Minimum Rage

Anger, in the form of wrath (pronounced ‘roth’ pedantry fans), is one of the seven deadly sins. However, in the form of birds, it can be a multi-platform, hugely successful video game spinning off into a dreadful movie. So you know, angry swings and angry roundabouts.

Anger is probably one of the most visceral and instinctive of the seven emotions, often induced by fear as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, where as a response to danger, humans choose to either stand their ground and angrily shout the knife out of someone’s hand, or turn and run, sacrificing the integrity of their pride and underwear for the sake of their mobile phone and internal organs. It’s often not a conscious choice either; if it was, The Incredible Hulk would be a much less interesting character, “don’t make me flee, you wouldn’t be able to resolve this conflict amicably if I flee.” Considering the Hulk is essentially a personification of our inner rage, he is also depicted as a hyper-masculine character; muscular, inarticulate, and one can only assume, made entirely of erectile tissue, since an increase in blood flow causes him to expand. This is hardly surprising considering anger is often shown as the most masculine emotion, with a classically outdated image of a ‘real man’ being one who lashes out with violence at the slightest provocation, such as having a daiquiri spilled down his new Superdry shirt, or being told there’s no more Piri Piri chicken. More often than not though, it stems from being protective over a chosen mate, or being undermined as the alpha of his group. I actually managed to invoke both of these responses at once in a gentleman I encountered while working in a bar a couple of years ago. I’d offended his ‘bird’ (he didn’t call her that, but let’s pretend he did so I come out of this looking great) by refusing to serve her, on account of her clearly being drunk. That’s something I didn’t know until I worked in a bar, that it’s illegal to sell alcohol to a drunk person. I understand the safety aspect, but it seems odd that as soon as there’s confirmation the alcohol has had the desired effect, it’s instantly withdrawn from sale. “Oh you’ve managed to get to sleep on the bed? That’s enough bed for you.”

So there she was, slurring her speech and lowering her threshold for what was worthy of a high-five, when I sheepishly informed her we can’t serve drunkards. She was understandably annoyed, and if I’d been in her position, I would have been too, but the fine for that sort of thing is massive, plus she was quite irritating. A few minutes later, a blonde-haired Northern Irish gentleman approached the bar with her, asking why she didn’t get served, in quite an aggressive manner. He’d obviously come to the conclusion that the best way to endear himself to me and get me onside was to insult me and suggest I was somehow inept. Oddly, this approach only confirmed my decision, so I stood for a while as he shouted that he was calling my ‘judgement into question’ as well as my ‘question into judgement’, until he finally decided to get the management involved, perhaps due to running out of ways to express himself. Indeed, it may in fact have been due to the fact that his girlfriend was now crying and asking to leave, a sure signpost to escalate the situation and cause more of a scene.

As he explained the situation to the manager, I stood there patiently, until apparently my face made him uneasy, and he asked what I was looking at, which was weird, because I was looking at him, while he was talking about me, in front of me, in the midst of a situation that I was directly involved in. I gave an ill-advised chuckle at the clichéd question, which must have made him feel insecure, as he threatened to punch me. Again that seemed like the sort of thing that would make us less likely to serve him or his girlfriend, but still he seemed assured it was the best option. When he finally accepted that we wouldn’t sell his girlfriend alcohol, even after he’d proffered me a tantalising face-punch, I went into the back, heart-pounding and adrenaline surging. I realised that by walking away from the bar, I’d essentially succumbed to the ‘flight’ option, meaning I’d reacted in the exact opposite way from the customer. I was glad that I wasn’t like him, (although my Northern Irish accent is impeccable) and I was comfortable knowing I wasn’t the sort of person who would respond to such a situation with anger. I turned back, and started walking to the bar. As I approached the door to emerge behind the bar, I felt another surge of adrenaline, raised my fist, and punched the wall. It really hurt.

I knew it. Violence is wrong.

