Snapshots of a life

What’s heaven like? I know what I want heaven to be. I want heaven to be The Truman Show of my life. Somehow, some way, God had little invisible cameramen following every moment of my life, from birth, and he sat down with his little angel Martin Scorcese and edited the thing together into a real-time, neatly packaged narrative.

That’s what I want. I want to relive my life, except as an observer. I want to see it all like a movie: the great moments, the humiliating ones, the banal day-to-day drudgery. I want to laugh at how silly my friend John looked at 14, how scared my dog was at four weeks old, what exactly that first kiss was like. I want to relive it all. It would be like having a permanent mirror on my bedroom ceiling. (Though I think I may ask Morgan Freeman to edit out bits like the sleeping and masturbation. I think he’d do that for me. He is, after all, God, and he is wise and kind.)

It just all seems so important. I want to make certain I don’t forget any of it.

Oh, and the lessons I would learn! What did I learn from this point to the next one? Did this tragedy make me a wiser person? Did I really tell her I was going to call her that night, or was she right to be mad? Just who was that giving me bunny ears in that class photo anyway? Did my family do anything traumatic to me as a child that I’ve repressed? Just where in the world did I get that haircut? Did I ever improve after my initial, clumsy attempts at cunnilingus? And, at last, I can find out: Do these jeans make my arse look big?

Unfortunately, I have no idea if the afterlife is like this. As far as I know, it’s utter blackness, or, even worse, a television that only plays Channel Five. But my general principle stands: I want to remember it all. I want to see a snapshot of a friend of mine from, say, 10 years ago, remark on how they’ve changed, or how they’re the same clown they were when they peed their pants watching Friday the 13th when we were kids.

So I take pictures. Oh, do I take a lot of pictures. You know that guy who, when you’re out drinking some night, suddenly pops up out of nowhere and flashes a camera in your face? I’m that guy. Before I went digital, I used to go through film like cups of coffee. I was perpetually buying film, waiting for it to be developed, taking pictures, add add add, more more more. I want it all chronicled. I must remember.

I started putting together my first scrapbook/photo album the day after I graduated from college. Since then, I have filled nine huge, fat ones. It’s all there. This is as close to the Jehovah-directed video I’m waiting for as I’m going to get.

It is only special pictures that are included in my albums. They have to remind me of a moment, a night, an experience, something. I have to be able to legitimately describe the circumstances behind a photo in four-to-five sentences; otherwise, it’s in the discard pile.

Well, the other evening, I sat around, alone and forlorn (it was a Tuesday, after all). It was a total country-music day: mah girl left me, mah boss on mah case, mah dawg done died. I was at home, trying to find the right music to fit my mood, when I looked in the corner, and saw my stack of old photo albums. I started flipping through the first one, with the posed, “professionally”-taken shots of an ex-girlfriend and me. And the thought occurred to me… what if I counted every single photo of every single person in my albums – physical, digital, or those ubiquitous Facebook ones – and tallied them? Would I learn anything? Would I come to any kind of realisation about my life, how I got here, where I’m going… stuff like that?

And so I started making a list. Everyone who appears in my albums… they’re all there. This list is my life in outline form. It was an irresistible project.

Maniacally, I started putting it together over about half a bottle of Angostura 1824 rum and a Nirvana playlist. Did I learn anything? No. But I did get drunk, and it was endless fun. I highly suggest you try it.

I even set up some ground rules.

First and last names. A requirement. If I couldn’t remember both names of a person in a photo within a pre-determined 15-minute period, they weren’t included. I was not allowed to call a friend and ask. So my apologies in advance to Melanie Somethingorother, that one guy who lived down the hall in the Mona campus years, and that one chick, you know, the one with the big teeth, total horse face, dated Jeff, you remember her, right? Those guys are in the pictures, but not on the list.

Famous people. Totally included, as long as I was in the room with the celebrity when the pictures were taken or if I took the picture myself. It amuses me immensely that I have more pictures of David Beckham than the girl whom I took to my college graduation ball.

Maiden names: If I met the person before they were married, her maiden name is used, even if the majority of pictures are from after the name was changed. Essentially, I’m just using the name I know them as. (And for the record, ladies, keep your name. Guys suck. Your name is probably better anyway, unless it’s something ridiculous, like Pitzer or Fullalove.)

