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Thursday, February 28, 2013

of dreams and things

I’ve had dreams constantly  for the last couple of weeks, everyday I go to bed and every day I dream, it happens whether or not I’m sober, it happens no matter how tired or at peace with myself I feel. There’s nothing to these dreams most of the time. In fact I can hardly remember what they are about but I remember having them.

Sometime ago I was striking a match. The matchstick broke in half after igniting and went and landed on a girl’s blouse. It burned a neat, round hole in the sleeve, at a place so conspicuous she can never wear it again. She’s understandably pissed and I had a dream that we talked it over and she forgave me.

That’s the kind of dream I have. It doesn’t foretell anything, there’s nothing ominous in them though sometimes I have nightmares. I remember last year I dreamed that some girl had stabbed me. Why was she so pissed? Because I was a detective or fancied myself one in that dream and had gone to her with the news that I knew who had killed her twin sister. I got to the place and I remember it was like the burrow, it was dark outside, it may have been raining, it may have been starry but it was all very ominous. I go in to talk to her and her twin sister is right there. She stabs me right in the stomach and I am sure I’m dead then I wake up in sweats in my own room thanking God that it was just a dream. So I get up and I go to look at the stab wound in the mirror, just because, and when I get there I see two stab wounds. They looked like they had healed and one of them was higher up than the other. Moonlight was leaking into the room and everything looked kind of silver and dim, they seem to me now like they looked ugly, jagged and with a stitch job that was not the best. I begin to leave the room to ask for help and suddenly she’s in my bed, she rises up coming to finish up the job and then I wake up again and thank God that that too was a dream.

Those nightmares I remember in such detail it’s like I actually lived them. I wake up and I’m sweating, my brow is damp and my hair is wet the way it gets after its been raining. I remember that when I was taking antibiotics was also an interesting dream time for me. The thing about antibiotics is they make you feel like shit. They make you weak, you lose your appetite, nothing tastes or feels the way it’s supposed to. I kept drinking down water to dilute its effects, even the way the water went down my throat felt different than normal, it felt like I was taking gulps with every sip and the water bumped its way down like a mixture with air. That felt good when nothing else did so I drank a lot of water. Then it was time to piss. Another crappy thing about antibiotics is how they make pee smell. You know that hospital smell? It’s probably the smell from the toilets because of all the people taking antibiotics there. Then I would drink more water to dilute this but it wouldn’t work and I would be right there peeing all the time.

At night I had to get up to pee a lot more than normal. This meant that I was never very far from the kind of sleep that allows dreams, I would wake up and pee and go to bed and then dream. Wake up and pee and then dream. I can’t remember any of those dreams but I remember it was a time of strange dreams. Things were disconnected Proust once wrote about illness that it makes us “recognise that we are chained to a being from a different realm, worlds apart from us, with no knowledge of us, and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood.” I feel like I got glimpses of him in those days, real glimpses not like the ones in dreams I usually have. It was like I was living his life and was completely confused by it. Can you imagine being put inside someone’s head for just a little while and having that person’s experiences and feeling and emotions, seeing things through their eyes. It would be completely disorienting, maybe that’s what dreams do they give us a glimmer of someone else and it makes no sense because we have all his data but none of the skills and life experiences necessary to make sense of it.

Last year when I had to get up to go to work I would set my alarm clock 20 minutes before I actually needed to wake up. I would snooze it and snooze it again. If you are a person who has missed dreaming I recommend you do this. In those 10 minutes you have hour-long dreams so much happens that you can’t remember half of it.

I was talking to this girl the other day, then I left her for a minute and came back to sit next to her she said,
“Hi how have you been?”
“Good, but so much has happened since you left, I’m not even the same person anymore, my whole life has changed”
That’s how those ten minute dreams make you feel.

The reason I like dreaming so much now is because of how much I used to hate sleep. I hated it because I had this feeling that one day I would die (I was too young for it to be a knowledge, it just felt like it would happen but then again maybe it wouldn’t) and I didn’t like the idea of spending a third of my life dead. Then I realised that dreams are just another part of life. They are a part of life that’s confusing and anticlimactic, how many people have the actual sex in their dreams? Most don’t (I’ve done a survey) and dreams are the land of always foreplay and awakening just before anything begins to happen. Apparently it also happens when you dream about food something comes between you and the prize. Dreams are a place of anticipation more than satisfaction.

