Monday, November 20, 2006

People who can't or won't laugh

When conversing with someone, there's an unspoken give and take. If they tell you some bad news, you express sorrow. If they give you some good news, you express happiness for them. If they make a light-hearted remark, you laugh or smile as a sign that you follow their upbeat swing in the conversation. But there is a small number of people in this world who are simply incapable of expressing these emotions, most notably, the friendly, good natured laugh.

If someone says something silly or wacky, for me, it is not a conscious decision, but as a member of the conversation, I react accordingly and laugh. Even if I don't find what was said particularly funny, it's a natural reaction to accept the attempt at humour with good grace and make the person feel secure. Again, this is not a lie, but rather an innate function which allows us to successfully converse with others. But some people just can't do this. I am yet to determine if they have no sense of humour or are simply severely lacking in social skills.

A recent example occurred when I was talking to another another Australian about the Vegemite scare (that it is no longer available commercially in the US...EEEEK!) and an American girl overheard and asked what Vegemite was. I gave her a brief explanation if it's consistency, saltiness and accompanied it with a distorted "blechhh" face that Americans usually make when they eat it. My comical exaggeration of a Vegemite experience was met with a blank stare. I'm not saying it was a definitive moment in improv comedy, but any normal person would let off a small chuckle at the sight of someone being wacky. But no, she looked at me earnestly as though I were delivering a review or her investment portfolio. I was in such dismay that she was unable to rise to a light-hearted conversation that I was so bold as to MAKE THE FACE AGAIN (now I feel like George Costanza going back to the movie theatre to say "That's gotta hoit!" again) while summarising the effects of Vegemite, and again was met with a blank face.

A recreation of the face made to demonstrate many Americans' response to Vegemite.

I shared this and other examples of this "no laughing" phenomenon with others and one person knew what I was talking about and said they thought this sort of thing was plain rude. Do you, dear reader, agree? The one that kills me is that I know someone like this, but they oddly declare themselves on all internet profiles to be fun, crazy and wacky, however I am yet to see evidence of this. The same sort of blank responses. I'm not saying everything out of my mouth is frothing with hilarity, but I'm generally considered to be a good laugh, so I am not taking the blame for the social shortcomings of others.

There was one girl I was hanging out with a bit when I first moved to LA. I met up with her a couple of times, but they were like bad dates. She just didn't laugh during conversation! I did see her a few times at some bars a while after I realised I didn't really enjoy her company and hadn't pursued the friendship, mostly because she never laughed. I caught her laughing once or twice at something she was seeing or hearing, but nothing that was said TO her, and she seemed completely insane. It was like she was laughing right after someone had told here their cat died. She had a look in her eyes as if to say "It's wrong to be laughing, but I can't help it!" Did she have a "no laughing" policy that she was betraying? When I was 14, I saw some ugly pictures of myself laughing and I was devastated since I figured that as I laughed most of the time, I must look ugly most of the time. I briefly decided I shouldn't laugh as much because I looked so ugly, but I couldn't stop it! I love to laugh no matter how it looks. The point is, does someone like this girl have some sort of reason not to laugh so that when she does, she has a guilty, maniacal look in her eyes?

I think not laughing or so much as emitting a single burst "Ha." or a smile in response to an attempt at humour, is just as rude as grinning when someone says they just lost their job, or scowling when someone says they found $50 on the street. There are automatic responses throughout conversation, and those who can't comply need to remove themselves from society!

...okay that was a little harsh, but it was a dramatic conclusion. (pause....waiting for laugh)

Keith from the 'The Office' is a perfect example of someone, even while dressed up as Ali G and demonstrating a sense of humour, is incapable of laughter.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If you want to come peculiar interest in gay TV.

On Friday while watching the new episode of Degrassi, there was an ad for the show South of Nowhere following it which showed that one of the main characters, a teenager in a gay relationship, was going to try to come out to her parents. Although I had other things to do, it seemed there was no way I was going anywhere after Degrassi. I simply can't pass up TV shows which show the troubles of gay people, more specifically, their coming out stories.

Another time, I had no time to watch it, but I saw there was a TV movie in progress starring Stockard Channing where she has to deal with her teenage daughter being a lesbian, and I found myself recording it to watch it later. I never ended up watching it, but why did I find this so compelling?

About a month ago, PBS was running a special about a gay men's choir. While I can't stand that kind if singing by any orientation, the special was peppered with the stories of how they came out to their parents, interviews with some of the parents who accept them and also showed an attempt to reconnect with their estranged families. Estranged, because the family could not accept their homosexuality. In one case, in the phone conversation which they aired, the mother made a real point to remind her son that she and his father loved him. He hung up the phone and cried and I too was moved.

