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Vanishing tact

Recently, I shattered my elbow so badly that what I suspected was dislocated cartilage was actually broken-off skeleton. I was immobilised for weeks: my arm was in a cast and my bicep bruised until it resembled a sausage casing that had been haphazardly packed with thick clots of black-currant jelly. “We’re keeping you in a cast,” the surgeons explained, “to prevent your wound from exploding.”

During this period, some people were godsends. My best friend sat in the emergency room with me, bringing me fruit, juice and crackers, somehow knowing that I hadn’t eaten properly the entire day. She gasped over my arm’s wrong angles, before we joked and gossiped about other stuff to take my mind off things. Back home, my sister put fresh sheets on my bed. Friends SMSed their concerns, insisting that I needn’t reply.

Others expressed their concern in odd ways. Horrified by what they’d heard through the grapevine, they called me in hospital - at night - although I’d only just come out of surgery and the anaesthetic was just wearing off. When they finally got me on the phone, they insisted things could have been a lot worse. Others sent urgent emails pressing me for details about the accident, forgetting I had shattered my elbow and could not type. Still, one of the worst things was acknowledging that I probably would have reacted the same way: expressing concern while somehow managing to make the situation worse.

When faced with someone’s trauma or horror, we often find ourselves brain-stumped and tongue-tied. What is it about other people’s catastrophes - accidents, death of a loved one, breakups, major illnesses, shocking revelations - that sometimes makes us say or do things so searingly inappropriate it’s as though our lines and actions have been scripted by Larry David or Ricky Gervais?

Years ago, one friend tried consoling his recently dumped housemate by saying, “Don’t worry, even the ugliest people find true love.” When my partner’s father died, a mutual friend tried to lighten the mood by joking, “Well, I guess he wasn’t a hypochondriac after all!” A girl named Cassie told me about her inexplicable blurtings, too: “When my friend was leaving for her grandfather’s funeral, I shouted, ‘Have fun!’ as she drove away in tears.”

If a propensity towards faux pas is genetic, my family definitely carries the gene. I’m still trying to work out why I recently farewelled a devout Christian friend by merrily calling out, “See you in hell!” My younger sister once told a friend that her newly shaved scalp made her resemble someone with leukaemia, only to later discover this friend’s brother had died of the illness. Another time, my eldest sister infamously bemoaned her “corpse-like complexion”, somehow forgetting she was: (1) at a funeral; and (2) talking to the dead woman’s daughter. For my family, it’s less about foot in mouth than jamming our entire thigh into our oesophagus.

But we are not alone. Scientifically at least, there is a very basic explanation for this sort of behaviour: our brains are hard-wired this way. In 2009, Harvard University psychologist Dr Daniel Wegner wrote a paper for the journal Science called, “How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for any Occasion.” Wegner found it’s not only possible but very likely that our brains will sabotage ourselves in tense situations. As our brains become more watchful and alert, monitoring our thoughts, speech and actions, that very process increases the likelihood of making the errors we’re trying to avoid. It’s what Wegner calls an “ironic error”.

Sometimes ironic errors can be smoothed over easily. Other times they can almost get us fired. In her forthcoming nursing memoir, Get Well Soon!, Brisbane’s Kristy Chambers recounts the first time she had to examine a patient’s prolapsed anus with a fellow nurse. They found it so distressingly awful that after examining the woman’s posterior, both nurses became helpless with laughter and had to leave the room. “It was an involuntary nervous system response, rather than malicious enjoyment,” Chambers writes. “I knew where my uncontrollable giggling was coming from, and that it didn’t originate from a place of evil, but that didn’t make it any easier to explain to other people.” After a doctor chastised them both (“She could die from this, you know!”), Chambers had to go to the bathroom and splash cold water on her face.

Gold Coast-based Patsy Rowe, who has been an etiquette coach for the past 16 years, remembers one party where a guest told a small group of women that her son had committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in eastern Sydney. Upon hearing that, another guest remarked, “Oh, if I was going to knock myself off, I’d never do it like that! Too messy.” Rowe recalls a stunned silence. Sensing the situation, Rowe softly said, “Oh, I’m sure you didn’t mean that to sound the way it sounded.” Mortified, the guest said to the grieving mother, “Oh no, I’m sorry. Oh dear, that was awful.”

Rowe says that while faux pas are inevitable, you can rectify the moment just as easily. “There is nothing wrong with indicating you know what you’ve said at that particular moment was inappropriate and unfeeling,” she says.

Rowe adds that if you see other people who have made a horrible misjudgment, it’s kind to throw them a lifeline, too: “It’s important to teach people not to speak immediately. When you’re confronted with any situation that has potential embarrassment to it, don’t say anything for the moment. You only need two or three seconds to compose yourself.”

