There was a pile of recordable VHS tapes in my house growing up. They were stored in the cabinet below the TV at one stage, then later on they were relegated to the end cupboard in the little study room. My dad had an extra one stashed away at the top of his wardrobe I discovered. It was labelled ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’ and, as it happened, genuinely was ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’. I think there was a pattern to the stuff my dad recorded off the TV, because the only other full movies in the general pile were the ocean-set Dead Calm, Basic Instinct, and Someone to Watch Over Me, all of which are also about cheating, with maybe a ‘wicked woman’ to blame, and that being an exciting thing. In other news, I quite like this song:
I’m currently reading this. It’s a surfing memoir written by a 63 year old guy- a lifelong surfer. When I bought it, for my kindle, I was vaguely hoping for ‘What it’s like to be cool: from the horse’s mouth’. The author isn’t the outlaw I expected though. He’s a deeply reflective chap- a journalist for the New Yorker magazine of thirty years standing. I hadn’t bothered to look him up or even read a review of the book before purchasing, so sold was I on the title and premise. So it’s been a pleasant surprise. There’s highlight-worthy lyricism and insight on his full-to-bursting, counter-culture skirting life every other page. It’s great.
The Prince- Niccolo Machiavelli
A famous 16th century how-to, in short chapters, concerning holding onto power/influence once you have it. The main thrust: Where certain group dynamics are involved, life is such that you have to think and act like a bit of a bastard if you want to live constructively- it’s not possible to avoid it. When faced with social grappling I tend to just disengage and get by on a feeling of martyrdom instead. Above it. But I’ve had valuable things snatched from my grasp a number of times following that strategy. Perhaps I need to go over to the dark side and become a calculating kicker of asses. ‘Old Nick’, for the Devil, supposedly comes from ‘Niccolo’. I once saw a guy bench-pressing with this book opened face down next to him- man on a mission, clearly. I was meaning to read it since.
Submission- Michel Houellebecq
I’ve enjoyed this guy’s previous novels. He does modern-life disillusionment with hair-raising power- he really means it. So I was disappointed to realise this one wasn’t really working for me. It’s set in a 2017 where France is in the process of being remodeled around Islamic values, after the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ has come to power democratically. It’s a higher-flown setting than in all his other novels- academics and politicians at the Sorbonne- where the permanently drunk yet revered narrator, Houellebecq, is a lecturer. I suppose that aspect pissed me off- those are perspectives I don’t share much with and probably resent a bit. And he compounds it by taking long chunks of each chapter to talk about the work of some obscure French writer, Huysmans, that seems unrelated to the other goings-on in the novel. Perhaps the point his was making with that went over my head, but it felt to me like he was playing a joke on the reader. He speaks eloquently through other characters’ voices, as the sozzled narrator listens on, about what will be the shape of the new Islam-centric society: Patriarchal family units as a force of social control and six wives for anyone with heft, like the narrator and his colleagues. You get the impression Houellebecq is pretty down with much of that, but it would be nice if the whole thing wasn’t such a frustrating guessing game.
In response to the daily post’s writing prompt An Odd Trio
Today, you can write about whatever you what — but your post must include, in whatever role you see fit, a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel.
I’ve considered the possibility of getting a cat. I’ve come to realise that I wouldn’t like to live with a dog. All a dog really wants to do, in its heart of hearts, is put on a gilet and go rowing. But I just want to slink around the house mostly, so it wouldn’t work. I’d spook the creature out. I’d feel like an abuser. A cat would be much better suited. Me and the cat, being wee resentful dicks together. Soup I’m not a fan of at all. It’s actually surprising how awful it is in every regard. There are so many reasons to dislike it: It’s very often the consistency of diarrhea; I scald my mouth every time I have it; this old man I know dribbles it down his chin onto his big gut and doesn’t notice; I’ve sickened myself once or twice on the gloopy tinned tomato version; the metal spoon feels unfriendly in my mouth when there’s only liquid soup on it; the grim, depressed-person spectacle of pressing down on the surface of the soup and watching it flood the spoon; when you get a bit of bread like sodden tissue paper on a spoonful; the fact that it’s associated with hospitals and old people’s homes. It’s just a nightmare foodstuff! It’s profoundly terrible. As far as beach towels go, I own one which I bought in Malta in 2007 when I went on a holiday there with my friends. It’s black with a depiction of a big yellow bus and the words ‘Malta Bus’. They had these rickety old ex-American school buses running around the dusty roads there, with the interiors covered in rosary beads and other Catholic jumble. I’ve had a good long run with that towel, very fond of it.
Re: Paris attacks- Fucking psychotic fascists. I’m done listening seriously to talk of ‘faith’, of any kind. There’s nothing to understand. Richard Dawkins’ twitter feed has been the best thing to be looking at in the past few days, for me.
Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.
