You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.

1. Taught a 7 hour intensive course yesterday, exhausting but fun as i gave them Elberry roleplays, e.g. one student is travelling to New York with a rare Bavarian sausage in his hand luggage, two security guards interrogate him regarding his job, purpose, and sausage. It ran more or less thus:

Guard 1: You smell this? He smells like sausage.

Guard 2: I am very hungry. I think we kill the boy and take his sausage.

Traveller: I can hear you.

Guard 1: Stop. Why do you smell of sausage?

Traveller: It is for my chef [Dinglish for boss] in New York. My chef in Munich said me to give this important Bratwurst to the head of XXX in America.

Guard 2: It is not allowed to take sausage into America. Are you a terrorist?

Guard1: I think he is a sausage terrorist, yes?

Guard 2 takes the sausage and hides it.

Traveller: My sausage, give it to me. I must take it to my chef. It is for my job.

Guard 2: What sausage? There is no sausage.

Traveller: My sausage. You have it behind your back.

Guard 1: You can buy new sausage in America. You must leave your sausage here. It is our sausage now.

Traveller: But this is the last Bavarian sausage. It is very rare.

Guard 2: You can make a new one from a cow.

Traveller: That was the last Bavarian cow. This is an important sausage. Give it back! I  need it!

Guard 2: There is no sausage. Go away.

Traveller: Give me my sausage back!

Guard 2: I think you have a sausage problem. Always you say sausage. You need professional help. Go or we shoot you.

2. Further mirth today, as i discovered a modern English translation of Hamlet. Some samples:

i) Horatio: In my opinion, there are some strange things in our state of Denmark.

ii) King: Even though my brother Hamlet is dead, I am very sorrowful. We should all grieve in his passing. The queen has now taken my hand in marriage, and we thank you all for accepting such a hasty marriage. Now the Young Fortinbras, who does not favor us very much, may dream that our state is falling apart because of the king’s recent death. This is the reason for such a quick marriage to the widowed queen. He has not let us forget about the recent loss of his land with all the messages he has sent us. We have written a message to the uncle of Fortinbras, who is old and sick, hasn’t heard of his nephew’s plan. The message tells him to stop Fortinbras’ intentions. Cornelius and Voltimand, I give you this letter to deliver to the king of Norway. I only give you permission to do this. Don’t do anything else. Goodbye, and hurry; the quicker you are the more loyal you are to me.

Cornelius & Voltimand: Okay, we’ll go.

iii) King: You can leave Laertes. Do as you please. Carpe diem! And now Hamlet, my son-

Hamlet: We may be related, but no one said I have to like you.

King: Why are you still gloomy?

Hamlet: Oh no, my lord; I am very happy.

Queen: Hamlet, please get rid of your gloominess. Open your eyes and look beyond your Father’s death. You know all that lives must die.

Hamlet: Yes, you’re right.

Queen: If you know this, then why do you seem so upset?

Hamlet: I do not seem upset I am upset.

King: It’s nice of you to mourn your father. Everybody loses a father, but to mourn the way you do is unmanly and ungodly. You’re acting like a moron in showing this much grief.

iv) Orsic: Laertes is a gentleman of pleasing manners and an excellent appearance. He knows how one gentlemen should admire another.

Hamlet: Your description fits him, but it would be extremely hard to name all of his qualities, because you know he is multi-talented. I know he is well worth evaluating, but the only person that could come close to matching him would be his own shadow.

And so on.

Seht, mir geschiehts, daß meine Hände einander

inne werden oder daß mein gebrauchtes

Gesicht in ihnen sich schont. Das gibt mir ein wenig

Empfindung. Doch wer wagte darum schon zu sein?

it sometimes happens

that my hands

grow conscious

of each other

or that my used face

shelters itself

within them.

That gives me

a slight sensation.

But who’d claim from that

to exist?

