Monday, November 17, 2014

100 Happy Days Part 12

It is believed that by taking photos of things that make you happy (every day for 100 days) you will improve your mood, become more optimistic, and, intriguingly, receive more compliments. Does it work? Let's find out! (Or go to part 1 to start at the start).

Day 78

What's the most compelling piece of television you've seen recently? Breaking Bad? House of Cards? Those shows are great but crumble when judged against The Great British Bake Off.

The concept is simple - a bunch of middle-class Brits get in a tent and are told to bake a lemon cake or a shortbread. We watch them. It is amazing. 

More people watch it than watched the World Cup final. It's all very gentle and civilised and full of mild humour. Which made The Bincident all the more thrilling - contestant Diani took contestant Iain's Baked Alaska out of the freezer. It melted. If that'd been me, I'd have yelled at Diana so loud and long her bones would have shattered and I'd have used her jellified remains as ersatz ice-cream. Instead, Iain, the victim, took his ruined bake, threw it in the bin, and stormed out of the tent. Out of the tent!

While the bincident was playing out on screen I neither blinked nor breathed. I realised Dirty Diana progress to the next round and the Innocent Iain would be sent home. "What the eff," I said. "What the very eff."

Nor was I the only one to get worked up - thousands of people phoned the BBC to complain (about the injustice) and social media was abuzz, and the biggest newspaper in the country ran this front page:

A show about baking. Front page news! Baking. Sometimes I love being British.

Day 79

Today I was subjected to a sustained assault on my health and dignity. I was forced to go camping. It was for my friend Kevin's stag party, which makes sense until you realise the camping was his idea.

For those who don't know, camping is where you wait for the coldest, wettest day of the year, drive into the countryside until you're dangerously far from a Domino's Pizza, and erect a nanometre thin piece of cloth. This is called a 'tent' and you 'sleep' in it.

There were seven of us at the start. It turned into one of those horror movies where people are taken out one by one. We lost Tim to wakeboarding, which is as related to waterboarding as the name suggests, and soon after, Alex had to go to put out a fire in his friend's flat 100km away. 

By breakfast, the conditions plus alcohol plus thumping music and screaming kids had reduced everyone to gibbering wrecks. All except the groom who announced he would 'pop in the lake for a quick 5k swim'.

The one good bit was the premium wagyu burgers that Brett brought and grilled. He topped them with blue cheese and they were pure heaven. He quoted Leonidas by saying, "Tonight we dine in hell, and the food is surprisingly good."

Day 80

One of my students was alone in the classroom. "The others can't come," he said, "Too busy." 
At first I was disheartened. He was the weakest in the class and it would cost me more effort and energy than if the stronger students had been there to do my work for me.

After a few minutes I realised something had changed. "This guy," I thought to myself, "Has improved beyond all recognition. How did that happen?"

I pointed out that his English was really good and asked him why. "Because you're a good teacher," he said, and we both had a good laugh. "No, but really," I said. I wanted to know.

"Well," he said, "I installed that Duolingo app you told us about. I practice ten minutes every day. And I watch NBA basketball. That's in English. But I guess the main thing is that I watch a lot of Geordie Shore." "You mean Jersey Shore." "No, Geordie Shore. People from Newcastle going to parties and being moronic."

So there you have it, people. The secret to incredibly rapid language acquisition is these guys:

Britain - exporting language and culture for a thousand years.

Day 81

If you're new here, know this: Jen is my girlfriend and she rides horses. 

I was reading a comic hidden behind 'The Consolations of Philosophy' when she came home from work.
"A guy emailed me today," she said. I wasn't immediately interested, and made some non-committal noise. "It was a strange request... or maybe... Never mind."
I looked up. "What sort of request?"
"The strange thing was that he wrote via my work email. So he must have been googling riding teachers or just looking for women who ride."
"And? The request?"
"He said he would pay me if I let him clean my boots."
"Oh," I said, and looked back at my comic. Then it clicked. "Wait - he'll pay you?"
Time passed. 
"And I suppose the dirtier the boots are, the more he'll pay?"
"I didn't go into detail."

Budding entrepreneurs take note: there's easy money to be made from these fetishists. I got Jen to give me the guy's email address and he's paying me 20 francs to print this photo of her:

Day 82

Because everyone schedules their weddings to cause maximum inconvenience, I was forced to go my second stag party in a week. I was still covered in leeches as part of my rehabilitation from the first one. 

Nick's stag do sounded just as fun as camping - the victims had to cycle the length and breadth of Switzerland then go rock-climbing up the most jagged, skin-flaying outcrops of hell ever discovered.

Luckily I had to work so missed all that and just went to dinner. Except the groom, everyone - literally everyone - at the table was called 'Andrew'. I waited for an explanation but I waited in vain.

When Nick went to the toilet I asked why all Nick's friends had the same name.

"I have a theory about that," said Andrew. "When I first met Nick he was quite diffident towards me, but when he heard my name he completely changed. He started biffing me in the arm and buying me beers. Next time I met him was at another party, and I observed first-hand as Nick met Andrew."
"Me?" asked Andrew.
"Yes, you," said Andrew. "And I realised that - shit, he's coming." He cleared his throat and continued talking about lobular fatigue and ductility.
I never heard the end of the story, but later I got an anonymous text message which had just one word: 'prosopagnosia'. 

If I can survive a week without being forced to go to parties, maybe I'll have time to look it up.

Day 83

Today I discovered a Twitter account called 'Drunk Furniture' and had a good laugh at it. Here's a small sample:

"It's funny," said Jen, "But why is there so much furniture lying around?"
"That's Britain for you," I said fondly. Sometimes I love being British.

Day 84

This post is already quite long so I won't write anything about day 84 except to say that I had a good time and I was happy and this picture was related to my happiness:

Mood: Good

Compliments: "You've told this story before. But tell it again." "I hadn't even noticed your bald spot until now." "You don't smell but those socks smell."

Optimism: High

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Photographer Documents the Finding of the 'Lost' Art of Conversation

A recent viral article claims to 'document' the death of real-life conversation by showing photos of people using their smartphones. While other people are nearby. Some of whom are also, scandalously, USING THEIR PHONES. My friend Cecile posted it on her Facebook wall with the comment "omg conversation is dead waily waily prepare for the rapture"

BUT new research conducted by me suggests that the art of conversation is alive and kicking. And I have the photos to prove it.

Please note that I AM seriously positing a claim that these photos show that people are talking to each other more often than ever before in human history, and that those conversations are also more interesting, more full of human feeling, and contain a wider range of vocabulary.

"Yes! Totally incurable!"

"The first one to stop clapping is fired."

 "You'll never find the bodies."

"Just pictures of women eating salad and laughing. Yes, a whole website!"

"Dude, why does that girl have your penis on a leash?"

"No, it's an extra fifty with a condom."

"And it just ended with a nice photo of two people who use their smartphone more than average and talk more than average. And that kind of proved his point."

The last photo was taken by Aurelie Menard.