But they aren’t black. When I think about the nights that I didn’t dream I see black. I don’t know where the idea of black comes from. Do we actually see black when we don’t dream? We see it right before we sleep if we are in a dark room but I have no idea what colour or colours the eyes actually see when we are unconscious. Maybe there’s an endless kaleidoscope that gets turned on and we can’t remember it because the night is long and full of terrors. From a class presentation yesterday I learned that the colour black evokes feelings of emptiness in all of us. When I don’t dream I feel like had a few hours of black and therefore a few hours of emptiness. No matter how many times I get stabbed in a dream I would always prefer this to that darkness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

wayward twoots on the presidential debate

The most original thing about this post is probably the title, which i probably shouldn't admit considering how many people clicked on the link to read my live tweeting of the previous debate(another thing i shouldn't admit but truth telling gets to be a habit.)

Anyway, here goes the link:


The very first tweet says: Kenyans like America in 2003 are wondering if the UK will show up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the two tommys

I had a dog once. I loved that little guy. His name was tommy. I would pet him until my hand smelled, I would nuzzle him and feed him meat right from my plate. When I came home he would begin barking and tail wagging, more pleased to see me than anyone else was. He was playful and bouncy, jumping up and down to ask for something and he loved to chase his own tail. He would see me depressed and sad and he would start running around in a circle like he was trying to catch up to it. Immediately this happened I would brighten up and he would chase it in more of a frenzy, running round and round until he fell down and then he would come up to me and nudge me ever so lightly and we would go off on a run. To this day I think that he knew he couldn’t catch his tail, I think that he used to do this because he knew I was sad and it was the only way he could think to make me happy.

 One day I got some horrible news, there are those heartbreaks that happen that make everything look different. The sun hides behind a shade and darkness spreads its fingers over not just your heart but the whole land. You know the ones where food doesn’t taste as good and friends are not nearly as funny. The ones where only the spread of misery and the imbibing of alcohol make you feel better. I had recently gone through one of these and was busy making other people feel as bad as I did. Then one of the girls cried in front of me. She didn’t sob; she wasn’t trying to make a scene, tears just leaked out of her eyes. They were clear and oval, little diamonds of sadness dropping away and making their way down her face until they left and shattered on the ground. I felt so much worse that day than I ever felt before. I got drunk and went home, I let myself in and there was the dog. He barked at me and soon he knew I wasn’t happy. I just wanted to get in bed but he wouldn’t let me, he just barked and jumped and sure enough he began to chase his tail. Trying and trying to win me over. I tried to get around him but I couldn’t so in the end I kicked him. The look that came into his eyes was just like the girl from earlier in eh day. All those people who think animals don’t have language have never seen what I saw that day. There was pain and humiliation, anger and fear. He ran away from me, and I stumbled off to bed, but something was broken that day. He was never as cheerful around me, he remembered what had happened. Something was broken between us, even when he chased his tail he did it without abandon, as if now he was afraid he would catch it. Whenever I lifted my foot to join in he would flinch involuntarily, a memory of what I had done stayed with him forever. By the time he died the chases of joy were a memory that took years to resurface.

Now, none of that story is true except that there was a dog called tommy that I really liked. He was brown with streaks of white running through him. And he was an alpha male, he had sex with all the bitches in the neighbourhood, he would mount them in full view of all of us children and proceed to hump away. The adults would try to separate him from his prize and a picture that stays in my mind was of a botched separation when his penis got stuck inside the other dog. They tried to run away from each other but like  one of those Chinese finger cuffs they just came back together. As he got older he became fat and frail. None of his life was on display; he would just sit listless with his tongue hanging out and watch the world pass him by. No one petted him anymore he had become a nuisance and soon it was time to get rid of him. It would have been kinder to call a vet or use a shotgun than what was done instead, his owners put him in a car and drove him out to a new neighbourhood, they coaxed him out of the car and then drove away. The dog ran after the car but he was old and soon stopped running. I can’t imagine what the rest of his life was after that initial betrayal, after he had forgotten how to take care of himself, after the loss of his alpha male status. He probably just wandered around Nairobi till he dropped dead. Lost, alone and unable to understand why he had been abandoned.

 I was talking to someone in school the other day and we talked about the upcoming elections. We were scared something may happen, this is a conversation that nearly everyone in Kenya has had. There is a chance of violence and it’s never far from our minds, what violence meant and what it would mean if it were to happen again. I realised that the elections in 2007 may be the last time that this generation, the generation that remembers living through it will go to the polls without a worry in their minds. There is a chance that every cycle will come with questions of what could happen if violence is sparked off again. This country may have become a nation of Tommys (the fictional one.) we might be a nation that flinches every time there is an election because the memory of that first betrayal is too painful to forget and so we walk around wary of what happens. The first word association we have when we hear elections could become violence.

