"The only thing one can do is follow himself . . . dig in, discover what he is, and who he is, and reveal himself." – Henry Miller

Archive for August, 2011

The Ultimate Alpha-Male (Yes, that’s me…)

It has been brought to my attention that women want confidence, and that’s what I need to hold on to them. Women want a man with his act together, someone who knows what he brings to the table, who isn’t asking a woman to take care of him or fill a void. Someone male. Preferably with big, ripped abs.

I suppose they’re right. They should want those things. They should want a confident alpha male. Who wants a snivelling girly-man who needs constant reassurance? They want men, dammit!

So I am putting together my CV. I will attach this to my back at all times, right next to the “WEIRD” sign. In this day of constant advertising, it just seems natural, like a boxer with a casino ad in temporary tattoo on his back. This will take the form of a list: My alpha-male accomplishments since birth. Think I’m a panty-man, too much of a sensitive pussy? Think I can’t make a relationship work because I don’t feel good enough about myself? Ha! I snort at your short-sightedness. I laugh at your inability to look past my lack of chest hair. I chortle at your continued insistence that you don’t want a man who pees sitting down.

You don’t know me. I’m all man. I am a Samuel L. Jackson, a tall Humphrey Bogart, a black Jack Bauer. And don’t you forget it. Or I’ll do that thing where I clinch my hands together and move my arm toward you really quickly, where it then hits your face! Yeah! Take that! Your pain shall be immense, and incapacitating. Feel my wrath! And then, before you even had a chance to think about attacking me in return, I will be long gone… whoosh!, just like that.

You don’t think I’m enough of a typical male? I’m too self-loathing and feeble? That I’m too sensitive? You just wait, bitch. I’ve got Full-Scale Male Credentials. I can prove it. Because evidently, this is what women want, right?

My CV will look like this:

1972 – Upon exiting my mother’s womb, doctors were stunned to find I had stencilled lyrics to the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the birth canal. Also, they found circumcision near impossible because of my massive, almost elephantine testicles. Overheard in the delivery room: “This kid’s going to be one hell of a baby-maker someday.”

1973 – I share a nursery with a little nymph named Nicole. By withholding a rattle until just the right moment, refusing to poo while Nicole is in the room, and being generally uncommunicative, I drive young Nicole wild. There are other babies who share their plush toys and do not fling their poo at her, but Nicole finds them dull and too easy. The year ends with Nicole heartbroken when I decide it’s not working out and that I’d rather spend more time drinking my own drool.

1975 – I bite the head off a toy bat. It was an aluminium bat.

1976 – I learn how to read, years earlier than my family expected. I use this newfound power to write letters to girls in my pre-school, telling them they should really lose some weight.

1977 – My family buys me a toy phone for Christmas. I then tell Sharon, the five-year-old next-door neighbour, that I’ll call her, and then I don’t.

1978 – The first of my little sisters is born. I make a vow to be exemplary in every aspect of my schoolwork and social life, so that she will feel inferior and grow up with self-esteem issues.

1981 – My mother, as our family struggles to make ends meet, says she needs to find a job. I tell her that if she were a real mom, she’d stay home and take care of her children.

1982 – Next-door neighbour Sharon comes over to play. I tell her I’m watching the football on telly. And to shut her bloody trap.

1983 – I learn that flatulence not only disgusts people, but, in fact, is quite funny. I commence to fart every time I’m in mixed company. Years later, I will refine this process, adding open flame.

1984 – I start secondary school a week late because I refuse to ask directions to school.

1986 – A new girl moves into the neighbourhood, named Tanya. She makes many friends, but I am her favourite because I am unresponsive and mysterious. One night, with parental approval, I spend the night at her house. She asks me to come over the next night as well, but I refuse, because I’m sleeping with all her friends.

1987 – I score my only goal in youth league football when the goalie is distracted by an asthma attack and I trip on the ball, sending it spiralling toward the goal. In years, this story will be told thus: “Well, I was being chased by wolves, you see, that had been released onto the field by Nazi sympathizers. Meanwhile, a waterboy with Down’s Syndrome was firing an AK-47 at me while I ran. Fortunately, I avoided them all and scored the winning goal, which was huge, since the Libyans had kidnapped my family and had threatened to anally rape our dog had we not won. It was right after this that I stopped the bullet meant for the President.”

