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1. Some good films i’ve seen recently: Drive, Drive, and Drive. That’s right – Drive.
It’s an unexpectedly beautiful, surreal film, a very 80s-era Michael Mann aesthetic with 80s soundtrack, 80s grittiness and sensitivity and manliness. The hero, a film stunt and robbery getaway driver, is almost not there.
His character is defined by negation: he hardly speaks; he refuses to be involved in heists or carry a gun; he arrived in LA a few years ago and we know little of his life since, and nothing of the life before; even his driving style is minimal – his first getaway consists of a great deal of strategically parking and turning the lights off. From the beatings he administers, i guess he has a violent past but there is nothing in his demeanour to suggest this, and his enemies take him lightly until he stomps on them. At the end of the film he drives away, leaving a bag of money in the parking lot, as if money is of no interest to him, or might even compromise his strange integrityy – again, exercising his abstention, leaving a woman he cares for, a life. Where and what to, we don’t know.
2. i sometimes think, what could i do apart from teach English (which requires almost no technical skills, just a feeling for people, relatively good English, and hundreds of hours of practice) or minimum wage data entry. For most, the path is easy. They leave school age 18 and do an obvious degree; they quickly get a job and apple polish their way to the top. Everything is so clear, so straightforward, for them, that they cannot understand someone like me – such folk often accuse me of deliberately sabotaging my interviews or job applications, because they so thoroughly inhabit their own polisher reality, they cannot conceive of another.
3. i half-slept (literally) through school, in a protective hebetude, chose Psychology (BSc) up at Leeds because i wanted to experiment on people, dropped messily out after teaching myself theoretical Statistics over 6 months, then ended up at Durham to do English Lit. i thought about Philosophy but couldn’t imagine reading nothing but Aristotle et al. By the time i began English Lit i was 21 and had detached myself from human considerations through isolation and sleep and dogs. i had vague ideas of becoming a famous writer and wearing a white linen suit and sporting a diamond cane, sipping absinthe and blazing whores, but mainly i just knew i didn’t want anything like school: to be bored, to be bullied, to waste my life (which became my fate after graduation).
i was still nocturnal at university, so only went to about 5 % of my lectures; about half of my tutorials were absolutely useless (tutor: “so what do we think about the book?” students sit in total silence and then someone says “it was okay” or “I didn’t like it, it was all stupid”), the rest somewhere between vaguely interesting and excellent. i wouldn’t say my time at university was useless (in contrast to my schooling); rather, my education was tangential to the university – it was more about freedom from soul-pulverising data entry and beatings; association with intelligent people (for which association, however, the university would have expelled me); access to a first-class library; a general atmosphere of non-worldly concentration; and essay deadlines. Without this influence, i would have found it hard to cope with 5 years in the trenches of data entry – i would probably have either died of asthma or committed suicide – so either a subconscious or conscious suicide. i learnt to say no, and more importantly to think no. Yes takes care of itself.
4. The older i get the more i concentrate on the things i won’t do: this seems easier to manage than speculating “could i be a Key Account Manager” and “perhaps i was born to unjam photocopiers”. It’s not so much that i don’t want to be a Key Account Manager or a Junior Photocopying Unjammer, it’s rather that i can’t plausibly convince anyone that this is what i want. i think the problem is, in part, a highly expressive (and weird) face which makes lying hard, and telling even a highly modified version of the truth doesn’t pay, not with my truth. My own sense, that i have no idea what these jobs will really be like, plus my almost total lack of interest, communicates itself either in involuntarily facial twitches or just in a lack of the appropriate expression.
i’ve met people who effortlessly drifted into good jobs, and people like me. The former are not invariably thick; they are, rather, bland and lack interiority. They would never say no because they have no inward substance from which to resist external demands, however grotesque, malign, vile. They are apple polishers, eager to enter the race and get on, to slime their way to the top. Their eagerness is essential – this is what employers wish for, a willing servility. Polishers react to me with something between wary bemusement (tinged with interest) and violent hostility. They often resent me for not being a polisher; even if i say nothing, they sense and resent my abstention, and take it as a criticism. And since most interviewers are apple polishers, i’m naturally not suitable for employment.
The latter – non-polishers – are in some way stubbornly themselves. i’ve met people as bluntly individual as myself, and people who are superficially charming and eager but, deep down, don’t locate their self-worth in having a big desk and a company car. And because of this, they cannot slime up to the top.
5. i have no objection to apple polishers existing; they have their function in this world as politicians, general managers, financial experts, journalists, media skank, all the assorted slime & filth one needs to keep things working. But i could not breathe their air and so there is no point grovelling to please them. They are, in any case, firmly set against me; they have something like an allergic reaction to non-polishers. i think the right thing is to just keep saying no to the usual temptations – which are scarcely temptations since they are illusory – and persist as i am.
i finally got round to watching the original Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It’s an uncanny film, even better than the book i would say, and the book served as my introduction to spy thrillers back in 2006. Previously, the only “genre fiction” i liked was Fantasy. i felt weirdly gripped by le Carré, as by Tolkien in my teens. There is an odd power about such books, as if you are reading your own story (in a sense, i am). A sample scene from the original TTSS:
i then tried to watch the modern BBC version. i got halfway through before realising i hadn’t enjoyed anything and most likely wouldn’t enjoy the second half either, and so stopped. It has fine actors and beautiful cinematography, as you can see here:
but it’s badly done. In the book and original, Peter Guillam is a 40-something strongman/officer, a lady’s man with a fast car, somewhat weathered but fundamentally ordinary, decent, a good foil to Smiley. A good scene from the 1979 version, where he is intercepted by one of the top brass and a henchman (6.20-8.00):
In the modern version, he’s an effete, weird-looking pansy who looks like a backing dancer for Sigur Ros:
i didn’t get far enough in the modern version, but i gather the BBC decided to make Guillam a wailing homosexual, in complete and total contrast to the womanising Guillam of the books, and the stalwart Guillam of the 1979 film. Well, at least they didn’t decide to revision Smiley as a Jamaican drug addict, just to complete their multicultural propaganda quota.
