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Hope Springs Infernal

January 4, 2012



A Lexington man is accused trying to use a fake $1 million bill to pay for his purchases at a Walmart.

Michael Anthony Fuller, 53, of 3 Parker St., walked into the Walmart on Lowes Boulevard in Lexington on Nov. 17. He shopped for a while, picking up a vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven and other merchandise, totaling $476, an arrest warrant says.

When he got to the register, Fuller gave the cashier the phony bill, saying that it was real.

Store staff called police. — Winston-Salem Journal, December 31, 2011

Now, there’s a fellow who decided to start the new year in an optimistic frame of mind. For the rest of us, Kali, goddess of time, has simply turned the page and started a new chapter of this ongoing farce we call ‘life’.

So, where do we stand at the dawn of 2012? Well, Saudi Arabian lingerie shops are to employ women. Fabulous news for the hardline Islamic clerics who abhor the thought of women buying anything from male sales-clerks…or so you’d think; but you’d be wrong. The Islamo-nutcases still aren’t happy.

According to Saudi’s Arabia’s most senior cleric, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh:

“The employment of women in stores that sell female apparel and a woman standing face to face with a man selling to him without modesty or shame can lead to wrongdoing, of which the burden of this will fall on the owners of the stores,” he said.

Better news is that the great Aretha Franklin is getting married (at 69): “not because I’m pregnant” she said. Let’s wish her well and remind ourselves of just how great she is HERE and HERE.

Further, there’s good news for British men who felt that they were losing out in the exotica stakes: A Swiss genetics company has claimed that up to 70 per cent of British men are related to the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Not such good news for Norwegians in the northerly district of Nordreisa: they woke up the other morning to find 20 tons of dead herring on the beach. That’s a lot of kippers.

Nor was there good news for THIS GUY, winner of the 2011 Darwin Award. You have to watch this 40 second video: you’ll laugh; then you’ll feel guilty; then you’ll shrug and laugh again.

In politics, all is gloom and foreboding. We are governed by thugs, buffoons, charlatans and crooks. Inevitably, they all bleat about the joys of ‘democracy’, for all the world as though the game wasn’t rigged.

Obama’s latest enormity, the signing into law of the National Defense Authorization Act , allowing indefinite detention to be codified into law, is just the latest contemptuous spit in liberty’s face from a Wall St. lackey.

His excuse (the same excuse that Bush and Cheney used to enact the Patriot Act, which trampled the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into the dirt) was, inevitably, security: terrorism, a straw-man so huge that one could burn an infinity of Edward Woodwards in it.

Here in the UK, Cameron and Osborne lie and lie while enacting gratuitously cruel legislation and our lapdog media allows them to get away with it.

The real problem was lucidly set out by Rudolf Rocker almost 70 years ago:

“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security.

Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labour as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers’ organizations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance.

Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination, and the like have long existed, governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting.

Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace . Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution.”

— Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory & Practice, 1947

Personally, I believe that the general populace–‘doped with religion and sex and TV’ in John Lennon’s words–have lost Rocker’s ‘in-grown habit’ of liberty. Witness the ease with which the New Labour chipped away at civil liberties with hardly a peep out of the general populace. As G.B. Shaw once wrote:

…if Despotism failed only for want of a capable benevolent despot, what chance has Democracy, which requires a whole population of capable voters: that is, of political critics who, if they cannot govern in person for lack of spare energy or specific talent for administration, can at least recognize and appreciate capacity and benevolence in others, and so govern through capably benevolent representatives? Where are such voters to be found to-day? Nowhere.

G.B. Shaw in the Preface to Man and Superman (1903)

Goebbel’s ‘big lie’ is as effective today as it ever was: tell the people they’re under some terrible threat, frighten them enough and watch how fast they knuckle under to a suspension of habeus corpus, how quickly they turn informer and spy, how rapidly they come to hate the ‘other’, the ‘stranger’ in their midst. As Charles Mackay put it in his indispensable Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841):

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Of course, in the age of nuclear weapons, people might not have the luxury of ‘recovering their senses slowly, one by one‘.

That’s why the charlatans and shills like Cameron and Obama are a menace, as mediocre as they are: they peddle a lie, a lie that seeks to lull people into bovine acquiescence, dull-eyed and ready for the slaughter.

Benign governments and ethical corporations, the toxic neo-liberal fantasy: fuck that for a lark.

I suppose we must take what comfort and consolation we can in poetry.

“The mind has added nothing to nature. It is a violence from within that protects us from a violence without. It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation, and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Wallace Stevens, from “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words” (a lecture given at Princeton University in 1941)

Here’s to ‘helping us save our lives’ over the coming year. I don’t suppose this will help but one has to start somewhere:


Boneyard Tango

Slithering through the splintered past,
the ancestors come calling;
ditch the buggers, ditch them fast:
their manners are appalling.

Tamp them down,
stamp them down,
plant the bastards underground;
sink them in the briny deep:
their secrets are their own to keep.

Over memory’s broken wall,
the old ones hop and bound and crawl;
trip them, block them, watch them fall,
they’ve got no common-sense at all.

Slow them up,
blow them up,
clamp their mouths and sew them up;
shovel them back in their graves:
for we all know that Jesus saves.

The past is dead, let’s keep it so,
there’s things that we don’t need to know,
the present’s hard enough to bear:
the future? Hell, let’s not go there.

Knock them out,
block them out,
the ghosts are dead so lock them out;
stop the clocks and burn the books:
the past’s all lies writ down by crooks.

  1. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2012 6:53 PM

    Oh, I forgot to say: happy new year to all of you…may all your troubles be small ones.

  2. mishari permalink*
    January 4, 2012 8:54 PM

    Fuck me…this is BIG:

    White House Denies CIA Teleported Obama to Mars

    Forget Kenya. Never mind the secret madrassas. The sinister, shocking truth about Barack Obama’s past lies not in east Africa, but in outer space. As a young man in the early 1980s, Obama was part of a secret CIA project to explore Mars. The future president teleported there, along with the future head of Darpa.

    That’s the assertion, at least, of a pair of self-proclaimed time-traveling, universe-exploring government agents. Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings insist that they once served as “chrononauts” at Darpa’s behest, traversing the boundaries of time and space. They swear: A youthful Barack Obama was one of them.

    According to Basiago and Stillings, Obama isn’t just lying about his identity. He’s lying about his military service record, too. While his political opponents in 2008 attacked him for never serving, in truth, he was concealing his participation in a hidden CIA intergalactic program hosted at a California community college in 1980.

    Obama wasn’t the only one making the otherworldly voyage. As “Barry Soetero,” the 19-year-old Obama was one of 10 youths selected to secretly teleport to and from Mars, forming a band of interplanetary Teen Titans. Regina Dugan, the director of Darpa, was another member.

    Between 1981 and 1983, Obama is supposed to have visited Mars twice, by way of a teleportation chamber called a “jump room.” Basiago, a fellow chrononaut, told the website Exopolitics that he saw Obama “walk back to the jump room from across the Martian terrain.” To acknowledge his comrade, Obama is said to have told Basiago, “We’re here” — apparently, “with some sense of fatalism.”

    It is not known what exactly Obama did on Mars. (Socializing Martian health care, perhaps? Building a birth-certificate printing press?) His mission was a perilous one, according to Basiago and Stillings. The CIA wished to “establish a defense regime protecting the Earth from threats from space” as well as a legal claim to “territorial sovereignty,” making Obama something of a Martian conquistador. Presumably, Obama’s CIA handlers needed him to “acclimate Martian humanoids and animals to their presence” in order to secure the U.S.-Martian alliance.

    “Simply put, your task is to be seen and not eaten,” an elder chrononaut, retired Army Maj. Ed Dames, is alleged to have told a young Obama.

    Officially, the White House says Obama never went to Mars. —

  3. hic8ubique permalink
    January 5, 2012 2:54 AM

    Kali: beautiful like well-rotted dung
    wonder-full as black compost
    your sensorium a dark theatre;
    eyes obscured by the hour
    fangs dull as dry cobra bones
    tongue excised from all taste
    yet, Vishuddha expires rising,
    Ajna’s insight orbits outward:

    fall… fall… fall we through radiant
    black beyond Night…
    No blind pitch down the shaft you
    no enveloping person struggle, but
    sheer sent beyond sensing savage
    gravid potent primal Mater love.

