Browsing Category Nothing Special

Bad Writing Day

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I had one of those days where you write and write and write, and at the end of it all you’re left with words that are total rubbish. DELETE DELETE DELETE!

It seems to be taking me a long time to get my head around Bentham and utilitarianism, which is what I (stupidly) chose to write an essay on. Part of my problem is access to BOOKS, especially old books published in the 1800s. I’ve got a PDF chapter someone uploaded to a dodgy site, and the Kindle version of one entire text, but yeah, that’s not much good for citation purposes.

What about POTUS and Ms Merkel. What was going on with that non-handshake? She seemed to be putting a lot of effort into projecting positive body language when they were sitting together, but I’m thinking that the meeting didn’t go so well! And his proposed budget cuts? I can’t figure out why he hasn’t been rolled yet. He’s just so…

The group project at uni starts this week. I’ve lined up a couple of blokes who seem to be ok – not ditherers or chatterers – and I hope things go alright. There’s always the possibility that other people will want to join our group, but I hope not. There’s a lot of talk amongst the other students about wanting to “help” people and “heal” the world, and I’m just over here rolling my eyeballs so hard they’re in danger of falling right out of my head. Also, it’s a bit weird, but we’ve got undergrad and masters students in the same seminars, because I guess it’s easier and cheaper for the university, but it makes for “interesting” times due to the different levels of knowledge in the room. I was banging on about an aspect of postcolonial theory the other day and got some blank looks. I don’t know. It seems like a recipe for dumbing down things, if you ask me.

I’ve stopped posting my “best” ideas to the (compulsory) discussion boards, because I found that some of the others don’t bother to come up with ideas of their own. Can I just say again how much I detest this whole “collegiate” vibe? ‘

Mr V is having an MRI this week. So, yeah, the aftermath might be a *fun time*.

I haven’t been reading anything good lately. I’m a bit sick of reading human rights theory, to be honest. I think we’re leaving the early theorists behind and moving forward to post WW II next week, so that will be a welcome change. I still have to write an essay on Bentham, though. Did you know that he wanted to be put on display after he died? His head was preserved, but it all went a bit wrong, so now a wax head sits on his dressed skeleton and “he” hangs out at UCL . Yup. I kind of like Bentham, because he was an animal rights advocate and a total fruitloop. I’m learning more about him than I ever wanted to know, really.

Ok. I’d better go and eat something and try to let my brain wind down before I go to bed. Take care, and send me good writing vibes if you have some to spare. 🙂

 

Loner: A Novel

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I finished reading a novel! Although I started the year on quite a reading high, that quickly slumped into the usual “chuck it on the Maybe/DNF pile”. Lately, I’ve been a bit busy with all my course reading, which includes a fair amount of philosophy – Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Bentham and Marx – and the theories of Freire, Boal and hooks. I’m really tired of all the gendered language and the patriarchal bullshit, that’s for sure, and I really don’t like the word pedagogy, which I have to use rather a lot these days. *sigh*

Anyway, I read Loner: A Novel by Teddy Wayne, in two sittings. This is most unusual for me these days, but there was something about the book that I liked a lot. It’s a campus novel (I do like campus novels!), but it has an interesting twist or two. I thought it was just very well done, with accurate sociological and psychological renderings of the characters. It’s not often that I actually like contemporary fiction, so I was surprised that I enjoyed Loner so much, but then I am probably always going to like reading about misfits, because I see myself reflected in their social awkwardness and distance from other people.

I didn’t set out to read Loner. I was at the library collecting a couple of inter-library loans I requested months ago, and I saw Wayne’s book on display. The title attracted me (of course!) and I picked it up and had a flick through the pages. The writing seemed good, and I had a couple of chuckles at a few of the send-up passages, so I decided to borrow it. Instead of wading through some more Bentham, I started to read Loner for a few minutes, and an hour later I looked up again.