Ridicule and bullying are bad ones. Being on the end of it makes me murderously angry, genuinely. Not long after I moved into the place I’m in, the gay couple who live on the same floor as me decided to start making funny noises from behind their door every time I arrived back and was trying to get into my flat. The first time it was ‘no stop…stop hurting me’ as if someone was being abused. All very funny. It was just the once though, so I wasn’t bothered. But then again another night- mewling like cats this time. I had met and spoken to the two of them once before and the big tall one had made it apparent that he wasn’t impressed with me. So the second night of noises I was a little shaken. I shut my door and just stood in my living room with my head spinning. They knew I was here alone and that that kind of thing was going to make me uneasy. They knew all the ramifications of what they were doing. The anger that rose up in me at that, the injustice of it, making my life difficult for no fucking reason, drove me immediately out into the corridor to confront them. I could hear that they were leaving to go somewhere. To be fair, they are a pair of rather feminine, fitness model-type gay guys, so it could have been worse. The tall one tried to play the hard man with me out in the corridor, coming and squaring up to me- he had obviously expected me to be intimidated, the bastard. But he was rubbish at it. And it’s not difficult to intimidate me. So the situation was resolved easily. I just told them with conviction to fuck off, and they did.
I do want to say that I can’t be angry about this kind of thing because I’m as much of a dick as anyone. To be humble and balanced about it. But I’ve wracked my brain and no, I definitely wouldn’t victimise someone in a premeditated way, for sport. As a grown adult I wouldn’t dream of it. The people who do that are another species. Or just daft. It is a fact of life though, it has always gone on and always will. So seething with rage at those people as I’ve sometimes done is shooting myself in the foot. Even if I took them on and won they’ll respawn in another form, to the end of time. It’s necessary to stand your ground on occasion obviously, but with smaller scale outrages, when they happen, the true enemy is the behaviour, and nevermind the person. And I think the only way to direct the rage against the behaviour is to keep as much distance between it and my soul as possible- don’t let it anywhere near me to infect me- by being the living embodiment of courteousness. That’s what I’m thinking now, anyway. Easier said than done though clearly.
There’s a clothes shop I quite like called Pull and Bear- it’s like H and M, but originating in Spain, and the clothes are slightly better and £10 more expensive. Their masthead reads ‘Pull and Bear 1991’. I was a bit surprised at that. They’re going all ‘Gap 1969’ on our asses, romanticising the year. That’s jarring for me because for ages I was fully convinced the early 90s were nothing more than a joke. The entire time I was growing up that was the received wisdom, and I didn’t question it. MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, ho ho ho. But now I turn around and it’s ‘Pull and Bear: Birthed in the cultural firestorm of 1991’, kind of thing. Probably there’ll be an ad with a languid whispery voiceover (or maybe a more assertive tone is the thing now, I’m not sure): ‘Pull and Bear: Nighting nighty one’. They’re completing an about-turn that started a few years ago. It appears I’ve been a pawn in some vacuous cycle. All just a bit of fun you could argue, but I’m pissed to realise that I’ve been holding fast to an idea, about the early 90s, that I had no input on. It was handed down to me by the fickle overlords of taste and I complied. I still hold it, this post was originally going to be me joking about ‘Pull and Bear 1991’ being silly, but I realised the joke’s on me. Someone more enlightened than me is going to come along and explain that 90% of my opinions are like that, that this is just a glaring example of it. You live and learn anyway. Blogging saves the day again.
What was the #1 song when you were born? Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.
It’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ by Stevie Wonder, or Steven Wonder, as he must have been originally. I don’t like that song at all. It’s miserable. I get frustrated even trying to sing that title line, with the dreary pace of it. You could get up and get a glass of juice in the dead air between ‘I just called’ and ‘To say’, then go ahead and make a sandwich and reply to a few emails before ‘I Love you’ finally arrives. You need the patience of a saint. I didn’t always hate it though. It was in the air when I was very young. In fact I was completely fascinated by it, this person calling to say ‘I love you’. It pulled back the curtain on a netherworld of adult autonomy and telephone use and making weird meaningful declarations to other people. And it wasn’t just some shit sentimental song, as I recognise it to be now, no- it was definitive; that’s what life was like out there mood-wise, I understood. Until the next song came along presumably.
When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something, but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should’ve said.
Near Dublin city center a couple of years ago I passed someone in the street who was obviously in a terrible place mentally. He was a big overweight boulder of a man of about forty, with a buzz cut, in need of a wash, wearing knackered sportswear. He was stood on the pavement, at 10 in the morning, ranting and howling unintelligibly at the ground ahead of him with a ferocious energy that was startling. He was red in the face from the effort- it was a scary spectacle. I had just come out of a newsagents nearby and had stopped to put stuff in my bag when he took up his post on the pavement near me.
Maybe this guy is just a Dublin fixture, old Barmy Gerry or something, and any Dubliner reading this would laugh at how solemn I’m being about it all. In the heat of the moment I did in fact react something like that. I turned to a man standing at the entrance to the newsagent and gave him a nervous little smirk, like ‘What’s with this guy?’ The man at the newsagents just glared at me, which was what that reaction deserved. To answer the prompt, I should have not been a twerp and immediately said or done something helpful instead.