Je n’aime pas les êtres humains!

I used to play a game in coffee shops. I would to try and guess if two people that were sitting together were couples or not. It was a fun game, a harmless game. It was entirely in my head, most of the time. I would occasionally tell someone about it, usually as a ploy to make myself more endearing than I actually am. I would develop overly extravagant stories over tiny mannerisms I detected. For example, I once noticed a man who every now and then affectionately tapped his wife’s (probably) arm whilst they sat together. Perhaps it was a small nuance that perchance she mentioned once in passing. Maybe it was part of an in-joke they had early in their relationship that isn’t as funny as it used to be, or maybe it was just a habit of affection shown between the two of them.

But then, you know, the game seemed a little creepy and I stopped.

What’s far more interesting is people who sit on their own. Coffee shops are a unique place in which society has deemed solitude acceptable. Restaurants, movie theatres and even the supermarket (to a certain extent) have a stigma attached to it – you shouldn’t be on your own, you must bring along with you one of your dearest.

It is, I believe, a relatively brave act to do anything on your own these days. We are constantly scrutinized on our inability to interact with others. Yes, it is an important trait that should be developed from a young age, but is it not an outrage that our entire social landscape is grounded in our ability to ‘have friends’? We are told from a young age, both from our parents and from peers, that being on your own is a bad thing. As such, we are meticulously defined by our friendships and relationships – whether it be their absence, existence or otherwise.

I am aware there have been countless articles about how there are people that love their alone time. There are many of us around that would love nothing better than to just sit at home and watch Netflix, without the distractions and distresses of social interaction. It has been discussed extensively why going to the movies by yourself is better than going with an annoying human. I am not here to talk about why alone time is a requirement of sanity, or that there are those of us that prefer it. I’m here to question the viewpoint we have on solitude.

Why is it acceptable – perhaps “sufficiently reasonable” is a more apt term – that we can negatively perceive those of us that live out our days on our own? Why must we question whether there is something inherently wrong with those of us that spend our days without another? Why did we make fun of the nerds by calling them “Nigel no-friends”? Inversely, why is being social so celebrated? Why do we insist on ‘checking in’ on Facebook with all of our friends every time we go out? Why did we look up to the ‘popular kids’ at school?

It is this culture that brings about a sense of loneliness to our every day. For even those of us that have an excellent foundation of close social relationships, we feel sad and alone when one of them can’t be there for us all the time. Why do we feel hurt when a friend doesn’t respond to our message right away, but we see them posting Instagram photos at the same time? It’s because we feel isolated, just for a second. We shouldn’t have to feel that!

I believe that we as a society put far too much value on social relationships. That is not to say that I think that we shouldn’t have them – despite how much I say I hate people. The best days of my life have been with my loved ones. That being said, I do not believe I should be ashamed of saying “Hey, I’m spending Saturday night at home watching Netflix on my own”, or saying so and needing to justify it with “I just find going out so blergh these days!”. There is too much social pressure to act social!

With the advent of social media, we are bombarded with constant judgment regarding the quality of our social lives. Never before did we actually have a quantitative number on how many friends we have. But with phrases like “I follow back” being paraded around twitter and Instagram there is no denying that that number has a profound effect on our levels of happiness. All I can say is that we make a sound effort to reduce its influence.

Or perhaps, just focus on the coffee in front us, and not on the people at the next table.

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Du Swipa Höger

It was finally gone, thank goodness. Like being relieved of an itch, I felt the anguish dissipate away. It wasn’t that it hurt, or that it was really that annoying, but rather it was just a bother, a distraction, another thing to think about.

The little red flame was deleted from my home screen.

If you’d talked to me a year ago, I would have told you that Tinder was a joke. The judgmental side of me would have taken over, and forced you to question your life choices. You would have met the worst version of myself, forcing my negativity on you like a door-to-door salesman.

But just as so many things have influenced me in the past, I eventually caved.

