Saturday, 26 April 2014

Star Cross

Before we get started, I have a little announcement. I realize that my blog posts are getting a little few and far between. I am sorry, I'm working on that, but it's not easy. Especially since it often takes a while to write these things. So, I've started a tumblog. I will still be putting my heart and soul into this blog, this is my main project. However, if you want to get your dose of Absurd Word Nerd between blog posts, get some inside information into upcoming Duke chapters and blog posts or even ask me a question directly, feel free to drop by. I drew a button which I've added down in the right column -->
It's in the "Follow Me" section, the blue 't'. It's also alongside a red 'g+' which links to my Google+ Page, if you want to follow me there as well (although, to be honest, I don't update very much on Google+).
The tumblog can be found at kelnius.tumblr.com; and it's still early days so I've only done four posts, but give it time. It will grow, especially if there are a lot of people following it.

Alright, now, that's enough niceties, because this post is going to be nasty.

I try to be nice. I do what I can to be nice to people and I appreciate the lighter side, to like people and to come to understand the good things they can offer. However, something that really puts me off is that there are a lot of people that, as I see it, are terrible people, yet others seem to like them. I'm talking about celebrities. Not all of them, but there are a few of them that are just putrid human beings. And yet, despite all of their failings, a thousandfold of their followers stand up and cheer at them for being awesome, when I would rather vomit with rage.
The Word of the Day is: 'INFAMOUS'

Infamous /infəməs/ adj. 1. Of ill fame; having a very bad reputation: An infamous city. 2. Deserving or causing shame or bad repute: Infamous conduct.

There are a lot of famous people that I don't like very much, from Justin Bieber to Joan Rivers; but if I tried to list them, I would be here all day. See, a lot of those people have a bad reputation. That's the first definition of today's word, but I want to talk about the second: "deserving or causing shame (or bad repute)".
Because there are quite a few people that I, personally, hate, yet everyone else seems to think (erroneously) that they deserve to keep on living. There are at least five (perhaps more), but I want to list those top five in order of who I hate the least to who I hate the most. These are people that you probably like. If you don't, welcome to my world, but if you do, then allow me the chance, and I will explain not only why I hate these people, but you should really hate these people too. This is:

The A.W.N.'s Five Celebrities I HATE that Everyone Else LOVES

#5-| Stanley Kubrick

Before I saw any of his films, I heard great things about Stanley Kubrick: Visionary; Master of cinema; Greatest Director of all time. So when I heard that SBS (an Australian channel) was going to do a Kubrick week, I was psyched. I settled in to watch some great cinema. I watched Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange & 2001: A Space Odyssey - and I was bored out of my mind. I forced myself to watch all three, because despite hating each one, I thought "surely this one will live up to the hype", but they sucked every time.
Kubrick makes bad movies, but that's not the reason I hate Kubrick. See, when I hated his films, I decided to look up why people thought he was a genius, despite all the evidence to the contrary and I found it. Kubrick is a perfectionist, he fiddles and fucks around with every scene of his films, and actors are put through the ringer making every single detail suit his inscrutable vision. Except, I watched the damn films, and all of that equals nothing, because the movies are terrible.

So often, he puts in these tiny details so that there's some kind of hidden meaning. But it's a goddamned movie! Sit down, watch, enjoy. I'm not saying that you can't engage with a film and get sucked into the mastery, but the film needs to be there on the screen. Hiding all these tiny details is just masturbatory. The only way to enjoy these films is to put as much effort into dissecting these films as Kubrick put into constructing the convoluted mess. It's like digging a thousand crooked needles into someone's skin just so that they have to take each one out, individually; that's ridiculous.
And if you think the needle simile is over the top - it's not. The clincher, the reason why I absolutely despise Kubrick, is because as far as I'm concerned, Kubrick is a complete moron that likes to torture people.

For the film The Shining he forced his secretary to type out, by hand, the complete "All Work and No Play" manuscript, for months, as well as verbally abusing Shelley Duvall until her hair started falling out and forcing her to repeat one scene (where she's swinging a baseball bat at a fellow actor) 127 times; While filming A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick was basically trying to kill main actor, Malcolm MacDowell. He scraped his cornea half-way through the "brainwashing" scenes, yet forced him to continue, had his ribs broken during a fight scene because he used no stunt double and almost drowned him in one long-take where his character had his head held underwater; He flat-out lied to actors in Doctor Strangelove, particularly George C Scott, into thinking they were making a serious drama, when in reality he was using their "joke takes" to make the comedy & worst of all, all of these movies are shit.
Now, it's not just the fact that Kubrick wastes tonnes of effort on these films. It's the fact that he's just an arsehole who seems to enjoy torturing people for his "art", which is worth less then the hair on his arse.
the only reason that he is so low on this list is because he died of a heart attack in 1999, so he can finally stop torturing actors for the sake of his worthless cinema.

