All entries for January 2008
January 31, 2008
January 27, 2008
How can any self-respecting intellectual accuse this man of racism? Islam is not a race, it is a belief (and a troubled one, at that). Even if there is a correlation between a particular race (Arabs) and Islam, calling for retaliation against Muslims can never be a racist act, because it is not on the basis of their race that he is calling for retaliation - since there are non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs, the two cannot be logically co-dependent. Therefore any charge of racism is fucking idiotic.
Now to accuse him of incitement to religious hatred, that makes sense...
January 25, 2008
Fuck Hillary. Seriously, fuck her right in the ear. She is a snake of a woman, a two-faced bitch with conflicting, incoherent policies and far too much baggage to inherit the title of first woman president. Do Americans seriously want their first woman president (potentially, at least) to be this susceptible to the oh so easy but oh so justified 'riding on the coat-tails' argument? Can anyone with half a brain honestly say they'd have given a shit about her or Cherie Blair, for that matter, if their husbands hadn't made them such public figures by association? I might despise the likes of Harriet Harman and Jacqui Smith, but at least they got there on their own steam. I'm not saying that Hillary and Cherie don't do things themselves, but how much of their platform for achievement is a consequence of their spouses? We'll never know if they'd have managed the same alone, or at least without the male precedent.
Barack doesn't have that - if he's elected, America will be able to hold its head high (not that it will necessarily want to) and say "we elected the first black president (even if it wasn't a majority), and he paved his own way", though of course, such a claim is relative - Barack would be nowhere without the Martin Luther Kings and Rosa Parks of this world. But as relates to him personally, he's had no advantages, no special friends in the way that Hillary has. I'd like the first woman president to have none of that obvious and weighty baggage, if at all possible. I'd like her to be able to stand up and say she made it on her own steam. Because then it will mean more (as far as any of these milestones mean anything).
Quite apart from his great skills as an orator (he reminds me a lot of the Rock, in his style and delivery), I support Barack because he's singing the song of change, of new politics. All Hillary knows is the old route, which is why she's sniping from the hills with misquotations and barely-concealed smear campaigns, and the unending, oleaginous, clinical bullshit that makes me want to punch her repeatedly in the face. So she teared up and showed a little vulnerability a few weeks ago? Is it such a fucking wonder? Even if they weren't crocodile tears, which I suspect they were, all it shows is that she's humanity. But if you don't have a fucking dim enough view of humanity and what people are capable of by now, maybe you never will. That she's human doesn't improve her. It just makes it a little easier for us to understand why she's such a bitch! I haven't been following the Republican race very closely at all, but I'm pretty sure there are a few of them I'd rather have in power than the mud-slinging, two-faced bitch who clearly thinks that the ends of the campagin justify the means...
I'm just glad that Barack got a chance, on the debate above, to set things straight. I love how restrained he was, biting his tongue until his chance to reply. She showed no courtesy or appreciation for the rules (how unexpected from a Clinton) in her interruptions, or her Jerry Springer style attitude. That is not a person I want in charge of one of the most powerful nations of the world. And anyone that does is, frankly, on crack - Edwards is a clearly preferable second choice. We should not be voting for Clinton because she's a woman, just as we should not be voting for Barack because he's black - we should be voting for them on the strength of their character and their policies. The only importance in either milestone that each of them represents is in possibly showing America's progress towards the day when we don't notice (beyond the obvious and necessary) and don't make judgements based on someone's race or gender (though I'm not sure that's an entirely and unmitigatedly optimal endpoint), or rather that some people are willing to prioritise other issues such as policy over racism.
