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Train In Vain…

March 19, 2009


While I tinker with my eagerly anticipated piece on Clint Eastwood and the Western, I thought I’d quell any mutinous mutterings by the waiting millions and post this poem that I like:

* * *

A Consumer’s Report

The name of the product I tested is Life,
I have completed the form you sent me
and understand that my answers are confidential.

I had it as a gift,
I didn’t feel much while using it,
in fact I think I’d have liked to be more excited.
It seemed gentle on the hands
but left an embarrassing deposit behind.
It was not economical
and I have used much more than I thought
(I suppose I have about half left
but it’s difficult to tell)-
although the instructions are fairly large
there are so many of them
I don’t know which to follow, especially
as they seem to contradict each other.
I’m not sure such a thing
should be put in the way of children-
It’s difficult to think of a purpose
for it. One of my friends says
it’s just to keep its maker in a job.
Also the price is much too high.
Things are piling up so fast,
after all, the world got by
for a thousand million years
without this, do we need it now?
(Incidentally, please ask your man
to stop calling me “the respondent”,
I don’t like the sound of it.)

There seems to be a lot of different labels,
sizes and colours should be uniform,
the shape is awkward, it’s waterproof
but not heat resistant, it doesn’t keep
yet it’s very difficult to get rid of:
whenever they make it cheaper they seem
to put less in-if you say you don’t
want it, then it’s delivered anyway.
I’d agree it’s a popular product,
it’s got into the language; people
even say they’re on the side of it.
Personally I think it’s overdone,
a small thing people are ready
to behave badly about. I think
we should take it for granted. If its
experts are called philosophers or market
researchers or historians, we shouldn’t
care. We are the consumers and the last
law makers. So finally, I’d buy it.
But the question of a “best buy”
I’d like to leave until I get
the competitive product you said you’d send.

Peter Porter

  1. freep permalink
    March 20, 2009 9:12 AM

    Nice poem, Mish. Not sure if it’s a flat-pack product or an overpriced badly wrapped parcel, as in my case.

  2. freep permalink
    March 20, 2009 10:34 AM

    I still owe you a sonnet, mish, but here’s one with a powerful title to be going on with. It’s by Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) who did much to revive the sonnet.

    On being Cautioned against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, because it was Frequented by a Lunatic

    Is there a solitary wretch who hies
    To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
    And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
    Its distance from the waves that chide below;
    Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
    Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
    With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies
    Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
    In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
    I see him more with envy than with fear;
    He has no nice felicities that shrink
    From giant horrours; wildly wandering here,
    He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
    The depth or the duration of his woe.

  3. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 10:52 AM

    It’s uncanny. Almost as though she knew Mowbray personally…

  4. parallaxview permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:17 AM

    do they have cliffs in the Isle of Wight? lunatics I grant you … but cliffs?

  5. parallaxview permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:20 AM

    ah, apparently so

  6. March 20, 2009 11:27 AM

    The title of the sonnet posted by freep is extremely good – no poetic concision whatsoever or if there is the original title must have been at least 3 pages long.

  7. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 11:42 AM

    Actually, Al, I had to look up her up. I thought the title sounded a bit too good to be true and suspected freep, that gifted man, of one of his beautifully crafted parodies…but, no…she and the sonnet are kosher.

  8. freep permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:48 AM

    Alas, I have to go to Croydon now. Perhaps a sonnet to go with a title like:
    On Perusing the Tall Spire of St Wulfram’s Church While Passing Grantham at 100 mph and Contemplating the Birthplace of the Rt Hon M Thatcher and Isaac Newton
    …will come to me.

  9. parallaxview permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:57 AM

    freep – are you out and about on a book signing spree? I heard whispers of one on the launch pad.

  10. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 11:58 AM

    Croydon appears to excercise a strange and (to me) entirely mystifying fascination, freep…what cooks? I, too, must away into Spring…hello, sky…hello, birds…hello, trees…hello, officer…heroin? I swear to God, I thought it was snuff…

    (Is para right, freep? Do tell. Are congrats in order?–Ed.

  11. March 20, 2009 12:03 PM

    Freep don’t forget to eat Iddly!!!

  12. March 20, 2009 2:16 PM

    On recommending a South Indian dish that a.) sounds funny and b.) isn’t a staple menu item of most Indian restaurants to people who you don’t know in one way but do in another.

    Finding a rhyme for Iddly
    Is proving rather fiddly.
    But there’s no need to hurry
    Writing a poem about curry.

    Relaxing in pilau rice
    Always seems rather nice.
    The only woes?……….
    Cinammon sticks in between your toes.

    If the restaurant gets any warmer
    I’ll fall asleep in my lamb korma.
    Still I’m better off than you,
    Nodded off in a vindaloo.

    (Catchy title–Ed.)

  13. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 2:55 PM

    Al, to make your own idli:

    Great stuff. We often eat at a South Indian dosa and idli joint (though none of us are vegetarians) but they make it easy to see becoming a vegetarian, so delicious and various is the food….

    Have some idli;
    What’s your hurry?
    Have a curry;
    Pull up closer,
    Have a dosa;
    This gaff’s a stormer,
    have a korma;
    If money’s tighter,
    Have a raita
    Or poppadum:
    It’s lots of fun.

  14. March 20, 2009 3:15 PM

    Mishari God bless the internet!

    Am I right in thinking you live in Whitechapel? There are indeed some great Indian vegetarian restaurants in that area.

    When I lived in London in the late 70’s Brick Lane curries were the ones. Lots of slow cooking techniques so the meat and bones really disintegrated into the sauce. Then to the Whitechapel art gallery then to a local on Commercial Road to drink the afternoon away then back home near Tottenham to paint in a more expressionist manner than in the morning then more drinking. Life was hard in those days but luckily London was cheaper than it is now.

  15. parallax permalink
    March 20, 2009 3:20 PM

    bloody hell, Billy’s thrown in the towel

  16. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 3:28 PM

    Whitechapel it is, Al. Most so-called ‘Indian’ restaurants around here are not only Bengali but Sylheti (Sylhet is a northern-ish province of Bangla Desh). Idli and dosas are pure South India (Mysore, Madras, Karnaktica et al). I used to live on masala dosas and idlis when I was lallygagging my drug-fuddled way around India in the early ’70s.

    I don’t suppose you remember the name of the boozer you frequented on Commercial Rd.?

  17. March 20, 2009 3:44 PM

    There were a few but the names have gone – one was a big Victorian gin palace come aircraft hangar. Last time I was there about 2 years ago I looked in vain for it. A perfect place for a day like today. Sun streaming in through dusty windows, pub dogs lying in the patch of sunlight on the floor and the afternoon slipping away as the pints were drunk and increasing yards of rubbish were talked.

    Sad to see the Poster poem thread go but Billy Mills is not one to stand on tradition I feel. Good for him. Quit while you are ahead is always a good maxim.

  18. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 4:03 PM

    Almost all of the hundreds of pubs around here have closed–a combination of demographics and the loss of the docks and associated industries. Between the top of Commercial Rd. and Limehouse, there are exactly 3 pubs actually on Commercial Rd. All the others, while obviously once pubs, are now…well, all sorts of stuff including Indian eateries.

    Yes, sad to see the end of Poster Poems, although inspired by Bill, I think I’ll continue the tradition of asking for verse and inspired by cynicalsteve, I’ll not give a fuck if no-one can be bothered…

  19. March 20, 2009 6:52 PM

    Oh what I shame about the Poster poems, I was just getting started there. No doubt I can think of a random subject to pen to every week, but it’s easier having someone else do the thinking.

    OK, so on my way home I get attacked by a Yorkshire terrier (well as much as you can get attacked by a Yorkshire terrier), with a pink bow in her hair, called Tinkerbell… clearly there is rivalry in the pink fairy world. Stupid little rat!

    As to the original poem Mish, I think my particular life needs an upgrade as it keeps on needing a reboot and doesn’t seem terribly compatible with other systems.

  20. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:21 PM


  21. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:22 PM

    Melton Mowbray, esq., Gent., makes a Complaint
    Concerning his existence to the Almighty. With a Reply
    from the Lord.

    Life. I haven’t been that pleased with this one.
    With a bit more in the way of brass
    I think I could have had a lot more fun.
    Can’t complain about shortage of brains
    And, though I couldn’t be much better-looking,
    Some tidying-up might possibly have worked,
    A little less nose, perhaps some more chin:
    Enlargement elsewhere could make walking hard.

    It’s more the stuff I have, not what I haven’t.
    Like a total lack of conscience might have helped,
    Rather than the vestigial remnant
    Which keeps me awake but not out of bed.
    Anyway, it’s been a pretty poor show
    Is there any chance of another go?

    From the Desk of God.