I haven’t fallen like that into a book for such a long time. I went to bed early and stayed awake reading and reading until I’d finished it, and I’m still thinking about what I read. I wish I could find another book that would have the same effect, or that I could read that way all the time. I used to read with my full attention, but then I started to have difficulties with concentration, and generally failing to connect with fiction. I do wish the dreadful ennui I feel when reading most novels would go away.

Anyway, now I’m reading Marx, and thinking about the Theatre of the Oppressed, and planning three essays at once. I’m supposed to contribute at least twice a week to the discussion boards for each unit I’m taking, and that’s proving really difficult. I don’t like this collegiate collaboration style of course delivery, which they call dialogic learning. I think it just makes it easier for the academics to find time to do all their required paperwork, while the students “teach” each other. I don’t like the way that some students can just coast along on the thoughts and ideas of others, and not have to think for themselves. I don’t want to feed them my thoughts and ideas; I guess I just don’t want to share my stuff. *sigh* We’ve got a group project thing starting next week, but I haven’t found anyone I want to work with. There are only three of us signed up for this one particular topic, so I guess we’ll have to do it together. I might have to try to channel Mr V and be the “grey person”, the invisible one who hovers in the background and does what is necessary, but doesn’t reveal themself** or get involved any more than is absolutely necessary.

I guess I had better get on with some more reading. I hope things are going well with everyone. Do check out Loner if you like a well-written campus novel. 🙂

** I have to get used to using gender neutral language. In my class, there was a whole thing during the first seminar where people announced “their pronouns”. *sigh* I’ve started using they and theirs instead of he/she and his/hers just to be on the safe side. It’s so grammatically borked, but that’s the way of the world these days. I’m a bit sick of all this identity politics stuff, to be honest, and the last person who referred to me as being “cis” got an earful about how hypocritical it is that while they expect me to respect their gender identity, they think it’s ok to make assumptions about mine. Oh, yes. I’m feeling a big F*** Off factor about some things these days.

Excellent Reads:

Meghan Murphy on the need for feminism to get get radical again.

Becca Reilly-Cooper on the word TERF .

Peaky Blinders – Series Three

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peakyblinders

I’m a big Peaky Blinders fan, and I loved the first two series. I found the characters intriguing and I thought the show was stylistically brilliant. The sets and locations were wonderfully atmospheric, and the costumes were just fabulous. I liked the suits and the watch chains, and the shirts with the collar stud and no tie. I liked the ankle-grazing trousers, the flat caps and the billowing coats, and I was very taken with the Peaky haircut.  I liked Polly’s messy chic, and the floaty frocks some of the other characters wore. I was especially pleased with the soundtrack, because it featured some of my favourite music. I pretty much loved everything about the show, except for Sam Neill’s arch-villain, but then no one is supposed to like him. Peaky Blinder World was fantasy, altered reality, visually beautiful, and I loved the whole thing.

Anyway,  I finally got around to watching the third season on DVD. What a big disappointment that was!* The first indication that something was not quite right came in the opening scenes when I saw Tommy Shelby’s haircut. The sides of his head were no longer shaved and his appearance was almost conventional. I used to find it interesting that Tommy’s limpid and innocent blue eyes, and his beautiful facial bone structure, were at odds with his sometimes brutal behaviour, just as his brutal behaviour was at odds with the vulnerability and tenderness he sometimes displayed. Tommy Shelby was a wonderful invention, a complex and contradictory man, a bad man who wasn’t a bastard. It was easy to feel empathy for Tommy and to care about what happened to him. However, in series three, I felt that Tommy was just boorish, greedy and stupid. Even his interactions with Grace, which used to light up the screen, were cold and perfunctory. I could almost see the seams stitching the scenes together; I could see the actors being actors – move here, sit there, speak, emote, etc., – with the heavy, heavy, hand of the director seeming to weigh it all down.

In truth, it felt as though I were watching a whole other show. There was no spark, no levity, no light and shade – it was all dark, all the time, and relentlessly alienating. The plot was convoluted almost to the point of incomprehension, the new villain was bland, and the licentious and corrupt Russian aristocratic family was a total cliche. Tom Hardy’s turn as the Jewish crime boss was way over the top, and oh, sod it, the whole thing was just so utterly disappointing! Even poor Arthur was made to get religion and be under the thumb of a manipulative, hypocritical wife. And don’t get me started on Polly, whose character has gone from being feisty and fearsome, to being a lady-like bourgeois social climber. Somehow Ada has miraculously become middle-class, Esme is reduced to being a drug-addicted baby-maker, and Lizzie still hangs around even though everyone disrespects her. Michael commits his first murders, John sheds sentimental tears, and all the while Tommy scowls and mutters and orders everyone about. The thing is, Tommy isn’t nearly as tough or as clever as he was in the first two series. Stupidly, he thinks that money can buy social class, and his hubris is his undoing. Having Thomas Shelby snivel and grovel and almost beaten to death might have made a nice change for Cillian Murphy and allowed him to flex his acting chops, but the Tommy Shelby of series one and two was far too street smart to get done over like that. In short, in this series, nothing added up and nothing made any sense. I didn’t buy any of it, and I felt short-changed when Grace was killed off. Viewers had a lot invested in the Tommy-Grace relationship and it felt all wrong to have her pop her clogs so soon. I think that Grace deserved better treatment, because it was through her that we were able to see Tommy’s humanity, and it was their relationship that made the show more than just the doings of a violent rabble.

I hope that series four gets back on track. I’m not waiting with impatience for new episodes. I’m still trying to get my head around the dangling plot threads and that ending, which might have been the most unrewarding thing I’ve seen on the screen in a very long while. Apparently, filming of series four begins in a couple of months, and the show might be out by the end of the year. I won’t be holding my breath for the return of the magic, though.

peaky4

 

* This is the reason why I haven’t watched Victoria or War and Peace, yet. I’m worried they won’t live up to my expectations and I’ll be horribly disappointed. I’m looking at you, Poldark. *shudder*

More about Nothing

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lapland

There are so many things to worry about, if you’re so inclined. I started watching Midnight Sun and was a bit fascinated with Lapland’s landscape, seeing as how it’s utterly different to where I live. So, I googled and found this. Mining is threatening to eat up northen Europe’s last wilderness. Oh. And it seems that Australian mining companies are heavily involved in mining exploration of the area. OH!

I checked out New Matilda and saw this article by John Pilger. Apparently, America is gearing up big-time for a possible war with China, maybe a nuclear war. Oh. So, that’s why so many US Marines are now stationed in Darwin, and why a Chinese company has a 99 year lease on the port in Darwin. Australia is probably hedging its bets, a bit each way, in order to keep in good with our biggest trading partner (China) and our [supposed] military protector (USA). Oy Vey.

And, the huge Adani coal mine has got the green light to go ahead in Queensland: “The mine will consist of six open-cut pits and up to five underground mines, and will supply Indian power plants with enough coal to generate electricity for up to 100 million people. The controversial project involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which will then be disposed of on land.” ABC

The Australian government looks set to provide a $1 billion loan to Adani for a railway line to service the new mining operation. Of course it will, even though the project will be an environmental disaster. Many banks, both local and international, have refused to fund the project because it poses such a risk to the Great Barrier Reef, but the government is so desperate to get Queensland voters onside for the upcoming state elections, that they’d probably sell their grandmothers if they thought it would gain them a seat or two. *sigh*

::

I’ve been thinking a lot about hyperreality, and wondering whether we really are living in a post-reality world these days. It seems that it might be an actual thing for many people, but I don’t think I’m quite as sucked into the vortex. It seems to me that some people are treating Donald Trump’s election as a “reality show” that they’re part of, where there’s lying and chicanery and demagoguery, but no actual harm will come to them because “Trump” is somehow “virtual” and not actually “real”. I think that maybe some people invest so much of their time and emotion in social media, and the internet in general, that it’s just part of their actual life, and they don’t (or can’t) separate the “real” from the virtual: they really do exist in a hybrid world that isn’t “real life”. I’m surprised at the reactions I get when I suggest that people lock their smart phone away for a week and don’t go near it. They can’t imagine doing it, and feel a sense of panic at the idea of being “cut off from the world”.

