Category Archives: Rantings

Thoughts, ponderings, opinons, vicious rants…that sort of thing

Qualifications of a Lion King

Do you know The Lion King came out in 1994? Yeah. 23 years old and still an enduring favourite among Disney fans (according to a totally unscientific straw poll of my friends). I watched it again recently and – quelle suprise – I have some questions and comments. So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

The life lesson we learn from this beloved classic is broadly, “Look inside yourself, find out who you are and you’ll find your place.” Which, fine, but here’s how that lesson is taught via this beastly parable:

We’ve got Simba, who is the son of Mufasa, who is king of the Pridelands presumably by dint of being the Lion voted most likely to be voiced by James Earl Jones at Lion Community College. Simba is his heir, presumably because Mufasa likes Serabi the most out of his COUNTLESS lioness courtesans. So, when Mufasa dies and his scheming (and inexplicably English-accented) bro, Scar convinces Simba it’s his fault, Simba runs away and Pride Rock is left without its true-born heir.

So, Simba slopes off to live the good life, existing on denial and a slimy-yet-satisfying, totally-paleo bug diet, until shit gets so bad at Pride Rock that his childhood playmate Nala has to come and find him (spoiler alert: she got hot), followed closely by wise-baboon-in-chief Rafiki (sidenote: why does Rafiki have a Caribbean accent? We in Africa, bro!) They’re both like, “Yo Simba! You’re the rightful king, so, like, get your shit together, come and be king, and fix this shit. Cuz… you should be king”, despite Simba’s having never ever had any practice or diplomatic training or shown any actual aptitude for kinging. In fact, the only insight we get into his plans for his reign goes like this: “free to run around all day, free to do it all my way”.

Simba looks smug

A smug, entitled brat does not a king make.

No one cares about his hitherto flagrant disregard for the democratic process, though. Basically, it’s: you’ll be good at this because you were born to do it.

Which is confusing, DISNEY. I thought the deal was, “if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want”. See: Mulan – she had to prove her worth, and Aladdin too – he gets to marry Jasmine and be a prince in the end only because, thanks to his ingenuity and street smarts, he saves the day. Usually, in the “it’s what’s inside that counts” narrative, the protagonists discover their inner qualities or actually learn some skills (imagine!). But Simba just gets a free pass because he is the heir and because one time, Mufasa gave him a very rudimentary lesson about grass and shit, and then one other time appeared in a cloud and told him to “get it the fuck together, man”.

Basically, this movie is way more about the divine right of kings than it is about the circle of life. That’s all. Soz not soz for the rant. Which of your childhood faves shall I spoil next?

This is not the first side-eyeing I’ve given Disney. To read my thoughts on which of the princess’ stories are NOT corrosive for the young soul (hint: not many!), click here. As always, do weigh in. 

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Three little words

I am, I must admit, acrimonious about most acronyms, but one in particular inspires my disdain: LOL. To explain my contempt for LOL in a measured manner, I have conducted a little research and gathered the uses (and misuses) to which I have seen it being put, for your digestion:

LOL: as a response to show you acknowledge that what I said was funny.

Fine, as a congratulatory nod that says, “good one!” I can abide it and its fellows, LMAO, LMFAO and ROFL. Even better to make a joke in return, but sometimes it’s nice just to show some appreciation. The thing is, I’m a bit concerned it’s losing its power. Given it’s supposed to be shorthand for “I am laughing out loud right now. Oh my goodness, that was so hilarious that I’m so overcome with mirth that I can only muster three letters,” I often find it to be a somewhat disproportionate response, especially since it’s so often used in reaction to something that was not even or wasn’t intended to be funny.

LOL: To communicate that what YOU are saying is a joke.

