Monday, October 29, 2007


Night time. The neon splashes on water lying in the gutters, running down windows. The rain splashes on the people lying in gutters, running down streets. Cars pass, throwing puddle water and neon from the gutters. There is no rush, but confusion comes down with the rain. Should we go in here? How about here? I just want to get out of the rain! Anywhere that has a roof is fine with me!
Some run to the pubs. Some run for their trains. Everyone wants off the wet streets. In the pubs, damp hangs in the air. Words hang too, maybe stuck to the damp. Unfinished conversations. Famous last words. Arguments that aren't arguments at all. Vocal, boisterous agreements about politics, business, books, the theatre, pubs. Is it right? Of course it's right! The question is why it's right! Here's your evidence, here's mine. My evidence is even more compelling. A pint's in order after that argument! I love the way we can argue, yet still retain our winning friendship!
They go home, feeling like why didn't I say it was wrong? Deep down, that's what they believe. But deep down they know, who would believe that? Only a fool! Best to convince themselves, then try and convince others. Like it was their opinion, like they were sophisticated, like they were liked.
That damp.
Waiting for dry.
No need to wait anymore. Hop on a plane, be there in a few hours. Bask in the winter sun. Tip the locals, they'll like you then. Build up a relationship. Let them see how sound you are, despite all your money. At home, it's not much. Over there, it's a pile.
Despite all your money? Having money proves a shallow ability to extract money from others. The idea probably derives from the forties or fifties. Maybe the twenties. Maybe even the century before last. When product quality was questionable. When salesmen sold things that didn't exist. Faulty insurance, widgets. Government stepped in. Legislated for 'merchantable quality' and made it illegal to sell certain things that didn't exist. But then people invented other things that didn't exist. Sold them at a good profit. Then the people who bought them, the invented things, came to realise the things they bought didn't exist. And they hated anyone involved in creating the thing that didn't exist and the lousy bastard that sold it to them. Then, to cap it all off, the lousy bastard salesman and the guy who created nothing take all that money and spend it on a beach somewhere. Getting friendly with people who get screwed by other people in their country.
And we have the damp. Hanging in the air with drizzled rain.
Rain, drizzled on a city like the way they describe olive oil on salads with all those leaves. Adds to the flavour. Maybe even the texture. Who knows? Does it really matter, though? Whether or not olive oil is like rain? Makes no sense really, if you think about it.
The train goes slow, because of the rain and the leaves. Creates a fine fluid-type substance. Something similar to Teflon. Making the rails non-stick. So you could stir fry on them. Or maybe fry. In olive oil. But rail food is famously crap, so who would do that? I don't know.
So the rain comes down and the train runs out. The people, a little drunk and very wet, wish they were at home. Drops form puddles. Some people sit on the floor. Might get piles. That's how you get them, they say. 'They' that are the people who told them that they say. They's they.
No one knows how anyone feels. But they all feel the same. Damp, depressed, drunk. There must be more. But where is it? Scrape around in the neon in the puddles in the gutters, before cars throw it all up to splash on someone drunk. Everyone searching for something. They don't know what. Everyone knows how everyone feels. But they can't let each other know. Who could trust anyone that scrapes around in the puddles, searching for something they don't even know? How could you trust yourself, knowing it's what you do? If you can't trust yourself, you can't trust anyone. The best thing is to forget it. Look out the window. See the city railing past.
Somewhere out there, relationships are breaking apart. Children are being beaten. Someone is throwing up bad Chinese food and wine. Someone else is hoping to score. Someone again is trying to find a vein, in vain. Desperation hangs in the air, with the damp.
Damp, filling, but empty. There's nothing in the spaces. Between the spaces, droplets of water. H2O - not water - not at this temperature. The same chemical makeup, but it's in the wrong form - to call it water. How can 'damp' be a wrong form? Who knows, but it's not the form we're looking for. Not water.
Damp. Dreaming now, staring out windows. Dreaming of that Man, that Woman. They're waiting for them. At home, with beauty and food. A fire, maybe a DVD. Something to do to distract from this. This damp: not wet, not dry.
But how do you let them know you're dreaming of them? What words? I dreamt of you on the train home. We were naked in front of the fire... You're losing it. There's no room for such words in reality. They're made up. Created from nothing. You wouldn't pay for it, but you might feel for it. You might feel like this is what you're looking for. At the bottom of the puddles, in the spaces between the water, the H2O. The moon shoots a beam of light through the drizzled window, and you know. You know you're going to make it tomorrow. Smile.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Vision of Ireland

He walked the way
From his childhood
His face looked carved out by
The wind and the waves

He reached the cliff
Stared into the sea
That looked like his face because of
The wind and the waves.