I’m also thinking about the supposed “post-truth” era we live in now. Political double-speak and weasel words weren’t enough; now we live in an era where lies are the new black and there are no such things as “facts”. I find this bizarre and scary. I don’t think we should let people bamboozle us with words, which is what they’re trying to do.

And as for people who insist on their right to express their opinion, I often have “discussions” on this very topic. It usually goes something like this: Yes, but personal opinion is based on belief, and people believe in all sorts of things that aren’t real or true. Point me to the facts that corroborate your beliefs; show me the evidence to back up the validity of your opinion. I accept that there is no universal truth, but there are discoverable facts and there is testable evidence. You can believe whatever you want, and you can hold whatever opinion you choose, but unless you can argue for your opinion and demonstrate that it’s based on verifiable facts, then I’m not obligated to take your beliefs seriously, and I’m not obliged to listen to you. Oh, yes. I can be very charming when I want to be.

metropol

Hotel Metropol, Moscow.

I didn’t actually intend to write any of this. I was going to post about a film I watched the other day, Lila Says. I did like it, but it was jam-packed with stereotypical tropes and it was kind of voyeuristic and I felt a bit weird watching it. Also, I was going to write about a book I’ve just finished reading, A Gentleman in Moscow, which I absolutely adore. The narrative is charming, highly allusive, slightly satirical, poignant, elegantly written, historically accurate, and gives a big nod to literature by the Russian Greats. There’s also a fantasy element to the narrative that makes it resemble a fairytale at times, but the philosophical underpinnings of the book are profound. The images conjured in my mind reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel, with its interplay of light and dark, and its combination of humour and seriousness. A Gentleman is just a very clever and wonderful novel that gives us memorable characters and exposes us to a slice of history seen from a White Russian’s point of view. The chaos and turmoil of the Russian Revolution and the resultant civil war, and the cruel and deadly inanities of the Soviet regime are glimpsed through the eyes of the scion of a well-connected Russian aristocratic family, but mostly we get to see the resilience and courage of a man who once had all the freedom money and privilege could buy, but who now must employ his wit and imagination in order to survive the ordeal of incarceration in the Metropol hotel. Count Alexander Rostov – Member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – always knows the right thing to do and say in any situation. He is educated, cultured, sophisticated, and knows wine. He is good with children, horses, dogs, and women; he can shoot straight and waltz divinely, and he refuses to concede to the Bolshevik rabble who stole his life and sentenced him to lonely exile in his own country. For those familiar with Russian history and literature, this is sure to be an absolute delight of a novel: it’s beautifully written and cleverly crafted and I think it’s my favourite read of the year.

What am I?

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I’m a New Zealander, although I don’t advertise the fact in real life. Admitting you’re from NZ means that you’ll be inundated with sheep jokes, be asked if you know a particular person in NZ, because of course we all know one another there, and sometimes be told to f*** off back where you came from, because some Australians are prejudiced and they can be equally as nasty to people from New Zealand or Nigeria or Nicaragua. In my early months here, I was denied employment and accommodation because I was a ‘bloody Kiwi’. I decided that I needed to lose my accent so I could ‘fit in’, so I mimicked the voices I heard and pretty soon was speaking like an Australian. As long as I kept quiet about where I was from, I was accepted as being one of ‘us’. These days, I really am one of ‘us’, because I have dual citizenship. I became a citizen when the government started to signal changes to migration laws that would have disadvantaged me financially and socially had I remained a non-citizen. So, outwardly, I’m Australian, but inwardly, I don’t know what I am any more.