In this case, it could be argued that people should work harder at expressing themselves and telling jokes more artfully. Having said that, some forms of humour aren’t as effective when written and, even more crucially, some people just don’t share the same sense of humour and there are times you have to point out that you’re saying something funny. I recently resorted to actually using “LOL” in real life (or IRL, if you prefer – I do not) with a friend who, though dear and kind and intelligent and generous, is quite earnest and often fails to remember that 99% of what I say is nonsense and meant to be taken lightly. So I’ll be all, “Right, all I need is a pet pig and I’m good to go!” and he’ll be like, “But don’t you live in a studio flat? Do they let you have pets in your building?” So I have to say “No, no! LOL, Fred – LOL! It was a joke.” And he’ll look at me like, “Well, it wasn’t funny.” And I’ll be ashamed and remember that sarcasm is no substitute for wit. So, y’know, everyone wins. Once again, let’s all remind ourselves that this acronym stands for “laughing out loud”. So when you write something and want to add a little levity – ask yourself this, is it really worthy of a vociferous cackle?

In the above two instances, may I posit, then, that we substitute “LOL” for something more fitting. We have so much expression at our fingertips. Consider the difference between “HA!”, “heheheeee”, “Ohohoho” and “Mwahahahaa”, just for starters. If you are indeed LOLing, tell us more. Is it a dry bark of wry mirth? A mischievous giggle? A knowing chortle that says, “Oh very droll, I see what you did there.” Or perhaps an evil cackle? Let us LOL for the occasion, I say.

The third, and perhaps most troubling use of LOL that I have seen, though, is:

LOL: to soften something.

This one is tricky. While I can perhaps see the argument for having a quick and easy device to temper tone, to show that something that might otherwise sound bitchy or nasty should be taken in a jolly way… Maaaaybe. But that gets easily exploited. See: “Yeah! Because all Asian people look the same, LOL!” “What? That’s a bit…racist.” “Nah man, I was just being ironic, lighten up, it’s just a joke – LOL.”

This strategy is implemented when the sender is unsure of how something is going to be received. See: “Whoa! What are you doing?” “Sending you a pic of my dick, LOL!” Just add a cheery LOL and no one can be offended; it’s all fun and games and #TopBants.

Nah.

My point in summary, is: let’s all try to be a bit funnier, cleverer and more sensitive. Aka: stop being lazy.

 

Top tips in these trying times of the storytelling takeover

You guys, have you noticed? No one is doing conversations anymore! It’s over, passé, defunct. Nowadays, all the cool kids are telling stories. Think about it: when you sit down for drinks or dinner with another human, nine times out of ten, someone goes: “Oh my goodness, so here’s what happened…” And lo, the story beginneth.

And listen, I deeply and truly love a good story. But social storytelling is an art and just as our distant ancestors had to practice and hone the art of conversation, we too have a responsibility to craft and wrangle our storytelling skills. Sadly, I have noticed that not everyone is attending to their duty properly. So, I have put together a few handy tips to help you up your game and check you’re not being a monotonous, droning bore, dominating the duet.

  1. Practise your story beforehand on a cat. They are life’s harshest judges, with particular disdain for any digression, irrelevance and self-importance. If your kitty critic shows you its bumhole, cut some of the erroneous faff and get to the point.
  2. When in full oratory flow, casually drop in a racist joke. If your audience calls you on it, you know that you are keeping their attention and also that they may not be racist. Bonus!
  3. Grab your listener by the hair and aggressively jiggle their head around to check they are not wearing a super-realistic wakey-wakey mask of themselves to cover up their actual sleeping face.
  4. Detonate a remotely activated bomb in a nearby location. When the kerfuffle settles down, if your listener turns to you with a “Sorry, you were saying?”, you know you’re story-ing like an enthralling pro. (Do your best not to maim anyone with your bomb. Storytelling is important but…)
  5. If your listener fidgets, yawns, attempts to change the subject, firmly walks away or spontaneously combusts, do not attempt to continue the tale. No one likes a story-pusher.
  6. When you have finished your story (and the applause dies down), consider thinking about contemplating letting someone else have a go before you launch into another one.

storycat

I do hope this helps. Let us all try to be better storytellers; ’tis indeed a noble aim. If, though, you aren’t quite ready to let go of the utterly incomparable experience of engaging in a beautifully balanced to and fro, a delicious and discursive, edifying and challenging conversation, come and find me.

