Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Obscene Bird of Night - José Donoso



I thought that I'd make videos about books and films that have struck me. This is one is about The Obscene Bird of Night, by Chilean author José Donoso.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Ahoy Facebook #4

Part 2 of 'Collected Essays' is in the works, as is my novel. I really need to find a job, but tragically enough most employers toss away my CV with impudent indifference. Wankers. And if they scour through my online history to judge me, encounter this and jump to the conclusion that I am reprehensible human being, then that just enhances how fucked up this society and job market is.

Ahem, sorry about that frustrated rant. In the meantime, here are some bits and pieces from my Facebook page. I need to stop dicking about and procrastinating online and focus on the things that REALLY matter - employability, reading and writing. 

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Lists. I really like pointless lists.
This is my current Amazon shopping basket:
Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson - Camille Paglia
Cultivating Humanity: Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education - Martha Nussbaum
The Price of Inequality - Joseph Stiglitz
Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach - Martha Nussbaum
The Fragility of Goodness: Luck And Ethics In Greek Tragedy And Philosophy - Martha Nussbaum
Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Spirit': A Reader's Guide - Stephen Houlgate
Essays and Aphorisms - Arthur Schopenhauer
Harry Partch: A Biography - Bob Gilmore
Keynes: A Very Short Introduction - Robert Skidelsky
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering - Norman Finkelstein
Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists - Diogenes the Cynic
Subtotal (11 items): £152.84
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About a week ago I had a dream involving Polly Toynbee. Dateline London (political punditry program on the BBC) was taking place on a boat. Polly Toynbee, who appears fairly regularly, was a snow-woman. She was melting and everyone else was very concerned. They took her to the other end of the boat, to keep her away from the sun.
Dream interpretation: The precarious state of social democracy. Although most 'welfare states,' boast the best share of wealth distribution, and the highest levels of happiness (i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Norway etc.), it is in danger of being wiped out all over Europe. It is being besieged by a surge of left-wing and right-wing populism. Hence why Polly Toynbee was melting away in my dream.

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Sorry, but awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for literature does strike me as gimmicky and even a bit silly. The decisions of the committee over the years have really irked me. For instance, in my humble opinion, Argentina and the USA are two of the countries that have made the greatest contributions to literature. No Argentinean author has EVER won it. (They wouldn't give it to Borges because he supported right-wing dictatorships in Latin America. In fact, 'right-wing' authors aren't well-represented. Having political biases in a LITERARY award is not the way to go.) Bob Dylan is the first American 'author' to have won it since the early 90s. (What about Thomas Pynchon? Cormac McCarthy? Both of them are alive!) Over the years, they also have tended to award the prize to obscure writers no-one has ever heard of (and whose stock does not seem to rise once they have won it). There are a lot of writers out there who have worked ceaselessly hard to produce rich and complex pieces of work. That's why I think that awarding the prize to a folk/rock/pop singer is slightly insulting. Whatever merits his music might have (I have never heard it properly, but it's always struck me as being a bit preachy and obvious), it does not merit a prize in literature.

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I have always found walking through the woods/countryside to be a great way to manage anxiety, stress and depression. I have also found that it's a great way to gather your thoughts and clear your mind.
When I started to think about this, I had a look for empirical research in psychology. A lot of it says that the reason why we often find the woods/nature to have such an effect on us is that for centuries we lived in nature and that out cognitive make-up is designed for living in such places. Our minds are not attuned to living in industrial cities and this hence causes stress for a lot people. A lot of 'neo-luddites' (among the psychotic-murderer-cum-mathematician 'Unabomber') claim that all of the advanced technology we are swamped with all of the time is altering our true 'nature.' The more extreme variations of this theory call for a complete abandonment of technology and for us to return to the woods.
The problem with this theory is that 'nature' as we know it now is generally not completely 'natural.' The countryside is harvested etc. and is constantly under the control of human influence. Even as we go for walks to get away from the city, we are very much under the sway of artificial man-made technology.

