Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Who knows?

I used to think – erroneously – that I worked best under stress so I used to procrastinate like mad: any mundane or even boring activity was always more pressing than the work I had to do. Deadlines were mythical dates that didn’t have any significance and no attempt was ever made to meet them. In fact, they seemed to be there just to be missed. I worked like that for years; my Paris employer used to send me desperate pneus (the equivalent of telegrams, but for local consumption) asking me to get in touch with her a.s.a.p.; I let the phone ring for hours (you weren’t allowed to leave it off the hook and it was fixed to the wall so you couldn’t unplug it); I ignored every entreaty to finish the work (I never let on that I hadn’t even started); finally, finally, when I judged I had driven everyone nuts for long enough and it was actually time to do the work else there would be no more work to do, ever, I did it – in three weeks instead of three months. At the end of the marathon I used to collapse in a heap on the floor, swearing I would never put myself through that again.

And then I began working for a translation agency (my more faithful readers will be familiar with it) and I started being given deadlines that were two or three days apart. There was no time to procrastinate so I knuckled down and did the work. I haven’t missed a single deadline for 19 years now – where’s the beaming smiley when you need it? – and I know that no one is at their best under stress. It’s an illusion.

I’m currently doing a couple of translations for the BBC. It’s a recurring thing and years ago I used to have at least two whole months to do it, which enabled me to combine it with my agency work. More recently, the BBC deadline (which is decided by someone else) has been getting shorter and shorter just because everyone is always on holiday or on attachment or has a mild cold (see previous posts I’ve written about it), and because producers are the least decisive people in the entire world. As I said, it’s a recurring thing and they know it’s coming every year, but they always act surprised and keep me waiting and waiting and waiting. Until this morning I didn’t have a deadline at all for my current work. It paralysed me completely for a few days. I had the material to work on but I couldn’t do it: I needed to know how long I had so I could pace myself and work out what to do and in what order. The deadline I have now been given is a bit too short to be comfortable but as soon as I got it I felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I did more this afternoon than in the past three days.

We need to know. There is of course a big deadline for each of us; a huge deadline by which everything we’ve always wanted to do should be done if we are to be at peace, but, except in some special cases, it will be kept secret until it suddenly comes upon us. Everything would be so much easier if we did know. Mine is apparently Wednesday 7 July 2027. That’s one deadline I wouldn’t mind missing. (Wanna check yours and get depressed? Log on here)

Slapping the BBC – again! And my old self for making my life more difficult than it should have been!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Call back your troops, archy!

i shall organize the insects
i shall drill them
i shall lead them
i shall fling a billion
times a billion
times a billion billion
risen insects in an army
at the throats
of all you humans

Thus spake archy the cockroach.

Because of him I have an infestation of moths and no means of eradicating them efficiently.

Don’t tell me to use cedar chips or lavender oil: they make my clothes smell lovely but the moths don’t mind them at all. The only things that used to work were plaquettes Vapona but they were taken off the shelves several years ago. Since then, I’ve been regularly finding moth grubs in several corners of my very small flat. I only wear natural fibres and I fear for my pashmina (who says it’s not fashionable any longer?), and for the other fine wool shawls and beautiful cashmere sweaters I bought in TK Maxx over the last couple of years.

Rather than spending money to develop new and effective anti-moth products, the makers of Vapona et al. have chosen to stop production completely and go on to something else. Maybe they only wear Lycra.

It’s a ridiculous situation: I am an adult; I can be trusted with noxious chemicals; I wouldn’t ingest them or rub my face with them or do whatever it is one shouldn’t do with a Vapona thingy. I’m hoping that it might be possible to buy some more in the future because the World Health Organization now supports the indoor use of DDT to control malaria. The W.H.O. supported indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides until about 20 years ago. The controversy about its use had been going on since the early 60s, when an environmentalist called Rachel Carson managed to persuade most people that it damaged the environment, although it probably presented no health risk to humans. And DDT was banned. And malaria-carrying mosquitoes flourished. Like my damned moths. I hope people will come to their senses and stop equating a ‘potential’ harmful effect with an ‘actual’ bl**dy nuisance, and allow the use of anti-moths again.

Ok, my moths are not the cause of more than one million deaths every year nor have they infected five hundred million people with malaria, but they are very annoying.

Slapping archy! And indifferent manufacturers!

PS. I'm assuming everyone has read archy's life of mehitabel and its sequel archy & mehitabel by don marquis. You have, haven't you?

Monday, 18 September 2006

Têtes à claques XIII

Why Sarah Waters? Because she looks so smug; because she has a PhD in English Literature and chooses to write, as she says herself, ‘faux-Victorian melodrama’. Ha! It’s soft porn. The word ‘bawdy’ is often used to describe her novels; I shudder when I see that word: it represents everything I detest – in literature and elsewhere.

