Saturday, 19 August 2017

Heath

I just had a short story published in this quirky website called 'Winamop.' The story is called 'Heath.' If you are a fan of my work (ha!), you might enjoy it.

http://winamop.com/sik1700.htm

Monday, 17 July 2017

Eulogies #4


Stockhausen is a common figure in German cultural history. He is the idealistic individual filled with ambitious, monomanical, absurd and ridiculous goals. At its best, this Teutonic tendency produces the likes of Stockhausen. At its best, it produces Wagner and Beethoven. Stockhausen has lofty, demanding ideas which require strenuous rehearsal and patience.  (And a few helicopters would not go amiss.) The end result is usually cryptic, dense and indecipherable. At its worst, this tendency in the German consciousness results in Adolf Hitler. Hitler, too, filled his head - and the heads of the German people - with ambitious, impossible goals. He wanted to create an empire that lasted a thousand years. (It only lasted for thirteen years in the end.) He wanted to create state of the art buildings to accompany it. At the same time - and here the nastiness really comes through - he wanted to eradicate the Jewish people and create an Aryan race.

That is not to say that Stockhausen had this nasty streak. However, he was selfish, rude and arrogant. His selfishness bordered on solipsism. As time wore on, Stockhausen became quite the cranky hermit. He lived alone in a large house composing overblown Wagenerian pieces. He came to believe that he came from the star Sirius and that he would go back there once his life ended on Earth.

Post-war musical life was truly exciting. Its participants - people like Boulez, Kagel, Ligeti, Nono and, indeed, Stockhausen - were determined to take serious composition as far as it could possibly go. Their model was Anton Webern. Webern wrote serialist music where all twelve tones were ordered in series. This was to get away from the 'tonality' of earlier music - i.e. music played in specific keys. Stockhausen and his cohort took this further with 'total serialism.' In this manifestation, the duration and dynamics of the notes are subjected to the same order as well as the pitches. They often brought in theories from mathematics.

This might sound quite dry and cold. That was certainly embodied in Boulez. Boulez never had a wife - quite probably never had sex seeing as he was such a grouch - and led an ascetic life. Boulez thought that music was just controlled sound. Boulez also had a political agenda. He was determined that the new music would get into the concert hall. He wanted to blow up opera houses. (He was later investigated for this eruption later on.) Boulez was cold and he also was a political radical who wanted to change the destroy the old and replace it with the new.

Stockhausen was not like this. Even in the 50s, he was always passionate. Later on, he became quite the hippie mystic. His earliest music was innovative and radical - and certainly excited many people. One of his pieces was written for four concurrent orchestras. In the late sixties, he became mystical and religious. He started to wear garish clothes. He used hippie-dippie phrases. He started to write overblown pieces about everything is cosmic. (Of course it could never be as plain as that, it would have to be cryptic.) He often wrote large-scale pieces about dreams that he had experienced. The musical establishment became radicalised. They started to read Marxist literature and tried to break cars, hit street lamps and fight the police. Stockhausen became more hermetic than ever. He became persona non grata for these leftist twits.

Yet Stockhausen didn't want to destroy the canon. Sorry, Boulez the Mona Lisa will always be great. The enterprise of destroying things and tearing things up is asinine. May '68 was just a spoilt tantrum. Stockhausen's ideas were certainly radical. He ignored existing musical forms - and often invented his own. What he was trying to do was merely to simply add something new to the existing musical canon.

Stockhausen has been likened to a 20th century Beethoven. This kind of makes sense. Beethoven was the rugged individualist who tried to remake music and his pieces were grand and ambitious. Ditto Stockhausen, except that he was living in the age of technological progress, consumerism, two world wars and the holocaust. Some of his pieces I really like, others I just can't make out in the slightest. However, his attitude, his ideals and his sense of self excite me.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Eulogies #3



I admire Heraclitus because he was an archetypal outsider. (Yeah, yeah - there goes that tired cliché again.) He was a misanthropic loner who nonetheless defeated cruel time. When human civilisation comes to an end, history books will still have entries on Heraclitus.

Yes, it is ironic that he did indeed defeat 'cruel time.' Heraclitus thought that everything was subject to constant change. 'You can never step in the same river twice,' he claimed. He also thought that everything that we saw was a clash of opposites. Everything was 'strife.' That would make him a dualist. To add to the confusion, he also claimed that everything came from fire. That would make him a monist!

In many ways, Heraclitus was right about the nature of time. There are many Heraclituses. Our understanding of Heraclitus is different from the medieval understanding. For instance, our understanding of his thought is coloured by Einstein's theory of relativity. All history is indeed subject to constant regeneration.

And yet all we have left are tiny little fragments. I bought his book Fragments and found it infuriating. All it had was tiny little aphorisms containing really general statements. The secondary criticism I have read was a lot more detailed. It always emphasises how it's often conjectural. Still, these books of criticism just consist of a few pages. I really would like to read a whole book about him. These books exist, but they are inordinately expensive! The secondary criticism also adds that his thought is very obscure. Hegel - the archetypal obscurantist - considered Heraclitus his favourite philosopher. Plato and Aristotle read his full texts and found them puzzling. This is part of this appeal - he is so obscure that, even if you read the original text, you might not be able to make it out. However, even his original text was aphoristic in nature, so I might not be missing out on much. If I had a time travel machine, I would want to salvage a copy of his magnum opus from an ancient library.

