49. Type Cast

February 10, 2015


   Remember Elisha Cook? He was in Shane, the best Western ever made. Elisha Cook was in there just so Jack Palance could humiliate and terminate him; evil Jack easing into his black, death-dealing gloves to blast the little guy who dares confront the greedy, power-crazy rancher who’d hired the gunfighter. Palance was usually killing someone in his films, just like Cook was usually getting killed. He was gutsy but didn’t have the face or the size to get respect, which set up a neurosis, thus making him over-compensate and provoke the tough guys so that Cookie always got either humiliated or duffed up or killed, but usually all three. I imagine he made a lot of money doing the part, but I’m sure there must have been times he wished he’d looked like Palance.

   Humphrey Bogart was not a big man, but Elisha Cook weighing in at five foot five was even less big, and in The Maltese Falcon, John Huston cast ‘lysh as the muscle for the Fat Man played by Sidney Greenstreet: Ha-ha-ha! I like your style, sir, I really do. Muscle. Elisha may have looked like he could stab you in the back, but you knew, if you stood down to him, he was all wind and garters—you’d seen him cave often enough. Humphrey verbally abuses the little fellah then duffs him up, though he doesn’t kill him. Someone else does that.

   And that was Elisha, like the cockroach or the pigeon, he’s another of my unlikely heroes, he kept coming back to get humiliated, duffed up and done in. Whatever he did earn, it should’ve been more because he provided free therapy for every little weasel in the audience who took comfort from knowing there was at least one pint-sized git in the world he was capable of duffin’up himself.  I loved the man.

Note: …Cookie died aged 92, long continuing to give wonderful performances. In later years, he lived in the desert near Bishop, California, far from Hollywood, without an agent, working whenever someone took the trouble to track him down.    (imdb.com)


October 5, 2014

Fruddy copy

You’d think I’d know my brother at this point, wouldn’t you? Like seventy-seven. Many times ma said (and I believed her for years) that Fred was eighteen months older than me. He was born in July and the year after the year after, I was born in June.

From a toddler, he loved dribbling balls or slamming them between the goal chalk marks, later on he also loved potting the black or getting straight sixties at darts in pubs. He was good at sports I mean to say. He’s very funny, even now: a great mimic, doing farcical sibilant voices, telling his own jokes like a music hall pro: funny situations with a caustic edge, though not bitter-caustic. That’s because he laughs at himself as much as he does everyone else. Unlike his brother, he never resented being born a working-class boy; no overbearing ambitions, just a simple married life keeping the house and garden immaculate and doing some extra-mural wrought-iron work and welding: braziers, gates, brackets… Then about eighteen months ago he had to give that up and started drawing and painting and they’re really pretty damned good pictures, not that that matters in itself. What matters is he chose to do it—how many people do just shy of eighty, eh? It made me extremely happy to see that, and it brought us closer.

Perhaps it’s because he looks different now, that I see him differently. He’s put on a lot of weight. He always liked eating (Oh, yes!), but this is the illness and the limited mobility, he lies in the hospice bed moving only with difficulty. But there need be no tears, his face is animated and cheeky. In the face of dying by slow degrees, his courage inspires me with courage. The simple fact is he and I were never really designed to be close: chalk and cheese. But I inherited the sentimentality so I phone, I send a birthday card, I go and visit, I’m nice and take the trouble—you know? While these emotions are circulating, he gets into a fishing story: a trip out on the ocean at night that cost fourteen pounds and wasn’t worth it; being seasick to windward; having to lie flat in the bilges and catching nothing when—he segues into another fish tale, one I’ve never heard before. He’s at his daughter and son-in-law’s house, I went there once, it was lovely and had an actual river flowing under an old stone bridge and running right through the grounds. This had been used to create a small lake stocked with fish and he remembered standing alone one evening watching the lake at sunset. As the sun descended, its rays pierced the surface of the water revealing the multitude of fish wending and darting this way and that.

Listening to him, there was a shift in my perception; the impression of a soul far older than seventy-seven here this time as my brother; a timeless entity, independent of my personal sentiment. Yes; the fish were food, but they were also beautiful in his eye, part with him and everything in his regard of the oneness of nature. For a brief moment, I’d had a deeper insight into his perennial being than I’ve ever had into my own.

Bro’ died on Oct. 28th.

47. Big Family Man

October 1, 2014

Last week I got genographic results back from National Geographic. My mum is an H3H and my dad R-L513. I hadn’t realised that girls don’t get their paternal info passed down to them. Bummer. I hadn’t known either that 80% of us are about 2% or so Neandethal! I wrote this story once that I never finished. In it the Neanderthals didn’t develop language, not because they were stupid, but because they were telepathic. For the same reason, they didn’t sing or make art or do anything we’d call cultural: they were spared the curse of dividing into cultures (or cults as far as I’m concerned) being that they could read each other’s minds. Because, in the story the two sub-species couldn’t interbreed, it had become the practice of Homo-sapiens over thousands of years to vaccinate selected children with the telepathic thingy out of the Neanderthals creating an élite that covertly controlled (as far as they could) the usual warring tribes…Anyway, suffice it to say genealogy is mucho complicated and there still seems more to be understood than is understood. Given that, Nigel Hamster’s nailed it as good as anyone, I’d say, so I’ll let him explain.


I’ve got this friend, Myersy, who’s obsessed with his family tree. He’s not really a friend, he sits next to me in class. I mean—I could understand if he had a purse of golden guineas depending on it. Or if his great-great-great-granddad was Jack the Ripper! You’d want to know that. But so far he’s found out his granddad was a barber. Not Sweeny Todd, either (ha-ha).
But he won. He got me obssessed about it in the end. You’ve got two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents… two-hundred and fifty-six great-great-great-great-great-great-grands! No wonder normal people don’t bother thinking about that lot. It’s lucky they’re dead before we get here, we’d have to remember all their names. Worse still, you go on like that and in the end you’re related to everybody from Attila the Hun to Jesus—well, not him, he ain’t related to anyone ‘cept his mum, so that don’t count. But you can see—there’s just no point: J. Stalin? Oh, yes, I’m related to him.
So prove it.
Well, I’ve got thirty-two great-great-great-grand-parents and half a gazillion great-whatevers, so back and back and back I must be everyone’s great-great-(gynormous number)-grandson, so I can’t help being related to Joe Stalin, so it gets pointless, this family tree stuff.
Anyway, me mum wouldn’t want to hear she was related to Joe Stalin. Or A. Hitler. So it’s best not to think about it—but I am now and it’s too late. Mind you, I’m thinking about it for the exact opposite reason to Myersy. He wants to think he’s more interesting than he is because he’s got a hoity-toity family (which he hasn’t proved yet). I can’t help thinking about it because it’s really awful I must be related to him and his stupid family.
And what about kids? Most people must be having at least two kids for the population to keep on getting bigger like it is. Then the two kids have two kids and exactly the same thing is happening to you as happened to you with your grandparents and great-grandparents: you’re related to all them coming along; one day you’ll be everybody’s great-great-great-(gynormous number)-grandparent. It’s like a stupendus hourglass where all the seeds are coming down out of the past to go through that narrow bit one at a time—that’s you—and end up in the future. Of course, a real hourglass is the other way up: what’s in the bottom bit is in the past and is being fed by seeds from the future up top, but that’s not important. It’s only that middle bit that matters: you.
Myersy said what if you didn’t have any kids? (Trust him.) If you didn’t have any kids, it comes to the same because of your sister or your cousin. And before Myersy says it, if you didn’t have any sisters or cousins, it would still come to the same thing ‘cos you’re related to everyone—you can’t help that, it’s all happened already. It’s just a bit complicated. You work it out.

