Sunday, February 12, 2012

Negative Space

Now that I've been doing this for a year, I'm more or less aware of who my audience are. Here's a rough guess, based on the data I've gleaned from my own obsessive analyzing of my stats page.

Roughly 60% of the people reading this are people I have known all my life, and hence their support and continued readership is a basic, and very very kind, act of charity. Because I am a shallow cow and because I am the first generation of people to have grown up with the internet, this means nothing to me.

Do you hear that?


When you use the internet as a tool for getting your chosen form of creativity out there, you tend to become sort of insensitive to the people you know and love. They don't COUNT. They HAVE to read it. If you want to give a blogger a complete career boner, you need to find a way to hack into their stats page, and somehow alter the data to read that a hundred and fifty thousand people in Singapore are now reading their blog. Whenever something like this happens to me, I almost always feel the need to call someone and tell them straight away. "I don't even know anybody in Singapore!" I'll exclaim. Sometimes, just for variation, I'll pretend like I'm super freaked out about the whole ordeal. This is of course a rouse, because as we've learned this past year together, my entire personality is just one giant ego trip disguised as being awkwardly self-aware. I am, for all intents and purposes, a disgusting sham of a human being.

But you try and look at this every day and not go crazy:

The Philippines!?? What in the hell are the Philippines doing in there?!

But back to my original point, which is the people who read this blog. Or, my 'audience' as blogger prefers to call you. (As you can imagine, this choice in terminology lends itself extremely generously to the aforementioned ego problem)

The majority of the people who read this blog are at least a bit nerdy. By virtue of the fact that I write this blog, I'm a bit of a nerd. Not the good productive kind of nerd that invents stuff like Facebook and iPods though. The other kind. I obsesses over long-cancelled TV shows. I lord over people the fact that I read the book before the movie. I radiate a false sense of superiority concerning all of my interests. I do not participate in group sports or exercise. Some people call this pretension or hipsterish, but I disagree, because I'm not cool, and I'm not pretending. I know exactly how fucking lame I am, and you probably do too.

And in the spirit of communal lameness, let me say that in what I'm about to say, I know that I'm alienating at least half of the people who read this blog.

I hate space.

I hate everything to do with space. I hate Star Trek. I hate Star Wars. I hate Alien. I hate Scully's alien baby. I hate the planets, and I hate the stars, and I hate everyone who has ever been to space. I hate Buzz Aldrin, and I hate Neil Armstrong. Actually, I hate Neil Armstrong for other, more personal reasons also, but we shan't dwell on that today.

I've never seen Firefly, but I probably hate it.

I've never seen Doctor Who, but it annoys me.

If nobody ever creates another narrative that takes place in space again, then I will personally see it as a success on the behalf of fiction and storytelling.

I realize, by the way, that I'm completely wrong.  Today, while eating lunch with my boyfriend and his brother, I was forced to explain my stance. Needless to say, the former looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and hatred, and the latter looked at his brother with a look of "Dude, what are you doing? She hates space."

Have you ever been with someone who has started a conversation with the words "I had the weirdest dream last night."? Didn't you want that conversation to just end, before it even started? You did, didn't you? You probably abruptly changed the subject so you wouldn't have to talk about your friend's weird dream. You don't care how weird it is. Hearing about other people's dreams is like looking through a stack of someone else's photos: if you're not in them and nobody is having sex, you really just don't care.

The reason you don't care is not because you're a bad friend, but because nobody is in charge of the narrative. First of all, the thing that happened in your friend's head while they slept didn't happen. But that's not the thing that makes the story boring: our friend's tell us fictional stories all the time, and we accept them because it's interesting and polite. Anything can happen in a dream, and that's what makes them so annoying to listen to. There's no laws in this universe. If a talking dinosaur that represents your mother starts mentally abusing a spoilt liberal-minded raccoon, that's ok.

This is how I feel about fiction that is set in space. Our 'hero' (the bastard love child of one fictional, vaguely human race and another fictional yet entirely different vaguely human race) is in his spaceship, and lands on a planet entirely peopled by a vaguely human race that have udders instead of hands.  He settles down in Udderania, becomes a local space blacksmith and lives a quiet life milking his space-wife's cuticles until a rival planet peopled by racists that are vaguely representative of the Nazis, the Communists or both invade his planet and he has to find a wizard to help him.

What is this? This isn't a story. This is just wank. I can't relate to this narrative, no matter how many metaphors for the corrupting nature of power or romantic subplots that are thrown in.

Like I said, I know I'm wrong. I'm completely and utterly wrong. This is just something I've been carrying for a long time, and it's time to air it out. If I die tomorrow, I want there to be a published document that represents my feelings on this issue. There's no wider subject matter here.

