Wedding Dash

Fraser Medvedik-Horn runs as fast as he can.

image

It’s every wedding attendees’ worst nightmare. I’m not talking about long speeches though those are interminable, I’m talking about the fact that a wedding is an interesting sort of party. Few others require quite so much poise and form, manners and socially astute etiquette. Most other events you can just basically show up and that’s good enough. Weddings are a performance of friendship and familial duty. It is a Kantian perfect duty: “one ought not spoil a wedding”.

As to whether what just about happened to me could spoil a wedding I’ll let you decide. My opinion is that a wedding should not be too fragile a thing and should be able to sustain a shock or two. After all, that’s what marriage is. A lifetime of stability together permeated by shocks as the world is a crazy, magical place. The funny thing is that though realising and accepting this, it should never be one’s intention to be the shocker.

There I was, leaving my well-provisioned flat in the Newington area of Edinburgh. A bit of a mixed bag of an area. Very studenty but there’s a combined working and middle class feel to many of the permanent residents. The place briefly empties in June and July but then in August it fills again with international tourists and performers, keeping it on the weird end. Suitcase in tow for I was going off to my dear high school friend’s wedding, which promised to be an interesting affair. Inside the suitcase was everything I needed, pair of pants, pair of socks, wife’s dress, so I felt well-ordered. Google maps said the best route was from the local bus stop, barely used but every now and then essential.

Then I saw the bus, stuck behind a red light. Darting across the road, suitcase off wheels, babe in arms style, I bolted past the Meadows, side stepping onto a grassy verge to avoid poking into some walkers like a javelin. I avoided some cyclists on the cycle path, rounded the corner and kept pelting after it only for it to pull away.

Shrugging breathlessly, I scoured other options and found them plentiful as sharks surrounding a wounded diver in an area infested with sharks. Gotta love the logistics of the area. After a short walk I was at another stop and all aboard for Edinburgh bus station.

Edinburgh buses are normally quite alright, bad at rush times and occasionally hot but overall okay. Cheaper than most UK buses. The drivers are sound as well. During the Festival though, they are best avoided unless necessary for time or luggage reasons as they are a ring of hell. Imagine a sauna in a swamp which is full of people. Perhaps Venice in high Summer during aqua alta after a cruise ship has dropped its waste into the lagoon. Here I was in an Edinburgh bus in the Festival and at rush hour, carrying a suitcase. Kind of like Charlie Chaplin crossed with a scruffy semi-trendy kid from 2008, wearing a T-shirt that’s 10 years old in a charitable interpretation.

While juggling to avoid knocking into a deaf man, a Muslim mother and a father holding a pram, I realised something.

This ain’t so bad.

I’ve done way worse than this. I’ve moved house using suitcases before, moved country even. Taking one on a couple buses was a snap. So why didn’t it feel right?

I was missing the weight of my right-hand. The deceitfully heavy object I had to carry to uphold my duty to the wedding, my most elementary duty.

That other perfect duty at a wedding: “Look good in pictures”.

I had forgotten my suit.

I felt like such a fuckup. Who forgets to bring a suit to a wedding? Do they even let suitless people in weddings, even these days?

I cursed myself. My moronic memory, I briefly blamed it on the brain damage, but then got into problem fixing mode.

Text wife
Leave bus
Taxi home
Problem, what problem?

These things I did except there was no taxi forthcoming and instead I had to grab another bus, Lothian Bus do quite well in this story. While on the bus I called a taxi and arranged for it to meet me outside my flat after I’d got my suit.

The guy arrived at just the right time and his swift piloting got me like Cinderella to the bus station on time. Problem solved, albeit at a heightened monetary cost.

There may be some wondering what’s the point of this story. Indeed, it’s mostly just another story of me acting like a bit of a tit. It is a necessary story however as everyone is trying to tell their personal brand story of how they are fantastic all the time and I would prefer something more authentic. Sometimes I am imperfect. I forget things which a lot of other people wouldn’t. Then again, I also work harder to fix things than many others would and I am more open about my daily struggles than most.

And, fellow mortals, can I tell you: the things I would do for love.

