Tag: Stuff That Annoys Me

John Lewis, Get Off My Heartstrings

(the plucking, it burns!)

Yes folks, it’s that time of the year again; adverts and mascots are coming pouring out of the woodwork to commemorate the monetisation of a religious festival into nothing more than a glorified Beanie Baby hunt, parents across the land are weighing up their children’s love versus their ability to pay off their mortgage some time before 2278, and cynical frakkers such as myself are getting worked up about very little to compensate for the fact that it’s going to be another year of black socks and disappointment under the tree; it must be Christmas!

And how do we know that it’s a mere 48 days until the big day? John Lewis have released their annual heartstring-plucking short film, which attempts to associate throwing money at trinkets with concepts such as love, companionship, and human imagination, which are the sort of things philosophers have debated, and will continue to debate, for centuries, but instead of answers coming from all that we get a kid playing with Lego with a CGI penguin as a solution.

Compared to last year’s effort, The Bear And The Hare, Monty the Penguin and his loser of a human owner (who apparently has no real friends to play with) is a much more emotional story, this time involving real human children to amp up the ‘awwww’ factor, and including the ever-cuddly creature of a penguin, which, as any biologist is aware, is happiest when reading a book by torchlight under a bed (because penguins can read) or bouncing on a trampoline in the middle of summer (because penguins live in such a soft, warm environment in the wild).

But there’s a much more economic undertone to this advert, that it encourages – or even forces, upon pain of being called a heartless bastard – us to buy a specific toy: that of a penguin. Whereas last year’s effort could legitimately claim to be a short film from an indie production company about communal activities and being welcoming to others, with the John Lewis logo only plastered onto the end slate, the conclusion of this year’s film shows the dear Monty the Penguin to be nothing more than a plushie, meaning that loser child I mentioned earlier only gets companionship from a toy penguin, as opposed to a real one. This also suggests that it is not something like togetherness, or showing people new experiences, that make a good Christmas, but that by throwing money at a single product in a toy store, all your kid’s dreams will come true: the ‘happy ending’ of this year’s film was the purchasing of a second toy penguin, doubling the amount of capitalist bullshit disguised as a moral conclusion, whereas last year’s ending was about a bear hanging out with a hare because they were actual friends, rather than toys pretending to be friends.

And I think this problem has flown over the heads of most of the esteemed film critics in the YouTube comments; some have realised that last year’s film was perhaps more emotional, but I’ve not seen a single user point out the fact that all this kid’s, and his bloody penguin’s, problems have been solved by buying things. This is a terrible moral, that can’t really be extended to the rest of life; if the kid wants companionship through money, he gets a toy penguin, but if adults want to buy companionship, we get hookers, neither of which are emotionally healthy solutions.

At last there’s some reality to this year’s advert though, unlike the mystery box of 2011, which could be a decapitated dog’s head for all we know, or the chilling quest of a snowman to find a snow-girlfriend (because even in the culture of snowpeople, it’s the men that go on journeys, and the women that sit there waiting to be whisked away by a handsome stranger), where he only moves when the camera’s not looking at him, making him little more than a festive weeping angel. And, for all my moaning and nit-picking, it is a sweet film with a conclusion that could be seen as a nice one, with the boy feeling empathy towards a creature he has invented entirely in his own mind, making the child some kind of omnipotent god of altruism, presumably before he can spell ‘onomatopoeia’.

But the best thing of all of this? You people get to start longing for Christmas as if it’s only days away, but you’ve got seven weeks to go; enjoy the most drawn-out and agonising wait of the year folks, it’s a wait no number of CGI penguins can make shorter!

The Lawnmower Of Doom

(yup, from a piece entitled Art Versus The Artist yesterday to one about the hyperbolised inconvenience of a lawnmower placed near my house; welcome to the James Patrick Casey blog, everyone)

Outside the front of my house there is a driveway, where cars belonging to the owner of that house can park their cars without interruption or obstruction; half of our driveway is used by the woman who lives in the flat above us, while the other half is reserved for us ground-floor dwellers. In the picture below, the right-hand side of the driveway is blocked by a car associated with the woman living above us (perhaps a visiting family member), while the left-hand side, that covers most of the picture, is our spot; so why in the Hell is there a lawnmower parked across it?