One thing I noticed on my travels is that the social ‘dating’ app holds a rather different connotation overseas. Perhaps as Australian society is stereotypically more social than others, Tinder has always had the reputation of being a tool purely for the acquisition of a weekend hook-up, or the like. In other societies, however, Tinder is a legitimate way of meeting people. Using the Swedish case study, I can say that it was a rare occasion that I would meet a Swede who did not use the app in some way or form. Whilst yes, it would be often used for it’s stereotypical purpose, conversely there would be plenty of love-lost singles searching for their one true soul mate.

The argument that is so commonly used against Tinder is a simple one. How can you ascertain from a short series of photos and a few lines of text that you would actually connect with someone? Unless you believe in the age old fallacy of love at first sight I cannot say that you can accurately judge someone from this tiny projection of their personality. But, of course, we must ask the following – don’t we pretty much do this anyway?

Whilst yes, we are given a wider range of projections, and generally the advantage of more time and opportunity for intuition, we still really make snap judgments on the way people look and also the first things they say to us. First impressions matter a great deal, and we must not let romantic comedies cloud our acceptance to this. Can we not just say that Tinder allows us to make a tailored and perfected first impression to a greater population?

Perhaps it was plainly due to my mindset at the time, but my Tinder experience was not the most satisfying. Whilst there did come the odd match here and there, I found myself swiping left (‘disliking’) far more often than right. It became more a game of ‘find the flaw’ rather than actually searching for a better half – so much so, that I began to believe that I was too picky for my own good. Some reasons why I actually swiped left were as such:

“No, I can see the phone, that is a terrible selfie”

“Why did she post a photo with that guy? Why doesn’t she just fuck him?”

“She’s at the beach. Hell no”

“Potatoes? Why the hell are there potatoes?”

There were plenty more reasons, but I would like to keep some friends after I post this article, so I will hold them to myself.

Soon, Tinder became mainly a way to dispel my judgmental side. It was addictive not only for that reason, but also because it helped validate my narcissism. Neither of these proved mentally healthy, not to mention the arthritis I will develop in my thumb due to the constant lateral movement. It needed to go.

Now of course, there are plenty of people out there that will defend Tinder to it’s knees. I understand this fully. I know of a few couples who began their journeys through a right swipe. I do think, though, that it takes a certain kind of person in a certain kind of mental state for it to be most effective.

Or maybe it just takes a couple of people that are a little bit right for each other.

Asterisk

It has been months since I have added anything to this little blog of mine. The reasons for this are two fold. Firstly, I have been exceedingly busy with university and internships as life is beginning to finally take some sort of shape and secondly; I have spent the last six months living in Sweden, where of course, people have no time to write at all.

I told myself I would not write a personal, reflective article on my time in Sweden. I generally find them to be rather bland, without insight, and slightly narcissistic (who else really cares about how I felt?). However, it seems, I have caved to my impulses. Maybe it is because in the last two weeks I have struggled, somewhat, to readjust back into my hometown. Maybe it is because this is not the first time I have had to do this, and I now know exactly how difficult it is to return to a normal life. Maybe, and most probably, it is because this time I have left behind things that are just as valuable to me than the things I am coming home to.

I am reminded of something that a close friend said to me whilst we sat in a busy café in Uppsala one afternoon. It was prime-time for Fika and we had just finished our second refill of coffee whilst the remains of our kanelbullar sat idle on a plate between us. Whilst this was months before I was set to return back to Sydney, the conversation had turned to the rather fleeting nature of our friendship. I would go home to complete my studies, she would stay to continue her work. I mentioned how after my last return to normalcy I had somewhat acted up – changed my career path and abandoned some of my social circles, amongst many things. She said something that I think is most true of this situation.

“It is that when you are away for so long and you return home, you see that everything is the same, but you, inside, are completely different”

These were words that the writer inside me began to instantly note down. I remember recognising the feeling and being so glad that someone had finally put them into words, though at the same time dreading the prospect of experiencing that anguish again.