The writer of this piece would like to clarify there’s actually boundaries to what he would do for love because that pure self-sacrificing nonsense that plagues many and used to plague him is probably not treating the objects of your love in an appropriate way. Instead, it’s a kind of martyred love of the self – sacrificing the self on the altar of the self, to the self. And now he’s sure he’s ruining his format so is going to stop.

Advertisements

Andrew Yang is Going to Be President

In this article, Fraser Medvedik-Horn makes a daring political prediction.

“Prediction is a mug’s game…” – Charles C. Mann, he goes on to talk about water pollution regulation, but this part is the snappiest.

For those who have not been infected with fandom of the second-best political system for crazy and negative results, you could be forgiven for not knowing who Andrew Yang is. He is not a big name candidate for he has not held political office before, like another no-name who currently occupies the highest office in the United States, hence probably the world. But that’s where his similarities to the bigot-in-chief end; Andrew Yang is an attorney and entrepreneur who is well-educated and has worked for nonprofit organisations such as Venture for America which is about creating opportunities in American cities. He himself jokes “the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math”. He is technologically sound and is going to become the next President of the United States of America.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence how about this:

A Bernie Sanders dedicated page, with some of his fiercest fans, who tweeted it to many other people sympathetic to his cause, gathering near 14000 votes and 72% went for Yang over Bernie Sanders. Sanders, the left’s great hope in America, losing against essentially a centrist on a Twitter page for left-wing people. That’s some quite extraordinary evidence of the fact that Yang commands a devoted following, at least online. Today, online is a major battleground, arguably the field where Donald Trump won in 2016, and the field where Sanders is reportedly strong. This matters.

What also matters is that Sanders is unpopular with a certain subset of Democrats who are convinced he lost Hilary Clinton the election in 2016, an opinion loosely connected with the facts but far from absolute as the numbers bear out, but nevertheless important as narrative is so much more powerful than stats. There is an inbuilt bias against Sanders just as there was one against Clinton: both are established entities. In 2016, Sanders may have come with less baggage but now he’s a polarising figure. In order to take the Democratic Party to success in 2020, they need to have a candidate who can excite people and not exclude them.

This makes Joe Biden and Sanders, perhaps even Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, less sure candidates than they might appear. Biden is establishment and people want change. Sanders is changed but would be fighting against the party establishment and grandees – they should be fought and I like him for putting in the effort but he’s not the unifying candidate a diverse party needs. Warren is easily attacked for claiming to be Native American, and that matters against a president who is all sizzle and aesthetic and no morals and steak. Harris is a cop – good luck getting the left on board.

Yang is the only Democratic candidate with no immediately disqualifying baggage from any wing. He’s radical as a supporter of Universal Basic Income, and the only candidate thinking of answers to automation such as his idea for a trucker severance package when self-driving trucks make them unemployed. He’s radical while not being scary and that matters in America. Talk to any salesperson and they’ll tell you it’s easier to sell people where they are than where you want them to be. Americans are probably more ready for a futuristic technocrat than a socialist.

So prediction may be a mug’s game and I may be setting myself up to be very wrong backing the long-shot blue-sky candidate, but it’s just the nature of politics at this moment and indeed all moments. Everything is totally unexpected and unthinkable until it is inevitable. Yang may not be inevitable but he’s better than most of the other front runners and people should pay more attention to what he says as it is important and valuable. America and the planet are hungry for change but they have more of an appetite than some change than others.

The writer of this piece anticipates discussion, in fact, demands it.

Sympathy for the Devil – How Umbrella Man Tells the Story of Our Age

 

In this article, Fraser Medvedik-Horn talks about a very different kind of show.

image

This morning I awoke feeling absolutely terrible. Not the self-inflicted pain of a hangover and not necessarily the pain caused by an illness, but a very different, difficult to describe and hard to interpret feeling in the stomach. Maybe it’s just the weather. Perhaps it’s an example of capitalist alienation. Maybe it’s a lingering feeling of trauma. Whatever the cause of it, this was the one morning I’ve had off in the past fortnight and so I forced myself to cross the road to Summerhall. I bought myself a ticket for Umbrella Man and I prepared myself for who knows what.