    Welcome back, Mishari. I hope you had a refreshing break?
    Without specific orders (theme/ form), I’m afraid I’m prone to outbursts such as the foregoing.
    Ah well, your choice of pic is a stunning image; I don’t suppose you happened to make it?
    I remember you once saying you travel with a sketch-book. Perhaps you might illustrate your own words for us sometime…?

    • January 5, 2012 11:58 AM

      It is a terrific poem indeed and Jim Croce made me laugh out loud – recalling a story from my very long ago.

  4. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 3:39 AM

    Hi, honey…no, I wish I had made it…it’s actually the work of a Missoula, Montana-based sculptor named Michael de Meng. He does fantastic work using found odds and sods, the more distressed the better.

    You can view a selection of his work HERE.

    I hope you had a pleasant holiday and all’s well? Terrific, if somewhat alarming poem, by the way. Then again, Kali is an alarming goddess…

  5. hic8ubique permalink
    January 5, 2012 4:38 AM

    Soon, Alarming will return to his post and I’ll be able to resume my Innocuous Blonde persona, and someday, I’ll get over my surprise at finding you up at all hours, but… thanks;
    if I can alarm you I must be surpassing the banal in some way and doing justice to Kali as Montana-man has done.
    My holidays were especially pleasant, since the three children were each in a peak moment: the eldest in newly-engaged bliss, the boy with top marks and an exciting job with an ice-sculpture operation, and the IP showered with accolades for her first professional dance/theatre role. None of it my doing, of course, but still a satisfaction to witness.

    ‘Perhaps you might illustrate your own words for us sometime…?’
    Really, I would love it.

  6. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 4:49 AM

    I’m a life-long insomniac…but it works out quite well…when all’s quiet I find it easier to read, write, think, work…I don’t seem to need much sleep, anyway.

    Re: posting my own drawings; I’ll need to work up the courage as I don’t think I’m very good. I actually taught myself to draw about 20 years ago when I came upon a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards but I enjoy doing it.

    In fact, I was just sketching a sleeping Pongo as I listened to Delius’ Florida Suite…late at night is good for that kind of thing…

    I’m glad you had a good holiday, as did I.

  7. hic8ubique permalink
    January 5, 2012 5:12 AM

    I recognise that title, but have never read it. Hmmm, I’d like to en-courage you.
    You know, you just have to throw it up there regardless of being ‘good’; the self-critic must be suppressed or it would all be a blank.
    I wonder about this, whether having nothing at stake, such as not being a ‘Poet’ or ‘Artist’ makes it accessible to defy all that annihilating assessment that stalks us.
    Rebellion. That’s the ticket: ‘I’m posting this, and it might not suck!’

    Don’t know the Florida suite, or Delius actually. I had a rediscovery over New Year’s of Jim Croce, whom I’d just about forgotten. I got some weird looks, but I was happy.

  8. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 5:27 AM

    Check this out, hic. I’d be very surprised if you haven’t heard it before. Delius actually lived in Florida for a while in the late 1880s and he never forgot it:

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 5, 2012 5:42 AM

      Thankyou. I would have guessed Tchaikovsky on a placid day. Possibly soporific… I’ll listen to the next one in the morning with coffee.
      funny that Florida is pancake flat, maybe one little rise somewhere middling around West Palm Beach.
      Night, M. Good to have you back. x

    • henrylloydmoon permalink
      January 5, 2012 9:30 AM

      Not West Palm Beach – the higher ground is further north. I actually lived in Florida for a while in the early 1880s.x

  9. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 5:36 AM

    …and this is lovely, too:

    • henrylloydmoon permalink
      January 5, 2012 9:38 AM

      More hilly than Florida. I actually lived 400 metres away from this square from 1890 to 1906.

  10. January 5, 2012 11:04 AM

    Throw Those Curtains Wide (thanks Elbow)

    I wind myself into the curtains in the front room
    A velvet bolt of frenzied particles
    I think if I stay here quietly, nothing further will unfold
    I will wait for daybreak and uncoil myself to the new day,
    The new year, the new me.

    Happy new year all. x

  11. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 8:22 PM

    Like everyone who reads this blog, I invited Baby Jesus into my life long ago. As committed Baby Jesus lovers, we all accept that sex is basically satanic and degrading, except as a marital duty (missionary position, in the dark, for procreation purposes only).

    How gratifying it is to see that Rick Frothy-Mixture is well on his way to The White House and how pleased I am to see that he has been endorsed by Christians For A Moral America. CFAMA’s website warns us of what we’re up against:

    It is also a common recruiting practice for homosexuals to indoctrinate children into the homosexual lifestyle. Many homosexuals sodomize each other in view of children and thus, the indoctrination process begins.

    Furthermore, this type of practice is ONLY observed among male homosexuals – the same group of perverts who constantly claim they’re oppressed and “want equal rights” and that homosexuality is “normal”. Because having sex in front of children is “normal”.

    Next time you’re enjoying a picnic in your local park or using the restroom for its intended purpose, keep your eyes peeled for homosexuals who may just be around the corner sodomizing each other.

    I will keep my eyes peeled in restrooms and at picnics and I urge you to do the same. This is emphatically not what Baby Jesus meant when he urged us to love our fellow man. Vote Rick Frothy-Mixture for old-fashioned (i.e. Bronze Age) family values.

  12. Edward Taylor permalink
    January 5, 2012 10:50 PM

    The tram-driver on the way home tonight was certainly buggering his co-driver between Crumpsall and Besses ‘o’ The Barn.

    It’s a long journey and tram-driving isn’t that taxing so they have to occupy themselves in some way.

    Hope none of you spent as dramatic an Xmas as I did.

    We were working In Annemasse ( French side of Geneva ) from 17th until 23rd which was a bit of an assault course of a gig but it all went well.

    Then after packing the pig up in the van my other half started coughing up blood. So we spent the evening in Annemasse hospital accident and emergency dept. Not recommended. An alcoholic in the waiting room congratulated me on the pig show but it’s a sad, worried place to be in. The tests on her lungs came back negative so they said she’d have to go to an ENT specialist in nearby Evian the next day.

    Who said it wasn’t E,N or T but it was her lungs and advised her to fly home immediately. So we drove to Geneva airport ( never try to park in Geneva airport in a high-top van ) ran through the airport and managed somehow to get a flight to Manchester. She flew back and spent Xmas eve in hospital, got discharged on Xmas day and we got in touch with friends who collected her and added her on to their Xmas celebrations.

    Back in France the 2 remaining members of the pig team were too shagged out to drive home immediately ( the 3 of us had planned to spend Xmas in France and had met friends who lived the other side of Lake Geneva who said we could stay in their house ) so Xmas day was spent worrying and texting and doing a huge jigsaw. Then we drove home.

    My partner is okay now, it’s a mystery as to why she coughed up so much blood although there is one more test to go.

    Happy New Year folks!

    I’m up to my ears in stuff so I’m off again and will be back in a few weeks.

    Just watched “Surviving Life” by Jan Svankmajer. Now that is recommended.

  13. mishari permalink*
    January 5, 2012 11:50 PM

    I think we can all agree, Ed, that sodomy on public transport is bad enough. But at picnics? Picnics are a holy institution where families gather to eat sandwiches or possibly hot food prepared over a camp-stove (Baby Jesus has no strong opinions on picnic comestibles) and reinforce the bonds of co-sanguinity.

    Picnics are not places for homosexuals to sodomize one another: this sort of thing makes Baby Jesus very, very sad. It also makes puppies and kittens very sad…so sad, indeed, that they die of broken puppy and kitten hearts (awwww…). Imagine it, Ed: innocent little puppies and kittens, dying in their thousands as a tsunami of picnic sodomy sweeps the world.

    Although Rick Frothy-Matter is a bonehead and a cluck, he’s a sternly moral boneheaded cluck and he’s prepared to make a stand against picnic sodomy. Join him, Ed. Think of the puppies (awwww…); think of the kittens (awwww…); think of Baby Jesus (Hallelujah!).

    I’m sorry to hear of your scare and I’m glad your partner’s got the all-clear (or near enough)…she hasn’t been near any picnics, has she?

