Sunday, 29 January 2012

Alphabet Challenge - I for Irresponsible

The challenge continues.  Check out how Miss Jennifer Edwards does with the toughest J subject you could possibly think of here.

As for my I, the notion of being irresponsible brings out the hypocrite in me.  I would gladly spout about how people should be mature and responsible but I am a master of being irresponsible.  It is the self destructive streak in me that means any argument I have is completely undermined.  However, I am hugely irresponsible, so I won't let such things hold me back.

The key to being irresponsible is knowing when it is ok to use and perversely, that requires a level of maturity that a lot of people seem to lack.  Embracing your inner child for a moment of genuine stupidity/comedy can be worthwhile and uplifting (except for the person who is being the spanner).  At the time, you point and laugh about it.  In fact, on night's out, you relive the moment, much to the amusement of those who witnessed it.  These are, unless you have a fragile ego, the ideal times to be irresponsible.

The rest of the time, it is not a good idea to embrace immaturity, randomness, hyperactivity or irresponsibility.  On all these other occasions, the line "But it's fun" is used as the stock excuse for such stupidity.  Somehow, people who have had at least 11 years formal education, if not more, who start to think that it is ok to act like a prat and cause me or other people to have a less pleasant moment in our lives, they fall into the same bracket as fascists, chavs, fans of Dirty Dancing and Gail Platt from Coronation Street.  They just shouldn't exist!

The fact is that people forget that irresponsibility tends to appear as rewarding.  It may be but only in the short term.  You may have a laugh but then you will spend a night paying for it, as I powerbomb you through a table. The bankers were irresponsible with money and we were irresponsible in how we borrowed and managed it.  We all benefited in the short term but we are all paying for it in the long term.  If you eat fast food every day, that is irresponsible.  It will taste good now but the hospital food will taste foul, especially after a triple bypass operation to keep you alive!

Don't be irresponsible.  Let someone else do it and stay out of the way.  Then point, laugh, mock, retain in your memory, talk about it on Facebook and relive it countless times.  That is the best way to embrace irresponsibility.  By proxy, not by being a prat!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Feedback

Feedback is the polite title given to information that tells you how wrong you are.  No matter if it is intended to make you a better person, it is a negatively motivated thing.  You're wrong and that person is going to tell you.  Even better, it tends to be horrendously subjective and usually has no real substance behind it.  It is pure perception, unaccompanied by a genuine understanding of any context.  It is the acceptable face to acrimonious rhetoric that just antagonises and rarely improves the person being subjected to it.

Allow me to explain with a practical example.  I applied for a job, which I was never going to get but I had my reasons.  A lady from the HR Department called me up and told me that she just wanted to give me some feedback on my CV.  Fair enough, I thought.  My bad!  She went on to say "I don't think you sold yourself very well on this CV."  OK I thought, as long as she can qualify that, then I might benefit from this.  "What did I miss?" I asked her.  A long pause was followed by the line "I just don't think you sold yourself very well."  I suddenly realised I should have applied to work in the HR Department because apparently an abundance of intelligence isn't required for the task.  I asked the exact same question again to get the unquantified explanation for a third time.  It was at this point I decided to kill off the conversation, as I could feel my brain digging an escape tunnel out of my skull, rather than continue to endure this lady's well-intentioned but moronic insights, that were anything but insightful.

Now, she could have just said "We've decided to not progress you to an interview due to stronger candidates" which is what was the reality.  Instead, I felt angry towards her.  She basically said "I looked at this piece of paper you sent me and I didn't think much of you.  I am just phoning you to tell you that but I can't come up with a way that you could improve."  If you are going to cut someone down, tell them how to rebuild to a better specification.

Also, unless the person asks for feedback, be willing to have it rejected out of hand if your opinion lacks merit. Case in point, I posted a blog slating five girls that had screwed me over.  I didn't name names but no doubt, if the five in question read my blog, they would have spotted themselves but no one else would know who I was referring to.  Some anonymous reader posted comments criticising me for the article but in that sanctimonious "feedback" tone.  They naively think that people are bulletproof from the hurtful actions of those they used to care about.

Amazingly, if I was unaffected by the actions of these girls, I'd get feedback that I was cold, that I lost them because I didn't really care about them.  The fact that I actually am hurt is now a crime.  I need to be the bigger man.  No, I don't.  I did nothing wrong in the first place.  Why should I have to be the one who goes the extra mile?  The extent of the feedback argument was that my life would be better.  Yeah, I thought that after girl one.  And girl two.  And girls three, four and five.  I have evidence, the "feedbacker" has... nothing.  Yet I get the feeling from the on-your-high-horse indignation from this person, that reason, logic and evidence are silly little things that should be ignored over fridge magnet quote wisdom.  You pleb!

But the worst kind of feedback is the non-feedback.  I mean where they give you feedback that tells you that you are second best but for no reason whatsoever.  No criticism, no correction and no clue.  Like the classic one for me, when a girl decides to go off with another guy instead of me, I ask "what did I lack?"  It is an honest question because I'd like to know what to work on.  I don't particularly want to be alone forever.  What do they say? "Oh nothing, you're a great guy, just the way you are."  What?! Seriously?!  So why did you break it off?  Oh that is it, you found better and I can't do better.  Yeah, people who give this kind of feedback are as inconsiderate as they are idiotic.

