Saturday 27 January 2018

The Do-Gooder

I sometimes contribute to a message board – I’m not going to say which one as I want to remain largely anonymous on there.

Usually it is a fun experience where contributors discuss various things, debate others and most of the time engage in good-hearted banter. I am a nice guy so I try not to upset people and if I inadvertently do I always offer an olive branch to rectify the situation, which at worst is just due to a difference of opinion with no malice involved whatsoever.

Of course the odd keyboard warrior pops up now and then and insults anybody who disagrees with him and there have been times when such a persistent troll has been banned by the administrators of the board – quite rightly in my opinion. Generally most of us are civil with each other.

However, a troll turned his attention to me over something I really should avoid – politics.

I admit that I need to rein myself in sometimes and usually I manage to do so. In this case, though, I was accused of being a do-gooder. This intrigued me and I pushed back at the troll to find out more about this, in his eyes, derogatory term.

Here’s the (urban) definition of a do-gooder:

An earnest but often naïve person (typically educated and white) who wants reform through philanthropic or egalitarian means. e.g. wealth redistribution, social justice, welfare, third world immigration, adoption of "disadvantaged" children (usually non-white and from abroad), affirmative action and spending other peoples' money for good causes.

The truth is that I probably fit some parts of that description because ultimately I am a nice guy who wants to help the disadvantaged. The troll didn’t like this, stressing that if I were in any position of power then the country would fall apart and become his living hell, simply because I believe that privileged people should help those less well off.

I asked him what he considered himself to be, suggesting that perhaps if he were the antithesis of a do-gooder (which he seemed to be given that he thought my views were completely abhorrent) then that would make him a do-badder.

When I looked it up, the term do-badder does (kind of) exist being defined as:

A person who does bad things.

The troll didn’t like this and disagreed in the strongest terms. I further suggested that a do-gooder really “does good things” and therefore if you don’t like me for that reason then you must be a person who does bad things.

This lead to a a heated exchange (heated on his part) where his descriptions of me included words that I had not encountered before – like snowflake, which is:

A person who has an inflated sense of their own uniqueness and has an unwarranted sense of entitlement; or a person who is easily offended and unable to deal with opposing opinions.

I actually have quite a thick skin and can take insults but I also quite like a good debate and am not easily upset. When I pointed out that the troll was more easily offended by my views and that indeed he was more of a snowflake than I was, the insults flowed. I was called a know-it-all, arrogant, holier-than-thou and various other words that violated the cursing filter and are largely unrepeatable for a humble blog like this..

Ultimately I am a nice guy who cares for people and in a sense I guess I am a bit of a do-gooder although I am not naïve at all. The troll seemed to be the opposite.

Interestingly, when I looked up the official antonym of do-gooder, it turned out to be narcissist – not necessarily the malignant kind (which you can read about here).

And then it kind of made sense and, much to my surprise, I found myself feeling a little bit sorry for the troll – despite his views.

Needless to say, I realised that no matter how much I discussed the topic further, I would not convince him that perhaps I could be right. After all, that would be a personal attack on him and that is totally against the law in the world of narcissism.

Later, he claimed that my silence had meant that he had won the argument despite the fact that other contributors disagreed with him, causing him to turn his nastiness towards them.

Even more interestingly, he was banned shortly after that for crossing the line.

Ultimately I believe that people can have a difference of opinion and discuss things amicably without having to resort to insults. I am genuinely interested in other opinions because it gives me an insight into the bigger picture.

Also, I know that I am not always right – and sometimes spectacularly wrong. I have had my mind changed on several occasions and do not bear a grudge against people who do this.

Maybe I am a do-gooder after all and, if that’s true, I don’t actually regard that as an insult.

If anybody wants to discuss this or other topics then I am absolutely fine with that – even if you are a malignant narcissist or a pseudo-intellectual.

Bring on the trolls!

Saturday 20 January 2018

Mr Sick

My Christmas break from work was partially ruined last year by Mr Motivator.

For those of you who don’t know who Mr Motivator is, he is the personification of all those workaholic ambitious fools who work all of the hours God sends “at 150%” and look down on those who want a decent work/life balance and actually want to spend time with their families.

I do not like Mr Motivator.

So, how did this imaginary nemesis of mine ruin my Christmas?

He made me ill.

Regular readers will know that I am a hypochondriac and the mere mention of an illness makes me think that I have the symptoms. Ironically, I rarely actually get ill. In the last few years at work I can count on the fingers of one hand how many days I have had off ill.

When I get a cold, it is usually just a mild sniffle with a minor sore throat.

However, last year, on the day after Christmas Day I was struck down with a nasty bout of man flu. My head thumped like there was a mad robot inside my skull trying to smash his way out with a sledge hammer. My nose was so badly blocked with snot that it felt like it had swelled to three times its normal size. I was scared to sneeze because I honestly thought I could demolish the house. My throat felt as though it was being sandblasted and I was coughing so much that you could have been forgiven for thinking that I was a barking dog.