And Heraclitus was a misanthrope. He lashes out against people and their ignorance in many of his aphorisms. One of his aphorisms was later rewritten - perhaps unknowingly - by John Stuart Mill: 'One man with an idea is worth much more than a thousand others.' He was a loner and detested democracy. The former endears him to me, the latter doesn't.

Despite his elitism, he was also sceptical of education. He claimed that it was a barrier to original thought. He did not like scholars who studied Homer, their equivalent of The Bible. Curiously, many people have written about this later on. The more books you read, your original insights are reduced more and more. 'Knowledge doesn't teach insight,' he claimed. In these times of hyper-specialisation, PHD students have to sift through a mountain of research to arrive at an original contribution to knowledge.

Yet there was no real knowledge in Heraclitus' time - apart from Homer and a handful of cranky pre-Socratic philosophers like Pythagoras. Heraclitus found underlying phenomena fascinating - and was determined to understand it without any empirical or analytic framework.

Heraclitus also found dreams fascinating - and claimed that they are the real world and that waking life is a mirage. Heraclitus is the archetypal loner. Alone with his thoughts, bitter, speculating and dreaming, he created a myth and consecrated his place in history.


Friday, 7 July 2017

Eulogies #2



Apologies for the delay. Well, you don't care - no-one cares! Nonetheless, here is the second instalment. This one is about Lisa Simpson, a cartoon character!

Lisa has always been my favourite character in the series. She is quirky, uber-intelligent and has encyclopedic knowledge. She is surrounded by a sea of ignorance, which frustrates her. Nonetheless, she gets on with things with stoic resilience.

Lisa is a cartoon character. As such, her virtues and her abilities are exaggerated. She is capable of coming up with dazzling scientific inventions. She is capable of solving the most flummoxing moral dilemmas. She is, for her age, a brilliant saxophone player. She reads advanced literature. She likes to solve advanced mathematical problems. She is interested in everything - and she is exceedingly good at the things that she takes an interest in. And whilst she might appear a tad arrogant at times, she does have emotional intelligence. She understands human relations and wants to support the people she cares about, including Bart.

For all her individualism, Lisa has a strong interest in social justice. She cares about the environment and animal rights. She actively tries to help those in need. Inequality bothers her - and there is an abundance of that in the USA.

And while her interests are by no means the average eight-year-old interests, she also likes girly things. She likes to play with dolls. (The function of toys is to help them achieve whatever your imagination wants them to achieve. As such, Lisa uses makes her Malibu Stacey dolls give speeches about feminism.) She likes horses. She can also be prone to childish blunders - and she shrugs them off with sweet insouciance.

Lisa is passionate about all of her interests. Like many bright people, she is also competitive. She cares about getting good grades and she also cares about her future career. We can tell that this auspicious child will go on to great things in the future.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Eulogies #1



I have decided to write a series of 'eulogies.' In these pieces I want to write as to why I admire certain individuals. I am particularly fond of eccentrics, misfits, loners and innovators.

The first part of 'Eulogies' will be about Charles Crumb, brother of cartoonist of Robert Crumb.

Charles Crumb appeared in a film called Crumb, which documented the creative process of cartoonist Robert Crumb. The film also documented the lives and habits of his other brothers, Charles and Maxon. The film is about the three brothers, rather than just a portrait of Robert Crumb as a cartoonist. (Hence the title.)

Robert became a world-renowned cartoonist, justifiably so. His panels are densely layered, methodically detailing the minutia of quotidian American life. However, like many artists, he was also a product of circumstance. He was drawing transgressive and iconoclastic comics at a time when 'hippie' and 'underground' comics kicked off.

Robert Crumb is obsessive about comics and the creative process. However, his love for comics started at childhood when Charles introduced them to him. If anything, Charles was more obsessive than Robert. All he cared about was comics. If anything, his work - back then, at least - was more accomplished than Robert's. It was so baroque that each panel was stuffed with 'wrinkles' and knotted patterns. Robert had other interests, but all Charles cared about was comics.  

But Robert left the house and started a career in comics. Charles stayed at home until he died at the age of forty. He became mentally ill. He ceased drawing comics.

Robert talks in the documentary as to how Charles started to 'lose it' in his late teens. His comic strips became more and more elaborate, more ornate. He developed a strange writing style, where perfectly legible handwriting would break off into an intricate, blotchy scrawl. The characters in his comics started to become even more unhinged; he developed a penchant for 'psychotic bunny rabbits.'

Charles also became obsessed with the Walt Disney adaptation of Treasure Island. Like other 'normal' kids, Charles and his siblings would play 'pirates' in the streets. Pirates became the sole subject matter of his comics. Like Robert, Charles was also quite the sex fiend. The interest escalated so much that Charles became obsessed sexually with the film's lead star, child actor Bobby Driscoll.

Charles was mortified should anyone else find out, so he suppressed his desires and died a virgin. His suicidal tendencies, his depression and his monomania were all heightened. He stayed indoors and  read his sizeable book collection. When a film crew arrived at his house, he said that he really wanted to read Kant and Hegel, but he hadn't got around to it yet.

