Sunday, March 28, 2010

Get A Life - The desperate cry of the intellectually threatened and the obnoxious

The guy that grooms that beard every day is telling me to get a life? Oh, okay.

No doubt someone has expressed that you should "get a life" at some time or another. It is also likely that you, yourself have said it to someone.  The phrase is commonly used when someone is seen to be doing something that is deemed as a waste, disagreeable or unfit use of time. I hearby pledge to refrain from using the phrase ever again for the arrogance and presumption that goes with it.

When Google searching "get a life", this image came up. This man doesn't need a life, he just needs pants.

I was inspired to write this upon reading a line from Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. The book sets out to straighten the record on the miserable state of punctuation these days, but as Truss points out, a punctuation stickler is often met with dissent, "When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggressively instructed to 'get a life' by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves." And right there lies the root of the problem in saying, "get a life". How does the perpetrator of the phrase suggest I better use my time rather than concerning myself with punctuation? Usually the persons saying it finds a life well spent with partying and socialising. Large amounts of alcohol consumed on weekends would constitute a life to these people, no doubt, but guess what? I do consume large amounts of alcohol from time to time and still manage to concern myself with matters of the English language simultaneously, or at least the next day when I can again tell the difference between a comma and an apostrophe. And even if I never touched a drop and spent day and night writing to shops and editors to correct punctuation, then that is my life. Indeed, "get a life" is commonly evoked by someone intellectually threatened. "Help! This person spends their time educating themselves while I tirelessly work to reach my goal of complete brain dysfunction by my chosen means of alcohol, a goal I hope to reach by 2023. How can I justify my life choice over theirs? Get a life!"

An imbecile's idea of a life.

One occasion at which "get a life" was bandied about like Paris Hilton's kooch was at a Paris Hilton book signing. You would automatically assume that the sentiment was projected at the people lining up to meet the Hag Empress, but rather it was they who were shouting it at myself and thirty or so others who were settled on the other side of the street, partaking in a protest of the event. In an effort to try bring back quality to the world of entertainment, my friend Chris Jackson founded the group H.O.P.E. (Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment) and the group's first action was to protest the signing. H.O.P.E. aimed to highlight how low we have sunk in terms of what the general population will accept for entertainment, and a Paris Hilton book signing was clearly the epitome of the problem. So we gathered, we waved placards, we chanted. The people who chose to line up to meet someone who was famous for nothing other than being born into a lot of money and having sex on camera screamed for us to "get a life". Why is it that if someone expresses a dissenting opinion to what someone is doing and are able to take out some time to think deeply about it and perhaps act on this dissent, it should be assumed they have no life? If I had been home that night watching Survivor followed by CSI, they would, no doubt, have had no problem with my life choices and would have been happy for me to carry on as I was. As my choice of activity took some effort to confront them and maybe tickled the part of their subconscious that knew that Paris Hilton shouldn't be pretending to write books, let alone signing them, "get a life" was spouted.

Our lifeless crew protesting a Paris Hilton book signing for a laugh, but also for reals.

Less extreme than that example are people that are quick to pass life judgements on the basis of taste. As promotion for The Simpsons movie, a handful of 7-11 stores across the country were converted into Kwik-E-Marts and I was delighted that there were two in LA so I could visit one. While the promotion was in progress, a conversation among friends ensued and I mentioned that I had visited one and that we had lined up for about 15 minutes to get in. My friend then said "Gosh, don't people have anything better to do? I mean, get a life!" He said it as though he were referring to people that weren't part of the conversation, even though I had just stated I was there, hence the knowledge of the line length. Furthermore, how is me or anyone else partaking in, what us Simpsons dorks deemed, a historical event any indication of what the rest of our lives are like? I suppose I found this particularly odd since this is a person who painstakingly blings his cell phone, something I do not begrudge them doing, but is by no means be a good use of time in my world. When broken down, it will often show that the Life Nazi themselves have no business assessing and grading the lives of others. As someone extremely critical of most elements of music, film and pop culture, I still do not deem people who follow things I don't like as requiring a life. I do deem them as requiring better taste though. Perhaps if there were as snappy a phrase to suggest someone improve their taste, I might be almost as offensive as the people I vent about now!

This one is okay because the green mushroom is a 1UP in Super Mario Bros. You literally get a life, so in this case, it's good advice for successful game play.

Unless someone has full knowledge of how someone spends all of their free time, they have no business declaring, on the basis of one action which they find unsettling, that a person should make some serious adjustments to how they conduct themselves to meet the standards that befit them, and obtain a life. Even WITH full knowledge of how someone spends their time, they can go ahead, eye roll, think things are lame, but must remember that the life is of the er...liver (?) and cannot be decided by anyone else.  I now eagerly await for someone to say it to me so I can challenge them about what they suggest I do instead.

I'm off to play FarmVille now. Got anything to say about that?

Oh shoot, maybe I missed the whole point...

Friday, March 19, 2010

How many curries constitute a festival?

Two young curry munchers. Me on the left, sister on the right.

I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I'm a curry muncher from way back when. While my ethnicity if often viewed as either puzzling, exotic or "Chinese" to the un-cosmopolitan children in my primary school, I am in fact of Sri Lankan heritage, and subsequently, curry was poured down my throat for as long as I can remember.

To be fair, I was afforded regular baby food to start off with. Heinz's Apple Gel being an early favourite, a flavour I revisited and purchased regularly for a short period as adult (the possible problems with this act to be a subject for another day). My first taste of curry occurred upon my insistence as I saw my dad chowing down his daily dose of heart burn. I begged to try some (I am told) and was advised against it, my father assuming quite correctly that at two or three years old, I may not be ready to handle one of mum's "devil curries". Alas, he relented and some curry was administered to my awaiting palette to which I responded by screaming, running out the front door and up the footpath, flailing and flapping as though I were on fire.