  14. hic8ubique permalink
    January 6, 2012 6:45 PM

    ‘Frothy-Mixture’. mm-hmm
    That was a set-up. I actually considered whether a Santorum might be a sort of cock-tail. Funny that. *groan*

    Thanks goodness there are morally fibrous married men willing to patrol bus-stations and public facilities just to be sure no insalubrious behaviours are going undetected.
    It’s heroically self-sacrificing of them.

    Reine dear, your ‘Happy new year’ is looking so minuscule, you should probably tell us your Jim Croce story. Wrapped up in the draperies is no place for such a girl as you.

    • January 8, 2012 6:09 PM

      I’ll pass on the Jim Croce story but I found myself literally wrapped up in draperies yesterday. “Well, you’ll laugh at this…” as a colleague used to say although one invariably didn’t as she shook with mirth. We were down south visiting the in-laws and had spent a very intensive day on the circuit on Friday after which I was exhausted and my head was ready to burst with inane information overload. So yesterday morning was set aside for some quiet time with HI, a ramble around the English market and lunch before day two of engagements commenced. This prospect offered salve to my frayed nerves. All was going well… we rambled, we coffeed and en route to the restaurant, I left HI on the streetcorner lovingly fingering his i-Phone to have a quick nip in to a lingerie shop that seemed to have a good sale on.

      Anyway, before I knew what had happened, I found myself in one of the three curtained changing rooms with a selection of Moulin Rouge-type brassieres and an overly attentive assistant who kept whipping the curtains open with only the merest warning saying “how is that one girl?” (I am writing this in a Cork accent). Anyway on one such intervention, who should I spy in the shop proper via the mirror opposite me but one of my in-laws – the one who would be most likely to invite herself to lunch with us and bore the newly upholstered tits off me again. I nearly screamed. The shop assistant kept admiring me – “it’s a great fit girl, the hubby will love it, sure we all need a bit of lace blah blah” so I just nodded, terrified my voice might be recognised, pushed her out gently, pulled the curtains and quickly got dressed. Peering through a slit in the curtain, I could see s-i-l was still mooching about. After what seemed an eternity and at this stage, having broken out in a cold sweat wondering if she had met her brother outside and what to do next, I heard her being ushered in next door to me. So, faster than Usain Bolt, I threw those curtains wide, flung a handful of lingerie at the lady with whom I had earlier been chatting pleasantly and whispered “I can’t stay, my sister in law is in the changing room, I’ll be back later”. She was dumbstruck – not so dumb that she couldn’t point out gently that I still had a bra hanging from my wrist – and whispered back “O…K…” in the manner of a person speaking to someone who seemed suddenly unhinged. Then I walked briskly out of the shop, up to HI saying “keep walking, quick…”. I gasped out the story deliriously over a glass of wine. He forgave me my avoidance tactic (nay, praised me for it) and was mightily relieved to know I had not, as he had suspected, by my hasty exit, stolen something! “A bitch I may be” says I all indignant “but never a thief”.

      So late last night, I listened to a fascinating twenty minute account of the “fab-ell-us” bra she bought and the exact location of the shop and the really funny shop assistant (“I know, I know” I was screaming inside… “please stop talking”). Anyway, I was relieved to know she hadn’t seen me. Now as long as she doesn’t read this, I’m fine. I hope my bra goes to a good home; I couldn’t bring myself to go back.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 8, 2012 6:48 PM

      It was high time for a Reine tale. As it happens, we were in synch, though off by one day.
      I went into the lingerie shop and D, with a look of terror as though he might be vacuumed in, announced “I’m not going in there!” and veered into the Apple emporium directly opposite.
      I said “Nobody would mind…” to his back, and made it a point to smile at a handsome gentleman-shopper who braved the violently pink shop.
      I finished in time for our dinner reservation, whereas D was late (highly irregular role reversal). I found him entranced by a flat-panel mouse.
      I then chatted to D briefly about searching for a particular favourite design that had sold out, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would care about a certain colour combination.
      I’m delighted by searching out the perfect thing, and he likes everything as plain as possible, tough customers each in our own way.

      The thing about Saudi sales assistants had me perplexed too. The idea of men as the primary market for lingerie, therefore requiring male SAs was completely novel. How is a fitting accomplished? Are women even allowed to shop for their own unmentionables?
      I’d be seriously out of luck with that arrangement.

    • January 8, 2012 10:03 PM

      Me, too. I’d be lucky to get a vest.

  15. hic8ubique permalink
    January 8, 2012 3:38 PM

    I had meant to post Sospiri in response to the Delius, but went off on a distraction…
    well, it all comes round again eventually. There aren’t many Modern pieces I really love, but I do this.
    Another night-time association (with strings) is Arvo Pärt’s, Symphony no.4. I’ve found it to be so sedative in parts that I can’t listen to it while driving.

  16. January 9, 2012 5:38 PM

    Happy New Year all.

    Ed, sorry to hear about your xmas. Must have been frightening.

    MIshari, love the ancestors poem. Very wise. Though hard to do, I find. They’re always lurching somewhere just behind, dragging a club-foot, gravy dripping from a viceroy moustache.

    Seeing as you know about Santorum’s ‘Google problem’, I presume you know the source: Dan Savage and (I think) his sex advice column Savage Love at the Onion’s AV Club. He’s an entertaining, opinionated writer and – IMO – incredibly clear-sighted and humane. He and his husband started the It Gets Better programme, which was so successful last year.

    Great story, Reine. I have never been inside a lingerie shop and, if I were to venture forth, I would have no idea what I was looking for. One of life’s refinements, like fine wines, abstract expressionism and ballet that is as yet lost on me.

    So, what did everyone else do for Elvis’s birthday yesterday? I watched Speedway and the 68 Comeback Special whilst eating a burger and ribs. No placidyls or dexedrine, though.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 10, 2012 4:37 PM

      We had a Birthday Party on the 8th, ExB, but without any consideration of poor Elvis.
      A Happy New Year to you as well, an abundance of prosperity and inspiration!

      I must say, refinements are always at risk of being over-wrought after some point. Isn’t it generally more satisfying to have fascinations rather than refinements? Fascinations are freer and broadening, and refinements just the opposite: exacting and narrowing.
      So, make no apologies; I’m sure you have all the refinements you need.

      ‘Lost on’ you?
      We didn’t want to see you in lingerie anyway ;)

    • January 10, 2012 10:03 PM

      Hi Exit

      For Elvis’s birthday, I whooped with joy all the way home.

      Speak for yourself Hic… I am not ashamed to say I have imagined Exit in a silk teddy on more than one occasion. A pale peach one to offset his hair.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 10, 2012 10:12 PM

      I do beg your pardon.
      (the horror of it!)
      but (between ourselves) curiously, you have named the very colour combination I’d been searching for.

    • January 10, 2012 10:19 PM

      Surely I am gifted beyond measure? ;)

  17. January 11, 2012 5:39 PM

    Fascinations, certainly. I have those in OCD abundance. There are one-offs that flare for a few weeks then vanish and then there are the grand, cyclical obsessions that wheel around over the years again and again. Shakespeare, mostly.

    I also, and I admit this is futile, have a weakness for knowing the ‘rules’ of an artform. In both football and ballet the same problem applies – I can’t tell if they’re doing what they do well or not whether kicking a ball, or kicking the air. But then I never needed an instruction manual to know I loved Rembrandt or Tallis, or Friends.

    Re lingerie the same problem applies. I don’t know the rules – which colour, lace or no lace, cantilevers, wi-fi etc. – and that, frankly, makes me nervous. Hence I could (and should) never dress in any type of frilly undercracker. Also, I have the broad-backed grace of a shire-horse.

    • mishari permalink*
      January 11, 2012 8:33 PM

      Such a variety of scanty undergarments, so little time…I recognise your periods of OCD, XB…I go through them myself. My latest bid to drive myself insane involves spontaneously developing artificial intelligence….I know, I know; but hear me out: it’s not as crazy as it sounds…it’s all about connections, see?

      The complexity that arises from billions and billions of connections, analogous to the neural connections in the brain, must inevitably lead to….(at this point, Mr. Al-Adwani had to be brought down with a sedative-dart and confined to a safe environment [he means a ‘rubber-room’–Ed.] where he will be more comfortable)….

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 12, 2012 1:30 AM

      Oh no, not early Tapiocaheimers? Maybe just a sudden ebullience of tapiocortical plasticity.