And here I am, at past 1am in the morning, dreading the thought of work in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, though, it is not because of a distain for my life in Sydney that I miss my Swedish life. It is more that I miss the sense of adventure that every day brought me, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. I wish now that I spent more time just walking through the centre of Uppsala and taking in just how different and incredible my life was at that moment. That as I walked through the snow that covered the city centre there were people in Sydney that had never even seen snow in their lives.

My words, I am sure, will resonate in every one of you that has travelled before. It is different, though, I believe, when you making a home in foreign place, rather than just a temporary adventure. That is what it was for me – Uppsala was home, as was Bristol before it. More so, I dare say, than Sydney will ever be. That’s because here my life is so much more regimented. I have work, for the purpose of earning; university, for the purpose of my career; and friends and family, which in some way guide my thoughts and feelings.  In Uppsala, however, so much of everything I did was on impulse. I was more me than I could ever be in Sydney.

You can understand the difficulty, then, of returning back to everything you once knew. I returned to same streets, the same house, the same people – though inside I am not the same person. I am a better version of myself, a more complete version, one that knows exactly what I want from life, without the impasses of routine and responsibility. Call it an enlightening experience, if you will, but I think it is more simple than that. I feel I was just getting used to being me, and now I am back to being me with an asterisk.

This entry may have turned out more personal than I would have liked, but alas, here it stands. I cannot help but think of the old scientific process of finding out what the atom was made out of. My high school teacher told us “to find out what was in the atom, we essentially shot stuff at it to break it apart to find out what was inside”. That, I guess, is what happened to all of us that ran away for the past few months. We shot at our lives with Fika and snow, only to find we were just ourselves on the inside.

She’s a brick, house.

A few weeks ago I was asked, “Why don’t you have a better half?” and I responded with a generic response – something like, “Oh I don’t know, I just don’t”. Of course, hours later I came up with the rather witty response of “Because I haven’t yet found even a half that’s better than I am!” The arrogant and egotistical side of me was very proud that I could come up with such a clever return, but of course it was completely useless as the situation had long passed. I am, though, undoubtably your go-to man for wit, if required the following day.

The occasion would have gone completely unnoticed had that been the only time it had arisen. I was asked a similar question just a few weeks previous, and had given a similar, non-specific response.

Now I am not the first person to think about the intricacies and fallacies of the idea of love, nor am I the first to write about it. That being said, I think that love is one of those few fundamental things that all of humanity can relate to. It probably doesn’t matter how many times we question it, curse it, swoon over it or take advantage of it, it will always be as relevant to our lives as bees are to honey.

But alas, it did get me thinking again. There always seem to be those individuals who find themselves in relationship after relationship. One doesn’t work out, and then the next is just around the corner. Now, are these people just better looking than the rest of the population? Do they all have remarkable personalities that make then endlessly attractive? Or are they just more open to different people? The flip side is also heavily prevalent. There are people who have have one relationship every now and then, or even less. Are these people just less likeable? Maybe these people don’t require the same number of chances to reach the person they are most compatible with?

Compatibility, I think, is the most crucial issue when it comes to relationships. It has very little to do with ones likes, dislikes, or general mannerisms. It’s one of those things that we cannot define. That, surely, makes falling in love one of the most remarkable things we as humans experience.

We live in a world with over seven billion people. It seems statistically unlikely that each of us is only compatible with one particular person. We have experienced this first hand, I am sure. Most of us have a number of people we get along with, people we can spend hours with and not be frustrated of their company. We call them friends – surely these people satisfy some standard of compatibility? Why do we not date them all?

The answer is simple and plainly obvious. Love and attraction is not just about compatibility. It should be, I believe, but we have been so instilled into a structure and ideal of love that we cannot deviate from it. It is this ideal that we will fall in love with someone whom is the correct gender we have chosen, they should be attractive in our eyes and must, in addition, hold a certain degree of compatibility. But surely this narrows down the number of people that we could possibly spend our lives with?

