Friday, 25 June 2010

Right, that's OK, then...


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Know-alls (again)


I haven't blogged in a while, as nothing much is happening here, in the external world or in my head. These days I have the Top Group three days a week, and they don't mangle the language (much) so it's an easy life, if not very funny. My patience was tried the other day by my Algerian flight crew - Air Force, that is, not a bunch of mimsy male trolley-dollies - when they began to argue with me about British history. For some reason we got onto the subject of the Royal Family and Princess Diana. Now, to generalise horribly, your Arab, he loves a conspiracy theory. I suspect these are more popular in cultures where The Personal is highly prized and blame for fuck-ups is automatically placed on individuals and not on systems, something I frequently observed in Greece. Anyway, it's not quite six in the morning - I might get round to amplifying on that later. In the meantime, the pilots were all pretty sure Diana had been done away with to allow Charles to marry that Parker-Bowles woman. It was the law in England, they told me, that Charles was not allowed to marry while his former wife lived.

'Eh?' I asked.

This was the law, they said. Didn't I know that? One of your Kings was forbidden by the Pope to...

Right, we were on to Henry VIII now, and that is going back a bit - you know, like 500 years or so.

He was married to one woman for just a week, they said, in pious deprecation of Western disregard for morality.

No he wasn't, I said, and rattled off the names of the six wives and how long, to the best of my memory, each had lasted.

They would have none of this. It turned out they were thinking of Lady Jane Grey, and when I told them that she was not one of his wives, they were sure I was wrong. They would check this out, they said, and let me know. Let me know! They have been in England for all of six months, but are pretty sure they have the place entirely sized up and its history under their belts, on the strength of a few visits to monuments and museums. (Lady Jane was born nearby, too late for Henry's attentions.)

A while ago my GP put me on beta-blockers for my blood pressure and I was quite pleased, imagining they would render me calm and equable as a Zen priest. They came, as do all drugs, with a hair-raising list of possible side-effects, including hair loss and (NO!!!) erectile dysfunction. So far, I have experienced none of them, but it does seem to me that far from being peaced out, I'm now jumpier than a prawn on a hotplate. I decided to set a long, boring grammar exercise to shut the buggers up, as I was feeling my resentment levels rising dangerously.

When the time comes to renew my meds, I must mention this increased edginess, which after all is not supposed to be the point, and definitely not good for someone who is supposed to deal calmly with all kinds of student behaviour. I do think, though, that even if I end up punching a student in the face, anything's better than a dead dick.

Monday, 14 June 2010

You know you need to get out more when...




Last night I looked in on Yahoo Answers for the first time in ages. Three years ago I had a few months of enforced leisure and spent some time answering questions there, mostly those from foreign learners about English grammar. I soon got fed up with the naiveté of the questions and the ignorance and stupidity of many of the answers, especially when my factually faultless and impeccably constructed contributions got thumbed down, and answers parading pole-axing ignorance were chosen by the asker as best of the bunch. Why do people who know diddly-squat about language feel free to put their oar in, I’d chunter, instead of listening modestly and attentively to those of us who know what we are talking about? Dash it; I shall start a blog instead.

Anyway, last night I found a very silly question from someone who claimed to have opened a hairdressing salon where he employed a bunch of homosexuals. He wanted to know if he should disinfect the place regularly, so that straight customers would not be driven away by the fear of contracting the HIV virus. The question struck me as so utterly benighted that I decided it was a wind-up, designed to elicit apoplectic reactions from the politically correct. I had spent the evening with a bottle of wine, corresponding with a nice but very predictable evangelical fundy street preacher from the USA. 'Evolution science depends on THEORY rather than fact, and then has an artist sketch what the prehistoric person looks like.' Anyone who can spot a flaw in her evaluation of the scientific method, answers on a post-card, please. Anyway, I was feeling the need to be bad after all this, and so contributed a misspelled bit of venom: ‘sack them faggits’, man, I don’t want no goddam faggits cuttin my hair spreddin gay disease everwhere an stuff’ feeling sure the questioner would get the point that I had seen through his trolling. Seconds later I received this self-righteous little wobbly by e-mail from someone who obviously thought the questioner in earnest: ‘you teach children? you're fowl [sic] ... i cannot belive you posted that content on an account that you have had this long...you have my pity... pity the fool i say...' I wrote back, snootily correcting his spelling and pointing out that I had written a deliberately stupid answer to a deliberately stupid question. Then I got an e-mail telling me my answer had been deleted for violation of terms of service, and two more from the Wobbler saying ‘FVCK YOU!’ [sic]. I went to his answer to the same question and flagged it as inappropriate in retaliation and…

… I came to. I realised I had just spent an evening writing to an ex-Wiccan recovered drug addict who is now high on Jesus and conspiracy theories and beyond all reason, followed by fifteen minutes replying to an egregiously stupid question, then a spiteful little spat with the pious twerp who messaged me, then pettishly marking the writer’s own answer as inappropriate simply because he had not allowed me the option of replying to his ‘fvck off’ messages. ‘Tell me this isn’t true,’ I thought. ‘Tell me it has not come to this. It has. I’m off to bed.’