I was so weak that I could barely climb off the sofa. I spent three days on a Lemsip diet watching terrible television. My will to live had gone on holiday.

I was far worse than this guy.

Before you ask, I wasn’t asking Mrs PM to make soup or rub my head.

I had virtually no beer - that’s how ill I was.

As I lay there feeling sorry for myself on the sofa, I started feeling anger that I had been struck down while on holiday rather than during a work. I remembered seeing people suffering at work with the same ailment that had struck me down, some of whom were visibly ill before ultimately deciding to take the day off sick themselves. Others plied themselves with vast quantities of Lemsip so that they could get through their working day with as little pain as possible.

It is these people who gave me this horrendous illness – just in time for Christmas and my week and a half holiday.

I don’t blame all of them. Some of them felt that they needed to come in and power through the trauma in order to please Mr Motivator, a man who will be in work for most of the day regardless of any illnesses. Mr Motivator he needs to give 200% and can battle through any illness in order to complete the essential work that needs to be done.

When I returned to work after the Christmas break, three of my colleagues had also been struck down, spending most of the Christmas break in bed with the same flu-like bug having a party inside their bodies.

Like me, they were annoyed, one even suggesting that perhaps he should have taken the week off work to compensate for his lost holiday time.

On those rare occasions when I have been ill during work, I have decided to take the day off the moment the symptoms appear. After all, I do actually like the majority of my work colleagues and the last thing I want to do is strike them down with the same lurgy.

I truly don’t think that Mr Motivator understands that if you come in with a terrible cold for example, then ultimately anybody who comes into contact with you will also get it. Most of these people do not have the same warped philosophy in life as Mr Motivator and will take the time off to recover from it, both for their own benefit and the benefit of their colleagues. More importantly, that person will not spread the disease and the workload will suffer less as a result.

I am happy to say that although Mr Motivator does work at my company (he works at almost every company in fact), nobody thinks any less of you for staying at home when you are ill. It makes total sense to do so because if everybody on my team were to fall ill at the same time, then work and the company would suffer.

So please, Mr Motivator, if you feel ill then stay at home and relax so that you can get over it without harming your colleagues and your company’s productivity.

You know it makes sense.

As an afterthought, I am proud of myself for not asking Mr Google about the symptoms of my illness. Had I done that, I would probably have panicked about dying from a rare tropical disease and made my Christmas even worse.

Here’s to an illness free 2018.

Monday 15 January 2018

Another Castle

Last year, in August, Mrs PM and I visited Warwick, another lovely little city in the centre of England.

Warwick is an amazing little city, actually, because it only has a population of just over 30,000 people yet has its own racecourse, a very highly thought of university and, probably most famously, a magnificent and very well preserved castle.

Both of us had ben to Warwick before and on that occasion we simply went for a racecourse meeting to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Sadly we only went for the day and didn’t have time to really look around the city. This trip was our chance to finally explore that place.

Warwick is located in the Midlands and is only 40 miles away from my hometown of Walsall, about 19 miles south east of England’s second city Birmingham. The countryside around that area is beautiful and it is only a short hop to other places of interest like Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare (we also visited there too but I’ll discuss that in another post).

We stayed in a small guest house about twenty minutes’ walk from the centre of the city. Thankfully the weather was kind to us and we were able to spend Saturday exploring the city centre. It’s not too big but it is very quaint and has a beautiful church.

After a nice lunch in a marketplace pub, we walked around a little more in the sunshine, peering into quirky little shops before returning back to the guest house.

In the evening we returned to the city centre and enjoyed another lovely meal in a gourmet pub that was really packed. Thankfully we had had the foresight to book a table. There is nothing worse than wandering around a strange city on a Saturday night looking for a restaurant; we’ve been bitten by that particular bug in both Bath and Cambridge.

The next day we returned to the city to have breakfast before chancing on a classic cars show in the marketplace, including a 1960s police car with a working siren that an exuberant child kept setting off, much to his parents’ (and everybody else’s) annoyance.

Finally, before leaving for the trip back to Manchester, we spent the rest of the day exploring Warwick Castle. I’ve been to many castles in England and Wales but I have to say that Warwick Castle is my favourite. It is certainly one of the most preserved in the country and still appears to be as grand as it was in its prime. There is a lot to do there, including exploring the grounds, entering the dungeon, a maze, a tower showing the history of the castle using some fairly impressive technology, a huge trebuchet (catapult), a jousting show, birds of prey and exploring the inside of the castle.

There were many visitors there on this warm Sunday afternoon from both the UK and the rest of the world. Although it is quite expensive, you can get tickets in advance with vouchers from in and around the city. We managed a good deal using a voucher that the owner of guest house had given to us the day before.