46. Who knows, could be…

September 22, 2014


   Living as we do thirty years on under the Reaganist-Thatcherite plutocracy rampantly abusing a helpless third world and a foolish home populace (whose apathy places the blame on them as much as those who exploit them), we thinking proles could do with something to lift our spirits. Wait though! If we only try not to be so cynical for a moment, it’s very clear that there are, all over the place, people bringing inspiration and benefit to anyone who’ll listen. Are these indicators of a shift away from the odious market-based culture that’s somehow insinuated itself as our norm?

   Start with the internet. A phenomena of recent times is crowdfunding: the channeling of money to projects or ventures by small contributions from many people. You could invest by such means and end up the owner of a cool gadget for much less than you’d pay by ordinary purchase or—I don’t know—become a stockholder in a failed startup (there’s always a gamble). Somewhat parallel is crowdsourcing where freelancers, often from wide-apart fields and not necessarily in the same country, are enlisted to do work on an enterprise. So, it’s not just that you might invest your cash, you could invest your time and energy in an enterprise or even float your own project cutting out the greedy and controlling financial institutions and middlemen. This goes towards the idea of power being put back into the hands of ordinary people. But it goes a lot further than that.

   Not Impossible Labs is one of an emerging genre of startups that takes crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to a different level which is opening up social economies as distinct from corporate or national economies. In social economy crowdfunding, the incentive is no longer merely about investing a small amount to own a gadget or acquire ‘A’ stock (or coerce poorer countries into serving richer ones). Not Impossible does nothing for direct payback. The Not Impossible Foundation raises money to fund crowdsourced projects by a small team under the lead of Mick Ebling, its founder. The company’s credo is ‘Technology for the sake of humanity’ and behind it is the idea of power being put back into the hands of ordinary people who wish to make a difference in our world.

   The Eyewriter, one of their projects, came into being after a meeting with an artist who has Lou Gerig’s disease. It is a cruel illness and had progressed to the point where the victim could move nothing but his eyes. Not Impossible set themselves the task of giving him back the ability to draw by nothing more than movements of the eyes using a simple, cheap device that many people without expertise could make. Just what you need and how to do it is free information online. For the full story go to The startup that’s doing the impossible article on the TechRepublic website, a treasurehouse of IT trends, issues and possibilities. You’ll find information on Not Impossible’s own site about their Project Daniel that led to the creation of prosthetics for children with arms cut off in the vicious Sudan war. Produced with a 3D printer, the know-how, equipment and materials are given to the people themselves to make the prosthetics.

   KIVA, since it was established in 2005, has made available over $611 million in small loans (like $25) from individual donors going to wherever is the greatest need—and of course the least likelyhood of raising a loan from banks or microfinancers. Kiva loans go to the likes of subsistance farmers facing uncertain seasons, to students with grades who otherwise would not get to college, to financing ways of making clean energy viable in the third world, and on and on.

   One enterprise that impresses me because it is so personal and direct is Give It Away, headed by Charlotte Grobien. As the title announces, it gives away its profits. From new home building projects, well over £1 million has been raised and given to children and young people living with injury, disability and other disadvantaged circumstances.

   Just three examples, but never doubt, many, many extraordinary ordinary people are coming together and doing wonderful things in this cynical world.

45.Squirrel away

September 1, 2014

Squirrel Larder

I was sitting in Washington Square, watching squirrels. I should have been writing, but… I don’t know if you’ve watched squirrels that much? One of them gets a nut, stuffs it up his cheek and scoots off to a nice spot to dig a hole that he drops the nut into. He covers it over, looks around to get the coordinates and rushes off. Then promptly forgets all about it. But everything’s okay because squirrel number two comes along and digs it up, stuffs it in his cheek and scoots off to a nice spot to dig a hole which he drops the nut into. He covers it over, gets his bearings, rushes off and promptly forgets all about it. But everything’s okay because squirrel number three digs it up… and so everything jogs along smoothly: the larder constantly being replenished; the squirrels honing their skills on each other. It would all even out in the end because the seek-and-bury thing guarantees it, at the same time ensuring a ‘musical chairs’ effect that culls the less successful which in consequence averts a huge squirrel population. I say it would work out except the sentimentalists feed the damned things and an army of slobs dump their unwanted finger-lickin’ tidbits all over, both of which activities introduce a new squirrel forage technique—much easier for the squirrels—except it does not stock up the pantry for winter.

Okay, they hibernate, not like bears though.

44. Amalfi trek

June 3, 2014

Our leader was Jefi. Intuitive and attentive to peoples’ needs but stern, he understood how to incentivize a group of idlers and steadfastly resist malingerers slowing a cracking momentum. The Amalfi coast may sound a bit pussy next to Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu (previous Jefi expedit’s), but with Jefi at the helm devising thrilling diversions, the trek was not allowed to degenerate into some sort of mamby-pamby tourist traipse be assured.

It would have been nice to have it made clear that Jefi’s true agenda was to generate scorching PR for his brand: JefiBoi’s OnLine Explorers’ Booteek® whose rocketing market share is causing a tidal wave in the shark-infested waters of low-end sporting which I give you a tastless of here.
Click images to enlarge


Jefi could sue my ass for defamation ‘cos he’s aktuly a fun guy. Happy now, Jefrie?
And now click
here for more Amalfi Pics.

43. Rosaria, Gabriele, Maria and all the others

May 29, 2014


   The streets of Naples are filthy, decrepit and full of vibrant life. The graffiti is good; good colours, like they spend money on their palette. In all of Napoli, traffic lights total about six sets. Either the municipality won’t afford them or people of all ages just prefer to step sagely across the busiest intersections between cars and busses and scooters—common enough in Italy but here performed at ballet level—an unending flow of scooters, zipping up sidewalks, twisting immaculately between and around the four-wheeled traffic. As many women riders as men; bare legs, hair flowing from helmets, dodging or stopping for the peds. Not much beeping, everyone knows the stakes and I saw no display of indignation and no accidents, though I’m sure there must be some. A scooter can carry a whole family or two workmen, the pillion chappie often riding blind behind a great sheet of plasterboard or whatever. Straight, narrow ways, sombre-stoned and crowded, radiate off up or down hills overlooked by layered balconies festooned with washing. This has to be the nearest thing to India before you get to India.

   The Capodimonte gallery is set well away from the centre. Up a very long hill, of course. The day we get there, a Sunday, the Fire Brigade is doing a charity thing pulling very loud families into the gardens. Picnics are spread, footballs smack off walls. Inside, the kids are better behaved than their parents and much better behaved than the gang of four officials(?) strolling everywhere we went and opining at the top of their voices, I know one of them is the curator—I know it! At a security door, an alarm goes into shrieking spasm for no apparent reason than to keep the noise level up. The lighting is not good, or more exactly there is no lighting to speak of except for one or two spot-lit corner rooms dedicated to special works. One of these is Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ, the very best work I’ve seen of his: the anatomy, the chiaroscuro, the cruel emotion.

