Monthly Archives: July 2010

Who You Lookin’ At?

I think I know what the next big Chinese export is going to be. 

I read this article about a new shop in China where only women can go.  On paying the equivalent of $8 NZ, they are admitted into a mock up of a house, complete with functioning appliances such as televisions and computers.  They are given a baseball bat and a helmet and for one minute, are allowed to take out their frustrations by smashing things with ruthless abandon.  The appliances actually work but are second hand.

The idea is that the woman can pretend that it’s her house and do what she wishes she really could at home.  Right now the only rooms available to trash are a living room and bedroom, but they are planning to add a kitchen.  In addition to appliances, you can throw plates, rip up paper and slash bean bags. 

Business is booming, according to the article.

The reason I think that this idea is going to catch on in the West is because it looks like we are doing everything we can to engineer ‘reacting’ out of our society.  I saw another article that talked about the city council of Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, planning to make it illegal to roll your eyes when someone says something stupid, or you object to what they are saying or doing.

Yes, you read that right.

The whole thing came about when a city councillor was ‘ejected’ from a meeting for “rolling her eyes” at something one of her colleagues said.  Now, in order to preserve “decorum,” the city council is asking the city attorney to look at ways to make eye rolling illegal as a “disturbance and disorderly conduct violation.” 

According to the article, under Illinois law, disorderly conduct means behaving “in an unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another, or to provoke a breach of the peace.”

What they are saying is that showing disagreement by rolling your eyes is unreasonable behaviour that might alarm or disturb someone.

If this sort of thing catches on, I’m getting a “Smash-Things-With-a-Baseball-Bat-Shop” franchise.  It will be a gold mine.  Imagine spending a whole day having to suppress natural reactions to the stupidity, thoughtlessness and general annoyingness of the people around you.  Wouldn’t it make you want to pick up a baseball bat and smash something?

I don’t know about you but I grew up in a world in which people were fairly quick to let you know where you stood.  Teachers used red ink and corrected our work with gentle observations like “WRONG!!!” And we survived.

When I was an agent of global capitalism, I met my share of people who made eye rolling look like a loving caress.  I once had a boss who was, to put it mildly, a maniac.  One time we had to present a report to him.  We worked diligently and polished the finished product.  After the presentation, which he did sit through without interruption, he picked up the report, tore it up, threw it in the wastebasket and then expectorated into the waste basket to show his displeasure.  Rich verbal feedback about our performance and quality as employees and human beings followed.

I wonder what the eyeball police would say about that.

In fact, the more I think about it, I’m a little worried about a post eyeball rolling world.  For one thing, walking down the street would be like a scene from Children of the Corn or Village of the Damned.  And that would be scary.

But it would also be confusing.  Because people would walk around like zombies and not be able to intimidate each other by eye rolling, but presumably they would still be able to give each other the finger while driving.  Or, given that this is Chicago, pull a gun on each other. 

The law of unintended consequences might end up engineering emotional nuance out of human interaction.

Where in the past other people could give you clues that you are getting on their nerves, e.g., by rolling their eyes, now they would be legally required to go to more extreme forms of showing displeasure. 

Theoretically, I supposed, if there were enough “Smash-Things-With-a-Baseball-Bat-Stores” it wouldn’t be so bad.  But if people couldn’t go work out their frustrations on inanimate objects, they very well may start doing it on each other. 

All because it would be illegal to show displeasure by eye rolling.

A Bigger Time Waster Than Facebook?

Have you ever met anyone who told you that they have too much time on their hands? 

Of course not.

Everyone you meet today is constantly complaining about how busy they are.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the important things that need to be done. 

And that’s why I am so confused by an article I read yesterday.  It described a bunch of people who have way too much time on their hands.

In the Houston Museum of Natural Science they have a specimen of something called a “corpse flower.”  It is called a corpse flower because when it blooms, the flower smells like a rotting corpse.

I don’t know about you, but that’s just about all I need to know about the corpse flower. 

Apparently, nature has equipped it with this characteristic in order to attract flies which crawl all over it and pollinate it.  Whatever happened to nice smells and colors to attract bees to do the same job?

The corpse flower only grows in Indonesia, but they have this one in Houston and people are coming out of the woodwork to see (and smell) it when it opens.

And that’s the problem. 

Lois, as the plant has been named, is refusing to open and the suspense is getting unbearable.  The plant is seven years old and has never bloomed before.  The flower only lasts for a few days and it may never bloom again.

I’m having a real hard time getting excited about it, but the plant’s caretaker is quoted as saying “This is huge.  This is one of the biggest attractions we’ve ever had here.”

Excuse me?  Last time I looked natural science encompassed things like space and black holes and Higgs Bosons and earthquakes.  Those things are huge.  Smelly plants are something else.

The museum has had to stay open 24×7 to accommodate the crowds who want to come see Lois.  And the flower hasn’t even opened yet.  They even have a webcam and Twitter feed.   Lois has 1,779 followers!

I used to think that it was weird that Wal Mart was open 24 hours.  I used to ask myself “Who goes to Wal Mart at three in the morning?”  Scratch that.  It’s now, “Who goes to see a smelly flower that hasn’t opened yet at three in the morning?”

Worse, who stares at a webcam feed of a smelly flower?  I gather (but cannot understand why) that a large part of the attraction is the smell.  How can you “enjoy” the experience by watching it on a webcam?  Now I know why my internet speed is so bad.  The pipes are clogged up with Lois watchers.  The article named some people who have been watching the webcam feed “for over a week.”  They are reported to be “disappointed by the lack of stench,” but they are proudly wearing “Team Lois” buttons and have purchased Corpse Flower t-shirts.  The mother is quoted as saying “We figure this is a rare opportunity and we need to come see it.”  Need?  Oh, and by the way, I checked.  The buttons are a cool $25 for a pack of six.

The museum reports that it is already getting four to five thousand people a day trooping through to see the plant.  The fact that it hasn’t flowered yet is disappointing many guests.  The article didn’t say whether grief counsellors are on hand. 

Actually some other form on counsellor should probably be on hand.  The head of marketing and communications for the museum was quoted as saying that people “keep coming back over and over because they are so excited about smelling it.”

As the blooming day gets closer visitor numbers are expected to rise and they think they will get ten thousand people a day on weekends.

The museum probably has mixed emotions on the flower blooming.  The suspense is pushing up attendance numbers but at the same time, they want the flower to open.  So Lois’s caretaker has put a bag of rotten bananas next to the plant.  Apparently the hormones emitted by rotting bananas can encourage flowers to bloom.  You might want to remember that.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to check out the web link.  Duh.  But guess what?  It’s worse than you think.  They explain that when you watch the feed you might see a girl with a guitar moving in and out of the picture.  She is one of the museum volunteers and she has written a song for Lois and she “serenades” the flower.  Here is an excerpt:

When she blooms you’ll smell her from a half mile radius
Oh, Lois. Come on and let your corpse-smell flow-is. 
Runnin out of words that rhyme with Lois.
La la la la la la la la grow for us.

You get the idea.

The scientific name for the Corpse flower is Amorphophallus titanium.   I don’t understand why it has that name.  I know what ‘amorphous’ means and what a ‘phallus’ is and what ‘titanium’ is, but when you put it all together I don’t know why you would call a flower by that name.

But scientific names don’t have to make sense.  After all they called the people lining up to see the flower “Homo sapiens.”

Here is a link to the webcam: you know you want to.

Update:  On July 28,  one week after I posted this, Lois mania is officially over.  The museum has returned to normal hours and a look at the webcam shows a fairly prostrate bloom.