There is also a chance that we could become a nation of Tommys (the second one) and this is when shit gets real. I know that advocating doomsday scenarios is always hysterical but what happens if we go to the polls and then proceed to blood and destruction. We could lead all the hope we have in our nation out onto a road marked with hate and civil strife and leave it there. We could get into a car powered by tribalism and ethnic tension and drive away. And our hope would be left on the side of the road, it would bark out for us but we wouldn’t hear it. Retaliations and recriminations would be all that fills our ears. We would drive away and our hopes would starve slowly but surely. It would become a stick-figure, gaunt and haunted. It would forget our names and turn into a scavenger whose only food comes from half-forgotten rubbish bins. Then it would die. And if a people are their hopes we would die too right then. A nation of Tommys wandering, wondering about what happened.

I’m scared; I am really scared of what happens if we fight each other again. Someone once said that the pen is mightier than the sword. I’m not sure how much influence this little piece yields but the moving of even one heart is an achievement. Don’t let our country die.

Come March 4th vote. Come March 5th accept. This is the best economic recovery plan, the best internal security strategy, the reconciliation route that has most chance of succeeding

Sunday, February 17, 2013

cold meals

When I was younger before microwaves were a thing(at least in our household) I would come home from a night out and find a lump of cold food. No matter what it is, food is always a lump when it’s cold, I remember coming home to meat and vegetables that were cool to the touch and worst of all a hardened mass of ugali. The flour would become tighter as the water seemed to vanish into the atmosphere, worst of all there was a crust that formed on the outside of it, a crust so hard that I just gave up on eating.

The microwave is spoiled once again and there was a day when there was no gas. There were leftovers from last night’s supper and I thought I could do what I used to, so I mixed up the rice and beans and began to shovel them in my mouth. When food is cold it seems to lose taste. The food that tasted amazing the night before was just a cold ball in my mouth, chewing didn’t help, all it did was spread the cold and dark around. So I hurriedly swallowed and it went into my throat. There it felt clammy, it became a damp ball running down the walls of a cave. It was the kind of cave that you only see in video games, the ones that have light shining into them from who knows where, it’s that harsh cold light. The kind that comes when the sun’s rays have to battle their way through clouds, it’s also white. The damp ball of food began crashing through my throat spreading cold and covering up the light so that there was nothing else in there. And then it spread its tendrils and the cold went everywhere. Suddenly I felt cold in my stomach, in the very pit of it, I felt cold up to my mouth where the destructive journey had started. It was a cold that began from inside my body which feels remarkably worse, and in one of those coincidences that life likes to play on us, it was cold outside. Now, why is it on the days you need to take a cold shower, for electricity or water concerns, the world becomes decidedly frigid too? This has happened so often I think fate has a sadistic bend to it.

Still I had to leave and I got out waiting for  a matatu. One came in no time but it had no passengers. Some people live in Kenya live near roads that are practically highways. On such routes it matters not how many people there are in the matatu it  still gets to town in the same amount of time. Some of us live in residential areas that were made with Minotaurs in mind, there is an endless array of roads down which a matatu can go looking for fares and look for fares it will. After a long enough time you can tell you made a mistake as soon as the driver starts the engine. There is a hesitating tenderness to the way his foot presses on the accelerator. You can hear it in the engine of the matatu, you can feel it in the stuttering way it moves, in the way it seems to beg to be allowed to rip out and run. Our matatus are never warhorses but even a pony wants to gallop sometimes and at these times you know that even a canter is not possible for the poor machine. Making it worse is that vast array of roads and routes and side paths and bypasses. I remember back when Osama was believed to be in Afghanistan and the US were bombing and combing the Tora Bora caves for any sign of him one of my uncles coined the phrase chokora tora bora(scavenge in tora bora) to describe giving head to a woman. It captured it perfectly. The searching, the darting in and out, the game where everyone was both apprehensive and excited about finding the climax. Well this is what the matatus do in that route. They chokora all the roads for what they are worth.