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I’m not particularly angry about the presence of the lawnmower blocking our precious precious driveway (there are other spots on the street to park), but I’m more confused by the strangeness of it; the front of our house is typical of other houses in the street, in that there are many driveways and almost no gardens, and anything ‘aesthetic’ stuck outside the front of these houses normally consists of overgrown bushes and pebbles that people will try and convince you are ‘cool’ and ‘unconventional’, but really it’s a clever ploy to build a garden feature that’s cheaper in the long-term than hiring a gardener.

So there’s not much need for a lawnmower on my street; what’s also confusing is the leaf-blower left alongside the mower, which I saw be put there by one of those blokes that cuts all the trees in your street once every few years. So the lawnmower must be part of this cutter’s arsenal, which begs two questions: was he intending to use the lawnmower on the tree somehow (probably not), and so why does he have it with him, if his job is cutting trees, as opposed to moving lawns?

As ever (on this blog), the least conventional answers are the most plausible: perhaps the lawnmower is a surveillance tool, and when used in tandem with the leaf-blower it can send and receive radio waves along the mast hidden inside the blower’s cylinder; maybe its the cutter’s main mode of transportation, and they consider it to be a car, which explains why it’s been left suspiciously between two other cars; it could even be a bomb on wheels, as that box on top is a disturbing red colour, and everyone knows that red equals danger.

But I could just be bitter about GAME not stocking any copies of Madden NFL 15, despite it being released, due to a perceived lack of interest, so now I’ave had to order it from Tesco and wait for a week for a delivery.

As a side note, the camera on the iPhone 5c is rather good – I took the lawnmower photo with it!

Please Listen To Advice

(on another note, who in the Hell needs pushchairs that big?)

People suck – you’ve probably noticed, being one and having to interact with them on a daily basis. An example of suckitude I found today was on the bus, where there is a clear space on the lower deck for wheelchairs and pushchairs to be placed in, considering they don’t fit onto the seats that populate the rest of the bus. And today’s gripe was not with the relatively small space given to such things, or even angry parents demanding that wheelchair users move so their pushchairs can be placed there instead, with all the rage of Naruto during a fight in which the plot will advance upon its completion, and so he can win be going berserk alone.

Nope, today’s annoyance was the fact that not one, but two(!), pushchairs were left unattended in this space underneath a sign warning parents of the fact that 251 injuries occurred last year due to unattended pushchairs. I’d probably laugh more at the irony, if the health of small children and bystanders wasn’t at risk.

For me, this creates an interesting paradox: that parents care enough about their child’s safety to purchase, and drag onto a bus the way a fisherman lugs home a particularly cumbersome catch, a pushchair large enough to be used as a battering ram, siege tower, and arsenal all in one, but they are not attentive enough to stand near said pushchair/instrument of warfare – is getting a seat really that important to you?

I don’t think this makes people ‘bad parents’ if they leave a pushchair alone, but it may say something about their style of parenting, that showing ‘love’ towards a child is easy in terms of buying stuff for them, but is more practically awkward, and so more readily avoided, than actually being close to them.

Of course, this must be seen in context; I was a baby once, and my angsty photos alone tell me that, at least sometimes, I resembled demon-spawn as opposed to parent-spawn, and so I don’t imagine that parents can stand over their children 24/7, bubble-wrapping all the sharp corners within a fifty-metre radius, because that must be insanity-inducing.

I’d just argue that, if anything, the time for over-parenting comes in public places, which are relatively unstable environments compared to the confined and controllable space of home; there’s even a sign, encouraging you not to hold your child as if it’s going to be snatched away from you like a royal bastard in season one of Game of Thrones, but simply reminding you that attentive parenting is perhaps more important on a moving vehicle with no seatbelts, than other areas.

But these are hardly commands, or even valid bits of advice – I’ve got the parenting knowhow of a panda who’s particularly uninterested in sex, even by panda standards (pandards?). I just don’t want people’s only contribution to society to be another case study used to evidence a TfL warning board, because if your pushchair rolls a few feet as a bus moves, that’s the worst that can possible happen.

Your kid’s okay, and now you’re number 252.

Freshers’ Events Can Piss Off

(because social interaction is for … popular people?)

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the social side of university; not just because, after seven years of a single-sex school, I’ll be able to interact with ‘women’ on a regular basis (if by necessity as much as anything else) but because I’ll be able to live with people, and get to know them on a more personal and real level than any of the people you only see at school. And this isn’t because I lack friends outside of the classroom, I’m just more likely to trust and be comfortable around the guy who I’ve shared rent with for a year, as opposed to the guy who lent me some Geography notes once.

