Does no one ever wonder why 5 million people sit in their houses in front of TVs doing nothing watching people sitting in a house doing nothing?
Taking into account the number of people who are aware of this realgem, and the number who are aware of that TV show, what is the per capita ratio of people who think to themselves just: Why? (shaking their heads slowly, brows furrowed in incomprehension)
"And can you tell me where you live, Simon?" comes the disembodied voice of the clinical psychologist from the tape.
There is a pause.
"I live... in the weak and wounded..."
[session 9, from the tapes in the basement casefile 444]
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"I am trying like Klee, to create something that will have a life of its own, that can put me in real danger, a danger which I willingly take on myself"
William Burroughs, Painting and Guns
Bloggers protect their offline identities to various extents, and the identities of those they write about. I could still pretend that Mikey is a character, a narrator. And it’s true: Mikey is a construct, a character that is being developed to carry out certain functions for its owner. Having features of a meme. There you go, Nardac, a real meme: Mikey and realgem and his slice-of-lime logo. It’s infected some people’s minds; if you find yourself clicking onto here regulary, you’re one of them. But I am probably the worst victim myself.
Also, as noted before (see part 3 of the post) on several occasions, there is something relevant here about Italo Calvino’s observation that the first character any author creates is the one who will write his book for him.
Now, anyone with a modicum of internet investigative skills could find my Real Name (tm) and other significant personal information about me without any great effort. (This is not an invitation to flood my inbox with emails beginning “Well, Mr _____, I happen to know that, in 2003…”)
When I began realgem this didn’t really matter to me. No disguises, I thought: just the ones I use in normal life (like this). It was also almost some sort of a cathartic exercise – live life in the open - at a dark time in my life. At the same time, I was setting myself up in direct competition with Big Brother – surely my life was more interesting than those dipshits? Well, Big Brother 5,000,000 – realgem 2,500 (and now down to 29 or so…)
It has been said the main qualifications for journalism are having a suit and tie, a half-way plausible manner, and a low, rat-like cunning. Well, I’ve got plenty of all of them, although mostly I wear suits without ties and use the ties for tourniquets. I can’t find veins in my lower arms easily any more, and that’s quite bad. I use the silk cat-print one (nine lives…) The dinosaur print one is bad luck, even though dinosaurs are cool (who on earth came up with a silk brontosaurus-print tie? Ah, T M Lewin & Sons of Jermyn Street).
Real-life stories. Not necessarily
What can we, real humans, do in this age of compartmentalisation and specialisation, of personal hygiene and over-use of deodorants - supermarket self check-outs – ticket vending machines - the attempts to erase all personal human contact from public life - the nanny state?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein
Yeah, there’s rock-climbing or para-gliding or scuba diving – contrived kicks you do your 9-to-5 to pay for. What is there in modern life that you can do that will challenge you on every side? Put you in physical danger and expose you to adrenalin; stretch your skills in applied psychology and force you to deal with a wide variety of people; challenge you mentally and intellectually, make you solve puzzles and improvise your way out of situations; learn new languages and cultures?
[redacted] until hair grew on my toes and I found myself becoming a hobbit and thinking (or maybe shouting): “Oh God, anything, anything you ask me, just for a boring life.” Casting yourself into the chasm of blind faith in God is all good and well, but you’ll still have your free will to deal with, motherfucker.
[It had ejaculated when it hit the windscreen – strange non-sequitur which will probably never be explained]
Meanwhile in the news... the UK Government has set new levels of how much of a given illegal drug you may possess for it still to be considered personal use... (seven grammes of heroin) or half a kilo of marijuana... seems quite reasonable to me... The Telegraph reports here... (and the Guardian's news blog here, always worth giving an eyeball...)
realgem advertising review++++++++++++
I draw your attention, too, to the BP advert in the sidebar (of the Telegraph story, that is). Web advertising is getting oh-so clever these days - this is a great example. This one has a volume slider which you can use to activate the advert. Turn the volume slider up to hear the BP exec blab excitedly and reassuringly about the future of the energy business, and the whole advert opens up to (semi-transparently) cover a part of the page.
The implication of this particular ad is somehow re-assuring, too. As cynical as all eco-types and rainbow warriors and many intelligent people want to be about BP (Burnt Planet, as the two former categories might have it) and other energy giants, do you really think the energy companies aren't aware of the real state of the petrochemicals situation on the planet; with alternatives up their respective sleeves ready to capture the market once the oil starts to run low, and/or non-petrochemical energy sources become cheaper or more fashionable?
Well done to the copy-writer who came up with "Beyond Petroleum" for BP... hope you got a big pat on the back for that...
Believe that and you'll believe anything
I'm struggling through a fog thick as treacle towards... was gonna say light but there's no light...
Becalmed for over a forthnight on waters choked with seaweed... The air here doesn't seem to carry sound... An unshakeable lethargy and torpor have fallen across us, and we have lost true east.
The first evening after I became a lodger here, I was invited to the dinner table. A delicious smell was emanating from the oven. "Well, what's on for dinner?" I asked. "Swozzie pie!" said the gentleman landlord, gleefully rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
"Swozzie pie?" I asked. Yes: a simple and wholesome baked vegetable pie consisting of potato, leek, and melted mild organic cheddar, with a swastika on top: hence "swozzie".
The nature of the gentleman landlord's diet is worthy of note - without having ever studied yoga, he has independently and instinctively arrived very near to what the yogis would term a sattvic diet - the most healthy and wholesome diet it is possible to eat. He eats like a bird, yet this is because his metabolism has become trained to extract all the goodness and life-force from the food he consumes with maximum efficiency.
