You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.
1. i’m currently staying with Juniper in Kassel. The house is still half a construction site (workmen spent 8 hours hammering frenziedly away in the cellar, on Christmas Day) and she rarely uses internet so hasn’t bothered setting it up yet. i’m leeching a signal from a neighbour but it’s weak and sporadically cuts out completely.
In the absence of internet, i’ve been reading more books. i brought my Kindle and a Mumintal book by Tove Jansson, in German. i also borrowed Tony Parson’s Man & Boy from Juniper’s shelves. i didn’t expect to like it, i just wanted a real paper book in the Queen’s English. It was surprisingly good, however. i usually detest all these affluent middle class Southron media types with their pointless literary novels about affluent middle class Southron media types having midlife crises. Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love is a classic of the genre: technically proficient, well-paced, with tedious middle class media Southron characters and some unrealistic real life thrown in to add spice (a visit to drug dealers is notably shit). It’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who studied Creative Writing at university and lives in London.
i’ve read two McEwan books and he seems incapable of wit or lightness; and the substance is a kind of polyfiller ersatz seriousness, compounded from fashionable Southron issues. People i like and even kind of respect think this is a good book and i guess they see things i don’t, and don’t see the things i do.
2. Seriousness can be faked very easily; this is almost impossible with wit and lightness. If you can produce apparent wit and lightness then it is real wit and lightness. There isn’t anything hidden here, no mysterious depths. There’s just the surface (though it will have a hidden causation in the writer & his character). It can’t be faked; and hence is a less ambiguous sign of talent, or the absence thereof. It’s not that everyone has the same sense of humour, but i think you can more easily acknowledge “this is meant to be funny and it makes some people laugh, so it has some comic power”, whereas it just seems disgusting and dishonest when a writer tries & fails to be serious and profound.
Wit bears a curious relation to seriousness. In Parsons book, wit enters as something of a corrective force, as it were balancing the sadness or brutality; not so much detracting as modifying. i think it’s because most emotions take their place in the midst of our human complication, influenced by everything of which we are capable; it’s very rare that an emotion is so strong as to drive out all others, to wholly dominate our character. Even in my most murderous moods, i feel traces of humour, playing around the edges; and even in my gentlest moods there is the possibility of murder. When we experience an emotion, we are also conscious of seemingly irrelevant thoughts & feelings, and so i think Parsons’ humour serves to deepen and anchor his seriousness, to show how we in fact think and feel. For example:
Men of my age like younger women because the younger woman has fewer reasons to be bitter.
The younger woman is less likely to have had her heart bashed around by broken homes, divorce lawyers and the sight of children who are missing a parent. The younger woman doesn’t have all those disappointments that women – and men, too, don’t forget the men – in their thirties drag around with them like so much excess luggage.
It was cruel but true. The younger woman is far less likely to have had her life fucked up by some man.
Men in their thirties and forties don’t go out with a younger woman for her bouncy body and her pierced tongue. That’s just propaganda.
They go out with her so that they can be the one who fucks up her life.
This is funny, even if uncomfortably so. He could also have said: “Men of my age prey on younger women because they don’t realise what bastards we are. Then we can use and discard them like trash”, i.e. without humour. But in reality, very few people are outright emotional/sexual predators. i have met a few people like this, who simply wanted a fuckdoll, and someone to cook and clean (my old sociopathic tai chi tutor said, disapprovingly, that MILF are always “damaged goods”, an odd thing to say about a human being), but even they don’t set out to hurt and wound people; it just happens as a necessary sideproduct of their actions. So to write the “use and discard” version would be dishonest – unless it was written by a fully conscious rapist or killer. And in reality even horrible people don’t generally crash through lives with the intention of causing pain. When i asked my ex-colleague Michael (who leaves a trail of damaged women & lives, trashed apartments, broken promises, theft, etc.) why his relationships never last longer than a couple of months, he grinned and said: “I guess I’m just a bastard.” But even he doesn’t mean to be a bastard; it just happens, and i’m sure he doesn’t really think of himself as a bastard: he’s just aware that most women do, and he doesn’t care because he can always find another woman.
3. Perhaps humour always requires a countering sobriety. Most of my favourite funny books are also fairly brutal (e.g. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Pete Dexter’s Spooner). The only non-brutal comedies i can think of are Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, and PG Wodehouse’s perfect fictions. The former isn’t as savagely brutal as Dexter or Thompson, but it is shot through with grumpiness, mishap, discomfort, frustration, absurdity. And for me Wodehouse’s books are both mesmerising and poignant, as are the accounts of Adam & Eve in the garden of Paradise Lost, soon to fall. They are funny, but there’s also a pervasive sense that this is not real, that real life is discordant and merciless and ugly and savage. Hence the simultaneous glee and sadness, like revisiting a (good) childhood memory. Of this, one could cite Dante’s Francesca da Rimini:
Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
(there is no greater sorrow, than to recall a happy time in misery)
Wodehouse’s fictions are so evidently fictions, not true, and yet one feels they should be – and this is, for me, an important part of the humour; and makes them great.
