Aug 102012

Let’s check this out. Let’s check the arithmetic of memory. I was getting older but there was still (I estimated) plenty of time left, barring accidents and those well known Acts of God or plain and simple murder, come to that. The brief time of innocence between forgetting about nuclear weapons and the advent of global warming had just given us the window of opportunity to launch an attack on the unsuspecting world; heads in the clouds, feet barely touching the the wild flowers in the meadows.

Fast forward to some time that might or might not be the present, limping along in a desultory fashion; a result of varieties of conflict and trauma, cynical but still raising the standard of hope. Crawling out of bed, Continue reading »

Jul 072012

Not really a circular journey because that presupposes that the person who comes back is the person who set out all those days, months or years before. But we are confined to our spherical prison under the stars and under the sun. Renzo Piano’s Shard points the way out. The straight line must be the stuff of imagination. It informs, lends a narrow beam of light to our lives. Enables us to pretend that we have pushed God off ‘his’ throne and replaced him with . . . what? Science, psychoanalysis, all sorts of possibilities come to mind. And we really can tell stories . . . well, some of us can and some of us are rubbish at it.




 The Flags Are Out


The flags are out – no I don’t why either . . .

but we may have to bend ourselves to the collective will.


The deer came out of nowhere; no, that’s not quite true

it obviously came out of somewhere.


It emerged in a rush from the hedge on my right

startled by my appearance before her, two or three metres


from her, she swerved and plunged into the opposite hedge.

A brief encounter with the wild – a second from


a collision that I imagine would have left me

sprawling in the road because she was all force.


A force intent on evasion and survival

making a life on the margins of the human dominated landscape.


Bright eyed maenad alive with perfection; one being intensity

tearing me limb from limb; flesh organs bones into


the mincer. The fat red-faced cook turning the handle

with gusto, eyes libidinously merry,


dreaming of such a dish to set before the king;

Spices and fruit bursting with juices


bursting on the jaded palates of a thousand diners.

Come overwhelm me, my darling –


this is something special: to be remade

to enter the hunt, to outwit time


to twist and shout exulting the joy, to fall

to touch the cathartic as an equal; to die as she dies


because each day I must enter her once more

in order to find what I must be.


(Alan Kirby 2012)


“That Most Terrible Pong”*

 Posted by at 10:17 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 262012

OR – A Taxonomy of Malodours in the Context of Vagabond Literature- since Vagabond Literature, you might think and possibly agree, sort of defines our territory. And it is a surprisingly sparse territory according to my latest Google search, The Vagabond in Literature (Arthur Compton Rickett, London 1906) being the most recent contribution to the outlaw corpus. Then perhaps good outlaws are always invisible. Unlike Cosmopolitan Literature, or Flaneur Literature (or Bohemianism) which you will see on full view everywhere – you will find the shelves stacked – Vagabond Literature is out of place and abroad – Mal-arias -

1. Funny Smells:
Nasty pongs as well as being offputting on the dancefloor are also invisible (except perhaps if you are a syneasthesist) jests.

2. Bad Smells:
Those from off the old, which result in the destruction of the young. While we are referring here to the lessons of history, we are also speaking in the present tense: go to the Robinson Institute if you prefer examples and argument from the leftist end of the spectrum (remember those meteorites, the xenoliths, to which I referred last week), or listen to Professor Neil Ferguson, who is giving the 2012 Reith Lectures currently on BBC Radio 4 if you prefer talk from the rightist end (so far I've only listened to the first one, The Human Hive). The bad smells of history are all pervading regardless of political persuasion, corrosive from every viewpoint, as even the great Slavov Zizek wryly admitted recently, "We - by which he meant the old -are visiting destruction upon the young" - through debt, global warning… the long litany goes on and on.

3. Fishy Smells:
These are Strange Cases (the – inverted commas - 'Strange Cases' to which I have also referred before, such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) which are difficult to classify. Like missing persons: go to the Invisible: Art About the Unseen 1957-2012 for a taster. Or visit the asylums of the insane.