(from Rilke’s 2nd Duino Elegy, tr. David Young – Young has interesting line breaks and spacing but WordPress scrambles everything so i can’t reproduce them)



1. Another tandem with Bettina, one of my students. My brain refused to do language and even 35 minutes of bad German was agony. Like an idiot i was thinking in English and trying to translate into German, and having about 2000 German words to my 40,000 (or so) English, not to mention grammar, i kept running into untranslateables.

When i speak bad German well, my thoughts automatically restrict themselves to the available means. That is, i don’t think anything i can’t say in 2000 words with very basic grammar. This doesn’t mean i think like an idiot, but the form of these thoughts becomes extremely simple; it is possible to articulate complicated ideas using simple language. In our previous tandem, i was able to express thoughts at my normal level, in German, without overwhelming difficulty, though it took some ingenuity. When i can manage in German, i make a micro-second’s choice of complexity, and channel all my thoughts into this very basic grammar and vocabulary.

2. i taught myself functional Italian through books, mainly Dante, and used this as a platform for real speech. This was not greatly difficult.  With German, it seems the wrong strategy. Instead, i’ve decided to make no effort to master literary German; to instead concentrate on the living, spoken form, and only then try to read, e.g., Rilke and so on. This seems obvious and natural – it is, after all, the path one takes with one’s own language, to ask for ice cream, and complain, and so on, and only then to start to read. Any yet, i suppose many people do learn through books, through tedious school lessons. i only wonder that in the past it was normal for a chap to be able to converse in some form of Ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, just from school and books – though no doubt institutional beatings & sodomy were of use, for these are valuable pedagogical tools.

3. Munich in Oktoberfest is a little strange. Many men in lederhosen, which looks surprisingly manly and dignified, and many buxom ladies in dirndls. For those not privileged to live in Munich, here are a couple of representative dirndls:

As you can imagine, this is pleasing unto Elberry. Some of my students have tried to persuade me to go to Oktoberfest; some have tried to persuade me to wear lederhosen; some have tried to persuade me to wear a dirndl. i have denied all. Walking through the touristy Tal this afternoon, i suddenly remembered my sisters, in my last life, wearing dirndls, probably for some godawful folk festival or perhaps we even went to Oktoberfest, since i suppose Munich wasn’t a million miles away. Not a hideous thought though approximately five seconds later i was struck deaf & palsied by a yet more outlandish feeling – that i may even have worn lederhosen as a child in that life; suddenly it struck me as exactly the kind of grotesque thing my family would have done and i felt premonitory horrors and once more appreciated why we remember so little – or generally nothing – of our other lives, since we may often have worn lederhosen.

The mind can only take so much.

1. Came across this excellent black metal video. It doesn’t get better than this:

2. i was teaching today, my students went out for a coffee so i started prowling about looking for things to steal or break. Each room comes with a lot of stationery, including a pair of pretty good scissors so i ended up cutting my hair and throwing it out of the window. i became excitable and had to restrain myself from cutting it all off, amusing though it would have been to witness my students’ admiring looks on their return.

3. As part of the lesson i gave a roleplay to the students, one was a skilled and unreplaceable worker, who had taken to coming into work drunk, late, stoned, and listening to Bob Marley. The others were his managers. i gave the role of the bad worker to the most serious student, who took to it with aplomb. There were some excellent lines, e.g.:

Manager: So you are coming in the work drunk this week.

Worker stares silently.

Manager: Do you thinking this is a good way?

Worker: Do you want a joint? You are very tense I think. I have a very fine cigarette for you from Jamaica. You make the work better when you smoke my cigarette.

Manager: I cannot smoke your cigarette.

Worker: Why not? It is very fine. Everything is very fine.

i went up to Würzburg a couple of weeks ago, as my friend the Viking has found a job in Bratislava and so i had to reclaim my books etc., all stashed with him after i left Kassel. In full multi-tasking mode i also met Juniper, and decided to introduce her to the Viking at Germany’s greatest pub, Till Eugenspiegel. Since leaving university the Viking has become increasingly unhinged and renegade, so i advised her: “he is not as other men. He cannot be judged, merely contemplated.”