   Our Bruegels are given no such prominence consigned to a general gallery among the gazillion Crucifixions and Madonnas with atrociously ugly Childs of the period. Funny how sculptors could always get a nice-looking Mary and Jesus, but painters back then never seemed to pull it off… As far as Pieter’s concerned, I don’t think the curator—he who strolls around disputing at the top of his voice—knows quite what he’s got his hands on: namely half of all the Bruegels in Italy, and arguably the best Bruegel at that. Not only is the lighting bad but you can’t move in close enough (without setting off an alarm) to switch usefully from distance specs to readers. The Blind Leading the Blind is a painting so many times better than what surrounds it, but I have a far clearer peception of it from reproductions than from trying to see it here in the flesh. Same goes for The Misanthrope next to it and along from that the tiny Herri de Bles’ landscape studies. Oh, and the frames are mog-‘orrible too. Altogether frustrating and more than a bit sad. Send them off somewhere they’ll be appreciated. Perhaps the state of the city should have served as warning: so much of interest and so much neglect. However, in the city, there are Neapolitans to ressurect the negligence; the shabby city functions as a stage set for the spirited working people to play their roles with gusto and with a gentility that I haven’t found as often in Rome. Naples benefits from not being a mega-tourist city (but at the risk of spoiling that for them), I tell you, get over the notion you’ll be mugged or robbed and go there, meet the people.

42. Awa the Scots!

April 30, 2014


Questions arise: should the English ever forgive the accursed Normans for 1066? Should the English ever forget the injustice of fate allowing their braveheart hero, Harold, to be slain after completely routing the Vikings then making a forced march the length of England to face William and his thugs on horses at the battle of Hastings? Should the English just dismiss the ruthless dispossession of the Saxons? Shouldn’t the English go on shaking their fist at the papacy for giving its blessing to the invasion and unleashing feudalism like the pox from Europe onto the shores of Albion? Should the English even now tolerate the remnant of those usurping thugs who call themselves ‘nobility’ to go on occupying their ill-gained castles in England’s green and pleasant land? Why—a halfway respectable claim could even be made that no English monarch has sat on the throne of England since the black year of 1066. Germans, oh, yes, Scots, Welsh, French and those damned Normans, of course. Should the English just let that go! Why aren’t we feeding the grudge in our schools, the very best place for it to thrive?

Listen t’ me, Jimmy! My doctor’s a wee Scottie and she’s luvvly. I love the Scots (except for that Shorn-bloody-Connery), I love the Welsh and—how dare I, I love the Irish, too. Whatever the Celts might feel about me as a born English, that’s how I feel about them. Pure sentimentality, of course, part of the British culture that, south and east of the border, has been evolving out of English culture over three hundred years (and no, the Irish aren’t Brits). Sentimentality is headweak, impervious to sense and is where Scottish First Minister, Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond makes his pitch to stay-at-home Scots.

Whether an Independant Scotland is a good or a bad step is impossible to predict, no matter how assured ol’ Alex likes to appear, but the crux is, that once that path is taken there is no way back. What can be predicted is that Scotland, just like Britain with or without her, or Tibet or the Ukraine (who aren’t being offered an independent choice) will have its ups and its downs and, like the rest of the political map, disappear in a hundred or a thousand years and who will care then? So then? Athough I view it as a potential step backwards, independence is—rightly in this Union—Scotland’s choice. However, a few thousand years of tribes into nations and on earth we are no further on than the Montagues and Capulets.

What I like to imagine is the emergence of a will to transform our cultural fervours into a higher ambition for global cooperation and goodwill(!). But to open your mind and your heart to ‘foreigners’ is unendingly hard, voluntary work with no thanks and no perks. Anything less though will not do. The position at this point is that one species with a rapacious demand for energy and resources and perilously guided by small-minded sentimentality, overpopulates every square metre it can utilise until circumstances—war, pestilence, famine—will cull it, or its habitat is destroyed in an acid bath. Might we, please—if it’s not already too late—direct our energies into preventing that happening; act more like the guardians than the squabbling brats of this precious and vulnerable world that I love far more than any of the world’s lilliputian nation?

[BTW, from the opposite perspective, Britain must commit itself to making Europe work, not be forever threatening referendums to opt out every time it doesn’t get its own way, even if that is our choice in that Union.]

41. St. Pancras

April 26, 2014

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   Ray forced me to go out drawing in the draughty street, something I haven’t done in yonks. I believe it was through a conversation with Steve in the ’80’s that this secret drawer was exposed, daring to sketch out there and in yer face. In fact, I went to Florence and—didn’t genuflect in the Uffizi, only had a day or two—just drew in the streets and the market.Then I stopped doing it. Now I’ve started again.

   You know that vague feeling where you’re really looking forward to the city being finished? And they tell you this bit will be… in, like, 2022. What use is that to someone my age? The truth is the city won’t ever be finished—no, I mean this is the finished city, not a work in progress, the opposite, this is always it. Thank you, Raymondo.

40. a weird kase…

April 18, 2014


If you are completely bonkers then this is the one for you. Just klik here.

39. the drawer

April 7, 2014

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38. now for something almost completely different.

April 1, 2014

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I’ve been writing a screenplay and not for the first time. I love doing it! You’d have to because it’s never going to make it to the big screen or to any screen or even be read with the respectful imaginative attention it deserves through page 203 American-letter size. It’s futile to imagine you might get it optioned let alone produced and be invited to direct. Don’t—don’t go there. Start out with the right attitude, however, and you’ll have enormous fun: What if… and onward. The first page is always the best; limitless, anything’s possible. Then it starts getting turgid, you get more and more locked in; to characters, to the fact that people can’t fly in this story, to drudging through necessary boring bits in the by now boring story and so on. So you stop writing and a year later in the middle of writing another screenplay that’s arrived at the same yawn, you get a flutter of reinspiration for the first one. Jubilate! It’s all back on again. It needs a bit of research to get this right, and that doesn’t work, but I can come back to that… The AAM, the absolute amateur method. I swear by it, it’s never let me down. Thank you Robert McKee.

Things are very different this time though. See—in addition to natural genius, wannabes need luck, for example, in the shape of a real pro to read it right to the end and be generous enough to risk their own reputation and credibility recommending it to a hard-won contact in a mega-agency. Cool.

Things are very different this time. This time I’m ready for the success. I’ve wisely pondered how to cope with being half a millionaire and famus and—think positive—written out my Academy Awards acceptance speech. And, when the bidding war begins, not to go automatically for the maximum money but instead give that special director and production company the chance to realise my script up there as I know it can be. Yes. And now back to one’s ever-popular blog. Tell you what, though, click here, you can judge the magnum opus—10 pages, for yourself.

37. it’s back to Piet

March 4, 2014

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   In an earlier post [34.AfterPieter], I mentioned Bruegel’s foreground figures facing away from us into the picture. Here’s something else: foreground figures is too dismissive a term. We may not see their faces, and the style of the age is a little different, but we still recognise who they are and mix with them right now at the supermarket and weddings; they are personalities, never mere well-drawn anatomies. As a matter of fact, Pieter’s heads might not every time sit well on shoulders, and joints can sometimes move at questionable angles, but anatomy is so subordinate to expressiveness and mood, it detracts not at all. What we have here are arseside portraits, people!

