I’m reminded of the bit at the start of the 1st Unkle album, where there’s the quote that goes something along the lines of:
“they had too many resources, too much money, and little by little, they went insane.”
Christmas holiday is always a little bit like that. A savage trek from family brandy filled social gathering, then down to the pub for a few pints followed by a couple of flaming sambucas as they’re calling last orders and then onto the nearest rented accommodation for the obligatory round of marootas and a bit of fist shaking at the moon. After the first few days I was struck down by some form of toilet based illness, temporarily prevented from consumption. Fortunately, once this subsided, I’ve been back eating as much cake as possible and seeing how many varieties of cheese I can cram into a pitta bread. Good to put some weight on for once and to see the summer’s exhaustion / turmoil generated weight loss get replaced ready for the new year’s ravages.
Am still trying to hit lots of webdesign deadlines, still on overlooked tasks like sorting out my car insurance and finally cleaning my suburban mansion up so that your feet don’t stick to the floor. All this has delayed my trip writing efforts most disgracefully, and I can only pray that tomorrow, rising with a beer clogged head again, I will sit down to get through the accounts I owe. Not least, I need to get them down so I can stop trying to remember all this stuff, get on with planning the new year campaigns, run up the flag and get going. The ‘game is afoot’ as Holmes may or may not have been misquoted as saying.
Here, brother’s of Bolo, is an immense and unwieldy letter. I had it sent to one of our brethren many moons ago before I had returned to the land of e-mail.
I offer it for your perusal…
“Sick to say so but I seem to be averaging about 1 letter a year! I just checked the date on my last letter â€“ Jan 2005 â€“ and the shock of that distant date stung my lazy flesh with spur enough for me to once more pick up the baton and cast it back across the deeps.
As I write I picture my letter winging its way to you across the Atlanticâ€™s stark indigo swells; I picture the white caps and the vast vault of bright darting life that teems beneath them; I ponder the bottom feeders groping in blind hunger through the detritus of life undone; and I wonder if even in the gloom of their lightless life one can still hear the hum of some distant heart-song. Yes perhaps these creatures inward-sing as they suck the stuff of life from the sunken scraps of life undone. Yes surely these living gargoyles share with us some sort of love for the momentâ€™s passing pleasures. Surely some spark of celebration zings through their little life as the sweet taste of sustenance plays upon their pallet. What say you my skeptical friend? Iâ€™m well aware that this poetizing might not catch you right. Yet of late the sheer strange wonder of being plays upon me whenever I sit down to write. I just sent my grandparents a letter they might find equally odd or puzzling yet nevertheless I send both letters in the hope that they might somehow convey something of the wonder I sometimes see in being. For if one thing is often lost to us in this age it is this sense of the inconceivable mystery and wonder of existence. I fear that we secretly suspect that everything rolled of some universal production line. That life and being came shrink-wrapped in the same plastic film in which Tescoâ€™s packages its rows of naked headless chickens.
And of course the flipside to all that poetizing is that if those strange sea-creatures taste a drop of the joy we sometimes swim in, they surely also feel a measure of our agonies: in those moments when painâ€™s pitiless pressure pins them fast toward their end. Though of course they donâ€™t know it as an end in the same way we do: they probably just sink whylessly into the great sea of ontic agony; into the anti-nirvana of agony annihilating awareness. Into the vast red sea into which all sentient creatures are thrust from time to time; and into which some are plunged so deeply that it seems inconceivable; whilst others dip their manicured pinkies in for seconds, only to drift to their pampered death on pink and pillowed opiate clouds.
The point I seem to be making here is that under-girding all sentient organic existence lies this twinned experience of pleasure and pain. The central nervous system common to all higher forms of organic life formally assures us of this: all of us – from reptile to chicken to human – are predisposed to experience being through the medium of sensation. And we experience sensation as a plane of awareness strung between the twinned poles of pleasure and pain. This is basically a self-evident fact. However we are unfortunately accustomed to thinking through the consequences in solely objective terms. From a Darwinist perspective we view lifeâ€™s development sequentially, from lower to higher, we analyze our lower-brainâ€™s similarity to the higher mammals and we go on from mammal to rodent to reptile attempting to trace back the course of lifeâ€™s many metamorphoses. And on a basic level I have no problem with any of that. What I am driving at, however, is that if there is this sameness in the objective form there must be some corresponding sameness in the subjective experience. Which all suggests that the bottom feederâ€™s experience of life is not wholly alien to mine. Which is all to point to the primal ontic unity of life. Which suggests in turn the endless echo of oneness through the worldâ€™s immense distances of difference. For what we talk about in an objective and analytical manner as â€˜awarenessâ€™ and â€˜central nervous systemsâ€™, as hormones and instinct; we experience in day-to-day life as the language of life and its passions; as the fleshâ€™s throbbing dance of taste and touch: as the perpetual reflexive flight from pain and the wide-eyed pursuit of pleasure.
The same primary paint pot, the same elemental pallet, was used to paint the bug-eyed fish and Aristotle. Their experience of being differs like the three-note rudiments of birdsong differ from Mozart and yet in like manner they share the same compositional parts: organic vertebral life in the first case; notes and melodious vibration in the second. Each is a limited whole formed from common forms that exist as the preconditions of each.
Yet the life of the latter creatures became manifest in the spontaneous overflowing of creative genius: in those self-aware creations of intricate interrelation and subtle proportion: in those marvels of the intellectâ€™s flight through glorious freedom and compositional creativity. Each of the latter represent rarely paralleled expressions of the human beingâ€™s unique contingent freedom: radiant pulsations from within human natureâ€™s immense limits.
So here we grope â€“ somehow belabored by limping terminology and abstraction â€“ around the essential unity of life and being. And yet paradoxically we thereby stumble upon the human beingâ€™s distinctive existence within the larger whole. Consider this creature in reference to all else we have encountered. Consider his intricacy and his incredible capacity to create and comprehend. Consider him as a form that forms, as a form that sees and takes hold of forms and reformsâ€¦ a pseudo-deity, a half-god, mired in mud yet comprehending the heavens, subject to limit and dependency yet able to move in mind from the oceanâ€™s primal depths to the violent nuclear radiance of the universeâ€™s first six seconds. Able to postulate the end of everything â€“ yet unable to prevent the death of the people and things he loves the most. Subject to the same twin pools and poles of experience as a catfish â€“ physiological pain and pleasure â€“ yet enabled to manipulate matter through this selfsame rudimentary medium of sensory awareness. With his hands and mind, with his sense, man yanks and barters from existenceâ€™s manifold forms countless â€˜newâ€™ forms of treachery and sublimity.
Indeed he has been able to play out from matter the crafts and vessels and social systems that bore this strange letter from my hand – over those thousand rippling miles of glassy ink-blue vastness – into yours.
All of which I find begs the question: what is the source from which flows this stream of coming forms, this relentless tide of form breaking on form? What is the meaning of this primal chain of interlinking forms, this stream of becoming? This metamorphic stream of being that now seems to stream through our human hands?
And what is it that sees us use our unique ingenuity and freedom to create tools whose sole aim is to torture and afflict? The centuries have seen us create thousands of tools designed solely to compel another through the black depths of manâ€™s fathomless capacity for torment. We must then ask: what is the origin of the sadistic urge that propels us through such extremes of degradation and perversion? (Its not just about brute power – weâ€™ve been too inventive – I fear that thereâ€™s a part of us that truly relishes the perverse existential depths that we plum with our freedom.) It is as if in humanity life reaches its highest pitch of intensity, achieving, begetting and birthing its most delirious extremesâ€¦ its most intensified beauties its most depraved vilenessâ€¦ and we are hardly saying anything particularly insightful at this pointâ€¦
Accept to add: Where my friend do you stand in the midst of this?
