Some News and Stewart Lee

Personal, Stories

Hey, so I’ve not posted in a while. (How many times have you heard that before?) So, here’s an update. I’ve got a couple essays I’m scared to put out, but if all goes well they should be coming in the next couple days. I know how you love my rants about the state of modern democracy and philosophical semantics, so you’ll enjoy that. Anyway…

I’ve been working for my local paper on a voluntary basis, editing their “Community” section. It’s good, it’s a way of reporting on the exact parts of a locale that I want to nurture and encourage as the first (and arguably only step) in the democratic revolution. Non-violent and legal revolution that is.

I can’t complain pal, you know. I’ve also been catching up on a few literary greats, reading some Hemmingway, Kerouac, admiring Hunter S Thompson (perhaps unhealthily) and hunting down online poetry (etc) magazines. I might make a list of them on here if that seems helpful. I might even put up some of my old poems – I found one the other day about a pigeon that’s got a cold. Trust me, it’s gold.

Hunter Thompson though, I mean what a sad end. I mean it looks like he succumbed to media pressure to become Duke for many of his formative years, and then fell into an early retirement advising some decent actors. Or maybe not. I’m sure there’s more to the tale.

Getting distracted a lot too by Stewart Lee (picture above) don’t know if you’d have heard of him…? Some good snippets of his shows on youtube. A master of comic repetition I think, but really that’s something else, some kind of unashamed stage presence, the character he’s created of a disillusioned funny man mocking the audience and himself. There is a lot to his act, and the way that every stage of talking about him contains a kind of irony and pre-existing commentary of its own only adds to the brilliance.

I’ve wanted to do an ironic comment about irony under one of his videos, but the comments sections are so dated now that to post in them would seem vaguely embarrassing. So I’ll post it here. Would’ve gone under the Caffe Nehru video, probably, though the routine comes from his other stuff, like the Ratko Mladic and Twitter segment.

Look at that man there, that man, there, wearing his suit jacket, his little Edwardian, Teddy Boy, Mod jacket turned black by the 90s and hiding half-remembered dreams of fashion, hiding his little beer belly from all the beer and Ginsters pies, that little man, there, on that comedy stage – comedy! – little man, there, with his eyes and the hairs in his nose, and his little pin on his little mod jacket, on the lapel there, his little 2009 ‘black is the new black’ many-buttoned coat of a jacket concealing the small child he ate on his way to the theatre, look at him, there, standing up on his legs, his little legs in his skinny trousers with the distressed knees, distressed so that middle class elitist liberals can pretend they had to kneel to do work, so that they can simultaneously abuse working people in South-East Asia and write reviews of paint-covered artists in South-East London, distressed elitist liberal reviewers abusing while they review people who do vaguely work, or while they provide a dim sense of creative capacity to utterly grey businessfolk, who use a veneer of personal failure and creative inadequacy to disguise wildly excessive profit margins, Stewart Lee, that man, there, breathing his little breaths in between words, little words there, words about things, look at him talking about the things, to the people, and the little people off-camera listening to the things that he’s talking about, the people there, sitting, off-camera, listening to the things he’s saying, the words, people there, people, thinking “oooh, irony has let itself go”.

The Shame

About

I want to do an about me section (rather than just the ‘about philosophy’) because, I figure, I don’t want to seem like I’m hiding anything and then be uncovered real quick with some google searches. Also the affirmation. I want to know if I seem interesting. And I’m squirming, by the way, even if you can’t read that between the lines.

I’m not normally proud of anything I do, alright, so it’s been very surprising to some people that I’ve come up with this philosophy thing that I seem to like. That I’ve not abandoned any mention of it even as I fail to explain it. Folks have even thought I’m arrogant for not backing down on it. Like “This is so clearly bollocks, there’s only one explanation for your continuing to pursue it: you’re a cunt.” And I just think, well, cunts get a lot of negative attention despite being so beautiful…dicks as well actually…isn’t that weird? It doesn’t seem fair. But then I guess the curseword is emphasising genitalia’s one-sided focus. If I’m a cunt, is it supposed to be about wanting the whole world to fuck me and that being irritating?

I’m under 30 (keeping it vague so I don’t have to update for a few years) and my name is Merlin. That’s my real name. On the WordPress I’m starting to go by Jack since people get confused by the site title. And I like the generality of “Jack”. No offence to anyone named it, it’s just Jack and John are the kind of names given to unidentified corpses in police records. I really like being a Merlin as well though. Growing up I was steeped in my Dad’s own take on pagan traditions. He was an Albion, although he named himself on that one. Pagan traditions – in this case particularly the British ones – are pretty great. The whole reincarnation thing is in part responsible for my bothering with philosophy at all. It gave me a chance to say that Heaven and Hell just ain’t good enough. Now of course, I have a somewhat modified view of reincarnation. On death the body becomes part of everything else around it – that’s science. I don’t know where the existential self goes though. Maybe it splits back into smaller parts and exits right with the body. I’ve also decided I don’t like saying “Philosophy” to people, although it is a nice word and it’s very very easy to use when you’re doing the thought dance and want to tell people about it formally.

I’m going into a place where I’ll be ‘culturally pagan‘ a bit. But I don’t like to be any one thing – that’s boring. So other labels coming out of the box…I’d say I’m a romantic whether I like it or not. I’m British even though in many ways I don’t like it, and in many of the subtle little ways I do – we’re all about subtlety. Even British itself – I realised after (deliberately) typing Britishish that there are two ‘ishs’ there. We are ‘Brit ish’. Kinda Brit, like maybe. If we wanna be.

I drink black coffee. I drink a bottle of wine or three beers and a whisky most days of the week. Sometimes a flagon of cider if I can get one. Yeah, hehe, a flagon. I love going for walks or jogs – and yeah, there’s a beach. I prefer forests for it though, and sometimes streets for people-watching. I want to say I’m a female (if that’s different to woman in your book) but I don’t know if I can. It depends on whether you think of the feminine as an abstract concept like the goddess, or if you think it’s a very physical (as well as social) quality that can be held only by biological women and certain carefully chosen hermaphrodites. I prefer getting fucked by men, but I’m open to anything really. And yes I do need to mention that – I’m youngish, it’s an important part of my regular experience, and – while we’re talking about me – that’s the subject.

As the title implies, I usually think I need to apologise for existing. Sometimes not though, and sometimes I can only keep the self-flagellation at bay by fighting it. So I get a bit pugnacious, but it’s only really directed at me, alright?

I used to and still kinda do really like clothes. Ever hear of Geovictwardianism? Well, it’s interesting. Not quite my cup of tea (more of a coffee kinda gal, as I said) but I like it and especially any piratical and gypsy derivations. Oh and Peaky Blinders is my current ‘style guru’. I don’t go around like Tommy Shelby but for me it’s the height of fashion and possibly self-expression (politely combined with self-control).

My Desert Island Disks are: “Lovers” by Alex Turner; White Stripes’ “Cannon”; Arctic Monkeys’ “You’re So Dark”; “Les Cactus” by Jacques Dutronc; Trevor Something’s “The Possession”; “Cigarette Duet” by Princess Chelsea; the Libertines’ “Gunga Din”; and Ian Dury’s “My Old Man”. I’m not sure how all those would help on a desert island, but I guess I’d be doing a lot of remembering while waiting for death. And I remember a few other things I could sing. Without a cd player, singing from memory is probably all I could do anyway. The book I think would be Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”, and the luxury some kind of lubeless dildo (sorry). I also have no fucking idea what I’d want to be on a desert island with me haha, so this is just the result of about 30mins on-and-off contemplation. A kind of blurb – not particularly well thought-through but still revealing.

I’d probably rather not have a favourite poet and say instead that I’ve consistently enjoyed reading Vagabond City Lit. I’m spending a lot of time on Charles Bukowski at the moment though.

I don’t know exactly why I’ve written this. I guess I just want to give you, stranger, a relatively honest and maybe even informative account of who I am. I guess a large part of the site is about that anyway but stories and poems sometimes just leave you wondering. Which is great, but I don’t know: I don’t want it to seem like I’m some anonymous stranger to you. I am that, but I’m also not. I’m the same species as you, which surprisingly means quite a lot of connection on its own. And if you’re going to read what I have to say and think anything of it…I feel like it’s important you know who wrote it. I want to know, if I track you down from your like or follow and enjoy what you’ve got to say.

Erm, yeah. I don’t really know what kind of ending to put on this.

Biscuits.

The Excuse

About

I’m saying what I believe is that existence is true. That stuff exists. And that, at the end of the day, past all the beautiful colour of language, life and opinion, that’s all I believe.

My disclaimer, you see. I plan on doing and saying lots of things that certainly won’t be taken under proper consideration – that’s part of the fun, you see. In a world of headlines, there are only a few ways to grab the headlines and related iconography. And on the off-chance that I operate one of those routes to acknowledgement, I’d like a place to fall back to. A little redoubt that says at least I tried to tell you. History is thick with people admirably defended by truth and purpose – having a heart, having a kind of statement unspoken. Well, this is my statement written.

I have a very simple view of the world, and one that I’ll endeavour to explain over the next lifetime.

1. All things are of equal value, if divergent in semblance.

2. Everything is trying to exist more and/or exist better. Evolution, kidder.

3. Everything is stuff that exists.

The weird thing is that those three points are actually just the third one. All you need to know is that stuff exists, and the rest seems to follow unavoidably. It’s terrifying, brilliant, and maybe a little disgusting. That’s philosophy for you, or thinking or whatever it’s called these days. You do it proper and you’ll almost wish you hadn’t. Almost.

I have other, personal, viewpoints that seem to follow from the basic three. Maybe they can help to explain. I believe in non-violence: I believe in getting rid of compulsion in the most absolute sense of one person forcing an action on another, unwilling, person. But I also believe that all viewpoints are right and, for various reasons, of equal merit at the time of their being held. Though there are ‘better’ viewpoints that will eventually replace ‘worse’ ones, this is a process of constant change and improvement that happens on an individual level. At any one time, any idea being held will be the best that that individual can come up with: at any one time, everyone will have the best idea. Best for them, at least. And you can’t ban a thought, so don’t try.

In other words, people will keep on doing what they individually need to do whether you like that or not. No only whether you like it or not, but in a total, truthful way. People have to live their lives. Yes, that includes the ‘worst’ people. And don’t get me wrong, I personally hate murders, rapists, evil-doers of all kinds. But this isn’t entirely about what I think. It’s about the broader fabric of things. We all live in our own heads and can only understand things as we individually come to understand them. So yeah, if you don’t want to get killed by a murderer, defend yourself as you think fit. Just don’t go pretending that the murder is some inexplicable force of evil. He or she is (was if you then killed them) a human being, exactly like you in core functionality. We all exist, we all want to make the most of it, we all do our best to achieve that end. This is the sense in which we are all the same. Some people will think that robbery, rape and murder will help them get the most out of life. Those of us who disagree should try and convince them of our alternative ideas, while also (if we want to protect ourselves – we don’t have to) making sure these others don’t cause too much damage in the meantime.

Essential concept for me: we humans (almost) always operate as individual units. Even when we’re working together, it’s still a bunch of individuals as well as the group they form. The existential self does not disappear, it keeps working. It never fully stops working until death. And every moment of work forms that person. Every moment of your existence contributes to who you will be, and not everything that happens to you will be easily within your control. Not all of it will be familiar. In fact, most of it will be largely out of your control and will be unfamiliar at first. You have to learn patterns, you often have to learn to influence your life rather than try to control it outright. Life is bigger than you. Life won’t bow to your whims. But it will listen to you, and it will respond to what you do. And you will respond to it. That goes for every one of us, ‘best’ and ‘worst’.

