Saturday, 31 January 2009

I've got da job!!!

Awright! I'm no longer on the list of the unemployed, and I'll admit that feels really damn good. Admittedly it's not the most dignified of jobs, but frankly fuck it - I wanted to travel and this position takes me straight to a city I'd been planning on living in since 2003: Paris! (I ended up not going there because I had to choose between that and the Caribbeans, and with all due respect to the baguette-eating bleus, I wouldn't have given up that occasion for a shag-fest at the after-party for the Oscars, not if Scarlett Johansson had been there in a Tomb Raider costume looking markedly inebriated).

So - what is the job? Haha actually this is kind of the funny bit because I'm not allowed to tell you. Management doesn't want us to divulge, and while it's more likely for rattlesnakes to become the new symbol for the WWF over the panda than for them to hound me out on this blog, I'd still rather not take that risk. So no, I officially can't tell you what I'm going to work in.

Put this way it sounds like some kind of secret agent job when it's pretty much the opposite and it doesn't pay for shit (six months of it should barely cut it for my trip to India, which I want to complete before the end of 2009). Nonetheless I can tell you that it is very physical and should be lots of fun, and the working hours look great (all things considered it looks like only 3.5 effective working hours a day, five days a week, but the truth is probably going to be more dire).

And I didn't get it through an interview. I got it through an audition.

I woke up planning on getting to the audition locale about an hour in advance so I'd have time to rehearse my interview speeches, something which I started doing already at the tube station. I was so intently rehearsing in fact that I mistakenly took the overground and ended up going North halfway to Wembley before figuring out my mistake. I legged my way like a bastard out of the next station and caught the underground so as to make it to the interview only just in time.

So I got there. It looked pretty fun: there were approximately 400 people in a dance studio planned for less than half that number so it was a matter of elbowing my way through everyone, mostly girls. The first thing they did was measure us, like in a concentration camp. After that they taught us this sort of weird routine where we had to take four steps forward pretending to be cowboys, turn on ourselves acting like pirates, take three steps to a side and strike a 'villain' pose, bow down like Prince Charming and finally walk away waving goodbye and throwing kisses.

The first bit was no problem. I put on my best John Wayne expression and legged it forwards while mimicking a hat and a belt. The second bit presented more difficulties. How the fuck does a pirate 'turn on himself'? There isn't a common method for that that I know of. Maybe there's all sorts of Manuals for Pirates from the 18th Century with chapters detailing how to execute the perfect pirouette, but I'll be damned if I've ever heard of one. I sort of hunch my shoulder and lean downwards while throwing my arm out and making a grim face, trying to resemble one of those one-legged beggar characters you get in all renditions of Treasure Island. In fact I end up looking like Gollum.

Nonetheless they must have liked my performance (and my nerve - I battled my way through people to be in the front row and I'm pretty sure that benefitted me) because they burned out, like, half of the 400 people after that stage and I was still in it. I felt really quite ecstatic and I even thought of buying myself a chocolate bar, then decided against it in case I threw it up during the interview (nervousness thumps my stomach almost as badly as alcohol).

Then came the dance bit. I haven't done anything so hard since my Masters thesis. We walked into a studio where this dwarfish French woman, Frodo's french sister or something, set herself up in a pose and taught us a routine. Not only were the steps incredibly difficult to execute (they reminded me irresistibly of this shit, and if you think it's easy, then go on and try it), but Froda was executing them at such a speed I was tempted to walk up to her and ask if she had some ecstasy to deal.

Around me, all the best bailarinos were picking it up as easy as pie. For my own part, I was falling to pieces. To add to the challenge all the girls there were hot like molten lead - which in itself would be completely unproblematic except for my concentration skills flying out of the window, but they were all dressed up like fairy princesses and this gave way to so many perverse fantasies in my head that I was starting to see black spots before my eyes. I'm going to need some holy water to wash down the ecstasy pills.

So the dance routine went tits-up, but that much was expected and nonetheless they still kept me in. Loved my pretty face, obviously. After that there was the actual interview, where I'm guessing I must have kicked everyone's ass because I was the only one who was offered a contract despite not being able to dance. Evidently they thought my other skills made up for that, though it does have to be said that the contract without the dancing skills is much less fun (and more poorly paid), so I'm going to try and apply for a promotion once I'm there.

For the moment I'm just glad I have the job. And that I'm going to Paris. For the next six months (at least), France here I come!!!!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Cinema! Or, a return to good old healthy traditions

I GOT THE FUCKING JOB!!! More on this later, for now this puts me in such a good mood that I just feel like a good old-fashioned passionate rant - at least over nother post on contemporary theory (though I've got to admit they must be popular - my page-views have tripled in the last month).

