Keep Talking

This caught my eye in the wake of the Brangelina fallout:

But perhaps the flow of headlines about unhappy endings actually gives us the wrong impression about Hollywood relationships, because there is a long list of high-profile couples who have proved stars can have staying power.

The Sex and the City actress has been married to the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star for 19 years. The couple have three children.

Parker has admitted their marriage has been through “some rather treacherous train rides”.

But in 2014 Broderick said: “We really are friends beyond everything else and we talk a lot.”

Asked his advice for other couples, he said: “Just keep talking I guess. I know how cliched that is. Too much silence is definitely not a good idea.”

There is probably more wisdom in those last two paragraphs than there is in ten thousand dollars’ worth of marriage guidance counselling and a decade of contemporary opinions on what a modern relationship should look like.

When I look back at the relationships I’ve had that have worked, and compared them against those that haven’t, the differences between them can probably be linked to communication.  I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, and I believe problems can be solved by talking about them (and writing about them, hence the blog).  I start any relationship – platonic or romantic, male or female – by talking three times as much as I’m supposed to and keeping that up indefinitely.  Listening is also important, and I have often been accused of not doing so.  Although every serious instance of that has been in a professional capacity when a manager has mistaken “listening” for “agreeing”.  There may have been a time when I thought I didn’t listen to people in relationships, but that long ago gave way to a confidence that I know the people close to me very, very well indeed.  And you don’t get to do that by not listening, and thinking about what they’ve said.

Communication is everything in a relationship.  When things are going well, communication tends to go well.  But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open.  Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message.  But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply.  The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over.  Dead.  It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off.  But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest.  Get back to talking as soon as possible.  Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship.  If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

And if you are stupid enough to think that adopting a position of silence and ignoring a partner who is reaching out to you in order to punish him/her, and require that they come grovelling back with an apology and take all the blame regardless in order for you to respond, then you deserve all the misery that is coming your way.  A decent partner wouldn’t do this, and Matthew Broderick is right again when he says:

We really are friends beyond everything else

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what.  If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

Keep talking, as the BT ads used to say.

(No, this is not related to any current personal issue I have.  I just saw Broderick’s remarks and decided to look back on relationships I’ve either been in myself or those of others I’ve been around.)

Altered Carbon

Following a thread over at Chez Worstall on sci-fi novels, I acted upon the recommendation of two commenters to take a look at Altered Carbon, a 2002 novel by Richard Morgan.  I’m not a huge sci-fi fan and when I tried reading some of the classics I found them too dated.  Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was an exception, but I couldn’t finish Stranger in a Strange Land.  However, I enjoyed Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but that might be because I could visualise it better thanks to Blade Runner.

But one of the chaps who recommended Altered Carbon described it as “a sort of blade runner crossed with Sam Spade”, which was enough for me and so I bought it for my Kindle.  I found to my delight that the description was absolutely spot on, and I was hooked immediately.  I am rarely very impressed with modern fiction, with the last book that really held my attention being Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for which I shunned all in-flight entertainment on a long-haul trip between Nigeria and somewhere.  Altered Carbon had the same effect, and then some.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I am looking forward to reading the sequals.  I was also excited to hear that Netflix is making a TV series of it, which if done properly ought to be brilliant.

That’s why the Worstall Arms is the most popular pub in town.  Come for the economics, stay for the comments.

Thoughts on Friendship and Chivalry

James Higham has written a thought-provoking post over at Nourishing Obscurity on the behaviours of modern women.  Rather than quote it at length I’ll advise you go and read it in full, but there are two things I wanted to expand on, separately.

The first:

In childhood, I had a mate who had a younger sister and she was rather nice looking, smiled a lot etc. Someone joked about him fancying her, to which he replied we had to be kidding, she was a right little bitch, he had to deal with her every day.