Like what I say above, that what I do won’t always be taken under ‘proper consideration’, all I’m strictly saying is that not all of you are me. And why would you be? It’d be boring (amongst other things) if we were all that kind of similar.

An important point, right: if you believe something you should really believe it. So if you want to go non-violence for example, then you really need to be trying hard to make sure that you never need to deploy violence. Don’t just say you’re a pacifist without thinking about it. Adhere to something meaningful to you, not a hollow puppet made only to entertain the kids. At the same time though, humans are not ideal beings. We can consider ideas, but we can’t always keep to them perfectly. It’s not what we’re made for. We’re made to survive and thrive (as a species) in most environments on the Earth’s surface, and we continuously remake ourselves as time goes on. One day, we will probably become strange non-human beings of perfection or near-perfection. I mean obviously we’re going to take evolution into our own hands. However, since we’re not at that day yet, I can’t say what that will be like. I’m one of us, and so also not perfect. All I can say is that knowing some kind of truth, knowing some kind of good idea, means that you should try and follow that good idea, and teach others about it.

But this is not just about people. This is about all of existence – life isn’t just humans. All of existence is trying to do what’s best, is continuing to exist. It’s all doing what it believes is right, so to speak. We’ve only come to be in the first place through those kinds of existential forces. Things that don’t give a fig about our daily joys or tribulations, from atoms and whatever else, swapping electrons n’ all, up through your bacterias and animals. Even rocks are doing what they’ve gotta do, and the universe, the existence is dependant on all of that doing and having done exactly what it did and does. It’s mind-boggling. Let me tell you, there are times when I wish I was a future being capable of dealing with this, and there are times when I wonder if I’d be better off not knowing. But bollocks to both. I’m here right now, I know what I know, I am what I am, and it’s important.

So that’s my mission statement. My core belief is in the truth of existence. Alright. Every part of existence is there together. I can talk in religious language, scientific language, atheistic language. Whatever language you want me to talk, I can at least try and learn it and do that for you. I don’t mind language, because a truth – if true – should hold steady in any language. That’s why in ideas terms I don’t like bashing anyone for the group they belong to. The only issue is the veracity of their guiding principles, and it’s in the nature of the truth for us to want it, for us to want to be right in a complete sense. So everyone will be trying to get to truth in their guiding principles. And that’s the same as me. So there will be room for us to work together to get to that truth.

Every group is trying to get to the same thing as every other group. All they end up fighting over is misinterpreted looks and sounds. And if you get it in your head that we are all looking for the same thing, maybe it’s easier to forgive a misinterpretation, and maybe it’s easier to understand others. Maybe the fighting lessens because it doesn’t help. And then maybe this would’ve been an introduction rather than an obscure disclaimer.

Stuff exists. Deal with it.

Does anyone else get tired of labels?

Political, Prosaic, Pulpit

I’m thinking ideologies and religions and politics and genders and all that stuff, but maybe some shopping labels too. I mean we wouldn’t need traffic light nutritional guidelines if all the food was in its freshly farmed or slaughtered form, or prepared by a trustworthy authority that’s not trying to pump us full of tasty tasty fats and sizzling stimulating sugars. Bastards.

I’ve been spending some time trying to work out what femininity is, and I’ve mostly been avoiding the masculine. I know enough already, I figure. But really, all you learn in research is that both terms are unhelpful. They’re social groupings that just don’t matter. I mean, grand scheme don’t matter. Like sure walking down the street right now reading this on your phone, or maybe sat at home listening to a loved one do something in the next room, or lying in bed listening to some filthy Lou Reed…then maybe it matters a little bit. But still not really. It’s not an important part of who you are, it’s just a filter that other people will try and feed you through, if and when they can. It’s not something you have to participate in.

I do it for fun, sometimes. I make myself a science experiment, probably way too obviously. I become the shy girl or boy walking into that club, that bar, that coffee place for the first time. That lecture hall, that fashion outlet, that library. I make myself look ‘interesting’ and do ‘interesting’ things, and I wait for people to respond. Sometimes I get real chats – people who find and love the opportunity to sincerely be themselves with another individual. Sometimes I get fake come-ons, brusque and lustful slurps of kisses or coffees, raised eyebrows, scowls, or timid and tender requests for books to borrow, seats to steal.

The identities I put on are not identities, they’re labels, uniforms. And I find it really…sad, that we have to act this way, or that we choose to act this way. That we get lost in posturing.

So much of what I read about masculine and feminine identity, for example, comes down to physical features and behaviours. But it’s like trying to say someone is bald – that semi-famous philosophical problem – how many hairs does it take? Because clearly you can be called bald even if you have some hair. It’s a vaguery of quantity and presentation that seems to defy conventional logic: the point at which someone becomes bald is relative to who’s looking, or who’s wearing or not wearing the hair. But mainly who’s looking I guess. It’s not so important to the one with the hair, they just feel more or less of a breeze. They probably don’t have much need for a name for how they look. They have other words, pictures, sounds, for their experience, what they think, how they feel.

So with masculinity and femininity – it’s a vague labelling to help other people understand who you are, and how they see you. It matters to them whether you walk how they want or have the curves they want, or the muscles they need you to have, the job they want you to work. In a sense, therefore, it’s not something you need to worry about at all. It doesn’t matter to you, you just have to be yourself and, hey, why not enjoy being yourself while you’re there? So what if someone else doesn’t like it? If they’re not involved in your life in any meaningful way, it shouldn’t matter. If they are involved in your life seriously…then why aren’t they taking you seriously?

