Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Online Past

The heading up there is a typing error by the way.

It was foggy here this morning, so foggy in fact that none of the buildings nearby were visible. It was only possible to see the ground by looking directly down at it from the window so from a distance away from the window it seemed like the windows were just featureless grey. We could have been on the thirtieth floor rather than the third. I thought about this and the building seemed to sway.

Is it me but does the phrase 'Goa-based analyst' in this story from the BBC not conjure up the right image? I imagine some washed-out hippy who puts a bedraggled tie on any time some two-bit camera crew want a sound bite.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Blue Boo Boo

In the far Pacific, they live lives unhindered like ours. Well, that is what we like to think. I am not sure that living on a Island with the highest instance of Malaria anywhere in the world is a wonderful idea. Pass thr G&T. All we see is the blue sky and the white beaches. When they want us rich people to come over and spend money, all the bad things get swept into the sea. We don't see the non-biodegradable water bottles or the raw sewage. It is not all clear water and cocktails.

Not sure where that came from. I was blocked for a minute or two and was considering an oblique strategy but that just came to me.

The music on the radio driving home last night was very fine. I cannot actually remember what it was but it seemed to fit with the darkness and lights along the dock road.

Moon Tree

The shadow is a solid thing,
a black space where the tree,
in daylight stays calmly waving.
But in the night and in the moon,
it takes a spirit, ghost or puck,
to walk its field, a soldier, guided
by its fingers to the edges.
And we find it moved but never say,
make no remark on this phenomenon;
Our glance of sub-atomic moments
made to the other never goes beyond
the disbelief, the idea that we,
the rational and concrete ones
are wrong about a walking forest.
The wood has met the castle walls,
broken down the stones and empire
while all about, the green makes light
of what we see as evil.
The laughing soldiers, all the trees,
join in feasting on the lakes of moor,
the sucking roots of rougher ales
and dirty water raise them as gods.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Russkaya Amerika

No low-life comment ever came your way from this devil. The sadness is overpowering, like all-day darkness of a winter polar station. They light my life like a deep film, all diffused, grey light through dripping windows. Somehow here, this battered and bleached hut is home to many poor people; they live off begged and stolen food, in a room blackened by the smoke of the struggling stove. They should have the power of art, the talent for words to show what has happened to them but they lie still, smoking and reading as the weather ranges through its extremes outside. They do not starve, they somehow manage to keep just alive enough to want more than the food and warmth which sustains them. I walk amongst them, with my own hang-ups and think I would love this life, the garret life, led by every worthwhile artist over the years. The ground so far below, beckons with it rainy sheen or snowy coverings and I feel like climbing out onto guttering. The winter trees strech up to this place, as if trying to keep the decaying clapboard up. The brothers are helping each other, the living trees supporting their dead and dried kin. The woodyard is an evil place. Here, the rough orange wood is stacked up and left to itself for years until the snow has blown away and the lorries come to take this new wood away.

The snow steals all sound save for a continuous muffling, the sound of snow falling. Even a large branch, finally giving up and falling to the ground, makes no more sound than the padding fox out in the woods stalking mice. Reynard turns at the sound and then returns to his lonely trail. He is dead and he knows it; he is dead regardless of the men in their red coats or the baying dogs. No man will have to dig him out of earth and throw him to the pack. Winter takes many foxes as it takes many of all of us. There are coughs from inside the house, satisfying, liquid-filled coughs of those drowning in themselves. Winter takes many of us.

A hemisphere away, a man takes his breakfast in the sun of California. This is a man with a steady life, a gravy train of Government and big-business. He makes the tat which we all think we need. He kills people with the stuff he makes. Sometimes he thinks about this but he can always justify his line of work. He is just a cog and if he didn't earn this decent living, someone else would. These bombs are made by committee so no one is ever to blame wholly. He has children so he tells himself with great ease that he is not a monster. The sharp end of his business never comes to him. The final resting place of the smooth and hygenic metal things he designs are in some blank or dark corner of his brain. He knows it is all Ok and he is at peace with his God who whispers to him every night that the dead have it coming anyway. They could get knocked down by a bus couldn't they? In their tents in the dusty sand - so like the mountains outside the city - they are meant for what ever comes their way. Not that our man ever thinks these words in his head; They just happen somewhere as a thought that crosses his mind when ever he feels that maybe there is some less-tainted way of making money. These thoughts always fade as he climbs into his blood-coloured european car and accelerates off to the most unnecessary skyscraper on the whole of the Eastern seaboard. It falls into the sea at the slightest tremor but only in his dreams. This man has killed more people than anyone else on earth. He says he has a talent for building missiles but then again maybe so have I. I may have a talent like this, I do not know but I know I will never find out.

Out in the snowy woods, the night is falling. The wooden houses creak in the wind, a cache for hidden weapons the home of a second proposed revolution and we walk away, our hands deep in the pockets of our coats. The guns rust and crumble, cemented into their bunkers until not one is useable. We have grown old and crumbled like them. Out in the woods the skeletons of older victims bleach white in summers and then turn to sludgy plaster with the rain. Our Tsar is still with our children and left to himself he learns to keep himself to himself. The house vanishes and then is cleared and excavated. With prayers and other spirituals, the ground is flattened and this real-place becomes a wood again. The madmen they once dumped here have been cleaned up and sent back home; our cures have been written up and sit unread in some electronic backwater.

One man makes all the trouble and still sleeps well at night, unguarded. His one design, a boiler plate machine gun, a design classic, like some apple, some branded must-have grey accessory, still at his side as if to indicate his status in the world of hard men and freedom fighters. This weapon whistles in the wind, a tight string against the gales of Russia, a killing thing of immense simplicity, this grey and black automatic rifle has replaced the flick-knife of choice, licensed and unlicensed round the world to make us bleed. In piles they take them from the agents and the mysterious children. They look good with any uniform or and freedom fighters rags. In a shed in some cold republic, little women steal in at dawn to assemble these things. They turn them out, thousands in every day, gold-plated, special editions, bog-standard always grey cheapness available to anyone who can steal a couple of hundred dollars, just one mobile phone from a punter with a wristwatch as big as his head. The stampers never stop; they keep making the steel sides to each and every weapon, uncontrolled unmaintained until the winter comes down hard and steals the light and even then the engines chuff off more until the ground is nothing more than gun parts piled up like drying wood. The boot in the human face is one thing, the never-ending manufacture of these is quite another. From the customs man, searching for smuggled sturgeon, to the fanatic assassin wound-up by the rich-kid terrorist, this toy-maker has caught them all. He tells himself he was at the end of orders. The wood drones on and he can lose himself in this Dacha by the sea and live of all the captured caviar his guns bring in.

I dream all this and more but I do not sleep well because these men do.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Richard Dawkins for President

Music is Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab

I just passed quickly over a blog with the word 'meme' in it. I got the feeling that the word 'meme' is being overused when someone just wants to refer to some cultural entity but that is the definition of meme and why use more words than one to describe just that. Do you ever find that something you are trying to define and which turns out to be complex, suddenly flips over so that you realise that in fact it is quite simple? It happens a lot to me. The simplest solution is always the best.

Don't read this rubbish.

So much in the world is just too complicated. The tax and benefit system seems to be divided into so many small compartments to ensure the scrupulous fairness of it all. Sometimes my view of taxes being necessary annoys a few people who see them selves paying for something they don't use. Of course it is true that there are many people who use everything that is provided by all levels of government and contribute nothing to it. (I could mention a few tycoons at this point) but overall the idea is that we all contribute to the welfare of everybody and we all benefit to some extent. I know this sounds like an over-simplification. Bear with me. Maybe you could decide say on ten rigidly defined levels of taxation and ten corresponding levels of benefits. Wait for the howls. I don't really want to make a point one way or the other and the reason is precisely because any system has to be complicated to keep all but the most anti-government reactionaries slightly better than discontent. See the howls over the repeal of the Steel tariffs. As you can see, if you wanted to see me on one or other side of the fence you are mistaken which probably devalues all the above rubbish. Hence the instruction I am going to put above the paragraph now.

Marimbas and Mixing

Music is Reich Remixed by Steve Reich

This is an excellent album though I can't help feeling that it removes the essential processes of Steve Reich's music. The remixes here sample the evocative hooks and then simply loop them without the progression that is so much a part of most of his output. I suppose if you just listen to one of the un-mixed originals, the process does not immediately jump out at you and is only revealed over time like finding that the hands of a clock have moved after five minutes of watching it with no perceptible shift. Having said that, there is some evocative background to most of the mixes and they do show the plain gift for melody that Reich has. To have that gift and to then be able to take those melodies and shift them to other killer melodies by way of yet more is a rare talent.

The current track is Howie B's take on Eight Lines and it starts with some creaking string samples which I don't recognise though which sound like the straining ropes of a sailing ship. Howie B is always difficult to get along with; he takes everything down to short samples and then just throws them back at the track without any real reference to the source. The Orb at their worst do the same; I sometimes think that their remixes have no trace of the original track though they will probably retain a single hi-hat to maintain the remix tag. Eight Lines is a difficult track to place anyway because I think it is a version of another Reich track.