4. My current Kindle books are Tom Brown’s Schooldays, GK Chesterton’s A Short History of England, and Malory’s Le Mort d’ Arthur. Coincidentally, all three present a version of Englishness that would now seem ludicrously old-fashioned and would no doubt attract the enraged contempt of most young people and all Southrons (they would talk about “progress”). The first two are new to me; the Malory i originally read 13 years ago.
i like Le Mort d’ Arthur very much. It has a loose-limbed, colloquial prose style and a welcome lack of moralising. Individual knights moralise but Malory does not. An example of the prose, and the character of Sir Lancelot:
Fair damosel, said Sir Launcelot, I may not warn people to speak of me what it pleaseth them; but for to be a wedded man, I think it not; for then I must couch with her, and leave arms and tournaments, battles, and adventures; and as for to say for to take my pleasaunce with paramours, that will I refuse in principle for dread of God; for knights that be adventurous or lecherous shall not be happy or fortunate unto the wars, for other they shall be overcome with a simpler knight than they be themselves, other else they shall by unhap and their cursedness slay better men than they be themselves. And so who that useth paramours shall be unhappy, and all thing is unhappy that is about them.
This is well expressed in Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur, where Guinevere coyly asks if Lancelot has a love. He says, simply, that he is sworn to the quest and so can have no love. There is an understanding of the power of celibacy; and so, of the human difficulty and pain of Lancelot, “the perfect knight”.
Another knight here, Sir Lamorak (later treacherously slain by Sir Gawain and his kin):
When Sir Palomides heard him say so he kneeled down and asked mercy, For outrageously have I done to you this day; considering the great deeds of arms I have seen you do, shamefully and unknightly I have required you to do battle. Ah, Sir Palomides, said Sir Lamorak, overmuch have ye done and said to me. And therewith he embraced him with his both hands, and said: Palomides, the worthy knight, in all this land is no better than ye, nor more of prowess, and me repenteth sore that we should fight together.
And later, i think this is Lancelot threatening either Gawain or King Mark:
Beware, I rede thee, of treason, for an thou mischief that knight by any manner of falsehood or treason, by the faith I owe to God and to the order of knighthood, I shall slay thee with mine own hands.
Such a book would now be dismissed as “Fantasy” and “genre fiction”, but there it is. It’s fine when it was written long enough ago (The Iliad, Malory, Corialanus, etc.) but if it was written more recently it’s just worthless trash and those who read it are not intelligent adults but rather mentally retarded children, so goes the critical judgement today. For most of human history, stories about war and violence and heroism would have been perfectly normal and to despise them as “genre fiction” would have struck people as comically myopic (like a music journalist i once knew, who said he found Conrad tedious because he had no interest in jungles).
In Malory’s book, the noble and virtuous knights are betrayed by scum. The high standard comes to nothing and to a modern reader their nobility and knightly morality would seem ludicrous and impossible. A modern reader would talk about processes and initiatives and outreach community hubs and engaging with the people and egalitarianism and learning outcome scenarios and so on. Talk of God (or any God but Allah) or faith, of duty, shame, treason, evil, would strike the modern reader as risibly old-fashioned and most likely fraudulent and, all told, the kind of thing Hitler would have liked.
Even in Malory’s book the knightly ideal is unrealistic; but without unrealistic ideals one is satisfied with getting on, buying a Volvo, a slightly better Chardonnay, etc. Without an ideal, this is all there is; and when it is all, it is disgusting and bestial and beshitten. The ideal may be impossible; indeed, perhaps it should be impossible; for it must pull one up above the mundane, above the sump of self-satisfaction and gross-bellied Southron affluence.
In our culture it seems that there are no longer any real ideals. Or rather, none which enlighten and test, only those which brutalise and destroy. And so i am trying to construct my own, from the bits & pieces to hand.
i’ve created a Tumblr blog. It’s just for music, pictures, links, and quotations, but it’s here if anyone is interested.
