Saturday, 11 July 2020

OH, HELLO. I THOUGHT IT WAS BURGLARS

Windmills, Vincent van Gogh



Surprised as I am to find visitors here at Traumaville, I can't help but wonder who you might be. I mean, thank you for coming, don't get me wrong. But the party finished some time ago. I have relocated to www.british-intelligence.co.uk and run the weblog there, Traffic Analysis, as well as being an associate editor of this fine, upstanding new(ish) publication.
Still, 53 of you popped your smartly coiffured heads round the door yesterday, so perhaps you can't find Fuseli's painting, or the lithograph by Odilon Redon, on the internet, and you need your daily fix.
While you are here, if that is the case, or something equally baroque, it may interest you to know that I have a book of poetry and song lyrics available on Amazon for ebooks everywhere. You will find it here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CHJ9SL7?pf_rd_r=QRSWQQZQDZX4QZFAXSJT&pf_rd_p=e632fea2-678f-4848-9a97-bcecda59cb4e

So, if you have enjoyed any of my scrawlings here over the years, you may appreciate my bardic dabblings. Good name for a prog rock band.
Perhaps I will pop over and write here again, as there does seem to be a society of flagellants still making the pilgrimage.
I hope this finds you all well in these days of wine and roses.

Pip pip!

MG

Friday, 12 June 2020

THE OLD HOSPITAL




Twilight. Moon. Isaac Levitan, 1898



There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you. I mean, I feel we know each other, some of us. Some of us probably do know one another. I bet some of you know me in the, uh, real world, right? Am I right? We’ve met. We may even be more intimate than that. That’s for you to know and me to find out. Right?
But what I wanted to ask you is simple. It’s no big deal. No philosophy, no big-shot concepts. I’m not here to thrill you with my education. I just want to know something. You can tell me in the comments or, if they don’t work – so few things work nowadays. Do you not find this? - you can email me at ashleycourtcaretaker@gmail.com It’s strange and cumbersome address I inherited when I was working at, well, a place called Ashley Court. It’s in Victoria, London, right by the Catholic cathedral. I used to like listening to the angelus bells even though I don’t know what that means and I keep forgetting to look it up. Where was I? Oh yes. The question. The thing I had to ask you. Well…
What the fuck is wrong with you people? Are you mentally defective? Do you have short attention spans? Can you not read? Perhaps that’s it. You can’t read. You can press buttons and you come here because you like the painting at the top, Henry Fuseli’s Bottom with the Ass’s Head, a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Swan of Avon’s shortest play, clocking in at just over the time it takes two teams to play a football match, provided there is no extra-time. I won’t watch football any more, by the way. Would you like to know why? The players are going to have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their shirts. So I won’t watch. Because they don’t matter. Not to me. Where was I? Oh yes. The question. Well…
What the fuck is wrong with you people? I haven’t been here in weeks. It’s like coming back to an old hospital and finding it all boarded up. You expect to find a few homeless people, a couple of bums and some vermin scuttling about, scritch-scritch. But, yesterday…
One hundred and thirty one of you came here. One hundred and thirty one. And it specifically instructs you that I now write the weblog at British Intelligence and so, if you like what you read here, you should go there. But do I see one hundred and thirty one hits at the bottom of the weblog page – Traffic Analysis – over at British Intelligence? I do not.
I’m not sure if we can be friends anymore. I thought I knew you. I care about you. I wonder who you are. What you are doing. What you enjoy about about life and what you are afraid of. Those are the two most important things in life, do you not find this?
But I can forgive, even if I can’t forget. I trust you are well and not inconvenienced either by COVID-19 or the current fad for rioting. There is very little virus here, and certainly no rioting. That seems to be a rich person’s sport, and Central Americans are more concerned with putting food in front of their children.
I do wish you would come over. We have so much to talk about.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

'TIS NOT THE LEAVING OF TRAUMAVILLE...



Dark Sea, Efi Liarokapi


It seems that there are die-hard, stalwart Traumavillians making a wretched pilgrimage here, and I can only apologise for my absence. I have shifted operations entirely over to the magazine now so, if any of you have enjoyed the goings-on here over the years, I am associate editor of the magazine, and run the daily weblog. Do come over, we are a new venture and all clicks help. It is entirely free and online only.

