(Bitter, lesbiany T-shirts available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/boxcutters.)
Last week we talked about Henrie Stride and – let’s be honest – I wasn’t very complimentary. In fact, I was downright irksome.
You may remember that Ms Stride is convinced that people are only interested in “pretty” and “upbeat”, so how did my low-level sniping affect the popularity of The Outland Institute? We had a massive spike of readers and Wednesday the 29th had the most visitors the Institute has ever seen. Why? Because misery loves company. Everytime I write something that drips of bile – like this review of BBC’s Survivors – the numbers shoot right up.
I think the truth is that “contented” is not the same as “interesting”. As our old friend Leo Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. He’s a laugh-riot, isn’t he? You should see the thing he wrote for Adam Sandler.
I had been pondering on what this all meant when I found myself at a party, trying to talk to someone I hadn’t met before. The conversation was stilted, so in desperation I said, “Tell me five petty things that annoy you“. And let me tell you – it’s an ice-breaker. Soon we were all getting along like a house on fire. A funhouse on fire. Full of clowns. A funhouse full of burning clowns.
When it comes to misanthropy, of course, no-one beats the British. The BBC have an excellent television show called Room 101, which is like Enough Rope for the terminally depressed. A celebrity guest comes on to discuss the things they hate, hoping the host will remove them from existence (which is to send them to Room 101, in a strange conceptual mangling of George Orwell’s 1984). Starting life as a radio show in 1992, it moved to TV in 1994 and has even seen a Dutch spin-off (presumably as a form of revenge for Big Brother). And that’s without mentioning the “Grumpy” franchise, which started with Grumpy Old Men (2003), then led to Grumpy Old Women (2004), Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) and will presumably soon include Celebrity So You Think I Love The Make Me A Grumpy Old Supermodel, Get Me Out Of Here House (2010).
And I find I like Will Self more knowing that he hates airport architecture. Knowing Meera Syal dislikes Austria is strangely comforting. And seeing that Michael Grade still feels the need to openly despise Doctor Who – nearly 20 years after he cancelled it – says more about him than the program in question. I find these petty dislikes give me a much better view of the person – they feel more intimate, somehow, and less filtered than hearing them talk about their love of fine wines, or charity work. (Remember how on Perfect Match everyone used to like “travelling, raging and meeting people”?).
So do the things we hate define us better than the things we like? I sent an email out to a number of the Institute’s Friends and Leavers Of Comment, to gauge their opinion, and to ask them to list five minor things that annoy them. I swear I have NEVER seen emails come back so fast. It would seem people love to talk about things that irritate – but does it give you an insight into their character?
Eamon Walmsley agreed. “Dislike – and, dare I say, hatred – are far more primal in a person’s make-up. We learn to love and we learn to appreciate, we dislike and/or revile on pure instinct.” Anne-Marie Peard concurred, adding “I once told someone I liked them because ‘we hate the same things'”. Stephanie Bateman-Graham felt the proposition was not just true but provable – “If you consider a person’s dislikes from an engineering “failure analysis” perspective, that can tell you much more about them than their dull merely functioning selves. What do they admit to disliking? What do you suspect they secretly dislike? What do you suspect they just pretend to dislike, for form’s sake? What accumulation of tiny stress points breaks each person in their own special and unique way?” As for the appeal, she added “Complex systems are only really interesting when they fail. Look at Jurassic Park – if all goes well you’ve got a big lizard behind an electric fence. Isn’t it much more fun to be battling for survival, parking in trees and seeing lawyers bitten in half?”
Lee Zachariah said “It’s probably true, though it’s a bit sad that we all have to be defined by a negative instead of a positive. I know I’m far more interested in finding out what people like, instead of what they don’t like, but then maybe I don’t want to get a better idea of their personality. Wow, this is turning into some pretty intense therapy for me. I need a lie down.” Narrelle Harris was unsure – “You may have a point. You can like things for a whole range of reasons, and two people can like the same thing for very different reasons. It’s the reason they like something which will surely give you the best indication of their personality. But nitpicks like these perhaps give you a sense of what they value. On the other hand, taking likes without the dislikes is always going to produce an imbalance. People are complex. Well, except maybe for Sam Newman.”
Nerida Haycock disagreed, “I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as one or the other. The things we share in common are the things that bring us together – whether they be likes or dislikes. And it’s probably down to semantics: you could say something like, “I like it when people are judged for who they are, rather than by the colour of their skin/nation of birth/their sexuality”, but you’re more likely to say “I hate racism/homophobia”. “
Erin Thomas agreed in theory, but felt “it’s not as important as you think”, with Michelle Hines adding “I think you need both to get a more balanced view of someone’s personality.” On that, Nerida said “If I wanted to get a quick insight into someone, I’d look at their bookshelves and music collection – which I assume would represent their likes – pretty much always a giveaway. I went to someone’s house once and they had so many self-help books that it dwarfed the Self-Help section at Borders. BACK AWAY SLOWLY.”
