Archive for the ‘Chat’ Category

There are many, many problems with our time and people that I have struggled with over the years.
How can we move ahead if still held back by these… they must be glitches, plummets into madness? ‘The blindness of God,’ perhaps.
If we think of ourselves as planing onwards towards better futures, – think of a slow low and elegant curve upwards, of improvements in general technological, scientific, especially ethical and moral codes. Then does this leave us open to misrepresentation and misinterpretations of our basic human nature? And so, prone to perpetuating these same horrible acts?

One of these ‘problems’ I have been struggling with has been how people could, that is, certain officials backed up by the rank and file officers, think it acceptable to release poison gas onto battlefields, into trenches, of the opposite forces.
The recent Times Literary Supplement has an article on Einstein’s brief stay in England. Mentioned in a sideline is Fritz Haber who helped develop this ‘tactic’. So, we have a name.
https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/the-public-and-private-lives-of-albert-einstein-p-d-smith/

How could anyone think that was acceptable behaviour under any circumstances?
Is my problem a lingering belief in an agreed gentlemanly conduct, even in wartime. The two 1929 Geneva Conventions, perhaps?

I began to wonder whether there was something about the German make-up, at that time, beset by War reparations, the Financial crisis, and the Soviet Union’s internationalist programme.
And then, of course, there was the Holocaust.
Completely unimaginable how that could be perpetrated, on such scale and over such a length of time. How was that possible?
Not that there have not been pogroms of great brutality throughout history. They are easy to forget, especially if one’s own history glosses over such self acts.

The scale, I think, is the problem.

I have come across incidents in history, going way back, of equal and sustained barbarity. All smaller scale, but as bad in their ways. Precedents, then.
And then I came across this book review:
Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45, and the American Cover Up

https://contagions.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/japanese-use-of-plague-during-world-war-ii/

That the Japanese military had indeed been conducting biological tests on prisoners using ‘plague, glanders, anthrax’ etc to see which was most effective, i.e. quicker, and most contagious. They extended these tests to villages, to find which could decimate larger areas.
This was conducted in Manchuria/Manchukuo, preWar.
Now, Manchuria was bordered, in the West and North, by the Soviet Union.
They also were carrying out similar tests, and along this same border.

So, is the German make-up exonerated?

It is the military mind, then, surely…
how it isolates itself from common morality ( how could you kill wholesale otherwise?) but in time becomes self-sufficient in its own utilitarian ethics and morals.

And so, in a little way, but nonetheless revealing, is myself looking for cause (blame?) in the German make-up, that gives a quick glimpse into my failings (get the hint? Conjugate my) – a lack of sufficient background knowledge.

I reviewed a book some years back, The Causes of War, by Professor Hidemi Suganami, published by Oxford University Press:

https://pure.aber.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/the-causes-of-war%28486854c0-7420-4dc2-b947-48ff5f1b0090%29.html


His conclusion? Wars exist because they are continue to be seen as a viable option.
It sounds banal, especially after the hugely meticulous research and arguments he perused and conducted.
Wars seem as viable an option now as they ever have.
Short-term thinking and blinkered reasoning.
It is the aftermath, though, that takes generations, centuries, to struggle to accommodate, or reject, that wars leave behind is the real face of war

And so, that is where I begin here, as part of those attempts to accommodate the problems of my time , and yes, as can be seen, even attempt a brief rejection (German make-up).

We are all prone to these creeping errors of thought. We all must be constantly on guard – against ourselves, that is, our mono-cultural attitudes, backgrounds, and prejudices.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/11/european-colonial-powers-still-loth-to-admit-historical-evils


This is not something that needs to be started now – it is the common practice of modern historians and cultural materialists, and has been for many years. It’s already on its way.
Let’s climb on board.

Music for self isolators

Posted: March 28, 2020 in Chat

Latino beats and rhythms for life and love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTlNMmZKwpA

Here’s to you all.

Best wishes, hope, and better days.