Perhaps this incident knocked me out for some time because after that I only remember being given rice and curry every goddamned day. If you are a fan of curry yourself, you must think this sounds like a treat, but as much as a bleak meat and three veg might have been in your house, beef curry and creamy potato bored me to tears in mine. Subsequently, meal time was a seemingly endless battle between my mother and me and the torture compounded as I was regularly shown up by my younger sister, aptly named "rubber guts" for her heroics in plate clearing, leaving me shamed at the table.

A plate of Sri Lankan curry and vegetable delights of which I had zero interest in.

Eventually spaghetti with Bolognese sauce from a can was introduced to break things up and how I welcomed it. Aside from the occasional Chinese meal, pizza or the Holy Grail, McDonald's, it was still curry 95% of the time. When I finally had a job, I would buy frozen meals, "just add boiling water" pasta dishes or just bread and avocados. Mum never said I had to buy my own food, but I went ahead and it did it to avoid eating any more bloody curry.

 Now I must make it clear, this is no indictment of my mother's cooking. On the contrary, among her friends and eventually my own, her curry was revered, considered the best among her peer group. I would groan when friends would come over and express an interest in a kitchen trip to inspect the pans on the stove top. I was fine with this until the time Kristen lifted a lid to reveal a fish head with glistening eye staring back at her. She screamed in horror and I screamed out of humiliation as at 15, the idea of appearing to be a member of a family savages was social suicide. A horror I experienced on my own occurred the time I opened to fridge to find a giant tongue on a Styrofoam platter sitting squarely in the middle and poking out at me. For all the meat I once loved before becoming a vegetarian, I flatly refused to eat any tongue or tail when those curries were on offer.

It wasn't always this awful. The curries usually consist of indistinguishable, decent cuts of beef, and now fake soy beef chunks for me.

Eventually, after time out of the curry house and exploring every kinda of food (sans meat) I could, I eventually came back to the curry of my past, and indeed the curry was and still is fantastic. So much did I return to the curry I once shunned, that last year I found myself delighting in a banner I saw on Hollywood Blvd boasting of the 2nd Annual Los Angeles Curry Festival! So many spicy delights to be would assume. After all, how many curries do you suppose constitute a festival?

"With unimaginable curry tastes from around the world!*"

After trying to garner the interest of all the curry fans I knew, sadly no-one was able to accompany me so I proudly strode down to the site of the festival on my own. The festival was supposed to start walking distance from my home, so on a light snack, just enough to sustain my body to the location where I expected to be filled with curry, I headed down on foot.

As I reached Hollywood Blvd, I discovered a parade in progress with all the participants being Thai. As a fan of Thai curry, I had no problem with this, but still, at a curry festival, I hoped to sample wares from across the globe. I continued on, as obviously I lived close to the dead end (or beginning) of the festival.

A random Thai festival, courtesy of Google Images.

Finally some booths appeared before me for Thai tourism and other Thai community projects. This was all very nice and inspiring, but where was the curry? Finally, a couple more blocks down, I saw food...but it was Pad Thai and various other meat dishes I dare not touch...still no curry. Not even a Thai curry.

I then found myself in the heart of Thai Town, a place I usually drive to and know exactly what I want to order at each of my favourite restaurants, only now, each restaurant was brimming with people, making it impossible to get anything to ease my now aching belly.

I proceeded on and found a long lines of people queueing up for a small selection of curry-less Thai options. As I happened upon a parking lot zoned off for beer consumption, I thought this might be the way to go, given my fruitless curry hunt. As I was almost at Hollywood and Western, the end of the curry festival, I decided to head to the finish line to find out once and for all what was going on.

Just as all hope was about lost, I saw some signage about a curry festival and finally came to realise that curry festival was just a small addendum to the Thai festival. Nevertheless, a curry festival had been found and I would test out my expert tongue...or so I thought.

Upon inspecting the small section set aside for the curry festival, I counted no more than FOUR vendors serving curry. FOUR. ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR. Two of them were Indian and were sharing a tent. Another entrant was serving Jamaican fare, not exactly curry, and the last one I don't even remember. Since I'd had very little Jamaican food in my life, I marched up to the tent to order something. I was then advised that as there was no running water to the curry festival entrants at that time, the health department had closed them down until it was fixed. For the time being, the curry festival was without curry.

Furious, and on the verge of collapse from heat and hunger, I decided to suck it up and get some Pad Thai from the Thai festival. I stood in a line that didn't move for five minutes, so upon the abandonment of that plan, I made the next most sensible step on a hot day and on an empty stomach which was to drink a large amount of beer. I hung out in the makeshift beer garden, alone, bored and hungry (though thankfully now a little drunk) and decided to make one last attempt to procure some curry.

A big thanks to the good people at Singha for not making the day a total loss and providing me with Singha beer and a Singha tank top at inflated prices.

By the time I headed back to the curry "festival" they were back in business and lines were long. There was no way I was waiting to try them all, and the Jamaican line was so long and the people running it so disorganised, that I jumped in the short Indian line, grabbed some Saag Paneer which turned out to be one of the most disappointing Saag Paneers I have ever had the misfortune to experience. I kept forcing it down, mostly because of all I had gone through to get it. Eventually, after consuming just enough to get me home, I tossed the miserable plate into the trash and began the 30 minute trek home in the blazing sun. Upon my return home, as I placed a frozen meal into the microwave, I evaluated my failure of a day, a curry festival without any curry.

I am happy (and rather not surprised) to find no mention of a 2010 Los Angeles Curry Festival listed anywhere.

*"the world" as it was perceived in 418AD