1988 – To try out for my school football team, I am required to take a physical. The female doctor asks me how I’m feeling. I look down, grunt, and act like I didn’t hear her. When she asks again, I exclaim, “Forfucksake, I’m fine! Fuck! What’s with all the questions? That’s all I get from you! Nag, nag, nag, nag, NAG!

1989 – While showering after a football game, I see my cousin naked. I beat the shit out of him, because, man, he was looking at me. You know… in that way?

1990 – I drink my first beer. Upon finishing it, I exclaim, “Wow! This really does make ugly chicks less repulsive! This stuff is amazing!”

1991 – My first week of uni, and I attend a freshers party. I hand out then-up-to-date copies of this CV. I am immediately selected as their chief party organiser.

1995 – I buy my first Nirvana record. It, like, really speaks to me, like, on a really deep level.

1997 – I persuade a girlfriend to give me her virginity by explaining that “everyone’s going to think we did it anyway, so we might as well. Besides, um, I, like, love you or something.” I tell her I don’t want to use a condom because “I want to be as close to you as possible.”

1998 – I break up with my girlfriend and sleep with all her friends.

1999 – In August, I have sex with seven females in six days, with a combined age of 125.

2001 – In October, I visit New York, buy a NYFD uniform from a Salvation Army store and wear it to various Manhattan bars while sitting alone in a corner, pretending to weep while looking at an empty pint glass. I break another record by having sex 57 times in a week.

2003 – I get Amy Chen really drunk and bed her, thereby completing my goal of promoting diversity by shagging a girl from every major ethnic group.

2005 – After an unfortunate three-week stretch without sex, I discover roofies, and the sky is the limit.

2007 – I set a personal record in January by waking up in my own piss and/or vomit six times in one month. This record is broken five times by September.

2010 – I am selected as one of London’s “20 Most Eligible Bachelors” by GQ magazine. I am lauded for my “burning mystery,” “quiet sensitivity,” and “virile masculinity.”

*Sigh* OK, ladies… so this really is what you wanted… right? Right?! Good. It is now time to take a number. Step right up. The line, as always, forms in the back…


Chaos!

There’s a term they teach in psychology that is escaping me at the moment. Maybe you can help me out. It involves early-stage human development. A child reaches a certain age of maturity when they no longer believe that an object disappears if they cannot see it. That is to say, when a baby is very young, if you put your hand over its eyes so you disappear from its vision, it thinks you are no longer there. What’s that called? Object permanence? Something like that?

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Remember that movie Jurassic Park? It was a bit of a hit when it was initially released. Had dinosaurs in it. They were eating people. Remember now? Excellent. Now, philosophers and physicists surely had been discussing it for years, but until I saw Jurassic Park in 1993, I had never really paid attention to Chaos Theory. For those of you who are reading this on a stone tablet, Chaos Theory says that every action in the world derives from the randomness of any other action. Everything that happens affects everything else in the world in some infinitesimal way that grows radically as it progresses through nature. To paraphrase, a butterfly flaps its wings in Guatemala, and the flow of nature runs its course in response to that action — a moth runs away from the breeze created, which is then eaten by a frog it flew in the path of, which then is eaten by a pig, which is then ground into pork and eaten by a human who gets indigestion and in the midst of his pain accidentally steps in front of a cab and SPLAT. Every action leads to another action, which leads to another, which leads to another, so on. There’s a sequence in that Benjamin Button movie that explains it. Check it out below. But I’m not inventing the wheel here. You get it.

This is a fun little pop theory. It suggests that the decisions we make on this earth are somehow relevant, that whether or not we decide to stay at home instead of going to the pub on a Friday night actually means something. It’s perfect for our day and age. We feel important. This is a level of significance I do not always want.

When I moved to London years ago, I was just a regular guy with dreams of the big time. I have made many decisions in my life since I moved here, many of which were on the level of “Do I go out drinking tonight, or do I not stay up and watch late-night Channel 5?” But if you subscribe to this Chaos Theory business — which has always made a great deal of sense to me, I’m sad to report — then, well, you start to think that the world might have been a whole lot better place had you not existed. And that can’t be good.