How do you take your bearings amidst it all?
In the last while Iâ€™ve had my own little adventures and through them Iâ€™ve come to trust my own guiding lights. Broadly speaking you know where I stand with regard to the meaning of being and the purpose of my life. And although I could talk at length (yawn) about my discoveries and convictions Iâ€™d rather ask for something from youâ€¦
Anyhow, thatâ€™s a hell of a lot more philosophizing than I was intending on. To be honest I just liked the bottom-feeder muse to begin with and then the whole thing spiraled out of control. Anyhow, I considered starting over but then I decided, in for a penny in for a pound, I seem to be committed now. Besides which Iâ€™m guessing you donâ€™t receive too many letters precisely of this kind, so at worst it will have had a certain novelty appealâ€¦
All that to say: every man needs a metaphysic. Indeed I wager that everyone has one â€“ itâ€™s just that some are more consciously examined than others. The ideas that spilled out above are broadly speaking those I inherit from the Classical and Christian metaphysical tradition of the West. And yes, as always I read voraciously. Of late my teachers come from the top ranks of the great Catholic thinkers and philosophers of the last Century. Jacques Maritain, Stanley Jaki and Hans Urs von Balthasar are among my current favorites.
Jacques Maritain’s philosophical work saw him apply the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas (the great doctor of the Church, and the primary architect of the 13th Centuryâ€™s synthesis of Aristotelian metaphysics and Patristic Christian thought) to the mid-twentieth centuryâ€™s particular cultural crises and ferment. He was a leading figure in a group who formed around a (Parisian?) periodical called Lâ€™Esprit. The group sought to orchestrate a cultural response to the various totalitarian regimes that were at that time beginning to carve up Europe. To cut a complex story simple their philosophy centered on the dignity and innate worth of the human person. And their vision rested on the belief that culture must flow from a foundational respect for the person. For any social organism that is willing to sacrifice concrete people on the altar of ideological abstraction inevitably takes the form of totalitarianism â€“ the great all conquering â€˜stateâ€™, the â€˜workersâ€™, the â€˜Arian nationâ€™ etc.
At the same time Maritain and his collaborators understood that personalism had to be clearly distinguished from bloated bourgeois individualism. And thus they promoted the idea that a person could only find their authentic meaning and significance in the context of a community of which they were a part and for which they had a responsibility. And this seems to be â€“ today as much as yesterday â€“ something of a self-evident fact. People are not self-sufficient atoms bouncing around in a social void. It is in our relationships with one another that we create our social worlds. And it is in these self-same interactions that we reveal – before ourselves and others – something of that which lies within each and all.
Knowing how wary you are of any form of utopianism I shall not dwell on the social-political angle. I will, however, continue just a little longer on the Maritain theme. Primarily because I am inclined to mention (knowing your literary bent) that his thinking on art and poetry, is by far the best work of its kind that Iâ€™ve read. In my time at university I read a good number of bogus and absurd tracts about literature, and so Maritainâ€™s work in Creative Intuition In Art and Poetry has been a great discovery. He stands far above the gabbing designer-spectacled throng. And one major reason for this is that the nature of Aristotelian (and thereby Thomistic) thought is to be concerned with the thing-in-itself. This method of investigation leads him to write about art and literature primarily for the sake of exploration and understanding, not ostensibly to pursue some kind of ideological agenda. i.e. he asks â€“ What is this? What is great about it? What is unique about it? How does it do what it does? \ Not \ How is patriarchy propagated in Proustâ€™s use of pronouns? How was Shakespeareâ€™s neurotic mother midwife to Macbeth? What dubious psychosexual motifs can we extrapolate from this incidental phrase? How can we distort languageâ€™s ambiguities to the extent that we render the whole literary tradition meaningless? Etc etc.
The difference in a nutshell that is the first approach looks at the object and asks: What is it? whilst the second asks: How can I make this object serve my premeditated intentions? The first approach is basically respectful, the second egotistical at worst, utilitarian at best.
Still more sermonizing. It seems that once I get into a loop I canâ€™t be stopped. Just one final note before we move on to less polemical subjects â€“ Maritainâ€™s work was not simply a regurgitation of preexisting theories, or petrified dogmas, because in point of fact Thomas wrote very little about the arts as we understand them. Maritain adapted the tools he inherited from tradition to meet the needs and conditions of his time; he was not some kind of narrow minded antiquarian obsessing about the wonders of the pre-Renaissance West. He learnt his trade, understood the ramifications and potential of his tools, and applied and adapted them to changing cultural conditions. He wrote about Picasso, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Eliot, critically but not dismissively, often enthused by the formal leaps and innovations of these great pioneers. (And for the same reason I suspect he would have like Roots Manuva.) In so doing he performed â€“ consciously â€“ one of the few distinctively and fundamentally human acts: he met the moment with the full benefit of his tradition. The last word has taken on a pejorative sense in recent years, yet in point of fact tradition is the medium through which we are given our full humanity: to be without tradition is to be without community, language, tools, clothing, skill, or shelter. It is arguably the most extreme form of poverty a person can be afflicted by and it is tragically exemplified in the rare occurrence of the feral child. A person utterly deprived of tradition leads a life as close to the bestial as a human being is capable of experiencing.
Now of course we must be ready to reassess and critique our tradition, to look on it from new angles, to confront it with new discoveries, to name the error, to uproot the falsehood, but never will we be able to exist outside if it, we are what we are, and what are has been powerfully shaped by the lives from which we came. Ignorance of oneâ€™s tradition is ignorance of oneself. A frightening phrase if one looks around your average plane deck or waiting room: the ever-present screen the constant intake of the absurd and banal, the macabre commercial merry-go-round. Where can this lead? Weâ€™re attempting to hold a civilization together around our collective obsession with celebrity kitsch and brand-stamped fetish objects. Eastenders and its manifold equivalents are proffered as cultural glue in the wake of displaced traditions, culture, and religion. In place of virtue and civic responsibility we have police-state surveillance cameras; instead of citizens we have consumers; instead of religion and philosophy we have pop-psychology and self-help pity parties; and playing at governance we have ad-men and management junkies. I find it hard to smile when I think of the future this promises.
Believe me man before too long thereâ€™ll be a constant stream of commercials playing its way across our nighttime skies. Stalin once projected a titanic image of himself onto communist Russiaâ€™s night skies â€“ soon it will be Posh Spice and Beckham: plugging the Nike cause, bowed under the wealth yoke, warped and concaved on the smog skies, everywhere the grin and gape of unsated lust, everything smeared to shining tan, and all eyes set a-yearning by the ad-manâ€™s airbrush sorcery.
