Thursday, July 31, 2003
If you're not prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence, you're going to have to act after the fact, and after the fact now means after horrendous things have happened
Don't borrow, don't spend, hold tight, keep still. Here's an idea: run away, hide, stay secret, stay silent. Don't get involved: don't burn anyone, don't get burned. The bank want your money back and The State wants your time and Everybody wants a piece of you. Or nobody does, and this is worse. Somebody wants you, but all you can do is hide. And they really want you. And you don't know what to do. All you wanted, really, absolutely, after all, was to be wanted. And to return it. Then it happens, and you can't. That's tragic. It's more tragic than Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth. It's as stupid, but more passive, pathetic, poisonous. Defiance = self-contempt. Pride = fear. No: this is only part of the story. Nobody can catch you. (Somebody catch me!) December. Antarctic base. Alone. The weather >>> I don't carry: Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury's Reward Card, Boots Advantage Card, no Air Miles, no Nectar Card. I pledge alleigance to no one. But you can catch me on: EU passport, UK driving licence, HSBC cash card, LT Travelcard, RSPB membership, Foyles payslips, National Insurance, NHS medical card, Switch receipts, Freeserve traffic, Hotmail account, British Library Membership, CCTV, speed cameras. Now you know enough about me to pick me apart, smooth out my skin, open up my gut, pick out my brains, seperate my arteries, uncoil my appendix, tease out my nerves, string up my veins, pool my blood, admire my eyes, sculpt my bones. You know too much, and you're not even paying attention, you're not even asking. Pay attention! Ask! Stop watching me all the time: I leave traces all over the city, spectral aspects, transparent trails, wraith routes: make my way down these every day and forget to think, leave a mental shape, empty. It does not disperse: it's recorded. I detest that image. You got my bad side: look at that nose! Every image I arrange in this highly arranged imagination ruined by a scratchy, gaunt security monitor, watching at the wrong angle, watching at the wrong time. Thought I had control of things. Cower in the loo, that's control. How indecent. How undignified. Still the larks flying, singing, in the sky. The Great Kings of Israel. The Fertile Crescent. The Mountain. The Ocean. I laugh at a friend as he shouts, amusingly: I'm better than this, God damn you! Stephen, you are, you are >>> "I'm not paranoid, I'm violated" >>> Light breeze. Starlings fly past at dusk. A swell of shiny black bodies. Ripple and cluster of silhouettes. Light breeze. Cormorant flying overhead at end of day. Wind paths. Sea swells. Four lighthouses on a horizon, no residents. A swell picks up. Oil tankers anchored offshore. Evening encroaches. Tankers light up like small towns. In the wind and rain, like ghost towns. Lightships wink softly. Heavy seas, caused by the accumulation of strong frontal depressions. The sea's teeth. August. Return of the equinoctial tides. First fresh gales. Moor the yachts. Don wellington boots, navy Guernsey, yellow oilskin, woollen hat, handsome stuble. Wait for the fresh, ferocious dawn. Nova Scota, Iroise Sea, Cape Horn, Galacia, Bay of Biscay. Off the coast of Cornwall, morning: strong south westerly gale, grey-green waves roar in from the Atlantic. Smash rocks, curl up and over onto sandy beaches. Some people walk and watch, some people ride waves on gaudy boards, some people tackle the angry sea and kill fish. Tonight we shall eat beautiful fish by a log fire. Tomorrow there will be mist, thick white mist, and you'll hear foghorns. Foghorns make you feel alone and lost and they are comforting. It's strange. From the vantage point of the sea, we wade into winter, chaps, all pipes and pints and sea shanties and fresh air and danger! Ha ha! and foreign competition and overfishing and broken infrastructure and families below subsistance level They stopped manning lighthouses and I lost a million dreams. They used to sell fish in a big warehouse at Swansea docks. I was young and mum would take me to buy fresh plaice on a Saturday morning, and the fishermen would give us fishheads for the cat, and then we'd go home and have fried plaice for lunch. That was fun! Buying fish at the docks was exciting. They had all sorts of weird things for sale, and you could watch them unload the catch. They don't do this now, it all had to stop. ...we wade into winter, chaps, in our rusty boat on the waves surrounded by storm petrels and manx shearwater, auks and gulls, a speck of dust in a gale, emerald waves with frothy white peaks, they rear up like snow-capped mountains, and dwarf us and they could crush us. We catch fish in our big nets, plucked out from beneath the maelstrom, where it remains calm. Later asleep, sound asleep. With you darling. An owl across the reeds. Somewhere else. That calm we lost. Locked in memory >>> I am a Siberian tiger and I have lost my tigress and my heart bleeds >>> South of France consumed by vast flames. A gift donated by Corsican or Basque seperatists, nobody knows who. These fires are all deliberate. It is the apocalypse. Aircraft scoop up water from the Mediterranean and drop it onto the flames. It is desperate. Residents hose down their houses, and then flee for their lives. Their houses are destroyed. Roads jam. Resorts and campsights are deserted, then they are consumed. A thick black, brown, orange cloud engulfs the sparkling coast. White yachts shine bright against a horizon that resembles medieval hell. The sky turned orange, the smell was too much, ashes were falling into gardens and onto rooftops. Fire rips through dried-out wood. In the hills above St Tropez. Tourists flee in their swimsuits. Last night fires were moving closer to the 19th century £1.5 million home of David Beckham near Bargemon >>> Yet another dream in the feverish night. The walls collapse around London Zoo. The earth is spiralling towards the sun. Windows and wire and mesh melt. The bird cage dissolves. Lions, tigers, pumas, lynx, starved and crazy, dash through London streets, leap on pedestrians, steal meat from supermarkets, claim territory in London parks. Gorillas, apes and monkeys invade city offices, clamber onto famous monuments, swing beneath Thames bridges. Snakes and lizards terrorize the sewers, the tube, decimate the rodent population, it's a hard fight between them and the rats, mice don't stand a chance. Exotic spiders crawl into people's homes, someone finds a black widow in their wardrobe, someone else finds a tarantula in their bath, someone else finds a bird eating spider in their pantry, looking for birds, ridiculously. Giraffes meander through Soho, to the scent of bananas and latex. Rhinoceros rampage through Clerkenwell, hopelessly lost, terrifying, devastating. The sky is alive with rain forest birds, a violent rainbow picked off by white gulls. Lovely penguins crowd the south bank. I pack my bag and go on safari >>> A scientist falls in love with a biometric scan
Whereever you go you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'
George W. Bush
You didn't appear here because you happened to be the context for everything >>> Sau Paulo is a modern Cairo. Medieval Cairo updated, uploaded. Dense, dry chaos. Enigmatic sprawl. Spirtual devastation. Riddlers, story tellers, whores, street venders, thieves. Human squall. Silent murder. Superstition and apocalypse. Spells vs. deals. Bruises, cuts and scars. The flow of alcohol. Street parties. Unpassable streets. The stench and colour of human traffic. Moral eclipse. Love passed freely and tightly bound too. Class disintegrates. Or it just hides behind high walls and iron gates and festers in shanty towns. Divide so wide it disappears. Come out. Be free. Sau Paulo is a modern Cairo. Your soul could die there so easily. Watch it sliver onto the pavement and into the road. Stabbed by high heels. Crushed by wheels. You are healed by a witch doctor. An old Indian lady, a face with lines like battle wounds. A kind of pagan potion. Lose your Catholic roots in desperation. Healed, and then descend further. Meet a devil on the streets of Cairo and Sau Paulo. Kill a priest. Fornicate in the alleys. Drink the poison elixcir. Lost in a dream until you wake up which is never. Sunk in the Arabian Nightmare with a monkey and a prophet. And you're all dead >>> Spitfires flown by chaps over English fields buzzing with bees during a hot war during a hot English summer. Swifts and swallows dart between Spitfire and Nazi bombers. On TV, a black and white film >>> A hot English summer, a sign by Lea River says: On Sat 5th July 03 between 11am and 1pm an incident took place involving a child carrying a fishing net and a man pushing a bike. Did you see them? Or can you assist in any way? In strictest confidence phone: 0207 275 3437. Don't want to think about the gaps in that. I used to love this river. Coot feeding her tiny, ugly chicks (don't worry, you will be beautiful), sense me, swim away in fear. I mean no harm. Continue. Pick through the algae. I'm less dangerous than that damselfly. Sit and watch Canada geese hustle down river. Sit on a concrete river bank. Tower blocks, disused factories, pylons. Hollow, lonely squalor resonates. A rare tern swoops and stops in disgust. Strictly post-industrial now. Action happens in open plan offices. Skin is assaulted by strip lighting and air conditioning. Life is lost as soon as ink dries on the contract of employment. Thou shalt not refuse to work. I sit by a river as the air hums around me. Walk back. Missing: black and white cat. Last seen 16/07/03. 'Stanley' - very friendly 11-month old kitten should be wearing a black collar with blue name-tag. Reward offered. I hope they find their kitten >>> Off to the white of the Antarctic then, my last option. Everything white, so I can disappear into the whiteness. Then the icebergs turn out to glow a ghostly, beautiful blue. Between sky and midnight. Somewhere between there. Another dream? Or a desire? Disappear into a dot on the horizon. My atoms dissolve in a blizzard. Don't like it here. Go North. Fly like an Arctic tern. Do not stop.
