Google+ A Tangled Rope: 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deserve

"I didn't ever really want that much, but I thought I deserved more than this."



Deserved is a funny word, though. I doubt if any of us deserve anything that happens to us like that. The world does not give us any deserving reward or punishment. What we get is as much a matter of chance as it is of anything else.



Being good or being bad doesn't really seem to matter in that sense. Sometimes the baddies get what makes some sort of justice look good and sometimes they don't.



It is as much a matter of chance as anything else. There are no great rewards for any of us, not any more. There is no-one, no god-like entity, out there dispensing justice. There is no-one out there to reward the good and punish the bad.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Breathe Together

Still, we do not know. Still, and nothing moves to shape the night around us. We lie at the still centre of our universe where only the darkness can touch us. But we hide inside and around each other as though there is nothing between us and no space can grow where there is no gap for it to seed itself. We will not part, even though the awkwardness causes discomfort, it is not such an ache as parting, even for a moment. We breathe together and stay together.



If there could be a time when we walk away from each other, then let it lie beyond the horizon. Beyond the distances, we can see. Beyond the times, we know. Beyond all the other possibilities that are yet to be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shapeless

Some days are easy. Some days are hard. Some days are long and others are over too soon.



It happens like that. There is nothing anyone can do, the days pass without us. They will pass with us. They are indifferent, not interested in us. The world does not care about the individual either. We are here and then we are gone. There is nothing binding us to our days; there is no purpose and no destiny. We are free.



People find it hard to face up to their freedom. They need walls they can touch. A room that protects them. A corner to hide in.



This world is too big for us to live in alone. We need something to make us feel a part of something else. We need to feel as though we belong, as though we have a place, and - despite all the overwhelming evidence - that we do matter.



That is why some people have the need to believe in something. A belief - no matter how it contradicts all the evidence - is something to cling to. A belief gives a shape - no matter how distorted - to this shapeless world.



In fact, it often seems that the more contradictory to reality the belief, the stronger the belief itself. A belief in spite of the world, despite the world, in defiance of the world. A sort of delusion of the heroic.



Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Poem: Seasons (Naga-Uta)

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Seasons (Naga-Uta*)



Then, when the rain stops

and you step outside, to walk

once again, barefoot

over the wet grass, like that

long lost girl-woman

of innocent summer sex,



you remember how

we fell from fields of endless

summer, into this

slow stilted urban decay.



And wonder, wonder

why all these heaped mistakes

cannot be erased.

Time will move on, once again

leaving us behind.



As seasons fall down slowly

into stilled winter

and all its frozen promise

of dark days, will we

waste the mellow autumn years

lost in memory



regretting our lost summer

and the spring we never used?

*How to Write a Naga Uta

Friday, July 25, 2008

From The Archive: Kylie and Ayaan

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).


Kylie and Ayaan - 19/05/05


Yesterday the one of the biggest news stories around was this. This - as far as I can see was picked up by most - if not all - the UK media. I am no fan of Kylie, I have little or no interest in her doings, and I don't think her bottom is as great as many have suggested. However, it goes without saying that it is a great shame for Kylie - and I do wish her well, of course. But, I also noticed this in The Grauniad, and I couldn't help contrasting the two stories.


On the one hand, we have Kylie who has had the sheer misfortune to contract a serious illness. Just one of the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, be it accident, injury, illness or disease through the blind indifference of chance, luck, hazard or whatever you want to call it.


Whereas, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is under a death threat bought about by sheer human malice towards others just because they dare to question. Dare to question those who set themselves up in power over others through exploiting the tribal loyalty inherent in religion or politics.


The case of Kylie shows just how tenuous is our grip on life, on health. Just how narrow the line is between life and death and how easy it is to fall over it. It is bad enough that we all could, on any one day, be struck down by disease or illness, suffer some accident or misfortune that leaves us injured, dying or dead.


But what is truly horrific, insane, sick, disgusting and - just plain - wrong is that there are some people out there who earnestly believe that the ideas in their minds are far important than the lives of other people, and - in some cases - their own lives. The way that people will value something like religion notions above a human life, makes it seem as though such ideologies - in some people - are like a cancer that eats away their fellow-feeling, their awareness of a common humanity, their joy in life and happiness. Replacing them all with a growth in paranoia, fear, hatred and a need to control, and kill. Of course, another current example is the way people have died because others have prized one mere copy of a book far more than they value the lives of their fellow humans. Human life is short and fragile, the last thing anyone should even consider taking it from someone else for such paltry reasons.