Yet Charles had so much promise. He was very handsome as a young man. For this reason, he was bullied by envious jocks. Charles was quiet, self-effacing, sweet, intelligent, creative and articulate. Granted, he was deviant. However, he was also philosophical and resigned.

He was like a monk from antiquity, who withdrew from the rest of the world to confound his sins. He never left his room because he was too scared of the outdoors. The world is a callous and unforgiving place and would have spat him out. Whenever things went against him, Charles would always quip 'How perfectly goddamn delightful it all is to be sure.' Robert said 'That always took the wind out of my sails.' The life of Charles Crumb is a sad tale, but it can be uplifting. Yes, his talent went to waste. Yes, his entire life went to waste. It is also a reminder of how the world can be so cruel and inhospitable to eccentric individuals. However, it is uplifting to find an individual who wrestled with his demons and turned them into strange and warped art.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ahoy Facebook #5

Here are my most recent rants on Facebook, starting from late January. Enjoy. Or not.

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What bothers me about the US is that, even at its sanest, it sees itself as being exceptional. It is exceptionally democratic, free etc. etc. It is 'the best country in the world.' That arrogant superiority complex has always been there, the only difference is that it has now turned into psychosis.
It is patently clear that there is something inherently undemocratic in your system when a developmentally challenged demagogue is elected having lost the popular vote by a margin of three million ballots. Part of a representative democracy is that you elect representatives so that they can actually represent you and hopefully pass legislation. There is also something inherently undemocratic when a president is elected with with a strong mandate and all of his proposed laws are quashed.
There is something adolescent and, again, a tad psychotic, about disliking government for the sake of it. There are so many Americans, even to the left of the Democratic party, who say 'government takes power away from you.' Well, I don't mind paying more tax knowing full well that, if I get run over by a car, that I won't be confronted with an exorbitantly high bill. In Europe, we pay more taxes, regulate our industry a lot more, yet we are still perfectly happy and, yes, perfectly free. We still value freedom, the only difference is that we have a more grown-up attitude about it. And few people in Europe are insular enough to say that their country is somehow better than anyone else's.
Not to mention, we actually have some wonderful institutions. Again, we are grown-up enough to realise that they have great value and we don't say 'these institutions are taking power away from us.' I already mentioned the NHS, but the BBC has produced some wonderful, enriching programs about culture and science. It has also produced some top-notch popular entertainment. We are not constantly barraged by stupid, shouty, condescending billboard all the time. I think that we are all the better for not having the debased side of capitalism shoved in our faces on a daily basis.
A psychotic lives in a world where he thinks that he is unique, exceptional and harbours special powers. This is the USA right now and it's pretty pathetic.

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The following rant isn't directed it at the concept of 'collectivism.' I'm well aware that a concept like 'society' is a collectivist idea and concepts that I approve of, like progressive taxes, the NHS, welfare etc., are collectivist concepts. This rant is directed at people who devote their entire lives to 'collective action.'
People who believe in collective action emphasise that they believe in 'the majority.' Most of the time they impose their own will onto people who just want to get on with their own lives. Individualists believe in the will of the majority in the true sense. We believe that its true manifestation lies in the ballot box, not in blood-splattered revolution. Many collectivists claim to speak for classes of people without consulting them, nor understanding their real needs. Individualists realise that human nature is not a single organism. We recognise that humans are diverse and we recognise that our lives are much more interesting and colourful when everyone is different.
A lot of these people defend the abominable atrocities committed by people like Lenin, Stalin and Pol Pot. Any action, no matter how immoral or disgusting, is justifiable so long as the idea is a noble one. For them, the Holocaust wasn't a horrible event because of its consequences, it was horrible because they find the idea of fascism to be repellent. They are actually perfectly content with killing another person to defend their own depraved ideals. In many cases, they are repressed sociopaths. They harbour fantasies about marching over to the house of commons and shooting everyone there. Given the chance, they would actually do it.
These people believe that solitude, introspection and self-realisation are wastes of time. They rarely read widely. They rarely read the whole spectrum of literature, philosophy, history, science and art. Instead, they read Marxist thinkers who write anachronistic jargon-laden tripe. All this does is reinforce their own skewed view of the world. The whole notion of self-development, of growing and developing as a person, is laughable to them. Instead, in their spare time they play video games (often to live up their fantasies of blood-splattered revolution) and get drunk with their mates. The rest of their time is devoted to 'collective action,' which rarely changes their environment.
These people are obsessed with making changes to their environment, but they hardly ever do so. Most of the time, they get together with people who think exactly the same way they do, wave placards and manically shout platitudes and meaningless slogans into a megaphone. Individualists often make much more pronounced changes to their environment, often in infinitely more interesting ways. Such a person spends long periods of time on his own, introspecting, and creating something interesting. They often create books, symphonies etc. which communicate interesting ideas. These ideas are consumed by people and their lives are enriched. In fact, monks and ascetics who never communicate with other people often live much more fulfilling and meaningful lives than such people who believe in collective action.
And in the end, they actually fetishise the cult of personality they claim to abhor. Their figures become so beatified that they end up being totally exempt from scrutiny. They will completely overlook the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is actually an incompetent leader, for instance. They rarely value the needs of the community, who actually bear the brunt of these horrible regimes. Instead, they are sycophantic towards Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che Guevara, etc.
Ultimately, the whole thing is just a whole load of posturing. They are disappointed when they learn that they 'you are not that left-wing.' This isn't because of the substance behind your politics, it's because you are not that extreme and 'cool.'
They join fringe causes and movements. Now, joining a mainstream party like Labour will actually make concrete changes. Prior to Corbyn these people wouldn't be seen dead anywhere near the Labour party.
Rant over.