1. From Peter Høeg’s The Woman and the Ape, an account of how a man chose to experiment on animals, as a trade:
As deep down and as far back as he could go – as a boy, in the country, on Jersey, Alexander Bower had been a genuine animal lover. He had grown up taking a delight in being close to a cat or a dog, savouring the smell of a stable and deriving from the presence of cattle a peace of mind that required no explanation. He had made up his mind to become a vet and had then gone to university. And there he had learned that animals are machines. Delicate machines, to be sure, with an ingenious biological mechanism, but still – when all was said and done – machines. And faced with this revelation his mind had, for the first time, split in two. Alongside the original Alexander, he developed a scientific alter ego. Now, when he stroked a dog’s head this onlooker would think: what is happening here, the feelings of warmth and kindness I am experiencing are but illusions, emergent phenomena made up of millions of processes all of which, taken singly, are quite banal and fully explained. By the time he finished his studies his innate reductionist was fully developed and for the next thirty years he had borne the ever greater burden of that test-tube monstrosity, the inner homunculus. He had come home from the USA with the very best references and a severe case of depression. All actions – whether physical or mental – were, he knew, fundamentally chemical in nature and thus quantum electrical and hence causal and hence deterministic and all, therefore, pre-ordained – if not haphazardly random – and so free will was an illusion, which meant that it made no difference what he did since the solution to what would happen in his life would make itself known of its own accord anyway. Which it did. One grey morning he woke up to the realisation that since there is, after all, nothing behind the physical universe except a handful of elementary particles and a standard formula for explaining the interplay between the forces of nature, one might as well go all the way, and this he did – that is to say, all the way into a world which is a little – but not much – simpler than that of physics, namely the world of finance, founded upon a few basic monetary units and the four arithmetical operations. And in this environment he had stayed ever since.
2. i am sometimes bewildered by the gross cultural differences between Germany and England. Being here is like going back in time a few decades, to a fairly orderly, traditional, relatively safe and civilised England. i wonder why two countries, apparently quite similar, should in fact be so different. Cultures are extremely complex, being as they are influenced by every living person’s imagination; and as individuals influence culture, so culture influences the individual. i know very little about engineering but i suppose it would be like trying to monitor heat flows when the heat flows themselves change the car, which then changes the heat flows, which then change the car, and so on. Except that it must be possible to construct mathematical models for heat flows, and one can run tests – not really possible with cultures (though one can draw certain conclusions from North Korea, the USSR, Maoist China).
Our culture is a bit peculiar. There seems a general feeling that technology is the only decisive, or even true factor (Wittgenstein wrote in 1947: “Because science and industry do decide wars, or so it seems”). And scientists are often strikingly ignorant of philosophy, logic, art, human nature. i gather that scientists are more likely to be autistic and when two geeks mate, they are more likely to spawn autistic children: one could say we live in an autistic age, a mathematical age. The only scientist i know well, the Viking, is certainly abnormal and somewhat autistic; not devoid of emotion or understanding, but with a scientist’s view of the world – so he flicked through The Brothers Karamazov and only read the Grand Inquisitor part, because someone told him this was the best part, and as a scientist he wanted to extract the data for processing; and for him, the most efficient method was to read 1% of the whole and discard the rest. Likewise, we were playing chess once and when i managed to take one of his bishops in the first few moves, he promptly surrendered and then instantly reset the board. When i indignantly asked what he was doing, he shrugged: “It would have been impossible to win.” Given that he normally won every game and i would doggedly continue until checkmate, i felt this was unsporting and unmanly: he wasn’t surrendering – he was simply cheating and resetting the game, undoing his mistake. He didn’t care about the game, only about winning. If we had been recording our scores, i’m sure he wouldn’t have surrendered. This is the autistic scientific type – the man who only sees numbers, data, information, and has no interest in, or feel for, the grain and nuance of reality. And this type is authoritative in our world; although they are derided as geeks and freaks, they determine our reality and their grimly reductionist account of things is taken as authoritative.
3. Such things have enormous influence over a culture. In my youth, i was castigated by Brit for speculating about the private life of Dawkins (does he appreciate art, does he have any decorations in his house, etc.). Although i wasn’t commenting on his blog, Brit nonetheless took issue with my mouthings:
This one is a long way past its sell-by date.
The blogs are just groaning with artsy milksops setting themselves in firm opposition to that mythical strawman who holds all sorts of opinions held by no real human beings, who is probably a product of the evil scientists in 1950s B-movies, and who goes by the dreaded name of ‘Dawkins Et Al.’
One could take this as a form of territorial pissing too – this is my internet, fuck off you arty milksop, go on, clear off before I give you a good hiding, set dog on thee, go on, gee art of it ye thievin gippo, don’t want yer clothes pegs etc., etc. However, i suppose i always want to see the human origin and consequence of ideas. Ideas themselves are too nebulous for me to make much sense of. i try, therefore, to be faithful to my own ideas, because otherwise they are just shapes in my mind and i don’t feel easy with them. This is, in a sense, the opposite of the autistic/scientific approach, in which ideas can supposedly be held without any personal reference; the Viking has approvingly uttered some really gruesome and appalling ideas which i wouldn’t cite for fear of him being lynched, but for him they’re just ideas, the human cost (rape, torture, suicide etc.) is irrelevant, because he’s a scientist.
