giovedì, maggio 08, 2008


Creeping towards the weekend like a parched man dragging himself to a well. Starting to get a disconnected feeling. No time for my own brain. Mighty force of will to give the F-word some of the attention he deserves. Bad dreams about being trapped in a library with the fear Bluebeard will pop up behind me and we'll have to try to have a conversation, or else a duel to the death - either would suck. Still can't believe my aunt is gone.

And on top of all that, I really don't like Bruce Chatwin's Songlines, or at least the first 72 pages of it. I love Bruce Chatwin as a travel writer, and I really liked On the Black Hill, his weirdo Welsh epic I read a couple of months ago. Songlines is crappily smug and tedious in comparison. That hurts, as it's the first thing of his I haven't liked, and I like liking all of what a person publishes. Like Jane Austen or Nick Cave or Patrick Süskind or Bach. Knowing that I can grab whatever of theirs and get into it without worrying that I'll be wasting my time with crap. Time . . . can't waste it.

I have a feeling Emily Brontë would be another person who would have written stuff I'd have loved consistently. You know, they reckon she did write another book before she died besides Wuthering Heights. Her sister Charlotte burnt it, after Emily died. If that's true, Charlotte should be remembered as much for that as for Jane Eyre. But I suppose time has tamped down the possibility of knowing that for sure. Time - always a question of fucking time! It's why I would have liked to be a professional historian - cheating time a bit and finding out its secrets before it buries itself in itself forever. And it's also why I chose not to be a professional historian despite the exhortations of my professors - I was afraid I'd bury myself in time before my own personal time buried me itself.

mercoledì, maggio 07, 2008

Slippery time

No time, it's the story of my fucking life right now because it's report season. Even less time as I've finally given into addiction and started watching the rest of Weeds. Co-opting my time, just like the Sopranos did, except Weeds has even more plotholes, like why didn't the Armenians rat out Nancy's operation when they were arrested? But it's funny and feeds my taste for brainless quirk. It's either that or Jackass repeats - I find when work is too hard I need the sort of pablum I'm usually all judgemental about when I get home. The F-word told me a statistic about how something like 90% of America's Funniest Home Videos viewers were college-educated professionals in executive jobs. I can believe it.

Today I have no time because I have to get to work early so I can leave work early and go see les flics about my permanent residency card. And then I will do so, and wait, and get home and get high and eat a nice dinner and watch Weeds. And life will whizz past until it is Friday and one of my aunties back home has her funeral. The parents told me yesterday that she'd died all of a sudden-like on Monday and I can't believe it - it hasn't registered that I'm not going to see her anymore. She was sick the last time I saw her, but no sicker than she'd been for the last twenty years, as far as I could tell.

And now she's gone, and life is whizzing past, and time will roughly peel away the people I love like a drunk chef tackling an artichoke. And I too will be roughly peeled off, leaving the people who I love that are left artichoke-naked and tender, and what the hell is the point of all that?

martedì, maggio 06, 2008

We have ways of pissing you off

I didn't read much while on holiday because I was too busy being on holiday. Coming back from holiday, however, was a different story. The Thalys high-speed train track went down somewhere between Aachen and Belgium, and though fuckin' Douche Bahn knew about the problem for at least two hours before our arrival in Aachen, we still had to wait there for a further two hours for a coach to come pick us up. Apparently German organizational skills don't extend to counting the number of the people on a train and then ordering a corresponding number of coaches to take them to their final destinations, no; it's better to wait until they get to a transit point, watch them mill around in an open square angrily, and then order coaches individually until, after about four hours, everybody has stopped complaining at you. The F-word, who worked there for a few years, explained that in his experience it was the most organized country ever until something went wrong, and that when it come to making contingency plans they are among the most inept people in Europe. I suppose that's how the Nazis got in.

Anyhoo, now we're having a cat emergency so I have to go deal with that instead of writing about Spike Milligan and Bruce Chatwin.

lunedì, maggio 05, 2008

In the weeping Forest of Le Vulva

So. Whilst waiting for the Bad Seeds concert to start the F-word and I sat in a nearby park, eating chips with samurai mayonnaise and talking about Roswell and Scientology. And I was wondering what possesses people to believe the most far-fetched things, to become absolutely credulous and devout later in life - not as a malleable, impressionable child with your parents forever dragging you to church and carefully indoctrinating you, but as a mature person who surely knows better, and who has money and a standing in civil society, and who gives it up for creepy strangers who appear to be absolutely fucking insane.

A half hour later in Forest National (shitty venue - only bother with it if you know you're going to like the act), I sat in the audience, waiting for the show to start and thinking about how fucking rich Nick Cave must be. Rich as a rich Scientologist. I had paid about Euro 40 for the tickets, and there were roughly a kabillion people there, which means he was making 40 x 1 kabillion, minus costs, which according to my new Japanese abacus is still north of a kabillion. I had a moment of cursing myself for not having been a rock star; I could have retired by now.

And an hour later in Forest National, I sat in the audience, watching the show and wondering if there was a way to throw my entire cunt on to the stage - forget the underwear. So I suppose I got an answer to my earlier question.

I've said before there's a risk that if I'd been me 150 years ago, I might've have tossed everything to docilely tail around Nick Cave or Tom Waits, if they'd have been itinerant preachers. Now I reckon I know why, and it's all in the term 'charismatics'. It's fascination, a chance to forget yourself; a good charismatic is charismatic because he sets the example and makes it safe. Even when Nick Cave was younger his persona had lots of crazy old man in it. Now it's vastly crazy old man. Screaming. Writhing. With a boner. And you don't know where to look, so you look at him, and before you know it, you're wondering if there's a way to throw your cunt on the stage, and you've already gone over April's disposable income budget to even be there.

So it was lovely and semi-religious. But of course it wouldn't have worked if the music hadn't been very good and if the band wasn't picking up the melodic and rhythmic slack whilst Nick Cave was moaning at the audience and abridging some of my favourite verses. (Time constraints? Dotty memory? Wanting to wrap up sooner and go to bed early, and thinking the non-Anglo audience probably wouldn't notice?) Two drummers! It was loud, and that was good, though Forest's sound isn't so good.

They played most of the last album, which was also good as I like the last album a lot, and then a few old favourites. Audience were dead fish during the loud songs, except for 'Papa Won't Leave You, Henry', which I guess not even dead fish can resist. They waved lighters for the tinkly ones. I was happy about the 'Stagger Lee' and the 'Tupelo' - the latter of which I hadn't liked much before hearing it live and very loud. I wished they played 'No Pussy Blues', but they didn't, and 'The Curse of Millhaven', but I knew they wouldn't as they were keeping every rendition to five minutes or less. The whole thing was just too fucking short. But sweet.

domenica, maggio 04, 2008


No time to write as I'd like to, but I'll try to gradually get everything I would like to get out over the week, including a little blogasm over the May Day Bad Seeds concert, whose imperfections only rendered it more lovable. We went to Bonn and had a lovely time over the long weekend - I relaxed muscles that I thought had turned into bone by this point, I've been so tense, and I feel like I got a bit of perspective on my high-pressure yuppie life and how to end it without physically destroying myself.

It's hard to pick out a high point for a quick Monday morning bloggery, as so much of it was so damn nice. It's a lovely little tourist city, absolutely built for geeks like me; lots of spacious, pretty parks to smoke joints in without feeling like you're setting a bad example for the children, interspersed with some of the best museums and galleries ever. We went to three, which were all awfully good one way or another: the Arithmeum, the Kunstmuseum Bonn (full of wierdo modern art), and the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the post-Nazi German history museum. Of the three, the history museum was certainly the most impressive - it really must be seen. From the archive footage of little kids who were looking for their parents after getting seperated from them in air raids to the deliciously dry, informative accounts about each successive federal election, it was all so much better than PBS and the BBC rolled into one. All the signage is in German, so either bring some Germans with you or buy the English guidebook at the beginning.

However, I must say I enjoyed the Arithmeum the most. This is despite the fact that numbers are my enemy and I wish we, as a race, could drop Indo/Arabic numerals altogether and just go back to 'one, two, lots'. It was full of cunning machines and devices from the last three or four millenia for calculating things - originals under glass, and then reconstructed models with instructions that you could fool around with until you understood. It was so fucking awesome, and we went there first thing in the morning so I wasn't even high yet. I learnt how to use a Japanese abacus! They look like this:

The counters on the bottom are units of one (so there are four), and the counter on top is a unit of five. Starting from the right, you stick numbers in, first rod for the ones, second for the tens, third for the hundreds, etc. - so for 84, you'd stick up four bottom counters on the farthest-right rod, and then three bottom counters and one top counter on second-farthest right rod - then you do things to add and subtract. You can use them to vastly simplify multiplication and division, too, if you know your multiplication tables, which is essentially all I know when it comes to math.

Anyhoo, the beautiful, lovely, kind F-word bought me my very own abacus, and while I was fooling around with it on the train back to Brussels I suddenly realized what my Korean students in Paris had been doing every time I'd asked them to reckon a number, and they'd done it in record time by counting in some way absolutely impenetrable fashion to me on their hands - they were using their hands as little Japanese abaci. They'd tried to explain it to me at the time, but between their difficulties with English (which is why they were seeing me) and my utter incompetence with figures, I hadn't understood a fucking scintilla of a notion of what they were doing. Until I got my own Japanese abacus. I have to say, I'm fucking pissed off I wasn't given one of these as a child. They're so fucking smart, and they re-contextualize arithmetic as a physical, visual thing instead of an ever-lengthening and ever more wrong series of numbers stretching down a page in a slow, desperate rightwards diagonal.