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I don't wholly agree, I think that the canon and our body of knowledge grows exponentially and that new material should be added. However, I do agree that universities and schools are obsessed with 'usefulness' and with churning out students to the workforce. They are also teeming with shops and clubs that sell you overpriced crap. If I were prime minister, I would remove all business departments from universities and would make it illegal for anything to be sold on campus. Imagine how well that would go down.

http://www.futuresymphony.org/the-virtue-of-irrelevance/

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For many people on the left, the term 'neo-liberal' a lot of the time just seems to be a synonym for 'bad'.

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Taking the most positive and optimistic outlook, I think that we'll only have another Labour government by the time I'm forty.
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This is very, very nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1ZpWQbU2wA

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I hate identity politics.
For one thing, your race, your class and your gender are completely arbitrary. You were born into them. Identity is surely something that is willed. Being a computer technician, a writer, a chess player, a pianist etc. are tangible identities. Going around and accusing people of oppression just because of their 'privilege' isn't a very constructive thing to do. To state the bleeding obvious, it's surely much more sound to criticise people for what they say and do, not for where they come from.
And all this is very rich considering who it comes from. These accusations are usually levelled by graduate students, who have had their PHDs funded by their wealthy parents. They get the best of both worlds - they get privilege and they get to be oppressed.
The fact is that there are no nations and no races that don't have blood on their hands. If you want to take this specious argument to its logical conclusion, then not only am I a psychopathic murderer for having British heritage - Africans, Asians, etc. etc. are too.
There is a whole school of thought that actively misreads texts just so that they can propagate their ideological propaganda. A lot of these people start with preconceived notions, read a text by a dead white author - say, Dickens or Shakespeare - and shout 'that racist!' This creates an atmosphere where everyone neurotically self-censors themselves, because it is not very nice to be falsely accused of racism.
It is true that certain races and classes are born into a disadvantaged position. If you want to be constructive about it, you should join a political campaign or join a think-tank that constructs policy, because falsely accusing people of racism, sexism etc. won't do anything to change it.
I remember thinking as an undergraduate how lucky how I was to be able to sit at a desk at a university library and read about the history of thought. Most people had been excluded from even reading about all this for centuries - and I would have been excluded, too. That's why it's so angering to see these pampered twits complain about their oppression.

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People often complain about the obscene wages that football players receive. Granted, it is completely obscene. But what about bankers? Why are people who work in the city meritocratic exemplars whilst football players are berated for being greedy?
There is a tinge of classism to these complaints. The fact is that many football players come from working class backgrounds and work awfully hard to reach the top. Many people who work in the city, meanwhile, are Eton-educated and have reached their cushy positions after walking out of Oxbridge.
The fact remains that football players are very skilled at what they do. They don't 'just kick a ball.' A lot of tactics, athleticism and drive go into those performances. In many countries, football is one of the few sectors that allows working class people to rise in social class. In a country like Perú, football is one of the few opportunities that working class black people have to rise to the highest social class.
It's really smug how intellectual types look down on football. Even George Orwell, who often challenged the hypocrisy of these types, complained about football fans. Watching Real Madrid vs. Barcelona is somehow beneath them after wading through a copy of 'Critique of Pure Reason.' Football is one of the few opportunities that many driven working-class people get to go as far as they can.
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Last night I dreamed about a Bill Gates conference. He was giving the conference in front of the business world's creme-of-the-creme. He was talking about how the Labour party should reinstitute Clause IV. The clause committed the Labour party to 'the common ownership of the means of production.' It was controversial for a long time until it was eventually amended by Tony Blair. Bill Gates, meanwhile, is the greatest success story of unbridled capitalism. So, yeah, that definitely was a very weird dream.