Why is life so tragic; so like a strip of pavement over an abyss.
Beneath the pavement - the beach!
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
A reconstruction of Joseph 'Elephant Man' Merrick without his genetic deformities reveals a long, sensitive, handsome face >>> States that support terror will be held accountable. Bombs, more bombs. Held tight to each other after 9/11, bed covered in papers. Try to find facts. Try to hunt them down. Events bind us. And then we find events tear us apart. Keep finding facts. Or reasons even. Pin something down. Clarify anything. Please. In the heat of the moment. In the scorching heat of dialogue. Time runs backwards, a star unexplodes. Numb is the word. I am sorry. I am so sorry. Mortar barrage tears Monrovia apart. Air livid with bullets. Metal wavers. Speed elongates the circumference. Silver darts melt in the heart. There is no "time" here. Time is at an end. There are no "events". There is just: air, crazy with bullets. No thoughts. No thought. No classical thought. Reflexes: survival, envy, anger. Pervasive or condensed at the centre: fear. Many layers of fear, many aspects, many types. All level out in instinct. In drives. Alongside desire. Feed into desire. And vice versa. I am lost now >>> from the Horn of Africa and the Red sea war ships sail to the Mediterranean. In Senegal and Sierra Leone military personnel, helicopters and transport planes wait. They wait for the word: then this is classical thought. Helicopters swarm like gigantic wasps. Get to the Embassy. Protect the Embassy. Bodies left in piles outside the compound. Blood dries out in sun. Life pumps away fast and daylight congeals it almost as fast. Skin rots. Insects gather. Life is really quite cheap. It is reckoned as nothing. >>> They rip Casablanca apart with bombs. Screen dream disintegrates. This quiet glory. It has gone. Rip apart romance with ideology. There is no ideology. These things are so subtle. Things just happen. There are reasons, sometimes there are causes. But no ideology. Do not reduce my emotions to tropes. Keep them inside broken scenes. Fast moments. Moments you wouldn't even see. They are mine. A fake bar. A real war. A bad accent. Eyes, lips, teeth. Glare of studio light. I will interpret my life in relation to such basics. These cyclonic suggestions. This heavy, heady sleep. These dreams. I will always attempt to live them out. Live with the intensity of dream. Whatever the consequences. Even if the consequences humble me. Even if it breaks me. Or I forget these principles. Or I retreat. Or I get lazy. Or I get bored. Or I'm intimidated. I won't regret anything: I promise that to you, to myself >>> All this magic makes my brain ache. I have a dream and in this dream I drive a blue 2CV but it doesn't belong to me. I drive around France, in the countryside, around hairpin bends, beneath high walls, past houses and mountain villages, then behind the Tour de France, and then along the coast, past Monte Carlo and Monaco and the bright, blue sea. I stay at St Tropez. I stare at expensive white yachts, large, large yachts, built as ocean cruising palaces for Saudi princes, American tycoons, European film stars. This is a sad trip. I paddle into the sea at Cannes, cool off my feet. I think about swimming, but sharks worry me. And then I swim. But the water is too warm, and I think I see a shark. In the 2CV I drive back into the mountains as the evening approaches and the sky darkens. There is a storm. I stop above a valley. A large valley, dotted with villages. Small lights twinkle on in all the little houses. The valley is drenched with rain. The storm is contained in a pocket of dark cloud. All around the sky is violet hues, translucent, clear, studded with stars. The storm is condensed, but loud and quite fierce. It passes with much drama and beauty. Now I feel soothed a little, and can carry on >>> Pyongyang fizzles with dimplomatic tension. Will this really be a frontier for war? They have air raid drills daily. Quiet and polite civilians shuffle down into subways. Who knows if this is even a drill? Thinking about Threads. Watched nights before 9/11. Scratchy BBC drama: the film hazy with age. Gritty. Every angle and every subplot grafted for maximum impact. For queasy perspective. Why am I even thinking about this? I can't eat. Tonight, I can't eat. I can't sleep. No, I can't stop sleeping. It's narcolepsy. I go to the bathroom one time and I get so sleepy that I curl up on the floor and sleep for three hours. But I'm still sleepy. Life forces you to degrade youself. To slip up, to make mistakes. So much pain passed around. It's pathetic. We cannot see the consequences. Cannot see the end of the line. Lose sight of our power. We destroy things with such ease. We discard beauty without intention. That's the worst thing. We don't think properly. A blank compulsive drive: tonight, no other impulse. Write until the mind is dumb >>> Don't say it to anybody, love is so delicate, it's mortally fragile. A passerby could pulverize that god made of glass. But if you don't say (it) to anybody, this departure, this madness, you're at the mercy of the god. Nobody will come to your rescue the day the god takes on the aura of devil >>> Words that you have said cling to eternity. They are somewhere, always. You carved them onto the sky together. They remain. One day you will come upon them again. It will overwhelm you. The fact that you could say these things. That you really, fiercely, meant them. You cannot touch that. Whatever happens. These words are untouchable. You dared so much! Risked so much on hope, faith, feeling. To live on nerves once more! Together on a highwire with no safety net >>> Crisis management. Collapse of apartment blocks in Spanish sun in Marbella. Bricks melt. The grass is scorched dry. High rise blocks in Malaga. Bullet holes in concrete. Water streaming down walls. I'm at a loss for an explanation. I cannot clarify a thing. The ordeal has begun.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Liquid city: Dubai. Index to a future world. An experiment. Cultural hinge, taster, litmus test. Quasar. And my retirement into fabulous luxury, waste, expenditure, purpose squandered on a rolling golf course, or on an artificial beach. Dubai is the precusor to future modes of existence perfected: hyperurbanism, consumer excess, plastic beauty, neo-pharaonic vision. Prototype emirate utopia. Watch a premonition reveal itself, a new standard, a new style, style to the nth degree, style encased in style. Luxury as law. A 7-star hotel. Burj Al Arab, the Icon.