Advanced yogis, it is said, can subsist on a single grain of rice per day. Without intruding too much on the gentleman landlord's private life, he defeated a serious lymphatic cancer in record time - mainly, I believe, through his diet, which is fully organic, and tends to avoid tamasic ingredients and keep the rajasic at a healthy balance. But an excellent and easily digestible explanation of these yogic dietary concepts here.
But it's not a very virulent one, because it depends on the acceptance of it by the subject/victim. The really insiduous memes are the ones that creep up on you unawares. Theories that mug you, like the sinister shadowy shape in the alleyway that approaches with a knife and then jumps into your head instead, and suddenly you're not the same person at all any more...
Memes have been mentioned in passing on these pages (or these screens?) before, here, if I remember, in the email from the pseudonymous Dr Otter (you'll have to scroll down the page a little bit).
So let me drop some Shoreditch trivia here. The name apparently derives from ancient Anglo-Saxon soerdyke, or town sewer. Most people in the clubs around here are so far up their own asses (or arses, but I prefer the US spelling here) - you can identify the type by the fact that they refer to the area as "the Ditch" - that you might get lucky and get mugged outside on Kingsland Road and that's the best conversation you'll have all night, with the mugger.
The consolation prize was going to go to transience (roll of 8), but then I realised I can offer nothing to a woman who has everything: the most beautiful way with words, her own island, and panties of the subtlest sky-blue with a rare tropical orchid print. Instead, next is tequilita (roll of 7), who wins - at long last! - a link in the Arbitrary Blogworld Sampler sidebar.
Dave Bones the terrorist lover is henceforth banned from realgem for his derogatory comments (not insulting to me, but to my readers: for ascribing - "they just feel sorry for you" - the disgusting arrogance of the sense of pity to my readers, whom I love).
That was 10 entries, just. I really would have done it - deleted it all. Girlie saved realgem, and wins a special holiday in north London starting Thursday...
[the chronological order of these notes is sometimes difficult to establish]
For the record...
Highbury Place #6 27.8.01 3-ish p.m.
I'm sitting here in this place now. It's __ eerie feeling, sorting through relics of other lives. Trying to get picture of what happened here. Notebooks with the fragments of a diary of some woman, no great diarist she, notes tracing the course of a relationship. A notebook, every page with the start of an uncompleted letter to Owen. I opened it first at a short entry describing their meeting... I don't usually go out to I suppose what you'd call meat-market clubs like that... and now months later I'm still here with you... and finished at Owen, everything that needs to be said has been said, I suppose.
[this from the first night:]
Entry through the bathroom window of the basement flat, single padlock easy to snip. That flat looks like it has been left in a hurry: toothbrushes by sink, teabag in tea-cup midway through making tea, food in cupboard and fridge. Judging by the sell-by dates, left end March. Letters addressed to "Miss Z. Outlaw, Basement Flat". There is a prescription for 8 different drugs: Otto reckons AIDS medications... Flupenthixol... no, it's a schizophrenia drug
The other two flats are sealed by doors; we have no entry as yet. Maybe when Otto and Max arrive.
[then, probably on first night there, while others sleep, i stay awake and scribble fragments or notes for stories in notebook:]
"Squatters break into a house like this one. They walk around, looking through the flotsam, trying to piece together what's happened here. The realisation dawns there's someone already here, another squatter... There is a knock at the window through which they just climbed, everyone freezes then turns. There he is. 'Jesus Fuck, what's wrong with his eyes?' No mere schizophrenia. Scrawls, bloody handprints on walls, strange ritualistic arrangements of objects in the corners"
[ after, i lie awake for long, breathing to calm myself - scaring myself with ideas of something pale naked human lying out in the long grass of the overgrown back garden, something that moves fast, scuttles along close to the ground like a lizard - trying to sense the house and its atmosphere]
Had my morning coffee, made from stale coffee from flat C wrapped in doll's dress from D and dipped in boiling water, and sugar and milk powder from A. Water heated on gas stove in B; we have gas but no power or water...
Those burned out flats upstairs freak me out. I feel fear... [long digression on fear and 'fear of fear itself'] ... But surely I should find the fear's centre, combat it, learn? When the dark comes, I'm afraid... But places do pick up energies from people who have lived there. Here in flat B, for instance, there is a definite granny vibe...
(yes, yes, yes, will be continued, there is an eventual point, but i'm going to sleep now)
Bad news from Pakistan. The epicentre of the quake was not far from childhood landscapes. Many familiar scenes and places will be gone forever, swallowed by the earth, swallowed by collapsing mountainsides.
realgem competition::: Mike's profile photo: is that a knife he's holding, or is it a parking metre he's leaning on? Or what the fuck is it? There are plenty of you out there who visit and never leave a comment (well below 1 per cent, even before my readership dip of a month or so ago!). Make yourselves known. It's a simple question, it's a literal question: there is no need to dazzle anyone with your cleverness. Leave an answer in the comments section: two or three words is enough. There will be a prize draw (a book of my choice) among all respondents. If I get less than 10 responses, I will delete this blog.
Something for the meantime: a news story that touched me, sentimental fool that I am, about the illiterate librarian of São Gonçalo, which almost absurdly brought tears to my unhealthily dry eyes... Happy tears, you dig... I don't weep from compassion or pity, because no greater stinking condescension or arrogance would there be... so that's realgem for today, an apology and a link with a moral teaching tagged on... you always get three for the price of one around here...