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It is of the utmost biological necessity for most of the human species to be boring. If this were not the case, we would cease to exist.
So much so that it makes me think that people who take an interest in interesting writers, filmmakers, composers, philosophers, theorists - i.e. stuff that is ostensibly useless - are genetic mutations People who are interested in, and devote their entire livelihoods to this stuff, do not contribute to others in any tangible way. Hence, they are often labelled as parasites, wasters, scroungers etc. etc. The ultimate example of this is someone who devotes all of his time and effort to all this stuff whilst simultaneously not reproducing.
That is not to say that engineers, scientists, astronomers, biologists, chemists etc. follow their interests because they want to be useful. On the contrary, the utility of their professions most of the time is a mere by-product of their area of interest.
This is really why I was such a terrible student at school. GCSE is all about stuff that has real life application to it. It is only when you go further academically that it becomes more esoteric, useless and, hence, more interesting. It is only at that stage that I finally took a shine to education. This is why applying for jobs for me now is so depressing (as an 'advertising copywriter'). It reminds me of GCSE English assignments - i.e. write persuasively, for an audience in mind and makes it as bland as possible. (There is no way in heaven that I would have chosen to study Literature at university if GCSE were my only introduction to the subject.)
Another problem is that most people cannot lead an 'examined' life because they constantly struggle to survive. Over the centuries, humans have had to struggle with poverty, slavery etc. etc. Many humans still have these problems. How can you have these lofty pretentious thoughts in your head when people are dying of hunger and when we also have jobs to create?
But if everyone were interesting and had some lofty ideal on their mind, I would not be here sitting writing this. The human species would have perished long ago. Most people are boring and practical because they have been genetically programmed to be that way. But as a liberal ideologue would have it, it is better to have a colourful, pluralistic and heterogeneous culture than a staid and homogeneous one. Genetic mutations make the world slightly more vibrant and interesting.
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No, no, noooooo! Hopefully the next four years will result in a protracted stalemate. Even though both the house and the senate will be Republican-controlled, none of the Republicans like him. The fact that this man could be elected leader of United States is perhaps demonstrable proof for the non-existence of God.
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I hate people who politicise all culture with a passion. They go around insisting that everything must be 'useful' and they question the worth of, say, novels, art, classical music philosophy, etc. Everything must have a 'political conscience,' otherwise it's just masturbation. They don't realise that THEY are useless and in the end they just putrefy culture by seeing everything in bi-partisan lines.

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Somewhat disturbed to see so many people jumping on the Fidel Castro bandwagon. Cuba might have have had some merits, especially as regards excellent public services, healthcare, education, etc. However, if you don't think there's anything wrong with clamping down on all free speech/press, with getting rid of all intellectuals, artists, citizens etc. who disagreed with the regime, with imprisoning gays, with having top government officials live in palaces, with having no economic freedom whatsoever (no cafeterias, no shops - absolutely everything state-owned), then there's something deeply wrong with you.
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Sound-bite of the day: Liberals and social democrats of all stripes need to come together to fight off the crazies.
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Last night I had a dream with Mario Vargas Llosa (great Peruvian writer) and Juan Rulfo (great Mexican writer). I was with a throng of people, which M. V. L. was leading somewhere as he talked rather excitedly. We arrived at a state of the art building. There were still several construction workers there making the final touches. M. V. L. turned to Rulfo and said something like 'My work will last and yours won't.' He turned to me and led me into the building. We arrived at a soundproof room, where several M. V. L. books were strewn on the table. He told me that he was leaving all of the books that he ever wrote in this building, and that this building was designed specifically to withstand all damage for millennia and protect everything within it.
Funnily enough, I remember reading that the Ancient Greeks used to do this. If they thought that a book was particularly worthy, they would place it in a special building to preserve it for future generations. They didn't have a printing press back then, though!
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2016 might well have been a rotten year for most of us, but I did at least manage to get through a lot of books.