Kylie should think herself lucky, lucky, lucky that those who would wish to silence Ayaan Hirsi Ali are not in power. Because she would not be in the position she is in, able to sing, dance, act - live the life of a free and privileged woman if they were. She should also bear in mind that the scientific and technological advances which may just save her life also could be denied to her if other anti-science religious fundamentalists, anti-rationalists and their fellow travellers are also allowed to triumph.


The way that humanity - through science and technology - has struggled long and hard to overcome disease, illness and accident - and has, so often, had a great deal success - enables Kylie, and those in a similar position to her, to hope for their future. Of course, it is a journey that is far from over, if it ever will be over. There is still much for us to learn. But it has achieved so much that even a Pope can be kept alive long after he would otherwise have died (who really, if there is anything to religion and its gods at all, ought to be the last one ever to need such earthly assistance). While still - after all these millennia - people are still dying unnecessarily through religion, either through war between religions or within religions, or failing foul of some religious rule or edict, or even through doing things some members of one religion or another take exception to, in the name of that religion.


I suppose it is one reason why I can be confident in my knowledge that there is not a god. For not only do I know that if there was such a being , he could not - in all conscience - allow such a thing as cancer to make the sentient beings he created to go through such misery. I also know that he could not allow his followers to do such things as kill another human being in his name, or for his greater glory, because if he did he most certainly would not be worth worshiping.

So, Kylie and Ayaan - good luck and a long life to both of you.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

Naked Dreams

People often speak of being naked in some of their dreams, and how they are embarrassed by it in the dream. I can't recall any dream of mine where I have been that bothered by me, or anyone else in the dream, being naked.



I presume that - if dreams do have any meaning, any referential content - that this embarrassment could have some sort of symbolic quotient. That some people are embarrassed by being in a situation where they are not protected by, hidden behind, their clothes seems to suggest they feel as though they have a public persona, a face, a role, they put on along with their clothes.



This seems to imply that they are afraid - as the clothes loss is usually accidental - that one day they may let the mask slip. That one day they may step out as they really are.



I don't suppose they have anything really terrible to hide. I suppose that much like everyone else they are afraid that people won't really like them.



We all have this terrible fear of being unloved, rejected, and to step out stripped of all pretence, all protection, all we have created to hide behind, is too much for us to bear.





Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moving Pictures

An excellent comment at The new Culture Forum about the way film has steadily infantilised itself over the last few decades.


Now that has disappeared, and movies such as The Dark Knight are poured over for meaning. The truth is, in the last three decades, as attention spans and perspectives have shortened, genuinely adult narratives have been disappearing from the cinema. The child-like and the trivial have taken centre stage and been given not just big budgets but the full broadsheet treatment.


I think there is some force to the notion that the rot did indeed set in with Star Wars. It seems to have something to do with the post-war generations coming of age – without actually seeing the need or wanting to grow up. I remember when the first Indiana Jones film appeared and it was touted around as a ‘modern’ version of the old Saturday Matinee kids films that used to be on when these people were young.


It isn’t necessarily the subject matter as such, I’ve always liked science fiction, for example. However, to me, SF (not sci-fi, of course) has always been – at its best – what you might can a philosophical form, a sort of narrative thought-experiment taking contemporary concerns and examining them through a story.


Largely though, for me, this is where SF (or Sci-Fi in this case) cinema and TV have largely failed, with a few exceptions Terry Gilliam springs to mind), preferring its traditional Hollywood simple goodie V baddie narratives interlaced with explosions and special effects.


We did in the 60s/70s expect a lot from film, from all popular culture, feeling that it would grow up along with us, mostly it has stayed juvenile though, along with – it seems most of its audience – of whatever physical age.



Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Poem: Flowers

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Flowers



These flowers were forgotten

left in the waterless vase

until they turned brittle brown,

became bare dry sticks;

leaves fallen, petals long lost.

Flowers in memory only.



And you cannot remember

why I bought them for you,

or the single one you picked

to wear in your wet hair,

as you stood, naked and fresh,

soap-perfumed from your bath.



You laughed then, at my smile.

You knew you had the power

and I had this desire

to kneel between your legs

and give my thanks

to you and your nudity.



Your hands on my head,

pulling me even closer still

as you fell backwards

into my favourite armchair.



I remember smiling up at you,

naked and laughing,

as the flower fell

from your wet hair.





Friday, July 18, 2008

From The Archive: Conceptual Art

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).