*once, men quested miles to study at the great libraries or to consult the great oracles... now a gibbering oracle on every TV channel, a library like none ever seen at the fingertips of any fool...
"I'm waitin' for my man, Twenty-six dollars in my hand... He's never early, he's always late, First thing you learn is you always gotta wait..." So let's call him... Let's call him... (No that's not what I meant, let me complete my sentences: why are you reaching for your phone...?) ... let's call him Mucus, 'cause it's close enough.
Robbie's battle lines
Robbie Williams has come bursting out from behind his tattooed musical
performance to inform a news conference in Berlin that not only has he
snorted coke, but that he's snorted it with a lot of journalists who've
been writing in diabolical terms about Kate Moss's love of the white
He's hit hypocrisy in the gut, but what's the betting that tomorrow's
tabloid splash will crisply attempt to nail him as some jaded immoral
Watching it happen, as I just happen to be, was spell binding. He's as
good a talker as he's a singer - depending on how good a singer you
think he is. I think very good, his Sinatra covers are out of this world.
But that makes me sound a bit of a fusty old trout.
Thank God it's Friday. I must say when we rang his PR people, we
appeared to know what Robbie had said before they did. Their head-in-hands
posture was audible over the telephone… We are on the case at 7.
realgem's story on Rodney Anyanwu continues shortly...
According to the local paper, Rodney Anyanwu was just sentenced at the Old Bailey for a murder he committed several years ago, to "time without limit" in a high-security mental institution.
I feel I know Rodney - the same way you get to know someone through a blog, cryptic clues on the great toilet wall - from before. But this is the first time I have seen what his face looks like.
Described as a schizophrenic who refused to take his medication and as a heroin user, he stabbed to death an old woman, 82. Violetta. This happened two or three years ago; according to the initial report (I've been following Rodney's career across Islington) he raped her first, but not so according to today's article. They also give the address of where the murder happened as different, not Arundel Place (Barnsbury) just around the corner from the old St Clements St. house, but somewhere in Finsbury Park. This too is strange.
Back then, when the murder was first reported, I phoned up the reporter for the Islington Gazette and told her I knew of two people Rodney had killed before Violeta, never reported in any publication. I was hopeful of selling a story or at least getting a tip-off fee, but she was not interested in knowing; nor were the Evening Standard. It was a story hardly big enough for them, on the London scale of things.
At some point, Islington housed him at number 6, Highbury Grove; that's right on Highbury Field opposite the aqua leisure swimming place, just off Highbury Corner. I happen to know because I lived there, for however short a time; perhaps ten days or two weeks, though it seems strangely longer, in the warm August of 2001. Way back in squatting days, before it had ever even occured to me to pay rent to anyone in this town to live somewhere. I have lived in the most amazing houses in the most desirable locations in London for free; and the best thing about 6 Highbury Grove were the amazing giant bay windows in flat 3.
And when me and Max and the others who weren't there when it all happened were evicted illegally, summarily thrown into the street because we were unwittingly living in a crime scene, we had no will to fight. Because the house was malevolent (or it had become malevolent) and it didn't like us there.
I know the whole story, now, but at the time, it unfolded slowly, obliquely, through clues and strange incidents, as I wandered through the abandoned relics of strangers' lives.
The top flat (apartment, US visitors, of five - one on each floor) was burned out. Part of its floor had collapsed into the flat beneath, a place with the touch of a woman, a woman's things strewn around, a cot for a child, and toys... a double bed in the other room, untouched by the fire.
The first time I went up to the top flat, on the top stair, there was a page torn out of a paperback, burned neatly around all the edges. I sat down to read it. It appeared to be from a horror novel. The scene: someone was investigating a fire, a possible case of arson: a case with inexplicable features. Finally the investigator can only suggest one thing to the other character (unidentified): "Do you believe in ghosts, Mr _____? Have you considered there may be no other explanation?" The last sentence on the page is: "I'm desperate. I'll try anything, even spiritualism."
I entered the flat. The smoke had blackened the walls, but only above a certain level: there was a clean cut-off level on the sooty, blackened parts, neater than many painters would bother to have painted it. I wandered, and stopped, and faced a cupboard, door burned or torn off. There was a crystal chalice, and scraps of torn paper, and seeds arranged in strange patterns. I entered another room, tip-toed across a precariously creaking floor. Bleakly bare, but for one collapsed shelf and a pile of books in the corner, cheap horror bestsellers (Koontz and similar) and a cheap New Testament. I flipped through some of the horror books. There were marginal notations in tiny letters in pencil, words or passages underlined alongside quotations from the Book of Revelations, or other cryptic phrases.
The kitchen, too, completely blackened, appliances scorched by fire, broken copper pipes jutting from the walls, dripping water. A thick pile of papers spilled from the cupboard under the sink. I crouched to look through them; legal orders to be sectioned (involuntary incarceration order on psychiatric grounds), psychiatric case-notes, letters from lawyers, immigration papers. I read at random in the stark light shining through into the shadowy kitchen from the corridor and living room, where the roof had collapsed.
But I think the first strangeness we came across, before we had explored that high in the building, were the scribbled notes on the backs of envelopes or on Post-Its. It soon became evident the former occupant of flat number 3, Mr Oliver Tindle, was gay (that's all I can say about him: blatantly hilariously gay, one room piled to waist level with gay porno mags, posters, sacks of condoms; the other rooms tastefully furnished to a gay man's fastidious taste - I chose his living room with two huge bay windows in which to sleep, and I still use his dressing-gown) and that someone, someone Dutch had been staying with him, who was mute. Therefore the notes to communicate.