   This distinction holds true into the far distance of these staggeringly vast works. In expressions, then in postures, figures are full of human quality. Furthermore, it is amazing how sparsely many faces are worked on yet still bear the stamp of… it’s not personality, it is type, for there’s not much to them beyond their social interaction—they are not big on inner substance. That’s not Bruegel’s shortcoming, it is their shortcoming portrayed: they sleepwalk through proceedings with unconscious responses born of habit. We really are looking at ourselves, warts and all. Well, I am. Like Pieter, I regard peasants with disdain. Though, unlike him—apparently—I happen to be one (from Sauf London).

   I know I’m projecting but I think I’m right to. I imagine Bruegel a moraliser who couldn’t help being disdainful: his peasants carouse, they get drunk, they vomit, they shit, they lust and they are ignorant and stupid but—and a big but—they are innocent, immersed in their hard-working, hard-playing lives. And it’s made very clear they are not victims of themselves alone but also of their oppressive rulers: church and state. In all of his outside paintings done in that short period—1560 to 1569—gallows and breaking wheels mounted on their lofty stakes are ever-present in the landscape.


   Other side then: he disdained them yet he also loved them. He might not have been aware of it, but he could never have so captured them if he hadn’t. He loved them in the way he loved their tumbledown dwellings and the countryside merging away into majestic fantasy realms (not his invention, but he was the best), in the way he loved trees—look at the trunks and roots, the textures of species and the interweaving of their branches and foliage. Others have painted scenes and people as grandiose and lively as this, but nowhere else do I so believe in what is portrayed.

36. North wind.

February 14, 2014


Blah-di-yada blah—no, listen, listen! Blah-di-yada blah blah blah…

35. statistics speaking

January 26, 2014


   Two days ago, Martian Myers (megabrain astronomy fanatic) said to me, If one million earthlings were to emigrate to Mars every year, how long would it take before everyone was up there?
   About fifty years, I said.
   It would take six thousand years.
   I thought it was a joke: I don’t believe it! I said.
   Martian said, That’s because you’re stupid. Six billion earthlings. Get a pencil and work it out.
   I’ve just finished and he’s right, like always.
   In case you hadn’t thought of it, he said, carrying on today, That would be as long as all of history back to the start of Egypt. I’ll tell you something else, he droned, If everybody had two kids, the population of Earth would be halved in a hundred years, but don’t try to work it out.
   Don’t worry, I said, I’m not that interested.

34. after Pieter

January 21, 2014

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I’m going on a trip. That’s the plan, Eurostar to Brussels then Prague and Vienna. Was going to do Berlin, but too much time and money. A pity. At a later date, will definitely do Darmstadt (Darmstadt?) and Naples. Why? because this is a Bruegel hunt; the painter Pieter Bruegel: b.1525-30 d.1569, and many of his paintings are in these cities.

Bruegel always resonated. At first, it wasn’t that remarkable, then, somehow, the idea took root of visiting all the original paintings. I read and studied the man and his work intending to write about this pilgrimage—something, but what? Not much is known of his life or character and you’re left to deduce from his work. Anyway I didn’t want to delve deep into scholarship, it’s interesting and provides insights, but it takes one over and, for me, it’s beside the point. What the pictures evoke is what matters; I like something that makes sense without an interpretation.

It is remarkable how often in Bruegel paintings the foreground figures have their backs to the viewer. This is just one expression of something wonderful and unique to this one artist: we are given an at first subtle and then increasing sense that the inhabitants of the paintings are not disposed for us to view; everyone there is so unselfconsciously absorbed inside their own doings that we, sneaking a peek over their shoulders, do not exist. The scene too is their world; not arranged for us. An exception where a foreground group is posed for the viewer (as in Renaissance art and altar pieces and, I would say, most figurative art since), is found in the Procession to Calvary where, by the style and rendering of clothing and thematically, the holy family and their circle at the lower right posture literally out of the picture. Why did Pieter do this? Was its inclusion a requirement of the commission? What it conveys to me is that this ‘holy story’ takes place on a seperate plane, nobody in the picture pays any attention to this group; it does not exist for them any more than we do. The suffering of Jesus—really just another flesh and blood victim—at the center of things, there, is real enough, but the traditional context of his story (the Church’s version) has become unreal, detached and mainly irrelevant. Maybe the artist had other intentions, but he certainly meant something by it.

33. horoflage

January 18, 2014

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   After I’d crossed her palm with silver, I asked Madam Zalopa, “Why only six zodiac signs, what happened to the other six?

   Madam addressed me with a thick Siberian expression, “Kristal ball tell… you stupid name Ari, no?.. Why no other six, eh, Ari? Because nobodies interestink born under other six. Any more stupid qvestion?”

   “Yes, Madam Zaloper, is it true there are infact thirteen zodizc signs if one is to include Ophiuchus and of course one is? And is it true as well, the signs have advanced or slipped back since Babylonian times so that Gemini comes up when it’s still only Taurus according to newspaper horoflage charts?.. or do I mean Gemini doesn’t turn up till it’s Cancer’s time—I forget exactly, but you know what I mean.”

   “Iss two stupid qvestion, but no prob, Mr.Cheap—Ari. Are you know that if I kiss—you turn into frog? You like see if thiss true?”

32. trendless

December 21, 2013

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   Used to dwell in the West Village. Years. Loved it, never wanted to be anywhere else. Pocket-size studio with view (oblique) of Twin Towers… coming tragically, tragically down, then Freedom Tower phallusing up and up, no distance from Gansevoort, underseeing the High Line transit from rusty track to Arcadian trail. Very trendy.

   No longer. I’m Manhattaned out—ever since my outgoing curved inexorably north of income—out of the trend and into Sheepshead Bay, but not at all near the waterside with the fishing boats and restauraunts—rather, deep in the two-family-house Street-and-Avenue hinterland.

   Next door is Chinaman. We wave (he never learned English). Across the street are the Russians (nice ones, we wave too) and the Poles and that. I speak actual words to third-generation-Judy on our other side. The area has its cool cats as well. They stare with hungry eyes through the window from the rear stoop. They’re all black and all related by different degrees—mostly incestuous—to Big Daddy black with cauliflowered ears who never begs. The couple I rent from keep an eye out for them, often providing their meals, surgeries and placements. And now these good people have taken me on as well. It’s nice here and I’m not missing the trend of the city one little bit. This augers well because it’s doubtful I’ll be the only Manhattan ex-owner turned outworld tenant.

   Here’s the thing: studio gone opens up great opportunity for new life as Flying WestVillageman (like Flying Dutchman, but much more enjoying it) an excuse to go flooping all over the world—Ker-pow—it’s just hit me! I wrote a story, 1980ish, where a global fellowship of non-taxpayers, blown by the winds of chance, floated around the planet in loony airships: Airnomads.

[Dratt!! I’ve been surfing and there’s already an airnomad@gmail and an airnomad@yahoo and an airnomadicdotsplot website or two… Too late, the trend’s taken orf without me.]