Ah ha, the belated return of the apocalyptic ranting. Yet in truth I canâ€™t help but be perturbed when I look on our collective momentums and the ends to which they seem to propel us. This can, though it should not, lead me into a fruitless kind of deterministic pessimism. And thus it would seems to be a wise move to balance my ravings with the admission that our technology and scientific capacities need not, in and of themselves, be the harbingers of doom or disorder; indeed they often bring us healing and liberation from bondage, and they remain the medium of our existential explorations and discoveries. Our problem is rather that weâ€™ve generated a void at the heart of our cultural life. And thus we bumble around like chimps with chainsaws, dangerously over-equipped and ethically under-developed. This is a multi-causal phenomenon â€“ yet I have little doubt that the unfettered marketing industry has catalyzed the ferment. Nobody seems to have the political muscle to put a leash on the corporate sector and thus they encroach inch-by-inch into every facet of our cultural life. Plastering their siren songs and soft-porn incitements over every conceivable surface they dangle there hocked lures before us, and we invite them into living rooms to snag and placate our children as well. Our artists and thinkers have lessening contact with our tradition, living more and more in this self same world of brand and bait; and thus they chew upon this deadening food regurgitating it in slightly rarified forms, creating intricate webs of self-referential pop-culture posturing, fiddling with â€˜semioticsâ€™ as Rome burns.
In the case of the latter (Logos) it has been taught (in the West) from the pre-Socratics through Plato to Augustine and Avencia and Aquinas and the neo-Thomists and countless others in their turn, that the appetites must be brought under control if one is to perceive reality with clarity: and it is this correspondence between the perceptive mind and reality that they called truth. And this insight is really little more than elaborated common sense. On the natural level oneâ€™s freedom in this life really amounts to the capacity to consciously choose oneâ€™s paths and form oneâ€™s environments with understanding and a measure of foresight. Perhaps we can best illustrate our point antithetically with the example of the addict. Obviously, we use the term addiction to describe the condition whereby a person is beholden to an appetite: bound to the extent that they are unable to chose to willfully rule it, and thus their unfettered appetite ravages their existence and seriously impairs their capacity for clarity of thought or purposeful action. (The expression â€˜a slave to drinkâ€™ is particularly illustrative in this context.) A person in this condition basically ricochets from one collision to another – propelled by their appetite as heedlessly as pinball by its momentum. And I can testify – having touched a little of this life – that it is not a happy stateâ€¦
But there is a flip side to the whole thing, a truth disclosed even as it is concealed, an insight given but misappropriated. Because what is the bitterroot of appetite but the immanence of lack, the fleshy certainty of need, the painful stamp of finite limits upon manâ€™s body and soul. It is nothing other than the certain knowledge of a void within. This sense of the hungering void – this anxious clammy pressure of emptiness – that haunts our city streets and employs our psychiatrists is, in large part, nothing other than the authentic intuition that man is empty, hungering, and yet incapable of ever being wholly filled. In this way our cultural situation reveals an undisclosed sense of the precarious finite/infinite tension that animates the human spirit. Plato described the human condition by likening it to a cracked vessel â€“ no amount of matter could ever fill it. In like manner the Christian ascetics of the early centuries â€“ the Desert Fathers â€“ spoke of the desert, the formless empty wilderness, as the place of meeting between man and God: as the borderland place of contact between the finite and the infinite. In any case we feel this desert â€“ this emptiness â€“ keenly, we fear its bareness and its yawning lack; and we are on occasion touched by its dark shades and illumined by its sudden dawning lights. And yet we flee from its painful poverty into all the manifold bottled oblivions that roll of our production lines. This at least is how I sometimes view the situation from my hinterlands place of lack and lightâ€¦
Finally, with that last phrase, I think Iâ€™ve told you â€“ in-between the (many) lines as it were â€“ how I am and where Iâ€™ve been over the last year or so. And Iâ€™ll draw the whole bravado performance to a close with the bold and foolish claim that I really do believe that this idiotic pauperâ€™s life is a comprehensive response to the crisis I rightly-or-wrongly foresee.
Anyhow now thatâ€™s done (I hope) I should say that I began this letter a little while before yours made its second successful flight to Canada: Excellent to hear from you, excellent to receive the tunes. It will come as little surprise that Manuva remains my favorite. Although I totally understand why you favor Ty â€“ in fact I could picture you bobbing your head and jabbing your index finger in the sheer gleeful pleasure of the beats and lyrical flow. I see that his steady sanity and positive even temper would appeal very strongly to you. And the first tune, and the sixth â€“ the one with the mad merry-go-round loop â€“ were indeed thoroughly appreciated. In fact they elicited a little impromptu bop around our tiny two-up-two-down living room. However the fact remains it would take a lot to displace Run Come Save Me from its podium: for yes the bond was indelibly forged in BKâ€™s purgative fire.
And the new LP has its moments. Musically I might even grow to consider it the better half. However the lyrical content is substantially darker than the last one: thereâ€™s a growing strain of misogyny amongst other things, and a love-hate pull toward the media circus that seems to generated a bitterness that wasnâ€™t so evident before. One of Awfully Deepâ€™s persistent themes is the cut-my-nose-to-spite-my-face tantrum over the fact the last album didnâ€™t blow up into the mainstream. And I have to agree it probably deserved to â€“ musically it was extremely inventive and it had something significant to say about British life and street culture. Yes, everything was right and yet he didnâ€™t break and worse Dizzy Rascal scooped the Mercury. I appreciate that was probably a pisser. Yet Iâ€™m not keen on the ways itâ€™s played out in the new record; I suspect he got dumped as well because the images of women are pretty violent: no faces just â€˜tits and assâ€™, itâ€™s not pleasant. Of course this is just one of Hip Hopâ€™s recurring problems, the form has been long established so itâ€™s easy to slip into; and Manuvaâ€™s new record draws a little on the Eminem model: the misogyny/insanity/vulgarity kick. And on that score Ty is the better playing down the whole gangster rap violence and producing some pretty insightful considerations of life and love and women and thatâ€¦ So, on the level of ethics I go for Ty every time and yet weâ€™re talking tunes not philosophy, so over all on the music tip Iâ€™d say itâ€™s Roots Manuva by a long chalkâ€¦
And Iâ€™d also say that Manuva still has an eye for the times (perhaps itâ€™s just that his somewhat apocalyptic leanings find kinship with mine). Nonetheless even though there are parts of the record that seem a little unhinged he continues â€“ even in the darkness â€“ to name something of the corruption that I, for my own part, saw descending on Britain. Anyhow to engage in that line of though would launch me once more on the pundit soapbox tip, which I have interiorly vowed to discontinue in order that you and I can reach the end of this lurching titanic beastâ€¦
As to you your last letter: you wrote that you were a little ticked about my forgetfulness of your wedding. Well, itâ€™s true that time keeping and calendar awareness are not strong points â€“ in the last year I also forgot my mother and my fatherâ€™s birthdays. So, yes this is indeed one of my ongoing character faults. The old self-absorption remains, though in different and I would say, less noxious form. So, it remains a thing to be worked on: one more good reason to integrate a calendar into my lifeâ€¦ apologies.
Nonetheless I keep you both in mind â€“ then and now. And because of the orientation of my life that basically means I pray for you all. You, your wife, and the rest of that strange crowd who remain alive and immanent in my heart and mind. Though as you probably guess itâ€™s a fairly intermittent, sporadic and spontaneous affair, and so once again thereâ€™s probably a level of order that can be introduced here as wellâ€¦
Anyhow the growth is sure and steady; sometimes painful often unseen. Yet there are brief moments when I catch a glimpse of the form that unfolds itself from within. For I sense that the â€˜new manâ€™ lives a little in me. And he is somewhat like a breath received and given back in a two-step instant; and yet he is alive: hidden in the dark yet yearning upwards; a tiny shoot of purpose thrusting up and growing through the perpetual outpouring of the one true Light.