I grew up in this sort of landscape

I live here, I own half a house here, my life is here, and this is probably where I will die, but I don’t feel ‘Australian’. Truthfully, I would go back to NZ tomorrow if I could wave a magic wand and make it happen without too much hassle. But, the thought of selling everything and starting over, yet again, makes me feel so very tired. I don’t like aspects of living here – the increasingly fascist government, the racism and prejudice, the sexism and misogyny, the wilful ignorance of many people – but this is where I am. I know that if I went back to NZ, I would dislike many things about being there – the weather, the high cost of living, the obsession with the All Blacks, the poverty and disadvanatage – and I would probably wish I were back here, watching the sun go down over the ocean, battling the never-ending problem of sand getting everywhere, enduring the sizzling hot days, being able to drive out into the desert and be completely alone, watching the birds’ antics around the bird bath in the back yard, and the endless blue, blue sky. I would miss the gnarled old trees, and the parched summer landscape. I would miss the beaches and the long, long drives to get anywhere. I would miss a lot about my adopted home.

This is where I live now

And there, I guess, is the dilemma all migrants face: after a while, ‘home’ becomes a contested concept. Although I don’t feel ‘Australian’, I do love the Australian landscape as much as I love my NZ ‘homeland’. I don’t feel as though I am one thing or the other, although legally, I am both. I feel like an outsider in both places, and truly at home in neither.

Feeling Despondent About the Internet

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thinking

I’ve been feeling rather despondent about the state of the internet in general for a while now. It seems to me that the internet could have been a wonderful force for good, but instead it has become another capitalist marketing platform that reinforces just how banal, moronic, and vicious humankind can be.

However, leaving aside the vicissitudes of the internet as a whole, I have been feeling particularly despondent about the state of the bookish part of the web. Often, I don’t know which blog posts are genuine reviews and which are exercises in marketing and PR. I don’t know how many bloggers are influenced to write ‘positive’ reviews by their symbiotic relationship with publishers and authors. I do know that some book review sites only publish ‘positive’ reviews, because I was asked to write for one of those sites and a stated requirement for reviews was that they had to be ‘positive’. I declined to be involved with such chicanery, because I think that a review site should reflect honest opinions and not just flattering ones. So many book related websites seem to be nothing more than fronts for publishers, and I find this lack of transparency to be dishonest. I’m not sure how far this dishonesty extends to book bloggers, but I suspect that some of them can’t possibly have the time to read the number of books they claim, and that in order to continue to receive free books from publishers they are not averse to gilding the lily in their reviews.

Another thing that bothers me is that sometimes I have a hard time discerning who on the internet is genuine and who is fake. In the real world it’s easy to spot a fake person, but on the internet it’s easy to hide behind a fake identity. It’s disconcerting to see people with whom you have had email conversations regurgitate your ideas and words on the web and claim ownership of them. It’s disappointing to see people whom you know are not particularly knowledgeable about certain things claim to know a lot more than they actually do. Building a body of knowledge takes years of concerted effort and a lot of reading, and to have your brain picked by someone pretending to be your friend and then see them make false claims about their ‘intellectual capital’ on the internet, well, that is truly disappointing. I know our internet persona only represents one small part of our total being, but blatant misrepresentation to the point of outright lying in order to take advantage of others is always unacceptable. Besides this covert stealing of intellectual property, some bloggers engage in blatant plagiarism, copying and pasting sentences from Wikipedia and other third-rate websites. As an experiment, I submitted a few blog posts to a plagiarism checker website and was totally unsurprised to find the degree to which some bloggers pass off other people’s words and ideas as their own. I’m not into naming and shaming; I just wish they’d find their ethical backbone and stop being pretentious fakes.

Also, I find the closed mindset of some internet cliques and groups to be quite disconcerting. Maybe it’s just me and my propensity to speak my mind, but I find the insular and hostile attitude of some of the cliques I’ve encountered to be rather disappointing. Unless you’re willing to defer and flatter, you are pretty much superfluous to requirements and given the cold shoulder. In this regard, the internet feels a lot like high school, with the Mean Girls holding sway over their sycophants. As I said, the internet could have been a wonderful force for good, but it’s really just a reflection of society in the real world, and casual cruelty abounds.

