Saturday, 13 June 2015

知觉 | Things I don’t understand about people (vol. 1)

Posted by: Dom Lowth

The human race is an odd one. Lots of what we do doesn’t really make sense. Here are some of the things I don’t understand about us:

1. Why we fear talking to new people. You might try to deny this one, but if you’re honest with yourselves I reckon the idea of, say, turning up to a party being familiar with no one other than the person who invited you sounds quite daunting doesn't it? Or starting a conversation with someone on the train because you’ve just realised that they’re going to the same gig as you. But it would be a bit weird to round on a stranger in a train and start telling them all about your favourite bands, I hear you say. Well yeah, it probably would be. It’s only weird because no one does it though. And no one does it because it’s scary. But why? As humans, we’re basically designed to be communicative, and the popularity of reality TV suggests we’re pretty keen to know about the lives of strangers. Most of us also have friends, which means we must have spoken to a handful of new people somewhere along the line. I don't get it. If you know the answer, let me know.

2. Why anyone ever thought chopsticks were a good idea. This one is a hundred times more confusing than the first. You order noodles at a Chinese restaurant – a food that’s difficult to manage at the best of times – and they’ll hand you two medium length wooden sticks to eat them with. It’s not even my personal ability with the chopsticks that’s the issue. I’m often the one at Wagamama who explains the technique to the group. And always the first to ask for a fork and spoon. You can’t eat noodle soup with two wooden sticks. Or rice. Or chicken katsu curry. Dear China, you’re arguably the fastest growing economy and superpower in the world at the moment... sort it out. There isn't exactly a lack of things being ‘made in China’ at the moment, so no one’s really going to notice if you stop manufacturing your chopsticks, are they?

3. Why music has such an effect on us. When you think about it, music is just carefully put together noise. It's lots of sounds that kind of fit with each other and sound good one after the other/at the same time. Some artists struggle to achieve the latter (don't worry Justin, I'm sure you'll crack it soon), but every song is special for someone, somewhere in the world. One particular song can take you backwards in time by several years to a memory that remains crystal clear. Every time I hear ‘Jump in the Pool’ by Friendly Fires I’m suddenly sat outside in the sun, reading a magazine about guitars on a family holiday in Italy. Music can even generate powerful emotions, and change the way you reason completely. There are songs on my iPod that never fail to put a smile on my face, or that get me in the mood for going out, give me confidence, or upset me. There are others I will never be able to listen to without thinking of a special person or place. Music is just noise, but its power and its control over us is astounding.

4. Why we continue to use shoelaces when Velcro exists. We're getting onto the serious issues now. In the 1940s, George de Mestral invented the simple ‘hook and loop’ design of the Velcro brand. Since then it’s been used on clothes and shoes all over the world, but only on those made for children. It would appear that the adult clothing brands generally haven’t quite caught on. The idea hasn’t stuck (ha). Granted; shoelaces are considered rather more ‘grown up’, but think of the hours of your life you’ve already wasted sat down on the stairs by the front door, tying neat little bows on your shoes. In a world where everyone’s trying to make themselves look younger, and behave in a way that returns them to their youthful years, having Velcro on our shoes seems like a great opportunity to me. It would only really be childish if the shoes lit up when you jumped right? And that would be unnecessary (even though, to most of us, it would be secretly a lot of fun). We can’t really complain about living at a time where there is no time, when the solution’s right in front of us. Other brands of fabric hook and loop fasteners are, of course, available.

5. Why everyone loves popcorn so much (apart from me). Everyone knows that popcorn, as a product, comes with one of the heftiest mark-ups of them all. Cinemas buy tonnes and tonnes of the corn for next to nothing, throw it into a giant microwave, and scoop it into extortionately priced cartons (I’ve just endured quite a heated discussion with my family in the car about what the containers you eat popcorn out of at the cinema are called. I remain unconvinced by ‘carton’, but I can’t think of a better alternative. So there.) Companies have tried so hard to disguise popcorn as a more upmarket product by selling the stuff in strange, savoury and ‘gourmet’ flavours, but sadly they’ve fooled none of us. More importantly though, I don’t even think it tastes that good. I’ve never eaten popcorn and felt anything stronger than ‘yeah, this is alright’. It's what I imagine those foam packing chips would probably taste like... with the same texture too. And I like my food. Yet I’ll choose Doritos over popcorn at the cinema any day. So what is it that I'm missing? Is it the brands I’ve chosen? Am I chewing it too quickly?

You'll notice that I've entitled this post: 'vol. 1'. There is a lot more that I don't understand about people. Volume 2 is on its way.

Dom's listening to: ‘Tompkins Square Park’ by Mumford & Sons

Read my previous post here.

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