Tuesday, July 31, 2007

8 things I'm proud of

Yes, yet another tag. Don’t you just love ‘em? This time it’s good ol’ Broom who tagged me wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back - I guess that’s in return for me tagging her, also wayyyyyyyyyyyy back. I love it when a good deed passed on bounces right back to me! Heh.

Right. 8 things I’m proud of.

One. My family – my late dad, my mother, sister and brother, and now my husband too. (I wonder if that counts for one thing or five?). Anyway, they’re the best anybody could ask for, irritating traits and all.

Two. Managing not to give in to familial pressure to get married to various guys deemed “suitable” (but not in MY view they werent!). Also, to clarify - I wasn’t being pressured to marry various guys at the same time! My family are law-abiding and besides, I’m no Draupadi.

Three. Acquiring enough patience (dunno how) to take up embroidery and stick with it. Wonder if age has anything to do with it.

Four. Learning to talk professionalese on the phone to clients. I hate phones! And sometimes the clients.

Five. My friends. Thank goodness for them and the easy relationship we share.

Six. Surviving my work experience in Singapore.

Seven. The 6 different rose plants in my patio - all with heavenly fragrance. All growing, too!

Eight. Finally finishing this tag. It's been sitting around awhile!

Clever octopus

Watch the octopus open a bottle

But would you really want to drink from the bottle after all those tentacles have been all over it???


(PS. Sea creatures with tentacles and suckers aint my thing - alive OR dead!)

The thing to do with history

is learn from it, not pretend it didnt happen.

Whether it's Tintin, or Enid Blyton, or even P G Wodehouse (one of my all time favourite authors), the point is that the (now politically-incorrect) terms used in those comics/books are merely reflections of the attitude of the times. None of it was maliciously meant - at least in the three I've mentioned. I'm certain of that, because otherwise the characters would not have been likable, and any maliciously racist overtones would have been set in concrete.

Enid Blyton might have used Gollywog in a lot of her fairy tales - possibly in ALL her fairy tales, even - but in none of them is Golly bad just for being a dark-faced, red-lipped and curly-haired caricature of Africans. Golly is just as likely to be as brave or helpful or naughty as the next all-white character! Removing Golly from all the latest editions of Enid Blyton's books is just silly. Banning Tintin is a stupid thing to do. Letting Nazi-erected buildings be destroyed (like in former East Berlin) either through neglect or wilfully, is terrible! Merely erasing the physical signs of a not-exactly-edifying history doesnt change that history. Glorifying Nazism is the true crime; teaching about it in schools, so that children learn about both good and bad, is the sensible thing to do.

A slight segue now, but not completely unrelated:
A while back, one of the partners in my workplace described someone as "the nigger in the woodpile" while on the phone. I do believe that it was not nastily meant - unpleasant though he can be, he is not overtly racist, so I think he didnt even realise what he had said. But it made everybody within hearing look up in shock and disbelief, and truth to tell, I was just as taken aback. However, it never crossed my mind to take it as a slur against me personally. Yet his secretary immediately bustled over and apologised for his having said the "n" word in my presence.

On the one hand, I know why she did that - I'm the only non-Caucasian in my office. But there was a part of me which wondered: why did she single me out for the apology? Was that term only supposed to be offensive to me, and not to everybody else? Should she not have included everybody in the apology, since the "n" word is a no-no in formal company, rather like "f*ck"? And, had I not been present, would there have been an apology at all, or even a need felt for one?

She might have thought she was being politically correct, but it just made me feel awkward. The N-word - and the attitude behind that slur - should be anathema to everybody, not just those with skin colour that isnt white! I guess she didnt realise that her apology only served to emphasise that she didnt much mind the N-word herself, but she felt obliged to make sure I wasnt offended.

Am I making too much of what is essentially a little thing? Perhaps. But it still did make me think. Me, I feel that a lot of PC terms are merely that - terms, for show. Whitewashing over unpleasant attitudes. Because really, not-so-deep inside, we know that racist and chauvinist attitudes still exist. They've just gone a little bit undercover. I'll call myself cynical - yet again - because I cant help feeling that a lot of the time, being PC is a lot like being dishonest.

(Note: I do like most of my colleagues, I dont believe they are racist, and I'm sure the feeling is reciprocated. My workplace is quite pleasant, really!) :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sorry, I've turned my brain off.

You know how sometimes you hear something said to you during a conversation but dont really take it in? What the other person has said could be perfectly normal, something you've heard and understood a zillion times previously... but there are those special woolly moments where the sum of the words simply does not add up to comprehension.