#4-| Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert? But he was a cancer victim; he was one of the first people that re-introduced criticism as art and he died after a long-suffering . . . blah blah blah, No. You don't get to play that game, because Roger Ebert is a moron.
Something that you'll be seeing as a recurring theme on this list, is that one of the things I hate most is when someone is famous for something for which they are terrible, and Roger Ebert was terrible at reviewing movies. Like with Kubrick, I heard the hype, "Roger Ebert, famous Movie Reviewer", so for a Film & TV class, I looked up his reviews, and I noticed something.
First of all, every single on of his reviews is littered with references to classic filmography. Whether it's The Human Centipede review that mentions Hammer Horror films; The Dark Knight review with the Man who Laughs references; his Deep Throat review (seriously) that references Orson Welles or his own shitty, exploitation film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls which he doesn't review, yet still manages to make a Citizen Kane reference.
Roger Ebert seemed less interested in reviewing films, and more interested in showing off his in-depth knowledge of old-timey films, he had seen and nobody else had because they have better things to do with their time; yet always included them in a way that sounded like he believed himself to be infinitely better than you.

But the thing is, he's not better than you. He was not even better than most movie reviewers, because he was so completely out of touch with modern audiences. He reviewed Death Race: hated it; He reviewed Kick-Ass: hated it; He reviewed The Ring: hated it. Now, I'm not saying that he has to love every film that his audience loves, that's a foolish claim - I don't even like the Ring that much - but it's the reason why he hated these films that bug me. Here is a list of Roger Ebert's favourite films of all time. Roger Ebert lived - and continued reviewing films - up until 2013, and yet the eras of his top 10 films of all time come from the years 1941 to 1986. Nothing beyond 1987 even gets a mention.

Now "being an old man" is not really an excuse to hate someone. But do you know what is? "Being an old man that tries to stop progress". Which leads me into the clincher, and the reason why I am not at all bothered that Roger Ebert is dead:
  "Videogames can never be art"
-Roger Ebert, 2010
It's not the fact that he's wrong (and he is wrong), because he's entitled to be wrong, but it's the goddamned arrogance of this man - the authority with which he espouses his wrong opinion that pisses me off. Ebert has precisely zero expertise in videogames. His field is movies, and I argue that he has no expertise there either, but he has no place talking about videogames.
Not only that, but as The Game Overthinker points out in his response to Ebert's claims - it makes Ebert a goddamned hypocrite. Because for the longest time, a lot of experts in other mediums claimed that "Film can never be art", because it was made by more than one creator, yet Ebert saw no irony in repeating the history of hatred towards a younger medium, using the exact same argument.
Unlike Kubrick, I am not happy that Ebert is dead. In fact, I am saddened because no one changed his opinion on the matter, and they would have - given time - because Ebert was so very wrong on the matter, and kind of an idiot that needed education. His death took away the chance for him to learn something, and that makes me sad . . . although, it doesn't make me miss him.

#3-| Stephen King

A lot of people seem to think that I should like Stephen King. See, I am an amateur author on the internet, so I am in a few writing communities. As a result, I see a lot of other young writers, and many of them have been scouring the internet for tips and/or advice on writing. One of the works they often source as an inspiration to them is On Writing by Stephen King. But what none of these people seem to understand is that Stephen King is a terrible storyteller. Even my Beloved seems to appreciate his work, which is one of our few points of difference.

I hate Stephen King, because he doesn't know what a good story is, he just repeats himself. Do you remember that one Stephen King book about a writer/alcoholic battling evil, unearthly forces in Maine?
Oh, wait a minute(!) Is Stephen King a writer, and alcoholic, who lives in Maine? What a fucking brilliant man, I wonder where he gets his original fucking ideas from! "Write what you know", right Steve?
Do you know why every Stephen King movie is shit? I have seen heaps of them and I can tell you why. It's because Stephen King doesn't know how to construct a good story, they're all stupid. However, he is a good "writer". He knows how to scare people with his words, that's what makes him popular.
  "What's that?" I hear you say, "Did you just say that's he's a good writer? Then why do you hate him, pray tell."
Well, as I said with Kubrick, being bad at what you do doesn't make me hate you, that makes me hate your work. What makes me hate Stephen King is that he is a hypocrite, who doesn't even realize how much of a hypocrite he is. Now, I don't like Stephenie Meyer, she is a bad storyteller in my opinion. The reason she is bad is because she doesn't know how to plot, she just steals from classic literature, but leaves out the part that makes it good (i.e. originality, good character & a point beyond Mormon values and teen-girl bait), but she doesn't offend my sensibilities. I read Twilight, and I understand why it's popular, she's a good writer, but a bad storyteller. And yet, Stephen King has the audacity to publicly say "Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn".
No! No, Mr King, you have not earned the right to insult another author for bad writing. You have not displayed the fortitude that would qualify you as capable of deferring good literature from bad. You do not deserve the time of day to stand up and whine about another author being more successful than you; especially when she's writing just as well as you, but for a more populous and under-appreciated audience. I don't care that it's Stephenie Meyer, I don't hate Stephenie Meyer (I just hate her books) but that's not what matters, she doesn't matter. What matters is that the only reason he was even bitching was because she's earning more money than him, and he wanted to jump on the bandwagon, without realizing how much of a hypocrite it made him.