Think about mornings in the winter, the drive through lightening skies with the trees black against the dark blue. I love that early morning feel especially in the cold as it is now. Full daylight seems oppressive after the gentle introduction given by dawn. I was listening to my daughter read the other night and I had to hide a small clear plastic bouncy ball that she had been playing with. Just by accident I put it to my eye and found it was a microscope in the mould of Robert Hooke's single lens ones and that it would give me a massive close-up view of silhouettes. The view was obscured at some angles by small pieces of glitter that had been embedded in the plastic along with small bubbles and smaller debris that had been introduced at the manufacturing plant. I surmised that a lot of this debris was dust and pollen from the plant in china that the moulding declared was where the ball had been made. This tiny part of the universe, something normally unseen and rarely though about, brought home to me how complex everything is. Even in terms of structure without reference to function, there is so much out there. Introduce atomic forces and then gravity etc and you get an exponential rise in complexity. After going through all these additions to the plain material world, you have to add on emotions and subtle qualities that humans possess and it becomes a wonder that we have managed to create a relatively balanced and civilised society. This is of course a raw analysis of the way things are but that last but seems to reference the influence of tiny things on big events. Are we one quantum event away from disaster? One decaying atom might change the universe completely.

Back to Earth now.

By the way, Shift by Chris Hughes is a much better take on the processes of Steve Reich's music. It uses the original melodies but I think Hughes uses his own processes or those of a sequencer, to produce the required changes. One of the pieces, Slow Motion Blackbird uses one of the processes but has a different source melody - in this case a sample of a blackbird (from a sound-effect album I think because the same blackbird sings the same melody on so many TV programmes) which is slowed down to a length many times that of the original without any change in pitch. I have decided that I have run out of adjectives or maybe never had any in the first place so bye for now.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Big Numbers

Music is Quiet by Sheila Chandra

It is possible to be completely unaware of the ground at this height. I know I am not miles up the air in some skyscraper but the sound of the ground does not reach here, even the roar of city traffic seems to travel only at ground level.

The largest Prime number has just been discovered, which reminds me that my daughter (5YOD © Ed Broom) was insisting that she knew that Googleplex was the last number. I kept trying the old add 1 to it to get a higher number and indeed she did join in with Googleplex plus 2 etc. This discussion came about because of a question on The Weakest Link (No emails please) over what was the last consonant. 5YOD knew this easily but could not really explain what a vowel and a consonant actually were. Can you explain it in fewer words than Merriam-Webster? The clue is constriction and the solution is obvious when you read it. I love numbers.

Is understanding infinity like understanding four spatial dimensions? (Goodbye to my Wife who has just switched off). I know what infinity is but I cannot visualise it just like I can calculate with four spatial dimensions and indeed find one dimensional distances between points in any-dimensional space but not see how that space exists in any real sense. It does not mean that the space is not there, just that humans do not have experience or sensory apparatus to cope with it. Even space, which as Douglas Adams is famous for saying, is really big, is not infinite, not even close to being infinite. Maybe I am wrong on that and scientists have said at various peaks on the Sine waves of believe in such things, that space is indeed infiniate and full of an infinite amount of matter. Adams got that bit wrong, any proportion of infinity is infinity and therefore the population of the Universe is one rather than nothing. That one is me - and er - you obviously which just goes to show you the beauty and strangeness of space etc.

I suppose I should start being serious again now. It must be all this Zen like calm that has washed over me since listening to the Sheila Chandra. This is a long way from Grange Hill. Even the name - Chandra - seems mantra-like, conjuring up images of telescopes and other astronomical things. So many people ask why mankind looks outside its own realms for information about objects and events which can have no bearing on this planet. The answer is obvious even to most people who ask the question. The very scientific advances which, if directed correctly, will save mankind and individuals from miry death in pits of bacteria, are created through mankind's desire to understand the world. You may know my view that we will never understand everything because distance will retreat from us and microscopic things will break down to reveal further levels of complexity but this should not be a brake on us attempting to do so. Conversely, does the fact that our ancestors had a definite belief in how the world worked which maybe involved some form of supernatural actions and affects, stop the world having been real for them? Think about it - but not too hard.

Tir Na Og

The back of house was pounded with Oranges and Apples last night. My rational mind came up with an immediate explanation, that the fruit was being projected from a hovering flying saucer, quite possibly the very same craft that was above Deely Plaza 40 years ago and from where those fatal shots were fired. That of course was not rational enough so I decided that it must be stray city-dwelling fairies upset at some slight on one of their number. The solution in the end was even more fantastic; It was a bored teenager in his own back garden, letting fly at all the neighbouring houses. Oh well, I always knew that the world was far stranger than we can imagine. Poltergeists! Who needs them?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


I cannot say the things in my head at the moment because I am unable to sort out how to say them. I can understand these things perfectly well but I don't have any way of structuring them using words. It has something to do with the seeming reductionism of events as one gets older. It could be worse; I could be without a memory though if this was the case it seems I would not worry about it so much.

How can the brain be so much more than its outputs. Sometimes I feel trapped in here because I cannot specify the state my head is in. I suppose that is what art and music are for, as alternative output devices. What if we had alternative input devices as well?

Back to my aching head.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Who are you calling Horatio?

Music is Wah Wah by James and Brian Eno

There appear to be many rabid opinions regarding the un-trialled use of the Death Penalty at the moment. I know there are probably situations in which I might be pushed into accepting its use but they would be very extreme situations and of course probably very personal to me. The use of lynch-mobs in Trafalgar square has been suggested in this vicinity though this was triggered from a discussion of the costs of high-profile trials. No emotion! Just save some money and hang-em-high. Sick hey? Of course I am on the comedown from To Kill a Mockingbird. Stand a while in another person's shoes.

How big is the world? We each think we know the world but there is so much outside our understanding that we can never be fully aware of all nuances of behaviour. I don't mean any super-natural stuff, just cultural differences. Even walking down a road adjacent to your own can throw up differences that make you feel uneasy. This may be wrong but my estimate is that most people have a mind-view of the world that is about as big as the town in which they live. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth ...". Get over it and accept the world for what it is before a misunderstanding over a type of cake causes World War III.

Take it personally and we will judge you on your reaction. In some dark alley where no one has been for a hundred years we find the debris of the Century before last rotting into homogeneity; all is black dust and mud, paper, food - all turned to a uniform gunge. Just a few feet away, today's technology races by, sending eddies and vortexes into this empty place, lifting the few remaining bits of paper. Take your mind away from this to the change of green life, the forests and plains forever re-arranging into new things. The wind refreshes the trees - takes the dead skin from the ground and filters it through the oceans. Man has stifled the planet; his cities are baffles in the movement of the atmosphere and currents. One day when the great movements of water over all the seas have moved and we lie frozen in the stillness of a new natural cold war, we will look back on the hear and dust with fondness.

I toast the future. Sat by the massive flow of water, I see electricity and light from the sun as all we need to live. We will launch ourselves into space until our satellites have filled the sky and stolen all the sun to grow the food we need. At the LaGrange points our modern Puck will sit and girdle the solar system in minutes, driven by magic and mechanics. They tell me numbers are the most important thing; not doing things but numbers, writing down what you have done and telling everyone. Stifle science and drive ambition down; this pessimism kills us all. Anarchy joins at the top of the circle.

Monday, December 01, 2003

He Would be There When he Waked up

Thanks are due to Alice Bachini who despite quoting me out of context in her sidebar has linked her site to mine (under the Countrymen section). She called me Rogier though.

The morning has been lost to pension discussions that I suppose is enough to make you stop reading any more. So I will stop talking about it and promise that there will be more interesting stuff later. Not necessarily so though.
Atticus Maximus

Finished 'To Kill a Mockingbird' on Saturday. Couldn't really put it down. The film left out lots of gentle conversation between the town's women folk that seemed to give a restrained air to the book. There are of course the several powerful moments for which the film is rightly famous and in the book they are far stronger because they are backed up by the thoughts of the narrator. An excellent book though again, I suspect the power is wasted on the teenagers who get forced to read it as part of their school-work. These worthy books - nineteen-eighty-four, To Kill a Mockingbird etc - are probably given to children as part of a plan to 'improve' them, a plan probably seen by some people as a lefty idea. Maybe I was unworthy at that age, not that I read any of these books. We got 'Where Angels Fear to Tread' and books so boring that I have forgotten them.

Strangely, while I was looking on Amazon for 'Where Angels Fear to Tread', I was presented a list of 'just reads' which included both this and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Looking through all the other lists, they seemed to contain these two books which is obviously Amazon's clever way of pushing recommendations at you. Look at the Sorority Girls' lists! SP must be their patron Saint.