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This track really is an overlooked gem. It is experimental in a really subtle, understated way (often the most interesting type of experimentation). This is probably my favourite Miles Davis line-up, when he was transitioning from an adventurous acoustic sound to an electric/fusion one. The albums from this period (Nefertiti, In a Silent Way, Filles De Kilimanjaro) are just superb.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FczM2eSdTLU
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I hope that this isn't true for two reasons: 1) I want to write a short story about Ted Heath that more or less sees him in a sympathetic light (selfish reason) and 2) I feel profoundly sorry for all victims of paedophilic abuse (unselfish reason).
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This is my Amazon shopping basket. All items have been 'saved for later.'
End This Depression Now! - Paul Krugman
The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy by Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) by Tim Maudlin
Averroes by Majid Fakhri
A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful 2/e (Oxford World's Classics) by Edmund Burke
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction 2/e (Very Short Introductions) by Samir Okasha
Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Classics) by Seneca
Meditations (Penguin Classics) by Marcus Aurelius
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth
From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C Dennett
Thomas Becket by Frank Barlow
Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by O'Rourke, P. J. New edition (1999) by P. J. O'Rourke
The Road to Wigan Pier (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
The Canterbury Tales (Wordsworth Poetry Library) by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory by Glenn Watkins
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) by Kingsley Amis
The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Whatever it Takes: The Real Story of Gordon Brown and New Labour
Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalisation by Gordon Brown
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
Edward Heath: A Singular Life by Michael McManus
The Destruction of European Jews by Raoul Hilberg
Roy Jenkins by John Campbell
The Bible: Authorized King James Version (Oxford World's Classics) by Robert Carroll
The Origins of Totalitarianism... by Arendt Hannah
Eichmann in Jerusalem (Penguin Classics) by Hannah Arendt
Kant's 'Critique of Aesthetic Judgement': A Reader's Guide (A Reader's Guides) by Fiona Hughes
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (World History) by R. H. Tawney
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
The Glorious Revolution: 1688 - Britain's Fight for Liberty by Edward Vallance
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu
Royal Family, The by William T. Vollmann
Europe Central by William T Vollmann
The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield
How to be a conservative by Roger Scruton
Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War by Professor Margaret MacMillan
Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher
The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Penguin History) by C L R James
David Boring by Daniel Clowes
Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer by Scott H. Hendrix
Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) by David Kynaston
God's Fury, England's Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars by Michael Braddick
Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant by Tracy Borman
Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government (O'Rourke, P. J.) by P. J. O'Rourke
Constantine: Unconquered emperor, Christian victor by Paul Stephenson
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction (Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts) by Jill Vance
Hermits: Insights of Solitude by Peter France
Cultivating Humanity: Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education by Martha Craven Nussbaum
The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
The Fragility of Goodness: Luck And Ethics In Greek Tragedy And Philosophy by Martha C. Nussbaum
Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Spirit': A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides) by Stephen Houlgate
Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) by Arthur Schopenhauer
Harry Partch: A Biography by Bob Gilmore
Keynes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Robert Skidelsky
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering by Norman G. Finkelstein

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Very interesting conversation about the nature and history of music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5qeouQwb1w
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I wish my brain wasn't chemically imbalanced.
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I find it somewhat mystifying why certain politicians are considered 'principled' when they steadfastly refuse to compromise. Somehow politicians who compromise, make some accomplishments and get their hands dirty aren't.
For instance, Tony Benn was a national treasure for precisely this reason. As minister of industry, however, he wanted to create a planned economy which rationed all goods. He wanted to nationalise 80% of industry. He wanted to impose high tariffs and import controls. Now, not only is that politically suicidal, it's scary.
Criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn are always prefixed with 'he's principled' and 'says what he thinks.' Well, at the cost of Labour losing seats, I don't think that amounts to much.
There are other principled politicians who compromised their beliefs but managed to get a lot done. Gordon Brown, I would say, is principled and did a lot of good as chancellor by investing in public services, creating jobs and getting many people out of poverty.
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I found this lovely puzzle of Raphael's 'The Academy' in a charity shop that I am volunteering in. It consists of 3.000 pieces, so it will be a mammoth task. It is one of my favourite paintings. It includes all of the major Greek philosophers, with Plato and Aristotle at the forefront. Raphael also features Michelangelo, his contemporary.
I've never done puzzles before, but I just had to buy this. I can add puzzles to the list of unfocused interests that currently occupy my scattered mind: current affairs, British economic history in the 40s-70s, football, classical records, arty films, literary novels and obscure/esoteric philosophy.

Friday, 19 May 2017

My problems with women #2

I wrote a post called 'My Problems With Women' almost three years ago. Well, I'm now reprising it.

When I wrote this post three years ago, I detailed my inadequacies and frustrations. Well, three years later I haven't made all that much progress and I doubt if I ever will. I am now almost twenty-seven.

I have reached the point where I don't know if I really care all that much. A therapist I had even told me that I wasn't suited for a relationship. I found this remark slightly puzzling - isn't the desire to find a partner and to settle down universal?

Sexually, I'm frustrated. In other domains, I wouldn't mind having a relationship. I don't get why it should have to be such a big commitment. Starry-eyed mystics wax lyrical as to how love is ineffable and that it is difficult to define. Well, if it simply involves an individual really liking another person, and having these feelings reciprocated, I don't get why it should be such a big investment.

But I don't know if I really care anymore because, the few tentative times that I have tried starting a relationship, it has gone nowhere. I tried speed dating and online dating, but nothing has happened.

I am aware that I am awkward and that I struggle to connect to others easily. I think that many girls just find it inordinately difficult to talk to me in the first place and couldn't possibly fathom the idea of taking it any further. What annoys me is that over the years I have made several friends, all of whom are male. They all appreciate my quirks and like me as a person. It annoys me that I can connect to these people as friends, but I haven't been able to with a woman.

I don't really understand social cues all that well. I am told that I should try to be more sexual and forthright. Well, the few times I have tried to be sexual it has been humiliating and embarrassing. I am quite handsome, so I do get girls looking at me on the street from time to time, but I don't really know how to act on it.

It's also frustrating that I didn't act on this whilst at university. I was there for five years, a really long time. There were some girls there with similar behaviour and interests, most of whom were postgrads. Now that I am - hopefully - about to enter the work force, if I met women now I would probably find their personalities to be a bit plain.

I value my independence. I like to have a lot of time to read, write, listen to music, watch films and so on. I probably find it a lot easier than others to be single because I don't have to depend on others so much. However, I also like the idea of really liking someone and appreciating that person - and vice versa.