      The muckle-horses have a majestic sort of grace ExB.
      I’ll settle for envisioning you tacked up in your black leather … the jacket.

    • Captain Ned permalink
      January 12, 2012 9:47 PM

      You loved Friends?

    • mishari permalink*
      January 13, 2012 3:33 AM

      I tried to ignore that…the thought of someone loving the puerile smarm-fest that was Friends was too upsetting….must have been a misprint; maybe he meant Fiends.

  18. reine permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:02 PM

    The artificial intelligence reference made me think of artificial insemination (my mental circuits are not complex) which made me recall a parliamentary question heading from some years ago. We had generic titles under the Department of Agriculture such as grant payments (KERCHING), milk quota (KERCHING), assisted animal reproduction (OUCH) etc. but one newer member of staff not yet familiar with the many headings on offer titled a question Bull Semen. Any floor space in the rubber room?

  19. January 13, 2012 4:19 PM

    I will defend Friends against anyone!

    Yes, the cast was often guilty of self-congratulating performances and, as it wore on, some grotesque mugging. But for my money it had the highest (good) joke count of any US sitcom and – buried beneath the sponsorship-friendly sheen – as much cynical humour as self-consciously hip fare like Seinfeld. Not that that’s automatically an indication of good comedy, I suppose. What can I say? It still makes me laugh.

    Mishari, are you talking about spontaneously developing AI using your own brain? Because that might have some unfortunate side-effects.

    I have a friend who works for DEFRA who learned how to perform assisted animal reproduction (although that’s not what she called it).

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 13, 2012 6:52 PM

      ‘…Because that might have some unfortunate side-effects.
      I have a friend who works for DEFRA who learned how to perform assisted animal reproduction…’

      What are you suggesting here, ExB?
      An obvious segue would allow your train of thought to read less disturbingly.

    • ExitB permalink
      January 13, 2012 7:08 PM

      Hmmm, I see what you mean….

      Guess I was spontaneously generating AI. And unfortunately my train of thought is always quick to derail.

    • mishari permalink*
      January 13, 2012 8:18 PM

      XB, I was under the influence of a book by George Dyson called Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence (the first part of the title, as you may recognise, comes from an essay by Samuel Butler that’s well worth reading itself HERE).

      Dyson believes that the internet is inevitably going to independently develop intelligence. It’s a very persuasive argument. Dyson thinks it might already have happened. After all, if you were an AI and knowing what you know of the human race, wouldn’t you keep your head down?

      BTW, XB, have you checked out smashwords? It’s a new dawn, d00d…

  20. January 16, 2012 10:40 AM

    “there is nothing which our infatuated race would desire more than to see a fertile union between two steam engines”

    What an extraordinary letter. Both loony and entirely correct. It’s a blueprint for much sci-fi of the last 100 years (and as with much sci-fi, subsequent reality). Did you ever read The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore? Another leftfield theory that, for a while, had me obsessed. Haven;t read it for about 10 years but the basic principle, as I remember it, was that ideas (from a single word to a memeplex like a religion) had evolved and were evolving independently of humans.

  21. mishari permalink*
    January 16, 2012 1:54 PM

    I haven’t read that, XB, but I’ll keep an eye out for it (or read a synopsis online, lazy fucker that I am).

    I like the idea that the network has developed intelligence and it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve tried to get an estimate of the processing power that’s available worldwide and is connected to the network but estimates vary: however, it’s a colossal figure. When you consider that the vast majority of computers very rarely use more than 5% of available processor power or RAM…well, it makes you wonder if something else isn’t using it.

    I, for one, welcome our silicon overlords….

    Downing Street has moved swiftly to torpedo a proposal from the education secretary, Michael Gove, that the public should donate a £60m royal yacht to the Queen as part of this year’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

    David Cameron believed it would be inappropriate to spend public money on a yacht, the prime minister’s official spokesman said. —The Grauniad, today

    That Cameron…he’s spotted that a nation in recession and counting its pennies might not be too keen on buying the fucking Queen a £60 million yacht…the man’s political instincts are uncanny.

  22. January 16, 2012 2:32 PM

    I found the meme theory compelling at the time. The thought that a powerful complex of ideas (Christianity, say, or Marxism, or LOLcats) is essentially attempting to replicate itself and achieve dominance like any other organism is creepy and persuasive. I seem to remember Blackmore was, by the end of the book, rather depressed by her own conclusion that our personalities are little more than vessels and agents for competing, mutating memes.

    And give the Queen her barge, I say. Make it half-a-mile-long and build it out of black steel studded with live peacocks. I’m a republican but I’ve always felt that, if we’re servile enough to have a monarchy we should at least embrace it fully. No more slightly apologetic, impotent mediocrity. Make Harry king, give him full executive power and robes of state that cross George Clinton with the Invisibles’ King-in-Chains:

  23. January 16, 2012 3:04 PM

    Does Dyson postulate what type of intelligence the Internet might spontaneously develop? Would it be a construct of combined human drives, a sort of demiurge Frankenstein’s monster, or the Butler proposed pure intelligence derived from the science of the technology, rather than its often unpleasant uses?

    • mishari permalink*
      January 16, 2012 3:15 PM

      Ah, that’s the thing…Dyson doesn’t pretend to know or predict what shape or form this AI will take (or has already taken); he actually speculates that we might not even be able to communicate with it/them for various reasons. Personally, I suspect it would take after its (unintentional) creators, in matters of language etc…but who the hell knows?

  24. mishari permalink*
    January 16, 2012 3:23 PM

    This might interest you, XB, if you haven’t seen it already. I was googlploring (googling/exploring) and found this 2008 interview with Blackmore. Fascinating stuff.

    Also, this TED lecture by Blackmore.

  25. hic8ubique permalink
    January 16, 2012 11:08 PM

    I’ll need to exploogle
    the Labradoodle;
    do they shed much more
    than a Poobrador?

  26. mishari permalink*
    January 16, 2012 11:22 PM

    There are actual Labradoodles. Lovely dogs, too: friendly, intelligent, good-natured and handsome. Honey used to romp with one in Victoria Park on a regular basis…

    Of course, you already knew this…

    Curious as to the identity of ‘Achmed Abdullah’, who wrote the screenplay for the original Thief of Baghdad film, I discovered this:

    Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff was born on 1881 in Yalta, Russia to the second cousin of Czar Nicholas Romanoff and an Afghan princess. After his mother’s attempts to poison her husband due to his multiple affairs, they divorced, leaving their son and two other children to their maternal grandparents.

    At the age of 12, he was sent to Eton and then to Oxford University to be educated. Although he was born Russian Orthodox, he was raised as a Muslim by his grandparents. Later, he would consider himself Roman Catholic.

    Upon his graduation, he joined the British Army, and rose to rank of acting colonel during his 17-year military career. He served in India, Afghanistan, Tibet, Africa, China and Turkey. He served the British-Indian army in India, and was also a colonel in a cavalry regiment for one year in the Turkish army as a British spy.

    He mostly spent the time in the military as a spy because of his wide knowledge of Oriental and Middle Eastern customs and religions. He traveled widely in Russia, Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, and China and spoke many languages and dialects. He was made a British citizen by an act of Parliament, and convicted by the Germans during the First World War for being a spy.

    In the early 1910s, he emigrated to the United States and eventually became a successful, well-paid writer, playwright and later on, a Hollywood screenwriter. Abdullah’s work appeared in several US magazines, including Argosy, All-Story Magazine, Munsey’s Magazine and Blue Book.

    Abdullah’s short story collection Wings contains several fantasy stories, which critic Mike Ashley describes as containing “some of his most effective writing”. At the time, he became the only British subject to receive membership in the French Academy and he also got a doctorate from the College of El-Azar, Cairo in Koranic Studies. —wiki

    So many people and so many fascinatingly improbable lives lived…all dust, all dust…I feel a bout of melancholia coming on…

  27. January 16, 2012 11:28 PM

    Thanks for the Blackmore links. Back to Dyson – I was reading a 1935 essay by Walter Benjamin this afternoon (not to make it sound like I read this sort of thing all the time. I would have been buried in ‘Elvis and the Memphis Mafia’ if a friend hadn’t emailed the essay to me) which contained the following quote from Marinetti:

    ‘War is beautiful because it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metallization of the human body.’