I despise Stephen King. I hate him so much, I could even write a putrid, disgusting, toad-like character, inspired by how much I hate him and his own selfish, close-minded views. [*cough* Steeking *cough*]. I don't like bad stories; I don't like people that write bad stories & I really don't like bad storytellers teaching others to write stories as bad as their own. But what I really hate, is a fucking hypocrite. You'd think, after getting hit by a car, he'd learn some goddamned humility. But now, he's just a crippled hypocrite, and I hate him for it.

#2-| Jamie Oliver

I hate Jamie Oliver. There's a very simple reason I hate Jamie Oliver, it's because he's a stupid, git-faced, ox-tongued, self-important little shit. But that's not a very rational or logical argument, so allow me to explain why he's a stupid, git-faced, ox-tongued, self-important little shit . . .
Basically, Jamie Oliver is a cook. I don't hate cooks, my favourite non-fictional television show ever is MasterChef. Sure, he adds too much salt to everything; sure every time he's done something live, it seems to go horribly wrong; sure, he seems to think that 'gorgeous' is the only adjective in the English language and has the vocabulary of a scab because he's an illiterate bastard & sure, his organic restaurants can be overpriced hogwash. But that alone is not why I hate him. What I hate is that Jamie Oliver doesn't seem to realize that he's a cook. He wants to get out of the kitchen, into the real world to fix it. But he can't fix anything, not the economy, not education and most certainly not childhood obesity.

Jamie has been going nuts with his crackdown on those poor, lonely . . . well poor people, in these hard economic times. They can't even cook a meal, so he made 15 Minute Meals, to show those poor peasants how to cook. He showed them how to whiz up food in his food processor (which all poor people have); cut up herbs from his herb garden (which all working parents have, of course) & save time by preparing portion sizes; cooking utensils; boiled water & pre-heated oven beforehand (which every working parent has the additional 15 minutes to do after a long day at work).
After that smash hit failed to solve the economy, Jamie "solved" the education problem. How? By making one "Dream School". Sure, that doesn't solve the rest of the schools in existence that don't have celebrity funding, but fuck it, at least that school will be amazing. And hey, maybe it will be a  trendsetter, maybe it could inspire other schools to build a biosphere; give their students a tour of Cambridge University when they feel like it or offer Latin, DivingPhotography and Sailing classes to their students. It's not like these kids are poor or from low-income families or something like that. Yeah, that's education solved, now what about obesity?
I know, let's go to a school and tell the lunch lady how to do her job. Never mind that the school doesn't have the budget to pay for school lunches, we'll just go over budget anyway, what's the worst that could happen? Oh, that's right, they won't have enough money and it will be too much work for the cafeteria workers to prepare your intricate recipes. Then when the series concluded, a much higher percentage of children were not eating the food provided. So, with that success under his belt, Jamie went to the unhealthiest city in America, where he also failed miserably.

Jamie Oliver doesn't understand that these are surface issues stemming from a terrible education system, capitalism and a poor economy. He thinks that childhood obesity, poor people & education can be solved from the outside in, when these are core problems that could only be tackled from the inside out. But of course he doesn't realize this, because he's a fucking idiot. He doesn't understand what it means to be poor, because he's not, he's too shortsighted. He's not a revolutionary, he's not a politician and he's not an economist; he's a fucking cook with a shitload of money because he sold a lot of recipe books and owns a few restaurants. But that's not good enough for Jamie Oliver, and that's why I hate him. It's not because he tries and fails, it's because he's only trying for his own selfish needs. He doesn't want smart people to change the world, he wants to save it all himself. But all he can offer is to throw his money at it, and offer some recipes.
I am so glad that Jamie Oliver isn't a woman, because I can unashamedly say that he needs to get back in the kitchen. Stop telling people how to live their lives; make me a sandwich by any means, that's all your good for.

#1-| Oprah Winfrey

Why is Oprah Winfrey on the top of this list? Do I hate her the most? Well, no, I probably hate Stephen King the most. But this list is ordered from the smallest to the greatest difference between how I feel and how most people seem to feel. So while Oprah Winfrey is not the most deserving of my hate, she is certainly the person most deserving of your hate, on this list.
Why? Well, because one of the words used to describe Oprah is "charitable". And it's true, she does give a lot of money to charity. From 2004 to 2010 she remained one of the top 50 Most Charitable Americans according to Philanthropy.com. She has given over four-hundred million dollars towards education, she recieved the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award and of course, everyone remembers the time she gave everyone in her audience a new car.
Not to mention her Oprah's Angel Network, a charity organization designed to support more charities. Wow, look at all that charity, isn't Oprah such a kind and charitable woman?

Before you answer, I want you to consider something. Because, you see, I used to believe that about her too; but that was before "the Prayer Chair", there's a video on Oprah's website of Oprah looking around Dolly Parton's tour bus, and around the 1:15 mark, Ms Parton talks about her prayer altar by her bed and how she prays every day. Now, sure, praying is just weird to me, as an atheist I don't understand it, but Dolly Parton is a country singer so that's even weirder and I just don't much care about her doing it. But then, Oprah herself starts to gloat about her own 'pray station', a chair that she sits in to pray every day during the sunrise, and she talks about how she "even prays in bed some days". And that's when I started to feel icky, because Oprah was sort of "competing" with Dolly. It was passive, but she seemed to keep on ragging on about how very Christian she was. Later, they inspect her bath towels, and there are some rosary beads hanging there, and Oprah takes the moment to deliberately point them out just so she can add "ooh, I have them, I use them as a bookmark".
And that's when I started to feel sick in my stomach. It's not that she's Christian, I like good Christians, my best friend is a good Christian, Samuel L. Jackson is a good Christian and even Dolly Parton is a good Christian. But it was the way Oprah talked about it, it didn't seem so much 'devout', as it seemed competitive, as though she was keen to show off how very Christian she was. That was then I started to think about it . . .

Oprah Winfrey is very Christian, competitively so, and Christianity advocates helping your fellow man; blessed are the meek and so forth. So I couldn't shake off the suspicion that every single charitable thing that Oprah Winfrey has ever done, was tainted with selfishness. I couldn't help but question whether everything that Oprah has ever done for another person, was because she thinks it will impress either other Christians or her Judeo-Christian god. Because when you do something according to a bible, you're not doing it for morality's sake, you're doing it for your religion's sake in the selfish hope that you might earn your place in heaven. And every time I see Oprah Winfrey now, I can't help but feel like she doesn't do charity because she cares about other people. I feel like she's merely acting "charitable", for either some competitive Christian edge, or because she believes that it will get her a ticket to the good afterlife.
Does that mean that I don't appreciate the charity? Of course not. I like that poor people are getting money; I like that people are getting educated and I like that she's given scholarships to those needy students. But that's just her money, I like Oprah's money, but I don't like Oprah. In fact, I hate her. Because she represents the same thing that so many people on this list share, she presents herself as one thing, when deep down I see something different. On the outside, offering kindness and charity; but greedy and selfish, rotten at the core. Acting empathetic, while rounding up damaged people like a freakshow for the purposes of view ratings; giving credence to unprofessional advice and pseudoscience, suckering in fools that follow her & lauding over her many adoring fans that, for their obsession, have been called "the Cult of Oprah". And if that doesn't make you hate Oprah, well, then you're much more forgiving than me.


Well, that's my list. Perhaps in the future, I will write a much nicer list, a list of celebrities I like. But I plan to get my Duke Forever post done next, so I hope you enjoy that, and any "Celebrities I Love which you Hate" list will have to wait.
I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and until next time, if you like these celebrities, well, you're part of the problem. But if you too hate them, don't worry, you're not alone and you're not the only sane one left.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Visionary

Wow, I've fallen behind quite a lot. I do apologize, but I've been working on this anthology story and it has been surprisingly time consuming. But, since I've completed a sizeable chunk of that story, I feel like I can peel myself away for a while to reward my faithful readers.
Now, after this post, I won't return until I finish that story, and even then, there will just be one post before the next Duke Forever (which will take a short while) but hopefully you will enjoy this post in the meantime, to tide you over before that next project. And today, I have something on my mind that I want to talk about.

See, yesterday, I got new glasses. Well, I got new lenses and kept the same frame, but it's essentially like having brand new glasses and so the experience has got me thinking about glasses, in general. Because I have always felt like there is a kind of romantic ideal when it comes to wearing glasses, both in the sentimental sense, and in the chivalrous sense. Because I'm near-sighted, and without my glasses, I can only see things that are about a foot away from my face, so when I'm with my Beloved, I can take off my glasses and wholeheartedly say: "All I can see . . . is you."
 . . . and wholeheartedly mean it in every sense of the phrase.
But being an old-fashioned romantic is not all there is to owning glasses. In fact, you could say, that wearing glasses is, in so many ways, spectacular. The Word of the Day is: 'SPECTACLE'

Spectacle /'spektəkəl/ n. 1. Anything presented to the sight or view, especially something of a striking or impressive kind: The stars make a fine spectacle tonight. 2. A (large) public show or display: The coronation was a lavish spectacle. 3. (pl.) Eyeglasses; A device to aid faulty eyesight or to protect the eyes from light, dust, etc., consisting usually of two glass lenses set in a frame, especially with pieces passing over or around the ears for holding them in place. 4. Often, Spectaclesa. Something resembling spectacles in shape or function. b. Any of various devices suggesting spectacles, as one attached to a semaphore to display lights or different colours by coloured glass. 5. Obsolete A spyglass. 6. Make a spectacle of oneself, to call attention to one's unseemly behaviour; behave foolishly or badly in public: They tell me I made a spectacle of myself at the party last night.