They read things like "Is there a black boy? Is he here? Mentally deranged" and "My brother's danger, I am call gang, so I think you better leave now... I want you... Beg you... please forgive me... we are in danger", half of the text legible.
In flat number 4, I found the woman's diary, along with large plastic envelopes full of glossy photoprints, and letters with model agency letterheads. I sat down with the notebook to read.
Nor can I lose the courage, the conviction (politics and isms are banned from here, but yes, I have fucking convictions, too) to live with:
if, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities.(Philip K Dick, The Android and the Human, via timboucher.com - go and read the rest of this extract)
Did you find me on the internet yet, girlie? The stats and the traces showed an IP ghost that might have been you, looking for me... Once you find me online, you'll see how intimate I am with my readers and you might be able to put words to that "something missing about you..." What do you think of my double life? Cause I know what I think of you and your tawny skin and your... (oh old and scarred me, hahaa! the years fall away from my shoulders with you!)
What, but what - and speak honestly, friend - can ever compare to the needle hitting the vein, the blood billowing in the barrel like a blossoming rose, pushing in the plunger, the warm chemical mixture pouring into warm rich pumping bloodstream?
After that, what else is there, once you've touched god and he comes in a ten-bag?
Some of you will never understand fully the question. Some of you never get to laugh at the ultimate gallows absurdity of it: is it the only way out, relinquishing your soul to a Higher Power, like the 12-steppers or Christians do it? Or to die a sad stinking travesty of humanity, lost all control?
There is a thing that equals and defeats all highs, and that is Doing Thy Will. When you are right, when you are in space and time exactly where you are meant to be and everything you do is right and you are reaping the reward for your courage; when you are unstoppable and your energy inevitable, when you connect with the universe and Do Thy Will, when you fulfill thy dharma.
That is the one thing we must seek for, brother, otherwise we may as well end it here and now.
(Thank you for reminding me, my friend. Sometime, the right word at the right time can save the universe. Although maybe just not now.)
2. Never combine valium and alcohol and then talk to anyone, at all
3. Life is really quite simple when you know what you want.
Rain returns to London. I dig out the long dark coat and unavoidably dark thoughts enter my mind. I am meant to be somewhere warm and sunny.
There was one thing we forgot to ask the Nestle people. If you combine Nescafe with cold milk and pour it on a slug, the slug dies instantly. This sounds brutal. I forgot to ask them whether there would be any way to revive such a slug. I would have told them it was my pet slug, but I was too drink-sodden for deadpan.
As you my faithful readers all know, my drug of choice is completely different, and I haven't been drunk for as long as I remember. Instead I have found a very good doctor who is curing me of my heroin addiction by the use of morphine sulphate and diazepam. I will explain the idea behind this later.
Now, in summer time, you can make a lovely iced coffee shake sort of thing by putting instant coffee, sugar and crushed ice in a milk bottle and shaking until it goes frothy and sludgy. Late in the evening, when the tonic and lemons had run out, I thought rather than drink raw alcohol in the manly Nordic manner, I would make alcoholic iced coffee.
Before continuing with the story, I must explain a little about Dr Otter. He lives in a dank repulsive hole of a flat (yeah, so hit me mthrfckr) which he rarely cleans and the kitchen of which lacks the most basic implements or civilised amenities. Yet, the man can put together a delicious sharkfish steak with sauce, with rice and a vegetable dish on the side. When he drinks, there will always be lemon, lime and ice-cubes at hand.
The alcoholic coffee sludge that I had produced deeply insulted Dr Otter and sparked a vicious and dangerous situation which could have ended badly. He held out with religious conviction that Nescafe must first be mixed with some boiling water. If one is making iced coffee, one then adds the cold milk or ice afterwards. I took the position that it is perfectly alright to mix the coffee directly with cold milk.
The argument escalated dangerously. Dr Otter and I are neither what one would term well-balanced people. Horrible violence, probably to my detriment, loomed. A solution had to be found.
Aha! I had it! On the side of the Nescafe jar, there is a Consumer Helpline Freephone number. We must call them and ask which one of us was right.
Doc O wouldn't give me the phone at first, knowing he would be proved wrong. Finally I managed to wrest it from him and telephone the number. A recorded message told me that, since it was 2 am, the line was closed, but in emergencies, the security at the Nestle office could be contacted on 019xxxxx whatever.
I telephoned the security and did my best to maintain my face in my shameful (yes, this combination of drugs is shameful) state of vodka and valium-sodden soddenness. He was very concerned and told me that, while he was just security, someone from the Consumer Help department could phone me back if I had a concern, so I gave him the number.
Several minutes later, someone from Nestle called. Doc O answered the phone and spoke most of the time. This made it possible for him to use his typical cheap sophistry to word the question in such a manner that he would be proved right. Apparently, the person he spoke to told him that Nescafe is, indeed, designed to be mixed with boiling water.
I took the phone before Doc O hung up and spoke to the Nestle Consumer Help Representative. He told me it was perfectly fine to mix Nescafe with cold milk and that, really, it came down to a matter of personal preference.
I expressed my admiration that Nestle had Consumer Help Representatives awake at all hours of night to answer important questions about their products, thanked the gentleman, and hung up. The man had, after all, spent some 20 minutes in the dead of night talking to two people who must have sounded like complete drooling idiots. He spoke calmly and soothingly and his concern for the consumers of his company's products was palpable.