Here was the path I had to take: from the part to the whole. The part was R-13. The magnificent whole was our Institute of State Poets and Writers. How could it have happened, I wondered, that the ancients did not immediately see how completely idiotic their literature and poetry was. The immense majestic power of the artistic word was squandered for absolutely nothing. It's simply ridiculous - everybody wrote about whatever popped into his head. It's just as stupid and ridiculous as the fact that the ancients let the ocean go on dumbly beating against the shore around the clock, and the millions of kilogrammeters locked up inside the waves went for nothing but kindling lovers' emotions. We've taken the waves' sweet nothings and turned them into electricity...taken a mad crashing foaming beast and turned it into a domestic animal. In just the same way we've tamed and saddled what used to be the wild nature of poetry. Poetry today is not the impudent nightingale's piping - poetry is government service, poetry is usefulness.
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Sunday, July 13, 2003
I kind of admire Denise Lewis, but I don't care a lot about her, and also I don't like her very much. She's a supreme athelete in many events but just lacks that supersensuary superiority, the slightly disturbed intensity that burns or sparks or shudders through those blessed with greatness. I like watching her: she's a sculpted marvel, a fine and dignified specimen. She's like Toni Braxton: totally devoid of sex appeal, raunch, lust, it's more like she's shaped out of stone or marble, a beautifully-made statue, an abstract ideal of human beauty and achievement, a formula for perfection. Apollinian: "We must keep in mind that measured restraint, that freedom from the wilder emotions, that calm of the sculptor god" (Nietzsche). Not mad genius, but cultivation, accomplishment. Not crazy love, but steady admiration. Then she opens her mouth and it's all indignant and self-satisfied Miss Madam or her baby or blah blah. She's in a bit of trouble because her current trainer has a dodgy past* and the Olympic Commitee are condemning the link, but she's ignoring them. I'm ambivalent about drugs in athletics. The sport is absurdly strict in testing and detection because of past bodyshocks like Ben Jonson and the East German coaches, and yet contemporary athletics is still freakish and fraught with scandal and suspicion. There's nothing really pure about it, despite the pure glory of Denise Lewis' physique, so maybe they should let it be really impure, see how fast and far and hard the human body can be pushed when fed on additive and stimulant cocktail programmes. Pump bodies to the max, poison them to perfection, let's see some mutant do a sub-6 second 100m.
*Dr Ekkart Arbeit. A Stasi report named him as the officiater of systematic steroid abuse by the old East German athletics squad. An East German investigator called him the "architect of the largest pharmacological programmes in history". He was also a Stasi informer. So Denise can really pick 'em.
Straight Outta Clapton
walking home at midnight the other night past a hardware store and a scruffy newsagents on Upper Clapton Road and I note a fashion shoot happening outside the hardware store. In the following formation: two with camera, one with lighting, model, one 20ft behind model with smoke machine. Blasting dry ice. Model all bone and pale skin, contorting, torting, in striped leggings, black and pink, polka dot top, large round plastic earings, white. Scum and scuzz factor, all precious and edgy in The Ghetto. Does this look shit enough for you darling? No, make it look shitter. Yeah, yeah...that's the shit, that's shit! Stick your bones out, darlin'.
Goodbye Coco Chanel.
Nothing to understand here. This ideal of beauty is a myth, a stylistic lie, a sleight of hand: just so thin, and transparent, like clingfilm, not even the beauty of the mundane, not even surrealist myth, not anything. Not even the lovely downbeat, or raging chaos. Not an idea there, just a response, a trope. Not extracting hidden beauty, not uncovering the secrets of an urban sublime. Flatten out paradox and tension. No exile of the wanderer, no flight and fright of discovery, no romantic/hallucinatory derive focus. No fixation, no fear, no flair.
Danny Petroni playing Shalamar, Janet Jackson, Sylvestor, Jackie Moore on Heart FM...that's flair.
All day searching through rubbish sacks and piles of waste dumped in Soho side streets and alleys near Old Street, artists looking for Art. That's not flair.
This girl I know, wears a sharp suit she resurrected from her grandmother's wardrobe, looks like something out of a Vogue photoshoot from 1929, that's flair.
People who say "let's do a thought experiment" or use words like "guesstimate"...that's not flair.
Friday, July 11, 2003
Mr Watkins is getting crushed by crowds in China, and karmic, or Nietzschian, or I don't know what.
> Last Friday night I was in my local Lianhua Supermarket
>(Luckily a Time Supermarket, spawn of Murdoch has yet to arrive in
>my town). As you might expect the place was packed with families and
>singles getting in food for the weekend. I was at the till, my money
>proffered to the cashier as everything went black. As the panic
>began I noticed the entire street outside had suffered a similar
>fate. At once the cashiers began a frenzied chorus as employees
>raced to lock the doors, in competition with people trying to sneak
>out unpaid items. Power cuts are institutionally common in China,
>often a local grid will go down for several hours to save on the
>local authority's bills. However such things never happen at night.
>Perhaps it was the shock of the unauthorised nature of the event in
>addition to a natural fear of (momentary) imprisonment that saw the
>isolated individuals become a rampaging crowd. Voices were raised,
>the gentle pushing associated with shopping became ruck like, a look
>of bewildered anger registered in every face I saw. I just stood at
>the counter patiently watching the scene before my eyes until I was
>hurriedly ushered out by the woman on the till. Why I am raising
>this matter with you is that I don't think McKenzie or Cannetti
>mentioned that while crowds are entrancing and attractive entities
>they seem to have limited luck in co-opting aliens into their midst.
>I could feel the heart of the crowd as it streamed down the street
>to the crossroads, fueled by the exile of shoppers from the
>boutiques and garage floor caverns of the main street. Mothers
>called out for their lost children, car horns grew repetitive and
>seemingly sharper in tone as bodies enveloped vehicles and middle
>aged men battered past bikes and teenage girls. The sense of
>unfocused hostility was even felt by the only dog I saw, a young
>whippet in a sidecarred basket of an advancing motorcycle, its howls
>giving a high pitched accompaniment to the general cacophony. I
>sensed it but my mind was free to enjoy the newly formed spectacle
>as it marched to its unknown goal.
> As a walked I noticed a group of about eleven men had
>split off from the mass and were now angrily circling the nearest
>telephone pole. The tribe had decided to fix the problem itself,
>grabbing the nearest torch or tool that came to hand as a stout,
>brown, shirtless man hugged to the minifridge size box relay that
>lay nine foot above the pavement. I have to admit I reckoned/hoped
>that the power was going to come back on any minute, while all I
>wanted to know was when the bloke got fried would he fly off the box
>or rigorously cling to the thing as the amps ran through his body.
