Worst Case & Ariel

“You either love it or you hate it” was the slogan for Marmite because the people who did their marketing were smart enough to know this was the truth and they weren’t convincing non-buyers to get it so they just ran with this idea that had fallen into common vernacular. Bands, Books, People could all be described as “Marmite” meaning you loved or hated it, no middle ground. Today this partisan mentality has extended to EVERYTHING, nothing is seen as middling anymore or can simply be ignored, it is either the greatest thing to have ever happened or the worst. It will either save us or destroy us. The thing I found to be most interesting in all this is how this extends to the topic that has been the preoccupation with popular culture for the last 15 years or so: The Apocalypse.

The Left see an imminent apocalypse due to climate change, economic collapse and escalating wars whereas the Right see it in the rise of political correctness, social justice or just anything that doesn’t grossly benefit white dudes. Now the important distinction here is how both define these futures for society and civilization, for the left it’s a Dystopia that awaits but for the right it’s a Utopia. The pejorative use of the word Utopia has always perplexed me. Why is the idea of a prosperous, equitable society that benefits all seen as such a bad thing? I think the first thing to understand is that the people who complain about “Utopian dreamers” are normally the people currently living in a Utopia themselves: privileged, wealthy white people who have never known real conflict on their shores in their lifetime and are rarely said no to or not catered for, but it also seems to boil down to a total misunderstanding of what Utopia is.

I just finished reading Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’ which is where we get the word and its general meaning from. Unfortunately, little more than a basic precis is given to us by the modern definition of the word Utopia if you haven’t read the book. The book itself is about a mysterious sailor named Raphael who tells Thomas of an island nation that he visited/discovered off the coast of South America. It is a seemingly ancient society and civilization of total harmony and the more it is described the more we realise how difficult it is to see happening at the time the novel was written but thanks to a surprisingly nuanced and detailed explanation of the different aspects of Utopia by Raphael we can see reflections of the country in our own contemporary society, references to courts and policing, sales and taxation and even home ownership and gardens are discussed as the perfect model for a well maintained civilization. Thus, the most striking thing reading Utopia today is that by the book’s definitions it already exists in the western world, but only here and only to certain class of people.

The other thing that struck me was something that seems slightly abstract about the book: it is not a first-hand account, it is an account of a first-hand account. Anyone who is aware of the ‘Unreliable Narrator’ trope in stories will know this is one way of being given a story that may or may not be true. Or both. Any book you are reading purports itself to be the objective truth, be it written first person or not, you take the story at face value even if you know the person telling the story is subjective. In the case of Utopia you are hearing a subjective account of a subjective account and this places Utopia in an interesting place not just as a book but an idea that has come to define the word. Even in the context which defines the idea of Utopia it is seen from a distance, it is a myth even in its own story explaining it. Utopia is a country viewed from afar, never to be landed on, that we see as perfection but can never attain. Perfection has always been unattainable, as any wise person knows, so Utopia can only ever exists as an idea even in its own story. Therein lies the difference between the Left and Right visions of the next stage of civilization, the left knows aiming for Utopia is doomed to failure for “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp” but we equally fear the reality that a dystopia is achievable due to its definition being founded in very real and present concerns. The Right, however, are the opposite. Their Utopian hell is unlikely to ever happen but they inch ever closer to a dystopian present of their liking and design.

Another text that uses a mythical island to confront us with a form of Utopia and Dystopia is Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. Whilst Prospero’s island is not a Utopia, nothing more than a rock really, it is easy to see the way everything on the island, embodied in Ariel and Caliban, is depicted as being Utopian or Dystopian depictions of humanity. Even the way the survivors of the shipwreck see the island is the opposite to one another:

Adrian:            … the air breathes upon us here most sweetly
Sebastian:        As if it had lungs, and rotten ones.
Gonzalo:         Here is everything advantageous to life.
Antonio:          True; save means to live.
Gonzalo:         How lush and lusty the grass looks! How green!
Antonio:          The ground, indeed, is tawny!
Sebastian:        With an eye of green in’t.

An island that depicts both the best and worst in people seems a perfect sister to More’s Utopia (a text written 100 years before the Tempest) that reflects the problems of the contemporary England of More’s age to a dream-like, mythical place of societal perfection. Prospero even says in his “we are such stuff as dreams are made on” speech, the implication that everything there on the island is false, this “insubstantial pageant”. At the end of the play both the selfish and greedy Caliban and the righteously furious but altruistic Ariel are freed from their servitude to Prospero by him as the survivors along with the Magician himself and his daughter leave the island to return to the ‘real’ world, this could be seen as relinquishing the notion of the dichotomy presented by the island of good and bad or black and white thinking (Ariel in performance is often White, Caliban is typically depicted as Black). As such we could see Prospero’s island as both Utopia and Dystopia that the characters can return to civilization with knowledge of, in the same way as Raphael returned with an understanding of the Utopians.

