Yes, I appropriate phrases and sentences from other people to use in my writing (if you didn’t notice, I ripped off both H.G. Wells and Jesus in this one) but as I see it, art is made to be shared. In the words of our great and glorious king Oscar Wilde: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” Oh, and if you ever find a typo in my writing, it’s because I’m following another maxim from a literary giant: “Write drunk, edit sober” – Ernest Hemingway

Yet, for all this, there are just some things on the internet that we simply do not understand: