July 28, 2010

A Betrayal. Not a Big One, But a Goodbye One.

arrogantMy good friend Stuart asked me to write this. I’m not sure why. He was probably bored and just wanted something to read.

Here’s the skinny. I went to the Mud Festival with two ‘friends’. One I’ve known for a long time and is a great guy, and the other known for a few months, and it turns out he isn’t. Because whilst we were out gallivanting and, really, having a great time, he told me in extremely strong words, and entirely out of the blue, what he really thought of me. I’m not going to say what he said, but it was very offensive. I immediately took off back to the hotel as this was very late on Saturday night, and I’d had a few drinks, and left them to it.

On the Sunday morning, I offered him the chance to apologise, both for the remark and the offence it had caused, and he refused. Point blank refused. I’m going to have to tell you what he said, or you may think it’s worse than it actually was. He called me an ‘arrogant prick’. Yes. I know! Ha ha! Thank you…

I have, like everyone, many flaws. But I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever been called arrogant. An arrogant prick at that. The word ‘prick’ has a whole bunch of offensive (behavioural, characteristic) connotations in its own right. According to Urban Dictionary it may mean:

  • · Somebody so stupid it's painful to those around them.
  • · Someone who is completely worthless.
  • · An ungrateful piece of shit of a person.
  • · A selfish person who only cares about himself.

In short, a prick is definitely NOT a nice thing to be called. Whilst I’m not perfect, I’m not exactly seeing myself slotting comfortably into any of the above. And while we’re traipsing through dictionaries, let’s look at arrogant. Dictionary.com says:

  • · Making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud.

That’s not me either. We all, including me, have our moments when we feel good about ourselves. Some days are, after all, rosier than others. Most people reading this will have come from Facebook – have you ever posted a status that says something like ‘I’m so awesome - I just scored three basketball hoops in a row’ or something similar? Of course you have, we’ve all done it, and it’s always tongue-in-cheek. The reason I’m saying this is that I cannot for the life of me figure out what ‘ex-friend’ is basing this claim of ‘arrogance’ on. Maybe it’s something innocuous that I’d said? Maybe he doesn’t know what it means? And ‘prick’? Well, that’s just that you either like someone or you don’t. Isn’t it?

The thing is - we’d hung around together for a couple of months. With few problems. And the remark was not delivered amongst some angry outburst – it was almost like “by the way Paul, I know we hang around together, but in all seriousness, I think you’re a…. etc.”. Well at least I know what you think. In fact, it’s not the first catty remark he’s made to me, though it's both the strongest, and the last.

My abiding thought in this is that he clearly sees me as ‘beneath him’. He’s “making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights.”.

Or you might say, arrogant.

Yours with a little laugh at what life throws up sometimes.

July 21, 2010

Just a Little Observation

It’s ridiculous that humanity rates itself so highly. We are but specks of dirt, on a spinning rock of dirt.
We are even so conceited, so arrogant, as to assign to ourselves Gods which we say created everything.
We are nothing more than chemistry. A chemical reaction. Amoebas in the dirt. Sure, we can think, rationalise, comprehend. We can record, analyse, makes sense of, but we are here, and we are we, by accident.

July 15, 2010

Retiring From International Football

I’ve just noticed that Emile Heskey has ‘retired from international football’.

Before anyone wanders off, this is not about Emile Heskey – yes I agree he’s a bit shit, but I’m talking about something else, so shut up.

RETIRING from international football! What a fucking disgrace! If you are picked FOR YOUR COUNTRY, you play. It is that simple. These people are refusing to play for their country. They are saying ‘I may be good enough, the England manager may even want to select me, but I’m not playing’. There is no excuse for this – anyone who has ‘retired’ from international football should be shot at dawn, for treason.

I’m not even going to run through the possible reasons that one might give for refusing to play for England.

It’s an absolute and total disgrace to refuse. THERE IS NO EXCUSE. YOU’RE PICKED, YOU PLAY.

July 13, 2010

The Idiots Who Don't Know Themselves

I suppose the first thing I should say is that this article is riddled with generalisations, and I apologise in advance for that. But given the topic, it is impossible not to use these generalisations, such as ‘gay people have a particular sense of humour, often heavy on innuendo’. Sure, some gay people don’t, but these are generalisations, so please forgive me for using them here. Actually, there’s another bugbear of mine right there – people being offended by generalisations when it suits their agenda. And usually their agenda is ‘I want to shout abuse at someone, so I’m gonna call everyone racist over the slightest thing’. I’ve covered this topic before here.

