Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Word Search

There are some interesting conversations going on at The Engine at the moment on the topic of fears. Which got my gears slowly grinding. Now, I’ve never been afraid of any of the conventional things that people always mention. You know, spiders and snakes and The Dark and things like that. That stuff doesn’t bother me.

I do, however, have a really strong aversion to anything to do with eyes. I can’t watch anybody doing anything with eyes in any way imaginable. Obviously, that famous moment in Un Chien Andalou when the woman’s eye is slit open makes my whole body tingle with revulsion. Just writing about it here is making me feel ever so slightly queasy.

But even minor eye-related images freak me out. I have to look away if someone is putting a contact lens in, or if they’re trying to get a speck of dust out of their eye. It’s so wrong. If Mrs. AKA wants to freak me out, she just lets a fingertip hover above her eyeball, and that’s enough to get me running from the room.

Any parent will agree with this one: We all worry about anything happening to our children. The whole world seems like a far more dangerous place once you’ve put one of your children into it.

Strangely, I was never, ever scared of death. It was never one of those things that bothered me too much. Now I have a daughter, though, my own death has become a new Scary Thing, on the grounds that my death would affect my daughter, and that falls into the category of “Things That Happen To Your Children”. I want to look after myself for her benefit. So my environment becomes scary for me, just as much as I worry about it for her.

Most fears we seem to carry through life are the odd irrational things we develop in childhood. I just remembered one of my odd fears a little while ago. When I was a kid, I used to worry that we all had a finite number of words. Once we had used up all those words, that was it. We wouldn’t be able to speak anymore. We wouldn’t be able to write anymore. Out quota would be all used up.

And I used to think that it would be a gradual thing. So, to start with, we’d run out of all the common words like “the” and “and” and “that”. And as our word quota was getting used up, we’d start to speak like people learning English, where all the prepositions and pronouns are absent, like “I have chair. Big chair in small room. I like!” (I have visions of Borat in my head. Sexy time!).

Slowly, we’d run out of other words, and we’d just be left with words we hardly ever use – words like “eclipse” or “aardvark” or “tundra”.

Finally, we’d just be mute. That shit used to terrify me, that dearth of language to express anything at all. It seems like a fledgling fear of writer’s block used to afflict me long before I ever wanted to be a writer.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Dream of Wee-Wee

I’ve been haunted by some freaky dreams recently. The kind of dreams that make me glad to wake up. I must be transgressing numerous Laws of Nature by having these dreams. I no longer feel safe in the early hours of my day, when the sun is beginning its gentle ascendance, the once-upon-a-time Magic Hour. It is now the time when the dark evil things start stirring in their cage, whipping their fleshy, spiked tails against the inside of my skull, carving deep wounds in my fragile brainmeat.

I had one the other week about a secret Don Johnson porn tape. Yes, the Don Johnson of Nash Bridges fame. (Calling him “the Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame” would somehow just make the whole thing sound so much worse…)

In the dream, it’s a bukkake video shoot. At the end of the shoot (and you have no idea how difficult it is not to allude to the ripe innuendo of the word “shoot”), a naked man walks backwards facing away from the camera. As he gets closer to the camera, he turns around. It’s the Don Johnson of Nash Bridges fame! With one hand he waves to the camera, winks, and flashes the smile that has made him the idol of millions! You can almost see his pearly-whites sparkle! With the other hand he is working hard to maintain his Hollywood Wood…

The smile disappears to be replaced with grim determination as he devotes all his attention to his flailing fist, and the battered flesh contained therein. Finally, he delivers his Celebrity Load, just in time for the closing credits and violent applause.

At this point, I wake up nervous, twitching, and stuffing a pillow in my mouth to muffle my screaming.

And don’t get me started on the dream I had last night about the Piss Demons. The demons that could only be killed by urinating directly onto them, dissolving and screeching in a steaming mass of flesh, like the Wicked Witch of the West melting, if the Land of Oz was an underground fetish club designed by George A. Romero.

There might be something seriously wrong with me.

Sometimes I think that there are things I shouldn’t really be sharing with you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Word is a four-letter word

Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realise something. I can’t write properly in February. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the unremittingly grim weather. Maybe the cold atrophies the bit of my brain that strings all the words together. There’s a frozen blockage in my brainpipes that I can’t get through. Every time I try to write something (and this includes blog postings), the words come out all twisted and mangled and broken, and I’m stuck with bad grammar and clumsy phrasing and poorly-selected adjectives, and I struggle to get the pictures in my head out onto the page.

