Monday, October 25, 2010

A Pavlovian Response

While the efficacy to date has been questionable, my girlfriend's ongoing attempts to cultivate me into a fully-functional, socially-fluent human being show little signs of fatigue.

Over the past four years, we have logged a considerable amount of time watching films together, and yet, I'm still not sure what to do during those moments when her face crunches up and her eyes emit a salty discharge.

Derisive comments, for example, don't really work. We were watching Marley and Me at the cinema. The dog is the emotional vehicle in the film. The dog gets sick. It's sad. Then, (SPOILERS!) the dog dies. The characters on screen cry, and so do the estrogen-fuelled audience members. To make her feel better, I leaned into her ear and whispered "Well, there's a surprise!". To show that she appreciated my attempt to make her feel better, she punched my arm.

Now, if you're thinking "Sully my boy, you shouldn't be so confrontational", I'd say you're onto something. At least I would, had I not tried a gentler approach some months previous. We were watching I Am Legend at the cinema. It's a crap movie with crap CGI and a crap premise. Will Smith is craply moping around some strikingly empty metropolitan areas with his dog. The dog is his only friend, and the only semblance of his past life, before he lost (SPOILERS!) his wife and daughter. The dog becomes a zombie-dog and attacks the Fresh Prince, but doesn't survive the encounter. Will Smith has killed his only friend and reminder of a normal life, and is sad. He weeps in a manly fashion. I'm so busy scoffing that I don't realize my hot date is blubbering until a big ol' teardrop hits my hand. Thinking fast, I decide that drawing attention to a ludicrous emotional reaction to a terrible film is the best approach. I lean into her and ask her "What the hell are you doing?" She thumps me.

My problem isn't that I'm emotionally crippled, it's that I can't suspend my disbelief. Moments likely to cause her to choke up and remark "that's so sad" will make me think "that's an interesting technique to evoke emotion". More often than not, the techniques are hackneyed and convey little power, but my girlfriend, so filled is she with the milk o' human kindness will have a cry at them anyway.

I could keep you all day with examples of my emotional-callousness being rewarded with indolent bursts of violence, but not, dear reader, forever. I managed to break the cycle, and I owe it in part to Pixar.

We were watching Up (a quality film, by anyone's metric) on a tiny TV with fuzzy sound in her living room. Despite the technical limitations of the screening, it was a slice of heaven to be with her on the couch, watching a film we had put off watching until the other was around with our bodies arranged into that just-right comfort you don't want to disturb lest you can't recreate it.

During the opening montage in which we observe a young boy and girl become friends, fall in love, grow old together, and eventually part ways due to pesky mortality, it occurred to me that this family-friendly cartoon had put together a segment more engaging and profound than any film in recent memory. We both watched, rapt, and as it drew into the inevitable silent climax, my mind was processing what I had seen - the music, the lighting, the animation - was the flexibility of the medium a major advantage in this segment? My mind was buzzing with excitement. I looked down at her, as she clung onto my arm, and saw that she was, unsurprisingly, in bits.

She looked up to meet my gaze, bewitching me with those beautiful brown eyes, magnified by glassy tears. It was a beautiful moment.

I didn't want to fuck it up. But I had to give her some reaction! I pushed out my lower lip into a pout to register my sadness for the fake cartoon-people on the telly.

She pulled herself upright and gave me a little peck on the cheek. We settled back into our nook and enjoyed the rest of the film. It was pure heaven.

Since that moment many months ago, I've been repeating the habit of pouting during sad parts in films to win positive reenforcement for displaying my emotional intelligence. I didn't realize that I had made this a habit until my last plane journey. Whilst watching a heartstring-tugging scene in the (2010) Karate Kid on a 4" screen, I pushed my lower lip forward and held it there until the scene ended. Well I would have, if the air-hostess hadn't come along first, looked at me funny, and asked "Chicken or Pasta?"

*Artist's Impression

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How many dumb Europeans will this kill?

When I'm browsing the internet in Ireland, my computer knows I'm in Ireland.

This information is used to automatically redirect me to region-specific sub-sites, deny me access to my favourite foreign TV shows, and entice me with hot young girls in my area who want to "have sex tonight".

Okay, so I sound a little begrudging, but at least it makes sure that I'm only exposed to pertinent advertising. Like this PSA from the American Heart Association... 

Dial 911 at the first sign of a stroke? I'll have to bear that in mind, and forget about that Irish emergency services number I had committed to memory...

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Delta Airlines lost my luggage and all I got was this lousy t-shirt*

Every now and again, my routine trips Stateside become an adventure.

Yesterday's trip was one of those days.

Due to some rough weather in JFK, I had to take a taxi to La Guardia to make my connecting flight to Chicago,  (why exactly an airport 20 minutes away by car was unaffected by weather is beyond me).

Delta did an admirable job of getting me to my destination only a few hours late, but as expected, my luggage didn't make the trip. I went into the baggage office to work out the details of getting my stuff sent to me, and requested an overnight bag. (It didn't seem that it was going to be offerred unless I asked).

I have to say, I was quite happy with the schwag within the bag:

  • 1 Disposable Blue Toothbrush with absurdly soft bristles
  • 1 4.25g (.15oz) pouch of Colgate Vacity Protection Toothpaste
  • 1 10g (0.35oz) pouch of Detergent (with instructions printed in mirrored fashion)
  • 1 Disposable Razor with 10ml (0.35oz) shaving cream
  • 4 Cotton Buds
  • 2 Cotton Swabs
  • 1 Foldable Hairbrush
  • 1 13g (0.46oz) Deodorant
  • 1 Large White SkyTeam T-Shirt
Also included was a card with a little apology in 10 languages, and a logo on the back that read "SkyTeam - Caring more about you"
"We regret that your baggage was not available on arrival. You may rest assured that we are doing everything possible to return it to you. we apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your understanding"
All in all? Not a bad bit of schwag to keep me going. The bag may replace my toiletries bag (assuming I ever see it again). Granted, the Toothbrush's bristles are so slight that I don't believe that 'bristle' is the correct nomenclature. The 'Large' t-shirt is absurdly oversized for this normally XL sized blogger, and there's no contact lens solution or toiletries so that the weary traveller doesn't have to go shopping before ending his 20-hour day of travel, but it's better than nothing.

It's been 24 hours since my original expected arrival time, and the bag has yet to materialize. If I'm kept waiting another day, I might stroll into the Delta Airlines Baggage Office completely starkers to protest.

Law #45 of Internet Commentators

A common problem with reporting on the importance of scientific findings is that the PR department responsible for spreading the word has a tendency to overstate the significance of the research in order to gain the attention of the newspapers, which is then further spruced up by the papers so as to be noticed by the readers.

This results in such frothsome headlines:

As I'm aware of the laws governing Internet commentators, I know that anything pertaining to space and alien-life is going to bring out the conspiracy-theory whackjobs. I couldn't even finish the article before skipping down to the comments section:

I love the internet.