Conceptual Art - 16/05/2005


Is there anything more tediously annoying than someone who constantly repeats catchphrases from comedy programmes?


Well, yes, there must be.


But, at the moment, I can't think of one, so this will have to do.


I refer, of course, to those annoying tossers who somehow think that by repeating some word or phrase far from the original context like some amphetamine-fuelled parrot (Norwegian Blue, obviously - beautiful plumage) somehow marks them out as some great and original wit.


Conceptual art is a lot like that. It began - more or less - with some French bloke taking the piss out of the art business.


Marcel Duchamp's fountain - an inverted urinal he signed then exhibited (There you are, squire, genuine original work of art - to you a few thousand quid - a genuine bargain).


Now, as art jokes go, I suppose it isn't that bad. It does - as all good jokes do - raise some interesting questions about its subject matter such as: What is art? What makes us call one piece a work of art and another a piss-pot? Who is that tosser and why is the Arts Council giving him so much money for a pile of dried hamster shit on a cornflake packet? and questions like that.


Now, don't get me wrong (well, you can if you like - whatever turns you on and all that), this is no tirade against modern art. I'm not one of those and what the hell is that suppose to be - a five-year-old could do that! Philistines. After all, all art - including representational art - is abstract, a blend of line and light and shade and colour. In representational art it just happens that this blend of things happens to correspond to a greater or lesser degree to what we see in the world (See Gombrich's Art and Illusion for a good discussion of this, or even Berger's Ways of Seeing - if you can put up with its dated late 60s/early 70s grooviness).


No, conceptual art is about the idea of art - going back to Duchamp and his piss-take - rather than the thing itself. All the other arts tried this thing - novels without stories, music without tunes, drama without, well, drama, and so on. They all dropped it when they saw it was a dead end.


But modern conceptual art just goes on repeating Duchamp's catchphrase over and over again. Not only is that itself tedious enough, but each time the catchphrase is repeated it has to be yelled louder and louder to overcome people's boredom and indifference. And the only way that Duchamp's catchphrase can be made louder is by increasing the 'shock' factor, the yuck factor: first they sculpt shit, then they use shit to 'sculpt' - then just plain shit is no longer shocking enough - they use endangered animal shit, or AIDS victim's shit, or the shit of tortured children or - well, you get the idea. And, for each manufactured 'shock' the same Daily Mail-esque howls of manufactured outrage are flung out in response like the forced polite laughter of those long tired of the same worn-out catchphrase.


Normally, I wouldn't want to be seen quoting Morrissey in public (as it will do nothing but damage to my carefully cultivated anti-hip image), but this time I have no choice. Conceptual art - That joke isn't Funny anymore.



The Concord Of This Discord

These days I do try to make myself resist commenting on the various MSM comment sites. However, this morning, I could not resist this BBC Have You say: ‘How can broadcasters better reflect ethnic diversity?


My comment:


People are individuals, not representatives of any 'group': racial, religious, sexual or whatever. Therefore they should be employed by anyone - including the BBC and the rest of the media - solely on their individual merits and on no other criteria, especially some artificial and arbitrary quota that 'represents' or 'balances' some perceived inequality.


It is time that the people who make these decisions realised that acts of 'positive discrimination' perpetuate divisions not cure them.


There I ran up against the BBC’s word limit, a device that often adds to the frustration of indulging in these various MSM ‘comment’ items.


Of course, this notion of treating people as members of a group who – it is presumed - all share common traits, aspirations, world view and so forth is a product of the Left, a sub-Marxist view of competing groups forcing the course of history through their interactions.


When the ‘working class’ a rather nebulous concept at the best of times, refused to follow their part in the script, the Left looked around for other ‘victim’ groups it could champion (scroll down to see the extract from BRITAIN SINCE 1945 by Kenneth O Morgan.)


This has led to the current proliferation of various groupings, some overlapping (Asian and a woman, Homosexual black, and any other variation you could come up with) and often contradictory. The Left constantly claims to be for these groups and, especially, against stereotyping of them, but the very existence of these groups (which you are put in whether you want to be or not – another example of the insidious underhand coerciveness of the Left) forces stereotypical behaviours, attitudes and outlooks upon those within them. Rather than being, or becoming, individuals, people are seen as and made to adhere to what is expected of, and from, that grouping.


Those that escape these groups, for example the so-called Black & Asian middle-class, do this by stepping outside the serotype of the group and becoming individuals in their own right. The other method of escape is – ironically - to work in the public service industries, and areas like the entertainment industry that perpetuate these groups through reinforcing the images of the stereotypes of that particular grouping.