The Journey of Self Discovery is something you’re supposed to do when you’re young. It’s perfectly natural. Who knows shit about themselves when they’re 21? I made certain decisions because I was immature, or because my priorities were all out of whack, or because I thought I was something that I wasn’t, or just because I’d eaten some bad pork. Unfortunately, those decisions have ramifications, and they ripple outward, and next thing you know, you’re hit by the bloody cab. Or someone else is.

Last year, I looked at the way I was a year before and thought how incredibly stupid I was. The year before, I did the same thing. A year from now, I will think about how stupid I am now. It is an endless cycle. It is difficult to deal with. Will there be a point that I just become normal? That I’m just as wise in 2014 as I was in 2013? Man, I hope so. But I doubt it.

It is a fundamental element of the human condition that we are unable to truly understand the hurt we have caused others until we feel the same hurt ourselves. That until we’ve hit that point where we question everything and what we mean and what we do and what the fucking point of fucking all of fucking it fucking is… we understand nothing. We are only out for ourselves, and hopefully you’re not caught up in our endless loop of shit.

Dammit. This is a blog. This is something that people should want to read. They want a tale. I’m supposed to be telling you a story that entertains you, makes you laugh, or enlightens you, or sheds light on your own thoughts in a way that helps you understand that you’re not alone, that other people think that too. I’m not sure I’m doing that right now. I think I’m just typing what’s on my brain in random patterns that do not connect to anyone who would have absolutely no idea of the banal drudgery of my daily existence. Maybe I’ve just had too much to drink. I think I have. This is probably senseless to you. You don’t know the details. You just know you clicked on the link, and then it’s “Entertain me, motherfucker, entertain us!” OK. Fine. You want my fucking blood? You want my soul? You want me to rip it all out so you have something to keep you occupied while you enjoy your fancy coffee on a Sunday morning? You want the truth? Fine!

I realised today how much I had hurt someone. A while back. I hurt them without truly realising what I was doing. I was caught up in my own brain, because that was the way I was then. (Shit, it’s probably the way I am now; I just recognise it more than then.) It was something I had to do for me. I needed it. I’m sorry, but I hurt them. But the action of hurting them then sent them in this direction, and I went in this one. And this happened to them because of it, and then this did, and then this did. They felt this way about themselves, and they reacted in this way and then that made them feel this way, and next thing you knew, many years had passed. I didn’t realise what I’d put them through until I was put through it myself. And then I saw them again, and I was reminded of it all, and how this was a whole big fucking mess of my own creation. And then I felt bad. Real bad.

Is that clear enough for you? No? Well then fuck off, go read something funny.

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I’m not even sure this makes any sense. Forgive me. I guess my question is this: If we made a poor decision in the past, can it not be made right? Is it impossible to correct the mistakes of yore? Is it too late? How much has an object changed when we look at it again after someone takes the hands away from our eyes?

Seriously. I’m asking you here. Give a brother a hand. Because I don’t know. Forget that stuff I said earlier, about the coffee, and the whole “entertain me” business. I was just lashing out. I didn’t mean it. I really like you. You’re a nice person who pets kittens and gives to charity. Please, help me out. I’m really a good guy. Honest. I swear.


Idiot box

When I first moved to Surrey, back in the early noughties, my apartment was the most popular meeting spot for all my friends. True, its location was convenient, but in those days it didn’t have much furniture and anyplace you might want to sit, if it wasn’t piled high with books or junk, was covered with a sticky film of dust and week-old pizza cheese. Look, what do you want from me? I was a single guy, living alone. If a girl was coming over or something, I’d always make sure to scrape the worst of the stuff off the walls.

But people always came by. Whenever we had a party to go to, everyone would gather at my place for drinks beforehand. Whenever anyone wanted to grab a few beers and chill out after work, good old Lansdowne Road was the perpetual destination. Why? Because I was the only guy who didn’t have a television.