Inevitably Doc O then began to crow "Ha, see! I was right and you were wrong!"
I was too far gone to care any more. I'm tired of arguing with people like him who can never concede defeat like a gentleman. I'm exactly the same, it must be said.
"History is written my the victor."
No, history is written by the one who has the blog. This has now become the established, recorded truth of what transpired that night. The following instant recipe for ice coffee was also validated by a Nestle representative. It is very nice on a hot summer day.
1. Drink or empty about a quarter of a plastic milk 1 litre packet (use blue, ie full fat milk. of course)As a mixer for vodka, it is not to my taste. Large vodka tonic if you want to buy me a drink.
2. Add Nescafe, sugar and crushed ice to the rest of the remaining milk.
3. Screw milk packet top on securely and shake until frothy and sludgy.
4. Pour into glass and enjoy.
(As for Doc O, I have tried to help introduce him to the world of internet and computers because I think he should start a blog and suffered untold verbal abuse because of it. I finally managed to impress him with the new technology he so scorns when I found out how to extract morphine sulphate for injection from Zomorph slow-release morph capsules on Google.
If this were the sort of blog that commented on current events, I would heap scorn and contempt on the way the media have treated Kate Moss and her "cocaine shame", and pointed you all to this very readable Guardian article.)
(Note that important features of the story which I missed have been added to the comments section.)
"Duuh I don't understand explain to me"
The computer will explain to you, it's easy. There's a whole new world of information out there.
The computers are taking over. Learn to communicate with them now. New Labour and the banking system will collapse, but don't worry, your funds are safe with us. And always and always new things to learn.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves: "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"
Actually, who are you not to be?
You playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Edward Shah was the youngest son of a doctor, who had been the richest man in the district. As the youngest son, Edward had inherited none of the wide property (the rape-seed and sunflower fields, the mango groves, the sterling silver Raj-era pocket watch) amassed by the patriarch. In fact, he had inherited only a vast collection of cheap plastic wall clocks emblazoned with the emblems of forgotten pharmaceutical companies and medicines. The clocks covered the inside walls of his high-ceilinged mud-brick dwelling, an expanse of clocks stretching in every direction, none of them telling the right time.
Outside, the parched breeze still whispered over the plain, and second by second, the old men got even older.
Nothing happened yet.
Allow me to point you to a fragment of sheer beauty, where one prays for reasons to hate the city.
No? Still here? Appalled at the off-hand ease with which one casts us these pretty words - for free - for any to sniff at or trample on? Then keep company with me, one who has lost his mastery of words.
What is the evidence? Exhibit one: a month or more I have struggled to tap out a simple article for a paper and ink publication. The brief: write about "squatting", your choice of angle and tone. That's a real London thing. No. No no no. Look here instead. The scatology repulses me, squeamish as I am; the absurdity of the whole thread delights me. Clever cross-referees find hidden references shared with realgem. They can be the "easily alarmed ones", or they can be the Wooden Bead Cartel. Whatever.
A blog is like nothing so much as an aquarium. Out in the inky blackness behind the screen, I watch colourful and alien creatures swim in the depths of the glass box.
It is almost eerie. These books, better or for worse, seem to have been written by another person entirely. It is like holding a body of work by a dead man.
So I used to do things like see how long I could keep functioning without sleep (and without cheating by taking wakey-uppy drugs). The answer is: about a week, comfortably, with only one- or two-hour naps. Can you see me doing that now? Or, how long I could stay on the edge of orgasm without actually coming (I never got any of that Tantric effects when I was consciously trying for them). Or, how long I could stare at the moon without my mind starting to produce hallucinations to make me look away (it’s true, it happens).
VFEC embodied certain principles that predate VFEC. The very first notebook I started keeping (it was torn apart by an incensed ex-girlfriend years ago) listed some (somewhat facetious) Rules of Engagement, created under a thrumming tropic sun, viz:
1. be aggressively friendly
2. be un-apologetically non-sensical
3. open fire on unarmed enemies: it’s their fault they’re unarmed
4. do not wear a shirt tied around your face, lest the non-believers strangle you with it: for is not the Lord good?
Later, these developed into several central principles which guided the whole VFEC programme. Some examples from memory:
1. Find the fear, explore the fear, destroy it. (This is to say: it is what you fear most where lies the direction of advancement. Find out what you fear, what your weakness is, and force yourself to experience and explore that fear – that is how you will learn most about yourself.)
2. Vary your habits. Do something you’ve never done before every day. (Take every opportunity you are given to try something new.)
corollary to VFEC are the dream notebooks, an archive of many fantastic and banal dreams, some of them lucid or premonitory and all of them a delight to re-encounter and not have forgotten, spanning some 7 or 8 years in total and therefore predating VFEC.
VFEC, by the way, stood for Valid Fucking Experiment in Consciousness. It is the result of one man’s manic need to write everything down. It distills the wisdom of 6 major religions, 212 self-improvement manuals, 3 Maharishis, 111 self-help books, 13 CDs of NLP self-confidence boosting affirmations, one and a half Robert Anton Wilson books and 500 microgrammes of acid.
This last comment was a cheap and cheapening joke at the expense of a strange and singular work (ie. the VFEC journals), purely to anticipate snide jokes at the pedantic New Age tone of the thing. This is why you should never immerse yourself in self-deprecating self-justifications, because in the end, there is no way out; the serpent eats its own tail. Indeed, never apologise. The modern cyber-age Magus’s magical diary is, of course, his blog.