A typical Viking anedote – he left his boring chemist job in Canada, headed back to Würzburg with no aim in mind, and made no effort to get a job until he had almost run out of money; he only then became aware that it is difficult to, e.g. pay rent and buy food without a job or private income. On one of my visits to Würzburg, he told me he had no money left and was waiting for a Western Union transfer from his parents; i had almost no money but, fearing he would take to eating dead dogs and grass, gave him 50 € – he immediately went into a bookstore and spent 20 € on manga comics. i admire this feckless attitude and only wish i could be as unheeding of money. He is as the lily of the fields, albeit a scowling, bearded badass Roman Catholic lily.

Most people, if they attempted to live by The Viking Rules, would quickly become homeless and starve to death, or be beaten to death by people for making offensive remarks in public. The Viking was close to this point when he bumped into a group of Russian chemists on the streets; after 5 minutes’ chat they recognised his inner light and offered him his present job. Truly, the Lord provides. i wish i could be as reckless though in a way i have been – every time i tell people i came to Germany knowing no Kraut, with only about 1000 €, and a job offer with inlingua (with a justifiedly black reputation), they blink amazedly and say: “that was brave”. Not brave so much as desperate, the only alternatives being suicide or a lifetime of minimum wage data entry.

i prefer Würzburg to Munich – it has a small town feel but in a good way, and isn’t overwhelmed with tourists like Munich (though i mainly only see Marienplatz, the tourist centre). It’s also considerably cheaper. On the other hand, there are more beautiful women in Munich, more work, and i get to see chaps in comedy lederhosen, and women in dirndls, quite often, for free. But certainly it was good to get away from the bustle and glittering frenzy of Munich for a day.

A picture Juniper took in Würzburg:

1. A strange day yesterday, as my landlord’s wife rang to tell me he had died. So rest in peace, Reinhard. He had a heart attack about 7 weeks ago, was in a coma, then died a few days after my first & only visit. i am shocked, as he had seemed physically okay, when i last say him – just absent from his body – and he was comparatively young (mid 5os), and before the attack full of energy & vim. He was, however, a typically German workaholic, born in poverty, who seemed unable to stop working – until finally his heart gave out.

Reinhard helped me enormously – moving me & my goods from the kangarhaus to Germering, offering to help with the DKV (my medical insurance company), trying to get my bond back from the deranged kangarlandlady, taking me to a furniture store and spending a good hour of his time hunting affordable curtains for my flat. All of this without asking for a pfennig in return.

i have been exploited and used by companies and crazies in Germany – by inlingua in Kiel, who fired me without warning or explanation after 4 weeks; by the kangarhaus landlady; by the Deutsche Krankenversicherung; by my tax consultant, who has now charged me 3 times the norm. It is not that Germans are unusually corrupt and greedy, just human, and faced with a foreigner who can barely speak the Bosche, they will take advantage. Companies like inlingua don’t care if they ruin human beings, if they lure them from England, force them to waste their savings, and then fire them and leave them to commit suicide; they have, likewise, a grim reputation among students. But then there are exceptions, individuals like Morgana or Reinhard, both of whom opened doors in my life.

i don’t feel very sad about Reinhard – just a pervasive melancholy. Partly it is because i assume he is already choosing his next life, and we may meet again; partly because though i liked him greatly, we were not close. i dreamt of him on Sunday night/Monday morning, which would be round about when he died; it was my only dream of the man; he wanted to take me to Höffner’s (the furniture store where we got curtains), and worried i wouldn’t manage on my own; then i tried to persuade him to return to his body and he suddenly slipped away and i knew he wouldn’t return. At the time i assumed it was just a dream, as it felt no different to normal dreams (there are dreams and dreams).

i noted how i felt, now i know Reinhard is dead, for use in my novel. This is the first death to come close to me. A suggestive rebuke to psycho-biographical explanations, that i had far greater experience of death in my last life, from a young age, but i am just as morbid and death “obsessed” as Elberry; when one can compare two ostensibly very different lives, and see recurrent themes, the usual biographical explanations seem superficial and incidental. Would it have surprised my last life, to know he had been a priestess of Ishtar (goddess of sex, war, and the descent to the underworld), a tomb-builder in Egypt, who thought he was Thoth (god of writing, magic, and the descent to the underworld), and that he would shortly be reborn as an Anglo-Indian vitki, worshipper of Wodan (god of death, magic, and the descent to the underworld)?

