Monthly Archives: November 2012

Potholes on the road to happiness

The Simpsons is made by Fox, but these framegrabs were made  by babysimpson.co.uk

“The Simpsons” is made by Fox, but these framegrabs were made by babysimpson.co.uk

Although it’s possible that depression will remain a shadow on my soul for the rest of my days, the fact that I haven’t been posting here much, combined with the fact that my life now is simply better than it was this time last year, gives me hope that I’m on the mend (I hope Kenneth Williams writing that in his diary a week before the end isn’t a foreshadowing!).  There are, after all, numerous occasions I can name in my teenage and university years that I was seriously down, but so far nothing recently has been as bad as when I lived at Caledonian Road.

However… this week there have been two things that have soured my otherwise annoyingly blithe good cheer.  One of them relates to my previous post regarding a “friend” at work, while the other relates to a friend (who hasn’t quite earned the scare quotes yet, but it’s getting there) who, while she has encouraged me to go to wonderful cultural events like art exhibitions and stage plays, is nonetheless apparently unaware of how bad she makes me feel about myself.

In reverse order, then: on Wednesday I was expecting to meet up with my female friend, who hadn’t been able to take me to “The Other Art Show” at the weekend due to illness (no big deal, I visited Hyper Japan and got a Gundam 00 self-assembly Kyrios… hai, watashi wa otaku, sore wa doushita!?).  She’d suggested we go and see a film, but asked that we do so near to her home, since she’s been exhausted lately, and so I booked tickets at a cinema way, way down in Sahf Lahndahn, about an hour’s journey by Tube from my workplace (and even longer to get home from), where I wouldn’t go if not for her sake (we’re not dating or anything, but I value my friends and regard them as my best choice for anti-depressants).  I even told her I was booking the tickets, and she seemed to accept this.

So imagine how I felt on Wednesday afternoon (literally four hours before we were supposed to meet for dinner) when she texted me, unapologetically, to say “change of plan”, and told me we were going to see Chariots of Fire instead.  She assumed I could get a refund on the tickets, or go with someone else (as if I’d go literally across London just to see a film!), and actually berated me for having booked tickets, when she’d effectively suggested it herself, adding that she didn’t really like the cinema and had only suggested it for my benefit!  Great, so change our plan at the eleventh hour and then make me feel guilty for having prepared for it, and then add to it by saying it’s basically my fault for going along with her suggestion in the first place!

To compound matters, she didn’t even specify that she meant the stage production (pluggity plug), and I thought, however foolishly, that she meant she wanted to see the film at the same cinema, so even when I grudgingly called up the cinema to see if I could rearrange the tickets, since they’d stated they didn’t do refunds (in fact they do refunds but don’t do rearrangements — huh?!), I thought I was still going dahn sahf.  Why?  Because any time she invites me to something and I have the audacity to ask when and where, she tends to tell me “Google it”.  Yes, I really, truly despise Internet idiots (they’re not doing it deliberately, so they’re not trolls) whose response to any reasonable question, which it would be polite to answer, is to use the “Let me Google that for you… was that so hard?” website, and I think it’s very rude to assume everyone can just look stuff up on the Internet at any time, even if they’re at work.

Fortunately I checked just before the end of work, and she told me it was the play; thus I decided to go home and get some warmer clothes (it being very, very cold at the moment in this country, which is becoming less Airstrip One and more Arctic Two every year), knowing that she (and her friend who gets unsold play tickets free through some wonderful deal) would be eating out.  Unfortunately, with the time it took me to come home, try to work out my route, curse Google Earth for crashing in Street View mode (should I Google a solution for the problems with their own software?) and set off again, I was thus too late to the Leicester Square area to meet them, and she told me by text message, in rather terse language with disappointment between every letter, that I should get something to eat somewhere else.