So much I want to write about and it has all retreated to the back of my mind like a rat hiding under the furniture as you try to bash it. I did have so many ideas and it seems that I will have to resort to an oblique strategy in order to write anything further. Sometimes, I do not believe in anything, even myself. This world must be real but think about how your mind reacts with it. I sit here and all my interaction with the world goes fuzzy as if I am falling asleep. There almost seems to be a physical problem with the thoughts moving through my mind, a limit to their speed. Of course, when I start talking to someone, the brakes come off and all returns to normal but the problems are internal, a reaction to thinking about thinking. The poems may fly out of me, and I have been writing more than ever recently, but in the depths here there is something which I think is really important, the solution to everything - everything in relation to me rather than the rest of the world. When I was about 15, I went up on the British Camp, an Iron-Age fort in the Malvern Hills just above our house, and looking down on the Severn Valley, I got a feeling of completeness, an idea of that very moment as the one true point in the Universe. It did not matter that I could not define what it meant; it was enough that I had been there to experience it. The fact that I cannot define it by anything other than knowing that it happened has left me feeling empty at times over the years since it happened. Rationally I put it down to a chemical thing but you can see the idea of it being a religious or spiritual moment.

Lead on Peasants.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Oh No! Not the Madeline Biscuit Again.

The empty religious Sundays defied all logic and left us crawling home through mud and worse things. The ground baked hard that summer and we felt no compassion for anyone but ourselves. We ignored the troubles of the world and how terrible things might get; we sat by the stream fishing, calm and helpless against the problems we had to overcome. At night I was troubled by dreams of the most terrible things, things I cannot bring myself to mention. I have read books written by people who suffered the worst possible things at the hands of men and women and nothing I have seen comes close to that. I try to lift myself above the blackness that these dream have brought. Somewhere in my head there is a ghost, maybe an old ancestor but one transformed from human to spirit through years of legend and half-truth. Sometimes it sits outside my head, behind the doors like a shadow waiting for me to walk by. Then it will bring down years of worry onto me like falling buildings.

I thought I would link you to Paul Marsden's poetry page again just to show you how bad they were. This has been sparked by a poem of his being included in the BBC News Weekly Quiz. The poem in question is "She came in the night" which sounds like something I might have written when I was 15. Can't fault any of his sentiments about the war though.

Someone has just brought in a bag of chips for their lunch and the smell is wafting throughout the office. It suddenly brought back all sorts of memories which, if you forgive the apparent absurdity, I don't actually remember having. I suppose I am referring to some sort of Deja-Vu but what I mean is that a general impression is given by the stimulus - chips - but I can't actually pinpoint where it comes from. Smell seems to be the most evocative of the senses and I know it is the last to go when you get old and decrepit. It can be quite devastating sometimes. Remember Mole and Ratty in Wind in the Willows? The smell of Mole's old home was too much for him and he broke down in tears at the thought of not seeing it again. And what about Douglas Adams' idea about the cry of despair of a living thing being proportional to the distance from its birthplace? My parents moved house when I went to college and so I don't have any house that I can describe as my childhood home. Sometimes this makes me feel bad but I like to think I have got over this. All this from a bag of chips.

Your Early Morning Blog

First one in ages I know and now I can't think of anything to write. Well to start off, the music is :-

Dance Hall at Louse Point by PJ Harvey

Bands at School.

In late autumn at our school, everyone wanted to form a band. Mostly they wanted to be punks but that all seemed too easy for me. Not one of the proto-bands which 'rehearsed' at lunchtimes, ever came up with any songs which you might call original. The sounds of that Christmas were bad covers of popular punk classics and unintelligible rants which might have been insulting the teachers. Bearing in mind that the non-disco coterie went from discussing Led Zeppelin to forming Sex-Pistol clone bands in one month. This was not rebellion; it was band-wagon jumping. Of course there were no shops around where any of these break-time rebels could get the correct gear. One guy managed to get hold of a pair of bondage trousers in bright Stewart tartan that some first-round punk had discarded on his way to the greatcoats of Joy-Divisionism. But of course these were not allowed at school and the only times we saw him wearing them were when he hung around on the muddy verges which passed for street-corners in our village. He does not show up on the radar of the Internet these days and, uncharitably I imagine he is in an Elvis phase at the moment.

I was too young to be interested in either 'the zep' or any of the first wave punk bands. I suppose New Wave was my thing but at its worst that brings to mind Steve Strange and early Spandau Ballet. No-one around the poor green land that I lived in had any money for electrical instruments. There might be the odd guitar and battered amplifier, even a set of sixties drums to give a struggling band genuine credibility but no synth band was ever going to start in our school. The posh lump in the top stream all had proper classical music instruments like clarinets and trumpets. Indeed, our school (and its attached middle school) had a passable Brass Band that performed at various local tented events. Now of course, the school has computer linked suites of instruments, enough musical fire power to reproduce anything from a Billy Bragg protest-and-portable-amplifier ranter to a Tomita-like light-and-sound-extravaganza. I imagine the village vibrates to all possible musics and the locals do their housework tapping their toes to the latest groovy sounds from the kids.

Now there is one thing missing. Not one of the kids (or should I say 'kids' and raise my fingers like rabbit ears either side of an invisible version of the word?) wants to protest any more. They all want to be a pop-idol. Even the raucous bands want to be Busted rather than the Clash. I dreamed once of a meeting in our village hall. It had been called to start revolution. It was raining and the soundtrack was a series of meaningful songs, protest songs or songs about great or terrible things. All now is retro. Future music will fade into nothing in a sort of musical entropy where all tunes have been used up. The solution is to write new words but everyone seems stuck on 'moon','spoon' etc. Enola Gay was a great song and can you imagine Atomic Kitten doing it. Maybe Andy will ask them to sing it one day.

Robert Brown is nearly 40 and likes watching politicians.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Music is - Grand Pianola Music by John

I don't think Benjamin Zephaniah thinks of himself as brave but I certainly do. I agree with him all the way. As Zephaniah says the flunky who first suggested his name for the award obviously has never read anything by him. Benjamin Zephaniah is one of the few people who's style of writing always makes you hear just his voice when you read it to yourself. Our current laureate does not have this quality but then again the quality of his poetry is questionable anyway. BZ has some words on this himself.

Question :-

Who is the current American Poet Laureate?

Now I am not sure whether my link is to the official USA Poet Laureate or whether the Library of Congress Poet Laureate is the same thing. Just though you might like to read about it. I can't find a corresponding site for our own dear incumbent but maybe that is just as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Tajikidina Mandina Sarjanamuria Guidin Ahuri

Music is Sound Magic Volume 1 by Afro-Celt Sound System

Drones are here. Respect to the Drone.

I have a mind full of mathematics. Must be watching Mindgames that does it. I think I have the answer to the medal problem. Draw a graph and there you have it.

Remember those lazy summer days when school seemed so far away? I used to love Sunday nights, The World About Us was on and these were programmes unencumbered by loud music and hi-tech images. They had narrators with sonorous voices and a patter that matched the subject. Natural History programmes are just so much noise these days. With the exception of course of David Attenborough. I always remembered the programme about carnivorous plants - I think it was on the cover of the Radio Times for that week. Of course, during school time, Sunday evenings were about the worst time of the week ever. This depression is still with me. I hate Sunday nights. I keep thinking of a picture that I saw at a church somewhere. It was of sun through clouds and it always struck me a final end to not only the day but to everything. These sort of pictures are of course supposed to represent God shining down from heaven but I never got any impression of a heaven behind those clouds. It was more of an admission that no one had any real idea what was "out there" in terms of spirituality and therefore they had to resort to empty images of a mildy calming nature. It seems sloppy to use such images as representations of God. We want intellectual ideas and all this says is that you must have faith. Now this might have been clever 500 years ago but it does not stand up to analysis these days.

If you have read all by Blog entries then you will know that I am sceptical about a lot of things but I like to think that the extremes of human understanding are covering a great deal of stuff which we will never understand. A colleague here (not Martin by the way but another unnamed member of staff) was talking about this last week (we trod dangerous ground by referring to religion and politics at work). He said that religion had no impact on him or anyone he knows. I am trying to think about how this makes me feel. I don't believe in the way the CofE or the Catholics or any other religion does but this lack of spirituality made me feel rather empty. It is not just the rejection of religion - I have probably done that myself - but the disinterest in anything that might replace it. Thinking about it, I suppose that thinking about things other than the bottom of the pyramid of needs (Sorry! Tavi rubbish I know but useful here) is the exception but it does depress me.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Film Quiz

I was cajoled into going to see Elf this weekend. Cue many repeats of "Santa! I know him! I know him!" Better than I expected and I did manage to keep watching all the way through. 5 Year old daughter was also impressed and managed to sit still throughout. I was glad I managed to recognise Bob Newhart under all his Papa Elf Make-up not that is was really difficult as he always plays Bob Newhart doesn't he? Is Zooey Deschanel so named because of a parental fixation with JD Salinger? Silly naming your child after a character in a book, especially one by Salinger. You'd never catch me doing it.

Where to now? Lovely walk around the block last night. My daughter insisted that she was too hot and kept taking her coat off despite the ice already forming on the cars. The light reminded me of the trips across to Nottingham to see my Grandparents at Christmas. It was usually on a Sunday and we always ended up driving back at twilight
so that all the curtains of the houses were still open but the lights were on. Driving past, it was impossible to work out any particular things going on but it gave an overall impression of the calmness and general warmth of the time.