But we should not be seeking these milestones for their own sakes, because what else then are we doing but belittling such achievements and the conflicts required to reach them, and patronising those who have struggled to shed themselves of labels. It would be the same thinly-veiled bullshit as Affirmative Action - the idea that, despite bountiful evidence to the contrary, certain historically disadvantaged groups and peoples are incapable of succeeding without the benificent hand of the apparent advantaged group (who are also, not entirely coincidentally, the oppressors who caused the disadvantage in the first place), be it men, or whites, or the rich, or the upper classes or whatever. It is patronisation, pure and simple - on which point, I wholeheartedly refute the maxim of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission", which is often applied as a counter to claims of patronisation: it is one thing to have confidence in one's ability, or status or whatever; it is another to recognise an attempt, conscious or subconscious, to undermine that confidence, whether that attempt is successful or not. I am not saying that just because someone feels they are being patronised, they are - people are frequently wrong and will misjudge the intention of the apparent patronising offender - but equally, people often patronise without being aware of it.
Anyway, in summary, fuck Hillary Clinton. The sooner she fucks off and lets people across the world unite under the banner of Obama (a man can dream), the sooner America can wipe its debts, social, moral and financial, to the rest of the world, and regain the respect and sense of responsibility that ought to come with the power of a nation of that magnitude.
And I don't even live there!
January 24, 2008
So, in last week's class, we had to write a killer first line, which was then handed to the next person over, who completed the paragraph, before handing it back to the original writer. We then had to analyse the paragraph from a political perspective, and write a paragraph of our own, analysing the political statements made or implied within the writing. Here's how that went:
Silence squirmed under the heel of Cairn’s Boot, a haphazard town that had scratched its way into the side of the long-dormant volcano, which had spewed the island into existence. It was as if the whole town was holding its breath – not just its people, but the dogs, the wind and the prefabricated houses – and doing what it’d always done – huddle in the crelbow of the mountain of which it was an outgrowth. It didn’t know the threat it felt boiled within/
I believe that the writer of this story is expressing some desire to break free of the manufactured determinism of our world. The use of the phrase ‘prefabricated houses’ denotes no small amount of cynicism, and provokes an image of disdain for the placement of such obviously manufactured buildings in such an unfit setting.
This weeks assignment was then to take the two paragraphs, and rewrite the story from the first person perspective of a dog, a cat, a stuffed parrot etc, or an inanimate object of our choosing. The idea of the assignment was to get under the skin of a non-human narrator, the difference in their politics, language, understanding of abstracts etc. Being the ambitious human that I am, I decided it would be a fitting challenge to write from the perspective of the mountain... Yeah, I know, eyes bigger than my belly and all that. Anyway, needless to say I struggled. The enormity of the narrator, the difficuly in relating their perceptions, and how they come to perceive anything, the understanding of the passage of time and difference and identity, the task of finding vocabuary and asbtract understanding which would not only be possible for a mountain, but function as a bridge between us and it - these were the problems. I knew that if I managed to get these elements right, the other elements, like the character of the mountain, would slip into place, or at least begin to reveal themselves to me.
Hence, I knew I did not want to use I, or me, and couldn't use he, or him we were instructed to write in the first person). Having played a lot of Mass Effect recently, there is a race called the Hanar who refer to themselves as 'one', 'this one', 'that one' etc. While they are an intensely annoying race, the speech stuck with me, as representative of not just a different world view, but also of a hive mind mentality - just enough self-awareness to have referential concepts, but racially connected. The idea that every mountain has a degree of self-awareness, stemming from its peak, but is part of a larger whole, a kind of hive mind rooted through the core of the Earth connecting all mountains everywhere, well, I thought that idea was worth following up.
The draft wandered a lot from the original two paragraphs, though I feel perhaps the political sentiment has been maintained as best it could. The original was, of course, written in a third person perspective, meaning that I was forced to give up the gloriously Douglas Adams style first line, which was in part homage to my favourite opening line of a novel ever - "High on a rocky promontory sat an Electric Monk on a bored horse" (and I checked, George, and it is the opening line :P). I shall, perhaps, hang on to that first line, and maybe drag it out at some point in the future. Anyway, here is "The Itch".
itch. In one’s crevice.