The point I am trying, laboriously, to reach is that the Hegelian argument of Thesis and Antithesis (the need for two opposing arguments to decide on a synthesized method to progress with) need not be embodied in reality. Diametrically opposed views are useful in debate and thought experiments as there will always be a counter argument for any point of view or belief but its usefulness in day to day life is not beneficial, as we are seeing today. Whilst this may sound like an attempt to say “Can’t we all just get along?” it isn’t. I do not believe in liberalism or centrism, I believe in everyone being educated and intelligent enough to understand an argument from each extreme and be able to utilize this knowledge to better approach a topic as opposed to simply taking an oppositional or dogmatic stance on any given thing. We need be neither Ariel nor Caliban, we can be Raphael and see the ideas of perfection or corruption without making them a reality and know there is something better to aim towards.

Having said all this, I admit this was one hell of a reach. I based this article on the title which was given to me from an autocorrect mistake by my girlfriend when she meant to say ‘worst case scenario’ but I liked it so much I wrote it down to use as a title later. It kinda makes sense though. And I highly recommend reading Utopia, fascinating reading given the current political climate, especially in the UK and USA. There’s nothing wrong with being a Utopian dreamer, Shakespeare clearly was.

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“‘Tis the Time’s Plague”

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I have recently read two contemporary novels that deal with the fallibility of memory. The more I thought about it the more often this theme occurred in various things I have seen or read. One of which was the incredibly dull novella ‘The Sense of an Ending’ which dealt with how a man remembered a previous relationship and friendship ending and how it actually ended, the disparity between the two being rather jarring in that case. It won the Booker, as most over written guff does, but to me it was not a revelatory notion (nor did I think it that well written) but I also read ‘Ocean at the End of the Lane’ recently which also deals with memory. Specifically it is told in flashback as a man remembers his childhood and a formative yet forgotten experience. Both are somewhat elegiac about youth but it does seem to be a growing trend.

Sigmund Freud once wrote (my friend tells me) the purpose of human memory is “To Forget”. We cannot possibly retain every ounce of detail about our lives or it would be crippling. We see this in action with the mentally handicapped, certain autistic people have near perfect recall of scenes or events. We see this as a clever ‘trick’ yet it is clearly part of the nature of the condition. The memory can only function in small doses. Yet when we see people with Amnesia this can be equally as damaging. As opposed to the more Hollywoodised model, simply look to patients with Alzheimer’s to see the destructive effect memory’s absence can have. My own great Aunt suffered and it was a crushing sight to see her ask where Uncle Dick was only for us to either have to remind her he was dead or lie and tell her he will be there soon until she forgot again. Similarly stroke victims are laid low sometimes not by the physical ravages but by the brain’s sudden inability to remember words, faces or how to sit down.

Motivational speakers, tumblr and the most hateful advert I have ever seen will tell you to “live in the now”. i.e. The moment in which we live is the only thing that matters. Technically this is true and yet we have evolved memory and recall so we might better understand ourselves, each other and the world around us. If we had no memory we could not read or write, nor build relationships or our civilisation. Neuro-Science has boiled down the ‘Moment’ to between 3 and 7 seconds. The things we remember fit in this small window. Naturally what you consider ‘now’ will not be now for much longer which presents the whole argument of how ‘Now’ is NOW. Naturally that notion is hard to grasp so the very purpose of memory is to be a coping mechanism for dealing with every moment we are alive.

I saw King Lear at the Globe for my Birthday last Thursday. It was a great production and I confess to not being that familiar with the play so it was good to get better acquainted. I noticed a few things. First off it is not as often quoted as many of Shakey’s other plays, “Blow wind and crack your cheeks” is about it. Second it is fundamentally about insanity, or as we would now have it ‘mental health’. The word ‘Nothing’ appears many times throughout the play. The absences of things are often linked to mental issues, someone ‘lacking their senses’, but more specifically an absence of a memory or recall. Lear puts himself into exile and wanders the country as nothing more than a beggar. Homelessness and mental health was a hot topic of the time, Bedlam was more of tourist attraction than safe house for the destitute and mentally ill. They were flogged, beaten, crammed together, starved and then – ironically – forgotten. Lear meets Poor Tom (the name itself shorthand at the time for someone deemed insane) who is in fact Edmund’s brother Edgar disguising himself to avoid detection. He is forgotten by himself forgetting. They are both easily distracted in speech and forget where they are or at least Edgar pretends to. Today we might diagnose Lear with late onset Alzheimer’s.

I read a tweet recently that was a quote from Nathan Filer who won the Costa Book award, he was a Mental Health nurse and it was the topic of his winning book, he said: “Mental health work is just firefighting now”. A cursory glance at the numbers provided by the NHS will show you how the numbers of patients admitted with mental health problems is climbing. The trend and public acceptance of having a “shrink” now is indicative of the nature of mankind’s sense of self and our appraisal of it. It would seem the mental health is getting worse or at least has become less stable.

I imagine you are wondering where these disparate threads are leading?