There's something about owning glasses which I experienced yesterday, which someone with unaided vision will never have seen for themselves, but I want to do my best to share that with you in this post. After all, what is the point of being able to write, if I can't use it to share unique experiences?
So I want to walk you through my experience of walking home with new glasses; because, seriously . . . woah, it was trippy.

Yesterday, I recieved a text message saying my new lenses were ready, so this morning, I walked to the shopping centre where I'd had my eyes checked. The shopping centre is about 30 minutes away through a park, by a busy road, past an open field and through some trees and a suburb. That's not important now, but it's an important part of foreshadowing for later in the story that I walked through the place oblivious of my surroundings because I'd seen it before, it was dull.
I went to the shop, the lady asked what I was there for, I said "I'm here for my new lenses" so she sat me down and asked for my glasses, so she could fit the new lenses into the frame. So, I sat on the couch thingy, and gave her my glasses.

Now. I am quite blind without my glasses. As I said in the pre-definition statement, I am near-sighted, and because my field of vision is half a metre or so, I can't see shit with the naked eye. I can read up close, and often take off my glasses to read books (which confuses people who are used to reading glasses), but without I just stare awkwardly and blankly around, trying to make out shapes, and seeing only fuzzy blobs.
Then the lady gave me my new glasses to try. I put them on, and I immediately could see her face. She wasn't old, so don't think that, but I could see the natural wrinkles, freckles and features of her face, so I knew it was working, but when I looked past her, to the wall of glasses, my vision was warped. Not "blurry" so much as out of focus. They may sound like the same thing. My usual blurry just looks like the colours between shapes start to "spread out" and blend, as the light diffuses within my misshapen cornea, but this was more like the bokeh blur, like on artsy photographs. I told the lady that it was blurry, so she took the glasses - because they weren't sitting straight on my face - and adjusted it to see if that helped.
Admittedly, this time my blindness felt so pronounced because, for a second, I could see up close really well. She gave me the glasses back and the glasses sat straight, but the same problem was there. I could see the shop assistant, but stuff further away looked out of focus. The lady told me to go for a walk, because sometimes it takes a while to adjust, and if there was still a problem I could come back.

So, I went for a walk. And as I stepped outside, I felt shorter. I experience this all the time when I get an upgrade to my prescription, but this time it was much more pronounced. I was used to it, but you might find it odd, so allow me to explain:
When someone says you have 20/20 vision, they mean "Something 20 feet away from you, looks as it would 20 feet from a healthy eye". I don't have 20/20 vision, mine is probably closer to 20/120 these days. Which means "Something  I can clearly see at 20 feet, looks as it would 120 feet away from a healthy eye". Something like:
 ๏  ๏: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .X. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brain: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .X.
However, because my eyes have been like that for so long, my brain sort of equalized it. It got used to having bad vision, so it came to an understanding "yes, something that looks that far away is close, that's fine", so it evened it out:
 ๏  ๏: .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .X.
Brain: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .X.
This is a rough illustration, but yeah, my brain understood that stuff that's close looks shitty, as though it's far away. But when I put my glasses on, it corrected the shitty vision disparity from the first picture. So when I put in my new glasses, my brain compensated before my eyes knew what was happening:
⌐□-□: .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .X.
Brain: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .X. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So, I felt like I was half a metre tall.

And as I walked around, I realized that that was the problem. My eyes had gotten so used to focussing on stuff up close, that I wasn't actually looking at the stuff far away. And when I actually focussed my eyes . . . wow. It is so weird looking around at the details of the world, because I found myself glancing everywhere, drinking in all of the stuff I hadn't been able to see for so long. The scratches on signs, the wrinkles on faces, the texture of surfaces. I was glancing around like a kid in a candy store, trying to decide which sweet they wanted most. Except I was sampling all of the treats, with my eyes.

Anyway, because my glasses were working, I went home. And I couldn't stop staring at the grass. When you look at grass, you probably ignore it. But as I walked, I found myself staring at the ground. Because of the shortening illusion, it felt like it was within reach. I only ever see it that close when I'm crawlign on all fours, so I felt like I could reach out and touch it. But as I moved my hand into view, I started staring at it because it looked so small, yet when I looked at my palm, it felt big, because it was up so close. I swear, Sean Lock was right, normal people have to take drugs to feel like this . . .