31. too big to notice

November 2, 2013


    I can understand less than half this book, but it’s riveting, I can’t put it down. The trick is, to race through it like it’s a thriller, don’t bother deciphering the jargon, keep your eye on the plot—and I mean the plot quite literally—and you’ll be as hooked as I am.

    Since writing that, I’ve read it again, I needed to.

    The Big Short by Michael Lewis is the story of the US stock market crash of 2007, the year before the media and the world outside Wall Street caught up with it. That said, ninety percent of the planet’s population still hasn’t caught up with the enormity of what happened and they never will, any more than they get the fine print of their mobile contract. Who reads that stuff? You’re not meant to read it; the strategy works.

    Since Big Short and other books written from personal experience: John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman and Hoodwinked or Robert Baer’s See no Evil, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine—there are many—I’ve looked back shamefaced at my own naivety and unconcern at the profoundly interlinked CIA activity, corporate imperialism and the stock and bond market’s operations even though I was helplessly locked into the market like everyone else who couldn’t keep up with inflation on the 0.5% interest from a bank savings account. Like politics, though, the only way to keep up on the subject is be inside it, as a job, because it requires a huge chunk of your time. I need to remember also that, even if I’d had the inclination to study it, no one was explaining it in all its murky skullduggery at that point. First the collapse had to happen, then the shock and concernation such as it was. Prevention would have been better than cure—especially since there has been no cure! We, the victims, are still paying a mighty price for what happened and no one seems too upset. Life goes on. By an overwhelming majority, though, people cannot rouse emotion for things that seem not to touch them personally or that take a lot of effort to make sense of, which explains why those in power can get away with… nigh-on anything. Michael Lewis describes those inside the crash as fools or criminals or both, and no one’s bothered to sue him.

    Central to the debacle was the gross negligence of the rating agencies: Moody’s and S&P who, either from complicity or ignorance in overevaluating the deliberately baffling CDO’s and CDS’s* deceived investors and even insiders who didn’t dig deep enough. Beyond whether the agencies did this out of stupidity or corruption is the insurmountable flaw of capitalism that I can see no solution to. Ever. It hasn’t to do with the system, it has to do with the message that capitalism broadcasts. In the world of finance, making a profit is the only objective. So it is inevitable that people drawn to it, people who like to make money and are best at it, will hardly stay in a low-paying position with a regulatory firm. What bright spark wouldn’t move over to the other—obscenely lucrative—side of the industry in order to get rich? Because inside the amoral capitalist engine that powers our ethical society there is nothing unethical or corrupt in making money, however it is done.

    Of course, ethical society wags its finger, but little is done about the system itself or the perpetrators, who for the most part ‘retire’ with their millions—oops—billions and very often (because of their profiteering track record) are given further moneybags positions once the whiff of scandal has wafted away. Where are the government, the law and the media; the counterbalances to unscrupulous dealings, in all this? Assuming they are not corrupt, it can only be that they, like Moody’s and S&P, do not understand and cannot unravel the arcane shenanigans of the stocks and bonds markets—if they can even get access to them! All quite pathetic, but from the capitalistic viewpoint quite reasonable: Just Make Money.

    Re-re-read it. Great book.

*Collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.

30. mixed crew

October 24, 2013

(click on the pic to enlarge)


29. good design

October 7, 2013


    The versatile cockroach is at home on the steppes of Siberia, in India and in the jungles of Africa and South America. Whether we like it or not, it is a citizen of every country on earth, and an inhabitant of every continent with the possible exception of Antarctica – unless some verminous boat has already carried it there in which case it’s no doubt doing very nicely because, for the cockroach, these are pretty tame times. Bear in mind it has more than once or twice survived devastating cataclysms that have stripped the planet of most of its other life. The roach has been on this earth unchanged over three hundred and twenty million years in contrast to man who may have clocked up a paultry one! Three hundred and twenty million is twice as long as even the earliest dinosaur which Blattaria has far outlived. It is older than the Appalachians—themselves over five times older than the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Andes and the Alps! It has witnessed bigger ranges rise up and get worn down than mankind even knows of and we imagine we can exterminate it! If I were a bookie…
   When our cataclysm comes, and it will; it is in the nature of planetary systems to bombard their planets from time to time; of weather systems (on the planets that have weather) to change drastically and catastrophically; of the internal forces of planets to reshape continents and oceans every so often; of our local star to send out lethal radiation careless of the damage it does to us its grandchildren; of infalling interstellar plasmic hydrogen to combine with earth’s abundant oxygen to make bad things happen; of monu-mentally handicapped presidents to cause ill-considered wars—it’s hard to get off the roll, but I will. If, before that deadly day arrives, man is serious about his species surviving on Earth, we could learn a lot from the contemptible but versatile cockroach. Bear in mind though, the roach is careless of its individuals, a billion wipe out in a week is no big deal.

Pss! In the meantime, the cockroach, like the rest of the planet, is just trying its best to survive man.

28. 18th Century Woodcut

September 30, 2013

   Having an eye for this sort of thing, I’ve collected (and lost) over the years quite a few Dover publications: woodcuts, frontispieces, ornate borders…


   Catchpenny prints were hawked, usually as sheets of four or six or eight drawings, in the streets of London for the great unwashed to put on their walls. The sheets might have had a loose theme, but more often they were linked only by their rhyming captions: Dancing a jig; Bating the Bear; Shooting a Pig; Riding to Bow Fair. (Come on! That’s a recreation theme.)

   There’s a rustic charm to the drawing, not much charm in casually encouraging a kid to shoot an arrow into a piglet, but socially acceptable in those days apparently.

   Here’s another one. Not completely authentic, but it captures the zeitgeist. It was done for a production company website.


27. ah, rockets.

September 15, 2013

   Drawing funny for Mad Magazine for a lot of years I had a fun time, but for the best fun you can’t beat drawing rockets.


   I still draw rockets. Drawing rockets is where it started for me and for Dave Jones (no relation to Davy and no locker).


   I don’t know if Dave is still what he was, I hope so because, when he was eleven, Dave was the funniest nerd—a word we didn’t have then, but it fits. He had smudged-up glasses that made his brown eyes so gynormous that when he gave a blink it was like there’d been an earthquake or—even worse—a perturbation in hyper-space.

   Listening to him, you could get seriously caught up waiting for the next massive blink to come and trying to predict it’s ETA—to the point where you’d lose track of what he was saying. The glasses sat scew-wif on his face because Dave had one ear much lower than the other, The whole Jones family wore glasses with big brown eyes, but only Dave had the low ear, and I’m guessing his dad bought their specs cheap in Woolworths and never thought of getting Dave’s fixed. It seems now like a simple thing, to have fixed them, but they never were and good, too, ‘cos quirky Dave played it to advantage; the glasses were a big part of his persona. Because he was funny, the bruiser kids could extend him some compassion without risking their well-hard reputations; Dave’s specs were a feature, if you like, that spared him getting smacked around when us other twits were routinely wacked. We didn’t begrudge him this priviledge because we too felt he was deserving of it.
   Something it took me a long time to realise, though, was that Dave Jones was my unconscious model for Nigel Hamster, or Nyj, as he was known. But that’s another story. [Go there.]

26. enjoy your evening.

September 9, 2013

(click on the pic to enlarge)


25. penny arcade

August 20, 2013


    So here’s my shortest story.

