Saturday, October 22, 2005

Le Spleen de Baltimore

Seul au comptoir à manger du Marché Chez Eddie,

Je chipote, avec lassitude, une salade infecte à la grecque, et bois, à petits coups, un café au lait brûlant.

Le sono de la maison emet «She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah», aneantissant tout pouvoir de penser.

Comme toujours, c'est le chiant «Beatle Brunch» de WQSR.

A gauche, un quinquagénaire obscenement gros, barbu, se tient debout,
Le contour de sa bite--éléphantesque mais ingonflable--nettement visible sous la braguette de son short khaki.

A ses côtes, son copain, son veritable clone.

Ils causent à propos des communs sujets neuf-fois-epuisés:
Le global warming, le christian fundamentalism, l'art of fucking.

Je me rends compte que je ne connaîtrai plus jamais des jours sauf jours comme celui-ci,

Jours gris, blafards, débordants de l'humanité et dénués de beauté et signification.

Je me rends compte, de plus, que je m'immergerai, volontiers, maintes et maintes fois, là, dans chaque jour

Comme dans un bain d'eau de cale froide.

C'est une espéce de flânerie bête, atroce:
C'est flânerie aux connards.

Flannery O' Connor.

Merci, cher hypocrite lecteur.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Theses on Metaphysics

God is undead: not purposively undead, like the ghost of Hamlet's father; but gratuitously, tastelessly undead, like Freddie Kruger, like Pumpkinhead, like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Or, like Dracula, you ask? Madam, please! As if His Lordship the Count would ever stoop to hiring this God fellow as his footman, let alone as his butler!

To those who instance the current worldwide religion boom in confutation of my last postulate, I say, 'Would an upsurge in viewership of The Nightmare on Elm Street films prove that they were masterpieces?'

Hell is other people's poo.

Theses on the History of the Concept

Platonism is to pragmatism what pederasty is to Platonism.

Q. What do you get when you take the piss out of epistemology?
A. Etymology, of course.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Theses on the Concept of History

Marx remarks somewhere that "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." He, Marx, forgot to substitute "seven times" for "twice," and to add: the third time as English pantomime, the fourth time as Punch and Judy show, the fifth time as bear baiting, the sixth time as cock fight, and the seventh (and last) time as Battlebots Tournament.

The future used not to be what it had already been.

Those who misremember the past are condemned to flatter themselves that they are repeating it.

Here is Dostoevsky on human nature as he conceived of it in 1864: "It seems to me that the meaning of man's life consists in proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano key. And man will keep proving it and paying for it with his own skin; he will turn into a troglodyte if need be." But in the early twenty-first century man has long since ceased to mind being treated as a piano key; indeed, he has long since been all too content to be treated as a piano key on the condition that the keyboard in question is sufficiently up-to-date--such that, for example, in 1986, the psychiatric equivalent of the Casio SK-1 perforce outranked the parallel equivalent of the Steinway concert grand.

In ancient times, on being confronted by the spectacle of a natural disaster or some other great calamity, people used to say, "There but for the grace of God go I"; now they say, "There by the grace of the commodity I need never fear going."

Avant nous la deluge; après nous, rien (sauf, évidemment, les gens robotiques).

Dead is the new dead.

The mote in your neighbor's eye is the best inverted telescope.

It is perhaps certain that nothing will happen to anyone anywhere ever again.

In the present epoch, capitalism may be faceless, but it is assuredly not assless. The capitalism of today is, in fact, a six-billion-brown-eyed Anti-Argus. Every human brain is a colon of this monster, and every human mouth is an anal iris perpetually discharging, in the form of gormless chatter about commodities, a stream of verbal sewage into the intellectual ether.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

He's Seeing Red, Ken

Latest post from an hilarious trans-pondic blog I've been following for a few weeks now,


This song goes out to Ken Livingstone, and it goes a little something like this:

(Verse 1):

Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!


Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!

(Verse 2):

Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!
Fuck Ken Livingstone!

(Repeat chorus ad naus.)