And so the, apparently, UNMISSABLE FRESHERS’ WEEK is rather annoying. Part of me dislikes anything advertised in block capitals and with stars on a Facebook event title, another part rejects anything that involves pop music, but the larger part of me thinks that this is all a bit artificial; I;m going to spend three years hanging out with some of these people; is it really necessary for me to spend a few hours in their general vicinity at a concert or a party?

These events are also cop-out interactions, because they seem to focus on uniting people as friends, but those people rarely engage with each other in a meaningful way; going to the cinema is a classic example, as you can tell yourself you hung out with a friend, but you only sat next to them in silence for two hours, before a (maximum) fifteen minute-long discussion about that film, where the opinions expressed are probably more instinctual reactions, as opposed to considered, meaningful responses.

Also, who the Hell is organising these events? The universities would have the resources, and while their intervention would be appreciated and could be a nice gesture, there are so many of them, and are all so similar, that they become more of a distraction than anything else. If prospective students are arranging them, then it’s a bit pretentious and ignorant to assume people you don’t know will like the things you do, when your only shared characteristic is your age, regardless of how well-meaning your intentions are.

And this is perhaps the most annoying aspect of these events, that they are trying to bring people together and provide them with activities to do to smooth over awkward first impressions, but they just end up being annoying and repetitive: there are more ‘official’ Freshers’ Weeks groups than there are kids starting their degrees this September.

So attend these meetings – little more than glorified Facebook chats with Dart Punk playing in the background – if you really want to, but I’d rather prioritise more personal interactions with people.

The irony, of course, is that in my pursuit for more meaningful relationships with students, I’ll not interact with any of them for about two months. Logic!

The Weather Is Hot

(conversing about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative, anyone?)

It’s not just hot today, but painfully so: I’ve apparently developed heat-related heart pains; had to roll the car windows down to avoid melting, drowning out my music; and I’ve gone an afternoon without wearing socks for the first time since about 1998. Also, it took me about five minutes to formulate and type out that opening sentence, suggesting I’m suffering from some sort of heatstroke.

And don’t tell me that British people are never happy about the weather – you complain when it’s too hot, you complain when it’s too cold – we are often happy with the weather, especially the windy periods of March and April, when winter is finally starting to sod off and it stays light until about four in the afternoon; we can be very content with the climate, as long as its a pretty of bland one. But too hot or too cold, and we’re up in arms about it.

I dislike the heat more, because one can compensate for coldness – by putting on more clothes, turning up the heating, burning faeces – whereas one cannot for warmness – I’m currently wearing one layer of clothing, and lack the self confidence to not wear a shirt, and we have central heating, not air conditioning.

Heat also makes it uncomfortable to run, whereas the cold is soon forgotten about as your muscles start to exercise, or even do anything; hot, stifling days make activity in general difficult and slow, whereas cooler days make it harder to start doing things, but once you begin a 5K, they really don’t get in your way. And I’m fine doing a thing once I’ve started, it’s just the starting that can be difficult; I can read a Dark Tower novel in a week, but it could take a fortnight of mental preparation beforehand.

On the other hand, I’ve been writing for a while now, but am finding it difficult to continue because of the heat and general feeling of lethargy that comes with it; and Id really like to tell you that I’m going to go and start on my university reading list, continue looking for a summer job, or write more of my novel, but I’m just going to lie around and watch old YouTube videos.

I’d make a joke about going to Hell for this, but I’m genuinely too afraid of the heat at this point.

The New Writing Format Sucks

(sorry, WordPress)

I like to moan about things and, while I hate to criticise a platform that lets people all over the world read my views on things, without demanding any sort of monetary compensation or sexual favours in return, I would like to highlight some of the problems with the new post-writing format.

There were once two options to publish a new post on WordPress; you could click the ‘New Post’ button in the top-right corner, which would take you to a simple, ‘here’s a box for a title, here’s a box for a main body’ window, which I used for my first few posts. The alternative was to go into the ‘My Blog’ tab, and select ‘Add a New Post’ from there, which gave you far more options regarding publishing a post; you could add categories and tags, for instance.