Colin Bramwell is the star of this spoken word piece but the best way to think of it is as a kind of play. I went in anticipating something very poetic, as I had been told Bramwell is known as a poet on the Edinburgh scene as well as the pianist for the Men With Coconuts. It actually had a lot less poetry than I was expecting but this was not detrimental. Instead, the poetic inclusions were insightful and were justified in being there, amidst what was primarily a monologue interspersed with musical interludes. It helped to keep the performance running with the pace of an enthusiastic Scotsman trapping you in a corner of the pub and talking intensely at you about metaphysics.

Which is pretty much how the story goes. The main character is Doug, who comes from a small town in the North of Scotland. One of the most essential characteristics of Doug is that he believes the world is flat. The main thrust of the story is about him proving this is true. It’s a story about trust more than anything. Can Doug trust the scientists (“the globeheads” as many flat earthers call them)? Can the audience trust Doug? We might build a relationship with him based on the audience participation but the world he is talking about and story he’s telling could be doubted. Belief in a flat earth might not have anything to do with reliability overall but talking to people who believe different about the world often comes with an air of suspicion. Can Doug trust himself?

In terms of these questions, Doug represents the sort of skepticism that many have in science and the world these days, but it’s a skepticism which doesn’t often have great evidence on its side. For a breakdown the problems with Flat Earth Theory, here’s Hbomberguy:

One thing which is present in both Umbrella Man, as well as in the final 5 minutes of Hbomberguy’s video, is an essential piece of humanity. The question of why people believe this and the possible answer: something is wrong with how humanity is organised at the minute, with the way we use resources and with the way we treat each other. With what we’re doing to the planet. Flat earthers are right to question the world at the moment because something is very wrong. In Umbrella Man, Doug is a character with a rich back story and rational justifications. He sets off to try and see the flatness of the world for several reasons, social and psychological, but it’s also possible to think he left Scotland because he felt under appreciated working for Subway. It’s a human story and very representative of our left behind generation seeking meaning further afield.

This is what makes Umbrella Man a piece of theatre worth seeing. It’s the spoken word piece this age needs, diving into issues of conspiracy and alienation. Bramwell’s performance as Doug will stick with me for some time. Unlike the stomach pain which has thankfully drifted as the day has past.

The writer of this pieces is going to ruin his introduction too much because his mum reads his articles. He is okay and is not actually being gnawed by some disease or by trauma. Sometimes people feel bad and this is okay.

How to Crash Physically

Fraser Medvedik-Horn outlines his strategy for running low on energy.

yawning cat

Photo by Serena Koi on Pexels.com

Normally, I’m dead full of energy and quite peppy. On days when I’m feeling low energy, I reach back into history for the solution. The thing is, stimulants are only temporary. Tiredness however is eternal. Here are some ways to engineer it.

(Note on the text, many of the following are not intended as advice for those with sleeping difficulties and may actually be a bit unhelpful overall. Consult physicians for more info on sleep-related conditions.)

1. Alcohol

This appears in my ‘How To Stay Awake’ list also, linked above, but it needs an addendum. Alcohol is a peculiar substance as it can have both enlivening and enervating effects. If you’re looking to crash it can therefore bit of a double-edge for sword but even a couple drinks in moderation works well to dial the energy levels down a bit.

The big downside is it might make you sleepy but it’s also awful for sleep. For that reason, I’d say this is a bad method.

2. Lack of caffeine

If there’s one substance that made the modern world, it is coffee. In the eighteenth-century, American and French revolutionaries were wired on the stuff. Philosophers drank boatloads of it. Voltaire drank over 30 cups a day – though I doubt it would be as strong as modern espresso that’s still an impressive accomplishment.

It engendered a society where everyone was always on it, more stable energy levels instead of fluctuations purely based around the weather. This ‘always on it’ attitude led to advancements in several fields.

If you want to do the opposite and turn off your sparked up noggin, the thing to cut out is the magical bean which runs the day. Only a few hours without caffeine has the most miraculous impact on people bringing stress and destruction untold.

3. More movement

The inspiration for this one comes from the standard parent response to their children running about all crazy.

“Let them wear themselves out.”

That’s a fantastic idea. Why don’t more people do that in order to put themselves to sleep at night?

The simplistic answer is just that adults are lazy while kids are motivated by something beyond themselves which they don’t appear to understand. A more complicated answer would involves topics like social pressure and societal expectations. Adults should run around more to burn off their additional steam.