The Los Angeles Gay Men's Choir

Why am I so taken in with these stories? I feel very strongly about discrimination and any stories I hear about it makes me angry and riled up. So perhaps I like to watch these things to better understand the struggles that people go through. When I see these stories, particularly real life ones, I feel so heartbroken to watch people struggle to have the people they love most accept them for who they are.

I really love the movie The Sum Of Us starring Jack Thompson and Russell Crowe in which Russell Crowe plays a gay man who is totally accepted by his dad. He would prefer his son was straight, but he's still his son, so just hopes he finds a nice bloke to settle down with. The dad is so accepting that it makes my heart swell with pride! It's so, so sweet.

Russell Crowe plays Jack Thompson's gay son in 'The Sum of Us'

I don't notice as many racial struggle stories these days, though I did catch a great HBO movie called Something the Lord Made, a true story about a young black man named Vivian Thomas who, through no fault of his own, lost the money he had saved for medical school, and so was unable to continue his studies. He ended working as an assistant Dr. Alfred Blalock who was in the early stages of experimenting with heart surgery in the 1930s and 40s. After years as a team, Blalock, the white doctor, got all the credit for performing the first heart surgery. Thomas, who was so crucial to the great advances they made and overcame a great many obstacles just to remain Blalock's assistant, is remembered as the side man, if at all. It's a great movie and another example of me getting caught up in these kinds of stories. I am also a sucker for stories about people who suffer anorexia. Oh, and don't even get me started on David and Keith on Six Feet Under! When David came out to Ruth, it was one of my favourite moments of the first season.

The ever enduring David and Keith on 'Six Feet Under'.

I feel like a nut sometimes for being so taken by these triumph over adversity type stories, but I think my heart is in the right place. There is so much uncalled for hatred and bigotry in this world that since I have been fortunate enough not to suffer from much of it, I can only hope to better understand from friends, documentaries and dramatic interpretations what people have to go through. Is it that, or am I just watching more emotional pornography?

Next week on South of Nowhere, after Spencer's mum walked in on her with her girlfriend last week, it looks like the religious nut mother is going to bring in some gay deprogrammer to sort her out. The dad is going to tell him to get the hell out of his house. I can't wait! Looks better than the next Degrassi!

Ashley and Spencer, gay teenagers in 'South of Nowhere'

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hope for the future

It's the day after the mid-term elections and I feel elated. Just when I'd given up hope for this country, the Democrats have taken control of the House, and most likely the Senate will be sealed soon too. We just have to get through the sore loser Republicans calling for recounts and so forth. I just hope they are portrayed as cry babies like the Democrats were in 2000!

It's just so refreshing to see that just when it felt like the lies and manipulation would continue to dictate the present and future, people, despite their previous ignorance and listening to distorted of facts, are finally seeing Republicans for the lying hypocrites they are. People who voted for them based on their supposed morals, something they claim to be lacking in Democrats, seem to be shaken by the recent scandals that have plagued the GOP. Thank you Marc Foley and Reverend Ted Haggard for your indiscretions and to all your right wing, hypocrite cronies who helped cover up your disgraces. It's sad that it takes sex scandals to shake things up, but since that has been a primary focus of the Republican party, it's nice that they've clarified for us that they were full of shit all along. Also thanks to (almost former, HAHAHAHAHA) Senator George Allen for your little racist slip which has cost your party the whole damn thing. Iraq was part of all this, but the scandals gave us the edge.

Still, people aren't completely free of propaganda as the $94 million dollars invested into the "No on prop 87" by the oil companies in an effort to defeat the proposition which favoured higher taxing of oil companies and exploring renewable energy sources, has paid off as prop 87 was defeated quite comfortably. This really depresses me amidst the other victories as I was sure the "Yes" vote would prevail, but I'll take what I can get at this stage. Did their bullshit ad campaign and the dropping fuel by a few cents change people's minds? I feel crushed as I thought public opinion was on the side of tackling global warming, but perhaps with the new congress, these issues can be tackled at a federal level.

I have to admit it gives me a great thrill to see that after years of frivolous fanship of Michael J. Fox, he would come through and been a key factor in winning this important race for the Dems. His commercial endorsing Democrat Claire McCaskill for Senate sparked national interest as he was attacked and accused of overplaying his Parkinson's symptoms for the sake of the ad by right wing lunatic, Rush Limbaugh. Michael J. Fox responded to this with such grace that it gave a lot of weight to his position in favour of stem cell research, so that in that tight race for Missouri which the Dems so desperately needed, I feel great pride that Michael J. Fox had so much to do with the victory.

It's nice not to be on the losing side for once, in this, my first time voting as a US citizen. I've been backing losers in Australia for years too! I have the Victorian state election back in Australia coming up this month too. I'm making my mark across the globe this month!