1. At a low ebb struggling with modernity, in the form of smartphones. i foolishly decided to buy a smartphone after my recent annual internet black hole. i chose a Motorola as they seem relatively cheap. Then i bought a Sim card. Ah. that took a week to arrive and then i accidentally broke it out of the case in Nano form (Motorola uses Micro, which is slightly bigger), so the card got lost in the sim card slot, as i optimistically pushed it in, thinking, Well it seems far too small but i presume it will all be okay. Shit, no, it’s just got lost inside the phone, what am I going to do now? Fuck. So i had to extract it with the savage tools i had to hand, irreparably destroying the sim card slot in the process. There is a second sim card slot, presumably because people like me will immediately mangle the first, so i inserted it there and behold! – i have virtually no internet connection and only sporadic mobile reception, despite having the same package as a student who says he has no problems at all, but lives in the wilderness to the south of Munich. i contemplated just sending the phone back, cancelling the sim card contract (only monthly, mercifully) and returning to my gloriously robust 50 € beast, but will instead spend hours anguishing over mobile networks and probably end up cancelling the sim card – after losing a day’s money ordering it – and go for some ridiculously expensive contract that will have me in the poor house.
2. To paraphrase General Patton in the film: “God, how I hate the 21st Century”. i wasted an entire day struggling with this shiny little bastard, and was seriously tempted to smash it with a hammer, film this on my 2007 phone and then ask viewers to send me money to recompense my loss. Just the idea of an industry run on advertising and referrals bewilders me.
i know people who seem to have instantaneous internet access on their phones, but mine is virtually non-existent – it takes hours for my piece of shit to access the app for s-bahn connections, by which time there will have been another strike (a near-constant feature of Munich) and all disrupted and cast aside by filthy communists.
3. After writing the above, i felt impelled – against my post-work agoraphobia – to leave my flat and walk in the wind, and found that my shiny new smartphone works fine outdoors. It uses the 02 network and when i briefly had an o2 surfstick it was also largely useless inside my flat (so i had to use it on my balcony). For most of yesterday & today i felt frustratedly enraged at myself for being too stupid to understand how to use the smartphone, despite doing everything according to the instructions. Now, i feel irritated at myself for not thinking to check the reception outside, despite knowing 02 can’t penetrate my building walls. My colossal idiocy, in not thinking of something so simple, perplexes and infuriates me.
For most of my life, i have suffered under an intense awareness of my own stupidity. Everything comes to me with difficulty, and i am bemused when people say i’m “clever” (which seems to mean “intelligent in a cheap way”), because i feel incapable of surviving in this world, only barely managing with the help of those charitable enough to assist me with e.g. money and Germanity. i called Juniper as i was tramping furiously through the old fields near my flat, ranted about my stupidity with the smartphone and Sim and internet, and she laughed, “Do you think you are the first person who has had this problem?”
It’s curious, aged 39, to realise that one of the defining concepts of my life has been that of my own stupidity. Even at university, where i never met another under- or postgrad, or even tutor, who i thought of as really intelligent, i felt that i was at best groping dimly at literature i could never write or more than vaguely understand. i didn’t regard myself as more intelligent than others; it was more that i seemed to see things they didn’t, by chance, or rather by hard work, by reading and re-reading. And without the need to study and write, i have lapsed into a hebetude of the mind for the last decade or so. i feel that the effort to survive – through 5 years of data entry, then nearly 6 years of teaching – has absorbed my entire spirit, leaving nothing over.
4. i’ve just watched the modern Sherlock Holmes series, called simply Sherlock. i assumed it would be shite but it’s actually extremely good – intelligent & discerning. There is no typical BBC pandering to minorities and the masses; Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes is superbly “elitist” as it would now be derided – that is, he is a type of the higher man, absorbed in intellect and self-mastery, and untroubled by lesser urges, except nicotine. i only bear two cavils: that he doesn’t smoke a pipe (he instead applies nicotine patches), and that his Watson is a little too nice and Hobbitish for an ex-Army doctor who was in the shit – i would have preferred a Watson with some real violence and darkness under the Hobbitry – not much, but a little less the Bilbo Baggins he plays in the childish Hobbit films.
There’s an excellent scene where an apple polisher London cow tries to pass herself off as a fan to get a quote from Holmes, and he reads and dismisses her with a cold: “you repel me”. i was astonished that a BBC show would have a typical Southron BBC-polisher being eviscerated by a cold asexual (i.e. not gay) white “elitist”, but perhaps as with Top Gear, it will always be the case that people will respond to the real. It is curious that people will feel affection for a character as coldly superhuman as Holmes, but there it is.
Holmes, i guess, is always determined by his sense of his own overwhelming intellectual superiority – my obverse. Amusingly, students sometimes say i remind them of Sherlock Holmes – purely because i use a pocket watch to keep track of time in class (most classrooms have no clocks, and i don’t care for wristwatches). My father, i realise now, adopted some Sherlockian mannerisms – he smoked a pipe when i was a child, and sometimes wore a deerstalker hat (actually quite practical for the ear protection, and for keeping the rain out of your collar). He was a doctor and as coldly unfeeling as Holmes, in some ways. My mother told me he had an uncanny diagnostic faculty, and the last time i talked to him (in 2010) he had self-diagnosed himself as autistic – which makes sense: i often felt that his mind would simply close and refuse to engage with new possibilities, but as a doctor he had a truly strange precision of judgement.
5. i see that i am at least mildly autistic, though my job has forced me to negotiate a bridge to others. i wouldn’t consider myself a good teacher, but i seem able to more or less manage the confidence trick of “teaching” English. In Munich, most of my students are already high level and too old to make noticeable improvements, so i instead talk to them and correct them when they make mistakes; they rarely learn anything but there it is; they usually request me as their teacher in future and many of them have helped me with e.g. the tax office or my internet, and i suppose they get something out of the “lessons”, even if it isn’t English.
My rampant idiocy continues unabated. It inconveniences me in many respects: i could, i suppose, have got a job with some security, health insurance, holidays etc., were i not so stupid; on the other hand, i feel blissfully untroubled by many of the curses of intelligence: i was telling a class about the dobermann i used to walk at dawn, 20 years ago in England, by a Stone Age fort, and remembered how i felt closer to the dog than to people, and indeed i still feel so – my understanding of people is from the ground up, as one might say. It puts me at odds with this civilisation of ours, and yet somehow i manage to survive and now i have a sporadically-functioning smartphone and am reasonably content, amid my idiocies.