Sunday, 30 January 2011

Mastication Irritation

Not a welcome shoe accessory...
Once, someone offered me some chewing gum. I didn’t particularly want some, so I casually replied ‘No, I don’t do gum’, making it sound like an illegal drug in the process. Even though chewing gum isn’t actually a Class A drug, I still despise it as if it was one.

I will turn to science now and tell you what gum is. It’s traditionally made from chicle, a natural latex product or synthetic rubber called polyisobutylene. Polyisobutylene is a non-vulcanisable form of the rubber used for bicycle inner tubes. Non-vulcanised just means that no sulphur has been added. Even with the lack of sulphur, you’re chewing an inner tube! You’re at the beginning of a long gastronomical journey involving eating a bicycle. That’s disgusting.

Ignoring the rubbish that it’s made out of, the problems start when someone begins to chew. And most chew like a cow trying to crush grass into liquid. The jaws move up and down and side to side, distorting their face into a photographic representation of a Picasso drawing. And they just keep going, chewing and chewing, creating enormous amounts of saliva which will eventually end up spat out onto the streets, making everyone’s shoes sticky.

The chewing sound is also incredibly annoying. It sounds like a pig squelching through mud, which isn’t particularly appetising to be honest. I reckon that the texture of the gum was specifically designed to provide that noise, in a pathetic joke by the inventors of gum. Like the people who put subliminal messages into Disney films.

Chewing gum is okay to start with. You begin with a neat, clean white slab with a strong mint flavour diffusing from it to your nostrils. You take the first bite, letting the minty flavour explode into your taste buds. The power of mint overwhelms you, like smelling a bacon sandwich from afar, making you anxious to continue forwards.

Unfortunately, it loses its flavour quicker than expected, turning into a soggy pulp of white bicycle inner tube. But you can’t spit it out, as your jaws seem to have gained momentum and stopping just feels wrong. You’re becoming habituated to the masticating motions, you’re addicted.

You keep chomping away at the soggy mess until your jaws begin to ache, your mouth is filled with gallons of saliva and the bicycle inner tube flavour is becoming monotonous and disgusting. The problems are coming thick and fast.

Where does it go?

You could spit it into a plastic bag, in preparation for storage, reading to mould a new bicycle inner tube (using your state of the art vulcanisation equipment). Alternatively, you could spit it into a tissue or put it on the underside of a desk, so it can become a stalactite, a relic of past chewing habits. Most people go for the second option.

I’d personally like to go for the Singapore option when it comes to gum. In 1992, there was a ban on chewing gum in imports and sales. This also means you can’t have it in your hand luggage when you fly there as it is technically importing.

Either that or I move to Singapore. Or I just put up with it.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Designing Idiots

I think I see a similarity...

If I had a pound for every Superdry coat, Jack Wills jogging bottoms or Hollister t-shirt I saw, I’d be able to afford one.

Back in the 70s, fashion seemed to revolve around looking different to everyone else, and generally looking as idiotic as possible. Clashing colours, weirdly shaped clothes and an avant-garde kind of style. In today’s world, you are looked down upon if you don’t have certain words emblazoned all across every part of your clothing. Words such as Superdry, Hollister, Jack Wills and Abercrombie seem to the main tick boxes for gaining fashion points, and social status it seems.

Superdry. If the company were selling cagoules or raincoats, the name would be slightly understandable, but in fact these clothes are the exact opposite. It’s just t-shirts, hoodies and the ubiquitous Superdry coat that everyone seems to wear. And the coat doesn’t even have a hood. By wearing one of these coats, you single yourself out as someone who needs to prove how much money they have. The two most popular hoodies colours visible in the street seem to be red and green. Superdry? More like Super Mario.

