Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Who Spoils the Spoilers?

Well, I said I'd do another post before the next chapter of Duke Forever - Oh, speaking of:
"Duke Forever - Chapter Nine: BLOODBATH coming soon, only on the Absurd Word Nerd blog."
(ahem) Alright, now that the self-promotion is out of the way. I may do a third little pre-chapter blog post at this rate, since my Writer's Block isn't exactly going away, and I've only written about a third of the story so far. I know everything that's going to happen and I know how it's going to end, I even know some of the jokes and character development moments and scenes, I just need to put the words on the page, so that will be with you soon, fingers-crossed.

But for now, I want to talk about Spoilers. I mentioned last week, briefly, my girlfriend is helping me to write Duke Forever; but it's not just with my writer's block, she helps a lot to edit my work, and in so doing I have to reveal certain plot elements to her. She helps with grammar and story errors, so I reveal certain plot elements so that she can understand why I'm writing in a certain way and why I can't edit out some seemingly unnecessary story elements, even though they don't add anything to that particular chapter.
But at the same time, there are some things I won't tell her. I won't tell her who, what or when "The 88" is, I won't tell her what the Duke will look like when he regenerates into his next incarnation (as Time Lords are wont to do) and I won't tell her exactly how everyone on Rathea died.
Even though she's a part of the writing process, I won't reveal major spoilers, because she is one of the biggest fans of the story and I don't want to ruin her enjoyment of the story, even when she wants me to (and even if I want to). Because spoilers, believe it or not, are very important.
The Word of the Day is: 'SPOILER'

Spoiler /spoylə/ n. 1. Plunderer or robber; despoiler; plunderer. 2. A person or thing that causes spoilage or corruption. 3. A device fitted to an aircraft wing to increase drag and reduce lift. It is usually extended into the airflow to assist descent and banking. 4. A similar device fitted to a car. 5. Sport A team out of final contention that defeats a potential or favored contender and thereby thwarts its chances of winning a championship. 6. A magazine, newspaper, etc produced specifically to coincide with the production of a rival magazine, newspaper, etc in order to divert public interest and reduce its sales.

So, why is this an issue? Why am I talking about spoilers? Well, because for a while now "spoilers" has been a big thing on the internet. The term wasn't so well known a few years ago, but since April 2011, Spoilers became a facet of the internet. When talking about a movie, if you revealed one of the "twists" of the film, then you gave people fair warning, a Spoiler Warning, to let people know so as to not ruin their enjoyment of the film.
It became common practice, and it was good . . .
But then, as happens with everything popular, this soon unleashed a countercultural attitude. An attitude of "Fuck Spoilers". People started to get sick of all these spoiler warning, and they'd get annoyed when people asked about spoilers, so they started getting rude about it.
I've even seen people "brag" about how they reveal spoilers when people tell them not to, and say that they don't care about spoilers, and they find the whole matter to be more trouble than it's worth.
 . . .

Alright, let's talk. Because the problem isn't that spoilers can be frustrating, it's that you're doing them wrong.

For starters, Spoilers Are Important. Just look at that definition up there. Sure, it may seem outdated, it doesn't say "a twist or plot element of a story which will make a story less enjoyable if revealed to the audience beforehand."
But that's because it doesn't have to, because the meaning of the "Spoiler Warning" spoiler is up there already: "A person or thing that causes spoilage or corruption."
When you reveal spoilers, you spoil the work. That's not just a turn of phrase - that's exactly what it means, you corrupt a participant's enjoyment of a film if you reveal spoilers to them before they watch. There are a lot of stories that are reliant on the spoiler to work. The perfect example is a Murder Mystery. The main conceit of the story is that it's a mystery, you don't know who the murderer is (or, at least, you don't know exactly how the victim died). So, if I were to talk about Murder on the Orient Express, then it would be rude if I told  people who the killer was before they read it. Especially with Orient Express, because one of the reasons that that story in particular is so famous is because the murder itself was so unusual!

But it doesn't have to be a murder. An interesting example is "Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I wanted to write an homage to that story for a novella I was working on, so I read the original story (and you can too if you want, it doesn't take long; and if you're going to, you should read that before finishing this blog post).
But did you know, in the original story, there was a Twist? There's no need for a spoiler warning, because by now you all know the twist: The twist is that both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are the same person.
Did you know that? Well, most people do these days. But in that story, it's written as a mystery and the whole tale is building up to that reveal:
"Why does Dr Jekyll hide away in his study for so long?"
"How is it that Mr Hyde can afford this apartment, despite never going to work?"
"Why would a fine gentleman like Jekyll befriend a criminal like Hyde?"
"Where has Dr Jekyll disappeared to?!"
It's well written, but the story is damned boring, because I knew the answer. And so does everyone else, so the original story is useless to everyone, because the major spoiler of that story is now a part of popular, Western Culture; you just can't read it and enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Sure, we've made a whole bunch of other stories, parodies, homages, remakes & pastiches based on that story, but now the original is useless . . .

So, as you can see, a spoiler is important as it can make someone's entire work worthless, all that effort, tension and wordcount, made redundant. This not only makes it bad for the potential readers of that work, but also for the writer.

But, that leads onto my second point: I don't think we're doing spoilers right. Sure, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a book you shouldn't bother reading if you're hoping for a stunning twist, but does that mean I believe it shouldn't have been spoiled?
Well, no. Many interesting characters have been created because they've been inspired by the Jekyll/Hyde character, from interpretations of Smeagol/Gollum to Bruce Banner/ The Incredible Hulk. If that spoiler wasn't a part of popular culture, then those characters probably wouldn't exist, and that's a bad thing.
Heck, if I believed that it shouldn't be spoiled, then I would have given a spoiler warning for those last six or so people that haven't heard of Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde yet.

Another part of spoilers that people seem to get wrong is that not everything needs a spoiler warning. The reason that people which don't care about spoilers find spoiler warnings frustrating is because people who - like me - believe that spoilers are a good thing are overdoing it. Or, ultimately, doing it wrong.

For starters, Spoiler Warning and the like should never be said in interpersonal conversation (unless it's being said ironically). It should never be said for one simple reason, you shouldn't reveal spoilers, ever, in conversation.
And usually, people don't. But for those of you that don't catch on, here's how it works:
Person A: "Hey, have you seen/read/played/experienced [Title of a popular Story/Book/Film/Game]?"
Person B: "Yes, I have, [words of praise or derision (optional).]"
In this case, go right ahead, you can't "reveal spoilers", because the film already revealed those plot elements, you're clear. No need for warnings.
If however, the person replies differently -
Person B: "No, I haven't."
At this point, you shouldn't talk about the book/film/game. At all. Just don't, it really is that simple. There are some people that have bullshit rules "I only reveal spoilers if the film came out 20 years ago." or "If it's in black and white, I don't think spoilers matter." Uh, no that's not how it works! Because the ability for a spoiler to spoil doesn't diminish with time.
Even though it's crazy-old, The Jekyll/Hyde reveal still spoils that story. The Agatha Christie story I mentioned above, Orient Express, I still think that's a good story, so I didn't spoil it. That story is older than most of my readership, but I won't spoil it because it's worth experiencing for yourself, so if you have read it, don't spoil it. And that's the thing that SO many people get wrong - IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU.
Some people say "Well, if they wanted to see it, they would have by now."
Those people are wrong and should be slapped. When you have a desire to reveal spoilers - or just to talk about a story which you've seen/read recently or enjoyed - it's not about you and never was, you selfish bastard, it's about the recipient of this information. This is why it shouldn't be used in conversation. Spoiler warnings exist for one specific reason - to prevent people on the internet from unwittingly spoiling their enjoyment of a film. Because it's impossible for everyone on the internet to experience a story at the same time, so to allow discussion for those that have seen the film (and wish to discuss it), you warn people about the spoilers to filter out those that haven't experienced the story, but would like to.
When these people hear "spoiler warning", they make a conscious decision whether or not they want to have the major plot elements of the story revealed to them. It's not up to you to make a judgement call over whether someone does or doesn't deserve to have a story spoiled. It's up to them. So when the option comes up, always ere on the side of caution and don't spoil it. It doesn't matter how old the story is, if they haven't seen it don't spoil it. It really is that simple.

Now, this might seem a bit draconian - never spoil. But, that's the thing . . . it really isn't. Because not every spoiler is a spoiler, if you get me. A spoiler is called a spoiler because, as I said above, it spoils the story, it corrupts it and makes something less enjoyable. But not all of the things that people call "spoilers" are spoilers.
I'm sorry, but you have to draw a line. In this modern culture where memes and pop-culture references are all the rage, plot elements from stories are going to pop up. You can't stop that. I'm sure many of you & have heard lines like "I'm the One who Knocks"; "It needs to be about 20% cooler"; "Winter is Coming" & "You Shall Not Pass". Many of these could be considered a kind of spoiler, but you can't expect people to not make these references, it's what fandom does.

