The other day, a friend shared a link to an article deriding “daddy dates”, whereby a father takes his daughter(?) on a “date”. The article and its agreers felt that the concept was poisonously patriarchal, bordering on creepy.
“Spending time with your children is normal,” called one such person. Their point was that we shouldn’t make special terms for it. More broadly, the point was two-fold: one, that we shouldn’t raise girls to think that dates are these things where a man takes you out and treats you like a princess; two, we shouldn’t subscribe to the notion that fathers are absent by default, and therefore have to make special dates to spend time with their children.
I know where this idea comes from. It’s a feminist concept called “toxic masculinity” – concepts of masculinity, usually devised and propagated by men, which are harmful to the male psyche and an individual man’s wellbeing. In some applications, the theory can explain a lot of male issues. I don’t believe this is one.
The grounds immediately outside my work is a veritable oasis, an enclaved shelter against the chaos of London. It contains a Buddhist -hemed yoga hall, so attached to it is a moss garden with Buddha statues and large palms, set underneath a wooden walkway, below ground level for the area. On the same theme, there is a large cast iron cow just behind the offices.
All around are several other kinds of trees and planters, and a large structure made out of old shipping crates, stacked criss-crossed on top of each other; on top is some kind of wire humanoid structure. At least two of the crates can be entered – they appear to be worksheds of some kind.
This is all marred a little by the fact that the whole enclosure appears to be locked down like a fortified bunker. Which is particularly bizarre, when you consider that there’s a yoga hall in there. More than once, some of the people who work in the complex have called out to ask me what I’m doing there, as if the idea that I might work there is too foreign to consider.
Everyone I see there I assume works there. It’s the simplest, easiest, most obvious assumption. I don’t pay attention to who they are or how they dress, because it doesn’t concern me. It may well be that others don’t live by this rule.
They see me in my winter poncho and peaked cap, hoodie and trainers (I change when I get to work) and assume I’m a ne’erdowell of some eccentric variety. I look different, I grant you, but not as weird as it sounds. And certianly not by city standards.
At first I was rather baffled by all this glowering, and responded with the wide-eyed Bambi look my face sometimes does, when I feel cowed by something. It has the unintended advantage of making people feel guilty about having accosted me in the first place More often than not they then leave me alone, looking as ashamed of themselves as if they’ve just chastised a disabled puppy.
But after a few such instances, I started waving away these questions more pointedly than I would usually. One such time, I was asked by someone if he could “help” me, which in passive aggressive English means: “Tell me what you’ve up to at once,” but also leaves itself open to a fecaetious refusal to read between the lines, instead responding: “No, I’m fine, thank you.” Which I did.
“No,’ said the man, irritably. “You’re not fine, you’re wandering around.”
So what? I thought. Crime to wander around?
“I own this site,” he continued portentiously. Subtext: You be trespassing on my kingdom, suspicious lookin’ person.
“I work here. Just around the corner. In the Natraj building,” I explained, for what felt like the hundredth time. He still didn’t seem to get it.
“Can’t you get in?” he asked, not at all kindly, as if to suggest that if I work in an office, I darned well better get to it. It was 8 o’clock in the morning, a full hour before I start.
“I can get in. I’m just getting some fresh air before work.”
“Oh well, you’re very welcome to get some fresh air,” he said, as if it was ridiculous to suggest that he had implied otherwise.
Too bad it’s not ridiculous – that’s exactly what London is like. You want to walk? Get some fresh air? Be outside? In the winter? You must be a crazed sandal-wearing hippy, almost certainly an unemployed drifter. The only people who get away with it are the smokers. I’d have to smoke myself half to death before I’m allowed to be outside. No wonder no one’s healthy.
It’s the suspicion that annoyes me the most. The city is thick with it. Take a photo of the outside of the wrong building and the security guard (or all twelve of them) comes charging out like you’ve just stripped off your coat to reveal a bomb vest.
What is it they imagine I’m going to do with these photos? Bring down the organisation with my blurry pictures of yellow lighting, office furniture and bald patches obscured by grimy windows?
I’m not sure they even know what they want. When they press me and I explain that I’m taking photos because I like photography, they don’t seem to know what to say. I often wonder how it is that this answer is anything other than completely expected. Even if I was there for insideous purposes, what am I likely to say? “Yes, I was just indulging in a spot of corporate espionage. Problem?”