Okay, sometimes being yourself will get you into trouble with the onlookers. They can imprison you, harm you, bully you. Sometimes. Basic line of defence there is the same: fuck them. You’ve got one life being you, so don’t let anyone shit that up. Being yourself can hurt but unselving is worse. The middle ground is, I guess, hiding in the labels people like without adopting them. The safe place, maybe, mostly, is that. Understanding the labels other people use, that you probably also have to use, remembering that a label is just that. Remember the you behind that peelable sticker. Behind that loose dust jacket.

Identity is something far more personal, and so far more nebulous than label. No name can fully describe, no traits, no long videos, books, audio recordings, nothing can quite encapsulate it fully except you having yours, you being you. And heck it’s something you can’t avoid. Unselving just hurts worst, it doesn’t actually break you. You continue being you, and having been you.

Sometimes I think labels are a way of people escaping their own totality. I’ve done a lot over the years I’m unhappy about, and that stuff doesn’t go away with time. Forgetting it for a while doesn’t wash it out of history. But hey, that doesn’t determine who I have to be, what I have to do, how I have to feel. It’s stuff I have to come to terms with, and carry on in spite of. And hiding, pretending, putting it off…that’s just running away from creaks in the floorboards, rustles in hedgerows, the call of the Moon. Life is something you have to live, you know. It’s weirdly self-fulfilling like that. All it asks is that you get properly involved in being…and being you.

Now, maybe I can’t make this properly engage with the debate on “identity issues/politics” but that’s because I don’t like having to be part of that warzone. I’m peaceful, I want happy, functioning folk, not holy corpses. Most of any debate seems to have become people demanding obedience and adherence from people who demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them…ad nauseam. It’s a minefield in which most any opinion is wrong for someone. I just wish we could get back to the reality…you don’t need to have such a strong opinion about someone else’s life. Beyond wanting them not to shit on you, they’re really not your problem. And most people don’t want to shit on you. Scat porn is relatively exclusive like that.

It’s so frustrating as politics descends into nonsensical exchanges of buzzwords that have lost all meaning, discussions of gender, sexuality, patriarchy, identity, dissolve into a mess of offended males and females fighting for their right for other people to call them male or female…and that we seem to be unable to say “rape is wrong” and have everyone understand. We seem unable to say “racism is wrong” and have everyone understand. “War is wrong. Violence is wrong.” Or worse, we know these things are wrong, but in despair we suffer or indulge them anyway, the incomprehensible spewing mess of our existence drowning so many fractured minds…

I think we’re ordering. I think bit by bit humanity is helping itself to calm down and recognise a fair and universal understanding almost beyond description, but well within grasp. And on the one hand it’s so beautiful to feel that hope, more, that knowledge. But on the other, I am human and I am impatient.

Seventeen

Prosaic, Pulpit

“I poured my aching heart into a pop song
I couldn’t get the hang of poetry
That’s not a skirt girl, that’s a sawn-off shotgun
And I
Can only hope, you’ve got it aimed at me

Suck it and see, you never
Know
Sit next to me before I
Go

Jigsaw women in horror-movie
Shoes
Be cruel to me, cos I’m a fool for you”

Oh Turner.

The Arctic Monkeys did their first gig when Alex was seventeen. Just a bit of title-related trivia for you there. While I’ll admit I am basically an Alex Turner fangirl, I think the man genuinely has a brilliant lyrical talent. Matt Wilkinson seems to agree. Only I don’t think it’s some slippery quality that enables Alex to write with such profundity. Not some vague talent or muse. It’s the connectedness, the insight. Not to everyone generally, but to specific and vital parts of our lives. Friendship, love, melancholy, finding purpose or avoiding purpose. More specific: nights out, strange observations on the long walk home, infatuation, lust, surrenders, loss…humaness, haha. Al seems to be able to speak to something deep and internal, not just for me, but for thousands of fans. And if poetry is some marker of success in the realm of words, he’s definitely a poet.

But he’s a poet of the everyday, and in the truest sense: he can process the content of our lives and regurgitate their defining moments in beautiful song. And not to forget the Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane, Josh Homme – he’s got some proper good comrades that transform his wording from masterful to angelic. However, he’s the only one who, through the writing, I know is on the other side of the table with me, offering his glass for a playfully intoned cheers.

Enough of my gushing though. Connection is the theme. Alex has kept producing work since he emerged as a musician/singer/songwriter. He hasn’t really taken a break. This is because he lives the work and the experiences he’s writing about. This is because he’s never really lost track of things in the way that many of us do. With the Arctic Monkeys’ highly successful debut “Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not”, Alex was given everything he needed to write songs and perform forever. So, highly unusually, he took that and never looked back. Never worried substantially about needing to change style just for the audience. He’s changed a lot, sure, but it’s clearly reflecting him and not just what we want from him.

I mean it’s him talking to us from the same side of the bar. One of us, not a reflection of us.

And this is the really weird core it’s generally hard for all people to grasp: that you become closer to others by being comfortable as yourself. Honesty, folks, or as close to that as we can manage. It’s honesty that’s always produced my best work. I’m just quite scared of it. Alex, I reckon, isn’t anywhere near as worried as most of us. All of the fans he has and still baring his soul in songs, retaining his playful character in person, in between songs, in interviews, in recordings. Fame fucks people up and – at least in relative terms – fame has not fucked him up. That’s a damn miracle.

And, for those who are looking, it’s a heart-felt testament to the value of honesty in an artist’s work. Because look, if you can’t connect with yourself, if you can’t engage with how you feel about what has happened and what will happen to you…how can you ever seriously talk to someone else about their lives? And isn’t that most of what we’re doing? Talking, communicating in ever more complicated forms, trying to emphasise or hide our experiences, context depending? That’s art, man.