Both these escape routes are akin to the ‘working class’ kids who used grammar schools to escape being stereotyped as working class and became individuals and therefore ‘middle-class traitors’ in the eyes of the class warriors. Many of whom became themselves a form of ‘professional working class’ champions and spokespeople who had used that very same escape from the working class through the Grammar schools that the ‘traitors’ had used. This is a major part of why those very same ‘professional working class’ class-warriors were so keen to see the destruction of the Grammar Schools, because of this very escape from the working class that they themselves had benefited from.


The whole – what we might as well call – ‘diversity agenda’ actually makes things worse, not better, by creating often artificial differences between various people and exacerbating, exaggerating and perpetuating them in ways the very opposite of what the ‘diversity agenda’ is purported to do. Rather than bringing ‘peoples together’ it creates division, anxiety, resentment, anger, bitterness, jealousy and so on, all around hazily-perceived and artificial ‘differences’.


Although, I do say that this is a Left-wing notion, it has been a central part of the post-war consensus that dominated – and still does partly dominate - political discourse in this country. Even Thatcherism, which demonstrated that Left-wing economic ideas could not work, tended to leave social policy alone, which allowed these ideas to become deeply entrenched, especially as opposition to the ‘Nasty Party’ seemed to carry with it a certain cache in ‘progressive’ circles.


However, it does seem that the Tory party under Cameron, and to a lesser extent Clegg’s Lib Dems, are becoming aware of just how badly the Left-based post-war consensus on social policy has so badly damaged this country and are making slow hesitant steps towards seeing if they can rectify some of it. The Labour party though faces an even greater loss of identity, and therefore purpose if it ever realises that its social policies are as deeply flawed and unworkable as its economic notions. Even now it has trouble creating a coherent identity, if it loses this the last of its philosophical underpinnings then it surely must cease to exist as a leftwing (however vaguely) party. Not that I – for one – would shed any tears over that… not any more.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Normal Times

Sometimes… sometimes it can all seem a little too much like a dream. Sometimes dreams can all seem a bit too real too. Normally, though, we know the difference, we can tell where the dreams end and where the world begins.



Normally.



Normally too, though, it never seems as though we are not living normal lives in normal times. I sometimes wonder if there has even been anyone who felt they were living in normal times. I do sometimes catch myself thinking that if it wasn’t for this natural catastrophe, or that political situation, or that problem with work or at home, or if the economy turned the corner, or – well, you know - one of the thousand shocks that the flesh is heir to… then maybe… just maybe… these would be normal times too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fascination

It was always the fascination with small things that held her; the shape of a leaf, the pattern of a shell. The smaller the thing and the more intricate its design the more fascinated she was. She collected things she found on her long solitary walks in fields, woods and on beaches. Wherever the family went, she would set off on her own looking for the small and the intricate.

She had no interest in the man-made world of amusement parks. She liked the natural world. While her sisters and brother would all rush for the amusements and rides, she would set off for things like animals in the zoo, or fossil collections.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Poem: Salvation

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Salvation



We do not need to wait for signs these days,

we’ve seen the stars are distant, further still

than distance we can know and reach out for.

They are no longer watchers over us

and all our insignificant small lives.



How this became a day, and not the end

of everything is no great mystery

requiring sacrifice. Beginning day

does not need freshly running blood to stain

the dawn a deeper red, a life for life.



We should have turned away, just walked away

so long ago. All children have to leave

behind the comforting reassurance

of myth and fable, learning that the truth

has not got any special places, lands,

no get-out clauses and no chosen ones.



There are no questions answered only by

petition, nothing out there watching all

to prostrate for, to counter some deep sense

of insignificance and central place

in this our solitary universe.



Do not believe salvation saves the soul

except through reason, wisdom and the mind.

A coming towards understanding all

and knowing understanding can’t know all.

Do not expect the touch of miracles,

and then you will know surprise, wonder and

the true real beauty taking us beyond.



Don’t waste your life on praying hopelessly

for salvation beyond this life and world,

beyond the possible, beyond the real.

Do not let go of life and waste your time

on chasing after ghosts through empty skies.









Sunday, July 13, 2008

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Friday, July 11, 2008

From The Archive: General Election Does Some Good

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).


General Election Does Some Good - 15/04/2005


Maybe the General Election campaign will be worthwhile, after all, if it means that the utterly stupid proposal to outlaw incitement to religious hatred has been dropped. Although, the article above does imply that the danger has not gone away (but whether the comment by 'Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland' is just a ruse t keep the Muslims onside during the election, we'll have to wait and see).