Undoubtedly this letter has been too damn long, apologies for that, itâ€™s just that Iâ€™ve thought plenty and find it good to tell some when the moment arises. Hopefully we will sit down to a coffee sometime soon and mull the whole thing overâ€¦
Wishing you grace and joy in the struggle,
Surely congratulations are in order for those that stayed the course…
A couple of fast moving weeks since I got back from Madrid, hustling around trying to hit design deadlines before Christmas and trying to check as much email as possible at work. Came back pretty well rested, but after slipping easily back into my 5 hours a night sleep pattern, blazing the seasonal herbs and spending a few jaded evenings downing pints and catching night buses, it’s definitely nigh on time for a break again.
……and fortunately here it is. Christmas is here again, I’m outside of work, trying to get up before midday and contemplating getting through an indecent amount of beverages to mark the end of the week. Yes, tis the season to be festive. Kick shoppers out of your way, head into the nearest smoke filled (till July) establishment and test your mettle with a series of continental lagers, each one crammed full of evil chemicals designed to give you a headache and beat your womenfolk.
But I digress. I love Christmas. I love having some time to start redeveloping bolo and I love being able to spend all day sitting at my mate’s house, blazing maroots, drinking milky cups of tea and prognosticating about many high-risk, low-chance of success, plans for the future. After a tough year, that’s seen some pitiful lows and absolutely sublime highs, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
I feel like leading on from Bennie’s post to do with the video ‘fish’… I will approach from the opposite angle – self-doubt.
The strange ways in which a semi-deranged mind attempts to convince itself of it’s lucidity is a constant in my life. I have no idea if I am madder than is required to be certified, but I would be happy to take the test (and suppose that really it depends on the power-wielding gimp politicians of the time anyway).
I am a quiet lunatic, with most of my unnerving thought processes invisible to the outside world, and hidden through years of childhood necessity and training. Only now, at the tender age of 27, and with the help of some time and space (and British Airways flights) do I feel that I am becoming self-assured in any way, but it is a fragile state.
One thing is for certain, my family, at least some of the time, is probably collectably certifiable. This baseline marker is the reason for my lack of trust in the temporary feelings of rock-like zen understanding I am increasingly experiencing.
The problems this zen feeling causes are normally associated with and dampened by work. My particular offices are filled with astonishingly enthusiastic, motivated, and (at least outwardly) happy and successful, intelligent people. The kind of people that may very well take a motivational video seriously. This can lead to feelings of claustrophobia for someone who is prone to uncontrolled outbursts of harsh honesty, built on cynicism and incredulity and bouts of supreme, albeit temporary, confidence.
But am I right? That’s what I ask myself. Should I play along with the script? Or should I take every opportunity to say exactly what I think? If I do, I would still be more than happy to be humbled by reasonable argument and sincere response… but do I not risk turning myself into an arse?
Am I really confused, or just viewing the confusion of human societal reality?
When I see in those closest to me the terrible reality and scale of unfairness dealt by fate and genetics, and in the same day see rich and successful intellectual monsters moaning about their comfortable, secure, well-paid and respected careers, I feel torn between incapacitating anger, and feeble impotence.
I am digressing, but the crux of the matter is this…
When you feel you are winning the fight against the shit, but your comrade is not, what do you do if you can’t help?
I beg all boloists: take the shit to beat the system, but always remember what shit it is. And if you can use it to make the system fall like a fuckwit, show no mercy.
1) I went out last night to one of those bars full of pretty faced young hostess types with nice dresses, plump girls exposing cleavage and shirt boys running around, cracking jokes about bonus payments an share options. The music was loud enough to avoid conversation, but not good enough to gyrate the crowd sufficiently, eyeing each other up like accumulators, the bartenders mixing drinks with “hilarious” Tom Cruise Cocktail moves. It was very dull and I left, happy to have escaped without a kicking from a wide-boy, or without draining my entire wallet from Â£3.50 lagers.
2) Bolo is currently being inundated with spam. The evil robots of the online gambling / impotence / fake degree industries are attempting to leave approximately 1,500 comments a day on the assorted posts that make up the flimsy tome of knowledge that is bolo. What the fuck man? This is not a commercial site. I do not receive payment for any advertising on this site and any opinions given as to the quality of any company or individual are purely for my own non-paid amusement. There is absolutely no way. No way, you hear me you evil fuckers, that I will be tolerating your banal link blighted adverts for your pox ridden, sweat greed maligned products.
On the upside, so far my lovely spam filter has blocked every single one from even a second of public consumption. It informs me of their arrival and I press ‘delete’. I pray for its ongoing successful vigilance against these pigdogs. May they burn in a bizarre chemical spraying accident.
(Oh yes, and the trip write ups are still to come…)
Hello sahibs, how are you…
(Firstly, please excuse any undue negativity: sleep and me are going through a messy divorce.) Eighteen days into the great ‘what the fuck was I thinking’ expedition to the subcontinent and I am starting to learn that ‘getting out of this madness’ should not be a motivation for moving on to the next destination, the great myth of there being some sort of haven from traffic, shouting, random animals appearing in the street or the bathroom and the constant reek of ammonia somewhere along the line having long been exploded in my increasingly porous mind. The efforts to get around an area someone could cover on a standard atlas with the tip of their little finger do nothing for the spirit: over the last week there has been a 3 -hour bus journey (Pushkar – Jaipur, on a machine that might once have had a gearbox and suspension, but certainly now has more bad vibrations than a Brian Wilson relapse), followed by a 14-hour train journey (Jaipur to Jaisalmer, on which I miraculously slept), followed by a 6-hour train journey (Jaisalmer to Jodhpur), and in the last day two journeys of 9 and 7 hours respectively (to Ahmedabad and Junagadh). Having ranted thus, there is promise: the meal in A’bad was the best yet and cost about 80p, and since Jodhpur there has been a definite shift in people’s focus, ie they are more interested in going about their lives than trying to sell you tat. And whatever happens, I will always be happy when I remember that I won’t see that stupid Coca-Cola advert on TV this year. I just hope that Diu, the fabled island where beer costs 30p a pint won’t seem a hallucination by the time I get there, and that when I get there I won’t hallucinate that I am stuck in Woolworths being slowly killed by Slade whilst helping to support the annual Buy-your-loved one’s-love Big Crimble Swindle.
Just got back from a healing and air fare free trip to the homestead – a place with white cliffs strafed with tunnels, a largely intact castle and the home of chalk fed locals with pulped BNP leaflets for brains. It’s actually alright, considering.
To score my free flight home I had to endure some work perils, in the interest of “going forward”, “driving the business forward”, “growing the business”, “thinking outside the box” and generally overcoming all the growing pains you could expect having grown a business from a magic bean.
We arrived at Gatwick after a very rough ride in the skies over southern England â€“ the tracker bar was begging to give the world just one more shot. After the two and a half mile walk to reclaim our baggage, and having grabbed some take away lunch at Nero with the rest of my life savings, we were met by a taxi and informed that the M25 was in fact shit, so we would be going to Southampton via the windiest, most country lane-filled route possible. I felt that this would make my cold, dehydrated egg and bacon panini go down particularly well. When I took my seat behind old shit pants Greg though, I began to wonder if I shouldnâ€™t just chew up my sandwich and spit chunks of it in the faces of my fellow passengers, as that seemed to be a shortcut to the inevitable. Somehow, I managed to hold it down and endure some 80mph corners on single track roads at the hands of my new nemesis, the faeces fetishist fuckwit driving the Espace. Blarghhhh.