   She walked out from the back, cigarette dangling in her right hand. Eyes followed her as she approached a youth playing one of the machines. Her figure resisting age, her black eyes and raven hair drawn firmly back into a bun, big hoop earrings (gold?) …he’d expected an Albanian accent. But she sounded like any local when she spoke, which had not been immediately. She’d stopped about a yard away, watching, until the last steel ball ping-ponged and clunked with finality down there inside oblivion.
   If I predict for you—free, that you’ll become a famous artist, does that make you happy? …And if I tell you you’ll be dead before that happens?

Pss! There’s more about this at Penny Arcade down there inside the oblivion of my experimental website.

24. visitours

August 19, 2013

clic pic to enlarge.


23. One O two + four

August 10, 2013


Me mum’s hundred and sixth birthday was this year. As you may suspect, she is not here with bro’ and me to blow out the candles (lighting them would be more of a challenge), though the way bodies and minds degrade who’d want to live forever!

All the same, I miss her and not just because she was mum. Leave the tediously sentimentality to Hallmark, there are plenty of mums who are not missed. There is the same range in mums as in computer geeks, sailors or French peeps: lovely to lousy. I miss her not because she was a perfect saint; she wasn’t. She always did try for me, and that mattered, but I really think I miss her most because she was such a character.

I can sum it up in one inconsequential story: we were having coffee in the park café one Sunday and she was feeding crumbs to the sparrows (we were eating biscuits, too) when up stomps a four year-old and frightens all the birdies away. Ma bared her teeth at the kid and snarled, Grrrr! I caught her eye and we both burst out laughing.

‘appy birthday, Ma. xxx

Pss! It might’ve alarmed the kid more that she had big-time dentures in—hadn’t had her own teeth since the day in 1948 when they’d all been yanked in one visit. I remember her drawn, white face after she’d walked home from the hospital.

22. too heavy

August 7, 2013


(part I)
I was drawing in the park this morning when a curious young guy stopped to look with his companion. Chatting, we segued from drawing into religion and my eyes finally drifted down to their Jews for Jesus t-shirts. They asked me if I was Jewish and I said no. A bit later, the question came up: what did I think of the Ten Commandments? As it happens, having gone through the Christian mill, I’ve thought about them-there Commandments quite a bit, so I had a ready answer.

Hear ye! The Ten Commandments were conceived for a world quite different to this part of our world. Also, on a personal level, I shudder at that word Commandments. So you can be sure that, though I’ve thought about them, I don’t think very much of them. Commandments don’t win me over. We are no longer living in the Bronze Age, not all of us. I’d prefer a world where we are responsible for our own behaviour (Yeah, and we’d be right back in mayhem! But idealisticize for a little minute, please.). To that end, I’ve whittled it down to Three Suggestions for myself and anybody who cares to listen: judge ye not, be ye not a hypocrite nor be ye an enslaver. Enslaver’s melodramatic, but try as I may, I can’t come up with a better word. That empires and states, corporations and religions are used to enslave is clear enough. That families and spouses and so-called friends enslave is less obvious but can’t be denied—how, and whether consciously or unconsciously, I’ll leave you to decide. Put it like this, anything that diminishes another life rather than uplifts it is a version of enslavement. (Incidentally, if three suggestions aren’t enough for you, I can always dream up a few more. I can’t even keep this three.)

Anyway, the J for J’s and me listened to each other, sort-of, you know, and parted very amicably. It’s a bit of an ego trip, telling the Old Testament where it gets off, in’t it? But, in a free world, it is important to have lots of heretics questioning everything, even if they end up entirely orthodox. If we don’t question, how can we find anything out? If we don’t question, maybe our ‘belief’ is not very sincere or stupidly blind, and we hand power to the ones who are eager for dupes and unquestioning followers.

(part II)
I recently stumbled upon mention of the extinct Moche civilization of South America, perhaps the most loathsome culture of ritual torture and murder I’ve ever stumbled upon. Their practices included: bleeding out their victims for several weeks or as long as possible, sacrificing groups of people together, excarnation, maybe cannibalism… “Images of captive sex-slaves with gaping orifices and leaking fluids portray extreme exposure, humiliation, and a loss of power”—the list goes on—all to curry favour with their repugnant God and ensure the year’s crops.

Bertrand Russell called this behaviour the religion of Moloch, after the middle-eastern deity who expected similar ferocious devotion. In a creative and courageous act, the heretic Abraham (who had also asked mercy for the ‘righteous’ of Gomorrah and the other place), refuses to kill his son in that era when child-sacrifice to appease cruel and jealous gods is commonplace. And Moloch—for it was surely he who demanded the tribute and he whom Abraham rejected—was still not dead 500 years later when Moses collected his tablets off of Sinai. The Ten Commandments, seen in this context, are an enlightened reform of the murderous rituals of the Molochs. Jehovah, though, still exhibits a dark side, smiting violators of his laws, but at least he does his own smiting now, a very big step for his followers. It will be an even bigger step when all followers of all persuasions turn it on its head: their gods do not create them, they create their gods. I should better say imagine: they imagine their gods. As for humans, we are all cut from the very same cloth.

Pss! In 1633, the year of Galileo’s trial, I wouldn’t have said any of this.

21. the jacket

August 3, 2013

As a non-impressionist illustrator I was, in deference to verisimilitude, all the time aware that I needed to mix some black into my pictures, whether for shadows, road surfaces or, above all, clothing. I don’t know about Hawaii or Rio, but certainly New York, London, Paree crowds—notwithstanding the occasional flash of a primary—are drab. So, in a city or subwayscape, you tone everything down to make it look ‘real’. Sad, ain’t it. Especially considering that about a third of the million colours on offer to the human eye—lots, anyway—are doable on fabrics these days. Even if we stick to only the environmentally friendlys.
So then, day before yesterday, I walk past a shop and, twenty paces later, have to walk back again. There’s this yellow-more-than-orange jacket in the window calling my name. I am one of those blokes who can’t buy a shirt or a pair of socks just because I need them, I buy strictly on impulse.
I resisted the jacket. Until yesterday. In fact I’d forgotten it, but passing by the shop again, the siren beckoned. I didn’t need it, I couldn’t afford it, so I did my usual thing: before going in, I decided how much it was worth to own it (try this, it works). I will not be coy, I despise coy, I decided on $200 or—I no buy!
Ah’d got me a bargain!
Will I wear it? I am determined, but, you know, there are powerful inhibitions, crap carried around since I started listening to people. I am an exhibitionist, but a coy one (yup). So if you see this jacket screaming at you from a crowd, you’ll know it and me are both out of the closet.


20. summertime

July 23, 2013

Klic the pic for big view – infact, always klic th pics.


19. Oliver Sacks

July 15, 2013

For years I’ve been an avid admirer of Oliver Sacks: a brilliant and original mind, a great communicator and presenter and (I feel) human being. Thank you for being, Oliver.

By chance, I came to live for many years in the same building as he did. It was by chance again I discovered this, when he got into the elevator one day. After which I saw him a number of times before the penny finally dropped as to who he was—because he is indeed agonizingly shy (his own words)—one senses it; baseball cap down, facing away. That plus my English reticence to speak up meant that the only words ever between us were, Would you sign a copy of your book for me? Yes, of course. And I never took the book to be signed (don’t ask me to explain).