You try to put the syllables together in your mind to see if you can turn the sounds into meaningful words, but it just doesnt happen.

You ask the other person to repeat what they've said and (if they're in front of you) you watch their lip movements closely or (if they're on the phone), you practically weld the receiver to your ear so as not to miss anything... and still things refuse to fall into place.

When the EUREKA moment finally happens (usually a while after the conversation has ended), it's almost an epiphany, like you've seen the light of true knowledge. Mind you, that
feeling of elation is only momentary, because immediately afterwards you think: "So THAT'S what he/she said. WHY did I not get it then? WHY did I have to come across as a complete thicko for such a simple thing?"
It happens. I'm sure it happens to other people too. But what I'D like to know is, why my cloth-headed moments almost always reserve themselves for those occasions when I'm speaking with important clients.

I wish someone would give me an answer. Preferably one that makes sense.

Thank you.

That's all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Legitimately tagged...

...and I'm not entirely sure that I want to do this tag - or, indeed, if I should do it. But I'm going to, anyway. Broom, if I find myself alone and friendless after this, you're to blame for tagging me! :)

  • I'm judgmental about people who persist in speaking bad English when they can communicate much better in another language that we have in common. I dont see the point of trying to show off skills you dont possess, making a fool of yourself in the process.
  • I judge people who put on accents after a year or two abroad and yet cant speak or write correct English. If you must affect an accent with your countryfolks (ok to do so if you're trying to communicate with Westerners), at least make sure it doesnt slip!
  • I end up resenting people who are tight-fisted even though they are flush. I dont expect anyone - especially if they're relative strangers - to spend on me but I DO expect them to have the courtesy to at least offer to pay (at the very least their own share) when we are in a group! Just the offer alone is enough to keep me paying happily!
  • I judge people who are not quick enough on the uptake for my satisfaction, thereby making me repeat things (although there are plenty of instances involving maths/politics/electronics where I'm no more responsive than a sponge).
  • I judge people who are overly concerned about their looks and clothes. There's more to life than fashion and men, even if you're a perfect Size 8 and a man-killer to boot.
  • I judge people who dont respect my personal space (or who remain unaware of my discomfort and cool response) and are loud and noisy, and who keep using my name in every other sentence. I consider them pushy and insensitive.
  • I judge people who dont keep a rein on their (un)lovely children in my house. In fact, I judge them for the unloveliness of their brats - it can't be anyone else's fault!
  • I judge people who dont learn the correct expressions (idioms, phrases, whatever) despite hearing them used right, or who dont learn to spell words right even after seeing the correct spelling. How much time does it take to look a word up? And to remember how to write it? And if you're so stupid that you think you're right ALL the bloody time (about everything) and dont even resort to dictionaries... well!
  • I get judgmental about women who seem normal around other women but turn into affected, attention-craving nitwits when there's a man to impress.

Right, I've just taken a look at what I've written so far and I think that's enough fodder for judgment. Therapeutic though it's been to vent some steam, I think I'll stop short of transmogrifying into a complete monster in public. :)

It's the SUN that's making us hot!

The world is getting warmer, right? All because of us baaaaaaad human beings with our carbon footprints and all, or so we're told. Well, it could just be that the sun is to blame, my friends... oh what it is to have a refreshingly unbiased opinion about global warming!

PS. If it keeps raining all summer, though, I might have to query not just the presence of the sun, but its very existence!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A question of life or death

Should we just think of and preserve the rights of the murderer and not think of the rights of others?

This question, from Suhaila Hammad of Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights is, as far as I'm concerned, a direct shot at the hullabaloo that human rights activists create when it comes to the death penalty.

Dont get me wrong, I'm against the death penalty too. I dont want murderers and rapists and genocidal dictators (not EVEN George Bush or ex-World Prez Blair) condemned to death for their crimes.

But my reason for this is the direct opposite of those who think any life too precious to be taken (and I cant help feeling that the phrase "especially that of murderers and killers" ought to have been added to the end of the previous sentence). I dont think murderers' lives are precious. I'm against the death penalty because I think a quick death is too damned easy a way out for the evil b*astards who abuse and kill the innocent. (A secondary reason is that IF their innocence is established later, it wont do them much good if they're dead. There isnt much point to posthumous freedom.)

Death would mean they wouldnt suffer much. Their punishment should be solitary confinement for life - just one little room in which to spend their remaining days. No time off for good behaviour (that deserves a separate rant in itself, which I will save for another day), no TV, no books, no luxuries of any sort. Just plenty of time to think about the people they abused and/or killed, and the helpless grief and bereavement of the families who lost loved ones for no reason. Since the bereaved cant speak to their loved one ever again, the murderer should have to suffer the same sort of bereavement while living. Yes, that would mean his innocent family might be affected too... but that's justice. Tit for tat, without taking a life for a death. If you think that is a living death, so be it. I think the same too.