Soon enough I am in town but it’s still cold inside and the ball is tangled more than ever. It’s twisted in my innards and despite the long ride I am still cold. I step out of the matatu and it’s very sunny. It’s extremely sunny. The air just above me is hot and I begin to swelter. The ball though is still cold and gasps of hot air are not enough to warm me up. I wish I could swallow the sun, just take a pill sized star and put it in my mouth, swallow it down and wait for it to explode inside me dispelling all the cold and darkness in my cave. Either that or have a cigarette. But it’s a myth that cigarettes warm you up. How could they possibly. It seems that they should, there is a fire and when you exhale there is smoke coming from your insides, you are a dragon so there must be fire inside of you. But I tried it, I tried it in winter and I was just as cold as before I started even colder because you have to take off your gloves in order to hold it in your hand. This is just another one of the lies that cigarettes tell smokers. Ranking up there with you will never get addicted. I’m not sure if cigarettes have to lie though, isn’t the promise of death enough to make anyone curious. Aren’t we all just slightly seduced by the things we can never have and there are few things more unattainable than death. By the time you get it you are, well dead.

Before the day ended my stomach had heaved out the coldness inside me and I found a new-found appreciation for fire and warmed food.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

wayward tweets on the presidential debate

There's a game called mafia. The rules of the game are simple, there are four categories of people; a god, citizens, killers and an angel. Scraps of paper are passed around telling all the players who they are. Then on the instructions of the god everyone shuts their eyes, the god then asks the killers to open their eyes and choose someone to kill and reclose their eyes, asks the angel to open her eyes and choose someone to save and reclose her eyes, then asks everyone to open their eyes and tells them whether someone died or not during the night. Here the real fun starts, if somebody died (even if they didn't) you all get to argue about who you think the killer is and then you hang whoever you accuse and they are out of the game along with whoever died. This goes on until either all the killers die or all the citizens die. It a game that involves a lot of arguing and convincing. Only the killers know who the other killer is so they can collude to destroy the populace.

Last weekend was the chinese new year, i played the chinese version of this game with some chinese people as they waited the beginning of the year of the snake. Their version is more complicated. The angel is called a witch, there are extra characters; a cupid whose job it is to fuse two people together so that they share each other's fate, these two have their eyes opened by god and they show each other their cards, there is a predictor who can ask god who the killer and be told if they are right or wrong. There is an added element of deception because it is perfectly ok to claim to be the predictor and only the real predictor will know you lie. You can do this and claim insider knowledge of what's going on.

The different levels of complexity between these games corresponds to watching the kenyan presidential debate as compared to any other debate i have written about here. There were 8 candidates for one thing, another is the depth of issues that need to be covered. The ICC and potential criminality, what's happening in Somalia, the health problem we have, tribalism, corruption and add to this the fact that i care more about this than the rest. 

I had this idea that i should live tweet the debate. I did and i am all writ out on that subject, so i found a way to collect all the tweets in a readable, chronological version. 

Here is a link to the story on the site that allowed me to collect them all. So if you would like a written live opinion or set of opinion on the debate you can click on it and(hopefully) enjoy.

the tweets include such gems as(there's also other more insightful stuff)

audience of 40 million how?there are children under the age of 10 not watching

only when you are UK can you call ICC crimes against humanity "personal challenges"

dida makes first mention of marijuana and all you judgers thought that would be someone else

Monday, February 11, 2013

the law society of kenya's new dress

A few weeks ago the Law Society of Kenya updated its rules for how advocates can dress while undertaking the auspicious duty of addressing the court, the link above contains the rules in their entirety. On a side note lawyers actually talk like this, in two weeks at law school I have heard 2 otherwise normal girls use the following phrases in common parlance(see how they infected me as if parlance could ever be normal); perambulate and travesty of justice.

This was not something I thought of as news(the dress code not the use of heavy words, that’s news). I heard a lot about it on my Facebook feed but that’s because I have a lot of lawyer friends thanks to that degree then that night it was on actual news. TV news and newspaper news, traditional as opposed to social media covered it. The thing is this new set of rules is a little like the release of a new i-phone: almost nothing has changed, the fact of the news changes very few people’s lives but it becomes such a big deal. A visit to the law society of Kenya website tells us that there are 10,007 people admitted to the roll of advocates, this includes the deceased, the inactive and the struck off. This number is 0.025% of the total population of the country which is probably the same as the population that will buy a new apple product upon release, enough to make a night long line but not so many that the country goes into a min-recession like when Kenya beats New Zealand’s ass in rugby(shout out to the Kenyan 7s team). For some reason though it’s important enough to be awarded a slot in the nightly news and during these heavy political times too.