I looked it up for the sake of completeness and yes, Zooey Deschanel is named after Zooey in Franny and Zooey though Zooey is the brother. There is no more Salinger left for me to read. I bought "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the weekend and it is excellent.

I am that phony. Watch out! We will get you all in the end. Poetry!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Pliny the Elder was an Idiot

Music is :- Happiness by Lisa Germano.

What do the bombers want? There is no point in dialogue because there is no demand. Any number of words regarding the horror of such events is just wasted because somewhere deep within either the minds of the bombers themselves or those of the men with the strings, there is a fault line beyond which reason does not go. You cannot even use the phrase "They need their heads knocking together". Tell us what you want and what we have to do to make it stop. Another waste of words there. Why is the world so mad? What goes through the mind of a man about to blow himself up at the command of some idiot in a cave? What in the next world can persuade someone to do that? I hope by now that you know my views on the causes in the name of 'the next world' but I am afraid that the promise of marriage to 75 virgins is not enough. And I am not sure I would be swayed by the statement that a suicide bomber suffers no more pain than that of a pinch. If conciousness lasts long enough in the event of such a catastrophic demise, I am sure that discussions of the pain are irrelevant anyway. I recall with horror the story of the passer-by who comforted a dying soldier who had been blown in two by the Hyde Park bomb all those years ago. There is no logic to confront this type of brainwashing. Power is the only driving force of the bomb-masters. They cannot claim any compassion. It is not worth talking about any more. Peace only ever comes through dialogue. No exceptions!

Of course one of the participants in a dialogue has to be able to string more than a few single syllable words together.

Thinking about thinking again. Think of all levels of consciousness from you right now reading this to just before you go to sleep and all those hypnagogic dreams kick in. How do you think? I want to know if I use words or images or some sort of melding of both. However, as soon as I try to think about it, my mind flips into word mode or picture mode and I cannot decide what is the real deal. I am trying it now - the music is creating some images but they are just grey clouds with no representation of reality but behind it all there are the words which I am having to think about in order to write this down. There is no more than Zellaby's brick wall but the clouds are swirling like in Mrs Dai Bread's crystal ball (I cannot remember if she was one or two).

And now the return of Random Friday.

A prose poem for two violins and large milk float - no milk-bottle I meant. The mountains have come down to the sea here, like two sunbathers on a beach, the waves break against them, eroding the rock away over the millennia. We do not live on the same time scale. Their minds do not work like ours and passion is nothing to them. Our lives begin and end in a single cycle of the mind of every rock. So he gets himself up onto one elbow and regards the innocents with derision. How can they live and experience the whole world if they were not here at the world's start and end? We are insects living just a day before we are swallowed back into the ground and broken down to make a new flower or a field of corn for the next ones, the ones who follow us.

The summer has returned, to burn the city to whiteness and hot concrete. Under the steel and cement, the derelicts lie happy and drunk, their gaze set on the future. The fog of heat has shortened our world to a few blocks and a desire for rain. Please let it rain tonight. I want to walk the streets tonight, see the world in a rain puddle. I want to count the lights in the world. All the lights in the whole world. Every candle in a window in a remote house up a mountain to the great lights of Kiev and Moscow, the Russian Capitals, the capitals of the whole world. I can feel the rain now. It cools and steams on the road and gets into the drinks, made intelligent by association with human beings, super-intelligent colours built on computers and sold to us as NEW THINGS. It crawls inside our buildings, led by warmth and light until it evaporates and fills our rooms. The bright, bare lights of this kitchen tell of a just-missed argument. The light is in our eyes but cannot escape. No more to eat in this room, we leave like thieves just as the shouting starts again. It is love and passion; too much of this around. We would die before we fall in love and submit to this. They tell us we are mad and ironically we are. Mad or angry? We cannot tell. They don't come in white coats any more. The blades are taken just before impact and we are saved, made garbage in the fringes of this madness.

The priest sits at his desk, Sunday beckoning his thoughts to the page. They fall out of him like water, and how sick does he feel at this. He knows that he is right and that he must tell everyone that he is right. The directives come like ticker tape - do this, do that. Don't do this. Complete sentences - well formed English, French and Latin to detail one persons idea of how things could be made better. I slp nt txt md bt jst rmvng th vwls ds nthng fr thr rdblty. I bury my best cheeses in the garden and the fire saves my house, eats my cheese and runs away. By the dockside, I step over coiled ropes and bargain with the trawlermen. They have not lost a man for years but now they don't go out that often. The drums and cymbals of the parade have been made random. The sea is glassy, frozen into blurry fuzz by time. I want to leave all this and play drums for some semi-famous group.

There is no purple in disguise. The monsters proceeded dutifully down the beach from the caves, stopped at the edge of the sea and launched an artillery barrage of high intensity. The sea was destroyed in seconds and the ocean bed became a new playground for men. Solutions to old mysteries were found overnight. Here is a plane caught by bombs and a holed submarine that vanished sometime ago in some old war. We walk the mud flats dodging the old sea-cables stretched miles across the canyons of the old sea level. The weather is changed and all that space swallows up our air; makes it less dense and so we all wander around like athletes in Mexico. The sound of everything gets fainter. In the clocks, the mechanisms slow either by relativity or the gravity of the earth. How much water do we need to lose to see a difference? Time is not a definite anymore. We are flung relatively into space where our clocks speed up and our minds lengthen like evening shadows. Thinking becomes a chore - a troubling effort - even the act of breathing takes thought and we may never sleep. The sky falls away and we become gasses in between stars. We have returned to our beginnings. We are not even parts of stars, just the great mix of matter that entropy returns us to. The stars are going out one-by-one. We do not feel hungry or thirsty but we live forever.

Sit down and I will tell you a tale of magic and faeries, of foes and heroes in the heavens. They have been made into stars, pasted to the sky like tissue paper. I stick pins in paper to make shadow constellations. The stars made real, given their true magnitudes with just a piece of sharp metal. I have made the universe out of paper and pencil and pins. IN my brain, the power runs out; I am running against a brick wall, battered and tired with no end in sight. No code word saves me from this.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Curling up in the Shadows

Music is :- Shahen-Shah by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party

I want to think about the whole universe. There is so much nothing around here that there must be something amongst all that nothing out there. I keep returning to thinking about everything in the universe and then nothing - a point with no dimensions. This must still have a location but no spread. And then what about everything? Sometimes at night, especially if it is raining I imagine specific points on the Earth where I have been. Sometimes it is simply a clump of trees I may have passed a few days before and sometimes it is a more specific point. I think of the rain dripping through the trees or how a place that seems busy might appear when it was dark and no one is around. At the moment I am recalling a door in a wall of the Garden at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham. It is a small door and you have to bend down to get through it. The floor is brick and slopes up, emerging in the grounds behind the house. We used to visit the gardens quite a lot when I was little as it had a great adventure playground with a rope slide. It was mentioned on some gardening programme the other day which is why I am thinking of it.

How to write a paragraph of complete meaningless nonsense.

This reminds me of something which I am sure I have mentioned before; In the book Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, one of the characters is taken on a rapid journey through every grave of every human who ever lived, not just the organised cemeteries and ossuaries but also the final resting place of every single person who has died - the lost children, the victims of every disaster - everyone. And all this happens in a short time. It is so long since I read it, the exact details have been lost but the impression it made on me was so strong as to have remained in my head popping up at least once a month from when I read it at least 15 years ago. It is one of those things which should be horrible but which actually ends up being comforting. The idea must be that no one is ever forgotten; the universe or some spirit within it knows us all and our end and marks our passing. No one dies in vain.

Music is now :- Tehillim by Steve Reich

The money god has taken us all. An empty life spent chasing it is lived out so close to mine. I would be happy with more money - almost anyone would be but there is no desire for fame as so many celebrities claim. The money god has the most persuasive dogma, rhetoric of failure and of lost desire. Life will not change us all and we will be remembered by our timelines through this cosmos. A meeting of space and mind has defined us for as far into the future as we can see.

Knock them out. Deny them everything

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Something Missing in the State of the Union

Oh yes! That was it.

Well how are you all today? Thought I would start with a little conversational stuff. Now that is out of the way onto the serious things. Not that I can think of any.

A Bomb Going off While Counting Flowers

In a dull park, the bomb exploded while I counted flowers
and I thought that it was just unfair, to kill me then.
I flew with the petals, a shivering on the bomb's wind
to break upon the ground like light and other things.
I chose this moment to die, while counting flowers,
a horticultural exchange in the sunsetting air.
"Where am I going now?" I thought as the shock wave turned me,
span me like a smut in the smoke of a speeding train.
It came to me that trains are just controlled artillery,
driven shells to smash the buffers as a present to the enemy
and I knew my own dear bomb was one of these, a gift,
a pile of gunmetal, dull and shiny at the same time,
scraped safe in peacetime and then released in war.
"And just when did the peace end?" - came as a second thought,
proof of unended war from three thousand years before,
a train, a chariot, a bomb made smart with electronics;
they're all the same, three prongs to Neptune's armoury,
an arsenal made and stored and written to oblivion
by mad analysis of closer relatives and other broken minds.

