A snapshot of thought

January 31, 2011


Taken in Istanbul, in 2007.
Taken using a Canon 400D.
———————————————————

I am carrying a notebook around recently. Taking little notes of anything that catches my eye and trying to write down what I see, as if I were taking a photo of it. A snapshot of thought. Like the photo above, not considered, or edited, or planned, or thought about in detail; just a quick note. It appeals to me, because it doesn’t take much artistic creativity. It requires just a pen and paper. I can take photos that mean something to me, but i’d like to be able to use words to create a photo too. This is my first attempt at such a task.

In Leicester there is a boy
student
who walks around with his headphones on through the city centre
singing loudly to himself.
he can’t sing
he’s fucking awful
The odd smirk on his face says he
thinks he’s being “different” or “quirky” or “unique”
but he looks at the floor as he walks
in an awkward
uncomfortable
insecure
transparent
ignorance.
That’s not unique or
an undiscovered, tortured genius
that’s the same as everyone else is, when they’re drunk.
He is the sheep that thinks he’s special
heading for the same slaughterhouse
as the rest of us.


The Keys and Gray Affair

January 30, 2011

There have been a lot of people on my facebook wall especially who, not content with insisting every Christmas that Muslims are trying to destroy their holiday cheer, also have an issue with the recent dismissal of Andy Grey and Richard Keys from Sky Sports for making quite obviously sexist remarks. “It’s political correctness gone mad” they say. Apparently we must throw our weight of support behind two fat, sweaty middle aged Neanderthals, because it’d be political correctness gone mad if we didn’t.

It seems that when someone mentions “political correctness gone mad” in regard to racism or sexism or homophobia, the story is quite different. It usually means that the most unintelligent idiots, making shockingly crude, and disrespectful, needless statements have been finally brought up on their ignorance. I cannot see why this interpretation of “political correctness” is a bad thing? In fact, I fully support it.

Interesting.
Here’s the transcript of what they said, during the Liverpool vs Wolves game in which Sian Massey was assistant referee:

[Andy Gray]
Yeah I know. Can you believe that? A Female linesman. That’s exactly why I was saying; women don’t know the offside rule. Why do we…

[Richard Keys]
Of course they don’t.

[Inaudible]

[Richard Keys]
I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny. Will go potty.

[Andy Gray]
Potty

[Richard Keys]
This is not the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before?

[Andy Gray]
Yah!

[Richard Keys]
Wendy Toms?

[Andy Gray]
Wendy Toms or someone like that yeah.

[Richard Keys]
Urrghhh.

[Richard Keys]
The game’s gone mad

[Richard Keys]
Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yep. Do me a favour love.

Pushing aside the apparent inability of Keys to recognise the irony in complaining that a woman was talking about sexism in football, just before saying “do me a favour, love”, the obvious thing to note here, is that were not saying any of this in a humorous manner. They genuinely believe that a woman couldn’t possibly understand that most challenging of human mysteries; where a person is stood when a round thing is kicked. How could she know? She’s just a woman. Presumably Keys and Gray think Massey just thinks about shoes and kittens and pretty flowers, and couldn’t make room in her tiny mind to understand the complexity of a game in which twenty two men run around for an hour and a half. It is far too much. Sure, women can be politicians and lecturers and doctors. But understanding what happens when a striker is in front of the defended as the ball is kicked? Surely they’d just break down in tears and need a real man like Andy Gray to take her in his manly arms and protect her from the harsh realities of what is obviously a man’s World.

“The game’s gone mad”.
Little bit of an exaggeration? The game is no different than ever before. Other than a few men (probably gay, and feminine, and girly) rolling around crying whenever they get close to being tackled, it’s very much the same non-mad game as it’s always been. In fact, it is far less insane now than in the 1980s, when police-swarmed stadiums were filled with crazed firms of hooligans. One female assistant referee has not created a hole in the fabric of space time, sucking everything including light itself. All it has done, has exposed a couple of fat tossers who apparently haven’t managed to leave the 1950s.

Sian Massey must have had to put up with sexist idiots her entire career. The beautiful game is still dogmatically male orientated and has an air of insecure masculinity about it. She refereed the Women’s FA Cup Final in 2010. That is quite a huge achievement. She officiated at the FIFA 2007 Female World Cup and at UEFA Women’s Euro 2009. She has gone from Women’s Football Assistant Referee in 2009, to assistant referee in the male dominated arena of Premiership Football in 2010. She made an excellent decision in the Liverpool v Wolves game, in which none of us watching on TV managed to spot. She is more than qualified. Let’s not forget that it was Graham Poll, an English male referee who booked a player three times during Croatia’s match with Australia at the 2006 World Cup. But that must all just be down to luck. How could she possibly understand the offside rule.