If you’re on board with this, you might enjoy some of my previous musings on the subject.

All Thai’d up

Having lived in Bangkok for more than three years, it’s fair to say that my love affair with this magical, dirty, fabulous, stinky heaven of a city is going strong. But the same cannot be said of everyone. The place is full of deeply jaded expats and while I’m sure lots of things will affect my relationship with Bangkok as it changes and develops and gentrifies and so on, I desperately want to avoid losing my enthusiasm for it. Especially because it seems to me these grumps share a particular and common gripe that alarms me. And that is Thainess.

Yes,  the very things that make Thai people Thai – in Thailand – are what get the goats of those who have voluntarily chosen to live in their country. “This would never happen in[…..]!” is something you hear of Thai bureaucracy or health and safety all the time, despite the fact that we are decidedly not in whatever country we must infer is superior and therefore its practices are rendered irrelevant. Whenever talk of local business culture or the tendency towards ‘saving face’ arises here, there’s lots of condescending eye-rolling accompanied by this insidious little comment: “It’s sooooo Thai”. And everyone knows what that means.

This label, while objectively accurate, is loaded with subtext, and it’s liberally applied to humans too. When, for example, I ask a male friend about the new girl he’s seeing, it routinely goes something like this:

How did you meet? “Tinder”. What does she do? “Marketing”. Where does she live? “Thonglor”. Where is she from? “…”

At this point, if the answer is “She’s Thai”, it will ALWAYS be followed by some kind of caveat: “BUT she speaks amazing English”, or “BUT she went to international school”, or “BUT she studied in America.” It MUST be qualified. As if it’s in some way unseemly thing to live in a country and date a girl from that country unless she’s not, like, “really  western”.

Then, we have the term “Thai-time”. And listen, I agree,  a “relaxed attitude towards arrival or starting times” can be annoying. But if it’s a cultural norm where you are, rather than bitching about it, you just have to readjust to it like anything else. If you’re a naturally punctual person, just stay at home 30 minutes longer and hey presto, you’ll be right on time. And if on the odd occasion you are held up, you can relax in the knowledge that it won’t matter to anyone.

“Uh Nicky, that’s so Thai!”

Yeah,  you know what else is soooo Thai? Delicious food available at any hour of the night, slippers in the office and – my favourite – wearing a t-shirt in the gym! This is just one etiquette lesson the sweaty white men in my condo would do well to observe from our hospitable hosts.

A roachy encounter

– and what I learned about myself from it.

I was feeling particularly smug about life that morning. I’d hopped out of bed with that feeling I sometimes get: the relish of living alone in my little flat and the freedom I have to do whatever I damn well please – like eating Reeses Cups for breakfast – because I’m a grown-ass-woman and I can take care of myself. Smugly smug smug. And that morning I was going to take care of myself via yoga in my PJs.

I like a bit of morning yoga; I open the curtains and go through a couple of sets in the sunshine. I like the feeling when I’m done and I’m a bit sweaty and my muscles have gone all shaky. I feel like I’ve done something good for my body but also nice and balanced and peaceful and, to be honest, even more smug.

So, this particular morning, I open my curtains and a massive winged cockroach flutters out. It stutters, falters and crashes drunkenly down on my bedside table and I SHRIEK and fling myself across the room. A proportionate response, I’m sure you’ll agree. Here I stand – panting – and consider my options.

I’m not sure where it landed exactly; it could be down behind the dresser or it could have fallen amongst the teddies who inhabit its surface. (A rag-tag bunch, they include Claude the French Christmas bear, Margery the floppy dog who insists on wearing broken aviator shades, and Space Bunny.) I’m scared that if I go over to investigate, it’ll fly out from among them into my face.

In order to ascertain its roachy whereabouts, I decide to send in an advance guard. Lionel, a beany-bottomed lion, is perpetually grumpy and this will do nothing to lift his mood, but there’s nothing for it. I hurl him into the midst of his furry colleagues. No movement. Not a flutter. And suddenly I am very aware of myself, throwing teddies across the room, because I’m scared of a bug.

cockroach-joe

I gird my loins and approach with caution. On closer inspection, the roach is indeed crouching behind the dresser and it occurs to me that even if I get him out in the open, I need an exit strategy. I open my window and aim the fan at it, wondering if he will get caught in the slipstream and just be wafted out.

