His body aches. It is a tired body. Shaved now from the night before. As he lies there in the stink of his morning bed he considers the lady on the train the night before who shouted at him in the contempt that only a crazy person can project onto another crazy person. He was not sure what prompted her outburst because all he wanted to do was to have a seat to rest his weary legs on the train on his way home to the bus and then wherever he might be going. He reads some Plato to calm himself. It doesn’t really calm him. The Republic is confusing. He is confused. He goes home and shaves off his beard. He has been told that he looks like a hobo. There is no problem with looking like a hobo, in his mind, but he is going to see a Doctor tomorrow and he feels he should at least make partial effort to appear presentable in public. There are no thoughts he thinks that are worth anything more than the loneliness of all the other people who sit out alone in the night thinking into the dark of the moon and the stars. He finishes Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. It has taken him three years and he read it so intermittently that he doesn’t remember what happened at the beginning or the middle. The end was confusing but now, in polite company, he can tell, when asked, that he read the book and enjoyed it, along with all the other works of Pynchon that he has read. He goes to sleep staring into himself.
Oh Dripping maw of meaty red
Do not look in that cave of dread
We Ope’d the Fruit
And so it bled.
Oh Dreaded Fruit of Rotten Red.
The Inspiration for Happy Birthday.
It is not Christmas in Hawaii but sometimes to imagine experiencing both Christmas and Hawaii is the only way to make it through they long dark days. As the last of The Andrews Sisters dies listen to this song and capture, for a moment, some of their magic.
He eats some yoghurt mixed with granola drizzled with honey and mixed nuts. He feels sick and buckles over in the mens’ cubicle for fifteen minutes. He doesn’t know if it is because of the yoghurt or the granola or the honey or some other cause. Yoghurt – Yog. Hurt.
Your life is a lie
No matter how hard you try
You are going to die.
Best go and eat pie.
This work of art weighs in at an impressive 299g – about the same weight as an African Swallow. It offers the valued consumer close to a third of their required daily calorie intake. The chefs have gone for the swollen horse cock aesthetic. This is a very popular aesthetic in the hot dog world. To round off the joyful experience it is then slathered in spicy hot slurry, then, woven above it with great skill and patience a lattice of thick yellow mustard is laid, before being wedged in the breaded crack of a soft bun. This is what civilisation has brought us. This is what progress is. Revel in it for it is us – what we are and ever more shall be. It has more to say about art or culture than can ever be said with words.
I should explain, for those who are confused, that this is a hot dog promoted a couple of years ago from the respectable hot dog chain, Sonic, here in the USA. Do not fret, dear heart, for this wonderful creation is still available for you at all of the many delightfully appointed Sonic outlets in your area.
We are all insane:
– The Psychological Architecture of Leni Reifensthal.
– Everyone is a star in the motion picture of their lie.
– A public holiday is a celebration of shopping and commercialism first, a celebration of the person or event in question third.
– All Weathers. All Climates. All Landscapes.
– Freedom is a shibboleth.
– Bigotry and Enlightenment walk hand in manacled hand.
– Laziness is at once embraced, venerated, criticised, aspired to.
– Purposelessness is derided and underrated.
– Drive thru banks, drive thru restaurants, drive thru drive thrus, drive thru funeral parlours, drive thru shooting galleries
– The American Dream is a mist that covers everything in a patina of greasy possibility.
– Utility is an ugly obsession.
– Teetering at the edge of an abyss.
I know it’s your birthday today
But I know you don’t want me to call
So I took the last text message you sent me
And changed the meaning so all
The lines are opposite:
Thank you for your gift
It was very thoughtful.
It all turned out just as you hoped
I want us to be together forever
It was the perfect gift at the perfect time
I’m so alone without you
Please keep sending me love letters.