So, we arrived at the office where we knew a meeting was being held up for us before the office do in the evening. I hadnâ€™t done my research properly and I assumed the meeting would be more of the â€œhello Jeff, had a nice year mate?â€ variety. Not so, and my nausea came rushing back up my battered pipes and valves when reality hit; we were to watch a motivational DVD about a firm of Seattle fish mongers who â€˜give it their allâ€™, have â€˜funâ€™, â€˜be thereâ€™ for their clients and generally prance about like a load of wankers stuffed to the eyeballs with acid and Spar vodka. I have a particular loathing for this sort of shit. However, there was nowhere to hide from the front row seat which had kindly been saved for me as a late arrival and I had to smile my way through it as best I could. This sapped my energy for the cherry on the motivational cake â€“ we were to divide up into pre-chosen teams and come up with our own cool company catchphrases, just like those neat guys in the video. I felt like pointing out that this would be a lot easier if we were all ex-convicts with free access to drink, drugs and fish, but it didnâ€™t seem to be in keeping with the optimism they told us we had. The â€˜slogansâ€™ or key words were supposed to encapsulate an important aspect of a successful team structure or customer service. The acid test was cited as being that we should be able to say the slogan to any colleague, bringing positive input at the vital time. Each group were to choose four or five and then present them in front of everyone else. We would all vote on the best ones and they would become our company slogansâ€¦..
My team mates kindly proceeded to faff their way to our best and most original slogan â€“ â€˜Talk-Talkâ€™. Oh yes, you can just imagine it canâ€™t you? One of your colleagues comes in and looks subdued and mooches over to their desk, but you take action, you intercede, you go right up to them, cock your head like a spaniel, and you say â€˜talk-talk?â€™. Genius. But thatâ€™s not the end of it though, because â€˜talk talkâ€™ is also an expression of the need for good communication within the workplace. Talk-talk is my new mantra. Talk-talk is the way forwards.
Suffice to say that things got a lot better at the office party later on, after a surreal start when an old friend of mine, a particular savage who some say looks like a portly uncle fester, joined me at the hotel for a couple of early pints, along with my boss. Strange how things change. The rest of the evening took a familiar but highly amusing course, terminating in Too Much To Drink, via stations such as Old Trouts With Too Much Cleavage, Strained Conversation With War Games Fanatic, Dodgy Tinned Turkey, Fit Jailbait Waitresses, The Company Welching on the Free Drink Promise, Tequila, Bouncers in Charge of the Decks and Tequila.
Still dodging sitting down to write something properly, but still scribbling furiously in the notebook. I found the following written all on one page from a drunken train journey a couple of weeks ago:
Try as you might and some days you still canâ€™t get up. Trailing an arm out of the bed and feeling the blast of cold on the hairs of your skin and think nah, Iâ€™m staying here. A tendency to go through things 50 times before breakfast was starting to become wearing.
Suddenly, staring standing on the tube platform I understood it all. I was overcome by the feeling that the world was a bigger place than me and that if I could just hang on to the universal rhythm, surf the natural flow so to speak, everything would be alright. Thatâ€™s the power of uplifting tunes in your ears and commuting when youâ€™re not bothered about getting there in time. Feeling like I canâ€™t achieve anything that I need to achieve and perhaps thatâ€™s ok. Or maybe feeling like I can achieve anything and thatâ€™s also ok. Much the same.
Feeling like I should shave my head, let the sun fall down on my white pate. Get those vibrations out of your skull, dry up that patch of dry skin. Shave it clean and start over.
Been walking around in my suit, slightly sharper and more conservative than the average gent. Thatâ€™s the inevitable effect of spending most of your life in jeans and tshirts â€“ a tie feels like a novelty. Something from the old world and worth Windsor knotting, if youâ€™re going to bother at all.
Like all things bright and shiny, the bolo tour twinkled it’s way like a good un for a couple of weeks, but is now slowly falling to earth, one day off smashing it’s twisted asteroid shape into the unyielding structure of work.
Ah well, no matter. The trip was, as hoped, the exact tonic I needed to put me back on the path of the righteous. A clear plan has emerged, the half-smile on the face is back, and the arms and legs cane from a series of alcohol related injuries. As ever, I can’t quite sum up everything I learned on the three separate core missions that made up the tour, but there is still much writing to be done (most notably a description of Swansea and Madrid is owed), and the Groover is back, fist-shaking at the moon, guttural snarl at the back of his throat and long-bowed legs striding across the land seeking vengeance, amusement and his destiny. May all plumbaits cower in their paper underpants.
A few days have passed since the departure of the Groover and I feel sufficiently rested to impose myself on all those who are prepared to read. I won’t go into the details of his stay here, suffice to say that good crack was had by all, but its his tour and I’ll save the story telling for him.
However, there is something that spilled out of his journey to Nag Towers that both pleases and unsettles me. It was on the Saturday night, the last of his stay here, and we were still feeling somewhat delicate after the indulgences of the previous evening. It was a blustery evening and we’d made the short hop down the hill to the Railway Inn, possibly the best pub in the universe. Idle chitchat followed, and the conversation eventually made its way to the Bolo website.
Now, some or all of you may be aware of this already, but this is not something that has ever flittered its merry little way across my withered grey cells in the short time I’ve been coming here. The Groover informs me that he has all manner of magic at his disposal when it comes to this site, including the power to know how many people view the site and how they got here. Apparently, Bolo is averaging about 50 hits per day and even if all who post on here were to come every day – sometimes multiple times – that would not account for half that figure.
This begs several questions: Who are these people? What the hell do they want? Friend or foe? Do any of them like cheese? and, Why don’t they communicate with us? (Groover informs me that anyone can use the ‘comments’ facility).
On the one hand, perhaps we’ve achieved some small degree of notoriety, but on the other I suddenly feel violated. I mean, some of these people drift in by accident, searching for words or phrases that have cropped up in recent posts, such as ‘Toby Anstis’ or ‘have a wank’, but then there are others who must purposely drop in from time to time, satisfying their voyeuristic tendencies in a nameless, faceless way.
But I’ve quickly come to the conclusion that these folks should be given the benefit of the doubt, and I want to extend our warmest greetings to them. If you’re reading this, you know who you are. I urge you to make yourselves known to us, step out of the shadows and leave your comments freely all over this article like a young Eskimo boy pissing in the snow for the very first time. Tell us who you are, what you’re doing here and, most importantly, what your favourite kind of cheese is.
Finally got round to writing up my recent excursion to Leeds. Turned into a bit of an epic post, but I got locked into the trip of trying to remember all the pertinent details and well, thatâ€™s just how it came out:
A slow, dark few hours, spent in a room filled with the eerie glow of a powerpoint presentation, flickering off angry faces. I waved my hands around a lot as I was talking, but they didnâ€™t seem to press the right buttons, and I was glad when 15:00 rolled round and they made off, stealing the last of the sandwiches on the way out.
Out onto the cold streets of Leeds, awash with Christmas shoppers, and I drew furtively on a cigarette, killing a couple of hours waiting for Steedo. The Big Issue man sold me some news to read and the best plan seemed to be to head to a coffee house, order a tall beverage of some kind and rest my smart-shoed feet, which were complaining as ever, bereft of their usual favoured trainers.
Unfortunately I was headed off on the way, while picking my way through a shopping mall by a sharp suited Italian guy. Who managed to block my path sufficiently, to convince my time-killing self to stop. â€œDid I have a girlfriendâ€, he enquired. I replied in the negative. â€œBut you have a sister and a mother, eh?â€, he asserted, and who was I to argue? Grabbing up my hand, before I could protest he began frantically buffing my right little finger with a block which appeared to be wrapped in glass paper. Extremely bemused by this state of affairs, but too embarrassed to move, like a deer in the headlights, I stood there for the ten seconds it took for him to finish his work.
