Apocalypse Later

IMG_8471I don’t know if I am handling the fake end of the world in the best way. Firstly, because all I have done today is eat soup and watch The Big Bang Theory, and secondly, because if it isn’t fake, boy will my face be red. Fortunately however, no one will be there to call me on it, because we’ll all be too busy being sublime. In a scientific way.

Oh well, I’m handling it better than last time – apparently the world ending happens at 12 year intervals. New Year’s Eve, 1999, ten-year-old me stood in a marquee wondering why all the adults were enjoying finger food and bubbly drinks when Y2K was hours away from consuming us all whole.

I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen, but the facts available led me to know this:

  1. The media were talking about it all the time, so it had to be true.
  2. It had something to do with computers and their internal clocks not being able to change to 2000. Instead we were all going to be sent back to 1900. At least in terms of computers. A time in which computers did not exist, thus creating a SUPER PARADOX which would cause all the world to dissolve into a series of numbers and pieces of string and as a result I would never get to see how Sailormoon ended.
  3. People were selling bags of air, one of which a girl brought to school and took great delight in stamping on, so somehow Y2K was going to rob us of oxygen. And money.

My ability to be sceptical about the whole thing had taken a blow one year earlier as the clock clicked over from 1998 to 1999 and I turned to celebrate with my lovingly nurtured dinosaur Tamagotchi, only to find the screen blank. The horror.

As a result, I was expecting big bad things when midnight came. Instead I was met with an overwhelming wave of nothing happening whatsoever at all other than the advent of a decade no one knew how to refer to in shorthand, and a downfall in the quality of television.

Back in the present, however, so far New Zealand and Australia have “survived” the “apocalypse” but if we apply logic to this situation (much like applying peanut butter to a shoe), it’s not over until the calendar hits the 22nd of December in the Americas. Except for the fact that the Mayan calendar doesn’t match up with ours anyway, so never mind.

Maybe the destruction of the earth is a lot more insidious and nefarious than we thought. Maybe it’s just biding its time. In the form of reality television. And “intelligent” Facebook “debates”. And Instagram.

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Addiction, Money, and Stargate

Earlier this year I moved out of home and over to Melbourne, bringing sewing patterns without a sewing machine. This is a list of five things I have since learned. 

1. Going to the supermarket is like descending in to the moron zone

Being within a walking distance of a Woolworths seems to have convinced me that I am above making a shopping list. Because I can just go whenever I need something, the voice of arrogance makes mental note of what I’m missing (generally something like ‘vegetables’, ‘cereal’ or ‘shampoo’) and then handily converts it into “buy three more of that thing you already have”, or “oooh tea is on sale, even though you don’t have any sugar, honey or milk”. Or simply “teevee snacks”. At one point I had all of the tomatoes in the universe and three boxes of cereal, two of which were the same, but no rice, potatoes or any other kind of nutrition.

2. Mi Goreng is most likely constructed from at least 70% Cocaine

You decide you don’t need it. A month goes by. Then your housemate buys some, and you think – “haven’t had that in a while.” Next thing you know there is a black hole in your memory, but you’re surrounded by empty packets and half used bumbu, wondering why it feels as though your intestines have corroded. You decide to cheer yourself up with some Mi Goreng.

3. Furniture is expensive.

How is it that people have tables? And chairs? Some of which apparently belong together in a matching thing called a “set”? I have a bed and a desk, the latter of which was a pity trade from my housemate for the one I got off Gumtree for $20 which turned out to be half the size of my room. As I tearfully sat on the floor holding a saw, debating whether to use it either on myself or the monstrous beast of a desk which could have been used to invade Troy, he came in and switched. Also all my clothes are still in a suitcase. It has been four months.

4. It’s ok to sometimes be a Nigel No-Friends

I don’t mean this in some deeply symbolic way. Literally, you can go to cafes, movies, anything alone, and it can be awesome, though when it is 9pm on a Friday night and you are getting a table for one at the local pho place, accidentally add too much chilli and as a result get teary and sniffly, people aren’t going to be impressed at how much spice you can handle. They’re going to think you were stood up.