And then there is booktube, which seems to be taking over book ‘reviewing’ on the web. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the written word is losing out to video in our image-saturated world. Reading a 1,000 word post is more time-consuming and requires more effort and commitment than watching a 5 minute video. It’s rather ironic, though, that people should prefer to watch videos about books than read posts about them. I’m not sure that the skills required to make videos have anything to do with books and reading, or with the experience of reading and writing. When we write, we distil our ideas and think things through, and edit and rewrite, and hone and polish. I guess that in the era of the selfie it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many people want to film themselves talking to a camera, but it seems to me that it’s just another manifestation of the epidemic of rampant and vacuous narcissism that is drowning out intelligent discourse these days.

I suppose my disappearing and reappearing in this space is a reflection of my increasing distaste for certain aspects of my online experience. I do feel a bit sad that the sense of community which used to exist amongst book bloggers years ago has mostly disappeared. Maybe booktube and what comes next is just a natural progression. Maybe I’m nostalgic for the ‘old days’ of the internet, when it felt like a safe and friendly social space, where not everything we posted was data mined by various capitalist enterprises and government agencies, where people were still people and not just statistics, avatars, and talking heads.

These are just some random thoughts I’ve been having over the past year or so, which have contributed to my general sense of internet malaise. This domain name is due for renewal in 30 days and I have to decide if I want to hold on to it, or let it go. When I chose still-life-with-books.com, I was emerging from a long sojourn down the dark abyss and I was thinking that as bad as things seemed in the real world, I still had a life with books. Books have been the one constant in my life, for my entire life, and when I die I hope I am still surrounded by piles of half-read books with scribbled notes in the margins and pages dotted with exclamation points and question marks. But, do I want to blog about books or anything else any more? That is the question.

I feel rather hesitant about hitting the publish button on this post, because I know that I sound as though I’m just having a whinge about first-world problems. And yet, I think that too often we allow our fear of being socially shamed to silence us about things that matter to us. I think that maybe by telling the internet how I feel about the fake friends, the users, the pretentious wannabes, and the questionable ethics of some bloggers, maybe it will help someone else in a similar position to feel less alone. I know I’m supposed to just suck it up and ignore how I feel, or shut up and go away if I really don’t like it, but that would just enable the fakers and false people, and serve to embolden them if they think they’re getting away with it. If I talk about how I feel, and say how isolating it can feel to be ostracised by a clique, and how painful it feels to see my ideas and words claimed by someone I thought was my friend, and how tired I am of pretending not to see through the pretentious wannabes, then maybe it’s not whining about nothing but speaking out about something that matters to me.

Nothing Special

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Oh dear. That didn’t go so well, did it? As ever, I had great enthusiasm for my (ahem!) TBR Reading Project, but once I got the site sorted out I grew bored with the whole thing and lost interest. Story. Of. My. Life.

I seem to be cursed with a low boredom threshold. I just have an incurable case of existential ennui, I guess. *sigh*

The upside of being bored easily is that I tend to start lots of projects and get interested in new things and ideas for a short while, so my experience of life isn’t just “more of the same”. That’s probably a good thing.

Anyhow. I’ve been reading a bit lately, mostly philosophy, and I’m about to embark on a re-read of Camus’ main works. I thought I might post some reading notes here, or whatever. I don’t want to doom the thing by making it a big deal, but I’m a bit excited to be reading Camus again. There was a time when I was totally in love with his mind.

In recent weeks, I’ve been re-reading Sartre. I’m attracted to existentialism, for obvious reasons, but Camus’ absurdism really hits the spot for me. However, with regard to philosophy in general, the God-bothering aspects tend to bore me to tears. I quite like reading the Ancients and from Schopenhauer onwards (he does look rather grim and scary in his portraits!), but all that stuff about God in the middle? Pass. It seems totally obvious to me that God is a cultural construct, a myth along the lines of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, designed to keep people scared and obedient to the church, with threats of hell and promises of heaven. I have a vague memory from when I was about six. My father was burying a pet lamb that had died and I asked him what happened to people when they died, and he said that we either get put in a hole in the ground and rot, or are burnt and turned into ash, and that was that. People were no different to animals and when we die that’s the end of us. In retrospect, I think he was probably a bit harsh and didn’t try to spare my feelings, but he never did lie to me about anything – not about Santa or the Tooth Fairy, or that I was special in any way.