I never took the programme far enough before running back to the safety of heroin or some woman’s bed.
Nor do I have anything to obsessively document, and there are loads of things that scare me, loads of places to start… an explosive combination of circumstances…
KILL A MAN (the voices say – only way escape your fate)
Salvation is through anger, transcendence through hate
ACT NOW! Or forever hold your piece
The oil-smooth metallic beauty of the ACTION
Snicker-snack! And there is a round in the chamber!
Ugly face explodes in a shocking spray of gore.
Like I came in your head! Ha! And now I need some more
Already the stinking cowards run in mortal horror.
So easy would it be! How can you not do it? Seek them out and kill them all. Indulge your fantasies of revenge. Indulge your lust to be HIDEOUS arbitrary.
I stop posting for a mere three weeks and lose all my readers. Well, good riddance to you, if that’s how faithful you are. I don’t want readers. Realgem is changing.
Nevermind literary experimentation or underground journalism: I am here, now, with a new honesty. I am here, now, to indulge my self-pity, self-loathing and self-contempt to the hilt. That’s what sort of a blog this will be, now. See how long you can stand it.
I seethe with hatred for poor people. Why the fuck do they have to shop in the same shops as me? I walk all the way down to the bottom end of the high street so I can buy a bottle of olive oil for 99p, and I have to fight my way through clutches of frantic ugly poor people, glancing around with their fear-filled rodent faces and their lifeless poverty-dulled eyes, desperate to save some pathetic 20p on a packet of nappies. Why does their peripheral vision never seem to function? Inside, I am a tall, wizened, howling monster, like in the Aphex Twin video, bellowing at the trembling temorous moustached grannies who “Excuse me” and “Oh I’m sorry” and clutch their shopping baskets protectively to themselves like a baby.
And this is only one jagged corner of a vast and ponderous submarine hate. And then an alarming thought awakens. How many of the other faces who float past in the mist of rain (I am out in the street now and striding long angry strides) conceal twisted angry hatreds like mine? How many look upon me and see everything they ever loathed?
How can this city be viable?
Don’t apologise for things
This is what a day out in town does to me. Sitting on the top deck of a bus, inner clothes soaked with sweat, outer clothes dripping with rain, when the bus stops at a crowded bus stop to let on an endless stream of ugly wet people, I feel like nothing so much as unloading into all their faces with a heavy handgun. Go go go, driver, I left a window open at home… and it starts to become clear, why those bus drivers were so crazy.
Once upon a time, I lived next door to W___, a Welsh girl, and D__, her tall black dreadlocked boyfriend. They were both bus drivers.
The walls were thin. The rest of us who lived on that landing heard everything that went on in W__’s room. Viz, every second night, loud and violent sex. “Suck me, suck me bitch!” – “Glglglghhkhhhglupglup…” Every second night, violence sans sex. “Bitch! Whore!” Things smashing.
One time we are smoking in D2__’s room when W___ runs in, frantic and terrified. D__ is after her, grabs her, starts throwing her around the room as if we weren’t even there. And all in all, when it comes down to it, I can sympathise with D___. I never ever met such a dysfunctional evil bitch. She wantonly destroyed anything of beauty anyone placed in the corridors. She mercilessly provoked people into attacking her and then ran to you for sympathy and support. She went into paroxysms of self-loathing frenzy, smashing up everything around her, slashing at innocent bystanders with her nails, then breaking down sobbing in desperate misery. The mindless violence and abuse they faced as Hackney bus drivers possibly accounts for, but hardly excuses, this behaviour.
I arrive home and heave a sigh of relief that no opportunist burglars have taken advantage of the open window, then settle down to do what it is I do all day: stare at the wall and contemplate changing my life. Tomorrow. Fuck you. It’s my party and I can cry if I want to.
We're in the yard of the squat party building, Adam is stumbling around in the sunshine, lost. The pikey kids are pushing him around, laughing at him. But a bit scared and apprehensive, too, they back off when he turns to look at them. The way he looks at people is just too weird.
"Are you trying to find your way out from somewhere?" I ask him. He nods. The pikey kids look at me strangely. "You're a bit fucked in the head, too, aren't you?" they ask me.
I used to see Adam around a lot at those parties. Every time he sees me he gives me a great big bear hug. Probably no one else ever thought he might be trapped in a world that is just as painfully real as this one. Shit, I don't know. I do know that it's not always wise to interact with psychotics on their own terms, to enter their mirrorworld. If you can let go of consensus reality at will enough to do that, you're in some risk of losing yourself in there.
I think he was really, really alone in there.
In the village called Japan: Wazir Shah, Saheb Shah (audacious name, audacious moustache), and Edward Shah, elders, lounge around on charpais. Smoke rises into the shimmering air from an immense hookah. A Datsun pick-up drones up towards Malakand, away on the main road.
The road bisects a vast borderless dusty yellow plain, over which a parched breeze whispers. Here, conversation is unhurried and there is no need to have a punch-line to your stories.
There is an impressive bank of largely redundant light switches, traditional to Pakistani electricianship, on the wall of the house against the wall of which Saheb Shah leans his back. Japan gets a few hours of electricity each day. There are two electrical appliances in the house: one ceiling fan, and one lightbulb. The remaining switches play a role later on in the story.
What sort of a place is Japan? Noseless ghosts of dead Buddhist monks (butchered and mutilated by the armies of Mahmud of Ghazni) from the ruined monastery on the hill sometimes come down into the town, and are not liked by the superstitious population. Little boys with braziers come and shoo the ghosts away with acrid smoke for two rupees a go. Itinerant salesmen of dentifrice with loudhailers mounted on bicycles and sample cases of bright pink powders periodically pass through the town on their endless journeys. Legless men, scuttling through the traffic on powerful overdeveloped arms, gather to beg at the customs toll booth. They are heavily involved in the heroin trade, smuggling wads of drug-money under the noses of policemen. The police and army shoot it out sometimes, at the petrol pump on the corner of the road up to the red hill.
“What is wrong with this rubber chicken?”
Correct answer: “It’s unemployed!”
The layers of paper grow thicker as the pressure grows… How did we find ourselves in this surreal echoing nightmare? Sweat runs into reddened sleep-deprived eyes and little bits of brown packing tape coat everything... Can’t afford to drop behind… must keep papering… The sedimentary layers of promotional material grow thicker at the rate of about an inch every 45 minutes... How many shows have been swallowed whole by the strict rule: posters for shows only in designated places?
And waiting still as fresh in your flesh
For my return to earth
But your father refused to sign the forms to freeze you
About sixty now
And long dead by the time that I return to earth
My time held dreams were full of you
As you were then: still under-age
Your android replica is playing up again
It's no joke
When she comes she moans another's name
Well that's the spirit of the age
(spirit of the age)
It's just the spirit of the age
(spirit of the age)
And that's the spirit, spirit of the age...
Spirit of the Age, Hawkwind
Found by keeping eyes on ground: £1.70, 18 Superkings, half-gramme cocaine wrapped in Lotto ticket (looked just like rubbish and only an obsessive looking for messages from the universe on every scrap of paper on the ground would have found it) [and other curious and diverse things]
There was a kid rapping at the bus stop a white one this time (the last one was some fucker on the 254 to beats on his mp3 mobile phone did I write about that? should have it was good) weird looking kid with a ponytail, cannabis-leaf baseball cap and shades... he picked up some paper from the ground, I asked him what for, said he thought it was money... I told him about the messages from the universe and he wished me well... anyway... it was a fucking hot day...
And I finally googled "mikey delgado" and found some phrase on Guardian online about 'just emerged blinking into the daylight after a short prison sentence - a bit of a misunderstanding about banking etiquette'...
oh shit, this makes me momentarily worried with how utterly sinister 'banking etiquette' sounds to me in my present state...
And I've been catching up on all the political debate the malung has stirred up with the Scrutinator and Republican friends and throwing my two bits in... Like here and here and here...
Whatever happens, no matter how crazy, it just does. Took the number 30 bus yesterday, the route that was blown up on Thursday next to Tavistock Square, where this statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Also the memorial to "those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill". Also, I think, a Hiroshima monument and a Peace Tree. It's a real peace park. Junkies come to shoot up there and crack-dealers can rest their feet, sitting on the lush grass. So how ironic it should be the scene of such events. It's all sealed off now. (Later note: Londoners might want to take note you are almost certain to be searched in certain parts of central London, apprently a map of the exclusion zone has been published on the net now, I found it yesterday and can't find it again.)
The nearest eyewitness to the atrocities found by realgem (lazy journalism-wise, you should have realised by now) was about 200 yards away, just around the corner, where he was on his way to work in an unnamed august British institution in the very near vicinity.
There was the explosion, I saw holes and blood on the building beside the bus...
And suddenly police there... There was something strange about how rehearsed it all was... How well organised... Something unreal, wrong about it, about how smoothly they were suddenly there, cutting off the street and steering people away and not letting me past... "We don't see very much of you normally, do we?" I said to the woman copper...
[this comment should be understood in the context of how openly crack dealing goes on in the street in the vicinity, and the number of times our eyewitness has fruitlessly complained about it to the police and local authorities...]
I was happy to see Saturday's Times carried a two-page spread of excerpts from blogs reporting on the bombs and the mood in London... blogs have really come into their own...
And within a few hours of the bombs, you could find people's mobile phone footage of the attacks on the internet... The future is really almost here, the information-saturated Transmet future I'm waiting for...
My good friend the Malung, for example, finds his blog being referenced in the Italian daily La Stampa... See his post about it here and the article on La Stampa's web here... Scroll down to where it says Qualcuno saputo delle accuse ad Al Qaeda parla di Abu Hamza and you will notice it links malung-tv-news...
midmorning the stupid disco is still jumping and I can hear the bulldozers over behind the high wall already starting to smash the block down and I am still bouncing like a happy idiot to all the silly pop tunes they didn't play on Saturday ... I knew things were going crazy in a bad malevolent way when it went to Wagner... almost everyone had left...
Later bad thoughts come, images unbidden to mind.
The way she looked at me. The way some of them have started to look at me. Why certain doors and faces seem to have closed... And I can see so clearly certain ugly gossiping faces... "He's an alright guy and a real good friend but you know he's got problems..." - "Problems?" - "Heroin... We're so worried about him..." People recoil, whatever the real truth may be: the images are junk, syring, blood, HiV... Ugly, heavy images... This is a bad name to spread... something really evil to use against anyone, to influence with...
an encounter with disillusionment malevolence and betrayal... and a great night dancing...
Further advantages to working on freelance basis: Less likely to be somewhere like Aldgate station or Liverpool Street in morning rush hour when shit like this goes down.
I just started typing: I could so easily have been there when the bombs went off... But how often am I up and around in the morning rush hour, really? But those are places I know so well... Aldgate is just about my part of town... Could so easily have been at Kings Cross or Old Street...
Instead I woke up (on someone's sofa in Highgate, on the hill, far above the blot of London spreading beneath surly clouds), black coffee and valium and Marcio rolls a joint (It's early. I decline politely). Mobile phone beeps a news alert: fatalities in London explosions.
TV on just as it was becoming a news story and clearly not an "electric power surge" or a train collision... 7 bombs in London! (4, 8, whatever: I watched BBC, ITV and Channel 5 simultaneously and decided ITV definitely have the best cameramen...)
"Metropolitan Police suspect a co-ordinated terror attack on London!" (that's the Channel 5 news ticker). Ah, I feel safe now, they obviously have experts on the case. I was just thinking seven guys coincidentally just happened to be carrying bombs around central London in shopping bags, but then I realise why Sir Iain Blair has his job... Sharp guy...
Flick channels (Blair speaks... Scenes from central London... Bush speaks, Parliament jabbers... Interviewees with blood running down their faces, bodies covered in sheets, ambulances... More commentary... "Piles of bodies... Offices of British Medical Association literally sprayed with blood..." Take Marcio's joint after all. Remark it would be a good day to do something criminal as the police seem to be quite busy. Flick more channels. Who was it? Who was it? Finally... the terror expert talking heads: who is responsible? All the hall-marks of an al-Qaeda attack...
Get off the TV and onto the internet. Reuters:
I encourage you to familiarise yourself with Dave Bones's malung-tv-news... he has been documenting the story of so-called Islamist fanatics in London for a while now (for two years, to be precise...) And being an earlier riser, was at much greater genuine risk of being near one of those places at the time...
The "Secret Group of al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe" claimed responsibility for
the attack in a Web site posting and warned Italy and Denmark to withdraw their
troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Italian news agency ANSA and al-Quds
al-Arabi newspaper said.
The claim, also sent by email to the London-based daily, could not be
verified and did not appear on any of the main Web sites normally used by al
text messageThe armchair guerilla commander in me smiles. Maximum precision and efficiency with 7 small devices. Hit the Tube, hit the transport nerve centres. London grinds to a halt. Maximum chaos with minimum investment.
From: Dave Bones
To: Mike H
Am heading south i called abdullah. Says he didnt do it
update and re-assessment :: 37 dead so far :: Londoners have something exciting to talk about for a day :: chaos localised and no mass panic
Evening already, death toll has climbed to 37 and will doubtless grow more. I'm assisting a Somali correspondent for some Somali news service on the next computer in the net place on B__ Rd (N7 again, for now...) attach the report he wrote about the bombs to an email... He is mildly infuriated his report doesn't carry his byline and is trying to put that to rights... Funny, that's happened to me as well...
Not reading Somali, I can't tell what his assessment is. The armchair guerilla commander's revised assessment: there may be 37 dead and thousands wounded but the transport links into and out of Central London seem to be running normally. Notes in the doors of social security and other government offices are shut "due to the security situation". Things look normal... Work selling advertising in Doc O's new job doesn't stop for a moment, he tells me, and that was right near one of them...
They hit the right targets, but not hard enough to cause real economic damage, even though the FTSE took an immediate -100 dip. London will be moving again tomorrow, and apart from for the grieving and wounded, by tomorrow everything will be more or less normal again.
Until they find the people who did it were [Pakistanis/Moroccans/Yemenis/____] who have lived here for years... Then people of whatever nation cower in their homes, in Bradford or Bethnal Green or wherever, waiting the racial backlash... Rivers of blood...
The clearest news report I could find from the general media on how things unfolded is from Channel 4 here.
C___ the editor is saying (flattering me)... "I like your writing, write me something, anything you want... Preferably about squatting, or about heroin..." Oh God. Are you sure?
I don't even know how to begin to describe this self-help housing solution life-style (unkindly known as squatting) to anyone who hasn't been there (you might want to check this). But once upon a time (when?) I thought of myself as a part of this group, as having the nearest thing I'd ever found to family, as being part of a band of pirates, a here comes chaos gutter-glamorous guerilla-night-club-cum-safehouse for society's rejects, people who I've loved, people without whom I'd never had made it in this cold city...
The slanging match (see this) ended something like this, me speaking in Italics: [redacted]
The best thing about working on a freelance basis: You can carefully cultivate the imression copy/whatever else gets in late due to the other pressing freelance engagements or business projects of a dynamic go-getter, rather than sheer idleness...
And my God, I still can't do this shit... I am still getting sweats and shivers... So I delegate and pass the stuff on to the work-experience girl at the publishing company office in the States that we do the UK-side so-called guerilla publicity for... I decided a while back that manipulating journalists and the media is preferable to being a journalist or making the media... I decided long long before that that working for people you never see is preferable to working for ones who you do...
[Dreams or waking impressions? These are outdated manuals, the Bible, the Quran... People's brains were wired differently then... Our nervous systems have evolved (in no small part due to information and media technology?) God was talking to Muhammad (pbuh) 1400 years ago... I'm trying to find who he's talking to now, I am telling the Muslims in multi-colour mirrorshades, who occupy all the other terminals or fill all the other screens??...]
:: coming up on realgem ::
Slightly intimidated and greatly flattered by all the professional bloggers and writers whose writing I like/admire/respect who have somehow found their way here, designs are in the pipeline for a slick realgem logo and a corporate re-branding...
Also coming: a look at mirrorshades, featuring film-maker Dave Bones and Islamist extra-ordinaire, Abu Abdullah...