Did you ever see Black Mirror? If not FOR SHAME go and watch it now. The Episode entitled ‘The Entire History of You’ is a satire of modern social media’s process and its inability to let you forget. This ultimately results in a very destructive end, if you are unable to forget the past will not merely haunt you, it will remain present. There is a theory about time that everything is already happening at once and we merely perceive time this way, the fact we have developed memory and the abstract notion of linear time indicates this is not to our benefit to know.

Facebook has a timeline, it shows you a video of your year in review, photos are tagged with you, you have reminders on your phone for any event coming up, we photograph what we eat, we store our conversations via text, we hang pictures on the wall, watch home videos of old holidays, listen to songs to remind us of an old house, watch concerts through our phones so we can experience them later. We surround ourselves with aids, memorials, mausoleums to the past that may or may not have happened. Continually forgetting more and leaving it to our technology and ephemera to fill any gaps, deferring to Google to jog our atrophied memory. We could not live any less in the now than we are yet are so assaulted by it. The need for instant consumption and then its digital retention is the norm now. And yet this digital archiving of one’s self is just as fallible. Just as our real memory forgets and misplaces objects and people, files become corrupt, data damaged, images deleted, documents lost. Our desire for our digital and online selves to operate as a proxy for our memory and identity is just as flawed a model as our organic version. Yet never a conversation goes by without someone checking their portable device for the information someone is grasping at…

Philip Larkin wrote a poem called ‘Absences’ in the 50s. It is a seascape but its final line is a startling juxtaposition: “Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!” We clear our ‘attics’ of ourselves daily, there are such great absences in our minds. Just as ‘Nothing’ surrounds Lear. Just as fires are starting all over the world.

I remember lying in bed with the girl I loved. Clasped together like a padlock for hours. We were watching a film. She hit me in the eye and giggled and apologised and kissed me. Then I got mad because she said I hadn’t complimented her right. She trod on the carpet spikes and swore and I laughed so hard. Or was that when I got out of bed to find her watching television so fell asleep on her lap? And she asked to watch Star Wars and I told her no one will ever make me happier than she did that moment. And we were naked. And it was all lit by my bedside lamp. We were in my brothers spare room watching a laptop, it was our first weekend together and we were walking along the beach in the sunshine when she stopped me to kiss me when we were on the way to the video shop shuffling through the piled autumn leaves as I hugged her so tight in the freezing cold after I’d spent the day moving while we had sex on the floor under our sleeping bags. Then I turned around to look at her lying on her back reading and took a photo…

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Yes that was it! A photo, now I remember.

What was the purpose of memory again…?

 

(Credit to Dr. James Smith, as ever, for being sounding board and memorial aid)

Summery Summary

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I have had a busy week or two and should follow up on the previous post but feel like there’s not quite enough of certain topics to fill a whole post so am going to amalgamate a few topics. As such, this will probably be a little scattered and disparate so apologies for that. Anyway, in no particular order:

  • Man of Steel

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I bloody loved this film. I have little more to say than that. It reminded me very much of Batman Begins and I think it was a great introduction to the character and world. Complaints about it being to action-ie I think are stupid. I would have been very disappointed if shit didn’t get smashed to crap in the modern age of CG etc. This is exactly the sort of film I wanted of Superman in this day and age. Wasn’t too deep, was perhaps a little too convoluted in places, but generally a blast from start to finish. A great set up for what is likely to be a stonking sequel if they focus on a battle of wits between Luthor and Kent/Superman. Excited already at the prospect!

  • Peppa and Picasso

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I have spent a lot of time with children recently and similarly a lot of time watching children’s television. One favourite is Peppa, its happy, bright and has a gentle yet warm sense of humour I really like. My main interest is its animation style though. It is an indication of the kind of absorbent culture we live in that can cherry pick from any of the arts in such a way that you can now have a cartoon drawn in a neo-cubist style. Bear in mind this particular style was massively controversial even fifty years ago. Picasso got hate mail and paintings were spat on for his, now appreciated, artistry that dispensed with vanishing point and perspective allowing for a freedom of artistic depiction that still adhered to the human eye’s recognition. And now the same technique is being used by a children’s cartoon for under fives. It never fails to amaze me how easily we have assimilated such revolutionary ideas into everyday life and mass consumerism. Futurism, minimalism, discord, avant-garde, pop-art, cubism and many other ‘schools’ of change that literally altered national perception within the given art forms are now on kids TV, album covers, films, soundtracks and coffee cups. As my spirit animal and cultural commentary guru once said “Only in a truly decadent society can you use the phrase ‘Standard Fantasy Setting’.” – Yahtzee Croshaw