Keys and Gray obviously believe no woman is as intellectual as they are, when it comes to football. They know it all. Women know nothing. That’s the philosophy. This must extend also to the first female to referee a Football League match, Amy Rayner. She has an economics degree, and is a full time top rated accountant. Luton lost the game 3-2 to QPR. Instead of accepting that his team were just not good enough on the day, and maybe even questioning his own failings as a manager, having lost his previous club, Hartlepool a staggering 16 point lead in his first few games in charge and only just managing to secure promotion that was absolutely guaranteed when he took over (he was subsequently sacked for a massive run of incompetence from Hartlepool) Luton manager Mike Newell chose instead to blame the fact that the referee was a woman, stating:

“She shouldn’t be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?”

Housewife, and former girlfriend of Jamie Redknapp, Louise Glass was on the receiving end of one of Keys’ little outbursts not so long ago. Keys asked Redknapp, in the commentary box, when he thought the cameras were off:

“Did you smash it? Mind you, that’s a stupid question, if you were anywhere near it, you definitely smashed it. You’d have gone round there any night of the week and found ­Redknapp hanging out the back of it.”

What a putrid old idiot Keys is.
Will I miss them? No.
Do I have sympathy for them? No.

Plus, this means that Gray wont be commentating on any more Fifa games on my Xbox. This pleases me beyond anything else.


On a Metro train in Paris

January 27, 2011

What is a writer? An artist? or just a narcissist. Especially bloggers. We think we have something important to tell the World, or to convince the World that we are right when actually we are the crowd. We are the amplified vanity of our real life selves. We can be creative and we can have spells where our mind is numb and empty. Most of the time we are just attention seeking. We need people to know our thoughts and opinions. If we locked ourselves away in a room and smoked ourselves to death reading the great writers like Hemingway, the World wouldn’t miss us. The World would have missed Hemingway. Perhaps we are interpreters. Perhaps we feel the need to vent or maybe we have no other way to express ourselves. Do we bring something to the World? I think so. I think bloggers are a new field of writers entirely. We are journalists without employment and yet our work is free for the entire World to see. We are commentators. It doesn’t matter our motives or our apparent desire to feel we have your attention. Are we artists? Some of us, yes. Most of us, no.

Sometimes we all just need to scream and punch and kick and fight and laugh crazily and beg to get off the train and lock ourselves away and think, because if we don’t we will be inflicted by a ferocious, endless insanity. But introspection is much like a kettle. It has a boiling point. It needs to be poured out when it reaches that point.

Writing, is my way of doing that.

On a Metro train in Paris, a young French mother was sat next to her little boy. She was sketching fellow passengers. Not all of them. Maybe just an arm of one of them, the hair of another. She sketched beautifully the vacant, lost expression of a middle aged tall man with short grey hair and a tweed jacket. She could have chosen anyone on that carriage to sketch; she chose the man with the most forgettable face. She saw the ordinary and created something extraordinary. And when the man left the train, she switched her eyes to the next person she wished to sketch, and she never scribbled anything out or started again. I was intrigued by her, the entire way. She is an artist. I wish I could do the same. I don’t have it in me. So I write. But there is no difference really. It is an outlet. An artist or not, it is an outlet. We are both channelling our minds to something that is uniquely ‘us’.

I do not write for any artistic sake. I am not an artist. To be an artist, you need to be able to suspend a sense of reality and express the sense of private solitary that is just aching to burst out. You see it in the writings of Silvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg. Theirs is a unique Worldly interpretation that is expressed beautifully. They see a red rose and say it’s green, and you don’t know why they say it, but for some reason it makes sense that they do and I want to be them. But i’m not. I cannot express why I sometimes see a red rose appear green. I guess that is why I, like everyone else in the World, cannot do what these geniuses do.

There are many parts of the World and reality that I live in and don’t understand or find absurd or want to throw in the bin and forget, which other people tend to find normal or at least easy to deal with and I can’t and I don’t know why. I frustrate myself if I try to explain the way I see much of the bullshit I’m supposed to accept as a mere “fact of life” that you “can’t change” so “why worry? just get on with it“….. no, I have no time for that attitude. I mentioned not long ago, being yelled at at work by a colleague for putting a tray of food down on the table that people were sat at, rather than the table that they weren’t sat at, and taking the food too them. It wasn’t inconvenient. The people at the table were laughing and joking with me (which they weren’t with any other staff) and no harm was done. To be shouted at, made me stand for about three minutes, and laugh to myself. You have to laugh at absurdities, because if you don’t, you risk acquiescing to that way of life and you risk trying to legitimate it to yourself, you risk betraying your thoughts and your unique understanding, and I don’t want to be in that World. Fuck that World. I don’t fucking want it.