So, no. I don't think it's an issue. These are what some people might call a "minor spoiler". It's like the fact that Dumbledore is gay, it's not a massive issue (despite what homophobes believe), but it changes the way one experiences the story, because they've been given information they wouldn't have otherwise.
But that's not a big deal to me. Not that I don't appreciate that some people find minor spoilers aggravating - I too find them a little bit frustrating - but in the case of minor spoilers, the onus really is on the recipient to avoid them. Because the thing is, they don't matter - not really. They're not really spoilers, because they don't spoil the film - they don't corrupt your enjoyment of the entire feature, they just spoil the surprise of that one, minor plot point. That's not a spoiling a film, that's revealing what happens. Spoiling that one moment, yeah sure, but not the film entirely - it's not a spoiler, it's just "prior knowledge".
Sometimes, I avoid all prior knowledge of some films, myself. The only reason for this is that there are some stories I want to see "cold", with no prior information. Once I know these kinds of movies are coming out, I put in the effort to avoid minor spoilers, I avoid talking about it, I avoid sites and shows that talk about it and I even mute trailers/advertisements for it. I avoid all of that, so that I can judge the film for myself, without any outside influence.
So you generally don't need to give warnings that your about to reveal this kind of information, because I'm already on the alert and avoiding it. Like, for the movie Frozen - I knew that I wanted to see that movie cold (lol, puns). So, I wouldn't watch ads for it, I avoided reviews for it and when "Let it Go" became the next, great internet meme, I avoided that as well. As soon as I saw any reference to the movie, I avoided it [and having seen it, I wrote a blog post about it a blog post which contains Major Spoilers, please watch Frozen prior to reading my musical analysis of the movie].
But I don't need a "Minor Spoiler" warning, because the title alone is the warning, if you want to avoid prior knowledge it takes a lot of effort - but it should be your effort, not everyone else's.
So no, it's not difficult to avoid spoilers, and give people spoiler warnings. Especially with your friends, because you will know whether or not they're the kind of people that avoid spoilers; and if not, they'll tell you.

That being said, there's one final thing I need to mention . . .
A "Spoiler Warning" is meaningless without context.
Let's say I want to show you an awesome clip from Doctor Who, so I go:
  "Hey, check out this scene from Doctor Who https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoVLhUxhdSw - Contains Spoilers!"

What the fuck does that mean?! Seriously, at time of writing Doctor Who is literally the longest running science fiction television series, in the history of television! So what spoilers am I talking about?
Are they spoilers for the next series, the Twelfth Doctor? Perhaps it's from a recent season with the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. Could it be the clip involves that other character, whose very existence is a spoiler?
In fact, I've been going through the original Doctor Who seasons at the moment (I'm currently up to the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee) so maybe this is a spoiler for something in the first 10 seasons, with the First or Second doctors (or all three, when they meet up in "The Three Doctors").
Or, hey, there was a telemovie for the series titled "Doctor Who", maybe this isn't for the series at all, but for the movie about the Eighth Doctor.

So that warning is useless. A spoiler about what? Without context, you're basically saying "here's a video, don't watch it".
So, for the record, that clip is of the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith; it's from the third act of the episode "The Rings of Akhaten". Yes, it does reveal some major plot elements of that episode, but it doesn't actually spoil the show, and even with that minor twist revealed, the episode is still worth watching. Moreover, it is a great example of why, despite its flaws, I continue to watch Doctor Who, so you should really watch it, even if you're a little bit worried about spoilers.

There, do you see how easy that was? Spoilers are easy, so there's no excuse not to warn people about them.
And if you think that's too difficult for you, Spoiler Alert: you're an arsehole.

I’m the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, don’t be a spoilsport. I’ll hopefully see you soon with the next, thrilling instalment of Duke Forever.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen

I didn't really want to write this blog post. It's a mixture of things, but basically, for this Duke Forever thing, I've been writing a new chapter every eight posts. So it's:
Duke Chapter, seven blog posts, Duke Chapter, seven blog posts, recurring . . .
Part of that was because a major part of the story is the 88 story arch, and eight was a good enough arbitrary number by which to write the next instalment, and it was fun. However, my friend Frank told me that he did the maths, and if I continue like that, the story would take over twenty years to write. Not to mention, my schedule is probably going to get flipped on its head when I finally find a job, which would slow it down even more. So, I figured that I'd speed things up after the eighth post, and write Duke Chapters more frequently.
And since I did the "once every eight" posts thing for the first eight chapters, that's eight-eight, I figure that's enough to get the point across with the 88 reference, now I want to write more frequently. But I don't want Duke Forever to be the entire blog, this is the Absurd Word Nerd blog, not the Duke Forever blog, after all I want it to be a dominant fixture, but not the only fixture, so I wrote a bunch of other blog posts as well, until I got up to six, and I figured I'd start writing this latest Duke Forever post now, after only six, make this one the seventh post and throw a spanner in the whole "every eight posts" pattern, but that's not working out.

As usual, this chapter is taking a while to write, but I've also got writer's block because I'm so stressed with this job-hunting nonsense, and so I've lost a bit of my writing mojo. I'm still battling through, but it's taking too long, so I figured I'd write a blog post now, just to keep everyone up to date and so that people don't think I've disappeared, I'm still here and I'm still writing.
But . . . I don't want the next post to be Duke Forever. I don't want there to be nine eighth posts that are Duke Forever, that doesn't work! I spoke about this in my numerology post, I have arbitrary, numerological curiosities and although they seem silly, constructing patterns is how I create stories - by putting together these disparate, perhaps illogical, ideas. So I'll write this post today and then another one later on in the week before writing my next Duke Forever chapter.

Okay . . . well, that's the plan. So, today's post is basically a bit of housekeeping for the blog, letting you know not only that Duke will be more frequent (and details of that frequency), but that my schedule should be changing in the near future. At that time I might have to post as little as once a week or once a fortnight, and in those instances I hope to write Duke every second or third post. So it would be just as frequent if not more frequent than what I do now.

Right . . .

Well, that's not much of a blog post, is it? I'm just doing housekeeping, this isn't educational or interesting like so many of my other posts. So, for lasting this far, I'll add some fun, shall I?

The following was copy/pasted from a conversation I recently had with someone very dear to me. On her request, spelling errors have been excised, and I've formatted it for easy reading, but otherwise this is exactly what we said to one another:

----------------------------------------------------------------
ME: Dear readers, for something a little different, I would like to introduce you to my Beloved.
Say hi.
GF: Hi, readers
I hope you're treating the Major here well
ME: Haha, aww.
They know my real name.
GF: Even if they do, they ought to know the other bit
that your nickname is for your initials
ME: Oh yeah . . .
GF: Which is really, really cool
ME: Well, there's a whole story to it.
In 2008, when I was in Grade 12, we could get these jerseys - like jacket/jumper things - for the graduating class. And every year before that, you could get a fun nickname on the back.
Like, some people had "Kung Fu King" or "Jackie" or what-have-you. But the school stopped it for our year.
I'm guessing because too many people wanted to put rude words on there or something.
GF: Can't be worse than the Horny hornets
that's from the YA novel Speak
ME: Haha
GF: which has a running gag of the school mascot always changing
ME: I think I've read that.
Anyway, long story short, I wanted to have something cool, but they said "No, no nicknames. Only your first name, last name or initials".
So I cheated the system.
Because I have two middle names.
So my shirt spelled M A J A, which people read as Major.
GF: and makes you sound like a cool rogue major
ME: But anyway, I don't want this to be all about me.
I like the idea of showing off my gorgeous girlfriend to my readers, even if only via text.
GF: makes me think of creating a self-portrait with text only
ME: Like an ASCII thing?
GF: perhaps; I don't know what ASCII is
but it's interesting that Matt and I bonded over our love of words
and precision of language
we actually met because he commented on how I used a particular term incorrectly, and he wanted to read some of my fiction
ME: Yeah, I was just looking for other writers. And when you suggested that we chat, I couldn't resist.
GF: But anyway, it's a good lesson to learn: if you want to date someone online, don't spend money on eHarmony or match.com
Just find a blogger who knows how to use sophisticated English literature terms
ME: I think we worked well together because a) we are both writers, so we're both proficient at expressing our emotions in words.
& b) We met as writers, so we knew right from the beginning that we had something in common.
GF: The important other thing is that we liked each other's writing
That can be a make or break factor in the art of courtship between writers
ME: Haha
I never thought of that.
GF: In our case, words mean as much as actions
ME: I'm sure I'd stick with you even if you wrote like Stephen King :P
GF: Lol, don't even get Matt started on his Stephen King diatribes
no matter how many independent bookstores Stephen visited in his prime of life, or how many charities he created, he can do no good in Matt's eyes
ME: (Oh, this is what I meant by ASCII thing, by the way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII_art)
GF: It's a good learning lesson; to get on Matt's good side, never call other writers "hacks" even if they deserve it
ME: Well, it just seems uncivil.
Especially when it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black . . .
GF: I agree it's uncivil
but I'm biased because the author that King insulted happens to be friends with an author that I like
and said author was blogging about how some of the insults breached etiquette
I've probably insulted a few authors in my fair share, but these days I just say I disagree with them
Authors are not their books, and vice-versa
ME: Well, it's not that he insulted her work . . . I get that, people do that all the time. The issue is that he said she was a bad writer, when she clearly isn't.
GF: He insulted her
but he insulted her based on her work
ME: I mean, I think she's a bad storyteller, but I've come to that position after careful thought and debate.
But he looks at a popular author that he disagrees with and think that means she's a bad writer.
That would be like if I disagreed with Hilary Clinton's political policies, then declared that she was a bad mother.
Sorry, I'm rambling . . . you got me started on it.
GF: lol
keep rambling away
ME: Nah, I've written enough about Stephen King for one day.
GF: Okay
ME: Alright, well, I think that's enough for one day. Thank you for joining me, beautiful.
GF: You're welcome
ME: We should try this again some time. I love you.
GF: I love you too, and we should
----------------------------------------------------------------