Last time I was writing about the disembodiment of words, how they carry us away from our immediate selves and into others’ lives and experiences in a very serious and real way. The brain projector kicks up and the body slows down in people who interact with our work, not just words, but all art. The act of communicating. But it’s so much easier to listen, to look, to feel, when that experience shown by someone else is so clearly also in us. There are always points of common ground but I think it’s only in a more-or-less unashamed work that the common ground is well and truly laid beneath the artist’s feet, when you realise that they are with you and not outside of you. The disembodiment becomes less of a departure of one’s soul or spirit into another, and more or a joining of souls. Sounds grand I know, but it’s right.

If the soul is a metaphor for your deepest self, physical, mental, everything that at a moment in time is your core, then it’s only in baring that that you can get other people to focus on you as much as themselves. You know, in philosophy, there are a lot of folks doubting that we even know other people exist. That’s because philosophy is quite an academic field and spends surprisingly little time engaging with the reality it tries to describe. Instead, philosophers ‘proper’ sit in stuffy rooms, often reading smelly books about long dead Greeks and Germans. They have so much to prove – literally they’re not even comfortable admitting they exist, and if they do it’s existence in very carefully defined terms. There’s a place for that sure, but it’s not an especially human pursuit. The part of us that we have to live with our entire lives, the part of us that drives our actions, the clearly and unashamedly human part, needs to be open and without shame. Because that’s how we very loudly and yet informally tell eachother “we are here! And its fucking great!”

I mean sure, maybe in the grand scheme of things something being great is irrelevant. But we’re humans. We’re specific. We’re not Gods or Angels or Fairies or any of that shit. We’re here together, jumbled up and living whether we like it or not, and we have so much room to like it. So much potential for good ting, fine stuff, merriment and happiness.

That’s why I fucking love Alex Turner. He looks a lot like a living embodiment of that truth, an example of how we all should be in our own lives. Full, honest, devoted to the pursuit of our own shit, whatever that is. It really doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be bad. Because once you start doing that, your thing, you realise that’s just what everyone else is trying to do and whether you like it or not, it puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them. Not in some ivory tower, not driving by in a Rolls Royce or some crap, but at the next desk down or opposite at the table in some café.

Lastly and once again, writers’ block is just failing to recognise that. Nothing grand, but it can pin people for their whole lives. Fuck, it’s so simple. So complex, sure, but so simple. Even if I’ve not proved it right here, take the reins, be yourself, lead your life, you’ve got nothing to lose, pal. I mean this is something we’re likely to be fighting with our whole lives, but…balls to that. Do what you have to do. Find out who you are and be it. Then all your troubles in art and work will evaporate like water boiling pasta.

Have a B-side to set you on your way.

Picture above not mine. Review, educational, beautiful, etc. 

Sixteen

Prosaic, Pulpit

We’re starting up again. I feel like Phil Winter in Alice in the Cities, lost in the detritus of meaningless travel, deliberately accidentally swamped by advertising. Bright screens, short videos, long ads, everything blurring, deleting apps and accounts only to reinstall them again days later, once again broken seemingly from lack of wine. That’s me, not Winter.

So, I need to be back. I don’t believe in writers’  block. Related to this really useful piece of advice: don’t tell yourself you need to do X important thing. Tell yourself you want to do it. Writers’ block is a castle built on a swamp, it has no clear or meaningful basis and instead a miasma stinks about it: believability. It’s “well documented” says Wikipedia. We all talk about it. Any series comedy or drama that mentions writing does a bit on it. The assumption therefore arrives that it’s a thing. I even found myself trying to capitalise it earlier. Nope. It’s a nebulous gathering of different factors that together result in little or no writing – or quality writing – being produced, or published. It’s life, really. Things happen to you that you haven’t processed. You need time to process them in whatever way.

Phil Winter (played by Rüdiger Vogler) feels disconnected from the world around him to the point at which he’s doubting meaning or existence itself. This of course makes it harder for him to write about something as broad as “the American landscape”. He processes the disconnection by being given sole care of a stranger’s nine-year old daughter for a couple weeks. Well, he is given sole care of the child and processes by deciding to care. The microcosm – so to speak – of looking after an abandoned child helps him to resolve something in the macrocosm of his own sense of existence. Or puts his worries far enough on the back burner so that, in his distraction, he starts writing again. Enough of him is engaged in helping or being with this person that he returns to the real world and stops sponging, returns from his own sea of personal doubt. He spends what little he has on someone else, earns money from nothing for someone else, finds most of his entertainment in and provides regular entertainment to someone else. And he gets to go back home to Germany where he’s more comfortable.

Look, while I’ve just talked about writer’s block really being a complex web of personal factors, there is one uniting theme. Disconnection. It’s easy to get disconnected as a writer, or any kind of artist. It’s easy to fall into the trap of living in your own mental world, because that’s almost what you’re being paid to do. Or it’s what you enjoy. Both. Even if you’re writing about reality, it’s super out-there to be watching reality. Most of us just experience the real. If you’re experiencing it and watching yourself do that at the same time – that’s weird. The whole observational act in art is strange, and so is making up a false world. It’s stepping out of our basic bodily boundaries and woah are we not entirely comfortable with that.

Words and pictures and even a lot of our sounds and smells come to represent other things, mention other things, spool tapes in your head-cinema of stuff that isn’t immediately occurring in front of or around your body. Every word, every mark, is a small disembodiment. Yeah. And how you feel about that disembodiment determines whether you get…disconnected. Either you feel like you’re connected with something else or many other things – you observe common ground. Or you feel like you’re outside of everything and so temporarily lost, floating in the spaces between metaphor and literal description, having seen things ignored by the rest of the world.

