Shadow of a Doubt

An offer on twitter of a free ticket to see a Hitchcock film that I was sure I’d already seen. Little did I know – it was one of the middle period Hitchcock movies, and I was in for a treat. I had not only not seen it, but it has one of my all-time favourite actors in it.

Cotten. This guy’s a dream.

Apparently, he was in three world class directors best-known masterpieces. This one was dear Alfred‘s, The Third Man was Carol Reed‘s, and Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’. Not too shabby, eh?

Actually, lemme let Wikipedia explain what this film is:

 is a 1943 American / directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton WilderSally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.’

What an evening.

The day had started with a visit to The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment and then a trip with one of my closest friends and his 9 year-old to The British Museum, which we sailed through in record time. Not that I’m proud of that. The whole point was to spend time with them. What we did was irrelevant. The British Museum was as nice a place as any for us to go, and she’d never been.

To imagine seeing all of those things through her eyes, I walked through the exhibits covering the ancient world. Saw the Rosetta Stone and the dude from Easter Island. What must it be like to be nine and wander through those rooms.

My goal?

To try seeing all this – this life I’m knee-deep in – from a nine year-old’s perspective. Certainly can’t hurt.

Five things to harass the Dying

thoughts of mortality are understandable especially when one’s on a Greek island like Astypalea (photo from 2010)
Recently, I was handed a German article about five things one should or could say to the dying to help them in their journey to the afterlife.
Never to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, I’ve decided to write my own list. Here are Five things to harass the dying:
  • Remind them what they’ve done or what they did
  • Point out to them that this (their life, their family, everything good and bad that they’ve done) will eventually be forgotten
  • Whatever palliative medicine they’re receiving, take it away and no matter how they beg for it, don’t give it back
  • Invite each of their enemies over (unexpectedly) for one last little chat
  • Make as many references to your plans once the dying person is finally gone

Now, I realise this isn’t the nicest of lists, but I have one very pointed question for those of you who may or may not be offended.

Why are we trying so hard to make things easier for the dying?

Certainly, if they’ve had a good life and made some sort of peace with everyone in it, then the above list will be useless. It won’t touch them. They’re immune from my machinations.

Lucky them.

Please don’t think I’ve done any of these things on my list. I’m actually quite pleasant and caring to the people in my life who’re at death’s door. I learned quite a lot while watching my father slowly die of complications related to his diabetes.

He died six years ago last week, and lately my thoughts’ve been swirling around topics of mortality. It’s actually quite understandable.

So, what’d possess me to make such a heartless list of cruelty like the one above? What’s wrong with me?

Well, I’ve got a simple answer for you in the form of a few questions.

Why? Why should I forgive what’s been done to me? What benefit does it serve?

I know a bit about Buddhism, and I know the tenet that carrying around such bitterness is akin to taking poison. Not only am I aware of this, but I even try to practice forgiveness. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it. Most of the time.

But like an irregular French verb, there are always exceptions. And what to do with those? Aren’t there some things that’re unforgivable? I believe that the jury’s still out on that one.

Believing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Are you really going to listen to Winston?

What I’m going to talk about, probably many or most of you have no idea. Well, you might know about it. But it’s very likely not the obsession for you that it is for me.

Yet the actual thing I want to talk about is universal and quite applicable to many people’s lives. It’s the way I want to get there that might need a bit of ‘splainin‘.

If you know me elsewhere, particularly in real life or on twitter, you know that I’m quite passionate about football. Soccer, Fußball, fútbol…whatever you want to call it. I could go into how I got into football, but that’s for another blogpost. Instead, I want to talk about my hometown team: FC Bayern München (although it’s my adopted hometown, it’s very much my home). In the interest of full disclosure, I should inform you that I support the other local club in Munich…again, that’s for some other time.

See, the local team lost an important match the other night, and it got me thinking about winning and losing. About success and failure. About the things that sport allegedly teaches us, but that are so often lacking at the highest levels.