“At this point of his effort man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”

It is a childish rebellious nature. And because it is my nature, I cannot change it, nor do I wish to change it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. And that’s where writers fall down. We assume that we have something unique to say, that we aren’t like everyone else, that we think differently and can’t seem to understand the World like everyone else seems to manage to do perfectly. Realistically, we’re not tortured, or artistic, or even different. We are just far more over analytical and far more self aware and far more neurotic. I am horribly self aware, that I have to be in control of every situation I find myself in. If i’m on the street walking, I have to know who is in front of me, who is behind me, who is walking up the street from me, which way the car in the carpark opposite is likely to come, and if it’s going to rain at any time soon. I’m neurotic as hell. I don’t particularly need control with my friends or relationships. I just need to know that I am fully in control of myself and aware of absolutely everything that is going on around me. I absolutely hate that idea that I am boring someone, or that I am being made out to be stupid. I analyse everything and everyone. I am trying to hold on to my own sense of self all the time and I feel like I am losing. I question everything and everyone. I question my own intelligence and worry that it’s all false and that i’ve managed to somehow manipulate everyone into thinking I have an ounce of intelligence when in fact I have nothing to offer anyone in the way of intelligent conversation. I cannot relax. I am a fucking mountain of anxiety. I try to pander to what is emotionally acceptable in the hope that I am acceptable to you.

Introspection is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps me grow mentally, and places the present in the context of what came before, and what I expect of myself tomorrow. It is my meditation, because it is myself, testing myself. It is a form of creativity in itself for me. I like that. It is however different to a constant feeling of awareness. Awareness is good, but constantly, it just creates anxiety, and anxiety at awareness exhausts itself because it allows for nothing but the negative to take hold. Introspection leads to a natural rebellion. Awareness leads to anxiety.

If rebellion was not natural, and was pointless, we would not have the great works of art of literature that we today admire so greatly. Rebellion is simply dissatisfaction at the workings of the World. It seems to exist more with the younger generations. The older generations claim ‘wisdom’, because they’ve given up, lost hope for a better World, and acquiesced to the whim of those who pay them. The rebellious nature acts as a kind of spark that you need to keep going. I cannot live without that feeling. It would be a waste of my time. It is rebellion, in the sense that it makes no sense to me that 6.5 billion people, can be classed as one of very very few Nationalities or Religions or Races, like little cylinders all fitting nicely into the round hole they have been assigned. We are all, absolutely all of us, rectangles trying to be forced into the round hole. It is not cynical or pessimistic. It is sincerely optimistic that humanity is better than this.

Camus begins his book The Outsider with the line:

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”

It is a beautiful start to a book. An existentialist book about a man who has completely rejected expected human reactions and emotions, and is just a very natural person, unaffected by the emotional norms forced upon us by society.

Trying to define oneself is in essence limiting oneself to the limitations of language, and around a social framework placed in the context of your time and geographical location and it is therefore quite impossible. I would also be limiting myself to collective understanding, and I cannot know experience and definition of myself, outside of my own constructed reality. No one else has had my experiences, or my memories, or knows how I react to situations, to people, to colours, to objects, or to events. I am me and I like me but I cannot define me. There is no absolute. A lack of absolute individually, and logically therefore collectively, leads me to conclude that nothing has to be “just the way it is, you just have to get on with it” if that is not how you interpret the World. Trying to define oneself is like trying to hold sand. We define ourselves and those around us, by our individual perceptions.

You build up a persona for yourself in front of different friends and family. It’s all fucking bullshit, but you start to believe that’s who you are. It isn’t who you are. Who you are is screaming at you to open its cage door. Sometimes you want to go away and start again, like your whole life had been written on a piece of paper you now want to screw up and throw into the fire.

The only truth is that happiness is fleeting, because for happiness to be meaningful, it requires the opposite. The past is gone. The future is irrelevant and living is what actually matters. And so when we aren’t living, when we are just existing, we are more aware than ever that happiness is fleeting, and it has fleeted. Perhaps we think that by writing and gaining recognition for our writing, we are creating our own fleeting happiness that is vacant from our lives elsewhere. Like a drug. A thought needing to be written down, takes the shape of our life until it is written. Until we sit back, and see it written. Then we momentarily feel a fleet of happiness and accomplishment. We are not alienated from our writing, like we are from our day to day work. The writing we have created is as much a part of us as our legs and arms. That is satisfaction on a level that is inexplicable.

We expend a great amount of energy trying to seek meaning to our lives and our World. We fail every time. We fail because natural meaning or purpose is absurd. The universe is indifferent to our existence. It isn’t laid out for humanity. It isn’t hostile to humanity. It is simply indifferent. And so trying to seek a natural meaning, is illogical. I write, to try to define myself and sort of create my own meaning.

I cannot word my arguments very well when I speak. It is my biggest set back and I hate it. I get so frustrated with myself. I see words jumbled up in my mind and I want to say them all but I cant arrange them in a logical order and so it just becomes a mess of words and sentences that mean nothing and I start to panic, which only makes the situation worse. I cannot construct sentences in the way that I want to. I have ideas and arguments and yet they are just feelings that I cannot convert into words and I despise myself for it. I don’t want to come across stupid and useless. I want to come across strong minded and passionate and in absolute control. I want to come across confident and authoritative when I speak. But I can’t.

That is why I write.


…wouldn’t you just eat a salad?

