Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oh no! He's going to hug me!!

When performed correctly, hugs are quite simply amazing.

When done wrong...well, do you remember when Mufasa died?

A tad dramatic I know, and I'll admit, hugging isn't always easy. Sometimes you don't know the recipient well enough, or they just want a handshake. But when it is appropriate, you should really do it right!

I have had too many pathetic, half-arsed hugs that leave me feeling unsatisfied and perplexed. Hugging is one of life's greatest gifts, and they can make you feel so good about yourself. You know when you've received a bad hug- the weak arms that kind of linger around your back, flapping around as if you've just embraced two disjointed limbs. Or the slight gap between you because they don't want to be too close to you (who knows where you've been?). And the slight chin-tilt away from your shoulder- God forbid they actually rest their head on it!

Such traits usually mean you've encountered "the dead fish hug".

Here are some helpful tips:

On the approach, your head goes to the left, never the right.

Your hands should wrap firmly - I repeat, firmly - around your hugging partner. Most likely, your left arm will wrap at a lower height than your right. Personal preferences may vary however.

Give a mild squeeze to show some genuine emotion.

The "back pat" should be used with caution. Give a hearty singular pat for a man-hug, but otherwise it is best avoided. Do not patronise your partner with an overload of back-pats, unless you want to make them feel like they're six years old.

Hugs can last anywhere from three to five seconds. Any more or less is approaching awkward.

A hug, as defined by the Free Online Dictionary, is "A close, affectionate embrace". Make sure it is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend, See You On The Internet

I said goodbye to a good friend of mine today who has just finished studying in Glasgow for the term. Jimmy was actually my American roommate from last year, so we were pretty close. I don't know when I'll see him next.

And while we had a big man-chat the night before, the final moment itself wasn't emotional. No tears, no big speeches....meh.


Last year in Santa Barbara, I said 'so long' to many people, and I wasn't sure when I would ever see them again. When I did that, it was very surreal. What do you say to someone who may never re-enter your life again? Sum up your time together in an amusing yet touching sentence or two? Wish them luck with all they do and blah blah?

Well, since then, I've seen alot of those friends. I went back to America briefly, and then I had to say goodbye all over again, and one of my Aussie mates even came here, which was fantastic.

During this current academic year, I got to know our American next door neighbour, Troy, who was a very friendly and warm person. He was in Birmingham for just one term, and for him, it was very sad and somewhat depressing to leave his new found friends. I empathised, and tried to give him parting words of wisdom and truth.

Over the past week or so, I have said a final farewell to both Troy and Jimmy, and I will do so again in about 10 days when Eric stops by on his way home to California. But quite frankly, it's not as much of a big deal anymore.

This mentality exists because:
a) There's a fairly good chance I'll move to California some day.
b) I talk to these guys all the time.

Facebook. Skype. Msn. Email. Whatever. These things keep me in virtually constant communication with...well, anyone. Cities and Towns and Countries are pretty much boundary-less (real word?). There are no walls. We can fly, cross the Channel at the drop of a hat, and read about other people's opinions from the comfort of our own homes. If I knew Kim Jong Il's Skype ID, I could be on the phone to him in no time.

Such an inter-connected world nullifies true "Auf Wiedersehens". It erradicates "distance" as we once knew it. And I have mixed feelings about this; the obvious positive is never losing touch with our fellow humans, but then these daprtures and break-ups become falsified. Granted, Facebook can never replace a good old fashioned bear-hug, but you can still laugh, giggle and cry with your friends online. Real life is losing its impact.

Goodbyes are always going to be weird. But how cool would it be if you were busy living in your own world, and your best friend from Korea, whom you haven't seen or talked to in years, turns up with his Stunna Shades on?

Did any of that make sense? Comments encouraged.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to Deep Thoughts...

That last post doesn't fit with what I want this blog to be. Here's an anecdote instead:

Eight months ago I was in Vancouver on a long weekend. On my last evening there, I was walking back to my hostel, when I came across a homeless girl. Now, the homeless are everywhere on the West Coast of North America, so they very much blend in to the scenery. This girl however, struck me in a very visual way. Picture if you will, a young, cold figure wearing a small coat and a beanie, sat cross legged, huddled over a small cuddly bear. Placed delicately infront of her was a dilapidated hat with a piece of cardboard that simply said "Please".

Man, she must've had a PR agency working for her, cos that was a helluva sight for me.

I glimpsed down at her as you do, walked on a few feet, then stopped. I looked back for a moment, then back at my feet. I started to think. I had gone out the previous night and spent a silly amount of money on drinks and food, and I had spent money on the actual trip to Vancouver, and this and that...

I was finding more and more how I had been losing the value of money, so I thought fuck it, whatever money I had in my wallet, she would have. She deserved it far more than I did.

I slowly walked back over to her, reached in to my wallet, dropped the note in the hat, and waited a nano second to check for a reaction. Nothing. So I walked away a few feet again and glanced back to see if she knew I had given something.

