Follows is a brief overview of some of the things that are bothering me this week.
I seldom play Scrabble anymore and it's all the fault of Scrabble Whiners. Anyone might be a Scrabble Whiner. There's no reliable way to know in advance. I have ceased to be surprised when people I considered honourable, stalwart and true sit down in front of a Scrabble board and start whining like hungry sea-lions.
What do they whine about? Here's the top three:
#1. "My letters are terrible."And here are the corresponding awful truths these players are trying not to face:
#2. "I know it's a stupid word but I have no choice."
#3. "I'm sorry I'm taking so long to make my turn."
#1. "Your letters are fine, stupid. Think harder!"The rub, of course, is that these awful truths are voiced not by the other players but by the whiner themselves, a running interior monologue of intellectual shame whose bleating tends to surface in inverse proportion to score.
#2. "It is a stupid word. You probably should've spent more time on your turn."
#3. "You're making us all wait because you're stupid."
The whiner labours under the false impression that speaking some of their excuses aloud will absolve them from judgement in the event that other players make the cardinal mistake of evaluating another human being's cerebral worth and linguistic acumen on the basis of their Scrabble placings. This is a surprisingly common phobia.
I just want the whiners of the world to understand that they've ruined the game of Scrabble for me. I have no interest in sitting down at a table to hear people complain about their letter lot, bemoan the lack of opportunities on the board, lament their own cursed brains which only appear clever when nobody else is looking. I get tired of saying, "It's okay -- don't worry about it. Let's just play the game."
A piece of advice for nervous players? Just shut up. Nobody cares how low your self-esteem is.
I don't understand the small-talk obsession with the Olympics. Suddenly the weather isn't interesting enough for you? Jesus Murphy Brown!
Sometimes I run into people and they ask, "Are you following the Olympics?" and when I say, "No," they start to tell me all about the games, apparently labouring under the misapprehension that I am somehow not following the Olympics involuntarily and that I am therefore positively thirsty for whatever details I can get. Maybe they think my television is on the fritz (along with my borked radio, my misdelivered newspaper subscription and the fact that every computer I touch displays characters only in Sanskrit, leaving me piteously deprived of sporting news of any kind).
Newsflash: the Olympics are everywhere. If somebody tells you they're not following the games, it's on purpose.
Some Einsteins like to respond to this by asking why. They want to know whether it's the performance-enhancing drugs or the judging scandals or the endless commercialism or the devastating effect the games can have on certain sectors of the host country's economy that's turned me off.
My answer: "You misunderstand me. I said I don't care."
If I did care I'd have an opinion about those things, but since I don't care...well, I don't care. I'm not interested. My apathy is ripe and fulsome. It isn't feigned as a cover for my disgust with some element of the event -- it's a genuine lack of fascination on every level. As far as the Olympics are concerned I cannot fathom the strength to give even a single flying fuck.
My wife: "You do care, because when I put the Olympics on television you ask me to change the channel."
Me: "I would also ask you to change the channel if you tuned into static."
Old Oak: "Vhat did you think of the Svedish hockey last night, ja?"
Me: "I hear the price of tea in China is up a third of a cent."
Old Oak: "Really? Did Slozos write to you about that, ja?"
We should've lied about Baby Two's due date. The telephone rings forty times a day as people who we swore we would contact when labour began in earnest call to ask whether or not labour has begun in earnest. Those with particularly low self-esteem often supply us with their own excuses about why we might not have bothered to call them the way we'd promised, for such-and-such fanciful or unlikely or just plain retarded reason.
"No baby yet," I report.
"How are you guys doing?"
"Yeah, but how are you doing?"
"She's very pregnant and she wants the baby to come out."
"But how's she feeling?"
"But how is she really feeling?"
"Like she's very pregnant and she wants the baby to come out."
"Have you tried [$COMMON_LABOUR-INITIATION_REMEDY]?"
"That worked for us."
"You should try it."
"I'm sure the baby will come any day now."
"You'll call me when anything happens, right?"
"Even if it's in the middle of the night, okay?"
"Are you guys doing okay?"
"Try not to worry too much."
"Maybe the baby will come tomorrow."
"Yeah, maybe. Well, it's been nice chatting..."
