I’d Rather Be Groucho Than Margaret

If you have never seen a movie with Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont I recommend that you dial up ” A Night At The Opera” and ” A Day At The Races ” and watch Groucho bounce jokes off poor Margaret’s hide all the way through.

You might feel sorry for her or think she gets what she deserves – as she always played the dignified straight lady to Groucho’s scoundrel – but movie histories tell us that she was doing it as a consummate stage actress and skilled professional. Her job – straight feed and timekeeper for the audience’s laughs – is one of the tough ones in comedy. The fact that she did it while enduring the Marx brothers is a tribute to her courage and steadiness.

You’d be surprised how many people in real life have to do the same thing – and many have the even tougher job of maintaining their cool in the face of meanness – not just stage comedy. I saw it many times in my retail shop time and sometimes even had to practice it myself.

I do not mind the high and I do not mind the mighty, but when they combine these two features along with a show of morality my liver starts to curl at the edges…followed, if I am not careful, by my lip. Fortunately most of this behaviour is occasioned by financial consideration – people use it as a ploy to lower prices – and an employee that is subject to it can finally take refuge behind the facts of business – you can’t sell things for nothing.

I’m rather ashamed to say that I occasionally Groucho’d a few people. If I could see that they were doing  a Margaret and playing at being pillars of society I would allow the conversation to run a little way past the end of the tram lines – perfectly seriously, of course – and occasionally they would follow me along until they were lost in the weeds. I could always find my way back by excusing myself to go fetch the manager. I’ll bet the manager dreaded my knock on the door.

Sometimes I even did the Groucho walk when I went off to fetch him. Never had the nerve for the greasepaint moustache or the cigar, however.

 

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” Do I Look Like An Idiot? “

This is one of those questions – like ” Do I look fat in this? ” – that is a test of many things.

Your sense of honesty…your timing ability…your commitment to a relationship… There are just so many things that you need to do, that you you need to consider and plan for, long before you hear it.

To start out…the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear is ” No ” – and then as many supporting statements as can be drawn from you. They want to hear that answer in very quick time, accompanied by the feeling that you are admiring, apologetic, appalled, and anxious  – all at the same time. They want to own your mind, for free, and have you provide a 2-year warranty with the transaction.

Do this if you wish. If you can see trouble looming on the horizon; dismissal from employment or withdrawal of conjugal conjuggling, and want to avoid it, say no and then squirm around in the mud as hard as you can. You might avert a fight, or only postpone it. You’ll find out eventually…

Or tell the truth. Say ” Yes “. And then be prepared to say either nothing, or a very great deal more. You will suffer for your honesty – make no mistake about that. And it may be more suffering than you really want to do at any given time, but you will at least have had the pleasure of speaking your mind.

Note: the consequences of saying your mind in a court of law may be more than you would wish to bear. If a legal tormentor succeeds in cowing you through threat of sanction, you can console yourself with the thought that even the highest of High Court judges is eventually removed.

Note: ” Heretofore, no. ” is not really going to work. It may be correct and literate, but still…no…

And Then You Hear the Click…

We’ve all seen that sort of movie – the one with the minefield in it. The heroes are moving silently through the jungle or the field and then one of them steps on a mine. They know it  because they  hear the click. And then there are five tense minutes of cinema when they either escape with their lives or are blown up.

I noted last week during the demolition and installation of kitchen cabinets and appliances that there were several clicks. The workmen are old hands at this sort of thing and took most of them in their stride, but the fact that they still threatened to detonate told me that we had made the correct choice between professional or self-installation. I should have been lying in a mangled heap by now.

Much the same for a lot of the things we do. I remember clicks when I was doing dentistry and tense five-minute periods thereafter. I hope I was calm enough not to alert the patients, though now that I think of it I think the submarine diving klaxon and the flashing red light may have given it away somewhat. I never got to the point of activating the escape slide and leaping off into the street.