January 26, 2011

“we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious”

In my Politics class, we sit and have a rather tedious discussion most weeks. There is a bin in the corner, about 3 metres from where I sit. I sit with a bottle of water most weeks and finish it by the time the class is over. I wonder if I throw the empty bottle in the direction of the bin, if I will get it on target. I position myself by swinging slightly backward on my chair. I always decide against it. It is tedious because there is no control over the class. People talk on one table about subjects that are absolutely nothing to do with the original topic of debate. Others frequently don’t understand the point of the arguments made by specific political philosophers, and end up rambling on for a moment or two about nothing. They would say more, if they didn’t speak. The day previous, at the gym, in the changing room, a man was in the toilet cubicle. He obviously thought no one was in the toilet and randomly said “Oh fuck it’s a big one!!!!” I am not sure how to respond to that. It’s obviously a sentence of genius. Do I edge slowly toward the door and leave quietly? Or do I bow down in front of the cubicle and worship this legend as he comes out of his castle? Two Christian girls in our class, during a rather slow discussion on Nietzsche attempted to link the entire concept of democracy (not just modern democracy, democracy in general) to Christianity. Christians often narrow mindedly take credit for concepts they simply didn’t create; usually in the subject of art, as if without Christianity there would never have been a Leonardo. But I’ve never seen such a terrible argument presented as to why democracy is a loving gift bestowed upon the World by that beacon of democracy; Christianity.

I pointed out that forms of democracy (quite different to democracy today, I accept) appeared long before Christianity stamped its ugly, overbearing foot on the progress of humanity. One of the two girls looked at me as if I was an utter idiot. She told me, in a naturally patronising voice that democracy came long after Christianity and was a product of it. I mentioned Rome to her, and the election of Tribunes of the People’s assembly, the Senate, and that after around 300bc the lower classes were allowed to stand for office, and that although Rome’s democracy was massively flawed; it was still democratic by the standards of that particular time. The Roman people idolised their Republic. They were scared of absolute power. The Ancient Greeks, long before Jesus Christ wasn’t born, invented Constitutions and in some respects, invented Democracy. She said “no“.

Then more talking ensued…

One person talking louder to make themselves known after the last person. About eight different conversations in the same small room is too much even for my confidence and ego to try to fight over. I dropped my argument. I stared around the room and out of the window. My Kindle holds thousands of books. I have downloaded at least 200 so far, and have only started reading one. Tony Blair’s most recent book. It’s very self serving and has an air of utter arrogance about it. He describes himself as a rebel at heart. He was certainly a great statesman and I have a lot of time for much of what he achieved. But the fact remains, his “modernising” turned the Labour Party into a Tory-Lite Party, capitulating to the excessive power of finance capital. I am reading poems by Bukowski too. As you can tell by the start of this blog. I wish I had more time, and a quiet room. That way, I would have spent the next thirty minutes destroying the argument of massively misinformed, delusional Christians. I get a kind of sadistic enjoyment out of it. I don’t respect or understand their view, when their view is ridiculous, and just outright bullshit.

Democracy, previous to Rome can be traced back as far as pre-historic civilisation. Tribes working as a unit would presume to work together far more democratically, for the common good, than any system forced upon humanity during Christianities harsh hold over Europe. In fact, Christian Europe resembled a system far closer to the that advocated in the Old Testament. The first Pope, in the Bible, says:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
-1 Peter 2:13-17

I think that’s pretty conclusive. Firstly, I take issue with ‘live as God’s slaves’. No. The Christian God disgusts me. I cannot think of anyone worse, to be the ‘slave’ of.  Secondly, it is evident that the first Catholic Pope demanded that his contempories submit to the sovereign authority, whom at the time, was an Emperor, far removed from any democratic principles. St Peter’s role in the Church spanned four Roman Emperors; Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and eventually being crucified under the despotic lunatic Nero. We don’t know who he was writing about when he demanded we all submit to Caesar. I doubt it was Nero, given that Nero really didn’t like Christians. But even if St Peter had demanded that the Caligula, Claudius or Tiberius were to be submitted to entirely, the nature of those first three Emperors after Augustus should be examined. Perhaps they were deep down, democratic?

Tiberius was massively disliked, especially before he died. He spent far more money on the Imperial palaces than on the people. Although the area that St Peter would have lived for much of his life; Israel, has a town named “Tiberias” after the Emperor………. created by…….. King Herod. Executions for small crime went up under Tiberius. He was a bit of a maniac. In fact, he was so anti-democratic, he had his main opponent in the Senate; Gaius Asinius, executed for treason, simply for opposing the Emperor. Why would a loving God desire his faithful subjects to give themselves up to such tyranny? Why didn’t he demand the overthrow of such evil, for a far more democratic model? Why wasn’t that God preaching democratic values, if democracy truly is the product of Christian logic?

Caligula was no better. He had absolutely every Senator who opposed the Emperor investigated, and if he deemed it necessary, executed. This sent a stark warning to the Senate and the final remnant of the old Republic; submit entirely to the Emperor, or die. He then started dressing as a God in public, he called himself Jupiter in documents, and he made Senators who he distrusted, run by the side of his chariot to show their inferiority. Two temples were created and funded by Caligula, for the sake of worshipping…. Caligula. Perhaps this is the beacon of democracy and rule by the people that St Peter was obviously referring to when he demanded people ‘honor the emperor’.