5. There is such a thing as too much Stargate

It’s cold, and sometimes you don’t feel like going straight to bed. Having powered through Game of Thrones, Suits and True Blood, I finally settled in to my long-planned watching of Stargate from Season 1 through to Season 10. I’m not sure what happened, but apparently around Season 4, the writers got attacked by the IT MUST BE LITERAL police and started writing episodes such as “Watergate” (about a Stargate leading into water) and “Double Jeopardy” (where the team’s doubles get into jeopardy.) Fine. I’ll just go to bed.

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Secret Pedestrian Wars

I can actually be quite competitive which is problematic for a number of reasons. This list starts with my abject failure to understand and partake in any kind of sport other than croquet, and ends with my tendency to spasm out at crucial moments – a pattern which makes me a less than desirable partner when playing Operation.*

It’s not a huge deal – and I’ve come a long way since I was in primary school. No longer do I cry when I lose at Chinese Checkers – instead I hold back the hot, burning tears as I add your name to the list of people who have bested me. No more do I insist on rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal for the Tournament of Minds performance – only to realise on the day that none of us actually read the guidelines. The days of professing I don’t need trivia assistance as I get trapped behind the final door in Encarta ’95’s Mind Maze are over.

No. Now I let my competitive streak out in bursts – namely by secretly racing other pedestrians.

This is rewarding for two reasons. Firstly, because it is secret, noone knows when you lose. Except for yourself – but you can just handle that with a whole lot of negative self talk. The added bonus of you being the only one knowing that the race is happening means that the other person won’t be trying as hard (which could only ever serve to strengthen the validity of a win) and you get to determine what the prize is.

Spoiler: the prize is always getting the the traffic lights first. Sometimes with additional strange sideways glances when you are mysteriously beaming with triumph whilst everyone else is just sad that it’s raining.

Secondly, you get to pick your opponent. Much like the lion on the hunt, the easiest approach is to separate out the slow moving in the pack. Winners (and by winners, I mean likely losers) are generally those laden with shopping, the strutters, and small children. Though children are a wild card in that they sometimes break in to runs. Or gibberish. Sometimes both. Damn their vim and fitness levels. For extra fun, actually pretend you are a lion. Why bother holding on to any vestige of mental health at this point?

Sometimes though, it is good to challenge yourself. Pick a real contender. It is at these moments, when I am levelling off with a woman dressed smartly in a suit and stockings, but who has thought ahead to wear sneakers, that I believe I am not alone in doing this. Our eyes stare, unmoving at the red man, willing him to change. Jaywalking is a disqualifiable offence, and we both need a win. The traffic stops. Time slows. Her eyes flick towards me. I know. She is racing too.

Green.

If this were some kind of dramatic short story, I’d leave it there. However, really it always ends in one of three ways – 1) we get to the next stop, and pretend we were never racing 2) I trip over in my uncoordinated enthusiasm or 3) One of us gets to the next stop first, it is red, the other catches up, we silently rage out about losing the lead, and then realise that this isn’t actually the amazing race, there actually isn’t a finish line and we should probably not be twelve years old anyway.

I miss Mind Maze :(

*Themed board game joke. How humerus.

Artist note: we did a unit on ‘perspective’ in Year 7 Art. I never scored higher than 6/10.

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Magic is the Only Explanation

Sometimes I accidentally delete things, then gleefully exclaim “prior incantato!” as I press ctrl-z. I also like to shout ‘LUMOS’ as I switch on a light switch. Or whisper ‘mishchief managed’ when I exit google maps.

The reality is that a whole of brain science goes into making these things happen. Behind every button or mouse-click many numbers are happening (or, more accurately, two numbers are happening a lot of times). Someone, somewhere, somewhen sat down and figured this stuff all out.

I know this. I know that putting your ear to a shell doesn’t connect you to the sea, and by the same token, that putting your ear to a phone doesn’t physically transport your friend’s voice into your house – or your auditory apparatus to the bathroom they’re pretending not to be in. But holy crap, technology is complicated, and sometimes it’s just awesomely fun to pretend the remote control is a wand*.