And that's enough blogging for one day. I must admit that I really wanted to do that chat thing just so I would only have to do half the writing, since I was tired (hence no word of the day, today). But I've been wanting to do a chat-log blog post for a while now, this was just a good excuse.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm still here! I'm sorry that it's taking so long, I've got some writer's block and my Beloved is helping me through it. But I'll give you at least one more non-Duke post before adding the next chapter.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Faitheist

I'm an atheist, but I don't tend to talk about it very much. It's not really a big issue, since you either agree with me or you don't. I'm not trying to convert anyone, because the argument for atheism is one of logic and science, whereas the argument for religion is one of emotion and belief. You can't disprove religion because proof is not what defines religious faith.
Not to mention, most people like to argue religion on the internet, and until very recently acting nice to other people on the internet wasn't common practice, so talking about religion was just a way of starting a fight. I've seen people on adorable kitten videos start arguments about religion, it's just stupid.
Usually, when I see one of those religion vs. atheism arguments, I comment merely to say "stop arguing, you're wasting everyone's time". But there's one thing that religious people say about atheists that really bugs me, because it's severely untrue: "You have no faith."
It's often used as an insult, but even when it's not it's just taken for granted that atheists are faithless. This pisses me off, because not only does this prove that religious people don't know what "faith" actually means, but it's unfair, untrue and unkind. Let's start by explaining what faith means.
The Word of the Day is: 'FAITH'

Faith /fayth/ n. 1. Confidence or trust in someone or something. 2. Belief which is not based on proof. 3. Belief in the teachings of religion. 4. A system of religious belief: Christian faith; Jewish faith. 5. A duty or obligation of loyalty (to a person, promise, engagement, etc.): To keep or break faith with; To act in good faith; Act in bad faith.

If you call yourself a Christian and you don't agree with that definition, then you're not a very good Christian, because a similar definition can be found in the Bible itself:
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
- (Hebrews 11:1)
I don't believe that faith is necessarily a bad thing. That's not to say that I think it's a good thing either, it's just kind of a thing. Because, as the dictionary says, faith is "a belief which is not based on proof". Believing in something without proof isn't a good idea most of the time.
I mean, when I was a kid I believed that stars didn't move in the sky. It's not that I was taught wrong or that I didn't understand the idea of the Earth spinning. But because I used to watch cartoons as a kid, and to save on animation, when they transitioned day to night they'd show the moon and sun spin around like a roulette wheel, but the stars were stuck in the same place, never moving. So, I believed that to be an accurate picture, with no real proof, just an assumed understanding from what I’d seen on television. Now, I know that’s just silly, the truth is that the entire sky turns, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

So faith isn’t all that impressive a thing, and it’s quite frustrating that people flaunt it like it’s something to which we should all aspire. Especially when they don’t understand what it means. See, the kind of people that use “you have no faith” as an insult - in my experience - tend to be the same people that believe they can prove God exists. To those people I say: “No you can't.” For two reasons:
One,  you can’t prove something supernatural with natural methods, as it assumes that supernature can be observed and defined. Two, proof denies faith.
I’m sure many of you have heard the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” argument that proof of god would deny the existence of god. It’s just a bit of funny rhetoric, but it’s appropriate in the sense that religion so oft relies on believing that your god is the one, true god because you are made in their image, you follow their morals and all kinds of other things I don’t understand. It’s a matter of faith, and without faith, then religion is meaningless. I have no problem in being told “Yes, the universe was created by this dude, over here, his name is Paul and he likes crackers” (so long as it’s proven scientifically), but that doesn’t mean I have to pray to it.
So, congratulations, you’ve proven that your faith is meaningless.

But more importantly, in fact most importantly, as I said before “I don’t believe that faith is a bad thing”. I do have faith. In fact, I would argue that I have a great deal more faith than religious people. Allow me to explain . . .
I believe in people. I have faith in humanity. You religious people, you believe in God and have faith in Jesus and for you it’s easy. God doesn't exist have any flaws; because gods don’t get things wrong. Even when they do get stuff wrong, gods “work in mysterious ways” or they really were benevolent, it's just that someone else got in the way (the devil, the gays, the feminists, the liberals, etc) and made God look like a total dickhead. It wasn’t God’s fault, it was everyone else!

But me? I have faith in people, and people have a tonne of flaws. They let me down all the time. They keep killing one another, they keep hating one another, they keep raping, dehumanizing, disrespecting, destroying and annoying one another. But I still have faith in us all, because we do good things a lot of the time as well, and there are good stories in the world, and even when we do the wrong thing, I have faith that we’ll learn from those mistakes and disappointments and be better people tomorrow.
I believe this, despite the lack of evidence, because it gives me hope for tomorrow. And because sometimes - though not often enough - it pays off.

The thing is, People stereotype. We think we can know people from these small, defining characteristics. But you can’t just a person for being atheist, hell, you especially can’t judge atheists because we all have only one thing in common - just one - we don't believe in a god. That's it. There's no system, there's no rite or rituals, there's no common gathering of atheists. I mean, there are some groups of atheists that group together and do stuff as atheists, but fuck those people. One of the benefits of being an atheist is that I don't have to go to church or read a book written by some douchebag, so by gathering together you're just ruining the fun of it.
But anyway, atheists have a wide array of beliefs. Some of us believe that the Harry Potter movies are better than the books; some believe that different brands of batteries are provably better at powering our devices; some believe that Jesus Christ did exist, but that he was just a dude & some even believe that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a really cool show with good story and characters.
We have all kinds of beliefs, it's just that we don't believe in that one.

And the same should be said of religious folks. Faith isn’t a bad thing. I mean, I do honestly believe that these bible thumpers are wrong, as in morally wrong, especially when they're trying to impose their beliefs on us or force innocent people to suffer for their stupidity. But, this isn't a big deal, because everyone knows they're wrong. Even the good, honest Christians know these people are wrong because when people use Christianity as a weapon, they're not real Christians, that's not what the religion is meant to be about at all.
Here, I think George Michael said it best:
"I know for a fact that many devout Christians . . . are truly wonderful, kind-hearted men and women who take the best parts of that religion and live admirable, generous and loving lives . . . But in my opinion . . . there are others who use their twisted interpretations of ancient scriptures as a pathetic excuse to be totally fucked up cunt-sucking bastards."
- George Michael, on hearing that some Christians prayed for his death
So while there are some bad eggs, I have hope for you all. As I said, I have faith in humanity, that includes all of you Christians as well - and there’s an awful bloody lot of you - so I have faith that you’re not all the kind of people that want to make the world a worse place. Please, please, please, don’t let me down.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I might be a while for the next post. I'm working on my next Duke Forever chapter a little bit earlier than usual, since I'm trying to get them written with more frequency. I'm also looking for a job, so things might get shuffled around a bit. Rest assured, I will keep posting here as often as I can, and I have faith that you'll all get my next blog post sooner rather than later.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

It's the Pits

A very long time ago, I wrote a blog post called "Haven Sent", it was one of my few "meta-posts", back when that was a thing, but more importantly it was a list of my personal havens. Those little things that I absolutely love and which make life worth living, in my opinion, and that I like to indulge in, whenever I get the chance.
But ever since I wrote that, I have been working on trying to write the opposite. Because those were moments that I enjoy that make me feel good inside, so I was hoping to write a list of the moments that I despise which make me feel sick to my stomach. These are the moments when you just want to say:
  "Oh, for fuck's sake."
Moments, concepts or activities that I feel like I am just not suited to dealing with, moments that put me out of sorts or make me angry, frustrated, upset or all three.