4. One cannot get away from the human mind. And accounts of reality which would do away with the observing mind and the feeling heart, such as that in the Høeg quotation, are not merely wrong – they impose a damaging torsion upon the individual. It is eventually disastrous to be intellectually convinced of something false, and to have it always in mind as a lens through which to understand reality. The materialist atheist account of reality is wrong but i can see why it would appeal: no authority, no one to whom you are accountable, no morality, do what you want. i don’t think it really does any harm to think there’s no god, but to think that human beings and animals are just “soft machines” is serial killer stuff (the Viking is a latent serial killer).
5. The religions of the past were not, i think, exactly “true”. Even historically-based religions, such as Christianity, don’t strike me as true in the “it’s true that I live in Munich” sense; but i think they afforded a vocabulary by which one could make some sense of reality, as it is; they were not true but not exactly false either. i don’t think Jesus was God; he didn’t even look like we imagine (he had short hair and was clean-shaven, Roman style). But i think there is a god who made this world, and i think he does care about it, and i think he occasionally appears in some guise, or briefly inspires people to act, and so the Christian is not as completely and disastrously wrong as Høeg’s vet. i don’t personally like Christianity much, probably because i went to a Christian college and met so many saccharine Christians, middle-class Christians, and nutter-Christians. However, my own religious ideas are not wholly dissimilar – that god cares for this world and schemes against its dissolution, and inspires people, from time to time. He isn’t as nice as the Christian god but then i’m not a nice human being.
6. It’s natural that, in a world where a gun can kill a shaman, daubed though he be in all kinds of protective voodoo, we dismiss religion and magic as artsy milksop/deranged pamphleteer stuff (science and industry decide wars). Near the end of Black Elk Speaks:
I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.
And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth – you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no centre any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.
The influence of spirit is both subtle and enormous. In the physical world it is so subtle as to be almost invisible. i note that when i do magic for people the effect usually follows quickly, but generally it isn’t obviously to do with me. An example: Bettina, a student with whom i have a tandem (half German, half English) was feeling depressed by her job and life; i wrote a rune on her hand and a few days later she started reading Eckhart Tolle’s Now, and over a few months transformed herself, so she made peace with her job. She noted that she has read many books of this type, but usually just nodded, agreed, then threw them away, but this time it sank in and she was able to use the ideas. Occasionally, the results are more obvious – healing injuries – but it’s never Harry Potter stuff, with funny lights & flashes & dragons. i wouldn’t like to fight dozens of hulking, well-fed, pumped-up Southron apple polishers, armed only with 24 runes and comprehensive knowledge of English grammar.
7. The influence of spirit is enormous in another way. It frames and determines our minds, and even, i think, the physical reality – but slowly and very rarely in a drastic and clear way. i take it seriously, even for non-magical reasons. And it seems that our total reality is changing, has been changing for a while. Animals are becoming conscious, or rather their consciousness is developing, extremely quickly, to a new stage. Even if this were the only change, it would inevitably alter our whole world. i am interested to know what the future animal consciousness will be like, but also to know how human beings will react to this. Some is predictable – scientists will initially refuse to accept it and those who do so will be blacklisted and pelted with rotten eggs; then, as more and more normal people see the change, there will be talk of evolution and what not – but i dare say there will be some strange and unexpected developments.
And then the old forms of authority will be queried, and the Warlock Dobermanns will rule as God intended.
This year, i read everything i could find online by Norbert Davis. He was a prolific pulp writer in the 30s and 40s, now only really known as one of Wittgenstein’s favourites. Out of curiosity, i downloaded The Mouse in the Mountain, Sally in the Alley, Oh, Murder Mine, Holocaust House, Something for the Sweeper, and began reading them on the 14-hour train from Geneva to Munich shortly after my last nearly-fatal asthma attack.
i don’t generally have much interest in being cheered up, consoled, comforted, etc. Actually, it makes me sick. But Davis’ books were just what i needed on that brutally long, slow train journey home (i left Geneva at about 1600 and got back to Munich at 0600). This was a grim time as i knew i would get a bill, possibly for several thousand Euros (mostly for the ambulance), and i was still shaky after nearly dying, and my phone ran out of credit after one of my bosses called me from Germany (i didn’t realise this would cost me), then i tried to text Juniper in Zurich, to ask her to look for train connections to Munich (there were none and i couldn’t find the travel office) but the phone cut out and she couldn’t call me as i had no credit left with which to receive her call, so she was convinced i was dead in a ditch, urinated on by the French and by assorted scoundrels & blackguards & apple polishers.