Of course, everyone’s needs are different during a catastrophe. It’s tricky: most of us want both company and privacy. We want kind words and jokes to lighten the mood. Doing and saying the right thing by other people requires sonar-like sensitivity.

Most of the time, though, we don’t need to say anything at all. When the American writer Joan Didion lost her husband to a heart attack, her friend Calvin knew her well enough to anticipate that she wouldn’t be able to eat properly in her grief. “Every day for those first few weeks,” Didion wrote, “he brought me a quart container of scallion-and-ginger congee from Chinatown. Congee I could eat. Congee was all I could eat.”

Similarly, following my accident, one of my favourite people unobtrusively dropped off freshly made chicken broth to my home. Even if you don’t know what to say during hard times, it’s easy to know what to do. You might starve a fever, but you always feed a disaster.


From Good Weekend

(Source: dailylife.com.au)

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Push to add drama. So brilliant.

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I Re-Watched Titanic So You Don’t Have To. You’re Welcome.

I don’t remember a lot of specifics about watching Titanic in theaters in 1997, but I was 15 years old, which means my two biggest concerns were 1) locating romance, and 2) not dying in a nautical catastrophe. So I think we can safely assume that I fucking loved that movie. I watched Titanic again on TV with my sister a few years later, making sure to switch it off right before that whole stressful iceberg thingy — a strategy that turns the movie into a pleasant romp about two teenagers who take a perfectly safe boat ride and then bang in a jalopy. The end. Charming! Watching Titanic for a third time this weekend—in advance of Wednesday’s big 3D reopening—I cannot imagine what I was thinking that second time around. I could not wait to get to the second half and watch all these motherfuckers drown.

Here’s the thing about Titanic, and the reason 15-year-old girls love it so much: James Cameron is a 15-year-old girl. All of the characters are either 15-year-old girls in disguise (“Parents just don’t understand!” “Waaah, make the boat go faster!” “I know we literally met 20 minutes ago, but I love you with a suicidal fervor!”), or the kind of goofy caricatures that 15-year-old girls would write if we let 15-year-old girls write our blockbuster screenplays. It’s She’s All That on a Boat, only with Kate Winslet as Freddie Prinze Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio as that girl who isn’t famous anymore, and also everyone freezes to death in the north Atlantic at the end.

Titanic is three hours and 14 minutes long, which—fun fact—is longer than the actual journey of the Titanic. It is sooooo ballsy to just assume people will watch your movie for three hours and 14 minutes! Especially when everyone already knows exactly what happens in the end (spoiler: the boat is Keyser Söze). Sorry, Epcot Center, I’mma let you finish, but James Cameron’s balls are like the giantest balls of all time. It would take three hours and 14 minutes just to walk around the circumference of James Cameron’s balls.

Anyway, here’s what happens in Titanic. In case you forgot, it is terrible:

It starts out on a modern-times submarine. Bill Paxton is snooping around on the ocean floor trying to find a big necklace to impress Britney Spears. His character is clearly James Cameron’s idea of what a cool person is like—he does stuff like wear male earrings and say “sayonara” in a sarcastic voice. Awww, yeeeeah. Pretty cool. Bill Paxton finds this old safe in the ocean, expecting it to be full of Titanic jewelz, but instead it’s just an old doodle of some boobs. Total rip-off! …OR IS IT?

An old lady recognizes her boob-doodle on the news and goes to visit Bill Paxton on his rock and roll treasure boat, where they make her watch a graphic CGI reenactment of the Titanic sinking (I believe the working title is Hey Granny, Fuck Your PTSD). Then she tells her story. Which is hella not pertinent to treasure-hunting, unless by “treasure” you mean “three hours of nonsense, garbage, terror, death, and delightful Italian stereotypes.”

Turns out, that old lady used to be Kate Winslet, and one time she rode a big boat named Titanic. But she wasn’t too happy about it! “It was the ship of dreams to everyone else,” she says. “To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains.” Yes. Because imprisonment, rape, and unpaid forced labor are just like having to marry Billy Zane and live in a fur-lined bon-bon palace for-literally-ever. (Also, it’s 1912 right now, which means that real slavery has only been over for like…40 years? Maybe a little too soon for the flippant slavery metaphors?) She continues: “I saw my whole life as if I’d already lived it, an endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts, and polo matches. Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared, or even noticed.” Nobody notices me! Everyone is so fake! My polo pony is the wrong color! As you can see, Kate Winslet’s life is just like slavery. She decides to just kill herself immediately so she doesn’t have to face another terrible, terrible cotillion.

