Thursday, October 16, 2008

Body language

I've always disliked this expression, "body language", because I simply hate the very idea that my physical carcass might be capable of "saying things", spontaneously and uncontrollably, which don't necessarily coincide with the purer expressions of my mind. But I'm obliged to accept the veracity of this concept, which implies that successful lying is a rare art, which can only be mastered by a handful of great actors. For years, my two children have told me with amusement that, as soon as I'm about to talk rubbish, my facial features start flashing and beeping like a red lamp on a police vehicle. So, I'm a lousy liar.

There's something even worse than body language. I'm referring to an individual's distinctive gait. I was made aware of this characteristic, personally, back in the early '60s, in Sydney. I had made arrangements by phone to meet up with my friend John Weiley in William Street, which swoops down in a long line from Kings Cross. At a distance of several hundred meters, I was surprised to see a creature waving his arms as if to send a message. It was John, whom I hadn't seen for about a year, informing me that he had recognized me. When we met up, John surprised me by informing me that my gait made me recognizable from a great distance. Up until then, I didn't even know that I had a personal gait.

Irish joke. The other day, strolling along High Street, I thought I saw Patrick Hickey approaching me. The closer I got to Patrick, the more I was sure that he too realized it was me. When we met up, though, we both realized it was neither of us.

The ugly gait of George W Bush, with rigid shoulders and arms, resembles that of a disgruntled but self-confident wrestler who has just been thrown out of the ring. As for John McCain, no matter whether he remains immobile or moves, agitating his robotic arms, he still looks like an exhibit at Madame Tussaud's waxworks.

It goes without saying that we should not mock certain celebrities simply because their gait reminds us of a certain comical character. That would be too easy. While it was true that George W Bush looked like a numbskull wrestler, it was normal that we should have to wait for a few years, and a few thousand deaths of soldiers in Iraq, before we knew with certainty that he was indeed a numbskull political wrestler. Naturally, it would be nice if the gait of a political candidate could warn us beforehand of his/her mentality.

Let me just add a word or two about the most famous Yogi Bear on US media at the present moment: Joe the Plumber.

Is he real or invented? Apparently, he exists. His name (which might sound un-Alaskan, if not un-American, to Mrs Moose) is Joseph Wurzelbacher, but reports remain fuzzy about his authentic credentials. Is he really a typical tradesman trying to make a buck for his wife and kids, or might he be a comedy figure? Today, in God's Own Country, anything is possible. In any case, I hope that Joe, through his notoriety and the sexy shape of his head, has a chance of sneaking up on procreative Palin, coming to tradesman's terms with her, and—who knows, in an ideal scenario—maybe even snaking her plumbing.

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