Oh, I was brooding during Wednesday evening, having to eat cold food at Wasabi (apparently they wouldn’t heat up my vegetarian food), and wondering if I should just go home and not be friends with her any more… but I stuck with it so I could see the play, even though (inevitably) the first words out of her mouth were another criticism when we met at the Gielgud Theatre (she’d told me they would be “five or ten minutes”, and thus was confused that I wasn’t there before her).  We saw the play, and it was good, and I probably enjoyed it more than the latest Bond film, and she even gave me a bookmark souvenir she’d gotten recently (albeit leather, so I can’t really use it — it’s weird, because she’s also a vegetarian!), and we parted from her nice friend on good terms…

Against my better judgement on a cold night, with work the next day, I agreed to walk with her to her train station, but along the way she criticised me again… this time for the way I walked down some steps (when I do this quickly I tend to have my big feet turned sideways so they don’t slip off), telling me it was too strange and that it would put women off me.  This is like when she told me I “shouldn’t” like Doctor Who because it’s a kids’ show, and that I “should” be married with kids by my age (as if I didn’t know)…

What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?!

R. Lee Ermey in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”

I was able to part on good terms, swallowing my upset as I am wont to do, but I worry about this relationship.  I don’t want a lifestyle coach, or a drill sergeant who picks up on my every failing: I want a friend, someone who will be there for me and do fun things with me, and I’m worried that the constant barrage of criticism and “what you need to do is…” advice (and I’ve blogged about that kind of thing here as well) is going to outweigh the benefits of her friendship.  Maybe she doesn’t mean to be hypercritical, as she’s from the Far East and it could just be a cultural thing (like how the Japanese absolutely won’t accept tips, while in the West it’s considered polite or even, in the USA, essential), but still, would she even understand my resentment, or would she still turn it into a criticism (“you should have told me, why did you let it happen?”)…

And so on to the other crisis this week… today I got another e-mail from my supervisor (while I was away at a training morning, and then at lunch), which among other things told me off for “giving status updates” and talking about personal matters at work.  To be fair, she didn’t mean I was a terrible person, but it got me very worried: firstly, that I keep getting told off for this kind of thing yet also called up if I’m too quiet (because they assume there’s something wrong with me); and secondly, that she was referring to the incident last week (linkage, again), and that, as I’d feared, she was going to take his side…

However, I grew a pair and decided, instead of wallowing in self-pity, wondering if I’d come back in on Monday etc., I’d talk to her in private about it.  Apart from making me feel better about her other criticisms (and she’s allowed — she’s my boss first and my friend second, after all), she said it hadn’t been that particular incident she was referring to, and that she was on my side regarding how rudely and aggressively the guy spoke to me last week.  She even acknowledged that it’s not just my talking that distracts people, and that there’s one person (“you know who”) who really annoys me with her constant, unnecessarily-enthusiastic booming across the office, but that since she works separately from us, there’s nothing she can do about her…

And thus my second crisis this week was averted, but I’d felt the old, familiar darkness flowing back for a moment there… it really is easy for me to slip back into depression, and it’s interacting with my friends (including co-workers) that really helps me overcome it.  I’m trying to go out more these days, and on that notion have a new friend to go climbing with (though unfortunately he prefers to go at “The Session” times — I really want to go straight from work so I finish before 9pm!), and who likes cool stuff like Beavis and Butt-head.  Will they feature in a post in the future?  Uh huh huh huh, I said “post”.  Yeah, heh heh, doioioioioing!  And (sorry to bring you back to real life) in addition, a housemate and I are getting Domino’s pizza delivered tonight… in fact, it should be on the way now!

Letting things slide

Ooh! Ooh! Things that should write blog entries more regularly! Things that should stop copying jokes from “American Dad!”

Yes, I’m sorry, I’ve been very lax in writing on this blog lately, but consider that a positive thing: I’ve got less things to complain about these days!  Or you could interpret it as me being too lazy to write this, and too busy playing Borderlands 2.  Indeed, last week I wrote entries when I’d been busy during the evening, attending Parliament or going to my C++ class (and missing Spamalot into the bargain), and the next day I even went climbing with my old housemate.  I thus have no excuse for failing to keep you all informed about my emotional states, and I apologise most proficiently.