Claudius, likewise, was not elected by popular democratic means. He was the grandson of the sister of Augustus; Octavia. So he believed, through his bloodline, that he was entitled to the Imperial throne. Inherited public power is about as far removed from democracy as it is possible to get.  He pronounced himself the Judge and Jury in many trials during his reign. Absolutely less democratic than even the hardly democratic Republican era of Rome.

So, that leaves us with the notion that St Peter, when asking his people to submit as slaves to God and as subject to Caesar, did not care one bit for democracy, or for personal and intellectual freedom, or the plight of the Imperial subjects and the injustices within the Empire. And so we must conclude, that early Christianity has more in common with its Middle Ages history, than it does with a couple of Christian students’ warped interpretation of democratic history.

Christianity during the Middle Ages was most certainly responsible for the most cruel period of human history in Europe. It was also used as the basis for Monarchy. Kings and Queens did not use Christianity in a manipulative sense just to hold on to power, they genuinely believed, as did their subjects, that they had a divine right to rule, laid out by God. They had inherited the throne of David. That was the justification for Monarchy ruled by ruthless, violent Christianity. Henry VIII was so worried about how he was to be viewed as a King by God, that he divorced Catherine of Aragon, on the pretence that God had punished him by giving him no male heir with Catherine, because she was his dead brother’s wife first.

The Pope arguably had the most power in Europe during the Middle Ages. English people did not consider themselves English first. They considered themselves loyal to the Pope. They did not elect the Pope and they had no say over the policies coming out of Rome. They merely had to accept what the Vatican was telling them. Thomas More (who, quite comically, is now a Saint) advocated the burning to death of anyone who dared to own a Bible in English. Catholics believed only the Vatican and those who were scholarly and rich enough to read Latin, should have the right to interpret the Bible for the rest of the Catholic World. That couldn’t be less democratic if it tried. It wasn’t until Henry broke with Rome in 1534, that England as a culture and a united people started to take some shape. But even then, the despotic power of Rome was merely transfered to the despotic power of the King. No form of democracy was created. The beginnings of Protestantism were not democratic. Americas beginnings were not democratic. The Athens system in the centuries preceding the apparent birth of Jesus included a system that did not allow women or slaves the right to vote. America, similarly started off, for a very long time actually, not allowing women or slaves or anyone whose skin colour was slightly darker than their own, the right to vote.

Skip a couple of Centuries to America, and some would argue that Christianity was responsible for the birth of the nation. Not true. The historian Robert T Handy argues that:

“No more than 10 percent– probably less– of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”

Most of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons and Deists. They were, as was America, products of the Enlightenment. Freemasonry and the thinking of the Enlightenment, the moving away from strict Christian dogma, is far more important to the development of early America. George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, and the man who was essentially the pillar on which the early Republic stood and managed to survive the early years, was a devout Freemason from the early 1750s, until the day he died. He became a master mason at the end of the 1590s.

Thomas Jefferson famously despised the dogma of organised religion, stating:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.”

Jefferson received a letter from the third President, John Adams, stating:

“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

It is thus evident that the United States was not the product of some new found Christian love and appreciation for democratic principles. The Constitution specifically states that there shall be no religious oppression. It does not mention the wondrous contribution Christianity has made to the onset of democracy.

Democracy, like Capitalism, like falls of Kingdoms and Republics and Empires is the result of social evolution and the collective cultural mind of a population rebelling to meet the challenges of major shifts in consciousness and technology and economics. It is not the result of Christian dogma.

The historical reality is almost always, on every issue, entirely at odds with Christian delusion. They never accept it. They invent history. Just like the two girls invented history, and invented their own special brand of logic in my politics class. It was however, one of the only times that my mind hasn’t wandered in that class. Usually we talk about one particular philosopher and it just gets too crowded with the sounds of unrecognisable voices blurred together. It all just sounds like a constant irritating ringing in my ear. There was a man sat out a chip shop in Leicester yesterday. It was 11am. The chip shop must have only just opened. He had a huge bowl of chips. He had his legs wide open, to accommodate the mass of draping fat that swung down below his knees as he sat. At that point, wouldn’t you just accept you may have been wrong all those years? Wouldn’t you just eat a salad?


The morning of Bukowski

January 25, 2011


One of my photos from Paris.

A short and sweet blog today. I am waiting on an email back, in order to post a longer, more precise blog. So today, I thought i’d be a little bit spontaneous and post a poem by Charles Bukowski that I have come to absolutely love. I have sat this morning, reading hundreds of Bukowski poems. I think he may well become the inspiration for my next tattoo.

Here is one of my favourites. It is called “I like your books“:

In the betting line the other
day
man behind me asked,
“are you Henry
Chinaski?”