Here’s a wiki list of atheist philosophers. Note the absence of women. This absence is the reason I ditched studying philosophy at university. It bothered me SO MUCH that as far as the academy was concerned, “philosophy = the pontification of white (mostly dead) Western men”. Even the lecturers and tutors were all men, as were most of the students. And such a conceited lot they were, as well: “I’m SO clever because I’m doing PHILOSOPHY”, and, “Listen to me regurgitate someone else’s thoughts.” Pft! My experience of doing history hasn’t proved to be much better. Because I got advanced standing, the units I wanted to do, on the Cold War, 1960s London, and the Russian Revolution, were not available to me due to bad timing, and I had to do things I wasn’t interested in, such as Australian colonial history, AGAIN. Yeah well, essays written, exams done, but I didn’t like it and I don’t want to spend another year doing more (to me) boring stuff, so I’m thinking about ditching university yet again.* I mean, how many RWNJ-inspired books can one person read on Australian history and not have her eyeballs fall right out of her head due to boredom? I wonder if it’s just me, or has the university experience really changed so VERY much? The lack of academic rigour, the quality of the courses, the spoon-feeding of students, the “group projects” thing, where some students do all the work and others do none, but everyone still manages to pass? Don’t even get me started on plagiarism, and the quality of the essays that students submit? There’s just so much waffle and woolly thinking and laziness. *very sad face*

Anyway, because I don’t like what others want to “teach” me about philosophy, I’m making up my own piecemeal philosophy reading programme. I’m picking out the parts that appeal to me and glancing over the rest. I studied Descartes and Kant as an undergraduate, and I’ve “done” some of those who crossed over into literary studies, such as Kristeva, Baudrillard, Foucault, and Derrida. I “tried” to read Lacan, but he is so, so difficult, however, I intend having another crack at him. I want to find out about the women philosophers who were written out of history and am waiting for a book on the subject to be delivered so I can peruse the bibliography for some further reading ideas.

But, I don’t want to turn this into a “PROJECT”. I want to just sit over here in the corner and talk very quietly to myself and not alert the Boredom Gods who will surely hurl a few bolts of ennui at me if they discover what I’m up to.

So, that’s the state of play at the moment. I’m reading and thinking, and bumbling along. I’m completely full of disquiet about ALL the things going on in my country, to do with RWNJ politics (the nationalism, racism, sexism, and general idiocy), and I’m looking askance at the USA’s presidential election, and the Brexit ugliness, and war and terrorism and famine and the general ghastliness of so many members of the human race.

Here’s a little prayer I repeat to myself. I choose to think these thoughts, rather than be overcome with despair.

mettaprayer

*Edited to add that I got over my hissy fit and don’t plan on bailing out just yet.

Rabbit Hole Reading: Jack Kerouac

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I have read most of the books I earmarked for August. The majority of them were rather slim and didn’t take long to get through. However, something made me swerve and sent me down the Jack Kerouac rabbit hole and I seem to be reading/re-reading these books at the moment:

Gerald Nicosia’s Memory Babe (critical biography);
Doctor Sax (Kerouac);
The Windblown World (Kerouac’s Journals: 1947-1954);
The Haunted Life and Other Writings (Kerouac).

I think I was just idly flipping through The Windblown World and came upon this passage and had the “WOW, I LOVE KEROUAC’S WRITING” feelings all over again:

‘In Denver last summer all I did was stare at the plains for three months, for reasons, reasons.