Jack Wills and Hollister have given up on trying using fancy designs on their clothes. All their items of clothing seem to be plain and have the word in massive letters all it. Women’s t-shirts tend to have the word around the chest area, which means that anyone wondering what the t-shirt says looks like a pervert. And it gets even worse, as some of the designs have just a tiny little logo, which makes the clothing look slightly stained from a distance. Why spend loads of money on a plain t-shirt with only a tiny logo on it? It’s just a plain t-shirt for god’s sake! When will you ever see this!

Abercrombie and Fitch seem to be the most omnipresent of the brands as everyone seems to carry around an Abercrombie bag. It’s basically a flimsy paper bag with a picture of a half naked man on it. Or maybe a women. But mostly male models as it does tend to be the females of the species that carry around these. This advertises the shop even more, bringing in more customers, making the prices go up in accordance with supply and demand, making it much more expensive to buy anything from there. This would normally be a disadvantage, but the blind sheep (sorry, customers) enjoy this as it makes their purchase seem even more precious as people know how expensive the stuff is.

If you really wanted to show how rich you are, you could just hire a butler to constantly follow you all day, doing errands and holding your stuff for you. Or you could just wear a t-shirt saying ‘I’m rich and you’re poor’ written above a picture of you standing in front of a mansion holding a massive diamond. But you’re probably not that rich.

I only own one designer product and it’s a Superdry t-shirt that I was given as a present. The people giving it to me had obviously spent a fair amount of money on it, despite the fact that it’s just some fibres sewn together. I only really wear it in the winter so that a hoodie (not Superdry) or jacket (also not Superdry) can cover it up, thereby well and truly, sticking it to the man.

Exam Ennui

Hell is here on Earth...

Here’s a list of things that I would guess would be pretty boring:
  •      Watching grass grow in ultra slow motion
  •      Watching a silent movie if you were blind
  •       Being a plant.       
  •    Training a Pok√©mon to Level 100 against Level 5 enemies

Despite these mind-numbingly tedious activities, I can think of something even more humdrum than that. Being an exam invigilator.

All they do is stand around, and walk from the front of the room to the back of the room, and stand around, and walk from the back of the room to the front of the room and stand around. Repeat ad infinitum. Until the end of the exam.

This pointless yet somehow structure walking pattern reminds me of people in supermarkets, shuffling aimlessly up and down the aisles. And as I sit more and more exams, I notice the similarity more and more often. The invigilators amble backwards and forward like shoppers, occasionally looking to either side and glancing at whatever’s in front of them. I expect them soon to be pushing trolleys back and forth through the exam hall and picking up various items out of people’s pencil cases and placing it into their trolley. I hope this doesn’t happen; I can’t afford to lose any more pens.

The tedium continues almost indefinitely for these people, until a moment of joy comes. From the crowd, a lonely hand rises above the rest, signalling a desire for attention. Or extra paper. When a hand is raised, you can see the joy spread across their faces like butter onto warm bread. They quickly assess the situation, and with darting eyes, clock the other invigilators to see who is the closest. This is when all the invigilators become incredibly vulture like. They all rush towards the needy person until it becomes obvious who has won this battle of ownership. I say rush, when I mean slowly walk. They can’t run in exams as it would spoil the ambient silence, but I think it would be much funnier if they did. They gradually give up until the victor succeeds and asks the student what they need. Surprisingly, it’s extra paper, so they go off and get it.

The vulture metaphor ends here; they don’t actually eat the student. Or flap their wings as the approach them. Or have bald heads. Actually, scrap that last one, which does happen quite a lot.

The most exciting part of the whole invigilation process, apart from this vulture impersonation malarkey, is when they let the students leave after all of the papers have been collected. They let them out column by column, starting nearest the door. Each row sits and waits, waiting for the moment the invigilator makes the signal to the let them go. It’s probably the tensest part of the whole examination process. The invigilators have exploited this fact and seem intent on making students wait as long as possible, before giving in and making the signal. They then repeat until everyone has left.

This, amongst others, is the reason why I spend literally minutes revising for an exam, so that I can get good grades, a good job and not be bored senseless for hours at a time. Until I retire and I need some extra cash. It’s a vicious circle.