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7/14/09

On Eccentrics: It's A Bird! It's A Plane! No! It's Angle Grinder Man!

People in the United States call them weirdos, lumping them together with everyone else who does not fit in. The British have a more understanding term for them. I wrote an article years ago on an eccentric whom the English press called Angle Grinder Man. More on Angle Grinder Man later but I came across a review of a book on eccentrics, and here are a few comments on them.

The author, David Weeks, finds that eccentrics frequently enjoy good health, and even live longer than the rest of us. I have read his book and think there should be many more like it.

Anyone who has followed this blog for some time knows that I have a penchant for eccentrics. Here are some links to my posts on Poppa Neutrino, a fine example.

I quote from a review of Weeks' book:

"Eccentrics experience much lower levels of stress because they do not feel the need to conform," Weeks insists, which means that "their immune-response systems function more efficiently." He emphasizes that positive forms of stress, however, such as "sex, exercise and the intellectual excitement of new ideas, have been found to trigger the release of slightly more growth hormone, which helps keep us young." Weeks' eccentrics often seem similar to the people psychologist Abraham Maslow called "self-actualizers," individuals who are unafraid to challenge convention. Maslow's self-actualizers enjoy what he termed "peak experiences"--moments of great awe, understanding and rapture. "

"There is little doubt that modern consumer culture has depersonalized relationships, addicted us to acquisitive behavior and contributed to the erosion of community. Therapist and theologian Thomas Moore, writing in Care of the Soul, views the current state of American mental health as suffering from what he calls "psychological modernism," which he defines as "an uncritical acceptance of the values of the modern world, blind faith in technology, inordinate attachment to material gadgets and conveniences, uncritical acceptance of the march of scientific progress, devotion to the electronic media, and a lifestyle dictated by advertising." Moore puts forth some skillful arguments on how to replenish the impoverished self with many of the qualities inherent to Weeks' eccentrics."

"Eccentrics, according to Weeks, are in fact less likely to be addicted to consumer culture than the general population. And fewer than 30 of the more than 1,000 eccentrics he sampled had been substance abusers or alcoholics."

"According to David Weeks, eccentrics have never been studied scientifically before the research described here, because psychiatrists only ever study people with real illnesses or pathologies. Eccentrics also usually don't see themselves as being in need of help or as being eligible for study, so therefore they are mostly unknown to science."

"They are strong individuals with strange inclinations of their own, which they are not afraid to express."

More here and here and here. Click this in case you want to buy the book. You can also read parts of the book.
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Here is a post I did several years back on Angle Grinder Man:

As Andy Warhol Said, Everybody Gets His Fifteen Minutes of Fame. Now It's Angle Grinder Man's Turn.

Some people call him a Clark Kent lookalike. You can tell the difference, however. He has an AGM logo on his chest, not an S. He also helps damsels in distress. He certainly has a sense of humor.

In a 7 October 2003 New York Times article, the masked man gave an interview. Calling himself Angle-Grinder Man, he comes to the rescue of those whose car wheels have been booted by police for illegal parking. The New York Times reporter described him as dressed in cape and gold lamé underpants.

He has become a folk hero of sorts among frustrated South London motorists. He takes his name from an Angle Grinder, a power saw that cuts through wheel boots, Whenever he turns on his loud saw, people know he's around, but he always insures the police are absent. No matter--in less than a minute he can liberate a wheel from the clutches of authority and earn the undying gratitude of drivers who escape their fines.

Just like Superman and The Lone Ranger, he accepts no money for his deeds, as he is merely on the side of the little guy. He hides his identity behind his mask, and the public doesn't know, much as nobody suspected the mild mannered reporter Clark Kent. Like the Lone Ranger, he strides off into the sunset and townsmen turn to one another and ask, Who was that masked man?

A damsel in distress, Petite Tendai, found a boot on her illegally parked car. ("No signs saying `no parking,' " she declared.) She felt the weight of injustice and authority almost bringing her to tears when suddenly Angle-Grinder Man appeared.

Since then, he has become Ms. Tendai's hero.

Ms. Tendai said of him, "Basically, he jumped out of his car in his outfit and said, `If anyone can, Angle-Grinder Man can,' " She added, "Then he just started sawing it off. It was wicked."

He was brought to his noble duty by a boot clamped onto his own car wheel, and insult was added to injury by a £95 fine (a little over $150) to remove it. He did what any Robin Hood would do, renting a circular saw for about £30. Unemployed, he saved himself a hunk of change.

An extremely sensitive nature

He taped a photograph of the sawed-up clamp to his windshield, along with a note saying, "Please don't clamp me because I've got an extremely sensitive nature."

From that day forward, Angle-Grinder Man had found his calling. "There was so much injustice out there," he said.

A champion of the downtrodden must look the part. He worked hard on his appearance, but finally settled on blue and gold. He bought a fabric roll of gold lamé at a flea market after holding the material around himself to ask the salesgirl how he might look in it.

He spray-painted a pair of cowboy boots gold. The underpants are a pair of bikini briefs covered with the flea-market lamé. The gloves came from a piercing-and-fetish shop. Angle-Grinder Man designed the logo himself, including the letters AGM glued on his costume. "I wanted to have a balance between the political side and the comedy side," he explained.

"I'm a heterosexual superhero," Angle-Grinder Man told the reporter, "although I have no problem being a gay icon."

As he left the interview his gold cape glittered in the afternoon light. Unknowingly, he had smitten the heart of another damsel who had been watching him. A sales clerk said she was a great fan of his.

"I think he's extraordinarily attractive," she said. "Especially the golden knickers."

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