Monday, October 27, 2008

Closed For Funk Blogging

This version of my blog is now closed for business. However, I am still writing here -

The Other Side of Everything is much like Blog of Funk, indeed, it includes this blog, except it's even better.


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Monday, September 29, 2008

The End Of The Future As We Know It

Banks are failing globally, the credit crunch has turned into the meltdown, and 2008 is becoming 1929. Bizarrely, this massive implosion appeared rather innocently in an I Ching reading I made last year when I asked about selling my flat and moving.

I can hear sarcasm and ridicule from rationalists, too nervous to desert their pints of proof, resounding about the cold, tiled Victorian toilets of their tiny minds, but what the fuck. I do read the I Ching sometimes, and I also read the Tao Te Ching, and hey, I study Lao Tzu. I find them all useful, representing a key philosophy in my understanding of life, and I thank God they are there for me.

Remembering this unexpected guidance, I spent this year of 2008 reiterating regularly to my nearest and dearest - who know me well enough to know that I tend to balance the artistic and irrational with the sublimely logical - to remember that the shit would really hit the fan in September. No, I kept saying, shit will REALLY hit the fan. It says here (points to HEXAGRAM 20)

Yes, but that's just you asking about your flat sale, came the reply.

Sure, I said, but if it's relevant, it will appear.

In all of these things, interpretation is important. So, I interpreted future events, it turns out, pretty accurately. And, I just had an idea that the fan would be big and this torrid pile of stinking capitalist shit would be spread wide - wide enough to affect my minor domestic transaction.

Thus, this year I have spent the past eight months quietly and deeply reorganising my life on the basis of this esoteric advice, as well as my own observations, and I'm ninety nine percent finished. I have been (and will be) steadily pruning this blog over the months - expect that to continue. Most of the posts over the past two months have been reprints - not that anyone noticed! I have started another blog which I will shortly reveal, and those of you who want to come with me for the next ride, I'm very happy to have you along.

Just one addition: while capitalism spasms like a dying man in need of medical intervention which it cannot afford, I've been finding some comfort in this remarkable conceptual framing of the situation and its possible outcomes by Dmitry Orlov, Closing the 'Collapse Gap'. As my friend The Obstructionist points out, you can find fault with some of Orlov's comparisons - especially if you're not prepared to see the vulnerability of the United States framed in terms of other dissimilar nations - but his detailed comparison of the US with the USSR at the end of communism is fascinating and absorbing reading.

See you on the vegetable plot.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sex, Booze And Guns

Children who drink alcoholic milk called Kefir are much less likely to get food allergies, says the Society of Chemical Industry. The fermented cow-juice inhibits the allergen specific antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Reading this oddly reminded me of the conversation I had with The Mighty P.P. about decency.

I was recalling how in the first dot com boom, in 1998, a venture-capitalised US start up, using the domain (it's no longer there) approached me to run their musical European operations. They had (don't they always) BIG plans to be the next big "content" channel. They offered me $50k p.a., a really nice place to live in California, shares in the company, and I was tempted. I was single, I was just coming out of my first sabbatical, and I was up for a change. This could have been it, so I researched the company and looked at what was on offer.

Pretty soon I realised a couple of things about this company which raised significant doubts about its long-term prospects. First, it was a put-together, top-down, formulaic affair, constructed by people with little or no knowledge of culture. This was evident by the fact that my would-be boss - in charge of the US - was possessed of one single claim to fame, viz, that he had sold Real Media to the US military. I searched in vain for some indication that he had editorial, journalistic or entertainment business credentials but found none.

Second, as I skimmed through the few deals they had in place, it was obvious that they were aiming this cultural offering right at the very narrowest, most conservative audience within mainstream America, and that this was not going to convince anyone outside of these communities, and especially not in Europe, used to art house radicalism and regular revolutions of the wheel which defy censorship. I remember having the nipple conversation with the lovely woman who was trying to recruit me.

Me: "The problem is censorship. For a European, a nipple or a bare bottom is quite normal and natural. In the States, it's indecency. How much leeway will I be allowed here?"

Her: "How do you mean? Are we talking pornography here?"

Me: "Um, no. Just the nipple. Not hard-core pornography. You know, like in paintings?

Her: "No I don't think we have those kinds of paintings here."

Me: "Ummm... you do. Maybe you haven't seen them? Paintings by Titian, for example, or any from the renaissance... you know, often they have religious or classical themes."

Her: "And these paintings show sex?"

Me: "No, just naked bodies."

Her: "I'm not sure about that."

Me: "It's just that we don't have any problem with these kinds of images. They have been part of our culture for hundreds of years and we can understand the difference between them and pornography."

Her: "I'm not sure that's a view we can take."

I decided not to take the job.

The Mighty P.P. is a British parent. He's fairly tolerant but he won't take shit, as we say in these parts. When it comes to drawing the line, he will do, but he rarely needs to - his kids seem pretty balanced. So, he was in the States, staying with some friends, and they were discussing alcohol. He said that he allowed his 13 year old to drink half a pint of cider (fermented apples) at a summer music festival. His American hosts were appalled by this - "Don't you know you can be locked up for administering alcohol or drugs to a minor?" - and so he ran through the arguments that supervised exposure is better than a ban, which fuels unguided experimentation, but they were having none of it.