Yeah, I know I've posted the lyrics before, but it's one of those songs you just never get tired of hearing, isn't it? Just when you think things in this city can't be bollocksed up any worse than they already are, Ken goes and gives you another excuse to shuffle off to bleeding Buffalo (or Sheffield in a pinch). Three fucking quid for a one-way, one-zone trip, for a trip from Goodge Street to Tottenham Court, or Edgware Road to Marlybone. Cor's Boars, I could walk from one of those stations to the other for free in 15 minutes. Does Ken actually expect me to cough up £3 for the fucking privilege of finishing the trip by tube in 20? Because that's how long it takes, surface to surface on a Sunday afternoon. Try timing it sometime. 'This fare rise will hopefully bring all riders round to seeing the advantages of the Oyster Card,' he drawls in that revoltingly smug, half-pleb, half-posh south-of-the-river accent of his. Like it's so fucking obvious what these advantages are. I'll tell you some advantages I'd like to have Mr Mayor. I'd like to have the advantage of taking the tenner in my pocket right now, breaking it to pay my £2.50 (sorry, £3) fare to West Finchley, then of using the balance to buy a takeaway CTM, or a pack of fags, or a couple of pints of Stella down at my local. I'd like to have the advantage of not having to waste an hour on a wash day sorting through my trouser pockets looking for that fucking card if I want to be sure I don't throw away the other £7. Above all I'd like to have the 25-odd pounds I've laid out on Oyster Cards over the past year in my hands now instead of taking up precious space in my wallet. I want to have absolutely free use of that money so that in case I'm hit by a bendy bus tonight while staggering home from the pub, I'll at least die knowing that those £25 went to a good cause--the cause of my intoxication--and not to pay for another one of Ken's dopey civic-improvement projects. The Oyster Card is great if 1) you don't own a car and b) you commute to and from the centre city every day. But it's like fucking Bristols on a mule for those of us who drive and come into centre city 5, 10--at most 15--times a year. The problem with Ken is, he's never driven a car so he doesn't know all the hassle and aggravation of being stuck behind a lorry spewing diesel exhaust in your face for 45 minutes while you circle around the Hanger Lane Gyratory (make that Stationary) at the speed of an hour hand on a clock; he doesn't know what it's like to lose a dinner reservation in Islington because you've wasted an hour looking for parking, or to end up with no money to pay for your meal because you've been mugged twice on your way to the restaurant during your half-mile walk through the ropiest stretch of road in Camden Town. (Garage isn't a dirty word, Ken, although congestion charge is). Because he doesn't know what any of this is like (and of course, because he's a fucking megalomaniac), as long as he's mayor, life will be a living hell for car-owning Londoners. Yeah, I'll say it again: Fuck Ken Livingstone. Fuck him and the poncey little bike he rode in on.


Jeez. If this Mayor Ken is actually half as awful as this guy says he is, he makes Marion Barry look like Ed Koch (or is that vice-versa?).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Now out on DVD...

The chef d'œuvre of one of the Big Five (Cinque grandi) of Italian New Wave cinema
(Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow):