I just really, really, really hate space.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Five Terrible Things I Have Done For Money

I'm sort of the wandering Jew of my friend group. I don't mean that in any real negative sense, only in the sense that I tend to wander around quite a bit, and I have an all-abiding love of things that are free or cheap. I know free stuff is cited extremely highly upon almost everyone's list of favorite things, but I have been assured that I take this to new levels. Terrible levels.

Off-hand, this is the best example I can think of: One day, a few years ago, I was in an old boyfriend's house and came across a bag of his ex-girlfriends clothes he had yet to return to her. He awkwardly shuffled around explaining that it didn't mean anything, that she didn't mean anything, and that he was with me now. I wasn't really paying attention, because I was already holding one of her tops to my torso.

"This is nice. Can I, like, keep this?" 

This love of things has also fostered an incredible greed within me. This means that I will do almost anything if it involves a couple of quid. Well, obviously not anything. 'Anything' in this context means 'prostitution' or 'selling alternate forms of electricity door-to-door'. Even this caveat is not that exclusive. I might even be open to negotiations of the former if some Eastern prince was looking to extend his harem. I'm friendly, open to sharing responsibilities, and get along very well with other women. I think I'd make a very nice addition to a harem.

Alas, openings in plush opium-filled harems don't come along every day, and as such, here are some of the horrible things I have done for money.

# 5 - A Sample Sale Clerk

Sixteen is one of the least employable ages you'll ever be, mostly because you're (a) completely inexperienced and (b) utterly self-involved. It's also the worst age to be unemployed, because you're just discovering that the ten quid your parents give you every week won't support your Lipsmacker and body-glitter habit. Woe. So the summer I turned sixteen, a friend of my mothers got me a job at something called a 'sample sale'.

For those of you who are unaware, a sample sale is where a designer sells off the remainder of their collection once the season has ended. This is basically how TK Maxx turns a profit, but this was 2006, and Ireland hadn't heard of TK Maxx yet. I was initially excited about this, because hello, designer clothes. I soon found out that these weren't the kind of 'designer' clothes made for pre-curves teenagers. These were the kind of designer clothes that you pick up in horribly expensive department stores, hold up to your friend, and say "Who in the fuck would pay six hundred quid for this monstrosity?" Think brown patterns. Think chiffon.

So me pinching some free gear was out of the question. However, this isn't the reason that working the sample sale was terrible.

The reason I hated the sample sale was the same reason anybody hates their job in the service industry, which is, the customers. Let me specify something: I'm not in the least bit classist. How in the hell could I be? I sleep on a futon. Anyway, the problem with the kind of people who shop at sample sales is not that they're not rich, it's that they were obsessed with the idea of appearing so. This is why they queued up at seven in the morning to buy cut-price hideous clothing, and this is why they treated me like shit while they were doing it.

To make matters worse, one of the specifications of the job was that I had to appear as if I, too, could afford designer clothing. I couldn't of course, considering the nicest thing I owned was a Dirty Pretty Things t-shirt I wore every single Saturday for six months.

Naturally, this meant I had to wear my ever-chic mother's clothing, which only emphasized the amount of tits I had yet to grow.

So, there I was, being screamed at by fake-rich people in heels that were two sizes too small for me, in a blouse that was three sizes too big for me, and a pencil skirt designed to figure-hug a figure that didn't exist.

#4 - Filing Assistant

As far as I can remember, this job came shortly after my stint as a sample-seller. My friend Sarah was spending the summer working for her father's law firm, and considering the rare and much-celebrated heatwave Ireland was having, was getting completely bored with it. This is where I, the poor sucker who had already run out of sample-sale money, came into play. She called me with an offer I couldn't refuse.

"You want some easy money?"

Hell yeah I wanted some easy money.

"My dad's company needs someone to convert their files for them. It's dead easy, and it's nine quid an hour."

I was in. I showed up the next day in my mum's clothes again, ready to get my legal on. Sarah showed me what to do, leading me to a massive corridor entirely made up of filing cabinets. She pulled a file out, wrapped in a green folder. "Y'see this green folder? Put it in an orange one. Then put it back. Then throw away the green one. Ok?" Before I could nod and say "Pff, piece of piss." Sarah was gone like a shot to go party in West Cork.

It was a piece of piss. It was easy money. It also, I am utterly convinced, made me somewhat irreversibly psychologically imbalanced. By day two, I was twitching.

By day three, I had lost it. The only way I could survive the absolute tedium of converting these folders from green to orange was by convincing  myself that I was fighting a war. The filing cabinets were my own little kingdom that I, and I alone needed to save from the tyranny of green folders. I needed to re-instate the natural order of orange folders. Orange folders good. Green folders bad. All folders are equal, but some folders are more equal then others.

