Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Why 'Facebook stream' should remain a metaphor / STOP POSTING ABOUT YOUR CHILD'S PISS

It's been fucking ages since I wrote anything on any of my blogs.


Anyhow. Something momentous must've been required to rouse me from my lethargic blogslumber. What could it have been?

It was this.

It was the realisation — too burning, too pressing not to share immediately — that PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK NEED TO WISE THE FUCK UP.

I'm not sure when it was that this realisation hit me. Perhaps it was whe— oh, no, sorry, I just remembered when it was. It was when, incredulous, I read some blathering fuck boasting that her child had done a stand-up piss for the first time.

Lucifer on stilts! We sequenced the human fucking genome, people. We created the game of chess, then we sodding well built machines that can beat us at it. Hell — we invented Daim bars. FUCKING DAIM BARS, I TELL YOU.

I do not want to hear that your fat child can urinate whilst wobbling unsteadily on his clumpy little legs.

Because I've seen the aftermath left by children who've supposedly 'learnt' to do this. And I do not deem said aftermath to be even remotely worthy of celebration. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that if you consider your firstborn's bipedal excretions a legitimate source of pride, you are quite possibly everything that makes this world lousy, and your child is likely to inherit so hideously warped a sense of entitlement to scatological praise that he is likely to end up pursuing a career in a particularly repugnant niche of the pornographic industry.

So. I've compiled a handy list of questions I'd like parents to ask themselves before posting a Facebook status update about their children.

  1. Are you singling out an aptitude of your child that is also possessed by (for instance) a fucking kangaroo?
  2. Do you believe it is appropriate to phrase your status update (to be read almost exclusively by adults) in the kind of obscenely moronic, gurgling baby talk you (unnecessarily) employ when addressing your abominable brat directly?
  3. Do you have any kind of doubt as to when it is — and when it is not — necessary to refer to yourself in the third person? Hint: it is never necessary.
  4. Are you, somewhere in the saccharine-infused recesses of your heart, actually just incredibly, incredibly, pitifully bored with the drab monotony of your tedious, aching, mediocre life?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, for the sake of the risen Christ, wise the fuck up and stop polluting my stream.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A lovely novel about love

Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Suddenly she sighed: "It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles, so many problems, damn it, and not really know if it was love or not."'

This is a novel about love. (Yup, it's in the title, isn't it?)

Further: it is an outstanding novel about love.

Marquez makes love the absolute centrepiece of this long (life-spanning) story. It is beautiful in its exploration of the multifoliate complexities of love — its mutations, variations, diversions and continuities. Its ambiguity.

This is a love story that masterfully demolishes the construct of 'true love'. As Marquez knows (and, of course, needn't patronise us by explaining directly) all love is true love and no love is true love. It's the preoccupations, decisions and resolutions of the characters that create and define love.

It's a wonderful, joyful novel, written by an author who's deliciously unafraid of trusting his reader to extrapolate, interpret and judge. A novel written with love of love, and love of those who love.

View all my reviews

Friday, 2 December 2011

Of People And Things

I was talking to someone interesting the other day. And out of nowhere loomed the memory of The Morrisby Test. No, it's not the title of some shit spy thriller; it's what polysyllablophones (zing!) call a psychometric test.

And I took one, when I was about 14.

I seem to recall it recommended that I pursue a career as a fucking systems analyst — from which we may deduce (if nothing else) that Morrisby, whoever (s)he is, is some kind of bleak sadist. But that's not the point. The point is that, at some point, the test results presented a three-slice piechart intended to illustrate one's inclination/interest. It was divided between 'people', 'things' and one other category of which I'm not entirely sure (possibly 'ideas'?).

My biggest slice was people, yeah?

Then ideas, or whatever it was.

Finally? Yup. Things.

Because — right — can we just pause here? Things? Would it not be the most monumentally depressing revelation ever, to open your Morrisby Test results only to be told that you prefer things to people?

I mean — things? The clue, surely, is in the fact that they're called things.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

No, I don't know who wrote the song. And I don't want to know.

I just turned on the radio.

'You and I go shopping
And find exactly what we're looking for'

I'm sorry. Is this some kind of joke? Have we come to this?

Romance just got crucified. Upside-fucking-down.

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Friday, 14 October 2011

'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson — beautiful, modest, reflective

Gilead… now that I am about to leave this world, I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face … Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and the loneliness of it.

This is a beautiful novel. Like all my favourite literature (and, I guess, art in general) it wields its immense power with restraint, subtlety, modesty.

It is not a pacey novel. It has relatively little in the way of plot. But it is all about characters. And, hey, here's a thing — have you noticed? — so is life. Or my life is, in any case. It is a wonderful study of a truly good man, a truly humble man and a truly brilliant man. The novel takes the form of a long, digressive journal-cum-letter from an old father, left to the son he does not expect to see grow up.

But what's it about? I guess in a large part it's about religion. Which might put a bunch of you right off. But that would be a gaping great pity, because it's about the sweet human face of religion:

When you love someone … you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself.

That's amongst the most beautiful ideas I've read for a while. And however staunch an atheist you may be, if that sentence doesn't give you pause and move you just a little, I'm pretty sorry for you.

(For the record, I'd call myself agnostic — not that this really matters much.)