I hit the ground, cushioned by the spring and leaves
that flew with me, a cloud of nature's debris,
and lived.
The sky cleared and bored its way to me through smoke,
a blue electric sky, filled with safer things than bombs,
Carbon poisons and the deadly rays of solar wind.
This is the sea and I was unhurt, lying in the sun,
tanning gently, sleeping maybe in the calm of beaches
while the sirens screamed and drew away from me,
to tell of other buildings falling, blown away
while counting flowers.

Not sure about that one. Where was all that hidden away. I am beginning to get concerned about the source of these poems and this one especially seems to have no structure or trigger. Actually, it does have a source. The words "The Bomb Going off While Counting Flowers" is in one of my lists of ideas on the Palm Pilot. I cannot place why I wrote that but it was there and it meant something then. It will come to me.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Umbra Sumnus

Music is :- Too Young to Die by St Etienne - the best group in the world named after a second-rate French football team.

I didn't watch all of the Big Read on Saturday though I did catch all of John Sergeant's proselytising for Catch-22 to win. It is difficult for me to choose between this and nineteen-eighty-four; in some ways one is simply a more humorous version of the other but Catch-22 is here and now and we cannot really say that we have all the elements of Airstrip one yet though plenty of people seem to working on it. Unfortunately some people seem to have understood that winning power means making the people think you are on their side even if your ultimate goal is world domination. I would rather be free and depressed than shackled and contented. I am currently languishing somewhere in the middle I suppose.

I was going to grow my hair like Andrew Collins (The picture is old - he is almost Byronic now) but bottled out in the end. What you look like means nothing anyway - it is what you think and I have been preparing to tell that to any pierced hippie who comes near me. I did have an occasional accidental streak of blond in my hair when at college and for years I have been contemplating a tasteful Balinese Dancer Tattoo but don't you just know that nothing will ever come of any of this.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Quick Notes on a Slow Day

I am having to relinquish membership of the Daily Updated Blog Society (DUBS - hey great acronym) at present. Things around here have made it very difficult to get online. All will become clear probably very soon but as Spam Email trawlers are not really bothered about the realities or otherwise expressed on these sites, I don't suppose any more than a few people will be particularly bothered.

Music is Take Five by Dave Brubeck (who is still touring!). This was recorded before I was born which makes me feel slightly happier about the guy here yesterday who said that he was ten the year I started at this Company. Can't dance to this record but trying might keep you fit in body and mind.

Mindgames was back this week. By the way - just for information etc.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Even in Zen-Heaven

I'll be here until the end of time. Please come back sometime.

Music is :- Zooropa - U2

How did it get to November without me noticing? Every year we always comment on how the seasons have caught up with us. We have years to get used to the passing of the seasons and still we get caught unaware. Probably a product of our cosseted lives lived with no connection to the weather or the outdoors. We live at home and work and go to school in an atmosphere that does not change that much. I am looking at the quality of the light around me at the moment. This being an office, it is a harsh fluorescent light though contrasted to the wind outside, it is quite comforting. They give us work environments like sensory deprivation tanks; everything is laid on and the temperature is kept so as to remove all feelings of discomfort. It is a sort of numbness to keep us concentrated on the tasks they have set us to do. I keep thinking of the phrase 'bread and circuses'.

We have a month to do all the things we want to do.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I'll sin 'til I blow up!

We got To Kill a Mockingbird from the video shop this weekend. I was worried that my wife would want something lighter but as we watched it, I remembered how light it actually is. That sounds like a criticism but it is not. What I mean is that the Children are not protected from the horrors of bigotry which actually results in a man's death and yet are kept safe in hands of a right-thinking man. The children are precocious and live in a sort of treacly, happy world. The whole thing rises to an optimistic ending despite the travesty of a conviction of Tom Robinson. This is an ending which forsees a better world, a world which even in 1962 when the film was made was not certain. You may not be convinced that we have yet reached this world. The Jury is definitely still out.

I am inspired to read the book which passed my year by as a set text at school. We did have a copy at home, a battered Orange penguin but I am ashamed to say I never read it. It was next door to my parents copy of "The ABZ of love" which unfortunately I did read - well I looked at the pictures - line engravings of a particularly dim type which probably had some deep-seated affect on me. You can still get it on Amazon. Wow! Eat your heart out Alex Comfort.

Friday, November 07, 2003

White Streets - a ten minute Friday Sketch

In the 40 Watt light of all the most promising words written this century or last, I found the voice that described a mind we can never know. Sitting at a bleached table in seaside sunlight, came words like prayers, and I was so happy at this window on sadness. There is no fire like this one, no light so bright as this one, no voice so loud and true as this one. In the white streets of London, walks the noble manic, downbeat like winter, retreating into some unknown world, some hell, an atrium to paradise. The boldness of your approach to death is breath taking, a common-sense approach, taken in spite of yourself and how we can never be like you. I would love the world more, having been through this. Take your bright letters and turn them sideways to the sun; see the darkness, a polarising quarter-turn, and all is shaded. Can you see how it all means so much more now? A poem listed crossways, to save paper, making the paper hot - this life will self-destruct in seven years. It is nothing outside the head that does the damage; the damage is done years before. There is no time passing. A life rolls out across America in seconds, birth, loss of loved-ones, suicide, marriage, children, suicide - in one picture, a cubist painting of a whole life in a monotych. In poetry we are born and in poetry we die. We go on and we are balanced. Repeat and repeat until smooth and happy.
Dea Ex Machina

I hate slow news weeks!

I cannot think of what to write about so I will have to resort to an oblique strategy - or carry on with something else.

Single American Person's Cliché

I have an image of a dark room in some high apartment in a North American City. The light comes through wooden blinds and throws shadows on the wall opposite. There is almost no sound from outside for we are too high to hear the traffic on the streets below. Occasionally a siren will waft up and fade out. This is a clean room - no Quentin Crisp dirt haven here. I cannot tell if there is anyone in the room yet. There is no movement other than a slight change in the shadows as some neon sign far below flicks on and off. The room is small and may be part of a larger apartment. It is furnished in a way that suggests more than the US equivalent of bed-sit land. There is a bed up against one wall, half way to a double bed but then again isn't that normal nowadays. There is a picture on the wall above the bed. In the dark I cannot tell exactly what it is though it seems to be a painting rather than a photograph. The light, which has established the positions of everything in the room, has also rendered this picture as a set of greys. There may be a person in the picture but I could not be sure. The bed is made I think.

There is a chair by the bed, a small hard-backed chair, with a jacket stretched across the back. Under then window, which is opposite the bed, there is a small dresser. On it there is a confusion of bottles and what I think are a few photographs in frames. Going closer to this dresser, I can smell feminine perfumes though there is a slight waft of male scent in the whole picture somewhere. The whole collection makes for a comforting reminder of forgotten securities. I see at once in my mind, my own mother's dresser with the green pots she inherited from an aged friend we used to visit, the tangle of miscellaneous things which meant nothing to a small boy. But this is not England. We are gathering pictures of places we can never have been to make stories out of nothing. How can you write like this? I cannot know what will happen here next.

There is no ending to this image because that is all it is. All our lives are not procession of events that happen in novels. Our speech is not the defined sentences of Novels, but the mad collection of hesitations and uncompleted thoughts which we voice. At once the door opens and into this exercise walks the occupant. The corridor from which she comes is brightly lit and changes the room immediately. The picture is first to come to me because in the dark it is completely unknown and now I see it as a painting of some hill probably in Europe but then again America is a big place. I take in this picture instantly for despite knowing that I am in control of the image I feel like a trespasser and that the occupant of this room/apartment may see me. But of course she does not. She walks in, takes the jacket off the chair and leaves. I hear the slide of the material, as she puts on the jacket while walking, unseen along the corridor. She leaves the apartment for I hear the satisfying clunk of a main door closing. She has left the corridor light on and the door to this room open. I go out into the hallway. It is well lit though in a way which suggests intimacy and happiness. This is a happy apartment most of the time. I sense that not from the walls or the light or the smell but because it is all in my head. If it is so happy then either this is just an image designed to stimulate some writing or it is the start of a story where something bad is about to happen.

I go through my life with this dread that the repetitive normality and contentedness is always on the brink of ending due to some disaster. They do not seem to happen. I like to think that I have had all the disasters in my life. There is only one really but it was a biggie. Why is this woman part of the tale? Maybe she is not anything to do with it. That is the truth. The apartment, this spot in space is the reason for being here. I cannot hear any speech in my head. My life is just images - one after another, bang, bang, into the brain. Why do I speak? I do not listen. I want a novel with no speech like George Perec's La Disparation without the letter e, a lipogram, an omission. The world is 99% in our heads. Do we speak to ourselves? How does thought manifest in our brains? Think about thinking and see how difficult it is to describe it. I think of what I think about while writing this and it flies away, turns into itself or generally becomes impossible to track. Those hypnagogic dreams are always images and yet always convey the information you usually only get with speech. One simple single second picture in the almost sleeping mind can tell you things which would take a book to describe.