The fickle laws of chance and opportunity. This is hardly a ranking of how important people have been to me, in order. Circumstances dictate my photo output. In London, I took more photos than I did in New York. And remember, my first album didn’t begin until after college graduation. School and college friends get short-shrifted. On the other hand, if I went to your wedding, odds are good that your number is pumped up, even though I might not actually even like you all that much.

Prominence. You need not be the centre of a shot to have a photo counted. Even if you’re in the side of the frame, picking your nose, it’s a point for you. But we need to see your face; a foot that looks kind of like yours, except with less mould, doesn’t show up on the scorecard. Also, my list is not indicative of anything, and there won’t be descriptions of anyone on there. It’s just the names. Their relevance in my life is something I’ll keep to myself. To protect their privacy, you see.

Cleavage. Any shot with a woman showing cleavage was counted twice. OK, that’s not true… but how awesome is it that I have cleavage shots in my photo albums? I should make a special album just of those and keep it at my bedside.

This project works on two levels, if and when I finally complete it and publish the list on this blog. First, it allows me to see just how prominent some people have been in my album and let them know just how many photos of them are currently in my closet. Secondly, it will allow my friends to search their names on Google, realise I’ve included them, and then hunt me down and kill me.

Thank you for letting me do this.

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Stupid people

I used to have a poster that paraphrased a quote from the movie The Sixth Sense. It said: “I see stupid people. They’re everywhere. Walking around like regular people.”

It’s true. They really do seem to be everywhere these days — at work, on TV, in the cinema, in Parliament… They’re even at your local bookstore. And they are our newest cultural icons — idiots.

Everywhere you turn these days you find real live adults doing inexplicably stupid things. Take shows such as Fear Factor, for example — why on earth would people want to cover themselves in 200,000 bees, dive in a tank filled with 1,001 snakes, or jump off moving trucks? MTV enjoyed such success with its Jackass stunt fest that they followed up with three Jackass movies. Its tag line: “Same crew, same cast, same level of incompetence.”

Buffoonery has always been a staple of popular culture, but stupidity was usually an unintended consequence. We watched and asked, “Don’t these people know how stupid they are?” Today, idiocy is centre stage. It is the attraction, the point. We watch and say: “Look at these stupid people.”

Thus the popularity of Sky One’s An Idiot Abroad, or the runaway success of The Darwin Awards and The Darwin Awards II, which “commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it.” These best-selling books — and the popular Web site that spawned them, www.darwinawards.com — offer a cavalcade of dearly departed nutjobs, such as the 18-year-old man vacationing in Hawaii. He ignored the signs warning “Hazardous Conditions — Do Not Go Beyond This Point” to get a better look at Halona Blowhole, “a rock formation that shoots seawater 20 feet into the air.” If you’re familiar with Wile E. Coyote, you know how this story ends.

A visit to the bookstore throws up titles like The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done and Stupid Sex: The Most Idiotic and Embarrassing Intimate Encounters of All Time. And don’t forget Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race or John O’Farrell’s An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always. Even academic presses are also getting into the act: Yale University Press has published a series of essays edited by Robert J. Sternberg entitled Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid, and the University of Illinois Press has weighed in with Stupidity, Avita Ronell’s cultural history.

So why the fascination with morons? I think the answers involve the convergence of intricate forces that have placed intelligence at the centre of our culture.

For most of our history, “can-do” and “common sense” were the chief virtues. People engaged in farming, manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs that relied on skills learned by watching their parents or on the job. Their abilities were identifiable, the quality of their work apparent. Silver-tongued personalities were admired but distrusted. Book learning was dismissed as impractical, and nerds were disparaged as denizens of the ivory tower.

We have done an about-face since the 1960s. Higher education has become the key to success in a global economy in which mastering a trade no longer guarantees steady employment. Workers must now be “retrained” so they can toil in service-oriented fields that require general smarts instead of specific skills. Intelligence has become the coin of the realm.

Problem is, as I wrote in a previous piece (Simple Smarts),  intelligence — which involves not just intellect but emotion and personality — is hard to define and even harder to measure. The brilliant mathematician might not be able to write a coherent sentence; the soaring poet may be unemployable because he’s so, well, weird. It is easy to know if you can fix a car, plant a crop or sew a shirt; but what does smart really mean — especially when we all know how stupid we can be? And if we have reason to doubt our own brilliance, how can we trust the world to bank on it?

Anxiety and democracy go hand  in hand — it’s tougher to know your place in a fluid, relatively classless society. But a democracy based on the subjective concept of intelligence is a recipe for extreme agitation.