So yeah, I will probably be perpetually single.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Job search

I cannot find work. I have been job-searching for about eight months. This has been my primary activity, so much so that the things I really want to do have been side-lined to the periphery. I have signed a 'social contract,' so to speak, so I understand that I have to make these sacrifices. However, my lack of progress makes this incredibly frustrating.

My own background just makes me bitter about the entire thing. When I was in my late teens I was completely isolated from 'society.' By 'society' - yeah, very loose, very vague, I know - I mean standard forms of behaviour and activities. I was very messed up. I wasn't in mainstream education, I didn't have friends, I was rabid and I was angry.

And, ultimately, I exploded. I really did. Because of the lack of external and social stimulation, and because I was manic and inside my head all the time, I lost it. I was paranoid, delusional and manic.

Thankfully, after this explosion I reformed myself. I went back into mainstream education, made friends and engaged more with what other people were doing. And I did well at education - I graduated with a first class degree and I stayed on for postgraduate studies.

I remember when I collected one of my essays, the lecturer left all of the essays outside of her office. There were maybe 70 essays there. I leafed through all the other assignments. I received the highest mark - 85% - the closest to that was 72%.

I don't mean to hold a grudge against the other students, but a lot of them weren't that bothered about studying. A lot of them were into clubbing etc. I don't mean to assume that they haven't had problems, but I'm sure they didn't have an episode and I'm sure - judging by their body language alone - that they were a lot more well-adjusted than I was.

Out of curiosity, I checked what a lot of them are up to on Facebook. A lot of them have the exact jobs that I have applied to - I can't even make it to the interview stage. When I saw this, I threw my laptop at the wall and broke the hard-drive.

I know that it isn't healthy to compare yourselves to others, but I can't help but get bitter at all this. I have played the game for a long time and I can't make much head-way. Other people - and, again I shouldn't generalise nor make assumptions - don't go through all this trauma and find work easily.

So, yes, it is rather dispiriting. I really don't want to return to any further education - I lost motivation with that during postgraduate studies. I've been told that I shouldn't pursue a PGCE (a qualification to become a school teacher). When I try other options, employers throw my application away. It's really frustrating.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The general election

So we have upon us a new general election. Most progressives and moderates like myself just wait for it with dread. It was announced two months in advance and caught everyone by surprise.

You could argue that it was long overdue. Theresa May has zealously pursued a Hard Brexit with no mandate from the electorate. And still, however life-defining it might be, it just seems boring. There is no substance in anything the parties are saying. It's almost like May knows she doesn't have to try, so she just parrots empty phrases about 'stable and strong government.' Corbyn has never said anything of any substance, beyond extremely vague statements about 'a better society.' Our parliamentary system is devised to enable a strong opposition to hold the government to account. With no opposition - Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are a shambles - we just have a one party state. This is a farcical election, as everyone already knows the outcome in advance. Yet, paradoxically, it should be the most important post-war election since Brexit is a defining moment.

This is the most horrendous and authoritarian government I have ever had to endure in my life time. There is the 'snooper's charter,' which infringes on your data protections rights. May and the right of the Tory party want to impose their will on others. They want to control immigration at all costs, even when this will obviously have detrimental effects on the economy. May wants to tear apart all the progressive values that Britain has held for years - diversity, toleration, openness...

It is also annoying how Theresa May appropriates policies from Ed Miliband - and no-one bats an eye-lid about it. When Miliband proposes a cap on energy prices, talks about stronger state intervention in the economy, he is chastised for it. When Miliband wants to ease austerity and scrap a surplus target, he is berated for it. When May does it, she is a sensible woman.

But the current climate,we are told, is rife with 'populism'. Populism can be defined as a distrust of the elites and a desire to overturn them. No mainstream party in their right mind should pander to these sentiments. May panders to xenophobic sentiments. Instead of being congenial with Europe, May panders to popular paranoia by lashing out against the EU and its lifeless bureaucrats.

Which is why in normal times, this government would really get a beating. In normal times, this would not be tolerated. Why on earth does Corbyn not bring up Brexit? If the opposition were properly organised and called the government out on all this, they would trash them.

But now is the time that the Labour left finally took control of the party. They have waited 120 years for this moment. This country is a constitutional parliamentary monarchy. The Labour party was founded to form part of parliamentary democracy. When outside interests and pressure groups have tried to hijack it - most notoriously in the 1980s - it has breached the constitution of the country and the party. But Corbyn doesn't care - his little tribe finally has power. To be fair, there is nothing particularly 'hard left' about his proposals. However, there is nothing at all imaginative about them. Renationalising the railways, pumping money into the economy - this is old stale Keynesian stuff. Labour are in desperate need of a strong leader with imaginative ideas.

Why have we done this? This is the legacy bequeathed to us by David Cameron, who vowed to unite the country and modernise his party. He achieved the opposite - the country is the most divided it has ever been and his party atavistically pines for the halcyon days of the 1950s.

This is a nightmare scenario. The EU has many faults. By imposing harsh austerity, in its own way it has helped to foment these xenophobic and populist sentiments. However, the ideals of the EU have been met, as this is the longest period of peace in the history of Europe. That really trumps all other arguments. Whenever the UK has distanced itself from Europe, it has put that in jeopardy.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The physiognomy of politicians #4


What can we learn about Michael Gove when we look at him?