British Intelligence can be found at


That’s the home page, then just scroll down to the weblog, which is called Traffic Analysis. If you enjoy it, stay for the rest. I have essays on David Horowitz, Martin Heidegger, and Ian Curtis and Joy Division in the May edition, and we have some very good writers. Our first big interview – big for us – wil be in the next issue, so we are inching upwards.

Oh, yes. I forgot to add that my Byronic, ottava rima poem, The Ballad of Edmund Tuppence, also features in every issue, and when finished (it is just over halfway) will be four cantos each of 50 8-line stanzas, for you poetry fans.

So, it would be nice to see you there, and I hope you are all healthy and happy and not feeling too locked down.



Regards,



Mark

Monday, 30 March 2020

PHILOSOPHY'S TIME IS NOW





Self portrait, Austin Osman-Spare, 1910





Before we start, why aren't you buying my fucking book? Look, 50 of you a day are still traipsing over here, and I haven't posted for Christ knows how long. Today, we have a little epistle on the importance of introducing yourselves to philosophy while you are under house arrest. But some of you must come over here because you enjoy the writing, for Christ's sake. Imagine how much enjoyment you will get from a whole novel! It's 2.99 (can't do quid signs with this fucking Spanish keyboard) and you can get it for Kindle here. Every book sold gives me enough royalties, roughly, for a 1.8kg bag of rice, so it's like crowd-funding a poor exiled writer except you actually get something back. Vamos!


Many years ago a dreadful movie came out in the UK. It was called Morons from Outer Space and the only actors I can remember were the least funny of all the many television male double acts Britain has produced over the years, Smith and Jones.
The premise is in the title. Aliens have arrived on earth, but the mere fact of their having travelled across galaxies to get here is no proof of their intellectual superiority. They are morons. There was, however, one instructive scene if taken out of context and made into a metaphor for modern man and woman in general.

The aliens have been captured and are under observation. The belief is still that they represent an intellectual master-race. They are given a chess set, the assumption being that they will easily master this classic game of intellect and strategy. One of the higher-ups on the observation team is breathlessly informed that the aliens have begun to use the game, and the chief hurries down to the holding cell.

The aliens have indeed begun to use the game. One of them is wielding it like a bat while the others lob chess pieces at him to whack across the cell. It is the only funny scene I recall from a truly dire film.

For the chess set read the higher brain and for the aliens read mankind, most of it. Human beings, whether you are going to like this or not, have been kept away from the one thing that will make them genuinely contented in a way that cars, houses, swimming-pools, clothes, electronic trinkets, beach holidays and all the other ephemera of today’s rather tawdry and shallow existence, the modern toys of Dionysus (see Traumaville passim) will not and cannot.

As I have been tirelessly informed for most of my adult life, being a well-read brainbox is not going to bring home any bacon. Personally, I can talk with you until cows begin to make their way home about most areas of intellectual life, while being almost unable to lead any kind of coherent existence in the way others of my acquaintance have successfully orchestrated. Family, career, stable relationships both amatory and social have all proved far too much for me, whereas Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason – which I am due to re-read when I have cleared the current decks – and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time – which I recently re-visited – have not. Two notoriously difficult works of German philosophy I can master. The art of staying out of trouble I cannot.

Currently, however, the Western world finds itself in an existential pickle which I suspect, via the sounding-house of social media, some of you are not up to. This is because you are afraid of being alone and that is because the modern world will not allow you to be alone. It is geared towards the relentlessly social. Of course, I am not talking to those of you self-isolating with families. That presents different challenges and will gift different rewards. But, if you are self-isolating with yourself, you may need a little advice from a black belt in splendid isolation.

I am not going to suggest that you reach for the German existentialists (I should stress that I am well aware, thank you very much, that Kant was not an existentialist). But what I am suggesting is that you dip your toe in the water of philosophy. Kindle is, for me, one of the truly great inventions that mankind has come up with and, like the higher cortex, most people seem to be whacking chess pieces across the cell with it.
You see, we are all children of the visual age, what French thinker Guy D├ębord calls ‘the society of the spectacle’. With the visual image, the consumer doesn’t have to do too much, just sit back and open your eyes. Your brain, not so much.