I didn’t mean to turn love into
He wakes up. It is early. The sun is not up yet. He stumbles in his monkey pyjamas that he got for Christmas to the bathroom to have a shower. It takes a long time to get the temperature right because neither tap works properly. He dresses. He makes himself his lunch. He is still proud that he managed to finish War and Peace at the weekend and has a real desire now to achieve to read the book again to write his own book to succeed and grow and learn and improve himself. Then he goes to the bathroom. The walk in the dark is a long and cold walk. No one is up when he reaches the house but he wakes up those who need to be woken, makes breakfast for them and makes himself a cup of coffee with coffee that he didn’t buy but feels he deserves. He reads some Nietzsche. He realizes that Nietzsche is a complicated man. It is cold outside when he walks outside. He walks to the bus stop and gets into the bus. The bus driver is pretty. She doesn’t smile because his beard scares her, he can tell. He continues to read on the bus. Nietzsche is a complicated man. He manages to make it through his day of work doing very little work. He then feels incredible pain in his eyes. It feels like they are bleeding but they are not bleeding. His eyes then feel better. He reads some more Nietzsche on the bus and the train. He is squeezed into a corner by a man who ignores him. He eats some macaroni cheese. Then he drives. He drives in the snow and the dark of the night in his car. He watches The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. He enjoys it. It is sad. The Revolution has been televised. He thinks it was lost. The Revolutionaries lost. He hopes that they have not lost.
This lovely set of photographs is confused somewhat only by the salacious and entirely unrepresentative name of the person who posted it. I will not ruin the surprise by telling you the name here. Click on the link and enjoy for yourself.
‘But I put it to you, my lord, that prize-money is of essential importance to the Navy.’
H.M.S Surprise, Patrick O’Brian (1973)
What better way to celebrate the Inauguration of President Barack Obama on Martin Luther King Jr. Day than to have Val Kilmer perform one of Martin Luther King Jr’s more famous speeches? Glorious and weird in so many ways.
It’s always delightful to find new and different versions of songs that you love. Even if the new and different versions of the songs that you find are not new and different to the rest of the world, or indeed, to those who have always been lovers of particular songs by particular musicians. I just heard this version of Anything But Love by Ella Fitzgerald on Hot Jazz Saturday Night on NPR. It is, at this moment in time, to me, perfect, so I thought that I would share it with whoever is out there right now.
‘The welcome wagon lady, sixty if she was a day but working at youth and vivacity (ginger hair, red lips, a sunshine-yellow dress), twinkled her eyes and teeth at Joanna and said, “You’re really going to like it here! It’s a nice town with nice people! You couldn’t have made a better choice!’
The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin (1972)
On the 15th of September, 1840, about six o’clock in the morning, the Ville de Montereau, just about to sail, was sending forth great whirlwinds of smoke, in front of the Quai St. Bernard.
Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert (1869)
No end of the world here, move along please, nothing to see.
Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o’clock one morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was approaching the latter city at full speed.
The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1869)
The Purpose of this book is to convey to the reader some feeling for what is surely one of the most important and exciting voyages of discovery that humanity has embarked on.
The Road to Reality – A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, Roger Penrose (2004)
The contents of this book need little introduction; they stand on their own as helpful instructions and enjoyable reading.
The Foxfire Book: Hog dressing, log cabin building, mountain craft and foods, planting by signs, snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing, moonshining, and other affairs of plain living, ed. Eliot Wigginton (1972)
There is a dragon in each of us.
American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices ed. Laurence Yep (1993)
“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when i sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
I was in Amsterdam one snowy Christmas when the weather had turned the canals into oblongs of ice.
Art Objects – Essays on Ecstacy and Effrontery, Jeanette Winterson (1995)
One day in the middle of the twentieth century I sat in an old graveyard which had not yet been demolished, in the Kensington area of London, when a young policeman stepped off the path and came over to me.
Loitering with Intent, Muriel Spark (1981)
Father Christmas had still not got the hang of Privacy Laws.
In 1928 when Eastman Kodak introduced 16mm Kodacolor – a well known physicist remarked: “It’s impossible – but not quite!
The Five C’s of Cinematography, Joseph V. Mascelli (1965)
SUPPOSING that Truth is a woman—what then?
Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, Friedrich Nietzsche (1886)
Never Enough Books.
- Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention
- Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
- Atlas Shrugged
- The Diary of a Young Girl
- The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross
- The Anatomy of Melancholy
- The Mass Psychology of Fascism
- Don Quijote de La Mancha
- Gone with the Wind
- Anna Karenina
- The Blind Assassin
- Europe: A History
- Team of Rivals.
- Moll Flanders
- The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
- The Varieties of Religious Experience
- The Theory of Moral Sentiments
- A Storm of Swords
- Homage to Catalonia
- Leaves of Grass
- Godel, Escher and Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid
- The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard
- Black Boy
- The Tale of Genji
- In Search of Lost Time
EVEN THE LORAX
ON HIS SMALL YELLOW STUMP
FELT A THICKENING FEELING
GROW WITH A LUMP AND A BUMP
AS HE SAW MONEY PILE HIGH
RIGHT UP PAST HIS THROAT.
THE ONCELER WAS RIGHT,
HE THOUGHT WITH A SIGH.
EVERYONE HAS A PRICE
AND NOW SO DO I.
I wrote this when The Lorax was first released because I was irritated that the characters from the film were being used to sell cars:
Admittedly they were hybrid cars but it seemed to fly in the face of everything that Dr. Seuss, his friend Theodor Geisel and the whole meaning of the original Lorax story stood for.
I have updated this post with the above comment because I am still fucking irritated by the whole concept. For those who have not had the pleasure of reading The Lorax the message is pretty clear. It is a moral warning against the excesses of Industrial Capitalism. So it fills my throat with bile, bile that has flowed up from my stomach, to see the characters for a story that is explicitly warning against the kind of rampant consumerist capitalism, that car companies have been instrumental in creating and perpetrating, are used to hawk their products.
The only way I can express my fucking irritation is in my tiny little blog.
So here I am Fighting the Power.
I am definitely still fucking irritated but I cannot deny that The Lorax commercial is beautifully animated and I am a sucker for fine animation.
Oh how hilarious The Real World is. I don’t understand one moment of it.
I must go for a drive in my air conditioned car to calm down.
I was talking with a friend about how much we love the way that American movies from the 1970s look. We rattled off a few of the macho gritty films that we loved; The French Connection, Black Sunday, Klute,Prime Cut; as much to show off our knowledge as to make our point about a particular film aesthetic. The washed out colours, the use in genre pictures of the new wave hand held camera that would become so derigeur, the location shooting outside on the cold streets of whatever city they happened to be in at the time; Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. This is how I came to know and love America before I moved here. The overwhelming of the senses through big architecture, big emotion, big human interaction. All of this, as it turns out, artificial and created for the films that I watched – but I was not to know this at the time. I had not yet experienced the boredom of America, it’s long empty roads of meaninglessness. I had not experienced it’s tired citizens and it’s angry indecision. I was ignorant of the simmering cauldron of anger that boiled below the surface; acting as threat and fuel to all the fine people of this nation. Recollecting the manner in which I watched these films I realised that I had seen most of these works, not at the cinema, with pristine new prints, but late night on British television with the volume down so as not to wake the rest of the house on a tiny set with poor colour correction, little contrast and the glow from the tubes that gave any hope of showing the directors vision short shrift. My understanding of the aesthetic had been totally false, filtered, by chance and the limitations of 1980s technology, into washed out pastels that had never been the intention of the filmmakers. It was not an America that had ever supposed to exist or an America that, now with the advent of Blu-ray and online movie stores, would ever exist again. Yet, even now, I recall with nostalgia, the hunched shoulders of Popeye Doyle as he swaggers down the street to save America from Europe’s heroine barons, the relentless stride of Lee Marvin as he tries to save Sissy Spacek from Gene Hackman, the obsessional drive of Robert Shaw to stop a terrorist attack on a football stadium. It just makes me realise that what we want others to see is not necessarily the thing that they will see and what we ourselves observe can be filtered through any manner of myriad devices, experiences, dreams and nightmares. Will anyone say the same of Transformers: Dark of the Moon? I suspect not. Then my mind wanders to a deeper problem, beyond aesthetics and something that still exists, albeit in a more subtle way today. I was watching films where white men get things done, white men strive and fail; everyone else is a backdrop to their drama, their hopes and dreams. It is not the America I live in. It is not really an America that has ever existed. The America I live in is a kaleidoscope, shifting, pulsing and alive; archetype free with a story constantly in flux pushing relentlessly on into a future it knows, deep down, it has no control over. It is a country with no easy answers and absent heroes. That is why I love America. That is why America terrifies me.