I learned from his NYTimes Opinion recently—a friend cut it out for me, this is not an ad—that Mr. Sacks is soon to be 80, the atomic number of Mercury. The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.) is an uplifting piece full of gratitude for life. I’ve only one objection. I’m okay with his having no desire for a post-mortem life, but a figure of such influence might think twice before telling us he has no belief in it. That is unscientific, Ollie. Stick with I don’t know.  Same goes for you, Richard Dawkins!  Make it very clear you just don’t know, okay?   Okay, okay! You probably have made that clear. I just read stuff and forget, okay?

Creeping up to eighty meself, aren’t I.

18. ad spot

June 28, 2013

This is to save WordPress the trouble of doing the ad for me. (Zappos is an online shopping website where peeps typically order tens of pairs of shoes to try on and return them free of charge.)


17. Existence

June 22, 2013

Alien Invasion

   If I were an alien with any choice in the matter, I would not land on planet earth! Not to invade it, not to save it, not even to have a chat with its sapient species. Do you know that the first emission at a wavelength long enough to not to be bounced back to earth by the ionosphere but pass into deep space was the first TV broadcast? It was our ambassadorial message, as it were, to intelligent species throughout the universe and beyond, and it happened to be Hitler ranting.

   To our eyes, it may seem things have greatly improved since that unfortunate slip, but put that down to nearsightedness. The level of today’s ‘communications’ that fertilise the imagination of billions and fill up the aether twenty-four-seven from all across the world must surely be enough to send any higher being, including the Buddah, into hiding. Well… god bless him, he’d give it another try, no matter what. But I share the fairly common (and correct) opinion that the invading-type aliens are images spawned by our own paranoia, reflecting the way we run our own affairs. Real aliens beware, this could be the way we will act upon touchdown on some far distant and innocent world. Think about it, people of earth! When Europeans went to the Americas and elsewhere, did they start off with Greetings, Indigenous Ones, We come in Peace—okay, they more or less did, but did they mean it? And non-Europeans and indigenous peoples are just as prone to invading, it’s not a racial thing, it’s a species thing and not just of one culture, but most.

   It’s important to note, as an alien, I’d be very happy to chat with Sagan (back then) or Dawkins, the Dalai Lama… Even as myself I’d chat with them (if I had something to say). You see, it’s not like our species is bereft—there are many, many highly enlightened humans. The question is are there enough? As with everything it starts at home; my own enlightenment wouldn’t bear too deep an investigation. But I don’t want to talk about that, I want to opine about humankind en masse, an entity which is not so very kind or admirable. Don’t get me wrong, I like people, love my friends and the Sagans and the Fenymans of the world, but, willy-nilly, we are all caught up in the mass-produced maelstrom of hypocrisy and self-interest we variously call politics, business, religion… In all these worlds there are sincere people, but are there enough? That high calibre of sincerity is hard and often unpaid and unrecognised work (not that any of that matters to the high calibre person). How far they can influence the totality of our actions must depend upon the proportion of them in world society surely?

   I got that Hitler bit from Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, I highly recommend it. I’ve said before that I read science fiction: SF: ‘What If’ literature, and now I’m saying it again. I’m just finishing up David Brin’s book Existence and I’ve found out my Hitler bit is inaccurate. So, sorry about that, but it was such a good intro. Existence deals with… hmm, what does it deal with? Certainly alien invasion, but in a much more thoughtful way than I’ve rather glibly done here. Further, the aliens theme is woven into a much more pressing question about humanity’s future with or without them. I don’t mean the next fifty or five hundred years, what are the prospects over the next few thousand years—the same period as our known past? Geologically speaking, a miserably tiny period, yet unimaginably distant for guessing at what our evolution might have produced by then. We are shielded from concerning ourselves over such questions by our cocoon of wilful ignorance (that I’ve spoken about in other contexts). Also, there is absolutely no guarantee that we won’t have devolved or carelessly exterminated ourselves at that point. I hesitate to blow the gaff, but in some respects, that’s the more likely scenario. Or are we, in that far-yet-not-very-far-at-all time, going to be bickering on about the same old Jack and Jill issues that fill our days now, albeit on vast spaceships voyaging to the stars?.. which we will attempt to colonise (otherwise why bother to go there in the first place?), and so, back to the beginning of this discussion.

   Brin is more of an optimist than I am, he not only thinks there is a good side, he feels (despite lurking dangers intrinsic to evolution) that it will prevail while I’m not so sure. In Existence, a greatly evolved internet is our first global mind. He maintains this very communication will enrich and uplift us culturally, and this despite collective reactionary and self-interested voices numbering billions. In this, his optimism may have some firm grounds. Think back to, say, London in 1900: gin palaces, drunks, poverty, ignorance. The idea was entrenched that the common man was contemptible (only one step above women) and would never respond to education and better conditions, even if they were handed to him. Yet look at his counterpart after sixty or eighty years of improvement—and despite world-wars and imperialist-capitalist abuses!

   In addition, he explores some potentials for human mutation, envisaging both physiological and cultural imput, out of our homonoid past, out of autism, by cybernetic and AI engineering, and hinting at alien hybridisation—don’t make comparisons with The X Files, much as I enjoy them, this is far more in-depth than any TV series could hope or dare to be. I used to be interested in film/TV, but decided that, although they are effective in touching emotions, they are not up to the task of exploring and expressing complexities in the way that books do. We need our minds to do that. Existence is a 650 page gymnasium for the mind, I’m reading it again.

16. Pandora

April 14, 2013

Pandora copy
As I’m sure my many readers will have noted, I haven’t added to or even looked at my blog here since… let’s look, yes, five months back. I’ve actually forgotten how to work with the WordPress template that I use! I don’t like using it, but I’m hopeful that WordPress will help me get my words and piccies ‘out there’. The art of promotion/marketing, whatever, is a skill-set I don’t have, it’s time-consuming, difficult and something else to forget after five months. I haven’t looked at the blog because, as usual I’ve been chasing other projects—three actually, but I’ll just tell you all about the one.

On and off over years I’ve spent an awful lot of time designing a game, which is ironic because I don’t like games or playing them. I think what’s happened is I’ve been enthralled with the visual object to the exclusion of ever bothering to test it—keeping my fingers crossed, more and more as the intermittent hours/weeks added up. Of course, the sensible and obvious path is to construct the simplest prototype and play the damned thing over and over. But that takes a systematic and serious temperament neither of which tendencies are to be found in my character (much as I’d like them to be).

I’ve seen other people use this technique: overlook the preparation, determined it’ll all turn out right just because they earnestly hope it will, the fools. High risk to the point of folly gamblers. I suppose that is a game I like to play, though, isn’t it? No, I’m just lazy. No, I’m not, I’m just arty. It’s a lovely object and now I’ve designed a lovely box to hold it. Perhaps I’ll call it ‘Waste of Time’ which is what most games are right? No, I won’t do that, it’s altogether too elegant, I love just looking at it. I’ll name it ‘Aspiration’.

Note: Yesterday afternoon, belatedly, I did start exploring the moves. By now there’s such a lot riding on its viability, I’m almost too frightened to find out the truth—I can’t handle it! All the same, the spirit moved me, and the play didn’t immediately flatline, nor was moving the pieces as clunky as I’d half-expected so, tomorrow, tentatively, I’ll put it through a few more paces. Keep y’ posted in five months.