For a while I was looking up the antonym of the word 'Haven'. But it's not easy, because there's no real direct antonym, so I had to get creative. For a long while I'd settled on 'Hellhole', which made sense to me - Haven is to Heavenly as Hellhole is to Hellishly. But Hellhole is used to describe a place, but I needed something that could describe an ephemeral concept and a feeling, so I believe a closer approximation is 'Pitfall'.
The Word of the Day is: 'PITFALL'

Pitfall /'pitfawl/ n. 1. A hidden pit prepared as a trap for animals or people to fall into. 2. Any trap or danger for the unprepared.

Havens are those moments of safety, whereas a pitfall is unsafe. Havens are a place of ease, pitfalls make your stomach jump into your throat. It makes sense to me, especially because the moments I am about to list are moments that I feel very much unprepared for, as the definition lists, moments where I feel like I'm very much out of my comfort zone. But I still do have a fondness for the word 'hellhole' in this context, since many of these situations feel like I'm in my own personal hell. So, if you wish, you can imagine that this list of 'pitfalls' entail falling into a literal hellhole.
So, in order from least frustrating and/or unsettling to the most, this is:

The Absurd Word Nerd's TOP 10 PERSONAL PITFALLS

Number Ten: Depressed People
How can I talk to these people? There's no logic there. I can't solve a problem. Have you ever spoken to someone who WANTS to be sad? You're like "Hey, cheer up buddy?" and they're like "What's there to be happy about it?" Then you tell them, and then they change tact: "Yeah that's true but did I mention my partner left me?"
At this point I'm like. Dude, Stop moping! I have given you a reason to be happy. Fucking TAKE IT! Don't keep dragging me down into the depths of your despair. Wake up and smile, for fuck's sake . . .
But I don't say that - I can't, because I've been there. I know what it's like to be depressed, you can't just snap at them since it's not their fault. I understand what they're going through, I feel like I should help, but it's just so difficult because I know that as much as I can offer to help, these people need an intrinsic motivation to be happy, and that's not something an external force can offer.
So, when I'm around depressed people, I am stuck in a paradox of obligation and impotence, and all I can do is watch and hope they can help themselves. At least I'm doing what I can and it's good to help those in need, but I can't help but be frustrated by it, so that's why this is on this list.

Number Nine: People Singing over Music
I don't have a problem with people singing. I mean, if they sing well it can even be enjoyable, because is's not singing that really annoys me. I think Karaoke is fun, and I think my girlfriend sounds like a Disney princess when she sings,I love people that love singing. No, what annoys me is when people sing along to music which already has someone singing.
I don't mean when people sing to music, that's a given. I mean people that sing to music that already has a singing component. Now, I understand that I'm in the minority. Hell, you just try to listen to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen and not sing along to that, most people can't do it. But that just makes it more difficult for me. See, when I listen to a song it's because I want to hear that song. If I wanted to hear you sing, I'd ask you to sing.
I actually listen to the lyrics of songs. So, if you sing over music that I'm listening to, you're hindering my ability to listen to the song that I was listening to. To me that's the same of standing in front of the TV while I'm watching a movie, and going "No, I can act better than those jerks, look at me instead". It's not that you sing poorly, most of the people that sing to music do so because they can sing well but I'm not trying to listen to you sing right now, I'm trying to listen to this song, and you're fucking it up. I recognize that this is just a personal, pet peeve, though, but that's enough to get it on this list.

Number Eight: Capitalism
It may seem like a weird one, but capitalism is  something that just pisses me off. I don't mean capitalism as an economic system - I'm not trying to create a political uproar hear, because capitalism does tend to work - rather I mean captitalism as a political system and social mindset.
See, I have found that in every instance when I am walking around, in an urban setting and I see something ridiculous, dangerous or stupid - like bad roads, dumb signs, unintuitive directions or poorly made buildings. Whenever I think: "Why would anyone do something that STUPID!" the answer is always "To save money" or "To make money" or some other bullshit taught by capitalism. Now, I'm not a communist. I'm not any kind of -ist, except maybe a realist. But has anyone considered that this money first, logic later approach is hurting the world? I'm not saying you have to stop making money, but can we add a moment of hesitation before we act out these ideas? Computers stop us to ask before we empty the recycle bin or delete System 32 & our conscience stops us before we punch strangers in the back of the head. So can these people just stop for a second and before they act on their capitalistic tendencies could they ask themselves:
  "Am I sure this isn't making the world a worse place to live in?"

Number Seven: Going Home
I don't like missing out on stuff. I never got to see Frozen in the cinema, and I regret that, but it's not a huge issue. It's not my fault that I missed it, I didn't have the money or time to do so, it happens. I missed it, but it couldn't be helped. I don't mind so much if I miss something through no fault of my own
But, that's not always the case, and I hate that.
For me, this usually takes the form of going home, either after going to a party, or to a friend's house or to a family outing. When I go on outings, I like to use them to their full potential, especially when I'm out drinking with my mates, since those outings are so few and far between. But there will come a time in the night (or during the party) when arises the question of whether or not I will be going home, and I won't want to.
I will feel like, if I go home, I've missed out on the night. It's like, "But what if Luke is about to get here" or "what if they put on a movie?"
Missing out is one thing, I'll get over it. But knowing that I missed out because I essentially chose to? That's just unadorned regret, that is, especially if other people were hoping I would stay with them. It's not that I dislike my home, but I spend an awful lot of time at home, home will always be there when I go home, but the opportunity of a party won't be, so I don't want to go home unless where I am is less interesting than going to home to sleep, which is unlikely because . . .

Number Six: Sleep
This may be weird for some of you. A lot of people really like sleep, and there are those that think it is the best part of the day. But not for me. Fuck sleep.
Sleep, to me, is the whiteout of my day. As in, if you were to imagine that my life were a story, and as things happened I wrote them down; every 16 hour or so, it's like someone comes down and just fwipt! blanks out a good third of my day. I like to do things, I plan my life around doing things. I never plan to NOT do something, so it's like I have this huge section of my existence I have to shift my life around to get my required 8 or so hours of doing fuck all. So I have to decide what I do before and after sleep, and figure out if something is worth doing now, or can wait till tomorrow. I hate it.
But worse than that, the mechanics of sleep, to me, are all wrong. Because for some reason, I can't go to sleep. I can fall asleep, just drop unconscious after wearing myself out. But I can't go to sleep. If I try to sleep, I will just end up lying on my mattress being bored, no matter how tired I am.
Because the thing is, sleep happens when you STOP thinking, and there's no way to consciously stop thinking. But you can't think about nothing, because that actually takes concentration. You have to let you mind think on it's own, and that's so goddamned confusing that the only way I can do it is put on some sound in the background, I tend to use Let's Plays, comedy stand-up routines or TV show that I've downloaded, and just zone out to the familair sounds of it. I reckon, if there existed a pill that could make you stay awake 24/7, I would probably kill for it. Fuck sleep. Seriously.

Number Five: Remembering that I have Forgotten Something
I am quite forgetful. The only reason I can be the writer that I am is because I write all of my story ideas down. The only reason I can write long stories is because I organize ideas into notebooks and in computer documents beforehand, because my memory is a fickle thing, and I can't possibly retain all of my ideas in there at one time. Hell, I'm only writing this because I had the idea ages ago and wrote it down.
But I can't write everything down, because until I forget it, I don't know what kind of things I'm going to forget (unless it's numbers, I always have trouble remembering specific numbers).
So I'll often let an idea slip to the back of my mind, but that's okay because usually I'll remember it later. When I do, I'll do it then, unless I can't in which case I won't. I tend not to get upset about the things I cannot possibly change.
But that's the thing, that's reliant upon me remembering what I've forgotten, but that's not always the case. The absolute worst thing that my memory does is when I come across the space in my mind where I was supposed to be storing a memory, but it's blank. The worst case is when the forgotten thing is an activity which I've scheduled, because I'll get to that moment in my schedule and draw a blank; and as is the way with memory, you won't remember the specifics, but you will remember the importance of that memory, and the anxiety associated with it. So on those occasions, I'm left with nothing to do but try to re-remember the thing that I've just remembered that I've forgotten.
And most of the time, either I never recall that forgotten thing or, much worse, I'll remember it, but I'll remember it and have not enough time to actually do anything about it, which sucks because . . .