    Dear Mr Mowbray, I’m sorry to hear
    Your life experience has been adverse.
    We are fully committed, year on year,
    To giving our clients what they deserve.
    Looking through our records, I see that you
    Have enacted crimes against man and God,
    Lied, stolen, cheated, cursed and breached taboo
    On occasions too numerous to log.

    Our policy on these issues is clear.
    A fixed penalty will be exacted,
    In your case not less than fifty thousand years.
    Your application has been rejected.
    Further correspondence on this matter
    Should be addressed to Mr Lucifer.

  22. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:25 PM

    Where’s my poem disappearing to? I’ve posted it three times now.

  23. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:28 PM

    Anyway, I sympathise with you, Tinkerbell. If someone suggests a subject I can write (usually) about it. Otherwise I watch TV.

  24. mishari permalink*
    March 20, 2009 11:36 PM

    Sorry, MM. No idea why that happened…

  25. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 20, 2009 11:47 PM

    Oh, there it is. That’s Alum Bay in your snap, Para. The highest cliffs are on the other side, by the Tennyson monument. Further round is the favoured spot for depressed Islanders to drive their cars over the cliff. The aerodynamic properties of cars are demonstrated once or twice a year.

  26. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 21, 2009 12:22 AM

    I thought it must have been spammed, which would have been fitting. Good on you for continuing the PP ethos. Sorry to see it go, but all yada yada. It must be exhausting coming up with those articles every week.

  27. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 1:13 AM

    As a testament to the awful fatuity, the propensity for self-regarding waffle, the sheer, purblind stupidity of the average establishment poet, the whining non est mea culpa from Android Motion would be hard to top. Read it and cringe.

    Don’t you love his “…I wish they’d sent me to Iraq or Afghanistan..”? We all do, Andy, we all do…

  28. March 21, 2009 9:12 AM

    Come on Mishari – poetry-writing workshops throughout Afghanistan and poetry masterclasses in certain of the more lawless areas might prove to be the way forward for peace. Andrew’s straining at the bit to get at ’em.

  29. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 10:52 AM

    What really makes me laugh is Motion’s contention that he wrote rubbish poems about the royals because he didn’t really get to know them and couldn’t really, you know, man…get into their heads…apparently a requisite for writing verse.

    Or his pitiful notion that he could have written significant and meaningful poetry about war if they’d only sent him up to the front.

    As far as I know, Shakespseare never got to know Anthony and Cleopatra or Richard the 111, nor was he ever a soldier…of course it never, ever enters Motion’s mind that he wrote lots of bad poetry because he’s a bad poet. And as for his:

    “..used the post to publicise poetry and to broaden the remit to write about other issues, such as homelessness, liberty, the Paddington rail disaster, 9/11 and Harry Patch, the last survivor from the trenches of the first world war.”

    In the first place, is poetry really any more widely read han 10 years ago? I doubt it. As for broadening the remit, Motion just got finished telling us that he was under no obligation, while laureate, to write anything at all. Presumably, therefore, the reverse is also true and he could have written anything he liked. Bah.

  30. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 21, 2009 11:45 AM

    Motion’s stuff is dull and colourless. It would have been a waste of space sending him over there, assuming there’s any point in sending literary types to these places anyway. As you say, personal experience isn’t necessary.

    The TV programmes about the army in Afghanistan have been fascinating. The Sean Langan series was particularly memorable. Some of the best stuff was in the doc about the Guards, particularly that moment when an Afghan soldier was shooting at the Talibs and a round hit the magazine of his rifle and knocked it off. The sequence of British and Afghan soldiers all pissing themselves laughing was a true moment of unity.

  31. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 11:54 AM

    MM – Tennyson monument hey? So, did alfred-lord hang about on the isle – pan-piping on a cliff top? Mind you those cliffs around your way look pretty white. I suppose it’s a break away Vera Lynn evolutionary movement.

    We’ve got the lunatic cliff jumping society over here. The preferred place of jettison’s called The Gap or The Heads, at the ocean mouth of Sydney harbour – although I don’t think you can – or I can’t recall that anyone did – drive a car over the edge. Apart from ‘jumpers’ it’s also the the place where the underbelly* of Sydney dispose of unwanted bodies – flinging them over alive or dead.

    * aka drug lords and the like

  32. March 21, 2009 12:02 PM

    I think Motion was a good advocate for poetry but that advocacy was weakened when you read the stuff that he wrote. I’ve never bothered to read him on the strength of his PL poems which as he now admits were pointless and bloodless.

    It’s a poisoned chalice for sure but I can never imagine why anyone would take the post unless they were a dyed in the wool royalist.The money is not even that spectacular, especially if you square it against the inevitable and complete loss of credibility.

  33. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 12:10 PM

    maybe – as we speak – Motion is penning a post-Laureate tribute – sitting on a cliff edge next to Tennyson’s monument. It’ll be cast up, in a Gordon’s Gin bottle, on some Folkestone beach and lauded as ‘found’ poetry.

  34. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 21, 2009 12:15 PM

    Tennyson lived at Farringford, a house in Freshwater which is now a hotel. Alum Bay is, or used to be, famous for its multicoloured sands, which were layered into glass souvenirs. Also for its rickety chair-lift down to the beach, which the senior Mowbrays were too chicken to use. The junior Mowbrays had to wait for one of their uncles to visit before they could use it.

    Cliff-jumping is called coasteering in the UK, and is quite organised, with wetsuits, harnesses, instructors etc. As a child my son used to indulge (without his parents’ knowledge) in pier-jumping off Ryde pier, which is bloody dangerous. If you don’t get squashed by a ferry you’ll get hooked by an angler or have your skin removed by the barnacles on the pier supports. Stupid boy.

  35. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 1:09 PM

    Al, I think you’re being too easy on Motion. On the GU book blog’s risibly supine take on Motion’s tenure, a couple of posters had this to say:

    @RayLeigh: “Somehow the almost universal lack of engagment with present realities hangs over most poetry…”

    CJUnderwood’s criticism of modern poetry in general and, by extension, Motion, was that: “he’s not writing about things that actually matter.”

    Motion himself proudly points to poems about “…homelessness, liberty, the Paddington rail disaster…”

    Firstly, is it the job of poetry to engage with present realities, whatever the fuck that means? Assuming that means what I think it means, I’d say ‘no’. That’s what journalism and politics are, at least putatively, for.

    Secondly, Underwood’s ‘…things that actually matter…” is confusing. Actually matter to whom? Do not
    “…homelessness, liberty, the Paddington rail disaster…” actually matter? It appears that CJUnderwood and Motion agree, or at least agree to the extent that they both think poetry should be not only about something, but about things that actually matter.

    I reject all of this nonsense, which leaves me wondering, Al…what exactly is Motion an advocate for?

    Poetry? Poetry about stuff that actually matters (sic)? Does any art have to be about something?

    Motion is part of the problem, another one of these poetry-as-therapy, poetry-as-reportage, poetry-as-relevant-to-social-issues types who are actually enemies of art. Bah and double-bah…

  36. March 21, 2009 1:26 PM

    Mishari I was under the impression Motion was the big wheel behind the on-line Poetry Archive – a very useful resource in many ways. That’s what I mean by advocacy. His work trails behind that kind of activity

    I agree that poetry doesn’t have to be about anything but that’s one of those arguments that will run and run in the same way it does in every art-form. I’m not usually of the art as therapy persuasion myself but there are honorable exceptions – the outsider art archive you’ve posted is largely that. Art created to ward off unhappiness or to express some deep-seated fears usually to the point of numbing repetition. The art even being encouraged in art therapy lessons.

  37. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 2:40 PM

    is it the job of poetry to engage with present realities

    interesting point mish – and one that we’ve watched together, like a film, but we emerge from the cinema with different things to say . You enjoy the engagement of poet’s words for the sake of those words, and have argued for the isolation of the beauty/ugliness of poetry to stand alone from the personal history of the poet’s voice, and I concur – to an extent. But, noticeably, you often preface your poems with a quote – to set the scene, or acknowledge the font of your inspiration – which is a way of grounding poetry in someone sense of the world.

    Yes, for me (and why I think sos’s, Des’s, MM’s, HLM’s and BMill’s poetry is relevant) poetry does and should engage with present realities.

    But interpretation is upon the reader – the poet is a KYjelly conduit enabling the reader to recognise the pitfalls of ‘present realities’.

  38. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 2:43 PM

    Well, if the bugger had a hand in the Poetry Archive, then he’s done some good.

    Although I won’t argue about the ‘art as therapy’ notion in respect of so-called ‘outsider art, (and I think I could argue, insofar as I can’t say for certain why these works where made) I’m perfectly happy to concede that art-therapy is a good thing if it helps, but I don’t believe that art in general should be based or judged in any way on its theraputic qualities. Obviously, I except 30 ft inflatable pigs, which must be judged primarily on their curative properties.

    Apparently, plants respond well to Mozart but I don’t expect anyone to suggest that music be composed or judged on whether or not it makes your geraniums grow.

    But as you say, the ‘What Is Art/What Is It For?’ debate will go on until the heat death of the universe…

  39. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 2:48 PM

    enabling *the reader* to recognise …(Sorted–Ed.)

  40. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 2:55 PM

    I don’t disagree with anything you say, para…it’s just that (setting aside the notion that a phrase as nebulous as ‘present realities’ actually means much) I believe poetry’s first duty (at the risk of sophistry) is to be poetry. It may well be any or all of the things mentioned: reportage, therapy, criticism, polemic, etc. but I think those are all by the by and very much secondary…

  41. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 3:07 PM

    yeah but … secondary to what mish? I get that you say it’s secondary to ‘reportage, therapy, criticism, polemic’ because I assume you see that these expressions have their own arena in which to perform. What should poetry *be* in your sense of the art-form?

  42. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 3:18 PM

    ok – we cross posted -‘ poetry’s first duty is to be poetry’ – I might have to take time with this – I’m not sure what it means.

  43. exitbarnadine permalink
    March 21, 2009 3:29 PM

    cripes, you chaps have been busy.


    Quick public service announcement: I expect you already have them, but Fopp on Shaftesbury Ave are selling the Complete Jack Johnson and Seven Steps boxes (the metal ones, not the crappy new cardboard ones) for £25 each. Just picked up Jack but not so fussed about Seven Steps.

  44. March 21, 2009 3:30 PM

    Mishari I think I’m on the same side of the argument as you but as there are great examples of agit-prop and rabble rousing in most forms of art ( the Russian revolutionary poster at the top of this page for instance ) I can’t see why poetry shouldn’t join in.

    It’s whether the message can be successfully integrated into the form or vice versa that counts for me. Attilla the Stockbroker being a classic example of someone who bashes you over the head with content which happens to rhyme and worse, which rhymes badly. whereas in the same vein John Cooper Clarke also relies on content but has a definite poetic sensibility in how he puts it across so the words come to life regardless of the content.

  45. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 3:44 PM

    nope – three minutes later after contemplating ‘poetry as poetry’ is too much along the lines of the art for art’s sake module, which was done and dusted by Wilde. That can’t be poetry’s purpose surely – a ‘well-wrought urn’ to display on a shelf – surely that’s *very* ‘things to in my parlour that my maid will dust’ mindset?

  46. mishari permalink*
    March 21, 2009 3:58 PM

    I’m not in any way denying or rejecting the possibities of poetry or indeed any art functioning admirably as agitprop or polemic or whatever, Al. I mean, one could plausibly argue that a lot of the greatest art of the past was agitprop and propaganda–on behalf of the Medici or the Sforza or the Catholic church or this monarch or that ruling elite. Unavoidable when artists work to commision.

    Really, my point was more that idea promoted by Motion that poetry is somehow ‘improved’ by addressing itself to current concerns, political or social, or that a poet’s work will neccesarily be improved by experience of the subject matter he or she intends to deal with. I think this is patent nonsense. When composers like Bach or Hayden were commissioned to write a funeral mass, for example, I doubt anyone expected them to be in mourning. I doubt if the commissioners asked whether Bach or Hayden had actually experienced loss and grief. It was and is irrelevant.

    I’d rather have a good poem about Spam by a poet who’s never tasted the stuff than a bad poem about love by a poet who’s head over heels.

    What I meant by ‘poetry should be poetry’, para, is that the first consideration of a poet should be ‘does this work as a poem?’ and that any other consideration is secondary, in much the same way that the first question an engineer should ask himself on constructing a bridge is ‘will it stand up?’ not ‘will it look good?’, ‘will the right kind of people use it?’ and ‘will it be featured in the trade journals’. The first job of a bridge is to be a bridge.

    Thanks for the tip, Baron…

  47. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 4:10 PM

    ah, yep I understand where you’re coming from mish. Great engineer/ bridge analogy btw. I wonder, thinking about ‘the first job of a bridge is to be a bridge’, why they needed a bridge in the first place? Engineers don’t rock up in the middle of (say) Dartmoor and build a bridge … but strangely enough poets do hang about where poems aren’t required and they manage to create structures with or without blueprints.

  48. parallax permalink
    March 21, 2009 4:18 PM

    btw musing, riffing, not stirring – 3.17 am here – so i’m off to the barn to plump up the straw

  49. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 22, 2009 11:55 AM

    This Robert Ferrigno novel is excellent. I don’t know how you find all these nuggets in the gigantic spoil heap of crime fiction.

  50. mishari permalink*
    March 22, 2009 1:18 PM

    Yeah, Ferrigno’s very good…specialises in a kind of California Surreal/Noir that works well…I’ve got at least one other, Dead Silent, that I’ll pass along and your local library probably has a few others.

    Another name to keep an eye out for is Tim Dorsey, who writes Florida-based crime novels featuring the most likable and engaging homicidal lunatic in all fiction, Serge Storms. The first four are the best:

    Florida Roadkill (1999) • Hammerhead Ranch Motel (2000) • Orange Crush (2001) • Triggerfish Twist (2002) •
    Unfortunately, I’ve already passed them on.

    Very, very funny and highly recommended…

  51. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 23, 2009 12:10 AM

    I’m not getting anywhere with the Farewell thing. Mrs M suggested that I just mumble ‘see you later’ like I usually do. Good enough for relatives, I feel, but not the 52nd.

  52. Billy permalink
    March 23, 2009 11:20 AM

    I’d say that poetry can engage with current realities, but it doesn’t have to. It can just as easily engage with the private world of the poet. Love poems are just as valid as political ones, and give me a well-made poem about a sunset ahead of a well-meaning piece of right-on dross any day.

  53. mishari permalink*
    March 23, 2009 11:49 AM

    That’s what I’ve been getting at, Bill. A poem can be on anything at all, present realities or past fatuities, but I don’t believe it’s to be judged on the subject matter but the quality of the poem itself.

    But now it’s time once again for the Al-Adwani Bad Taste Moment of The Week:

    Ms Hughes, a poet, author and artist, said: “It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday March 16 2009 at his home in Alaska. He had been battling depression for some time.”

    She added: “His lifelong fascination with fish and fishing was a strong and shared bond with our father (many of whose poems were about the natural world).

    His mother, Sylvia Plath, was separated from Ted Hughes when she killed herself by breathing in fumes from the kitchen oven in February 1963.

    Six years later, Ted Hughes suffered another loss when his mistress gassed herself and their daughter in an apparent copycat suicide.– The Grauniad, 23.3.2009


    Lines On The Death Of Nicholas Hughes

    An interest in fish, at rest or while swimmin’,
    Distinguished the father and son;
    But neither appeared to have much luck with women
    Who strike like pike and like salmon, run.

  54. March 23, 2009 1:07 PM

    The behaviour of the family Hughes
    May some of us less artistic types confuse.
    Their DNA less passed on than hurled
    Leading to disillusion with this world.

  55. March 23, 2009 5:27 PM

    Villanelle on Time:

    I’ve suffered grotesque pains, perhaps it’s karma
    My uncle’s claim to dentistry was lies
    But the extraction didn’t seem as long as Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

    The armadillo-tank, hatched in its armour
    Fights with a manticore – the keyboard cries
    I’ve suffered grotesque pains, perhaps it’s karma

    I once worked for a Norfolk turkey farmer
    The smell was worst. No, definitely the flies
    But that year didn’t seem as long as Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

    Just as the Hammond get a little calmer
    A bass solo bombs in from the skies
    I’ve suffered grotesque pains, perhaps it’s karma

    I was caught, when working as an embalmer
    Embezzeling gold teeth, a few glass eyes
    But the awkward pause when my supervisor walked in didn’t seem as long as Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

    The devil, many say, is quite the charmer
    I fear I’m bound for Hell, I’ve heard those cries
    I’ve suffered grotesque pains, perhaps it’s karma
    I doubt damnation can feel as long as Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

    Only joking, Mishari. It’s a very entertaining LP.

  56. March 23, 2009 6:31 PM

    You’re trampling on some cherished memories there BaronC – weeps into his Greenslade double album with Roger Dean cover.

    To be truthful I can barely remember Tarkus other than a final tune wih a Moog synthesiser fart solo played with a military side drum backing.

  57. mishari permalink*
    March 23, 2009 7:58 PM

    I have to admit, I’m not an objective critic. Tarkus is one of those LPs (like In The Wake Of Poseidon) that’s part of a wildly exciting time in my life…after years of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and the like (all of whom I loved dearly) bands like The Nice (Emerson’s band before ELP), ELP and King Crimson were a revelation.

    Even Al’s mention of Roger Dean evokes memories of skinning up on excitingly exotic LP covers…ah, for my lost innocence….

    Cracking quatrain, Al…great villanelle, Baron…

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  58. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 23, 2009 9:49 PM

    I’ve never met anyone else who bought the Nice album ‘Five Bridges’. A sample lyric went ‘Five bridges cross the Tyne/The sixth is therefore mine’, which probably explains that fact. It was a good pointer to the direction Emerson was taking. Though I slept through Hendrix and the Doors, I was at the front for ELP’s first-ever appearance at the IOW festival in 1970. They were quite disappointing.

    A French friend of Mrs M has recommended a (female) French writer of policiers called Fred Vargas(?) Any good?

  59. March 23, 2009 10:08 PM

    I write from love. I wouldn’t claim to be none more prog (that’s @Kalyr over at the music blogs) but at fifteen I owned five different copies of Foxtrot by Genesis. Never got to ELP but I admire any music that can make me laugh with its ambition. Better to push too far than play it safe.

    A couple of years back I was excited to pick up Yessongs for £1. Not for the music, but the triple (count ’em) fold-out Roger Dean sleeve.

    The Nice were fun. A good mid-point between more psych-y rock and seven-movement suites about half-armadillo-half-tank metaphors for the military-industrial complex.

  60. mishari permalink*
    March 23, 2009 10:18 PM

    My wife likes Fred Vargas and put me on to her. So far, I’ve read Pars vite et reviens tard and L’Homme à l’envers. I though they were very good, idiosyncratic policiers

    I liked Five Bridges well enough (though I’m damned if I can remember any of the lyrics) but the album I listened to a lot was the subsequent Ars Longa Vita Brevis…Little Arabella was especially pleasing…

  61. March 23, 2009 10:35 PM


    with this–

    Villanelle on Time:

    I’ve suffered grotesque pains, perhaps it’s karma
    My uncle’s claim to dentistry was lies
    But the extraction didn’t seem as long as Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

    –you have gone a long way toward reviving, with laughter, this poor Lazarus of Poetic Forms.

  62. March 23, 2009 10:36 PM

    “Tarkus is one of those LPs (like In The Wake Of Poseidon) that’s part of a wildly exciting time in my life…after years of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and the like (all of whom I loved dearly) bands like The Nice (Emerson’s band before ELP), ELP and King Crimson were a revelation.”

    Of all the dearly-beloved above-mentioned, it’s only (the original) King Crimson that really hasn’t aged a week (R.Fripp’s dourly pretentious website notwithstanding: KC’s “Ladies of the Road”… name one song of the past 15 years that could beat that one for wit, steely cool and knowingness. Reminds me of dancing (in the candled dark at a party in the basement of my college dorm) to “Cracked Actor”… Christ, when did the grownups stop making popular music?

  63. March 23, 2009 10:44 PM

    My brother had 5 Bridges – it was one of those rock symphonies I think. The classic of the genre is Deep Purple and the LSO live at the Albert Hall. The single Fireball by Deep Purple has the best drum intro in music in my opinion ( heard it on the radio recently and it swings ) but that album is unlistenable to even compared to the many unlistenable early 70’s unlistenable to albums.

    My brother saw ELP and also missed Hendrix at the IOW so you could well be my brother MM. Did you used to wear crimson crushed velvet loons? Weeps into his Greenslade album again at the thought.

  64. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 23, 2009 10:51 PM

    Might sample Fred at some time, then.

    Ars Longa was previous to FB, surely, and far better. FB had that horrific concatenation of Bob Dylan and Bach which nearly reached the cringe factor of Deep Purple’s classical phase.

    I had a sneaking affection for Foxtrot, which a girl I knew insisted on playing virtually non-stop, only pausing for a burst of Nantucket Sleighride (for contrast, I suppose). As a chap, to admit to a liking for Genesis in the circle I moved in would have been social death, so it was a private pleasure.

  65. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 23, 2009 10:59 PM

    We seem to have a near-telepathic connection here, Alarming. I never wear red, however-it tends to draw attention to my nose-so I don’t think I can be your brother.

  66. March 23, 2009 11:09 PM

    Oh dear, I’m elsewhere for a few days and all sorts of things happen which I might have considered putting a half of a halfpenneth in about…

    I don’t know why anyone takes the job as Poet Laureate – surely it’s the ultimate writers block-inducing move? Mind you I don’t know how people ever think their poems are good enough, and certainly how anyone could think of themselves as the nation’s best poet.

    I agree that the poet doesn’t need to have experienced what they’re writing about, but they need to have some idea of how it might feel from similar experiences, if they are writing a piece about someone’s feelings. I don’t agree with poetry for poetry’s sake. There’s got to be some point behind what I’m reading, even if it’s just to paint a scene rather than to give over any message or present a particular emotion. I like what Para said about “a ‘well-wrought urn’ to display on a shelf” – totally agree. I’d rather have a poem that didn’t rhyme or scan but blew my brains out than a poem that looked perfect but didn’t really move me at all. I expect I’m just tainted too much by the plastic, throw-away, thrill-seeking world we seem to live in that I’d like an instant return for my time spent reading!

    Oh yes, I saw the news about Nicholas Hughes – couldn’t understand the significance of fishing myself either. Anyway it’s sparked a lively debate about whether mental illness in successive generations is nature or nurture.

  67. March 23, 2009 11:16 PM

    MM Thought as much but it’s always worth making sure.

    I liked Nursery Crimes a lot but went off Genesis after seeing them live. Apart from Peter Gabriel’s intros the music was note for note the same as the albums, incredibly dull – I think at the time I needed a more guitar solo orientated diet so moved on to Led Zep.

  68. mishari permalink*
    March 23, 2009 11:23 PM

    You’re right, MM…Ars Longa pre-dates 5 Bridges (1968 vs 1970).

    I agree with you Steven, KC’s first few LPs still sound as fresh as paint. I’ve got ‘Cat Food’ on as I type this and it’s as wonderful a combination of funk/psychedelic/jazz/tourettes/bizzaro rock as you’re ever likely to hear, to say nothing of the wonderfully gnomic lyrics of early KC.

    I remember loving Fireball when it came out, Al, but apart from ‘Speed King’ off Deep Purple In Rock’ I doubt there’s anything by DP that I’d willingly listen to now. I sometimes catch ‘Smoke On The Water’ on some radio and it’s frankly embarrassing…

    Sorry, Tink…art for art’s sake, that’s what I say and fuck creeping utilitarianism….

  69. March 23, 2009 11:33 PM

    “I agree with you Steven, KC’s first few LPs still sound as fresh as paint. I’ve got ‘Cat Food’ on as I type this and it’s as wonderful a combination of funk/psychedelic/jazz/tourettes/bizzaro rock as you’re ever likely to hear, to say nothing of the wonderfully gnomic lyrics of early KC…”

    Cat Food! Yes! A… Cat Food… BLOG! (Rummages through desk drawer for tools and measuring tape)

  70. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 12:10 AM

    Just caught this over at the Grauniad:

    Open thread: How would you fix the global economy?

    Uh-huh…right. What next? How would you cure cancer, travel faster than light, make cold fusion a reality?

  71. March 24, 2009 12:41 AM


    Here you raise an interesting question:

    I don’t know why anyone takes the job as Poet Laureate – surely it’s the ultimate writers block-inducing move? Mind you I don’t know how people ever think their poems are good enough, and certainly how anyone could think of themselves as the nation’s best poet.

    How they think that, I believe, is by trusting the authority that has been conferred upon them by Authorship. For some further thoughts on this:

    paradox: the diminishing increase of An Author

  72. March 24, 2009 1:20 AM

    Mish, I like art, but I like to know what it’s about, got to feel something. A picture could just be pretty mind you, so I suppose that might prove your point… hmm…

    I was going to say that I’m not sure that poetry is any more or less popular now than it was. I think it’s mostly students and poets (budding poets included) who read poetry isn’t it? I think the common man’s poetry is now the song lyric. People didn’t used to sit around finding the meaning in nice little ditties or love songs years ago, but I think people do take lyrics a lot to heart now. My husband snared me with a lyric quoted, which I thought was a rather nice sentiment – having not heard the song myself to realise that he’d copied it (he must have been overjoyed at that one). I don’t think people expect political poems or anything that will change the world (might as well just listen to Billy Bragg), but they do expect something new, and “new” comes in all sorts of guises.

  73. March 24, 2009 8:51 AM

    BTP I agree with the PL sentiments but as for this “do people ever think their poems are good enough” stuff hmmmm. Surely being an artist of any sort involves the thought that you can make your work interesting for others and that what you do has value. You might be entirely self-deluded in this thought but don’t you think that the motivation to improve, to surprise, to boldly go…blah blah is vital for an artistic life? Arrogance of various types also comes into it as well I would have thought. It’s not a crime to think like that is it?

    In performance you have to think like that as you are trying to communicate with an audience – reading the GU books blogs and attendant comments I increasingly have this impression that poets are ( or see themselves ) removed from the rest of us artists. Is this correct? I’m not complaining I’m just intrigued. Beyond the conditions needed to produce the work and the different aspects ofr the form I can’t see the difference myself.

  74. Billy permalink
    March 24, 2009 12:05 PM

    Beyond the conditions needed to produce the work and the different aspects ofr the form I can’t see the difference myself.

    But that’s all the difference you need, isn’t it? Most art forms are essentially collaborative; the painter needs the canvas/paint/brush/paper/pencil/charcoal makers, the playwright needs the theatre and its attendant hordes, the composer needs performers, and so on. But poetry can be written in the head and recited without any recourse to physical materials or collaboration of any sort. This is a fundamental difference and I think it does lead to a difference in the sense of a relationship to a potential audience.

  75. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 12:46 PM

    Stolen Fire

    Chained to this rock, I have taken the view
    That poetry is the noblest of arts;
    Eagles may tear me (each evening, they do)
    But at least they have left me a heart.

    And using that heart and my mind and my tongue
    I make poems that might shatter stones,
    (alhough none that I’ve made yet and none that I’ve sung
    has done that: must write stronger pomes.)

    A sculptor or painter or dancer would be hard
    Pressed here to practice their art;
    Not so for the poet, for here a true bard
    Can fine-tune his inedible heart.

  76. March 24, 2009 1:28 PM

    Billy that doesn’t really work – a person could write and perform their own songs on a solo basis, unaccompanied (I often do it in the shower). Might be a bit specialist I grant you, but I don’t think it makes me a composer.

    Poets need words that everyone understands – if they use words or phrases which no-one understands then people won’t read their work. We’re all inside a structure already, a common language, so it’s the understanding or the poem, it’s journey between being written by one and being read by another which makes it into art. I’m babbling now – I had a point… I’ll check under the desk…

  77. Billy permalink
    March 24, 2009 3:28 PM

    Tinkerbell; they could, but on the whole they don’t. Music tends to be an extremely collaborative art

  78. March 24, 2009 5:46 PM

    “Poets need words that everyone understands – if they use words or phrases which no-one understands then people won’t read their work.”

    Sounds more like the tyranny of populist entertainment (which I deal with for a living, before anyone thinks I just sniffed that from my perch on a Louis XlV stool in a velveteen tower). I look to Artists to show me (among other things) what I don’t know, or wasn’t sure I knew. The Art vs Entertainment difference is all-important. In the latter, sure: the customer is always right. But in the former the customer had better leaver her/his cozy complacencies at the door or it just won’t work.

  79. March 24, 2009 6:47 PM

    Steven I agree with you but isn’t there also an objectivity needed in art? Some things just don’t work no matter how much you or I would wish that they do so you reluctantly/pragmatically alter them until they do.

    I don’t think it’s about dumbing down but isn’t it about trying to get a perspective on what you do? Of course performance is different to writing a poem but in performance the audience can be very useful – as well as a total pain. There’s a middle ground in this I feel.

  80. March 24, 2009 6:59 PM


    “BTP I agree with the PL sentiments but as for this ‘do people ever think their poems are good enough’ stuff hmmmm. Surely being an artist of any sort involves the thought that you can make your work interesting for others and that what you do has value. You might be entirely self-deluded in this thought but don’t you think that the motivation to improve, to surprise, to boldly go…blah blah is vital for an artistic life? Arrogance of various types also comes into it as well I would have thought. It’s not a crime to think like that is it?”

    Interesting, but I would have thought that the PL may not be alone in “thinking his poems good enough” when indeed the poems are tiresome and would be better euthanised–the old pillow-over-the-head-of-the-poem-for-the-good-of-the-human-race maneuver. Cruel to Be Kind, shall we call it, as this thread is heavenly salted with Seventies-ish musical wisdom lately. Authors from the puffed-up PL down to a hobbyist who started writing poems last month and this month is an expert might well file their confidence in the wastebasket before writing their poems, else the latter too will inevitably end up there. Self-esteem must be the most over-rated “virtue” of recent decades and when wedded to the easy self-increase that defines Authorship too often creates small squealing Monsters. (One has often enough experienced the pain of Strangling One’s Darlings, as Jessica Mitford once described the severe editing of one’s most cherished utterances.)

    Of course the “motivation to improve” is integral to any composition, but must the motivation be based on amour propre–rather than proceeding from a desire to do honour to the compositional occasion, and the forms of words, by making the object paramount and holding off a bit on the self-love? (“You might be entirely self-deluded”, after all, would seem a fairly serious prohibition, would it not?)

    To quote a bit from the critic Theodor Adorno, from his “Minima Moralia,” a lovely handbook on, among other things, the personal ethics of writing:

    “Memento.–A first precaution for writers: in every text, every piece, every paragraph to check whether the central motif stands out clearly enough. Anyone wishing to say something is so carried away by it that he ceases to reflect on it. Too close to his intention, ‘in his thoughts’, he forgets to say what he wants to say.

    “No improvement is too trivial or small to be worthwhile. Of a hundred alterations each may seem trivial or pedantic by itself; together they raise the text to a new level.

    “One should never begrudge deletions. The length of a work is irrelevant, and the fear that not enough is on paper, childish. Nothing should be thought exist simply because it exists, has been written down…

    “The desire to avoid cliche should not, on pain of vulgar coquetry, be confined to single words…

    “Should the finished text, of no matter what length, arouse even the slightest misgivings, those should be take appropriately seriously, to a degree out of all proportion to their apparent importance. Affective involvement in the text, and vanity, tend to diminish all scruples. What is let pass as a minute doubt may indicate the objective worthlessness of the whole.”

    Hard truths perhaps, for some, but surely home truths as well, usefully posted directly in view in one’s authorial chamber.

  81. March 24, 2009 7:02 PM


    We have curiously cross-posted with essentially the same thought:

    “Steven I agree with you but isn’t there also an objectivity needed in art? Some things just don’t work no matter how much you or I would wish that they do so you reluctantly/pragmatically alter them until they do.”

  82. March 24, 2009 7:10 PM

    “Some things just don’t work no matter how much you or I would wish that they do so you reluctantly/pragmatically alter them until they do.”

    Of course. But the revisions aren’t made in order to pander to a target audience… they’re done to please the tastes of that big bitch Art.

  83. March 24, 2009 7:16 PM

    Alarming – I agree with you when you say “in performance the audience can be very useful” – I’d go further to say that they’re essential. What’s the point of any art if it’s not to be appreciated? I’m not saying by the dumb masses, I don’t mean that a poet has to dumb down the language, just to accept that they don’t own the language/words that they use and can’t dictate the meaning that people give to them. I’m afraid I’ve had this conversation before and left empty-handed though so I expect I will again here. I bought a copy of Shostakovich No.5 recently, it being one of my favourites from back in my orchestra days (fond memories of banging that gong) but I was extremely disappointed with the interpretation which the conductor had given to it. Bitterly disappointed actually, it didn’t have any grit, no suffering, not enough expression. There are so many ways in which scores can be interpreted, and paintings, and poems.

  84. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 7:24 PM

    The public should be fed a diet of Cage, Nancarrow and Dolphy, Derrida, Celine and Joyce, Klee, Beuys and Pollock…keep the insensate swine baffled and frightened. They’re less trouble that way.

    After decades of feeding the masses witless claptrap, aimed at the lowest common denominator and designed to feed their self-esteem, we find ourselves swamped by moronic hordes who have not only developed ‘opinions’ but insist, God help us, on sharing them:

    I think Gordon Brown’s doing his best, I think we have to support the War on Terror (Drugs, Porn, The Heartbreak of Bad Breath), I think Prince William will make a lovely king, I think dirty books should be burned, I think…

    As the Romans discovered, bread and circuses only work up to a point. It gets boring seeing wierdo religious types and foreign captives being devoured by lions.

    I mean, what about that fella down the road, reads lots of books, thinks he’s better than us? And that bastard doctor who told me I had to lose weight? And that teacher who keeps telling my kid we’re descended from monkeys?

    It’s no use pretending that things are improving. They’re not. The morons at the top encourage the morons lower down.

    I mean, read the relentlessly cretinous and reliably dishonest Brendan O’Neill over on Cif on why it’s a groovy idea that tens of millions of Indians can now afford to buy cars.

    Pitiful and depressing. The best thing for the human race would be some world-wide plague that wipes out %95 of the population. Cruel? Sure, but a desperate disease calls for a desperate remedy…

  85. March 24, 2009 7:30 PM

    “The heartbreak of bad breath” – is that for the breather or the people who have to put up with it?

    Talking of dumbing down I’m off to watch Edward Woodward in Eastenders…

    Oh yes, and did you notice they started off calling it The War Against Terror, until someone noticed the acronym was a bit off obviously.

  86. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 7:33 PM

    Of course, you know why Edward Woodward has so many ‘d’s in his name?

    All together now…because otherwise his name would be Ewar Woowoo

  87. March 24, 2009 7:33 PM

    “What’s the point of any art if it’s not to be appreciated?”

    Appreciated by whom? And when? That changes with fickle fashion. Does the value of the Art change too, then?

  88. March 24, 2009 7:46 PM

    What I’m interested in though is what tells us something doesn’t work? Is it purely our own aesthetic sensibility or is it ( to simplify it ) repeatedly doing the same thing in front of an audience who aren’t taking the bait?

    I’d say it’s through being an onlooker/reader/listener/member of audience and analysing what you’re looking at so that when it comes to create your own work those bits of knowledge come into play ( with a bit of luck ). Of course it’s done for art or anti-art or whatever but it’s also done for a potential onlooker/reader/etc./blah

  89. March 24, 2009 7:53 PM


    Ah, here is solace:

    “The best thing for the human race would be some world-wide plague that wipes out %95 of the population. Cruel? Sure, but a desperate disease calls for a desperate remedy…”

    One realizes that saving the world (or was it merely Europe?) has been numbered among your stated noble goals. And how lucky we are at that. But let this salvationist imperative not stay you from your piece on the Clint Eastwood Westerns, please!

    Should you require a bit of instigation, or shall one say inspiration:

    following rivers into the night

  90. March 24, 2009 7:55 PM

    Ie: one of my favorite writers endured a catastrophic posthumous downward-reappraisal on practically the day after he died. Suddenly, Harold Brodkey’s “career” was judged a tragically perfect example of wasted potential; the wrong-turn taken at a very early fork in the road. Thousands will say Brodkey “sucks”… what difference does it make to anyone who’s already read and enjoyed him? All it takes is one appreciated audient… happy be the Artist who needs not money and craves not approval.

    It’s not a High vs Low thing; we need Art AND Entertainment. We need Waterloo Sunset” and “Guernica” equally. I think of it in terms of the Two Chums parable:

    One chum is always game and a good laugh and knows what you like and can be counted on to cheer you up when you’re down; the other is brutally (almost autistically) honest. The former is most fun to be with but the latter’s advice is invaluable. You need both in your life; thank the Gods you don’t have to choose.

    Then, of course, there’s the murky quasi-populist place where Art and Entertainment overlap… Innertainment? That’s good, too.

  91. March 24, 2009 7:57 PM

    Anything but infotainment or edutainment. I like the concept of craptaculars……. but only as a concept.

  92. March 24, 2009 8:11 PM

    Someone has invented “Irritainment”, too… I like that one.

  93. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 8:17 PM

    Thanks for the encouragement, Tom…I’m working on it, chopping and changing, tweaking and tightening, making an effort not to say anything any more spectacularly foolish that I usually do.

    It’s just that the latest bit of ‘Irritainment’, (great word, BTW, Steven and perfectly describes the news nowadays) has got my blood boiling.

    Anyone who thinks I’m being overly pessimistic should check out the US governments latest wheeze. Providing Wall St with a trillion dollars of taxpayers money as insurance to encourage the fat cats to buy toxic assets.

    Of course, the Dow Jones rose 500 points instantly. The swine aren’t completely stupid. They know a free lunch when they see one. Heads they win, tails they win. If the toxic assets, bought at the bottom of the market, increase in value, they keep the profits. If the assets go down the toilet, the taxpayer insures their losses.

    Beautiful. It’s as if I went to the race track and bet wildly on every race in the knowledge that if I won, I kept the money, if I lost, the taxpayer paid me back.

    It’s what I mean by morons leading morons. Instead of investing a trillion dollars in infrastructure, public housing and transport and major public projects, which not only actually do some good but create jobs, the Blessed Obama thinks his Wall St buddies will do the right thing and the rich will suddenly develop a social conscience. Of course, the rich are equally moronic. When the whole house of cards comes crashing down, do they really imagine that there’ll be anyplace they can hide?

    When packs of lean and hungry wolves roam the streets, no place will be safe for the fat cats. The sheer short-sighted stupidity of those who govern is breathtaking…

    Where’s Clint Eastwood when you really need him?

  94. March 24, 2009 8:55 PM

    Oh dear – supreme disappointment in Obama, so quickly going away from the principles on which he electioneered. Herumph.

    I think it’s all cyclical – what counts for entertainment and what people find thought-provoking. Documentaries following people’s lives and fly-on-the-wall programmes were no doubt seen as innovative when they first came out – what about Child of Our Time? – that was social stalking on a grand scale, just with a scientific premise. Big Brother started as a “social experiment”.

    It’s when these innovations become bandwagons which get jumped on by the many, hijacked and overcrowded, that things seem at their worst. But then eventually they’ll get swamped and will sink – no need to worry about a general sinking of society, the wheel will turn again. Maybe I’m just an optimist?

    Personally I think eventually the world will shift round anyway. Developed countries will get so disjointed and fragment, and developing countries will become the developed ones. People who despair of the state of the country they live in – the ones at the pinnacle of the most developed countries – eventually choose to opt out, even if only intellectually, leaving the less intelligent to rule, who eventually spoil the whole thing. Then the ones with the strongest voices take over (who are again probably not intellectually gifted enough to lead effectively) and whilst those developed countries are going to the dogs the devloping countries come up behind and take over… we will let it happen in the end, because it represents the free-thinking ideals of the developed world and it’s capitalist – capitalism being the highest form of freedom it would seem. Our saving grace from this is the welfare state, nomatter how much we moan about it. Anyone genuinely on their uppers can expect to be supported, so capitalism cannot completely make or break this country.

    So the intellectual has a duty to get back into the fray and to stop cogitating round the edges, otherwise we’re all doomed.

    And on that note I’m off to have my happy pill…

  95. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 9:13 PM

    Personally, I’m a great believer in the so-called welfare state. The whingers don’t seem to realize that it’s not charity, it’s perfectly proper recompense to people who’ve paid in all their lives. Sure, there are a minority of work-shy scroungers.

    I know quite a few myself who would be so-described by The Daily Mail and its like. In fact, they’re struggling writers, artists and musicians and frankly, I don’t mind subsidising them in the least. On the contrary, London and by extension, the world would be a duller place without them.

    Anyway, most of them would do more harm than good in the ‘workaday world’.

    But given the ferocious incompetence of those who govern, their greed, stupidity and dishonesty (see the loathsome Tony McNulty for the latest example of what we’re up against) how long before the welfare state collapses? Then what?

    BTW, Al…I note that the reliably astute @anytimefrances says, on Carol’s POTW thread:

    Wilde is very unfortunate. there seems to be loads of homosexuality in the theatrical professions for some reason.

    Is this true, Al? And if so, why?

    Teenager Rory McInnes painted a giant phallus on the roof of his parents’ West Berkshire mansion, apparently after watching a programme about Google Earth.

    The BBC delicately describes it as a “comedy painting”, saying it was there for a whole year before his parents found out.–The Grauniad, today

    …it’s stories like this that give me hope.

  96. March 24, 2009 9:34 PM

    Mishari atf is the very fount of wisdom so what more can I say. I loved his/her interpretation of what cottaging was. If you’ve read the Joe Orton biog A Prick up your Ears ( and what a book title that is ) or his diaries you’ll get a more accurate account.

  97. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 9:35 PM

    You mean it doesn’t usually involve trips to rose-covered country cottages with John Gielgud? Fuck me, that’s a bit of a let down…in that case I think I’ll give it a miss…

  98. March 24, 2009 9:59 PM

    Rory McInnes is a young artist to keep our eyes on.

    RE: Prick up the Ars: there’s an interesting topic in artists/actors we’ve always assumed to be Leftish who turn out to be Righties… Gary Oldman was one (back then, for me) but the all time shocker was Harvey Keitel. Chuck Berry another.

