Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Public urination

I believe she has no arms because she is holding herself

At times it seems like it's only me, but women needing to frequently pee seems like a fairly consistent problem throughout our fair sex. We may forever be resigned to being viewed as the weaker sex on the strength (weakness) of our bladders alone. I'd like to say I'm better or worse than others, but honestly, there is no rhyme or reason to my bladder so I can't really place myself consistently on one side. One day I can be like a camel, as shown by the time I managed to pee just once on a 14 hour flight from Melbourne to LA, while other times I might as well be a burst fire hydrant with children happily frolicking in the rupture.

As I write, I feel like I am in bladder insensitive mode. I don't need to go so it feels like I'm trying conjure up some distant memory. Perhaps bladder stress is like child birth where we have evolved, in the case of childbirth, to forget the true horrors of the pain so we can do it more than once, and in the case of bladder control, so that we recover enough not to start wearing adult diapers prematurely.

The nuts and bolts of the situation

Bladder inconsistency makes it very hard to manage ones day, and more importantly road trips or outdoor concerts or festivals. For example, last Friday I'd drunk nothing all day, had a glass of Coke with my late lunch and then found myself on the verge of flooding the car 45 minutes later. We were on the freeway making a long drive home in traffic at 5pm. We had to pull off and take the street. While we were in a sketchy neighbourhood, mentally, being on the street assisted greatly in mind over bladder. On the street, you see options. A gas station, a restaurant, a bush, a gutter. They are possibilities and I daresay it is hope that has sustained civilised culture thus far and hope is no exception in matters of the urinary pouch. Even without actually stopping at any of these places, the option to do so eases the mind and the excruciating pain. On the freeway, it's a whole other pond. You are barely moving, but moving enough that you can't get out of the car. The only hope ahead is the sign marking 3/4 mile until the next exit, and if you choose not to demand that exit, you are now fixated on the next fraction of a mile until you can get off. This process may be as damaging to one psychologically as it may be kidneycally.

Only in matters of urination do I have penis envy. Here's a solution in the Shewee.

Once one has exited the vehicle in such an emergency, a new flood of terror hits. All those possibilities from the car are now treated as last resorts as one tries to maintain their dignity by pretending the potty dance in just the way they usually walk. If one finds themselves in a not-so-nice neighbourhood, or one heavily populated with homeless people, opportunities for restroom use plummet. In an effort to keep their restrooms adequate for their customers, they must keep out the homeless and for some reason, a clean, well dressed girl with eyeballs slowly yellowing is not enough to break the rule as one is turned away.

The ability to turn someone away with this dire need to urinate is an interesting one. When in the moment, it feels like a crime against humanity. Hasn't everyone been in this situation so that someone comes to you, crying urine and begging you to let you use their bathroom that you can simply say "no"? It appears to be the same part of the brain at work that says "Sorry" without a thought to a wino asking for change. This forgetfulness about the trauma of an urgent pee need is rampant also among city planners as you are often hard pressed to find decent and easily accessible bathrooms while out and about. Cities are the ones dropping the ball with their lack of bathrooms, forcing the uncomfortable ritual of the feigned patronage of an establishment to gain an audience with their porcelain.

I held one of these in my hand at a pharmacy, but couldn't bring myself to buy it. I have since longed for it on many occasions since. You pee into it and the liquid is immediately absorbed and turned into gel. Crisis averted.

This takes me back to my evolution theory. Even I, with all my bladder sympathies have found that when I have zero need to go and someone else is busting, it's not like watching someone appearing to get their eyes gauged out in a horror film. That's not even happening, yet as an onlooker, I manage to squirm as though it really were and shaken by the idea of it happening to me. In the case of peeing, it's as thought all liquids I need to expel simply evaporate from my body and I can't imagine what the person is going on about. Yet I DO know! I have squirmed, panted, imagined the humiliation of mopping up the car after the dam wall broke. With all that, for all the empathy I have otherwise, I cannot tell you why I don't quite engage in the panic when it's somebody else. I do my best from my theoretical understanding the problem, but the empathy is not there and for that, I feel like a monster. I'd like to be able to keep this in mind the next time a shop person says "no", but it's impossible to think rationally when you feel like your dignity is about to pour down your leg.