I don’t really have a physics and electronics mind. My most recent  technical accomplishment was building a bed on my own despite the very child-friendly instructions putting an aggressive cross through the picture of one amorphous gender-neutral blob; instead prominently displaying a picture of two identical blobs happily standing over a pile of planks. I’m not capable of mitosis, but I set to work, and, after a few hours, and an invisible thumb bruise, I was embarking on a celebratory nap.

Thinly veiled need-to-boast aside, my point is that when it comes to things like music storage, computers, cameras and television, the science doesn’t click. Records hold music based on the different patterns of grooves they have in their surface and using this technology, people have been able to make music from slices of tree trunks. Light shining on what seem to be identical discs can play anything from Belle & Sebastian to ‘The Best of the Kotsuzumi’.

There are so many steps to make everyday things happen, it’s easier to believe it is just magic. Hey, maybe it’s all just one huge conspiracy where secretly no-one actually understands it and wizards are just sneezing on water and that’s where electricity comes from.

Riddikulus.

*how do I have friends?

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Music: a Weapon Against Time

When sports day rolled around each year, we had compulsory try outs. I’m not athletic. I can’t jump very high. I’m extremely clumsy – I broke my arm tripping over a speed bump. So, being forced to simultaneously run, breathe and jump hurdles, all roads would inevitably lead to death. Or at the very least, diabolically grassy head injuries.

Fortunately, the rules recognised the existence of severe n00bs, and as a result, factored in an “out”. To this day, I still struggle to get motivated. Making it past hurdles, literal or metaphorical, is difficult and so I take the same approach now that I did then; running a brief distance, stopping, kicking over said hurdle, then casually strolling over it while the real participants sprint ahead, collect their coloured ribbons and move onto the softball throw.

Unfortunately, this approach when applied to all manner of tasks is flawed, in that it is a) slow, b) the epitome of not really trying, and c) a path you can be easily distracted off of. Also, when you get into the metaphorical, some hurdles just can’t be kicked over.

Essentially this post resulted from me trying to write my review for The Avengers, putting on music, and then not being able to form anything other than nonsensical mongrel sentences consisting of part lyrics, part drooling over Joss Whedon. Music, particularly the new, unfamiliar or violently catchy is the hurdliest hurdle of all. So, instead of being properly productive, I have compiled a list of the top 5 songs  which render me incapable of doing simple tasks.

1. Masquerade, from the Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack
Really I’m incapable of doing anything when any Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack is playing as everything just becomes disproportionately epic and intense. I chose this one though, because so much is going on at every point in Masquerade; it’s made up of about ten conversations and the whole piece sounds like chandeliers dropping. It becomes impossible to do things like ‘rage out about Firefly’ or ‘shop’ because reality seems less real.

2. Moskau, by Dschinghis Khan
A Hungarian Eurovision band siging about Moscow. Main singer dancing athletically whilst dressed as a young Santa. Enough said.

3. Walking In The Air, from The Snowman
I actually don’t really have jokes about this song. Because it’s all poignant and things.

4. Du Hast, by Rammstein
This song distracts attention one of three ways. Either you’re feebly attempting to resist violent, pain-inducing head-banging, kidding yourself that you remember sufficient German from your year 9 Deutsch class, or your subconscious has forced you out of your room, into your car, and on your way to Rivers to clean up at their apparently never-ending t-shirt and fugly womens’ shoes sale.

5. Walk Like a Man, by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Makes me stress that the song is making me actually walk like a man, much like  Stayin’ Alive makes me walk like a douche. Also makes me picture Robert Downey Junior and think about Ghosts. Which then branches into either Unchained Melody or Heart and Soul, the latter of which ends in a doom spiral, as I don’t actually know how it ends. Triggers non-stop mental playlists, which then devour all my time and productivity.

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Two weeks off work? Why not kill a Polar Bear!

I think we can all agree that the Eiffel Tower is passé. Thinking of Pompeii  – yawn. The pyramids? It’s been done.  Family holidays are all too samey and bland. None of your friends want to see the shot of you ‘holding up’ the leaning tower of Pisa on your weekly slide night.