Number Four: Not Having Enough Time
I don't care much for deadlines. When given a deadline, I usually ignore it, and I'm better for it, since I don't like being rushed. But there are those moments when you can't ignore it, and I find that it's those moments when you're perfectly capable of the task you need to do, but it's time that stops your plans dead. The most common example of this is going to the shops. For some reason, the shops in my area all seem to close at five o'clock. So, it becomes a real pain in the neck when I want to buy something and it's four-thirty, because the shops are thirty minutes away.
I am perfectly capable of driving to the shops, but by the time I get there, the store will be closed. The only way to get there on time is if I somehow shorten the amount of time it takes to prepare to leave, but I can't leave the house without locking up the doors and putting on my shoes. Then if I get there, I'd need to park the car, and I need to have a coin or I can't unlock the trolley bay - there's just not enough time.
As I said before, I have no problem with being late. If I have to be somewhere at six, but the time is six-fifteen, there is literally nothing I can do, and I can accept that, because there's nothing I could possibly do. But when there is time available, but just not enough, I freak out, because there conceivably is something I can do - I can stress myself up to eleven and panic and get somewhere just in the nick of time, but only by skipping steps and rushing through everything.
Or, I can choose to ignore it and pretend that the opportunity has already slipped by, but that rarely works because I feel responsible for every second that I'm not using to do the activity at hand, and by extension, everything I was doing before now becomes another nail in the coffin of guilt; because if only everything that had occurred already had begun just an hour earlier, then I would be happy. But because the series of events started a little later, I can't be happy. Fuck you, time. You ruined my day.

Number Three: Retracing my Steps
This is related to the whole forgetting thing, but although I sometimes retrace my steps to remember stuff, that's not what this item will be focussing on. The thing is, I don't like repeating myself. This isn't something that I consider a pitfall of mine, however, because, when asked to repeat myself, I don't. I either rephrase what I said in a condescending way, or I quote it back to them with the minor adjustment of replacing all of the words with: "Fuck you."
But I am not forced to repeat myself, so I just don't. Unless, of course, I come to a dead end. I like to walk and until very recently that was my main source of transportation, and so sometimes on my little ventures, I get lost. It can be fun, it's how you learn to explore, and sometimes it leads you to new and interesting places. But when I run into a dead end, I just get mad.
What the fuck is the point of this shit? Someone decided that when people get here, that's all they'll want. Sometimes they even put up walls and fences around these little cul-de-sacs to make sure they'll be safe and secure in this new habitat that they've come across. Seriously, why don't more dead ends have footpaths that lead out? Give me an out!
Because otherwise, when I get to a dead end, all I can do is turn around and head back. I just wasted energy getting here, now I have to double my wasted energy to get out. But if you really want to piss me off, you need me to come across what I call the "Dead End Fractal". For some reason, some suburbs like to organise their houses in these little twisted communities, like an expanding snowflake. Where Streets get shorter and shorter before ending in a cul-de-sac. And they never seem to have footpaths out. Fuck you, town planner, I need a way to escape!

Number Two: Absolute Silence
Okay, okay, considering that things like depression and capitalism are on this list, I understand that it might seem weird that something like the absence of noise is so high on this list. Well, if you've read the previous list about my Personal Havens, you will know that I have mild tinnitus, and to quote myself:
" . . . in a seemingly silent room, I will often hear a persistent high-pitched whine, like a bee is screaming in agony."
- The Absurd Word Nerd, "Haven Sent"
See, a persistent, high-pitched whine is more than just "a little bit annoying", it can be almost deafening in silence and more often than not can give me a headache.
But more than just the tinnitus, in silence I get lonely. Even when I'm driving in my car at night, the sound of the engine means my tinnitus isn't a problem, but I feel so alone in such a stark, dark silence, so I usually turn on the radio. As I said above, I listen to Let's Plays when I go to sleep so that I don't go to sleep in silence. It's not just the tinnitus, I like background noise.
To me, absolute silence means a headache, inability to think clearly, loneliness and discontent, that's why it's so high on this list.

Number One: Talking to Children
I am a pretty genuine guy. I mean, I don't put on a persona for any of this, these blog posts are my actual opinion. Even in real life I am always honest, and sometimes that pisses people off because I don't play the social games people play and I don't always hold my tongue. My mate Sean says of it that I "don't give a fuck", which is partially true; I don't care if people hate me for who I am, because I would rather that than have them like me for who I'm not.
And for that reason, I have trouble with children.
I don't watch my language, I don't lie, I don't put up with people's bullshit and I don't concede to idiocy and ignorance - but with children I am expected to do all of those things. I mean young children, like 2-6 years old, because you can't always be honest with kids; you can't answer all of their questions and you can't tell them to bugger off when they're being annoying - because they're kids, it's what they do. Children are boring; children are selfish; children are (often) dirty & children can be really annoying.
It's basically that I don't like talking to idiots, and this does apply to idiots and close-minded people as well; but it's worse with kids because I can insult an idiot if they're being a pain in the arse; but it's not a child's fault that they're dumb, they need time to learn, so I can't do anything about it.
But the real reason this is number one on this list is because I don't like dealing with parents. I don't mind children, even though they still have a lot to learn, I would put up with that if it was my kid. I'd love to raise one of my own one day, but only on my (and my Beloved wife's) terms. Yet with other parents, I have to do things on their terms. Hell, even if they're raising their children wrong, I can't do anything about it, I'm expected to raise them their way even if that way will result in the kids growing up to be a massive douchebag. It means that I have to walk on eggshells around other people's kids, because even if the child is a little shit that's misbehaving I can't reprimand it - it's not my child - but I'm still supposed to be on my best behaviour, put on the persona of a patronising television presenter and talk down to them, and I hate it.


I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and to sum things up nicely, I don't like it when people: sing over music; are depressed; put greed before others; tell me to sleep; tell me I've forgotten something; give me a deadline; make me repeat myself; leave me on my own or make me to talk to their children. So if you'd all stop doing that, then that would be lovely.
Until then, I think I might go write a story . . .

Saturday, 5 July 2014

(Supervised) Driving Me Insane

Last week, I earned my Provisional License. That means that I can finally drive a car whilst unsupervised. I'm "P1", and in a year, I can get my P2 and not long after Opens (Full License). But it doesn't matter, because P1 is basically open license, it's just that I can't drink alcohol at all while driving and I can't drive at night with people younger than 21 in the car that aren't my relatives. But my friends are all over 21 and I don't like drinking before driving anyway, so I feel like I'm on my open license already.
But, while I was still learning to drive a car, I paid a couple of different people money to supervise, assess and correct my driving, and some of them were alright. But now that I have my P1 license, I think that I have the right and authority to talk about the stupid things they've said to me and judge them terribly for it. That's right, I've finally got my license and the first thing I'm going to do is slag off the people that hindered me along the way.
The Word of the Day is: LEARNER

Learner /lernə/ 1. A person who is learning; student; pupil; beginner; apprentice; trainee: She's a fast learner. 2. A person who is learning to drive, has not yet passed the official driving test, and must be accompanied by a qualified driver and display L-plates on the car; a learner driver.