http://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2016/5993530?utm_content=yyib_button&utm_medium=email&utm_source=yyib_2016_12
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Excellent read, especially the bits about the Tories' distortion of Labour's economic record. Also, it's readable and clear for us economic illiterates.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2016/12/how-media-misled-us-over-brexit-and-donald-trump
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This song epitomises everything I hate about The Beatles, the flower power movement and 'the baby boomer generation.'
So, on the one hand they were preaching 'peace and love' (a stupid maxim), yet they were still unwilling to contribute back to society by paying their fair share of tax. They still would have lived extravagant lives in the UK but, alas, it was all a bit too much, so they had to flee unlimited wealth and glamour of the US.
The baby boomer generation and the hippy movement was all about masturbatory indulgence whilst simultaneously protesting against social injustice and authority. On the one hand, they indulged in drugs, sex and what-have-you. On the other hand, they waved the occasional placard. They were spoilt brats, who had benefited from the highest levels of growth up to that point in history. The Labour government at the time was trying to create a more equitable society. They effectively failed, presiding over Britain's economic and industrial decline. At least those old socialist fogeys TRIED and you can't really say that about The Beatles and their cohort.
And it's that generation who have screwed us over. It's that generation which voted for Brexit. They lived through full employment and the highest levels of global wealth and it's their complacency which wrecked my own opportunities. Yet they have the GALL to complain about millennials.
Beyond that, I've never cared for The Beatles' music that much. They have a few songs which are quite nice, but I've always struggle to see how it's so revolutionary and innovative. That's pretty much why I stick to classical music and jazz.

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MY TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR
1. Son of Saul (Lazlo Nemes, Hungary)
2. The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet, UK)
3. Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, Colombia)
4. The Club (Pablo Larraín, Chile)
5. The Pearl Button (Documentary) (Patricio Guzman, Chile)
6. High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, UK)
7. Hitchcock/Truffaut (Documentary) (Kent Jones, USA)
8. Papusza (Krzysztof Krauze, Poland)
9. Arabian Nights Part 1 (Miguel Gomes, Portugal)
10. The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, USA)
I missed quite a few films this year - I didn't see Ken Loach's latest social justice flick, for instance. Scorcese's 'Silence' looks like something I'd really enjoy, but since it was released on the 1st of January 2017, it is exempt from this list.
Obviously, these lists are at their most interesting when they reflect your own personal tastes. No bogus attempts at 'objectivity' were made here.
The fact that the first two films in this list were made by 27-year-olds is perhaps a sign that cinema is in a healthy condition.
Although several of these films were made in 2015, this list covers films which were released theatrically in the UK in 2016.
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After buying a beer from the local shop, I came home and saw a beautiful full moon. It was a very nice sight indeed. I thought of some 8th century Chinese poets who marvelled at it. Legend goes that Li Po died because he was alone on a boat, found a full moon to be stunning, tried to reach it, fell out of said boat and drowned.
But then, I started to laugh because it was such a cliché! I started to picture Chinese poets looking at the moon and reciting poetry in my head - for some reason that cracked me up! This is what post-modernism has done to us! You can't find hokey things like full moons and poetry beautiful anymore! Fuck you, post-modernism!
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I uploaded this onto YouTube, a charming ditty from the Renaissance era. This is my contribution to the fascinating archival stuff that you can find on this website!


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

There has to be a little socialist in all of us

I find it difficult to believe that no-one can possibly harbour a little 'socialist' part inside them.
I always feel a great sense of resentment when I visit Chile. It bothers me to be in a posh neighbourhood one moment and then to be all of a sudden whisked away to a desperately poor one in a matter of moments. It bothers me to think that in the house I lived in I only had to walk one minute to find a house effectively made out of tin. It bothers me to think of all the classist remarks my snooty classmates made at my school. It bothers me to think that all of those students have no merit, skills or ideas whatsoever invariably find themselves in high-end jobs without expending any effort. It bothers me to see a vast part of the population stuck in a lower class with no opportunities to mobilise themselves. Although it is often lauded as a 'meritocracy,' it really has very little equality of opportunity.
Likewise, I felt a similar sense of resentment when I visited a job fair at a decimated old mining town nearby. The fair was heaving with ragged dishevelled old men who'd probably been out of work for years. The whole town was tired, dirty and depressed.
I am probably the most individualistic person out there. I am inside my head all of the time and I try to be as free thinking as I possibly can. My goals have nothing to do with improving the lives of others. They are have nothing to do with owning a lot of property or making a lot of money, either. They involve writing about twenty stupidly ambitious books on a stupidly broad range of subjects. That's still individualistic because I'm thinking about improving myself, not improving the living conditions of other people. Still, I can't help but feel that anyone who visits Chile or an old mining town in Britain without feeling the slightest tinge of indignation can't possibly be human.