I am sitting on the chair by the bed. I had to move a small photograph frame to sit down. I hold it up to the light and it is a person. I cannot tell if it is a man or a woman or if they are smiling. I could switch the light on. I suppose I could write the light on as all this is me anyway but that would be wrong. I would become God in my own world and that would make anything that follows meaningless. I have to step back and allow only what is allowed in your world. But then again, would I be unseen in this world. Already I have broken the rules of the real world. I cannot define my whole story within the rules of the real world. I should describe this place in terms of what I see and hear which means that I have to become not only the narrator but the protagonist as well. That normally means that you survive at least until the end of the story but that is not certain. Remember Sunset Boulevard? Narrated by a dead man in a swimming pool. Not Ariel.

I play with time. The sun comes up. The apartment is still; the lights blaze and all is silent. I could go to the Kitchen, make myself a sandwich but the people here would know. They could not see me before, so they cannot be aware of me at all. Anything I do must be undone. When I stood up, I did not have to put the photograph back exactly where it was. It will be returned by some universal snap-to routine in this program. I cannot delete things; I cannot add things. I have a static world and I can only describe it. Somewhere in the world of this writing, people I know exist. What is more confusing is that I would like to think that somewhere else, you can find me sitting at this desk, typing these words. I could leave this place high up in the city and use some novelistic transport to reach myself. Think of the feedback. I am writing myself into the story. I have not written that I do this but suggested that it is possible. In this world there is no difference between the two ideas. The concept of both is the same. I am describing myself here and there at the same time.

Hands up all those who hate complexity and obfuscation. I love that word. It is definitely a Will Self word. I like to think that 'miasma' is also a Will Self word. Can Will Self be part of this story? Somewhere he is waking up, taking a drag on his first cigarette of the day and generally being clever. That sounds like I don't like him. I do! A brave man who knows his own mind. I ought to read something by him someday. The library should be good - if they have not banned him for ever. I bet he uses long words, sort of Martin Amis with longer words. A Single Person's Cliché of America! I have taken the back off the world and am poking a long screwdriver around inside it. Sooner or later I will get my fingers caught or electrocute myself. We are away from the point here. See how it works but do not take it apart.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Method and Madness

Out of the salt air, the Saltire, the face against the wind is not to be deciphered. We are crossing the water, more water than you can ever imagine on a battered (and therefore cheap) liner that is older than all of our parents. In the wind from over icebergs we always think we know the direction we travel. For a moment I cannot remember whether we are travelling East to West or West to East. It does not seem to matter at times like this. The journey is so much more important than the destination. You may think that is an analogy (or this being the rant of a poet maybe a metaphor). It is calmer today than yesterday and that is why we are up here in the wind a hundred feet above the ocean watching the ship tear the green water to turbulence that seems to stretch back to the port of our departure - it was New York I think. She stands in the shelter of some part of the superstructure, keeping her thoughts from me, an ocean between us and under us.

Tales of an ocean-going liner are poured out from her portable typewriter until the people in the neighbouring cabin, bash on the wall. She goes round and disarms them in a second. They are fellow Americans, from Boston on their way to do Europe - so we are travelling West to East. I am going home. She promises to stop typing but I know she had finished anyway and wants to go on deck again, maybe to dance or maybe to make me cold again. The birds whirl about the ship, large birds to be out here or are we nearly home or back in Europe. I sense the distance from completion and hear bagpipe music in the dining room.

We go down there and find one of the crew playing for some holiday or other. Now I want to just think and write something in my head but now we have commitments, actions requiring smart clothes and small-talk. Never talk about anything serious or you will be chalked up as some type of activist and these days that is a sign of madness. We know all about how mad the world is don't we? We really are the sanest here; the further you get away from home (and here by home I mean inside your own mind) the more uncomfortable you feel. When I was younger I didn't feel safe to be let out of the house but reflecting on things has made me saner. We have to dance now. My poem has flown away and is just out of reach on that topmost bar - it could be mast but ships do not have masts these days do they.

She never sleeps entirely happily. There are some dangerous things going on in that comfortable head. You cannot tell by normal senses. I seem to get some magical edge to the dreams she has as I lie awake waiting for her to join me. The world is so happy out here and in there lie dreams of nature and the unconscious existence of animals and plants. I think she is a tree with a mind, stuck immobile in the ground but wanting to walk away and see what is round the corner. For years she will sit with the same view of the world and then one-day some spirit will come down and offer he a glimpse around the corner. She will sell her tree-soul to get that view and when it comes, there is nothing more than what she already knows. No gift of omniscient knowledge of what it is all about, just more grassland stretching to the horizon. It is a beauty she already knows and now she must accept a great price for this.

I doubt my own ability here. I try to help her but it makes me as mad as she says she is. This must mean that I am madder than she is for she is sane. This ship is mad. The captain is mad. I think he is going in circles. I will note down where the sun rises and sets and reaches zenith and then I will know. I feel we are never going to reach land. Can you go around the world and not see land? Could you tell whereabouts on such a path you were simply from the weather? It is darks outside. I scan the horizon for lights. Maybe that is a ship in the distance. Or might it be Cork? Is Cork on the coast. It must be. The night must end soon and where will the sun be. It must be straight ahead but when will the light reach the horizon I can see? A paragraph of questions that you cannot answer for me for I am your only window on this world. I am your agent here and you are mine there. I cannot make you do things and you cannot make me do things. This is a no-way conversation. I cannot say go to the next page because it would be meaningless. Go there anyway.

She stirs on the bed and at this moment I see lightness on the horizon. The Demons are leaving. A calm floats down and we are together again. I cannot write what I see because I do not see it but somewhere here there is some real energy leaving this room. Like you cannot describe fire in any real terms, I cannot describe these nameless things. One was puce I think, and groaned to itself but the noise did not reach my ear. Can we cure this night-time illness? You cannot provide medicine for something that has no physical presence. This is the last gasp of Ariel exploded all those years ago and left to diffuse through the atmosphere. We all breathe in Ariel and he does us no harm. Like the radio that passes through us at all times, Ariel is here and he has taken this woman from me.
Got the Coffee - Got the Funk

Music is - Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia - Ryuichi Sakamoto

Last night I read while very tired. I suddenly got this impression of a hole through the book into the real world. Not a hole which you could look through but a sort of link between the words on the page and real life. It was as if I had found a portal into the workings of the Universe. This is going to turn into a Matrix rant so I will refrain from any expansion.

I went out to try and see the Northern Lights last night. It was indeed like the Somme (apart from the lack of PickelHaubes) and along with the percussion there was a thick pall of firework smoke over the city. Some of the detonations rattled the windows. Looking out of the window here now, I can still see smoke in the distance which makes it look like a summer morning rather than a late Autumn one. Didn't see any lights at all. Rats.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

M' F'low Mercuns

Don't know how long that title will stay up there. If I change it I will then have to remove this whole sentence but then again, this Sentence is False.

Music is Quiet by Sheila Chandra and that is not False.

Blissed out, laid back and wanting more of the same. No description necessary. In fact no description preferable. Describe something so sublime and it becomes less so. Write nothing but nothing about this.

It feels like there are big metal things moving around above us. Big clangs are shaking the building and sending dust down from the ceiling. We like noise; big noise is powerful and fulfilling. Of course all modern music has to have a thump-thump. It connects with us like a dream of earthquakes when we lived in the Rift Valley and could die at any moment. Just like someone has determined the world's best joke (It was Dr. Richard Wiseman of MindGames) maybe someone is trying to find the world's most satisfying sound. I would go for a low scraping of metal of metal with a percussive interval like a very deep and short bass drum. Well at the moment I would anyway. Sometimes, absolute silence is the most satisfying sound.

Talking of silence, I am beginning to get annoyed with the continuous requirement of TV producers to add music to things that do not need it. They send a runner down to the music library and find anything remotely appropriate for the images they are going to show. I think I heard Enola Gay used as the backing music to a holiday article about Japan which is about as INappropriate as you can get. Maybe they had sacked the runner and it was a joke. Anyway, the music is so intrusive now that it is sometimes difficult to hear the words. Maybe that is the idea - the producers think they are producing dynamic wallpaper and it does not actually matter what the words are. My tinnitus will not cope. I know it's my own fault but not everyone with hearing loss is as stupid as me.

I am hoping the weather will clear up for tonight as that X2- flare from the Sun might finally allow me to see the Aurorae. My dad always tells me about seeing them in Shetland and The Faeroe Islands and I always get envious. About 15 years ago, I had to do a week of late shifts as a Computer Operator and it was during a possibly visible Aurorae. I cycled home after midnight with my head to the sky rather than the road, which is quite dangerous at anytime but in Liverpool on a Friday night, is probably akin to attempted suicide. Not a spark then. Tonight will be a problem as there will be fireworks and how! It's like The Somme around here - apart from there's no mud - and no one dies (well not many) and I've never seen anyone wearing a PickelHaube. So not like the Somme at all really. You know what I meant. Overextend an analogy again and I will come round and beat you up like a three-toed Sloth chewing a Dragonfly in Doncaster while ..... Time to finish that one.