Next time on the Bandwagon – A figure lies dead in the middle of a field, with no footprints leading up to the body. On its back, is a backpack. What happened?
Well I’ll tell you, it was a seagull that’s been crushed to death by a falling backpack, again. This has to stop.

Shock Therapy

Surprise Surprise was an ITV light entertainment show that ran through the late 80s and 90s, based on the premise of a single emotion. Other emotion based television programmes include Fear Factor, The Love Boat and of course Gogglebox, which doesn’t directly address the themes of sadness and disgust, but does induce them very effectively. Surprise Surprise ran for seventeen years, so I should at least be able to get one blog written about that same emotion. If not, then once and for all I’ll have to admit that I will never be as good as Cilla Black.

Word association leads us from ‘surprise’ to ‘party’, ‘surprise’ to ‘guest’ or as we’ve already discussed, ‘surprise’ to the word ‘surprise’ again, ironically the least surprising way to follow that word.
Surprise parties are a nice notion on the surface, but imagine if it was your birthday, and for at least two weeks leading up to it, all of your friends tell you they’re busy and can’t hang out with you on the day, to throw you off the scent. That’s a good amount of time to build up some legitimate and deserved resentment towards them, all because they think they can throw a better party than you. A party for which they give you no notice whatsoever, and therefore have to rely on the fact that after they’ve all apparently fobbed you off, you haven’t taken it upon yourself to make some other plans for your birthday, even if that’s just going to laser tag alone. Having never had a surprise party thrown for me, I have to assume the feeling of shock when your friends and/or family jump from behind furniture to shout at you as the culmination of a weeks long practical joke, must make up for the aforementioned feelings of betrayal. Sure, there’s the revelation that they cared about you all along, and have gone to the trouble to organise as many of your friends that were available into a room together for you, but it does set a precedent for any successive birthdays, especially if the next time a suspicious number of your friends are conveniently ‘busy’ when you try to organise another get-together. Also, it’s much more likely they actually will be busy next time; having remembered the hassle and lying they had to go through for your last birthday they’re probably glad to feel like they’re off the hook for at least five years. Then when your partner ‘forgets’ something back at the flat before you go off to dinner, you’ll just be walking into a dark, empty room, while the only thing that’s lurking behind the furniture is probably a wall, or another piece of furniture if your feng shui is off.

Surprise guests also sound nice, although for any kind of large, ticketed event, the guest must surely be someone whose actual name isn’t enough of a draw, so the mystery element encourages the assumption of someone much more famous than the real guest. And a surprise guest at your party would be, again, someone you invited who had to say no for the sake of surprise, or someone you didn’t invite at all, in which case you presumably don’t even want there. Just the fact that you had no prior knowledge of their attendance is no guarantee of quality. In the same way, not knowing what the toy is inside a Kinder Surprise doesn’t make you any less likely to choke on it and die.

Surprise attacks also spring to mind, which are of the course the most dangerous kind of surprise, or indeed attack. My experience with these is rather limited, having never seen any kind of armed combat aside from snowball/water balloon fights, or that time someone flicked a peanut at me from across a classroom, which given my deadly allergy, was the closest I’ve ever come to being taken out by a sniper. If memory serves, it hit me on the lip, so I panicked and ran to the bathroom to wash my mouth. To the sniper’s credit, he didn’t know I was allergic to peanuts, so was himself probably pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of his flick, apparently causing me to flee in terror from the threat of his powerful fingers. When I returned to admonish him with information about my allergy, he was perhaps even more surprised at the incredible deadly accuracy and luck he stumbled upon in perfectly matching an allergy sufferer with the appropriate allergen. Imagine absent-mindedly playing with a small lump of Kryptonite in a room full of people, whereupon you flick it at a random stranger, only to find that he’s wearing an ‘S’ on his chest, an ‘S’ on his massive red cape, has a spit-curl in the shape of an ‘S’, and therefore instantly dies. Well it’s nothing like that, because Superman isn’t real, but I am, so keep your fucking nuts away.