My point today is about sexuality, or at least perceptions of it. I like gay people, I like gay humour (their innuendo-laden stand-up is often brilliant, for example), I’ve nothing against gay marriages, I don’t care if my actors, pop stars or politicians are gay, I couldn’t care less, that’s their business. I have gay friends. And yet I can’t find one gay man anywhere who thinks that a straight guy is just that – a straight guy. Gay men, at least the ones I meet, are, to a man, convinced that everyone is hiding at-least-a-little something in the closet, if you’ll pardon the pun.


Now take this guy here. Chris Crocker, a gay, YouTube phenomenon. Let me get one thing straight. This guy is great. I wish more people would dress more outrageously, and express themselves, especially out here in Korea where clothing is homogenous in the extreme – every teenager looks like their Mum’s just gave them fifty quid to spend in ‘JJB Sports’ yesterday, i.e. everyone wears brand new jeans and t-shirts. You never see a pair of ripped jeans, or a punk, or someone in a biker’s leather jacket, or a Goth, or someone who died their hair pink. New-looking Jeans. New-looking t-shirt. New-looking trainers. And a haircut your mum would be proud of. With a few rare exceptions in Seoul – that’s a Korean’s idea of self expression, but I digress.

Chris Crocker is talking about clothes in that video, and how he thinks gender boundaries ought to be a little more blurred, especially when it comes to clothing. I can’t say I disagree as such, although I’ve no desire to don a frock. What took me though is his opening line:

“When are people gonna wake up and realize, that there’s no such thing as just boy, or just girl?”

Where do you start with this? ‘

When are people gonna wake up and realize…?’ He’s clearly gay and a cross dresser, and I’ve no problem with that. But we, non-gay non-cross-dressing people are all in the dark are we? We’re all just a bit thick and na├»ve for believing what we believe? That’s unfair, and patronising to us, and ‘us’, is straight men here.

“There’s no such thing as just boy”…well, actually, yes there is. I’m one. My brother is one. Most of my friends are ‘just boys’. There’s no doubt that some of my friends may be hiding something – I recently had a friend ‘come out’, who was 42 years old at the time, and had/has a teenage daughter. So it happens, there are people in the closet, but don’t patronise us genuine heteros by saying ‘you’re all just a bit stoopid really, and you don’t realise what’s really going on. We know you’re hiding something, you can’t kid us’. We know, generally at least, what’s going on. We’re just not part of it, we're happy enough with our sexual identities, and above all, we’re not, generally, hiding anything.

So please, lovely gay people that you are, stop assuming we’ve ALL got something in the closet. It’s very, very, patronising. Some, a few, may well have, and maybe you cite this as your ‘proof’ whenever someone comes out, but I can assure you that most, the majority, the bulk, do not. We’re happy who we are, we’re happy who you are, but don’t tell us we’re just idiots who don't know ourselves.

July 09, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

It’s been a disappointing week in some ways…

Starting with last Saturday, and my good buddy Andy’s birthday night out in Seoul. Too many people, too much waiting around, too much fucking about. Andy’s a great guy and it wasn’t his, or anyone’s, fault really, we just seemed to spend half the night waiting around for people to catch up, or meet up, or whatever.

One woman, who shall remain nameless, kept a few of us waiting in the street for what seemed ages, whilst she went in a coffee shop to use the bathroom. On investigation, after quite some time, she was found in the fucking coffee shop eating cake. “There’d been a queue, for cake” she said. That’s alright then love – we’ll stand about in the fucking street for twenty minutes while you queue for fucking cake. I didn’t call her a silly bitch, but she did know in no uncertain terms that I thought she was one.

Actually, by Monday, I thought I’d been a little harsh, so I ‘Facebooked’ her an apology, as she is a friend of a friend. She Facebooked me back saying that the apology ‘meant a lot and thank you’, then completely blocked me from contacting her like I’m some fucking stalker or some shit. Really, I sent one message, an apology at that! Make me stand in the street while you eat fucking cake will you? Hope you choke on the fucker next time. Oh, and judging by the size of your hips, you eat plenty of the stuff too.

Moving on…

On Tuesday, I went to bed. All was normal.

On Wednesday morning when I woke, I had a crick in my neck so bad I had to take Thursday off work and go to the hospital, where they hooked me up to a very vigorous massage machine, and I mean vigorous – it left bruises!

Korean hospitals are very good. They are small, but have a dept. for almost everything. One time I had to go as I'd had a small white lump halfway in my eye socket that had started to become irritable, like I had something in my eye. So I'm in the hospital, and after a bit of pointing and cross-lingual explaining, the doctor said that I would need to see a specialist dermatologist in another town, and have an operation. Having an operation on my eye in a foreign country was not an enticing prospect. Anyway, the doc says ‘follow the nurse and we’ll sort it out for you.’