2. Another shock yesterday, as my friend Bonehead forwarded a terrorism article naming Max the Killer, his first martial mentor, as being involved in British Muslim terrorist circles. A surprise, as i met Max a couple of times and thought he seemed very warm, friendly, humorous, sane. He was also then drawn more to Buddhism (the idea of emptiness) than to primitive Islam (misogyny, homophobia, racism, and stonings and beards). In the article he is presented as a Conradian man of mystery, a kind of Mr Kurtz or evil Lord Jim of terrorism, running training camps for young bearded morons. Weird, yet right – when i knew him he was a charismatic, laid-back leader, the kind of person everyone looks to for orders, precisely because he seems so relaxed and cheerful, and normal.

i can understand, and sympathise with, the desire to kill other human beings, to live a significant life of homicide and danger. But to become a bearded Muslim – this seems to me a bad joke, it is not in good taste, it is not decent. There are surely many other ways of fulfilling one’s natural desire to kill and be killed.

3. Today i met Bettina, one of my students, for our second tandem session. She does chi kung and, while working for a large German car company, says things like “perhaps it is important to have an expensive car if there is nothing else in your life.” A good woman.

We speak English for 40 minutes, German for 20. After 20 minutes of Bosche, trying to explain how Shakespeare uses language in Measure for Measure, i felt like collapsing.  She shares my horror of offices. i feel, again, that i was absolutely right to leave office work and England. A line i came across on Tai Chi Heartwork the other day:

Warriors – those who cannot accept the wrong life – will always find cross-energy.

i would prefer fighter or brawler or killer or homicidal maniac, as warrior now has such a sterile New Age stink, the kind of word bad bo-bo neo-Beat Cafe Latte poets use about themselves, loudly, in Starbucks, before going to do bad Tai Chi in a very public park. But the idea is sound – you refuse to make essential compromises, and provided your refusal is substantial, and the only alternative is death, you will attract allies, friends.

After finishing our tandem, Bettina walked me to the u-bahn near her office. Two huge black birds – crows or ravens, i am unsure which – flew over and landed on the grassy verge to tear some found bread apart. i halted and, aware of Bettina’s puzzled look, said “i saw these birds in your car park last time. The same birds.”

During our tandem we talked about the “decline of the West”. i told her about the shithead apprentices i taught in Kassel, whose only interests were horror/porn movies, computers, mobile phones, and cars. The West has been in decline for at least 100 years, before even the First World War: it is to do with the erasing of any extra-materialist (religious or otherwise) apprehension, the destruction of the sacred.

To be human is to impinge, however dimly, on that which is beyond the human – or beyond the material, the visible and known. Science has inculcated a false model of knowledge. Science can only deal with the empirical; its basis is repeatable scientific experiment, statistical analysis (which can only deal with probablities). Anything not subject to empirical observation & statistical analysis is invisible to science (at best, scientists can proffer impressionist, manifestly pseudo-scientific “explanations”), yet scientists in their indomitable arrogance are unable to admit their limits – this is not remarkable, for they are generally ignorant of philosophy or epistemology; they are mathematicians, knowing about as much of epistemology as my 19-year-old engineering apprentices. They are often ostensibly fuelled by hatred of Christianity, and its long history of persecutions & inhumanity, though one feels these scientists would be quite happy in Stalinist Russia, as long as they were on the winning side. Fundamentally, their visceral loathing of the now almost wholly discredited Christianity (where they seem lukewarm about real threats like Islam or China) may be competitive – that is, they are the new priests and so naturally set their sights on the old priests. They wish for power and for that they must discredit the old priesthood.