There is too much music. Music needs to start and finish. Maybe our short attention span is a result of this continuous dropping in and out of pieces of music without allowing a resolution. I know that musicians leave pieces unresolved specifically to create tension but to do it with a three-minute pop song causes me to have a permanent feeling of lack of closure. I am like the musical version of The Boy Who Spun. Think about it and you will know I am right.

The Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon

Music is :- Mellowosity - Peatbog Faeries

For something to close the night down after finishing the last book I shot through The Iron Man by
Ted Hughes. I remember it being read to us at school and on Jackanory. I can only find that Tom Baker read it on Jackanory in 1986 but I think there was an earlier reading either by an American or Canadian Actor. This may have been a dream but I seem to remember Hughes himself reading it. I don't remember Tom Baker at all. The book has all the feel of a story told to children and indeed it is dedicated to Frieda and Nick but if your Dad is Ted Hughes then you could expect a superior tale at bedtime. I saw many metaphors in it but you will probably see them as the result of obsession so I will keep them to myself. Isn't it strange that the word 'Angel' is used for the baddy? Not Space-Bat-Devil-Dragon. It is a peaceful creature which has been drawn into evil ways by overhearing the warlike cries from earth. Oh well - on to world peace. Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!

Be chilled! It never stops and never will. We do not fit in this world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Forgetting the Kings and Queens of England

In a paraded normalcy, the children are hidden back there, kept behind their swipe card system and their guards. These low buildings have no movement; the windows are sheeted like mirrors to hide their games from anyone outside and this is at it should be. But are we helping these children? The boundary between innocence and this world is like the edges of poetry and prose; there is no boundary. We have the secret world of playground duty and no grown-up must know this. We all forget the depth of our games as we get older. We forget all the Kings and Queens of England which we once knew by heart and we forget all those things we must not tell the teacher because we get older and simpler. Our professed complexity is just that, an over-complicated world with no real meaning. Think what you need to live and think what you have to live. There is a gap between them, a valley so wide and we have to fill it with emptiness, trashy TV, bad food, house makeovers. My continuous dream is to sit and read at night, some calming music in the background and what do I do? Nothing so meaningful and yet the time goes by without me noticing it. I would become a child again, able to sit down with a book at any time I want to; able to do what I want without being told I have to fill in a form. Over 90% of what we do is meaningless.

In this dark room, I could curl up and forget everything. A book and food and warmth. Did the poor souls in Plato's cave get books and food and warmth? They had warmth because they were lit from behind to form the shadows. The engines of complexity lie destroyed, half submerged in the sea, giant metal skeletons, the tall remains of the great machinery which humans like to think turns the world. Food does not grow because we have machinery; it grows because it has all it needs to know how to grow within it. Its food and moisture may be delivered by machine but it equally well comes from the ground and the sky without any intervention by us. Perversely, our machinery dries out the sky and leaches all the food from the earth. We kill the world and then make more machines to resurrect it. Evolution is like balancing a ruler on an outstretched finger of each hand. Bring your hands together and the processes of friction and gravity will ensure that your fingers meet at the balance point - it always works and is so simple as to be ludicrously pointless to describe in any mathematical way. There is no point in defining another way to do this. And yet we take the DNA apart, not just to understand it but to modify it, make it do what we want it to do.

Step back and see these children; what we have done to them? Sweetness and light are taken from us so young now.

Spiderman and Peter Brooks’ new Boiler Suit

Had to stop myself from getting upset reading the final chapters of The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath. When I first read Bitter Fame, the final build-up to Plath's suicide was powerful despite the protestations of Ann Stevenson, that Olwyn Hughes was almost due Joint Authorship due to her requests for changes to the book. I read it listening to music and the world outside was the world of that terrible, cold winter of 1963 rather than the dull summer of Liverpool, late 80s.

I find it ironic that the defenders of such a complex woman as Plath, seem to have the simplest arguments for proving that Ted Hughes was responsible for her death. Any ambivalence I might have had towards Hughes has long vanished in a sort of perverse reaction to the attacks on him. Of course I have read enough to know that the bottom line is that people get badly depressed and they do commit suicide without rational reasons. Indeed there can be no rational reasons for committing suicide except in the most extreme cases. I should really say just read the poems and you will know more than you will ever know from any biographies and that is still without being able to decipher all of the meaning you will find in those poems.

TDALOSP was slightly spoiled because the final 'NEW' chapter was full of typos which any basic spell-checker would have sorted out. It was horrifying to find the word 'peom' - I thought I was reading Molesworth for a moment. Bad Publisher - Naughty Publisher - cash in on the film would you?

While we are at it, go here for the proper order of the Ariel Poems. Well what the order was going to be. Maybe it is me but I have to read them one or two at a time. There is too much to handle in one go. I am going through them in order. I am thirteen and three-quarters maybe.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Quick Trip to Inside my Head

Music is - Music in Twelve Parts - Philip Glass

Can you still hear me? Yes that poem was a bit pretentious but if you were standing in that scrap yard with the oily ground and the piles of cars which could have fallen at any minute, maybe you would see what it was about. Poetry (like soap opera) can be about trying to find extraordinary images in ordinary things. I am now worried that 'humourless' might be a word to describe my poetry but I like to think that there is at least one 'joke' in each poem I write. Though the one I wrote 'offline' this morning might try any searcher.

A Quick Trip to the Scrapyard

This is the home of metal undertaking,
the lair of brave, grave robbers,
where the ground bleaches black
with oil and gasoline.
The Earth would burn in carelessness,
an ammunition dump with warnings.

In the calm and warm hut, backed up,
sit the five, the crew of nightjammers,
metal men to feed the Iron Man,
in the shade of bled erotica,
a gentle girl, a window on the world
of lighter things and brighter eyes.

In a cartoon, they walk a line of steel,
suspended in the sky, a craned beam,
between the dead car towers,
the blue-sky scrapers and the dead.
And any edge here could kill me,
one scratch would bleed me empty.

It is my favour to these men, that
my request goes unfulfilled
and I leave cheerily with thanks
for nothing found save promises.
The sky lifts on this unreality
and I am glad I saw this world.
There's a Stone Around my Legs

There is a striving to know everything, a long line of facts about the universe. It struck me, that knowing everything is not enough. Reading the Death and Life of Sylvia Plath threw up a couple of connections which made me realise that knowing a thing does not box-it-off as a complete know thing. You have to know how it relates to the rest of the possible know facts. These two things in the books may strike you as mundane but here they are. I remember from reading Clive James' third book of autobiography - May Week was in June, that he alluded to the female visitors to a fellow at his Cambridge college. I think he might have said that this fellow was a poet. James also seemed to imply a relationship between this man and James' sometime unnamed antipodean paramour (oh please Bob - that is awful) who I think is Germaine Greer. I think this must have struck me when I first read TDALOSP because it was not unfamiliar.

I am afraid I am going to have to leave the next connection until I have it sorted out because I do not have the book here and I cannot remember the names.

I was wondering about large numbers. My daughter has an obsession with the number Googleplex though she has now real idea exactly how big it actually is but then again neither do I really. I was wondering if any physical reality would actually need numbers in the range of Googleplex to describe them. There are actually fewer than a Google fundemental particles in the Universe (about 10 to the power 80 I seem to remember is one guess) but what if you had to define where all of those particles were (ignoring Quantum effects and the inability to define the positions of such particles to any great accuracy). Like the idea of the Universal clockwork being able to define the past and future from such knowledge. And not only define those positions now but for every point in time since the big bang say to a frequency of 50 times a second. Assume rectangular co-ordinates for position etc. I cannot be bothered to do the maths and although you would be in the ball-park of a Google. It strikes me that a Googleplex would be too big to be of any use.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Change Barong to Legong
Tappi Tikarrass

Well my dark mood of yesterday did not last as the reason for it evaporated as I said it would. Feel papery today though as if nothing is quite right but without being able to decided exactly what the problem is. I made a stupid mistake this morning and though it is resolved, I still feel odd about it.

Music is (and this is from the media player and not the CD) Drumming by Evelyn Glennie - A percussive tour de Force according to the review which I also can get ffrom this new-fangled invention. Certainly is. Drums connect with deeper areas of our brains than normal music. The poem I wrote this morning - Barong Dance is about the link between the music and the dance in Balinese Dance dramas. Each movement of the dancers' bodies reflects an element of the music. The fingers move like leaves and match the high sounds of the little cymbals - Ceng-Ceng I think they are called. (When I bought my Balinese metalphone, I bargained badly and should have said that the agreed price had to include some Ceng-Ceng as well. ) The arms (and I suppose legs as well though I don't remember them moving except to move the dancers across the floor) reflect the middle registers while the boom of the gongs and other lower range instruments correspond to the movement of the whole body. All this analysis seems silly after having written a poem which describes it exactly as far as I am concerned.
Legong Dance 31/10/2003

The forest, a density of jewelled leaves
and fingers is salt-lit, crusted soundlessly,
by high-tide in the swift grey evening.