It was a revolutionary concept to a group of people weaned on television. Rather than just sitting silently in a room staring at sports highlights, or cooking shows, or wild animals procreating, whoever came was forced to actually speak and interact with each other. We’d just grab some drinks, put on some music and just chat all night. And people loved it. Everyone remarked on how much they enjoyed coming by David’s place, and, I assure you, that never happens. No one could really believe it; not watching telly was not only productive, it could be fun.

I wasn’t trying to make any statement by not having a television; I just didn’t trust myself. With my telly in the front room, I was spending a frightening amount of time falling asleep on my sofa to reruns of ER. I’d just started writing more, and every time inspiration would hit, it would be all I could do to avoid the narcotic of Die Hard sequels on Channel Five. Eventually I just sold the damn thing; it was like removing a tumour. Shortly after that, I started writing my first novel, and I haven’t stopped. But now I have a TV again and the old habits are creeping back.

Of course, these days, everyone has Sky Plus or something like that. A friend of mine, a doctor, often works nights and wakes up about noon. After breakfast, he flips through all the night’s programming — specifically sports and Sky Atlantic shows, among my personal vices as well — sets up exactly what he wants to record and then goes to work. When he comes home, he watches all the night’s events, at his own pace, until the wee hours of the morning. Then he goes to bed and does the whole thing again. What’s bad about this is not that television appears to be ruling his life; what’s bad is that any of us, including me, would likely do the exact same thing.

I have Sky Plus, myself. I got rid of the movie channels over a year ago and kept all the sports. Still, included in my package are several Lifetime affiliates and, as of earlier this year (woo hoo!), Sky Atlantic (aka HBO UK). Now anytime I want to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Sopranos, it’s all there. This is not good. This is bad. This is trouble.

I had a long week and have been putting off writing this piece, mostly out of exhaustion and, um… lack of electricity? But now, I’ve sat down to do it, in front of the TV.

I’m watching golf on the telly right now. It’s a little embarrassing to say this, but either I’ve got older and more boring or golf has become considerably more interesting since I last paid any real attention to it. It’s very soothing, golf… shit, watching golf is better than actually being outside… let’s see, what else is on…

A man just told me how, when he got genital herpes, he decided that wasn’t gonna stop him from living his life. (You go, guy!) Dave (the channel) is showing Friday the 13th, Part VII. (Stay out of the woods, people!) Ozzy Osbourne appears unable to articulate syllables while singing at some outdoor gig. (Um, isn’t Ozzy a professional singer? Does anybody believe this act anymore?) OMG, Newcastle’s Joey Barton just got slapped by Gervinho of Arsenal… wow, Sky has an on-demand service that lets you watch porn ANYTIME… ooh, look, Kate Winslet is nude in a movie again… that’s wild that you can chop all that salad so easily…

Usually, writing a piece for this blog takes about an hour, maybe a little more if I’m feeling particularly windy. This piece, written on a laptop in my living room, in front of the telly, took me seven hours. Sky Living is running a marathon of that Monk show, you see. There’s three hours, right there. (That little dude always gets his man!)

How anyone gets anything done these days, honestly, I have no idea.


What is happening to my city?

This is not the usual writing readers of this blog are used to, but I am truly distressed and saddened by what has been happening here in London in the past 72 hours. The violence, looting, destruction of property and people’s livelihoods is hateful, depressing, selfish, contemptuous, vicious and frightening. The weakness of our leaders — those in government and opposition — in the face of the crisis, is particularly galling. That the police seem completely overwhelmed and unable to act decisively doesn’t fill me with confidence. My paranoid sense that delinquent youths all across the city are being emboldened by the current mood has ratcheted up my anxiety an unwelcome notch or two.

I want a more robust response from the authorities. I want them to act quickly to stop the rioting and restore order to the streets of London. BUT… hold on… calls for the Army on the streets? This is always the danger with crises like this — that people surrender totally to fear and start to call for the most outrageous and unacceptable things. Not only is it wrong for the Army to be on the streets in a supposedly democratic country, but its presence has the potential to fan the flames of riot and unrest, not quell them.

I totally condemn what is happening. But condemnation on its own is just a dead-end. We condemn. Then what? When the dust settles, we still have to look for solutions. Condemnation on its own is far too easy — so easy, in some mouths, that it becomes a sort of narcissistic vigilantism.