Thankfully there is another option. Quietly hiding in the background, and only known to those willing to seek it out is a holiday full of adventure, masculinity and Shakespearean implications. Canada. Polar bear hunting in Canada.

There are limited opportunities in Australia to kill large things, stuff them, and display them in a lounge room as a furry, animal shaped symbol of status and, at a stretch, virility. Sure, maybe you hit a kangaroo that one time, but the bumper mark in its neck doesn’t scream “pride!” to your neighbours and admirers, and using buttons for its eyes just somehow detracts seriousness from your kill. You could maybe join a “fox” hunt, but nowadays it is just a bunch of horses chasing a trail of aniseed left by a bag, and you don’t get the warm glow of seeing a pack of dogs tearing up a defenceless animal.

So, if you have a few thousands of dollars spare, hit up the internet. Googling “Polar Bear Hunting Canada” will get you at least three websites offering this service (just go right ahead and ignore those pesky ‘animal rights’ groups bitching on about things they don’t understand).

Ten seconds and a fleeting glance over the first page of results on Google and I had already found three different companies offering hunting treks. I emailed one, just to see if there were any international limitations, and within the hour received a reply saying, not at all. The only limitation is money.

So far, so good.

Canada has an open door policy on any international visitor wanting to hunt in their country. Indeed, this policy isn’t limited just to polar bears. If you’re super keen, you can extend your experience to hunting musk ox. As you will see, this option is also more thrifty. In the email response I received, I discovered that for a mere $50CAD, one could have a hunting licence, there is a place “available for a 14 day hunt in mid-April” and that for a $35 declaration you can even import your own firearms! If you want to keep what you kill, you simply pay a “trophy fee” of $1500 for a polar bear, and $300 for a musk ox. Excellent.

As an added bonus, the email I received included two attachments. One was a list of costs (very reasonable), and the second was a ‘happy customer’ story.

Written in the same style as a child’s piece on their trip to the zoo, it detailed a hunting trip with such complications as “rifle malfunction”  and the bear “turn[ing] the tables”. It explains how “[the hunter] was tickled to death with the hunt and his trophy and realized how lucky he was”, and concludes with “of course, the moral of this story should be obvious. Your equipment, firearms, clothing & gear must be of the best quality, tried and tested.” Naturally!

Accompanying this delightful story that any person would be insane to not want to replicate were various pictures of moustachioed men holding rifles as they knelt over the limp carcasses of their trophies. The men wear white jackets, white hats and broad smiles as blood drips from the bears, through their white fur onto the white snow. Bliss.

Yes. That’ll teach Steve to laugh at my bumper bar damaged Kangaroo.

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Beards as a Coping Mechanism

In life, inevitably some people are going to be mean. Or unfair. Or just plain terrifying.

Sometimes this will take the form of a person stealing your parking space despite your indicator blinking furiously. As the realisation of this injustice dawns on you, your car’s face changes, the indicator morphing from a cheery ‘here’s where I’m going!’ into a crazed, homicidal tic. Other times, as happened to me once in year three, it will manifest itself as an angry note handed to you in class. I’m not exactly sure what I’d done to warrant the initial insult, but my self-declared ‘worst enemy’ was probably even more inclined to call me a “beach” after I’d corrected her spelling and grammar.

Either way, I learnt early on that it isn’t really a socially appropriate response to immediately kick someone in the shins, invite them to the Thunderdome, or to aggressively cry at them.  So, you instead have to turn to coping mechanisms.

What school wanted, at least at one point, was for us to go to that week’s ‘class mediator’ and calmly explain our problem. The mediator would then look at it from a detached point of view, and help us work through our issues.  Good in theory, though in reality this plan went much the same way as ‘the class postal system’ and ‘the friendship seat’.

I’m not sure exactly what prompted it, or when it started, but over time I developed my own way to cope with irritations, injustices and people who were just douchebags. You can’t really take physical measures, or even a lot of the time, verbal measures, so what that leaves you with is psychology. So, I would simply picture whoever it was with an outrageous beard.