  • Other Films

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I spent a week in Manchester recently to see friends and try and find somewhere to live but whilst there saw a massive amount of films (even for me). In addition to Man of Steel I saw: Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Wreck It Ralph, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, World War Z and Behind the Candelabra. Uniformly they were all pretty excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through them. Silver Linings was a surprise as despite being a predictable Rom-a-com-a-ding-dong it was actually a good laugh and every character was interesting, my overwhelming crush on Jennifer Lawrence helped in this too. She is genuinely too good to be true. Her performance deserved every inch of that oscar and combine that with an honest appraisal of her job/situation in real life she is set to rule the world. Highly recommended. Wreck It Ralph was another surprise. Despite starting very similarly to the Toy Story movies and appearing to be nothing more than a collection of nerdy computer game in-jokes (one or two took even me a minute or two to twig) but about a third of the way in I suddenly got involved after a rather shocking moment. After that it was twists and turns at every corner resulting in a couple of genuine gasps from Stella and I. Will have to get that one on DVD. Nick & Norah was a bit paint by numbers RomCom but again it was the supporting cast that made it stand out a little more. The drunk girlfriend and the three gay bandmates were a real hoot and had a fascinating B Story. Also I fancy Kat Denning. Yes I am that shallow, deal with it. Argo was a surprise, I knew the story and am normally dubious of Oscar wins in many ways but apparently two for two as this was a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. It lacked any actual commentary on the politics which meant it was a little shallow for something that garnered such awards praise but it was an absolutely gripping story and I was hooked. Rob and I literally screamed at the screen for the last half an hour. Beautifully shot on old film too. Go with the directing thing Affleck, you’re much better at that. World War Z was also an enjoyable bit of fluff. It was basically an action movie and a Zombie film second. This was largely due to the budget and requiring bums on seats that an 18 rated film would not attain. You could tell it was taken from a book as there were lots of details and ideas you don’t normally see in a low budget zombie film: tying string round one another, taping magazines to arms to stop bites getting through, removing teeth, the ‘count to twelve’ bits. Sadly though there was none of the gore or real horror and they opted for “Runners” not slow trudging Zombies. It was great to see everything on a bigger scale though and the piles of Zombies and whole cities falling to the waves of undead was great. I also liked the finale which ditches the blockbuster nature and reduces to a few corridors and some nice tension. It was apparently a rewrite and it pays off admirably. Not much of a horror film but a great action flick. Pitt is still my favourite Hollywood leading man too. The only let down was Candelabra really. It isn’t for me though. I’m not a fan of the biopic and it did feel very much like a TV movie (HBOs presence I suppose), that said Damon and Douglas were utterly fantastic in their roles and the production was faultless. Just not my bag baby but I’d still recommend.

  • The End of the World

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Does anyone else think its more than just a coincidence we have two ‘Meta’ comedies about comedians and the end of the world? Since the millenium we have been served a cavalcade of disaster/apocalyptic movies, books and comics so that it now represents its own genre of “Apocalyptic Fiction”. I blame the Zombies. They started it with their dystopian, last-man-standing ideology but these days its anything from a virus, aliens, monsters, nuclear war, dreams, the weather or fucking TREES (yes you Shyamalan) that’s out for our extinction. Despite the fact this could not and will never happen (we’d either ALL die or more than 20% would live in the event of some of the more plausible catastrophes) It seems to imply something bigger going on. It does seem to be indicative of a certain zeitgeist at the moment though. Our postmodern society where we are cripplingly aware of all that has gone before to the point where everything created now is already something else; a desire for a blank slate seems to be prevalent in the art and popular culture we create these days. I have no solution for this and can expound no further other than “Look at that, isn’t that a little sad?”. I’m noticing it more and more at the moment and I’m kind of hoping we can move on from Post-Modernism now as I’m pretty sick to death of it. I watched Nathan Barley again while I was visiting Manchester too and it was genuinely frightening. It is less of a sit-com now more of a scary docu-soap. This has been burrowing around in my brain since reading Women in Love which feels like an early progenitor of ‘Apocalyptic Fiction’ and was a direct influence on the novel I just wrote which is also about the End of The World but more specifically about this idea itself, that perhaps an ‘Apocalypse’ (not a doomsday I should add) may in fact be necessary for culture to move forward. THE NOVEL WILL BE FINISHED SOON YOU SHOULD TOTALLY ASK ME TO SEND YOU A COPY TO READ. THANKS.

  • Gigs

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In the week I was oop narth I did three gigs and they were all a lot of fun. I played electric for all three and finally feel like I ‘get-it’ now. I normally wrestle against a certain inability to play guitar but I think I’m past that now. I’m still not a ‘Guitarist’ but I can definitely play the guitar these days. It also helped that I was playing Joel’s tear inducing ’77 Les Paul that not only looks the dogs doodahs but plays and sounds it too. I ran through my widdle Marshall for the last two as well and the two together are still a match made in heaven. You can see why the LP and Marshall combo was used by EVERYONE back in the day. They just fit. It was great to see some of the other old loons playing too and generally reminded me why I like living up there and much prefer the ‘scene’ allowing, as it does, me to play what I like with like minded musos to a receptive audience. Fun fun fun!