There is a persistent belief among some women (and maybe this also applies to men) that they are suited for a romantic relationship because they have friends.  I’ve known women who, struggling in a relationship in part due to an inability to compromise and/or communicate properly, rush off and speak to their friends who give them advice along the lines of “Fuck him, there’s nothing wrong with you, if he can’t accept you as you are, dump his ass!”  More often than not they’ll follow this advice rather than listen to what the man is telling her.  Leaving aside the whole issue of women’s “friends” and whether their advice is sincere or self-serving, it misses the point that – as James’ pal noted – having to deal with somebody in an intimate relationship in terms of compromises, values, and communication is a very different beast than being somebody’s mate.  I have fantastic, close, and long-lasting friendships with both men and women but I’d not want to have to interact with them with the frequency, intensity, and emotions that a romantic engagement requires.  And I can assure you that not a single damned one of them would want to do the same with me!

The second:

The obvious rejoinder was and still is – that we males are no great shakes either by our own lights – slovenly, brusque, uncaring, insensitive, making bad jokes and disrespecting wimmin.

Methinks wimmin would be well advised today to consider the reintroduction of chivalry.  Not only did it offer protection, in that any man nearby would have stepped in to help her in dire need, but it then afforded her great power of negotiation, especially regarding her body.

Back in the summer I was talking to a friend and colleague, a French lady who works as an engineer in the oil industry.  She has worked in a variety of countries and cultures, but told me the worst place she’d been in terms of harassment and disrespectful remarks was a platform in the British sector of the North Sea.  To say that this surprised me would be a gross understatement: it blew me away.  Argumentative though I am, when confronted with something rather unexpected like this I occasionally shut the fuck up and try to figure it out.  It didn’t take me long.

Back in my university days – 1996-2000 – we had a period which the tabloids and Radio 1 called the era of the “ladettes”, when British celebrities such as Denise Van Outen, Melanie Sykes, Zoë Ball, the Spice Girls, and others were throwing off the patriarchal chains and shamelessly behaving like lads in a drunken, boisterous, and crude manner.  Not only was this gleefully covered by the tabloid media, but it was positively encouraged by a branch of modern feminism which thought equality for women ought to take the form of adopting the worst behaviour in young, British men.  It wasn’t pretty.

Now I’m something between a libertarian and a classical liberal, and so I believe that if these women – or any others – want to drink themselves into oblivion on alcoholic mouthwash and make idiots of themselves in kebab houses at 3am, that’s their business.  But such liberties are also extended to those of us who observe such behaviour and pass judgement, which includes deciding how such women ought to be treated in terms of subsequent personal relations.  And when this was going on, huge swathes of Britain’s menfolk did just that: they observed women adopting their own worst behaviour and reached the inevitable conclusion that they were no different and therefore shouldn’t be treated as such.  Treat them like men, in other words: speak to them coarsely, get them drunk, pass crude remarks on their appearance, and use them for indiscriminate sex with no commitment beyond a genuine attempt to not throw up in the process.  Isn’t equal treatment what the feminists wanted?  Well, now they’ve got it.

Little wonder, then, that oil workers on the North Sea platforms don’t treat women in a respectful manner: they’ve seen their womenfolk’s behaviour and decided they are not worthy of respect.  Of course, this came as a shock to my French friend who hails from a culture where certain old-fashioned behavioural standards among women are still adhered to and hence the menfolk afford them a respect which by English standards is almost quaint.  Ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a middle class French woman blind drunk, falling over, and having sex behind a bin.  They’d die of shame first.  Whereas my French friend did say she had a limited amount of admiration and envy for the British girls who could go out dressed in anything they liked and behave however they wanted, she did not wish to replicate such behaviour herself.

I don’t think Britain should return to the 1950s, before the sexual revolution set the current train in motion.  There were practices and attitudes that needed to be abandoned, and thankfully were.  But I can’t help thinking we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater, here.  Having mocked the traditional, chivalrous, English gent of the pre-1950s into extinction, women are now rather distressed to find he has been replaced by a boorish oaf.  Whose fault is that, then?

Duplicated Efforts

From the BBC:

Aeroplane seats have come a long way: The early ones were made of wicker. Yet ask any flight attendant, and he or she will tell you that they hear complaints on a frequent basis. Are some seats better than others? And more importantly — how can you nab those spots for yourself?