    (This blog is a dangerous incitement to off piste oneself)

  99. March 24, 2009 10:07 PM

    “…there seems to be loads of homosexuality in the theatrical professions…”

    I think it’s more that they’ll just fook anything (true or not, Al?). I “dated” an actress way back when and not only was she loose as a bull’s hat on a duck’s head but she seemed to think it was laudable. This was way back in the day that the greatest fear we all had, after pregnancy, was herpes (“it’s incurable!”). I wonder how many headshots in how many actors’ portfolios don’t exploit the “best” side due to an inconvenient eruption? But then that’s what photoshop is for.

  100. March 24, 2009 10:24 PM

    “loose as a bull’s hat on a duck’s head” – brilliant quote. I shall rememember that…

  101. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 10:25 PM

    I, too, dated a couple of actresses back in the day. What bothered me was not any loosness but the fact that they never seemed to actually be there with me. I always felt that they spent all their time assessing their performances, making notes and adjustment, etc, etc…

    I mean, they were always fucking on, if you know what I mean. It was dissatisfying. They might just has well have done their nails while fornicating. For me, it amounted to the same damn thing…

  102. March 24, 2009 10:45 PM

    Sounds like you know more actors than I do. I tend to work with musicians, sculptors, painters and hybrids of all 3. But the actors I’ve known were more drinkers than anything else. Too drunk to fuck as the lyrics go.

  103. mishari permalink*
    March 24, 2009 10:51 PM

    So, to recap–actors are drunken narcissists with loose private parts and looser morals who are generally homosexualists? Right. I can see why Plato wanted them banned from his Republic…

  104. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 24, 2009 10:58 PM

    I assumed that Anthony Buckeridge would be a Tory. In fact he was a keen Labour Party supporter. I have no information on his shagging capabilities.

    atf’s jest on me at POTW is pretty funny. I hadn’t noticed that she has a sense of humour.

  105. March 24, 2009 11:05 PM

    I was surprised about Dennis Hopper when I first heard. Of course it’s blindingly obvious thinking about it but back then I obviously didn’t.

    I’m beginning to think atf is Morrissey. Literary grump with unpredictable sense of humour and plain wrong at times.

  106. March 24, 2009 11:06 PM

    The tirades against noise cunningly made to throw us off the scent.

  107. March 24, 2009 11:11 PM

    That thing about the hat is now reminding me of the euphemism Kangaroo Sex… not so much unpleasant, as unlikely, bordering on impossible.

    Also I’m thinking this is impossible too:

    Interesting that someone actually felt the need to ask the question to make sure!

  108. March 25, 2009 12:04 AM


    You’ve just destroyed any hope of me one day no longer flinching from contact with 96% of the registered bipeds out there; amazing that anyone could be *that* stupid and yet type out sentences in the passable grammar of a known language. He even used the word “genome”, fer chrissakes! He’s probably a *college student* and having nightmarish wetdreams about sleeping with humaroos…

  109. March 25, 2009 12:09 AM


    “I, too, dated a couple of actresses back in the day. What bothered me was not any loosness but the fact that they never seemed to actually be there with me. I always felt that they spent all their time assessing their performances, making notes and adjustment, etc, etc…

    “I mean, they were always fucking on, if you know what I mean.”

    Still, it *was* nice to experience technically accomplished orgasm-fakery, for the first time, as a lad.

  110. March 25, 2009 12:13 AM


    “I was surprised about Dennis Hopper when I first heard. Of course it’s blindingly obvious thinking about it but back then I obviously didn’t.”

    You’ll laugh but I can still remember being surprised to find out that George Michael is Gay and Burt Bacharach is straight (but that’s another topic)…

  111. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 12:14 AM

    Even fakery would be nice for some of us.

  112. March 25, 2009 12:30 AM

    Yeah Steven – I reckon that kangaroos are probably smarter!

  113. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 12:33 AM

    Oh, I’m not saying it was bad it’s just that I was aware of it and found it kind of off-putting…

    That ‘has a kangaroo/human union produced off-spring’ question had me shaking my head in disbelief. I’d like to think they were joking but I just know they weren’t…roll on the Apocalypse….

  114. March 25, 2009 12:40 AM


    Buck up, man! (larf)

  115. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 12:46 AM

    Yeah, MM…pull your socks up…or better yet, get someone else to pull your socks up and while they’re down that way, you know….use your imagination…

  116. March 25, 2009 1:06 AM

    I think possibly the guy who posted it might have been joking (?), the reply seemed fairly serious though – just a spod showing off perhaps?

    I must see if I can find any other dumb questions out there… oh will it push you over the edge?

    I like this one:

  117. Billy permalink
    March 25, 2009 8:49 AM

    “What’s the point of any art if it’s not to be appreciated?”

    The value of art is precisely that it has no value; art is, to paraphrase David Jones, our opportunity to escape the tyranny of the utile, or as Oscar wrote, all art is entirely useless.

    Meaning that art is not a commodity and it exists, as SA says, to push us to think the previously unknown, to see the unseen, to know more than we knew. The worst definition of poetry is “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed”. The best one is “all the best words in the best order”. In fact, artists do not need an audience, the audience needs artists.

  118. March 25, 2009 8:49 AM

    Grizzly Man was on the TV last night.I’ve seen it before but it’s quite a film. There are some Olympian levels of self-delusion in it.

  119. March 25, 2009 8:57 AM

    Billy I take you point but if you’re making theatre you definitely need an audience. The arrangement of an audience affects how you choose to do a show. Sight-lines affect the size of things you make. Where to put an audience, how near can you be to them, how many of them do there need to be, what do you need to do to make them laugh, irritate them, quieten them etc. etc. are all creative considerations.

  120. Billy permalink
    March 25, 2009 9:42 AM

    Alarming, which brings us back to my original point about the role of collaboration; poetry is the least collaborative of all the art forms. Even when it comes to publishing, so many poets have preferred to either publish themselves or be published by friends who also happen to be poets that it most likely indicates some structural reluctance to get involved in business; that’s why Eliot at Faber was a godsend to people like David Jones and dozens of others.

  121. March 25, 2009 10:14 AM

    Billy It’s interesting that an art-form which appears to want to remove itself from the practicalities of life should be a bench-mark by which to judge all the other art-forms which need some form of financial nous ( be it inheritance, financial ruthlessness, criminality, pragmatism )to sustain them. I have my doubts about how “pure” expression can ever be but perhaps poetry gets closer than most.

  122. March 25, 2009 10:26 AM


    Re: Grizzly Man: I blame Walt Disney.

    This gem of Huxleyian satire just in:

    “Obama was taking a risk in holding a prime-time press conference amid mutterings of overexposure. It comes only two days after a 60-minute television interview with CBS and after days of campaigning on the road.

    Added to this was a danger of alienating people resentful that American Idol, one of the most popular shows in the country, with an audience of 23 million, had to be postponed.”

  123. March 25, 2009 11:10 AM

    Just as well Pop Idol wasn’t on air when the Normandy Landings were deemed imperative.

  124. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 11:27 AM

    I saw that as well, Steven. I considered putting it up here as an example of the moronfication I’ve been moaning about. But then I thought that perhaps, given the worthless blather Obama spouts, it’s evidence of inate good sense?

    I watched Grizzly Man (again), too, Al and the program afterwards about the recording of the music, featuring my beloved Richard Thompson.

    Re: Timothy Treadwell, I didn’t know whether to be touched by his innocence or contemptuous of his self-deluding. He certainly paid the price for it. I’m only surprised he didn’t get eaten sooner. Pity his girlfriend had to pay the same price for his Winnie the Pooh fantasy.

  125. March 25, 2009 11:52 AM

    I may change my mind later on but it’s the best film I’ve seen about man and nature. It’s all there – the sentimentality, the nastiness of it, the misinterpretation,the stupidity, the rawness.

    The shots of him running with the foxes are extraordinary – he seemed to have a genuine connection with them. So bad choice of animal to be obsessed by I’d say – the foxes wouldn’t have killed him.

    I wanted to watch the music programme but a day spent painting a large hand took its toll.

  126. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 12:17 PM

    A large hand to chastise the giant pig, Al? Fair play…

    I agree with you about GM, although I suspect Steven’s right and that Disney is, at least in part, to blame.

    I think I’m right in saying that the Kodiak bear is the largest land predator in the world. Where Treadwell saw Muffy, Buffy and Mr. Chocolate, I saw mortally dangerous animals, completely indifferent to any of the notions of kindnes or mercy or affection that Treadwell projected onto them.

    I remember reading somewhere that many predators won’t eat an animal that they believe to be sick. Perhaps Treadwell lasted so long because the bears thought he must be very sick.

    He was finally eaten at the end of the season, when bears are hungry and game is scarce. One of the bears just thought, “Fuck it, what’s the worst that can happen? Heartburn?”