Crime thrillers usually don’t do much for me, probably because i have no interest in the subject itself. i can recognise that, for example, Ian Rankin’s books are good, but i just don’t find that world very interesting. Davis’ work is different. His books are crime thrillers in a sense, but only in a sense. There is a weird energy bursting out of the generic linearity. His hero, Doan, is a middle-aged, fat private detective. His sidekick, Carstairs, is a bear-sized Great Dane won in a game of poker. i have a fondness for enormous dogs. There is a good scene where Carstairs runs superbly amok in a beauty salon, scattering mud baths and beauty products on all & sundry. The books are funny but you also get the feeling they aren’t really intended to be funny; anymore than is Samuel Beckett – they just are.
i like these fat, middle-aged heroes, surviving in a world of strapping apple polishers, managers, and soccer jocks. There’s a pleasant fight scene where an enormous hulk of a man threates to kill Doan, at length; Doan beats him down and comments sourly: “These tough guys.”
Most people have some apple polishing traits. It’s a combination of narcissism, contempt for those you perceive as being somehow “beneath” you, and an instinctive fawning on those “above”. The contempt can be very casual and faint or aggressive and palpable. i usually only have problems with aggressive polishers: or rather, they have problems with me and feel a need to put me in my place and push me around and let me know i’m a failure and of no account and should just fucking die at once, in a volcano.
i wouldn’t say apple polishers are bad people, they’ve just superficial and untrustworthy. One of my old university friends was an apple polisher of the first order, a coward and a schemer. His name was Bob the Coward. i liked him very much but learnt not to trust him in anything at all – not because he was a criminal or idiot, just lazy, disorganised, weak, unreliable. Some characteristic anecdotes:
1. Bob & i were walking through Durham and down “Windy Gap” (a narrow side alley) to the riverside. It was late in the evening and the streets were a little dangerous with drunks. We passed a group of Geordies, one of them a hot babe. i was talking to Bob, probably about dobermanns, and turned to look at the girl’s ass. i continued talking while staring as the Geordies walked away. When i turned back, Bob was gone.
He had begun running as soon as i turned away, and was now some distance down the riverside path. Assuming this was some kind of jape, i ran after him, shouting: “You’re going to die, motherfucker!” Bewilderingly, he continued to run. i am a fast runner, however, and as i neared, he looked over his shoulder with raw, animal terror. He saw it was just me and stopped, panting and cowering. i, laughing merrily, asked why he’d run off and he replied: “I thought you were going to get in a fight.”
Bob: Because of the way you were staring at those Geordies.
Bob: You can’t stare at people like that. They might attack you.
elberry: Okay. So…you responded by immediately running away?
2. We both did MAs. The university email listings didn’t update our information – we were still apparently studying BAs. Bob was indignant and heated. i didn’t understand why so he explained that it pissed him off to be bundled together with ordinary BAs when in fact he was doing something better. It didn’t matter that the only people who might need to search for his university email address would probably know he was doing a MA. No, he wanted special recognition.
3. Bob the Coward had a girlfriend. She was sweet but apparently quite clingy. Their relationship began when he caught her on the rebound and had his filthy polisher way with her. He just wanted sex but she was after a “relationship”. She kept asking him: “Bob, it isn’t just sex, is it?” and so on. Finally, he decided he would rather just dump her and be alone with his apples. So he took her to the worst coffee house in Durham (Costa Coffee, a right proper shithole) to give her the bad news. i asked why he’d chosen this hideous place and he replied, in a matter of fact way, that he couldn’t very well tell her in his room because then she might cry and he couldn’t walk away because it was his room, so he would have to throw her out, which could be awkward. And he didn’t want to take her to Cafe Nero (where he spent most of his time), because “if she caused a scene” he could never, never return. And for him that would be like death itself.
So he chose the worst place he could find.
He didn’t understand why i broke into convulsive, horrified laughter, pointing at him and wheezing: “What a bastard!”
4. At university in the late 90s, Bob the Coward was an ardent Nu Labour adherent, and later stood for election for Nu Labour in some Tory safe seat (he lost by several thousand votes), to advance his career. 6 years later, after the media had turned against Blair, he had one of these on his notice board:
It’s based on a margarine advert (“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!!!”). He is someone who bends with every wind and will always back the popular horse. He has an instinct for it, an ability to change loyalties and beliefs in a second. His parents work for the BBC.
Bob got a good job as soon as he graduated, while i was unemployed for 3 years then became, perforce, a minimum wage data entry animal. Work suited him; though, predictably, he complained about how a colleague on the same pay grade had a bigger desk, a better parking place etc. etc. He’s now rich and successful and plays 5-a-side football one evening a week.