    So at least one person was happy with the idea that, if we use technology to kill each other, we somehow prove our dominance over machines. Benjamin takes a different view, I think:

    ‘technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society,’

    Wonder what he’d make of the Internet?

  28. mishari permalink*
    January 17, 2012 12:18 AM

    That Benjamin is worth quoting in full, XB:

    All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war. War and war only can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional property system. This is the political formula for the situation.

    The technological formula may be stated as follows: Only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today’s technical resources while maintaining the property system. It goes without saying that the Fascist apotheosis of war does not employ such arguments. Still, Marinetti says in his manifesto on the Ethiopian colonial war:

    “For twenty-seven years we Futurists have rebelled against the branding of war as anti-aesthetic…Accordingly we state:…War is beautiful because it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metalization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns.

    War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others … Poets and artists of Futurism!…remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art…may be illumined by them!”

    This manifesto has the virtue of clarity. Its formulations deserve to be accepted by dialecticians. To the latter, the aesthetics of today’s war appears as follows: If the natural utilization of productive forces is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilization, and this is found in war.

    The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society.

    The horrible features of imperialistic warfare are attributable to the discrepancy between the tremendous means of production and their inadequate utilization in the process of production – in other words, to unemployment and the lack of markets.

    Imperialistic war is a rebellion of technology which collects, in the form of “human material,” the claims to which society has denied its natural material. Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities; and through gas warfare the aura is abolished in a new way.

    Fiat ars – pereat mundus*, says Fascism, and, as Marinetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of “l’art pour l’art.” Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

    This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art. — Walter Benjamin, from the Epilogue to The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

    *’Let there be art though the world perish’, a variant of fiat justitia, pereat mundus.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      January 17, 2012 1:19 PM

      The irony being that a few of the Futurists joined up in the war and were blown to bits by the technology they revered. There are several sad letters from the trenches where after dynamic little ink sketches of explosions the realisation dawns upon one of the group that he’s probably not long for this world. He wasn’t.

  29. mishari permalink*
    January 17, 2012 10:28 PM

    Despite the Futurist’s seeming inability to grasp that guns and bombs are rather indiscriminate, I’ve always found Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto very bracing. Regardless of the starry-eyed loopiness, there’s an attractive enthusiasm for technology and the future, a sort of fizzing, elated joy that I, no Luddite, have always found simpatico. Ah, well…

  30. hic8ubique permalink
    January 18, 2012 1:55 AM

    ‘Honey used to romp with one in Victoria Park on a regular basis…
    Of course, you already knew this…’

    I had no idea! My surveillance of Honey is in softer focus at such long range.
    (Ok, I’ll stop. x)

    Melancholia is tempting and natural at this time of year, I suppose. I’m mourning my friend, whom I saw weekly for fully twenty years. Saturnine inertia can settle in
    during such a transition, but he was an inspiring soul, so I’ve managed (perhaps like Marinetti) to get out and generate some endorphins every day.

    The loss of the ones who’ve gone is somewhat mitigated for me by the mysteries of their DNA being recycled, as well as by their extant work and its emanations, but what really helps me is the renewed inspiration to better appreciate those who are still among us and to love them better. It’s the only sustained antidote I can find for regret. It really does take a warrior’s heart to persist in loving everything we know we’re bound to lose.

    Though not knowing anything of Marinetti, he seems to be wryly aware that he’s fully steeped in mythology in all its absurdity and is playing it to the hilt.

    If the masculine exalts the metallic, appearances suggest the feminine is busily embracing the plastic. Both dreadful distortions.

  31. January 18, 2012 6:44 PM

    Hic, I am very sorry for your sadness. Hope you will be somewhat boosted next week by your birthday festivities. x

    Up to my eyes here in employment registration orders (eros for short, the irony) and other matters. Not a single interesting thing to say for myself. Hello to all.

  32. mishari permalink*
    January 18, 2012 8:18 PM

    I’m almost afraid to ask and I can’t be arsed to google it but…what is a ’employment registration order’? Sounds drearier than a wet weekend in Scunthorpe.

    • January 18, 2012 9:13 PM

      It is believe me. Don’t make me explain… please. I am still at work and I might have to jump out the window. It’d depend on who one was in Scunthorpe with, eh?

  33. January 18, 2012 9:15 PM

    “regulation” not “registration”, I am gone crosseyed. Read all about them here or, take my advice, and get yourself some eros instead.

  34. mishari permalink*
    January 18, 2012 9:25 PM

    OK, gotcha, sweetie…some boring Dáil stuff. You’re working late, arntcha?

  35. January 18, 2012 9:38 PM

    I am, worse luck. I love a 12 hour day, me. “Totop’rall” as they say hereabouts, I have just spent the past half hour consoling a disgruntled colleague, having had the person who disgruntled him in my office only minutes previously giving out about him. I am the Ban Ki-moon of the Debates Office.

  36. mishari permalink*
    January 18, 2012 10:02 PM

    Reine ‘Oil Over Troubled Waters’ Staunton…everybody’s favourite peacemaker…

  37. hic8ubique permalink
    January 18, 2012 10:13 PM

    checking to see whether I can post at all, or just can’t reply…

  38. hic8ubique permalink
    January 18, 2012 10:19 PM

    Re, something about my reply was swallowed and won’t repost, but all’s well, Thanks. x

  39. Captain Ned permalink
    January 19, 2012 11:07 PM

    Browsing through Wikipedia after its glorious reappearance, I stumbled across an obscure Victorian writer, Agustus Montrose. His supposed masterpiece, his sole novel Lilies in December (1856), has a separate entry, where it is described as ‘one of the most influential works of the 19th century’. Conrad, in particular, is said to have learned much from it, and the book still enjoys great popularity in Belgium and Poland. In addition to Lilies in December, Montrose (1830-1899), was the author of 22 plays, including The Great Revolt (1858) and Exile and Exodus (1866). I was intrigued, and not a little puzzled. How come I’d never heard of this guy? OK, so there must be tons and tons of obscure writers I’ve never heard of and will never get to hear of, but a 19th-century Englishman who wrote one of the best works of psychological realism of its era, whose literary movement was ‘Modernism’, who was a Socialist, and who was an influence on Joseph Conrad – and I’ve had not so much as an inkling of his existence? I began to smell a rat.

    There was something a little ‘off’ about Lilies in December. The date, for one thing. Psychological realism in mid 19th century England, the heyday of Dickens? George Eliot wouldn’t publish her first book for another two years. Just read the plot summary. Although the melodrama is certainly in keeping with Victorian conventions, the apparent sexual frankness is not. I doubt anything like this could have been published in England until several decades later (the 1890s, perhaps; certainly post-Zola). The focus on lower-class characters would also have been unusual, to say the least. With this in mind, it’s easy to detect a note of parody in the melodramatic shenanigans described, although this was a difficult call at first, given the excesses of genuine Victorian melodrama.

    Then I had another look at the list of play titles. Nothing out of the ordinary in the two already mentioned, but Definitive Realities of the Most of the World? Dryness of the Sea? Defeat of Hastings and the Dreary Events to Follow? Selfish Desires of Selfish Superiors? Subtle Changes in the Village of Seringtonshire? Petty Thoughts? Really? And as for Suffering in its Purest Form… O.K., so according to the biographical information, Montrose’s theatrical career doesn’t appear to have been much of a success, but I can’t see how such titles could possibly have been produced on the Victorian stage, even for a few performances. Montrose’s mental health is said to have been fragile, which might explain the outlandishness of the titles, but not how he could have continued to get them staged.

    My suspicions aroused, I did a Google search and came up with nothing. All other pages seemed to refer back to the Wikipedia entry, including the Agustus Montrose Facebook fan page. For a brief moment, I was excited by something that promised to be a Cliff Notes guide to Lilies in December, but I soon saw that this was a false alarm. Certainly, it was a bit of a giveaway that the search results didn’t turn up any copies of Montrose’s masterpiece for sale. The final nail in the reality coffin was the facts that the linked ‘references’ in the two Wikipedia entries lead nowhere, so the fictitious nature of Agustus Montrose seems beyond doubt. Of course, I have not alerted Wikipedia, and hope that the hoax goes undetected for as long as possible. Wikipedia has its own page dedicated to fictitious entries; I was particularly impressed by Lillian Virginia Mountweazel and Jakob Maria Mierscheid.