So we seize on various mechanisms to give us some bearing. The cult of self-esteem, which holds that everyone is gifted and talented, that all opinions have equal weight, is a national religion. The worship of Mammon is an equally popular faith because pounds and pennies seem to provide an objective scorecard of success.

And the powerful trumpet the idea of “meritocracy” — the dubious notion that it offers a level playing field to all — because it justifies their exalted positions. They tell themselves, “I rose strictly through merit.”

In the new economy, merit is based on intelligence. When brain-power rules, those who disagree with us must be stupid. Thus, Michael Moore did not title his hugely popular diatribe against Republicans in America, “People With Whom I Have Honest Differences,” but Stupid White Men.

The age of the moron, then, is another coping mechanism for anxious souls in a culture of intelligence. In times when many people worry about their place in the new economy, Fear Factor, Jackass and The Darwin Awards allow us to tell the world who we are by who we are not.

We love idiots because they insulate us from our own fears. In short, stupid people make us feel smart.

Alternate realities

In an idle moment I have sometimes played at imagining alternate identities for myself. Curiously, these musings almost never involve fantasies in the conventional sense, i.e., visions of scoring the winning goal for Manchester United in a Champions League Final, or becoming a real-life secret agent James Bond, or the man who breaks Jessica Alba’s heart.

Instead I wonder what it would have been like to be someone I actually could have become, with just a wrinkle or two in my genetic and environmental past. Along such lines, I have imagined myself a best-selling novelist, an actor or movie director, a perpetual graduate student or… one of those frustrated people who send angry e-mails to newspaper columnists, expressing their outrage that they don’t have a forum to broadcast their opinions, given that someone as inept as the columnist has been granted this privilege (um… hold on… I actually HAVE done that last one!)

Having been an avid Isaac Asimov reader in my younger years, a particularly plausible alternative destiny with which I have sometimes toyed is that of a fanatical science-fiction fan. I was reminded of this recently when, out of sheer curiosity, I dipped a trembling toe into the roiling waters of science-fiction geekdom by entering Forbidden Planet, a London store that sells sci-fi and fantasy memorabilia. There, I saw an astonishing assortment of merchandise that these films, books and programmes have produced. And if I were so inclined, I could have even got myself a costume to dress up as a Klingon or Imperial Storm Trooper.

It’s easy enough to mock the people who fanatically and religiously follow this stuff, and indeed many in the mass media surrender to the temptation to do so. Recently, there have been a few snide stories about obsessive ComicCon attendees or, a couple of years ago, about Avatar fans being depressed and having suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora. I also remember a few about the Star Wars fans who lined up days in advance to attend the last instalment in George Lucas’ frighteningly popular series.

But you don’t need the depressed Avatar fans or a doctorate in sociology to figure out that a large percentage of these people are eager to escape this world for a more satisfactory reality — one in which they would not suffer the indignities heaped on social misfits on our own often-cruel planet.

One of my own favourites, Star Trek, is set 300 years in the future, in a world where, at least among the inhabitants of Planet Earth, war, poverty, nationalism and ethnic and religious hatred have been eliminated. In other words it is a world that, for all its technological wonders, does not include recognisable human beings. As its legions of critics never tire of pointing out, the universe of the Star Wars films is even less plagued by anything resembling moral complexity. The good guys are really good, the bad guys are really bad, and the odds of good triumphing over evil are roughly equivalent to those of a Star Wars film turning a profit.

Nevertheless there is more to sci-fi and the like than escapism. Although I never became a science-fiction fanatic, I still remember a moment from the first time I saw the original Star Wars film. Early on, there is a panoramic shot of the landscape of an alien planet. It is sunset — and suddenly we see two suns lingering on the edge of the horizon. In the end, it is good sci-fi writers’ ability to touch the longing for the mythic, for whatever might lie beyond this world, that has Star Wars, Star Trek and Avatar fans and their brethren searching for more than just another means of amusing ourselves to death.

Ultimately, it is really a search for meaning; for something greater than ourselves. Some might even call it the search for God.

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.

Simple smarts

I once went on a date with a girl with whom I had the following exchange:

Me: I just started reading this new book.

Girl: What is it?

Me: The Perfect Storm. It’s great.

Girl: Great? Excuse me? Pffft. To me, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth is a great book. The Perfect Storm? Great? Please.