Now, as I was walking I was starting to get a headache. This was a combination of things. Firstly, I'm a little photosensitive, and it was a bright day. Secondly, despite my optometrist's suggestion, I hadn't been exercising my eyes enough. See I read books and look at computer screens a lot, up close; if you do the same, it's a good idea to exercise your eyes by looking into the distance on occasion, so that those muscles in your eye which allow you to do that, don't wither or atrophy. So, when I started getting headaches, I remembered that advice, and started staring at trees as I walked past. So that I'd see the in the distance, then watch them as I got closer.
At first, I was just exercising my eyes. But after a while, I was doing it because it was fascinating. I swear, I felt like I was wearing 3D glasses. Now, that might seem weird - of course it was like that, this is the real world it's always like that - but I mean it. Everything usually looks dull to me. But because I could see it in such detail, and I was watching it slowly turn (from my perspective) in that space. It was like my world was once on a little cathode-ray tube box television, and had been swapped out for a high definition flatscreen.

But the weirdest part of all, because I was so unused to seeing everything, I realized that I wasn't turning very much. See, half-way through the walk home, I had to turn around to check for traffic, because I had crossed onto the island in the middle of a U-turn bay and was seeing if there was a car coming. But as I turned, I just sort of scanned about, turning really slowly.
At first I didn't understand why. But after I crossed the road, I looked around and I realized that I was doing it because there was so much in my new field of vision, that it felt thick to me. It was like my eyes were wading through a new soup of visual stimuli. So when I turned, I was still drinking it all in, and didn't want to turn too fast, in case it was all too much.

And in fact, it was too much. When I got home, my eyes hurt from all the "exercise" they'd been getting and I had a headache. So I took my glasses off and had a shower.
Thankfully, I'm better now. My eyes have finally adjusted to the new magnification and I feel normal again, and I am happy to say that I am writing this blog post, touch-typing and watching the words fill the screen through my new lenses.

So, that's what it's like to get new glasses. It's a weird experience and I'm almost sad that it's over. It really opened my eyes to the world - literally and figuratively - because we take vision for granted. But when I could see each individual blade of grass; every tiny beetle on the ground; every line in the bark of the trees; every single grain of dirt on the footpath & every single detail the world had to offer, I realized how spectacular, vibrant, detailed and beautiful it really is . . .

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and until next time, although I won't experience that same feeling again, I can always change my perspective and experience the world in a new way. It's as simple as removing my glasses . . .

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Insane Asylum, or How to Get Away with Racism

I want you to imagine, for a moment, that you're having a nice, pleasant evening in your home. You're just at home, maybe watching Game of Thrones and eating dinner, when there's a panicked knock at the door. You go and see who it is, and open the door. Then, behind the locked flyscreen door, you see your neighbour, she lives on your street, you've seen her watering her garden some days, but she doesn't speak much English, so you never got to know her, but you always were kind of scared, because you hear loud arguments from their house at night some times, but you don't understand what they're arguing about. Now here she is, standing on your doorstep and she looks terrified. Then, in broken English, she asks you if she can come inside, for the night, because her husband has threatened to kill her and she's scared - she makes it perfectly clear that he said he would kill her.
She's not holding a weapon and you've never seen her be violent, she came here because your house was the closest one she could get to. She just looks terrified, standing on your doorstep and she wants to come inside, so that she can feel safe. What do you do?

I'd like to think there are some kind people that would let her inside. I know it's scary, she's a stranger and you don't know her. This isn't always black and white, perhaps you would call the cops for her (or on her) but when someone is in need, I'd like to think that at least some people would help her.
But if you were the Australian Government, I know exactly what you'd do. You'd close the door and say "Go home". Or, even worse, you'd step outside, grab that woman by the arm and walk her to another neighbour's house, much further down the street. You'd put her there and tell her to stay there (despite the fact that your neighbour, called Papa, doesn't want her there),then go back home and continue watching Game of Thrones. My metaphor is starting to break down, but my point is, the Australian Government would be a racist arsehole to that poor woman.

How do I know this? How could I possibly make such libellous statements about the callous reaction of my own government to a woman in need? It's because there's a precedent. It's happening right now, and I want to tell you about it, because not only is it absolutely disgusting - it's literally criminal. The Word of the Day is: 'ASYLUM'

Asylum /ə'suyləm/ n. 1. Obsolete A home for the care of the insane, the blind, children without parents or the like. 2. A sanctuary as formerly for criminals or debtors. 3. International Law A refuge granted political refugees: Political Asylum. 4. Any shelter offering safety.

The hypothetical situation I just described reflects the current situation in Australia, whereby many, many people are fleeing from persecution - and execution - in their home country, yet we are refusing them entry to our country. Australia has taken to calling these people "Boat People", because many of them arrive by boat. I know that a lot of people don't like foreigners coming to this country, but those people are usually racist. I want to sidestep the racism thing, first. I mean, I can't entirely - that's a huge part of the issue - we'll get back to that, but I want to put it to the side for a moment, because I want to talk about something important.

A lot of people seem to agree with this policy of Australia, and there's a huge political campaign at the moment called "Stop the Boats" whereby Australia has put in place operations that either refuse these people entry into Australia by towing their boats to neighbouring countries; returning them to their home countries or deterring them from leaving their country in the first place.