#3 - Production Secretary 

For the last quarter of 2011, I worked as a production secretary for a movie called The Magnificent Eleven. It's due to come out this summer, and maybe you and your friends will go see it, and maybe you'll stay in the cinema just long enough to see my name in the credits. Mostly, I really liked my job. The hours were long, the pay was unfathomably terrible, and the amount of emotional breakdowns I had per week averaged at about nine. But aside from that, I dug it. It was a little like summer camp, but with famous people. It was also a little like the army, but with less guns. Overall, I just liked the feeling that I was helping to make something.

There was one part of my job, however, that I loathed beyond all else, and that was making coffee.

Making coffee shouldn't be a hard thing to do, and in any other circumstance I would have enjoyed it. However, the circumstances I worked under were the following: one cafe tierre, one bag of coffee, one bag of sugar, one pint of milk, five cups. All of it was dumped on my desk, because we couldn't afford the office space to get a kitchenette, and so all the invoices and paperwork I had to work with ended up smelling like fresh Columbian grind.

This wasn't even the worst bit. The worst bit was that thirty times a day, I had to wash all the cups, and the cafe tierre, and all the other cutlery, and fill the kettle, in the Ladies bathroom. The Ladies bathroom, which was shared with the rest of the studio. It wasn't the worst job anyone had on set - by holy God, it wasn't the best either.

Let me tell you, you haven't suffered true humiliation until Davina McCall sees you trying to scrub mold out of a coffee cup.

#2 - HMV Worker

As I have mentioned in this blog time and time again, I worked in a HMV for three years. For the most part, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Hand on heart, I can say that at least half of the people that mean the most to me in the world, I met while working alongside them in HMV Cork. I will always consider them my second family, and most importantly, they kept me from having to befriend the absolute dickheads in my University course.

Working in the only HMV in a small city is kind of like working in the only night-club in a small town, in that there is absolutely no stratification of  the customer. Eeeeeevery mutha-fucka comes into HMV, and no amount of crazy will keep them out. There are a thousand anecdotes that I could tell illustrating this, but I think my favorite was the time I was approached by a man wearing a woman's sports jacket.

As the man approached me, I rolled my eyes expectantly. This guy was obviously going to be bat shit. As he began to inquire politely about Rory Gallagher DVDs, I began to feel a little guilty. I had mentally labelled this gentle soul as.. well, a mentaller. Maybe he didn't even realize he was wearing a pink woman's jacket. Maybe it wasn't EVEN a woman's jacket.

These things sometimes happen.

Just as I was ready to dismiss myself as a horribly human being, the man zips open his jacket to reveal that hes wearing absolutely nothing underneath. Well, no. That's not fair. He was wearing absolutely nothing, aside from a leather pouch full of money, that he had sellotaped to his own nipples.


#1 - Lingerie Worker

The summer I turned 17 promised to be a much more successful one then the summer that preceded it. Those boobs had finally - finally - begun to appear, and in life's most delicious of ironies, I had been offered a job in the Lingerie department in Brown Thomas, Cork's most expensive department store.

Whenever I mention the fact that I used to work in a Lingerie section to a guy, there is always a tiny moment where I lose them. Their eyes become momentarily glazed, and I can tell exactly what they're thinking. It's something like: "Sure, I know Caroline is basically a she-male now, but obviously she had some kind of SEXY phase, where her and a barrage of sexy women tried on lingerie and tickled one another with feathers and basically lezzed off until it was time to clock out."

Needless to say, this was not the case. THIS was the case.

So it's my second day of work. I'm on changing room duty, which means I'm scowling, and putting things on hangers. A large woman in her seventies is trying to start a conversation with me about her sons wedding in Canada, and I'm nodding along and handing her control-panel underwear to try on. "It's for my outfit, you see." she explains, "I haven't seen my son in seven years. Can you imagine? Seven years." Mmh, yes, I repeat. Seven years.

She disappears behind the changing room door, and I go back to thinking about Dashboard Confessional. Two minutes later, the door swings open, and suddenly I am being beckoned into a changing cubicle containing a naked seventy-something year old woman. She points to the control pants I had given her to try on, in a flesh-coloured heap around her ankles. "My arthritis, lovey", she explains "I can't.." She trails off.

As grossed out as I am, I cannot let this woman finish this sentence. I cannot let her say that she is physically unable to bend down and roll up a pair of control pants over her stomach, because it is too unfathomably sad. I think of my own grandmother, and if she had lived to see any of us get married, and if she had needed to buy control pants off a stranger.

I kneel down, and I start pulling the knickers on her. As terrible as it sounds, she is old, the cubicle is small, and there is a definite old person smell. I breath through my mouth. I try to continue our chat about Canada and her son's wedding. And just when I think I've made the best out of this situation that I possibly could, I feel something nudge against my forehead.

It's her boob.