I was actually thinking of opening this post with the exclamation “Oi! Fitbirds!” because after I learnt it in the Caribbean from my Welsh housemate Jack I was happily using with all the English students I met there, even the males, such was my appreciation of the expression. But my enjoyment of the phrase took a capital plunge on an occasion in which I had the ill-engendered idea of using it with my English teacher who was a monster of wrinkles and aged something like seventy-two (but bearing at least two decades extra in appearance), and she rather took it to heart. What I mean by that is that she threw me out of the class and promised to talk about it with my supervisor. As a way of consoling me for the unjustified disciplinary measure I had been subjected to, my friends invited me to the cinema, because, they said, a local production was on show. The latter fact already made me rather skeptical - I try to be open to artesan productions of culture, but admittedly the prospect of going to watch a documentary on fishermen or a video about palm-trees was not the most fulfilling in my life.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that I was so starved of good movies that I would have accepted an invitation to go watch 'Samson versus Hercules in the Valley of the Incas' if I had been asked, so I accepted. I was in fact rather curious, as I hadn’t had the chance to go and see a film for a good while – the closest cinemas seemed to be stuck on agricultural hills rising miles away and buses didn’t move after six pm anyway – and I followed in somewhat of a thrill as they led me by the sea, next to the concrete basketball pitches and bars, towards the place in question. As we walked it seemed we were going to pass by some kind of a barn with half a wall torn down, and as I heard noises coming from inside I wondered with a smile if there mightn’t be some kind of rave in it, when to my utter bewilderment I came close enough to see that that was 'the cinema' in question! Yet even if the zone hadn’t been such an uncompromising shack, my reaction would have been the same - and not for the sight of the chairs, which, by the fashion in which they were encrusted into metal bars of about two hundred thousand tons, looked like they had been yanked out of a bus after beating up the driver, nor for the screen itself, which was some kind of wooden wall lifted in what I have to be admit must have been a masterpiece of improvisation and connected to a machine in turn stuck with cables to a DVD or something of the sort, producing the effect that we were not going to the cinema as much as contemplating a particularly big TV.

No, what really plugged my jack there was that the entire place was flooded with little kids! Let us get something clear, I don’t mind little kids as long as they’re properly grilled, but I don’t drool at the notion of seeing a whole room of them jumping up and down at the sight of a film which, incredibly, managed to fall below even my 'local production' expectations to descend to some absolutely unspeakable levels of direness: Aladdin III?! I didn’t even know they’d made that piece of crap, I suppose that even if someone found the 50 euros for the production the idea alone of having to direct something that I wouldn’t watch with a pair of binoculars and which would probably hit the Guinness as the most formulaic piece of shit ever produced would be enough to get people leaping off cliffs with dynamite sticks in their hands. And for the record, this is coming from a Disney fan.

So I went there, not at the peak of my enthusiasm as you might have surmised, and sat there in front of the show. As soon as I did so, Aladdin and the little Arab bimbo he bangs during the interval decide to cap off into the most gut-achingly cloying song I’ve heard since 'Who took the cookie from the cookie's jar' that we did at school – just as an introduction, you see; it was their way to begin showing me what I’d got myself into. I bear it as I can and spend my time ranting with the friend next to me as the film quickly pops off into another song (this time involving the genie and the monkey, obviously there was an overabundance of ideas at the screenwriters’ place). The show is mercifully chopped down occasionally by the blare of the lorries and cars that roar behind us (the place isn’t exactly in closed quarters), but the little kids make up for that with screams and whines at the sight of the bad guy, who happens to be a Chinese warrior.

Wait, hold on a second - a Chinese warrior? In the Thousand and One Nights? How the hell did he get there? The dissonance doesn't register with me at first because I am too busy with a popcorn war engaged against one of my friends in the first row (out of six), but as time goes on, I notice there is something darkly intriguing in the way that the film struggles to give its plot a sense of thematic coherence. It initially tries to compensate for the Chinese guy by placing him at the head of the forty thieves, and I was positively impressed by how genuinely it seemed to want to hold it together before fucking it up beyond recognition by having the leader of the brigands stand up in front of a shore and opening up the sea like Moses. Talk about a postmodern pastiche. As if that weren't enough, the leader in question turns out to be... Aladdin's father. Oh Lord protect us.

I don't know how long exactly I remained in that cinema, suffice it to say that after an indefinite period of something similar to that scene in Clockwork Orange where they tie Alex to a chair and force his eyes open, mostly spent scratching my jackals while hoping I may find some fitbirds somewhere, at the sixth song in what felt like fourteen minutes I took to my feet and decided it was time to lift my sails – in brief, I went back home. And I did so, for once, with a solid conviction having formed itself in my head: there are some of the most beautiful things in the world in the Caribbean, but good Lord, cinema is so not one of them.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Slacking? Nevah!

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. After a blast where I gifted you with that marvellous post on feminist criticism followed by a slightly-less-elite one on poo in the space of only a few days, it seemed like this blog was going on full steam.

So why has it gone as flat as Jim Carrey's ham after he sees the scripts that he's resigned to playing these days?

Well, easy done easy said - I've got an interview tomorrow morning for a job, and I've been putting priorities first. What do you know. I'll get back to this place real soon guys, don't hold your breath and if you do don't let it choke you. See ya soon! :D

Monday, 19 January 2009

Contemplating the Post-Kaka

I'll admit I am writing this blog-post only because I couldn't resist the temptation of using that title, but there's something fitting in the situation nonetheless. For those of you who do not know, football player Ricardo Kaka is going to be sold by AC Milan to Manchester City for a record-crumbling price of 110 million euros, and the player himself is going to be offered a five-year contract for 15 million euros a year. The guy who's buying him is some kind of Ali Baba of football who decided to purchase a scrape team composed of characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with no offence to the supporters, but Man City isn't exactly a continental powerhouse) and turn it into something like the Death Star: he is thus dishing money left and right to buy the world's best players, and this one guy named Kaka is one of the very top (alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world right now).

If I say that the title is fitting to the situation that's because it is essentially a case of club managers Galliani and Berlusconi taking an enormous plop over all of its tifosi. Even as the money shelled by Ali Baba is going to be cardinal to a new foundation of the team, Kaka is seen as a signpost of dignity and a symbol for everything that the club stands for (I can't believe I'm snickering at the irony afforded by the man's name in this particular case; I'm sorry, I'm a twelve-year old...). As Berlusconi once said, 'we do not sell our symbols.' Yet here he is now, treating the entire Stadio San Siro as a gigantic round toilet and laying the biggest, stinkiest brick in it he has ever been capable of.

Of course, the tifosi rebelled like the 300 Spartans battling at the Thermopylae. Judging by the scenes outside of Via Turati in the last few days you'd think the old days of the Reformation had returned. And they say that football isn't epic, if these guys weren't all as ugly as a Lancaster mastiff it would be enough to put some lightsabers among them to have a proper scene from a Lucas film.

But moving as all their plights may be, the sad truth is that they're likely to be ineffective. If the club has decided they want to sell the young shining star, and if Kaka has decided he's had it with the Milanese shitty weather and wants to go become a pharaoh in the even shittier weather in Manchester, there's little that anyone can do. Ate logo, brother, and enjoy yourself up there.

So here we are, contemplating the gigantic turd that's been left on Italian football and with the prospect of one of its best players leaving it for EVAR and a good deal of our clubs becoming weaker as a result of the shopping rampage that Milan is going to undergo among their talents this summer as a way of getting rid of all the new money they've got. Funny thing is, I'm so freaking blitzed by the puns you can make with this situation that I've yet to feel the impact of it. Prince Ali Baba Spends 110 Million Euros for Kaka. Seriously, this is worse than the when the Nintendo Wii came out. Talk about a low-down from the precedent post - this may be my revenge to the world because I was looking forward to a few comments on that last thing I wrote (I sent the link to a couple of the smartest girls I know and I was expecting some pretty conceitful statements below it... it seems they were *too* conceitful or maybe just too generous to respond) whereas the only one to deign me with some attention was Morty. (By the way thanks mate - not downplaying your response at all, I was just looking forward to a meaty debate).

But the puns just write themselves. We'll talk again after I've grown older, now I’ve got to go learn how to cross the road by myself.

EDIT: And the EXACT FUCKING MOMENT that I post this, Berlusconi comes out and says he's not selling Kaka after all. Well I'll be. The man is more constipated than I thought.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Deconstructing the female duality and other pretentious stuff

It's one a.m. at the time of writing and I am officially a masochistic idiot. Why am I a masochistic idiot? Firstly, because I've decided I'm going to write this blog-post now, which means I'm not going to sleep tonight.

The second reason why I'm a masochistic idiot is that I decided to write cultural criticism about women (or, more pidoquiously, about gender studies). This may not sound any matter of masochism to you guys, but there is no better way of irritating a female academic than making general claims to what women are like if you're a man, and since more than half of my female friends (the only ones I try not to hit on - sometimes) are female academics, I'm about to compromise all of my social life with girls from here on out. (In fact, I've probably fucked it up already by means of this paragraph - the idea of the 'vindictive' or 'irascible' woman is itself a male stereotype going as far back as the Furies, so I'm already framing myself not only as ignorant academically but as one who fears women. The first bit doesn't bother me because admittedly I have as much knowledge of women's studies as I do of Mayan architecture, but the second one does pique me considerably. I don't know if it's true that I fear women, I sure as hell don't want that to be my reputation though).

That bit aside, let's cut into our subject-matter quickly. This Christmas my adolescent girl cousins check-mated me into playing a karaoke game on the Wii of High School Musical 1 through 3, and the first song I was asked to submit myself to was this:

Click here for something FABULOUS

Now, karaoke is akin to the bombardments of Leningrad when I'm doing it in the best of cases, but with this specific song it must have been one of the greatest disasters since the Vajont dam broke to pieces (seriously, how the hell are you supposed to hit that high note at 2:40 without sounding like the hound of the Baskervilles?). Because it was a videogame they also had to give you a score system and grade you, normally very poorly - as in, it's not enough that I'm playing this fucking thing, the game also has to insult me for it towards the end. But I digress.

What really struck me about that video, I should say, is just how friggin' identical it is to THIS. From the foregrounding of the femininity via a pink so blinding you could sunbathe in it plus feminine tropes (shopping on one side, menstruation on the other) all the way to the declared and unabashed sensation of being exceptional, the two songs trace each other almost verbatim.

So what's the catch? Well, the fact that in High School Musical that song is meant to CONDEMN the character. She is a negative model. Avril Lavigne's song, by contrast, is an ideal. It says "I want to be this" (more so even than "I am this" - now there's an Apollonian trope if I ever saw one).

What is basically the same text has two meanings. Why?

On one level, and just to put one's hands up to generalisation, you could attribute it to different taste, inasmuch as some girls like the Belle-Blonde and others don't (though personally I think that's as plausible as Noah's Ark - I may be completely wrong, but I suspect that the audiences for HSM and Avril Lavigne are very similar). However, on a further level, I think we may trace this to a general duality that exists within representations of the femenine.

First and most basic difference between the two songs: the medium. One is part of a film, the other is just a song. Hegel, who was a brilliant academic (but still an asshole), differentiated between literary genres by means of temporal cogency: the lyric has only ONE temporal plane, because you read a poem and your 'self' subsists within the same time as the speaker. The lyric is a representation of the present: you read stuff as it happens, and you are tete-a-tete with the poet/speaker's own intimacy. The epic, by contrast, establishes a distance between the Homeric narrator and the Golden Age of heroes it is talking about, and we remain at the same temporal distance from those events as the narrator. The epic is a representation of the past: you read stuff belonging to an age that is dead forever, and inaccessible.

(I realise it seems like I've gone fourteen miles on a limb here but bear with me, I promise this stuff is all relevant. Well, maybe not the bit about Hegel being an asshole, but I couldn't resist that).

Hhhhmmmmkay, so where Hegel's work was really influential was in his study of drama. What the old sock claimed was that tragedy and comedy were different from poetry inasmuch as they produced a double temporal plane which brought together the lyric and the epic: the old plays about the gods and the heroes were representing stuff that had happened in a mythical past, but they were unfolding in front of the spectator's eyes in their own little suspended present. This is the concept of the STAGE as a neutral plane with its own suspended time continuum, separate from real time. In other words, the stage is neither the past nor the present, but a staging of the present in the past. Hence the epic and lyric genres are brought together. The tragic heroes enunciate lyric speeches, but they find themselves involved in the ineluctable mechanisms of the epic past.

This in turn produces an important division - that of public and private, which are represented respectively by the chorus (the epic tradition) and the hero (the lyric self).

Now - how the fuck does this relate to Avril Lavigne and High School Musical??

Quite simply really, because unless you make it a habit of hitting your head with bricks you'll have seen that the HSM song belongs to the medium of drama (a staging of the present in the past) while the Avril Lavigne song is pure lyric (it's just the present - it's not encrusted in some specific line of time with events standing in (causal) relation to others).

To be fair, the whole of the Best Damn Thing album seems made up of self-celebrating songs like that. The reason I really like that album is that it's so spontaneous - if you take away the bullshit songs like "When You're Gone," you're left with some fabulously energetic pop rock and an attitude which drops the 'punk' (or what have you) pretentions and just shouts to the world I'M A STAR I'M A STAR I'M A BIG BRIGHT SHINING STAR (it's even better expressed in this song which doesn't have a video, and this one reiterates the point if necessary), which of course really appeals to me given my irrepressible narcissism. As Lavigne herself said in a Blender interview, quoted from this review, "my favorite songs to play live are all the fast ones like ‘Sk8er Boi’. It took a couple records for me to realize what exactly I want to do. This is exactly what I want to do.”

So if this stuff has any appeal at all (and it sure as hell does to me), I'm tempted to say it's not because it's complex but because it's simple. It's a really simple sentiment.

So why does HSM condemn it?

I was wondering about that so I went out and rented the movie and, well, aside from the fact that I was impressed by the dramatic cogency of it all (it really is an exceptionally well-executed story, especially for a TV movie - this film seriously deserves all of its success) what I found was that the film returns, predictably, to the Hegelian duality of public vs private, and that the Trial of the Blonde is simply A Part of That Whole.

Let's take it in stages (among other things because my head is beginning to ache). HSM establishes two figures of women. One is this:

The other is this:

Not that hard, yeah? A flashy, ostentatious drama queen who expects to be 'served,' and a modest-looking brunette whose very body posture suggests withdrawal. Gabriella, the brunette, the private character par excellence; as she asks her friend Taylor (the ever-so-politically-correct and ever-so-fucking-irritating black girl), "Ever felt like there was another person inside you trying to emerge?" Sharpay, the blonde, is the public character, whose identity is constructed in terms of social supremacy. While Gabriella chuckles with Taylor at the group of cheerleaders (themselves a public icon of 'girlie'), Sharpay wants to be king of the show in the musical.

So everything fits - Sharpay is condemned because her elitist behaviour ('I need, I need') is anti-social, and this is what the drama, being a communal activity, rejects. All clear.

...WAIT!!!!!! The thing that I find really fascinating is juxtaposing the Avril Lavigne videos to the HSM ones. For, if Avril's videos represent a case of feminine lyric, that is to say, the private side of feminine expression, then there's a gigantic irregularity here. Because the ostentation and love of the self that are supposed to characterise (and condemn) Sharpay as a public figure, actually make her correspond with a lyric and therefore private figure. By contrast Gabriella, who is supposed to be a private figure, is in reality a public figure - being non-ostentatious and non-imposing is how girls actually want to be perceived (to avoid the condemnation by society), aka Gabriella is a public ideal!

Sharpay is a private figure disguised as a public one, and Gabriella is a public figure disguised as a private one. Girls want to appear like Gabriella in society, but they feel like Sharpay (or Avril) in the private sphere. Of course, though, the character of Gabriella is not interested in 'appearing' and Sharpay is defined only by her public identity. (The claims in this paragraph are a generalisation, I know, but I'm just reasoning by the narrative function of these tropes).

Hence the nature of the feminine is inherently dual because the community (the stage) condemns the private desire for affirmation in the public when it is experienced by women, and paints their public ideal as dis-affirmation into the private. Women are divorced (in their desires) from society, which condemns them, and thus exist in a dual condition - men, by contrast, experience no such separation of the self from society and therefore do not have the same ambivalent nature. The public and the private self correspond, in men, as this song appears to suggest - the guys talk about being 'superheroes,' 'waking up the neighbourhood' and other publically ostentatious and self-exceptional stuff, yet the video does not condemn them. On the contrary, it makes them appear cool.

The tradition for this duality goes as far back as Greek tragedy - a friend of mine once wrote a wonderful essay on the dual nature of the feminine in revenge tragedy. She used as one of her examples the Orestea, where Athena (who 'favours the man in every thing', Eumenides 734) represents the law of the public, whereas the feminine Furies appeal to a more primordial, private self. Similarly in Kill Bill, the Bride rejects the code of the assassins, with their swords of Hattori Hanzo and stuff, in favour of the private bond of motherhood which instigates her revenge.

There's something more to be said regarding the relation between m/f and public/private (if Apollo and Dionysus and their associations with man and woman respectively are anything to go by, the male IS the public sphere and the female IS the private sphere, and what we've just studied is just one of the ways in which they intersect), but frankly my skull is a bowl full of damp autumn leaves by now, so it's time to leave the keyboard, go to sleep, and quote Gabriella's words to her prince charming as a best way of closure:

"When I sang with you I felt like... a girl."

(And I feel dead. Nighty-night).

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


I don't normally use this blog to whore the stuff I write on other sites, but this has got to be one of the three best articles ever written in the history of sports journalism, and I decided to link it because the author is me.

I am joking of course. Actually, no.

Anyway, link: Fantasia

Monday, 12 January 2009

Battles with a mosquito-net

I’ve been blessed with three things in my life: a great family, a wonderful intellect and the godsend of never getting bitten by mosquitoes. Jack is markedly lacking in this third category, a fact which is giving him some serious difficulties in his permanence in the Caribbean. On the first day in the new house he wakes up to the discovery that the only thing that saved him from getting two-hundred blowjobs on the night was the fact that he was wearing underpants. The rest of his body looks like it had been carpet-bombed by Nixon.

First solution devised by Jack: he purchases a body-spray meant to repel mosquitoes. This has all the effect of putting mayonnaise on his body alongside a menu and a map of his anatomy, and the next day we’re all but expecting to find a small plate with a ticket saying ‘Compliments to the chef!’

Second solution devised by Jack: he purchases some of those weird green wheels which you sort of set on fire so that they will emit a smoke which repels mosquitoes. The effect is double-fold: the mosquitoes all leave in an instant, yes, but within ten-minutes of smelling that repulsive smog me and Jack have to run out of there as well and the next thing we know we have to fumigate our room. No wonder the mosquitoes couldn’t stay in there – not even a fucking bomb-disposal unit armed with gas-masks could get into that room once the smoke starts puffing. ‘Read the instruction manual,’ I tell Jack, ‘surely you’re using them wrongly.’ I see him leafing through the booklet, then his eyes flare up and he hits the roof in one of the longest rants yet. Apparently, the green weird wheel-thing is not meant to be used with people present in the room.

‘Then what the fuck is the point of lighting one in the first place?’ screams Jack at the top of his voice. ‘So we can have an empty room being rid of mosquitoes?’

Third solution devised by Jack: he walks in with a mosquito-net. This time he finally gets it right. I’m rather impressed by the sight of the thing: it’s like a white sail going from the roof to the floor and it makes his bed uncannily similar to a bridal dress. Obviously the new solution works extremely well, except that, as I mentioned, the guy tends to have nightmares and wake up talking in his sleep. The first night with the mosquito-net he sits up in his nightmare and finds himself involved in a huge mass which, in the dark, he can’t identify, so much so that he panics and starts shrieking ‘No! What is this! What is this!’

‘It’s just your bloody net, you twit,’ I slur from my camp-bed, without opening my eyes (I’m quite used to his nocturnal bursts of Hellenic pathos, by now). Following that enunciation, his weight slumps back into the bed and five seconds later I get to listen to him as he begins snoring like a lumberjack.

What I expected to be an innocuous diversion turns out an absolutely soul-destroying novelty to me as I wake up the next day like I’d been shagging in a bush of nettles. The mosquitoes had an orgiastic feast tonight. My body is itching on every single cubic centimetre of skin: it appears that for all of my fabulous blessings, once Jack’s deeply odoriferous body becomes unavailable the mosquitoes will not disdain bomb-diving onto my own. I spend a few nights playing the role of the plat-du-jour until I reach the edge of a nervous breakdown and decide enough is enough. Life cannot be lived in these conditions. I need to take a pause from my daily routines of beach and reading to imitate the initiative of the Welshman.

Thus began my rather tormented relationship with the mosquito-net.

The first thing it did was to require me to take a rather annoying trip to a hypermarket as distant as the Betelgeuse system and inaccessible by bus. I reach it with half the South Pacific in sweat splashing off of my shoulders, roasting in the midday sun. Then I walk through the doors, and it’s like stepping into the Westminster of the penguins. The air-conditioning is biblical and it keeps the ambience somewhere below seven degrees centigrade, so that after ten minutes of ambling in those labyrinthine corridors I am dying of pneumonia. I manage to keep myself conscious somehow, then I manage to purchase the mosquito-net and carry it to my house. There, I find myself in the embarrassing position of having to hang the thing.

This may not sound like the hardest task in the world, but once faced with the practicalities of it, it becomes impressive. The net is tight and incredibly delicate to handle, there’s nothing on the ceiling you can hang it to, you’ve got to improvise some wacky kind of own support and even when you do the bloody string doesn’t get tied, the stool on which I am standing is having the time of its life in jolting me around like a stupid doll, and, most importantly, the net just will not open up. It falls on my bed in a sort of vertical waterfall only to spread like an extra cover on the cushions, rather than elegantly expanding sideways to leave some sleeping space for myself. I do manage to hang the net up eventually, and I finally go to sleep.

That night I wake up in the middle of a ghastly nightmare in which I am being crushed at the bottom of the ocean by a tidal wave which won’t let me up to breathe, and I wake to find that the mosquito net has somehow enveloped itself around my body like an anaconda and is wrapped around my face and over my mouth, half-suffocating me and doing its damn best to kill me. Talk about excessive zeal – I needed it to give me a good night’s sleep, not to turn me into a fucking cadaver. I remove the death-net from my face and start thinking of a solution.

Eventually I resolve to take two brooms and cross them over my bed so I can hang my mosquito-net at a given distance from my face. The solution works perfectly but it ends up giving my bed a rather striking resemblance to a grave, which is amusingly appropriate since I have to wake up at 6:30 every morning and I invariably do so with the battered face of a zombie. Between me and Jack, we spend a year re-enacting a scene from George Romero every time we have the morning coffee.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Ragnarok of the Bugs

(Look at that pic. Now that's a clever pun if you've ever heard one, innit?)

Ok, so the end of my peace and the beginning of the storm, carried under Jack’s arms into the room, was a mosquito-net.

You see, it was a question of animals. After the zoo for arthropods that our university accommodation had turned out to be, me and my housemate were expecting a reasonable respite from the critters. Yet the moment we settle into the new house, it turns out that the insect-war has not diminished in intensity in the new scenario, in fact if anything it has increased. Every time we so much as switch a light-bulb on, it’s like the pope of mosquitoes has called a convention inside our room – suddenly the house gets swarmed with so many of the little bugs you want to torch the place down with a flamethrower. When the mosquitoes are not coming by the billions as they usually do, the cockroaches start making their appearance: gigantic, greasy, copper-coloured eggs equipped with wings who must have been one of the goofiest products of evolution: either they’re perpetually drunk, or they’re simply incapable for the life of them of flying straight. I really don’t think it’s intentional on their part – it can’t possibly fit with any survival instincts – but whenever they introduce themselves into a room what they immediately do is, they start flying in elliptic circles until they bang the fuck against one of us and bounce off with an augmented dose of stupid. On the second day that I am there one of them pounds into my forehead with such a potency that it all but rams me off the chair. Jack and I try to get them out of our rooms by batting them with our shoes, but all we get is to have them fly like bullets through the quarters, most often towards each other of us – so that after a while, our efforts towards disinfestation start bearing the marked semblance of a game of tennis. We even start adopting the lingo – ‘15-Love,’ one of us cries whenever a cockroach is killed, that is to say, every ten seconds.

When we kill one of the cockroaches, what we normally do is we feed it to the ants. There’s not an ant-colony in the garden; there are five-hundred. Outside of the many birds, who are only there fleetingly, our garden appears in fact to contain a sample of every kind of beast here in Martinique: frogs of varying dimensions who are most commonly found in our shower (we’ve got drainage problems so it looks like a swamp in there any time someone decides to give himself a wash), some caterpillars who are the fattest mofos I’ve ever seen since a Spanish newspaper erroneously exchanging the photos for two articles respectively on the arrival of an Austrian countess to the peninsula and the shoring of a whale on the Catalonian beach, a couple of puppies owned by the neighbours who meander in occasionally, and, perhaps most notably of all, the lizards. There was literally an army of them, a legion of hundreds, ready to pounce inside our rooms as soon as we gave them the opportunity.

Jack initially thought they were disgusting, what with their sloppy tails and insalubrious eyes, but it wasn’t late before we discovered the blessing they actually were – a scaled blessing, grant you, but a blessing nonetheless. You see, the lizards fed on the insects. Letting a couple of them loose in the house means turning our bedroom from a motel for critters into a more sparsely populated battleground. So we strike an alliance with the lizards.

For a while this seems to work, until one day Jack walks into his room and I hear a frightful scream rising from the door. I run in and find Jack furiously yelling while looking at his bed-sheets. On them are the scattered remains of what must have been a gruesome battle between a lizard and a cockroach. The lizard appeared to have had the upper hand, and the rests of the cockroach – from its bodily fluids and some interior bits to its (presumably inedible) legs – were spread and smeared over the white sheets like a tomato. Jack was already planning on buying a flask of napalm and burning them all to death with it (by the way he reacted to that bed, you’d have thought he had found his wife in it, with another man), but I convinced him the price was worth paying. After all, this wasn’t that hard to do: I only had to point out the number of mosquitoes that the lizards daily eliminated.

The mosquitoes were, you see, the bane of Jack’s existence in the Caribbean. Once he purchased the mosquito-net, however, turning me into the only dish of the night forever to be, they became mine. The end of his battle meant the beginning of mine, and it was one of the bloodiest in my life (hhhhaaaaaaaaaaaarrrr har har harrr, a ‘bloody’ battle, oh what a gggrrrreeeaaattt pun again, ain’t I swell). Its chronicle will be found in the next entry. Ta ta and hope you’ve had some good festivities!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The prolegomenon to the storm

It was good to have a house, and a very comfortable one it was. The fact that we lived in the rich people’s neighbourhood meant that even the average garage was larger than most of the sordid bungalows in which my fellow students had found refuge, though it did present some inconveniences. One of them was the fact that every single motherfucker in the place had to own at least three dogs the size of prehistoric buffaloes and train them to hate humanity. Every time I passed by one of the houses, there would be such a chorus of rabid barking from the gates that I felt encouraged to walk around with a double-barrelled shotgun. Bizarrely, the owners of these gloomy beasts were the most courteous people imaginable (in accordance with the rule that kindness is more common than bananas in Martinique). Once I even walked across a couple engaged in a firey conversation – since they were shouting at each other and swinging fists in the air, I held myself to a side of the road and tried not to interfere. Even so, when I walked by the woman turned to me with a sharp eye and aggressively wished me a good day, only to look quite angry when I seemed lost for words. Talk about contradictory expectations. That’s like me walking into a gay bar, getting drunk like hell and stripping on the stools, and then getting angry like fuck because someone squeezes my buttocks (disclaimer: this is not something I have done). (Disclaimer: the previous disclaimer is true. Seriously).

Then there’s the fact that the rich neighbourhood is located next door to the Valhalla and the transports cost insane amounts of money, presumably because you get the privilege of riding on pieces of derelict antiquity, so that getting to the university every day feels like going to Tokyo in a dinghy. Eventually I decide to walk it, but because the sun is something out of Dante and whichever path you choose you’ve got to walk up and down the hills like goats, I start sweating like I never have before. You’d think that the expression ‘dripping with sweat’ would have a mostly metaphorical origin (especially in the English language), but I swear it was coined by the first visitors in Martinique. As I walked up the various Everests which stood between me and campus, rivulets started flowing down my chest and shoulders. My eyebrows and chin became like an enormous sponge. Eventually as I walked towards uni I started stripping. As soon as I took my shirt off, half the people driving by in the traffic honked their horns and start yapping about my physique. I wasn’t bothered by this and I kept walking with my nipples to the wind, though I did mull it over for a while when I was hit on by this guy with sunglasses who was as gay as a windmill and who thought I was deliberately passing in front of his house bare-chested as a way of peacocking. Even that, however, was not enough to deter me, and within a month there I had a skin the colour of bronze.

I pondered on both these things in discussions with my housemate. I hadn’t realized when I’d first met him, but Jack had some pretty remarkable personality traits. One of these was that he was very prone to ranting. Another, and on a more singular note, he was the crassest human being imaginable. ‘Dude,’ he’d say when stepping out into the garden, ‘every time you lay a brick in that toilet it smells absolutely godawful. What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you sick?’

‘What do you mean? Do you defecate flowers?’ I’d respond, feeling somewhat miffed.

‘Of course not. But my shit smells like shit. Yours smells like carcass. You ought to see a doctor or something about it.’

‘For bloody hell’s sake,’ I shouted, ‘why on earth would I want to be discussing this with you!...’

‘Why? It smells like there’s a cemetery for giraffes in that bathroom and you’re asking me why? I’ll tell you why…’

I wouldn’t have minded these discussions so much if it weren't that his favourite hobby consisted in walking all over the house in his underwear while farting like there was no tomorrow. His other favourite hobby was buying the cheapest rum he could find at the supermarket (normally in gargantuan bottles containing two and a half litres for six euros), then seeing if he could make it drinkable by pouring everything he could find in it. Once he had the ill-fortune of mixing rhum, sugar and coconut milk from our garden in equal portions without investigating the laxative effects of coconuts, so that he spent the night throwing up and the morning, well, indulging in his first favourite hobby for hours on end.

So days went by and things were, give or take the occasional discussion with Jack, pretty much idle. The university classes had started and the level had proved to be laughably low, which meant that the weight of the academic work was incredibly light. With this in mind, I started looking for a job as a way of filling up my free time, most of which I was at that time spending at the house of a few German fellows of mine – rastas mostly, with facial hair of varying degrees beyond normality. One of them looked like Robinson Crusoe, and I befriended him quite quickly. We spent our time upon his terrace, getting stoned and watching the sunset, after a whole day during which I’d done nothing but solve incredibly easy academic problems and read Faulkner or Umberto Eco on the beach.

I was thinking that I was pretty much set for the whole year until, eventually, something happened to make my life temporarily unlivable. Jack walked home with a translucid package, something like a rolled up duvet, under his left arm. I asked him what it was, but he went straight to his room.

What was it? Well, I didn’t know, but for a good week that would be the end of my peace. You guys will have to wait until the next blog entry to find out the arcane nature of the object.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Not... dead... yet.

You can tell you've been out of a blog for too long when you need to pause for ten minutes just to remember the password so you can get back in it.

So it's been more than two weeks - I know - I had the most amazing Christmas and then the most amazing New Year's, even though one of the things I was trying to do on the latter festivity (namely, getting laid) didn't quite go according to plan.

I've also added this blog to facebook - and this is the bit where I really wonder if it was a smart thing to do, because if anyone reads this fucking thing at all, they're going to look at the above paragraph and if they were at the party or just knew someone at the party or even just fucking heard once of someone with a name similar to that of someone at the party, then they're going to read that I was "planning on getting laid" and think something incredibly sleazy.

Whatever. Great Christmas. Except for the bit in which the little girls who have the honour (call it that) of being my cousins called me up for a 'game at the Nintendo Wii' but didn't tell me it was a fucking Karaoke for High School Musical 1 through 3. As I put it to a friend (who I hope won't mind the copy and paste... ahh, when the hell is she going to read it anyway), when the blonde girl hits the high note in ‘I want faaaaaaa –bulOOOOOOOUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!’ and I had to roll with it, I swear even the dog galloped over and started barking. Tiles were falling off the walls. It was worst than the bombardments of Pearl Harbor.

Anyway. Will get back to posting soon, hopefully before the 10th of this month. Don't turn back to youtube guys. Including you, stringtheory, I know you're around.

Busy. Like. Fuck.