First off, he is a nerd. A total and utter swot. He has thick spectacles, his eyes often blankly lurch left-wards and right-wards and he speaks with a nasal, albeit plummy, voice. As he speaks, he does not move a limb in his body, nor exhibit any other kind of emotion. His protruding lips and his magnified, gyrating eyes make him look like a fish. 

So we can tell from his appearance that he semi-autistic. This accounts for his ideological inflexibility. He is a complete ideologue. He completely revamped the national curriculum, making it 'classical,' rigorous and doctrinaire. He is an economic liberal and wants to make large cuts to the public sector. He wants to privatise the NHS, though he is reluctant to admit to this when pressed. He wants to leave the European Union, bandying about populist rhetoric about 'taking back control.' He supported the Iraq war, even when it turned out to be a complete disaster that destabilised the Middle East. 

But let's cut him some slack. You can't accuse him of being inconsistent. He might well be a economic liberal, but he is also a social liberal. He was a very good justice secretary. He understood what his predecessor did not - that prisons are meant to reform citizens and turn them into better, more responsible citizens. They're not there to punish them. As such, he reinstated prison libraries. 

We can tell from his appearance that he is a bookish nerd. His favourite book is The Strange Death of Liberal England. He read a one thousand page biography of J. F. Kennedy whilst his wife gave birth. We can tell from his appearance that he is semi-autistic. Like most autistic people (like myself), he assumes that everyone should think the way he does. He was a 'clever dick' who received a comprehensive education but who nonetheless went to Oxbridge. As such, his experience should be comparable to any other lower middle-class or working-class kid out there. Those kids who live in council houses, play video games and watch trashy TV wouldn't at all struggle with Shakespeare or advanced mathematics because he didn't.

He has real reformist zeal. At times his rhetoric resembles that of a Labour education secretary from the 1960s. Anthony Crosland wanted to 'destroy every fucking grammar school in England,' even 'if it was the last thing he did.' Gove, likewise, believes in radical reform. This is why he irritated Theresa May, who deals with problem on an incremental basis. This is why she left him out of her cabinet. She also happened to find him to be a tad bit insufferable.

So we can tell that he is a nerd and and that he is semi-autistic, but how can we tell that he is a populist? Well, like all politicians he is shifty. When he is grilled about previous statements - such as the statement that he would never be prime minister, despite subsequently running for the position - he is really shifty. To his advantage, he does not look nervous. He does not stutter nor exhibit any emotion. His eyes keep gyrating as he talks complete and utter fabricated bollocks.

And this works to his advantage. He declares that 'people have had enough of experts.' He sensed the populism in the air and he sensed the mounting hatred against the Westminster elites. He sensed how people hate self-appointed experts pontificating to the working man as to how they really shouldn't vote for Brexit.

Yet this is a bookish man, who reads a 1.000 page book whilst his wife gives birth. This is a man who looks and sounds like a complete swot. What credentials does he have to be a man of the people? Indeed, what credentials does he have to say that we shouldn't have experts?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The physiognomy of politicians #3



What can we learn about Peter Mandelson, going by his appearance?

Well, to begin with, he is rather expressionless. He seems to amble about from place to place without exhibiting the faintest emotion. He seems slightly unhinged when he talks. As he talks, he appears to be suppressing details that he does not want to unleash upon the public.

And Peter Mandleson is the king of spin, the so-called 'prince of darkness.' He was the first ever 'spin doctor.' We could easily envision dwelling in a dark corner of a room, as he sips his tea and strokes his white cat. We can easily envision hundreds of his minions storming into this dark room with data, with news items, with gossip and with sleaze. He peruses all of this information with the same expressionless and hinged look. He peruses all of this information as he sips his tea and strokes his white cat.

In that very room, the true levers of power are wielded. In that room, spin is formulated. In that room, headlines are formulated. All of that data, news items, gossip and sleaze is condensed into a catchy headline that lands into the front page of every newspaper. 

Mandelson ambles around from place to place, with legions of press reporters following him closely. He is a highly effective and articulate communicator, as he manipulates their feelings and emotions. He tells him a given situation is such and such a way and should be resolved in this other way. The reporters believe him and write their given articles.

Mandelson has always been part of New Labour and has always sought to make it electable. He is the grandson of Herbert Morrison, a grandee of the 1945-51 government. Morrison was part of the right of the party and thought that the Labour party should end its obsession with class and appease the middle classes. His grandson Mandelson thought the very same thing in 1983, as it was clobbered on the back of a radical left-wing program. He joined Neil Kinnock's press team and sought to modernise the decimated party.

We can tell this when we look at him. Despite his emotionlessness, it looks like he is about to shoot off somewhere to manipulate outcomes. Despite the lack of expression, he appears to be restless. This is what he is suppressing all of the time - an endless onslaught of energy.

And he is still at it, even as a lord. He is apparently shuffling about in the background trying to end Corbyn's tenure. Whilst I myself am not the greatest fan of Mandelson's wing of the party, I am less of a fan of Corbyn's wing. Which is why I hope that he is brought down before the election this coming June.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The physiognomy of politicians #2


What can we ascertain about Theresa May's personality from her appearance? Well, like Gordon Brown, she is inscrutable. And that makes her an interesting physiognomic case study.