4. Relax

After a day of running around, avoiding coffee and drinking a moderate couple of drinks to tire yourself out, it’s easy to fall asleep if you can get yourself into the right mindset but this can be tricky for many people in the modern age.

It’s another defining part of modernity that many have trouble getting to sleep even when they are tired.

Some advice from a guy used to living in cities, learn to listen inward. Not to the voice in your brain as that voice is a terrible way to get down, no. Instead, listen to the relative silence that exists within your own body.

Although some yawn loudly so that might not work.

The writer of this piece is feeling the season.

Silence in the Library: Four Cool Things About Libraries

blur book stack books bookshelves

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Not much of an introduction needed to this one: I am a massive nerd who loves to know things and learn things. The best place to learn new things and develop an actual understanding of them is a place which is devoted to allowing a place for people to access good information easily. I’m fairly sceptical about what can be learnt over purely digital processes

and encourage everyone to get out there and experience the journey of discovery for yourself, in the physical realm. Regardless, here are some really cool things about libraries you might not realise. First, a freebie.

Libraries have free in their name.

This is quite possibly a misunderstanding on my part about how Latin works, but the word for ‘book’ is ‘liber’ as is the word for ‘free’, so if nothing else it’s at least an inter-lingual pun that library means free stuff. Libraries at least in the UK and the US cost you nothing unless you bring books back late.

The freeness of libraries goes far beyond just having no cost to enter.

#1 Libraries give back so much more than they take

With a library card, you get access to so many services while not even in the library. You can get access to uni-level research on many topics through the library. Joining a public library costs nothing and gives you access to others in the area and beyond.

These days publishers are trying to make the noble task of sharing art and knowledge harder because they blame them for falling profits. One Reddit user apparently saved a grand in a year just by using the library, so you can see the publishers point, except how likely is anyone to spend a thousand on books in one year?

Numbers are hard to source to determine the exact cost of libraries to individual taxpayers, they tend to have a few funding sources such as local taxation, donations, and bequests, but the overall consensus appears to be that its pennies per month. It makes up a very small portion of the budget and we’re all richer for having it.

#2 Libraries put cool things together in the same place

One of the principle advantages libraries have over book shops is the fact they have a range. Like book shops they prioritise having extra copies of books people actually want to read, but one of their key functions is giving a home to friendless texts that would otherwise vanish unread into private collections or, worse, be pulped.

But it’s more than just books. Libraries do a lot of events, here’s just the upcoming list for Edinburgh. If you want a new social centre, that’s the place to go. If you don’t see something you want to go to but have another idea for an event, you could organise the entire thing at most libraries.

Most libraries have those big ass industrial printers that can do everything. Some of my friends in Idaho even told me their library has a 3D printer. A cursory glance at the library trades tells me this is more of an American thing, but when New York sneezes, London catches a cold, and then we Scots claim responsibility. They’ll probably be everywhere in the next couple years.

#3 Librarians

Of all the cool things about libraries, the people who make it their businesses help you find your way through imposing stacks, filled with more pages than you could hope to read in your lifetime, have got to be the top.

glasses woman person face

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

These are people who have the rather enviable and romantic job of spending their life with the thoughts of some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen. On the other hand, they also have to spend their life with the thoughts of Dinesh D’Souza.

Fortunately, as clever and well-educated people they can pick through the crap to find the gold, and they have suggestions.

Becoming a librarian is more complicated than you might think these days. To get a job in library you’ll need experience and to get experience they’ll generally ask for a degree plus a supplementary masters level qualification in library studies. It may be a bit much, according to some, as the main responsibilities have not changed much in a hundred years when a far lower standard of education was expected. That being said, I’d expect people whose job it is to show people around the library would have a sort of calling for it.

The siren song of the books must lead them to be dashed on the rocks of student debt.

#4 Ukeleles?

This one surprised me. Libraries have expanded beyond just being places for books. LA public library does ukulele borrowing.  In this Mental Floss article, they outline 11 things libraries lend out from seeds and fishing poles to people.

This may look like just an American thing as one aspect America continues to lead the world in is in library quality, but the idea of borrowing more things than just books is catching on. In Edinburgh, there is a tool library because many tools are under-utilised.

So if there’s one thing to learn from this article it’s that you need to contact your library and see what innovative stuff they are doing.

The writer of this piece feels it’s overdeveloped.