Is it a cultural thing?

Since arriving in the UK, my abnormally insensitive mind has begun to pick up on things about the place that most people probably already knew. The most striking of these things is that theft is an important part of British culture, and the more grandiose the better. Prior to coming here I was well aware of the history of the British Empire and how the place I’m from was mercilessly used for British self interest, wrested from the hands of its original inhabitants. I was aware this was also true of many, many countries, all over the world. I was calmly well educated as to how this was based on an immoral culture of theft on the part of the British.

But I thought top hats and tea (apparently also stolen from afar) were far too quaint to belong to a bad culture, so I brushed my education aside. “All this evidence and logic doesn’t really mean anything.” I convinced myself. “Britain is still a medieval fantasy land where everyone will love me and all my dreams will come true.”

But then I watched the news on one of the first nights I spent in the UK. There was a story on a dramatic bank heist. This heist involved happy-go-lucky crims abseiling down elevator shafts and drilling giant holes into secure vaults, evading sleepy security guards and making their getaway with untaxed millions. The crims took the shady contents of secret cabinets, in this bigger-crim swindling escapade. The news crews were all over this. They couldn’t get enough.

I thought that was it. The heist gang would surely be hightailing it through the Italian Alps by now, singing their successes on a bus. However they made a critical mistake; the complication in the media’s action film, if you will. They missed CCTV cameras in the elevators which they used to cart the gold out of the bank in, disguised as bin men. What the media then did with this footage was the point at which I started to suspect that this was all a bit odd. The news gave the crims nicknames.

They didn’t name them to suggest who they were or give identifiers for the purposes of clear exposition. No. Instead the clearly super-excited BBC newsreader gave them names seemingly inspired by the Italian Job. For example there was “The Gent,” so named, and in gleeful tones, because the news crews believed him to have shiny shoes, evidenced by the grainy-as-a-beach CCTV footage. I realised they were jumping at every excuse to masturbate over this, admittedly pretty boss, crime.

Maybe this over-excitement runs deeper though. Maybe its why there’s pennies here; more opportunities to short-change people. Little thefts, British simple pleasures. Maybe it’s why they hate being in the EU; “what is this ‘Sharing’ you speak of?” they might wonder. You only have to look at a brief synopsis of the Falkland Islands conflict to realise that Britain likes to make a big deal over, even re-theft of, stolen goods. However, by “runs deeper” I meant sex, maybe, yeah why not.

Has all that British reserve, sexual oppression and keeping-face to convince everyone that civility breeds superiority made simple crimes like theft as exciting as a threesome on a private jet? I would wager yes, because I’m writing this article and you can’t stop me. There are, I’m sure, many that would argue “yeah, love of crime is just human nature and it’s in all of us and we’re all unique and beautiful all over the world but we’re all actually the same.” But it’s clearly Britain that has a culture which uses human nature to affect its culture in order to disguise its basic human nature so as to trample other cultures in order to satisfy its collective basic human nature. Or, said with greater complexity, “They act all full of themselves, but they just want your stuff.”

Now that I’ve pleased all the anti-empire commie readers I’m going to have a cup of tea.

-W

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Keeping an Open Mind Sucks

My parents had two related, but different, philosophies on how to raise me. My father always wanted me to develop world-views on my own, and never pressured me on anything. My mother, whilst supporting the idea of open-mindedness, also explicitly told me that nonsense is nonsense, so that Andrew Bolt, the Liberal Party, and any remotely critical views of the Chinese government were not worth discussing. Overall, I think my dad won out, because my teenager-parent-hating-years were spent with my mum, so I’ve kept a fairly open and malleable mind to most situations.

One thing this open-mindedness led to is my gullibility. Sadly, I’m always the one who falls for the ‘did you know they took gullible out of the dictionary’ jokes. But another annoying thing is that my political views are swayed as easily as a blade of grass in the wind or an SUV whilst turning. I’d like to say that this only happens when an opposing viewpoint is valid, but there seems to be a relatively valid viewpoint every damn time.

The first time I read about the gender pay gap, for instance, I was outraged, and brought statistics about gender pay inequalities and the misogyny of corporate fat-cat-white-male CEOs to far more conversations than was necessary (yeah, I was ‘that guy’). But one day, someone hit me with a blinder: CEOs are just trying to save money whenever there’s an excuse; they’re not truly sexist, or else they wouldn’t be hiring women at all. Equipped with this new perspective, I went to conversations telling people to stop being so naive and that CEOs are just trying to save money. Someone then shot back with ‘it doesn’t matter if they think women are actually worse workers, they’re paying less because of gender and as such they’re sexist’. Again, my views turned, and I went to conversations with a renewed sense of outrage at sexism, only to be shut down again when someone mentioned that the pay gap is mostly due to maternity leave. Now, I just stay away from the issue, and non-feminists think I’m a feminist whilst feminists think I’m a dinosaur.

