Shout a Bit

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Of course Johnny appreciated the blistering array of starlit expanse and the possibilities it seemed to offer, but he declined to mention this to Kathryn. It would be too much of a hassle to tell her that she was in a part of Scotland where sharing dreams was a bit like sharing needles; it seemed like a good idea at the time but it only served to fuck you up. – Glue, Irvine Welsh

When you’re looking for some modern Scottish wisdom there’s are few better places to look than the denouement of an Irvine Welsh novel. He captures so much of what it means to be Scottish, to have an uneasiness with the world. As a people, we’re actually pretty closed off most of the time. To my friends this would probably seem impossible, I talk quite a lot given the smallest provocation, but the truth is that, as with I hope everyone, there’s a lot more ticking away behind the eyes.

I shout from time to time to get things heard.

This is why I was so pleased when my old family friend Becca wrote a post on here. I can remember her talking about writing when we were younger, she was thinking of journalism at that point, but life gets in the way. It has this horrible habit of providing different ideas and inspirations, but then also dropping some immediate rent pavement or credit card bill through the post. Just when you want to do something great, an election or a family issue happens. Sometimes it’s your responsibility to do something else. It’s always gratifying to see people press on regardless. To shout in a world or a culture which suggests silence more often than speaking.

Maybe it’s a hangover from that whole Victorian idea of kids being “seen but not heard”. For women, it might be because they are told they are chatty and some of them don’t want to be stereotypical. For me, I probably keep some things to myself because that’s what being a man is, as I was taught. Guys are more often taught to be angry than say they are sad. If you’re sad, then you’re Some Crybaby or something, but if you’re angry, but the right kind of angry, not the silly sort of whinging angry, then you are being assertive and reasonable. Think Tony Soprano struggling with his anxiety attacks and turning it into anger because misery isn’t the sort of thing you express if you’re a boss.

It’s the same with dreams. They aren’t considered the right things to talk about in some parts of Scotland. In certain culture there’s a silence about that whole part of a person. It doesn’t feel like we talk about our wants and desires nearly enough. And so my reaction to this is that we all need to shout a bit more.

We need to do something.

There’s something about seeing others doing stuff that is inspirational. It’s the feeling that you aren’t alone, that whatever question you’re asking is also troubling someone else. It’s not schadenfreud, a love of another’s misery, but more of a kind of understanding, a spiritual connection with people searching for meaning. That’s  why people read. People absolutely should read, as well as possibly creating work for people like me, it also gives you so much more than it takes. And if people should read, then it also follows that they should also write. People should shout a bit.

Fortunately, we live in an age of mass production as well as mass consumption. Mass distribution is at our fingertips. For sure there are some people who create a lot more than others and some people who consume a lot without feeding back in, but we’re essentially now all at the level where we can easily use loudspeakers that connect us to a hundred plus people. We can share what we like and build each other up. We can shout together. This is the good side of social media. It’s now easier than ever to get your message, your world view, out there. It’s thrilling. The rush of shouting for the plain fun of it.

There are some massive downsides to it, of course. Things said on the internet don’t often go away, unless the company hosting that information goes bust and nobody saved a copy. But really this is a bigger problem for those who are viciously mean online than for others. If you’re not some dick you should shout!

Use these lungs that the internet gifted you and cry out!

Of course it’s terrifying at first to put anything out there. The fear of criticism is real. Worry less about other people. The biggest problem is usually the fear itself.  And conquering that fear is the prize.

The writer of this piece likes writing things telling people to write things but tries to only do it once a month.

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Buckle up Buckaroo

“What do you mean you’ve never heard of Buckaroo?”

My fiancée shrugged.

“You’ve got this donkey, right, and you have to stack things on top of his back…”
“We have Jenga?”

Buckaroo is not Jenga. It looks like this.

Majestic

It’s the sort of game you play once or twice when you’re in your mid childhood and then never see it again. At least, that’s what it was to me. But the adverts were everywhere and they got into our collective unconscious. In the UK it became an idiom.

If you’re carrying too much you’re like Buckaroo.

But no, the Americans don’t have it. And this surprised me. After all, it looks like it was inspired by the Wild West. Although some of the boxes look like they’d now reach into cultural appropriation territory, what with the Mexicans in sombreros and ponchos running away from this mad raving donkey. Maybe a little culturally insensitive.