Needless to say, that was our only date. (You know how you often think of an awesome comeback to statements like that a little too late? If I were faced with that today, I’d gleefully retort, “What are you talking about? Nuts gave it an ‘A’!”) Her comment didn’t catch me by surprise, however; it was already clear from our first meeting that this girl had decided I was not a smart person. Not stupid, mind you, not unable to string together words in sentences without drooling on myself, but just not intelligent, not the way she, with her red-brick education and nice middle class upbringing, believed she was. How we actually ended up going out on a date still befuddles me.

But she was right, of course. Intelligence is one of the more nebulous, shifting concepts we have, and from my experience, if people consider you smart in a conventional fashion, you probably can’t change a tire. We all had that one person in our class who was a straight-A student, was involved in all the extracurricular activities, was accepted to a fancy private school, and typically wore her bra backwards.

At school in the Caribbean, I’m sad to say, I was that person (except for the bra thing, of course). Ninety-ninth percentile, on just about all the tests. I aced them all. When it came time for the 11-plus exam that everyone dreaded, I smashed that too, gaining entry to the country’s top secondary school. But after I received the result from my giddy school principal, she informed me my fly was open. And the day after winning a national essay competition and collecting a trophy for my efforts, I tried to change a lightbulb using a screwdriver.

How does one define intelligence? I’m excellent at trivia and bits of seemingly useless information. If you wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me which movies won the Oscar for Best Picture in the last decade or who holds the record for most wickets in a cricket season, I can tell you. (The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country For Old Men, The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator; Tich Freeman, with 304 in 1928. Thank you, thank you.) Ask me why I threw the house keys in the bin yesterday and put the crumpled scrap of paper in my pocket instead, I have no answer… Get my drift?

They say that Einstein couldn’t tie his shoes, and, truth be told, I’m kind of grasping onto that idea. Because there are so many things in this world that I cannot do. To some people, not being able to do them makes me a moron. To others, it’s a sign of my intelligence.

It all depends on whom you hang around and what you value. When I’m back visitng the Caribbean, I sometimes try to tell myself that I’m smarter, that I had the otherworldly insight to leave, which the sorry minions I grew up with lacked. It’s incredibly stupid and condescending, of course, but I actually had the temerity to imply this to a friend there once. She looked at me. “David, you pay thousands a month in rent and you live thousands of miles from your family and best friends. I have a mortgage that’s half that, I can see my friends and family anytime I want, and I have a proper detached house near the beach with loads of outdoor space. Tell me again how smart you are.”

To change the subject, I sprung up a cerebral monologue about snot.

There is this girl I like. I think she’s really intelligent. There is no doubt in my mind.

I was describing her to another friend recently: “She’s smart. She’s creative. She’s ambitious and she has drive. I think she gets what’s important in life. She helps people and she also knows how to take care of herself. Doesn’t take shit from anyone. She seems to have the right idea about getting the most out of life, and she wants to do it on her own terms. When I look at everyone else I know, she’s just about one of the smartest people I’ve met for a long time.”

My friend was unimpressed. “So you’re saying that she’s really nice. That’s not smart. That’s nice.”

But I’m serious. To me, that’s what intelligence is. An understanding of your place in the world, the wisdom that comes with being comfortable with who you are, an inherent sense of empathy for every speck of humanity that crosses your path. That’s smart. Being able to realise what really matters.

In other words, I’m an idiot.

Hank Moody is my homeboy!

Intelligent, funny, well-written. The dialogue pacing is flawless and the comic timing is spot on. And yes, there’s lots of sex too. But the brilliant Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series Californication is much more than that and it’s such a pity that so many of the reviews and promos have focused mainly on the sex (Did I mention there’s lots of it?).  It doesn’t help either that it’s been buried away on Channel Five here in the UK.

Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is an excellent characterisation of a writer in crisis: struggling with writer’s block and emotionally confused; self-destructing, yet desperately trying to hold it together and make sense of it all.

So what has all this got to do with my blog? Well, Hank blogs too. But more importantly, like Hank, I feel I’m at my best when I’m writing. For a writer, particularly during low moments in life, putting pen to paper is an outlet — sometimes the only one — for releasing the pressure. It’s when I find that I can’t write at all, not even a few words… that I know things are really turning to shit.

Thankfully, that’s not very often — my life is nothing as crazy or fucked up as Hank’s — but any serious writer will be able to identify with the angst, the introspection and, yes, the occasional self-loathing, even as they envy his ability to literally charm the pants off the ladies. I certainly do!

Californication is one of the best comedy-dramas currently on telly. It’s now in its 4th Season, but check out the Season One trailer and clip below: