Sunday, 29 June 2008

A chance for fine language

I just fucked up my keyboard. I can't believe what I fucking did. I was just sitting here all smarmy and self-satisfied, nigh even august, wandering what to write about in this internationally acclaimed million-reader blog of mine, and at the first sentence my index gets caught under the bloody 'J' key, there's a pop and suddenly a black pellet flies through the air and lands half a mile away. I look down: catastrophe! I have ripped off the J. As the most acute among you must have gathered by the fact that, well, I am indeed here writing, I did take positive action (as I am wont to do), and fixed it with some cellotape, which of course screwed up in turn and almost ripped off the N and M keys too until I plastered a third layer onto all of them and now it looks like a herd of stegosaurs have been playing hockey on my PC. Literally, not virtually.

Jesus fuck. I can't believe how grusky my laptop now appears. It looks like I was given it at a swine-market as an extra bonus for whoever buys five pigs and three sows and they slap you on the back and offer you a jug of cider and this open laptop to go with, and if you buy a family of piglets they'll give you the plug and the mouse. I mean not that it was the Concorde 3000 of laptops, it could probably recount personal memories of the saber-toothed tiger if you asked, it is about as functional as a shit-flavoured condom and as satisfying to use as a wheelchair made out of his own legs would be for Pinocchio, but n-o-n-e-t-h-e-l-e-s-s FUCK.

I wanted to recount a really artsy thing and speak about elevated cultural criticism in this post but I've kind of lost interest in that now. Content yourselves with this.

PS: Oh Jesus now the J has locked up again and the U has gone down with it. How the fuck do you lock it back in place when you can't even reach the bloody bridge without an electronic microscope and a probe? ROAR!!!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Battle of the Mediterraneans

Why don't they put little signs on TVs explaining exactly what their function is? I invited a Swede at the university pub to watch the Sweden vs Russia game of football, and on walking in I perceive two things: on my left, a group measuring half the population of Bolivia composed of Greeks and Spanish people watching intently the Spain vs Greece game on a gigantic projector screen. On my right, the dingy corner of the pub with no lights, a disused table-football, cables on the floor and a tiny TV in the corner (also showing the Spain vs Greece game) which no-one is watching. Overall, the kind of corner where you might expect to find Gollum.

I tell myself that since no-one is using the little TV on the right and the Spain vs Greece match is already being shown on the mega-screen anyway, and being as it is that it's late and the Swede is starting to have tremors of panic and symptoms of nausea and dizziness because he is afraid of missing the game, I decide to switch the small TV to the Sweden vs Russia game. So I go to the corner and reach the TV.

I barely graze the lower button, and the screen just fucking dies on me. There's a sort of buzz and suddenly all you can see is fog. Simultaneously, a sort of brutish roar rises in the air behind me and I assume that one of the two teams must have been fouling badly the other or something. As the roar continues and I start hearing some insults, though, I turn my head and find out that the whole platoon of Greeks is looking at me with all the affability and friendliness of the count of Montecristo coming back to his prison with a homing grenade launcher. It is at this point that I realise that the small TV and the mega-screen are actually connected - the latter projects the images passing on the former as it were, so that their gigantic projector is now showing what I've selected - that is, jack shit.

The crowd looms forward threateningly. I attempt a laugh as I begin to break sweat and turn back and start fiddling with the buttons. I try to bring it back to the original channel, but it only gets worse. From fog we pass to thicker fog, then to dark fog, then to Mordor miasma, then to mustard-gas warfare, until I'm praying my angel and hoping I'll somehow land a porn channel so they'll be distracted long enough to give me the chance for a speedy getaway.

A bar employee comes over and the Swede incredibly starts arguing with him as to whether it's possible to change the channel to the Sweden match. Immediately they tell him to fuck off. I for my part swing the remote in front of the angry mob and then throw it into the arms of the bar guy like it was a bone and they were a pack of angry lions (which come to think of it I expect it wouldn't help much, since I doubt that hungry / angry lions would give a fuck in hell about a bone when they've got my own juicy buttocks to land their teeth in). From there, I sprinted sideways while the barman distracted them with some talk about how 'they'll fix it right away,' and, dragging the Swede by the sleeve, I bombed outside.