But lawyers have always had much more publicity than their numbers suggest, there are always a disproportionate number of lawyers in politics when compared to any other profession and this is a truth that holds all over the world. Milan Kundera wrote “Every Frenchman is different. But all actors the world over are similar- in Paris, in Prague, or the back of beyond.” By this I think he meant that certain professions attract the same type of person. The same kind of people become policemen and become doctors and become lawyers and become politicians. The reason there is an overlap between lawyers and politicians is (to my mind at least) the similarities between the two professions. These are two professions where words and how you arrange them matter, to the lawyer a wrongly placed comma could cost him a commission; to the politician the wrongly situated pause could lose him a crowd. One deals primarily in the written and one in the oral but all have to learn how to speak a different language, that of legalese and that of politico. Both of them in addition  and in fact as a necessary intrusion to these public displays of eloquence have to be able to walk into back rooms filled with smoke and the smell of heavy liquor and convince old men to trust them. They have to be on speaking terms with their colleagues who, in public, may appear to be their worst enemies but are the only people who understand the follies and triumphs of the life they have chose. And though it may not be the only true path to attaining a high degree of success in these professions a little moral flexibility never hurt. In addition there is the adversarial nature of the professions, both are about winning and losing, both are reincarnations of the gladiator cages where two people walk in proud and if it’s one of those days one walks out in covered in blood and dirt while the other lies there.

So the question becomes what kind of person would want to be a lawyer. To answer this we could draw a very amateur pop-psychological profile from the type of dress that they impose on themselves and their fellows. An old English saying goes clothes make the man, a decision on what outward appearance best suits you could therefore be a pointer to what inner characteristics you wish most to portray.

2.  …dress…must be modest…and…lend…itself to the dignity of the legal profession

Lawyers think themselves deserving of dignity. There is nothing wrong with this, as you judge yourself so shall others judge you.

4. Advocates, and in particular female Advocates, should refrain from wearing revealing clothing. Common sense and modesty should be applied in this regard.

I can’t really complain about this one. Many men suffer through life with a lot of distractions, there’s that hangover banging away just behind your eyelids, there’s that lie about to catch up with you, there are all the worries about your most recent emasculating incident and you wonder if the lie you constructed for yourself could be believed by anyone. To add to this there could have been female advocates in revealing clothing. Add the adversarial nature of this profession and men would not be doing so well, I think we can see that lawyers are by instinct people of exceeding fairness striving to strip away (this is an unfortunate pun considering the paragraph) any advantage.

5. Male advocates must wear ties at all times… Advocates should not remove jackets in open court or chambers except with the permission…
6.  Female advocates should not wear sleeveless shirts or dresses.

 The next rules are about colours(I thought we would be past this by now, well Martin Luther King Jr. was one of those rare politicians who wasn’t a lawyer.) suits, trousers, waistcoats, shoes, sleeveless jumpers need to be black, charcoal grey navy blue or other darkish colours. These must be pinstriped or plaid in a combination of these colours together with white or cream

I believe these can be lumped together since they point to the same state of mind. First of all darkish colours? This is one of the vaguest descriptions I have ever seen, drinks on me to the first advocate who wears a dark pimp-suit-purple suit to court. These are rules the traditional associations we have with certain clothes. Female advocates can’t wear dresses to court, men must wear ties. This is the kind of dressing that signified seriousness and success in the world during the previous century. Kenyans are anglophillic and lawyers even more so. We still study a system of law left to us by our colonial masters and follow it up with dressing as they prescribed. Never mind that the climes that made this mode of dressing popular were frigid and winter-prone while most of Kenya is tropical. There are professions where people can come to work dressed however they like. The truth about these professions though is that they have emerged very recently in our collective conscious as human beings. Technology experts and advertisers for example. Journalists never really had to dress sharp so they get a pass. However the thing about  old professions is things change slow. Especially one such as law where there isn’t going to be a breakthrough that changes the way things are done forever. In medicine a 33 year old whiz kid could come up with a cure to cancer, in engineering his sister could find a revolutionary new way to build bridges even in politics the effects of technology can be felt in the way it mobilises people and raises funds. Law however is mostly untouched. The major life changing decisions are made by Supreme Court justices the world over. These people have eaten at least half a century’s worth of salt. They rose to the top of their profession in the way it used to be, they followed the prescribed rules and it worked for them, nothing makes you a greater defender of status quo than having benefited from it.