So did we learn anything? Not really. To sum up, Narrelle Harris said “This has been fun. I’m looking forward to learning if your analysis of my dislikes tells you more about me than the fact I love Doctor Who, Fall Out Boy and cheesecake“. And as Daniel Cardone pointed out, perhaps there is no meaning – “Some things are just inherently annoying.”
Below are the lists people made of their dislikes. For the sake of consistency, I have replaced all swear-words with the Battlestar Galactica-originated “frak“. Please note this will make the article Not Safe For Work if you live on Kobol or any of the Twelve Colonies. If you manage to get through it all, I’ll meet you at the comments at the bottom of the page – I’ll be the little black cloud in a dress…
EAMON WALMSLEY (bon vivant, Malthouse Theatre):
- Critics who try to classify new artists with clever little clashes… e.g. “think Bob Dylan if he had listened to a lot of Pantera while being chased by the Stazi… across a field of lavender”.
- Asking for an item from someone while making an action corresponding to aforementioned item… e.g. “Can I have a pen?” (while making frenzied scribbling actions through the air with an IMAGINARY pen).
- The phrase ‘Tour de force’… honestly!
- Number speak in text messages… No, I am not gr8t, I h8 u and hope you drown.
- Late night phone video offers… I do not want 17 naughty Russian babes selling sea shells by the sea shore at $64.93 per min, just go back to the late movie and leave me alone.
DANIEL CARDONE (writer/producer):
- Leaf blowers.
- People who say ‘Axe’ instead of ‘Ask’.
- People in service industries who never smile.
- Windscreen cleaners at the traffic lights.
- People who meander slowly in front of you on the pavement so you can’t walk around them.
STEPHANIE BATEMAN-GRAHAM (technical writer):
- The phrase “It’s all good”, particularly when uttered by tearful reality TV contestants in the process of having their dreams shattered. Are you living in some kind of warped hallucinatory utopia? You’re exhausted, crying and possibly in pain – you’ve probably been crushed, mocked and tortured – clearly it is not all good.
- The delayed response time when I change channels on my new digital TV. One can no longer “flick” but must “step” in a measured and calm operation, else you find yourself in the wilds of SBS3 with no way out. Way of the future – hmmph. Bring back steam-driven black & white minstrels, I say.
- The recent decision by my local supermarket to suspend the supply of squid.
- The expectation that I must form an opinion about Twitter. Dude. Ten flavours of Don’t Care.
- The way cheap blue ballpoint pens are no longer as reliable as they used to be. I don’t care if I just bought 100 of the things for 49c, they’re new and they should all work!
TIM RICHARDS (writer):
- Cafes with menu items that supposedly come with chips, but actually arrive with those fast-cooling grease sticks known as fries. They’re not the same, people! There’s a strict hierarchy: Fries -> chips -> fat chips -> wedges. How hard can this be to get right?
- People who cluster around the traffic light pole but don’t press the pedestrian call button, thus dooming us to stand through two rotations of red lights.
- Clueless announcers who say “forward slash”. There’s a slash, and then there’s a backslash – no more elaboration is needed. On top of which, the backslash is never used in Web addresses so there’s no need to make a distinction when giving a URL.
- Cafes that leave their front doors wide open all winter, no matter how cold it gets. Close the door and put an OPEN sign up if you’re worried that people will be confused.
- People who write sad but vague things in their Facebook updates, presumably fishing for attention: “Felicity is really upset now”. Sorry Felicity, who gives a frak?
GABY JUNG (artist):
- Smokers standing near entrances.
- People dropping rubbish when and whereever they feel like it.
- Cold calls – especially when they want to help me “grow your business” even when I tell them I am happy with how things are.
- Waiting for at least 20 minutes when ringing any telephone company to sort out a problem, being finally told that everything is now fixed and then finding out that it hasn’t – and to have to go through the whole process yet again!
- Organisations that tell you have to contact them (with STD calls because they do not have 1800 0r 1300 numbers, nor do they have email) if you want to stay registered (when you have already gone through that registration process years ago).
THE DELIGHTFUL MISS D (socialite):
- Corporate buzz talk eg; “punching above our weight” – ARGHHH!
- Runny cat poo in the kitty litter.
- People not changing the toilet paper when it’s empty; even though you’re sitting there and you’ve opened the new roll but DON’T put it on the holder. What else more important do you have to do while you sit there and stare at the ceiling?
- My fringe.
- Halitosis in closed spaces.
DAMARIS BAKER (musician):
- People talking loudly on their mobile phone on public transport- domestics, drug deals, romantic liasons, whatever. Too much information…
- Soggy salad with see through bits in the lettuce which look like Soylent Green.