â€œNow look, at your fingerâ€, he quipped, exulted by the transformation revealed before him. I gazed down to see that the nail was smooth and shiny beyond belief, capable of reflecting light like a tiny mirror. Really, much more shiny than any man would want. Two weeks on and Iâ€™m looking down as I type this and itâ€™s still shiny. Still gleaming like an errant turd on my otherwise masculine hand. I quickly extricated myself from the rest of his sales patter and walked off in semi-amused disgust.
He was looking pretty chipper, square of jaw as usual, and we repaired quickly to the nearest bar for a cooling ale, to survey the lie of the land. State of playâ€™s caught up with, we picked up some nutritious munch, struggled back to his flat and ate. We had agreed to have a chilled night to conserve some energy for a house party in Manchester the next day, which promised to be taxing and potentially worthy of amusement. This was partially as a result of the fact that some of the Legal crew present were liable to be competing for uninterested ladies, others were seeing ex-girlfriends with incendiary tempers and the rest would be poking around looking for joke.
Still, itâ€™s important to at least have a quick pint on a Friday, and we were already two up on that, and fixated on more. Just a quiet stroll into town, eh and get a couple of cold beverages while gearing up for the weekend? Certainly a good idea, and I found myself out on the cold streets again, strolling townwards, Steedo telling me that a legendary 6th form teacher from our area was now a successful author, with tv options on the side. Good work inspirational, bad-teacher type fellow.
The pub we strolled into was relaxingly appointed, but full of mad head characters jostling at the bar. Aiming to beat a hasty retreat having acquired my pint, I was thwarted by a youthful degenerate who stumbled into me. My pint was jostled onto the both of us and as I reeled off muttering â€œwatch yourself mateâ€, but friendly mind, to avoid trouble, he further antagonised the situation by wiping his hand on the back of my jacket. I shook my head to him, and then retired to the saloon bar to perch pint on the sideboard and chill the scene out again. Steedo and I were discussing the possibilities of reforming a few members of our group to their best effect, but there were no clear solutions visible or particularly sought. The pints were going down easy and we were recalling recent successes and failures when we concluded that the best course of action was to duck into a nearby bar for a bit more noise.
Leeds was by now teeming with parties of drunkards, primarily single sex at this stage of the evening. This sounded like a dangerous tactic for the men, given that Steedo had explained to me earlier that he had recently been turned away from some clubs for being in a â€˜groupâ€™ when turning up with just one other pal. â€œNo groups tonight mateâ€, and that was it.
The place we found was resplendent with a fine line in traditional porcelain and an even more compelling line of women. This was definitely a place to camp down and seek refreshment. Which of course we did, occasionally mistakenly recognised as being there for some chapâ€™s birthday, and eyeing the leopard print dresses of the myriad of middle-aged women out on the town that night. The pints were going down easy. Perhaps too easy in fact, cos next thing we were across the road at a neighbouring, slightly more rock nuanced establishment, some fucker was knocking into me, and I was taking it into my head as he turned around to kick him in the back of his knee. Which I did, aiming toe at the fleshy bit and allowing leg to swing for full force..
Around about that time I had the eight pint revelation that this was by no means a sensible way to behave. I was not hard or dangerous, merely a drunken fool asking to get head kicked in. But by then it was too late. Kick had struck and I needed a plan b. The only one that came in mind in the nanosecond I knew I had before the brute turned round was to act like nothing had happened. Like it wasnâ€™t me, like I didnâ€™t know about any kick and certainly wasnâ€™t the type to consider such actions myself.
Performing a swift 90 degree turn I affected a look of immediate nonchalance, lifting my half-drained pint for a sip to add to the image of innocence. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my victim wheel round, glimpse furiously at the number of semi-attractive women in his immediate vicinity, before his eyes moved blankly through the space where I was carrying out my invisibility act, then moved on, and he walked off. I was both bemused and delighted by this turn of events and fortunately, Steedo had just got back from the bar, so I told him all about it that night. Maybe that was what goaded him into trying his luck sometime later with a veritable fitty. Perhaps not.
I passed out that night listening to the new Beatles album (a strange phrase to write) after throwing up over the balcony. A beautiful pattern as it flew down and spattered in a radius defined by the force and density of the projectile. Exquisite and bringing back memories of the time Bambatini was up for the trip and he managed to sicken me so much talking his own line of degraded filth that my pizza sat a little precariously in my stomach to stay there. Happy days.
The next day was defined by an inevitable hangover and an inevitable coffee to kill it, but first Steedo was encountering a strange Ging kid outside of the gym that is his spiritual home.
â€œMister, mister. If you are going to see a film. I can certainly recommend Jackass 2. I just watched it and I couldnâ€™t stop laughing. And Jackass 3 is out on New Year and you know whoâ€™s going to be there?â€
He had an important message to communicate, but Steedo only had so long to listen. We needed a couple of hours of sitting, to reform mind and body ready for a trip to Manchester. A short bop over the Pennines armed with a crate of beer and a couple of loose cans (Steedo generously donating one of his cans to the floor in preference to drinking it). We were off to visit his old law firm pal, who had migrated to Manchester in search of new opportunities to not work too hard and suggested a gathering of legal types (and other associated individuals) in the name of amusement.
The plot in this case was thickened by the presence of two other individuals. 1) A lady of strange reputation, fair of face and flirtatious of nature. 2) A man known to have pursued her furiously through email, and personal encounter, able to deliver such devastatingly effect lines as (to a thirty something lady): â€œLets be honest love, youâ€™re the wrong side of 30, youâ€™re past your best, you may as well just shag me.â€ Needless to say the future looked bleak for candidate 2), but the party promised the attendance of both protagonists and thus offered the chance to witness its final resolution.
As it happens things panned out a little differently. On turning up to the party, I plunged into the wine and punch and began talking websites, cityscapes and music with a few characters, notably picking up on the works of a filmmaker (who lived there), a couple of artists, and two reprobates from Manchester proper, who can only be described as a mix between Frank from Shameless and Sean Ryder. Still, while their spinal cords might have been bent out of shape, causing them to affect a constant Gallagher bop, they knew their sequencing and I learnt a fair bit. Chars chaps.
Still, that was sideshow stuff really, and while I was scoping women, talking about the beauty of sitting on your arse drawing for a living all day and trying to convince one (proof of my drunkenness as the evening wore on) that the human condition and the principle of natural selection did not preclude the concepts of human selflessness and empathy (shit, needless to say, I did not get laid that weekend), other stuff was going on.
It circled around the dude throwing the party. He was clearly in a state of animal vodka punch laden disarray from the first moment and kept staring up at the ceiling when questions from others were too much for him. Amazingly, this state of blank aplomb made him irresistible to crazies and as a result he and candidate 1) kept disappearing for increasingly embarrassing amounts of time, before returning eventually, scarf on him more dishevelled, and look on face more crazed on her. This unsurprisingly caused more and more consternation amongst candidate 2) who to his credit reserved most of his inner fury to a harsh knuckle rapped against his forehead as he leaned against the front-room window pane and a quickly drained cigarette near constantly at his side. Steedo commented that if it was him, the culprit would have found himself thrown out of the window, but fortunately it wasnâ€™t and he could keep his fists unclenched, adding to the disarray with his own brand of wisdom:
â€œWhy donâ€™t you piss on his bed?â€ he intoned to candidate 2) who mistook this course of action as the path of the righteous and promptly did so. Some other thoughtful attendee considered the situation through sculpture, scrawling out a message in toothpaste on the wall.