i hear a lot about the BBC’s Communist bias but since i rarely read it i’ve been largely spared any direct experience. So far in the 2011 TTSS, there was an openly heterosexual character remade as a wailing gaylord, and one mention of the Americans torturing Karla (the Russian spymaster) – not in the original and, as far as i remember, not in the book either. After a while, even nice cinematography and Gary Oldman can’t compensate. The modern version, in short, is a crock of shite.
1. i read my first German book last week, without aid of dictionaries or parallel texts – Die Lausige Hexe fliegt ans Meer – a translation of Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch All At Sea. i tried to read Kraut children’s books 2 years ago and gave up in despair. i don’t feel my German has really improved since then but i can nonetheless now read these books without too much difficulty, so i suppose i am Hitler. i underline the words i don’t know and look them up after finishing. i’m now on Das Feuer von Kreta by Gabriele Bayerlein – much more adult in tone (with beaten slaves and forced marriages and what not) and enjoying it very much.
i feel no shame about reading children’s books. Both Murphy’s and Bayerlein’s books attain a nice balance. i want to know what happens next, i care about the characters, and the books don’t appear patronising or infantile to an adult, or at least not to me. i don’t have much interest in categories like fiction, non-fiction, literary fiction, thriller, children’s fiction etc . Ray Monk’s Wittgenstein bio, possibly because so much of it is a paraphrase of Wittgenstein’s own words, reads like a Tolstoy novel. WG Sebald’s books are just themselves, whatever they are. The two biographies i’ve read of Samuel Beckett gripped me like thrillers. Dr Johnson’s essays are akin to being cornered, harangued, charmed, enlightened by a highly lucid and cogent drunk (a regrettably rare experience in real life).
2. In addition, i don’t see any absolute divide between children and adults. We have a shape of consciousness outside of time – before we are born, if you like – and at different physical ages we unfold different aspects of this complex. It’s foolish to say we cease to be children, and good riddance, and become real human beings, i.e. adults. Rather, we embody different aspects of our eternal energy and some of these may be childlike or childish, others adult or weary, others sage or cynical or patronising or half-dead (sadly, many old people are just zombies). i see this more clearly with my last life – the different stages, different types of energy.
3. i taught Jack again today. He’s a Vice President of some description. He went to Microsoft and found his counterparts were Executive Senior Corporate Vice Presidents, so he asked his old boss “can you make me a Senior Executive Corporate Vice President?” The old boss said, wearily: “can I just pay you 20,000 € a year more instead?” Jack agreed to this. Then there was a new boss and Jack tried the same trick, hoping for an extra 20 k. The new boss however just made him a Senior XXX VP.
Jack told me this with his usual boyish good humour. He is very intelligent and competent, late 50s, and earns about 10 times what i do (at least), but if you considered his present shape of energy it would evidently include a goodly quantity of boyish energy, and one could probably see this in the Original Jack, the Jack outside of time. He also reads mainly science-fiction and Fantasy novels and told me he was playing the Eragon audiobook in his car and sat immobile in his garage for an hour, waiting to hear what happened next. It amuses me that he tells this to the only real sorceror he’s likely to ever meet. i don’t feel i’ve known him in another life, that is i don’t feel anything, but i can imagine knowing him as a child, since i overwhelmingly feel him to be about 10 years old.
4. Last night i dreamt of a Greek/Roman goddess – i vaguely recognised the name and googled it today. i dreamt of a different (Nordic) goddess in May 2010, again a name i vaguely recognised. Last May it was just a name, and a golden statue, something to ponder. Last night, the goddess was real. i rarely have dreams of this intensity, with a force beyond my self – not my occasional anxiety-dreams or combat/murder-dreams, or dreams of girls i’ve known in the past. There wasn’t much to the dream, that i could tell anyone – but it was a genuine visitation, not an element of my own unconscious. i can only think of one other dream of this power – again, i was with a (Germanic) god, this back in 2006 (it made more sense when i began my rune studies a couple of years later).
i’ve felt shaken and weird all day. And as if a window were briefly opened, on another reality. Such experiences are rare and of great value. It isn’t, i think, easy for gods or what have you to contact us in dreams – when it happens it’s usually at certain times (with me, it happens about 0400-0600). When i’m awake, the window opens in books.
5. People occasionally ask why i don’t become a journalist or marketeer. Pragmatically, i couldn’t because i lack the contacts, the apple polishing skills, the right background. And then, i can’t use words to manipulate, for my own profit. To amuse myself, yes; but not for money or advancement. It’s been this way all my life, the stranger as i can use language quite well when interested. i believe the difficulty is vital – that i feel language as fundamentally holy, however commonly debased. Literature is not merely entertainment; it extends from entertainment (e.g. the excellently diverting novels of Norbert Davis or PG Wodehouse or Alan Furst) to wisdom literature – and i think solid entertainment must have some wisdom to it; and wisdom must grip, compel, entrance, if it is wisdom. i wouldn’t trust boring wisdom, and i wouldn’t be very pleased by wholly japing entertainments, by idle foolery. So i handle words with care.