- People who stop walking in the middle of the pavement for no reason. Especially in groups. And interrupt my flow.
- Kids who kick and hit everything around them incessantly. Especially when they are teenagers and still do it. And aren’t drummers, so have no excuse.
- Any too tight pink clothing, or lycra pants pretending to be jeans with fake seams.
ANNE-MARIE PEARD (reviewer): Anne-Marie couldn’t stop at five, so sent a list of ten…
- Runny ice cream, runny eggs (and any food that should be solid but isn’t).
- Diet Yogurt (and people who eat Diet Yogurt).
- People who brush their teeth in front of me.
- Warm coffee.
- The phrase “I don’t eat a lot of meat”.
- The use of the adverb “quirky” to describe contemporary art.
- The phrase “think outside the square”.
- Don’t get me started on apostrophes.
- Quibbling over a couple of dollars when it’s time to split the bill.
- Dickheads – they just annoy me.
NARRELLE HARRIS (author):
- Having my name misspelled. Not the first time, when you don’t know any better, but any time after that. Especially when it’s done by publishers and my name is on the FRAKKING MANUSCRIPT. Ahem.
- Being told by well-intentioned people to change the spelling of my name when I vent about #1. It’s my name, FRAKIT. Why should I have to change it? WHY CAN’T OTHER PEOPLE LEARN TO JUST WRITE DOWN WHAT I PUT ON THE BLOODY FORM! Sigh.
- Drivers who do not pull over to let ambulances/fire trucks through.
- Grammatical and punctuation mistakes on billboards.
- Mean-spiritedness. Even (or perhaps) especially fictional mean-spiritedness. I can’t warm to Stiffy Bing (PG Wodehouse) or Rick Spleen (Lead Balloon) because they are irrational, mean and dishonest. For some reason, I seem to take it very personally.
LEE ZACHARIAH (The Bazura Project):
- “Should of”. Look, a lot of people I have a tremendous amount of affection for say “should of” instead of “should have”, but it drives me absolutely up the wall. It’s indicative of my whole attitude towards the new trend of misusing grammar. Apostrophes in the wrong places, “their” instead of “there” or “they’re”, putting commas in because that’s where the pause should go… It’s so bloody irritating. Although I subscribe to the argument that language changes over time, it’s supposed to happen organically; you don’t just stop teaching it because you think the iPod generation doesn’t have the attention span for it. I think that misuse of language is a pretty big issue, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll pretend it’s a petty annoyance that occasionally gets my gander.
- Funny bumper stickers. I don’t understand — are we supposed to laugh? Is “bitch on board” meant to make us gasp at the audacity of the driver, how brave her sense of humour is? People who think that cars laden with bumper stickers are the height of humour ought to be crushed by one.
- The trailer for A Night At The Museum 2. I saw this for the first time last night, and felt like punching the projectionist, the screen, and anyone around me who laughed at any point during this trailer. Trailers for films such as this one are a pretty strong endorsement of global warning, swine flu, and anything else that’s likely to spell humanity’s doom.
- University students who try to make me sign petitions. I consume a fair amount of international news, and so I’m aware that the vast majority of issues do not have a right/wrong solution. When Israel began launching rockets over the border a few months ago, they weren’t Completely Right and they weren’t Completely Wrong. The issue was much more complex than that. So when a group of uni students started trying to get people to sign their petition urging Israel to stop the attacks, I was stunned by the stupidity of the whole thing. nobody in Israel is going to give a toss how many signatures a bunch of undergrads on the other side of the world manage to collect. Nobody in Australia really cares, either. I can start a petition to get Israel to adopt “Duuuude” as their new name, and I guarantee I’ll get more signatures than you. You’re not helping. You’re not raising awareness; you’re just raising the volume of your voice.
- Ugly ratings stickers. Australian DVDs now have the most hideous classification stickers plastered to all your favourite DVDs and movie posters. Why did they introduce them? Because of a complete lack of evidence suggesting parents were confused by the previous system (they weren’t). So, instead, they introduced brightly-coloured eyesores that ruin the cover art that somebody with actual talent spent ages designing. A work of art, if you will. In fact, I might just go to an OFLC board member’s house, find an original Sidney Nolan, and stick a big green G rating on it, just so they know that everybody in their family is cleared to look at it. I’m sure they’d love that. I know I would.
ERIN THOMAS (playwright):
- People who leave milk in bowls/cups on the sink and do not rinse them. Its just so hard to get out and so easy to avoid by a quick rinse, I’m not even asking you to wash it up. Same with eggs.
- People who do not understand or believe me when I say I hate celery. I HATE CELERY and I DON”T CARE IF IT IS GOOD FOR ME, IT TASTES LIKE URINE.
- People who think if they argue with me long enough I’ll be magically able to produce two seats to a show that has been sold out for months – IT’S SOLD OUT.