It was all exciting stuff and I felt my cohesion begin to slide as I mused on a culture of intense incest (literally, everyone seems to know everyone in this legal game). Candidate 2) was from a company lovingly known as the 1970s law firm, due to the fact that pinstripe suits are strongly encouraged, as is smoking at your desk and banging your secretary. It sounded a wonderful place to work, but clearly you could get tired of secretaries and the nightâ€™s events represented some kind of social implosion for a few of those involved.
Round about that time, Steedo took it into his head to acquire the affections of a plump young lady, which I took as a sure sign that a) he was off his face and b) that I should find a place to shelter from the world. Drawing myself up into a space carved out of the wall of the lounge, slightly higher up (always good to acquire the best defensive ground), I passed out, awaking desperate for a piss.
The next day, was accompanied by a feeling of extreme rinseout. The trip back across the pennines revealed a series of villages, blessed by scenes of natural beauty, but blighted by constant steep angles (the residents must have rams-legs in the extreme) and rural exclusion. It was a good time to chat things over with Steedo, himself in the process of post-night analysis, about the state of play of our respective heads.
Steedo was plummeting into chemical caused depression, while I found I was pretty jubilant. Suddenly everything I had been worried about for the last few months seemed inconsequential and it seemed like everything might just fall the right way, if I could maintain the irreverent appetite for adventure I had seized on this trip. There was much to do and many perils, pitfalls and plumbaits to sidestep, but it was all possible. Best of all, most of it was amusing.
Only the train journey back South still to go, and I made the train comfortably, took temporary solace in the fact that I was in silent coach B, only to have my illusions of hungover snoozing shattered. Babies ahead and to the right of me, letting off screeches like catherine wheels and mothers ignoring them like they were cranked down on valium. My fists clenched, a feverish sweat broke out on my unshaven face. I caught the eye of one of the babies (more of a two year old and surely the demented little bastard should have learned to speak by now) and locked in with the death stare. His little brow furrowed. Consciousness of danger dawned on his walnut brain and he quietened down enough for me to drop into an uneasy sleep.
No more yearnings for enlightened motherland than the average member of the Indian Congress, but a yearning for truly enlightened people, rather than these by-the-numbers dreadlocked and pashmina-clad pseudo-hippies that have infected Pushkar like warts on the hand of Shiva. This being a holy city, there is an above average number of those who seek inner peace, presumably by sticking their head so far up their arse as to block out the traffic noise. Of course, to denote yourself as one of these, you have to dress like a clown who got drunk one night and dressed himself from the Oxfam rejects bin, then pour fertiliser and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on your hair until you look like Wurzel Gummage (feel free to correct spelling) after a bhang lassi and a good fisting whilst plugged into the mains. You then have to spend your entire time looking as fucking miserable as possible, as if reaching the place where you can finally indulge your cut and paste spiritual bullshit like nowhere else wasn’t quite enough, or maybe it’s just that there’s some real and devout spirituality here, and you finally got to realise that it’s only in deepest agnostic/lapsed Anglican Surrey that you may have been able to wear that air of smugness that comes from looking like someone who’s dropped out the system, man. Maybe they have just realised that they have now become part of another system, and their entire pretension to subversion of capitalism has been subverted by capitalism itself, with every other Indian flogging them beads, incense, pashminas and salwar kameez, at three times the retail price.
I was going to get started on the Israelis, but I just won’t..I just won’t…
It is good to here from you all! Letting fly with zeal – from the gut rather than from some or other assumed posture. It seems Iâ€™ve provoked something of a reaction! Not entirely my intent, but not a bad thing either. The offending piece has a long history. I wrote it almost a year ago, and as Groover suggests it was not aimed so much at the Queen Street days as at a miserable spell of time which I have sometimes termed the Northern Exile. I spent that damp dank dingy winter feckless friendless and fouled-up, which accounts for some of the blackness of the psychic backdrop.
I wrote what I wrote looking back mainly on that particular experience, during which I would say I was thrust up against the naked nastiness of mainstream pop-culture without the buffer of our camaraderie and brotherhood. So said piece was something of a soul enema, evacuating the residual poisons of that time rather any other in particular. Though of course the imagery is drawn from other sources as well: The Carleton surely looms large in the background and with it our nationâ€™s host of comparable dives. And as the reaction attests it has as its general target a rather more pervasive cultural atmosphere.
That was probably enough â€˜exegesisâ€™, I donâ€™t want to get to po-faced about things, because my entry was intended to be somewhat funny.
And at this point Iâ€™d like to say it is excellent to hear from you all, Mr Knaggs these are probably the first words weâ€™ve directly exchanged since that conference call from Beenieâ€™s wedding: I salute you sir! And of course I remember the apocalyptic evening to which you refer (at least parts of it), I believe I brought it to a conclusion by threatening to banish you from my Scarborian kingdomâ€¦ a thousand apologiesâ€¦ And on the flip side, my heart is of course still warmed by innumerable great memories, amongst which the unparalleled comic-genius of the â€œcorkscrewâ€ ranks highly: Your love is reciprocated, my man.
Bob (I donâ€™t remember if you had an alias or not) again, itâ€™s been a while. Salutations! I trust youâ€™re well and content. Iâ€™m a little surprised you took my spiel personally, though I can see that if you took some of the lines (â€œRegurgitating second hand opinions, we sat around take-away trays panhandling for profundity in this spasmâ€™s streamâ€¦â€) as pertaining directly to our friendship you might legitimately be a little pissed. In addition to what I said above Iâ€™ll add that my view of our time at university is a good deal more nuanced than you might suppose. As far as good tunes, ideas, culture, courage, celebration, the great feast of life, brotherhood, and embattled defiance of bullshit goesâ€¦ count me in. As far as considering Mick Jagger and his addled band of copyists as mediators of the Bacchantian meaning of lifeâ€¦ count me outâ€¦ Iâ€™m not looking for life in bourbon bottles and popculture postures anymore.
On the flipside I still love literature â€“ and for the first time in two years Iâ€™m launching back into it with gusto. Dostoyevsky is the bomb: please read Brothers Karamazov. I think it might be the finest novel ever written. Another novel of note, though by no means of equivalent rank, was the recent Nobel-prize winner entitled Snow. It was written by a Turk by the name of Pamuk. Itâ€™s very interesting, at times beautiful, and it does a fine job of communicating the political, historical, cultural and religious tensions that animate generate and threaten his nation. Topical reading that manages to explore the Islam problem at somewhat closer quarters than weâ€™re capable of in the post-Christian west.
Something Iâ€™m soon to read, but have not yet, is entitled The Road itâ€™s written by an American, Cormac McCarthy, who writes something like Faulkner crossed with Hemmingway. The setting is the post-apocalyptic Mid-West and its central characters are a father and his young son attempting to find safety amidst a nuke-ravaged cannibal-scoured landscape. Itâ€™s supposedly incredible. Some say it might be the first great novel of the twenty-first century. Within a couple of weeks Iâ€™ll have read it. Iâ€™ll post my assessment. My literature love affair is, as I say, rekindled and if anything it burns more brightly. I still adore TS Eliot and have committed Prufrock to memory along with Yeatsâ€™ two Byzantium poems.
