Un Guşter

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Also known as Sven, The man downstairs from the man upstairs. The neighbour of the Beast. Chuck Norris, etc. Distributor of random thoughts via poetic parcels. Explorador y aventurero. Mephistofelically inclined towards Machiavellian methods. Too old to wander, too young to travel.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The duality of stuff

Stuff, there's a word I like. Used in the right context it doesn't mean a thing. And then again it could mean so much. I wanted to use a big, pompous word for the title... something like "The duality of Man" or Mankind "The inexorable contradictions of an average human being's meager existence." But I decided to go with stuff... because I was in the mood to.

"What are you up to?"

And that could be the beginning and the end of the conversation. So much can be said in so little words and so much more can be understood. But that's not really what I wanted to talk about... lately I've been thinking about some of the faults of communication or, rather, of language in general. We are limited by the range of not only our own vocabulary but how the people we talk to understand the words that we are using.

I'll give an example to illustrate my meaning. This is a friend of mine and I talking about a movie we saw recently.

Friend: So what'd you think about "Angels and Demons"?
Ian: Do you want my honest opinion or my politically correct one?
Fr: What's the politically correct version?
Ian: I thought it was a very entertaining film that, although mainly focusing on visually delighting the audience while keeping them in suspense until the climactic end, did also provide a captivating enough storyline to challenge its viewers to further research the topic all the while giving the less historically savvy audience a chance to uncover more secrets about European History and that of the Catholic Church, which some find intriguing.
Fr: And your honest opinion?
Ian: I thought it was a piece of crap.
Now, when I said "honest" I may not have used the best word because my initial statement was honest as well... just a little sugar-coated to suit the slightly more emotive audience what might have heard the conversation. The second one was a more blunt and to-the-point statement in my usual laconic style.

I had a similar conversation with another friend where he was explaining his feelings towards the job... essentially, his philosophy was "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, fuck 'em if they can." I will not comment any further, but I really wanted to mention that... it's become my new life philosophy.

Take another example, a colleague tells me about a student of hers: "He's a nice guy, very intelligent... funny too. If he weren't my student, we'd be the best of friends."
Same colleague, talking about the same student and hour and a half later (that meaning after their class): "I want to kill the sonofabitch!"
"What happened to being good friends?"
"Oh, we're still good friends... but I want to kill the sonofabitch!"

Of course they were still buddies... they were just going through a rough time due to difficulties in class. I won't get into Yin and Yang and all that mambo-jumbo but there really is a good side and a bad side to everything. You sometimes just need a good cup of coffee (or perhaps a cup of good coffee) to open your eyes to both sides.

I love my boss, for example, I really do... she's wonderful. But I'm afraid to talk to her in the mornings when she's grumpy. I didn't say hello to her one day when she was chastising the receptionist and she said in the nicest, sweetest tone "Good morning, Ian. How are you?" I thought she was going to shoot me dead right then and there.

I asked her if she was alright later and she insisted she was fine.
"Then what was with the sharp tone?" "Oh, you know I'm just a little edgy in the mornings."
And you shoot laser beams out of your eyes too... I wanted to tell her that, but all I said was "Oh, don't worry about it." And all the time I saw the way she looked at me, I was thinking "please don't kill me... dear Lord, please don't kill me."

And why is it that when people ask "how are you" they really mean "don't bother me"?
And so "Good morning, Ian, how are you?" might mean just what one would assume... "hello, I am curious as to how you are feeling, would you care to share?" But on another day, it could possibly be interpreted as "Get out of my face or I swear I'll turn you into an enchilada and have your ass for lunch."

Bet you'll think twice when your boss asks you how you are now, huh?

Finally, here's an exercise in interpretation for you. I was talking about a student with one of my colleagues... now, this particular student is a happy one, and by "happy" I mean she acts like she's high all the time. My friend tells me that she's had a miserable life... at one point, at least. Husband left her, lost her job and all that... stuff you hear every day, really. It's tragic, but at the end of the day, it didn't happen to you so you don't give a rat's ass. (That's right, I do mean you, you heartless wretches, don't give me that look! You're no better and you know it). In any case, my issue was that I found this student to be frighteningly annoying, but my friend was more on the tolerant side.