  • Manchester

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I somehow managed to cram in everything I wanted to do in the short week I was there: Lunch at Fyg, Art of Tea, Home Sweet Home and breakfast at Cafe Creme, book shopping, trips to the cinema, Fuel and One Lounge gigs, dinner and dates with all but a couple of friends, day out with the boys, Didsbury Arts fest and seeing Paul Magrs, in addition to long walks and trips on the new trams I even managed to squeeze in some bowling (not my choice I should add…). In short, it was a painful reminder that Manc is where my life is and I need to get back there ASAP. Such a great city and lovely people, miss it already.

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  • Shakespeare

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I am an unequivocal Shakespeare fan boy, particularly as someone who writes and writes poetry it would be foolish and impractical to dismiss him, and lately I have been spoiled by a glut of fine performances of the great bard’s output. I saw a production of Macbeth at my local amateur dramatics society which was a great variation on the original setting and was set during the first world war and featured some damn fine performances, particularly from a young Emma Thomas who gave a frighteningly assured performance as Lady Macbeth. I then got inside tickets to a touring version of the Globe’s all female cast of The Taming of the Shrew which was so much fun from start to finish and used the bare minimum of set and props to create an absolutely hilarious and fast paced update of what is essentially a horribly misogynistic and out of date story. The whole (very small) cast were all perfect, particular favourites were Petruchio, Kate and Tranio. If its touring near you SEE IT. Even if you don’t like Shakespeare the production is a riot. On Thursday I am also going to see the filmed version of Twelfth Night that starred Stephen Fry at the cinema in Ashford which will also be a treat I’m sure. AND THEN Mum and I are going to do our annual visit to the Globe itself to see the Tempest for my birthday. In short, ain’t nuthin’ but Bill lately. Fine by me, I at least know the script is never going to let me down.

And that’s all I wrote. Still no job, no home, no money and no girlfriend but to be quite honest I’ve given up on expecting any of the above anytime soon and am just doing what I’m doing and hoping something will come along. I can do no more than what I have been doing so I can only assume there are larger gears turning, the working of which I am not privy to. Hope you are doing well and I’ll see you soon with a long and boring post on poetry and the internet that I have planned.

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“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again!”

Upon I Cut

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On the 29th April (a week today) I will be publishing a sequence of sonnets online for free at www.theanatomy.co.uk. I have been updating the temp page with videos of me reading some of the sonnets to whet people’s appetites and have basically set up the whole thing on my own. I had a bit of help from friends but all the programming, layout, editing, writing, testing, was done by me. Its been quite a bit of effort setting up the site and making the videos with no aim of reward. What I’m saying is; it would be really great if you could all be really nice and at least grace it with a tab in your browser at least once.

So what is it?

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After my last three poetry pamphlets which I had printed at my own expense and (due to my own lack of publicity) no one took any notice of, I decided three was enough.However over Christmas I had one of my notebooks with me and due to it being rather a quite one I ended up filling the whole thing with a poem per page in the space of about 2 weeks. Initially I had no plans for it as a sequence but when I noticed the first three I’d written were all sonnets I decided to make them all sonnets and slowly a theme began to emerge. Its a fairly loose theme but it basically became what could be perceived as my psychological make up. The memories, thoughts, feelings and associations I make. Due to this it felt like something of a dissection of my personality. An anatomy, as t’were. The word Anatomy is from the Greek ἀνατέμνω – anatemnō – literally “Upon I cut”. I also tried to vary the format of the sonnet form as much as I could because to be blunt, I don’t have the skills to have as wide and varied a vocabulary and as original imagery as the giants of the form do to keep it interesting. This basically meant I pushed the rules of a sonnet as far as they will go. Many purists (if any were to ever read it) may say a lot of these do not count as sonnets. That’s their problem. By and large I stick to the old rule of 14 lines and a ‘Turn’ at around line 8. As such, it became an Anatomy of the sonnet form itself in some regards. Some may decree this sacrilege from someone who is not a ‘great’ of poetry but I say the best way to know your limits is to test them. It could ultimately be unsuccessful and dreadful, I don’t know, one of the main reasons I am not charging for it.

Sonnets have a very long and boring history that is well documented elsewhere and that I can’t be bothered to go into here. Some of the best examples and explanations can be found in the wonderful collection ‘101 Sonnets’ by Don Patterson. To be honest though, the man who made them what they are today is the daddy himself. Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 is the gold standard for sonnets – and pretty much all poetry for me – and there are many volumes dedicated to the study of them, my personal favourite is by… you guessed it, Don Patterson. Sadly few of us living mortals can attain the dizzy heights of these marvels of literature but there have been other poets who have penned autonomous sequences of sonnets too: Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, WH Auden, Pablo Neruda but the most influential for my particular sequence was the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. His sonnet sequence entitled ‘Orpheus’ was written in something ludicrous like 5 days and whose topics vary wildly but tend to centre around prayers to or tales of “the God with the lyre”. This sequence is highly regarded and there are numerous excellent translations but what really opened my eyes was when I read a ‘version’ of it written by the now ubiquitous poet in this post, yes Don bloody Patterson. Versions are different to translations, the idea being you take the essence of a poem and translate that instead, not the words. The subtlety of poetry lies in a familiarity with language, its nuances and connotations, something that a translator can rarely crowbar into another shape without losing something of its initial sense. Patterson’s version is a fantastic sister piece to the original but even then Rilke’s is still the superior and eye wideningly pretty. Read it, please.