That’s IT! I’ll just leave everything like this, go to work, and he’ll make his own way out.

Wait, no. What if I get home and he’s not there, I won’t know if he’s gone or merely lurking somewhere else, like my pillow case. No. I must deal with this now, like an adult. I get the broom.

After a rescue mission in which my fluffy friends are gingerly airlifted to the relative safety of the bed (Lionel eyes me with even deeper disdain), I hover uncertainly, with a broom handle pointing down behind the dresser. Nope, I can’t do it. My aim is terrible and I anticipate the scuttling. Shudder. ‘Aha!’ thinks I, ‘Bug spray!’ I grab the massive can under the sink, shake it thoroughly, aim it down the back of the dresser and let him have it. Scuttle scuttle scuttle! Unngghhhhhh.

So now I’m chasing him; he isn’t flying, thank fuck – he’s definitely already pretty busted, but fuck me, the fucker can scuttle. The spray is puttering but I keep it trained on him doggedly, round the bed, across the floor and almost to the rug where he gives up and collapses, legs in the air, twitching. I scoop him up with a post card, dump him out the window and slam it shut. And now I too collapse in a sweaty, shaky heap. The irony is not lost on me that the very yogic effect I enjoy so much was this morning achieved by something so un-zen as killing a fellow living creature. With poison – the weapon, as they say, of women.

As it turn out then, I am a grown woman, who lives alone and takes care of business; I can take care of myself and my home… by offing, in the most cowardly fashion, a tiny, injured creature that had infinitely more cause to be afraid of me, given he was entirely less well armed.

I am not so smug anymore.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Here is a little cautionary tale, friends, at which you will want to curl up and dye.

PING goes Facebook and there it is, an appeal from a friend asking for people who want to get paid to have their hair cut, for a hair show.

Great! Says I – notoriously lazy about having my locks shorn, usually opting to wait til I go home to England where I get my mum to just chop off the dead ends. My hair, in short, is looooong.

But it needs a trim and I fancy a  bit of a style and maybe some fun colour, so along I go to the casting and to my delight I am selected. The stylist, a suitably fabulous Italian man in studded loafers, named Silvio (obviously), points at a hairdo in a magazine – this is what he will do with my hair. ‘It is ok?’ It looks fine – mostly some cool blonde highlights and a lot of curling and volumising, but, with all that, it’s still below shoulder length. ‘OK, so it’ll still be long, right?’ I ask. ‘Sure, suuurree,’ he says confidently, if a little dismissively. This very exchange is repeated after they apply the colour and I sit in the cutting chair: ‘Because, my hair is the source of all my powers you know,’ I half joke, ‘I like, reeaalllly like my long hair. So, not short, right?’ I add, as he brandishes the scissors.

‘No no, not short,’ he sings just moments before he merrily chops METRES off my beloved locks. I let out a scream as I see the chunks fall on the floor.

‘No no!’ He cheerily assures me, ‘Is layers! Bottom layer, he is still long. Same long as before! No problemo!’

Bottom layer, he is NOT same long as before.  As for top layer, he is the same length as my fucking fringe. So now I have molto problemo in the form of a stupid haircut, which may, to Silvio, be the height of style, but looks to me like what is essentially a boofy mullet.

never trust a hairdresser

The next installment in my journey of humiliation was the prep for the hair show itself. Silvio, like any hairdresser worth his salt, absent mindedly runs his hands through my newly hacked tresses while chatting away to the colourist about another model entirely. I am, it is clear, simply the pesky human attached to the real star: ‘The woman under this hair, why is she crying?’