Immortality in Milan (1971). Directed by Luigi Contadino. Color, 183 minutes. In German, Italian, French, Danish, Polish, Flemish, and Romansh, with optional English subtitles. Cast: Sophia Lauren, Julie Christie, Ruth Gordon, Dominique Sanda. Based on Trudi Weib's 1962 novella Die Unsterblichkeit in Mailand, often compared to Kafka's Metamorphosis, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and, proleptically, Jaecken's Emmanuelle and Anderson's Logan's Run. The year is 2012. Gretchen Lindenberg (Lauren), a self-described "paper-pulp baroness" of proletarian origins, is in Milan for a trade fair. Ruthlessly practical in every domain of life, Lindenberg is particularly scornful of matters metaphysical and aesthetic; an attitude attested to by her one-off boast to a colleague that "our flagship cotton bond contains a higher concentration of pulverized sheet music than that of any other paper manufacturer in the EU." The diegesis of the film freely shuttles between the present and past, as well as between the actual and counterfactual, most famously in a series of recollected and fancied conversations between Lindenberg and her unnamed lover (Christie), a painter and philosophical idealist in the grand old German tradition who has contended that Lindenberg must hold herself aloof from the daily bustle of her business and dedicate her innermost self to the cultivation of the intellect and the contemplation of the thing-in-itself. On the first day of the exhibition, in the midst of a working lunch in the cafeteria of the Pirelli Tower, Lindenberg notices an elderly woman in a lime-green pantsuit (Gordon) sitting alone at a nearby table. The sheer hideousness and decrepitude of the old crone is such as to impel Lindenberg to question, for the first time in her life, not only her own sexuality, but also her vocation as a businesswoman. She imagines Christie pointing to the old woman and exclaiming, "Ecce mulier--that bag of bones! The telos of all of your vaunted pragmatism; me in 30 years, you in 20!" Stressed beyond belief by the untimely onset of this metaphysical crisis, Lindenberg contracts a chest cold and retires to her room at the Park Hyatt for two consecutive days and nights. At 23:00 of the second night she learns, courtesy of a local television news broadcast, that the first batches of the fabled immortality serum, discovered the previous year in the United States, have at last begun to arrive in the city's hospitals. By midnight she is fast asleep and dreaming of gloating to Christie, "So much for your vaunted idealism!" First thing next morning she repairs to the pronto soccorso of the Ospedale San Raffaele and is administered a dose of the serum, whose restorative effects are said to be immediate and dramatic. As if to spite her, however, her cold degenerates into a case of acute bronchitis. In desperation, she throws herself into the activity of the fair with feigned alacrity. Every day, both on the floor of the Fiera Milano and off, all talk of the non-shop variety centers on the immortality serum and the rejuvenation it has wrought among her fellow industrialists, to say nothing of the Milanese at large. The sole exception to this generally salubrious state of affairs (apart from herself) is her bugbear the old woman, who at lunchtime never fails to appear at her accustomed table, invariably looking worse for the passage of the preceding day. Lindenburg cannot help but be seized by the paranoiac suspicion that the ineffectuality of the serum in her own case is somehow linked to the prolongation of the old woman's moribund existence. She contrives sundry schemes for bumping off the old girl, but somehow never manages to summon up the gumption necessary for their execution. Finally, on the last day of the exhibition, when her walk to the Pirelli taxes her almost to the point of total physical collapse, she is met at the threshold of the cafeteria by a pair of orderlies bearing on a stretcher a body covered by a blanket from head to foot. As they pass into the lobby she catches a glimpse of a withered hand and the cuff of a lime-green sleeve protruding from under the edge of the blanket. At that very moment, to her astonishment and delight, she finds that her cold has seemingly completely evaporated; that she can breathe freely again; that, indeed she feels better, more youthful, more alive than she can remember ever before having felt. Her professional obligations vis-a-vis this sojurn having been met, she decides to treat herself to an early evening stroll in the Parco Sempione. There, under at the Arco della Pace, she meets and is instantly smitten by a young streetwalker (Sanda) for whom, as the camera pans up and down the newcomer's lithe, nublie young body in the closing scene, the viewer presumes she will shortly ditch Christie.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Hypernihilist's Credo

Nothing will happen to anyone anywhere ever again.

Bronx Cheer for the Common Man

Of all of the intellectual lumpenproletarian folkways over which our intellectual petit-bourgeoisie is forever working itself into a fellationary lather, perhaps the most overrated--the least deserving of the obeisance--is slang. Viewed in toto, the slang lexicon of any age testifies not--as its boosters would have us believe--to the fecundity, resourcefulness, and infinite invention of the everyday speakers of the language, but rather to their prevailing indolence, dullness, and incomparable ineptitude. For "everyday speakers" in the last sentence one should of, course, read: pimps, cutpurses, brigands, vandals, losels, loblolly men, louts, molls, trollopes, Tower Wharf maids, rug rats, sandbox slugs, and other such persons of dubious parts--and even more dubious morals--who collectively embody that rich melange of mendacity and mental torpor that alone can engender and sustain a genuinely vital intellectual lumpenproletariat. One knows better than to expect gold filigree from such rude artificers as these; and, accordingly the most pervasive and longstanding neologistic technique in the argotsphere consists in simply and brutally pruning an item in the standard lexicon down to a single syllable (as in the substitution of rep for reputation, of dis for disrespect, of peen for penis). In these cases the truncated word retains its original sense, but transposed into a more street-wise (read: lower) register befitting a speaker who would stab or shoot his interlocutor sooner than be caught saying please or thank you to him. A slightly less common and slightly more subtle stratagem of the slangsmith consists in the catechretic or metonymic displacement of the sphere of denotation of one of these standard-lexical items; and this is a change we witness being rung, for instance, on such stalwart Anglo-Saxon monosyllables as lame, cool, smoke, and bite. In the case of such argotemes as avail themselves of this second stratagem, the extent of the new usage' s transgression of the original sense is often much more slight than the intellectual petit-bourgeois apologist for slang, out of his understandable but my no means forgiveable zeal to be down with whatever is au courant among the kids or the people, would have us believe. The skate-punk's poser is only one letter away from the hoary Gallicism poseur, and as far as I can tell, mutatis habitus mutandi, carries exactly the same meaning; while Joe Average Teenager's secondary acceptation of lame (as in "a lame excuse") can boast of a standard literary English pedigree extending at least as far back as the 14th century.