>Sadly no such moment came and the monster continued to drag me down
>the street. Luckily it met the night market five hundred metres
>later, a lined cross of cloth and wheeled stalls, many with light
>bulbs hung from wooden poles connected to mobile batteries where
>commerce still reigned. This remainder of light, combined with the
>levels of choice the crossroads offered, saw the crowd-thing wither
>and trickle away seven minutes after its sudden birth. I spent the
>rest of the night outside the gate of my school sipping warm beer
>and swapping cigarettes with the guard, his family and few young
>teachers as we sat under a nearly full moon. One teacher finally
>plucked up the courage to ask me about the war, it seemed fitting to
>talk about it while Liuhe did a silent, if passable impression of
> I should begin my travels later this week. At present I am
>enduring a blissful isolation within the confines of an empty
>school. While I will be alone for most my journey I am drinking up
>that unique flavor of solitude that can only come from a home.Three
>days ago I climbed to the school roof and graffitied the protruding
>outside of the stairwell with one word, asserting my ownership and
>transforming this past hive of mediocrity to become a drab, off
>white scholar's garden. Its design and decor, like motorways and
>airports, fit its purpose and the emerging spirit of the twenty
>first century. I love my garden, its concrete courts freed from the
>interruptive sounds of basket balls, its dormitory balconies
>unsullied by the foreign adornment of electric light and sheeting,
>its classrooms transcending their defilement from the hurried
>squeals and movements of hundreds of fleshy bodies to produce only
>empty order. The compound and I, its new headmaster, have allied
>together to defeat the regulated buzzing of the forty-five minute
>bell. I preside over a beautifully static space that educates non
>existent pupils for phantom factories and fictional corporations, an
>essential cog in the economy of bugger all. Of course I still have
>employees, the guard and his companions sit around the gate, they
>greet me with the polite yet faintly anxious look that befits one in
>authority. They do not venture too far into the school, respecting
>the integrity of my new educational regime as I sit in a lawn chair
>on the badminton court, reading about Chaos as I fight to keep the
>hum of nature at bay and absorb ordered peace through the very
>architecture that was once a slave to the regulated, messy patterns
>of communal living. I am the naked king of a blessedly exorcised
>land, see my works ye flighty and rejoice.
Speaking of Daria Brit, she's currently rocking a wife beater on the streets of Brooklyn. How is it, d?
>N train, pumping stagnant air conditioning, reeking of old sweat and failed
>deoderant products. man staring at my chest. one flourescent light
>flickering on, off, out and buzzing. Train: an impossible location to
>maintain any sort of real conversation: "the one sitting next to the one
>with the gold stuff, look at those nasty toenails." "the one with the ugly
>baby- her shirt stained with breast milk, I feel so horrible for her, blah
>blah" man staring at my legs, women staring at my toes to see who's got the
>better pedicure. (me, of course, I picked a shade called champagne which
>contrasts very nicely with my pink brazilian flip-flops and my smooth TANNED
>The conductor-guy on the train smiled and waved to us as we departed at
>Pacific Street saying, "you are beautiful people, all of you are just
>"Finally, someone sane, " I thought.
>We walked up the subway stairs, out into the street- nasty 4th avenue
>brooklyn. A salty cluster of "no pork halal", charity shops, and churches:
>1. The church of the holy redeemer
>2. The church of the holy virgin
>3. Jesucristo es el senor (my favorite "Universal" Church where they annoint
>worshippers with oils from jerusalem and babylon.)
>Did you know Brooklyn used to be called the "City of Churches". Everywhere
>you look there's a steeple. I should be repectful to the church and describe
>the view from my window as ³overlooking a sea of phallic symbols² fuck that,
>it¹s a city of cocks popping up with bells in place of balls.
> I used to live in this neighborhood when it was truly ghetto, the deep,
>honest kind of ghetto- burned out vans on corners smoking for days, stray
>robberies. I abandoned that ship when the boys from the corner with the 40s
>in the brown paper bags started following me home, then eventually climbed
>up the fire escape and knocked on my window. (Flattery will get you
>nowhere, boys, but it will get my sweet ass packing to the fancy
>so I gave up the ghetto for a life in late-night chic restaurants, eating
>shellfish in the early morning hours as the church cocks toll.
>So, I¹m not legitimately poor, but I am unmistakably careless with money- I
>drink it away in those candelit corners, not those dark alleyways. But I
>miss the dark alleyways. And the secrecy and quietude that comes with living
>a life in filth. So, getting wasted on Veuve Cliquot gold label and being a
>slut has nothing to do with debauchery. true debauchery has nothing to do
>with any material pleasures- there is no material involved just my fuckt
>brain and my shaky body. And of course my animal¹s mouth. Grrrrrr. I think
>I¹d feel a greater amount of satisfaction and accomplishment waking up after
>a morning of fucking in a pile of garbage than making drunken love on calvin
>klein sheets- which I am currently lying upon while my sweet toes savor the
>luscious blend of egyptian cotton and that ready-made giddiness that comes
>with knowing you can smear your cum all over designer sheets and no one will
>know except the washing machine. (or the neighbors, if you leave the
>curtains open like I do).
>So where was I? Brooklyn is a dirty fuckhole will some lovelier-tasting
>regions. It was to one of these sweet spots that our group was heading the
>I love the Spanish language because I can¹t understand anything except
>foodnames. Our Brazilian waiter- looking too much like Johnny depp- I even
>got a little slick in the seat. He called me senorita and sang to me
>flamenco-style. (the table was shocked, it was pretty comical, but at least
>he has a different approach than these ³I will stare at you until you
>acknowledge that I am staring at you then I will lick my lips at you² kind
>of men that lurk suspectingly in halfway-lucid subway cars on the short ride
>to work in the mid-morning.)
>It was the most beautiful kind of food orgy because the people around me
>disappeared and all I could fathom was my own selfish pleasure sucking on
>olives marinated with orange peel and red pepper flakes. I wanted to roll
>those olives across my body, hide them in my armpits and stash them between
Richey # 1
Glad that Mark @ k-punk picked up the Burton baton - my grandparents would've enjoyed this discussion because they both loved Burton, he was a big favourite. Among a whole galaxy of stars: Barry John, Gerald Davis, JPR Williams, Merv the Swerve, Dylan Thomas, Shirley Bassy, Frank Sinatra, Tony Hancock, Bilko, Tommy Cooper, John McEnroe, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracey, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. My grandparents had excellent taste. My mum went to Pontrhydyfen to see Elizabeth Taylor arrive at Burton's sister's house the day before his funeral, and she has a Polaroid of Liz outside a red-brick Welsh terrace row in a bright pink frock, looking really pretty and really silly. Apparently Burton used to take Taylor down the Minor's Arms in Pontrhydyfen for boozing sessions with the locals, although possibly not in outfits like that.
Of all his contemporaries Burton has something that really endures beyond the rest: serpentine Richard Harris is too slithery and unsympathetic, Oliver Reed is too boorish and bloated (but hilarious), Terence Stamp is too prissy and precious, Peter O'Toole is too kitsch and hysterical (and never really recovered from Noel Coward calling him "Florence of Arabia"), Michael Caine got the best films (Get Carter, Zulu - although Burton's in that too, the Welsh connection I guess, South Wales Borderers fought in that battle, Caine is fantastic in it because he's so camp), but ultimately he's too transparent, self-regarding and insubstantial. And don't start me on what followed: Anthony Hopkins and Richard Attenborough. (David Attenborough, on the other hand, do start me on: a man of brilliance, and much substance, and he can act better than his brother, he can act all nonchalant and English when a tiger is ripping his tent apart, and that I admire.)
So what is it? Maybe it's guilt: he had this big guilt complex about drinking and womanising, and about leaving his first wife and their retarded child for Taylor. Maybe it's the sense of loss: he lost his mother who died early, and then lost his father to drift and drinking. Maybe the lack of security, solidity, one home to stay in: he was always drifting between houses and family members, then between Port Talbot and Pontrhydyfen, then between countries (he yearned for home: think of the similarity between South Wales valleys and Switzerland, his eventual home (no, seriously), even Taylor looks like a Welsh girl: dark, petite, prone to puppy-fat, violently pretty eyes) etc. Maybe he was ashamed: he used to say in interviews that he didn't feel proud of being an actor, that all he did was dress up and prance around in make-up and fancy dress, and that what he really wanted was to get a cap playing rugby for Wales.