4. Foul Smells.
Disloyalty - The foul smell of a traitor – the very worst of smells. As Somerset Vaughan sort of once said, "You must absolutely be disloyal to be good writer".

We constantly meet with examples of all these terrible smells in Vagabond Literature:
    'Bon Soir. Je m'appelle Max, je suis soixante-un ans, j'ai des cheveux brun avec du gris, et court – not long like your pony tail. The tall strongly built Frenchman sits at the table in front of me with his back to me, his large black T shirt filling my vision. je porte un chenise blu d'azzur – light blue – nous sommes le meme. It is what you would call a cultural exchange. Cosmopolitan.
   'The man stands up and takes a white walking stick in his right hand and put his left hand on his wife's shoulder as she leads him towards the kebab restaurant door on a street south of Victoria station in London, but even so he stumbles on the step. No, he says to me in English, we are not the same.
    'There is another group of three people behind where I am sitting, two men and a woman who are also now blind to me. Then a waif Spanish chick girl comes to sit on the next door table with her lover, who may also be her father, he has grey hair, and – now I am thinking what I am writing – I am not the same.
    'Her long dark hair is platted tightly in a pony tail, which, lying over her shoulder, she strokes gently with the fingers of both hands, as if it is living like a cat. She wears a small white cotton top with thin straps over her bare skin, and large glasses with black rims. They order their meal, and – respetto – it is time for me to leave.'

* That Most Terrible Pong -
"That most terrible drug – ourselves – which we undertake in solitude" Walter Benjamin, Protocols on the Experiments with Hashish…


Maturing and Dementing

 Posted by at 9:38 pm  ON the STREET  Comments Off
May 162012

The true King of Redonda (Xavier Marias), the illustrious lord of that small island rock near Monserrat, has written at length concerning the "dark back of time," including a book with that title. The phrase is taken, or at least adapted, from Shakespeare: "What seest thou else / In the dark backward and abyss of time?", The Tempest, act I, sc. ii, line 49. Redonda has no inhabitants currently so far as is known, but there are several rival living claimants to the throne, and many famous ennobled peers, among them the Lord of Vertigo (WG Sebald), Duchess of Morpho Eugenia ( AS Byatt), Duke of Megalopolis (Francis Ford Coppola), and so on.

Cicatrix* also claims the island throne. This is not the queen’s real name, but it might be something along those lines. She is a woman with long dark flowing hair and cold blue eyes. Chilling indeed. She is sexed, but only nearly so, being forever adolescent like Wednesday Addams –
Child of woe is wane and delicate…sensitive and on the quiet side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns…a solemn child, prim in dress and, on the whole, pretty lost…secretive and imaginitive, poetic, seems underprivileged and given to occasional tantrums…has six toes on one foot
- black and dark tones predominating and giving the impression that she is above the law.

A parallel example of dark backwardness in nature is indigo, also said to be the colour of the ‘Third Eye’. The lines of flow which produce the natural dye are famed for their difficulty, especially the tendency of the dye mixture to “sulk”. A sulk may last a great length of time and in some cases can become irreversible.

These are the difficulties of wayfaring across boundaries. Gilles Deleuze demands from us similar performative efforts for the purpose, contortions as some have argued, to make us think. Perplexion, and similar words which employ the root “-pli-“, such as perplicate, implicate and replicate, are not uncommon in his writing. The “-pli-“ root meaning is fold, a turned down corner, or, by extension, an angle across which criss-crossing lines of flow are simultaneously being both reflected and permeated.

It is leaky. Such, as Anne Carson reminds us in one of her essays in Decreation, is the nature of active boundaries.

* a scar forming over an old wound. In excess this can impede the functioning of a limb.