Another good example is the issue of euthanasia. Now, no one really opposes euthanasia, do they? Not anyone that I’ve met at least. But on an episode of Q&A (the watching of which totally makes me a seasoned political commentator), Paul Kelly mentioned an issue: if euthanasia was an option available, older people who are not in any terminal illness but see themselves being a financial burden on their children may feel pressured to take this option, with, or importantly, without suggestion from their children.

You know what? Paul “Howard’s-Innocent-in-Children-Overboard” Kelly makes an annoyingly good point. Now I don’t know what to think about euthanasia. And this pretty much sums up my views on most political issues. See, I’ve discovered that, in reality, there are three, not two, points of view – the popular one, which is right, the unpopular one, which is also right, and mine, which is always wrong. The only way I can seem smart in political conversations is to say the opposing viewpoint and mention that ‘it’s not necessarily 100% true, but X-viewpoint is an interesting way of thinking about it’. Basically, I’m a wanker in those conversations.

Well, either all of what I’ve written is true or I just don’t have any debating skills. Sometimes I wish I turned out more like mum.

-Z

Eurovision is a lot like The Hunger Games crossed with a soap opera.

from google and such

from google and such

Ever watched Eurovision? I watched some on TV. Well, Australia was in this year for the quarter-quell. We’re pretty much the equivalent of District Thirteen. There are a whole lot of crazy people in space clothes on TV. They’re all smiling like they have a gun to their heads, and are spitting glitter while they tell the world the scores. Those scores seem to have more to do with some kind of overarching political agenda than the actual competition. You know, just like televising elaborate to-the-death cage-fights involving children would.

It’s the glittery aesthetic combined with the intense political passive aggression that makes it seem so much like the Hunger Games I think. In the books, America has disintegrated through some apocalyptic future war. What’s left are several different regions with different economic contributions to a dictatorial capital city. Every year the city holds a competition between all the members of the conquered nation to see whose kids are best at killing each other. It’s a humiliation, accepted by the participants in the name of keeping-face for unity. Like Eurovision.

Eurovision is the ultimate humiliation for broken nations, forced to send their children to go dancing on a trampoline to techno-folk music so they can be judged by the rest of the world. The judges themselves are people with Botox smiles and glitter coming out their tear ducts as they blink “PLEASE KILL ME” in Morse code. Exactly the same as in the Hunger Games. Additionally, weird shoulder pads from 1960s sci-fi films and beehive hairdos all make an appearance in both Europe and the fictional post apocalypse. I could feel the humiliation coming out of the TV, but wait, there’s more.

I think his chin rest is the trigger for the bombs they rigged to his family’s home, don’t you? from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1183403/Eurovision-judge-forced-quit-caviar-lunch-contestant.html

It’s been publicised that “anti-booing technology” has been devised since last year’s Eurovision. Supposedly in response to excessive booing at the Russian contestants. Not because of their act, but because the crowd thought up no better way of acting out against Russia’s politics than by booing at a song contest. This will clearly stop Putin’s homophobia in its tracks, they thought. Apparently, the Putin administration agreed, and out comes this unapplause censoring machine. Of course the technology is designed only to protect Russia’s image instead of its poor entrants. They’ve been taught all too harshly that they were merely an effigy of their country’s politics. Anti-booing technology is also a little too reminiscent of the media control and propaganda all through the Hunger Games. The contestants just had to smile and bear it, or else their families would GET IT! Well, probably not, but that’s a good point to start on mentioning the differences I see between the Hunger Games and the whole of Europe.

This is how Russian contestants are picked for sure. Image stolen/I’m not that cool, its a link from; http://whatculture.com/film/10-reasons-the-hunger-games-isnt-a-rip-off-of-battle-royale.php

The Hunger Games sported a tense system of oppressive trade and governance amongst several districts which involved intense passive aggression. In Europe however the districts are called ‘countries’. I better put in some more differences than that, make myself sound intelligent. For instance: in the Hunger Games there was one capitol with total control of the different districts’ trade and governance. Alternatively, Europe has a handful of big players and a bunch of little kids caught up in the group. The little countries are like the kids who end up wagging school because they’re too afraid to speak out against the big kids’ plans and so end up trying to hide their tears as they break the rules under duress. Those big kids however are all about as big and influential as each other, so they have weird dominance stand offs where they yell “oi, throw the first punch dickhead” and put their arms out like they’re Spartacus. No monopoly of power means more passive aggression between powers; this means the strained smiles are much more snarky in Eurovision than in the Hunger Games.

