Jul 292011

Or not . . . perhaps you really meant ‘a picture of not maintaining focus’ or ‘who is maintaining what focus?’ The patriarchal law demands: Obey Me! And the only alternative is to be abandoned, outside, nose pressed against the glass – an outlaw. So unless you, you outlaw, have an army, then the gibbet beckons relentlessly with whatever degree of scandalous violence is currently in fashion.

    It is easy to imagine the Murdoch gang as fatally blinded and softened by the corrupting influences of power and wealth. Many years ago Rupie set out on a seemingly inexorable journey from those first (faltering?) steps to seemingly reach a place of being beyond the law and having the rich and famous quaking in their designer boots. Except you never quite know when the music will change and the spotlight picks out that vulnerable nakedness.

    And what do they feel now? Exposed and trapped? Trapped into behaving like cowards as they attempt to not only limit their losses but to try to salvage the ship itself. Is it sinking? Are you rubbing your hands in gleeful anticipation?

    Of course, Oedipus was seen as a threat by his father – these blind seers – and was supposed to have been put to death. Did any blind seer see James as a threat? It doesn’t seem likely. By the way I assume you meant that James Murdoch has never matched up to Rupie’s (a possible rhyme with herpes?) expectations. But we have the wild haired Jezebel as the joker in the pack and from what some say she appears to have been Rupie’s favourite. Does the old man still feel that way or has she fallen in his estimation?

    Who needs all this going on at the age of eighty? How do you face death and not know what to do with your empire? Hand it all over to charity would not be a bad idea. Let the kids get on with a couple of thousand each.

    Perhaps as a general rule we never notice the slide into some form of madness until it is too late. We’ve fallen over the edge and we’re ok but everybody else has gone weird. I can’t trust single solitary soul out there. They’re all pushing and shoving. It is too dark, too crowded and maybe I’ve had a few drinks too many. But the fact of the matter is there’s nobody I can hand over to. So like dictators everywhere I have to hang on and increase the violence.

    It is quite fashionable these days for the various media to demand apologies, to demand that their victims show true contrition: a spectacle to replace public executions.

    Oh please dad, can we bring back public executions for those heinous criminals, the Murdoch gang. Please, please let me show them the instruments of torture.

    Are there any martyrs amongst them, walking with courage and dignity up to the waiting gibbet? I don’t think so.

    By the way what is the dress code?


A Picture of Maintaining Focus

 Posted by at 11:45 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 272011

I have been reading the play Antigone by Sophocles using the translation done by Seamus Heaney (2004) under the title ‘The Burial at Thebes’, and reading in tandem with Judith Butler’s critical work ‘Antigone’s Claim, Kinship Between Life and Death’ (2000). Antigone – “She is, as it were, an outside without which the state could not be” announces Judith – drills down to the molten and uneasy core of shedding human blood. For instance, there is the obvious example of how it can ever be that a mother permits the sacrifice of her son in war.

Blood shedding – that the state lays certain claims over life during times of emergency, and also both before and after (eg what to do with the dead bodies… who is permitted honourable burial… and so on and so on), but that these claims are not limitless or unbounded – molten and uneasy, and among the complex web of relations and themes explored in the play there also is the one of the father who refuse to listen to the warnings of his son. The result of this refusal is that the son, who is in love with Antigone, kills himself as she takes herself to the tomb within which she is to be buried under the decree of the state (the father) for the crime which she has committed and willingly owned up to.

“True. I admit it” Antigone says in Heaney’s version… “Yes, I confess it” is in another translation… and in another, perhaps the best, “I say, I did it”.

In parallel, watching the Murdoch father and son version on television before the Select Committee of Parliament last week, no such words were to be heard; neither in the bland questioning of the Committee acting as a ‘Chorus’, nor in the interchanges between father and son, nor from the resigned and down turned mouth of the ex-Chief Executive Rebekah acting as 'messenger'.

The universal cause and effect way of looking we are accustomed to relate to in all this is the oedipal, the one under the ‘Curse of the Father’. After all, don’t they say that Rupert Murdoch has never matched up to his old man’s expectations.

However, in the play we experience everyone as being blind to making a meaning, and even the truly blind seer Tiresias for once is at a loss to explain what is going on. We are left to wrestle with Antigone’s words without the benefit of position or viewpoint to support us.

“I say, I did it”.

Blood shedding. What Frederick Hölderlin (Ammerkungen zur Antigone) called tödlichfaktisch; the direct and murderous ‘fatally factic’ force of word.