She looked up at the hat, gradually took the note in her hand, then slid it into her sleeve, so that no one could see it.

I was annoyed. I wanted to go over and say "Why did you do that? Why are you hiding that money? Why are you lying to everyone?"

Of course, I knew why she did it; image. A green note in a dark hat ruins the desperate plea for money. I started to wonder what she was going to spend it on, and how long she would stick around to get more money. Did she already have an abundance of notes up her sleeve? In the end, I just headed back home. It was a mistake to do so. Call it British Reserve.

Now, I'm not trying to say "look at me aren't I generous" because I'm not. That token act was pathetic. But I remain perplexed by the homeless. It's one of the things that will remain with me about my trip to America- the sheer volume, the vast array of war Veterans and actual insane people on the streets. Blame Reagan? Maybe- an easy choice- but that doesn't change the present conditions. I'm not wise enough or experienced enough to understand the homeless situation in my country or America or Canada, and that's why I remain confused to this day.

I wish I could go back and talk to that girl.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Year's Antics

It's almost time before we hit 2009. In that year, I will graduate and return to London to find work, Obama will take office and do stuff and say nice words, and I'm sure a whole bunch of new things will happen. But for now, something far more important has to be dealt with.

The New Year's Eve party.

I have a love/hate relationship with midnight, December 31st. Every year, I'm determined to have as much fun as possible, be with my friends and have a supertasticly-mazing time. As the years have gone by and I've tried to get wiser, it's slowly hitting me that I need to chill out. I need to ignore that seemingly omnipresent commanding voice that says to us all


Stop it. Go away, scary voice, go bug someone else. Yea, that chav over there. Perfect.

Last year, I spent nine hours in the freezing cold at Times Square. It was a stupid decision in hindsight, and, though I performed the Electric Slide with about ten other random people, that night hurt my frail body.

The year before, my brother and I tried to host a house party with giant jenga, poker and a bonfire. It was ok I guess, but not worth the hassle and fuss we went to in trying to get loads of friends to turn up.

I think the year before that me and my mates made a mad scramble to Trafalgar Square to get a tiny glimpse of the fireworks. Yay.

Is it worth it all? Maybe not. But, aside from Birthdays, when do we have an excuse to simply have fun. Granted, we shouldn't have to have fun, but at least the invitation is there.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do this year, but I will be with friends, most likely with a glass of something in my hand, I will be relaxed, and I will carry on living the way I currently do: enjoying life.

Man, what a cliche blog that was. Have this to make up for it: Clicky

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Me, myself and TED

I have been thinking recently. And when I say recently, I mean for about the last eight or nine months. Something is happening inside my head; something is moving towards a goal. I can't quite put it into words, but it is something along the lines of helping others on a mass scale, and halting evil in the world. I don't care how corny it is, because I feel that this change is not just applying to me.

The video below is of a video-conference as part of something called TED. Technology, Entertainment, Design. I have become obsessed with these conferences that cover an array of topics from Creativity in schools to the secret of Ragu Marketing to conspiracies about the term "4 in the morning". This is just a sample, albeit 20 minutes long.

These TED videos have stirred something inside of me that has been bubbling away for that eight-odd month period. Since this is a blog, it would be nice to be able to put it into words. So, at the risk of sounding like the naive Peter Petrelli of Heroes fame, here goes:

I have a purpose that I am unsure of. Up until now, I have been meandering about from A to B about where my path lies in life, as if I need to decide now before said life crumbles before my eyes and I end up a homeless bum on the streets of Ealing. To be fair, I am still meandering a bit, but I am not so tightly wound about my "destiny". All I know for now is that I want to do some good in the world. I like being happy, I like giving advice and I like making other people happy. The other day I sent a text to one of my friends telling them that "There's a rumour going around that you're amazing", and it felt great. Or, if someone asks me how I am, I make it a point to respond with something like "I'm Outstanding" or "I'm pretty close to spectacular" (thank you Andre 3000) or something unusually uplifting that catches them off guard in a most wondrous way.

I like these little things, and it makes me feel good about life, but there's also alot of stuff I detest right about now, and I think that's what occupies my mind more (it should, shouldn't it?)

As a brief glimpse, some of these things are: Robert Mugabe. The current and totally flawed education system in the UK and probably most of the world. The way western news treats the rest of the world as so...."other". The ineffectiveness of the UN.

Hmm, I have deleted alot of the stuff I was going to list, because you all know it. It's cliche stuff that a student whines about when he tries to open his eyes but it hurts too much.

Still, Mugabe is a dick.

I think, for some reason, there is a change in the mentality of a lot of people in the Western World. Something is slowly churning. Perhaps my generation is going to do something unique- good or bad I don't know- but I have such a strong feeling that the foundations of society are going to be different. People are fatigued with everything that is wrong. Vietnam, Rwanda, Katrina, Darfur, whatever. More and more people are getting fed up, and luckily less and less people are getting lethargic. Finally people want change, and it's in the works. Don't ask me how long it's going to take or when it's going to happen.

But it is going to happen.