The written word is different. You have to engage with it, reach out to it, help it to help you. And you should do it as soon as you can. Now, when you may be forced to be alone for some time with a self you may know very little of, would be a good time, because death is in the room in more ways than one. Marcus Aurelius, the kindest Roman Emperor, quotes from Hesiod in his Meditations;

Soon, very soon, thou wilt be ashes, or a skeleton, and either a name or not even a name; but name is sound and echo. And the things that are valued in life are empty and rotten and trifling, and like little dogs biting one another, and like little children quarrelling, laughing, and then straight away weeping.’

This decision to delve rather than to have chess pieces thrown at you is one of the few genuine belongings you have, once you realise what having something really means. Nothing is ours, writes Seneca to his friend Lucilius, except time.

And don’t expect philosophy to act like a sudden pick-me-up. You are not going to open Epictetus and read a few lines and settle in comfortable as though it were a soap opera. Read and re-read. If you like the feel of a line, read it again. And don’t care about what the good people say. I’m choosing these lines more or less at random, like the sortes method of reading the Bible – as a good friend on Facebook reminded me – where you let the Good Book fall open and are guided for the day by the first line you read. This from one-time slave Epictetus;

If you desire philosophy, prepare yourself from the beginning to be ridiculed, to expect that many will sneer at you, and say, He has all at once returned to us a philosopher; and whence does he get his supercilious look for us? Do you not show a supercilious look; but hold on to the things which seem to you best as one appointed by God to this station. And remember that if you abide in the same principles, these men who first ridiculed will afterwards admire you; but if you shall have been overpowered by them, you bring upon yourself double ridicule’.

You’ll find that in the Enchiridion, the sayings of Epictetus. It costs about as much as a bag of crisps on Amazon. You won’t find it on Netflix.

Monday, 23 March 2020

CHERUB VALLEY: FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE





A Golden Afternoon, by Nick Booth



This is the trailer for my novel, which is available at Amazon for Kindle as of now for £2.99. You know those movie trailers, particularly the horror/thriller ones? You watch the trailer, right? You get little nibbles, like bait, to draw you in to watch the movie, right? That’s what that is below, but in literary form. You can, of course, as is usual with books on Amazon, read the opening by clicking on the cover here.








Well, it’s something called love.
Yeah, love, love, love.
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens.


Iggy Pop






Desire which arises from reason can have no excess.


Baruch Spinoza





Just tried to scare you baby.
Just tried to show you something.


Thalia Zedek








It’s the warmest December for eighty-eight years, but things change. Furious McKenzie, for example, talks as though he has about a week to live…


*


I talk with the infamous Angel, who is tending the bar. The tiny scar at the corner of her mouth flexes and curves as she speaks…


*


The tension and flexion of her arms momentarily tighten the skin over the high ribcage like a weighted canvas stretching over a frame. The nostrils are flared and the eyes are closed…


*


When will Cherub Valley be at its most beautiful? I still can’t decide. And I certainly can’t control the weather here, not yet…


*


I look briefly at some aerial shots of Cherub Valley. There is a similarity of design between the woodland to the north and a mammalian ribcage. I think of Angel’s high ribcage…


*


Now, using liquid paper and a single-haired sable paintbrush, I paint a tiny white scar at the corner of my mouth, as close as I can remember to where Angel is scarred. I am a little closer to becoming her than I was…


*


I’ve known where the corporations are headed for some time. Who doesn’t know?


*


A man like Tanner can see a pattern in a box of rubber bands…


*


The next morning my back in the mirror is scripted with big scratches, ticks and crosses. She started it…


*


You’ve been to prison, haven’t you’.
No. I did get caught, but I didn’t go to prison’.
What did happen?’
Something else.’


*


Now we lie in the woods and watch the sky swirl through the fluttering branches. Angel says,
Let’s pretend we’re dead’.


*


Meet us at Stark’s bar’.
Who’s us?’
Norris and me’.
Well, yeah. Sure. It’s a Sunday, Tanner. I don’t go anywhere on a fucking Sunday’.
Half an hour’.
Oh, sure. I’ll call Furious McKenzie, shall I? And Kaufman’.
Kaufman’s dead. Half and hour’.