Some people are fucking idiots, which is understandable, but some of those people are getting paid to be idiots, and that annoys me. Particularly when those people are being paid by me.
So, here are some of the absolute dumbest things that driving instructors and testing officers have said to me:
"No, this has a lot of power, it's a diesel."
I don't know which is better, I'm not going to enter into this debate, because apparently the internet goes geeky when it comes to diesel vs. petrol, comparing compression ratios; calorific value; heat content (btu/lb) & a whole lot of other stuff that I neither understand nor care about. However, when one of my driving instructors showed up with a diesel car that was as big as a van and sounded like a garbage truck, I was driving it around the road and I made what I thought was an uncontroversial comment: "It's heavy. I'm used to a bit more power than this."
My instructor reacted oddly - I think he believed I'd directly insulted his manhood - because he responded by saying with the line above that it had a lot of power, with his evidence being that it was a diesel. This was also an instructor's car, so it had a secondary set of pedals, and he took the opportunity to put his foot down to "show" me the power. The vehicle proceeded to make a brmmm noise, and it accelerated from 20 to 30 kph in about four seconds.
Wow(!) Feel the power(!) Am I in a car, or bareback riding a rabid cheetah, I just don't know . . .
I didn't want to hurt the instructor's feelings, so I didn't reply to this unimpressive display of power. I don't mean to sound arrogant, I get that a diesel has torque, but my car has a lot of torque also, as well as the ability to accelerate faster than a garbage truck. I bought my car secondhand from my mate, Sean, a second-generation mechanic; my car has as much power as an inexperienced driver can legally drive, and a history of love and care from a devoted owner that has not only the compassion but the capacity to keep it up to the top notch. My car is leaps and bounds above a turbo-diesel minivan, don't be stupid.
"You should engage the clutch with the brake on, so that you don't slide backwards."
When I was preparing for my first driving test, I got a real dingus of an instructor. I told him on the phone and in person "I just want to prepare for my driving test, give me a practice run for the test". So, of course, the first thing he teaches me to do is check the mirrors . . .
I don't know why. I know how to check mirrors, I've already told this guy "I have 100 hours, I'm legally ready for my test", yet he's telling me how to do up my seatbelt and check my indicators? I thought maybe he was double-checking my abilities, so I went along with his bullshit.
But then he tells me how to start the car. Not only does he feel the need to teach me to start a car, despite the 100 hours of experience I've had driving, but he teaches me wrong. He said that I should start the engine; put my feet on the brake and the clutch, pedals to the floor; put it in gear; disengage the handbrake; engage the clutch until I could feel it catch on the 'bite' & then release the brake.
I asked him "do you want me to do a hillstart?", I know that I didn't need to do a hillstart, because the street I was on was at a five or ten degree angle, very slight; but that's essentially what he was asking me to do, only using the footbrake instead of the handbrake. But he said "No, this is how you're supposed to start the car". I said to him "I've never done it like that", but he insisted "I teach all of my students to start the car that way, because if you don't, the car will roll backwards, and they might panic" and that's when I knew he was a moron . . .
Now, I will concede one thing, if I start the car on a slight incline, yes, the car will roll backwards . . . about three centimetres. But that doesn't mean you need to wear down your gears engaging the clutch with the brake on every single time you start the car. That's just dumb! If you're on the flat, you won't roll backwards, but if you are at a slight angle (to the point that you might roll backwards) you'll probably need to apply power to the engine (via the accelerator), so that it doesn't stall, but you can't do that if you're foot's on the brake!
Oh, but it doesn't stop there . . . this moron offered three stupid pieces of advice that I've put on this list.
"You can't turn the wheel unless the car is in motion, because you'll pop your tires."
Finally, we start driving, and I'm struggling because the car was slow like a trundling tank, but then he tries to get me to practice parallel parking. So, he gives me some theory, then we begin, so I turn the wheel and he immediately stops me. He says "no, you can't turn the wheel while the car is stationary", then he starts off on this long spiel (which I suspect he was only doing, because I had paid him for the hour, and the longer he talks, the less actual work he has to do). And he said, if you turn the tire while the car is stationary, it grinds down the tires in one spot, and that spot will be weaker, and later when you drive, that weak spot will be more likely to pop.
I was staring at him for a while, not saying anything. I didn't pay this guy to argue with him, but for fuck's sake! I was parallel parking, I don't ever want to parallel park in my life (especially via reversing, even though that can make it easier), I'm not saying I never will, but it will be very rare. On those, what, five occasions when I do, I'm going to turn my car while stationary. For two reasons one, because my car has power steering which means I can; and two, parallel parking isn't easy, and if I have to go through the bullshit "align nose to wheel, turn, back in, turn, adjust to fit" method, it would be twice as hard if I can't sit still while I'm lining up my wheels.
And the best part? I told my mate Sean about this, and he was explaining that turning while stationary wears down your tires, but not as much as turning a corner. Your tires wear down, that's a fact of life. Sure, you shouldn't sit in the driveway turning the steering wheel back and forth for hours on end, which is why I don't do that, but turning the wheel while stopped on the rare occasion that I parallel park? Go fuck yourself.
"You can't back into a driveway during a three-point turn because drivers will get confused and crash into you."
The rules have changed on 'three-point turns', to the point that they don't even call them three-point turns anymore, since you're allowed to angle yourself around more than three points these days. Which is fair enough, but another rule has been changed, they say that on your driving test, if asked to do a three-point turn, you can't back into a driveway to do so (which is something my Dad was allowed to do on his test). But my dumbshit driving instructor, trying to use the Socratic method, asked me: "Do you know why you can't use a driveway?"
So, I answered with the most logical answer that I could think of:
  "Because, although there's a driveway on this road, there might not be a driveway on other roads I'd turn around on."
That makes sense to me. I mean, not every road has houses on it, if you can only three-point turn into a driveway, you're limiting your experience, right?"
  "No," he replied. "It's because if you back into a driveway, if another car is coming the other way, he'll think that you're backing into the driveway. So if you then drive out again, he'll crash into you."
I just stared at him then. I stared at him like he'd grown three heads, like he'd told me to eat a shoe. I stared at him like he'd told me that you can't park in a driveway because you'd crash your car. And that's the thing, if you use a driveway to turn around and a car's coming, what do you do? Do you go "well, I was doing a turn-around manoeuvre, he should know better", drive out and crash into them?
NO! You wait and let them pass! That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!!
"You'll crash into them", what kind of stupid shit does this moron believe? Who does he think he's teaching?! I'm not going to drive into an oncoming car you sack of potatoes dressed like a man! Fucking hell . . . I'm glad I was driving and not him, because first of all, it meant I was too occupied to slap him, and secondly, this dumbass would probably stall the engine and drive me into traffic.
That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard . . . at least, it was, until I heard this last one. Oh boy, it's a doozy . . .
"You can't drive around a corner with the clutch in, because the car will lean more than 30°, and tip over."
A man was paid money to sit in a car and assess driving - hell, he was trained to sit in a car and assess new drivers - and he said that to me. When I took my first driving test, I failed, and that's fair enough. I ran through an amber light, I didn't change gears properly and I didn't follow all of my directions. I'm an average to below-average driver usually, but I was anxious as all hell during that test so I was stupidly bad and I made dumb mistakes that I knew I'd made the moment I made them, one of which was that I clutch-cruised around the corner. Now, clutch-cruising isn't so bad if you're doing it while at low speed like 20 kph, while decelerating, in a straight line; but otherwise, it's very poor practice, and you will get an instant fail on your test if you have the clutch disengaged while in motion for more than 8 seconds (which is harsh, but grudgingly understandable, because that's not driving, that's rolling), so alright, I get that.
But when my testing officer was explaining to me why I wasn't supposed to clutch cruise, I think he must've taken a swig of absinthe, because his understanding of physics was closer to Warner Brothers than reality.
I'm not making that up, he said that if I went around the corner, with the clutch disengaged, the car would tip over. I know he meant that, because I asked him "do you mean the wheels would tip over?", I mean, like, would the rubber get pulled off the wheel rim? which makes slightly more sense.
But he said No. He genuinely believed that, because I had swerved around the corner, with the clutch disengaged, I was at risk of rolling the car.
I told my mate, Sean, since he drove me to and from the test, and he just said the guy was a moron, since that goes against physics.
I also asked my Dad about it when I got home and he got annoyed and explained the real truth of clutch-cruising. The reason you shouldn't clutch-cruise around corners is because if the car goes around the corner without the clutch engaged, it's more likely to oversteer and/or understeer, because you're car is basically swinging its weight around the corner, which can change the angle of your curve as you turn. But with the clutch engaged, the engine provides torque to the rear tires and helps to keep you on the straight and narrow, since you're pushing around the corner, rather than swinging around it. I might be explaining it wrong, but that's the basic physics of it, as I understand.
But that's the most important part, I understand. I don't know why my testing officer was making up bullshit, maybe he was in a position of authority and wanted to maintain that by appearing knowledgeable when he wasn't, but I saw right through it, and it made me lose all respect for him.

When I went for my license the second time, I went to a different driving school, and I will never again use either Coastwide Driving Training or Greenslopes Customer Sevice Centre for the Department of Transport & Main Roads, and I suggest you don't either, their testing/training personnel are ratbags, as far as I'm concerned. And the best part is, I don’t ever have to, since the Hazard Perception Test for getting a P2 license is done online.
But not everyone involved is terrible. The officer who let me pass my test just felt . . . professional. He said I had good speed control and I was a natural at road positioning, even though I sometimes drive too fast and he said I need to be more careful since I cut the corner one time (because I was nervous); but I did everything else right and I passed my test. And of course, there’s my Dad, who sat with me for more than three-quarters of my mandatory 100 hours, and who taught me not just to drive safely and efficiently, but also courteously.