- The word “organically” to describe any creative pursuit. “We developed it organically”, or “The process was so organic” – frak off.
- People sitting on the end seat on a tram, bus or train who don’t stand up to let you out if you are sitting futher in – if they don’t I then try to whack them in the face with my arse or bag.
MICHAEL LINDNER (actor):
- The click-frakkity-clack of high heels.
- Mouth noises (tongue clicks, chewing, slight involuntary moans instead of just quietly breathing out every friggin time you exhaled while sitting next to me during that play you bitch…).
- People who stop at the end after riding the escalator.
- People who throw cigarette butts on the ground.
- People who say ‘hairy in the right places’ (get frakked).
MICHELLE HINES (musician):
- The expression “Awesome!” when what the person is talking about is far from the definition of ” Awesome”. Eg: Person A: “yes I can work that day if you want me to”, Person B: “Awesome!”, Person A: ” No, it’s not awesome, but I’m happy to help out”.
- The expression “It’s all good”. It’s the most empty, generic saying that doesn’t mean anything. In fact, it’s what people say when they don’t want to say something that means anything.
- Those blow-up puppet things that are sky high, and flap around, and have some kind of air generator to keep them up. Car-sales yards and car-washes have them to attract attention, I think. They usually have a stupid face painted on them as well. God I hate them, they’re so irritating.
- Those smart cars that drive around the city, 3 in a row, trailing a triangular advertisement for some hideous mainstream item, or some unnecessary beauty product designed to make women feel inadequate cause they’re normal. They clog up traffic, pollute the air and the drivers have a weird smugness about them, like ” I’m polluting the city for no good reason… and getting paid for it!”
- Those leaf blowing devices that are used in park areas and around cultural vicinities. Get a frakking broom if you want to move the leaves! They pollute the area, it ends up stinking of petrol and then there are no autumn leaves around for atmosphere… until they blow back of course which they always do, hence the task is completely pointless!
THE EVIL DOCTOR CHRIS (mad scientist):
- Couples who walk hand in hand down the road and are incapable of letting go when they meet someone going the other way, creating pavement chaos.
- Using “less” when you mean “fewer” (I know, I’ve given up on this one but it’s still irritating!).
- People who use the word “literally” when it’s not.
- People who sit on the outer edge of tram seats when it’s crowded and refuse to move over even though it makes it awkward for people to step over them. They are utter, utter frakkers!
- Nail buffers. They give me the willies (don’t ask, I don’t know).
NERIDA HAYCOCK (broadcaster):
- People who stand in the doorways of trams/trains, but more specifically people who won’t move down when more people need to get on, particularly in the peak hour. I’ve now given up asking people to move down – I push past them – and usually end up getting a seat when someone gets off. I call that KARMA.
- Portion control at cafes. If you insist on providing sugar in sachets, at least put a container of them on the table – don’t assume that two scant teaspoons is enough for half a litre of coffee. Same goes for butter/margarine on toast.
- (Related to point 2) Single-serve items. All that extra packaging. Cafe owners – did you know that it’s actually CHEAPER to buy in bulk and provide items such as sugar and butter in small dishes/containers? I’m sure it’s more convenient, but have a care for the environment, will you?
- “Proactive”. I LOATHE that word. Doesn’t active already convey enough meaning? And doesn’t INITIATIVE fill in any perceived gap in definition? I see no point in making up a new word when there are perfectly adequate words already in use.
- Self-serve checkouts in the supermarket. Apart from the fact that they replace staff, they are SO process-based – no flexibility. It’s so post-Fordist. Have your own bag? Well, even though it says you can put it in the bag slot, the minute you do that an “unrecognised weight” is recorded and you need assistance to get past that point! WTF?? And the whole process is so slow. I swear, the next time it fucks up I’m walking without paying.
JOHN RICHARDS (The Outland Institute):
- People who stand in the doors on trams when there are seats available. Or who take up seats with bags – basically, any tram-related selfishness. And if you wanted to be next to the front door, why didn’t you get on at the front door rather than push past everyone?
- Any reference to a character called “Doctor Who” or a television show called “Monkey Magic“. (It’s “MONKEY“, for frak’s sake. Just “MONKEY“. It was written there, on the screen, EVERY SINGLE WEEK, a SINGULAR word – “MONKEY“).
- People who excuse their ignorance by claiming the song/movie/event/show/book came out before they were born, as if they somehow live in a world with no recorded media of any kind.
- The business bastardisation of the word “grow” when the speaker actually means “develop”, “increase” or “expand”. You don’t “grow a business”, no matter what nonsense they told you in Business School. Also “going forward”.
- Meaningless comments on blogs – “gr8, ya – lol! rofl!” – really, why bother? Unless you’re a robot of some kind, and that’s the only way you can communicate. In which case kudos to you, sir. You are the droids we want.