The crevice was old, from the time
of one’s becoming, when it had boiled
and raged under the cold, dark other which now
ran in little paths down one’s topsoil – quickly at first,
or so it seemed to one, but slowing as it reached where one curved,
flattened out until one’s soil turned to silicon, and sunk down under the other, where the little
paths reunited the lost other with the greater other, which showed no constancy, but was forever moving.
The itch moved. But one did not move. From time to time, one crumbled a little, but this was the way of things. One was still young, and though the becoming was over, one’s rock could still change, though not as much as one’s soil. One knew this to be true because one had once been a greater one, and still was a part of it, thought distant – under the lapping other, one’s self stretched away and joined other selves. But the more the farness from one’s peak, the more one hurt to feel. So one felt only as far as the other began. But one could feel other selves nearby, other peaks. One had no way of thinking with them, across the farness filled by the hateful, changing other, but their presence served to make one sure that one was one, but one of many, and not all. One also knew this because of the itch.
The itch was enduring. There had been other itches before, on the flat, but much briefer – they had not survived the becoming, or the changes of one’s rock. But this itch remained. And remained in one’s crevice, not one’s highest crevice, nor one’s lowest crevice, but a crevice high enough and close enough to one’s peak that one was the most irritated one had been since the becoming. One wished for a change of one’s rock again to wipe the itch from one’s crevice, though one had no control over this – one had no control over much anymore. In the becoming, one had been able to move things, been able to do, but now, one was only able to feel. And one felt the itch. And the itch brought pain. And one felt pain, felt the pain of one’s rock being changed unnaturally and knowing one could do nothing about it but hope for an end to the itch.
The itch was change. For all of one’s being, since the becoming, the one had been mostly the same, and so one feared change. One was often afraid. The outer was always changing – one felt it crack one’s exposed rock, felt it make one’s soil rock-like, felt it cover one’s peak with some stationary form of the hateful other which soon changed into its usual form, and ran down the paths that one talked of earlier. When this changed occurred, one felt one’s soil give birth to thousands of the tiny, different peaks, which burrowed into his soil. Some ended quickly, but some survived their becoming, as one had done, and spread their selves into his rock. This, one didn’t mind so much. A deep part of one, perhaps the part that spread and linked one to the others and to the core, from which all life sprung, told one that this was natural, and the way of things. One liked the way of things, it gave one a certainty. Certainly, the burrowing did not itch, because while it was fast, it was not too fast. The itch was too fast.
The itch was strange. One did not understand the itch. And one fears what is not known as much as change, because what is not known could be anything, and do anything. What is not known could have the power to unmake – the same expanse of self which linked one with the others and the core, that same deep part of one told one that selves had been undone in the past. Not quickly, and not often, but sometimes. And so one feared. Because the itch might be the start of one’s unbecoming. The itch was much faster than most of what one encountered – only the hasty backing and forthing of the other was as strange. But, like most changes in the outer, the lapping was constant and regular. Though it was fast, it was always the same fast, as were the roads of other, and the burrowing. Such changes were predictable and regular. But the itch was different.
The itch was like the other. Burrowing that one felt was not natural gave rise to strange selves in one’s crevice, selves one recognised as good, dependable rock like oneself but which would not talk to one. It was as if these selves had been hewn from a larger self, and were now so far from their peak that they had no thoughts, or their thoughts were too quiet for one to hear. One thought they heard one’s thoughts, though, so while one could not think with them, one thought at them. One thought that these selves should explain their presence here in one’s crevice, so near to one’s peak. One thought that they should explain the irregularity and the changes around and within their selves – within was a difficult concept for one, as one’s only experience of within had been in the becoming, and there was little that had been clear from such changing times. Change was harder to understand than non-change. And one liked to understand. One did not like the itch!
The itch persisted.