He probably sounds awful but in fact he was a decent chap, as long as you didn’t expect too much from him (honesty, loyalty, bravery etc). Most of all, he was mortified by the possibility of social disgrace; and conversely desperate for social status. We lost touch a couple of years ago, and later i heard from the Viking that Bob is now married and fat. 15 years ago Bob the Coward plotted our futures out, saying he would be Prime Minister (or something similar) and i would win the Booker Prize. i was so bewildered i couldn’t think of anything to say; even then, prizes seemed vulgar and ridiculous, but for Bob talent has no value if it doesn’t attract official accolades. i think of Bob from time to time, because he was very good to me and helped me out when i was nearly homeless (at least 3 times that i can think of), and he never made a big thing out of it or expected me to do anything in return. At this point, five years after graduating, it was clear that i was not going to win any prizes for anything, except failure – for which prizes are generally not awarded.
i think, in some sense, i occupied a peculiar spot in his mind, as someone he liked but knew would never amount to anything, never win the Booker Prize or get a real job or so on, would always be poor and despised and eventually die in a gutter, urinated upon by the Dabbler editors. i had no apple polishing value for him. Apple polishers understand everything within the matrix of social recognition. Bob was an educated polisher so literary fame, Booker Prizes etc., were accepted as currency. Uneducated polishers only care about money and gangster notoriety.
Polishing is a facet of narcissism, “the human condition“. i know very few people devoid of narcissism. My MILF Juniper, the ballerina, and my ex-MILF were all, i believe, wholly un-narcissistic, one reason i’ve found them so fascinating. Juniper has a degree in Economics and Spanish and reads English books; my ex-MILF has a double first in Classics and English Lit, from when that meant something; the ballerina was a financial analyst and said she had to be careful not to read when she was busy, as she lost track of time and found it difficult to stop. This combination of intellect and simplicity is immensely interesting to me. Not all narcissists are polishers though i think almost all are so. i am myself a non-polishing narcissist. The repeated, hammer-like blows of brutal rejection have cured me of any polishing tendencies, but i am by no means free of narcissism. It manifests differently. For example, i am secretly pleased when students prefer me to other teachers; or i feel gratified when hot babes stare longingly at my groin (often moaning in lust); and so on.
Over time, my narcissism has receded to manageable levels. It began in 1998, when i learnt i was the top-scoring student in my year, with a big gap between me and No 2. From then, it has been largely to do with my brain, one reason i should be grateful that Southron scum have despised and dismissed me as a worthless Yorkshireman. i discovered a kind of “incubation” meditation technique in 2000 and from then on have tried to detach myself from my own vanity, as much as i can. Even learning of my other lives, just over 4 years ago, was useful – the sad fact is that i am a scrofulous, leering pygmy compared to any of my preceding lives. Rather than feeling pride, i feel a “fuck, i’ve turned into a retarded asshole between that life and this” kind of dismay.
Society runs on apple polishers, self-satisfied, sneering Southrons patting their bellies and chuckling and drinking Chardonnay and so on. But i think civilisation also requires non-polishers, people who are motivated by God or notions of honour, of doing the right thing. My father, insane though he was, was no polisher. He had commendable contempt for polishing and i can easily imagine, if he were 20 years younger he would just visit London and shout at these Southron scum: “Egh well, LISTEN, egh? You think Elberry is your COOLIE, egh? Listen, egh? You say Elberry is STUPID WORTHLESS PAKI FROM HUDDERSFIELD, NO MONEY, NO JOB, and you say, egh [here he would adopt a horrible mincing ponce voice] ‘Egh well I am SO BLESSED CLEVER and I AM MANAGER and egh I CAN DO WHAT I WANT and egh I AM EDITOR I CAN DELETE YOUR WORK AND DO WHAT I WANT, egh?’
At this point, the victim would stare at him in horror, having no idea what is happening. My father would continue, undeterred:
“Well, LISTEN! YOU HAVE ANOTHER THING COMING, BOSS! EGH? You think you can damn well say this thing and that thing and the other thing but YOU WILL DIE, egh? You will HAVE BAD THING HAPPEN to you! Egh? Then you will BE SORRY.”
And so on. He cursed everyone who crossed him with the result that one person committed suicide, another went bankrupt, another was glassed and beaten almost to death in a pub. And these are just the ones he heard about. i think his powers, in this respect, came from a rawness, a lack of polishing. i wouldn’t necessarily want my enemies to die or be beaten almost to death or hang themselves; however, i am interested in these powers.
Aside from being a black magician and something of a monster, my father was an excellent doctor. He ignored all the Government bureaucracy, which would probably not be possible now. He earned a lot of money, and wasted it all, and in general money was of no value for him. He told me once, the only thing he cared about was power – he was thinking of the power of being a doctor and using his knowledge & training. i likewise only really care about power, but i am thinking of magical power. This power is magical. The first requirement is, to leave vanity and the ordinary self. Only then is true power possible.
i’m not interested in being nice. i am not a nice person and nor is it a good idea to push me around; for then you will learn that power is real; and you will learn pain. But nor am i as vindictive as my father. The desire for vengeance is another temptation, to be left behind. i imagine a final state, beyond polishers and beyond narcissism, in which the magician is finally untouchable. It is hard to imagine, as i am actually in love with revenge and destruction; but i recognise this is because i am a narcissist and weak, and i try to move beyond black magic, and to enter that other world, of which i know little (but one could say i have intimations from art). The important thing is to move away from polishing of any kind, away from vanity, and towards another substance, a greater reality. It is not easy but then, what is?