It’s common to hear gripes about seat comfort, legroom, size — and, of course, other passengers reclining their seats. There are whispers that some seats are better than others, but is true? The short answer: Yes.

Such valuable information is what television owners in Britain pay the BBC £3.7bn per year for.

Alternatively, they could go to www.seatguru.com – a free site which has been going for 15 years.

Brad’s Pit

Speaking of Brad Pitt, there is an actor who cut his own career off at the knees by choosing to play himself halfway through.  Granted, in one sense is career has been doing just fine and he’s an A-lister landing the best roles, but nobody is going to look back in twenty or thirty years and say he was one of Hollywood’s greats.

Which is a shame because back around the time I was in university (1996-2000) I thought he was shaping up to be a decent actor.  I first noted him when he played a murderous redneck alongside David Duchovny and Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia (1993).  Lewis stole the show as a seriously retarded and sexually active teenager whom Pitt’s character exploits, but nevertheless I thought he put in a convincing performance which showed he wasn’t just going to play the pretty-boy roles people wanted him to (e.g. Thelma and Louise, A River Runs Through It).  He showed up in a minor but memorable role in True Romance (1993), a film with more memorable roles than you can remember, as pot-head Floyd who my schoolmates at the time thought was a character to aspire to.  For some reason I missed out on seeing Interview with the Vampire (1994) but found him convincing as the young detective in Se7en (1995), one of the most highly-rated films of that era.  Next came Twelve Monkeys (1995) in which he played an ideologically-driven nutcase, which showed he was interested in complex roles that weren’t written just to make him look pretty.  Sleepers (1996) was a good film but not because of Pitt’s performance, although he was made to look like Orson Welles by the film’s lead (whose name I forgot).

Then came Fight Club (1999) which all the pot-heads in university loved and everyone still raves about it.  Me, I thought it was overrated at the time and not that clever, and recent viewings have done nothing to convince me I was wrong the first time around.  Whereas I thought Ed Norton did a great job, it took a friend of mine to point out what I found wrong with Brad Pitt in that film: he was playing himself.  Whereas everyone says how great the character of Tyler Durden is (and you have to credit the scriptwriters for coming up with it), Pitt’s portrayal consisted mainly of standing around in a buff body looking cool and relaxed while shooting off pithy one-liners (or two-liners in the case of the film’s most famous quote).  It was hardly a difficult role to pull off, at least compared to Norton’s.  But I overlooked this when I saw him in Snatch (2000) which I absolutely loved, and particularly for Pitt’s portrayal of gypsy boxing champion Mickey.  I grew up in West Wales where there is no shortage of “pikeys”, and some exaggerations aside, the characters could have been pulled from a documentary and Pitt’s accent was right on the money.

However, it appeared to all go downhill from there, and I think Ocean’s Eleven (2001) was where it started.  For whatever reason, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and (to a lesser extent) Matt Damon decided they were going to make a film in which they play themselves: suave gents standing around in nice suits shooting off witty remarks at each other.  Pitt’s character is eating in most shots, something he apparently suggested because it would be funny.  Although not a bad movie, it is mostly a vehicle for the leading actors to mince about on a screen looking and sounding cool, and that’s rarely a good reason to make a film.  It’s fine for an actor to look and sound cool in a film, but that should not be the primary purpose of the picture.

Unfortunately, his next feature film was Troy (2004), which was probably his worst.  If in Ocean’s Eleven he looked as though he wasn’t acting, in Troy he looked as though he couldn’t even if he wanted to.  He followed this up with Ocean’s Twelve (2004) to which my comments from Ocean’s Eleven apply, then Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) which wasn’t a bad film but it was hardly a defining role.  So since Snatch in 2000 it’s largely been crap.  I wasn’t convinced by his performance in Inglourious Basterds (2009) despite being handed a half-decent character and script to work with, and everything else I’ve seen him in has failed to impress.  With him now being 53, it’s hard to see him doing anything which will make him a Hollywood legend in what remains of his career.  I expect he’ll end up a bit like his pal George Clooney, starring in films such as The American (2010) which get made seemingly only to demonstrate that the lead is still a Casanova who can bang hot, young chicks.