Anyway, there’s something else I’ve let slide: the way I was treated on Thursday by a work colleague after I “displeased” him.  No, not the guy from the previous week, my good friend who might come climbing with me one day; no, a different work colleague, but still one whom I thought was my friend, who didn’t apologise afterwards and isn’t, to my knowledge, massively over-stressed or single-handedly keeping our social services office running (though he does do a Sisyphean job of filing old paper files).  I’ve let it slide not because I forgive him (I couldn’t do that unless he apologised), but because (a) I don’t want to cause any trouble, and (b) I’m worried that if I raised it with my supervisor, she might actually take his side…

So what happened, I don’t hear you ask?  Well tough, I’m going to tell you anyway.  One day I needed his help, but I noticed he hadn’t arrived; when I came back from the toilet, I asked my supervisor if he’d arrived, and when she told me to look at his seat, I remarked out loud, “oh, he’s here!”, annoyed at my own lack of observational skills.  I then went to his seat quoting Dim from A Clockwork Orange: “He are here, he have arrived!”  However, he seemed annoyed at me for talking about his business in front of the office, and later insisted I speak to him in private, where my usually easy-going friend almost exploded with anger at me!  How dare I tell the office he was late, he ranted; I attempted to explain that I’d been expressing my happiness that he’d arrived (something which obviously won’t happen again if things remain the way they are), but he angrily cut me off and replied that he didn’t give a damn.  Throughout his body language was very belligerent (he may be shorter than me, but he’s stockier), and when he finally stormed off, I was left angry, upset and… shaking.

It took the rest of the morning to calm down, but I held out hope he might apologise (as my other friend did within an hour of biting my head off), since I couldn’t know what stress he’s been under (he’s a family man and rides a motorbike, which sounds hideous enough).  Nope, and I’ve tried to avoid interacting with him ever since.  However, today he cheerfully handed out a survey to all of us in the office, asking what he does well and where he needs improvement, and I didn’t mention the incident: instead my suggestion for improvement was his spelling (since he put “right” instead of “write” — ja, ich bin ein Grammarnazi), and I complimented his hard-working nature.  Then again, it was an anonymous survey… I wonder, was he trying to get me to tell him off?  Or am I reading too much into it?

Anyway, what do you think of me now?  Am I overly forgiving, or just too anxious to avoid conflict?  I probably would have told my supervisor about it, but by coincidence she’d gone to another building for the morning, and by the time she came back, I just wanted to forget the incident and put it behind me.  After all, what use dredging it up now?  But I’ll probably mention it at my next monthly performance review, albeit with a request that it go no further, because I don’t want to cause a ruckus.

Ah, office politics… it was so much easier when I had a boss that I (and everyone else) hated, and whose appraisal of me was, to paraphrase, “you’re the best person we’ve ever had in this job, but we need you to do everything totally differently from now on, and stop using your initiative”.  That was the only job I ever quit, and I still cringe in fear that I might run into her again!

Cool things: Space Battleship Yamato

Saraba, chikyuu yo…

One weekend in 1986, when I was too sick to go to a friend’s birthday party, my folks cheered me up by getting me a couple of videos (both of which may well have been pirates, but we won’t go into that).  One was The Five Doctors (yes, Doctor Who will be featuring in one of these “cool things” posts, eventually), while the other was Space Cruiser, a badly-dubbed version of a Japanese anime movie.

I was entranced from a young age by the adventures of a spaceship built out of a WWII Japanese battleship and sent on a mission to another galaxy to retrieve a device from a far-off planet that could cleanse the dying Earth of the radiation that threatens to wipe out mankind within a year, facing the evil blue-skinned humanoid invaders along the way in pitched space battles… but as I grew up, it interested me less and less, and eventually I stopped watching it, or making the Yamato out of Lego (TM)…

Then one day in late 2003, when I was doing my Astrophysics MSc, a propos of nothing I looked it up on the Inter-thingy, and discovered just what I’d been missing: a whole series!  The film was just a compilation movie made in 1978 from a series made in 1974, and there was so much more to it (including episodes set in the Solar System, ahem).  Although I found out there was a dubbed American version called Star Blazers, I decided to get hold of the original, uncensored Japanese version, and so around the time of my 26th birthday (yes, go ahead and laugh… then again, how many of you watch old episodes of X-Men or ThunderCats?), my beloved okaasan got me a DVD from abroad.

The English subtitles were appalling (apparently translated badly from the Chinese subtitles, so two language barriers in one!), but it was still awesome: unlike the sort of cartoons we Westerners were shown as children, there was tragedy, death and destruction, partial nudity (hey, it’s Japan, whaddaya expect?), and a lot of raw emotion.  Of course, some of it had been spoiled for me because I’d been reading about it on a Star Blazers website (specifically what was cut out — surprisingly not that much apart from character deaths, a bit about the real Yamato and a very poignant speech about their pyrrhic victory in episode 24), but it still captivates me today, and I later got the second season.

