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The Vacuum Issue 6 spacer Issue 6
Overheard - With Berkely and Zeppelin
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Berkeley:...and thats why Martin Lynch brushes his hair to the right. So Zep what have you been doing with yourself?
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Zepplin: I have been thinking about the invisible mind blockages that cause pain and discomfort. The things that we shy away from like scalding water but without realising we are doing it. Things like conversations with bank managers, requests for help, expressions of dislike or love. I would like to find a way of drawing attention to the hurdles that make officials intimidating and frank conversations difficult. One that doesn't involve vodka. What do you think?
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Berkeley: I see where your coming from, come Zepplin lie down on my couch and we'll hammer the whole thing out. There, a triple vodka for you and one for me. Now I think your condition is due to something I call failure to preserve the status quo syndrome, keeping things as they are, not rocking the boat, putting the fork in the fork drawer,timidity and lack of courage. Come, come you know I'd stick my hand in a basin of scalding water for you. But we must bury our emotions, its our duty. Or at least that's what a civil servant would say. Sounds to me like you're on the verge of launching a self help manual, em?
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Zeppelin: You're right about the vodka, it does help... I like the idea of a manual but only if it is like the kind of manual you got with cars in the 60s, in the days when everything could be fixed with a spanner and oil. I was talking about invisible blockages, my manual would suggest simple tricks for identifying these blockages and fixing them. Take the bank manager, now there are a number of things about these people that make them difficult. First of all, they have all the money, including yours and mine. Then you always have to meet them on their territory and on their terms. But what about if you told them you were having a catastrophic attack of claustrophobia so they had to meet you in the street and then you went wearing a 'you've got all my money' T-shirt. Subtly the initiative has shifted in your direction. Look who's scared now Mr.Bank Manager. Handy advice and strategies for every day living, that sort of thing.
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Berkeley: Yes, yes! I'm with you now. We're talking about something very practical, a kit that doesn't involve glue (although the glue is sometimes a useful distraction I find). I think it also involves taking a certain attitude or perhaps a facial tic, something that throws them off guard. Once we get them out of their natural habitat how do we force our argument home? The bank manager assumes a morally superior position (they also have their own manual) I think a series of philosophical observations thrown randomly might put them off kilter: "What is the crime of robbing a bank compared with the crime of founding one"; something like that, gradually undermine their position. But surely we don't need another 'little book of calm' style publication?
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Zeppelin: We're not quite there yet, but we're going in the right direction. I am looking for something more akin to the blue dye that appears in swimming pools when small children piss in them. It is not enough merely to upset the bank manager you want them to appreciate why they hold quite a few cards and you have two shiny buttons and an empty matchbox. Say you were trotting down the street and you thought you were about to keel over. Very likely you would think twice about mentioning it to anyone because although you were reluctant to die on the pavement (and obstruct passers by) you wouldn't want to put anyone out. I think these sorts of things should be up for more negotiation. We should feel more able to say 'excuse me, I appear to be dying' and likewise they should feel relaxed about replying 'I'm sorry I'm going to buy some stamps'. At the moment we have most of our scruples before we talk about it, I think we should have them afterwards. Little books are often about 'empowerment' and 'self-realisation' - this can be done in the bath in one's own time and is useless. Perhaps it would be called 'the big book of disagreement.'
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Berkeley: Well i think this is all a question of temprament really. I'm sure the French don't suffer from this sort of angst, generally they lay their cards on the table, maybe the irish tend to bury it all deep inside, big smiling faces and "isn't it all lovely" and "sure you're a grand fellow and don't mind me" and then they go home and stick pin's in voodo dolls, storing up their hatred and bile for a rainy day. I suggest a computer game where one negotiates a series of mind blockages......
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Zeppelin: I'm not sure about the Irish and voodoo. I think the trick is not even to let on to yourself that you're not happy about something. The game would involve retaining a completely impassive expression as events became increasingly extreme. Like the early computer game when you were an animal of some kind and had to cross a busy road at a sauntering pace the traffic getting ever more wild. Perhaps repeating a mantra like, 'no bother, yes sure I can do that, more cars, no problem' etc. But a virtual solution for a virtual problem?
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Berkeley: I think you're talking about 'Frogger' and a healthy dose of Valium.
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