"You know what, Ian, you have to understand her... she's like this and that and that and this and bla bla bla. And her life was so miserable that she compensates by acting like a child."
"Well, I've lived a happy life so far... so I have the right to be pissed!"
What did I mean by that? I don't really know... well, yes I do, but do you think I'm going to tell you? Ha.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"The things I want, part 2: Ask and you shall receive" by Ian

And so I've arrived to that state where words cannot accurately portray how I feel, rather a hysteric giggle or sudden burst of laughter would better serve to describe my current state of mind. Today I truly feel as if my faith in humanity has been restored... at least for now.

Today was a happy day... it had started on a cheerful note and continued quite gleefully afterwards. Of course, your average day-to-day problems did not go away: he still hates me, she won't talk to me, I don't know what their problem is but she envies my age and we're all really just a bunch of lunatics after all. But today, for one glorious day my smile would not falter. Today I could look them all in the eye and I could see their frown, the wrinkles, a smile or its lack thereof... and, for all of this spectacle's exaggerated significance, I couldn't care less!

And there has never been a greater feeling.

Those of you who've read yesterday's train of thoughts may remember a certain Roxana Saberi who was mentioned.

I suppose it's only fair that I elaborate on this story.

To me she is a very intriguing character, with a story that has caught the world's attention. A child of mixed ethnic and cultural background, she does not fail to shock and awe. Miss North Dakota par excellence, the Japanese-Iranian US citizen holds a graduate degree in mass communication and French (oh, la la!) and two master's degrees with a third on its way, one of them from Cambridge, UK, only to illustrate how truly diverse her cultural background is.

In what I have interpreted to be an effort to expand her horizons and breach cultural barriers, Ms. Saberi has been working in Iran on a book of her own when, regrettably, the former journalist was arrested by the Islamic Republic's authorities.

The details you can read on her page and on various news websites. What I would like to emphasise is the grace with which she handled the situation. She has exhibited a strength of will and character not many are capable of boasting. The 30-year old faced the internationally-condemned arrest, allegations hurdled at her from all directions and pressure no one should have to endure, and she has done it with panache. Ms. Saberi responds with a two-week hunger strike which weakened her physically as witnesses say but which, I believe, did not affect her resolve.

In my eyes, hers is an example of grace under fire we could all learn from and her story cries for an open mind and for barriers between cultures, ethnicities and religions to dissolve and disappear. Why must someone be forced into two weeks of self-imposed hunger before her message can be heard?

Can't we all just... get along?

But imagine the extent of my surprise when this morning... just hours after I published my "wishlist" I read on the BBC that she had been released.

So wishes really do come true, do they?

Now let your mind wander... let your imagination grasp all the possibilities. What if an Iranian man and a Japanese woman had a child? What if Gaza were an independent or autonomous province and didn't try to impose any religion on its citizens? What if people stopped associating Vlad Tepes with Bram Stoker's "Dracula"? What if there really was no apartheid anymore and what if Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens really did stand for an ideal?

What if there really were no countries? No heaven, no hell, no religion. What if black and white only fought on the chessboard?

Can you imagine?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"The things I want" by Ian

I want a warm cup of coffee... black, no sugar, I want it served with a goddamn smile for a change, and I want it at the "Cheval Blanc" pub in Taizé. I want it to be "free trade" coffee, dark roast, 100% pure Arabica, and I want a bar of Swiss chocolate to go with it.

I want people to stop asking me what language we speak in Romania and I wish they'd stop asking if there really are vampires there. I want Romania to be a monarchy and I want someone from the Oranje dynasty to be the king. I want a Romanian film to win the "Palme D'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and I want the director of that film to win an Oscar and refuse it. I want Romania to recognise Taiwan as a country.