So I followed the nurse out of his office, along the corridor, down the stairs, down to reception, past reception, out of the front door, along the street, round the corner, along the main road, and into another building which turned out to be an optician’s. I thought I was going downstairs to fill a form in!

The nurse left me there. No one in reception spoke English.

They ushered me into the very large back room where three or four opticians were working. The first, younger one took a look. You’ll need to see the older guy, he somehow communicated (most Koreans know a few basic English words, even if they can’t have a conversation, as they study it at school).

Across the room, the older guy made me sit down and push my face into that cushioned head-frame you only get at the opticians. He positioned a bunch of magnifying equipment and started having a look. ‘I think I can get it he said, in pretty good English, referring to the small white cyst in my eyeball you’ve probably forgotten about by now. He picked up a scalpel, and a needle, and proceeded to prick and scrape away at this thing in my eye socket. I cannot tell you the pressure of instinct that wells up when someone is poking needles and scalpels in your eyeball. Your entire instinctual mechanism is screaming ‘Flight! Do one, now!!! He’s got needles and scalpels and wants to poke them in your eye! Run away!!!!’.

Anyway, he did get it out, right there and then, no anaesthetic, nuthin’. But I had to pay. 4000 won, about two of our British Pounds. Never had any bother since. I think he frightened my eyeballs into never getting another cyst again.

Where was I?

Oh yes, my week.

I had a date on Tuesday. I’m not sure either of us like each other that much. We’ll see…

I found out today, Friday, that I will teach summer classes during the school shutdown. This is normal so no problem there. Only thing – I found this information out today, and was asked, this same day, to submit lesson plans for all ten two-hour lessons. That’s Korea right there, “bal-hi bal-hi” (quick quick). I don’t mind really, I’m used to it now – half the paperwork we have to do is just for show anyway, i.e. whatever I put on my lesson plans doesn’t have to be followed, the plan just has to exist so that they can tick their little boxes.

So my week, in summary – Andy’s birthday bash spoiled by too much fucking about. Cake eater. Date. Cricked neck and hospital. Summer Class and plans.

Sounds bad. Wasn’t. We still had some fun on Andy’s birthday. Cake eater can kiss my sweaty balls, and the cricked neck got me a day off work, and got me sent home early on Friday too. Oh and I went to the jimjilbang (public bath) today. Awesome!

Roll on next week. Supposed to date that girl again but honestly, I doubt it. It’s also the last week of school before the summer holidays here in Korea, so should be a nice simple week work-wise.

Hope you’re all well.

July 07, 2010

London Underground Colourblind Map Mark II

Please note – this map can be used equally by colourblind and non-colourblind people.

Download the latest version here

OK, the London Underground Map for the Colourblind is already at Mark II. This time I’ve added text labels to colours – this will enable colourblind users to describe, or receive descriptions, of lines. For example, if someone said to me ‘take the brown line then change to the red line’, then Mark I wouldn’t have helped much. Not that it was useless, far from it, but if I, or Mr Colourblind, received an audio-only description for directions we wouldn’t have been able to follow it – hopefully now resolved.

Also someone from Transport for London has been in touch (I think they were from TfL anyway, as I emailed them, and had an apparently anonymous reply from ‘GapMinder’) and said ‘we already have a Black and White one’, and sure enough, as you’d expect, they do. Somewhere. But they’re missing the point.

The point is that this map is able to be used equally, by everyone – one print, no extra maps needed, although I’d like to reiterate here that my map is not for the visually impaired other than colourblind – for these users there are several variations available here. My map could be used equally by both colourblind and none-colourblind people – in other words, this is a suggestion to alter the actual everyday map – TfL, please, MAKE these changes, then I wouldn’t need to do this, or ask for directions when I’m standing in a Tube station because I can’t tell the pink from the grey. I could look at the Black and White descriptions everywhere (that was sarcasm, there aren’t any), and even if I could find a Black and White map to use, how does it help if someone has told me to ‘take the light blue line, then change at the red one’?

Transport for London, I urge you to make these changes to ALL of your maps. There are, by my calculations, (calculation - 2.67million daily users, half of which are males, 7% of which are colourblind) around 90 000 people every day, who use the London Underground who cannot, without struggle or assistance, use the map to travel on it.

If this was 90 000 of any, and I mean ANY, designated group of people there would be money spent and a change to the system. Why not for this group? Do we not matter?

July 04, 2010

A Map of the London Underground for Colourblind People.

Download the Latest Version Here Updated 7th July 2010

It’s often bugged me, on visits to London. What is a straightforward glimpse at a map for most travellers there, is a nightmare of trying to separate similar colours for me, and every other colourblind underground user.

I’ve blogged about this before, here, and this time I’ve decided to do something about it.

