You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

100. The truths which Moore says he knows are such as, roughly speaking, all of us know, if he knows them.

101. Such a proposition might be e.g. “My body has never disappeared and reappeared again after an interval.”

(Wittgenstein, On Certainty, tr Anscombe)


i had a late breakfast with Morgana today, while Bones and Lilly ran around yapping at each other and climbing on our laps and trying to steal our cheese. Two language inventions:

1. David describes her effect on men thus:  “You bitchkrieged him!” For she is indeed a one-woman bitchkrieg.

2. She and David likewise came up with a game of misusing food names, e.g.:

I carrot do it.

I bread that book once.

There is only one goat cheese and mango is his profiterole.

Pasta la vista, motherfucker.

I like vegetable but also orange and buttery.

She then drove me home, cursing every driver on the road thus: “What a cunt”, “another cunt”, “look at this cunt getting in my way.” A similar situation:

An angry German girl i know in Vienna, who i believe was my nearest sister in my last life, just told me she:

a) Knows Morgana;

b) Used to live on Wittgensteinstraße in Cologne.

A small world indeed, positively cramped.

One of Morgana’s ashtrays:

My new bedroom on Philosophenweg:

My flatmate’s dog, firmly at home on my bed:

My first day in the field yesterday – though it was more Tigerland than Nam, as i only took a group for their last day on the course, handing out & then  invigilating a test, and then playing language games for a couple of hours. An interesting group, in some ways: the only girl looked a great deal like my first Torment, even had a similar manner, but whereas the Torment is now my age (34), the girl was, i guess, in her early to mid 20s, that is, the same age as the Torment when we last met; David’s joker was present too, in his brown(shirt) cardigan – he seemed an affable bumbling engineer with bad grammar, but all the same when we played “guess who I am”, his secret ID was Darth Vader (i wanted to give him Hitler); there was also a student with bad English who, however, looked remarkably like Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer, and fascinated me a little. During the break, he said if i want to get speaking practice in Bosche i should get a “tandem” partner, i.e. a Bosche who wants to speak English, and since he wanted to speak English too, we agreed to meet next week – Morgana warned me this would come to nothing, but i can always pull out on the grounds that i’ll be teaching or lesson preparing for almost every waking hour. A typical Elberry paradox – my personality inclines me to solitary language study, but i learn best by listening and speaking; likewise i want everything to be perfect but only do good work by tacking away from my mistakes – hence, i need to make mistakes, to be imperfect (but it is my desire to be perfect which forces the move away from imperfection).

The Lucifer-a-like also cleared up a Davidian mystery – he had used the word “nincompoop” in one of David’s lessons, much to David’s bemusement; apparently he had deliberately looked up the most abstruse and unusual word he could find, with the intention of using it on David. Good show.

Next week i’ll be working 8 hours every day – from 0800 to 1500ish, though on Monday i have Extra Unpaid Shit thrown in which will keep me in the school till evening. This is not ideal but thanks to Morgana’s training i think i can come up with approximate lesson plans for Monday and Tuesday over the weekend, and prep for Wednesday and Thursday the evening before. i didn’t expect much from the training (i thought it would either be corporate bs or just a repetition of what i learnt on the CELTA course, or in my first job in Kiel) – however, Morgana was full of cruelty and excellent techniques to present new vocab and grammar, which would have made my first job much much easier.

i’ve decided the best way to prep a lesson is to read through the unit, then look at the final performance stage (a roleplay, for example), analyse what the students will need to do it properly, and build up to that moment in the preceding stages – so the presentation stage will supply the vocab & grammar they need, and in the practice stage they will learn to use them in a fairly controlled way, before the final freefall.

i’ve been thinking of things i want to ask the Lucifer-a-like when next we meet – it occurs to me that in order to ask “how do i say…” i will probably have to first present the original in English as i would in class, through concrete examples, since his English isn’t that good; so just in order to answer my question, he will have to learn a little English; and i will have to learn how to teach a little.

i’m looking forward to teaching another Arbeitsamt class next week (the variously unemployed). i enjoy stamping my will on large numbers of unruly Germans, in my mud-stained hiking boots. Here is a video of myself teaching a typical Arbeitsamt class in Kiel last autumn:

1. Massive Attack, ‘Dissolved Girl’


O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely.



What he learnt of her was by chance: that she was an accomplished skier, had dyed her hair jet black when Glenn Gould died (she looked “like a startled vampire”), and was, contrary to appearances, very poor. She had made a haphazard, peregrine life subsisting on university grants and patronage, leaving monographs in her wake. She was occasionally consulted on Icelandic folklore or polar bears or Schubertia. Having almost no income, almost all her possessions were inherited, or gifts.

Her silences, her oblique refusals, spoke of her impenetrable self as did her daunting self-control. Both silence and discipline a counter against some unknown in herself; they had the quality of a containment field. She spent hours learning and re-learning languages, playing the piano, violin, flute, harp, with a mixture of pleasure and self-immolation. Her mastery of these languages, of music, like spells cast about something in herself, some caged thing.