And so Morrissey is getting in on the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha. For American readers, the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was in hospital; two Australian DJs rang the hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, and thereby obtained information about the patient. They then broadcast the phone call. The nurse who took the call committed suicide soon after. Morrissey blames the Royal Family for it all. And because he’s a rock star his opinions are apparently worth taking seriously. Here is a picture of the Australian DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, grinning:
The whole thing leaves a bad taste. Some remarks:
1. It is shameful to call a hospital, pretending to be a pregnant patient’s in-laws, especially in order to obtain medical information. To then use this medical information for titillation, to have a larf innit, and to get attention and so promote one”s own career, is disgusting and immoral. Regardless of the patient, this should be immediately apparent.
2. Today, i read in an interview with Theodore Dalrymple:
Certainly I am worried about a shallowness in the human personality that, if I may so put it, appears to be deepening. Even such things as the electronic media of communication, for those unfortunate enough to have been brought up with them, seem to hollow out human relations, making them extensive rather than intensive. As to derided ideas such as humility, proper deference and so forth, I think we live in an age of inflamed egotism, and of individualism without individuality. Never has it been more necessary, and at the same time more difficult, to mark yourself out as an individual.
The personae of the Mel Greig and Michael Christian seem to me very modern. Almost all my temp handlers, back in my 5 years of minimum wage data entry, looked like this pair. i remember a male handler at Brook Street in Leeds who looked exactly like Michael Christian; and almost every female handler looked like Greig. 50 + pound haircuts, the right car, power suit, go out on Friday and get smashed in that exclusive club for managers, watch the footie, listening to Arctic Monkeys, get a manicure, getting on, getting ahead, lovin it, never had it better, England punching above its weight, Cool Britannia and so on. Smug, big city types, narcissistic and contemptuous.
As i’ve found with apple polishers – whether the uneducated type in Leeds or the educated polishers at the Dabbler – they despise people like me, and so i don’t tend to get on with them. They are the type of people who, when i was a temp, decided not to use me because i went to university and don’t look like a footballer; or in the case of the Dabbler, they decided to delete my work because i didn’t supplicate to them, didn’t defer and tug my forelock and appropriately cower before their wholesome family values, brown-nosing, getting-on, I’m All Right Jack, South of England, mortgage, car, family, managerial, belly-patting piece worldview. They are all thorough-going materialists of course, though the Dabbler polishers have a soft spot for religious art and so on, they dabble in religion as part of their narcissism – they like to take just enough to add spice to their materialism. But believe in God? Poh! Have any experience of a reality beyond the purely material? No, no, dear sir, that will not do. Another Chardonnay?
i shit on them like Sergeant Barnes.
3. Apple polishers have no morality. Whatever they may say, they only believe in one thing: getting on. It’s not that they are evil, they just don’t care about anything except material success, because they cannot credit anything beyond the material. Greig and Christian are not evil-doers. They don’t even have the intensity for evil. They are just apple polishers. If their society valued modesty and humility, they would be ostentatiously humble and modest.
With the demise of Christianity, apple polishing has a free hand. It’s not that there were not polishers in the past; but i think there was often a doubt, perhaps God will condemn me?,something to offset the polishing (one could take men like St Francis or even Jesus as exemplars of anti-polishing). Polishing, as a general trend, is extremely flexible and can exploit anything – even an anti-polisher religion – but it is better to have a standard to hold against polishing, than nothing at all.
Greig & Christian merely reflect society. They are the clearest manifestations of a general polishing tendency, which goes along with a total lack of shame. Shame is the fear of divine judgement; embarrassment is the fear of other men’s judgement. i believe that Greig & Christian, weeping in recent interviews, feel not shame but embarrassment, and horror at losing their polishing careers, for which they doubtless polished so hard. If they were capable of feeling shame, they would have felt it when making the original call. It would not have been necessary to harangue and castigate them.
When politicians talk about restricting the press, i feel this is misguided. The Australian radio station would not have run such a show, 80 years ago. It would have been shocking and appalling and attracted immediate and widespread horror and disgust. The problem is not to do with the laws but the culture, the people; and culture is so nebulous and incalculable a thing, that no government edict is likely to do any good, especially not in our time. The governments of the last few decades have systematically dismantled the centers of culture, and so it is unlikely they would suddenly defend it.
4. Jacintha Saldanha was Indian. She only moved to England when she was my age. A potted biography suggest she was like some other Indians i’ve met in England, who seemed English in the best, now largely eradicated, sense – honourable, hard-working, diligent, brave. Many people claim she must have killed herself for wholly other reasons but i think it is possible she felt ashamed of betraying a confidence. To most modern Brits, apple polishers etc., this would be incomprehensible, just as the spirit of Durham Cathedral or the Battle of Maldon would be incomprehensible, only matter for ironic jeering and witty remarks and dinner party anecdotes. But the quality i think of as “Englishness” seems more often found in educated Indians than in the chavs and materialist Southrons. Perhaps it is because India is a country with a strong (and weird) spirituality, which at times reminds me of the European Middle Ages – so a man can be hideously avaricious and suddenly become penitential and monastic, and truly religious.