He started to giggle
Went on to cackle
And then screamed with laughter
At the great Atlantic sea.

Claiming lives that sought refuge
Through it
With it
And sometimes
In it.

So distracted was he
Slipped, rolled and fell,
Giggling, cackling and screaming
Into the Atlantic sea

I, learning the lesson
Stepped back
And laughed until
I fell into
The brittle rough heather and
Grass tufts of
The soft, solid ground.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

test post

This is a test post to check transferring of the blog has worked.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bren's Western

Bren's Western, the dead dog, has raised it's panting head and let out something of a yelp. Read Chapter 2 here!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blog Action Day

Originally, from the Other Place

It started simply enough - one of my best friends emails to let me know about Blog Action Day. Bloggers around the world (12,316 at last count) are going to devote a post on Monday, October 15th to environmental issues. I joke immediately - So, tens of thousands of bloggers are going to switch on to blog about environmental issues, drawing on the world's ever-jaded energy reserves. It was twee, I'll admit. It's also a cliché at this stage, a cynical (or, I would believe, more cruelly sceptical) pass-remark used over and over in relation to Environmental awareness (remember the criticisms (see controversies and criticism) of Live Earth?). But, then I started thinking: in light of the fact that this is a cliché, is there a need for more awareness of Environmental issues? Or, is the awareness that has been generated actually doing anything?

Awareness or Engagement? Which is the Real Need?
The problem with the 'Environmental Question' (as with all issues that seem to divide along Liberal/Conservative lines) is that generating awareness is often a question of preaching to the converted. People who want to be aware tune in. Or, those who want to be true partisans for their political or ideological viewpoint will actively seek out this information. So, we end up with those who always thought it was important telling us it's even more important now. There are two problems with this approach. Firstly, it's working in a vacuum. Second, in possibly 8 cases out of 10, all that happens is attempted persuasion (nothing actually gets done, nothing changes).
Working in a vacuum is a common problem with political discourse in many western countries today. Essentially, you're talking about a political system divided along two lines: Left and Right. Left and Right mean different things to people from different countries, but they run something along the lines of this: Left thinkers believe the State has a duty to its citizens, generally financial, but also in terms of taking responsibility for social issues (behaviour, culture, etc.). On the other hand, Right thinkers will emphasise the need for individual, personal responsibility to be taken for financial and personal well-being. Yes, this is over-simplified, but it provides a rough compass for the purposes of this argument.
The problem in political discourse at the moment is that the Left argues among itself about how Left it should be (meaning different things in different countries), and the Right does the same. When an issue like The Environment arises, each side will agree on its position (We need to worry about it/We don't need to worry about it), but for different reasons. So, off they go, arguing about why their position is correct, rather than whether it is correct. It's anecdotal, but a good example (or, more correctly, series of examples) of this is recent discussions I've had about the environment:

  • Arguing about the Environment has become a point-scoring exercise for the Left, in terms of who knows most about the damage being done. Sometimes, it will include who suffers most from the damage being done.
  • Arguing about the Environment has become a point-scoring exercise for the Right, in terms of who knows most about why no damage is being done. Sometimes, it will include who understands the most about cosmic rhythms and pre-historic ice shifts.
  • Arguing about the Environment rarely occurs between the Left and the Right. So, the Right don't hear (whether they refuse to, or whether they are ignorant of it) the Left's point of view. The Left don't hear (ditto) the Right's point of view. Each side listens to the scientists that espouse their own point of view.
What is really required in the Environmental (and many other) argument is an ability to engage with the other side. What is also required (and sadly lacking in all aspects of human endeavor) is a willingness to be rational, and communicate properly during such an engagement. It's easy to say "I'll engage!" but then say "I engaged, but they're all mad! You won't believe what they say (because I certainly didn't)!" An open mind, armed with rational thought, is the only way forward. But, of course, this is someone on the Left talking. So, many on the Right would say this is hippy talk, at best, and hysterical at worst.
The scientists will bash it out, anyway. Armed with test tubes, spectrometers and research grants, they line up their armies, take aim and prepare to fire interns and research grads at each other, like so much cannon fodder. The columnists will take the information they get from their generals (or, more commonly, disregard any information that has the slightest relationship to fact) and grab our attention. We, then, go to the pub and say "I was reading today in the --- about the Environment. Their columnist is very good, you know."
Only to be told either:
  • "Well, I read in the --- that polar bears have turned gay because the warming of the environment has tricked their brains into thinking that other bears are of the opposite sex. It's based on research into the effect of alcohol heating up the human brain."
  • Or, "Well, I read all polar bears are turning gay because they've over populated. It's very common and occurred no less than 35.7 million years ago."
Either way, we're talking about the opinions of columnists in the --- or the ---, who espouse what we believe, and so further our need to be more 'informed about the fact' (a great irony of modern life - we all want to be more informed, but prefer to disregard what those who disagree with us might say). But, we never appear to get more informed than the facts and opinions provided by those we agree with. The problem we face will require engagement of the 'Other side' before anything gets done. This thought terrifies me.