So there is something of a heritage in the sonnet form and to be honest it doesn’t need updating to my ears as it is supremely useful in forcing you to wrench out what you want to say, yet small and digestible enough to be swallowed in one go. My sequence is modest in comparison to the greats that have gone before and, as I said, I doubt it is on a par but it was an attempt to get “raw meat” on the table on my part. What I loved about Rilke’s sequence is that he did it so fast, the editing and self-expurgation would have been practically non-existant or at least not as thorough as most poets like to think of themselves. It meant Rilke’s heart and mind is there, raw and bleeding, imperfect yet dazzling in every poem. I don’t claim my own is even close to this as I don’t have the skill he had but I do like to think its a first trembling step in that direction.

People might ask why I feel the need to publish everything I write. I would ask why you don’t feel the need to publish everything you write. Getting something finished and ready to your standard and then showing to others so it can be judged by their’s is probably the quickest and best way to learn I know of. There is no point spending years over something only for it to get lambasted as soon as its released anyway. Don’t torture yourself over whether people will like it or not and don’t let the idiot snobs tell you something that only took a couple months isn’t as good as something that took ten years. The reverse is almost always true. The Beatles made 14 albums in 7 years and every song of theirs is of a higher quality than most. I don’t know where the modern need to stagger everything out comes from. I realise time and patience will raise the quality but only to a certain degree. If you have anything you’ve been sitting on that you made that is finished but you don’t think is good enough, get it out anyway. You’ll learn more from that than you will just staring at it and asking friends what they think when all they will do is tell you how great it is no matter what the quality. Create, release, learn, move on.

Hopefully there will be a poem in The Anatomy for everyone but try reading all of it too. Even if you don’t like poetry I hope you can at least enjoy the site. Take a look at the videos in the meantime and I’ll hopefully see you all there on the 29th.

 

S.A.D.

For those of you who don’t know, S.A.D. is one of those new-age, PC terms for being bloody miserable when the weather’s crap. It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Critical Analysts of Literature call it Pathetic Fallacy. I call it February.

I hate February. I’m going to make that clear right now. February can fuck off. February to me these days is this big, black, seething mass I can glimpse from miles off like a dark cloud, I know its coming but I can’t do anything about it. It just sits there waiting for me to pass through it again and again and again and again. February is that mountainous pile of washing up you never want to do but you can’t eat your dinner if you don’t so you put it off till your down to your last spork but you know you’ve got to clean all your pots and pans at some point.

Sorry, I’ve lost where I was going with this…

Oh yeah, why do I hate February? Well every year it seems to stand there like Popeye Doyle from the French Connection waiting for me to get there, so I drag my feet as slowly as I can dawdle but I always get there and there he stands, rubbing his knuckles, at which point he smiles darkly and says “Stomach or Face?” and just like in the Matrix it turns out I’ve already made my choice and BAM! Right in the kisser (or gut, depending). Or put simply, shit goes bad in February.

If it’s not Valentine’s Day reminding me how miserably lonely I am as it is specifically designed to (Parenthetical Aside: Does anyone, other than wealthy spouses, agree with Valentine’s Day? We all know its the most cynically manipulated and most evil ‘celebration’ of the year right? Designed by a committee from Hallmark and Thorntons to sell truck loads of useless, tasteless crap, we all know that right? So why do we still buy into this bullshit?), it is a relationship breaking up days before FUCKING Valentine’s day, or my life falling apart before my eyes in a foreign country, or those three unexpected bills at once so I have to live in abject poverty for four weeks, or ending up living back at my mother’s, or that bout of bacterial tonsillitis rearing its head again a month after I thought it had gone, or my Dad DYING. So yeah, I fucking hate February.

I know it’s just a month, an arbitrary line in the sand invented so we can date our lives and make a nice cheery measuring stick that helps us quantify the precious life we waste between cradle and grave, but there seems to be an oh-so-lovely vortex of despair hovering within it. Maybe it’s the point in space we pass at this time of year, a fixed point in our solar system of negative emotional energy that is perfectly in tune with my neurons. Or something. Whatever the bloody reason February hates me. And I hate it.

Some people suffer from SAD in January, it’s cold, dark, no Christmas to look forward to, all the bills coming in and so on. Not me! Because I’m waiting for February to come hauling its flabby, obsidian bulk over the metaphorical timeline horizon and settle on me like an ice cold blanket of foetid and evil whale blubber. Which is a shame because I actually rather like February’s climate. It is archetypally English in its aesthetic. I went for a walk with two friends yesterday along the Mersey and a thick fog had rolled in, it was lovely. Everything was chill and muted, haunting spindly fingers of trees appearing ghostly out of the mist, echoing calls of ducks invisible behind the sheets of fog, the gentle babble of the river, the dim grey diffused light… I wish I had brought my camera, it was beautiful. Its that kind of melancholy I can deal with.