The Life And Times Of Fishgate Billyboy, by Fishgate Billyboy. Published by arlecchino press, 2020. £12.00
Copies available from arlecchino press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh EH3 6HN. Scotland, UK

A biography is as much an historical document as biographical. It need not be chronological; indeed some of the best ie most revealing of their time and subject, have been thematic. With a biography we get a slice of time, era, a contexualising that broadens as far as the subject’s interactions with events and peoples demands. 
To impose a narrative on events, for readability, say, is the easy way, of course.


What of autobiography? We have there the added psychological dimensions, in themselves a deepening of one’s interactions with one’s time, responses to events and people, beyond the scope of biography. We also have a narrowing down of viewpoint. What we can know of our moments of life, and how reflection views them, are two very different aspects, and often create tensions seeking resolution.

So, what of a fictionalised autobiography?
Fishgate, surprise-surprise, is a pseudonym. The writer has changed names, rearranged the course of events at times. The main substance is, we can assume, as it stood for the writer. In other words, other aesthetic and psychological factors have come into play in the structuring of the book.

The story begins for the writer in 1944. Other factors and events occurred to lead up to this, and have great impact on events.
How did young people cope with young families, having lost husbands in the War?

In the 1950s and 60s in the UK on the big stage, we saw the implementation of the national Welfare system, the creation of safety nets for inequality in the economic structures then in place. We saw the growth of the National Health Service, of the Social Security and Benefits systems.
There are always those who fall through the gaps, the sink holes, the blind-sides, of systems. Then, as now, they tend to be either the very young, the old, or those who struggle to understand what the majority take for granted.
Fishgate fell through the gaps early on in life.

It makes harrowing reading to witness someone so lost to the world we know. The writer makes no big rumpus about that period of his life; indeed it set the course for some of the more eventful later episodes. To have no home base, was also to be freed from the crippling static lives many were caught up at the time in 1950s, early 60s, UK.

This is a book about the growth into self; about the uncovering of one’s own identity amidst the burgeoning cultures, influences and pressures of one’s time. It is a document of the gay experience. Really? No, it is a document of one man’s growth into his gay self.
This needs noting because the writer takes nothing for granted from the reader; his coming to realise and then acceptance of his nature are played out, not glossed over with cliche.
‘Identity’, also, would seem to suggest an element of choice.
And with this he developed a keen political sense. The political challenges of the 1970s and 80s were sufficiently forceful to create and engage people from all backgrounds.

It is also a chronicle of the growth and development of a writer.

That last point is very important. This book cracks on at a great pace; the writer has honed his skills, and learned techniques, to create a great read. He does not dwell – that is to say, he does not interrupt his book’s pace and become trapped in the emotional landscape he takes us through. He is unsentimental towards his own failings – and maybe a little too humble over his successes.

And there are many successes.
Academically, he grew into himself as an educated person, taking his BA as a mature student at the justly famous Newbattle Abbey Academy, Dalkieth, Edinburgh. The MSc, well, those who know will certainly empathise here. What is an education, unless it has application? So once again he side-stepped the obstacle (– like Peer Gynt with the formless dark on the mountain road – ) and went into the new growth field of EFL teaching.
There begins another huge period of travelling, adventures, friendships.

All this while he was also establishing a position within the writing networks, with readings and publications. Later was to come his wonderful Chanticleer – Ole Chanty – poetry and writing magazine.

If you are at all curious how other people live through their time, then this book could hold you, and leave its mark.

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:
Incidents in a Crowded Life, by John Howard

https://www.amazon.co.uk/INCIDENTS-CROWDED-LIFE-John-Howard/dp/1910406724/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=jon+howard%2C+incidents&qid=1583065797&s=books&sr=1-1-spell

Combray

Posted: February 8, 2020 in Chat
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On the church steeple of Saint-Hilare, Combray:
And in the evening, when I was coming home from a walk…it was… so soft, in the close of day, that it looked as if it had been set down and crushed like a cushion of brown velvet against the pale sky which had yielded under its pressure, hollowing slightly to give it room and flowing back over its edges; and the cries of the birds that wheeled around it seemed to increase its silence, lift its spire to a greater height and endow it with something ineffable.

