Thursday, 17 December 2009

Five Topics for the Price of One

This post is about intergenerational courtship, Boggle, opposable thumbs, Dave Eggers’s What is the What, and me.

Intergenerational Courtship

To begin: I believe it is wrong for people of a certain age to date others of a certain age. Here is the scale of moral acceptability, based on my own liberal values:

Age: 16-20 – Ideally teenagers should date people of the same age, though love is a fickle camel. I therefore allow a four-year margin of error for young lovers. A sixteen-year-old dating a twenty-year-old is frowned upon by society, so in this instance, it should be allowed ONLY in cases of true love.

Age: 21–26 – For those in their early twenties, partners six years older or younger is permissible. Any older, and a generational gap begins to develop: frames of reference shift, troubles ensue.

Age: 27-36 – This period of life is more open to an old vs. young demographic. It is acceptable for a thirty-six-year-old woman to date a twenty-seven-year-old man, for example, but this is stretching things to their limit. Any older, and these generational gaps will become a problem!

Age 37-44 – The mid-life crisis period is tricky, so ideally a seven year margin should be practiced. This gives persons undergoing personal traumas a chance to take stock of their life at the midpoint without having a partner too young to understand, or too old to care.

Age 45-50 – At this point, beauty begins to fade, so partners should ideally seek those with the last few flickers of attractiveness before the wrinkles begin, otherwise a conflict in the relationship might arise.

Age 50-60 – These periods are a grey area, as people enter senility at varying rates. However, this ten-year margin is useful for partners entering old age sooner than others, as one partner can support the other if they go mad or dumb early on.

Age 61-70 – This the final point in life when age is a factor in courtship. Too old, and the wrinkles might disgust, too young and the lovers might appear creepy in public. Has to be judged carefully.

Age 71-Death – At this point onward, any love gleaned is a miracle and should be embraced.


Boggle has always been the most misunderstood of family entertainments. Usually Boggle is played once – at Christmas a few hours after being unwrapped – and is then stashed in a cupboard and brought out during moments of social awkwardness, extreme boredom, or alienation from the self.

You can actually use the timer as a replacement for broken dials on the microwave, or as a retro replacement for the stopwatch. The plastic dome where the dice are kept can be filled with ice to make a giant ice cube the whole family can suck. The dice themselves can be coated in batter and fired from a bagpipe as a form of extremely Scottish missile.

Opposable Thumbs:

Any humans with opposable thumbs are freaks. FREAKS. Opossums, koalas, giant pandas and apes can bend their thumbs in such a way that they can touch all the fingers on their hand. They’re freaks too.

Dave Eggers’s What is the What

The absence of the question mark from this book title is a question Lynne Truss and I have been debating for weeks on end. In the book itself the title is a question – i.e. what is the meaning of life? – so one can only assume that Eggers left the question mark off to give the title a symmetry of sorts, or to introduce a shade of the postmodern to what is a direct, linear narrative.

Who knows. It’s not a question on the lips of most folks who read this compelling and exhausting account of
Valentino Achek Deng, whose life story is the most torturous, unbelievable, and fortuitous you are likely to encounter. Eggers narrates this incredible true tale in Sudanese Deng’s English-speaking voice, from his struggles with conflict, poverty, desolation, desperation (and more or less any human suffering it is possible to tolerate) to his equally unhappy life as a refugee in post 9/11 America.

This book makes misery memoirs look like squealing little crybabies. The only thing Deng didn’t have to tolerate, in fact, was tyrannous parents. Deng as a person is not portrayed as heroic, endlessly courageous or extraordinary – he is achingly human throughout, making his struggle the more poignant. The book is most likely too much to endure for most people – its relentless gloom putters on for 535 pages, but his story is a punishing reminder of quite how terrible we in the West have let things become in Third World nations.

Cheer yo’self up this Xmas.


I’ve been interviewed for a new blog featuring writers, artists and other opinionated art types with massive egos. You can read me being a pompous arse here.


  1. Wisdom a la Tart:

    Age rule: Half the elder, plus 7. Ergo:

    16/2+7=15 (one year range for 16)
    32/2+7=23 (9 year range)
    64/2+7=39 (25 year span)

    Now these are ABSOLUTE OUTSIDES, but it is the range within which we can find common ground... that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

    Boggle: *snort* Love the Scot missles

    Opposable thumbs.... erm... I guess I'm a freak then, though I think it is because my hands are long and thin--a wider hand would have more trouble.

    Eggers: I think he isn't ASKING, but telling. WHAT is the what. Not What is the WHAT?

  2. Yes! I remember that rule. It's pretty wise for those who like disastrous marriages. I like watching them, not participating.

    Being a freak is good. I only befriend freaks as a rule.

    And YES... I think you're right about the title. Eggers actually answers the question, i.e. there is no answer. Thank you for being clever.

  3. Good morning, Scotland! I'm here in Tennessee having a marvelously awful time. I want Christmas to go away or just do it over there or something.

    (I have opposing thumbs as well. Odd.)

  4. Good evening Tennessee! Oh, I'm sure you'll change your mind once you get stuffing that turkey. We all love a good stuffing.

  5. As I've said many times, you're rude.

    My mother put a roast in the crockpot and crawled back under the covers.