In all candor, I must admit here that as a youngster, I was intermittently seduced by the blandishments of the trendier slang of my micro-generation. I recall, for instance, falling prey in my high school years to a transient infatuation with dis, a word that, as my first encounter with it fell hard on the heels of a first reading took of Dante, I fancifully conjectured must be some sort of hifalutin synonym for damn. It amused me no end to imagine that in dissing someone you were consigning him to permanent residence in Dis, the capital city of hell. As for props, a word I became acquainted with perhaps a year later, I mistook it for a manifestation of Stratagem No. 2; that is to say, I conceived of it as an arrogation by the moral sphere of the established meaning of prop; viz. "a material, literal support." I supposed that in rendering a person his props you were offering him moral support in the form of verbal approbation. In the case of both of these words, as with practically everything that appeals in this nine-times-reheated world of ours, the charm of the thing susbsisted largely on my sheer will not to look too closely into or for too long at the phenomenon at hand. So long as I abstained from undertaking any subcultural anthropological sallies into the histories of these words, I was free to spin etymological mondegreens around them to my heart's content. But alas! At some point in my early twenties, under the importunate aegis of some by-now-long-forgotten agent (perhaps a radio interview with a self-appointed expert on so-called street language), I came to learn of the true provenance of these words; to learn that they were both manifestations of the all-too-prosaic Stratagem No. 1; to learn that dis was merely a truncation of "disrespect," that props was merely a truncation of "proper respect." These revelations might not have been particulary demoralizing had the root of either word savored ever-so-slightly of the genuinely demimondiale. But neither "disrespect" nor "proper respect" sounded like anything that a genuinely hip person would be caught dead saying; neither sounded, in fact, like anything even a marginally cultivated square person would be caught dead saying. Both, in fact, sounded like the sort of thing an uncultivated person of either hip or square persuasion might say by way of conning his uncultivated brethren into believing that he was cultivated; both are, in fact, exemplars of that pandemic linguistic tic that Kingsley Amis termed the hyper-urbanism, the embodiment "of an indulged desire to be more correct than correct or posher than posh."

Of course, though, hyper-urbanism is hardly the exclusive purview of slanglophones. It is, indeed, preeminently the stomping grounds of that class of morons for whom linguistic gracelessness is a point of professional pride--namely the class comprising the commercial, governmental, and academic bureaucracies. And from hyper-urbanism we are but a throne's stow away officialese, that parallel lexicon the Slang has been called the "common man's art," but it would be more rightly termed the common man's officialese. Contrary to the word on the intellectually petit-bourgeois street, which holds that slang is a kind of ionic chemical force binding the salt of the earth together in one big happy shaker, the aims of slang are largely consubstantial with the aims of the language of bureaucrats; these aims being the coercion, management, and degradation of the individual in the name and interests of the collective; and in the world-bleary eyes of the man of spirit[1] the leading 40-watt-bulbs of the most bureauphilic professions (e.g. [but not i.e.], clinical psychology, public health, and law enforcement) are like to appear as indistinguishable from the leading 40-watt-bulbs of the street. His lamentable confusion of the two types is so extreme as to lead him, in moments when he is caught unawares by an exemplar of one or the other of them to confuse him for one of his counterparts in the other realm; to exclaim "Please don't shoot me!" on being stopped for a traffic violation by a police officer, or "I'm sorry, officer, but my ID has expired!" on being aggressively panhandled by a street person .