Apr 262012

Sometimes, in conversations, in responding to what others are saying, we (I) say what we want to be, or that we believe should be, true rather than what is true. As usual watching our politicians is enormously instructive in this regard. It is not possible to say nothing because, well, they are supposed to be pretending to be in charge, to be responding positively to whatever crisis has arisen. But on the other hand they often have nothing intelligent to say, they are in fact overwhelmed, but obviously can’t admit it, so then they are dependent on slippery advisers to dream up some form of words that they hope will hide their nakedness. Time has become so condensed and is in such short supply that effectively there is no time. All those who cannot pretend to keep up fall by the wayside. In fact, it seems that we need new migrants coming in with each tide who are desperate enough to work flat out for any number of hours for a pittance before they are reduced, burnt out and the next wave are ready to take their places.

    At least they don’t lie about ‘trickle down’ these days. The gloves are off: this is how it is; you better get used to it. How long will it be before the financial elite and their propagandists persuade us that democracy is actually not working and it should be jettisoned in favour of . . . what? An unelected national unity government?

    Hello, this cosy little foxhole on Dartmoor is getting rather crowded – surely we can’t all fit in. Alright, alright, I’m moving up, don’t shout.

    Don’t get in a panic, our current form of democracy was always a bit of sham, a bit of a first attempt; after all those two arrogant posh boys – Giddy Osborne and Pinky Cameron – have been educated at the country’s finest establishments, so they must know what is best for us.

    You are right, of course, we are endlessly corruptible. Perhaps the only person existing on this planet who isn’t must be Aung San Suu Kyi. The rest of us are constantly caught with our trousers down in the midst of overwhelming confusions of desire. I want to fit in but I don’t agree with you. I wish I could be you but I can’t, I’m not; there are these different thoughts in my mind but on the other hand it’s a bit too scary to be separate for more than a few moments so I’ll shut up and agree with you even if I don’t agree with you. It’s simpler this way and maybe I’ll get something out of it. You know what I mean!

    I mean, could you, you know, make it worth my while.

    Anyway, what do I know?

    Did you see that grinning buffoon James Hunt after he was outed by all those emails? And the only way he managed to stutter though his statement in the Commons was to have Cameron’s finger thrust up his fundament. Or two fingers, perhaps. Come along, Jimmy, let’s see if we can talk our way out of this one. At least there was a submissive special adviser ready to fall on his sword to protect the boss who knew nothing about what was going on.

    Oh, what endless fun. A sudden possible insight: has something been done to our politicians, some surgical procedure performed in an exclusive private hospital to change politicians into stand-up comedians. And are the real politicians those who have admitted to being stand-up comedians? Or am I simply a slow learner and politicians have always been stand-up comedians?

    I think you should institute an immediate investigation.

    And I suppose by this time you have already ordered that book, but please don’t talk about being alive to Giddy and Pinky. Nobody has told them. Yet. They will have such a shock.


There we were, walking . . .

 Posted by at 4:53 pm  Atelier, Fundamental Perversions  Comments Off
Apr 052012

Of course you should have been tipped out of your hammock, dreaming in that brief but welcome sunshine of early spring. Tipped out to suffer minor abrasions and some bruising; although we can never be quite sure to what degree you will wake up. What sort of waking up could we hope for? Even at your great age! The apprentices had gone wild, running amok. In the past it would have been safe to assume their gender/sexual identity – young men longing for a sight of a young woman – but let’s not make any assumptions in that direction. Let us simply assume the rising sap of spring, the spring in the step of those young apprentices, let loose; what were the authorities thinking of, taking their eye off them, indulging in lazy lunches with bottles of strong red wine that appeared as if my magic amidst the mounds of succulent dishes on the increasingly stained white table cloth. A slurring of words, coarser humour, raucous laughter leading to amorous fondlings or simply sleep.

    There we were, walking with little thought of direction or destination and there’s a point when the legs are tired after many miles, perhaps the feet are sore, and hunger begins to gnaw at the belly. My thoughts are worn thin and few coins sit in my pocket. Is that the junction of paths where I espy a tantalising beauty? Perhaps there will be no going back. Already the myriad paths behind me are shifting, bending their way to a new tune, new possibilities, forcing a future that I didn’t know I wanted. A glimpse of beauty has me by the nose. Sweetness beckons me into the dance to the tune of the dazzling, rippling of the stream.