The melancholic character is a recurring character in Shakespeare and is normally one of the best. Melancholy is helpful and an attitude I am all too quick to assume but it serves a purpose. You can have no highs without the lows and wallowing on occasion is a very cathartic experience. We all do it; put on a sad record, watch a weepy movie, stare meaningfully out the window, etc, and we feel all the better after or we are at least remembering the happy things that have past. February does not have this effect on me.

February is so crap, so unremittingly bleak and oppressive that I don’t even have the energy to do any of that. I actually get scared in February because I look back over the year and think what have I done since last February and on the whole I am presented with positive things but then I look ahead to beyond February and then that crushing weight hits me, the one big thing that I carry around with me all the time:

I have no idea what I’m going to do.

Everyday this little niggle gets to me but I can bat it down with weak excuses normally but not in February, oh no. February calls me up to the front of the class knowing I haven’t done my homework and tries to get me to do all the work on the board as I hear the snorts of derision and laughter from the class behind me. I spend February thinking about all the other shitty Februarys I’ve had and wondering how bad next year’s will be and sit around wishing it was over so I can go back to coasting through life with no ambition or particular drive.

This year? I’ve had some good ‘uns already, most are personal and it is not the place to talk about on here but I think general loneliness sums up this year’s Month of Poo but I had a distinctly unpleasant one this evening and have been sitting staring at this screen for an hour feeling particularly pessimistic about everything. Not least the fact that I have wasted an hour of the incredibly limited space of free time I have between one working day and the next. Most of which is spent asleep or wishing I was Batman. And the hall light is stuck on, which means all I get is light pouring into my bedroom window even with the curtains closed as my bedroom window is at a right angle to the corridor and its 100watt bulb. People keep mentioning the amplifier I just bought  was a good thing in February but I remind them that I actually bought that in January.

So, YES, I am in a bad mood in case you had not gathered. And seeing as I only have myself for company for the next 2 weeks I thought I’d share with the 3 or 4 people that read this in what is less a cry for help, more of a “This is why I’m in a bad mood, no need to worry” spleen-venting exercise. So there. Fuck off February and for what its worth I’m glad next year you’ll have a day amputated to make you shorter, you vindictive epoch of shit.

Tell me how many times the word ‘February’ appears in this post and win a prize.

“We are such stuff…”

*SPOILER WARNING*;

Proceed no further if you have not seen Inception as this film will be discussed in detail. And while we are talking about it WHY THE HELL HAVEN’T YOU SEEN IT?! Seriously. Get yo’ ass to a cinema, bitch.

Anyway…

As I believe I mentioned waaaaaay back in my Inception review, I wanted to do a post (I refuse to use the word ‘Blog’ as a verb) about dreams. So here it is.

For anyone who knows Shakespeare (and if you don’t YOU SHOULD) will know the title is taken from the gorgeous speech in Act 4 of the Tempest which ends with the beautiful and eloquent line “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with sleep”. I heartily endorse these sentiments from a fantastic piece of literature.  I was having an online discussion (yeah, man, I was on Skype. I’m just that 21st century. Deal with it.) with a friend of mine and she mentioned various philosophers whom she’d read including Satre. I agreed he was good and suggested Carlos Castenada as someone worth investigating. Castenada was the “creator” of Nagualism which is the belief that through dreams and meditation you can attain a transcendent reality. The first book is great. The others, less so. Anyway, upon explaining this to my friend her immediate response surprised me. I had taken her (until that point) for not only an intelligent and literate person but also someone with an open mind but when she came back with the simple “Dreams don’t mean anything” I was piqued. Not least because even if you do not share my beliefs on the subject saying dreams “mean nothing” is fairly stupid anyway, even if they mean you’re hungry or need a pee that is still a meaning. Anyway, I bit my tongue and she steered the conversation away from the subject but this did make me think a little harder about my own love for my dreams. This curiosity was further pressed on seeing Inception which deals solely with dreams and in their realm.

Dreams are, to my mind, the purest form of self there is. In my Favourite Film of All Time Ever a character says “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter”. The “real” world is infinitely more important and wonderful and brilliant but there is clearly more to us than that and Dreams are our way of observing this. How do I know or rather, why do I feel this way (I don’t know anything for certain)? Because I am so much happier having dreamt the night before, even if it is a nightmare. There is no other way of feeling the rush of emotions and depth of emotions you do in a dream. For this reason alone I love them but also all your joys and fears are revealed in equal measure by your dreams too, which, consequently, gives one a unique appraisal of what drives you on and holds you back. Dreaming can create empathy too. How many times have you observed a scene from afar in a dream, like a film, only to be thrust into the head of one of the people you were watching a second ago, thus giving you their terror/anger/sadness/happiness? Dreams free us. People who are wheelchair bound or blind speak of being able to walk and see again in dreams. Dreams help us solve problems. The phrase “Sleep on it” has come into common parlance for that reason; “Not sure? Better sleep on it.” Even if you don’t agree with any of that dreams and REM sleep are essential to our mental wellbeing and our physical health. You don’t sleep for a week, you go mad. Don’t sleep for two, you will die. Fact. Unfortunately dreams are unquantifiable and cannot be measured and as such, are very unscientific and in this new Age of Reason if it can’t be proved, it doesn’t happen.