It’s not that gods appear in my dreams, wagging their fingers and telling me to only use language in exalted holy ways or something bad will happen. It’s rather that literature, or these rare dreams, are of another order, and i remember my limitation. i’ve felt this at times with books: some Hermann Hesse, Tolkien, Ursula le Guin, TS Eliot, Shakespeare, Dante, Sophocles, und so weiter. One feels a standard, a measure by which to judge – oneself, most of all.
6. Today, i told Bettina, one of my student-friends, about Stephen Spender’s ‘I Think’ poem. i read this for the first time in 2004, doing an office job i absolutely detested, exhausted and close to murder or suicide. i read it in a quiet staffroom in a building without natural light; i felt my mind aflood with energy and hope and light; then, surprised, i noted that the building hadn’t broken apart, that work continued as normal – that poetry does nothing. And yet, this poem led me here. The estuary to the sea, sword to scabbard, man to god, and man is child and everything. Even as a bad elberry and haphazard wizard i am whatever i am, so strangely visited.
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are fŠted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
1. A good week so far, not much work but just enough to stay alive. i enjoy teaching when i don’t do it from 0800 to 2045 (which means leaving my flat at 0640 and getting home at 2200). But it’s almost impossible to do more than survive as an English teacher. i have bits & pieces of high-paying work (25 € for 45 minutes) and an awful lot of McLingua work (13 €). As a freelancer in the most expensive city in Germany, with no sick pay, no holidays, no health insurance, no pension, this would be like getting 4 pounds an hour back in Blighty. But it is nonetheless vastly superior to minimum wage office work. For example, one of my students told me a great story on Monday – it sounds like an urban legend but he apparently heard it through a friend (Dirk): Dirk found his dog savaging a rabbit and, to his horror, realised it was his neighbour’s rabbit; he extricated it, found it was soundly dead, cleaned all the blood off, prettied it up, and sneaked into his neighbour’s garden to put it back in the hutch. The next day his neighbour, wild-eyed, told him his rabbit had died of natural causes several days ago, he had buried it; then THREE DAYS LATER it was back in the hutch, stone dead but inexplicably clean and prim. Dirk had to calm him down and reassure him that sometimes things like this happen and all you can do is accept it and move on.
2. Listening to such tales is clearly preferable to office work. A nice passage from Nick Hornby’s Slam:
I’m not saying that people who join the army would like to be tortured. But they must have thought about it, right? So they must have decided that it wouldn’t be as bad as other things, like being on the dole, or working in an office. For me, working in an office would be better than being tortured. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be happy doing a boring job, like photocopying a piece of paper over and over again, every single day, until I died. But on the whole I’d be happier doing that than having cigarettes put out in my eye. What I’m hoping is that those aren’t my choices.
i’m not sure i could endure slow torture if the alternative was only office work. But realistically there would always be the third option: suicide, which i would choose over both. This would strike most people as nonsense but i dare say they haven’t wasted 5 years “photocopying a piece of paper over and over again, every single day”, which is more or less how i spent the years from 2004 to 2009, the only alternatives being: suicide; leave England; become perpetual dolescum (3 years was enough); become homeless; become a criminal.
3. Reading Nietzsche, 16 years ago, i abandoned any possibility of objective understanding. We see what we expect to see, more or less. We filter out everything that doesn’t fit our pre-conceptions. i try to remain flexible, to consider “what would it be like, to think otherwise?” – to consider that i may be wrong; it helps that i disagree with many of my last life’s (insane) views. i would prefer not to become a monolithic old fuck with stock responses to everything, one of these strongly left- or right-wing windbags with a predictably left- or right-wing response to everything, push a button and watch the light come on; though i realise this is more or less what i have become.
My background – being half-Indian in the (statistically) most racist county in England, going to a school with racist Hitler Youth rugger buggers and Muslim fundamentalists for 8 years, later proving totally unemployable for jobs i could do with one brain tied behind my back, surviving for 5 years on minimum wage data entry, then more or less being forced to leave England to get a halfway tolerable job – all this has nudged me towards hating England.
The nicer parts of England – villages of rich folk – would be off limits to me because i’m half-Indian; i could live there, if i was very rich, but i’m well-acquainted with the knife-in-the-ribs racism of rich folk and rustics (remarks like “hot isn’t it? I imagine you like that” and “not many curry houses in this area, you know”, from the rich; and “Paki bastard, fuck off” from the rest). And no, they’re not all like that, but enough. And no, i don’t want more anti-racism laws.
i like the idea of England but in reality, it isn’t my home. Lacking a regional accent, being a half-caste mongrel, and being educated but incapable of apple polishing my way into a graduate job, i belong neither here nor there; i am a kind of nowhere person, at home in literature and with my bloodthirsty Germanic gods, and with my friends. Literature professors regard me with something between contempt and fear; “neo-pagans” would regard me as a funny brown person who should be gassed along with the Jews; and my friends are generally awkward unhomed freaks.