    There was one thought that immediately popped into my head once I was satisfied the whole thing was a fake: Exit Barnadine’s estimable but apparently short-lived site ‘Forgotten and Misremembered’. Tell me, Mr. Gilchrist, Montrose wouldn’t happen to be one of yours, would he? Anyway, it reminds me that I once promised to write my own fake biography of the antiquarian Benjamin Thripple; I’ve had a bit of writer’s block of late, so perhaps this will be the spur to cure myself of that unhappy condition.

  40. Captain Ned permalink
    January 19, 2012 11:10 PM

    Fuck fuck. I spent about an hour writing a pretty long post about something and now it’s disappeared. Eternal curses light upon thee, wordpress!

  41. Captain Ned permalink
    January 19, 2012 11:32 PM

    Anyway, it concerned an obscure 19th century writer, Agustus Montrose, whose Wikipedia page I stumbled across today. I determined that the entry was a hoax.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 20, 2012 12:11 AM

      Hi Ned~~ if you try using your ‘Back’ function and then choose REPLY on the page, your post may turn up in the comment box; mine did for me, though it still wouldn’t post.
      Failing that, Mishari may still find it. Hope so…

  42. mishari permalink*
    January 20, 2012 12:17 AM

    Sorry about that, Ned. WordPress dumped it in the spam bin; it does it sometimes, I’ve no idea why. Cool bit of detective work there, ace…

  43. Edward Taylor permalink
    January 20, 2012 10:13 AM

    Splendid bit of writing and exploration of logic by Marina Hyde.

    “Anyway, the Sun notes that the documents “could have provided terrorists planning an attack with invaluable information”. Lest you found the inference too subtle, the paper clarifies that the file “contained details that would have helped al-Qaida terrorists mount a devastating attack on the Games in London this summer.”

    I can’t help feeling “would have” is a bit cocksure. Indeed, these sorts of “security blunder” stories are always based on one of two lunatic assumptions. The first is that there are at any time a significant number of al-Qaida/dissident republicans/beach volleyball separatists stationed on this great nation’s branch lines, just waiting for absent-minded Medway-based coppers to play right into their murderous hands. The second is that your average commuter has open channels to al-Qaida/dissident republicans/beach volleyball separatists, and would be able to feed the files into their grateful hands. Yet the available evidence is that those who come into possession of such material give it straight to a newspaper for cash.”

  44. mishari permalink*
    January 20, 2012 1:26 PM

    Ed, I see that your pal Jan Svankmajer has a film on release in the UK, called Surviving Life. I expect you’re in the queue already.

  45. Edward Taylor permalink
    January 20, 2012 2:36 PM

    You know me only too well. I saw it last week and enjoyed it immensely. He uses a Terry Gilliam/Monty Python-style cut-out photo animation to tell the story. Worth a gander.

    Hope all well in Maison Al-Adwani and indeed the houses of all the regulars here.

  46. Captain Ned permalink
    January 20, 2012 4:20 PM

    Nice to see that my post didn’t disappear after all. The Montrose hoax is quite accomplished, I think. I especially like the idea of a writer’s final work being called ‘Petty Thoughts’.

    Following Marina Hyde’s sensible comments, here is the equally rational and level-headed Mark Wahlberg speculating on what would have happened had he been on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center:

    If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first class cabin and then me saying “OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry”.

  47. mishari permalink*
    January 20, 2012 4:45 PM

    Wow…that Marky Mark…he’s a real hero…in retrospect.

    “Let me tell you, if I’d been in the bunker with Hitler, things would have gone down differently…”. Yeah, sure, d00d…whatever.

    This is pretty funny:

  48. January 20, 2012 5:16 PM

    Hi Ned –

    The magnificent forgery you’ve unearthed is, of course, nothing to do with me. Far too in-depth knowledge of c19th literature for me. I fall off somewhere after 1616 and don’t really get involved again until the 1920s. And even then…

    I’d forgotten about Forgotten & Misremembered. Could be time for a reboot if I can find all the login details. Quite happy to pass them on to you, Ned, if you fancy having an administrate.

    Also, Mishari and anyone else in the capital on the 30th – I and my 70s throwback hard rock band (think Grinderman with less self-respect) will be playing our debut gig at the 333 club in Shoreditch. Onstage 10:30 – 23:00.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 21, 2012 2:18 AM

      What do you play, ExB? Do you sing??

    • January 21, 2012 1:51 PM

      I do ‘sing’, or at least howl and bellow. I’ve not fronted a band as a vocalist (i.e. no guitar etc.) since I was 18. Not sure what I’ll do with my hands, yet.

  49. Captain Ned permalink
    January 20, 2012 6:39 PM

    I’ve already started work on Thripple, so it might be time to resurrect Forgotten and Misremembered, although my piece is shaping up to be a lot longer than the two existing entries.

    I doubt I’ll be in London for your gig, but good luck.

  50. mishari permalink*
    January 20, 2012 7:17 PM

    I still have F & M login details, XB (in case you can’t find them). I meant to do a thing for it and got (inevitably, with my grasshopper mind) distracted. But I can re-boot…

    Don’t know if I’ll be in town on the 30th but if I am…the nasty, surly bastard at the bar who keeps shouting “Play ‘Search & Destroy‘ you effete bourgeois pussies…”?

    That’ll be me.

  51. henrylloydmoon permalink
    January 21, 2012 9:10 AM

    “…at the 333 club in Shoreditch. Onstage 10:30 – 23:00”

    That kind of set length would make even the Grateful Dead wince…

  52. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 10:03 AM

    Well spotted, Hank….I hadn’t noticed that. Jesus….that’s a 24-hour set (with a half-hour break). Pssst…XB…wanna buy some whizz?

  53. January 21, 2012 11:22 AM

    We actually have an almost half-hour set worked out, which will probably end up at 20 mins onstage (whizz or no whizz). Possibly to be extended indefinitely once the guitarist realises he has an audience for his array of effects pedals.

    I haven’t played a band gig since 2004 – I’ve a feeling we’ll be cranking up the average age in the room by a good 15 years or so.

  54. Edward Taylor permalink
    January 21, 2012 12:23 PM

    Your description sounds exactly like the Grateful Dead XB.

  55. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 3:19 PM

    Very good piece about Patti Smith in The NYRB by Luc Sante.

    I have two of Sante’s books, Low Life: Drinking, Drugging, Whoring, Murder, Corruption, Vice and Miscellaneous Mayhem in Old New York and The Factory of Facts, wherein he goes in search of his family’s history (Sante’s parents, Belgian Walloons, emigrated to New York when Sante was a small boy). I recommend them both highly.

    Also, a review of a new Ben Jonson biography that might interest XB.

  56. January 21, 2012 4:22 PM

    Thanks for the BJ link. He has a place at the table for any decent imaginary dinner party. One of the only vaguely credible traditions regarding the possible cause of Shakespeare’s death has him dying of a fever after a night spent over-indulging during one of Jonson’s visits to Stratford.

    I’ve only read his Sejanus, after Ned and another friend (Guy from Symposium, Ned) recommended it highly. I confess I struggled to enjoy it, but often these things come alive on the stage. I always imagine Sejanus as Patrick Stewart because of ‘I, Claudius’.

    Speaking of which, here’s a link to my band’s cheaply-recorded demo:

    The first song is inspired by John Hurt’s awesome turn as Caligula in ‘I, Claudius’. And I’m not the only one to see the rock potential, clearly:

  57. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 4:30 PM

    Clive James, back in his day as The Observer’s TV critic, described Hurt’s performance as “poncing lethally about”, which pretty much summed it up. A great program, that. “He’s become a G-G-G-God…”; “Oh, dear…”

    Good site HERE, by the way, with all of Jonson’s works…and i mean all (excepting the lost stuff like Isle of Dogs, obviously)

  58. January 21, 2012 4:50 PM

    I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched I, Clavdivs over the years – an absolute joy. I love how great actors can give technically accomplished, emotionally satisfying performances whilst simultaneously hamming it up so recklessly I heard there was no set to dismantle at the end of shooting because it had been chewed to sawdust.