But yeah, just one of these things. Growing up in Scotland I suppose I developed a top-cold-wet bit of an island mentality. With the wind up there and the wide open spaces it was sometimes hard to believe there was a world outside Scotland. It was hard to imagine a world where the weather was pleasant. I could tell TV was fake because it was always sunny. I think this sort of thinking really comes quite often in young people all over the world. We’re not especially thoughtful creatures, in spite of the fact that we are the only creature we know with entire industries based on thinking. Thankfully, people gain a bit of empathy and a bit of world knowledge as they get a bit older, but it’s still possible to get shocked by small things like whether the woman you love and intend on starting a life with has heard of Buckaroo.

It’s just weird.

Like the way she says ‘erbs for herbs. Or oh-RE-gano instead of OreGano. Margarine for a Scot rhymes with submarine. For an American it rhymes with tin. It’s like we’re speaking a different language at times. I get it and I know how some of it happened but it’s just different.

Then again, there are probably hundreds of bits of American culture I don’t get. Perhaps they have a similar game to Buckaroo, or something totally different. I must confess, I only know about a lot of American things because I spend far too much time on the internet.

I knew those hours on forums weren’t a total waste of time

I kind of wonder what type of things I will learn as we go on together. What are those essential but homely bits of American culture that we don’t get shown on TV? The global convergence of our entertainment culture can only express so much. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of us as the Scottish and American bits of our identities overlap. I hope the kids get some Scottish vowel sounds. Those are beautiful. I think I’d prefer my fiancées tonality though as I sound a bit dour sometimes.

Our children will get raised by the good doctors, Who and Seuss. My fiancée may not like tea, but I suspect it’s hereditary so I’ll make sure to provide it as an option for the kids from a young age. We will drink tea and play Buckaroo, but then we’ll also find out what’s the American version of tea and what is the American version of Buckaroo. It’s only fair. Hopefully my fiancée will also manage to understand the complicated rules of Buckaroo without too much explaining.

Confident that his fiancée will not realise he is throwing shade, as she doesn’t know the first thing about Buckaroo, the writer of this piece has become very cocky in his ability to get away with it. So cocky in fact that he has hidden it in plain sight in italic print which draws the eye. If you or anyone else you know knows of the US version of Buckaroo, do get in touch

Strange Parallels

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If there’s one major advantage to travelling it is that it exposes you to different cultures and different experiences. Were it not for the fact I accidentally travelled to the Czech Republic, I would have likely never seen the topic of day’s post. I have discovered an abnormal similarity between two films. The above happy children’s movie about a guy everyone thinks is The Special, who isn’t, and who overturns tyrannical rule with the help of a team, and the following:

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I promise you I’m going somewhere with this

A 1991 Czech film about an engineer who starts working at a factory and finds it full of corruption and nonsense. A “Musical of Totalitarianism”.

How? What scrambled thoughts could lead to this conclusion? Observe.

In this film clip, the main character, an engineer, a career about developing new ideas and putting them together, visits the factory bar. The DJ plays an epic song, a mainstay of Czech music, where the lyrics are “Je to fajn” – it is fine, it’s all good buddy. Relax, do your work and smoke your cigarette. While in this film clip, “Everything is Awesome” – everything is fine, it’s cool man. Relax, listen to your repetitive mind-numbing and very catchy pop music and drink your overpriced coffee.

These songs function as the central points of the films. The Lego Movie is about the lead character realising everything is NOT awesome while Kour (smoke), a lot darker in tone, makes it pretty clear throughout how messed up it all is.

Here I will have to freely confess my inability to properly dive into this topic. I have seen both films only once, Lego on Boxing Day last year and Kour at Zizkovsiska during film night. I must also admit that I have some difficulties finding anything in English about Czech films. Comparing its IMDb page to The Lego Movie’s further shows the difference in material to work with. Also, not speaking Czech, I have some issues understanding all the nuances. But here’s is what I have so far.

Both films are fundamentally about work and society. They are about doing your job while being bossed around by shadowy figures, and they are about the distraction that we all have, music. It’s interesting that in both films neither of the main characters save the day alone. In Kour the main character nearly becomes the victim of the corrupt factory managers until he is saved by the other factory workers shouting “It is worth it!” and storming the big meeting. In The Lego Movie the lead was never “the Special” and can only win with the help of everyone else.

It’s an enlightening process watching both films as they show so much about the types of life people live. They also show a way out through the collective action of saying no. Change is possible and you have to be the one to make it. The message of both the films is revolutionary.

When not watching Czech films or consuming media, the writer of this piece likes to write copiously and is trying to write posts of about 500 words a day every day of this month. Today’s entry is a little short, but since a picture is worth a thousand words and there are two of them this piece is far beyond that, without even accounting for the fact that videos are made of 25 pictures a second and each of the above videos was over a minute long. Today I have written a load of words about a tricky subject and I implore you to watch both those films. 20 days left!