Those beady eyes are watching you

 Posted by at 9:25 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 252011

I was watching a thrush searching for food in the courtyard of where I live. The thrush (male or female, I know not) was the picture of maintaining focus: closely examining with eye and beak the joins in the paving, pulling out moss, turning over leaves, and occasionally finding a morsel of what she was searching for. There was also a constant alertness for possible danger – cats, I assume, being the greatest danger. I was never sure whether or not she discerned me behind the window; at times she seemed to look straight at me, checking to see whether I was a danger or not.

    What sort of predator is (was?) the wretched Murdoch gang. I notice there is a programme on Channel Four this evening with the title How Murdoch Ran Britain. Interestingly there is a parallel in the current serial broadcast of Mervyn Peake’s History of Titus Groan on Radio 4. The character of Steerpike giving us a good account of how to grab power: the dual threats of violence and blackmail and the art of blagging being well to the fore. Not that this is anything new – there would seem to be an endless supply of those who would be emperor, trying their skill and luck. Or rather, in the case of the Murdoch gang, how to run things whilst apparently remaining in the background and hiding behind the freedom of the press whilst at the same time terrorising our elected representatives.

    I do think our elected representatives should be more scared of us than some newspaper proprietor. But then you have to remember that they gave us the freedom of consumerism. Should we thank them for that?

    Resistance is hard work against the whirlwind of market forces, the power houses of globalised financial institutions.

    I have just been alerted (via the London Review of Books) to the account of some seminars (2010-11) that examined the question of the Labour tradition – which, of course was always a tradition of resistance – in relation to the current social/political/economic situation. It is available as an e-book at www.soundings.org.uk. I look forward to reading it.

    And why not, as a final puzzle to this posting, bring in the fourth stanza of Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird:




A man and a woman

Are one.

A man and a woman and a blackbird

Are one.


Yes, I almost know what he means.


The Birds

 Posted by at 2:16 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 202011

Hitchcock’s of course, as I recall, and it was the blood on their faces in glorious 1960’s Technicolor which ran down their cheeks in carmen red. Despite the pecking ferocity of the seagull beaks which rips the bodies to pieces, it was the intelligence of the crows sitting together on the telephone wires which still terrifies me more. A swoop, the black shadow of a beating wing, our eyes are gone in an instant. And after that…

…cast adrift and far from our familiar landmarks and safety zones, my crew and I have landed up for the next two weeks in an enormous country house of Gormenghast proportions, over whose front door – if only I could find it, so far I have been unable to escape the west wing, but I have heard it told – a flashing neon sign in pinks and greens with the title “Diva Club” is to be found.

We are on Circe’s Isle I think, the gulls are circling ominously overhead, and the dark enchantress who rules here is an ominous quasi-St Cecilia in black. Officially, she is in charge of ‘costumes’, and she has now turned our entire crew into pigs. We run about on all fours, males and females squealing and grunting all together, and trotters tapping the floor as if marking out a musical, time out of time, tempo. I am of course also transformed myself but incompletely compared to the others, being unable even in the presence of the enchantress to sing in tune, so that my voice appears to belong to another kind of hybrid being whose nature is unknown…

…I am become a man bewitched by this carmen red, and sometimes we are transported to Cyprus, and sometimes to the dungeons of San Angelo in Rome. Time has ceased to have meaning here, as we feast on the sumptuous foods provided for us, and fill our eyes with delightful sounds and heavenly voices. I am become a man bewitched and yet not entirely unknowing, realizing that tomorrow or tomorrow we shall again awake in some foul smelling pigsty.

After all it IS still only Monday isn’t it?…

Almost a summer tale

 Posted by at 9:42 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 172011

Another stanza flaps in:




    The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.

    It was a small part of the pantomime.



    And pantomime is not a bad word to describe one event this week. Though it didn’t involve a blackbird: it was a sea gull that forced its way into my attention, into my life. It has to be said that this doesn’t compare to what is being forced into a certain Murdoch family’s attention – oh, and another thing . . .  and another. It must be crushing for King Murdoch Lear. Did I hear you say, let’s hope so! Yes, I have to admit this tale of woe for the Murdoch clan makes me feel quite celebratory.

    Anyway we should get back to the minor tale I was about to relate. This gull that forced, broke into, invaded by apparently walking or let’s say strutting in to my home. A juvenile gull in its juvenile plumage.