I wish people would give a shit.

I want Roxana Saberi to be released. I want to buy her a thé à la menthe and talk to her about her book. I want Iran to change its name back to Persia and let its people choose their religion. I want people to stop assosciating Islam with violence and suicide bombers. I want Pope Benedict to stop whatever he's doing and retire. I want the Vatican Archives to be open to the world.

I want to write a novel... and I want people to actually read it. I want to direct a movie too. I don't want an award (though I wouldn't mind), I just want people to watch it and understand it.

I want understanding.

I want a pilot's license. I want a motorcycle and to go on a tour of Europe with it. I want to go skiing in the Swiss Alps and I wish I could say that without people interpreting it as posh. I want to go to a train station and jump on the first train leaving without asking where it's going.

When I have a bad day, I want people to shut the hell up and listen, and I wish people wouldn't ask "do you want to talk about it?" Of course I want to talk about it, you nimrod! I wish people would stop saying "can I ask you a question?" before asking me a question, and I never want to hear anyone say "never say never"...again! I wish people would stop asking me about my Facebook account, I never use the damn thing (and yes I said "never" again, and you can't stop me). I don't want to join your damn network, I don't want to take your survey, I do not want to hear about some poor child in Yugoswana who's got an elephant trunk growing out of his left ear.

Just once, when I get on a buss, I want a lady to get up and offer me her seat "because I look like a gentleman".

I wish people would be honest with each other.

I wish I could smoke without having to worry about my health, I wish people would legalise cannabis. I wounldn't smoke it, but at least Sean Paul would stop singing abou it. As a matter of fact, I wish people didn't need drugs at all. When I go into a pub and don't order a beer, I don't want to hear your pseudo-masculine lecture, you pussies. And I wish that when you go out drinking and wake up in the morning with a head twice its size, you could choose wich part of your memory you want erased.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Limba Română, versiunea lui Ian

În ultima vreme am observat că eu chiar trăiesc într-o lume a mea. Deşi e foarte diferită, are câteva puncte comune cu lumea voastră- sau, să zicem, lumea comună pe care o împărtăşim cu toţii, în caz că mai plătiţi şi voi chirie să aveţi o lume a voastră.

Unul din aceste puncte comune este limba, în cazul de faţă- Româna, pentru că, după cum v-aţi imaginat, Ianii din lumea mea trebuie să comunice cu nebunii din lumea "normală".

Ei, bine, dragii mei, există câteva diferenţe şi le nivel de limbă, aşa că daţi-mi voie să vă educ în ale Limbii Române după Ian.

Primul exemplu (cu totul arbitrar că în lumea lui Ian nu există alfabet) este după cum urmează:


Româna de bază:
GÚŞTER, (I) guşteri, s.m., (II, III) guştere, s.n. I. S.m. Specie de şopârlă de culoare verde, cu coada lungă, care se hrăneşte cu insecte (Lacerta viridis). II. S.n. (Reg.) Gâtlej; esofag. ♦ Omuşor. III

Româna de baltă:
GUŞTER, Persoană care nu îl influenţează pe Ian în niciun fel, căreia nu îi dă nicio importanţă, este necunoscută, de o importanţă obscură sau chiar absentă. Persoană a carei existenţă pe această planetă nu are nicio importanţă de nicio formă sau culoare.

"-Ai auzit de Dan Pavel?
-Nu, cine-i ăla?
-Ei... un guşter."

Cuvinte Derivate:
A GUŞTERI, A nu face nimic important. A pierde timpul, de cele mai multe ori cu o persoană neinteresantă (un guşter).

"-Ce faceţi măi aici?

ŞPÂRLĂ (a nu se confunda cu paronimul şopârlă, care denumeşte un animal)
"Ia vino la tablă, băi... şpârlă." Adrian Holban

Referinţe literare/din media:
"Reptilia lacerta pe latineşte, lézard în franceză, pe limba maternă guşter."
Toma Caragiu

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Conquistador blues II

Or why I think the death penalty should not be abolished...