5. When one considers a culture, the decisive forces are sometimes large (wars etc.) but quite often small (individuals). When it comes to religion, the small is essential – the individual, alone and strange before a god. i feel that if anything is to be reborn from the ashes of our culture, from this sump of apple polishers, it will begin far from the public eye, it will be almost invisible. The visible too easily enters the sphere of the polisher, of grinning DJs, celebrity, Dabblers, media, popularity and applause. The real powers are invisible. Here, polishers see nothing. Here, only a god can judge.
1. i try to check my site stats every day though i’m often too lethargic. Today, it seems the following Google searches led to my blog:
big tits at work 12
“slightly tarnished, because the job did that to you, but not rotten.”
young black girl with huge tits getting pummeled
2. More from 21st Century England:
i) Chav beats old man to death, gets 3 years in prison (which means 1.5 years)
ii) Woman commits suicide after her Facebook information is leaked to her Muslim parents
iii) Ancient British monument “moved” to make way for housing estate (presumably for more fundamentalist Muslims)
iv) Incompetent police let burglar off
v) Morrissey claims Royal Family murdered nurse who committed suicide
3. And today is the last time we can have a thingy where the day, month, and year are the same, 12-12-12. After this, it’s all downhill.
1. ‘Goodbye Girl’ by the Civil Wars
You forgot your grandmother’s scarf
As you walked away that day in the park
I watched you disappear into the city
Smaller and smaller you faded
Say goodbye and don’t look back
So long to happy every after
You are my goodbye
I remember that look
The last one you gave me
A kiss on my cheek
As you were leaving
The last thing you said
Was “I’ll see you again”
But we both know we won’t
Say goodbye and don’t look back
So long to happy every after
You are my goodbye
Never mind how long it lasted
You’re still the best thing
That never happened
You are my goodbye
Ooh I’ll move on
Yes I’ll move on
There is no use in chasing
Say goodbye and don’t look back
So long to happy every after
You are my goodbye
Never mind how long it lasted
You’re still the best thing
That never happened
You are my goodbye
Oh you’re still my goodbye
When they shot the man
Who said “Peace could last forever”
And in my first memories
They shot Kennedy
I went numb when I learned to see
So I never fell for Vietnam
We got the wall of Deceased to remind us all
That you can’t trust freedom
When it’s not in your hands
When everybody’s fightin’
For their promised land
I don’t need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin’ soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain’t that fresh
I don’t need your civil war
i like second-hand bookshops. i’m glad i wasn’t born much later than 1976, or real bookshops might have been, as with vinyl, something seen in passing en route to oblivion, only encountered in period drama & folklore. They don’t seem even remotely commercially viable, so can only exist as a rich man’s hobby, i suppose. i rule out the alternative – state funding, as this would entail the removal or marginalisation of anything associated with native English culture, the forcible introduction of black, female, lesbian/gay, handicapped literature, and ample Chomsky. Jimmy Saville would prowl the aisles looking for boys. The walls would be unhappily decorated with posters of beaming black women, arm in arm with their Asian girlfriends or feeding locally-produced tofu to their adopted, multiracial children. If writers like Kipling, Theodore Dalrymple, Roger Scruton, Larkin, etc. were admitted, it would be in a special section, labelled “Fascism”. With a picture of Hitler and some dead Jews and traumatised kittens.
i also don’t like 1st-hand bookshops. i don’t like new books and i don’t like the totally organised shelves. In a modern bookshop some hipster businessman has determined everything. No matter what you do, he will smirk and rub his thighs and steeple his hands and simper: “Yes, the data indicated this response.” Nor do i like Oxfam though i often go there as i can’t find any reasonable alternatives for cheap, unpredictable books. But the atmosphere is wrong – antiseptic and managed.
i don’t believe bookshops should be clean or well-lit. They should be dark and dusty and ill-tended. Cats should perch on top shelves, scowling. Large, smelly dogs should wander the aisles, moulting. The staff should not wear a uniform. They should not smile unless so moved. They should be beautiful women and/or manifestly insane. The pricing should not make any sense. Cabbalistic manuscripts should be randomly wedged between books. Some of the books should be hollowed-out wooden blocks containing guns or saints’ relics (bones etc). Behind a row of encyclopaedias there will be a Crusader’s sword, covered in blood. One day you will realise that the surly, wall-eyed dwarf behind the counter is actually your favourite living writer; and then you will feel sick and leave in chagrin.