January 19, 2008
It's been a year and fuck all has changed. The stupid thing is Article 301 is actually self-fulfilling: to restrict free speech in such an unnecessary and unabashedly totalitarian manner is itself a crime against Turkishness. The sooner it's repealed, the sooner Turkey can come to terms with its past, artistically, journalistically and perhaps even historically. I'm not necessarily opposed to nationalism, but it has to be kept in context, kept in check. The irony is the murderer of Hrant Dink, a self-proclaimed nationalist, has damaged the reputation of Turkey in the same way Article 301 does every time the tired law is trotted out for another ridiculous trial against someone with the courage to criticise or deal with a contentious topic. The Turkish public might stay sedated forever in their bubble of ludicrous belief, where there's no violence in Islam, where Attaturk couldn't even be considered to be gay, where there could be no genocide against Armenians - without artists, journalists, historians, people able to push the envelope and ask the questions that are currently off-limits, there seems little hope of popping the bubble. It's not particular to Turks - all publics are. "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals". I keep this little nugget of wisdom from Agent K (MIB) to remind myself why people vote for George Bush, or listen to Busted, or watch Big Brother etc. But occasionally, someone with the courage to ask the right questions will get the public to examine itself. It can happen other ways; I wonder if Jade Goody's ignorant (but not actually racist) remarks and the subsequent reaction caused a lot of the viewers to look at themselves and reassess their actions. I'd like to think so...
But maybe I'm just being naive.
January 17, 2008
January 14, 2008
Right, so now we're in term 2, which means poetry is dead, vive le prose. Or something. And I've been shitting myself, quite frankly (proverbially, of course). Judging from past attempts, and just my general creative nature, it's my opinion that my prose is verbose, dull, technically incoherent, and just not realistic. Poetry is much more my thing because it's easier to be concise and meaningful, it's like writing songs. There is, of course, concise poetic prose, like Alessandro Baricco's Seta (or Silk, in English - there's a film adaptation with Keira Knightley and Alfred Molina out soon), but I really don't think I'm capable of such an amalgam. So this term is definitely going to be interesting.
Anyway, our assignment this week comes from a session last week where we had to write down a secret, then a description of someone else in the class, then a dialogue between ourselves and the person we described, where this dialogue is the first conversation we've had since learning that they know our secret. I've decided to put all my creative work in the quotation blocks from now on, to separate it from my other blog stuff, like the rants and the explanatory passages like this one. But I can't work out how to get the ending quotation marks - I've tried highlighting the whole passage and then clicking the button, but it only seems to format it and give the starting marks. Anyway, we were supposed to write 1-2 sides of A4. I got carried away, and so this is three, but George said we ought to resolve it, if we can, and I felt this scene certainly needed resolving - I say scene, because it definitely feels like part of a larger whole, rather than a short story. Anyway:
Nathan sat in the café, hypothesising. He kept trying to plan for all eventualities, but was too nervous to stop his train of thought continually derailing. His mind was like a fly, indecisively flitting between the crumbs of conversation scattered around the café, conversations which rolled across the tabletops like thunder over distant hills. On another day, he might have sat back, with a hot chocolate to combat the January winds, and drowned himself in that thunder. But today, he had to think. Damage limitation, that was the aim. Only he’d been sitting here for half an hour and hadn’t even planned his first sentence. Fear of exposure, of being dragged out into the light like so much dirty laundry to be poked and prodded and derided, and ultimately dismissed as a freak – this fear clawed at him, tearing at his resolve and distracting him from planning just how to deal with this mess.