    Similarly, I received the complete BBC Shakespeare box last year – and whilst there are some great performances (Bernard Hill as York in Henry VI, Anthony Quayle as Falstaff) the low budgets and parade of red-faced jobbing luvvies in fake beards makes for a splendid mix of genius and very British campery.

  59. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 5:02 PM

    Did you watch the BBC/HBO collaboration Rome? It was directed by Michael Apted with scripts by John Milius. I thought it was a gas.

  60. January 21, 2012 5:05 PM

    I only saw the first couple of episodes and didn’t keep up for some reason – but I’ve always meant to get back to it. Did you see Tree of Life? If so, what did you make of it?

  61. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 5:18 PM

    I didn’t. You?

    You can download season 1 of Rome HERE and season 2 HERE.

    Well worth it, I think. The cast were all British, trained in the same tradition as Hurt and Jacobi, but the production was on a scale colossally more lavish.

    I, Claudius, I seem to recall (haven’t seen it in 30 years or more) was all cardboard sets and papier mache props…not that it mattered a whit, with acting of that quality…

  62. hic8ubique permalink
    January 21, 2012 5:23 PM

    Howling is good,ExB, though I heard Ben Kingsley (whom I saw on stage thirty-odd yrs ago) interviewed last week and mistook him for a young man, only because he hasn’t ruined his voice. He speaks impeccably on the breath.
    As for your hands, I’d only discourage air-guitar and package grabbing, but that may just be my bourgeois snootery.

    I should watch I Clau-Clau again, loved it back when… I remember Hurt bringing a horse into the Senate, and tipping out his trove of seashells. Natasha Richardson must have been impossibly young.

  63. January 21, 2012 5:27 PM

    Thanx for the links.

    re Tree of Life, we rented it from LoveFilm because of all the critical hoo-hah but gave in after an hour and sent it back unfinished. It just seemed full of unearned emotion, insisting on its own depth without really saying anything interesting about ‘life’ beyond ‘people die but that’s alright because of bitter-sweet memories and galaxies and DNA and stuff’. And I find the ever-admirable Sean Penn’s super-serious frowny face a bit tiresome. But I wondered if I was missing something and if anyone whose opinion I might respect – rather than film critics – might have another take on it. Anyone?

    I, Claudius is definitely worth another viewing if you’ve not seen it for a while. The tatty sets and costumes are actually part of the fun, I think. I prefer 70s-80s tv production values – they seem somehow more ‘real’ to me than more recent, glossier styles. Probably something to do with the tv aesthetics I grew up with. Same for the dingy colours of Smiley, which is also always worth a re-watch.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      January 21, 2012 5:39 PM

      I avoided Tree of Life after seeing The Thin Red Line on TV. I found that a completely conventional story tricked out into appearing to be something it wasn’t. The Grateful Dead do Platoon but not as good as that sounds.

      I’m lead to believe that the Singing Detective will be re-shown on TV this year. I remember really enjoying that when it was first shown so it will be interesting to see whether age has dimmed it or me.

      The TV Smiley Tinker, Tailor was miles better than the recent film which concentrated too much on the plot. As far as I’m concerned those Le Carre stories are about character and how those characters came to be rather than whodunnit. All the people are triple,double agents so it’s never a surprise that they are all stabbing each other constantly in the back. Much more suited to a long TV series than a shortish film.

  64. January 21, 2012 5:34 PM

    Thanks, Hic! I had singing lessons many years ago and, really, far too late to undo all the bad habits I’d got into over the years such as singing too high for my range, not breathing properly, etc. I’m probably more of a quiet, mellow crooner if anything, and I sometimes perform my accoustic songs at a local folk night. But sometimes you just got to rock.

    And yes to Caligula’s horse – Incitatus. Which is a great name for a website, a band, a child or something, now I think about it.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 21, 2012 5:44 PM

      I listened to that first Drusilla track and thought the singing was great, supple and rangey, expressive, cheeky, you then?
      Any YouTube of your quieter mellow folk mode?

  65. Captain Ned permalink
    January 21, 2012 5:47 PM

    The other representation of Caligula, Claudius and Tiberius from the 1970s is the notorious Tinto Brass/Bob Guccione film starring Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud, with Gore Vidal having a hand in the script. I’ve seen it, and it really is something. I could see how people might have thought it was a good idea at the time – certain scenes have a pop-eyed Felliniesque grandeur – but when you have the founder of Penthouse as your principal financial backer, determined to turn out a grotesque pornographic epic (hardcore footage was shot behind the director’s back), not all the best intentions world stood a chance. If Fellini himself had made the film – without Guccione’s involvement – the result might have been more than half-decent; I liked Fellini’s Satyricon, which is also set in a fantastically excessive Ancient Rome. McDowell would have made a terrific Caligula if only he’d been able to portray him in something other than trash. Here’s a little snippet:

  66. hic8ubique permalink
    January 21, 2012 5:49 PM

    Speaking of back-stabbing EdT, last night we watched In Bruges at last, and (despite it being horrible, of course) it was full of wonderful laughs. I found it hugely entertaining.

  67. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 5:49 PM

    I saw Tinker, Taylor etc and i thought Oldman was terrific as Smiley; this bland, unknowable cipher with rare glimpses of turmoil beneath the glacial facade. But the film, I thought, was ultimately unsatisfying. I suppose it was because I really didn’t much care one way or the other what happened to who.

    I’m going to watch The Artist later on. I’ve heard good things (and also over-heard a couple in a bar discussing it: Him: “It was silent.”; Her: “…and in black&white…”; Him: “What was that all about…?”)

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      January 21, 2012 6:00 PM

      that was my feeling – anyone of them could have been the double agent as most of them were. I liked the scene with the fly in the car.

      I enjoyed In Bruges too hic. A great balance between gruesome behaviour and humour.

      For some reason Fellini films never get shown anymore. When I lived in London in the late 70’s/early 80’s they were a staple of late night screenings. He’s due a revival I think. Late night screenings don’t happen anymore either.* sobs *

  68. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 5:55 PM

    In Bruge was one of my favourite films of that year, hic. So many good lines:

    Ken: Harry, let’s face it. And I’m not being funny. I mean no disrespect, but you’re a cunt. You’re a cunt now, and you’ve always been a cunt. And the only thing that’s going to change is that you’re going to be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.

    Harry: [furious] Leave my kids fucking out of it! What have they done? You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!

    Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.

    Harry: Insult my fucking kids? That’s going overboard, mate!

    Ken: I retracted it, didn’t I?


    Ray: A lot of midgets tend to kill themselves. A disproportionate amount, actually. Hervé Villechaize off of Fantasy Island. I think somebody from the Time Bandits did. I suppose they must get really sad about like… being really little and that… people looking at them, laughing at them, calling them names. You know, “short arse”. There’s another famous midget. I miss him but I can’t remember. It’s not the R2D2 man; no, he’s still going. I hope your midget doesn’t kill himself. Your dream sequence will be fucked.

    Chloë: He doesn’t like being called a midget. He prefers dwarf.

    Ray: This is exactly my point! People going around calling you a midget when you want to be called a dwarf. Of course you’re going to blow your head off.


    Ken: [standing up to leave and picking up his coat] Two manky hookers and a racist dwarf. I think I’m heading home.

    …and lot’s more.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 21, 2012 6:04 PM

      It fascinates me that I was laughing through such horrid circumstances. The layers that were just glanced over and the incongruous beauty of the scenes had me rapt. I woke up trying to remember the list of sins the child was going to confess:
      1. Being moody
      2. ? (something trivial)
      3.Being sad

      …so much implicit just in the brief shot of his list. I’d watch it again when I recover from the gore.
      And as you say, it’s important to be able to care about the characters; the pair of them had endearing qualities through the damage, but it was always going to end in tears.

  69. January 21, 2012 6:00 PM

    Thank you for the kind words, Hic. I was kicked out of my first band for my singing (and definitely, definitely not for my teenage personality…) so even 20 years later that means a lot! No folk recordings as yet but I’m always promising myself I’ll put some of them down.

    I thought In Bruges was fantastic – totally altered my view of Colin Farrell. A sad, thoughtful and original comedy with some great trash elements (the evil dwarf, the obligatory eccentric mob boss). But mostly a film about remorse. And, having been to Bruge (or Brugge, as I know it) on holiday just before I saw it, there was the pleasure of ‘I’ve been there, I saw that…’ which always gives me a childish satisfaction.