Right. Any passing God-botherer is kindly requested to move on now, and not to try to save my soul for a while. Your attentions are disturbing the balance of my mind, and I’m going to be as ripe for Bedlam as you are unless you leave me alone, OK?

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Run that one by me again?




The season of long(ish) essays is upon us, and tutors perusing and commenting on drafts are resisiting, over and over, student attempts to get them to write the essay on their behalf. The usual ploy is for the student to request feedback on each paragraph, or even each sentence, before embarking on the next. This is not on. If at this stage they are still assembling the damned essays sentence by sentence instead of in a fair degree of conformity to an overall plan, things do not bode well for the finished products. However, it is gratifying to be able to report that not everyone is approaching the task as if essay-writing were something like filling a skip. A colleague showed me a plan in which the writer had separated his points under headings, demonstrating an understanding that an essay requires an introduction and a conclusion and between them, a 'main paddy'. Well done, that boy.

Over-reliance on bilingual dictionaries and reluctance to explore the collocations and connotations of vocabulary items in a monolingual dictionary make some students' essays almost impenetrable, but it's the near-misses that stick in the mind rather than the total pile-ups. From colleagues today I heard the following:

'Marriage is a social bondage to organise societies.' OK - you might just be able to get away with that one, I suppose, even if you don't quite get the flavour. It's only the hypersensitive British antennae for double-entendre that make it sound a bit mucky. However, 'it's my job to pleasure the customers' gives entirely the wrong impression if your position is actually that of sales assistant. And though I have never been to Saudi Arabia and know nothing of marriage ceremonies there, I do know that concerning morality, they famously have strict statutes and most biting laws, so it's my gut feeling that the lady who wrote 'the bride should service the father-in-law and the brother-in-law' did not actually mean that.

Friday, 4 June 2010

I'm wondering...



...how to react to this bloke? I'm torn. Hug him? Wring his neck? I dunno. He's like a Jew who's proud to be starching Eichmann's shirts. Haydn Sennitt is a gay man no longer gay. He went hetero for Jesus, in outward appearance at least; he has a wife and kids. I don't know if he still feels atracted to men - it seems to me unlikely that the desire could wholly vanish, but then Christers need a besetting sin to battle against, or they don't feel they're doing it right, so that's OK. Haydn was asked to participate in a forum on the subject of homosexuality. This is why he accepted:

'Someone needed, and still needs, to put their face to a story of redemption about being saved from the darkness of ‘gay’ living because the days are short and people are going to hell. Someone with enough love for God and sinners and enough conviction to put their head above the parapet—even if it means getting one’s head blown off—to win even a few to the Truth, which was something that I thought was worthwhile. I just had to step out because no-one else was doing it.'

Good for you, Haydn. You appear to have more concern for sinners than the God you proclaim. His 'word' is so vague and open to any number of interpretations, we need someone like you to tell us what it really means. But what is this about dark 'gay living'? Does the term mean anything? How? If you get in with people whose style and actions you don't like, be they gay, straight, bi or celibate, keep away from those people, but don't lump everybody of the same sexual preference together as if that were the only thing that defines them, or even the most important thing that defines them. It is not kind. Neither is it intelligent.

What other reasons did you have for playing into the hands of every bigot eager for another justification for his externalised self-hatred?

'I wanted the audience to see not simply the truth about Jesus but that God actually cares about people. That He loves them. That He even loves gay people, a group that many Christians consider untouchable, freakish, outlandish, and just plain bizarre.'

And did you do anything to change those ugly prejudices? Like fuck you did. You simply licked the boots of those who propagate them by being a penitent, an ex-untouchable, an outlandish freak reformed in their eyes because he entirely accepts their terms. It's rather as if a German Jew in the thirties were to say, you know, they're right: we really are like sewer rats.

*****

More hyper-bollocks from my creationist YouTuber this morning.

'Humanity has failed to see what love really is and means. It has cheapened it, defiled it, and glorified false representations of it. What we have defined as love is idolatry and self-worship - and that is the root origin of homosexuality.'

Top marks for young male arrogance and want of tact, there, and no points at all for defining of terms. It might be possible to do him for plagiarism too. However, I'm more offended by his skewed view of the theory of evolution:

'As homosexuality is a normal occurrence within our species, genetic evolutionary theory makes no sense - as our innate personal make-up (theoretically including our sexual orientation) is the byproduct of the genetic makeup passed down to us from our ancestors. The existence of homosexuality makes a lot more sense under the Creationist theory. If this is true, homosexuality is therefore just another example of humanity's choice to live in defiance to God's will.'