I would recommend paying a visit to the city, particularly if you are from overseas. To whet your appetite, here are a few photos of the castle.

A beautiful castle on a beautiful day

A knight in shining armour for Mrs PM

And if one isn't enough ...

My kind of library

A bath, madame?

Time for bed

Hills aren't a problem for a castle

A  bloody big catapult

A bloody big bird

Monday 8 January 2018

The Malignant Narcissist

"Look how GREAT I am!"
It’s that time of the year when I take a close look at the world of celebrity. As a rule, I hate the Cult of Celebrity but I am deeply fascinated by it – mainly because I don’t understand it. However, roughly this time every year, I watch a TV programme that lists the most shocking celebrity moments from the previous year.

I do this for two reasons.

First of all, I love it when certain arseholes make complete fools of themselves in public and show their true colours to the world. I realise this is a bad thing, and I sometimes wish that I were more understanding but ultimately the truth is that most of these villains in the world of celebrity are so self-obsessed that they actually deserve the wrath of their fans for their terrible behaviour.

Second, there are certain celebrities who actually have no talent whatsoever yet are totally obsessed with appearing on every form of media available, from your television set to the tabloid press via social media. I don’t know who half of these people are and frankly I don’t care. However, I like to know who people are talking about when they mention these people – just so that I don’t look like an archaic old git when people ask me about them.

To me, a true celebrity is somebody who is very talented at what they do and humble enough to accept fame and its consequences while at the same time recognising the people who put them on the pedestal in the first place – their fans.

The rest are basically malignant narcissists, i.e. self-obsessed fools who care nothing for their fans and are only interested in one thing – themselves.

The other day, on my daily walk, a song popped up on my iPod that summed up malignant narcissism perfectly. It was Earth Song by Michael Jackson. The truth is that I actually like the song because it is a well written pop tune with a useful message.

However, if you have seen the video then you begin to see where Michael Jackson’s self-obsession is totally evident. He portrays himself as a lone figure walking sadly in a scorched world. It’s difficult to tell whether the emotion in his voice is because of the damage done to Earth or whether he is so sad because he no longer has any fans to love him. As the video progresses you see forests being destroyed, factories spewing out pollution, elephants being killed for ivory, towns and villages being destroyed in war and people crying and falling to their knees in despair.

“Good old Michael,” you say. “The message is strong – he cares for our planet.”

And then the video becomes something else.  As Michael gets upset and starts pouring his heart out, suddenly the world fights back. As he screams and sings in anger in a raging wind, all of the terrible things we have done are reversed; fallen trees suddenly rise up again, soldiers retreat as villages are restored, people shot in war come back to life, factories suck in the polluting smoke, stolen ivory from dead elephants grows back and the elephants are resurrected.

And Michael the Messiah whoops in joy as if he is somehow responsible for this reversal of fortune.

Here is the video if you haven’t seen it.

You may think I’m being harsh on Michael Jackson but my viewpoint was confirmed when he performed the song at the Brit awards in 1996, surrounding himself by adoring children, holding his hand like some kind of saviour as the stage was filled with worshippers, before shedding his black tatty clothes to reveal a sparkling white suit with his arms outstretched and being revered as if he were the reincarnation of Jesus himself.

The incident was famous because Jarvis Cocker the lead singer of Pulp who, alongside a few others, found Jackson’s act distasteful, and decided to invade the stage and show his feelings innocently enough, by bending over and flapping his backside as if he had just farted.

Jackson was hurt because somebody had mocked his brilliance and a lot of people in the UK loved Jarvis Cocker for what he did. Jackson’s reaction was one of pain and he poured his heart out about how humiliated, hurt and upset he was that somebody had dared to intervene in his wonderful performance.

Ultimately Michael Jackson was just one example of malignant narcissism and when you see the antics of some of the other celebrities you can see many more.

So what is a malignant narcissist? Basically it is somebody who is so self-obsessed that they consider themselves to be the centre of the known universe and if anybody disagrees then they will willingly lash out and attempt to destroy them with absolutely no remorse. Even jokes at the expense of a malignant narcissist are taboo.

Prime examples are Mariah Carey, Madonna, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber. There are many more.

 Kanye West for example, thinks nothing of taking attention from a winner at an award ceremony because he disagreed with the result.

Of course the biggest and best example of malignant narcissism in the world at the moment is Donald Trump, a man who is so self-obsessed that he actually lives in a fantasy land about how great he is. Reports suggest that he will dismiss anything that comes across his desk unless it mentions him by name or shows him in a great light. He has invented lies to make everyone believe that “the Donald” is the greatest human being that exists at the moment. 

He dismisses anything that criticises him as fake news, even when his lies are exposed. He attempts to ruin anybody who speaks out against him and constantly lies to make himself appear to be the greatest living human being.