They threw me off the hay truck about noon.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain (1934)
A vision had seized hold of me, like the demented fury of a hound that has sunk its teeth into the leg of a deer carcass and is shaking and tugging at the downed game so frantically that the hunter gives up trying to calm him.
CONQUEST OF THE USELESS, WERNER HERZOG (2004) trans. Krishna Wilson 2009
Shadow had done three years in prison.
American Gods, Neil Gaiman (2001)
Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware, – the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,- the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.
Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon (1997)
American passed a sad milestone in the middle of 2010: the war in Afghanistan became the longest conflict in U.S. history.
BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE HOW AMERICA ENDS ITS WARS, Ed. by COL. MATTHEW MOTEN (2012)
In his study The Nature of Evil (1931), Radoslav. A. Tsanoff cites a terse reflection set down by the German philosopher Julius Bahnsen in 1847, when he was seventeen years old.
The Conspiracy against the Human Race, Thomas Ligotti (2010)
What’s it going to be then, eh?
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)
As I happened to be reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, this Sunday morning, I came across a passage that seems to contain some resonance as regards the approaching Circus. Here I share it with you now:
For a long while before the appointed time is at hand the election becomes the most important and the all-engrossing topic of discussion. The ardor of faction is redoubled; and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in the bosom of a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light. The President, on the other hand, is absorbed by the cares of self-defence. He no longer governs for the interest of the State, but for that of his re-election; he does homage to the majority, and instead of checking its passions, as his duty commands him to do, he frequently courts its worst caprices. As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement; the election is the daily theme of the public papers, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought and every action , the sole interest of the present. As soon as the choice is determined, this ardor is dispelled; and as a calmer season returns, the current of the State, which had nearly broken its banks, sinks to its usual level: but who can refrain from astonishment at the causes of the storm.
Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. etc. etc. etc.
He wakes up late. He does not want to get up. He listens to slam poetry on the bus. Some of it is good. Some of it is not. It was 105 degrees yesterday. That is a lot of degrees. He is tired. He goes to sleep.
He wakes up. He falls back to sleep. He wakes up again. He makes a toaster strudle and he eats some pasta and drinks some black coffee. He had one glass of wine last night or no, he remembers, he had two glasses of wine last night. His head hurts. He can’t drink like he used to. On the way into work he listens to a lecture given by Maxine Hong Kingston that is five years old. She is talking about Poetry and Peace. He has not heard of her but she seems very nice and eloquent and she reads some of her poetry. Poetry about Peace. In one ironic moment he learns that her novel about this historical figure Mulan that Disney made known to us was being used by the USAF as a foundation for the influx of women warriors they now entertain. He records a religious program. There is a lot of talk of God Guiding. The Newsroom is bereft of God. He does not have a pass to enter here. He talks about the inability to ever trust anyone because how can you trust anyone when you cannot even trust yourself. Questions left hanging in the air. Our trick conciousness filtered through eyes which only imbibe a small section of the spectrum of light of the universe and spaces that are filled in with the brain using memory that is always shown to be fallible. Our indelicate olfaction that can distinguish between only 10000 different smells. The Universe is thick with odour. What is the smell of Martian Night? What is the whiff of Lunar Dust? Trapped in our bodies. So it was, all in all, an upbeat day. So far. He goes to sleep.
He wakes up. His shoulders are sore this morning. He swam 10 lengths of a small swimming pool on Sunday and choked his way through half of them but, fueled by pride, he struggled on so that the lifeguard did not think that he was a poor swimmer. He was fooling no one. He could not find his ipod this morning. He is glad that this is the kind of thing that he has to contend with as major obstacles to his day and not guns and bombs and slaughter. He reads the end of The Grapes of Wrath. He thinks that the book is incredible. He also read the beginning and the middle of The Grapes of Wrath.