"I should probably talk to Littlestar personally. Can you put her on? Is she well enough to come to the phone? How's she doing?"
Between the two of us Littlestar and I have spent a ridiculous amount of hours over the last week having that exact conversation or variations thereon dozens of times a day, often within minutes of each other. And that's not even counting the e-mails and instant messages.
If we express irritation we're told it's "only because people care" which, I submit, is a stupid thing to say since we seldom accuse our friends of expressing interest in our well-being out of a sense of spite. We're not confused about their motivations.
For the record we're at Due Date +4. That means we've still got 10 days left before the midwives will considering induction. There's no reason to panic. Littlestar's cervix is thinning and dilating slowly but surely -- the kid'll pop any day now.
We'll call you.
So a fan writes to me a few weeks ago with a lot of enthusiastic things to say about something or other I'd typed. His missive was punctuated by statements about how he expected no response from me since it was likely that I am constantly deluged by similar letters. No less than three times he explained his anterior sense of understanding at the fact that I will not write back to him.
Now, the truth is that there have been occasions when I've had too much mail to deal with (notably during the height of The Darth Side's popularity and the concluding weeks of Simon of Space), but most of the time I do respond to the trickle of fan-mail that accumulates in my in-box. But this particular fellow chose to write to me when I was very, very busy with work and so I decided to follow his multiply-reinforced suggestion and not take the time to respond.
Today he writes back to tell me I'm a jackass. He didn't actually say "jackass" -- he said I was "inconsiderate" of the time and effort he had put into his letter. He said that when people put that kind of devotion into a message it's only appropriate to reply, even if it's only a few lines of acknowledgement.
Maybe he's right. Maybe the writer of these letters is owed something from me beyond the hundreds of thousands of words of stories he's already consumed for free.
...But, personally, I don't think so.
I think he's just a fuck head. He lacks even the modicum of class demonstrated by the insane neo-Christian missionary who contacted me in order to ask that I help him craft sermons that tied together George Lucas' "Force" with Yahweh's "Christ", who thanked me for my time even after I didn't write back. He wrote, "Working road-crew on the path of other people's salvation is not for everybody."
Thus, here is my belated acknowledgement for Mark from Iowa, who took the time to write two long and heartfelt letters to me, one lavishing me with praise and the other lavishing me with vitriol: Up yours, buddy!
Lesson to the wise: if you want somebody to respond to your message don't belabour the point of how you know and understand that they won't. It has the potential to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What is wrong with the people who make Microsoft Internet Explorer? Do they suffer from some terrible neuronal wasting disease which causes them to fail to grasp the idea of standards compliance?
I've been tweaking my new XHTML pages for better display under various Windows operating systems and the process is frustrating in the extreme. (Like Rodney King asked, "Why can't we all just be more like Firefox?") If I had a million dollars I would pay to have all of the developers on the Explorer team flown to a big conference where somebody would explain the Web to them. We'd serve cookies.
It's been explained to me that all Muslim people are "idiots." The upshot of this pronouncement is that it really makes complex socio-geopolitical issues much easier to boil down to something comprehensively binary.
Thank goodness we keep old people in the cellar to share these insights with us.
I was lost in shades of grey but now I know what's what. I have been a fool to ignore the American religion. I have been needlessly over-complicating what is really a straight-forward situation: all Muslims are idiots. That's why they behave so badly. It's so obvious now!
The best part of this theory is how it can be effortless substantiated by making allusions to the inherently different ways of thinking that people brought up under tyranny have, and how this irretrievably dwarfs their ability to hold correct opinions or feel civilized emotions. Now, you might figure you're a crafty one -- you might say, "Yes, but what about all the Muslims living in Canada -- scholars, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists?"
Simple answer: They're not real Muslims. They've taken on our culture, and thereby spared themselves from congenital idiocy.
I keep meaning to ask what the fuck is the problem with black people. I mean, if nationally-sponsored terrorism, theocracy and covert nuclear weapons programmes can all be explained as simple idiocy, there must be a sweet and comprehensible reason why black people persist in being poor and shooting one another or chopping each other up with machetes even when they're not Muslims. Maybe it's a diet thing.
I have so much yet to learn.