Instead of the brutalist, Stalinist, anonymous excuse of a writer’s block, let’s just say disconnection shall we? Especially if this is writers on writers. We can find so many ways of describing disconnection. Oh, you did a Flammarion? Right. Someone cut up your heart? Damn. Is that a thousand-yard stare I spy in those peepers? …You get the idea.

I’ve been out for a while and this time it’s just a story showing someone who seems familiar – that’s brought me back. Nothing too grand. I got the good feels for Phil Winter and so – having earlier felt alone in my particular form of suffering – now knowing that I have at least one notional comrade has dropped the scales from my eyes. For a while anyhow. I just couldn’t handle how Wim Wenders in the interviews and then the blurbs I’ve been reading all referred to Phil as having writers’ block. I’m like no! he even fucking says he’s disconnected and he literally starts writing again as he develops a caring relationship with Alice. Do. Not. Be. Silly. Let’s use our words, the useful words, it’s what they’re for.

Ugh. Well, the blog must go on. See you again tomorrow I guess…? Maybe let’s expand on the disembodiment of words. I like the way that sounds.

Fifteen

Prosaic, Pulpit

The Flammarion Engraving. People have been aware of weird shit since before 1872, but this picture feels like a good illustration of what I’ve been feeling lately. There’s a point in any stage of society where the society’s members reach out for things they don’t understand, like space. Broadly speaking the engraving is about people theorising the existence of things beyond the sky. If we didn’t have astronauts and big-ass telescopes, that’d be quite a scary concept, no? A strange, unknowable existence beyond existence?

Well, here’s the thing: the problem doesn’t go away with the Great Humongous telescopes. We may have stretched perception even to the edges of the universe, but there’s still the barely appreciable question of what lies beyond that. Or beyond the multiverse. Or about the nature of infinity. And the idea of all the significant shit we don’t know has really been messing with my head lately. It’s not even about death yo, I’m just worried that when I die my capacity to work this out will be substantially reduced. I wanna know what’s going on. I want the next answer in the infinite chain of “Why?” questions we can ask.

Gah. I feel like the dude in the engraving. I’ve just poked my head and arm out into space and I’m taking these heaving breaths of nothing, it’s inflating my skull to pop territory and maybe I’m even burning from the fictitious fires of the Firmament.

I love what I do – philosophy that is – but really. This is the worst. The worst feeling ever, you know, when you reach a little too far and get off balance. I mean fuck. I’ll get over it but in the meantime I been dazed and confused so long it’s not true (wanted an answer, never bargained for you).

Here’s how it is:

Existence is self-justifying. In human terms anyway. It’s ironically similar to the Christian God as described by various medieval and early modern theologians, except it definitely isn’t a man, nor human, nor particularly comprehensible. Our slice of it is what’s comprehensible, the rest is clearly way out West. I mean, banditos ride through it regularly and burn down evidence of the crime. Tom Waits is there, getting money – they’re giving it away. It’s chaos, man. It’s so chaotic that all metaphors are borderline mockery, if it could be mocked.

Existence is more or less infinite. We can’t really look at infinity to check, but logically it makes sense. In the way that it made sense to various Greek scientist-philosophers that the world might be made up of small particles, the world might be round, the world might orbit the sun…that kind of thing. The way that Flammarion has someone poking their head through the Firmament. People who have no idea what they’re talking about, but 200, 3000 years later, someone exonerates their account. Kinda. Given the limits they were working under.

In short, your being aware – of anything at all – means that something is happening, something exists. If something exists, very quickly any kind of non-existence starts to seem impossible. Which, by definition, it is. Don’t forget that.

You want to quote the philosophy that says nothing exists except when you’re there to experience it? Get all Burroughsey on me? I’m going to Occam’s Razor that shit. What, the entirety of existence pops in, consistent, rational, scientific, just because you move your head? Or just because your ear develops as part of the natural course of things – which are what by the way? – and you can hear a little further so a few more noises have to exist? Sure, it’s possible. Likely however…I’m not convinced.

The point of that whole thing is quantum mechanics. Broad strokes: a thing (an electron I hear) could be anywhere until something measures it. But it doesn’t pop into existence, it exists somewhere, or exists everywhere and gets measured somewhere. Weird, but not temporary un-existence.

You’re going to have to do your own research and soul-searching on this but it’s probable that things exist, just because existence is the way of things. Linguistically for sure,  but it checks out in all that we know about human reality. We live, we die, when we die our parts are re-distributed through natural processes. No matter is created or destroyed. The big bang might have happened, and if it did all the contents were already there. Human existence…our little lifetimes, our big lifetimes: nothingness is pretty much irrelevant to us as humans. Us as matter…maybe it’s relevant. Maybe even to us as conscious entities. But in our capacity as humans it looks as though everything is in its right place. Suck it.

We are part of an expanding universe, and our interest in that is to further a stable expansion or evolution. Broad strokes. If you want to put that in God terms, we’re building the Kingdom of Heaven. Brick by brick but hey, better than nothing right? Never say I exclude y’all religious folks.

Good and bad, there are absolutely efficient decisions which tend to fall more or less along traditional moral lines. Killing is usually bad for example. It hinders the progress of evolution because we’re destroying when we can modify or redirect.

This stands up under scrutiny even if I’m not doing it justice right now. Once you get past the irritatingly subtle “the point of existence is to exist more” or “morality is just about getting better”, it really looks like it has legs. More so than most other propositions of an absolute philosophy or morality. Humans kinda are that simple.

And yet the point of the beginning of this post: it’s not enough. We might get the validation we’re looking for as humans, great. I’m terrified of not getting my “why”, the understanding, validation, value as a conscious being, or as the caretaker of billions of atoms that make up my body, if that’s what we are. The bigger, non-human question which probably extends beyond human understanding so…fuck. End of the tunnel? Where are the limits of existence or if there aren’t any then why the fuck? Infinity? Really? We start again at the end? We just exist in Aristotelian Prime Mover bliss?