I didn't hate my learning experience, I just think it’s crazy how much work you have to do to drive a car, even though that’s something that the majority of people have to do.

And now that I can drive on my own, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. A few days after I’d earned my provisional license, I wanted to post a letter to my girlfriend. I was running late and the post office was going to close in 30 minutes. But I didn’t panic, I just got in my car and cruised, on my own, through my suburb. Each shift of gears came naturally, I wanted to go faster and I did, and as I drifted down the street to the main road, I wanted to go slowly and I did, just like I’d practiced millions of times before. I parked my car; dropped off the letter at the post office; paid to post it; got back in and drove home, as easy as breathing. I felt so free, and yet connected to everything, since I could go anywhere.

I’m the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I think I might go for a drive . . .

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Yet So Far

Despite the dense clouds, the heat of the desert sun baked the the border road, reflecting sharp, white light off the dark, sweaty skin of Mohamed and Dejen’s backs. They were both teenagers, wearing loose-fitting clothes for playing sport. The two boys looked very similar, both with dirt clung to the sweat on their legs, although Dejen was taller with shorter hair, and Mohamed had a smaller nose.
They walked towards home, chatting and laughing together. Under his arm, Mohamed carried a very old, dirty soccerball. Mohamed wished that more of their friends had come out to play with them, but they were much too busy playing games on their computers these days.
  “Tani waxa ay ahayd fan ciyaarta, saaxiibkiisii,” said Dejen, “Laakiin waxaan u malaynayaa in aad tahay mid aad u cajiib ah.”
  “It is not that weird . . .” said Mohamed, with a frown. “Why are you never speaking English, Dejen?”
  “Ingiriisi? This is Somalia, I say in Somali,” says Dejen proudly, thumping his chest.
  “But I want to more practice. It’s hard enough talking at all with her.”
  “Ganaax, sidee codka tan? ‘I’m not your woman. Go with your practice to English girlfriend’.” said Dejen, with a cheeky smirk.
  “She is American, not English.”
  “Maxaad leeyahay?” asked Dejen, confused.
  “Iyadu waa ka soo America,” reiterated Mohamed.
  “Maxay sababta doonaysaan inaad saaxiibad Maraykan ah?” said Dejen, pointing at some of the local girls across the road. They were wearing head-scarves as they walked with their familes back along the road. “Waalidku waxay leeyihiin lacag badan, Mohamed, iiyo waxa aad ka heli kartaa gabar kasta ee aagga aad rabto inaad.”
  “Anigu ma aan qorsheeyo taas,” replied Mohamed, defensively. It was true, it would probably be easier if he was to get married with a local girl, but he didn’t feel about them the way he felt about her.
  “Waa hagaag. Laakiin aniga weli u malaynaysid inaad tahay walaan . . .” said Dejen, derisively.
  “Dhici karta in aan ahay . . .” muttered Mohamed.
They walked around the corner, down the road, when they heard a sound off in the distance. It sounded like a distant woodpecker, but the two boys recognized the sound as gunfire.
  “Waa in aan ka heli guriga, si dhaqso ah.” said Dejen, looking worried as he started to jog home. Mohamed agreed and also started jogging to get home quicker. They were almost at Mohamed’s house, when they saw a dirty truck, speeding down the border road. People were racing out of the way as it sped towards them, firing wildly behind them.
  “OrodDegdeg!” screamed Dejen as they ran for Mohamed’s home. They wouldn’t get to the door in time, and instead hid behind a tall palm tree. The truck sped past, peppering bullets behind them as they drove down the road. The two boys heard, but didn’t see, a second vehicle chasing after it, also firing machine guns. It must have been a glider, as the engine made an electronic buzzing, and they couldn’t hear the sound of tires on the dirt. The cars soon rounded the corner and as the dust settled, Dejen was the first to stand up as they rounded the corner.
  “Waalan DambiilayaashaTani ma aha Sinema Ficil!” he yelled after the trucks as they sped around the corner. Then he turned to his friend and gasped. “ Mohamed! Waxaad waa dhiig!”
Mohamed slowly lifts his arm, to see that the soccer ball has deflated; but sure enough, as it fell away, there was a small spot of red on his hip, that was growing slowly larger as the blood pooled.
  “Tani waa xun . . . Raadi gargaar, Dejen!” Mohamed yelled. Dejen quickly ran into his house to phone for help, and Mohamed leaned on the tree to stand up. His stomach felt warm, but as he stood it felt like someone was stabbing him with a knife, so he instinctively grabbed at his side. The pain wasn’t going away. He looked down at his hand and it was coloured red with blood.
He tried not to panic. He just had to wait here for him to return Dejen would return with a doctor soon. But as he stared at the bloody smears on his fingers, he was horrified. Not at the blood, but something else much more chilling. He quickly turned for his home and limped inside, dripping blood as he slipped out of the sunlight.
Mohamed turned on his computer. And as it powered up, he ignored the startup sequence and turned towards his Virtual~Box, a stylistic, white cube attached to a helmet with a set of goggles. It was a simple simulator - a Japanese knock-off of the Sekaiko Virtüu - but it was very cheap, so it had become popular all across Africa and Europe. Mohamed groaned as he picked up the helmet, then sat in the wicker chair beside it. As he did, Dejen ran in, looking anxious.
  “Ambalaas waa soo . . . maxaad samaynaysaa?”
  “Waxaan u baahan yihiin inay arkaan aan jeclahay,” said Mohamed, blood smearing onto the attaching cables as he reached down and activated the Virtual~Box. “Haddii aan u dhintaan . . . waxaan rabaa in aan u leeyahay nabad gelyo.”
  “Tani waa waali!” protested Dejen.
  “Tag sugeeyso ambalaaska ka baxsan!” yelled Mohamed. Dejen looked unsure, then he walked outside to wait for the ambulance, as he was told. The lights on the modem began blinking and a server opened up as the computer synchronized with the simulator and Mohamed logged on.