Still, dreams DO happen and if we didn’t have them the world would be a much poorer place. Half our songs, stories, films, works of art and certain ideals would not exist were it not for dreams and I, for one, love that. Dreams are utterly intangible yet felt by everyone. ‘Dreamlike’ is an adjective we all understand and puts us in exactly a frame of mind to accept things usually considered incredible. As that wonderful line in Inception says (even if it is so appallingly read by Leonardo “I’m overrated” DiCappucino) “Dreams seem real while we’re in them, it is only when we wake we realise something was strange”. Whatever my beliefs on a corporeal or astral plane are, the fact is dreams are there and, as such, should not be so easily dismissed. In that film the entire caper rests on planting an idea in someone’s head via a dream i.e. Inception. To do this they utilise their ‘Mark’s’ relationship with his father and the pay off to this is so simple yet so perfectly realised it brought a tear to my eye. This is as much a testament to Christopher Nolan’s writing and Directing as it is to our own knowledge of dreams. The simple use of a paper windmill and Cillian Murphy’s reaction to it outstrips Rosebud by a mile purely via its context in my opinion. That really is the power of dreams, it is our consciousness and emotions at our most basic level. A ’20 go to 10′ of the soul.

Let me tell you a story;

I have a favourite dream. My first was when I was about eight, I was wandering around an American Neighbourhood in the dark and I was on a long road then I just remember jumping and shooting off into the sky and flying low over the roofs of the houses. I remember the stomach churning dips and dizzying highs like they were yesterday. Similar dreams kept me throughout my school years. Wonderful dreams of jumping from the roof of my hated school then bouncing from the floor and literally “leaping tall buildings in a single bound”. I liked it when I could slow my descent and felt all blood lift in my head like when you’re on a plane and it takes off. Another favourite was when I was in a giant trampoline the size of a Cathedral and bounding around in the air, plummeting to the soft and bouncy ground which would cannon me up again.

These dreams were so common and so enjoyable I came to write a screenplay about it. I am still convinced it is possible for us to fly, we just haven’t evolved there yet. I love to watch films where people fly and where it feels like it does in my dreams. ‘Soar’ I called the screenplay and when I’m a successful film director I will make it.

It was the day before my Nineteenth Birthday. I wanted to go up to London for the day and have look for some music books and go to Denmark Street. I had also booked a ride on the Millenium Eye at Sunset. So I headed into town whereupon my father met me at Leicester Square. I’ll never forget that. He was living elsewhere at the time and I can only imagine he had lots of work to do that day (being a Saturday) but whatever else there was he could have done he came and he met me and spent the whole day with me. That was the kind of father my Dad was. He did everything he could for his kids. While we were out he bought me some ‘extra’ Birthday presents that I spotted and he bought saying he’d give them to me tomorrow. A few hours before sunset Dad asked if I wanted to go to the Cinema. Of course I said yes. We went back to Leicester Square and went into the Empire to see ‘HULK’.

It got a lot of stick that film but I rather enjoyed it. The end was a little un-inspired though. Anyway in the last third of the film Hulk is bounding across the Sierra Nevada away from pursuing Helicopters… And there it was. Flight as I had dreamed it. There’s a wonderful shot where you see the Hulk jump from one giant stack of red rock in the desert and bound into the air. It then cuts to a shot of his face as he falls/flies. The wind ripples his hair and cheeks as his eyes close and the music stops and all you can hear is the rush of wind. That was exactly what my dreams were like. It was at that moment my Father leant over to me from the seat next to me and said simply;
“I can do that in my dreams.”
I had to watch the DVD to find out what happened immediately after that as I was so stunned by this I didn’t pay attention. At the age of nearly 19 I had never felt so close to my Dad.

2 years later, I was at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge sitting by my father’s Bed and staring out at the flatlands from the window we were at. It was a spectacular view and Dad had always said how much he loved the land of England especially the Fens. It was a rare moment we had alone that week and I didn’t say much to him just how I loved him and was going to miss him. I remember him waking up though, briefly, and staring out the window at the flatlands. He didn’t look at me just out the window at the view then went back to sleep. I only hope he dreamed he was flying over those lush and verdant lands he loved so much before he died.

I haven’t dreamed I was flying for 6 years.

My final thought;

Calvin & Hobbes are a wonderful pair of cartoon characters and they taught me a lot about life but none more so than this strip from the 10th anniversary collection. I heartily recommend you read all their published work and read the author’s comment on the strip below.

Goodnight. x