Why Andrew Davies? Because he’s an old lech, but he should know better than to adapt that kind of crappy stuff. Please don’t tell me he’s a wonderful adaptor; I know he is. His recent adaptation of Bleak House was a gem, and so was almost everything he previously adapted for the small screen. But together with Sarah Waters he managed to produce the most preposterous and repellent thing I’ve ever seen on television – Tipping the Velvet. (As a bonus, it also featured one of the least talented offspring-of a-famous-person ever: Rachael Stirling, Diana Rigg’s daughter. That programme really had tout pour plaire, as we say in French.)

They say everything is being dumbed down. No kidding! Sarah Waters and her faux-Victorian melodramas have been short-listed for the Booker Prize (the most important literary prize in the UK). What next? A Mills & Boon/Harlequin ‘novel’?

Slap! Slap!

PS. Don't you think they look like each other too? The same pixie face. Creepy.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Mes deux centimes

I was going to write a ‘Where were you when...?’ post today, but my friend WinterWheat has done one on hers (Triticum Turgidum), so I’ll just say this:

Just as the people who were massacred by the Nazis were innocent; just as the people who were sitting quietly on the underground and on a bus when they were blown up in London last year didn't ask for it ; just as the ordinary people who are regularly murdered by deluded fanatics in Israel and elsewhere are blameless ...

... the 2,800 people who were reduced to dust in the Twin Towers five years ago were not responsible for their horrendous fate.

There are people who take apologies, mea culpas and any goodwill gestures towards them as weakness. As we know from the preposterous ‘Peace in our time!’ comment by Chamberlain, all those years ago, there are people with whom appeasement does not work. It didn’t work then; it won’t work now.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

Biting the hand…

Don’t get me wrong: Blogger is great. Blogger enables me to waffle on about my bugbears. Thanks to Blogger I can find out what my friends think. I love it, quirks and all.

But I wish, I wish there was a system of notification that would tell you when someone has commented on any post you contributed to. Darling Bloglines goes dring! dring! dring! when a blog you like to read has been updated or edited, but that’s it.

I wanna know when a new comment has been posted on one my favourite reads.


Friday, 8 September 2006

If you say so

I’ve been sitting here, waiting for the next post on this blog, wondering why it wasn’t appearing. Duh!

I’ve been unusually unstressed and peaceful in the last few days, but today a friend told me something that made my blood boil.

Suppose you’ve got an appointment to have a seaweed wrap at a beauty salon (no, I’ve never had a seaweed wrap in my life, nor any other wrap; I haven’t even had a facial; I’m not terribly fond of being pummelled by strangers – anyway, we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you). Today is Tuesday and you have an appointment for next Wednesday, but when you made the appointment you didn’t know you wouldn’t be able to turn up that day because you’re going on holiday tomorrow until next Wednesday (no, not me: I never go on holiday). So, you phone the beauty salon, talk to Zelda and ask her to postpone the appointment to the following day instead. She says fine, thanks for calling. You breathe a sigh of relief, congratulating yourself for remembering to call: the salon charges the whole price of the treatment if the appointment is cancelled with less than 24-hour-notice .

When you get back on Wednesday, there is a message from the salon on your answerphone. It was left yesterday by Priscilla: she was just calling to remind you that you were coming in tomorrow Wednesday for a seaweed wrap. Aaaargh! You pick up the phone straight away and tell silly Priscilla that you talked to Zelda last week and that your new appointment is now for tomorrow Thursday, and it should be written down in the book anyway. ‘Oh, yes, here it is,’ she says. ‘That’s all right, then.’ Relieved, you can now unpack your bags and rest after your journey.

‘Le lendemain, elle était souriante…’ – don’t mind me: it’s a funny French song that seemed relevant just now. The following day, you turn up at the salon, ready to be wrapped in seaweed, but Priscilla’s not there, and Zelda has had a lobotomy in the meantime and cannot remember anything about your conversation or anything about any cancellation. She’s the boss of the salon and she’d like to get an extra £500 for the missed appointment. Isn’t that what a seaweed wrap costs? Non? I haven’t got a clue. You remain firm and insist that you did cancel the appointment last week, and in the same breath you curse the absent Priscilla for not telling Zelda about it and Zelda for not believing you. You can tell she doesn’t: she’s got this sour expression on her face and she goes, ‘If you say so.’ If you say so?! Is this how you treat a customer? (I’ve just watched a TV programme about how bad customer service is in this country. You don’t say!)

So I’m slapping Zelda and anyone who, instead of accepting their staff may have made a boo-boo, assumes the customer is lying and openly expresses their disbelief, thereby making the customer feel yucky and not wanting to be wrapped in seaweed after all.