Who knows what it is? History and biography dissolve on screen, in role. Roles are transformed and transcended by great stars, and great stars let a role transform them and transcend them. With great movie actors and actresses a performative essence is often distiled in and transmitted through the eyes: tempest swirls in the iris, or eyelids flashing, or falling, unbearable sadness contracting in the pupil, or bright joy bursting through the cornea. Garbo's eyes look away and onto some intense, brooding horizon of purples, dark blues and pitch blacks, cold Scandinavian passion: longing and tragedy that is never redressed or expressed. A glacial gaze that cannot be broken, penetrated, or returned. Burton has the eyes of a hounded dog, beautiful eyes assaulted by shame, indignity, fear, contempt; they appeal for mercy or supplication, and when they don't get it, or when they do and don't want it, the shadows form again, the squint sets, cavernous crinckles form, the gaze hits the floor, or the wall behind you, or a door to the side. Burton's eyes want to escape something, everything...his eyes distil hate and fear, of what surrounds him, but most poignantly of himself. It's like he can barely bring himself to look at the outside world, but he can't bring himself to look inside either. Eyes caught in a trap, torn both ways, struck with an existential, pitiable terror that somehow bestows an incredible sense of dignity. And from the eyes this secret screen language spreads across the body: the walk, the poise and posture, vocal ticks and traits, chemistry and erotic charisma. This is something accidental, natural, a bundle of characteristics that fall together in some disorder, and find order in exaggeration on the movie screen, the body organ-ising itself on film as it disrupts and configures a role to its own specifications and desires. Think of Garbo's masculine glide, or Burton's handsome and haggard hunch. Or Garbo's deep, mysterious, absurd Swedish accent, both tragic and comic ("I tank I go home now"), and Burton's rich, melodious voice, full of poetic intonations, majestic control of music and metre, but elocution barely keeping a South Wales accent at bay, Shakespearian grandeur edged with Welsh lilt and sway.
It's funny that I keep putting Garbo and Burton together all the time, they aren't really connected at all. They met once, a meeting Burton recalled like this: While attending a party at which one of the guests was Garbo, I curiously asked her, 'Could you do me a great favour? May I kiss your knee?' She replied, 'Certainly,' and I leaned over and did so. It was an experience I'll never forget." They have some similarities: Garbo came from a poor peasant background in Sweden, Burton from a poor mining background in Wales, so cultural displacement and Hollywood alienation were common experiences for both of them. Also, Garbo and Burton weren't in very good films: their greatness relies on an inate ability to bring something else, some mercurial property, some pervasive aura, to any number of studio vehicles and follies. They both had that very rare ability to make almost any film good just by being in it, a quality that has little to do with acting, and everything to do with charisma, instinct, and chance.
Luka London Lorca
is the only poet in oooh 30 years or something even worth reading...I'm serious! Do you know what kind of madness that is? ...he spills words like gilded trash, erudite garbage, airwave junk, taxi intercoms on the edge of radio dials, processer typos. Mangled words, chewed words, shredded words. I've been rummaging thru (even spelling poet-style now) Luke's archives and it's like Frank 'O Hara + Iain Sinclair + Ghost Face Killah x Finnegans Wake. Scratch that: it's its own thing, something out of control, even Luke can't control the Heronbone sprawl now, the stems, stalks, nodes, networks... "arrgh! it's alive! ..."
London's a beautiful place...
it's dirty, it's messy, it's humid, it hums, it's green, it's a maze, it's grey, it's elegant, it's derelict, it's dicey, it's cut by flight paths, undercut by subway tracks, it's gridlocked and it's tranquil, it bakes in the hot sun all summer and then scowls through drizzle and bitter cold all winter, walls erode with weed and flyposters and aerosol paint, the air cracks and crackles with radio signals, mash-ups and mutations, there's sex everywhere, stupidity and style, so many alleys and roads and streets and squares that A-Z ink bleeds and clots, myths, legends, true stories and lies hide and spawn in those blotches, and nothing works, you can't get anywhere, everything is chaos, streets overrun by rodents and flies and feral pigeons, and tiny shops that never change, historic portals, weeds and flowers from Siberia and the East, tumbling delicatessens, farms and markets, soca shops, ragga shops, jazz shops, shops that sell sea shanty CDs and shit, elegant parks, hidden parks, parks like small countries, menageries, birdcages, taxi hqs, rusting railway lines lit up with graffiti mosaics and rampaging weed,
there's marshes, poplar forests, reed beds, regal parks, refineries, sewage plants, and orange houses, manor houses, castles, Victorian bridges, palaces, and rivers with kingfishers, canals where people live their whole lives on longboats, where people canoe home from work, football fields and stadiums, cricket greens, racing tracks, dogs, horses, world class sprinters, there's raves and concerts, obscure cinemas, weird video shops, dodgy video shops, there's all sorts of food, Polish, Bengalese, Ethiopian, fish and chips, crepe, this place, this place you divide it by postal districts and style blocs and pre-industrial villages and then you times it by bus routes, underground connections, short cuts, and endless walking, walking, walking. And this is the sort of thing you get at heronbone: geography, style, sound, wildife, routes, strategies, epiphanies. Survival through articulation; resistance through disfiguration. Defiance; wit; thought.
Luka Luka, you're the best poet I know who's not dead, just ahead of my friend Daria Brit, somewhere in NYC, not dead either but certainly dreaming about Andre Breton and kickboxing my head in, she writes like this: Soft guts smeared my sock drawer - a hysterical effigy of someone's crying wife. Married Mario with the figure-eight nostrils. Fucked my betty crocker for a handful of dimes. Woe is my marinated ear, dripping with cold cream.
Swifts are out in great numbers this gorgeous, warm & breezy evening; some hunt in packs, knit in and out of each other's flight patterns, some break away, swirl, hover and dive. Watching, breath caught. Wow.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Walking down the bank of River Lea, people sweeping past in canoes and kayaks, swans scratching their stomachs with their beaks, coots mooching through bright green algae, damselflies buzzing about in the mild heat.
Went to the Middlesex Filter Beds nr. Clapton this pm, built in the late nineteenth century to purify water for London's residents after the great cholera outbreak, now derelict and converted into a nature reserve. For some reason it's closed all week, and only opens on the weekend, so I had to climb over a large gate, but it was excellent, and I saw loads of things.
The supple silhouette of a kestrel hunting and twirling in the bright white sky. A linnet jumping between branches. Reed warblers flashing in and out of reed banks like flint sparks. A grey heron perched on a rusting iron shack, stretching out its wing span and languidly dropping into flight. A cuckoo dashing away in panic. Two jays grooming themselves on a dusty path. A green woodpecker feeding frantically along the ground. Huge flashy blue damselflies chasing flies across reed beds and marshes. Loads of different white and tortoiseshell butterflies fluttering around immature blackberry bushes. Down the other side of the River Lea, clusters of canada geese and mallard families milling lazily. And then a flash of sharp electric blue - a kingfisher shooting downriver (truly, it's been that kind of day).
Sitting down to read Frank O' Hara by the side of a marsh, suddenly disturbed by a rustle in the twisted reeds, gorse, nettles and weeds below my feet, so I investigate expecting a rat or water vole or warbler or something, and then I see a fucking big grass snake sliding away into the marsh. Great thick thing with black markings all down its back, must have been as long as my arm. I basically ran away. It was pathetic.