Also worth reading: Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectualsâ€™ Abuse of Science (by Sokal and Bricmont). Bob and Groover will no doubt be as delighted as I to learn that postmodernist theory (Lacan, Kristeva, Baudrillard) we were forced to ingest is indeed as largely void of meaning as our cursory readings had surmised. Here is the proof to substantiate our intuitions: two physicists systematically and rigorously exposing the poststructuralistsâ€™ shameless attempts to baffle and intimate the uninitiated reader with esoteric references to complex mathematical theory. To surmise: it seems that in most cases theyâ€™ve simply read journalistic popularizations and intuitively grasped the broad concepts and then woven elaborate rhetorical documents from their newly pirated (though often badly or mis- understood) conceptual vocabulary. The experience is akin to that of the kid in the fable of The Emperorâ€™s New Clothes. Only in this case the â€˜kidâ€™ is a professor of physics at New York University. The origin of the book is a now famous hoax in which Sokal published an article entitled â€œTransgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravityâ€ in the postmodern journal Social Text. It was by its authorâ€™s admission utterly meaningless. Though this fact did not raise a single editorial eyebrow until he revealed the hoax. Cue controversy. As it happens the book was published in English around 1998, just about when we started at Lancaster (getting close to 10 years ago!). Although some of these authors were still revered when we were at Uni, the effects of this book should by all rights finish them. Hereâ€™s hopping. Read it, tell a friend, do the world a favor. Anyhow hopefully weâ€™ll hash it out over a curry or at the back of some northern pub sometime next summer. That at least is my plan.
Back to things literary: A little novel entitled The Fuckup is a blinding read. Itâ€™s set in New Yorkâ€™s East Village and it follows this everyman slacker as he loses his girlfriend, home, job and very nearly sanity within a few brutal months. A minor masterpiece of self-destruction and redemption. Last, for now, on the soapbox reading list is a very tiny though magnificent linguistic analysis of the idea of â€˜bullshitâ€™. Seriously. The bookâ€™s called On Bullshit and as the author writes: we all think we know it when we see it, we know that thereâ€™s a lot of it around, but what actually is it? and why do we make use of it so much? These prove to be interesting questions and the conclusion is like a swift surprising blow to the gut: it leaves one felled humbled and hobbled.
And back to our own little controversy: Bennie, when you say â€œmoderation thy name is not soapboxâ€ you hit the nail squarely on the head â€“ because itâ€™s true I take things â€˜seriouslyâ€™, for want of a better word. For what itâ€™s worth when I take a thing for true I throw my full weight behind it. Taking rock-and-roll, or whatever one calls it, full-dose nearly killed me. The reason Jaggerâ€™s still alive is that at heart heâ€™s more of a businessman than a Bacchante, the reason Iâ€™m still alive is that I switched affiliation. The reason Jim Morison and Hunter S Thompson are dead is that they played their parts to the finish. I only mention my name amongst theirs because, talent-barrier notwithstanding, it was my variation on their theme that I aspired to be. And Iâ€™m damn sure I was not alone in that. If people are pissed at me for taking a few potshots at celebrity idolization â€“ donâ€™t anticipate a retraction anytime soon. And at this juncture it seems fair enough to add that you might consider being a little less sensitive about my jabs at clubland. As I say, if you interpreted the remarks as aimed at or, callously ignoring, our genuine solidarity and fraternity then I can understand your irritation.
If on the other hand youâ€™re pissed because I parodied the egotism absurdity of a mainscene in which everyone swaggers around aping moments from movies or music videos, as if life only attained meaning when it basked in the reflected glory of Hollyworld â€“ give me a break. I havenâ€™t cried or pissed my pants when some of you blasphemed or waxed lyrical, in the style of Bertram Russell, posturing as enlightened sweary sages standing noble and defiant before the harsh truth of absolute meaninglessness. I barely raised a whisper before the spectacle of â€œwe real men have no need of the religion crutch â€¦ that stuff is for the massesâ€¦ we have our own opiatesâ€ spiels. Yet when I took one little pop at clubland everyoneâ€™s pissed and indignant. Do you see what Iâ€™m driving at? I donâ€™t mind talking about it, I donâ€™t mind taking it, I donâ€™t mind letting it drop, I havenâ€™t taken offense, I hope you havenâ€™t either. And further, and for the last time, I was not suggesting that my entire experience of life in Lancaster (and thereby of our lives and friendships) could be reduced or boiled down to that one bleak and bitter rant. It had a limited target, as Groover and Beenie generously concede, I think I struck it with a somewhat savage panache, though it was not, I reiterate, an attempt to surmise three definitive years of love loss and life in a single shot. I donâ€™t care for a world molded in the FHM mold. I did and do consider you my brethren. See where Iâ€™m coming from?
And that brings me to my last point. Bennie sent me an email following my missive, saying that your reactions might surprise me. And in a sense they do. For if one thing attests to the depth and generosity of our friendships â€“ it is precisely that they can and do span our ideological differences. This is, in my experience, pretty unusual. Most converts wind up getting ditched by their friends. To your great credit you buck the trend. Yes indeed our Queen Street days were formative and in truth thereâ€™s as much continuity as rupture between my then and now. I conclude assuring you of my good will. I do in fact miss you all. I hope to see you next summer when Godwilling I will be setting foot once more on our Sceptered Isle. Home is home however troubled it becomes. And kin is kin however misguided we might in reality consider each other. Anyhow, Iâ€™ve got something a little different brewingâ€¦ stay tunedâ€¦
Aah, Pushkar. Sweet, rickshaw-free, arsehole-free, Pushkar. After the devils’ dusty buttcrack that was Delhi, this place has come just in time. The constant attempts to rip you off in the Indian capital are remarkable for their sheer persistence and ingenuity, and it’s true that the middle class liberal in me just wants to put it down to “part of the experience – you just gotta do it”, but there is nothing to test your faith in humanity like being conned into several white knuckle/brown pants/yellow lungs rickshaw rides to some pimps’ sham of a tourist office when the rail ticket that you wanted was a matter of yards away in the station that you were stopped entering by a ‘helpful’ local. That is apart from being unable to walk down a street without acquiring a friend who chats away to you whether you’re listening or not, flatters you, flatters England, pleads that he really only wants to talk to you and improve his English and then offers you a good deal at shop yaar. And apart from the unbelievably callous attitude that you instinctively develop towards any kind of beggar, no matter what number of limbs they don’t have.
Anyway, Pushkar: parrots, cows, good food, lovely hotel, starry-eyed german women and people who ask where you’re from and then (mostly) leave you alone, if not then they actually help you or say something like ” Lovely Jubbly”, “Feesh and cheeps”, or Ã„wrroit mite”. Charming natives, what. And the 6-hour train ride helped me sleep for the first time in 4 days. That’s all for now – just realised I’ve put bolo before calling home. Not dead, Mum – just getting round to it…
In Swansea at the moment visiting the Knaggster and generally acting the goat. Soon to eat a steaming bowl of chilli then to head out into the cold night seeking beverages from strange locales, where they talk a bit funny and like nothing more than to load an innocent southener into a barrel and kick it down the hill while they chant “oggy oggy oggy”, or something to that effect. I intend to try to avoid this experience.
Other than that, conscious that I’ve got lots of writing to catch up with, not least the tales of last week’s excursion to Leeds, but that that has been delayed by a week of intense work busyness and now imminent drunkenness. Suffice to say, I do intend to do it, and am cursing any nuggets of wisdom from the trip that may fall by the wayside before I get the chance to get to a keyboard for any length of time. Ah well, such is life. The tale will be captured in the end.