Why fight for the rights of those who didnt give a single thought to the rights of the human beings they killed? What about the rights of the innocent victims who died unnaturally, their lives cut short by random violence? Even if we concede that the dead no longer have a say in anything, shouldnt the rights of the families of victims take precedence over those of the murderers? I definitely do think so.

Suhaila Hammad's question is relevant in the widest sense, even if not in this particular case. I dont know the facts here but if the Sri Lankan maid didnt have a lawyer to defend her, I guess the trial cant have been fair except as in Islamic law. That comes down to religion, in any case, not law. I feel most strongly that religion should NOT have any kind of say when it comes to law and crime. It wasnt Allah Himself who decided that the maid should be beheaded - human beings did.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Boo! said the garden

Nervous gardening, which is my style, usually brings its little "Boo!" moments - those times when it's not so much you getting close to Mother Nature as much as it is Mother Nature's many-legged creations trying to get closer to you.

Of her various creepy and crawly offspring, the ones I loathe most are slugs - followed by snails, earthworms (no lectures on how garden-friendly they are, thanks) and any scurrying things with many legs that live beneath pots or in cracks.

Yesterday there was a brief respite from the near constant rain, so I ventured out into the garden to see what my plants were doing. As I bent down to smell my favourite rose, my gaze fell upon a gently quivering pile of something like translucent jelly.

Wild, panicky images of monstrous slugs and other oozing creatures filled my head as I backpedalled down the path...

...until I suddenly realised that it was the water-absorbing crystals that I had accidentally spilt while potting some herbs a couple of days back. The crystals had lived up to their name and absorbed unholy amounts of water (well, it's been raining constantly!) and swelled up to jellyfish proportions.

Phew. Who says country life is boring?

PS. I had bought the crystals because the manufacturers claimed that when mixed with the compost in small amounts, they would cut down on watering and keep the plants moist. They'd better do the job after the fright they gave me!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Not so much live as dull

Does anyone else feel that the Live Earth concert (at least the one in Wembley) was a somewhat damp squib? Oh, the weather was surprisingly nice and the stadium seemed quite full... it was the concert itself that fell short. If you asked me exactly what was lacking, I'd be hard put to pinpoint it - but on the whole, I think what was missing was conviction. Spirit.

Which doesnt surprise me. For all that it was supposed to be about raising awareness for the environment and saving Earth from ourselves, hardly any of those interviewed (apart from "green" journalists and the like) seemed to know exactly what was happening, or why. Or even how they, through the concert(s), were supposed to be helping. Jonathan Ross and the more media-savvy of his interviewees made tongue-in-cheek jokes all the time, and none of them seemed convinced about the urgency of saving Earth.

One Green journalist - I cant remember her name, sadly - said it was wonderful that celebrities were actually coming out and linking themselves with the Green Movement when even 5 years back they wouldnt have bothered. Well, five years back the Green Movement wasnt cool enough! Besides, anybody can SAY anything, especially if if means TV time. The question is, what do they do when the cameras are off. Do they actually fly cattle class, or do they hire their own private jet to get from one place to another? Call me cynical, but until I have proof that the super-rich are actually being forced to give up their carbon-printing lifestyle, I'm not about to give up air travel or do anything else that the rabid Greens are advocating for us hoi polloi. (Yes, I've said this before - you arent experiencing deja vu!)

I wish the music groups would just be honest and admit that they were happy to play their music and get more exposure for themselves, instead of playing along with one rabid "do-good" organisation or the other. Does NOBODY in the Green Environmentalist belt realise the supreme irony of trying to raise Green awareness by - wait for it - the expenditure of HUGE amounts of energy via wiring up enormous open stadia for sound? By flying in bands and pop/rock/whatever groups all across the world JUST for that one day? What about CO2 emissions, or does that not matter when it's for a "good cause"? Could not a few hundred villages have run an entire year on the energy used for a one-day concert?

Oh, and of course the previous concerts to rid the world of poverty and disease have done their work. The people of the Third World have been saved by a few concerts held in the First World, yeah? I guess that's why we are all now busily trying to save Earth itself.

I'm a cynic. I admit it. But it's only because of what's happening in the world, because of the huge gap between the preachers and the preachees. As one of Jonathan Ross' interviewees said, if we could only harness the power of cynicism, the world's energy crisis would have a permanent solution.