    But my steps are clumsy and unwelcome as I lurch across the green sward. I would grab but she’s gone on the lightest, fleetest of feet. My tiredness forgotten as I give chase – there is no chance that she’ll get away, evade the passions that suddenly command me; leave me no choice.

    I must enter the trap or die in the effort. The waters that close over my head are sweet and welcome.

    Or I could just walk away. Sorry, darling, I’ve got an urgent appointment. And I will jump into my BMW something-or-other and roar away, tyres squealing, back wheels drifting out in the loose gravel.

Or I could just walk away. After all, it’s where we started: walking. This fact of walking I was reminded of by the piece, in last Saturday’s (31.03.12) Guardian Review, by Will Self. He’s become a spokesman for walking, even quoting Rebecca Solnit who we discovered and valued several years ago. Of course, we were also reminded of our shared history of walking by the film Patience (after Sebald) which we both mentioned on this scroll recently. How far does the average European (let alone North American) walk these days? I mean in the course of their day-to-day life. We’ve been busy creating lives that exclude the possibility. Will Self mentions that a hundred years ago 90% of Londoners walked their journeys if they were less than six miles. It’s a great loss.


There I wasn’t . . .

 Posted by at 12:19 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Mar 172012

There I wasn’t strolling along this delightful grassy track when an unwarranted viper spoke to me though perhaps the speaking part was merely my imagination. Over there, I can hear a laughing faun hidden behind that rock. And I can just make out a shrieking satyr wild dancing amidst the trees. Meanwhile there is this coil of serpent sunning herself but alerted by my thundering patriarchal footfalls. There was no claim to possess a licence, no enquiry as to the possible remuneration attaching to the position of editor-in-chief. Why on earth did I get off the train?

    Am I not supposed to know where I am going? Aunty Maggie bashed me around the head until I understood that business plans were all the rage. And if I was so pathetic that I had no idea where I was bound (hand and foot) then at least I should have the decency to pretend that I did. Rather like writing this piece – where on earth do I want it to go? Solipsistic hallucinations allowing!

    Triangulations, we must remember are dangerous structures when applied to us. All well and good when referring to lengths of wood or metal; Hey, that’s really strong. But mummy what is he doing here? Aren’t I good enough for you? Surely we don’t need anybody else? And don’t go away when I’m talking, or at least having a go at thinking, I like you to be around while I think. And then all these children start appearing, popping out from God knows where. Was it something that I did? I was absent, asleep somewhere on a grassy track, minding my own business, dreaming of being deeply implicated in some sort of pleasurable activity, the nature of which is very unclear to me. A sort of mist came down . . . you know, like the transfiguration – what is it that is hidden in that cloud?

    And then I wake up to discover an unlicensed editor in the nest.

    Welcome you little snake in the grass, it seems rather exciting to imagine you paying occasional visits. I better get the vacuum cleaner out, have a shower and comb my hair.


A Taxonomy for Entrepreneurs

 Posted by at 10:17 am  Old Men Travelling  Comments Off
Mar 082012

While Ubi was sleeping off his huge lunch on Monday on the beach in front of the Arabian Ocean, his smooth round belly rising and falling and the regular breath issuing from his open mouth with loud snores, Scheherezade crept in to the plus petit chambre behind the throne and cut the wifi connection here. Appararently her 1003rd Tale was not to her liking and she has grown peevish in her maturer years.

So you might like to consider a taxonomy of entrepreneurship during the interlude. Because of course not all entrepreneurs are the same; Pinky Cameron is one of a very particular kind, and we might like to know the sort he is the better to distinguish him from some of the others.