This state of affairs leads to atrophy. Lawyers are not comfortable with change and we probably never will be. Change may after all mean extinction. At the orientation seminar for the Kenya school of Law one of the speakers said that the school will train paralegals and other staff who will “do the actual work.” I wanted to clap, who doesn’t want someone doing the actual work. I could just come and charge fees and have someone do all the actual work. However this also means that you can train someone at much less cost and pay them much less to do the lawyer’s work. With proper training it’s possible for everyone to be their own advocate, some of the fees paid are not necessary, not in actuality, but lawyers like politicians understand the power of perception. Perception creates reality. So what you do to create this aura of impenetrability is present to the public a troop of young, unsmiling men and women in black, charcoal grey, navy blue and other darkish coloured suits. Have the men in ties that fade into the background, have none of the women in dresses because this brings images of sunshine to people. What they need to see is black clouds of foreboding that can only be manoeuvred by one inducted into the rites and rituals of an advocate. The dress code is there to protects us, it’s our very own suit of armour.


(21) In addition to the foregoing the following mode of dress shall apply in respect of appearance before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court when sitting in open courts:
a)Wigs shall be optional;
b)Collars which must be plain white, must be worn; and
c)Gowns, which must be plain black, must be worn
I think this one is just because those wigs, gowns and collars are superbly awesome. Also those judges don’t have much time to listen to long winded speeches considering that most of the important work is in written submissions, you try giving an hour long speech in a wig and a gown.


22. For avoidance of doubt advocates shall not dress down on any day when appearing before any court or tribunal.
A profession that to avoid people taking advantage of it decided instead to kill casual Friday. The sense of irony is strong since becoming an advocate is known as being admitted to the bar. Like all the most seductive of people the law is well versed in mixed signals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

january reads

I love reading novels. It’s one of my addictions, I feel lost without one in my hand or on my mind. I love how completely i get to wear the skin of another person when reading them, how absorbed I am into the world that has been created in there, how everything recedes and suddenly there are a million, million possible realities with people I care about and fall in love with and hate and detest. I wanted to share some of my favourite passages from the books I read this January.

(a magical book, both in writing and by the occurrence of magic,  that follows a family and their fortunes through 100 years of upheaval and change in a south American country.)

…the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was now the one on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary.

Walls eaten away by bone-salt, the broken down wooden balconies gutted by fungus, and nailed to the outside door, almost erased by rain the saddest cardboard sign in the world: Funeral Wreaths for sale.

She asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications.

The sun came out with such strength that the light creaked like a fishing boat.

Time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.


(a historical fiction book about the spread of the Mongol empire Genghis’ Khanship, the writer skilfully imagines the motivations and inner desires of the Mongol rulers)

There are some who will tell you they seek happiness, that there is nothing more to our lives than that simple aim. I tell you now that the sheep are happy on the plains and the eagles are happy in the air. For us, happiness is a small thing, one to be discounted in a man’s life. We strive and we suffer because through those small things we know that we are alive.

The Arabs judged dawn as a time when a black thread could be distinguished from a white one.

Life was just a restless fever dream, a short breath between longer sleep.

When you are afraid and you do nothing that matters…it eats at men when they think they are cowards. How you raise your sons and daughters matters. This wife who warms you at night matters. The joy you take in being alive, the pleasure of strong drink, companionship and stories-all that matters. But when you are dust other men go on without you.

(a beautiful book based during the 3 year Biafran civil war. The book had one of the most beautiful women in the world and her twin sister who though she wasn’t as beautiful I couldn’t help falling in love with.)
Perhaps it was why an erection eluded him: the gelding mix of surprise and desire.

 We don’t have dowries, we have bride prices

You and yours will live, and I and mine will live. Let the eagle perch and let the dove perch and, if either decrees that the other not perch, it will not be well for him.

If God could make them care so genuinely, God was a worthy concept.

The slow sadness of missing a person who was still there.

(this follows a family that’s half british(the father) and half American(the mother and children because culture matters more than genes sometimes) it is a  story of the effects of beauty and adultery and the need to laugh with the people you love.)
“Halleluiah” by Leonard Cohen playing on her dime-store record player, that song Howard liked to call a hymn deconstructing a hymn.

The tears you cry for someone you never met who made something beautiful that you loved.

She called a rose a rose. He called it an accumulation of cultural and biological constructions circulating around the mutually attracting binary poles of nature/artifice.

The unmistakable Poles and Russians introducing the bones structure of Soviet Realism to an island of chinless, browless potato faces,

It takes a lot of practice to ensure that a whole bottle of Cabernet and a pint of beer makes only a slight dent in your sobriety, but Howard felt he had reached this stage of accomplishment

The smiled the kind of smile you might employ when trying to convince a lunatic to quit holding a gun to your mother’s head.

(the protagonist cannot be faithful, this is his curse, he’s amazing with women this is his blessing, he falls in love with one woman and is thus cursed to forever hurt her. It’s a book about how painful love can be both for the person hurt and the person being hurt.)
No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of emptiness below us which tempts and lures is, it is the desire to fall, against which terrified, we defend ourselves.