A Time for Awareness or a Time for Action?
Al Gore, accepting the Nobel prize awarded to him and the IPCC (See the BBC News website for more details) said "I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honour and recognition of this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness, and the change in urgency." But what does this mean? Are we to hear more spokespeople on the radio, more articles in the papers telling us how much of a problem global warming is? I don't mean to be cynical, but in fairness, if this is what it means, then we can also expect more spokespeople on the radio, more articles in the papers, telling us what a load of cobblers the 'global warming threat' is. While I believe something should be done, I would sing along with the Live Earth critics - what is this awareness doing? Of the people I know that would mention the Problem of the Environment (usually mentioned in passing), only one has actually done anything. She has stopped using hazardous chemicals when cleaning her house (e.g. bleach), takes public transport despite having a usable driver's license, tries to choose 'environmentally friendly' options in every minutiae of her life. The rest of us wring our hands and wonder, what can be done?
And indeed, what can be done? Turning off light bulbs and TVs is probably a good idea, but is also probably much less than a drop in the ocean. Fifty years ago, the same was being done, but for different reasons (war, rationing, etc.). Climate issues have continued apace. What is required now is real political action - and worldwide action.
What is missing is, at best, real political belief. At worst, we're missing real political dedication. Grants for alternative fuels and other 'green'-based activity would appear to derive more from concern for the future of fossil fuels than the need to address the environmental issues. But what political force will really address environmental issues? I thought this a great way to end a paragraph, so that I could provide my end-of-discussion conclusions. But, man plans, God laughs. This coming from an agnostic. The thought terrifies me.

So Where Do I Stand?
In Straw Dogs, John Gray (School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics) argues the point perfectly. My take of his argument is as follows:
Our problem is one of perception. We believe we have responsibility for the planet, thus inferring we are masters of the planet. But this is incorrect. We have a parasitic relationship to the planet, taking what we need and replacing what we feel is 'right'. Generally, we plant trees to make up for the burning of fossil fuels, rape of women in war torn countries, McDonald's, oil, war and human intolerance for other humans. So, in one sense we over-compensate for what we feel we have inflicted on the planet. Hooray, us!
However, if we understand ourselves as dependent on earth, we start to see that trees generally plant themselves. We can (and do) intervene, planting trees ourselves. But, left to their own devices, they would plant away, propagate, grow, die. Such is life. We humans have rational thinking among our talents. This lets us take things we find around us, and make other things with it. We move matter from one place to another and generate billions in revenue in the process. We really are brilliant. But we really are parasites. Our existence depends on the earth - the earth isn't depending on us. Unfortunately, this is our relationship with our own existence. Which means, we have to do something. It's not a question of being 'responsible' for 'Mother Earth' or 'Mother Nature'. It's a question of ensuring our own survival on a planet that can destroy us, should it need to, so that balance can be restored. Not new-age 'balance'. This is a balance based on physical, chemical and biological sciences. Once we over-tilt, we fall over the edge. Like any other parasite, we will be destroyed before the body we inhabit.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Social Networks

I was going to complain about social networking. But then a friend sent me this, and I think it says it all:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Over-Scene #2 - The Naggin

"You can pull that hood over as much as you like. I still want to see some ID."
"Hmm. It's fake"
"It's fuckin' no', I'm nineteen, I am"
"No, not the ID, you tool. The money."
"The wha'? You're having me on. Here, give it back"
"No, I have to keep it. Send it into the coppers."
"Wha? Send it wha'? Bollocks. You're only trying to nick me fiver, you wanker!"
"No, it's the law, you fool. I've to hand it into the coppers. It's fake. You can hang around if you want while I call them. Let them know you gave me it... Thought not. Fucking tool!"


"I see you Johnny, but I don't see a naggin!"
"Don't start. You won't believe..."
"You're fuckin' right I won't. You're full of shit. There's no naggin is there?"
"The money... it was fake..."
"Yeah, like the naggin."
"No, I was on me way to get it when I texted ye. When I got in there, yer man says it's fake, and he takes it off me"
"He took it off you? He had you on, you fuckin' eejit"
"No, he has to call the coppers to report it. The money I mean."
"So there's no naggin"
"So I'm going home"
"Aw, c'mon. We'll scam another fiver."
"You already stole that from two homelss eejits. There's no chance. And if it was fake, what does that say?"
"Fer fuck's sake."
"My thoughts exactly"