"Bourgeoisie was the old way of describing the genus", Scherezade says as she emerges from the little room, hitches ‘her’ trousers up and adjusts ‘her’ flies. Those more familiar with Est-Politik-Sprech might still prefer that word to entrepreneur
anyway. Slavov Zizek does in his last essay in the LRB (26 Jan 2012). The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie was its title, and the discussion was on the hegemonies
of power that arise through the “privatisation of the general intellect”; not
just the power exercised by professional classes (ie which continues to provide
their ample ‘fat cat’ opportunities to charge for everything on the basis of
scarcity), but also the power exercised through the world of ideas, including through
our computers and the worlds they inhabit. In other words, including THROUGH

Slavov was writing in the context of the emergence of a possible new class which inhabits and works in what could be called the “Life in Common”. It is the way of being networked according to Slavov (referring to the philosophers’ Hardt and Negri latest book Multitudes) which has arisen, this new domain of shared knowledge
and new forms of communication and co-operation. Like Ubi himself the domain is
called everywhere, but it should be distinguished from the global, which of course is entirely owned by the ‘fat cats’ these days. The Commons are open and inclusive, and composed of innumerable internal differences (so they are not like ‘the masses’ and so on). The Commons are also socially diverse (‘biopolitical’ is the posh word; meaning it is not just about economics, it is about everything – everything in life that is).

Ubi gives a sudden snort, and begins waving and grappling with his arms, muttering wildly and blowing kisses. He appears to have encountered a Devi Goddess in his dreams.

Here I am sunning myself for two weeks on the coast of the Arabian Sea with my old Russian friends. What we have in common is our sharing the dreamy delights of vacation time Asclepian style, but we have our other differences. For instance, I tried a novel conversation gambit on one of the Russian men this morning after
breakfast. Being more or less of the intellectual bourgeois type myself, I
shall call him Alexei, and myself Maxim to disguise our real identities.

Hello, says Maxim. Hello, replies Alexei. We are beginning in workable English as you can already tell, and Alexei continues with his familiar and very detailed explanation of his work as a genius of nuclear reprocessing material which of course Maxim has
heard from him several times before over the last few days.

When were you born Alexei, 1948, Maxim suddenly interjects.

I was born in 1951, Alexei replies after a pause. Maxim writes down the two dates on a blank piece of paper. Da, he says pointing at one of them, and then, Da, again pointing at the other and drawing a line between the two.

What is your first recollection of England? Maxim begins again smiling at Alexei. There is an even longer pause.

My first recollection of Russia was in 1956, Maxim continues still smiling. We lived near an aerodrome in the east midlands and one day on a walk with my father he pointed at the large grey jet aeroplanes lined up in a row on the tarmac on the other side of the barbed wire perimeter fence.

"Do you know what they are?”, my father asked me.

“No” I replied.

“They are bombers and they fly to Russia”.

What is your first recollection of England, Maxim asks again, but Alexei appears to have suddenly lost his command of English.

In the taxonomy of entrepreneurs, the Russians clearly belong to a different brand than I do, a brand where silence is also a valuable commodity. Call me Intellectual Bourgeoisie, but call them Survivor Bourgeoisie. They are of the Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s type, The Tougher Than The Toughies and I admire them! Comrades!

And superpink Pinky Cameron? What brand of bourgeoisie is he? He is of a very different breed than the Russian entrepreneurs. You see his kind out and about in cities and the countryside, usually dressed in tweed jackets and corduroy trousers. They are called the Antiquated Bourgeoisie. In literature they are the ones who always write for full effect (you know the novelists I am referring to and there is no need for me to name names!). In politics it is the same, only it is full effect speaking instead of writing. And they are addicted to the idea of leaving monuments after them, which they usually achieve in doing… as any kind of atrocious legacy will do.

In general they are also unaware that the imperium of Ukania ended fifty years ago (probably about the time of Maxim’s first recollection of Russia on the walk with his father). And so on…

…Ubi has awoken and in order to properly disillusion him says he wishes to conjure Cameron into his presence for an audience as soon as possible.

Say the magic words after me:

“Franz Josef”.