“uh huh,” I answered.

“I like your books,” he went
on.

“thanks,” I answered.

“who do you like in this
race?” he asked.

“uh uh,” I answered.

“I like the 4 horse,” he
told me.

I made my bet and went back
to my seat….

the next race I am standing in
line and here is this same man
standing behind me
again.
there are at least 50 lines at
the windows but
he has to find mine
again.

“I think this race favors the
closers,” he said to the back of
my neck. “the track looks
heavy.”

“listen,” I said, not looking
around, “it’s the kiss of death to
talk about horses at the
track…”

“what kind of rule is that?”
he asked. “God doesn’t make
rules…”

I turned around and looked at him:
“maybe not, but I
do.”

after the next race
I got in line, glanced behind
me:
he was not there:

lost another reader.

I lose 2 or 3 each
week.

fine.

let ’em go back to
Kafka.

Amazing.


Render unto Caesar…

January 22, 2011

As you walk down the Rue de Souffle in the Latin Quarter of Paris, looking straight ahead of you, it is impossible to ignore the pure beauty of the Pantheon as it towers above everything else surrounding it. The road, named after the Architect of the Pantheon; Jacques-Germain Soufflot, is at first glance a fitting tribute to the French master of Neoclassical architecture. Voltaire, who is buried in the Crypt at the Pantheon, is said to have been taken in the funeral procession to the Pantheon, alongside a crowd on the Rue de Souffle, of over a million people.

Inside the Pantheon, you will have already past the huge columns forcefully holding up the entrance. You are then greeted by an amazing inner dome, which reaches to the sky, and is just as wide as it is tall. In the centre, is a giant piece of scientific brilliance, by the scientist Léon Foucault, erected in 1851 with the intention of being the first to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth on its axis. I cannot explain the experiment, because it hurts my head to think about it too much; needless to say, it is a work of beauty.

An equally as beautiful work of art stands at the back of the main hall. I stood in awe for a while at the incessantly attractive sculpture, depicting the “heroes” of the French revolution. The realism is romanticism at its finest, surrounded by neoclassicalism at its finest.

The Crypt is now the resting place of some of the greatest French artists, writers, philosophers, poets and politicians that ever lived. Voltaire, Mirabeau, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Soufflot, Braille, Curie, Dumas; are all buried in the Crypt at the Pantheon.

And yet, despite all of this, there is a sign within the crypt at the Pantheon, letting people know, that actually, the structure is in constant need of restoration because its falling apart.

The successful failure, as i’m naming the beautiful yet slightly shoddy craftsmanship of the Pantheon in its attempt to resurrect the architectural genius of the Pantheon still standing strongly in the centre of Rome, is mirrored in 19th Century France when it comes to the death of the Monarchy, an attempt at Republic, and the falling into Empire. Rome experienced much the same structure of governance.

The last King of Rome; Lucius Tarquinius was driven to exile by Lucius Brutus in 509bc, and the Roman Republic era began. The end of the Roman Republic arguably ended with Julius Caesar being proclaimed Dictator for life in around late 45bc. Caesar was considered the hero of the common people. His face was stamped on coins, he sat on a throne-like seat in the Senate which had no one had dared to do since the fall of the Kingdom, he then had a statue of himself erected. This aroused suspicion that he intended to overthrow the beloved Republic and establish himself as King (which is probably true), and so a group of Senators lead by Brutus (an apparent ancestor of the Brutus who established the Republic 450 years previous, though it isn’t provable) murdered Caesar in the Theatre of Pompey (not in the Senate house, as most people think), underneath the statue of Pompey; Caesar’s old friend turned enemy. In killing the people’s hero Julius Caesar, his adopted son Octavian soon became the people’s hero, and used his popularity to hunt down and kill all of Caesar’s killers, to do away with Marc Anthony and to establish himself, cunningly, as the first Emperor of Rome; Augustus.

Similarly, as King Louis XVI was killed off by revolutionaries set to form a Republic, the aspirations of a young general who had visions of expanding the territory of France, as Caesar had done as General of the Roman Legions during his expanding of the Roman territory into Gaul (modern day France, Austria, Switzerland); Napoleon Bonaparte. After his success as a General, Bonaparte became First Consulate of the French Senate in 1799. Effectively, granting himself the right of Dictator for life, as Caesar had done. Following Caesar’s lead, Bonaparte started to wear the crown of laurel leaves. Caesar took the idea of wearing a laurel wreath from the old Greek tales of the God Apollo, who was always depicted wearing one. Caesar was putting himself on a par with the Gods. Napoleon was trying to emulate Caesar. It is almost scientific. The violent change from Kingdom to Republic to Empire is almost the necessary result of socio-historical processes that have been seen in Rome, France, and to some extent, the USA. Whilst personal characteristics of people like Caesar and Napoleon, and their lust and arrogance for absolute power are important in the narrative, they are merely one part in a much larger narrative of history that leads from Kingdom to Empire. When Republic is faltering, it is amazing to see, throughout history, an overbearing and maniacal personality appears on the scene almost right on cue, to force his way into the seat of power. Empire is inevitable at that point, and Empire is necessarily imperialist by nature. Napoleon and Caesar were both not popular with the nobility of their respective Country’s before in their younger days. Napoleon felt he was of social inferiority in comparison to the French nobility, he was an introvert and a loner by nature. Caesar’s family had very little political influence and he was a bit of an outcast. Napoleon saw, as did Caesar, that the State was falling, and a strong political and military mind could quite easily fill the gap. Napoleon once remarked:

“What a great people were these Romans, especially down to the Second Punic War. But Caesar! Ah Caesar! That was the great man!”