Although most people are incapable of really understanding religion or philosophy, the concepts seem to (somehow) filter into their lives. So now, whenever scientists discover that bananas cause cancer, or that cigarettes are good for the heart, etc., people accept this as they would once have accepted the priest’s sermon. This false mode of knowledge – that only the empirically observable exists, and everything else is a lie – has brutalised its subjects. For to be human is to  have an extra-material fidelity, which one could call the imagination, in Wallace Stevens’ usage (could a scientist understand anything of Stevens?).

Along with the scientific onslaught, the humanities have been destroyed by race/gender/sex apparatchiks, English traditions have been largely eradicated by Nu Labour, and the family has likewise distintegrated (assisted by appropriate legislation). So in the West there is no longer any obvious extra-material object, to which one might give one’s fidelity – the only cause now is money.  It is not surprising that the West is breeding no-good jihaddist boyos, violence, riots, destruction – for human beings require some extra-material (or “spiritual”) component, and this is no longer requitable by religion, by education, by tradition, except in highly isolated cases. Islam, while vile &  bearded, has made no compromises with its essential nature (hatred & violence & savagery), and so it continues to command considerable support. Christianity, in watering itself down for the masses, has lost everything.

Without the sacred, humanity will devolve into a state of grunting bearded savagery, as we see in Islam, and as we have recently seen in the riots. This is a curious point in history; i know of no other period where entire peoples lost faith in the reality beyond the empirical. Where gods have fallen out of favour, there have always been other gods, or mystery cults, or daimones, or the Empire, the family, the traditions of the folk. Now there is nothing and any contrived solution must appear artificial and insubstantial.

Extreme, general solutions are dangerous. i think things must change but doubtless the reaction will in its way be as bad as the problem; for this is the nature of things.

1. i spent the last week alternately worrying and fuming in rage about the DKV, my fraudulent medical insurance company. Now i feel indifferent. i did the runework for Eihwaz this evening; i find that to really understand a rune it must alter you; this is true perhaps of any understanding, or was at least for me at university, studying literature. So today, i understood the protective/aggressive aspect of Eihwaz – it outwaits opposition. Like Hagalaz, Naudhiz, Isa, and Jera, it is vitally to do with time; it is “time the destroyer”, an unrelenting energy (a strung bow); it shatters iron, it unmakes all. The vitki, in drawing from tradition, becomes one with the yew, a force beyond the day to day bustle of things.

Rapid, the transformation of understanding, the student altered by his study. In about half an hour i have changed completely. i must act quickly with the DKV but there is no need of hectic worry or dread. i will destroy them by my patience.

2. My attitude to magic etc. is peculiar. i came to it late, with no prior interest. As a child of the late 20th Century, some part of my mind wishes for a scientific explanation, even while i know this is not possible, or not without ignoring most of the “data”, for the data is wholly subjective, unrepeatable, and certainly not liable to empirical study and statistical analysis. i merely accept it, as it manifests to me.

3. Although i am also concerned to be a good teacher, to survive in Germany, to learn the Boschesprache, if possible to recall more of my other lives, and to write more stories, i could express all this by saying i am becoming a vitki, or sorcerer or wizard, if you like. This penetrates & controls all other endeavours. So although i want to write more fiction, i will not pimp myself, will not do cartwheels, fetch the ball, roll over & play dead, for any belly-patting publisher or editor. Publicity weakens the individual. For a vitki, secrecy and isolation are sources of power. Perhaps i should only write for myself, and if fate wishes my work to survive it will, after my death; but i feel content with blogging, without comments, as a way of thinking aloud. Nothing i write here is important; and with comments disabled i can enjoy the feeling of being not wholly isolated, yet without suffering the spittle of fools.

And so with teaching also. My students would be surprised, after a lesson of mirth and jollity, to know they were involved in a magical/religious act, that their ebullient laughter, the intoxication of language, were both natural and supernatural. But for the vitki, magic reveals itself so – as both natural and supernatural; the further one walks this path, the more natural & normal it seems; so i can see how the runes were once used as an ordinary writing script; the Aleister Crowley kind of magic – weird rituals, funny-sounding names, magic circles & swords – this is too evidently weird to be genuine. The runes lie at the heart of the supernatural and natural both. It is a matter of perspective, if one sees a magpie as magical, or a spell as ordinary; the same force drives through both, for both are part of the created world. But while i would say a tree or a bird is evidently real, evidently supernatural, and so natural, things like publicity are a kind of magic-gone-wrong, a frenzied mistake.