May is an introvert. We can tell that when we look at her. She often has a piercing look on her eyes, as she purses her lips. She seems to be a natural brooder. She does not seem to like you, or anyone else for that matter. She appears to be judging you from a distance. You are afraid that she might take your human rights away from you. You are afraid that she might look at your internet history, come to the conclusion that you are a dirty perv and launch an inquiry about it.

May is determined, cold and calculating. That is why she was the only Tory who emerged triumphant after Brexit. She 'just gets the job done.' Indeed, she lasted six full years as Home Secretary, while others wither away in that department. Now she has been entrusted with leading Britain over the cliff. We are most likely set for a Hard Brexit. As we leave the single market, as the pound weakens and as inflation soars, she shoots off to different parts of the world pleading for a trade deal. It doesn't matter if it's a pernicious, demagogic misogynist like Trump. It doesn't matter if it's a prolific violator of human rights like Erdogan. The people voted for this outcome and she wants to secure what's in the best interest for the country.

For all her coldness and determination, like Brown she also has asperities. She struggles to think on her feet. With her in the helm, you get the impression that Brexit negotiations would drag on for all perpetuity. The Conservative party has struggled to formulate tangible policies under her helm. We can tell that when we look at her. Even Corbyn can make her look fidgety. She often seems evasive. She can be prone to the occasional platitude, the most egregious one being 'we want a red, white and blue Brexit.' (What on Earth does that mean?) She often feels insecure in large crowds.

Yet, like Brown, she also cares about justice. This comes through mostly in her rhetoric, not in her voting record or her policies. Like Brown, her father was also a minister. She is a communitarian. Unlike Thatcher, she does believe that there is such a thing as society. She wants to help out those who are just about managing.

We can also tell from her physiognomy that she is stubborn and inflexible. When dealing with the opposition, she often scowls. She often juts her lips and grimaces. As such, she is also something of an ideologue. She wants to bring back grammar schools when the public has opposed them. Studies demonstrate that they are a barrier to social mobility. Her ideological leanings also make her pander to populism. She wants to control immigration figures, even if it irreparably harms the economy. She wants social cohesion at all costs. She panders to some nasty xenophobic sentiments.

She certainly is inscrutable. Yet, from this study, we have managed to deduce something about her personality. As Kenneth Clark said, she is a bloody difficult woman.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The physiognomy of politicians #1


What can we ascertain from Gordon Brown's personality by looking at him? He is dogged, principled, awkward, aloof, impassioned, a fighter, emphatic, tortured, evasive and, like all politicians, conniving.

Gordon Brown struggled to communicate his message. He literally saved the world. The banks collapsed and he bailed them out and, as a result, left a deficit. Yet, in PMQs, he accidentally declared 'I saved the world.' That, of course, sounds ludicrous. David Cameron could not prevent himself from ridiculing it. Gordon Brown remained solemn and serious as the entire house burst out laughing.

We can ascertain from looking at Gordon that he is a tragic figure, that he is doomed. He contrives a false smile for the cameras, as we can patently tell that he is suffering. He struggles to talk to common folk. He calls voters 'bigots.' He really, really shouldn't. If you want to win votes, that is certainly not a smart strategy. However, the woman he talked most certainly was a bigot.

Politics, ultimately, is dog-eat-dog? He should have made the killer move and called a snap election, when he had a lead in the polls, but he thought that it wasn't the ethical thing to do! And he lost the election! But Gordon cares about social justice! Gordon cares about equality! Gordon cares about public services! And he was wiped out!

He has an awkward gait. He seems to hunch his his back perpetually. He often sticks his tongue out into his cheek. He often hovers around awkwardly, not knowing what to do.

And this is why he lost. This is his greatest tragedy. He lost in an age completely obsessed with personality. Before politicians could win general elections and still have a completely awkward personality. The only thing that mattered back then was to get the blood job done. Just look at Attlee, for Christ sake. Just look at Heath. Also, back then, politicians could win general elections and also be studious academics. Gordon wrote his PHD thesis on the history of the Labour party. But now, how could a bookish weirdo dwelling in a dark corner of a university library possibly now lead a country?

And, still, if you ask me, his personality is a lot more interesting than most other politicians. Cameron is content-free. People say that Corbyn might be reckless and incompetent, but he at least has a personality. Well, he seems dead boring to me. He seems like a thoughtless chap who just jumps on the latest leftist bandwagon. He is a dull voluntarist who joins the latest fashionable cause. Gordon, as we can ascertain from his physiognomy, is a much more interesting character. He is the son of a minister, he is passionate and deeply cares about his party and his country. He reformulated the Labour party. It had to re-adapt to a globalised economy, which had done so much good for the third world.

We can tell from his physiognomy that he is the dual opposite of Tony Blair. Blair is all spin and charm. Blair also dragged the country into the harrowing Iraq calamity. And now the Labour party is in tatters and ruins. Gordon certainly didn't want that to happen.

And, as Cameron strolled into 10 Downing Street, Gordon walked away with his wife and beautiful boys (which, contrary to New Labour spin, he wanted to shield from the public eye, as he wanted to keep his publci and private life separate). He walked awkwardly, as usual. And we could tell from his physiognomy that so many dreams and aspirations evaporated at that very moment.