Now, let me be clear here - we need to stop calling them "Boat People". The only reason we call them Boat People is because of Governmental Propaganda. Because they're not "Boat People", they're Asylum Seekers; they're Refugees, they're people seeking sanctuary from their own country, because their government wants them dead, or they're seeking safety from a country which is unsafe for them.
Now, one might look at this and say "Yeah, but they're breaking the law, they're illegal immigrants", but that's not the case. Although it is true that these people are entering Australia without a visa, there's a reason for that. Australia will refuse to grant a visa to persons from certain countries. But more importantly, it is not illegal for a person to seek asylum without a visa, in fact, it's a Human Right. And whether or not you believe that, Australia does. Or, at least, it did at one point, when it voted in favour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. One of the many rights we grant immigrants is the Right of Asylum.

So, when the Australian government refuses to allow asylum seekers to their persecuting countries, it breaks the international law known as "non-refoulement", which forbids countries from returning victims of persecution to their persecutor. It's not the "Boat People" that are breaking the law, it's the Australian Government.

Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the issue. Because even if you get past all of that. Even if, as an Asylum Seeker, you get past our boat-towing policies and off-shore resettlement policies and somehow make shore in Australia, we also have a strict policy of Mandatory Detention for illegal immigrants that arrive without a visa, which we continue to implement on these asylum seekers.
Now, I personally don't like this policy, but I understand it. It's basically a little safety check, at least that's the idea, stop people, make sure they're not criminals, make sure they're healthy; make sure they're not carrying third-world country diseases and make sure they are genuinely fleeing from a country that would persecute them. Like I said, I personally don't like it, but I could never convince people that a little spot-check does more harm than good. It makes sense . . . in theory.
However, in practice,the conditions within these centres are worse than most prisons; the buildings are dilapidated and unsafe, there's little to no privacy, the food does not provide enough nutrition for the many children that have been detained & and the majority of detainees have increased suicidality and suffer from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.
And these people have to live in (and with) these conditions for at least at year, and at most, for the rest of their natural life as there is no maximum time limit for detention, and there are a number of deaths and suicides in these facilities. Then, after all that, there's still a high chance that their appeals of asylum will fall through and they won't be granted entry to Australia, instead they'll be sent right back from whence they came.

But it doesn't even stop there. It gets worse, because Racism is a big issue in Australia (I told you I'd get back to that). We have a high number of migrants in this country, 27% of Australians were born overseas (according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, June 2011), and since the original Australians are technically Aboriginals, and they only amount to 2.5% of the overall population (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006), then 71.5% of Australians born in this country are descended from migrants, we have a huge multiculture.
So to me, it doesn't make any sense to cast this distinction. Because so-called Boat People are immigrants just as much as we were, the only real difference is that we got here first. In fact, many of the first Australians were criminals with records, and they were treated better than we treat innocent asylum seekers. But that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the fact that Australia has a heavy racist undercurrent. And many reports state that Racism is on the rise, not only with increased coverage of racially motivated crime, but the Scanlon Foundation's Social Cohesion Report  has found that in 2013 the percentage of individuals discriminated against because of their ethnicity, skin colour or religion had risen to 19%, the highest it has ever been recorded, since the Foundation began this annual study, in 2007.

Now, it's just extrapolation on my part, but is there not reason to believe that part of the reason why racism is on the rise in this country, is because these immigration policies encourage racism?
There's no room for interpretation here, our policies are telling people to stay out of our country, we are removing incoming boats that try to enter this country and we are telling them to go away and stop trying to come to this country. Actions speak louder than words, so I think these actions are much worse than some thickhead racist telling Asian people to "Go back to your own country". This is the worst kind of racism - it's "approved" racism, government sanctioned and supported by the people that are supposed to be the leaders of this country.
So, that's how you get away with racism, in this country: Be the Government.

We shouldn't be unlawfully forcing people to return to persecution, we shouldn't be forcing them into dilapidated, unsafe and torturous facilities & we shouldn't let the government get away with discriminating against people just because they're foreign.
I may say all the time I'm a narrator, not a dictator; but this is unlawful, it's violating human rights, it's cruel and unusual punishment for innocent people and it's just flat-out wrong.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I am disgusted that this is the way my country treats victims of persecution. It's unAustralian.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Road to Hell

You know, something I've been intending to do with this blog, is to make writing easier. Not just for the people that come here for writing advice or free fiction, but also for me since I write here to boost my daily quota of written words, and it's good practice for putting my thoughts to paper. Overall, it's been pretty positive. I've become a better writer, I've given people some good reading and my audience has grown. I love having this blog.
However, there's been an unfortunate side-effect of this blog which I never intended. This has become quite a project. Because I have to write quite frequently and I like to write about interesting things, I've found that it's difficult to come up with stuff to say every day.
I have a backlog, but that doesn't always help because often those Words of the Day don't seem relevant enough. They're too far left field, and I want this blog to remain relevant. As a result, sometimes I miss my posting date.