4. There is a species of content, belly-patting apple polishers, with cushy jobs, mortgages, Volvos, children, pensions, long-term career prospects, savings. It is natural that they feel England is in pretty good shape, never been better in fact, punching above its weight, etc. etc. i don’t want to push the Nietzschean perspectivism too far but i think it’s fair to say they are sanguine about the country’s rapid decline, and more or less ignore the increase in street crime, the savagery, the vulgarity and general awfulness of public behaviour & media, because England has been good to them. Did well at school, went to uni, drank a lot, got a good First, ended up with a cushy job, apple polished their way to the top and it’s 2012 and all’s well. The present situation has proved a propitious environment, for them, so they love it. Increasingly frequent random street murders are just signs of good cheer and anyway such things happened in the 8th Century so it means nothing ever changes, life now is much the same as it was in the 1930s or 1830s or 730s, etc. etc. One can imagine such folk in Germany in the 30s bellowing good-naturedly that nothing really changes, people liked to dress up in the 1830s too, etc. etc. Limited minds, unlimited self-confidence. One thing is sure, such folk will always succeed; they have the right mix of blithe good cheer, wilful ignorance, diligent apple polishing, and a general confidence in the world. For me, the world (in the Johannine sense) is a dead rabbit that’s been prettified but is nonetheless stinking dead. i don’t want that fucker in my hutch. i want an empty hutch so i can buy a vole or a dwarf child. As George Bernard Shaw put it, in John Bull’s Other Island:
BROADBENT: I find the world quite good enough for me: rather a jolly place, in fact.
KEEGAN [looking at him with quiet wonder]. You are satisfied?
BROADBENT. As a reasonable man, yes. I see no evils in the world—except, of course, natural evils—that cannot be remedied by freedom, self-government, and English institutions. I think so, not because I am an Englishman, but as a matter of common sense.
KEEGAN. You feel at home in the world, then?
BROADBENT. Of course. Don’t you?
KEEGAN [from the very depths of his nature]. No.
BROADBENT [breezily]. Try phosphorus pills. I always take them when my brain is overworked. I’ll give you the address in Oxford Street.
i’ve been reading Terry Pratchett novels of late, courtesy of Toddball. i re-read Thud! last week and have nearly finished Night Watch. Pratchett would be sneered at by purists who regard Dryden as the height of literature. For myself, i like Pratchett and while books have been important to me since i was about 13 i wouldn’t Kurply hate anyone for reading a book i don’t like; i wouldn’t even despise or dislike them. i’ve known very good people who hate books, good people who read Ian McEwan and CS Lewis, and very bad people with excellent taste. Perhaps it’s natural to attempt to classify, to clearly delineate, to say “this is worthless and if you like it, then you are worthless”. i distrust this. i won’t call it snobbishness; it’s just being human in the worst way, regarding your own tastes as god-given, and anyone who disagrees is of the devil. It seems to me a reaction born of fear, a need to defend your world against anyone who might despise you, by despising them first. Pre-emptive contempt.
i had such arguments with the Scump, a vile and talentless Marxist music journalist i knew in my youth. He read widely, seemingly without really taking anything in, and without caring what others read. However, to differ from his musical tastes was to be utter and unadulterated scum. So i endured regular barrages of abuse for liking U2 (this was in 1996, before they became shit), and for not liking country music and some particularly tedious jazz. In his words, “religion in any shape and form is for people without rationality or intelligence.” When i adduced Milton and TS Eliot he blithely dismissed their Christianity as a puzzling aberration. His vitriolic hatred of anyone who didn’t totally adhere to his musical regulations left me with a bitter aftertaste and a disinclination to judge people by their tastes, or to even think it of enormous value. To hate someone for their politics or their artistic tastes seems to me the ultimate in moral obtuseness. This hatred seems to have blossomed with the internet, as people even boast of being unable to appreciate a film or a book. A recent example, from a comment to one of my reviews:
I suffered through one of the Matrix movies, which pegged the bogometer about 10 minutes in and did not let up. I amused myself as best I could imaging the that “The Matrix” was really a clever pun for “The Maastricht”, as HAL is IBM shifted one letter up, and that this was about the subjection of Europe by the EU. In any case, I don’t remember Agent Smith saying much of anything, just punching.
One can find similar comments on Amazon, people giving King Lear or The Brothers Karamazov 1 star and dismissing it as boring and stupid and anyway they gave up on on the first page.
i like Pratchett in part because he has no side. His books are generally well-plotted, well-characterized, and will provoke at least a few smiles or laughs. They are funny. One can fake seriousness but not humour. By contrast, i regard McEwan as an out-and-out fake, a product of a creative writing school; his books are technically adept but totally devoid of substance. His characters are all upper middle-class Englanders, superficial, uninteresting, trivial Guardian-readers. But they are not intended to be so – it is a failure of his spirit, that he cannot write above himself. i think that when people like McEwan it’s because they project ideas of profundity onto the neatly-labelled blanks of his novel (Enduring Love, Atonement, etc.). i feel that no one will read him in 100 years, any more than they read Marie Corelli. However, to be read now, to appeal to people now, argues some talent, even if i don’t appreciate it.
Pratchett doesn’t fake anything. He can be serious but seriousness is ancillary to his humour. When i was in my teens i laughed, now i just horribly smile but a smile is hard to fake and i don’t think anyone could really fake humour to himself. It is by contrast quite easy to read e.g. Lit Theory trash and convince yourself it’s profound, because that makes you cool. Smiling isn’t cool.
My favourite Pratchett character is Sam Vimes (Toddball said he only buys books which features Vimes). We meet him first in Guards! Guards!, where he is an alcoholic night watchman. He loses the bottle, and book by book transforms the Night Watch into something reasonably non-corrupt and organised. Toddball envisages Vimes as Clint Eastwood but i feel he is more ordinary; whereas Clint generally looks 100% badass, Vimes is somehow an ordinary human being, with indomitable tenacity. He’s brave not because he’s badass, but because he would be ashamed to walk away. i like him for his mixture of ardent idealism and pragmatism. There’s a nice section in Night Watch where he tries to forcegrow some slovenly watchmen:
He was all for getting recruits out on the street, but you had to train them first. You needed someone like Detritus bellowing at them for six weeks, and lectures about duty and prisoners’ rights and the ‘service to the public’. And then you could hand them over to the street monsters who told them all the other stuff, like how to hit someone where it wouldn’t leave a mark and when it was a good idea to stick a metal soup-plate down the front of your trousers before attending to a bar brawl.
