Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Let’s Kill Hitler

rory punches hitlerEvery time someone brings up time travel, someone mentions killing Hitler.

“If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you?”

It’s either kill him as a baby or kill him as an adult. As a baby he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Plus, killing babies is less than savoury for most people (whereas killing adults seems to be totally fine). As an adult, he may have already done too much damage to stop by just removing him from the equation.

EDIT: After being linked this by three different people on three different social networks, I thought I’d better add this in:

To properly answer the question, you first need a Year 9 Humanities class brief history of Adolf. Here are some excerpts from one of my students from last  year:

“Adolf Hitler was born from Klara Polzl and Alois Hitler on the 20th of April, 1889 in a small town in Austria named Braunau, and is most commonly known for being Germany’s leader during World War 2. Hitler was the fourth child Klara had given birth to, as the three before had died. Hitler had a younger sister named Paula. “

“Alois was a strict senior customs official who took beatings upon his wife and even his son. After Hitler read that the brave man gives no sign of being in pain, Hitler told his mother: “father hit me thirty-two times… and I did not cry”. Klara, Adolf’s mother, was a very kind woman who only wanted Adolf to succeed and do well in life, as she did not want to lose another child.”

“While Hitler disliked most of his teachers, he had one which he paid respect to, which was Leopold Potsch, his history teacher. Potsch, being a German Nationalist, taught Hitler and his pupils about Germany’s victory over France. Hitler was inspired by Potsch in the long run to be a Nationalist.”

“Throughout his life, he had consistent bad grades with the exception of his skill in art. When his entry to an art school was declined, he was shattered, and lived in Vienna pretending to be an art student trying to make his mother proud. While he lived in Vienna, he mostly walked parks, observed buildings, and visited libraries. In the summer of 1909, Hitler lived on the streets.”

Caught up? Good. By 1925 it was pretty much too late. He’d written Mein Kampf, been to prison and had a following of people that would probably have continued with the reich even if Hitler was out of the picture.

So any killing of Hitler needs to be done before then, probably around 1909 when he was living on the streets.

Right?

Bloodthirsty bastards! Why do we have to kill Hitler? Why bloody our own souls? Here’s an alternative that doesn’t come up very often: Be nice to Hitler.

Let me present you with a scenario: Someone is coming back to kill you from the future. In about five years’ time you will do something that will cause the death of billions of people. With the invention of time travel, all of this death can be avoided simply by killing you. Are you ok with that? Or would you like to see someone try an alternative option first?

SARAH CONNOR HITLERWow. Hitler is sort of like Sarah Connor.

Anyway.

Hitler hated his teachers. He was bored at school. He was excluded from art college, he was beaten by his father. He was lazy but intelligent. He only had one testicle.

I can’t do anything about the last one, but as a time traveller, especially if we can travel about willy-nilly to do what we want, we could negate a number of bad influences in his life, making him, if not a good person, at least one who is politically ambivalent, not disposed to prejudices towards certain races and safe out of the way in an artist’s colony somewhere.

Here’s the plan:

  • Ditching Alois – the father, were you not paying attention? – by causing a bar fight between him and a burly psychopath in a pub somewhere. The man drank a lot. He also looked after bees. Strange.
  • Work at his high school, being a mentor to the young Hitler and giving him challenging books about being nice to people. Let’s get this Potsch teacher fired as well.
  • Bribe someone at the arts school to get him accepted. A Hitler making a living at art is not a Hitler trying to take over the country.
  • Finally, get someone to hire him, somewhere well out of Berlin.
  • Oh, and every time he tries to grow a moustache, shave it in his sleep.

Voila! No more evil dictator.

If I wanted to go further, I’d be talking to the leaders of France and England and suggesting that if they don’t want a second world war, they should go a bit easier on the country they just defeated. If they hadn’t been so heavy-handed in their sanctions, German Nationalism wouldn’t have received so much support from the general populous.

Of course, maybe people have been trying this for decades. Changing time and each time getting someone worse, until last time, when the time traveller stopped the evil dictator Gordon Champott, who had destroyed most of the civilised world from his seat in England, and when he got back, found that Hitler had risen to power in his stead.

And maybe a world war at this point in time, before the rise of nuclear weapons, was better for the planet as a whole.

But seriously, if someone gives you a time machine, just think about your actions before you go and murder someone, just to see what happens.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

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Small Talk

weatherEvery morning I greet the crossing guard with a wave and some sort of comment on the weather.

“Nice weather to be out in the fine morning sunshine!” or

“You’re earning your pay this morning!” or

“You’re still here? Thought you’d have blown away the way that wind’s going!”

And yes, Pippa, I put the exclamation marks in on purpose.

Small talk. In this situation, it’s perfectly ok. I don’t want to engage her further than that, because then I’d be the idiot standing in the middle of the road while the school traffic is passing through. A comment that lets me acknowledge that I appreciate the job she is doing for us, without getting into a conversation that causes road rage.

I was listening to Tell ‘Em Steve Dave – a podcast by some of the guys on Comic Book Men, and –

kevin smithOK. The Comic Book Men is a TV show – I don’t think we get it in Australia – set in the Secret Stash. The Secret Stash is associated with Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith did Mallrats, Clerks, Chasing Amy…

Caught up yet? Then there’s your homework.

I was listening to this podcast and (insert research here)

Some people hate small talk. And fair enough, if people are just going to look up at the sky and nod thoughtfully before going off on a diatribe about the weather. But small talk doesn’t have to be boring, it just has to be small. What we need is a list of topics that can be knocked off in about a minute without a huge amount of prior knowledge, that make you seem slightly more accessible to strangers and that won’t cause people to actively avoid you in the future.

growthSome topics just should never be brought up at all:

“Hey, did I miss something? When did they allow women to vote?”

“That Pope guy, he’s something else isn’t he?”

“You really have to see this growth that came up on my lower back!”

“I just got a new cat. I have a photo album here on my phone with 250 pictures. Wanna see?”

Others are perfectly acceptable, if taken in the right context, but are still considered borderline. These are the ones that I tend to use when starting a conversation because you are much more likely to achieve an interesting conversation:

smurf“Hey, if you had to be a smurf, which smurf would you be?” (I’ve used this on dates. It doesn’t work)

“You have a minute. Plan the perfect murder.” (This is worse if you keep saying “Nope, that didn’t work” whenever they suggest something)

“What does it have in its pocketsess?” (I say borderline, because this could work really well with certain literary types – or just anyone who watches movies now. *sigh*)

There are also some conversation starters that might seem innocent enough but are so full of potential mayhem that you should probably leave them off the list until you know someone better:

“Where’d you get that bruise?” (no, not really)

“Tell me about your family.”

“Such-and-such is an idiot aren’t they?” (Such-and-such will always be related to whoever you’re talking to)

But in general, there are a few topics you can bring up in public that will knock off a minute or two in a long elevator ride, at a bus stop or in the hairdresser’s chair. Try one of these:

“So, where’d that plane end up?” (or anything that is based on a headline from the most popular tabloid newspaper that week)

“Have you seen the size of that line? What’s going on?”

“Hey, sports are great, aren’t they?” (or something more specific if you know anything about sports)

“Been here long?”

“Did you know the moon landing was faked?” (actually, maybe that’s just me)

And of course, the old standby:

“How’s that weather?”

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

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