From the point of view of the man of spirit, the most demoralizing fact of all about the argotsphere is surely that, inasmuch as it is the habitual haunt of the sorts of people who have absolutely no regard for historical memory, it tends to dredge up, with drying-machine-like rapidity and regularity, the same words over and over again, across not only decades but also centuries, with ever-more-predictable denotations attached to them like so many electrostatically-charged socks or pairs of knickers. Much in the manner of someone stuck at the Laundromat long after his clothes have dried, the man of spirit tends to tire of hanging around such a milieu. Immured in such a wash of tedium, he would fain retire for good to the tranquility and solitude of his chamber, where alone he is afforded sufficient leisure to bone up on his command of the standard English lexicon, a command whose inadequacy is time and again pointed up to him in the course of his diurnal reading schedule, in which scarcely an hour passes without his stumbling over some altogether unfamiliar hard word, often enough in a work by one of those very writers celebrated for the most spartan simplicity and pellucidity of style. But the man of spirit should resist yielding unreservedly to this reclusive impulse; for in so doing he would play directly into the hands of the intellectual petit bourgeois, who is ever on the lookout for opportunities to brand the him a linguisitic luddite, a wanker, or a pretentious fuck. In any composition that should ever perchance meet the optics of this most pretentiously unpretentious of all fucks, the man of spirit should take care to alloy his prevailingly standard formal lexical style with a small proportion of words drawn from the slang lexicon, together with a soupcon of pseudo-slang words of his own coinage. If he judiciously follows this prescription, he will find himself not only generally succeeding in keeping the intellectual petit bourgeois at bay, but also in occasionally managing to throw him off balance, or even to knock him over flat on to his chino-swathed fat ass; he will manage not only consistently to prove to the intellectual petit-bourgeois that he (the MOS) is not, after all, the proverbial guy who has been living in a cave for the past ten years, but also occasionally give him (the IPB) cause to wonder whether he himself has not been getting out enough lately. In musicological terms, the slang lexicon may be likened to the most infantile of instruments--a toy piano. The man of spirit must every now and again take it upon himself to pound out a few fortissimo tone clusters on the keyboard of this instrument, lest his own linguistic perfomances should be drowned out by the billion-strong chorus of toy piano virtuosi feebly essaying their million interchangeable variations on Chopsticks.

Contrary (again) to the word on the intellectually petit-bourgeois street, the overwhelming bulk of lasting additions to the lexicon of English since Norman times have been crafted at the point of a quill not of a shiv; in the coolness of deliberation not the white heat of spontaneity; in the closets of scholars and gentlemen, not on playgrounds or in bawdy houses. Anyone who says otherwise is, of course, welcome to bring the chupa-chupa down on my King Dong.

[1] Man of Spirit: A calque of the German Geistesmensch; not, it must be emphasized, a paraphrase of the English Spiritual Guy (or Dude).

P.S. Did you ever notice, by the way, that slang is an anagram of glans? That's food for thought, in a certain lewdly meta-metaphorical register.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

You Might Be a Redneck If...'ve been known to brag about your private boycott of Starbucks, Microsoft or Wal-Mart. think such a thing as the "digital divide" exists. thought Super-Size Me! was a good movie.'ve willingly sat through even a single episode of American Idol, The Apprentice, Fear Factor, or Rock Star for any reason, especially "the pleasure of seeing just how stupid people can act." wouldn't be out of character for you to address the waiter at a so-called ethnic restaurant in his native language (Here your degree of rubriousness is directly proportional to the waiter's apparent fluency in English).'ve ever complained that Hollywood stars are "too beautiful," or, corallarily, you've praised the Dove soap company's Campaign for Real Beauty.'ve ever used the phrase "shades of gray" in a setting other than a paint store. have ever posted a so-called spoiler warning, or have ever been dissuaded from reading ahead in a text by a spoiler warning posted by someone else.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The King Dong in My Pants (apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Call the roller of this cigar,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
On bathroom tiles concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches model such undress
As they are used to wear, and let his mate
Bring cherries in last year’s magazines.
Let fate take tuition from chance.
The only King Dong is the one in my pants.

Take from the journal of June
Priced at nine round bucks that sheet
On which I’ve emblazoned Rorschachs thrice
And spread it to showcase her ass.
If her horny eyes obtrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the dancer be the dance.
The only King Dong is the one in my pants.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Portmanteau Songs

Lost my partner, what could I do?
Skip to my loo, skip to my loo.
I needed money, what could I do?
Skip to my loo, skip to my loo;
Skip to my loo, and the loo won.


Purple Rain, Purple Rain,
Purple Rain, Purple Rain,
West Virginia, Mountain Mama,
Take me hame,
Purple Rain.

The Span of Life (apologies to Robert Frost)

The kitten mews sweetly, oblivious of fawkin'.
I'll still be around when she's a grimalkin.