The reality is that most people know their weaknesses and if they don't, they are only ready to have those weaknesses exposed when they ask.  It is like they have dipped their toe in the hot bath of correction and are now looking to ease themselves in.  If you want to give someone feedback, wait until they are ready to receive it.  Don't be the HR lady that just dumps it on people without qualifying what you say.  Don't be the anonymous commenter who shuns evidence over a line she read in Chicken Soup for the Soul.  And don't, most of all, give feedback that offers no hope of improvement whatsoever.  If you do, I've got some feedback for you.  Pipe down!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Alphabet Challenge - G for Growing Up

So we move to the letter G on Miss Edwards, Jen-erally Awesome blog challenge.  Ever remember what it was like to be a kid?  I do.  All I wanted to be was grown up because being a kid sucked.  Being a kid meant being in at a certain time, you couldn't do 101 things, basically you had no freedom.  Suddenly you grow up and you find that you have bills to pay, work hours are much longer than school hours and school bullies have turned into company management.  Growing up just makes you more aware of the world around you.

Think about it.  You get up in the morning to go work in a place you don't like, for someone who doesn't appreciate you and that readily tells you that you're rubbish, or if it is to praise you, it is accompanied by a "you best keep it up."  You watch the clock, waiting for the moment to go home and as soon as the clock ticks to it, BOOM, there is a human shaped hole in the wall, as you exit like a Looney Tunes character.  That description could apply to school or work.  But then you start to grow up and puberty kicks in.  If you want to know my opinion on puberty and teenage years, check out the "Puberty: The Guantanamo Bay of Life" chapter in my first book, The Sparks Opinion.

Being grown up doesn't make things easier.  Girls are still scary to talk to.  In fact, they are even worse to talk to.  When you were a kid, you didn't talk to them because they were weird or gross or stoooopid.  Now, they actually look pretty to you and you want their attention and affection.  The worst thing is, they know this and exploit it.  Needless to say, the pendulum has swung all the way over from the days when boys would ritualistically humiliate the girls.  Now is the time of their revenge!

Yet something odd happens to girls when they grow up.  Even though they become more beautiful with growing up, they feel less pretty.  You see it today.  Young girls are dressing more and more like they are 21 already.  Yet, as soon as they get to 21, they see 21 reasons why they aren't pretty, rather than being comfortable in the skin they're in.  And the pretty ones say something even worse.  They ask the moronic question "Can't guys and girls just be friends?"  When I hear a girl say this, I want to plant a nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missile into their face.  Don't be so stupid as to think that attraction and admiration is a curse.  It is not something you control.  Don't be so inconsiderate to those who would kill to have such advances made towards them!

When you grow up, you don't become more mature.  You're idiocy has to be given a different name.  Now, you're being wild, random, spontaneous.  No, you're being a childish prat.  Just because it is being sponsored by WKD, Sambuca, a lack of sleep or an overdose of Haribo, I don't care.  Stop it.

When you grow up, you're meant to realise that you get what you earn.  Yet people still sit and sulk, thinking the world owes them something.  Instead of stamping their feet at their parents, they walk the streets of the capital, moaning about politicians.  Grown ups make their own fate.  If they don't like their situation, they find a way to overcome it.  If the tantrums of Twitter and sorrowing of statuses on Facebook are anything to go by, the grown up state of the nation is very, very low.

Growing up is about taking responsibility for yourself, to act in a manner that reflects a degree of experience and wisdom, to NOT be childish.  The problem is that we spent our childhood wanting to be grown up that when we got there, we realised it wasn't all it is cracked up to be.  Now we foolishly try to claw our way back to our youth.  It is futile as it is foolish.  So stop being childish and grow up!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Alphabet Challenge - E for Entertainment

Next up on Jennifer Edwards's challenge, in conjunction with her Jen-erally Awesome blog, is entertainment.  My, how things have changed in the world of entertainment.  Or have they?

It used to be quite primitive and barbaric.  People would gather to the Coliseum and watch the Gladiators, Lions and Christians tear each other apart.  The mob would sit and delight in the agony of those participating.  Now we have taken away blood, added a heavy dollop of chav and voilĂ !  Reality TV shows, Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle have usurped the Roman arena's place.  Granted, it is not quite an up-to-date version of The Running Man but I still think there is a chance of it.

But there is a major difference in entertainment in olden times and now.  Back then, entertainment was about gathering together.  Concerts, plays and sports would be watched by the masses.  Even religion took on more elaborate ceremonies to make them more entertaining, although in their dogma, they haven't updated to match today and are considering dull and archaic.  Entertainment today is becoming an individual thing, even a divisive thing.  We watch a majority of our entertainment at home via the TV or the internet.  More and more, we listen to music with headphones in.  If you doubt it, you can now go to "silent raves", which involves playing a determined playlist on your iPod rather than the traditional DJ.  It appears surreal and quirky, an experience that is approved by many but as a social event, it is tiny step up from dancing to music in your bedroom.  