Went and had a sleep by Walthamstow marsh and sank into the rich meshwork of sound: Wagn trains, aeroplanes flying in and out of Stanstead, the cows and bulls grazing and moseying on the marsh, young girls riding past on horses, blackbirds, chaffinches, doves, wood pigeons, bumblebees (bees have really fat white bums), crickets, grasshoppers, middle aged people walking lovely dogs, bicycle tires crackling through gravel, slight breeze rustling leaves and the subtle buzz of electricty pylons fizzing beneath all the other sounds.
I keep seeing one solitary magpie at the moment, so I have to expect the worst, but today I saw three together, so now I'm expecting a letter.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Somalian Warlords, drug dealers and gunmen high on qat murdering civilians, stealing food from the starving, extorting huge profits from relief agencies (charity = target business op). Oil tankers and war ships bombed in Islamic jihad. Oil slicks. Bosnian Death camps. Sarajevo 80 years after 1914. The death cry of dictators.
In the 1990s nothing happened, did it? It seemed like nothing happened, Cold War stasis dissolved into pre-millennium inertia...stand-off to death drift...no tactility but dreams of virtual everything...the 1990s wasted a decade...it was the end of a route, a tedious culmination of prophecy...it started rapacious with misplaced optimism, and ended exhausted, weary, shocked or cynical. Foucault's lament for the human subject, Derrida's death of the addresse, Lacan's empty subject, Thatcher's death of society, etc. exorcised in the weary accumulation of objects, the phyrric victory of product.
In the 1990s we let one of the most barbaric, catastrophic, apocalyptic decades in history drift by with our eyes fixed on the year 2000 and the X-Files...multiple genocides erupting across the globe, inner cities imploding at the heart of civilisation, child killers and death squads, drug epidemics, the implosion of the image, death as style, millions and millions swarming into cities, across borders, between continents, the dispossessed, the lost, and the ambitious. The people of the 1990s were people like: Donald Trump, Anna Nicole Smith, Don Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Tipper Gore, Louis Farrakhan, Killah Priest, Jean Baudrillard, Salman Rushdie, Ayatollah Khomeini, Michael Alig, Jean Marie Le Pen. People pregnant with the distorted gleam and glare of their own image, people of default importance.
and we lived through a strange fin de siecle: fixated on the healthy, the nutritious, the palatable, the good, and obsessed with the sick and the catastrophic, the obscene and the occult. We were rational and moral, but superstitious and greedy. Obsessed with life, healthcare, hygiene, fitness, cholesterol, heart disease...a society in quarantine, under the law of preventative measures, prolonging existence towards a dream of immortality, and some froze their cells, wishing to see the far future, to go beyond the span of life. The dream of life carried within it a vision of death, and every precaution, every safety feature, every prohibition ("for your own good") was haunted by the spectre of mortality, terror of the sudden end, the unexpected cut-off. The origins of the 21st Century Security State, and its ultimate symbol and event, 9/11. Too much Life. Too much prosperity, too much commodity, suffused with the gorgeous and the useless, the hi-tech, the sublime. Models supersceded models: micro-innovation, a narrative of obsessive detail and creeping obsolescence. Everything you ever needed that you didn't even know you needed until the need was identified. In primary colours! Large letters! Amazing adverts, cinematic adverts, ironic adverts. Violent irony, quips that cut, left scars on the unironic heart. The assurance of desire cut away: nobody can decide for you, not even yourself. Car as cocoon, home as womb, office as amniotic sac. When do you ever breathe in pure air? (Never, and you never have.) How do you escape? (You cannot: all space is mapped, all routes tied up, cartography devours every inch of land. But there's the deep ocean. Yes, you could drown...) The mission creep of comfort.
What were you doing on September 11, 2001?
What were you doing on April 10, 1994?
Too much life ferments the pathological All and Everywhere of death. And the nothing of death, too. Which means that every Western military operation is characterised by the total horror of every single casualty, while the massacre of vast populations passes by in a death-saturated glaze. It took the death of three soldiers to convince the US to pull out of Somalia and leave the country to its doom.
Western Military is a system of slaughter that remains at a safe distance, an invisible death-bringer, missiles delivered from mid-ocean, stealth bombers that disappear from radar. Predator systems, invisible hunters, anonymous aggressors. A clean and lethal spectacle, a pyrotechnical display. Western Military is like a research institution for avant garde technology (to return the term avant garde to something like its military origin) and every battle field is a testing ground, so every war is like a preparation for the next, and then the next for the next: each war a research lab for the ultimate war, the perfect war. And the perfect victory: the defeat of death.
Security = desire for immortality.
Make everything transparent, but at the same time make everything a secret. The paradox of conspiracy theory, and the split desire of the 1990s, when politics flatlined, and agency evaporated in postmodern theory and neoliberal practice. Decade of the Illuminati and the sublime death of the Heaven's Gate Cult. The decade when God's spaceship became a given. The decade when Al Qa'ida training camps remained hidden.
I wrote this in 1999, prescient bastard: "All in the British cities Osama Bin Laden rips through the terraced rows and flats and family homes, Abaddon with US hardware to the ruling classes, Apollyon in a turban, murderous hero - this being the last resort of heroism, a new outlaw hero. The future in semtex flashes, a future of things we know nothing about, as we languish in a swollen cocoon, and laugh at love, and faith - what a joke! Meanwhile technology gives birth to a holy war that slips underground, and then overground - what a shock, blood-smeared streets. Osama Bin Laden is the new outlaw hero. Teach you to get stupid and lazy. Rewind to Old Testament terror tactics. Cull flowers with a carpet of fire."
Throughout the stagnation of the 1990s, events were 'on strike'...Well, the strike is now over. Events are not on strike any more. With the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, we might even be said to have before us the ultimate event...
The Future Will See Rivers of Oil, Rivers of Blood
Bush arrives in Africa like he's on some business or reconnaissance mission, or a clever hybrid of the two, when in fact it's neither - why on earth would they send him? There's a strong symbolic investment in W.'s tour, but the work and the calculation is being done quietly, covertly, for sure, because material, monetary, strategic, and political interests of the gravest importance are in the frame, there to be worked through and put in place. Let's not be cynical, but let's not be silly, either: this is no good-will charity jaunt on the part of the US, that much is clear - solid alliances are being courted with oil-rich states, for the sake of...the Objective. W. tours to introduce his presence, assert subtle authority (muscle and money), indicate US intentions to the world in disingenuous terms. The continent is a hive of "big whities", from the Whitehouse to the oil companies to the military. Ambitions and appetites are quite clear. On the campaign trail in 2000, Africa was not important to the national strategic interest, said W.: "there's got to be priorities". Then two years ago the US Middle East Adventure became less secure, less assured, and Dick Cheney predicted that West Africa would become the fastest growing provider of oil and gas to the US. Untapped oil fields were marked throughout the Gulf of Guinea. These are ready to be extracted by advanced drilling techniques and massive multicorporate spending by ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, amongst others.
The geopolitical balance veers. New military bases, new money. "We can't just rely on these Saudi punks." "We gotta go where nobody is watching."
The US has indentified increasing African oil imports as an issue of 'national security' and has used diplomacy to court African producers regardless of their record on transparency, democracy or human rights.
Ian Gary, Bottom of the Barrel: Africa's Oil Boom and the Poor
2 Main Oil States:
Nigeria (2002 production figure: 2100 x 1000 barrels a day), a country ruined by economic mismanagement, apart from the oil sectors that are rife with corruption. Local revolt against government domination of oil revenues has led to brutal military repression in the Niger Delta. Nigeria does not publish details of oil revenues in the national budget.