Making the best of it at an outdoor festival. My assistant decided to snap a photo in the midst of it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rage Against The Bullshit: Caring just isn't popular

This weekend has delivered us a bogus triumph in Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name taking the top spot for Christmas in UK over the winner of Simon Cowell's popcraptic X-Factor. Don't get me wrong, I actually love Killing In The Name and have done so since I first heard it in 1993, however my love for that song has never been able to blur the reality that the band, and most of their fans are a bunch of blowhards.

With the likes of Muse, John Lydon, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney on board in support of this "grassroots" campaign for real music to triumph over pop garbage, on the surface it seems like a sincere campaign, one that I theoretically support, nay, is something I'm always screaming about. But I am quite stunned to find nobody addressing the fact that Rage Against The Machine are on the same label, Sony/BMG, as X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry. Regardless of the outcome of this supposed battle, Sony/BMG come out the biggest winners, the very people who perpetuate the pop crap that we are supposed to be "raging" against. Why couldn't all these same people jump behind something on an independent label? This was a pathetic fight also when you consider they had to pull out an already much loved song to meet the challenge.

Many well known artists in recent years have moved to smaller, independent labels so why not draw from that pool in this effort to buck the system? No instead we have mostly acts on major labels boo-hooing about the pop crap their co-conspirators foisted upon us. Can it be any more absurd than a band called Rage Against The Machine trying to buck a machine which they are a part of and have become millionaires from? The mind boggles.

@Neil_Hamburger summed it up on Twitter with this image and comment, "Rage Against The Machine's grassroots campaign to have a #1 hit worked thanks to these heroic idealists."

What this whole thing does prove is that any kind of promotion can get anything to be popular. Major labels put out this pop crap because they simply don't care about music and with enough promotion, it sells. There was a time when people in the record industry did care about music and consequently, there was a mixture of stuff in the charts. I'm sure there was a huge portion of people who bought into this "Make Rage #1" scheme who also bought that X-Factor single last year. You can't really misplace your values when you have none.

This brings us to the problem of popularity. Various causes tend to start out small with a small number of people truly committed to solving whatever problem they are invested in. Once these causes gain enough buzz, be it from a celebrity endorsement or the media enforcing guilt, people start to care. Or at least thinking they do.

I truly believe that there is actually a very low number of people who really care that much about anything. When causes like the environment, fur, supporting our troops or raging against the establishment gains more than a certain number of followers, you can be sure that the majority of apparent followers don't really give a crap. Lip service might be the most popular cause of them all. Fur was a huge no-no in the 90s, but now you see all the same models like Cindy Crawford unashamedly wearing it today, despite speaking out against it and despite the fact that the animals are still tortured for their skin just the same. It was hip then and now it's not. The reality of what goes on in fur production could never have penetrated Cindy's pea brain or else she would not be able to casually go back to supporting that horrific industry.

Cindy Crawford: Conveniently caring about animal torture

The same is true for Rage Against The Machine fans. The band's overtly politically charged messages certainly resonate with their fans...or at least the fans think they do. They're usually too dumb to realise that they are simply justifying the glee they get from their aggressive music with the lyrics contained, despite the fact that they never gave a crap about anything they sang about before and few will look any further than the confines of those lyrics for more ways to buck the system.

I found myself seeing Rage Against The Machine live two years ago at The Big Day Out in Melbourne. I had left their shows twice before in my life after being there to see other bands. This time I was at this festival to see Björk and would have left again but as I was with my friend who was there to see Rage who were headlining, so I had to stay. My friend for a long time, got a great gleam in her eye when talking about RATM. I get it. Their music can trigger latent aggression and people like to get that shit out. Fine. But then she went on to explain why Rage were so much more important than all these other bands because "Their songs are actually about something. Not just about bullshit." If you'd heard her, you might have been moved. If you'd known her it would have been quite a different story.