Ulysses wanted to hear the sirens, but did not trust himself to resist their song. The vitki would be indifferent. He would not require a counter-song, magical defences, willpower; he would just turn away in boredom.

I could not be as the sun.

(Edward Thomas, ‘Health’)

i’m occasionally perturbed by the thought that a random madman could produce something to equal Shakespeare. Especially with writers like Rimbaud, Kafka,  Beckett, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Wittgenstein, i worry that a 5-year-old child could produce comparable works, albeit in very short doses. Today, i find Brit rightly likening one of his commentators to Samuel Beckett, and i find it not so ridiculous. Some samples from the modern Beckett:

They will go to the supermarkets and view the beef – for example, it will say, Scottish Beef. They will feel sick, They will look at what is next to the Scottish Beef and it will say, Irish Beef. This will not make them feel so grand either; however, they will put the Irish Beef into their baskets, for, who wants to eat something that remembers them of something awful. I could go on and on.

Before I start, I should not have used the term “a load of shit,” for I know that children could possibly read this and although the word is now in some dictionaries I bet, if a young school child said to his teacher that his teaching was a load of shit he would be in big trouble.
I hope the site provider does not take it off, as it would be difficult for me to re-write that piece.

My writings seem not so good to me… I have not reviewed the latest ones, I am firing from the hip, as the term goes. I get the feeling that they are a little rough and rugged. I feel that way. Hopefully, you will be able to see that I have tried to write from a humble disposition.

Some things I write I have great experience in and other things I have written I have written light-heatedly, lacking preciseness, and I have tried to write from a total third person standpoint, which, has been difficult.

Yet, let me not forget, I am not an expert on the numbers of Norse and Saxons and so forth in all the great battles.

I do not watch movies anymore, especially historical ones and it is due to all the nonsense.

However, folk simply bypass facts do they not and then start to think that they are marvelous.

A good story I believe, yet, they still probably ended up chiseling stone.

It was still a total disgrace mind.

Now I am finished.

Like I say though, I am not an expert on many of things I have written and I think in the future I will pass contributing.

So, take my writings with a pinch of salt; however, I am only off by a tad if anything.

Many things are built in England. I bet you did not know that BMW 3 & 5 series engines are built in England?

It is the world of business. It is a different world to the secular normal run of things.

Something else I looked into was Britain’s role in Afghanistan. When I write Britain I include Ulster and the Irish regiments too; however, writing all that out would be a chore indeed.

Now, you cannot tell me that those men do not look rugged.

One thing many folk in the UK do not realize is that Scottish Whiskey has been one of Britain’s biggest exports for more years than I know, i.e. a serious number of years, possibly one hundred. It is staggering one way or the other.

Is not a tank’s job to fight other tanks? It is indeed.

No doubt you guessed that I was a man of religion by now anyhow.

And so on. After Brit deletes 3 of his posts – i guess because they aren’t suitable for a family audience – Beckett becomes understandably nervous, attempting to explain the content of the disappeared posts, and to defend himself against Brit’s accusations of racism. An interesting tactic, deleting posts and then telling everyone they were “racist drivel”, but of course no one can read them so no one can know. It occurs to me i could re-enable comments and simply delete anything i don’t like, with a bland “sorry, but i can’t let people post paedophiliac rape fantasies on my blog”. It would be quite diverting to watch the commentators desperately try to defend themselves. They would become increasingly frantic, and perhaps i could push things a little further by deleting some of their apologetics, with another bland “I told you I won’t tolerate anecdotes about how you raped your cellmate.”

If they had reaped their dandelions and sold

Them fairly, they could have afforded gold.

(Edward Thomas, ‘Lob’)

wordpress hit counter