It’s driving me crazy. Mostly because I’m one of those people who actually enjoys the process of writing. A lot of writers hate it. Not me. I like all the research and thinking and wondering and toying with words. Welding together disparate ideas. Solving problems. I love the moment when I can take the stabilisers off the wobbly sentences and watch them sail away confidently, like a proud parent shepherding the malformed offerings and turning them into independent entities that I can hurl out into the world.

Writing this is just another attempt at blasting through the blockage. Let’s hope it worked.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My Friend Flickr

Seeing as I am pathologically incapable of writing anything coherent recently, I’ve been tinkering with the blog again. I’ve scavenged some old photos taken on my mobile phone and uploaded them to my Flickr account – you can find the link under Places and Spaces in the right-hand column.

When I finally get around to buying a memory card for my camera, I can start sticking all kinds of crap there. But for now, it’s just miniscule grainy pics snapped on my phone.

That is all.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

When I'm right, I'm right

An addendum to my earlier post about the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. I just saw this breaking news.

See? I told you. This has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.

Sometimes I hate being right.

Cartoon Fretwork

Comicbook curmudgeon Harvey Pekar once famously said: "Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures."

You can even set the world on fire.

Much has been written in recent days about the cartoon pictures published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and a huge amount that has been written is either a load of shit, or it just misses the point completely.

Let’s see if I can be the voice of reason for a change. Before I get my rant on, a couple of things to get out of the way: I absolutely, totally and wholeheartedly support Freedom of Speech in all ways, shapes and forms. I might not like what you’ve got to say, but I support your right to say it. But, and it is a huge big ol’ booty of a but, no matter what Jyllands-Posten says, or how they are spinning the hell out of this, this really has very little to do with Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Speech is the Big Honking Red Herring in all of this. Just because you can publish anything, it doesn’t mean that you should. Or that this Freedom should automatically override other important concerns like sensitivity and quality control, two things lacking in this situation.

Secondly, for the purposes of context, the cartoons can be seen here.

Lastly, let’s have a quick look at the dictionary definition of cartoon. Ready?

1. A drawing depicting a humorous situation, often accompanied by a caption.
2. A drawing representing current public figures or issues symbolically and often satirically
.

OK. Pre-amble over, this is what I think:

The cartoons are a bunch of crap. In every conceivable way. Badly drawn. No discernable satiric intent. And, here’s the kicker: They Just Aren’t Funny. Offensive things can be funny, and vice versa. Just doesn’t happen to apply in this scenario. There’s no getting around this one: the shit ain’t funny.

For a cartoon to succeed on any level, it has to be either Funny or Satirical. Neither of those elements are present here.

I find it nigh on impossible to discern any kind of tangible satirical intent behind the cartoons. And the reason I can’t find any satirical intent is because there is none! I’ll prove it to you:

Imagine a cartoon where there’s a drawing of Jesus Christ stringing up a couple of black guys from a tree, with a burning cross in the background. Offensive, right? Not funny. Or satirical.

But, the cartoonist protests, there are devout Christians in the Ku Klux Klan! At this point, any sane newspaper editor would have shown the cartoonist the door.

Know why? Because it is blatantly offensive in so many ways. Some extremists are Islamic, but not all worshippers of Islam are extremists. See? It may be a subtle distinction for your average Danish newspaper editor, but it’s pretty damn obvious to me.

The most contentious cartoon portrays Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. It paints all Muslims as suicide-bombers, which is a blatant falsehood. Just like my Jesus example, which paints all Christians as white supremacists.

Muslims the world over have every right to be outraged. Obviously, I think death threats and destruction are not a proportional response. It’s excessive and tragic and just continues to perpetuate this solitary skewed image of Muslims, because it’s the only one which gets into the news cycle.

But cartoons attacking any other strata of our Burning Global Village, be it blacks, gays, women, Jews, Christians, whatever, would just not have seen print in newspapers the world over in the same way. No editor would even consider publishing such things.

And that is the great hypocrisy at the heart of this whole situation. In a nutshell: Newspaper prints cartoons. Angry Muslims riot. And people then turn around and go: “See? Those Muslims are violent! The cartoons were right!”

Depressing and dispiriting on so many levels.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bing!

Today is February the 2nd. Which means that it is Groundhog Day. (This is annoyingly apt, seeing as all my days at the moment seem to be depressingly similar to one another. Anyway...)

Punxsutawney Phil has decreed that there will be six more weeks of winter. Little fucker. I’m getting fed up of this weather. Frickin’ brass monkeys out there today.