Friday, 31 May 2019

Let's talk (reluctantly) about sex

I came across ... ... No, let's use a different phrasal verb considering the subject matter here. I stumbled across — much better — a quote from John Bayley, the (long-suffering?!) husband of the late Irish-British novelist Iris Murdoch. Bayley thought that sex was "inescapably ridiculous", in contrast to Murdoch who, it is said, had multiple affairs with both men and women.
A beer is very often more enjoyable than sex ...
Indeed ... (Image from me.me)
Bayley's "inescapably ridiculous" reference to sex resonated with me. I've had a number of sexual partners, the majority being more one-night stands than anything more regular albeit, and I struggle to remember a time when I found intercourse truly enjoyable. Most previous 'engagements' were more like jobs that had to be done rather than immensely pleasurable acts.

More by accident than design
This isn't to say I was purely "selfish" about it, just in a race to reach my climax, to heck with her. Well, perhaps it was less so than by design in all honesty, but I did satisfy my playing partners before I was "done" on a number of occasions — unless they're good fakers/liars, which would never be the case, surely?

Of course, the men's problem, if we view it as such, is that when we reach the "point of no return" so to put it, we have to wait a while to get going again. Women, so it goes, can have multiple orgasms if men (or whoever) can be bothered to take them there.
"Having sex is not the be-all and end-all."
The thing is, referring back to Bayley, I don't tend to long for sex. When I see friends basically fretting about how long it has been since they last did it, I'm rather indifferent. It's not, quite literally, something that keeps me awake at night.

It could be that I just haven't met the right person to properly "get it on with". I could equate it to the time I explained to a friend that my feeling when taking a certain drug was usually unspectacular at best, he suggested I hadn't been getting it at the right potency.

Yet, my own experiences and the relationship hardships I've seen other acquaintances deal with would make me believe that the "right person" is a bit of a fantasy. You have to let a lot go, settle for certain things if you want to convince yourself he/she is the right person. The way it is for many things in life, really.

Avoidably ridiculous
Now my rather conservative Irish Catholic background undoubtedly plays a part in this sex indifference (Colombia is traditionally a Catholic country as well, but as I wrote before, that influence has manifested itself quite differently here in many aspects).

The mere mention of the word makes Irish people of a certain generation somewhat uncomfortable. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't enjoy it.

For me, it's certainly not the be-all and end-all as some of my peers seem to believe.

Unlike Bayley, though, I view it as "avoidably ridiculous" these days. For now at least.
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Friday, 17 May 2019

"I is the expert"

An old friend once told me that in the world of horserace gambling, it's best to be in one of two camps: The first is to know a lot about it, where you make an informed, "backed-up-by-facts" decision on your selection. The other is knowing nothing or practically nothing about the subject.

If you're going to make a mistake, Avianca, you might as well make it a big one!
"It's fine, I checked it all on Google translate."
Obviously enough, in a pursuit where there's an amount of chance at play, neither position is a guarantee for success. Nonetheless, in the event of failure, the expert can go back to the drawing board, study harder to be better prepared for next time, assured (as much as one can in this particular game) that his/her superior know-how will help him/her come good.

For the very occasional backer of horses, the one who has no intentions of moving past the novice stage, the just-for-fun flutter that didn't work, it's not a problem. It's a very minor part of such a person's life.

Malign middle ground
It's those in the middle who aren't at expert level, and perhaps never will be, but yet have enough knowledge so as to sound as if they know what they're talking about, to the point that they convince themselves they are right, this is the problem group.

People in this category, unlike the expert, aren't savvy enough to realise where they've gone wrong and in contrast to the novice, they'll continue throwing good money after bad.
"Sometimes they get too ballsy." 
We can easily apply this three-level concept to the world of language learning. In fact, it could be said it's a great fit for it. 

The experts, generally speaking, are the natives or the non-natives who have acquired an almost-native level. Of course, language is much more than just knowing all the mechanics of it, it's a culture.

It's one thing to know a language that you weren't brought up on very well (and many non-natives who get to this level will understand the rules of the language better than most natives), it's quite another to speak it so as you seamlessly fit in with the native-speaking group in question.

Just among speakers of the same language, this can be challenging. For example, look at Chilean Spanish versus Colombian Spanish or Indian English versus Irish English.

On the opposite side, we have the novices, the beginners. In the same way with the horseracing, if the expert tells beginners to go for X, it's highly unlikely they'll question it. They'll bow to the 'pro's' better judgement. Most of the time they'd be right to do so. Most of the time.
"Google translate trumps the native speaker."
Then there are the intermediate-level learners. They won't always take what the expert tells them as gospel. On occasions, they might be right to do so; their doubts prove well-founded. Nobody gets it right all the time.

However, sometimes they get a little too ballsy, they think they know best, to heck with the experts. This, more often than not, leads to silly mistakes.

Now in the classroom sphere, that's OK. Live and learn — the point being one is in the classroom to learn.

In the professional world, it plays out a little differently.

All-encompassing experts 
Take the case of a Colombian company (it may be its national airline), dominated, naturally enough, by Spanish-speaking folk. From a marketing perspective, it would appear that those calling the shots have an OK level of English, as many high-up people in such big companies do. Perhaps like my Spanish, fine but far from perfect.

As an airline that flies around the world, it not only advertises in Spanish but English as well, this being an outsourced job (the vast majority of its advertising is). The final say on what goes public, though, and only right really, comes from management.

This is when "know-it-all" intermediate-level English speakers wielding power are dangerous. They want it their way, in their English (well, with the help of a poor translation from Google translate).

Fair enough, changing an adjective here or a turn of phrase there isn't a big deal. Yet, when it's grammatically incorrect or confusingly written, and not in a smart way (think of Apple's "think different"), then it's just wrong.

But hey, they know best. "Thems are the experts."

The thing is, being an expert in one field doesn't make you an expert in all. Too much time spent on that high horse can damage the brain.
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