The professionals on the job may have heard them as well – indeed I suspect that between the three trades involved they heard each other’s clicks. Presumably professional courtesy prevented them from pointing at each other and laughing – the fact that they were all armed with sharp tools probably restrained them as well. I’m glad it is a kitchen and blood could be mopped off a floor.

 

Broadcast Live From Your House

When you watch the news about the US president Donald Trump – or click the Facebook side panel – or listen to your friends deride him based upon what they have read on the internet…have you ever stopped to consider what YOU might look like if you were subject to the minute scrutiny that attends him?

I ask this as I remember being afflicted with similar scrutiny when a child in school – I was the fat, new, frightened kid…and was fair game for all the bullies and smart arses in every school I attended. As my detractors wanted to belittle me, they watched every single thing I did and found fault. The simplest action was cause for howls of contempt. Nothing was private, sacred, or approved. President Trump seems to be in the same position vis-a-vis the people who supported the other side of politics – and lost – and who now want their revenge.

So let’s imagine you – if you’re a Trump detractor – going about your daily routine. Let’s see if the treatment works on you.

You get out of bed in time for breakfast: ” Lazy swine lolls in bed while others slave to prepare feast. ” Not sounding too good.

So you get up earlier next day : ” Can’t sleep. Guilty conscience. Snoops on cooks behind the scenes. ” Still not good publicity. And who is feeding these stories to the press?

Okay, this time you’ll please someone…you’ll do without breakfast: ” Too good to eat like a normal person. No pleasing some people. ” Well, what the actual…

And we haven’t even started on your bathroom routine, your clothes for the day, or whatever it is you’re going to be doing for a living – never mind your religion, family, or politics. These topics will be covered by your enemies and will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are evil incarnate, totally incompetent, and in collusion with the Russians, the French, the Tongans, and the firm that makes Cheezils. Every single action that you undertake, all day, all week, all year, will be wrong. The press and your detractors will be free to lie about you, to you, and because of you. No-one will hold them accountable.

Feeling the love yet? Feeling the burn yet? Feeling the bigotry and pettiness yet? Want to do something about it? Here’s what you do.

Nothing. Not a damn thing. Do not take the slightest notice of your detractors. Do not reward them with anger, or distress, or recognition. Take note of the fashionable meme that started up a few years ago: ” Keep calm and carry on. “. By all means use social media but do not use it to vent frustrations or angst. Be benign, vague, and cheerful. Send kitten videos. And do what you were going to do regardless.

Don’t be too sanguine about the results. You won’t reap any better opinion of yourself from the people who are determined to hate you; they have invested to much of their time in speech and writing to resile their position. Many of them hope for benefit from your opponents*. The best you can hope for is a better judgement of history.

* And if, in a few years, they present their intellectual bill to the other side of politics – and it is not paid – they have a ready-made supply of protest that they can direct to them.

 

 

 

Create Instantly Without Writing

Yes, you read that correctly. Slowly, perhaps, but you did read it, and doesn’t that say volumes for your third-grade teacher. Bravo.

The idea of creating an e-book ( Whut dat? ) without writing a word, and in just seconds…has come via that goldmine of culture – the Facebook side panel. I am dying to press the link and be taken away on a magical mystery tour but long experience has shown me that it will only lead to pain later.

The pain will be the extra suggested posts that the algorithms dredge up and plaster on my regular section of the feed. I am generally appalled and horrified by what my regular human acquaintances will attach as shares or likes…how much worse is it going to be when it is just commercial robots?

So I will not touch it – at least not on my own computer. If I can get someone else’s iPad while they are in the toot, I will whizz over and investigate. I may even send off for the free pamphlets outlining how I can become a millionaire in just three easy steps. Or sign up for a year’s free supply of Russian brides. It all depends on how long it will take for the owner of the iPad to vote for Obama in there. If we’ve run out of paper again it could take ages.

Note: Fraudulent schemes are all very well, and I would be the first to support international trade, but there is something functionally wrong in selling horse shit on a $1000 tablet. If people have enough money to buy the iPad in the first place, surely the crooks can think of a better way to separate them from it.

Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?

 

The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.