It wasn’t so much that he was ashamed of it. If he were, he wouldn’t have done it for so long, wouldn’t still be doing it. And it wasn’t that he was ashamed of how he started doing it – that was another chapter of his life, experimentation long ago filed under the ‘error’ section of trial and error. It was his mistake, too, one he owned, one which belonged to him, one which had made him who he was today. His erstwhile lack of caution had gotten him ostracised from pre-adolescent society for the best part of two years, though perhaps ‘best’ part is stretching the term. But being an outsider had turned a brittle, over-sensitive 11 year old into a teenager unafraid to do and say whatever he felt like, unconcerned with seeking the approval of the mob. He didn’t care less, he’d just condensed the circle of opinions he cared about – only the thoughts of his few friends and family mattered, and so they mattered that much more. And he liked to think that the same was true today, even if the edge had been taken off that independence. But the truth was that he had to care. As an adult, he didn’t have the liberty to screw up in the same way a teenager does. And while it wasn’t an issue of his own shame, he knew all too well how most people would react to it. People he had no choice but to care about, whose opinions, whether he liked it or not, held water in shaping his future. Marty was one of those people.
“Hey, err, mind if I sit?”
Nathan was jolted out of his apocalyptic reverie – his head snapped up, eyes alighting on the source of the enquiry.
“Only you did invite me here,” Marty continued. “I understand if you’d rather talk somewhere more private, but-”
“No, here’s fine. Thanks for coming.”
Marty was a stout fellow, and had a little difficulty manoeuvring himself through the tight gaps between the chairs and tables to the empty seat across from Nathan. Slightly unruly, jet-black hair framed an inquisitive face with the same ease that glasses encircled sincere eyes the colour of mud. From their time together, Nathan knew him as a paragon of ambivalence: shy to the point of self-deprecation – “Oh, I’ve wasted my life” was a familiar cry, usually following some comedic or pop culture recitation – yet bold beyond embarrassment. Put him on the stage, and a Puck-like mischief overwhelmed that ocular sincerity, matched by a swagger that ought not to have worked so well, a slight upwards tilt of the jaw, an almost imperceptible slouch now perceptibly gone.
Nathan always got the impression that Marty had been left alone with books a lot as a child – it seemed the best explanation for his wild untamed imagination and taste for the fantastical. It was almost as if he’d grown up in a library, feeding on Manga, sleeping on a pile of Pratchett, Coleridge, Shakespeare and Adams, with a nice thick Stephen King as a pillow. And maybe wiping his arse with a Rowling or McNabb. And somehow the combined capacity for creation from all those authors had bled into him, a literary osmosis. This creative urge was a shared bond between them, and had always greased the cogs of their social encounters. Nathan hoped that today, that grease would be enough.
“Look, I just wanted to say that… well…” Nathan faltered, and wished like hell he’d kept his concentration enough to have come up with something to say. Marty fidgeted, his sincere eyes boring through his glasses for a moment, before flicking away. Marty was, in fact, pointedly not looking at him, in that idiosyncratic way Marty had which made you realise he would be looking at you if he didn’t have such a problem sustaining eye contact.
“Look, don’t worry about it.”
There was a pause. Nathan quickly wiped the surprised frown off his face, and fought to get his bearings. Already he could feel the conversation slipping away from him, like a child trying to catch sunlight in his hands.
“Seriously? Only it tends to make people see me differently.”
“Hey, what you get up to in the privacy of your room is your business.”
“Well, it’s hardly private now though.” Marty shrugged, and Nathan remembered to keep his voice down. “I mean, I’d told a few people, like Leo, and Sam, but I imagine everyone will know soon enough.”
“Well I won’t be telling them.”
Nathan paused again, taken aback by the candid, matter of fact nature of the claim. It’s not that he’d expected Marty to go telling everyone, or even threaten to – he realised he hadn’t known exactly what to expect. For all their time together, it dawned on him that he didn’t really know Marty that well at all. He got the distinct impression that he’d been shadow boxing his own fears. Maybe this conversation would turn out fine after all, entirely unlike the nightmare scenarios of blackmail and social assassination he’d envisaged. He realised he hadn’t spoken in a good while, and that Marty was again pointedly not staring.
“Thanks. But, errrm, how did you find out?” Marty winced, and drew a sharp intake of breath. The question was clearly one he’d been dreading, and suddenly Nathan knew that all chance of this meeting going as smoothly as it looked it might have five seconds ago just evaporated.