*


I hold my fingers up in the candlelight. The menstrual blood and mucus which smears the ends is not really red but a burnt brown. A painter’s umber gouache for a stormy dusk. I run my fingers down my cheeks and look into the mirror, but it has hardly taken. I collect more and daub my cheeks with it while Angel looks down at my face in the milky light and says,
Warpaint’.


*


I am behind her now. I can smell musky scent, soap, and tobacco, Angel smells. I clasp her mouth and twist her arm behind her at the same time and I can already feel her body buckle in a great sexual give, like a tree bending under storm wind...


*


When someone unauthorised turns up in a client system, I am always the first to look at the infiltration reports…


*


I spend lunchtime creating a graphic of Angel with hair and everything. I’ll be needing her passport...


*


We stand there kissing with our eyes closed. Anything could be happening around us, we just wouldn’t see it...


*


She relaxes her body as I hold her head under the water…


*


If I’d tagged them first, I could track anyone through these trees, even in darkness…


*


I make a personal vow to steal something from this man before my work here is done…


*


I wake and Angel is watching me expressionlessly at the end of the bed. She says,
You were talking in your sleep’.


*


She smiles again. Small white teeth framed within the dusky red brackets of her lips. In the kitchen I can hear something being prepared, the light stacatto of knife on chopping-board…


*


I stand there in the semi-dark, waiting for whatever is going to happen to me next…


*


The smoke leans away from the fire as she walks towards me…


*


She says...


********














Thursday, 19 March 2020

THE TELEVISION HABIT





Hurrah! The Butter's Finished, John Heartfield




One nation
Under God
Has turned into
One nation under the influence
Of one drug.

Television, the drug of the nation,
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.


The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Television, the Drug of a Nation



Everybody's sitting round watching television.

The Clash, London's Burning


I have been chatting recently with the editor of British Intelligence about the toxic influence of television on morality and behaviour. I knew I had written a piece on the several years ago, and finally came across it on a memory-stick. As I say, it is old, and so the cultural reference points are archaic as things move fast in what passes for modern culture, but I note that I have not changed my opinion about this delerious drug. The italicised sentence in the Eliot letter sets the tone...


Peter Hitchens, in his book The Abolition of Britain, quotes in full a letter from The Times of 1950 in which Anglo-American poet and playwright T S Eliot warns of the dangers of television. Eliot had seen the dangers of the medium in the USA and predicted a similar narcotic effect in Britain. I doubt that the author of The Wasteland could have foreseen the intellectual level that the medium would sink to by the end of his century, but that is not Eliot’s main point. From the letter:

“The fears [concerning television] expressed by my American friends were not such as could be allayed by the provision of only superior and harmless programmes.
They were concerned with the television habit, whatever the programme might be.” (Italics added).

The television habit. I once worked in an office in which most daily conversations began and ended with evidence of my co-workers’ TV consumption. Apart from this they were intelligent, lively people. This is where your average Leftie says, oh, intellectual snobbery, and I say; guilty as charged. A division is at work here which Guardianistas refuse to admit exists.

There is a dual stream of culture in the UK, with one denuded fork catering for those people who want their intelligence challenged and exercised, who want their imagination spurred, their horizons extended, their knowledge of the world augmented in line with Reith’s original remit for the BBC to ‘educate and inform’. The other swollen flash-flood is for those who want their sensibilities nullified and anaesthetised, the vulgarian junkies who are the mentally shambling zombies of the Blairite cultural revolution, the Great Leap Backward. TV is their medium, their surrogate for engagement with worthwhile cultural experience. Of course, for the Guardianistas this is outrageous. Culture, like cultures, is homogeneous, and to believe anything else is to look backwards to the days of the cultural canon, days which – as we know – were infested with middle-class white men.

In our brave new cultural world, Tracy Emin is as good as Turner. 50 Cent is as good as Bach. Celebrity Big Brother is as good as Shakespeare. Nothing is privileged and there is no cultural or artistic meritocracy, nor can or should there be unless it favours the usual dull inventory of Leftie icons, the one swept clean of the work of dead white men. So, what did I learn from this year’s brush with the goggle-box? (Note. This would have been after Christmas, when I would have seen TV at my mother's).