And later:

A little tap against the window-pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a copious light spill, as of grains of sand dropping from a window above, then the spill extending, growing, regular, finding a rhythm, turning fluid, resonant, musical, immeasurable, universal: it was the rain.

Yes, I’m spending my late evenings in Combray.
At last I’ve got around to reading Proust., In Search of Lost Time, rather than the older Remembrance of Things Past.
This is a newish translation: Lydia Davis, for Penguin Modern Classics. And instead of the evocative Swann’s Way, she translates Volume 1 as The Way by Swann’s.

Different weightings of a phrase tell so much of a time period, the dynamics of the time. This, I was tempted to write conjugating of the phrase, denotes our moment in time as one of reappraisal, sitting back and looking around at what is, what we have carried with us, as opposed to a time of movement. That itself is revealing; we may think this is a moment of change, and yet what we actually do suggests one of reappraisal.

The contrasts of image in that second passage: sand – fluid; close-by – far away; immediate moments – immeasurable, universal.
And the similar images, developed from one another: window pane – window above; rhythm – musical; copious (light) spill – extending (sound); a little tap – resonant.

There are also the uses of polysyllabic set within monosyllabic structures, skilfully deployed.

What fine writing, though. It is solace for these testing times.

But then the writer followed that up with a ludicrously stretched joke on the difference of the Saturday routine at Combray.
Then Francois chased around and messily slaughtered a chicken for their meal.
Ok, time to skip-read, perhaps.

Au Revoir Europe

Posted: January 31, 2020 in Chat
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I used to have this kind of ‘joke’:
If ever England left Europe, then they’d all be dead within 5 years.
They’ll have bored each other to death.

I think now, though, there is enough of an ethnic mix to prevent that.

Au revoir, Europe. For now.

England used to feel like a stagnant pond, when I was growing up.
Then it went international, vibrant, so alive.
There’s always this blossoming, then dying off, then all over again.

People say ‘There is something different about living on an island.’
So don’t judge too harshly.
‘Something different‘: bit of the old je ne sais quoi, then? That’s quite ironic.

Don’t judge too harshly, I wrote… then I thought of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and, well… how on earth did that/did they happen?
The Conservative Party got a bit of a landslide victory at last election.
But did they?
It was an end to the Brexit chaos people voted for.
And Johnson made damned sure he was heading that one. So, no, people who would never normally vote for them, voted for the only one with the remote possibility of giving them peace from the dithering.

– Dithering – this is One thing the politicians did right: the referendum vote-divide was so close that to go all out for one side or the other would have been shamefully authoritarian, to say the least. The politicians ‘dithered’ in order to find a fair solution to both sides.
I think they should have held out longer, fought harder, but….

The Conservative landslide: the trouble is that so politically naive are most people, it didn’t dawn on them that to allow a foothold was to give permission to take the whole wall off if necessary to get in – and all their ‘policies’ with them.
An old, old, story.

I’ll not bore readers any longer with this sorry business.
Oh no, it’s started, the boring!

Au revoir – for now.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-51303555/brexit-meps-sing-in-unison-ahead-of-brexit

Lulu Eightball. Published 2005 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 078-0978656904
Lulu Eightball, Volume 2. Published 2009 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 978-0-9786569-5-9

Atomic Book Company: https://atomicbooks.com

Readers of the New Yorker, connoisseurs of the comics section, will recognise the work of Emily Flake. It is oddball comedy, gently digging the ribs, squeezing the squeaky balloon, of contemporary attitudes and practices.

http://www.emilyflake.com

Well, these volumes of Lulu Eightball are the ones the papers never saw: these are comics and cartoons of a distinctly other order.
Her format tends to be a page size square that contains four cartoons, not always part of a sequence, but that connect by subject: four takes, if you like. They can be four stand along cartoons, or two sequences, or… you get the idea.

Oh, but is the work of a sharp and witty observer/liver of the modern comedy of Western life!
And she is gender-fair: her women can be as monstrous as her men, and men gentler than her women.
This in itself is quite a feat in the toxic world she is working in: women cartoonists fight long and hard for the breaks that males take for granted.