And I preferred that second method, as it gave far more control over the stuff you were publishing; I accept that some may prefer the relative ease of the former method, but I don’t mind learning a new, relatively complex way of doing thing. Also, I write every day, so it makes sense for me to learn the best method possible for constructing and publishing posts, because otherwise there’d be a systematic problem with my blog, like none of my posts would have tags or something.

I’d even found the more detailed method of writing easy to use after a few weeks, so the ‘disadvantage’ of that method having too many bells and whistles to be easy to use wasn’t really applicable for me.

But the largest problem is that there is a lack of choice; those who wanted more control over their posts could have it, and those who didn’t want the extra fuss and clutter could write without it. Now, I have to use a writing format that doesn’t include features like a word count, which is kinda important to me, as I’ll often write a thousand words on here, and have to cut it down so it’s not painfully dull and verbose to read; now I have to judge the length of my posts by eye, which is made harder by the apparent lack of a ‘Preview Post’ button, which I’d imagine would be even more annoying for people who regularly publish posts with pictures.

But I can’t moan too much; this site made me the top result on Google for ‘geography pick up lines’, so it’s doing something right.

Blogging On A Laptop

(I’m on a laptop, motherfrakker!)

Yes, I now own a shiny new Apple laptop, a stark contrast to my utterly archaic second generation iPod Touch, and iMac from 2008; you couldn’t even download a more recent operating system than iOS 5 on that first one, dahling.

And while I’m enjoying using this new technological doo-dad, there is a part of me that reasons that this birthday present, for all its expense and afternoon spent setting it up, will allow me to do little more than play Football Manager in a slightly more comfortable chair, at least until I bugger off to University in October. It appears that we in our culture give equal importance to the means with which we do things – a computer to play a video game – as we do the things that we ultimately do – I didn’t ask or receive a new video game this year, that could be played on my laptop.

You can also see this in most aspects of technology; mobile phones only allow you to talk to other people, and all the software updates, hands-free headsets and Apple innovations in the world are unlikely to change the fact that advances in phone technology will not qualitatively change the ultimate function of those phones.

Except that they do; phones can now play video games. Ovens can tell the time. Acoustic guitars can come with built-in tuners for God’s sake. All this means that we are blurring the lines between the tasks that our various devices and gadgets do, to the point of futility; I overheard a guy on the bus asking why buses now tell the time, when almost everyone has a smartphone, or an archaic iWatch predecessor known as a ‘wristwatch’ that would serve such a purpose as well, if not better?

It seems that change itself is enough of a reason for these developments to take place; it doesn’t matter if we all have nine gadgets that do the same thing, because we could all have a tenth, so let’s spend some more money! Hooray!

It’s also worth noting that few of these developments are actually new developments; buses and ovens can tell the time, but the Sun’s been doing that for us since the literal dawn of humanity, and the App Store only provides the same service for people that stores like HMV and Game have been doing for decades. I’d even argue that the invention of the smartphone wasn’t that innovative, because phones became a hub of communication, gaming and the Internet, rather than serving a totally new purpose, unique to smartphones.

And this laptop is no different; it’s a computer on one’s lap, which is desirable for some reason: ‘Wow, look how portable it is!’, we cry (I once took my 20-inch iMac, in its box, to a friend’s house); ‘The keyboard is so easy to use!’, we gush (the same iMac keyboard served me perfectly for five years); ‘It’s so thin!’, we sigh (because I was so concerned about the width of my old computer that I bought it a month’s gym membership, four WeightWatchers DVDs and a £20 voucher for a vegetarian restaurant in central London, from the ‘iMacs, not Big Macs’ menu).

You could even say that this has led to a decrease, not an increase, in innovative ideas, as to ‘progress’ now means to ‘chuck existing features and ideas onto a black rectangle slightly thinner than the one we released last lear’, rather than actually create something from scratch.

But I can’t really moan about it, as I point out the flaws of buying a laptop alongside a perfectly good computer, here on my laptop as my perfectly good computer sits idly next to me; once I port my iTunes library and Football Manager saves across I won’t have any use for the poor, clunky bastard, meaning I’ll simply discard it like the Top Trumps cards, Scalextric sets and feverishly-collected football stickers of my childhood. Awesome American band Icon For Hire summed this phenomenon up pretty well in their song Pop Culture: ‘We all act like we see right through it, when we all know we’re addicted to it’.

But thanks to my parents for buying this for me; I wouldn’t want so seem ungrateful or anything.