I learnt from advertising that youngish people would rather drive their new cars than get married, have friends or do any other activity. I learnt that it is cool to be thick. I learnt that the BBC still hates the West and, like a spinster who was a bit wild in the sixties, still adores its ethnic trinkets [Muslim culture good, stoning and all; Western white culture bad]. I learnt that the modern entertainer’s career arc has become telescoped [Harry Hill seems to have gone from cutting edge to bland narration on a home video programme in about 5 minutes]. But I also learnt one over-arching and scarcely deniable fact about intelligent TV programming. The cleverest programme on British terrestrial television, by a country mile, is The Simpsons. Its width of political commentary, the range of its acuity, is far greater than anything you’ll find on Newsnight. Its humour is sophisticated in a way that is wasted on a generation that finds the Caliban’s mirror of Little Britain funny. The characters are rounded in an artistic manner that soap opera writers conspicuously fail to achieve. The Simpsons is smart TV, something that disturbs the average Guardy because it shows up the cognitive dissonance at the heart of their own cultural experience.
Your faithful Guardy believes two contradictory things at all times; that all cultural consumption is worth exactly the same, and that their own experience of culture is more refined than, say, a Daily Mail reader. But this is not what makes the Guardies gnash their teeth in private about the quality of The Simpsons. What they hate about the little yellow family is what they hate most about their world. It’s American. I wish I could live long enough to watch television when China takes over as super-power and cultural hegemon. I wouldn’t expect too may laughs from The Wongs, although I would still expect them to be yellow.

Monday, 16 March 2020

JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR





Will this be the new 1984?







Stupidity has a knack of getting its way, as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.
Albert Camus, The Plague




Do you not feel it? That part of you that wishes the coronavirus really would pull up its sleeves and finish the job? Is there not a facet of your personality, kept locked away like a mad aunt in an attic, which thinks, well, mankind’s had a good run, perhaps it really is time to hand it over to ape and toucan, bear and shark, spider and bat. Thank you all for coming and goodnight sweet prince…
Perhaps, in the end, God just got bored, the way video gamers get bored, their copy of some shoot ‘em up which they camped outside the store to buy now dusty and coffee-stained at the bottom of a pile of other discarded toys. It is hard to look at humanity and not sneer and laugh and think, good. You fucking deserve this.
We live in an age where everything that happens shows humanity up for what it is, that being, to quote Johnny from Mike Leigh’s Naked (as I often do), just another crap idea. Coronavirus is no different. China caused this, says America. Fuck off, says China, America made this. The Left side with China and the Communism they yearn for like a toothless cripple in a Detroit gutter yearns for a high-stepping, disease-raddled street slut. The Right, with their troublesome and – to use one of the Left’s favourite weasel-words – problematic, ­- tendency to use Enlightenment reason and first principles, quite literally don’t know what to think.
We have the most powerful, all-knowing media in the history of the world and I scour it on a daily basis and I still don’t know whether this is another SARS or bird-flu, or whether it is Armageddon in a handshake. Why don’t we know this? There are people who spend their entire lives studying this shit. Are they being heard, silenced or co-opted? We don’t know that either.
What we do know is that the political Left, that loose but immensely powerful gang of nihilists and self-haters, are using the virus to attempt to bring about what they desire, the fall of Trump and Johnson. These two joke figures may be dealing with the virus effectively or making a dog’s dinner of it. Again, we won’t be told that because the media are not objective. Objectivity, you see, begins with the real world, and the real world runs according to dictatorial, incontrovertible facts. The Left know this, deep down beneath the layers of cognitive dissonance, and they lament it. They want to get rid of nature and vote in a new one.
The Left will be overjoyed at the virus in Britain, where some of their more troglodytic supporters would like to see the death of the older, wiser generation so that they could re-start the cranky old jalopy of a new referendum over Europe. But Europe won’t be such an attractive prospect with a few more months of panic decimating the Mediterranean tourist industry and the income it brings, convertible into outgoing payments to the EU which will not be made. What will Greece do, for example, with its tradition of island-hopping? Difficult to close down ‘Greece’ when it resembles on the map a spilt jigsaw puzzle. Then what will they live off, olives?
So, in the same way as the slack-jawed soy-boys and soon-to-be-raped Swedish girls hold up their home-made banners saying ‘REFUGEES WELCOME’, so I say, VIRUS WELCOME’.
Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.