You just have to read his tweets and listen to his spoken words.

Trump will support people until they speak out against him, when he will either sack them or say extremely nasty things to twist the truth of the matter.

Here are some examples:

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. I would qualify as not smart, but genius ... and a very stable genius at that!”

“Nobody’s ever been more successful than me.”

“No one reads the Bible more than me.”

“Nobody knows banking better than I do.”

There is so much evidence to prove his words wrong but he simply dismisses it as fake. Anybody who dares to show him in a bad light is savaged. He builds himself up and tears down those who oppose him:

“Meryl Streep [is] one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood." - The fact that Meryl Streep is probably the most successful actress of our generation seems to have escaped him. How many Oscar nominations, Oscars, Golden Globes etc. has she won Donald?

“[He’s a] totally overrated clown who speaks without knowing facts.” - Note - Trump wasn't talking about himself.

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

I apologise again for mentioning Donald Trump but in this case, it illustrates the points I am making about malignant narcissism.

Thankfully, the majority of people recognise such people and speak out against them.  As long as there are celebrities, there will be malignant narcissists.

I am so glad that I haven’t met one personally yet.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Brain Massage

When listening to songs, I sometimes come across a phrase or sentence that inspires me to write a stupid blog post.

This is one of them.

I was listening to a song called Disruptr by Devin Townsend and he sings the line:

“I need a brain massage”

This got me thinking.

I visualised a brain massage to be something that Dr Hannibal Lecter might inflict on his patients, but then again, I also considered that it could potentially be some sort of self-help mechanism to combat mental issues with the concept of a brain massage being just a metaphor for giving your mind a tiny bit of tender loving care to get over a negative blip.

I like the idea.

Imagine my surprise when I popped the term “brain massage” to Mr Google and discovered that it is a real term. My search popped up several million results from both scientific sources and other sources implying that brain massage is an actual thing and not just a figment of Devin Townsend’s imagination.

I was quite astounded when I read an article from a science magazine suggesting that it might be possible to improve somebody’s memory by discharging magnetic pulses onto a person’s skull to actually modify the neural activity of the brain.

The word “discharge” doesn’t equate to “massage” to me; it sounds like it might involve pain of some kind – a pain in the brain if you like. Having said that my experience of massages also involves pain.  I’m too much of a coward to actually have a massage myself but I have seen others being almost physically beaten up in the name of relaxation.

How can such activity reduce stress? Surely a person who wants a massage must be absolutely shitting themselves while waiting for a qualified masseur or masseuse to attack them physically.

I know I would be.

As I surmised, one form of brain massage is to try to soothe a troubled mind. One company I read about offers a brain massage in the form of meditation music that claims to completely relieve you of stress within its thirty minute duration. The music contains no words and claims to use Delta and Gamma waves to purify your mind, revive your contentment and wash away stress – pretty similar to a physical massage I guess (but without the pain).

I tried listening to an example of this on YouTube, albeit sitting down in front of my computer screen typing this, rather than lying  down in a darkened room as recommended, and while it sounds very pleasant, it didn’t relax my active brain too much. However, I can see how it could, having tried things like self-hypnosis, which is also sometimes accompanied by similar soft and soothing music.

I am fairly open to such things these days, particularly after the events of last year, so I will probably have a go, purely in the name of research of course, and report back in a later post.

One thing that slightly annoys me about this though is the accompanying bumph that tries to explain what is happening to you when your brain is being massaged in this way. When talk of science is replaced by words like spiritualism, auras and phrases like “connecting you with the Divine” I tend to switch off and ignore such things as pure hocus pocus.

Believe it or not there is a science behind all of this and that’s exactly where my comfort zone is rather than spiritualistic mumbo jumbo. I don’t mean to sound sceptical but when people talk about finding your inner self, I tend to scoff. I’d much rather listen to an explanation involving brain waves than Buddhism. I can relate to such explanations.

I’m sure that the music and beats etc. do work scientifically and I’m happy with that.

One word I spotted whilst reading about this phenomenon was one that I intend to use in casual conversation in 2018. That word is “braingasm”. The more scientific explanation is that a braingasm is an “autonomous sensory median response” or ASMR.

I much prefer "braingasm" – don’t you?

Basically a braingasm is a pleasurable tingling sensation that can be triggered by something relatively simple like having somebody touch your hair or whispering in your ear. In fact, there are videos out there on YouTube where people simply whisper to trigger this response.

It kind of works, I have to say, so there is something in it.

If nothing else, this post has introduced me to the terms “braingasm” and “brain massage” so the whole thing has been worthwhile.

Having thought a bit more about it, I’m not sure what would happen if I were to talk to a complete stranger and say “Have you heard of a braingasm?"

Most women would probably slap me and everybody else would just think I’m a bit weird – and they would be right because deep down I am!