A boss was over from London. One of the many bosses. He seems the clearest so far and all does not seem doom and gloom. He will still prepare myself for the worst. The German Foreign Minister came into work. He was pleasant and had a large serious entourage. There was a lot of German Smiling. He is not sure what German smiling means but it seems to define a particular kind of smiling for him so he calls it German smilnig. He learned more things and he read about rationalism on the train home. It was hot today. The air was hot syrup. He drank a glass of red wine. He had some chicken. He tried to watch Rachel Maddow but she was not on form tonight – too much whining about Republicans acting like Republicans. Lawrence O’Donnell was also a touch off. He had a segment where he pretended to report on the Bill Clinton/Gennifer Flowers scandal of the 90s. It was a segment that was five minutes too long. It was tedious. He goes to sleep.
The Spreading Haematoma, that is the approaching Presidential Election, purples the skin like grape juice. The reek of rotting meat seems to darken the air as we get ever closer to the choosing of a Leader of the Free World. The Pantomime that is underway will be entertaining to watch in the same way that Jersey Shore is entertaining to watch. Mesmerising like a meeting betwixt an ambulance and a school bus.
He wakes up. It is 6. He enjoys his bed for a moment longer before he switches on the radio. NPR is playing. There are stories about Dominik Straus-Kahn and about Syria and about business. Garrison Keilor interrupts, as he always does, with facts about authors who are significant to the day. This section in turns fascinates and infuriates him. He makes breakfast. It is a blueberry toaster strudle, a bowl of blueberries, four rashers of turkey bacon and some pink lemonade. It meets with success. He takes a shower. He misses his beard, his beard that he shaved off on Saturday. He finishes syncing his ipod. It is now full of Spanish lessons and lectures on computers and anthropology and social studies and politics. It is interesting to him. They are all interesting to him. He prepares lunch for himself. It is a salad containing various vegetables and some cold chicken. He also prepares a fruit salad for dessert. It is very healthy. He reads The Grapes of Wrath on the bus and on the train. It is a good book. He has nearly finished it. He is reading it on his kindle. He arrives at work and He is greeted with responses to his lack of beard. This is usual when he has shaved his beard after having a beard for a long time. Many people seem open mouthed. Jokes are made. Fun is had. The day drags on. He has lunch that he have brought in. It is healthy salad and meat as he wrote earlier. The show goes well. He learns more about himself and his limitations. An important boss appears for the second show. He is impressed. He likes that. Congressman Anthony Weiner admits to lewdness on national television. Hippocritic indignation from news room and from networks and cables and everywhere. He sees what he does and he sees others do it every day. It is human and the internet is human and even though he hears that he is an asshole he hasn’t done the worst thing in the world. We want to eat and fuck and sleep. Everything else is window dressing. he returns home and eats supper, then he has two glasses of red wine which he enjoys. He reads some Naseem Taleb. It soothes him. Then he watches the Daily Show. He snorts laughter. He thinks about doing as Congressman Anthony Weiner does, as usual. Then he sleeps.
VERY LATE ONE WINDLESS SEPTEMBER NIGHT TWENTY-TWO men and a beautiful woman were crossing a dried river bed on the caravan road that led from Kashgar eastward towards Aqsu.
The Seven Who Fled, Frederic Prokosch (1937)
Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.
The Book of Tea, Okakura Kakuzo (1956)
One winter morning in the long-ago, four-year-old days of my life I found myself standing before a fireplace, warming my hands over a mound of glowing coals, listening to the wind whistle past the house outside.
Black Boy, Richard Wright (1944)
Half way along the road we have to go,
I found myself obscured in a great forest,
Bewildered, and I knew I had lost the way.
The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1321)
Far down the street I saw the night watchman slowly approaching with his lantern.
The Asiatics, Frederic Prokosch (1935)
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirious of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), On The Road, 1957