And if you were lucky and they were sensible, they found somewhere between impossible perfection and the Pit where they could be real coppers – slightly tarnished, because the job did that to you, but not rotten.
There is something very English about Vimes. Gaw once told me that Peter Hitchens isn’t English because he’s a Trotskyite extremist (and half-Jewish, i suppose). i disagree and don’t think you can say someone isn’t English just because you don’t like them. After all, England has a long history of extremists; it’s just that they tend to be balanced by pragmatism. There’s a nice section in Night Watch where Vimes defuses a potential riot by instructing his watchmen to keep the station doors open and not to wear their swords. His reasoning is that as long as people remember you’re a human being and fellow citizen, rather than a black-clad stormtrooper, they’re less likely to throw stones. There is something very English in the ability to hold irreconcilable contraries in mind and just let them be, not attempt any spurious synthesis. To quote Wikipedia:
An incorruptible idealist with deep beliefs in justice and an abiding love of his city, he is also a committed cynic whose knowledge of human nature constantly reminds him how far off those ideals are. A member of the upper classes, he still has an innate dislike of hereditary wealth and a horror of social inequality. The Patrician observes that Vimes is anti-authoritarian even though he is, himself, an authority figure, which is “practically Zen”. The conflict within Vimes is between his virtuous nature (“the Watchman”) and what he calls “the Beast”. In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett explains that Vimes protects himself from the Beast with the symbol of his own badge, which prevents him from becoming the criminal he despises, at least in his own mind
The “politics” of the Discworld is, roughly, one of Tory anarchism. Pratchett seems to distrust organised authority of any kind. Night Watch features the psychopathic paranoid Lord Winder, complete with secret police, torture chambers and all. During the novel he is overthrown and replaced by Psychoneurotic Lord Snapcase – who is hailed as a savior, a man of the people, a just man, etc., but turns out to be exactly the same as Lord Winder. Eventually (after the novel), Snapcase is dethroned and succeeded by Lord Vetinari, a pure pragmatist. It is typical of Pratchett that under the purely Machiavellian Vetinari, all is well. The paranoid and psychopathic are not pragmatists. A pragmatist allows a measure of dissent. A pragmatist allows disorder, to a point. And Vetinari acts without niceties. From a later novel, Snuff:
“Well, there was a bit of a fracas, as we say, and it turned out that a man had a dog, a half-dead thing, according to bystanders, and he was trying to get it to stop pulling at its leash, and when it growled at him he grabbed an axe from the butcher’s stall beside him, threw the dog to the ground and cut off its back legs, just like that. I suppose people would say ‘Nasty bugger, but it was his dog’ and so on, but Lord Vetinari called me in and he said to me, ‘A man who would do something like that to a dog is a man to whom the law should pay close attention. Search his house immediately.’ The man was hanged a week later, not for the dog, although for my part I wouldn’t have shed a tear if he had been, but for what we found in his cellar. The contents of which I will not burden you with. And bloody Vetinari got away with it again, because he was right: where there are little crimes, large crimes are not far behind.”
Englishness, the slow development of several millenia, has been systematically dismantled and attacked in my lifetime, so the only people i would call English (in the best sense) are uneducated working class (with the emphasis on working), people over 50, and certain toffs and aristocrats. If the powers that be succeed in destroying it totally, to make way for some multicultural burning city egalitarian paradise, at least some of it will survive in these novels. A nice touch from Night Watch: there is a popular uprising and a Guardianista windbag called Reg Shoe attempts to take control of the food supply:
“What’ve you got?” said Vimes.
“Steaks, mostly,” said the old sergeant, grinning. “But I liberated a sack of onions in the name of the revolution!” He saw Vimes’s expression change. “No, sarge, the man gave them to me, see. They need eating, he said.”
“What did I tell you? Every meal will be a feast in the People’s Republic!” said Reg Shoe, striding up. He still hung on to his clipboard; people like Reg tend to. “If you could just take it along to the official warehouse, sergeant?”
Reg sighed. “All food must go into the common warehouse and be distributed by my officials according to – “
“Mr Shoe,” said Dickins, “there’s a cart with five hundred chickens coming up behind me, and there’s another full of eggs. There’s nowhere to send ’em, see? The butchers have filled up the ice-houses and smoke-rooms and the only place we can store this grub is in our guts. I ain’t particularly bothered about officials.”
“On behalf of the Republic I order you – ” Reg began, and Vimes put a hand on his shoulder.
“Off you go, sergeant,” he said, nodding to Dickins. “A word in your ear, Reg?”
“Is this a military coup?” said Reg uncertainly, holding his clipboard.
“No, it’s just that we’re under siege here, Reg. This is not the time. Let Sergeant Dickins sort it out. He’s a fair man, he just doesn’t like clipboards.”
“But supposing people get left out?” said Reg.
“There’s enough for everyone to eat themselves sick, Reg.”
Reg Shoe looked uncertain and disappointed, as though this prospect was less pleasing than carefully rationed scarcity.