When the strong were too weak to hurt the weak, the weak had to be strong enough to leave.

It was a recapitulation of time, a hymn to their common past, a sentimental summary of an unsentimental story that was disappearing in the distance.

Extremes mean borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death

Every Frenchman is different. But all actors the world over are similar- in Paris, in Prague , or the back of beyond. An actor is someone who in early childhood consents to exhibit himself for the rest of his life to the anonymous public. Without that basic consent which has nothing to do with talent, no one can become an actor. Similarly a doctor is someone who consents to spend his life with human bodies and all that they entail. That basic consent(and not talent or skill) enables him to enter the dissecting room during the first year of medical school and persevere through the requisite years.

Es muss sein, es muss sein, ja, ja, ja, ja!(it must be, it must be, yes, yes, yes, yes!) and the fourth voice chimes in with Heraus mit dem Beutel(out with the purse!) a year later the same motif showed up as the basis for the fourth movement of the last quartet, Opes 155. By that time Beethoven had forgotten about Dembscher’s purse. The words Es mus sein! Had  acquired a much more solemn ring, they seemed to issue directly from the lips of Fate. In Kant’s language even Good Morning, suitably pronounced can take the shape of a metaphysical thesis. German is a language of heavy words. Es muss sein was no longer a joke it had become der schwer gefasste Entschulss(the difficulty of weighty resolution)

Men who pursue a multitude of women fit neatly into two categories. Some seek their own subjective and unchanging dream of a woman in all women. Others are prompted by a desire to possess the endless variety of the objective female world. The obsession of the former is lyrical: what they seek in women is themselves, their ideal, and since an ideal can never be found, they are disappointed again and again. The disappointment that propels them from woman to woman gives their inconstancy a kind of romantic excuse, so that many sentimental women are touched by their unbridled philandering. The obsession of the latter is epic and women see nothing the least bit touching in it: the man projects no subjective ideal on women, and since everything interests him, nothing can disappoint him. This inability to be disappointed has something scandalous about it. The obsession of the epic womaniser strikes people as lacking in redemption(redemption by disappointment.) because the lyrical womaniser always runs after the same type of woman, we even fail to notice when he exchanges one mistress for another. His friends perpetually cause misunderstandings by mixing up his lovers and calling them by the same name. In pursuit of knowledge, epic womanisers(and of course Tomas belonged in their ranks)turn away from conventional feminine beauty, of which they quickly tire, and inevitably end up as curiosity collectors. They are aware of this and a little ashamed of it and avoid causing their friends embarrassment, they refrain from appearing in public with their mistresses.

This is the image from which he was born. As I have pointed out before, characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about. But isn’t it true that an author can write only about himself? Staring impotently across a courtyard, at a loss for what to do; hearing the pertinacious rumbling of one’s own stomach during a moment of love; betraying, yet lacking the will to abandon the glamorous path of betrayal; raising one’s fist with the crowds of the Grand March; displaying one’s wit before hidden microphones-I have known all these situations, I have experienced them myself, yet none of them has given rise to the person my curriculum vitae and I represent. The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border(the border beyond which my own I ends) which attracts me the most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. But enough. Let us return to Tomas

We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words for the look of the public… the second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. They are happier than the people in the first category who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that lights have gone out in the room of their lives. This happens to all of them sooner or later. People in the second category, on the other hand can always come up with the eyes they need…then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly in the eyes of the one they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of the people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close and the room will go dark…and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.


(the main character is a paedophile. The great success of this book is that you can empathise with such a disgusting character, that you can bear to see out of his eyes for however long it takes you to read it and it’s a pretty long book. It’s also so beautifully written it’s possible to transcribe the whole book, which means that paradoxically I highlighted much less)

As different as mist and mast

The result of considerable literary inbreeding in modern fiction

(On asking for directions) or else they went into such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues.

Monday, February 4, 2013

flying high

I watched flight yesterday. I can’t remember exactly how long and how much I wanted to watch this movie but it was very long and it was very much. You see some time ago the person acting in a movie stopped being my motivation to watch it. That just became unimportant to me, what I began looking at was screenwriters and directors. After all they were the ones who created this piece of art. They were the ones who held all the pieces in place and if you followed them through you could see similarities in their works , things you would never see in the works of actors. By definition a good actor has to be able to play different roles he can’t always be a tortured loner or a charismatic hero or a charming klutz. He has to slip in and out of these costumes and not every movie that he or she makes has space for these characters so they will be in a lot of different kinds of movies.