I do apologize, but all I want is to make this blog the best it can be, even if that means missing a posting date. It was never my intention to ignore my posting schedule. But, that is what happened. Sometimes, good intentions can lead to poor outcomes.

With all of that in mind, I remember something from my youth. In Philosophy class, we had a few lessons about Ethics. And I remember having a friendly debate with a classmate about one form of morality (I believe it was called Kantian Ethics, but don't quote me on that) which held the belief that true morality was based on good intentions.
Boiled down to layman's terms, the idea was - you can cut off someone's arm, that would be cruel and evil if that person was healthy and innocent. However, if they've got a gangrenous, necrotic infection on their elbow, then cutting off their arm would be the right thing. To explain these contradictory notions, they explained morality by claiming it was their intentions that made them moral, not their actions.
We were both talking about this ethical system, but I was arguing the negative - I believe this form of morality does not hold up to scrutiny, because, all in all, intentions are pretty ineffectual. So, today, I'm going to talk about that. The Word of the Day is: 'INTENTION'

Intention /in'tenshən/ n. 1. The act of deciding upon some action or result; a purpose or design. 2. The end or object intended. 3. (pl.) Colloquial Purposes with respect to marriage. 4. Logic The mental act of firstly directing attention to something. 5. Meaning.

In that discussion - so many years ago - my argument was simple. I don't believe that intention matters, because we can't see intention. This is one of the basic principles of my whole "Everyone is Selfish" philosophy; you can't read anyone's mind and so you'll never know someone's intention. You can only ever perceive intention through action.
And since, everyone is the protagonist of their own life-story and everyone does what they believe is the right thing (the majority of the time), then everything that everyone does is always done with good intentions. The Mayans believed that killing people allowed the sun to rise; Evangelical Christians believed that burning women would stop evil and Hitler truly believed that his war would bring him closer to godhood and make Germany a greater place.
There's a famous saying that comes to mind, and it's much too apt to ignore:

  "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions"

I've heard too many stories of people that do cruel things in the name of "good". Be it for imagined gods; personal morals or so-called 'tough love', I can't turn a blind eye to cruelty just because it was done for 'the greater good'.
And on the lighter side, good deeds, even when done with poor intentions, are still good. That was kind of the entire point of my post about Global Warming.

At least, that's what I tend to think. But lately, I've found myself with some conflicting opinions, which don't suit this mindset. It's a paradox which needed unravelling, which lead to a new understanding of the merit of intention.
See, all of the examples I've given of intention's uselessness were actions. I am judging the worth of the actions themselves, and those actions are unaffected by the intention. However, there's more to life than "actions", what about words, feelings & ideas? When we judge the morality of a person's words, their intention becomes more important. Because the meaning of words are dependent on context, including the intent of the speaker. In fact, sometimes, a person's words are immaterial, when compared with what they intend their words for.

For instance, off the top of my head, preachers. A lot of televangelists say really nice things, about togetherness, fairness and unity; but I hate them to my core, because their intent is not to bring people together, but rather to bring "their" people together (others that share their faith) and exclude all others. But it doesn't have to be religious preachers, politicians are often nothing more than political preachers, who tell mouthfuls of lies and mistruths for the purposes of talking themselves up and discrediting all that oppose them.
On the lighter side . . . there's my girlfriend. I often say silly, wrong things around her, because I get flustered around beautiful women, and I find it hard to continue to present myself as the loquacious, erudite gentleman tht I consider myself to be. So I say things wrong, usually just little things, like ambiguous compliments; untempered opinions and off-colour jokes. But she never gets mad, annoyed or upset, because she knows the kind of person I am - she knows my intention - and despite the fact that I always apologize, she tells me I needn't, because my intentions were pure.
Or in the instance of Jimmy Carr (one of my favourite comedians), he tells sexist, racist, disablist, rapist, immoral, offensive and disgusting jokes. But he is still one of my favourite comedians, because despite his jokes, he's actually a nice gentleman that just happens to have a very dark sense of humour. I think this is best portrayed when he does apologize when people don't find his joke funny, like in this clip with a heckler, to whom he apologizes when she feels insulted.

Part of this, I believe, is because of that final definition for intent: Meaning. When we talk, we are trying to communicate our ideas, and we do so through words. Occasionally, we get lost along the way and we don't effectively portray that, but if others can interpret the true meaning - the true intention - of our words, then they can judge us by what we meant, rather than what we said or wrote. In short:
  "We judge actions by their consequences and we judge people by their intentions."

Of course, we also judge people by their actions, so this all starts to become a bit of a logically-recurring nightmare. But in conclusion, our intentions are not as worthless as I once considered them to be, and in writing fiction, understanding intention, and the discrepancies between a character's motivations, intentions, actions & consequences can make compelling character drama, and fascinating villains.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd. And until next time, I intend to work on writing more fiction for this blog, I just hope I find the time.