I don’t know. Head sticking out here, my eyes haven’t adjusted to the dark yet, maybe I’m about to breathe in a vacuum. Goddang Flammarion has more to it than initially appears.

Let’s just take solace in the possibility that there are the equivalent to answers out there, and we just don’t have the capacity to know them…yet.

Fourteen

Prosaic, Pulpit

So I’m working on a kind of collection at the moment. I’ll start leaking bits on here so we have content again, mostly poetry but I’m slowly trying to ease back into a little prose, a few dialogue stories. Actually, how do you feel about dialogue stories? Literally stories composed entirely of dialogue. Impossible? Impossibly boring? Very sensible?

I did one as a creative writing exercise a while back and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a lot like poetry – carefully selecting words to create the context, the feeling, the implications you need your reader to understand, if vaguely. I admit though, I prefer to have my stories mostly as opposed to entirely composed of dialogue. It’s based on screenwriting I guess – you still need a few directions, setting descriptions.

Anyway, here’s some prose for you; from a few years back now, but I like it.

Boxes

Dave stands alone in the murky attic, staring at the splitting rays of sunlight blasting through the single window. In the midday heat, he’s somewhere else. There’s a persistent and noisy creaking of wood, then Steve’s head bobs up through the access trap.
“Carpenter” he says.
Dave doesn’t move.
“David Carpenter” comes Steve, dragging himself up through the trap.
Dave turns.
“Why is it so damn hot in here?” he pauses “Why is it so damn dark?”
“I don’t know, Carpenter. Maybe it has something to do with the sun being in the sky.”
Dave looks at him, doesn’t reply.
“Well seeing as you’re not doing anything useful, help me lug some of these boxes downstairs.”
Dave thinks.
“Why is it so damn dark, Holden?”
“I don’t know, David.”
He picks up an average sized box.
“C’mon.”
Dave stares at the boxes.
“It’s cooler downstairs, Carpenter.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Dave drops down and starts examining one of the boxes. Steve looks, raises an eyebrow, and starts to walk downstairs. He struggles.
“Where’s my red box?”
“What was that, David?” Steve’s still struggling on the small steps.
“Where’s my red box.”
“Probably in the corner somewhere.” Steve jerks down through the trap.
Dave trains his eyes on the different box-filled corners of the room, squinting occasionally in attempt to pierce through the grey mass of paraphernalia and make out a streak of red. Eventually, he picks a corner and starts digging. He’s doing this until creaks herald the return of Steve. Steve Holden’s now wearing a pair of heavy-duty gloves and looks at Dave in the corner. “What are you doing, David?”
He’s answered with the ruffle of cardboard and paper. Picks up another box.
“Stop acting stupid Carpenter. Help me out here.”
“Don’t call me that.”
The sound of cutlery clashing against cutlery.
“Carpenter!”
Dave stops.
“Fuck you Holden. Where’s my box?”
“Help me clear out this place and you’ll find it, doofus.”
There’s silence. Dave is sitting on the floor, covered in a thin film of grey. Steve struggles and jerks down the stairs again. Then the same. Third time, Dave picks up a box and walks it down too. The attic is quiet for a moment. Flecks of dust are buzzing around the shafts of sun like daytime fireflies. The two men return. Steve picks up a box. Dave watches him.
“Hurt your hand? You oughtta take your time more, Holden.”
“Job needs doing. I’m just being careful.”
“Careful? You could wear those gloves in Hell and you wouldn’t get burned.”
“When you’ve moved 48 of these and you’ve found your red box, then we’ll see whose hands burn in Hell, Carpenter.”
“Shut the fuck up Holden.”
Steve picks up a box. Then he’s going down the trap. Struggling again. Dave cradles a box.
“Watch your feet.” he says, and follows.
The stairs leading through the trap are narrow, well worn wood. So old they’re starting to look more beige than brown. The men go along a dusty carpet and down through the house. The odd grunt announces that they’ve hit the ground floor.
“Well done you men” comes a female voice from some other room. Holden shuffles his hands around the box.
“Pfft. Men.”
“What was that David?”
“Nothing Holden, you go clunk your way outside.”
“And you tippy-toe along now Carpenter.”
The door is lit like a gate to another world as they leave. The blazing sun burns the eyes. The neighbourhood is beige. The big car is dull silver. They load up the boxes. Maggie appears at the door, squinting as they huff back along the drive.
“I hope you’re being nice to our neighbour, Davie.”
“Neighbour no more, sweet thighs. Ain’t that right Holden?”
“Still friends Carpenter, still friends.”
“Fuck you very much, friend.”
Maggie’s eyes glare at him under the shade of her palm.
“David! Don’t say that in front of the kid.”
“Look, Maggie, I know Holden ain’t the brightest but…”
Holden sort of slaps him and he giggles.
Maggie scowls as the men go inside and disappear up the stairs. She bathes in the sun for a moment. Walks over to the car. Brushes it with her finger which comes back covered in dust. Spies a bit of yellow by a wheel, bends over and picks out a child’s train, a toy, all in bright colours, and the body in a red that’s very red. She takes it back inside, calling for someone.