For the most part, it worked well. The more ridiculous or flamboyant the beard, the better. If you’re going home after a hard day of someone telling ridiculous lies or stealing your half white half blue eraser it’s hard to dwell on it if the perpetrator is sporting a magnificent handlebar moustache with accompanying goatee. Similarly, having a dubious “out” called on you in an intense game of chasey matters significantly less if ‘It’ is half hidden behind a Gimli beard.

Sure, it came with a few side effects. Inappropriate laughter could occasionally happen, and it was best to do it only transiently, lest you get that prolonged glazed eye look which makes people nervous, but otherwise it was a fairly harmless coping mechanism.

It doesn’t work anymore though.

I have a few theories as to why. Possibly the hilarity of mental beard-addedness was compounded by the fact that I went to an all-girls school and so facial hair wasn’t really a thing. Secondly I have since finished school, and am now (physically) older than 12, and as such:

a) know people who aren’t female
b) some of these people have beards.

Sure, outrageous beards are still hilarious, and I still enjoy the World Beard and Moustache Championships as much as the next person (the next person being Captain Jack Sparrow). Normal beards however, have become just that: normal. So, now ‘Beards as a Coping Mechanism’ is not such a winning technique.

It lapsed gradually, so as yet, I haven’t replaced it with anything. However, as I suspect ‘42’ for once isn’t going to help me here, I’m strongly leaning towards Star Wars for inspiration.

So, flash forward a few months: to the man who just cut five places in the line next to me – I’m not staring at you. I’m starting at your Amidala-face.

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Hugo: putting the meta in metaphor

Much like Samwise Gamgee, I have missed the boat. However, instead of the Frodo-populated boat of world-weariness and angst bound for the hidden world of the Elves, the boat I’m left waving off into the distance is the one for Academy Award opinion and rants.

However, unlike Samwise, I’m not going to settle in to life as Mayor of Hobbiton (mostly because I like shoes and would get claustrophobic living in a hill). Instead, I’m going to rant and rave with the same level of passion I put into singing Simon and Garfunkel songs in my car.

What I really want to talk about is ‘Hugo’. Whenyou have Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and the girl who saidthe C-word in ‘Kick-Ass’ together in afilm directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s hard to know what to expect. ‘Hugo’was always going to draw in the audiences, even those mistakenly expectinga Saruman vs. Gandhi showdown. It was also always going to rake in ALL of theplaudits. 

Based on ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’by Brian Selznick, the story follows Hugo (Asa Butterfield) the orphaned son ofa clockmaker (Jude Law) who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. Hisfather dies, leaving him with an alcoholic uncle and a broken automaton; aclockwork man who when repaired should have the ability to write.

Scorsese’s first film in 9 years to not include Leonardo Di Caprio was nominated for more awards than I could fit on my monitor to print screen. Thewhole thing is very box in a box in a box to explain. It’s a 3D movie about theearly days of film, and is based on a book based loosely on a true story.

I’m undecided about this film, which came as a surprise as I was expectingto unequivocally be won over. The weird thing is, you watch the trailer, go“that looks good”, and then head off to see it. I came out of the cinema going “yeah, I liked that”. Then, the next day, I gave it some thought and realised the wily manipulation I had just paid almost twenty dollars to see in 3D.

‘Hugo’ has wide appeal. It has cute young children, which can make you overlook some stilted acting. It tugs on your heartstrings with the wide, blue, computer-enhanced eyes of the protagonist, and throws about themes like “family!” “war!” “loss!” “redemption!” like it is going out of business. All of this, it seems is a disguise, to hide the fact that this movie is the celluloid incarnation Oscars. It is a film-maker celebrating a film-maker saying that film-makers do not want to be forgotten.

The ‘Lord of the Rings’ tilt of this post is no coincidence, despite my strong past history of shoehorning Hobbits and mithril into seemingly unrelated topics. Before year 8, the Oscars were a glorious time. I enjoyed predicting who would be nominated, who would win (with mixed success) and who would make an embarrassing speech in dubious attire. I would then proceed to bore my friends senseless with these endless predictions, and then proceed to demonstrate my lack of athleticism on the monkey bars.