Everybody is a liar.

Fact. It does not need to be debated, the only thing that is open for debate is "how much?". Do you lie on a regular basis or just spontaneously. And is it only for personal gain or out of necessity?

There is no doubt about it. Everyone lies at one point or another in their lives... and then they never stop. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Evolutionarily speaking it's good. After all, one of the many theories about the disappearance of the Neanderthal is that they died out (presumably killed each other) because they couldn't lie. I can believe that. You try telling your missus that you slept with another woman when she has a seven pound club handy... you know, the kind they kill mammoths with.

The reason I'm saying this is because, as some of you may have heard I was in Guatemala recently. Now, keeping to my original principle that one should only write in a blog when one is excessively bored, I won't write about my experience in Tikal because that place is simply too magical to be thus constricted to the banality of modern life which is the blog.

But here's a picture

I'll tell you something else, though... a little story about a wee Guatemalan tour guide who fancied himself Mayan. At first I would have believed him because he said he was part Maya, part negro and part Spanish, seemed believable enough. But after I heard the rest of his blabbering I was having trouble believing he was even born on this planet.

This little midget (and I apologise to short people world-wide for associating this specimen with their kind) made such infuriating claims I honestly felt like smacking my head against the ruins till I could hear that distinctive high-pitched sound in your ears that makes you think your in a coma. I tell you, a catatonic state would have been preferrable.
Among many of his claims he said that Atlantis was just off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula in the Caribbean of all places... imagine those Greeks of Atlantis sipping coconut shakes and dancing in a grass skirt on the beach, then you'll understand how I felt.

But that's not the worst part... what's even more challenging for the average sane human mind is that these three lasses from the US (I don't want to fall into stereotypes, but some of them are just unavoidable) were feeding off of every word like a wee Scotsman on whiskey chocolates.
It was mind-numbing to watch.

Today after having seen a certain video I was reminded of it. Now I feel compelled to warn you... serious damage to your intellect may occur after watching this:

I am at a loss of words to describe this monstrosity, all I know is that I needed a heavy dose of Billy Connolly afterwards, so here, I'll help you... enjoy:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I am not the Grinch! (En)

Seriously! I'm not. I like Christmas... sure, I think it is, by far, the most depressing time of year, but I like it for what it means, the so-called Christmas spirit, in its kind, loving and generous meaning, not the modern pervesion which is, by and large, a purely commercial spirit.

Here's how they celebrate Christmas in Costa Rica (and the US, since tha's where this "custom" comes from)...

You make a list. This "wish-list" represents the presents you want from whomever and you give it to your "friends". Then your friends give you their lists and you buy each other presents and everybody's happy. This is common for many celebrations such as, for example, weddings. It is the 'standard' in company parties where you have silly little games such as the oh-so-popular "Secret Friend".

But I suppose I should start from the beginning... which is in OCTOBER! Sometimes even September, depending on how sales fare. But sure enough, come mid-October, you'll see all the stores bringing out the decorations and Christmas trees and the Santas and the candy canes and all that rubbish.

First of all, I hate seeing that red Santa Claus. It drives me insane. It has become a symbol of the perversion of Christmas that I have come to loathe.
No one knows this, but Saint Nicholas as we see him today, the fat guy in the red suit was invented by Coca Cola in 1931... by far the most successful advertising campaign I have ever heard of. And now, for Christmas you buy, buy, buy. There really is no love in this world.

I managed to save my sanity by watching a movie I always see for Christmas (and it was purely coincidental, because it was on television). "Joyeux Noel". If I were to pick one film to say that it was the best I've ever seen, then this would be it.
It is a story about the night before Christmas 1914, when the first World War was raging through Europe, a group of soldiers decided that on the holy night, the killing would stop. So the Germans, the French and the British soldiers all spent Christmas together.

That, my friends, is the true spirit of Christmas.

And here is the trailer (I'm sorry, I could only find it in French).

And here is a scene from the movie: The night before Christmas