Angola (900 x 1000 barrels a day), oil revenues helped maintain and extend civil war for 3 decades, as diamonds funded the UNITA rebel movement, oil revenues of $2 billion meant the goverment could continue to fight the conflict. Angola does not publish details of oil revenues in the national budget.
In terms of charity it's interesting how much US interest there's been regarding the deposition of Charles Taylor from Liberia - at the top end of the Gulf of Guinea - and how little US intervention, or even mention, there is regarding Congo's appalling civil war. Meanwhile Oil Men swan into Angola's city and coastal districts, drink cocktails and beers in air-conditioned bars, discuss geological reports, strike deals, discuss shares and political strategy . The prize draw: a US contracter is set to build a massive oil refinary on the Angolan Coast. The country is in ruins, a scene of destitution and decimation, something unlikely to change because of the oil industry's newest bonanza, or US desire to buy non-Opec oil. The largest influx of revenue in Africa's history, ready to disappear into the world's most brazen network of corruption and venality. Either a golden opportunity for aid, or a golden opportunity for war. And so far the record says...what do you expect? Don't be cynical, but don't be silly.
There's plenty of talk about combating AIDs and poverty and sorting out some nice free trade systems for whoever wants it (they'll all want in sooner or later), but less talk of combating combat itself, of solving internal, ethnic, tribal divisions. The UK government and business watchdogs talk of open transparency and corporate responsibility, while companies continue to pour billions of dollars into the coffers of rotten governments and corrupt, murderous states. Less talk of changing deep structural causes, of diminishing a ready market for neoliberal reform and wide profit margins for the sake of social welfare or wealth distribution (it's sweet as it is, mate). No talk of actually trying to assauge Africa's internal conflicts and schisms, because the US has been burnt like that before (cf. Somalia again). The US (along with the former USSR) is responsible for supporting infamous regimes during the Cold War that fermented corruption and systematically encouraged tribal division, eventually leading their countries to ruin, civil war, and in the worst case, outright holocaust (Rwanda). Interests of security exaggerated by paranoia and dropped right into the swirling crucible of post-war independence, a whole load of loose canon states, looking for backing and structural assistance (money and models) from either Cold War power bloc. Military regimes who led their countries to independence, only to lead them into meltdown and suicide, because of avarice, depravity, and lust for power. Africa in the 1990s: the most horrific legacy of the Cold War, bar the Hydrogen Bomb. The US has always remained silent about this, about its
political, diplomatic and material role in the origins of African interstate and civil war and genocide. But I saw a clip of Reagan and Mobutu outside the Whitehouse on TV the other day, and I read that George Bush had met Mobutu 13 times by 1989 and had invited him to the Bush family home. It makes you want to puke! (Ironic touch being the tacit support the US gave to Laurent Kabila's overthrow of the Mobutu regime and the dissolution of Zaire in 1997. And look where that's led...)
Obscuring the Roots of Genocide
One of the big obstacles to ever solving anything in Africa is a global inability - or refusal - to understand the roots of conflict, or its complex, paradoxical underpinnings, loyalties, and schisms. Western media still suffers from the Michael Burke syndrome: the harsh truth is that African reporting too often resorts to the sympathy trope, the sentimental spur, the call for compassion, things we can understand and feel sick about, starving children and refugees and disease, but without focusing on why there are starving children, why there are refugees, why AIDS and malaria are never effectively contained. Because...because why? Because political motivations and machinations are too complex, too easily manipulated and distorted by those who perpetrate and perpetuate them, too easily misunderstood by those who report. Because people generally don't care to look for culpability and complicity, and are only too willing to be brought by their own governments and corporations, to capitulate to cultural expectations, and to turn away from their own fears and their disgust. Because it's easier to see and do things a certain way, the way that is expected...by whom? By Somebody, by anybody who wants things to be simple, a conflict of two sides, with clear criminals, clear victims, and simple motives. It's easier than seeing what is there - dark impulses, human sickness, planned genocide, paradoxical schisms, micro-seperatisms, democratic duplicity, etc. It's easier than opening your eyes to horror and then trying to articulate it.
The worst example being Rwanda, left to its suicidal fate in 1994 by the UN, the aid agencies and the journalists, while Hutu-perpetrated genocide raged throughtout the country. As the Tutsi RPF swept back through Rwanda thousands of Hutu refugees poured into Tanzania and the Congo. Aid agencies advertised their plight and global media attention switched: here is a story that could be packaged in compassion. The official US and French line held: that the Hutu refugees were innocent civilians fleeing a brutal civil war. Unable - shamefully - to report that there was no war in Rwanda, but only systematic genocide of the Tutsis, Hutu moderates and Tutsi-sympathisers, anyone unlucky enough to be victim of the civilian militias' fever for death. Unable to report a genocide carried out by the Hutus now pouring into refugee camps (to call what was happening in Rwanda "genocide" would have necessitated immediate intervention, something neither the US or the UN were prepared to do after their disaster in Somalia, thus Rwanda was left to self-destruct). Western news agencies poised to tell a story of sympathy and sentiment rather than a story of killers fleeing the same fate they had just delivered to their neighbours. As Mark Huband said: for the distant news desks of London, Washington, and elsewhere, it was deemed necessary to call it war, because then the worldwide inaction could seem more justifiable...But there was no war.
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Complexities of art, morality, amorality, immorality, cultural complicity, desire, and guilt:
We were eaten up by repressed violence and we were soured by the constant terror of the inconceivable violence being committed on ourselves and the rest of man. From this we had strugglingly produced a culture. It's possible to get hysterical over the obvious connection between that culture, as it stood in 1965, and the Moors Murders. I did. It's possible to get carping about it. Pamela Hansford Johnson did. It's possible to pretend there isn't a connection. That's rubbish.
Romantics, Symbolists, Dada, Surrealists, Existentialists, Action painters, Beat poets and the Royal Shakespeare Companyhad all applauded de Sade from some aspect or other. To Ian Brady de Sade was a licence to kill children. We had all at some time cried 'Yes yes' to Blake's 'sooner murder an infant in his cradle than nurse an unacted desire'. Brady did it.
...Moral shame, moral absurdity, moral abuse, moral outrage had frozen us at a point of almost total negativity. The way out was numbing the moral sense and the use of sensation, the pain and the anger as propulsion. In the perilous adventure towards movement and construction there was the possibility of terrible catastrophe. The catastrophe fell on the heads of Brady and Hindley, who were less sophisticated and less prepared, who did not know yet how vicously ill they were...
A poet, when told of the first rumours of the Moors Murders, nodded and said 'Ah, it's started.'
From Jeff Nuttall, Bomb Culture, 1968
Fantastic depiction of Burton in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold at k-punk. 1. I agree. 2. Wish I'd been watching TV last night, but then again I was watching sunset outside the NFT and lamps slowly light the path, but anyway...it's funny how Burton is virtually forgotten now, I mean in comparison to Michael Caine for God's sake, his iconic status, so bright in the 60s, has dimmed virtually to nothing, even in Wales. Burton's disgust with the world around him, and with himself, that well of guilt behind his eyes, that venomous, self-destructive tongue, and the violated idealism, lost and twisted into vicious amorality - you can sense it in every line he spits, in whatever role, from Cleopatra through to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (this latter an absolute gem, by the way, and Tayler's best ever screen performance). Like Garbo there's something more than just acting going on - this is the drama of charisma, beauty, pain and loss. The grand tragedy of the movie screen, the Hollywood machine.