Naturally, when the 74th Academy Awards rolled around, I assumed ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ would sweep the floor with all that Russel Crowe and Moulin Rouge nonsense. However, it was not to be, and, despite my careful avoidance of ‘spoilers’ all day, the inescapable school bus radio pronounced that ‘A Beautiful Mind’ had taken out Best Picture and Best Director. My reaction was somewhere between ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and since then, I have not watched the Academy Awards again.

It’s not just that ‘Lord of the Rings’ didn’t win. I think it just highlighted to me all the bureaucracy and red tape that is what really drives who wins in which year. ‘Return of the King’ won two years later, a decision I suspect that was made well in advance of the Academy even catching a glimpse of the film. The Oscar went to the trilogy – not the film. It seems to be more ‘whose turn is it to win’ rather than ‘who did the best work this year’. I know that this isn’t an attitude reserved for film awards, but the realisation of this in my early teens just ruined things for me.

It’s interesting that this year the two top contenders were both films about films. However, I’m glad that ‘The Artist’ won. It’s an original film, with an unusual concept, and a cast of mostly unknown, French actors. Good things.

Despite this however, I’m a bit worried. Sure, generally you can easily pick which films are built purely to rake in the Oscars. However, ‘Hugo’ with it’s thinly veiled desires and resultant success, might be cause for concern.

Or, maybe it’s a good thing. If the disguise and tricks are getting easier and easier, maybe in five years I can churn out my own masterpiece: set in 1930s England, a single woman struggles to find respect, happiness and love in a town which thinks she is a harlot and a witch. With her only friend, a dog, she starts a business from scratch; making floral print bowls for orphans to make their gruel look tastier. In a heart-wrenching scene her dog sacrifices her life when an evil, war-crazed villain shows up with a machine gun. However, in a wacky enemy-turns-to-lover twist, she restores his addled mind through the use of art and interpretive dance. His heart softens, his nose grows back and a flash forward shows them holding hands while skipping through a meadow, named after her late pooch.

I shall call it ‘NOMINATION FOR BEST PICTURE’ and the awards shall be mine, and they shall be my ‘AWARDS FOR BEST PICTURE.’

Uggh.

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My Ekman Deficiency

I never know what face it is appropriate to pull in pretty much any given situation. Christmas and birthdays becomes exponentially more stressful than they should be, because presents happen. This shouldn’t even be a thing.Presents are nice – unless you’re given used soap on a rope or syphilis Isuppose. However, if I get handed a gift, my mind automatically clicks into an over-reflective doom cycle and my facial expression freezes.

Probably the true villain here is the desire to be polite. My mind rushes to project a scenario where the gift is something that you don’t like. However ,this isn’t something you want anyone other than you to know, so you need to express joy! ecstasy! appreciation! no matter what. Despite not having even gotten remotely close to any sticky tape or wrapper removal, the mind then whirrs ahead as to what face you should be pulling in order to hide any potential disappointment (or even perceived disappointment, just to wrap you up into further knots). In my case this generally means that I look like I’m in pain no matter what it is I’ve been given because I’m so anxious to not seem rude.

Unfortunately, I then notice that I’ve gone too far the other way, and so make the mistake of trying to cover my awkward with dialogue. Dialogue which also goes too far the other way and tends to be something along the lines of “oh cool, that’s…yeah” which serves to rectify nothing other than the conversation which ends in uncomfortable silence until one or both of you leave the room. You don’t want to sound disinterested, but in focussing so hard on how to say something, you pause too long and, as a result, sound disinterested.This also seems to happen sometimes when I’m just talking to people. No-one wins in the social interaction paradox of awkward.

I didn’t really know whether facial expressions are the product of biology orsociety, but if Paul Ekman, the psychologist on whom the show Lie to Me was based, is to be believed “facial expressions of emotion are not culturally determined, but universal across human cultures and thus biological in origin.”