This is the American world from a woman’s perspective. Not always successful, not always ‘with it’, not always clued-in; Lulu Eightball is a  loveable ogre.

The emotional range is set within limits: dipsy, cutesy-sharp, smart, to downright snarling. Is this the ‘nasty’ girl of Trump (you can just imagine him using this technique with his ‘conquests’, with his daughter, even. It has that sort of trued-and-tested wear to it)? No, that is far too creepy.
Lulu Eightball has moments of frustrated, almost despairing crankiness – something conveyed for all readers to recognise, and own.
But she never goes into psycho-land, from where there is no return.

In her more recent work, say, Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting (2015) she explores the female world od parenting more thoroughly.
This is a book for all new parents: there are sooo many parenting books, but this one pulls no punches, applies no tippex, and yet makes you feel recognised, on safe ground.

*

Sometimes something catches you, and you read on.
For me it was The Heartbreak of Fireflies, from Volume Two. The first cartoon has two bugs making snarky comments as a firefly walks by: Hey sparkle bottom. My cigarette’s gone out. Then she takes it further, with a note how the firefly is trying desperately not to let his light blink.
And the next cartoon in the frame has a firefly encounter fairy lights. Why would anyone put up strings of false women? Is – is it some kind of joke?

Dracula TV Series

Posted: January 11, 2020 in Chat
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The new 3 episode TV series has recently finished.
So now you start to wonder, remember and laugh, and remember and look puzzled, and all the other responses it calls from you.

Was it as good as you hoped?
I’m undead; I’m not unreasonable.‘ was a good start: sharp, snappy, and yet… and yet, in that part of the action he was, yes, very unreasonable, as he sat back allowing his wolves to slaughter all of the nuns. Not for his ‘hunger’, note, but for the wolves.

‘The Dracula effect’ gets its impact, its punch, from transgression. That is its dynamic: something, an evil from long, long ago, bowling into the modern, sophisticated world, and wreaking havoc.
There were moments in this series: released from his Hannibal Lector/Skyfall cell, by his lawyer, and all London open to him…. But no, he did not go on the rampage.
It was as though the writers were ticking boxes on the required-modern-attitudes scale, as well as layering with cultural references. There was even a Dark Lord in there i.e. Voldemort.

Each work sets out the parameters it is constructed, and is to work, within. The older versions of the tale have very clearly demarcated moral and ethical borders and boundaries. Transgression was guaranteed.
In this new series the parameters were open, its was a broad field of equality and diversity. Where were the borders? Where could the energy come from?
Even his cold-bloodedness: the baby to feed on, the killing of the nuns, the apparently conscienceless killing of ship companions, blatant betrayals, and gratuitous self-serving, are all too well known from our recent wars and their attendant war-crimes, recent political regimes, experiences of survivors still very much alive. And in the case of refugee camps, still being perpetrated as we speak/write
It says much in Claes Bang’s favour that he could smoulder and threaten with more than enough contained violence to carry off the larger-than-life character he was portraying.
And yet also a worthiness kept creeping in. And clunkiness: instantly picking up on modern technologies, as well as displaying an expertise? I still have trouble working Skype, but he did it first try – from someone else’s blood-memories, was it? Everyone knows the hand book approach, but the fiddly bits around the functions are something else.
And constant, dependable, broadband?

Which brings us to the most important question: what is the present-day sensibility? What, of what we are doing, will be found to be worthwhile in years to come?
What will survive of us – and not in some comedy channel’s You Will Not Believe This! type formula.

Because these are the questions the series deals with, ultimately.
Here was someone from 15thCentury Central Europe: what did he find, here? And what else did he bring through time with him?
Something that we could recognise, use, applaud?

His vampire parameters: sunlight, silver, crosses… all acquired dependencies? Believing his own, created, myths? Very contemporary.

Chain

Posted: January 3, 2020 in Chat
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Each day’s like a chain that hangs from its cloud.
Tuesday was clumsy, loose, not reaching ground;
today is fine-spun, hall-marked, many linked –
each link frames a dimension of life.

Broken chains are dangerous, lash out
whenever air stirs, clouds mass, trees bend,
and no storm breaks. How many died, do you think,
their lost days clashing overhead?

