Monday, 29 November 2010

And I also shot the deputy

Would I create a paradigm shift if I were to sing "I shot the sheriff and I also shot the deputy."?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The poor are such an embarrassment

Our economic system like our sport is based upon competition. Competition explicitly demands that there should be losers as well as winners in business,in sport, in education, in work, in fact in life in general. That's why it has always puzzled me when victorious sports individuals and teams are so triumphant. It's as if they can't acknowledge that in order to win someone else must be prepared to lose. The way we have allowed our society to develop there are some people who always seem to be the losers.

We rail against them : the losers, the poor. They don't try hard enough. They are shirkers and undeserving. They are not a pretty sight. They are an embarrassment to us. We should not associate ourselves with losers. They are a poor reflection upon us. Indeed, they are.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The wrath of Roth

Can anyone write an outraged, outrageous and yet lucid tirade better than Philip Roth ?

This excerpt from the novel The Human Stain is a mild, for Roth that is, declamation of the summer of 1998. There are two places in it where you can stop for breath.

'It was the summer in America when the nausea returned, when the joking didn't stop, when the speculation and the theorizing and the hyperbole didn't stop, when the moral obligation to explain to one's children about adult life was abrogated in favor of maintaining in them every illusion of adult life, when the smallness of people was simply crushing, when some kind of demon had been unleashed in the nation, and on both sides, people wondered "Why are we so crazy?," when men and women alike, upon wakening up in the morning, discovered that during the night, in a state of sleep that transported them beyond envy or loathing, they had dreamed of Bill Clinton. I myself dreamed of a mammoth banner, draped dadaistically like a Christo wrapping from one end of the White House to the other and bearing the legend A HUMAN BEING LIVES HERE. It was the summer when - for the billionth time - the jumble, the mayhem, the mess proved itself more subtle than this one's theology and that one's morality. It was the summer when a president's penis was on everyone's mind, and life, in all its shameless impurity, once again confounded America.'

(From page three of The Human Stain by Philip Roth, published in London by Vintage in 2000).

Monday, 15 November 2010


Earlier this year at the age of 59 years, a man called Chris Haney died from kidney and circulatory diseases. “Who was he ?” you may well ask. Well he was a tired looking, rather average Canadian newspaper reporter who, on December 15th, 1979, with his friend Scott Abbott was playing Scrabble in his house. The two men found that some of the letters were missing. At a loss as to what to do they set about creating a new game based on remembering inconsequential facts. Trivial Pursuit had been born. So when members of my family play our annual game of Trivial Pursuit this Christmas we will offer up a toast to his memory for his gift to us of two hours of mainly enjoyable evening entertainment on Christmas Day.
Chris Haney may have died at a relatively early age but he had begun to live the life of Reilly soon after Trivial Pursuit was put on sale in the shops. The game had made him and his friend very wealthy.
If you’ve found this post of no import, accept my anorakial apologies.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wistfulness, milk and Liff Road School

When I was a wee boy in the early 1950s, every morning at school playtime we were all given a free one third of a pint bottle of milk which we took from square metal crates that held 36 bottles.  The  Labour government had arranged that this milk would be provided to make sure all of us, whether we from poor or less poor backgrounds   - though all of us kids at Liff Road School,  rich in many ways, could never be described as well-moneyed  -  were provided with the essential nutrients which milk gave. 

The teacher on playground duty would distribute straws through which we sooked the milk. Some of the older boys - who I thought were rougher, tougher boys - would drink it direct from the bottle without the use of the straw. This naughtiness was very worrying for me because although I knew our teachers frowned upon such behaviour I was secretly impressed by it.  

Every morning one of the boys brought to school an old empty babies' dried milk can to which he attached, through two small holes he had punched near the rim, a long loop of string. He would ask those kids  - and they were, as I remember, usually girls -  who had not drunk all their milk to pour the remains into his can. When it was about a half full of milk, he began to swing it around rather in the way a hammer thrower swings the hammer before he releases it. Not a drop of milk was ever spilled from the can as it rotated around him and got up to such a speed that it could only be seen as a blur like an aeroplane propellor. Later I discovered the science going on was centrifugal force. Yet, it is the magic of unspilt milk which makes me wistful, and is at the core of me, not the science.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Adam Phillips and personal excesses

Some time ago, Adam Phillips, the psychotherapist and essayist wrote a newspaper article about human excesses, including those concerned with food,alcohol,other drugs,sex, love and religion. Approaching it from a psychoanalytic direction he arrived at a conclusion that ultimately our excessiveness is a mask for deep-seated insecurities, fears and frustration. It occurred to me, when he proposed the idea that some of us are excessive in our relationships with others, that we also use our relationships to moderate our excesses.