Napoleon, had himself crowned Emperor, emulating Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian (Augustus) in 1804. The French Empire expanded at first, but soon crumbled under his leadership. He successfully defeated coalition partners of Europe five times, before tempting fate with an ill conceived invasion of Russia in 1812, and was forced to abdicate and exiled in 1813. The strong and mystifying exterior of Napoleon, soon crumbled, like the walls of the Pantheon.

One could argue that Napoleon is actually not at all the personified mirror of the Pantheon, and actually far more successful than Julius Caesar given that Caesar was murdered before he could become Emperor, whereas Napoleon was successful in turning France into an Empire, taking control of most of Western and Central Europe in less than twelve years, and lasted a decade more than Caesar after taking power. Napoleon was a genius. Although, one would have to take into consideration the lasting legacy of both Caesar and Napoleon. For example, every Emperor of Rome was referred to as Caesar, for over 400 years after his death. The name Napoleon has long since died, other than Orwell’s use of the name for a horse in Animal Farm. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was plunged into centuries of the Dark Ages; a truly regressive era in our history. When Napoleon fell, France thrived. The people adored Caesar. The people did not adore Napoleon. Caesar was proclaimed a God, and worshipped as such for the next half a millennium. Napoleon never came close to such accolade. The model of Rome during the Empire has been the inspiration for great artists, architects (such as Souffle’s Pantheon, and even as far as the Capitol building in Washington D.C), sculptors, writers, and people like Napoleon have tried to copy the system of governance for centuries since the final collapse of Rome in the fifth century. I cannot imagine the short phase of French Empire is going to be the inspiration for any such renaissance. The greatest poets during the Renaissance in Florence and Milan were crowned with a laurel wreath, in the style of Caesar to show that they were the masters of the poets. The legacy of the Roman Empire is far stronger and has a greater romance attached to it, than Bonaparte’s France.

The brief revival of the French Empire under Napoleon III was arguably more successful in terms of policy successes and the modernisation of France as an industrial power. And yet Napoleon III is often overlooked as a key figure in French history. His taking of power from the 2nd Republic which was established after the fall of his uncle, Napoleon, was largely a result of the fact that the new Republic was not a Republic at all, having abolished Universal Suffrage and a left over from the political upheaval of the fifty years previous. Stable government had not been known in France by the time Napoleon III took control, for around sixty years.

By the time Octavian became Emperor Augustus in Rome, the Republic had been dead for a long time. Whilst Augustus’ reign was far superior to Caesar’s and Napoleon’s and most Emperors with perhaps the exception of Trajan, he only managed to become Emperor – albeit cleverly and shrewdly – by building on the groundwork laid by his adoptive father, Julius Caesar. The political instability and the uncertain population was crying out for leadership; Octavian provided it.

Rome has a proud tradition. It, along with Ancient Greece certainly spawned Western Neoclassical art and architecture that has produced, with inspiration from the Ancient World, some spectacular works of art. The library in Helsinki is a great example of a Neoclassical building with a modern twist. Le Petit Trianon at Versailles in Paris, has a White House-esque look to it, fundamentally Neoclassical, but modern in feel. St Peter’s in Vatican City, is beautifully designed, and looks back across the Tiber and across history, to its Roman and Pagan ancestry for inspiration. Rome is the father of such brilliance. As it is politically….

If the line of history is to play out again and again, then surely it is not a coincidence that the Republic of the United States of America, which emerged as a result of the violent revolution against Kingdom, is often considered to now be an Empire. But, why is there no Emperor? Why has the Republic not collapsed as History would proscribe? Is America a new kind of Empire? A purely economic Empire, that is a product of advanced Capitalism? A Capitalist American Empire that requires a Napoleon-esque strategic mind, not for Statism and the old conception of Empire, but for ruthless business, coupled with aggressive foreign policy; the new Empire. And so no longer requiring of an overbearing, too powerful Centralised State with a single powerful person at its helm, because that would be contradictory to its “free market” economic purposes and so does it transcend the part of history that would proscribe the fall into the hands of a single person, because the Emperor, is no longer a human being, but instead the excessive power of capital? Or is it destined, after a period of prolonged success, to follow an inevitable path of history?