1. i saw Hanna the other day, a fairly amusing, competently-done thriller which never quite added up to anything special. The lead girl, Saoirse Ronan, looks very like one of my students, a 27-year-old Marketeer who is also, i found by chance, a fashion model (she even has the same facial expressions). The character is some kind of Bosche, albeit raised in the North. It also features Galadriel, and Hoot from Black Hawk Down. There are three very good things about this film, apart from Ronan:
i. Galadriel with an evil American accent;
ii. A crazy German magician who lives in some weird funhouse in Berlin; i wish to become this man; he is even played Martin Wuttke, who also played Hitler in Inglorious Basterds;
iii. A German assassin who looks and even acts like Till Lindemann (Rammstein frontman):
If you suppose that people like this dominate the media, academia, and government, you have an idea why England is the way it is. Their entire worldview is derived from the Guardian and BBC; they are usually rich but keep talking about the need to overthrow the rich; they keep a well-stocked wine cellar, for their socialist parties; they have a villa in Tuscany; they regard anyone right of themselves as a fascist. They know nothing about real “poor people” or work; they all have highly paid bullshit jobs where they enthuse passionately about the poor and the deprived and the need to destroy the rich and everyone right of themselves. They have never had an ordinary job in their lives. Drop them in the middle of Longsight and they would be rapidly mugged, raped, tortured, and murdered.
2. There are of course such idle good-for-nothings among the Bosche but in general the Kraut are conservative, they believe in structure, order, coherence, nuclear families. Even in patchwork families the fathers take an interest in the children, help raise them, and the mothers likewise; they don’t just get wasted and leave the kids in front of the TV, as is the norm in Blighty. They know that scum are scum.
3. On my evening constitutional i was vigorously overtaken by a Bosche frau (big tits, blonde hair) with a pair of Nordic walking poles. This is typically German. Jerry seems incapable of just going for a walk or getting on a bike. He has to invest a couple of thousand in special equipment. The walking poles look ridiculous but are strangely popular. The women just now looked supremely bossy, as if she was barging to the head of a queue. This is no doubt why the Bosche love these things.
4. Shortly after being humiliated by this pair of phallic Nordic walking poles (did the Vikings really use these things? it seems unlikely) i passed a field of flowers, with a sign to the effect that you can cut your own flowers. There is a money box for payment. The first time i saw this i couldn’t understand how it works. Apparently, you just cut your own flowers, then count them and pay. No one monitors you. In England hordes of crackhead chavs would burn the whole field down, then steal anything in the moneybox then rape, rob, and murder everyone in the neighbourhood. They wouldn’t take any flowers because flowers are for poofs. In Germany people diligently cut flowers, count them, and pay – even though no one would notice if they didn’t.
This is one reason i don’t want to return to England. There are still decent people in England but not too many; in my experience they are what you would call “working class” – no education, left school at 16, works in a factory, etc. (Hope lies with the proles). The middle class tend to be horrible Guardianistas and smug apple polishers. The upper class sorts i’ve met were either total assholes or nice but numerically insignificant in any case. i met these working class types in my assorted temp jobs; they never really fit into the office environment, which is designed for apple polishers. The ones i met were tough and manly but also would have regarded someone like Michael as a worthless sponge, an idiot incapable of holding down a job.
5. The Germans are great survivors. One could contrast English and German football thus. The English are lazy worthless overpaid trash, who mope desultorily about waiting for someone else to do all the hard work and pass them the ball, with a clear line of sight to the goals. They have enough technical skill to beat shitty 3rd world countries but no more. The Bosche have determination and tenacity. Last night i saw X-Men First Class, concerning the early years of Prof X and Magneto. Magneto is a death camp survivor, German Jew. This is a recipe for brutal violence and grit.
Within a year Lanz published his fundamental statement of doctrine. Its very title, Theozoologie oder die Kunde von den Sodoms-Äfflingen und dem Götter-Elektron [Theo-Zoology or the Lore of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods] (1905) distils the gnostic essence of Lanz’s thought. It was a strange amalgam of religious beliefs drawn from traditional Judaeo-Christian sources, yet modified in the light of new life-sciences: hence theo-zoology. The book repeated the basic hypotheses of the earlier article within an expanded scheme of biblical interpretation spanning both Testaments. The first section sought to understand the origin and nature of the pygmies. Four chapters entitled Gaia (earth), Pege (water), Pyr (fire) and Aither (air) described the satanic realm by relating the story of the first pygmy, called Adam, who spawned a race of beast-men (Anthropozoa). Linz employed a cryptic scheme of translation, whereby the words ‘earth’, ‘stone’, ‘wood’, ‘bread’, ‘gold’, ‘water’, ‘fire’ and ‘air’ all connoted ‘beast-man’, while the verbs ‘to name’, ‘to see’, ‘to know’ and ‘to cover’ meant ‘to copulate with’ and so on, in order to create a monomaniacal view of the ancient world. According to Lanz, the chief pursuit of antiquity appeared to have been the rearing of love-pygmies (Buhlzwerge) for deviant sexual pleasure. The prime purpose of the Old Testament had been to warn the chosen people (the Aryans) against the consequences of this bestial idolatry.
Lanz’s dicussion of the divine principle involved the adoption of more modern scientific materials. It has already been shown how swiftly Lanz appropriated the findings of contemporary archaeology and anthropology for his doctrine: he was no less sensitive to the recent discoveries in the fields of electronics and radiology. The earliest of such discoveries to inspire Lanz concerned the thermionic emission of electrons from hot bodies as observed by Blondlot and called N-rays in 1887.
The Occult Roots of Nazism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
1. Germans are notoriously obedient, waiting at the lights for the little green man even at 0300 with a straight, totally empty road. i usually wait if it’s between 0600 and 2000 but sometimes i’m late so just walk across. Several times, i’ve come to the lights and walked past the impatiently waiting Germans (Germans are always impatient); they then follow me, without even looking at the road. Once, i was so late i darted across between two cars and then realised, to my horror, that all the waiting Germans were blithely following me and would almost certainly be mown down, though i heard no screams so assume they died in peace.