 

Thirteen

Poetry, Pulpit

The lights that show us through the dark are burning away our days

In crowds of black&white commuters, stark against the background sound quiet, glaring on, petty mumblings, headphone pendants, votive coffee cups left in temple alcoves

Or

Shellshocked private school boys in red scarves and brown wool overcoats the colour of dead leaves in Winter shining gold to be embezzled

Dulux charts of navy swimming in that grounded sky blue perpetual in the night and

Listed buildings stand testament to our strange obsession with memorials of the damned&angelic

Global Corporate Golgotha

All the tombstones have personal names that mean hotels, finance, property, alcoholics, pharmaceuticals like the way we give God a personal pronoun: Lloyds will handle it, Marks will handle it; He will handle it

Violent partially-erect sexual aids consume our city finances

Smoking&fire&loss&alarm&prevention&free paper are red

Security cameras are blue because they are comfortingly sad, or grey because they are not there

The harsh butcher lamps in shops saying come&buy&leave, in homes saying come&sleep&leave, in hospitals saying come&die&leave

The city heaves great lumps of dripping profit

Streetlamps making you drive & closed parks

The ant-hill windows burning on condemned estates

Then a thousand artists iridescent in pointless silver running onto railway tracks

To report on suspicious citizens & see it & say it & sorted.

Twelve

Prosaic, Pulpit

I think I need a bit of a creative diary here. Some help to go over the process and piece things together.

Right now we’re on a little break after that storm of poetry earlier. Poetry can take a lot out of you, man. Or at the very least I find too much in a short few days and you start repeating yourself. Favourite words, favourite techniques. My sibilance is off the charts. I reckon we need a pause so look forward to some more prose, hopefully a short story at some point (but I’m a bit out of practice) and plenty of metaphysical meandering. I used to have a section called that on an old blog from my university days. I dropped out by the way. Go figure.

What do you think of my poetry though? I really prefer to do formless in a very formatic way. That’s not a word incidentally, but it could be. Yes, the formatic of only a vague glass wall at the end of each line. Well, more of an escalator or a teleporter. I like to use line breaks as punctuation is what I’m saying. Mysterious punctuation that somehow still works. I feel like there’s something very important about the experience of reading poetry, becoming familiar with it. I think standard punctuation is too obvious, gives you part of the reward too early and tempts you to forget about the rest of that pot of gold further down the figurative rainbow. Remember kids, it’s all about the journey.

Let’s take an example:

I can smell your flat Shandy Bass
Crazy fresh open window Streathamings despite 4x4s
Maybe the orange
Lube seal guardian
The prickle of Sainsbury’s soave
Demented cartoon solipsism
And no questions
Some kind of pure morning sun feeling
Histories now seemingly too similar to be counted
Vague attempts at siphoning
The hairy butterfly embrace catches
In oesophageal anticipation
Exhausted Tadcaster blur moaning
Like Pink Floyd behind the eyes
The drowned sugar between sheets
Invader Zim acceptance
And white emperor armour self-inflicted orange somehow unjust
Like discarded lines sweat-patched
And lonely perfumed shower soap irritating unknown orgasm
A world set above the world
Your shiny glass skull self-reflecting or alien crystal
Talking fish singing penitent
Discarded shirt tie lissom French letters
Vapor boots neatly stacked with wine glass columns
Your epic poetic resounding sweet chill pizza
I could have laid the whole mourning through
No cold in the exhausted breeze cradling

N.B. I just found a lone comma after “columns” and expunged it from the historical records. Remember to proof properly ya douche.

Now, the effect I’m looking for is that you’ll be a little confused on first reading, but eventually your mind and your inner voice will force a certain kind of order into things, as it always does. And I want to try and influence that subtly. More interaction that way, more oneness between author and reader perhaps. So, the positioning of words, the line breaks, the assonance, the placement of particular images just so…these force you to impose what will hopefully be a peculiar kind of rhythm that matches the one I heard in writing. Cute, huh? Oh and peculiar used to mean particular. I like it like that.

Sometimes I wonder about just using grammar but really I’m doing this in the first place because of grammar – it’s little functions and directors have multiple interpretations. Hyphens and colons, semi-colons, square brackets and styles of speech mark all have specific meanings, but they’re still interpreted differently by different people. Misunderstood or properly understood. I might be using them wrong, thinking it helps, when really I’m not. I decide it’s best just to try and do it without them. Make the words feel like they have some of that stuff there necessarily. Naturally. Maybe it’s like hanging a picture. If you nail it into the wall, or bluetack it, or tape it, there’s all these weird bits distracting you from the picture itself. Sometimes, with some pictures, it’s better just to lean them on the side. Leave gravity be. Use it to help, even. Know what I mean?

I’m also very much into romance at the moment, which is troublesome. It’s often so messy and confusing and for me that’s a huge amount of the appeal. To turn madness into a poem that’s had a surprising amount of structure go into it is quite weird. I’ve done nature poems before. Thinking I might try and go back to that for a bit, or at least inject a bit more pagan wonder into what I’m doing now. Also there’s this strange compulsion to analyse past loves and process them by putting them into poetry. I’m running with it but…mainly happily confused about doing so. Maybe it sells well? I don’t know.

I’m not necessarily expecting anyone to answer (except in your own head a bit dear reader) but how do you feel about writing? Guessing most of you are wordpressers, so you have some kind of regular relationship with the technique. Is it something you don’t have to think about so you can just diarise for fun and profit? Is it a fine art you sometimes get tired of and have to rest? Is it an uncomfortable need, a part of you shouting out, demanding a fairly fair hearing? Does structure help you? Like, other peoples’ pre-ordained structures? Because there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m part copying Allen Ginsburg, John Cooper Clarke, lyricists like Alex Turner and various others. I mean they’re at least huge influences.

Let’s end on originality:

Pretty much everything’s already been done one way. It’s up to you to do the same thing, differently. Lots of different ways to do the same thing, which hopefully makes you realise, it’s all in the details. Like even if I directly copied Chickentown and performed it, and didn’t sound like JCC, that would still be an original performance. Because I could never sound like that guy at that time. Even he can’t sound exactly like himself the night before, or the minute before. And suddenly, everything seems original. If not substantially so, still technically…if not legally, still technically…and it’s all the little technical originalities that make up a brilliant big one. Big originality doesn’t just appear from nothing after all, it’s forged, consciously or not, from everything you do. Think on it.