Let us say that out of the seven billion people on earth, we are ‘compatible’ with one billion of them. Then, maybe half of them are not the ‘correct’ gender. Then, maybe, we only find a quarter of that number physically attractive. That leaves us with considerably less people that we could live happily ever after with.

The thing is, though, that our selection criteria does not end there. It is a biological trait that we are attracted to those that are like ourselves. This means that, generally, we are more likely to find love within our own race. This further narrows the field. We nearly always look for someone within our age group, and further more within our social circles. Then, we have to add personal preferences. Maybe I would like to date someone that speaks french? Maybe I need them to be able to cook? Maybe they should be super rich? The field just gets narrower and narrower.

Say then, after we have added all of our own personal criteria, we are left with a number of around 500. The earth is a very big place. What if most of these compatible people live on the other side of the world?

A far more frightening thought, I believe, is the following. What if we have already met one of these compatible people, and we messed up the relationship with them? What if we are accidentally reducing the number due to our own fallacies?

Yes, I have made us all very scared, and I apologise for that, but I do have a point to all of this. I will express it by talking about lego.

When I was a child, I always loved playing with lego. I loved building towers and castles, little bridges and trucks. One day, I decided to build a tower. I wanted it to be a green tower. I went through all of my lego pieces and found all the green ones, then proceeded to build. Inevitably, however, I ran out of the green pieces before I could finish it. I was distraught as I could not build the tower that I wanted. Of course, I dealt with the blow, and began to add different coloured pieces. It was unpleasant at the beginning, the tower was all uneven and not uniform as I had imagined. I finished, however, and the tower stood grand. I decided then that I would add a fence around it, add a drawbridge and a garage. The tower stood still and upright, holding my lego structure together.

Every little brick that I didn’t really want there, still standing up straight, and being the tower I needed.

The Sloth and the Snake.

This is a story about a sloth.

The sloth was once on his own, minding his own business. He did his own sloth things, he went to school, he watched TV. He had his routine and never felt any desire to change anything.

One day, along came a snake.

The snake and the sloth soon became very close friends. The snake taught the sloth about the world outside. She taught him about the hustle of the city, about the fantastic food in the world. She taught him about tattoos and colours and how all the other animals had fun.

The sloth soon realised he had wasted far too much time in his tree and that he should have explored the world sooner. He was very grateful to the snake.

Soon, the sloth and the snake fell in love.

The two spent a lot of time together. They would go to shows, and spend time lying in parks and on the beach. But soon, the sloth realised that the snake was very different to the sloth. The snake would often go off to do snake things that the sloth didn’t like. The snake would tell all the other animals about all the private things the two would do together. The sloth asked the snake to stop, but the snake got mad and said that that’s how she was and that he would just have to deal with it.

Soon the sloth wasn’t having fun with the snake.

One day, the sloth told the snake that they shouldn’t see each other any more. The snake was very sad. The sloth was very sad too, for the sloth didn’t hate the snake, oh no. The sloth realised that soon he would hurt the snake too much and he didn’t want that to happen.

The snake left.

The years went on, and the sloth went on with life. He returned to his private ways, going to school and watching TV. He stayed in his tree for hours of the day.

The sloth began to realise that he missed the world. He wanted to go out and explore again, but he couldn’t all on his own. He needed to find someone like the snake to help him.

So the sloth searched and searched, but he could not find anyone like the snake again.

You love The Kooks? Me too! We should share bank details.

I’m going to talk about something I am not proud of. It’s something I think we all have to deal with, but we all address the problem in different ways. It takes up large portions of our time and, unfortunately, can be unavoidable in many situations. We face the problem when we least expect it, and most crucially of all, when we cannot be bothered.

Charity Street Collectors.

Yes, I know, they are there for a good cause. Charities like World Vision and The Cancer Council depend on the kindness of the public to raise funds to fight hunger and disease all around the world. There is just something about an overly chirpy stranger walking up to me on the street, starting a generic conversation about whatever band T-shirt I may be wearing then asking what my account number is two minutes later. It’s uncomfortable and a little awkward.

