Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The High-Rising Terminal, or "Uptalking"

You know it well. The Australian/Valley-Girl tic of making declarative statements sound like a question: "So I went to, like, the shop? And, like, saw this dress? And it was, like, so cute? I, like, had to buy it?"

Fuck. Off.

Intoning every sentence as a question makes you impossible to listen to or take seriously.

Don't be one of these apologist cunts who excuse this bad verbal habit saying it's a natural evolution of the language that somehow shows sensitivity to the listener by checking to see if they've understood. Because it isn't that, and even if it was, I'd call that "condescension".

The constant yoyoing of pitch is a way of making the listener pay attention, something like the whine of an annoying child or spoilt dog. It is narcissistic approval-seeking, and a petty, continuous attention-grab by the vacuous. It is a verbal probe in search of ego-stroking nodding heads and murmured assent. It removes every shade of intonation from proper elocution and turns your speech into the equivalent of a flashing advertisement. It is mentally taxing, forcing you to repeat mentally what you've just heard to parse the grammatical structure.

This used to be an exclusively pubescent female thing, but now you seemingly can't avoid it from people of any gender or age. But you still sound like a pubescent female to me and so I'm going to consciously accessorise you with a a small, pink, Swarovski-studded handbag and "Princess" T-shirt.

I am going to make an actual suggestion here. When the people you know and care about start to do this: Call them out on it.

I want teachers punishing children to prevent it becoming standard English. I want parents soaping mouths. I want friends playing games that involve inflicting pain on offenders.

Get to it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Intra-Female Babytalk

Sometimes, when strategising for my personal apocalypse (or when I'm stuck in a waiting room), I browse women's magazines.

There are definitely interesting things in ladymags. One can definitely learn a lot about how truly inadequate one is as a person when confronted with one-season outfits consisting of about one handkerchief's worth of material that cost more than a second-hand car. Sadly, I do think the sex advice subject matter well dried up in about 1982 because the truly interesting stuff, as covered by Dan Savage, is just going too far for most sponsors. What does prey on my mind though, when reading about womanly matters, is the language used.

Why do they write articles for adult women in babytalk? What is this paedolinguistic abomination that is female-targeted copywriting? Why are outfits for grown women "cute"? Why, after puberty, do you have still have "tummies"? Why, in a magazine that features tips on the act of fellatio, do you resort to infantile euphemisms for your breasts? 

If they write it because it's proven by marketing people not to confront the readership, then, come on, harden the fuck up, ladies. That cheesecake-distended, orange-peeled abdominal sac of adipose tissue that's hanging over your pantihose isn't getting any smaller when you refer to it in the diminutive.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Post-War Architecture

I recently had an argument with an architect friend about the merits of Brutalist Architecture. I argued that, as with all things, Sturgeon's Law applies and the vast bulk of it is an utter blight. Poured concrete fortresses designed specifically to upend the viewer's sense of space and mass ("exhilarate") do not make liveable environments.

You could argue that it represents a vision, that it is bold, striking, clear, clean, and has of late acquired a historical "warmth" through familiarity and association. You could argue those things, but then you could argue that quite a few nice people have been born as a result of the many rapes committed in the tangled concrete intestines of cheaply-erected poverty warehouses like the Trellick Tower.

I'm not saying that I don't see the stylistic boldness in the cantilevers, I'm just saying I don't want to be underneath them, because the impression of hanging weight above you is not "exhilarating" as much as it's immensely disconcerting on an animal level. This kind of thing makes for striking video game levels and sci-fi movie sets, but vast expanses of temporarily congealed grey slurry hanging above you in person are threatening. Additionally, the sheer finality and planar blankness of Brutalist design does not lend itself to anything much in the way of modification and softening but graffiti, something it attracts almost as well as the walls erected by political segregationists.

This particular dislike of mine forced me to examine my stance on contemporary architecture. Do I, in fact, like any of it? I had to think hard. I admit that I like looking at books of architecture. And I like how some of the more imposing designs look in carefully composed and lit photographs. But do I actually like any of the buildings in person? No, I actually don't.

Of particular vexation is the popularity of utterly talentless swine like Frank Gehry, who apparently think that building a rapidly decomposing structure composed of concave mirrors in a hot climate is a tenable architectural style. His Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall is renowned by locals for creating a "death ray" that heats the surrounding pavement to sixty degrees Celsius and sunburning passersby.

I can't help but feel that something went horribly wrong with architecture after the Second World War. The understandable desire to leave history behind was acknowledged as a flaw by Post Modern architects, but their solution was not to move back and carry on from where the pre-Modern styles left off, but to tack hideous, infantile references to older styles onto the same asymmetrical building blocks. The funny thing is that I like challenging art, but challenging architecture is art you can't escape. Have you ever got hopelessly lost in one of these "adventurous", award-winning public facilities designed to escape the confines of the grid? This is bad design. There seems to be a genuine problem of architects needing to escape modish peer criticism instead of building something likeable.

Of late I've noticed that materials like stainless steel and stone have made a pleasing comeback here and there, but I still haven't seen a new building that looks remotely inviting. Every time I see a small, humble old house made of carefully cut stone with lumpy windows next to a towering robot factory, I can't help wondering if the architect in question felt like a bully when observing the contrast himself.

I hope he did.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Blue LEDs on Everything

Let me explain this one: an LED is a light-emitting diode, and is familiar to most people in the form of the tiny blinkenlights festooning nearly every gadget ever made. As it happens, blue LEDs were a serious technological challenge and not available until fairly recently. The moment they became available it sparked a technological revolution as suddenly white light was available from these tiny, extremely economical bulbs, and technologies like Blu-ray could exist. This is a truly great thing, and I therefore love blue LEDs.

The problem is that every gadget manufacturer simultaneously suddenly saw the popular appeal of the intense blue they produced, and now one almost cannot buy a gadget without the things on the front of the device. Why is this a problem? Why has it elicited my hatred? Because they are too fucking bright for their actual purpose and do not inherently communicate anything.

This is very simple. Green means "on", orange means "standby", "charging" or "processing" and red means "off". It's a scheme that has worked for ages and is still employed by responsible manufacturers because everyone who lives near a road with a traffic light understands it.

But now nearly every device has a bloody blue-violet eyeball-tanner instead of a proper status LED. This is particularly galling on audio/video components, where, when watching a movie late at night, it is difficult to see low-level detail on your TV screen because you are blinded by the power lights on your gear rack. I have a USB wall charger that I bought specifically to charge things overnight without the sound of a computer intruding on my precious sleep, and the stupid blue LED on the thing is so damn bright that it's actually possible to read in bed with it on.

Are we all over this new colour yet? I am.