There’s a noise in the void I hear: there’s a vision of the void; there’s a complaint in the abysss – there’s a cry in the bleak air: the realm is haunted. Man haunts the earth. Man is on a ledge noising his life. The pit of night receiveth. God hovers over in his shrouds. Look out!

More than a rock in my belly, I have a waterfall in my brain; a rose in my eye, a beautiful eye; and what’s in my heart but a mountainside, and what’s in my skull: a light. And in my throat a bird. And I have in my soul, in my arm, in my mind, in my blood, in my bean a grindstone of plaints which grinds rock into water, and the water is warmed by fires, and sweetened by elixirs, and becomes the pool of contemplation of the dearness of life. In my mind I cry. In my heart I think. In my eye I love. In my breast I see. In my soul I become. In my shroud I will die. In my grave I will change.

But enough poetry. Art is secondary.
Plaintiveness is all.’

::

I’ve never really fathomed why I, an avowed atheist, am so drawn to writers of Faith. And, it seems to me that far from being a hip, cool cat and King of the Beats, Kerouac was a lost soul, a hard-working and driven writer who longed to be rich and famous and taken seriously, but who was never rich and didn’t know how to handle the fame that ended up trampling him like a herd of charging elephants.

But, the man sure could write. And he read a lot, too. I think that’s the part of him that I admire the most, how he read and analysed all the great DWM writers, but especially Dostoevsky, and he really dove into the books, boots and all.

Jack Kerouac has never been one of my imaginary literary friends. I doubt I would have liked him very  much in person, really. He seems to me to have been withdrawn and self-interested: an observer, watching, thinking, remembering, and always, always writing in his notebooks. He was drawn to mysticism, and he loved his mother more than anyone else in the world. His being in the world was encompassed by his Catholicism and circumscribed by the deaths of people he loved, and a gnawing longing for something more.

I think that if Jack had stuck with Buddhism and practised really hard and made an effort to stay off the booze and instead flowed with the waterfall in his brain and smiled on the world with the rose in his eye, well, then I think he would have had a different, more fulfilled life. But, he chose his path and he walked it in his own way.

jk2

August 2016: Reading List

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There are a few teeny tiny books, and nothing very taxing, in August’s reading list.

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Everyone I love is a Stranger to Someone, Annelyse Gelman, Write Bloody, 2014. [ Write Bloody ]

Edward Bawden’s Kew Gardens, Peyton Skipworth & Brian Webb, V & A Publishing, 2014. [ V & A ]

Describing the Past, Ghassan Zaqtan, tr. Samuel Wilder, Seagull Books, 2016. [ University of Chicago Press ]

Dogs in Australian Art, Steven Miller, Wakefield Press, 2016. [ Wakefield Press ]

Stories and Texts for Nothing, Samuel Beckett, Grove Atlantic, 1968. [ Grove Atlantic ]

Huntingtower, John Buchan, Oxford University Press, 2008. [ Oxford University Press ]

The New Odyssey, Patrick Kingsley, Guardian Faber, 2015. [ Faber & Faber ]

Dying: A Memoir, Cory Taylor, Text, 2016. [ Text Publishing ]

The Painter of Signs, R. K. Narayan, Penguin, 1993. [ Penguin Random House ]

Burnt Bridges

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I’m an inveterate (metaphorical) bridge burner in real life. I’ve destroyed most of my internet friendships over the years, too, by suddenly deleting my accounts and disappearing. I used to have quite a few internet friends, but only a few have stuck with me through the ups and downs of my Crazy Brain misadventures.

Sometimes I feel a little sad because I’ve taken myself out of the loop once too often and lost the friendship of some really lovely people. But, life goes on. I keep on plodding in no particular direction, one foot, then the other foot, and somehow that eventually turns into a journey, of sorts.

I guess I just want to say thank-you to the people who have stuck with me, who understand that when I disappear it’s because that’s what I need to do at the time. Sometimes I need to concentrate all my attention on just putting one foot in front of the other, and that’s all I have the ability to do.

You know who you are. Thanks for being there.

Violet xxx