Freedom! Could I but half-depict the high tide of relief which suddenly invaded me the way an evening light invades the space between the cobblestones of Rome, and spread in my lungs like an exhilarated albatross opening its wings. The Greeks (and Spanish) would have to find another prey. I was going to live!


Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Thoughts on the Novel

Four natural elements: earth, air, fire, water. The Greeks thought them to be precepts of science, but literature in fact revealed them to be aesthetic categories. At least they do reflect the four main genres of literature: epic poetry is manifestly of the earth, lyric is of air, and drama is of fire (both tragic and comic). The most contested one is of course the novel: its plurality suggests that it may not be boxed into any fit or stable categories. But characteristic of the element of water, to which the novel obviously belongs, is precisely its *not* being fixed, but infinitely interchangeable with itself. Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Of course, the borders that are intergeneric do not correspond to those which are aesthetic. The Odyssey has variously been described as the first great novel of adventure and romance. Its contiguity with the genre is only too fitting: for, it is not impossible to see in Odysseus the unwary metaphor for the novel reader. Fittingly, to describe the experience of reading a novel is to speak in the same terms in which one describes a journey out onto a sea or river on a boat, and also the wind that rolls into one’s sails; and as much as Odysseus has absorbed of sailing by the end of his epic, so does our journey through the mythologies of grammar shore us into a correspondingly diverse understanding of the reading experience.

For example, think of a good action novel as a skiff built for competition, rushing through the waves with the strongest wind it can gather and taking you breathlessly through them: no more can you stop the boat from running than your hands from turning the page, or your eye from the line it is reading. At the opposite end will be a novel like Ulysses, this emblem of the novelistic medium which chooses as its title, not coincidentally, the name of Odysseus. The reading of Ulysses provides no wind (or almost none), and it is like rowing upstream on your own, clenching your teeth with exertion in a thick summer air, through light and mosquitoes; a difficulty of undoubted magnitude, but the rewards of which are equally undisputable. Other novels of the kind, but less demanding, might be a double or a four-man boat (maybe Joseph Conrad would be an eight). And all the winds which lie between these two extremes are woven by their corresponding author; the electric airs of Calvino, the placid sailing through Dickens, the airtight submarine launch of Palahniuk, the slow, night skies of Flaubert and the small storm that is Margaret Atwood.

Now to describe my favourite kind of novel, you must imagine a commodious white vessel spreading sails into the Southern portions of the Mediterranean coast, where great streaming winds graze around and above those sloping hills that dip their body into the sea through a necklace of black stones, and where the ocean, the infinite ocean, refracts your progress by an according variation in the depth of its dyes. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now can you write the journey that’s behind a novel’s name, or are you not the one for water?

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Lion King: best hangover movie ever?

I was trying to get my stomach to feel like something other than the Rubik cube that it seemed to be that morning what with the Whiskey swigs of the previous night, when someone suggested that 'The Lion King' is the best hangover film in the world. I don't know if it really deserves such high praise - Hitler: The Rise of Evil and Jurassic Park have something to say for themselves, for instance - but the fact of the matter is that I found myself watching the Disney version of ‘Crocodile Dundee in the Serengeti’ except with animals instead of actors (assuming that Paul Hogan can’t be considered an animal) for the first time in a great deal of years.