    Leah is here for a few days and we had gone out to check out (and buy) a dress for her graduation; a frock she had seen on an earlier exploratory outing. Dress bought we opened the door to be confronted with a dollop of yellow bird pooh, glistening wetly on the floorboards. Uh huh! What’s going on here? There were other signs of disturbance: a small plastic watering can knocked over, some tiny marks of what could be blood (it was red) on Leah’s white laptop. We walked around clapping our hands, peering into the nooks and crannies. I was imagining a trapped panicking bird but there was nothing; no desperate flapping or squawking.

    There was a suggestion that I look under my bed – a piece of advice I ignored at first because I was still expecting the panicked bird. So, of course, when I did come to check under the bed and see, in the shadows, the distinct shape of a gull, apparently either dead or contentedly sitting, I was proved wrong (again) and then had to begin to grapple with the problem of how to get it out.

    A towel was Leah's kindly thought and my choice of weapon was a garden broom. To be fair I had pictures in my mind of aggressive gulls stabbing with their ferocious beaks – a cornered teenager armed with a knife. After a moment’s reflection we combined forces, me with the broom from one side edging it towards Leah with the towel. Amazingly it was as quiet and docile as we could wish it to be and in fact it looked mighty pleased with itself as she held it in the towel – a triumphant gull.

    Since then I’ve tended not to leave the door wide open as it usually is when I’m at home – this is supposed to be summer.


I get it in the neck again

 Posted by at 11:12 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 122011

“I was of three minds”, the poet of petrified unrest has written, resplendent in city tailored suit, white handkerchief precisely folded, the triangulated tip emerging from his breast pocket, having composed the second stanza, and probably several more as well, during his morning journey to his office. On arrival he hands the yellow ruled paper office memorandum sheets with his hand written compositions to his secretary. She will pass them to his team of stenographers, and ensure that the typed drafts are returned to him before midday so that he can read them and make any corrections in the back of his car as he is driven to lunch across town.

Everything works smoothly, the secretary at head office thinks, the system having been developed this way over many years to avoid any mistakes, anything that could upset or disturb the daily routine of the great poet. Sometimes she thinks of his retirement, wondering if the great poet ever considers the possibility. He has become very old, she thinks to herself, Sometimes he even wears short sleeve shirt and cap retirement clothes like old golfers do. He is very old indeed, but who can succeed him, she thinks. There is simply no one like him. Nobody can do what he does. Certainly not his son, the gift he has is unique. There is nobody like him. He is irreplaceable.

Actually, it is an error to call her ‘his secretary’. Even ‘P. A.’ does not do her justice. These days times have changed and now she is called his ‘Chief Executive’. But the job remains the same, the routine stays fixed, and, however many times her job title changes, she still belongs to him – The Maiden. She has had several names over the years, and the truth is she has been replaced in her position several times (she, unlike the great poet, is not irreplaceable). And her names have been several. One we remember from the just past is Zoe. More recently went by the name of Charlie, but the idea of such a boy/girl indifferent name caused some unrest in the typing pool. Couldn’t we call you call you Carla, one of them asked her recently. No, she said with a gentle smile, shaking her long curling tresses of orange hair from side to side, But if you prefer you can call me Rebekah.

Yes, the truth is she has been replaced several times. Sacrificed, as it were, for the greater good. Or simply to appease the great dragon. But, in this instance he, the great poet, has refused to let her go. He is holding on to her despite the clamour for her blood. He refuses. People like the great poet are rare. We have to understand this. Being a person of three minds is always an extraordinarily rare gift. I get it in the neck again, he says to himself as he waits for the car to arrive to whisk him away to his lunch appointment. Another crisis, he smiles to himself, Another poem. Rebekah hands him the typed sheets for him to read and correct in the back of the car. Easing himself into the back seat he smiles again, being of three minds, sure in his knowledge that there is no need for him to believe in one or the other, to be either monster, victim, or saviour. No need to believe at all, he is above such things.

I get it in the neck again, he says out loud. Nobody hears. Everything is still working perfectly, he thinks to himself as the car moves off, Pretty good for my age and no mistake.

High above it all

 Posted by at 9:44 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 082011

Perched here on a bar stool, though not at the bar, at a high round table near the window, I imagine I can see the fissures of which you speak, which I further imagine to be the cracks that Leonard Cohen refers to in his song Anthem:


                        There is a crack in everything

                        That’s how the light gets in.