This person has mocked me for my interest in politics. When Bush was elected in 2004, she laughed in my face, even after knowing I'd volunteered for John Kerry. She wasn't pro Bush, but just thought the whole thing was a joke like my football team not winning. She flat out told me a number of times that my caring about various issues was "a waste of time" accompanied by much eye rolling. Now suddenly she was moved by Rage's message, all the while still not actually caring about anything. When Zach De La Rocha made some anti-Bush sentiments from the stage, I saw my friend put her fist in the air and say "Yeah!" Lip service triumphs again. This same person is obsessed with Britney Spears, a shining beacon of what's wrong with the "machine" that Rage is supposedly raging against. My friend stands as a perfect example of lacking of beliefs and ideals which make any trendy cause, positive or negative, most likely that, a trend, not a cause.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe it's possible for a mob this large to solidly care about anything more than their ability to hit the McDonald's drive-thru after the show

After Rage left the stage before the encore, some guys had climbed up a tree to get a better view. A suit came out and said into the microphone "If you don't get down, the band will not come back out," and apparently the band was compliant in this request. The angry mob turned to them and shouted at them to get the fuck down, my friend included. "Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me", anyone? I sighed. I said to her "Are you serious? The mob are just doing what 'the man' said. The guys in the tree are the ones 'raging against the machine'" "Oh yeah!" she exclaimed. She was delighted and switched over to support Team Tree. We are no longer friends.

Monday, December 14, 2009

God's asterisk* and "offensive" Christmas music

Last year I post a blog entitled The Atheist Who Loved Christmas explaining that despite my strong disbelief in a creator, I am a big fan of the festive season. And no, it's not just an annual opportunity to score a Richard Dawkins book as a gift, I really love the whole she-bang, including, and maybe even especially, the carols about the birth of someone else's Lord and saviour.

Sure, I'll take accept it as a Christmas gift if you are offering.

Last week I merrily trum my tree and tweeted that I was doing so while wearing a Santa hat, drinking egg nog (actually, it was Silk Nog, which is incredibly delicious and doesn't make you feel like you are consuming an entire cow udder) and listening to Phil Spector's Christmas album from 1964. The next day, my Biblical scholar friend David sarcastically tweeted back something about God also delighting in eggnog, Santa hats and murder. His mention of murder a riotous reference to Spector's crime of the same name. While of course the nog and the Santa hat obviously have nothing to do with the origins of God or Christmas, the murder reference was most hilarious as of course I was quickly realised the vast numbers commissioned by, no not the creator of the Wall of Sound, but God himself! I do believe his book, I forget the name, states numerous occasions where he orders murders, even murders of every man woman and child in a city and this is the same chap who also made the law about thou shalt not kill! I must admit, I have not read this bit in around 20 years, but I really don't recall that line concluded with an asterisk and corresponding annotation at the base of the stone tablet. If it did, I must say it serves as a good justification for the US military to torture. Usually it's not okay to torture your neighbour for playing Black Eyed Peas 24/7, but if the writer of the law is pissed, it's okay. Perhaps that's really why Moses smashed the tablets with the commandments when he came down from Mt Sinai. He came down with these awesome laws, then came down and saw that the people sucked and were ungrateful assholes, and so maybe the whole "Thou shalt not kill" rule was a bit too black and white. Subsequently, he destroyed them and went back up the mountain to ask God for a holy asterisk for extenuating circumstances. Slippery slope, Lord! Slippery slope!

 *Unless I tell you to. And don't abuse this by claiming you killed someone because I told you to when I didn't. - God

Moving on, I take issue with people who take issue with Christmas music. Fine if you just don't like it, but I'm annoyed by the people who find it an affront. In these irritatingly PC times, people aren't supposed to be flashing their love of various gods in the faces of those who may not share their enthusiasm for chosen god. As much as I love Silent Night and Away In A Manger, those are pretty full on with their whole "The most awesome baby ever, our saviour, was BORN! Yay!" themes. Though I like them, I can see why those might be annoying to someone of another faith. But are all the non-Jesus Christmas songs considered offensive too? Songs about Santa, a character mostly created by Coca-Cola, reindeer (not commonly found in the middle east) and jingling bells (not mentioned in any of the gospels as being jangled in the stable) should not cause any offense since as far as I know, there is no dispute that the above mentioned items have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. If these songs are found to be offensive to some, I move that all advertisements for the new John Mayer album be removed. They have appeared on every website I've visited for the last two weeks and sickening me all the way to the toilet. Also all mentions of the film 2012 be removed from public and government spaces because the omnipresent appearance and discussion of that nonsense offends ME!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Birdsworth smacks his lips after I plied him with feline treats for this picture