15. Holy socialissmus!

November 20, 2012

I am a socialist. In spirit I am a socialist. I wish for a caring state and society using resources and will for the benefit of all. But it won’t happen, it cannot happen. Why not? Because stupid and (far worse) clever cheats and liars and opportunists will always discover the teat first, remorselessly drain it dry and leave the truly needy as helpless as they’ve always been. It is not much use berating this, it’s simply, if starkly, the way things are with humanity. This has been so from earliest known times and it shows no sign of being any different with our cultures and institutions being what they are; reflections of our nature. I am not being cynical or nihilistic, I am being honest, looking at the world for what it is. Of course, I could more usefully be looking at myself. What I see in the world is exactly what I see in me: contradictions—but shove it! It’s a lot easier and more interesting to change the world than change yourself.

Hey, come on, you old grouch, it could all work out well according to John Perkins, ex-EHM. More on him later.

14. Dawlish

November 9, 2012


At the close of the 2nd World War when my dad resigned from the RAF, Mum and he thought they’d have a celebration. So we four took off in June of ’46 for Dawlish on the south Devon coast to have the only holiday we ever spent together.

In 2012, I went to Dawlish for the first time since those many years ago. What I remembered didn’t jibe with what I found. The boarding house we’d stayed in may be—surely must be—still standing, but I wouldn’t know. Anyway, there’d been a large tent or marquee erected back then and when we’d gone inside there was a stage with rows of folding seats set up for a Child Talent Competition, and in no time Fred and myself were signed in as contestants.

Waiting in the eager queue to the scaffold, I started feeling pangs of panic as one after another contestant went up to the mic’ to give polished renditions of: I’m a little Tea pot (to a cute mime by Bourgeoise Blonde—my age, party dress, beribboned locks—I thought she was very lovely); I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I am; (by Tubby Born-Performer from ‘ackney); Somewhere over the Rainbow I remember and, I’m near-certain, a tap dance or three were featured in there—all of which the prissy accompanist knew, providing a keyboard backup and smoothing things for the artistes.

By the time it came to bro’s turn I could no longer deny that the two of us had been plunged into this ordeal with zero preparation. What had the ol’ man and woman been thinking! I didn’t know any songs—correction, I didn’t know any words to any songs and I was self-aware enough and sufficiently a snob to feel ‘orrible ‘umiliation and dread for what was coming.

Fred was always a natural and he went onstage letting it be known he would be offering that day ‘Chickery-chick’. The pianist didn’t seem to have heard of this number even though it was on the radio every day at the time and, come the performance, seemed incapable of cottoning on to either its key or rythm. But, completely unphased, Fred steamed right ahead a cappella:


Cha-la cha-la,


In the bawanica


Can’t you see

That chickery-chick

Is me!

   Grinning, he terminated with startling abruptness, and, not waiting for audience reaction, moseyed off-stage to loud applause and huge hilarity despite—or maybe because of—the karate-chop ending. Then (oh, no!), I was thrust out onto the scaffold. There was there no escape.

“And what are you offering us today, little man?” twitted the poncy pianist.


“Ha,ha,ha, an encore, how jolly! Off you go then.” And I would have gone off, too, if I’d had the nerve.

Anticipation ran through the tent like an electric current as I warbled into my fainter, carbon-copy of Chickery-chick in pipsqueak, thick cockney:


Cha-la cha-la, 


In the bawanica


Can’t you see

That chickery-chick

Is me.

   Gales of laughter. I rocketed off that stage. Pipe-smoking dads and white-gloved mums agreed that the bro’ and I roundly deserved joint first prize for sheer entertainment even though we could not be awarded it on technical grounds.

Writing this, a troubling memory keeps pushing to the surface: what if, after the ‘trauma’, I managed to blot out that it wasn’t feckless mum and dad who’d thrust me up onto that stage, but that I’d asked to be put there.

Changes the picture somewhat, eh? But then, as Fred an’ me agreed: you know you’re a grown-up when you’ve forgiven your parents.

 *      *      *

13. post lllO

August 10, 2012

lllO? That’s binary speak. (This is going to be a pretty tough one I’ll warn you now.)

I’m disnumerate. That’s what I call it. What I mean is I constantly get numerals or digits out of order. Tell me your number is 6972 and I’ll be dialling 6792, 6729, 6279— I need to concentrate very hard to get 6972 on the first go: “Sorry, Lola, meant to get back to you, it was a great evening.” I don’t do this with spelling, so the word dyslectic seems misleading to my ear (incidentally, I’ve dumped that stupid y which makes dies-lectic!! for a simple i: dis-lectic and, emphatically, I don’t care what experts say about it, I’m disnumerate. Though I might be changing that to innumerate, but let’s leave it there).

Why was I talking about this? Binary. Well, for me, at first glance it seemed like the easy option; just O and l instead of O, l, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. In binary digits that’s all there are: O and l; zero and one. Ha,ha,ha,ha, yes… I realised very soon that easy it is not. If you count to a mere 64 in binary it comes out as lOOOOOOO, and no commas or spaces to help out—I told you this was a tough 1.

Now, one and seven zeros or lOOOOOOO may be no cause for concern for a computer, but for us it’s worse than the MCMLXXXIV they use when they want to make an inscription look impressive or fudge the issue of the year the film was made when you get the video out.

Truly, once the Arabs came up with zero, things were much simpler. But there’s such a thing as too simple, and l and O, and only l and O (binary) is too simple. Taking the computer’s example, we could count without the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, but who (apart from me) wants to try it?

That much said… being stuck with ten digits ain’t so simple either. Look at decimal division, divide 10 by 2. Simple-wimple?  Half of 10 is 5, half of 5 is 2.5, halve that and it’s 1.25, then 0.625, and 0.3125, 0.15625… how simple isn’t that!

The really missed opportunity was us not evolving with a thumb and three fingers like Mickey Mouseses, because—way back—when we first began counting up, we’d have had 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and then 10 without 8 or 9. Then we’d be octal (even though I prefer octimal), and then division would be simple: 8 (10 in octal) divided by 2 would be 4, then 2, then—all important:1, then 0.4, 0.2, 0.1… now that is easy! Another bonus to the set-of-3 fingers would be for us artists who know to our cost how long it takes to draw hands. Pinkies? Apart from sticking them in your ear, what damned use are they? Yakuazas cottoned on to that very fast. Insimentally, the word ya-ku-za is Japanese for 8, 9, 3, the worst hand in Japanese gambling (don’t ask).

Okay, a few musical instruments would have to be redesigned, but it’s not the end of the world. If Ravel could write a decent piano concerto for left hand only then he could surely have written good no-pinkie stuff for Yakuzas and Mickey Mouses—and so too could that Mozart and the rest. Nothing like a challenge. And eights aren’t that weird; composers never complained about music being written in octaves. Ah-ha—good point!

Here’s another good point: There arelO kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t. I wish I could claim I came up wth that, but I found it on the Internet. I thought it was really witty. I hope, by now, you may too.

PS: Can some clever peep hungry for more, read up on hexadecimals? And when they’ve sussed it, come and explain to me?