Friday, December 22, 2006

'Paris Syndrome' strikes Japanese 

Japanese people are apparently falling foul of Paris Syndrome because the reality of the French capital does not match their romantic notions when they go to visit. Parisians are a little ruder than the Japanese expect.

Quelle surprise!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quote unquote 

One grammatical no-no that makes me see red in a highly irrational way is the use of quotes for emphasis.

I saw a sign this morning that was advertising passport photos and other assorted photographic services. Every line, however, was wrapped in double quotes, e.g.

"Passport photos"

Why? Quotes are supposed to indicate when someone is speaking or to imply irony. Clearly no-one is speaking and where's the irony? Is the phrase "passport photos" a euphemism? Should I be reading it with a mental voice and a wink?

What could "passport photos" mean?

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Princess Diana Investigation: No Consipiracy! 

Well, they would say that wouldn't they?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Help us Santa, you're our only hope! 

I passed a house this morning when I was walking to the station and they had a sign in the garden that asked Santa to "please stop here!"

Why did that annoy me as much as it did? No-one puts such a sign in their garden if they are in real need. They would have no need to plead with a mythical third party to stop by with gifts. It is clear evidence of begging by people who do not need to do so for things that they really do not need.

All signs like that do is encourage greed in children. They seldom need encouragement. They are naturally greedy. The encouragement of that greed seems completely counter to everything that Christmas should be.

I have been accused of being a grouch at Christmas and I would accept that as a viable assessment. I don't like Christmas very much, or at least I don't like what it's turned into. I don't like feeling obliged to have to buy things for people I don't see from one year to the next or sending cards to people who are little more than names on a bit of paper.

I don't like getting presents from people and pretending to like them (the presents or the people, take your pick). I would much rather have one carefully thought out cheap gift than a dozen showy gifts that will never be used.

I like seeing people at Christmas. I like cosy days and nights playing games or watching television. I hate being caught up in the commercial feeding frenzy of seeing what can be bought for whom and what presents I will get.

It is easy to be caught up in it all. I admit I enjoy the suspense of knowing there are presents with my name on them and the mystery of not knowing what's under the paper until Christmas day. The anticipation is everything.

The lead-up, the endless shopping, the wrapping, the writing of cards, the feigned joy of seeing yet another pair of socks: I can do without that.

My friend Paul, calls Christmas, Xma$. It says it all really.

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Monday, December 11, 2006


Disappointment #1: Fake-snow
I thought fake snow was flash-frozen water blasted out by a powerful fan. It is actually foam and makes children cry if it gets in their eyes.

Disappointment #2: Ice-skating rinks
Many outside ice-skating rinks are made of plastic. They still appear to be slippery, however, and people trying to skate cling to the outside wall like water going down a plug-hole.

How did I get to be 42 and not know these things already?

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Accidental Xenophobia 

I like to think I'm fairly free of bigotry, however, I've heard it said that everyone is a little bit racist, a little bit sexist, a little homophobic (even if you're gay!).

On Saturday, I was a little racist, although not really of my own choosing, three times.

The first time was on the train. David, Graham and myself were on our way into London to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory. That was excellent, by the way, and well worth seeing.

On the train there was a girl. If the Olympics had speaking loudly as an event, she would have won gold, silver and bronze for her country. We couldn't identify where she was from. I thought she was Spanish, possibly Catallan, but David thought Scandinavian or Eastern European.

She was annoying, I can tell you that much. She was, however, annoying because she was loud, not because she was loud and foreign. I can't decide if understanding what she was saying would have made any difference.

The second incident occurred when we went for a quick bite to eat before the show. We went into a greasy spoon/kebab shop and encountered one of the strangest individuals I have ever met.

You expect certain ways of being served in different places. If you go to a posh hotel for tea, for instance, you'd expect really polite waiters and lots of smart uniforms. I didn't expect that when I went into the kebab shop. I did pitch my expectations at the correct level for such an establishment. What I wasn't expecting, however, was, when I ordered a jacket potato (it was on the menu!) with coleslaw, to be greeted with an expression I would have received if I'd asked to eat his children.

I wasn't impressed with him. Nor was I impressed by his inability to hold the tea order in his head for longer than three seconds. I don't think what I thought of him was racist. He was foreign but also not entirely gifted.

The third incident was after the show. We had to walk through a group of black youths to get to the station. I was a little scared. Again, I thought I was being racist at the time but, in hindsight, I would have felt exactly the same, or perhaps worse, had I had to walk through a group of white youths.

There was a definite prejudice there. It was not, however, racial in origin but ageist. I have never liked teenagers, even when I was one myself.

Perhaps I am a bigot, in that case. Can you be a Youthist, I wonder? Sign me up, now!

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