Of course, things still move on… but in this case I mean I got hold of a fansubbed version online, courtesy of Central Anime (who now sadly appear to be defunct), since the show has never (and probably never will be) released in the West in its original, undubbed and uncensored form.  I showed the first season of this to my female friend (who always likes doing “boys’ stuff”, like playing Super Mario World), and she enjoyed it too, even if she preferred more romantic anime shows like Boys Be and Chobits.  Just a pity she moved out of London before we could watch the second season…

A final note: rewatching this show got me through that difficult last week living on Caledonian Road back in January, when even though I’d found a new place to live from February, and knew my housemate would let me sleep on his settee between households, I was still a hair’s breadth away from total collapse.  Just having something to look forward to apart from work and packing, during those dark, miserable days was enough…

Oh, and I’m well aware there’s a new, live action movie version, but here’s the original and the best: the big space battle from episode 22 of season 1 (I didn’t upload this, someone who ignored Central Anime’s pleas not to do so did it back in 2006):

Making a stand

“In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us.”
–Steve Martin, ¡Three Amigos! (1986)

And while you know my personal El Guapo is the black despair that still occasionally (but fortunately not for a while) grips my heart in paralysing horror, it seems the London Borough of Barnet has its own El Guapo to face: the One Barnet billion-pound mass-privatisation scheme, which was the subject of a couple of short films shown in a committee room of the Palace of Westminster tonight.

Yes, your friend and humble narrator, O my brothers, did indeed attend the seat of our national government (and became the first man since Guy Fawkes to enter with honourable intentions… no, just kidding, I wasn’t the first anti-One Barnet man there!).  We had a huge turnout, including all the Barnet bloggers, and I learned some things about the crazy scheme that I didn’t know before:

  • Under the scheme, even our own councillors (i.e. the people we — ahem — elect to represent our views) won’t be able to find out what’s going on with our council services, as information will be protected under “commercial sensitivity”.  Yep, it seems “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” only applies to us citizens, and not to Big Business, even when it’s providing public services.
  • Jobs will get exported to other parts of the country, or even abroad.  Imagine calling up to ask why your bins weren’t emptied, and having someone with no tie to your area, and no reason to care about your problems.  Just like the banks, except you can’t switch to a different local council except by moving!
  • It’s all been done with no public consultation, though the Barnet Conservatives claim they have a mandate, simply because the plan (under a completely different name) was known during the 2010 election — you know, the time when nationally we were intent on kicking out Gordon Brown’s “New” Labour.  There’s never been a public consultation on One Barnet, apparently because what we think is of only passing importance compared to party politics.
  • They said before that it would cost an extra £4m if they were to freeze council tax, but a few weeks later they’re planning to freeze council tax as a blatant vote-winner, so where’s the money coming from, considering things will cost more under One Barnet if private companies are taking their cut on top of the actual cost of services?  Already services to the elderly and disabled are being cut back, along with libraries being closed.
  • It won’t help that we can vote out the incumbent party in 2014, because we’ll be stuck with the outsourcing for at least ten years, with no option to break out!
  • The Conservative councillors are, by and large, ignoring the concerns of Barnet residents, in some cases ensuring “deleted unread” receipts are being returned to correspondents — this is the same group of people who wouldn’t suspend Brian Coleman when he was accused of attacking a resident, leaving it to the central Conservative party to step in!

Yeah, I know, it’s another political blog, but too bad, you can wait until later in the week for me to write something about my feelings.  Well, okay, how about this: I only moved to Barnet in February, and if One Barnet goes wrong I could just as easily up sticks and move again, but I’m not going to turn tail and run when things get difficult.  This is where I stand, and if I can help the people of this borough fight back against a corrupt political establishment, then I can find the strength to overcome my own trivial problems.  Or did I already say that?

Anyway, we have less than 18 days to convince our political masters in Barnet not to press ahead with this lunacy.  I learned tonight we convinced one Conservative to vote against it, and our friend Brian Coleman has also, following his shaming, voiced his opposition (though naturally by calling it a “New Labour” scheme, with incredible chutzpah).  I hope it’s enough, or in January I’ll be phoning some small village in the Scottish Highlands to ask why our rubbish hasn’t been collected, and being put through to four different people before being cut off…

Ain’t nothin’ gonna bring me down

It’s a broke day, but everything’s OK;
I’m up all night, but everything’s all right;
It’s a rough week, and I don’t get enough sleep;
It’s a long year, pretendin’ I belong here

— Eminem & Eye-Kyu, “It’s OK” (Infinite EP)

Lately I’ve felt something far different than my usual pessimistic outlook.  Optimistic?  No, not that far from pessimistic… unpessimistic?  Yes, that’ll do — a strange sense of unpessimism pervades my days, and I start wondering how I ever got so glum (though like I said, too many salty peanuts and not enough going out climbing).  This, plus a pledge to my mother that I’m not going to give up trying to find happiness in my life (so that she can live vicariously through me, which is after all the purpose of having children), is what makes me hopeful that I won’t end up spiralling into depression despite the miserable, dark nights and the drudgery of my job.

Actually, something at work made me wonder today: I almost thought I was downward bound again, but then it all turned out all right.  I was on my way to the other side of the office (it’s actually two basement “units” with part of the dividing wall knocked through) to ask my friend, a truly impressive worker who single-handedly keeps our service running, if he could help out with an annoying system problem; I’d actually told my boss I shouldn’t be bothering this guy with the problem in question, but the lady who’s supposed to deal with it was off today, so it fell to my friend instead.

However, when I got to his side of the office, I saw my friend was just picking up his phone; I said something to the effect of “sorry, you’re on the phone” and started to back away, but he put his phone down and had very strong words with me about interrupting his phone call, and even took me back to my side of the office (right in front of my boss) to do so!  He wasn’t even shouting or spitting with rage, just very vehement that I shouldn’t do this kind of thing…

There I was, wondering if I’d just lost a friend — not thinking I’d done something wrong, because I knew I couldn’t have known he’d have to put the phone down on someone he’d just called (presumably he was ringing on speakerphone?) when I’d already seen he was busy, but wondering if he was going to make a formal complaint about me, to which I’d have to respond with a counter-complaint… but then he came over to apologise for flying off the handle, and we’re friends again.  Phew!

My boss later took me aside regarding this matter, not to tell me off (for a change!) but to ask for my understanding, as this guy’s magnificent work leaves him highly strung, and his seat is right next to a main thoroughfare in the office, so everyone passes by him sooner or later (either coming in, going out, visiting the kitchenette, going to the meeting room…).  I know I need to cut back on making smart-alec comments every time I walk past him (such as “oi, [surname], get back to work!” when he’s working really hard): I can be really annoying when I’m trying to be funny, and although it’s better than my depressive phases when I won’t talk to anyone, what I need is somewhere between the two (but closer to the manic side, obviously).

So there you go, crisis averted — and I’m not brooding or anything, this blog serves as a cathartic outlet (no, I won’t stop using the word “cathartic”, stop criticising my writing style!), so I won’t drone on about this incident again.  All that matters is that I’m doing an awful lot better than I was this time last year, and although the anniversary of “Twelve-Twelve” still lies ahead, I repeat: I an unpessimistic about what lies ahead!

Now I just need to figure out how to fix a hardware problem with my mother’s computer from 100 miles away…

What’s really important?

Damn, I even used to have his haircut!

Today was the anniversary of that day in 2011 that, while walking down to Oxford Street for some Christmas shopping, I managed to brood and get depressed about my love life, or lack thereof, only to get a lot of support on Facebook from my friends.  But I’m not going to talk about that particular cathartic event tonight: no, instead I’ll be droning on about how wrong people can be about life.

There’s a friend I have who is more successful than me at most things, and more of a “bloke’s bloke”; on our first meeting he decided I was still a virgin, and continues to believe this even today (I’m saying nothing).  Indeed, in spring 2011 he actually told me I should go and sleep with a prostitute just to get the “first time” out of the way, because otherwise I might meet the woman of my dreams but have her reject me because of my alleged inexperience, and recently, in light of the adventure holiday I’m going on next May, he reiterated this to me (only this time with a straight face).

Really?  Sex is so vitally important that it can make or break a genuine relationship?  And I’m somehow “letting the side down” because I haven’t had “enough” women, and don’t brag enough about my sexual conquests or act like I’m “entitled” to have sex on a regular basis?  And this makes me worthy of contempt and derision from other men (and possibly the girl of my dreams to boot), and the only way out of it is to do it with someone I don’t love or even care about?  Was he perchance speaking from personal experience, and trying to save me from his own personal agony…?

Now, I know I’ve moaned a lot about being lonely and unloved in the past; sorry to all those who have had to endure it, but it’s something I’m trying to stop, because I’m genuinely sick of being “that guy” who always complains he hasn’t got a girlfriend, and I don’t want to let it define who I am.  Yes, seriously.  I honestly don’t care how other blokes regard me, because the only reason I’m upset at my dearth of previous girlfriends is the fact that it means my life has been so very, very lonely, and that I haven’t been made happy and made someone special happy in return.  And to make matters worse, as I get older I worry about being rejected out of hand purely for my age (though I appreciate women have it much, much harder in that regard — at least some men get “sexier” with age, witness Sean Connery).  I’m not keeping score of how often I’ve scored, because the race doesn’t matter, only finishing, and I continue to hope that one day I’ll find my other half.  I’m under NO obligation to “manly men” to “catch up” or “make ’em proud”, they can all go f*** themselves, quite frankly!  (Well, I’m certainly not going to do it for them…)

Don’t worry, this is the only time I’ll even come close to moaning about my near-terminal singularity in this blog.  Oh yes, I’d actually love to be feeling sad about a breakup or getting cheated on, it’d be a change from the usual depression — I don’t want to turn it off completely, because sadness is a part of life and, according to my counsellor, only people on drugs or completely oblivious to their own feelings never, ever get sad about anything.  I saw her tonight for what will hopefully be the last time (because I think I’m well on the road to recovery), and she agreed with me about the friend probably having gone through a bad “lack of sexual experience” breakup in the past because of his vehemence towards me.

I guess in a wider sense, it comes down to the fact that I need to appreciate I’m not always wrong about life, and other people who give me advice are not automatically right; I may be a socially-retarded terminally-single loser right now, but I’d rather be that for now and grow from it (as I am doing) than risk catching an STD just for the sake of a “rite of passage”!

And no, I’m not saying who the friend is… but yes, he is still a friend for all he’s done to help me, in spite of impugning my sexuality (both in terms of experience and sexual preference!), and I’d still want to help him out in the future, as I owe him a lot of favours.  Maybe letting him try to “help” me with my love life is an example of this, bless his little cotton socks…

Dear spammers: please kill yourselves

Not a long post as I’m off climbing soon (in the hope of burning off some of the calories I’ve accumulated today — my boss brought in Cadbury Heroes!), but I thought one of the recent attempted spam postings on this blog might amuse you (edit for clarity, it linked to a “pay day loans” website and wasn’t a genuine comment):

You can definitely see your enthusiasm in that the paintings you write.
That the world hopes for even more passionate writers such because you who have
been not afraid to say how that they believe. Always follow your heart.

Yes, spammers are so f***ing incompetent that they try to post spam on English-language blogs despite failing so badly at English that they think you write a painting!  Maybe if they put some of the effort they devote to writing (painting?) the computer programs used to automatically spam this drek onto real people’s blogs into actually educating themselves, they might not need to ruin the Internet with their idiotic ravings, and gullible people wouldn’t occasionally be tricked into visiting the websites on whose behalf they act (or trying to visit, anyway — at least one of them has already disappeared, and I know because WordPress gives you a preview!).

Before you ask: no, I don’t think people whose English language skills are below mine are stupid, just those who think they can trick native English speakers (and trickery is the purpose of messages like this, which aren’t even honest advertising).  But yes, I am tarring all spammers with the same brush, because all spammers are, by definition, sub-human scum.  No exceptions.  However, I won’t publish any of the e-mail addresses associated with these spam posts, because they’re probably stolen and may actually belong to real people who don’t deserve to be named and shamed!  (Oh, if only the police in Britain had been this conscientious during Operation Ore!)  And I won’t publish the websites, because then some people might actually visit them…