Luckily, along comes Leonardo “I Am Definitely Wearing Lipstick” DiCaprio, who is traveling to America with his friends Fabrizio (Human Olive Garden Commercial) and Tommy (five leprechauns standing on each other’s shoulders wearing a long coat). Leonardo DiCaprio rescues her from suicide and she repays him by letting her entire family treat him like human feces for the last few days of his life. Then they fall in love.

Leonardo shows up at fancy dinner even though he is a stinky poor and Kate Winslet’s mom hates him: “My mother looked at him like an insect—a dangerous insect that must be squished quickly.” After dinner, Leonardo says, “Time for me to go row with the other slaves!” Again with the slave thing. YOU GUYS ARE HELLA NOT SLAVES. PLEASE READ A BOOK.

In an act of defiance, Kate Winslet sneaks downstairs to party with the simple folk. And look who’s down there dancing a jig! “Aaaaaaaay! It’s-a me, Fabrizio!” Fabrizio treats everybody to all-you-can-eat breadsticks and then invents the mafia. Can someone tell me why this movie wasn’t entirely about Fabrizio? At the very least could I get a fan edit called Titanic 2: Fabrizio’s Quest? (It is a quest for lasagna.) Get on it, somebody.

Okay. Next there’s a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t involve Fabrizio at ALL, so w-evs. It’s the Celine Dion part (“I’m flying!”), the boob-sketching part, and the aforementioned jalopy-banging part. All of it is incredibly awkward and boring. Then Theoden, King of Rohan, drives the boat into this big iceberg (“Are you calling me fat, James Cameron?” – the iceberg) and the ocean starts coming inside the boat (“Heyyyy, ocean!” – poor people).

Bill Paxton interrupts the old lady’s interminable story and is like, “BOAT SCIENCE. EXPOSITION. BOAT SCIENCE” for a while. Nobody cares. Onward!

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio run around the boat in circles for a long time holding hands. I think we’re supposed to admire Kate Winslet for having terrific moxie or something, but really all she does is yell about how no one can tell her what to do and then just does whatever Leonardo DiCaprio tells her to do. (Sometimes he tells her things like this: “You’re so stupid! Why did you do that? You’re so stupid, Rose!!!” and “SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”) Feminism!

Fabrizio shows up (FINALLY) to tell them that they’re fucked because all the lifeboats are gone: “The boats-a! They’re all-a gone!” “Where’s your life jacket, Fabrizio?” Leonardo asks. “Ees-a okay!” says Fabrizio, “I’ve-a got this-a beeg ravioli! Abbondanza!” Then he drowns (oops).

Fortunately for Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio turns out to be the world’s #1 expert in surviving ocean liner disasters—offering genius advice like, “We have to stay on the ship as long as possible! Come on!” Eventually, though, they end up in the ocean, where Kate Winslet sits on a board and cries. Leonardo makes one attempt to get on the board with her, but falls off, so he decides to just die instead. Kate Winslet is sad. Then she gets rescued by Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four movie.

Finally, even though she knew Bill Paxton was searching for the necklace, and he hella patiently listened to her stupid story (it’s like she writes erotic fan fiction about herself), that old lady just goes and drops it into the ocean at the end!!! Like, seriously, old lady? First of all, you’re a dick. Second of all, that necklace belongs in a museum. Third of all, you’re a dick! I wish Bill Paxton would drop YOU into the ocean at the end. Then, to wrap things up, there’s a dream sequence where the ghosts of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio walk down the Titanic’s grand staircase and everyone on earth applauds for no reason. You know who are the only people that think the world owes them a round of applause? Fifteen-year-old girls and billionaire directors who own submarines. I rest my case.

I feel like James Cameron has never met an actual person before. Titanic is basically a 3.5-hour-long Zales commercial, only slightly less emotionally compelling. Fabrizio and Victor Garber aside (I forgot to talk about the unbearable melancholy of Victor Garber, but SOB!), I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to watch this movie—much less watch it in 3D. Hey, do you want to watch a 3.5-hour extravaganza of terror and death with a plastic cage strapped to your face? Hey, did you like the original Titanic, but wish you could also have a headache? Hey, are you a 15-year-old girl? Oh, you are? Okay. Go nuts. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go die of old age now.

(Source: jezebel.com)

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This.

earlofsammich:

Wrecking Crew Orchestra from Japan, Lighting it up on stage.  Literally.

watch this and try to not be impressed… i DARE you.

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Circle of life, bitches.

Circle of life, bitches.

(Source: ms-jbird)

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Don’t tell mum! I’m vegetarian.

Don’t tell mum! I’m vegetarian.

(via a-m-a-z-o-n)

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"I used to be such a bad ass. Now at my age, with my hemorrhoids, I just have a bad ass."

@SpeelyFreaking

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