These chains connect us, we would not be
without them. They themselves could be
the finest spun, glinting, and delicate.

But they are not.

Every time you turned the street turned with you:
the languages, distractions, sales, and somewhere
a street band. You turned and the current flowed
around you, through you; kept moving. The window display
was there for you. Streets of bodies eddying, surged.

You still felt their tug in a doorway. Turned, and
lifted away; it fell from you. You rose
quickly and above it all; shop lights far below.
Rose past cornices, pigeon spikes, to colder air;
the smells of fast food, music, muting.

A sudden panic; the city lights indistinguishable –
you were rising faster, ‘How will I breathe?’
Higher, higher to break through to sudden
openness, emptiness,
and strung there
were huge chains of lives, channelled
across darkness — people connected, singly,
as far as sight was possible.

A policemen next to you, his difficult face;
the barrista who snubbed you, the shop assistant
who had seemed distant,  all there together,
connecting.  And listening revealed
high tones, metallic, different timbres. The planets,
ringing in the openness.

Linked lines of lives stretched from planet
to planet and the sun’s radiance. All connected,
attuned  to a vast, opening sense
of awareness, completion.

 

And so world leaders clap as England skips off into political oblivion behind Bojo the Clown.
Like the Pied Piper, maybe, but without his skill or art.

What happened at the UK election?
Did Brexit seal everyone’s fate, both Remain and Leave  supporters?
Did Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the only viable opposition, consign everyone to disaster?
(The Green Party conspicuous by their absence.)

Tell me, the much vaunted soundbite of being sick and tired of the Brexit rigmarole, was that the reason so many voted against their long held beliefs?

And so, Jeremy Corbyn et al wander back into the 1970s, which he never really left – his Manifesto was pure 1970s – with period PLO affiliations having morphed into unambiguous anti-Semitism. And to leave the vulnerable of society, and huge new abundance of impoverished, to further foodbanks, malnutrition, to a NHS that’s on the point of having to charge for admission to A and E, for general medical care (these last divulged  to us by a desperate NHS worker). And how many more Austerity-related deaths?
Thanks for that.

In the middle of our Austerity, when everyone was jumpy and panicky, our then PM David Cameron pulled out a bill from the European Union saying the UK owed £billions. ‘Look at this!, he said
He did not mention it was he who had withheld the yearly payments, so that the debt built up… and ‘Look at this!’
The result was the Brexit mess.

         Timing is all, of course; and politics is theatre. Here was proof of that.

There is a cartoon in the UK satirical magazine Private Eye, showing Boris Johnson with a mop – the caption: Only we can clean up the mess that we have made.
Which captures it all rather nicely.
Many populist politicians create a chaos to upset everyone, and then to solve, saying, See how good I am!
Needlessly upsetting everyone; just for their own poll ratings.

I wrote of the UK, but isn’t it really just England? And hasn’t it been just England for quite some time now?
I first became disgusted with the main political parties at the last Scottish Independence referendum – their attitude to Scotland, and patronising manner, was so open at last. And ever since, virtually everything that has come out of Scotland has been openly ignored.
Take this example: Glasgow has had a very successful programme for dealing with knife crime. Why not adopt it in England?
No, said Javid.
Consign everyone to further deaths and injury, out of sheer arrogance.

The Irish border – and deeper behind that let’s look, for example there, at the criminal proceedings for prosecution for the Bloody Sunday massacre: 13 unarmed killed, by British troops. And the English court Now will allow only 1 prosecution. How generous, how understanding – this crumb of regard from the great English table.

And, so, Wales – the heartland holds firm but the traditionally Englished areas of the south west, the borders (Monmouth, Radnor etc), fall-in with the big and more powerful English. Anglesey, though,  so dependent on finance from England….

Get Brexit Done – and let us get back to how we were.
Ah, no, sorry; none of that from now on.

Will vacuity be the new norm: heads-in-the-sand, fingers in ears, eyes tight shut?
‘What brave new world….’

Of course it suits President Trump mightily to have the UK split from Europe: weak, dependent, and no longer a player on the world markets.