He applies BOTTLES of product to it and teases it inexorably upwards, curling and scrunching and pinning. Next up: make up. The bejewelled gentleman tasked with attending to my face has a particular disdain for my eyebrows. He seems unconvinced by their shape, blithely scraping at them with a razor. Now he has evidently decided they are rendered too flimsy – damn these feeble things, he thinks. I know, a lovely bricky brown, ooh yes, nice and thick. And now, for the eyelids. They shall be pink, of course!

The over-all effect was that of a terrible 80s drag queen with patchy facial eczema.

photo(2)

Perhaps, under the lights, it looked effective, I do not know. What I do know is that I am now faced with the daily reality of wrangling what amounts to a bowl-cut atop heavily textured layers, in Bangkok’s notorious humidity. This morning I washed it to see what I was actually working with and applied a metric shit ton of serum to it before venturing outdoors. This morning, I expect Silvio merely flipped his Skrillex mop top to the other side of his stubbly undercut and went for a cigarette and a stroll, ruffling the heads of passersby. Skipping probably.

The moral of this fable of follicles is simple: NEVER trust a hairdresser. Especially not a fantastically gung ho Italian one who is paying you to whatever the shit he likes with your locks.

The Taming of the Shoe

– Or: ‘Why do men date awful women?’

tip for breaking in shoes

I have never understood, as an onlooker, why so many fellows date really horrible, horrible women. You know the ones, the mean, manipulative, unreasonable, princesses that have otherwise rational chaps running around after them, blindly acquiescing to their madcap demands. ‘It’s the crazy/hot scale,’ my male friends would explain to me patiently, their compadres nodding sagely. ‘The WHAT?’

Perhaps you are not aware of this phenomenon, as I was not. Here, Barney will explain:

This, ladies and gents, is an actual THING; a fact of life to which many sensible people subscribe. The notion that humans will put up with something that is causing them damage because it is aesthetically exceptional – and, indeed, the more beautiful it is, the more pain, confusion and misery it is entitled to inflict – is one to which I instinctively responded, ‘PIFFLE! And WAFFLE!’

Until, this was, the Cinderella Carvela debacle of 2014.

I was to be a bridesmaid for Cat (she of My Popfession); we have been friends since we were nine and she is the most radiant and beautiful creature there ever was. Careful now, don’t jump to conclusions; she – though undeniably beautiful, is not among the aforementioned women. In fact, she might be the kindest, most considerate person I’ve ever met. She will remember your hamster’s anniversary, and buy him the most elegant gift, expertly wrapped in his favourite colour. As for her bridesmaids, Cat was determined we would have something lovely to wear and when it came to the shoes, she utterly outdid herself. The Swarovski encrusted stilettos were not only mesmerisingly sparkly, they were by Carvela. ‘Hurrah!’ whooped I, ‘They will be comfy and springy and I shall twinkle-toe my way around the South of France like a bridesmaidly fairy.’

They were not. They were pointy, pinchy, torture chambers of foot-death, contorting my toes, and reducing me to a hobbling, wincing cripple. But, my oh MY, they were pretty. And for this reason (not to mention that I would do anything for Queen Catherine, Bride of Provence), I ran round the house, wearing thick socks inside the buggers day and night, in a frenzied bid to loosen them, or at least train my tootsies to handle the agony.

And it gave me a little insight into the logic of the crazy/hot scale. Here I was, willfully making allowances – the balls of my feet burning, my hitherto graceful gait rendered a tottering mince – just to wear something beautiful. Maybe, I mused, I had judged these chaps too harshly and actually, the pain and discomfort of dating someone ‘crazy’ is worth it for the the payoff.

Bridesmaid shoes

But, on the day of the wedding, though my feet have never looked so elegant, or been so frantically instagrammed, I had to surreptitiously ease them off at dinner, eyes a-watering, to give my screaming toes some respite. Later, the time came for dancing; and though they continued to twinkle prettily from the ledge upon which I carefully placed them, they took no part in our wild and joyful rumpus. And I concluded, just as the shoes that threatened to prevent me dancing – though undeniably gorgeous – were cast aside, so too would any person who threatened to impede my happiness. Probably faster, and no matter how beautiful.

I remain unmoved in my stance on the crazy/hot scale.