I think they’re taken aback by their own overzealousness. They assume the worst and when they discover that there’s no “worst” they could have assumed in the first place, things get vaguely awkward. I guess they’re gagging for a bit of excitement. I often feel like I let them down when I turn out not to be a villain after all. I deprived them of their Bruce Willis moment.
One time, I took a picture of a gas station while wearing a hoodie with my hood up against the cold wind, and was immedately collared, taken around a backalley where a man’s face appeared over a fence and interrogated me as to what I was doing. When I explained that I was taking photos of the street art, they immediately let me go an actively encouraged me to continue.
Another time, I took a picture of some architecture from the inside of a café, and a guy burst in, demanding to see the photos. He just happened to be standing underneath the spot I was aiming at, and thought I was taking a picture of him. I should probably be more vigilant as to which architecture is unfortunately sheltering London’s camera- shy drug dealers.
The whole city is allergic to photography. If the camera isn’t facing inwards on the end of a selfie stick, if you aren’t in front of Tower Bridge, you must be up to something downright criminal. No one sees anything, no one appreciates anything, and worst of all, there is nothing Londoners appreciate less that someone who appreciates everything.
Yes, I know I’m slowing you down while I take a picture of this buttress. It’s half seven in the morning, you’ve plenty of time to get to work and you’re going to some desk job where you’ll be stuck inside all day, staring at a computer screen. Excuse me if I don’t see why you’re in such an hurry to get there. Take a few breaths.
If you do wonder what this irritating person in the street taking photos of everything does with all the images, you can see on my DeviantArt page.
By now, probably half of people with smartphones have played in-app purchase games. These are the little games that let you play for free – but, for a price, you can add some extra resources to your game.
Building games are the best example of the worst example. Building games are any which allow you to build a settlement or civilisation and expand it slowly, be it mediaeval castle grounds, a dragon breeding den or a city. Their whole scoring system is in-game money (known herein as “funds” to distinguish it from real money).
Traditional games get harder because the aim is to give you more enjoyment, improving the reputation of the brand, leading to more upfront purchases. In in-app purchase games, the developer no stake in reputation. The game only needs to be interesting enough and long enough to collect as much money from players as possible.
There are two modes, unknown to the player; the free section and the paid section, which segues in seamlessly, without warning. The whole game is designed to quietly push you towards spending real money.
Below are a few of the key tricks of the genre, which play off human psychology to maximise likelihood of real life payment.
It suits meat-eaters to say that pro-veganism is propaganda. It’s one of those nasty words, where if you fire it in someone’s direction, maybe they’ll become offended and flounce off, saving you from the need to speak to them.
Like all such words, the true nature of propaganda is not properly understood. Type the word into Google, and the first definition is: “Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”
By that simple definition, any information which expresses a particular point of view, with an aim to change minds, is propaganda. That would include all political expression and anything said by activists. It basically divides the whole world into just cold hard fact and propaganda.
This is a blog in a series documenting my experiences with the Sock Mob volunteer network, who travel around London once a fortnight, offering socks and various supplies to homeless people.
As I travelled forth to The Strand on the suburban rail, I got some quizzical looks in the direction of my thermos. Perhaps some people wondered why I was heading miles out for a picnic in the middle of the urban cosmopolis during rush hour, amid the steady drizzle of a winter’s night.
I met a newbie who had only just made the list, 20 minutes before the group was due to meet. She’d been on the reserves, as the MeetUp is always oversubscribed. I had to admire her dedication to come out at such short notice. She was travelling light as a result, which was probably why she elected to hold other people’s thermos flasks for them, aloft, like the Holy Grail.
She told me that the Sock Mob is such a great idea, she didn’t want to miss it. Often people are keen at first, then drop off, perhaps resurfacing a few months later. We get a steady rotation of people.
One of our first patrons of the night was Jay. He had a dog called Waggles, who gazed up at us curiously as we descended upon them laden with gifts. This week, the Sock Mob lived up to its name with a dazzling selection of lurid socks, which went down unexpectedly well. Jay liked them, and also accepted a bright orange notebook.