Many commentators, for example, have been describing the rioting as “mindless.” I’ve used the term myself in the last couple days. The thing is, it’s not. I understand why we use the word: it expresses our incredulity at what is happening and points to the counter-productiveness of the thing. But people who riot do have minds, and in these lie the reasons for their rioting.

Sure they are bad reasons, even if they are miserably explicable. They are not justifications or excuses. Call them motives, if you prefer. These may be greed, hatred, a craving for status, for battle and excitement and for an antisocial sort of liberty. Some deep, possibly incoherent rage against authority and a safer, kinder, more prosperous society they somehow feel they can’t join might be part of this story too. None of this is evidence of mindlessness, and to declare it so is to hide from reality.

The thing is, when events like this occur, the response is often a highly emotional one. People reach for simplified points of view. You’re either for or against. However, this is exactly the kind of response that feeds the climate of unrest in the first place.

As with the student protests last year, our condemnation of the criminality and support for the police in their attempts to restore order in the short term must be therefore balanced, in the long term, with analysis of the events with reference to their wider social and economic context: unemployment, poverty, disaffected youth, crime or even historic tensions with the Metropolitan Police.

My heart goes out to those who have been hurt, or lost homes, businesses and livelihoods. I hope and pray that calm returns to the streets of London tonight and that this city that I love will return to normal. And somehow, I hope, something good and positive will come of this!


I can live without semicolons!

Writers try to make concessions to what interests readers but inevitably they end up writing about what interests them. I spend so much time writing that punctuation looms large in my life. However, I recognise that a lot of people couldn’t care less about it — or “could care less” as the expression has become even though it doesn’t make sense.

There are nine punctuation marks in that first paragraph of mine and they all serve a purpose. The period, full stop or dot used as an unequivocal stop to a flow of words is one of the great inventions of all time. It’s simple and there’s no doubt about what it means. It’s interesting that it has recently acquired a whole new use in computer language as “com”. When you speak it, you say, “dot com,” not “period com.”

I especially like dashes in a sentence, like the one in my first paragraph, although I don’t think they were even an acceptable punctuation mark when I started taking English Language and Composition classes in primary school. A dash is somewhat similar to but different from three dots in a sentence… if you know what I mean.

Commas are useful in making the meaning of a written sentence clearer to a reader but copy editors seem to have turned against them and I don’t understand why. There are fewer commas going around than there were, say, 20 years ago. (I’m not sure, of course, whether it’s the editors or the writers who are using fewer of them, but I often have to re-read a sentence to understand it because of a missing comma.)

I like using parentheses like that occasionally, too. It indicates the thought is sort of a side remark being made to the reader. If you use brackets, they convey a different meaning. Parentheses are rounded marks to set off a group of words. Brackets are a different shape, usually with right angles at top and bottom. I think of them as strong parentheses and hardly ever use them even though there are keys for them on every keyboard.

No one writes as he speaks and no one speaks as he writes, but when you put words down on paper, you ought to be able to hear yourself saying them. If you cannot, the chances are that what you have written is stilted, stiff and too formal. You can’t write exactly as you speak, though, because it would be repetitive and rambling.

The advantage the written word has over the spoken word is that you can think a moment about what you want to say and how you want to say it instead of blurting it out. When we speak like that, we usually recognise that we haven’t said what we meant accurately so we rephrase it and say it again. On paper, you have the opportunity to say it right the first time.

There is one punctuation mark I have never fully understand so I hardly ever use it. That is the semicolon. The colon is a practical divider of ideas and I often use one, but I rarely use a semicolon because I don’t know what it does. I don’t even know why it’s spelled all one word instead of being hyphenated as “semi-colon.”

The semicolon is a period over a comma. If you use a period, a comma, a colon, question mark, quotation mark, hyphen, dash or bracket, you know what you’re doing, but what does a semicolon do? Is it sort of a colon? It is used to separate ideas in a sentence that are more different than when you use a comma but not so different as when you use a period. This bears no likeness to the use of a colon and so, seems to make no sense.

But after four centuries, it would appear the semicolon has finally achieved its true calling. The semicolon: helping people wink online since the 1990s!    😉