    In this there may be a suggestion that to be broken is necessary or that our defences should never be so effective that no light can get in, no new life to subvert our institutionalisation. In our fear of monsters there is always the danger that we will attempt to shut out anything that appears different, to control outcomes, to give much applause to those who would claim to manage. What is really meant by manage is a mixture of deceit, outright lying, bullying and general manipulation. All this is to be seen in the daily circus of politics and a further example currently on view is the attempts of the Murdoch Empire to stem the leaks of their sinking ship as their evil ways are displayed for all to see.


    T.S. Eliot in Burnt Norton has the two lines:


                        Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

                        Cannot bear very much reality.


    Cannot bear it, but also doesn’t want it . . . our view of reality conditioned, shaped by the latest fashions, lived through the eyes of our current mythology. On the other hand we do get glimpses; like your yellow eye of the blackbird. Thinking of which let’s have the second stanza of Wallace Stevens’ poem:




                        I was of three minds,

                        Like a tree

                        In which there are three blackbirds.


    And if I happen to, accidentally, so to speak, glance in the mirror, what sort of reality do I see? I might remember the fact of being 65 as I peer in and ask: is that a dragon, lizard or blackbird? At the same time there is this story that I’ve been told, from before time began, about the sort of being that I am seeing in the mirror: we say, human being. We are the act of being human: laughing, jumping and falling in love, storyteller, myth maker and scientist. Check out the evidence, the scientist proclaims . . . and then what? Well, tell a story and try to include some of the evidence stuff. Like the blood squirting from the throat of the dragon.

    Oh yeah, the dragon thinks, I got it in the neck again.


The Eye of the Blackbird

 Posted by at 9:49 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jul 052011

Have you ever felt like you were a tasty worm? I watch its yellow eye, expertly measuring the distance between us, sizing me up for its next meal.  The way it turns its head, calculating. Quite a mathematician I think.

That only moving thing, its yellow eye. And I am thinking, my prospects at this moment appear rather slim. Still…

The Maiden 2011 035 

… From the viewpoint of view of Charlie The Maiden, things look rather different. Caught on camera too, the way a yellow eye blinks. Shutter speed, light adjustment, weight forward, finger on the button, poised, ready to snap. A Punctum. A Mark.



It all takes place among twenty snowy mountains, where dragons also lurk. After all how long do you think the history of violence is? The answer – well, how long have you got to listen to the answer (After walking, let us remember, talking is our second signifier)? A long time, I hope – And, while we are at it, why not ask the dragon if it is related to dinosaurs? – to tell the whole story.

But beware. When you talk with dragons, fissures open up in the ground. So I have heard at any rate. Gaps in the space of meaning – And we are not talking CBT and Non-Violent-Communication here because haven’t you heard the news, Dr Rosenberg, that dragons belch fire – It is rough, raw, and heated!

I begin talking to the dragon about the long, the very long, the very, very long history of violence, including this complicated story how Charlie The Maiden got to be here in this predicament in the first place; A leads to B, leads to C. And so on, and so on, and so on.

That is, if something else doesn’t emerge along the way – Do I get to speak now, asks Charlie The Maiden - Did you hear that. The angel of history just spoke. Something is emerging.

The fissure is opening. But before she can say another word, the clanking idiot on his horse has leapt the impossibly huge distance over the roaring river gorge, zeroed his weapon system on target, and speared the dragon in the throat.

Sorry, this is so wrong, she wants to say to the Colonels in their dark glasses checking their mission sortie clipboards under the column headed ‘Lice’. Why do you always have to take things so literally, she wants to say, but not a word comes out of her mouth.

The dragon looks surprisingly calm, despite the blood spurting everywhere from its neck. It is soaking Charlie’s lovely dress and filling her dainty shoes, and she is stood stock still. One of those moments always caught on camera, AS if to say, in the long and melancholic history of violence we know this is what always happens. This is what history records every time…

Dragon 2011 

…There is however another possibility within this dire situation, which we may be able to uncover if we take a moment to examine the situation using our third signifier, writing. Uncovering a fissure in the natural history of the world, in which Charlie The Maiden does not succumb to a lifetime of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but instead, despite neither she nor the dragon being capable of speaking at this moment – in this situation of Petrified Unrest that is - they slowly turn their heads towards each other and begin to laugh. It is, needless to add, not an especially pretty sight, but I cannot take my eyes off them as I watch row upon row of stars also shining in the sky.