He’s built a multi-decade career on this, and I’ve only been thinking about it for the last 20 minutes, so I think I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Probably. His studies suggest that the areas we all share facial expression reflexes forare anger, disgust, fear, shame, joy, sadness, and surprise.

Maybe I have wrong wiring, or a side link psychobabble diversion circuit,because it seems when situations should prompt a joy or surprise reflex, the signal gets fired off and shunted into the fear realm, prompting the wrong face. Or a frozen face. Or a blushing face. Which will later probably either progress into an anger or sadness face. Or, as sometimes happens, an Edward Scissorhands face. Oh well.

I don’t really know what the reason is. Maybe my brain just has an army of mini-Gandalfs fighting the Balrog of neural emotive reflexes whilst someone accidentally over-bleaches their robes.

Either way, if I’ve ever seemed disinterested or strangely blunt in response to‘normal social interraction’ or ‘receipt of a gift’, chances are high that if youcame back after five minutes you would find me smacking my forehead. Or watching Angel.

Anyway, it’s not you.It’s my Ekman deficiency.

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The Etiquette of Staring

If a person is around me for any longer than ten minutes they will most likely get stared at. Usually this is unintentional. I zone out, taking wild rides on trains of thought, which usually stop by the ‘most recent TV show I watched’, ‘that cloud looks like a ____’ and ‘Harry Potter plot inconsistency’ stations before I snap out of it and realise that the blank space I was staring at is now

Staring seems to make people uncomfortable. Which puts an interesting spin on staring contest enthusiasts.

I’m not brilliant at eye contact, though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’sbecause it gives people the opportunity to extract my soul like some kind of occular Dementor, though I think it’s more likely due to the confusing etiquette surrounding when it is appropriate to look someone in the eye.

Not having a good balance in eye contact screws you up in multiple areas:

Honesty: too much, and you seem like you’re trying too hard and are thus covering up a lie. Too little, and you are shifty, and clearly have something to hide.

Relationships: look too long, and they will know you’re interested. Don’t look at all and it seems like you’re avoiding them. Either because you are interested, or because you are not interested. Helpful.

Study: looking up during an exam DEFINITELY MEANS PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE CHEATING. So you don’t look up at all which makes picking up dropped pens or responding to unexpected noises difficult and confusing. This feeds in to honesty, so not looking also means PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO HIDE THE FACT YOU ARE CHEATING. Because exams didn’t already make me neurotic enough.

Conversations: looking too much means you are either super interested or zoning out. People will always assume it is the one it isn’t which leads to more of the same. Not looking at all or minimal looking means you aren’t interested and people get all kinds of affronted. Or don’t notice and keep going, again leading to more of the same. Generally leads to doom spirals.

Getting caught in a stare usually goes one of four ways.

In the first, you know they can see your line of vision and you both get trapped in the stare net. Neither wants to look away, and you both try and scope out the other. Eventually you look away at the same time and act like the whole thing never happened. An awkward laugh may be implemented at this point. Usually one for strangers.

The second is the misdirection stare. They catch you, so you look over their shoulder and try to convince them you were looking at some fascinating thing there. Murphy’s Law dictates that the only thing behind them will be either something really bland like a plastic chair, or something that it is socially worse for you to be staring at. Like a ‘breasts of the day’ calendar.

Third is the compromise for eye strain stare. Here you make eye contact, then pretend to look away whilst monitoring the situation from the corner of your eye. They know you are still looking, but in order to know this, they have to be looking too. Neither of you wants to admit to being Starer 0, so you both pretend that no one is looking at anyone.

Finally there is the machine gun stare. You get caught staring. You look away. Look up again to see if they are still looking. They are. They look down. Then back up. You see this and look down again. Continues for uncomfortably long and makes you think of the Old Spice ad. Then you picture the other person in a towel and everything gets horrifying as you question what sort of person you are. Usually one of you has to leave in order to end the madness.

I’m not sure what the solution to any of these is really. You could always yell “THIS IS SPARTA” and sprint away, but whilst pop-culturetastic, I don’t know if that would alleviate the awkwardness much.

Oh well. Here’s looking at you kid.

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