One could contrast Brad Pitt’s career with that of Leonardo DiCaprio, who around the time of Pitt’s peak was filling pretty-boy roles in Titanic (1997) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).  I’d written DiCaprio off as a serious actor until he surprised me in The Aviator (2004), followed up by mature performances in good films such as The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), Body of Lies (2008), Shutter Island (2010), and Inception (2010) to make him what is probably Hollywood’s top-billing male star.  DiCaprio is only 42 and already has a solid stable of decent films and varied performances under his belt, and has avoided the temptation thus far to play himself in fun-to-make films.  I wouldn’t say I thought The Revenant (2015) was a great film (although the cinematography was wonderful) and I didn’t think DiCaprio’s performance was brilliant.  But he tried something challenging and gave it a damned good go, and you could see the effort he put in.  If he keeps this up for another 30 years he will most likely become known as the best actor of his generation.

Brad Pitt, on the other hand, will probably be known as the fool who dumped Jennifer Aniston for that whats-‘er-name nutcase.

Calumny

Chicago Boyz has put up a post about calumny, which is a word you don’t hear much these days but appears to have been in common use historically.  According to the Webster’s, calumny is:

1:  a misrepresentation intended to harm another’s reputation

2:  the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another’s reputation

The Chicago Boyz post was brought to my attention by Samizdata commenter DOuglas2, who mentioned it in the context of the recent (but seemingly temporary) banning of Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit from Twitter.  I can think of numerous examples – the hounding of Tim Hunt being the one that immediately springs to mind – of calumny being alive and well in the modern world, assuming it ever went away.

I’ve known this word, and what it means, since I was about 20 purely because I was, and am, a fan of Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville.  Act I Scene II provides probably the best description of calumny there is in an aria – La Calunnia – sung in bass.  It’s worth a listen.

Here be dragons

Via Tim Worstall, I see that the Hungarian government has upset British diplomats by dishing out leaflets saying that Britain has “no-go” zones as a result of its immigration policies.  This follows the row a few weeks back over Air China warning its passengers to be careful in areas of London populated by swarthy folk.

I cite the above merely to remark on the warnings our own Foreign Office gives to British citizens travelling abroad, which either:

1) Warn travelers to stay away from a place which has just witnessed some one-off catastrophe which is all over the news and in which thousands of people have been killed. This warning appears on their website two days after the event.

or

2) Warn travelers to stay away from a country in which something of minor consequence has happened that nevertheless got the British media excited, and life is going on as normal.

Brad Splitt and Angelina Lonely

So Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are going to split up.  Frankly, I’m amazed they’ve lasted this long together.  I always thought she was a complete weirdo, wearing vials of blood around her neck and getting weird tattoos, collecting a flock of multi-coloured foreign children, and having been through two husbands already.  Sure, she was cute enough when she was in her late teens but she quickly became, in my opinion, one of those actresses who they shove onto the screen in the knowledge that everyone will marvel at how beautiful she is rather than notice she can’t act for shit.  Which is great, only if you think – as I do – that she looks more weird than pretty then you’re left wondering how she ever got through an audition.

She’s recently turned her hand to directing, something which I am sure causes Hollywood’s established directors to snigger at behind closed doors.  I couldn’t manage to get through more than the first half hour of Unbroken, saccharine-laced guff that it was, and By the Sea sounds like just the sort of self-indulgent shite you’d expect from her: it currently enjoys an IMDB rating of 5.3.

My opinion at the time was that Brad Pitt fucked up royally when he left Jennifer Aniston, who I’ve always thought was adorable.  I’m not sure if Aniston would have made a great wife, but she is one hell of a lot less weird than Jolie and appears to be ageing a lot better too.  She must be having a chuckle to herself now.