And fingers twitch,
at first it seems in sickness,
like the end of creatures,
shot for fun and sport,
but in the lantern light,
the lizard shadowed walls,
show elegance in speed,
a nervousness they turn
to grace and piety,
to celebrate a Pantheon.

I was tripped by dogs,
sleeping in the street,
seeming dead and dusty,
ignoring dance and sound.

But these women,
soundless, soft-shoed,
have walked like gods,
two inches over ground,
and turned to music.
Their fingers, leaves,
are stereo, repeating,
alternate, doubled
in the eyes like jade,
and cracking gems.

Their arms become
a deeper melody,
the rolling couplets
of the beating bronze,
detuned from each
to wow and flutter
with the sea-breeze;
the kite-laden wind
of every island.

Kotekan and kebyar,
make bodies abstract,
from the world.
They fly like bats,
link bass metal
to the spirits,
make payments
to the earth,

Alternative Universes

I have a theory (which is always code for I have thought that something might me true but deep down I really know it is just rubbish) that everyone has a recurring ideal of what life is like from what they consider their peak time in life. I have this strange image of the beer garden in a canal-side pub somewhere in Birmingham in the late 70s. I don’t actually think that I am there amongst the long hairs and the real ale which they are downing with relish. A whole lifestyle is suggested by this, home to tastefully decorated flats and progressive rock music. To me now, this sounds really boring and in the late 70s I was 14 rather than 20 so this cannot be my ideal view of life but it always makes me think on what my ideal lifestyle would be. This is rather like wishing that things had been different in the past so that the present was better. Wishing for things to have been different is never a good idea because removing one bad thing from the past could easily open up the possibility of many other bad things, like in Stephen Fry's Making History. The world is safe when it is not played about with. You can influence the future but you should only celebrate or grieve for the past.

I do have another image that appeals to me much more. It is sort of a mixture of my Primary School in Malvern and a 1960s library of art. The school had a wonderful rose garden where we were not allowed to run or shout so that people could sit and read and talk quietly. I wonder if they still have it or whether it has been sold to turn into executive housing. Anyway, the library in my image has sort of taken the place of the school buildings that ran along one side of the garden. I can wander in and out of the library with any book I want. It is always sunny in a sort of faded 1960s photographic way, as if the film for the image has been left out in the sun that it portrays. All very comforting. This library only deals with the past and the positive past at that. There is no access to news or the realities of life. Obviously it is an escape from things that were going on then both in the world and in my life. That sounds like there were some really bad things happening to me but I must stress that this is not some sort of coded revelation of arrestable offences against me. My childhood was mostly of the sunny summers and picnics variety at this time. So don't go phoning any psycho-analysts please. It is back to my idea that everyone has this ideal image. Of course none of these images involves having to work for a living.

All this has been sparked by my finding an old tape of what I considered to be the best pieces of pop-music. These are always responsible for an association with happy images. So we have I could be Happy by Altered Images, Airlane by Gary Numan, Ever So Lonely by Sheila Chandra and Northern Lights by Renaissance. It was this last one which set me off but they are all excellent.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


There is a surfeit of mouses on this desk which is making it difficult to work as well as normal. We are trying to put a new image from a USB drive to my new PC - only a work one unfortunately but it does have XP so that is something. The desk looks like something on Uncle Wiggily's airship. I have no idea what Uncle Wiggily's airship actually was but I once read one of the Skylab astronauts describing the remedial work they had to do to fix the damage which occurred when Skylab took off as being so and I have used it ever since.

So I posted the black blog from earlier.
An Empty Island

Music is :- She Moves Through the Fair by Mike Oldfield and it is crushing.

Short-lived depression at the moment. An irrational fear that will be gone before the sun. Should be calmed by visualisation, which is of course what almost all poetry is.

I have found a great distraction. Go to the Corbis website and just use the search facility. The images are professional and therefore usually far better than anything you might get on the Google image search. Try 'Gamelan' for some great pictures.

I want to say something about how yukky the world is but in my head it just sounds pointless as everyone will say "cheer up". It is very easy to say and very difficult to do. I can write poems about it and they seem all right but if I just write down what I feel then it sounds self-indulgent and selfish. I know of course, that the world is not yukky all the time; that I have the promise of a walk in the woods this weekend and that I do not have anything to be really worried about. But when I am like this, there seems to be nothing worth bothering about. I should just close my eyes, lie back and listen to some nice music. But that solves nothing does it. My mind is split between the revelling-in-blackness and the pull-yourself-together mode. Work is a great distraction. Responsibilities are too. Some people need me as much as I need them and it is sad that I do not make that clear enough to them. Some of us British people are still reserved even in our personal relationships. Enough of this. The Pull-yourself-together mode has won for the moment.

Well, I just tried to publish this and Blogger tells me that it is unavailable for a few hours. It is a good job I did it in Word first as the post has gone. So of course when you read this Blogger will have been back up and I will have pasted this back. Not that many people read it. All those automatic Spam Scanners don’t actually bother with the content do they? Yet more things to be depressed about. A world free of spam would be wonderful but we have to get rid of hunger, poverty, easily cured illnesses first.

Something to focus on.

Somewhere in the world, the last stocks of Smallpox are sustained at great expense, in Government laboratories. I would like to see those stocks destroyed and the money saved by not having to keep them, go to be used for something useful. The only Governments who have real Weapons of Mass Destruction (Remember – the most meaningless phrase in history) are the ones who spend most of the time complaining about other Governments trying to possess them. Yes, I know this is obvious to anyone who is not actually sharing a brain cell but I like stating the obvious because so many people seem blinded to the obvious by the forest of obfuscation (lovely self-referential word) which seems to be part of everything humans do today. How stable are these complaining Governments? I would suggest that the mental health of the average westerner is far worse than that of the supposed unstable regimes being complained about. One man – one missile key and what do you get? Worse still, it seems that the only qualification for leadership these days is a willingness to stand on toes and shout loudly rather than to be intelligent and compassionate. Obvious again I know, but those who want power are never suitable to hold it.

All this started in my head because of my fears about the Sylvia Plath film. I saw the trailer and one of the lines was along the lines of Plath saying that she truly believed that her poems came from God. Now you may write to me and say that she actually wrote that but when it was separated from context by being cut to and away from in the trailer, it seemed as naff as a bag of Troll Dolls. I began to wonder if it was possible that someone who made a film about Plath, understood her so little, that they pandered to every cliché just to make a potboiler. Plath herself did this; she wanted to be published in cosy magazines but in the end turned out to be original though obviously dark and depressed. I will never understand her to any great extent. There were things going on in her head which no one will ever know and no one ever had known. Anyway, back to the thread. I began to wonder if it was possible that an amateur admirer of Plath’s work could be better informed than the filmmakers. I have not seen it yet and I hope that it is better than my fears but this led on to me thinking about whether this discrepancy between what the supposed great and good do and what they should do. The worst case for them would be to have a population as educated as them, who can work out when they are being lied to and patronised. All the time is the answer at the moment or so it seems.

Question everything.

Music is now Apocrypha by Marta Sebestyen

People are beginning to drift in to the office now and for some reason that has made me more depressed. I like the darkness of the early morning and the quietness. It seems now that I have to force myself to interact with other people because otherwise my depression would become obvious. Actually, I am not that bad now. Writing about the problem seems to objectify it, make it less important. Maybe I should print this out, screw it up into a small ball and enter it for the Turner Prize. No! Sorry. I meant screw it up and throw it away.

I have ten minutes to sort myself out and then I will be able to sit down all day, with my headphones on and just get on with things. Hopefully Blogger will be back up at lunchtime and I will be able to publish this. Of course it would be ironic if this whole post got lost completely and my sadness was never made public.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Short Ride in a Fast Poem

Two songs about the same person

I return to old themes and images,
the sounds of blackness and of rainy nights
when dreams set madness back
and all the air seems lit with misery.
And in this night, we two leave the crowd
and walk the broken roads
to a bright lighted café where all men smile
and talk happily about their countries.

In this happy, stark reminder, we stay,
conspirators, picked up by agencies
and spat out laughing into rain and light.

The echoed whistles of the ships
call to their crews and strange, dark overseers.
A captain leans against the door, white smile
against the sooty face of engineers behind him,
while we stand by and understand his weird language,
his pleas to crewmen for their boarding.

We are the city crew, the pilots of this dockland
to its end, the phonemes of desire,
in empty streets and customs zones.
Our pens betray our presence here,
with cleaner clothes and faces,
as we take tea with sailors.
We are observers, mass observers,
brought back from nineteen-thirty-four,
to note for other travellers, the end of race,
the death of history.

The music fades, an inverse of the dawn,
one over sunrise, long division synchronised
with gentle calls to arms and revolution,
coded, ciphered in the news and gossip,
an empty call for things to change.
Wind lacerates, a word stolen from the Bible,
its meaning lost on powerful men.

Recorded live in twenty minutes and doesn't it show?