Loading . . .
In a flash, the blackness disappeared to be replaced by a perfectly square room with black and white checkered walls. Mohamed instinctively grabbed for the pain in his hip, but his wound was missing in the virtual environment. He was bleeding, but his avatar was in perfect health. He looked down at his clean hands. He couldn’t afford biometric scanning software, so he only had a generic, African-American avatar, with very few distinguishing features, just a plain white t-shirt, trousers and running shoes.
  “Start vChat,” said Mohamed, and a thin, clear, glass pipe suddenly appears in the air in front of him, lying horizontal. A blue-tinged liquid begins filling the pipe as the program loads; once the pipe is filled, it vanishes, and a clean, white door appears on the wall in front of him. Mohamed opens it and steps into the chatroom. It had an immaculate, light wooden floor, with a white, textureless table and chairs sitting in the middle. The walls and ceiling were perfectly white and there was a door on the far side of the room, but on the walls there hung portraits and posters for decoration, but they were all advertisements, all bright and animated: “Win $1000$ daily with Virtual Roulette”; “Play n+Hood today, it’s FREE to Download”; “Lonely? Enter MuslimMingles.room Now”; “Want a Degree in Telecommunications? Register Online”. At one time, he had found them disgusting and greedy, but now they reminded him of the time he and Paige wandered around the room, making fun of them, joking and laughing for ages.
Mohamed headed straight for the table. He sat down, and tapped the table twice with his forefinger. Doing so exposed a menu, with a list of people online:
“.:DoqonIlaah404:.” - Ahmed from school ; “超级☆水手~[◕ω◕]” - a friend from China & “newleaf8691” - Paige, she was online.
Mohamed taps her name to send an invitation, then closes the menu, stands up and starts slowly pacing back and forth. He didn’t know how much time he had. Either before Dejen could get some help, or before he bled out much, but he hoped he would have enough time. But even if he did, what would he say?
After a minute, which felt like an hour, the door opened, and in stepped Paige’s avatar. She was beautiful. It looked just like her, with a pale skin; a peppering of freckles under her blue eyes; cute, button nose & dimples, except that her hair was textured purple with neon pink highlights. She was also wearing what looked like a black catsuit, with bright red sleeves, and a gun-belt with a radio and a complicated looking weapon.
  “Jeclahay,” said Mohamed, walking over to her.
  “It’s good to see you, Moh,”said Paige and the two hugged. “You’re not usually online so soon. I was just playing a game with some friends from school.”
  “I am sorry,” said Mohamed, ”I needed to see you.”
  “It’s alright, I missed you too. I love you, pumpkin.”
  “I love you too,”said Mohamed with a smile. He loosens his arms so that he was holding her shoulders, but could look her in the eye. He opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn’t find the words.
  “I don’t know how long I can stay,” said Paige, “I paused the game, the others will be waiting for me. But I was hoping I could see you today. I mean, I loved that poem you wrote. The ‘guzzle’ poem, what did you call it?”
  “Ghazal,” said Mohamed.
  “Yes! The ghazal. I thought it was so sweet, and it must have taken ages, so I tried to write you a poem in Somali, I’d love to show you. I don’t know if it will translate properly, but it’s quite short.”
  “You are so lovely,” said Mohamed, with a sigh. “I would love to hear it-”
  “Hurry uuuup,” sparked an annoying voice from the radio at Paige’s hip.
  “We can’t hog the server if we’re not playing,” said another voice.
  “Sorry, I’ve got to be going soon, they’re waiting up on me,” said Paige, turning off the radio. “But I could share the document and hear from you later?”
  “I have to talk to you,” said Mohamed.
  “We will, tonight. I promise,” said Paige, she was turning towards the door. Mohamed felt his chance slipping away.
  “I’ve been shot!” he called. Paige stopped. Slowly, she turned to look his avatar in the eye. “I was shot, today. Dejen has called for help, but the . . . the isbitaalka, the doctor, it is far away.”
  “Oh my god . . . are you serious?!” shrieks Paige.
  “Yes. I will probably be leaving very soon,” said Mohamed.
  “Quit Game!” screams Paige. Instantly, her combat gear flickers out of existence to be replaced by a long, black dress without sleeves, with red cherryblossom-shaped detailing around the hem and up the left leg.
  “Are you alright?”
  “I don’t know. It hurts, and it is bleeding a lot.”
  “Then what are you doing here? You need to get help!”
  “Dejen is getting an ambulance. And I needed to see you, jeclahay.”
  “I am flattered, really. But you shouldn’t be stressing yourself out like this.”
  “The computer will put my body to sleep, I will not bleed so much.”
  “Alright . . .” Paige starts slowly nodding. “I don’t know about this, but if you’re sure, do you want me to do something?”
  “Yes,” said Mohamed, as he walked over to the table. “I want you to listen.”
  “Okay.” Paige walked over to the other side of the table, “What do you want to say?” Mohamed looked her in the eye, and frowned sadly. His avatar could not cry, but she heard his tears in his voice.
  “I want to say goodbye.”
  “What?” Paige said, shaking her head “No.”
  “Paige, please . . .”
  “Are you saying you’re dying?!” she screamed.
  “I don’t know,” said Mohamed. “I might.”
  “So you’re dying.” Paige said, confused.
  “I don’t know.”
  “Then what are you doing?” she asked, flustered.
  “Slow down. I need you to listen.”
  “Okay . . .” Paige’s lip quivered, but she nodded and quietly sits down. Mohamed sits across from her.
  “I love you, Paige. You mean so much to me and I am in love every minute that we spend together. But we are so far apart, and when we are apart I worry that, if something happens, I would not get the chance to tell you. I always fear that, if I was hurt, you would never know why I wasn’t here. And if I died, I would not want you to think that I had left you because I do not love you.”
  “I would never think that . . .” said Paige. Mohamed smiled.
  “But, jeclahay, I am here now because I am hurt badly, and I do not know what the doctor can do. I have heard that many people have died from being shoot.”
  “Shot,” corrected Paige. “Sorry . . .”
  “It’s alright,” said Mohamed with a smile. “I do not know what is going to happen. But just in case, I wanted to let you know that I love you. No matter what happens. And, in case I don’t come back . . .”
Paige sniffles loudly.
 “I’m . . . I’m sorry,” she says, her voice cracking slightly.
 “It’s alright, jeclahay,” said Mohamed, sadly. “I just wanted to say goodbye, in case . . .” he grits his teeth to hold back a sob, “. . . in case I never see you again.”
 “Okay . . .” said Paige. She sounded sad, but she nods quietly.
 “Alright. Well, Paige? I just wanted to say that-” Mohamed clears his throat, “I just wanted to say . . . you are the best thing in my life, ever. I am more happy now that I ever was, and I would cross the Earth - I would travel to literally the other side of the Earth to be with you; because, I love you.”
Paige started crying properly, fully sobbing, and Mohamed walked around the table to rub her shoulders. She stood up and cried into his shoulder
  “I don’t want to say goodbye to you,” she sobbed.
  “I don’t either,” he said, solemnly, “I want to live. But just in case, I want it to be pleasant.”
Paige was calming down but she whispered.
  “I won’t say goodbye, though. I can’t . . . couldn’t we just say ‘see you later’?”
Mohamed slowly nodded.
  “Okay. If that’s what you want.”
Paige looked up into his eyes.
  “Moh . . . my Mohamed. I love you, unconditionally. As far as I’m concerned, you are here with me, here,” she places her hand over her chest with one hand. “No matter how far away you are, you’re always with me. Despite what people tell me, I have no regrets about having a long-distance boyfriend . . . except for the things we haven’t done yet,” she started to tear up, so she closed her eyes, shook her head, then continued. “I want you to get better and I want you to come back here with me, because I will miss you every second that you’re gone.”
  “I will miss you too,” said Mohamed. “And, if I can, I will come back as soon as I can.”
  “You’d better,” said Paige. “Because I don’t want you to go . . . we haven’t even had our first date yet; our first kiss . . .”
Mohamed looked down into her eyes, and she looked up into his. He leaned in close, and closed his eyes. But as their lips came within inches of each other, a loud, electronic horn blared, and the two teleported to opposite sides of the room. As they regained their bearings, they saw that a virtual window of glass had appeared in the middle of the room, with red words reading:
Underaged Intimacy Filter -sexual contact between minors is not allowed.
Your room has been locked for:
Underneath, there was an animated, digital timer, counting down from five minutes.
Page ran up to the glass, as did Mohamed. She banged against it with her fists, but it was useless, the virtual glass wasn’t subject to physics.
  “I love you, pumpkin!” she yelled.
  “I love you too, jeclahay,” he said.
Paige kissed the fingers of her right hand and pressed it against the glass. Mohamed did the same, pressing his own fingers onto the glass opposite her fingertips.
  “If I don’t see you again . . .” suddenly, Mohamed stopped and looked around. “Hold on.” He pressed his hands to his head, then disappeared for a second, replaced with the words “d3mb1Hab0n has left the chatroom” floating in mid-air.
  “Moh? Are you there!” Paige screamed. The floating words disappeared, to be replaced by Mohamed’s avatar again.
  “Dejen is coming, I have to go.”
  “Alright. Well, you go and you get better, do you hear me? I’ll be waiting for you.”
  “Okay. But if I don’t come back . . . I want you to be happy.”
  “I want to be happy with you!” she cried.
  “I do too . . . I hope I see you again, jeclahay. I love you.”
  “I love-” she said. Suddenly, his avatar disappeared, replaced with the words “d3mb1Hab0n has Gone Offline”, they hovered in the air for a moment before fading away. “you too . . .”
As she started at the empty room, he lip quivered and she closed her eyes.
  “Shut down!” she screamed, closing her eyes.
Shutting Down . . .

Paige sat up in the simulator, as the visor and controls receded, and she wiped her eyes. There were tears streaked all down her face and neck, hidden in the night’s darkness. It was almost midnight on her side of the world. She sniffled as she stood up and walked over to the desk beside the Sekaiko Virtüu‘s physical, user interface and grabbed her mobile phone. She unlocked the keypad, the screen lighting up her wetted face, but before she could open up her contacts list she realized that it was pointless. There was no one that she could call. She didn’t have his number, but even if she could find his number, no one able to answer could speak English. She dropped the phone on the desk and walked towards the balcony.
She felt so trapped, so helpless, she needed fresh air; so, after sliding open the balcony door, she walked out onto the dark terrace. The wind stirred her long, red hair as she looked out at the Long Beach seaport under the star-speckled sky and said to herself.
  “He’s coming back . . . I know he’s coming back.” but as she spoke, fresh tears fell down her cheeks and knelt down and wept.
As she did, she whispered his name, crying lovelorn tears for a boy that’d she’d never met; she was the picture of misery. After a few minutes, she stood up and looked out at the ocean, Eyes red and tears dried into salty lines on her face.
  “I’ll find you!” she screamed at the sea. “And I’m going to kiss you, even if I have to come all the way over there, myself . . .”