Friday, 1 September 2006

Guest Slapper of the Month VIII

How do you introduce Katiedid of Seldom Nice Nowadays? Her blog always makes me scream with laughter. It’s not for the faint-hearted, though: it sometimes contains, erm, ‘language’ (and so does her Slap – you have been warned, LOL!). Are there any limits to her imagination? The things she does with words and images! She is one of a kind. It is my pleasure to welcome a true heir of the Surrealists.

Bela is kindly allowing me to guest slap this month, but I'm so anxious about it. Who do I pick for a whole month? What if I pick one target, only to find a better one later? Gahhhhh! So here is a brief list of folks I would like to slap at the moment:

1.) Taco Bell, for their fourth meal campaign:
Hello idiots, this is AMERICA. We couldn't care less about your fourth meal proposal because we're already too busy choking down our ninth meal of the day.

2.) Snakes on a Plane:
I'm not slapping the movie because it isn't geniusly cheesy. It is. I'm simply sick of the hype and the formulaic quality of the concept ("scary things" + "transportation" = "hit movie.") What's next? Clowns on a Plane? If you can squeeze 20 of them into a tiny car, imagine the terrifying possibilities a jumbo jet offers. Or Mimes on a Spaceship? After all. In space, no one can see you scream. No, maybe I'm being too hard on the movie. The formula breaks down when you consider Mice on a School Bus. That'd be kind of adorable, actually.


3.) Galvanized Steel Plumbing:
No special reason, but it's had it coming for a while now.

4.) The "Two-Buck Chuck," aka Charles Shaw, wine cult:
Shut up, already. It does not taste "pretty good." It's cheap. It's potable (technically.) It's like raving about the Ford Escort as a kick-ass ride: we nod not because we agree, but because that's how one politely allows others to their insane delusions.

5.) My next door neighbor:
He's a nice guy. But he carries his pet bird on his shoulder everywhere he goes. Everywhere. Unless you're sporting a matching eyepatch and pegleg, that looks a little crazy to the rest of us.

6.) The very small minority of people who make fun when I quote Shakespeare:
Listen, it's not my fault you can sing his stuff to the theme from
Gilligan's Island. Now I'd understand if folks rolled their eyes because quoting Shakespeare comes off as pretentious in some cirucumstances. Oh hell. It beats a round of 99 Beers on the Wall, doesn't it?

7.) I would like to slap rogue racoons, but they'd only bite my hand clean off if I tried.
8.) Open buffet restaurants:
I hate them. So much. My antipathy towards them pains my husband to no end. "Honey, there's no waiting, you get to serve yourself!" Don't we do that pretty much every day at home for free? Sanitary concerns with buffets aside... if I'm going to the expense of eating out, I want someone to serve me for a change, thank you.

9.) Which brings me to, self-serve checkout stands at stores:
I've worked retail checkouts before. I refuse to do it without pay. Manning a register and checking people out can be crummy work, but earning minimum wage while putting up with poorly maintained and obstinate machinery is a perfectly honorable job. I have no desire to revist the salad days of my own youthful employment. I therefore don't care if I have to stand in line a whole three minutes longer to wait for a cashier to ring me up. At the very least customers should receive a discount for doing this work for the store. I know a shell game when I see one. Stores which are introducing it promise, amongst other things, that it will keep costs down so they'll pass the savings onto us. Remember when ATMs were first introduced, and the banking industry promised us that lower charges would swiftly ensue since we'd removed the human element (meaning, someone's job) from the practice? Did that happen? No, now we see charges for ATM card use and for interacting with an acutal teller on top of it all, too. Don't buy into their confidence man's scam!

10.) Johnny Depp:
Were it not for him, as an American I could have lived my life blissfully unaware of the existence of Vanessa Paradis. She's his supposedly beautiful partner, if you go for that sort of "I don't eat sandwiches, I just smell them as they pass by" angle-boned waif look, and as long as she smiles with her lips closed. However, you shouldn't be able to play children's hand games with your face. Games like:

Here is the church, Here is the steeple,

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Open her mouth, and see all the people! Gaaahhh!
It's as if her teeth don't exist as a set, but as individual dental entities.
On one hand, I find it refreshing she didn't conform to make it in the modeling and entertainment world. On the other hand... LOOK. AT. HER. TEETH.
I'd like to slap myself, due to my poor grammar (see #3.) And also for being so depravedly shallow (see #1 through #10.) I'm unable to slap who I'd really like to, the Syrian ambassador to the US, because I'm unable to articulate anything beyond "fuck you" to him whenever he's on the the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
pretending to care about the Lebanese people, or for that matter, peace with Israel. But this is not "Fuck You of the Day," so it's not on the list. (Well, just in case Bela will let me get away with it: fuck you, Imad Moustapha.)