(Walter Aske, The Better Maker, this section written about 18 months ago)

4. Magenta:

1. Today the Spanish girl in my training group said to me: “I hope you won’t be angry if I say this, but you are exactly the stereotype I had of the English.”

Elberry: Huh?

Spanish girl: The way you look and dress and everything, it is just like I thought the English would be. You are very formal. Friendly but formal. You are exactly English.

Elberry: i take that as a great compliment.

2. Just now, i met my landlady. Christian, my hippy flatmate, translated between us. She seemed to approve of Elberry, for he said: “She likes you, she says you seem friendly.” Twice in one day.

3. Amusing conversation between Morgana and myself over a coffee:

Elberry: i don’t think i’m particularly English. Except that i try to be polite –

Morgana: I don’t think you’re polite. Yesterday you were really rude to me, you fucking retarded person, you’re the rudest fucking idiot I’ve ever met.

Elberry: Well yes, but that was during class. I was going to apologise but I knew that would just enrage you.

Morgana: I hate apologies. I would prefer it if the fucking situation never arose in the first fucking place, so you have nothing to apologise for, you fucking moron.

Elberry: i agree. Unfortunately, i don’t have a time travel machine so i can’t do anything about that.

A cruel elvish laugh. i like half-Swedish elves, especially the cruel ones who swear a lot.

On the walk home today i was puzzled by my continued existence. i felt that i had made a mistake prolonging my useless and unnecessary existence beyond, well, 1976, but especially last winter. However, as i made my morose way round the supermarket, looking for apples and green tea and washing powder, i reflected that, in an initiatory sense, black feelings are appropriate and valuable. If one takes initiation as the accessing of greater powers, the escape from the merely everyday self, then it cannot but be an uncomfortable and unnerving process; and anything which serves to unsettle and crush the ordinary self should be regarded as a gift from the interested powers.

There are two principle reactions to the kind of intense discomfort i felt today: one can shore up the self with anger or reminders of one’s own gifts (“okay, I’m shit at this but I’m good at other things”); or one can simply exit the self, regarding it rightly as of no value, as a useless, irredeemable mess. The former is easier, more “natural”, and reinforces the extant self in its complacent self-regard and estimation; the latter is unnatural, and difficult to manage without morbid exaggeration or self-pity – however, if you can coolly regard yourself as a thing without value, something that should not exist, and then strive to escape this mess – without physically dying – then you can get somewhere. It is a kind of suicide, but of the superficial personality rather than the body. It is a sacrifice of oneself to oneself – and therefore to the old gallows god, crowfather, one-eye, grim master and hard friend, who gave himself first, to himself, on that tree on which we all variously hang, in our little wisdom, wanting more.

Tough day today, once more confronting my inadequacies as a teacher and as a human being. i am thoroughly unsuited for teaching – my whole temperament, my kind of intelligence (such as it is), as inappropriate for teaching as for data entry – and indeed, for anything.

A (mild) panic attack during the training, the urge to simply run out of the building and, Forrest Gump like, just keep on running to escape a situation in which i do not belong. The sense of playing a false part disgusts and horrifies me. i smothered my unease at my first crap TEFL job but it cannot long be denied – my health usually disintegrates as i deny my inner disquiet; and then i start to get almost uncontrollable flight/fight adrenaline rushes, which manifest in hyperventilation and the urge to physically run away and disappear.

Tonight i have to think of ways to present phrases like “to go 50-50” – i feel i might as well be scrutinising Etruscan. Worse,  it is a mockery of language.

1. i learnt some Swedish today courtesy of the half-Swedish Morgana, as part of my training. A fun day though i am already bracing myself for the real pain, when teaching begins. i have to find a way to cope with using school materials, speaking other people’s words, or i will go mad(der). My temperament is wholly opposed to thinking another man’s thoughts, speaking another man’s words – not arrogance but inadequacy; had i this skill, i wouldn’t be the failure i am today.

2. Just discovered a little alley leading from Philosophenweg, called “Hegelweg”. Piss poor, there are finer German/Austrian philosophers than Hegel. However, to make up for this there is a proper street nearby, called “Schopenhauerstrasse”. A proper street for a proper philosopher. i guess if Wittgenstein had a street named after him, it would be a dead end littered with broken glass and dead squirrels and dried semen stains, the kind of place where kids get stabbed at night. However, i quite like this Wittgenstein stamp:

3. i have ‘Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts’ going through my head as a result of spending a week with Morgana’s little dog Lilly. Lyrics for the album version:

The festival was over, the boys were all plannin’ for a fall,
The cabaret was quiet except for the drillin’ in the wall.
The curfew had been lifted and the gamblin’ wheel shut down,
Anyone with any sense had already left town.
He was standin’ in the doorway lookin’ like the Jack of Hearts.