And I thought it to be highly interesting. It doesn't take a genius to figure that the core message of the film could have the balls drooping off a cactus, but that's not what I want to discuss, since even that retarded baboon who walks around with a stick all the time and couldn't put two coherent sentences together if he tried could tell you that Mufasa doesn't deserve the lion's act as much as the guillotine. After all, the entire film seems to revolve around the message that trying to change the status quo or improving one's social class will only lead to disaster and ruin, and that the best thing to do is to accept whatever (shit) we get. En passant, there's a demonisation of the peripheral elements of society. The mightily detestable hyenas are made to look and sound like the marginalia of current times: we have the idiot, the mafia stereotype Frankie guy (presumably Italian, who the fuck knows) and the black woman (who goes like peaches of course with the fact that all the good lions are markedly white, while the only bad one is the darker one; though Scar's traits are more Middle-Eastern than black, plastically). Add the fact that female lions also seem to have a purely supportive and subdued role throughout the whole film BLAH BLAH BLAH RACISM BLAH BLAH PATRIARCHY YADDA YADDA YADDA how the hell did I get into discussing this when I started off by saying it was as obvious as two buttcheeks on your windshield?

Le fuck. Scratch the blackboard, back to formula. Because for all its manifest authoritarianism I still found something under it (or on the surface?) which was much to be liked. Namely, as far as portraits of the Saturnian golden age go, this is a remarkably successful one. The fact that it’s set in the natural world in the first place gives it an edge to dream about. I mean, when you read the middle books of Paradise Lost, one of the things which really make heaven seem so unappealing (aside from the amount of yacking that the angel does - honestly, *six books* of iambic monologue? Jesus Christ) is the fact that it’s so goddam cloying: everything is made of gold, light and sugar. There’s not a single thing that seems natural; for a universal land of well-being predating the birth of societies, it seems only too accomodating to the requirements of 17th Century England. And it’s not like Dante’s visions of crosses and circles floating in the sky are particularly appealing, symbolically charged (and often beautifully versed) as they may be. But the Edenic canvas of The Lion King manages to remain gripping throughout, probably because by throwing the human element out of the window you’re left with a much more primordial-slash-natural atmosphere, which is the key to all Edenic representations (albeit hugely inaccurate in terms of portraying real nature, I know, I knew that since first seeing it as a kid in fact, so spare me the raised hands). Yeah, this is really so delightful to watch (thanks to the spectacular direction, among other things) that hangovers do become pleasant occasions to be shared with friends, rather than substitutive for funerals.

Then again, of course, it’s not like something being ‘delightful to watch’ makes it a good movie, but that’s a question I really cannot be arsed to unravel at the moment. Besides, what’s *really* interesting about the Lion King is that the success of the Edenic representation rests on its instability. The film’s view of history is cyclical, not Utopian or teleological; and the Saturnian golden age feels so good because we fall from its clouds and then regain them, not because we stay in them. It seems that we’re not really happy in heaven, and not even in hell. Rather, it’s their unwritten margin, the space of anxiety and anticipation, that gives us the real kicks. The death of tension, for the good or for the bad, is just fucking boring.

So what’s my point? Well, aside from the fact that Scar says the kind of things I’d expect from the good guy rather than the bad (‘I’ve got the lion’s share of intelligence, not brute force’, ‘Now begins a new glorious era in which lions and hyenas shall live together in peace’ or something along those lines), and aside from stating the obvious - i.e., it’s fine as roastbeef to speak of the ‘Circle of Life’ if you’re the king (or the retarded baboon - who incidentally is a mandril - since it’s not like he’s got anyone he could get laid with anyway even if he spoke sense), but what of the Madame Bovarys of this life, the Franz Kafkas, the Iagos, the Promethei - aside from all this, I wanted to say that I think The Lion King has some merits as a hangover movie because it’s a very inveigling representation of the little house we bear inside us and we’d someday like to return to. Oh yeah.

It's better than its tedious thematic equivalents like Death in Venice, anyway. What can I say? Hail to the Lion Fuhrer!

(Though I do have to confess that its hangover-movie appeal did take a vertical plunge down the hills for this viewer the minute the film started going all Hamlet on me. Of course they cut out the bit in which Scar is sheep-banging Mufasa’s wife doggy-style, but I swear that in the sequence where Simba sees his father’s ghost, returns home and has his mother mistake him for his father my post-alcohol nausea just went apeshit. I can take incest, I can take bestiality, but the two things mixed together and in a Disney movie for the love of God are just too much to take. Sorry Walt, you lost me in your circle of life).