    Jesus…now Treadwell’s got me doing it, imagining bears thinking like Paddington gone rogue…

  127. March 25, 2009 12:36 PM

    Alarming – good point about poetry being a benchmark. It’s not just for works of art, but artistry in general seems to be judged in this way. People say “that goal was pure poetry in motion”… there are many other examples…

    Maybe that’s why it seems to Billy to stand by itself? uber-art.

  128. March 25, 2009 12:58 PM

    Mishari that knock at the door? Werner Herzog I’ll hazard a guess. I see Clint Eastwood Man picking up documentary prizes at Sundance. “A tale of a blog that never materialised. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry,you’ll wait”.

    The hand is part of a new show – I have to paint another soon. The show may be outside the National in July or August but who knows.

  129. March 25, 2009 1:10 PM


    “So bad choice of animal to be obsessed by I’d say – the foxes wouldn’t have killed him.”

    I tried to be “one” with, erm, gerbils, once. Ended badly for them but I learned something from it. Have I mentioned that American Gigolo is the best film ever made?

  130. March 25, 2009 1:20 PM


    ‘Outside the National’

    The theatre or the petrol station? Would you be doing one of the summer evening events in the open space by the National entrance. Some friends of ours had a show there a couple of years back. They can be very atmospheric, a mobile – sometimes drunken – audience giving an unpredictable, carnival feel to the best pieces.

  131. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 1:26 PM

    Schrader’s always been one of the more interesting filmakers and I’m even prepared to forgive him Cat People (I don’t dig re-makes unless, like Cronenberg’s The Fly, they actually improve on the original. Tourneur created anxiety and tension with nothing more than shadows).

    I haven’t seen American Gigolo since it came out..Jesus, what? 25 years ago?…so I can’t really comment.

    According to wiki:

    Schrader recalls that shooting the film (Blue Collar) was difficult, because of the artistic and personal tension among him and the actors. Reportedly, Kotto broke a chair on Keitel’s back; Pryor drew a pistol on Schrader, and refused to shoot more than three takes per scene. Schrader said that was the only occasion he suffered an on-set mental collapse; it made him seriously reconsider his career.

    (Surely, that should be “…tension between him and the actors…”–Ed.)

  132. March 25, 2009 1:58 PM

    Baron for some of us there is no difference between the National theatre and the petrol station of a similar name. If times get any harder I can see the two merging forces.

    StevenA I know someone who refers to Richard Gere as Gerbil Man. I don’t want or need it to be explained but I really can’t picture what the practice entails and why it might be pleasurable. Is there nibbling going on?

  133. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 2:12 PM

    I notice that American Gigolo and Cat People were both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer…yes, that Jerry Bruckheimer…CSI, Top Gun, Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, etc…

  134. March 25, 2009 2:28 PM


    “Is there nibbling going on?”

    With the cheaper gerbils, I’m afraid so.


    I’m afraid my American Gigolo praise was gerbil-centric; minus the (off camera) gerbils, the flick was a pile of it.

  135. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 2:40 PM

    Bruckheimer’s business partner, Don Simpson (RIP), probably sampled the Gerbil Position. His biography, High Concept, is an eye-opener. Nero could have got a few tips from him.

  136. March 25, 2009 2:44 PM

    I suspect the position needed when dealing with gerbils is a lot different to a horse… or was that Caligula?

  137. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 2:52 PM

    I’ve not read Simpson’s biography, but I seem to recall that he basically croaked of over-indulgence in booze, drugs and sex…weeellll..if you gotta go…

    As far as I can tell, Steven, there’s not much that Bruckheimer (a vocal Bush jr. supporter) touched that wasn’t shit…although the first couple of seasons of CSI had their moments, mostly to do with interesting nuggets about death and mayhem…

  138. March 25, 2009 3:21 PM

    Bruckheimer is vulgar excess incarnate. In other words, a Hollywood normal.

  139. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 3:43 PM

    Caligula made his horse a consul, though not a consort as far as I know. Anything is possible with the Romans, with the exception of gerbils, which didn’t arrive in Europe until the 1950s (I think).

  140. March 25, 2009 4:06 PM

    I think the Romans were probably more partial to doormice (dormice?), made a handy snack too. That’s it he made his horse a consul and married his sister – best not to get the two mixed up…

  141. March 25, 2009 4:07 PM

    NO Nero married his sister… stop me when I’m getting anywhere near being right.

  142. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 4:36 PM

    Contemporary commentators said that Caligula’s horse was by no means the worst consul Rome ever had…

  143. March 25, 2009 5:11 PM

    Maybe Obama should look to the equine community for his government?… they could probably bowl better than him as well.

  144. March 25, 2009 5:30 PM

    I used to breed gerbils when I was a kid – I don’t remember if the local entertainment community were especially interested in buying them. This was the 60’s though so I’d imagine the “connoisseur” was interested in a different kind of rodent back then. It was Somerset as well so we can’t leave something like a hedgehog out of the equation.

  145. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 5:48 PM


  146. March 25, 2009 7:25 PM

    Some people would pay good money for that! I know a woman who entertains adult babies. She’s a very nice lady actually, makes nice fudge – not sure if there is any connection…

  147. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 7:30 PM

    Hedgehog insertion wouldn’t be too much of a problem (I imagine). Removal could be a challenge. Lobsters were the Hollywood option according to Peter Cook.

  148. March 25, 2009 7:47 PM

    “Lobsters were the Hollywood option according to Peter Cook.”

    One of the worst jobs he’d ever had, as I recall him saying.

  149. March 25, 2009 7:57 PM

    Another Peter Cook classic – 2 people at a party ” What are you doing?” “I’m writing a novel” “Neither am I”.

  150. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 8:19 PM

    I wish I could remember which writer said, on being asked why he’d gone to Hollywood to write for films: “If I’d been less talented, they wouldn’t have asked me, if I’d been more talented, I wouldn’t have gone.”

  151. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 9:09 PM

    This just in:

    Chinese authorities are using contraceptive pills to cut down the number of gerbils in a north-western province plagued by the rodents.

    Forestry officials are leaving pills by the gerbils’ burrows to try to cut back the rodents’ exploding numbers. —BBC website, today

  152. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 10:55 PM

    That’ll teach them not to eat all their snakes.

  153. March 25, 2009 10:55 PM

    Wouldn’t it more cost effective to tuck gerbil treats near… you know; dress up lots of Chinese farmers like Richard Gere and…?

  154. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 11:02 PM

    Definitely. A billion Chinese farmers in US Navy dress whites a la Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman sounds like a wizard plan…and the sunlight reflected thereby would help to defeat global warming. It’s win/win…

  155. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 11:10 PM

    Limited storage capacity is the objection to your speculative solution, Mr Augustine. Average gerbil 10cm x3x2= 60cm cubed. Average size of human depository 30cm x3x3= 270cm cubed. So five gerbils at the most, with some stretching. Using the entire population of China might make a dent.

  156. March 25, 2009 11:25 PM

    I don’t mean to put a dampener on this train of thought but 5 gerbils in a confined space can make an awful lot more gerbils. No wonder China has invaded Tibet and wants Taiwan back – the thought has occured to them as well.

  157. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 11:37 PM

    500 million Chinese with 5 male gerbils stuffed up their holes, 500 million Chinese with 5 female gerbils stufed up their holes. Problem solved+ 1 billion new jobs….

  158. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 11:49 PM

    I mean cubic cm, not cm cubed. Gerbils the size of cats and arses like small cars. Anyway, sounds like a great way to beat the unemployment problem. Let the stuffing begin!

  159. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 25, 2009 11:50 PM

    You first.

  160. mishari permalink*
    March 25, 2009 11:57 PM

    I’m not Chinese. This lark is strictly for yer actual inscrutable types…

  161. March 26, 2009 12:11 AM


    “Limited storage capacity is the objection to your speculative solution, Mr Augustine. Average gerbil 10cm x3×2= 60cm cubed. Average size of human depository 30cm x3×3= 270cm cubed. So five gerbils at the most, with some stretching. Using the entire population of China might make a dent.”

    The fun is in trying, man. It’s a journey, not a destination, etc.


    Sorry! Right. Something that will re-elevate the plunging thrust of this thread…. hmmm. Oh, I know:

  162. mishari permalink*
    March 26, 2009 12:11 AM

    Anyone who needs satnav to get around Britain, probably the most extensively mapped place on earth, is prima facie stupid…they probably need written instructions on how to pour piss out of a pot…

  163. March 26, 2009 2:10 PM

    re: the Chinese gerbil problem – good work everybody.

    Plus sexing the gerbils provides even more work for the unemployed.

  164. March 26, 2009 2:53 PM

    It’s fundamentally about rolling your sleeves up and going in there to get to the bottom of things, Al. And not being afraid of getting one’s hands dirty. And that’s not just hot air on my part. There’s always light at the end of the

Comments are closed.