Saying that this particular  soccer game was important is an understatement. They were playing the final of the Champion’s League on their home pitch (their own stadium), which is something no-one had done since AS Roma in the 80s back when the Champion’s League was still called the Europa Cup. From what I understand, it’s never been won by the home side.

FC Bayern wanted to be the first. There was an air of inevitability about it. The football gods were assumed to be smiling down on this team. All was set up for their domination of the final match against what many thought was an inferior football team (London’s Chelsea FC).

But then the home team lost. Dramatically. Painfully, if you were a fan of said club. However, if you supported the visitor’s, the whole thing could not have been better scripted. You’d be much happier with those football gods in the post-game elation. Deities that you’d formerly cursed were now not only forgiven but even given their due. It was a beautiful night in the Bavarian capital for an English football organisation that had formerly experienced bitter defeat at the international level.

So those of you who could care less about sport…if you’re even still reading, what does this have to do with you? Actually, even if you have no interest in football, the bigger picture might have something to offer you. See, FC Bayern is quite proud of their ability to plan.

I could dislike the team for it’s success, but that is something I support and appreciate. Succeeding is all it’s cracked up to be. I suppose part of it is the money, but many football clubs at that level have astonishingly massive war chests. It’s not as if Chelsea is lacking for funds. Oh, and I could also fault the hometown club for their arrogance. Nothing surprising here. Any team, in any sport, that’s had as much success as they have, is likely to be arrogant about it.

But as much as I dislike all of those things, there’s one last component that irritates me as much as the others do. It might even annoy me more than the others.  This is the bigger picture I was talking about.

They think that if they plan properly, then they’re guaranteed success. That quite simply one can organise and strategise his way to victory. That’s not how it works. Not in sport and most definitely not in life.

Now, you may be one of those self-actualised sorts who believe you can do anything if you put your mind to it. What do I have to say to that? Nonsense. Maybe you’ve had some success with that line of thinking. In all likelihood, you’ll have more. But my experience has been that as much planning one does, you can’t disregard the intangibles.

You can’t guarantee winning. 

This is what sport is supposed to teach us. That you can fight and strive and struggle all you like, but eventually it could just not turn out the way you wanted. Not such a difficult concept to comprehend. Believing in one’s self or one’s destiny isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even my seven-year-old niece understands that one.

deciding in Portuguese

deciding in Portuguese

Often, I wonder if I’m at a severe disadvantage living in a country where the language being spoken is not my own. My German is quite good – well, passable. I love the culture, as well as the language, and I’m eager to learn and understand more.

Nevertheless, there’s still this niggling thing in the back of my mind that says, ‘You’re not a native speaker and you’re most likely losing your questionable English skills.‘ Oh, the horror.

Then I found this thing on Wired.com, and it somehow makes me weirdly optimistic. Most of us need a bit more optimism, so here it is:

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational

This has nothing to do with other areas of life, but when it comes to decision making, navigating in a foreign tongue might be advantageous. Here’s how Boaz Keysar and his team at the University of Chicago put it:

‘It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases…’

How do you like that? I wonder if the less you know a language, the more unbiased your decisions are. So, my Portuguese is nonexistent. I should only make decisions in Portuguese.

Am certain the majority of you are going to appreciate the complete and utter wonder of my resolve.

Eu fiz a minha decisão

beeps and burps

The video above starts with the woman asking her father how he’s getting along with the new iPad he was given recently. He answers that it’s just fine while he finishes cutting vegetables on it, rinses it off, and then loads it into the dishwasher.

Have been hearing a lot of noise from luddites lately. It’s understandable. Technology isn’t always easy to get accustomed to.

And rather than admit that it’s difficult or frustrating, it’s easier to say, ‘Why do I even need that newfangled gadget?’

The iPad? You don’t need one. You really don’t. It’s just a lot of unnecessary hype.

Unless you’ve actually used one. Then it’s an entirely different story.