Yet it is indicative of how entertainment has diversified so much that it can appeal to the masses on an individual level.  Strangely though, it has now come full circle.  The internet tries to use it's entertainment bases to cluster us in a different way.  Twitter may be for individuals but we then see them banded together by trends, key phrases that appear in a significant number of tweets.  Facebook allows you to create your individual life story and then you can like every page and group that applies to you.  World of Warcraft allows you to create your own character in a fictional world, so you can go about meeting new people.  It is like the pendulum is swinging back to where it started.

Downloading a music album is great but seeing the artist perform live is now the real act of a fan.  You can watch the football game at home on TV or you can go to a sports bar, watching it with a crowd akin to the one in the stadium, if not more lively.  We have come to realise that individuality and entertainment is a combination that is designed to be nothing but a time filler.  We still consume them alone, whether they be in small Youtube chunks or reading books that we peruse for hours, having queued up just as long to buy it!  But we have come to learn that the best kind of entertainment is done as a group.  So LET'S PARTY!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Alphabet Challenge - C for Chemistry

And so the challenge from the Jen-erally Awesome blog goes on... go there to see how my challenge on D for Dumping someone goes.

Chemistry.  We are talking about that je ne sais quoi that exists two people.  We are not talking about making the finest product you can for a junkie in Rhyl or a pensioner in Eastbourne.  It really is an unquantifiable thing, a magical connection that fashions itself out of some common bond and grows to be the keystone of a relationship, not matter how deep it is.

And that is wonderful but what if it is someone who just does your skull in?  I mean, we all have someone who we seem to have that bond with.  Yet there are times we wish our only connection with that person was our hands around their neck.  What do you do then?  It becomes a tumultuous time, where you can't live with them and you can't live without them.  The unsettling feeling of limbo makes the relationship feel like cocaine to a self-aware crack addict.  You know that it is doing you more harm than good but still they get you through the day, so you keep them.

So it can be a curse, as well as a blessing.  The thing about it is that if there are differences between the two involved, when they are put to one side, they can achieve great things.  Nothing in this world is ever truly accomplished alone.  Look at some of the greats of our time and they always needed someone else.  Mandela may have changed South Africa but he still needed de Klerk.  Ali was the greatest but only because Frazer fought to the brink of mortality.  Ant needs Dec.  Sherlock needs Watson.  Bert would be nothing without Ernie.  I could go on but you get the idea.  Chemistry exists only when there is a friendship that something greater than logical or reason determines it so.  Call it fate, destiny, the will of the gods or just coincidence.

If chemistry exists, it is down to the people involved to determine what it becomes.  The fact that it exists by no specific choice doesn't mean agency will have no part in it.  What choose to do with it will define whether it was a burden or a blessing.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Alphabet Challenge - A for Aboulia

A friend of mine, Miss Jennifer Edwards, has issued a challenge of writing blog articles whereby I write one for the letter A, then I get to designate one for her under the letter B.  Then she chooses a C for me and so on.  You can find her Jen-erally Awesome blog here.

Aboulia. For those who are uninformed, this is actually a neurological condition that prohibits a person from making decisions independently.  Think of it as extreme apathy but medically prescribed.  Come to think of it, I do wonder if people suffering from it is more common.  Granted it can be associated with Alzheimer's and depression but we can see it in pseudo form all around us.

Take a woman shopping and she contracts it for large periods of the day.  "What do you think of this?" she will ask her boyfriend, as he tries to look moderately interested as he checks his Smart phone for the latest football scores.  She seems to be incapable of picking clothes for herself but you can bet every penny in your bank account that she could dress her boyfriend in a heart beat.  I mean, she'd pick out 14 outfits for him and have which parties he should wear them at already figured out.  It is like a fashion version of Rain Man!  Put the question on her frame and suddenly, she's indecisive.  Women must get aboulia when shopping.  For men, it isn't quite apathy, more a quiet loathing, only smoothed over when she walks out wearing something that is smoking hot.

It is not restricted to the female of the species though.  Take a group of both sexes to the cinema to select a film.  There must be something in the air of a cinema lobby because unless you have chosen your film before you go, all decision making processes disappear from your brain.  I have actually left a group of friends to pick a film, gone for something to eat and come back 20 mins later to find they hadn't picked a film.  Unbelievable.  There is more decisiveness in a council of narcoleptics.

It goes on in plenty of other places.  A man left with a remote control suddenly contracts it.  A child gets it when found in a sweet shop and is asked what they want.  A woman gets it when she is asked for directions, especially when she is actually sat in the car that is moving.  Apathy, aboulia or even worse, being a chav teenager whose ambition extends as far as keeping his hands warm by shoving them down his boxers all the time, call it what you will, they are irritating to everyone else around them.

So whether it be lack of motivation, medically or socially prescribed, stop sitting in your rut and do something.  A person who doesn't act is not living, they are merely surviving and that is no way to exist.  So yes, that dress looks lovely, we're going to the 8pm showing,  I'm changing it to the sports channel, the little one is having Pick 'n' Mix plus Valium and I will get a Sat Nav!  All clear? GOOD!