“Well, I really can’t tell you that-”
“Oh come off it, mate, you-”
“I can’t. It was told to me in confidence.”
“Well I only told it in confidence too. So someone must have broken my confidence to secure your confidence… Which means that confidence, your confidence, is null and void.”
Marty fixed him with a knowing look, mud-coloured eyes betraying a lethal intelligence Nathan knew he ought not to cross, even if Marty seemed too good natured to put it to good use. But today was not a day for ought – anger and fear were clouding Nathan’s judgement, and his mouth was two steps ahead of the brain whose job it was to filter out instinctive responses.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Marty countered, poking holes in Nathan’s logic. “Just because one of your friends was indiscrete doesn’t mean I-”
“INDISCRETE?” Nathan’s voice bounced off the plastered yellow walls of the café, was absorbed into the outer layer of a hundred different fabrics and resonated in the ears and minds of the neighbouring customers. He lowered his voice again, but the look in Marty’s eyes told him it was too late. Nevertheless, he continued in a half-whisper. “Fuck indiscrete, Marty, it’s downright treacherous… Look, I appreciate you won’t be spreading it, but unless I know who is, that’s not a lot of fucking help now, is it?”
“I’m sorry, Nathan.” Nathan believed him, which made it all the harder. “I can’t… I didn’t ask to be put in this position… If it’s any consolation, you’ll probably find out soon enough-”
“And of course it won’t be too fucking late by then. Oh no, I’ll be able to nip it in the bud right in fucking time. Fuck that, Marty, it’s ridiculous…” Again, the filter was two steps behind, though this time, it had at least managed to control the volume of the outburst, if not the content. Nathan could still feel several nearby pairs of eyes on him though, and knew he’d let slip one too many obscenities, even for the relatively subdued volume at which he was now speaking. Even if he hadn’t been drawing unnecessary attention to their conversation, he didn’t want to risk pushing Marty over the edge – the look on his face was an unnerving mixture of silent indignation and embarrassment. Nathan wondered if it matched the strength of frustration he himself was feeling. He took a deep breath, waited until the local interest in them had died down, and continued apologetically but assuredly. “It’s just that I want to reveal it to people on my own terms, as and when I trust them.”
“Not to be rude, Nathan, but clearly your judgement of trustworthiness is a bit lacking.” Nathan bit back a response. He felt like he’d been stung – not so much by the truth of the statement, but by the fact that he had pushed mild-mannered Marty to the point of such unabashed bluntness.
“If I really can’t persuade you to tell me, can you at least give them a message?”
Marty fidgeted, and glanced at his watch. Nathan wondered whether it was genuine, or whether he was just preparing himself an excuse to leave, plotting an escape route should things go sour.
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea – there may have been mitigating circumstances, alcohol and the like…”
Marty fidgeted in his chair again, and a flash of insight snuck up on Nathan like a butterfly landing gently on his shoulder.
“Someone did tell you, didn’t they, Marty?”
“Look, Nath, I really have to go, I’ve-”
“You didn’t… see it?”
Marty was now pointedly not staring, but Nathan caught a flash of panic in his eyes, and a pink hue was stealing over his ample cheeks like a fresh bruise.
“You saw it, didn’t you? Through the window! Were you watching me? Spying on me?”
“I’m late for something,” Marty mumbled. He knocked over the chair in his hurry to stand up, and once again, Nathan was aware of eyes all over the room being drawn to their table, but this time he didn’t care. He sat, pondering, as Marty fumbled his way through the maze of the café and out the door, flicking a last look back over his shoulder that Nathan read as ‘I won’t tell’. As the other denizens of the café turned back to their own conversations, Nathan stretched his legs out underneath the table, a grin slowly crawling across his face as he pondered whether to get a hot chocolate, and wondered just how close he’d come to ruin.