On top of that the European countries want to look good for the rest of the world. “Don’t fuck with our gang” is a phrase I expect is carved in Latin, in an office somewhere in Brussels. The European Union is pretty much a bunch of nations that hate each other but want to look like a big happy family. They’re the couple who really should get divorced but stay together “for the kids”, except the kids are adults who want to leave. They’re really there for each other’s bank accounts. So their lives involve a lot of private investigator contracts and lengthy secret meetings with divorce settlement lawyers. Because they’re also so deep in each other’s pockets in Europe, they have to maintain their fake smiles permanently with fish hooks. America sometimes comes over for a really awkward barbeque, and tries to leave as soon as it can.

I’m sure that my shallow, lay-mans understanding of the economic and political complexities of Europe and the European union are correct. Just look at my clever association between young adult fiction and a song contest. I’m clearly right about this. I am glad you’ve read up to this point and can fully absorb the important message conveyed by this article. Europe is silly and I am clever and sophisticated for using un-evidenced criticism of it for the purposes of humour, and getting blog views. Of course, Eurovision is more likely just a chance for Europe to take the piss out of themselves and have a good time; that’s why they have trampolines in their acts. Have a great day!

-W

I Like Bad Music and Movies

There are some things you just don’t admit to in person. That time I let loose a real silent-but-deadly when I, alas, wrongly assumed the group would keep walking, comes to mind. But behind the anonymity of the internet, I’m free to release my thoughts and opinions, no matter how stupid, upon the unsuspecting reader. So here’s another shocker. I’m genuinely, unironically, looking forward to the upcoming Jurassic World movie.

You see, the Dumb-Hollywood-Action-Movies that every person with even the slightest sense of pride professes to hate are, for me at least, quite fun to watch. I liked watching Matrix-man drive a speeding bus over a bridge-ramp, or Bruce Willis jumping down an elevator shaft, or Tony Abbott doing iron-man challenges (which isn’t Hollywood, or a movie, but satisfies the other criteria just fine). And it’s not because they’re all fun to laugh at -not entirely at least-; it’s because they’re made to be exciting, to keep you on the edge of your seat, to make you want to see how it ends in a huge explosion of action, hopefully in a literal sense. You can talk to me about how flawlessly Kenneth Branagh explored the themes in Hamlet till the cows come home but the fact is, when I watched Hamlet I fell asleep and when I watched Rambo my eyes were like saucers. When I’m watching entertainment, I want to be entertained. Explosions and violence entertain me. There, I said it.

And it’s the same story with music. My views can be quite comprehensively summed up in a conversation with a friend on the subject:

Him [noticing Call Me Maybe in my playlist]: “Why do you have so many bad songs?”
Me: “Well, I dunno, it’s really catchy!”
“A song being catchy doesn’t mean it’s good.”
“…?”

Curse you, music judgementalists! Screen from Archer (FX)

Curse you, music judgementalists!
Screen from Archer (FX)

Now, why is that? Why does a song need to be deep to be good? All I’m doing is listening to a tune whilst doing boring work, and frankly, I can only decipher the lyrics about 10% of the time anyway. I like Call Me Maybe every bit as much as I like Riptide; as far as I’m concerned, they both have catchy tunes, therefore I like them. If I could, I’d have filled my playlist with generic pop. Sadly, the awkward ‘are you serious’ looks became a too much for me, so I’ve retreated from brainless contemporary pop to brainless early 2000’s pop, using ‘nostalgia’ and ‘retro’ as an excuse. Sigh.

And so we come to the Jurassic Park franchise, and Jurassic World. The first Jurassic Park was one of those few action movies that people could be proud of liking; it had an interesting idea behind a fairly solid plot, and dinosaurs were a novel catalyst for action scenes. Now, I’ll admit the two movies that followed didn’t have many ideas or much plot, but, like I said, all I really wanted to see were action scenes, and they did just fine in that department. I mean, people are fighting FREAKING DINOSAURS, what’s there to hate? For the next movie, I hear there’s going to be genetically engineered super-dinosaurs. Of course it’s stupid, but wow, does that sound exciting or what!

-Z