Description of "black widow" Condoleezza Rice by Hasan al-Batal (friend of Yasar Arafat) writing in the Arabic newspaper Al-Ayyam. It's almost lyrical, and mired in prejudice, but also weird admiration, and I found it really amusing:
She has a nice shape, no less so than the supermodel Naomi Campbell, and she is cleverer than the British 'Iron Lady', Margaret Thatcher, but beware...she has a strong feeling for Israel.
I don't know, he sounds almost afraid, doesn't he? It's almost too formidable a prospect...Cleopatra and Siren in one body!
Mahmood Malik, "prime minister" of GAM has his own figures concerning the war in Aceh. He reckons it goes something like this:
- 1000 dead civilians
- 500 dead Indonesian soldiers
- 100 dead GAM fighters
The Indonesian military are now saying:
- 325 dead rebels. This to add to a total of 680 arrested/surrenderd GAM fighters. Don't know how this tallies with an earlier estimate I quoted, which claimed that about 4500 GAM fighters had been lost. Figures flying around!
- 36 dead soldiers/policemen
- 48, 000 refugees.
And on it goes. Inexorably.
Obviously impressed by their form in Aceh and East Timor, the International Community has invited the Indonesian Military to join a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping mission to sort out the civil war currently ripping apart the Republic of Congo.
Christ. Well if anyone can match carnage for carnage...
Coming soon then, a potted history of the West's complicity in Mobutu's venal reign in Zaire - taking in the Cold War US, Belgium, the Switz banking system, and the world's diamond market - and its subsequent descent into pseudo-tribal barbarity and chaos. It's a bloody tale of avarice, vanity, unimaginable violence, corruption, and duplicity. We have another Rwanda on our hands, ladies and gents, and another decade of African Apocalypse, intensified by the new oil rush (be afraid for Angola, things will get worse again soon, unbelievably, and also Nigeria, which is currently unravelling at an alarming pace).
When I said that Guyotat's novels presaged the genocidal devastation of Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the 90s, I should have also - and more accurately - mentioned the Africa of Rwanda, Liberia, Angola, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and so on. The scale of tribal, holy and state genocide and corruption in these countries during their post-colonial and post-Cold War eras is ancient and unimaginable (between 3.1 and 4.7 million people are estimated to have died in Congo's recent civil war alone, the largest death toll in any single conflict since the second world war). And it's there in our news reports and everything, but then it's hard to quantify the impact on humanity and all our supposed standards and principles of civilisation when
1. The press is seemingly unable to convey the details and atmosphere of these conflicts and complex networks of tribal/political hatred, fear and brutality, except for the occasional, singular journalist who can report and articulate these things (step up Mark Huband). And..
2. ...when our governments and leaders are absolutely complicit in and responsible for creating the political conditions for Africa's dark age, so obfuscation of events and facts is mandatory. It takes incisive, patient and courageous reporting to unravel the machinations and history behind the confusion and division of Africa in the 20th century. (Step up, uh, Mark Huband.)
Iraq is about oil? Forget it, no way, this is the real Oil Story, the new oil rush, the new insult to human diginity. Coming soon, actually, right now.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Things are happening fast in Aceh now. I come back from Wales to 38 emails relating to Indonesia's suppresion in the region, that's just under ten a day, an average of three articles/reports per mail (I have busy sources). Not that you'd know any of this from reading the British press, which isn't surprising considering the heavy reporting restrictions now in place, and...well, it's an awkward one. (Respect to Paul Barber and Rizali Pidie for getting this stuff out.) So...
Indonesian army chiefs are claiming that Aceh is now 100% under military control, and GAM is down to 500-600 fighters from an initial 5000. However fighting prevails, and is actually spreading into the cities, with reports in the last day of grenades being thrown through office windows and a bomb defused in a hospital ward. Numerous stories of extra-judicial killings and torture continue to materialise, three soldiers had their knuckles rapped for rape offences and a military commander said "sorry about that" but this seems to be the tip of a brutal 'berg. More than 25, 000 villagers have fled their homes since the fighting began, and now reside in hastily erected refugee camps. Food supplies are running low, public services are seriously effected. Exxonmobile have got into the spirit of things by giving 1000 Aceh workers the sack (war provides a nice opportunity for a clearout, it seems). Meanwhile, it turns out that UK arms exports to Indonesia have risen twentyfold in the last two years, from £2 million to £40 million. British products include: training aircraft, tanks, rocket launchers, armoured personnel carriers. (And this is not to mention all the hardware being poured into the barely difused India-Pakistan conflict.) So at least we're getting something out of all this chaos and destruction.
Troops and police are now involved in what is basically an all-out assault to wipe GAM off the face of the earth, and erase their influence from the province completely, by executions, torture and displacement. Real subtle tactics. Great for the region. Soon it'll be: "we hope to regenerate tourism in Aceh, yes, that's right, as it slowly gets back on its feet we wish to help it in a process of rehabilitation". Great beaches! Great gas fields! Great mass graves! Come to Aceh!
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Went Home and Came Back Again
At home I went down to Swansea in a car: the St Tropez of South Wales (yes? Kind of...but bombed out and rebuilt by post-war planners with a thirst for bad concrete, straight lines, and Le Corbusier on the cheap, and packed with indigenous towny province proles, Dreamscape* and Woofer boys, ageing spivs (fake tans, fast cars, fat jewelry, real Rolex), gorgeous wine bar girls and pretty surfer brats and so on (so many types to grow up around...so many...)). The sound of bobbing yachts and the spray of fresh sea air as fresh as cockles dug up on Blackpill at 5am. Foghorns, lightships, salty rain, and whistling winds. Gulls, oystercatchers, curlews, seals, dolphins. Things like that. (I grew up healthy, glowing, blonde, a content and sunny kid, so sue me.) I:
- swam in the sea on the Gower, rain clouds curling across blue sky, spitting bits of rain in my face and into the gun-metal grey and dusky emerald sea, and other such lyrical flashes, very very bracing, even at the end of June (worth it though: cold salt water is good for you, good for skin and hair, and you glow, a surge of warmth from skin pores to stomach pit).
- scoffed a massive pot of Joe's Ice Cream, the best Ice Cream outside of Italy, invented by an Italian immigrant sometime at the start of the last century in Swansea, and it has that Welsh taste for rich flavour - excessive sweetness, excessive creaminess, like Welsh butter, really creamy and really salty, artery-blocking stuff, totally delicious.
- drove back through Pontrhydyfen, a small mining village in the pit of the Affan valley, banks of dark conifer rolling down muscular hillsides, straddled by a slim, elegant viaduct, and topheavy with pubs and derelict chapels. Past the village you twist down the Affan valley into this lush nature reserve, walk across a metal bridge over a deep drop down to the valley floor, a small river cutting through trees and rocks and flowers, house martins dancing and swooping low around your head because you're so high up. This is where Richard Burton was born and brought up, and his family still live in the same houses they've always lived in, driving past his sister's house, the door was open and the hall walls filled with old Hollywood studio shots. He never really left. The last house he owned was in Celigny in Switzerland, a spot almost identical to the Affan Valley.
Back Again All this mad stuff to fret about! Getting vexed and frazzled in a matter of hours. Only thing keeping me moving is Foul Play's 'Finest Illusion (Legal Mix)' now that I'm back and it's sunny and then wet, and then there's thunder...only thing keeping me up, in motion. (Ellis Dee mix cd, it's good, ends with a couple of Red Alert and Mike Slammers, which is like the signature Dee mix...) Lush correlation between hardcore and summer months. Explain to me.
*This was, I guess, 7 years ago. Who knows what they rave to now, or where?