I took the Underground map, and added some additional symbols so that a colourblind person like me can follow the lines, literally.

I’d be very happy if anyone could feedback on this, as it took a very long time to do.

Please, if you can, feedback on: ease of download, errors and/or omissions, the symbols themselves – do they help (especially if you’re colourblind)?, or anything else you feel is relevant.

Regarding the symbols – some might seem it odd that they are coloured – but a lot of consideration went into which colours, how many symbols etc. went onto each line. They all had to be markedly different from each other, easy to describe, and above all, easy to follow with a colourblind eye. I ‘think’ I’ve achieved that, after many ‘back to the drawing board’ moments when a symbol didn’t work, or was too similar to another.

One other note – this map isn’t an aid for those that are sight-impaired, other than colourblindness.

I hope it is of some use to people, and please, feel free to pass it on.

July 02, 2010

Is It Possible To Be Too Helpful?

Korean people are very helpful. If you fell over in the street, as mentioned in a previous entry, there would be swarms of people helping you up. That’s no bad thing, and often you need help, say with directions, and Korean people are always happy to oblige. In short they are very friendly and helpful people. No sarcasm here. They are.

And it’s annoying.

OK, no it isn’t. One small aspect of it is…

Today I went for a meal with my co-workers (this meal deserves an entry all to itself, coming later) and we were eating a main course I wasn’t particularly fond of, when my boss saw that I hadn’t taken much (because I don’t fucking like it) and literally piled the stuff on my plate. Now I have to force down a food I can barely eat out of politeness…

This is the second time my boss, who is otherwise a great guy, has done this, and my previous school used to do it too! "Oh, you haven't taken many pickled octopus tentacles, here have some more" [Dinner lady empties a bucket of said tentacles onto my plate].

Koreans love rice-cake. They are a kind of savoury dough-like substance, often flavoured with vegetables or nuts etc. – kind of like a savoury cake, made of dough – the texture is difficult to describe as that’s the bit I don’t like, because we have literally no food of this texture in the West, well in the UK anyway. Think of, a kind of brick-sized lump of very, very chewy, cold pasta/cold dough type of texture and you’re somewhere close, although they come in all shapes and sizes.

Actually they taste pretty good – just rice and vegetables, but it’s the texture. There are some things that just don’t feel right in the mouth and make me physically wretch – rice cake is one of them, excessive fat on meat is another e.g. a large lump of fat on a pork chop. I can't swallow it. (Grow up at the back!) Bleeeuuurrrgghhhh…

Anyway, my point is that at lunch one day, I’d taken one teeny gobstopper-sized rice cake, just to be polite, my boss saw this, and just piled about twenty on my plate, to, you know, be helpful. I had to simply tell him at this point, “Sorry boss, I really, genuinely don’t like these things”. He was a little disappointed, but I really can’t eat ‘em. It’s possible to be too helpful.

Another time I was in a shop, admiring a nice blue shirt, and, typically, the shop assistant was all in my fucking face trying to be ‘helpful’. This shirt had all the buttons done up, and I wanted to open up the top button to see what the open neckline looked like, because it had button-down collars which don't always look good without a tie.

So I’m struggling with these new buttons and all the bits of plastic and clips etc. they always put on new shirt collars, and the shop assistant comes over, takes the shirt off me, holds it up to me and says ‘looks good!’. I’m thinking ‘Well you would fucking say that anyway’ and take the shirt back and try to continue undoing the top buttons, which I need to do. He watches me for another minute or so, then grabs it off me yet again and does something else to the shirt, adjusts the labels, shows me the price, tells me how great it is etc. etc. …in the end, I snatch it back, ‘I just wanna undo the top button to see what it looks like, for fuck's sake’ (I thought, not said).

Yes, you can be too helpful. You tried to help me, but all you did was fucking annoy me, and waste a substantial amount of my time. If you’d stayed at the back of the store, I would have unbuttoned the shirt and decided by now, but no, you had to come over and be TOO damn helpful.

Koreans try to guess what you are doing. They watch you, looking for an opportunity to leap in and help you. This is the most fantastic thing in the world when you are lost/drunk/looking for the toilet, but is the most annoying thing ever when you are fully in control looking at a shirt, or deciding for yourself what food to eat. I'm an adult. I'm not blind, illiterate or stupid. If I didn't take seventeen octopus tentacles, it's not because I didn't notice them and need your assistance to put me right! There's helpful, and there's patronising. When my boss put the extra rice cakes on my plate, I half expected a little pat on the head.

Oh, and I bought the shirt.

Oh again. The food in the first paragraph was dog meat. Not dog food. Dog. Meat. Did I like it? Hmmmm.……