The obvious flaw in the legislation - that religion is a belief and therefore - at least in theory, changeable - unlike race which is a fact and unchangeable, has been gone over many times, and is so obviously correct that it is hard to see how anyone can still argue for the proposition anymore.


The proposed legislation has many other flaws too. However, the one I find interesting is this. The only reason why the brain-dead racist bigots are using religious belief (mainly Islam) as a euphemistic marker for the people they don't like is because they are banned by law from using racial abuse.


Therefore, it seems obvious - to me, at any rate - that if a ban on 'religious hatred' is introduced then they will move on to another way of identifying the people they dislike. Their irrational bigotry blinds them to the obvious fact that humans are far more alike than they are different. The bigots will search out another way of singling out the ones they dislike - or fear - then that will have to be banned as well, and so on.


This flaw is the same flaw that hamstrings the dread Political Correctness. Quite simply, changing the word will not change the behaviour, the thought, the deed or anything. For example, people have always used the words that describe mental or physical disability as terms of abuse, or to take the piss. Not particularly endearing, but there you go. Back when I was in the school playground people were called spastics, or even just a spaz, as terms of abuse or ridicule. Nowadays the words to describe mental and physical disability have changed (quite possibly because people did use the words disparagingly), a trivial example is when descriptions like differently-abled, mentally-challenged are used, we end up with piss-takes where bald becomes follically-challenged, or differently-hirsute and so on.


So, what this means for any law to outlaw incitement to religious hatred, is quite simply that it will not work, because the intended targets will take evasive action and come up with some other euphemism for describing those of different races and cultures. The slow ponderous machinery of the law will forever by lumbering in their wake, making more and more freedoms illegal, but never catch those it is after.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Numbers

We - humankind - seem to like, or need, to attach significance to numbers. We give them meaning, for not only what they represent, but we give the numbers themselves, in the abstract, meaning too. It is thirteen that is supposed to be unlucky in itself, not for what it may happen to represent on that particular occasion.

Humans seem to want to see meaning where there is none. It is not just numbers; people have found gods and demons all over the place: in ponds, in the skies, in rocks, in trees. Not only gods and demons, but also non-living objects are - still - regarded as having a - usually malevolent - semi-consciousness to them.

We seem - somehow - reassured by what we see as the almost gleeful hostility shown to us by the non-living world.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Escape

She was only there, standing still. She looked out across the bay, her mind as still calm an empty as the beach in front of her, with the sea stretching out towards the distant horizon.

She had thought she had escaped, that she was free.



But….



The tide in her mind changed and her thoughts inched their way across her empty beach mind, washing in the flotsam of her life.

Her empty life.



She had always enjoyed the contrast in this escape from her hectic career to the single week here, now. But, this time, this week, she had been haunted by the ghosts of her childhood when most of their family holidays were spent in this same place. Everywhere she looked, she saw a time long lost, but unforgotten. Times when she had been happy, times she had been alive with the uncomplicated life of a child on a beach in summer.



"I'm just getting old," she said aloud to the beach, then glancing around guiltily at the sudden volume of her voice, which had caused a brief fluttering amongst the nearest crowd of gulls. But she was alone.



She was always alone.



She had wanted - needed - the career… or, so she thought. At the time the long climb up the greasy pole had been her whole life - excepted for this one special week, this week was the only thing she had not sacrificed to the career god. She had smashed through the glass ceiling and the smug male condescension. Now she was at the top. She was at the top, and all she could do was look down. It seemed a very, very long way down and she was so alone.



Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday Poem: Shared Dreams

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.



Shared Dreams



I move as you move and we will

move together, joined together

through the night, all night long.



We follow each other across this bed

as in our dreams we walk hand in hand,

across the sand and naked into the sea.



All through the night,

I share your dreams,

you share mine.



One day we will wake from these dreams

and try to remember who we were before,

where I end and you begin again.

We will feel the need for sharper edges,

a need for borders and a need for limits.



Then we will lie apart, on opposite sides

of this suddenly far too big bed.

Turned away from each other's sleeping

through lonely nights, dreaming different dreams.



I will walk lonely beaches

while you stand on cliff tops

searching wide horizons

for the sight of a sail.



And, in the darkness, maybe in the deep heart

of a cold night, we may turn together

and in the tangled hearts of our separate dreams

we will come together again for a while

before turning back to our separate nights.