He moved across the mirrored room, “Set it up for everyone,” he said,
Then everyone commenced to do what they were doin’ before he turned their heads.
Then he walked up to a stranger and he asked him with a grin,
“Could you kindly tell me, friend, what time the show begins?”
Then he moved into the corner, face down like the Jack of Hearts.

Backstage the girls were playin’ five-card stud by the stairs,
Lily had two queens, she was hopin’ for a third to match her pair.
Outside the streets were fillin’ up, the window was open wide,
A gentle breeze was blowin’, you could feel it from inside.
Lily called another bet and drew up the Jack of Hearts.

Big Jim was no one’s fool, he owned the town’s only diamond mine,
He made his usual entrance lookin’ so dandy and so fine.
With his bodyguards and silver cane and every hair in place,
He took whatever he wanted to and he laid it all to waste.
But his bodyguards and silver cane were no match for the Jack of Hearts.

Rosemary combed her hair and took a carriage into town,
She slipped in through the side door lookin’ like a queen without a crown.
She fluttered her false eyelashes and whispered in his ear,
“Sorry, darlin’, that I’m late,” but he didn’t seem to hear.
He was starin’ into space over at the Jack of Hearts.

“I know I’ve seen that face before,” Big Jim was thinkin’ to himself,
“Maybe down in Mexico or a picture up on somebody’s shelf.”
But then the crowd began to stamp their feet and the houselights did dim
And in the darkness of the room there was only Jim and him,
Starin’ at the butterfly who just drew the Jack of Hearts.

Lily was a princess, she was fair-skinned and precious as a child,
She did whatever she had to do, she had that certain flash every time she smiled.
She’d come away from a broken home, had lots of strange affairs
With men in every walk of life which took her everywhere.
But she’d never met anyone quite like the Jack of Hearts.

The hangin’ judge came in unnoticed and was being wined and dined,
The drillin’ in the wall kept up but no one seemed to pay it any mind.
It was known all around that Lily had Jim’s ring
And nothing would ever come between Lily and the king.
No, nothin’ ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts.

Rosemary started drinkin’ hard and seein’ her reflection in the knife,
She was tired of the attention, tired of playin’ the role of Big Jim’s wife.
She had done a lot of bad things, even once tried suicide,
Was lookin’ to do just one good deed before she died.
She was gazin’ to the future, riding on the Jack of Hearts.

Lily washed her face, took her dress off and buried it away.
“Has your luck run out?” she laughed at him, “Well, I guess you must
have known it would someday.
Be careful not to touch the wall, there’s a brand-new coat of paint,
I’m glad to see you’re still alive, you’re lookin’ like a saint.”
Down the hallway footsteps were comin’ for the Jack of Hearts.

The backstage manager was pacing all around by his chair.
“There’s something funny going on,” he said, “I can just feel it in the air.”
He went to get the hangin’ judge, but the hangin’ judge was drunk,
As the leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk.
There was no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts.

Lily’s arms were locked around the man that she dearly loved to touch,
She forgot all about the man she couldn’t stand who hounded her so much.
“I’ve missed you so,” she said to him, and he felt she was sincere,
But just beyond the door he felt jealousy and fear.
Just another night in the life of the Jack of Hearts.

No one knew the circumstance but they say that it happened pretty quick,
The door to the dressing room burst open and a cold revolver clicked.
And Big Jim was standin’ there, ya couldn’t say surprised,
Rosemary right beside him, steady in her eyes.
She was with Big Jim but she was leanin’ to the Jack of Hearts.

Two doors down the boys finally made it through the wall
And cleaned out the bank safe, it’s said that they got off with quite a haul.
In the darkness by the riverbed they waited on the ground
For one more member who had business back in town.
But they couldn’t go no further without the Jack of Hearts.

The next day was hangin’ day, the sky was overcast and black,
Big Jim lay covered up, killed by a penknife in the back.
And Rosemary on the gallows, she didn’t even blink,
The hangin’ judge was sober, he hadn’t had a drink.
The only person on the scene missin’ was the Jack of Hearts.

The cabaret was empty now, a sign said, “Closed for repair.”
Lily had already taken all of the dye out of her hair.
She was thinkin’ ’bout her father, who she very rarely saw,
Thinkin’ ’bout Rosemary and thinkin’ about the law.
But most of all she was thinkin’ ’bout the Jack of Hearts.

And an excellent demo which i’ve never heard before:

4. i like Ultima Thule. There are huge parks, one about 5 minutes from my Philosophenweg digs; also, there are many pretty girls here, contrary to David’s grim tales. On my second day in town, David and i went for a stroll and passed about a dozen pretty girls. When i pointed out that this didn’t fit with his “all the women here are trolls” horror tales, he said, with worrying sincerity: “I swear, I have never seen a single pretty girl here till you arrived.” And he’s been here 9 months.

5. i feel strangely happy, in spite of myself. Very odd.

wordpress hit counter