    @Ed, the tv Smileys are masterpieces. As is Singing Detective, in my view, but I think I’ve raved about that enough in the past.

    @Ned – I have the Caligula movie on DVD but I’ve never managed to get all the way through it. Absolutely demented but weirdly boring despite what should be a winning combination of top-class actors and anvil-subtle depravity.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 21, 2012 6:10 PM

      Thought I might have missed a ‘g’. If responses are helpful, I’ll listen more extensively later on. We’re having our first good snow, so I’m feeling the urgent call of the woods….*****

  70. mishari permalink*
    January 21, 2012 6:09 PM

    Me too, XB. I never had much time for Farrell, having only seen him in formulaic rubbish. But he was brilliant in that. Of course, having the great Brendan Gleeson as a foil doesn’t hurt. Did you ever see a terrific Irish film called I Went Down? A much younger Gleeson but every bit as good.

    More from In Bruge (it’s diabolically quotable):

    Ray: I saw your midget today. Little prick didn’t even say hello.

    Chloë: Well, he’s on a lot of ketamine.

    Ray: What’s that?

    Chloë: Um, horse tranquilizer.

    Ray: Horse tranquilizer? Where’d he get that?

    Chloë: I sold it to him.

    Ray: You can’t sell horse tranquilizers to a midget!

  71. Captain Ned permalink
    January 21, 2012 7:02 PM

    Harry [on being offered dum dum bullets]: I really shouldn’t… but I think I will.


    Ray: What’s Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids.


    Natalie [while Harry attacks a phone in fury]: Harry. Harry! It’s a inanimate fucking object!
    Harry: You’re an inanimate fuckin’ object!


    I’ve always had a high opinion of Farrell. He was really good in Minority Report – so good that I wished he’d been given the lead instead of that numbnuts Tom Cruise. He also gave a creditable performance in Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, despite sporting a rather wobbly Cockney accent, and despite having to cope with a truly execrable script. If you can give a good account of yourself in spite of a dodgy accent and a dodgy script, that’s a sign of real talent. I think, in retrospect, the failure of Oliver Stone’s Alexander was something of a blessing for him; instead of becoming bland superstar in the Cruise mold, he was forced to hone his craft in smaller-scale films.

  72. January 21, 2012 11:01 PM

    Glad you got to see In Bruges Hic, it’s class. I’d rate Gleeson over Farrell most days but Farrell is good in Intermission too if any of you have seen/get to see it although it might have too Irish a bent. Can’t remember now, it’s a long time since I watched it.

    I have visitors from the west so just checking in after an evening’s entertainment. Warm regards to all and sundry.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 21, 2012 11:44 PM

      Oh, Re, I was about to write back to you…
      D has gone off with teen girls. The Artist wasn’t corresponding to the show-time for Sherlock Holmes… I had a different idea of restaurant &c…&c… so, left to my own inclinations. (He’d just as soon be fifteen for an evening ;)

      I’d never seen Farrell before, but I must search out Mishari’s ‘I Went Down’,
      (unaccountably giggling to say that to you) since Gleeson was remarkable.
      Feinnes/Fiennes(?) is really only acceptable as a psychopath; he can’t pass as normal.

      Thought you must be out West per usual for the weekend.
      I’m partly Irish… shall see into ‘Intermission’…
      Put your feet up, Love. x

  73. mishari permalink*
    January 22, 2012 12:26 AM

    Never saw Intermission but I’m downloading it even as we speak. It’s got Colm Meaney in it and I like him a lot; Kelly Macdonald as well and she’s always worth watching..and Kerry Condon, who’s always good and…actually, it has a host of good actors, so I have high hopes.

    I’ve been watching Colm Meaney in a US drama called Hell On Wheels in which he plays a corrupt railroad baron; it also stars another Irish actor, Dominique McElligott, who’s terrific and who I’d never seen before; exceptionally beautiful woman, she is, too….

  74. reine permalink
    January 22, 2012 1:04 PM

    Hope you like it Mish; it’s of a piece I’d say with I Went Down.

    The railroad reference reminds me of another film I loved almost ten years ago now… The Station Agent. Well worth watching if anyone hasn’t seen it; you will love it Hic I think.

    Fiennes was in The Faith Healer on stage here a few years ago… he is pretty intense to watch; it’s a grim play but he made it grimmer still (and stopped midway through to tell someone to “turn the bloody thing off” when their phone rang incessantly). To be honest, I think the audience was glad of the breather.

    My cinema (The Lighthouse) has reopened after a nine month closure; hoping to see The Artist or Shame there later today. Michael Fassbender would only have to stand in front of the camera and say “hello” on a loop to keep me happy.

  75. mishari permalink*
    January 22, 2012 1:24 PM

    I thought The Station Agent was excellent (dwarves again). Am I right in thinking that it’s the same chap who went on to be in Game of Thrones?

  76. mishari permalink*
    January 22, 2012 1:26 PM

    Just checked: Peter Dinklage; same fellow.

  77. reine permalink
    January 22, 2012 1:50 PM

    Since you put up your photo Mish, I have had this gnawing sense that you reminded me terribly of someone and I have just remembered who. It’s in the set of the mouth and the dark colouring. What a relief. (He was gorgeous too).

  78. mishari permalink*
    January 22, 2012 2:21 PM

    Flattery will get you everywhere, my dear…clearly, you have a taste for thin-lipped hoodlums.

  79. reine permalink
    January 22, 2012 2:30 PM

    I certainly did back in the day. Had decidedly dangerous taste. I will include it all in my memoirs.

  80. hic8ubique permalink
    January 22, 2012 3:30 PM

    Partly Irish and partly bent, I should say.
    I found Intermission, but fell asleep 30 minutes in.
    Had the most dreadful nightmares about being held hostage by a Harry-like character in conjunction with antiques shopping and an ocean liner. Bad night. I blame the wine.

    I’ve queued up The Station Agent, thanks… That is good news the The Lighthouse has re-opened!
    What stays with me from In Bruges is the psychic power of innocence, and the moment the pregnant mother refuses to leave and says ‘No. This is MY hotel!’
    I could never have done that.

  81. mishari permalink*
    January 22, 2012 4:47 PM

    I thought it was interesting, hic, that in the scene you mention, and in others, the characters, despite being crooks and gangsters, have a very strong moral sense.

    That hotel scene is a case in point. They both know that the woman’s right and that they’re in the wrong and they react accordingly.

    It was one of the things that made it such an enjoyable film: the acknowledgment of complexity, even amongst seemingly straight-forward types like gangsters.

  82. hic8ubique permalink
    January 22, 2012 7:40 PM

    Yes, that was the fascinating thing…
    Pitifully and surprisingly, Jay tries to tell Harry that the dwarf in costume isn’t a child, to spare him from his own misery.
    I liked how Ken’s wedding ring shows in an early shot, and afterward we learn his beloved wife is dead, then think back: ‘oh, yes, but he still wears the ring’ and can infer that his life really ended there with hers. There’s no need of an explicit “So, Ken, howja end up in this wretched line of work?”; you just see the shredded remnants and glimpses of a once fine person.
    The humour and the characters compensated for the grisly parts.
    Also, a vicarious pleasure in defiance of the officiously smug little person who announces that ‘the tower is closed early today’, or ‘there will be an extra charge of fifty-three cents for that’ &c…

    I must say, M, you look like nobody I’ve ever known before, which seems exactly as it should be. It’s always a pleasure to see you pop up as your handsome self, and the Moon too.

  83. January 22, 2012 7:53 PM

    Hic, I had no wish to imply he looked common! ha.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      January 22, 2012 8:11 PM

      No no, I didn’t think you had, just that you were reminded of someone else, and then the Marcello thing of course.

  84. Edward Taylor permalink
    January 23, 2012 2:41 PM

    Sensitive GU blogger describing a steamy oral sex scene in a very poor TV version of Birdsong ( not the greatest book either I’m told ).

    “You didn’t miss much. When Eddie decided to go foraging around said French bird’s “feminine parts” it reminded me of my pet terrier attacking his doggie chew.”

    Well it made me laugh.

    • January 23, 2012 2:55 PM

      I liked the book I must say and I flicked channels just in time to catch that scene. It had the enthusiasm of the novice about it, certainly. More boning than Bonio though.

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