As he told his tale, I recall being allowed the same indulgence as a child and smiled at the memory. I recalled my Italian friends calmly giving very watered-down wine to their five year old, just to make sure it was no big deal and that being left out didn't encourage over-curiosity. It had worked for them, they explained. Wine was food, was it not? A part of life which must be understood to be properly enjoyed.

So, The Mighty P.P. continued, he was staying with this perfectly nice, normal US family, and while they were chatting about these cultural differences, he heard sudden repeated shots and became alarmed. "Don't worry, that's just Tommy," he was reassured. "Tommy! Come here and show your AK47." Turned out that one of their two kids had a replica AK47 BB gun, and the other, a model Uzi. The kids, he was told, were encouraged to use these, and every so often, taken to a large canyon nearby, and given the real thing, with real bullets, just to make sure they could use guns properly. As the shots resounded and richocheted, a police car would sometimes turn up to check them out. Seeing a happy, gun-slinging, all-American family in action, the cop would simply say, "Be safe now!" and drive off.

Here lies an acute blindness on the part of the Great American Public, and some bizarre and twisted values. Sex, or more particularly, the public celebration of sexuality, is wrong and bad, and along with alcohol, drugs, gambling, part of the gushing font of liberal evil - but violence is absolutely wonderful. It's an embedded, condoned, feted part of the American psyche, this love of guns, and it goes to the very top - NRA being incredibly well-organised lobbyists - and down to the deepest roots of US family life.

I recall the murder rate on the Canadian side of the border being a hell of a lot lower than the American, with the same amount of guns available to both. I don't recall any children being shot to death in a schoolhouse by a nipple.

So complete is the conservative victory over the American mind, you'd think the 60s revolution, make love, not war, never happened.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Tits Out For Jesus

The enterprising Wing Tai company, a leading retailer, has been stocking a line of cosmetics including "Virtuous vanilla" lip balm and a "Get Tight with Christ" hand and body cream, featuring a picture of Christ flanked by two adoring women. BBC

Singapore's Christians seem to have misplaced one of the key messages of their middle-eastern import, Jesus Christ, son of God, who let's not forget, scandalised decent, law-abiding, clean-living, Roman-resisting Jews everywhere by hanging out with the lowest of the low, prostitutes, tax collectors, the sick, the grieving, the abandoned and the destitute, and preaching a doctrine of tolerance and forgiveness, with a spectacular "live and let live" death thrown in to top it all off.

This is not new, of course, and neither are contradictions within Christianity or any other religion. But there is something about people in groups which operates on a completely different level. At a certain point, individual rationality and compassion give way to the workings of the pack, and this goes for capitalists and Christians alike.

Greatly stimulated by this news, and hearing I have commissioned my own brand of miracle cosmetics, toiletries, sex toys and everyday household items, regular usage as per instructions guaranteeing your place in heaven, or your money back. Jesus, being good, wise and having a cracking sense of humour will laugh, especially at the artful irony of the cash/bliss juxtaposition.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mabon: The Beginning Of Everything

It's coming up to that wonderful time once more, the Autumn Equinox, another Pagan holy day stolen by the Christians and turned into Harvest Festival. Mabon was the son of Mordon, the Goddess of the earth, the Pagan festival celebrates his birth; and of course, this is John Keats' season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Day and night are of equal measure. Here in the north, it's getting dark at 8pm and there is a freshness to the mornings, even though the afternoons can still turn your skin brown.

I love this sketch of Keats; it gives him a romantic intensity and reminds me of his awful tubercular death.

The coming of Autumn always brings out in me a deeply introspective side, the balance to the energy which we experience as we anticipate winter and all our rural collective memories tell us to fix the roof and fill the cellar with turnips, apples and potatoes. I still possess notebooks full of whimsy, produced by the season which all romantics love the most, because, as Patrick Keiller pointed out to me, it is the beginning of everything.

John Keats - To Autumn


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Everyone's Best Mate

He is held in affection and esteem. The comfort of that kind face, the open-hearted honesty, the modesty, the easy charm and the wit. An admirable, talented, popular man, made more so by his obvious vulnerability.

Apparently hiding nothing, holding nothing back, so easy to relax in his presence, they say, should you ever meet him, except for a certain awkward shyness. He witnesses vagaries of human behaviour by dint of an essential consumptive intimacy, and all of the above attributes command a deft ability to slip beneath the surface of people and into their affections.

He shares all, yet he says little.

Should you ever meet everyone's best mate, be very, very careful what you say and do. Be on your guard, no matter that you are feeling the urge just to be yourself. Do not look too deeply past the light playing on the surface of the water. Do not point out the stones on the river bed. Do not say, water has a soft and gentle surface, but to breathe it is to drown.

Whatever you do, avoid direct competition, or anything that might be interpreted as such, which will draw unpredictable sniper fire. He who lives with contradictions, fights with contradictions.

Do not try to compete with a liquid version of truth, even with your own demonstrable clarity, as logic will not serve you, because reason has no place to enter.

If you remain calm, you will be cold and heartless, and if you show your passion, you will be dangerously enraged and irrational. If you ask for proof, once it is given you will be in debt. If you seek to prosper soberly, you will be taken by drunks as a madman. If you get drunk, this will be the proof of your inner chaos, moral decay and secret vices.

Such is the power of everyone's best mate.

In such a situation, it is best to withdraw and await death.

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