On this day…

January 21, 2011

I am 25 today.
It’s rather old.
A quarter of a century.
I dropped Ash off at Gatwick this morning and have just got home.
She has now gone home.
I have to wait five and a half months to have her back.
I don’t like that at all.
Up until about an hour ago my day was particularly dull.
I bought a lovely Redbull at Watford Gap.
That was a little bit of an up point.
Can you imagine the up point of your day being a can of Redbull?
It’s been a pretty average January 21st.
Not the worse ever.
I think King Louis XVI off of France had the worst January 21st given that he had his head cut off.
George Orwell’s January 21st wasn’t too much fun either back in 1950, given that he died.
Emma Bunton, Baby Spice has to live with the fact that she was in the Spice Girls, her entire life.
It’s a cross I wouldn’t like to bear.
She was born on January 21st too.
I have managed to reach 25, in Leicester, without yet having at least three kids by three different women, and without having stabbed anyone or contracted a nasty drug habit.
I am impressed by my record.
But still, the day was starting off very boring indeed.

So imagine my joy when my entirely dull day turned to brightness when I turned on my TV screen to see that Tory Director of Communications and ex-News of the World editor/King of illegal Phone Hacking Andy Coulson has “resigned”. It’s certainly not a surprise. What is a surprise is that he still insists he knew nothing of phone hacking whilst he was editor of the News of the World. Which means one of two things…. 1) He’s lying (I suspect this is the case) or 2) He was an incredibly bad and out of touch editor. He resigned from the N.O.T.W because he claimed he knew nothing about any wrongdoing and insisted he’d done nothing wrong, and now he’s resigned from the Government….. because he claims he knew nothing about any wrongdoing and insisted he’d done no wrong. How odd. He also claimed he was not a despicable bully. He insisted it. And yet, in 2008 he was taken to an Employment Tribunal and the claim of bullying, against him, was upheld. The defendant was awarded £800,000 as a result. Which begs the question, if Coulson was involved in bullying, and was editor of a Paper in the middle of a phone hacking scandal, why would the Prime Minister employ him? Why is tax money (££140,000 a year as of May 2010) going to pay his wages whilst local council care budgets are being slashed?

Coulson’s resignation comes a day after Labour’s massively incompetent and useless leader Ed Miliband announced that Alan Johnson, the shadow Chancellor was to resign for family reasons. It was a little bit of a media blunder for Johnson to have resigned on January 20th, because the papers and the TV news were bound to run with it, rather than the story that was grabbing headlines on January 19th, suggesting that David Cameron’s latest target is set on severely disabled children. The media repainting the Tories as the Nasty Party is exactly the wake up call people need. The harsh and unnecessary cuts to services like those that support the families of severely disabled children, whilst Vodafone have a tax bill written off by the Treasury, of close to £6bn. It could have lingered in the media and put pressure on the Government.

The mainstream media reported that David Cameron, pre-election, promised to protect the rules for Councils providing care for disabled children. He made that promise to the parents of Holly Vincent, whom suffers from quadriplegia, has severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and is blind.

They applied for respite care to Gloucestershire County Council. They were denied. This is because the wondrous Big-Society, We’re all in this together brigade of selfish rich economic thugs have not ringfenced spending for respite care. They have provided £800mn over four years to the County Council but it isn’t ringfenced. They have lifted the rules. Councils now are not obliged, legally, to spend funds protecting the most vulnerable. Cameron, pre-election told the parents of Holly Vincent that he “would never do anything that would hurt disabled children”.

As a result of the lack of funds spent on Holly Vincent, her parents have signalled their intention to put her into a care home, because they simply cannot afford to look after her any more. They currently only get five to six hours respite a week.

Riven Vincent, Holly’s mum said:

“…..there’s nothing to stop cash-strapped local authorities from using the money elsewhere. I have no wish to put my daughter into a home. We want to look after her, all I am asking for is a little more support.
Without this, we simply cannot cope and nor can families up and down the country just like ours. We are crumbling

I don’t want her in a residential care home – it would destroy me. But without extra help, I find it hard to see how we can meet her needs at home.”

If a politician had promised to help my struggling family, if we had a child who was so severely disabled and getting worse as she gets older, and then he cut the funding to the local authority and didn’t ring fence the remaining funds…… I’d get all the publicity possible to make that politician out to be the absolute scum bag liar hellbent on destroying hard pressed families up and down the Country for the sake of tax cuts for the wealthiest. The Prime Minister is a disgrace. The Tory Party and all of their heartless supporters, are a disagrace.

Alan Johnson should have let this story linger for a while, so it has a chance to sink into the minds of the British Public that we have elected Thatcher-on-speed. Absolutely every promise they made, they appear to be backing down on. No one voted for backdoor privatisation of the NHS. No one voted for such a massive Tuition fee rise. No one voted for the releasing of rules surrounding respite care ringfencing. I can’t imagine many people would have voted for such a shit Party, had they expressed their desire to be the bringers of Neoliberal hell to Britain.

Although, the Tories were kind enough to give me the birthday present of Coulson’s resignation. Perhaps next year they will try and top it by sacking Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.
That would be amazing.