A peculiar, leather-wearing folk.
2. They all dream about working for big companies like BMW and Siemens. In Italy, everyone wants to set up his own business (easier to avoid paying taxes). The dagos distrust any kind of organisation. The dastardly krauts love it. They go crazy if they don’t belong to an organisation of some sort. Re: my offroad notions, i realise i’ve never happily belonged to an organisation or order, unless i made it, and so in some sense stood outside it. In this life, my father was an insane Indian (1st born of an old aristocracy, so abnormal even in India) and my mother white trash pretending to be upper middle class. i was thus raised in a totally artificial environment, without any native culture. This puts me in an odd position, gives force to my rad trad tendencies. It was more or less the same in my last life and probably in every other. Even in academia, where i might be expected to flourish, the rampant corruption & littleness of mind & endeavour enraged me beyond measure, but then i am easily enraged.
image by Richard Madeley.
3. From Nick Harkaway’s enjoyable The Gone-Away World, regarding a corporation called Jorgmund:
In the sea there are creatures like this. Physalia physalis is an individual, but it is also a colony. It is a floating sack of gas composed of a million little polyps, of four different kinds. Some of them digest and some of them sting, and some of them are for breeding, and some for keeping the others from sinking down into the sea. I met a sailor once, a woman from Redyard, who had been stung by one. She said it was like being scraped with hot wire, and she screamed and drank some brine, but the worst part was being entangled in the tendrils of the monster, brushing against them and recoiling into more, and gasping, and swallowing them, being wrapped about and snuggled and invaded by something alien and awful which had no eyes and yet knew she was there.
The gas bag was barely as big as her head. It could no more consume her than it could get up and dance – but it was trying, oh yes, and if she sank, then she would die, and her assailant would devour her slowly, gram by gram.
Jorgmund is like that. It is one thing, made from many. It does not think; it exists and it reacts and it expands, and that is all. The people who work for it are like the polyps, neither entirely individual nor entirely subsumed. They carry the monster in their minds, and they cannot see the whole. They give themselves to it, time-share, and slip into the body of the beast when they prefer not to be human. The ninjas are the stinging cells, reaching out and destroying enemies, killing food. Of all of them, Humbert Pestle is the greatest and the worst. He has made himself one with the machine, the monster. He sees it, and it does not appall him. He carries it in his head all the time, to the point where it is impossible to say whether he still exists separate from the thing.
I feel as if I have overturned a stone, expecting insects, and discovered that the stone itself is nothing but a vast mass of bugs.
i’ve met several people who tried to as it were swallow me, chiefly a loathsome music journalist i knew 16 years ago, and my Tai Chi tutor (both left-wing, American-hating, ultra-green, anti-mainstream hipsters). There are others who give themselves to be swallowed by a creed. The latter bear the mark of possession, as if they are not free men but slaves, belonging to some system – Socialism, Christianity, Islam, what have you. Their owner’s brand is evident in certain reflexive responses, so one can predict how they will react, and sometimes predict even their words. One has the feeling not of conversing with a free human being, but with a very limited machine.
In most office jobs, this is called being professional. So in 2006 all the companies i worked at suddenly as one said you couldn’t eat at your desk, no doubt the result of some management seminar. When i asked why, a frumpy fat manager said piously: “It isn’t professional.” i pointed out that customers don’t come into the office and i call them, they don’t call me so i can ensure i don’t have a mouthful of cake at the wrong moment. She reiterated, without hesitation: “But it isn’t professional.”
She had no separate will or intellect; like most managers, she existed as a carrier for a virus and was the more successful as she suffocated her own humanity and capacity for reflection. A friend who worked for the Blackburn local council told me the managers had banned pot plants from desks, dictating that it “isn’t professional”. They conceded one could have a rubber plant, because this was somehow professional, presumably by virtue of not bearing life. Being professional means simply, to be dead or to have never lived in the first place. When these servile, self-important vermin say “it isn’t professional”, what they mean is “it is human.”
4. A far cry from the Renaissance. With the advent of the machine the world became increasingly man-made or at least man-determined, man-ruined. We are defined by our tools; they fashion our consciousness. Machines made us into machines. And to be a machine is to be a monster, for a human being. And this is the ideal of all companies, and both fascism and socialism – absolute obedience, the machine rampant.
This is one reason i don’t like cities too much. There, one is surrounded by the man-made and it is easy to forget that to be human is to adjoin onto the divine; so Midgard is in a sense neighbour to Asgard. City men are typically bluff, hale, materialist belchers, born managers, inveterate belly-patters. To be a city man and awake is not easy; Samuel Johnson, for example.
5. Perhaps it is possible to avoid serving anyone or anything. For myself, i would never serve a company – not because i am incapable of loyalty but because they do not deserve it. i would not serve any politician or political system. i am unsure if i would even serve a king or queen. But i would serve the idea of monarchy, the once & future king.
1. My woman visited for the weekend. We went to Starnbergersee on Friday. i went once back in April, on a free Thursday (one of the perks of teaching freelance); fine weather and very few people. It was reasonably busy this Friday but peaceful, a home for the very very rich, the rich who walk about wearing what look like bargain basement clothes because they’re so rich they don’t give a fuck. Some German hippy chavs were sitting on a pier drinking and talking loudly in their orclike chav German. Within 15 minutes two Ordnungsamt officers (big, uniformed, professional) walked over and interrogated them, just to let them know their kind isn’t welcome. i asked Juniper what she thought of the chavs’ German; she said they were German but spoke in a particularly nasty, inelegant way as if to advertise that they don’t have any graces and don’t care about anyone else – that they don’t give a fuck. This was clearly audible to me, with my bad German – the grating, thuggish pronunciation is a kind of universal chav signal.