This book made me think a fair bit about TS Eliot's Ash Wednesday (in fact, at times, Robinson approaches poetry — of the most modest and admirable kind — in her prose: 'Ashy biscuit, summer rain, her hair falling wet around her face'). If you know me, you'll be aware that I powerfully admire that poem (and that poet). Gilead has in common with Ash Wednesday a preoccupation with transience and the frustrating, tantalising beauty of this imperfect world. The difficulty of imagining anything sweeter (heaven) than the fleeting, intoxicating experiences of life on earth:

Whenever I think of Edward, I think of playing catch in a hot street and that wonderful weariness of the arms. I think of leaping after a high throw and that wonderful collaboration of the whole body with itself and that wonderful certainty and amazement when you know the glove is just where it should be. Oh, I will miss the world!

… and …

I wish I could give you the memory I have of your mother that day. I wish I could leave you certain of the images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. Well, but again, this life has its own mortal loveliness.

Listen, is your face aching with suppressed tears, yet? Because this is beautiful, powerful stuff. Don't you think?

What Gilead also ends up being about is this: true worth, true wisdom. And I applaud any work of art that celebrates the modest, the unassuming, the loving. Like most of the 'points' this novel makes, it makes this one implicitly, subtly and ambiguously — but in its way it's as much a celebration of the Everyman as was 'Ulysses'. It's a wonderful demonstration of the unshowy brilliance of reflection and self-awareness and humility.

Like I said: a beautiful novel.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 8 October 2011


It's exhausting. Anything you think to do — anywhere you think to hide — dozens of others have had the same thought. There is no oasis. People have no patience. If you slow down, expect nobody to drop the pace. Nobody cares whether you keep up.

But here's the thing.

I fucking love London.

That's all, really.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

How to buy coffee beans — the Intellectual Hooligan guide

Image courtesy of visualpanic

I've noticed something. I've noticed that whenever I decide I'm going to embark upon a new project, the internet turns me into a quivering, failure-averse coward.

See, I have this stupid fixation with getting things right and experiencing them at their best.

So I turn to Google. And Google — as is Google's wont — delivers me like a helpless newborn into the jackal-like jaws of a pack of MASSIVE GEEKS. Plonks me down at the skinny end of the long tail amongst the obsessives and the zealots.

So when I googled 'how to make good coffee', you can perhaps imagine the evangelical fervour and fanatical devotion to detail I encountered. The slathering insistence upon specific techniques, the crosshatched debates conducted in jargon with which I was utterly unfamiliar.

'No, Google,' I cried. 'You don't seem to understand. This is not what I want. This is like giving a PhD thesis on AA Milne to a child who asks what Whinnie the Pooh is about.'

(This is the internet's big problem, really, isn't it? The unnatural weight it gives to extremes.)

Anyhow. Google was no real help. So I was forced to consider an absolute last resort: talking to a human being. In real life. Face to face.

So I went into a shop that sells coffee beans.

'What would you recommend,' I asked, 'to a person who's new to coffee and struggles a bit with bitter flavours?'

'Let me think,' replied the pleasant woman to whom I had directed my question. 'Does this person like strong flavours in general?'

Here, o readers, we see the peril of referring to oneself in the hypothetical third person. I had two options at this stage. I could very well (it struck me) prolong the conceit that we were discussing the coffee-induction of this imaginary individual (a little as one might request agony aunt advice, 'for a friend').

'Hmmm…' I might have replied. 'That's a good question. As it happens, I was at the pub the other night with the individual we are discussing and I do recall him mentioning that, yes, despite an aversion to bitterness he otherwise possessed what he considers to be an adventurous palate.'

On balance, though, I decided that I'd do best to quit while I was only slightly behind.

'Um, sorry — I was actually talking about me. Er, I'm not really sure why I put it like that.'

To the woman's great credit, she laughed in a way that contained (as far as I could discern) no scorn whatsoever. If I'd been her, I'd've been thinking, 'Who the hell is this guy? Some kind of diffident, well-educated Gollum? Is he about to start into a disturbing schizophrenic dialogue with his alter ego, then whip a raw fish out of his bag and start munching on it like a carrot? Can I legitimately press the panic button yet?'

But no. The saintly woman just laughed. And then let me sniff a bunch of beans.

Fortunately, handcore wino that I am, I'm used to sticking my nose into things in high pressure social situations. So I coped with this bit, I like to think, with something approaching aplomb.

So much so, indeed, that I elected to reward myself by snatching one of the 'Try one!' chocolate balls that sat innocuously on the counter beside us, and tossing it jauntily into my gob.

About five seconds later, the chilli hit me.

Now, to be honest, it wasn't really that hot. But the thing is, in these situations, expectation counts for a massive great deal. I mean, haven't you ever taken a swig of what you expected to be (say) water, yet accidentally picked up your wineglass instead? The resulting mouthful is deplorably horrible, is it not? Because your tastebuds were primed for water.

I think I just about concealed my sensory horror from the poor woman. Perhaps she merely thought I'd had a minor stroke. She wrapped up my beans; I wrapped up the conversation, with what shreds of dignity and self-possession remained at my disposal.

And left — with a newfound affection for Google's world of geeks and obsessives. And one 125g bag of coffee beans.

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