Next time on the Bandwagon – The Sun, nature’s sunlamp.

Less is Amour

I’ve written about happiness, and about fear, so I thought it might be nice to continue to write about emotions. Apparently there are seven basic emotions that humans feel, only some of which correspond to Snow White’s Seven Dwarves, even though I thought that was the whole point – explaining to children that women need an entire house full of men to learn to control their emotions. So this week I’ve decided to write about love, something which I know nothing about because I’m not sure I believe it exists.
WHOA what? There’s your opening gambit guys, that’ll pull you right in, whether through intrigue or outrage.

First of all, love isn’t one of the seven basic emotions that humans feel, so already I’ve totally ignored my initial premise for writing this. But love is the most talked about emotion, and is arguably the catalyst for many great works of art, so I thought it time to add this blog to that list, somewhere in between the Taj Mahal and Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass. Saying I don’t think it exists at all might be a stretch, but I don’t think it’s an objective emotion in the same way that Joy or Fear or Anger is, even though it’s portrayed in the media as something perfect and consistently meaningful to everyone, like pancakes. Just the fact that you can use the same word to describe your feelings towards a devoted spouse of fifty years and a particularly engaging episode of Bargain Hunt shows how diluted a concept it has become. You could reasonably say ‘I love you’ to a person and a pair of shoes with exactly the same inflection, and no-one would bat an eyelid, unless you were hoping that both times you’d get the same response. It just seems odd how we’re expected to love a person unconditionally, until one of you dies, even if they have some unforgivable flaws like not being able to wink or drinking skimmed milk instead of semi-skimmed like everyone else. I suppose I believe love exists, but not in the same way for everyone, and the more you try to define it, the more you’re limiting yourself in what you think is supposed to make you happy.

I think a fair comparison would be pornography. Romantic movies give an unrealistic expectation of love with their unnaturally perfect proposals and portrayal of love overcoming all the odds, just how pornography gives an unrealistic expectation of sex with their unnaturally perfect bodies and lovers cumming over each other, instead of into a condom as God intended. And without wanting to get into too sexist or stereotypical territory, just as internet-addled young boys won’t be satisfied unless their partners behave like porn actors, young rom-com-addled women won’t be satisfied with a proclamation of love unless it’s delivered by Ryan Gosling in the pouring rain, before instantly contracting a narratively appropriate form of Alzheimer’s (I’ve not seen The Notebook, this is my best guess). It also won’t stop anytime soon; the more people imitate what they see, the more pop culture has to up the stakes to remain exciting and different. You’ll end up in a feedback loop where depictions of sex are so far removed from the basic act that porn ends up being a blindfolded woman at a desk, writing down a man’s flaws on a piece of paper, before folding it into the shape of a dog, and inserting into the man’s anus, while he laughs. And equally love, weddings and companionship become so expensive and dramatic that there’s no way a lifelong partnership can sustain that initial level of amazement and drama, leading to shorter relationships, therefore more partners, leading to an unending slew of dance routines and amateur poetry, all in competition to find the person they can spend the next 6 months with, before they get bored again. Life will literally be a cabaret.

So what can we do about this? Well, we have to stop putting a fake version of ourselves out there for approval, and show our flaws up front. We have to fart on the dance floor, and take ownership of it. We must pick our noses at dinner, and wipe it onto the table cloth in full view of the waiting staff. We must tell people their tattoos look shit if we think so, and expect others to do the same to us.
And for those in a relationship; shit with the door open, drink from the carton, sneeze into your partner’s face and laugh. Ryan Gosling would never do that, but Ryan Gosling isn’t real. He was sent here as a paragon, an ideal to strive towards, but one we know we can never achieve. Reach for the Goslings and Emily Blunts of the world. But know that when you get together, if they have any sense, they’ll still be picking their spots or sniffing their own balls, because that’s love.

Next time on the Bandwagon – Step aside dogs, according to a new study, man’s best friend is heroin.