In England, such folk are the norm, or at least such a noxiously present minority that no one dares say anything. In Germany, at least in Munich, they are aberrant and will be swiftly exterminated and good riddance. i didn’t feel any indignation at the Ordnungsamt – they looked fairly polite and in the end let the chavs persist in their foulness. But it’s clearly important to quash public chavvery, or it goes from being a scrofulous minority to an acceptable disgrace, to (as it is in most of England) the norm. German politicians would do well to set up what the Bosche call “a control” – to stop & interrogate suspect individuals. If the suspects speak a snarling chav idiom, if they possess no tweeds, if they rarely or never read Goethe, if they think a pitbull is the right kind of dog, if they frequent Burger King and McDonalds more than me, if they are unable to demonstrate profound understanding of at least a dozen works of classical music, if they do not have jobs, if they take drugs – then they must be deported to England posthaste.
2. The first time i visited Starnbergersee i didn’t realise it featured in The Waste Land, despite having memorised the poem 16 years ago and retaining most of it.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten
And drank coffee and talked for an hour
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
i gather that Eliot met Marie Larisch and – by his word, i suppose – these lines are more or less hers. She had a difficult, dramatic life, the kind you could have in those days. The Hofgarten is nowhere near Starnbergersee – even by s-bahn and u-bahn it would take at least 40 minutes to travel there; 100 years ago it would have been a good long journey, i expect. Nonetheless, a poet is not expected to stick to literal fact, unless his poem declares itself to be a literal record. Eliot’s poem is mythological, collecting bits & pieces from a broken world. When the human race destroys itself and the cities crumble, a single surviving artefact will take on mythic dimensions; likewise in Eliot’s poem, these fragments are as if from a destroyed world, the only remnant.
3. Today Juniper and i went to the Alte Pinakothek. On a Sunday it’s only 1 Euro and not too busy. i rarely go to art galleries as i don’t like crowds, travelling on the shitty Munich s-bahns, spending money, or art. There were some diligent tourists going straight to certain numbered paintings and reading the booklet description before taking a photograph and moving swiftly on. i prefer to look at the paintings first, decide if it’s interesting or not, then look at the name. This is an interesting exercise, for me dating back to 2003 when i was going through a Verona art gallery and was suddenly mesmerised by a Bellini portrait, having no idea what it was; then i read the name and realised it was Someone Famous. i couldn’t see a definable difference between the Bellini and the largely undistinguished others; but the colours seemed stronger, more powerful; it had immediate authority.
In the Alte Pinakothek i saw a lot of well-executed but highly stylised paintings, without much interest, and was then starkly arrested by Andrea del Sarto’s Holy Family, then Raphael’s Madonna della Tenda:
(the details of her dress are wonderful but lost in this JPEG); and Botticelli’s Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (click on the image for the full size)
The latter serves as an instructive contrast to the usual technical exercises. Many of these genre paintings are essentially uninteresting. The faces are either pompously expressionless or indulging in caricatural weeping and sorrowing (one features a pair of saints who look like they’re whistling or cooing a mournful song as they regard the dead Christ). Botticelli’s Christ looks genuinely dead and there is a variety of sorrow; i find the figure in green particularly powerful, as he covers his face (Odysseus, Socrates). The BVM, realistically old, is fainting, her hand slack; and the figure (in blue) just to her right seems to have lunged forwards to grab the body, his left is ready to cradle her head – his expression is matter-of-fact, the look of an engineer dealing with a problem – a practical man. It makes the usual genre paintings look like bad taste, which they are.
Another new favourite, Anthony Van Dyck’s Susanna and the Elders:
i walked past most of his paintings, not really interested, but this held me. She looks frightened and alone. There are many, very many rape paintings but i think this is the truest, though of course the Biblical/apocryphal Susanna escaped. i showed it to Juniper who found it disturbing and didn’t even want to look at it. i was captivated, in that strange bitter way, as with King Lear or The Brothers Karamazov – as if suffering should afford entertainment; it isn’t entertainment as such, it’s something keener, harder to forget. It’s as if there is a truth here and you should not forget it. i think Socrates was partly right – that evil is involved with ignorance, and goodness requires knowledge. Not knowledge of mathematics and philosophy; knowledge of human nature, of the reality of others, their own private and intense experience, their own suffering. Why Van Dyck’s painting seems benign, and a Max Hardcore sado-porn film seems malign (and one could multiply examples in all arts) i do not know for sure – both exploit suffering, but perhaps Hardcore celebrates suffering, feasts on it, can only be excited by it; and Van Dyck or Dostoevsky or Sophocles recognise the grim truth in suffering, and wish to contemplate it, to get behind it and find some answer to it; and to present it as it is is an answer of sorts. For i feel very few would torture or kill without some excuse, without being high or enraged, without believing the victim is insignificant or has it coming. To represent irreducible humanity – which is perhaps most evident in suffering – is to do some good. It’s notable that both Hitler and Reinhard Heydrich spared “good Jews” – those they felt were somehow an exception to the rule; if one could expand this sense of being exceptional, to encompass everyone, mass murders and genocides wouldn’t be so common.
It’s not that chavs don’t need a good beating, it’s just that one should understand they need rehabilitation also – to be trained to accept tweed and poetry, noble deeds and dobermanns.