Denzel acted in Flight. This guy can be amazing. If you have watched Training Day or American Gangster you know what I mean. I believe he is at his best when he is playing these complex characters, not all good and definitely some bad. To hear that he would be playing such a character again in flight made me happy. But this wasn’t what made me look forward to the movie, it was an interview given by the screen writer in which he said that he wrote the script to cover his two biggest fears; dying in a plane crash and drinking himself to death. He went on to describe his younger life as an alcoholic and how he finally had to stop. The script for this movie was made possible by his alcoholic dependencies. Drinking myself to death isn’t a fear that I have but that’s only because I don’t know how to drive and I don’t want to learn because I think that it happens(seriously don’t drink and drive.

The premise of the movie as can be seen in the trailer is that there is a plane crash and this pilot, this uber pilot flies the plane to safety pulling off a landing no one else in the world can. He is celebrated, he is loved and then it is found out that he was drunk when the crash happened. Flying Drunk is a much worse offence than driving drunk. Add to that the loss of life that went on and he could be facing serious jail time.

I read an interview about a book written on Winston Churchill the other day. This man would wake up during World War 2 and have a bottle of wine in bed. A full bottle and then he would head out into his day and sip, sip, sip until the day was over. While he did this he would give those inspiring speeches. His voice would boom into English houses over the radios they used those days and inspire, encourage and comfort those lying within. He would engage in the kind of international diplomacy necessary to make America feel that a war happening in Europe had some bearing on them. He would be involved in all the prime ministery things that you have to be involved in when a war is happening. And this was one of those wars that we don’t hear about anymore. Nowadays wars take place in one country and one country only. Either there is a civil war or there is an exported war. This was the age when being at war meant everyone feeling like they were at war. There is a story I read about bombs being dropped over Britain and the fact that tea shops would hang signs outside saying “still open for business”, well once a bomb took down a wall to a tea shop and the owner hang out a sign saying “more open than ever for business.” This struck me as very Churchillian and yet he did all this if not drunk then at least a little tipsy

 I was listening to a series of podcasts aboutthe Mongol invasion on this site(take a listen to some of those podcasts, that guy is amazing). In one of them we are told about the drinking culture of the Mongols. They used to drink this thing called airag. I am not sure what it is but it was strong. The kind of industrial strength that people in deep winters need just to keep alive. And the Mongols drank this stuff. They poured it down their throats like it was water and got on their mounts and raced off. Ogedai who was the son of Genghis khan and took over from him especially liked his liquor. Every night he would take so much that he made a fool of himself and ride off into the next battle (un?)suitably buzzed or hangover. It happened so much that one of his brothers took him aside and agreed with him that since he couldn’t seem to control his drinking he would be limited to one cup of liquor a night. He agreed. And then ordered the biggest cup that could be found in camp.

This is what those three stories have in common; There is a great man, the best at what he does who has a problem with alcohol dependency. The thing is even as this man is drunk no one else in the world can pull off what he does. He is still the best and who is to say that what he’s doing doesn’t make him better?. Looking back at Ogedai and Winston it’s easy to laugh at it. It’s easy to write it off as something that adds to the myths of how amazing they were. Looking at the character in flight it wasn’t that easy. Because it happened now and because it happened to people who are contemporary to us, people who could have been us it isn’t that easy to write it off.

I used to think that people stopped drinking after university or at least saved their drinking for the weekend. This isn’t particularly true is it? Then I realised that doctors and surgeons and pilots are people too. Even worse there are surgeries scheduled for the weekend and there are flights that take off on Sunday. I worked for some time last year and yes I went to the office hangover a couple of times. My reflexes were slowed, I did things much less efficiently than I usually would have and I tired out so much faster. I have a feeling that this happens to people who we trust with our lives. They do these things drunk and hangover and too be honest we would rather they didn’t.

I have no idea what the point of this post is. That people shouldn’t drink before they do dangerous things. That could be the point. But there is also a truth that sometimes you would rather have this person drunk than any other person sober and there is also a truth that there are some things we are much better at if we are slightly tipsy. What happens in those situations then? Even worse what happens on the day it actually goes wrong. Human beings love having someone to blame and they will choose the drunk nine times out of ten. If World War 2 had gone differently there would have been people complaining about Britain putting herself in the hands of a drunk while on the other side the leader had so much discipline that he didn’t even eat meat.  Sometimes the end does justify the means. Maybe that’s my point if you are going to be a drunk, drug addled operator of whatever it is you are trained to do make sure you are just that good.