The general tactic that I use is the “avoidance at all costs” maneuver. Generally this involves crossing a street I didn’t need to cross, making a hasty change in direction, or, if all else fails, an abrupt about-turn. These moves are usually effective, but they require a crucial element – foresight. As I said before, these collectors are swift and cunning. They can appear out of nowhere. Streets these days like walking through the long grass in a Pokémon game (Wild charity collector appeared!). When this happens, your choices are limited. I always like to feign hurry – being late for a train or a bus proves rather effective. This usually means you have to add a little pace to your walk and maybe a few glances towards your watch. Other methods include the sudden phone call, or the “you guys caught me earlier!” line.

Sometimes, though, you get stuck in the conversation. You go along with it all, you nod when you deem it prudent, and then, when it comes time to the moment when you have to bring out your bankcard, you start making excuses.

“Oh sorry I don’t have it on me right now”

“I really don’t feel comfortable handing out my details”

“I have no money”

They always have a response, though. Sometimes they can call up your bank, many times they guilt you out of it (It’s just the cost of a coffee a day!), or they use the ever popular “but you can cancel any time!” Most of the time, though, they just talk to you long enough so that you eventually give in. Whether you sign up or not, you leave the encounter feeling overly guilty, or, you have fifteen dollars leaving your already unimpressive bank account every week.

Now obviously, I will not say that these collectors are doing anything to hurt anyone seriously. They are warriors in a noble cause. Thick-skinned beyond belief and trained to deal with the harshest that humanity can throw. It is just the overly up front and in-your-face approach that I find uncomfortable. If it were just a one-off donations system, I would more than happily donate ten dollars or so to an important cause. But considering I am just a mere student living off ten hours of retail work a week, I don’t have much to give up on a regular basis.

So, until I earn enough money to regularly donate, I’m going to be walking the long way round to the bus stand at Central station.

“The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (Novel) by Jonas Jonasson

 

“The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”, by Jonas Jonasson, may have a rather complicated title, but it is not a complicated novel. The story follows Allan Karlsson, who is – you guessed it – a hundred year old man who escapes from his centennial birthday party via a window. We then follow his story as he finds himself involved with thieves, incompetent police, a suitcase filled with cash and a series of murders, some of which are more accidental than others. Along side the tale we learn that Karlsson had spent his earlier life involved with some of the 20th century’s most significant people and important events – everything from the creation of the atom bomb, to having dinner with Stalin himself.

I have heard many novels and films described as “charming” but I’ve never strictly understood its true meaning. Jonasson’s debut novel, however, can only be described as such. An endless stream of witty dialogue and engaging an engaging story keeps you entertained from cover to cover. There are moments where it gets so funny you may find yourself laughing enough to make an elderly woman come and ask if you are okay (I may or may not be speaking from experience).

It isn’t a novel that you will regret.

DISTINCTION

Lights, Camera, and some peace and quiet please?

It is rather amazing, really, that I haven’t yet written about movie theatres. Going to the cinema is such a significant and important part of my life. It provides me with a chance to escape from whatever is happening for a while. There are no assessments to do in the movie theatre; there are no rude customers or silly chores. There is only the simple peace that is a chair, darkness and a film.

But of course, like everything in this world, there is only one thing and one thing only that can ruin such a happy place.

People.

The human race has caused more destruction on this earth than any other species that has ever roamed it. We have destroyed forests, killed coral reefs, bombed cities and melted glaciers. It would seem foolish to suggest that humans could not ruin the only consistent peace and sanctity that I have in my life.

There are a series of dreaded things that infuriate me about people in movie theatres. Whether it is the white glow of a mobile phone, the steady chatter that acts like a drone under the film or the classic static from a sweet wrapper – every little one of these things acts as a distraction from the primary reason why we’ve paid 16 dollars to get in theatre. The movies are an escape – 2 hours to not deal with our lives for a while and be fascinated by the characters on the screen. I don’t need your Kit Kat bringing me back to the real world.

One time, I saw someone live-tweeting a film. It goes without saying that if I had magical powers they would have been avada kedavera-ed so fast they wouldn’t even get a chance to check-in on foursquare.

Now, you may be asking “But Sidd, What if I get a text message during the film? I don’t want to keep them waiting”. My answer is “Fuck you, they can wait”.

You may be asking, “But Sidd, what if I get hungry in the movie?” My answer is “Fuck you, you fat piece of shit”.

You may be asking, “But Sidd, I really need to go to the bathroom, can I get up and leave for a little bit?” My answer is “You should have gone before, Fuck you and your bladder”.

(That may have got a little violent, I apologise).

It is reasons like this that I never like going to see blockbuster films on their release day. There are always hundreds of people all on their phones and whispering under their breath. It is far nicer just waiting a week or so and getting an empty, or at least less full, theatre where you can just sit and engross yourself in the film. There is nothing nicer than an empty movie theatre.

After all this, you may be thinking, “Wow, Sidd really doesn’t like people talking during the movie”. You would be right. The movie theatre is a place where your unequivocal aim should be to not physically exist, fully and completely. You should be comprehensively one with film. This just got very philosophical. I was not intending this.

In the end, it seems, the cinema has just become another thing that humanity has ruined through its irrevocable idiosyncrasies. We can’t get too much right, can we?

Calvary

calvary

If you are looking for a heart-warming tale with sweet love story and a happy ending, I’m afraid you needn’t read this review any further. I first came across Calvary during my perusing through the weekly email I receive from Dendy Cinemas, and in all honesty, it didn’t seem very interesting at all. However, after I saw the trailer for it (it was forced upon me during a Youtube advertisement) I was far more intrigued.

The film follows Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson), a good natured and well-loved priest in a small rural Irish town, after he is threatened with his murder during confessional. He is told that he has until the following Sunday to get his affairs in order before he finally commits the act.

The film tackles some fairly heavy issues, particularly the history of covering up incidents of sexual assault from within the clergy. We are also hit with an overarching theme of death and suicide throughout the story, with many characters facing some grave issues with which Father James attempts to help. As grim as that sounds, though, it has a certain class and sense to it that forces you to see the small town in the eyes of the Father. If there’s nothing I love in a film more, it’s one that makes you feel. Despite all this seemingly doom and gloom, there is a comedic element to it all. Truth be told, the whole this is quite funny – not in an obvious slap stick way, but rather a sophisticated European way.

The good pacing, excellent acting and direction is helped with a rather stellar cast – along with Gleeson, there are the likes of Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran and even Aiden Gillan (of Game of Thrones fame). In a year where there really has been very little to jump around about at the cinema, Calvary is surely a masterpiece.

DISTINCTION

Chef

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I’m a big fan of the Iron Man movies, so in turn I became a big fan of Jon Favreau. Those films are a perfect balance of action and story with a touch of humour on the side. When I heard that Favreau would be releasing a new film away from the superhero genre, I was expectedly excited.

Chef follows Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a chef at a high-end restaurant, who quits his job when he receives a poor review after not being allowed enough creative license by his controlling restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman). He then decides to open up a food truck specialising in traditional Cuban food with the help of his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and chef-friend, Martin (John Leguizamo). They tour the country as their popularity increases with the help of an ever-growing social media presence.

The film is a foodies delight with delicious cuisine being served up at ever corner. This, and a mildly funny script were the only things that won me over in the two hours I spent in the theatre. A very clichéd storyline, along with average grade acting and some pacing issues made me continuously look at my watch throughout. The fact that two big named stars in Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr were used so sparingly gave the impression that they were included only to draw in a crowd. The ending was cheesy and really countered the little development we saw in the characters. The constant push of Twitter and other social media gave it the impression that Favreau was trying just too hard to be cool.

It’s a feel good film, I’ll give you that – but a chocolate bar costs $2 and makes you feel pretty good too.

CONCEDED PASS.