I’m curious why I take to certain social media so easily (and so whole-heartedly) and not others. Nothing about MySpace attracted me. I had a lot of friends who did it, and it was certainly a place where musicians could display their work. But it looked somehow childish to me. Not childlike – childish. Definitely not in a good way.

Facebook? It was exciting at first. There were so many people with whom I thought I’d never be in contact again. For the first while, I was there all the damned time. Now? Not so much.

I really enjoyed StumbleUpon at first, and always think to myself, ‘You found such interesting sites with that one – you should go check it out again…’, but then I never do. And tumblr is something I heard people rave about for so long. I set mine up, and then couldn’t figure it out. So it lay dormant for half a year or so. I’ve since decided to put photos of my dogs Ella and Louis there. I suppose I’m using it a bit like flickr was intended.

Oh, I have flickr, too. And audioboo. And have just started using Storify. I really like it. There are times when I’ve had wonderfully bizarre conversations on one of the above-mentioned sites, and I’ve wondered how I could even begin to explain to an innocent bystander how that online conversation got to the ridiculous conclusion it did.

What led someone to suggest making a whole week of Sneaky Fucker posts? All the Twitter mentions of Sneaky Fucker Week? Where could those be assembled? Well…that’s what Storify appears to be for. Little did the creators of Storify know that they could’ve potentially be such an important part of the history of the internet. If only I’d known how to use that sight when all the Sneaky Fuckery was going on.

But I find myself pondering all of this and those luddites I mentioned at the beginning of all this. They have a point, you know. When I try explaining some conversation I’ve had, and setting up the scenario takes half an hour, because I have to explain who HazelBlackberry in Perth, Australia is or why ‘You don’t know my life‘ can send me into hysterics…when that happens and they cock their head and look at me like I’m a madman, they have a point.

Another thing I didn’t get into was Second Life. It seemed so ridiculous to me. Wait, you set up an avatar and could play a character and buy things with money that only existed there? When folk don’t understand social media, I try to remember how both MySpace and Second Life were incomprehensible to me.

There are all sorts of little beeps and burps that some sites use to tell you about what a friend just said about you on Facebook. Or Echofon whirs when there’s a mention on Twitter. Don’t even get me started on Tweetdeck and/or HootSuite. The idea might be great, but the constant cacophony whenever I have either of them open nearly makes me murderous (before you tell me you can mute all of those things, I’m well aware of that – I’m trying to make a point).

Recently heard someone ponder what sort of endorphins might be released when we get such audible signals. That someone out there in the universe that is the web has gone out of there way to tag me in his quest to conquer Farmville. Someone else has written a new blog that a few months ago I’d have written in an RSS feed at some point in the next few days, but today? Today, I get an alert on my phone. My phone buzzes, I salivate, my hands go digging in my bag or under the pile of newspapers that I’m neglecting because I’m reading the latest about someone buying Mashable for some astronomical amount of money. That vibrating phone means someone out there wants my attention.

And I, by God, am going to give it to them.

How to Build a Speech-Jamming Gun

This is a simple idea, and immediately remind me of the mocking game many of us played as children. You wanted to irritate your sibling/best friend, so you simply repeated everything they said back to them. Depending on your tenacity and persistence, this could be a game that brought at least one of you hours of fun.

But think about it for a minute. Wasn’t all that repetition of what they were saying a bit taxing? Quite a lot of work, actually. So imagine if you had a device that’d do all the work for you. That’s right, it’s almost as if technology has rushed into a void that you’d never have realised existed.

Imagine my delight when I found How to build a Speech-Jamming Gun. You can once again have all of the fun you experienced as a child without any of that strenuous mocking. As the site describes:

‘The idea is simple. Psychologists have known for some years that it is almost impossible to speak when your words are replayed to you with a delay of a fraction of a second.’

Now, I must admit: the headline is a bit misleading. The article doesn’t, in fact, tell you how to build one of these contraptions. But I’m too grateful for the knowledge that this Speech-Jamming Gun exists to bicker with particularities.

Please don’t ask me where to get one. I’m too busy thinking of the people in my daily life I’d relish using it on.