Homosexuality is 'a normal occurrence' then. So why do God's chillun bang on about its sinfulness the way they do? To be sure, evolution doesn't explain homosexuality, but it's barmy to claim that homosexuality disproves evolution. Homosexuals can and do have children. Some may do so because they want to, but in many societies, e.g., Muslim, traditional Mediterranean, people who are homosexually inclined are often given no choice but to marry and reproduce. This has been the case for centuries in so many societies. Homosexuality as presently perceived in Western societies, where couples can live openly as gay, is a phenomenon less than thirty years old. Prior to that, societal disapproval and pressure to conform would have forced thousands of people to marry and have kids, who otherwise would have preferred to live with a same-sex partner. Therefore genes would have been passed on. Nobody is claiming that a single gene is reponsible for the whole phenomenon of homosexuality, but nobody is in a position to dismiss a possible genetic contribution either.

Just incredible, really



In case you are not British, or you have been in a coma for the last three days, let me fill you in. The day before yesterday, one Derrick Bird, a taxi driver, went on a shooting spree up in Cumbria and killed twelve people. The incident is at present inexplicable and like to remain so for ever. Of course it is very, very sad. That is as much as I want to know, really. So I am pig sick of the way BBC radio news is sucking the incident dry. First, we had endless interviews with the members of this ‘tight-knit community’. They can’t believe it.

‘We can’t believe it,’ they say.

‘Just incredible, really.’

‘He seemed a normal guy who liked a pint,’ they say, liking a pint being as normal as anyone can get in British terms.

‘Absolutely stunned. Out of the blue. He seemed that ordinary.’

In all fairness, people cannot be expected to say anything else at such a time, so why does the PM programme feel the need to play us dozens of variations on the same predictable theme for three days? And so many criminals do seem normal – is it worth pointing out? A few years ago, news reports spent a lot of time telling us that a murderer of prostitutes in Ipswich lived in an ordinary semi. Just as well they did, for we might otherwise have supposed he lived in a turreted castle with bats hovering round the tower.

About now, we are getting onto the next news phase, which is everybody ‘paying tribute’ to the dead, even if, as in the case of David Cameron, they didn't know any of them from Adam. On the news and in the papers these tributes are as heart-rending as they can be tarted up to be. 'Seventy-eight year old apple-cheeked widow Doris Crollicks, an ex-nurse, was innocently tending her hollyhocks outside her cottage, having just returned from spending her pension money on sweeties for her grandkids, when…' Look, it was a tragic incident which has scarred a lot of people for the rest of their days. We can empathise. Because we can empathise, we have no need to have the tragedy rubbed in. It is all beginning to remind me of the way Hollywood movies have to spell out ‘p-o-i-g-n-a-n-t m-o-m-e-n-t!!!’ with simpering strings in case our cloddish brains fail to register the appropriate emotion.

Thirty years or so ago, I saw the mother of one of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper being interviewed after Peter Sutcliffe had been convicted and jailed. Her reaction was very British. In answer to the journalist’s inane and intrusive questions about her feelings towards the man who had killed and dismembered her daughter, the lady maintained a calm and dignified demeanour that won her praise from The Sun, of all quarters. She said she was not bitter, presumably recognizing that Sutcliffe was mad as a shit-house rat. She wished he was not here and that her daughter was, but that was as far as she would be drawn.

I recalled that interview some fifteen years later while watching a mother on Greek TV. The man who had killed her son had just been released from jail, and she was not best pleased. She gave it all she’d got. Howled and wailed and cursed. If you read Greek, you will be able to reconstruct the scene better than those who need the translation, so here are both:

She said: ‘Ο δολοφόνος του παιδιού μου! Ο δολοφόνος του παιδιού μου!!!! Να σαπίσει μεσ’στην φυλακή! Να του φύγουν τα μάτια! Ο δολοφόνος του παιδιού μου!’

This means: ‘The killer of my child! The killer of my child!!! May he rot in prison! May his eyes fall out of his head! The killer of my child!

What a difference, I thought. In Britain, you are greatly admired for strangled self-restraint: in Greece, nobody will believe you feel anything unless you play to the gallery. Naturally, like any other strangled, self-restraining English male, I felt the British way was preferable. But I was behind the times. I wasn’t in England for the death and funeral of Princess Diana, thank God, when the nation went all blubbering tears and warm wee-wee, and some idiots said that the English had come of age at last, showing their emotions instead of bottling them up, dashed load of nonsense. I was here when Madeleine McCann was abducted, though, and was mystified at the reactions some people of my acquaintance had to her mother’s appearance on the telly. In my view, Kate McCann was showing the same sort of dignity in public as the lady whose daughter was slaughtered by Peter Sutcliffe. In their view, however, while a full-on Greek number would have been over the top, she ought to have been visibly fighting back tears and sounding choked when she was interviewed. The absence of visible grief was taken for the absence of grief tout court. Very stupid, in my view.

So I will be happier when the Cumbria shootings have finally been wrung dry, and very real private grief returns to being real and private where it should have stayed all along, instead of being turned into entertainment for the nosey and sentimental.

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