My Closest Friend.

[CW: suicide and suicidal ideation]

“…and then he did an impressive swan-dive from the top of Tower 42 into the pavement” – me, drily tweeting about a fantasy that occasionally occupies the withered side of the part of my brain that occasionally writes jokes for me

Sometimes silence is better.

I haven’t listened in full to Closer, the second and last album by Joy Division – and best by far – in a long time. The last time I did – I remember exactly where I was, a friend let me stay in her flat rent-free while she was away – I was drinking neat whisky (Tesco’s own brand, the Sainsbury’s version tastes like sand) and cheerfully entertaining ideas about killing myself. My life was in the process of falling apart, I had been not particularly gently asked to leave a semi-boyfriend’s flat that I had been staying in (also) for free in exchange for the occasional shag, and my less than burgeoning career as a philosopher looked an awful lot like faking it to make it, and never making it.

But it’s an album that haunts you, and once it’s taken its hold you don’t need it in your headphones to hear it.

I have always hated Dulwich, a very posh cluster of neighbourhoods of mostly red brick big suburban houses in South London, where I went to school and have occasionally lived in. It is a venal, nasty, selfish place, and those parts owned by what is generally termed The Dulwich Estate – a hundreds of years old Empire of Condescension controlled by a cabal of social-climbers and Tories desperate to hold on to an imaginary but nonetheless terrifyingly real ascendancy (a bit like South Belfast) – are the very worst. I live in East Dulwich now, in my father’s house, during the Plague Era, which is a little more on the liberal and multicultural and historically working class side of things, and I am still in occasional contact with a few of my schoolteachers who worked under the Dulwich Estate system, but that does nothing to dampen my antipathy for “Dulwich” the place: burn the entire fucking thing down and soundtrack it to “Twenty Four Hours” by Joy Division.

Or maybe one of the more bitter tracks from Powerage by AC/DC.

So. It’s not possible for me to distinguish my impressions of Closer from my impressions of despising Dulwich. I don’t remember for what particular purpose I was going down East Dulwich Grove on that night, but I do remember going from trembling in awful recognition, to pacing faster down the street to jogging to running past the turn-off to Dulwich Village. It had something to do with my teenage love-life, but it also had a lot to do with suicidal ideation: Ian Curtis was younger than I am now when he killed himself, and where his last words hit hardest are where they express either (1) the savage and final antipathy towards any sort of human relationship – as in “Twenty Four Hours”, or (2) the science-fictional alienation from any sort of humanity, as in the track that immediately precedes the aforementioned, “Heart and Soul”.

The former members of Joy Division who made up and reformed as New Order like to talk up Curtis’s ordinariness and jocularity: but it remains a fact that he wrote those deeply bleak songs; “Heart and Soul // One will burn”.

Martin Hannett had a hand in the bleakness, to be fair- they started out as a punk band, after all. But he didn’t have a hand as such in the strange impulses that led the likes of me to be appalled, confused, and convinced by the bleak reality of the life and words of Ian Curtis. The “ideation” in “suicidal ideation” isn’t an excuse: it’s the point, it’s actually fairly ordinary to wish for death.

All of these things are connected: I hate Dulwich; Ian Curtis gives up on life; his band mates desperately pretend they didn’t see his suicide coming.

Closer is a suicide note, but it’s also just a record. Something you hear in the background when you take the bus down East Dulwich Grove because you had a bad year, or you got dumped by somebody you cared about. You hate your job, or you hate the fact you don’t have one, or you’re annoyed with yourself because you can’t sleep.

I got ahead of myself I suppose with this, but I’m trying to make myself write when I have the energy, and I’m not dead yet: I’m listening to Closer for the first time in a long time and while it makes me so terribly sad to remember all of the pain I associate with the album, it’s a reminder that you don’t have to die, at least not yet.

You can always spew shit on the internet like a mawkish cunt instead.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bug?

“Evil, evil, evil

Worse, worse, worse

Shot inna face make you send fi di nurse

Worse, worse, worse

Shot inna face make you send fi di nurse

Nurse, nurse, nurse

Doctor can’t fix you send fi di hearse” – Flowdan

I used to take schizophrenic quantities of Class A drugs and go dancing in poorly lit rooms.

I’m taking a break from my mammoth project, re-writing a two/three years old essay (plus commentaries) that I wrote for a competition on reddit, specifically the /r/badeconomics subreddit. I like a bunch of those guys on a personal level (hey /u/gorbachev, /u/besttrousers, /u/wumbotarian), but I have had a far from comfortable relationship with the subreddit – including BT and Wumbo – over the years, because we substantively disagree in a BIG way about a bunch of things, most of which revolves around my habit of firing verbal shotguns at innocent people over the outcome of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and at the deeply wrong stories economists tell themselves about the economic history of the 20th century that directly led to it. Another thing that happened in 2008 was the release of the first album by The Bug which really hit the conscience of my born in 1993-1995 generation (actually the third album released under the name “The Bug”): London Zoo

The general idea people have about the GFC (if they remember it happened) is that Lehman Brothers finally collapsed on the 15th September 2008, and at that point the shit hit the fan. Despite or due to the fact that this was two days after my 15th birthday (I have the bad luck of birthdays that fall on the 13th: my 8th birthday fell two days after the infamous death of 3000 people in NYC on the 9th of November), I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing that day. I do however remember three things from a few months before: competing with my friend Max in a Latin lesson to see who could cause the other the most pain/bleeding with improvised weaponry; worrying about the growing crisis (my dad was one of BBC News’s go-to guys for early Monday morning financial misery at the time); and that Flowdan verse, quoted above, that came out with the release of “Skeng”, on The Bug’s London Zoo.

In spite of the fact that “The Bug” is an alias for Kevin Martin, a white man from outside London, and in spite of the fact that it is named after my hometown, the album is about the black experience particularly but not exclusively in any urban setting, first in the UK but also elsewhere. Warrior Queen’s line “from Scotland to Spain” is instructive here. Her verses in “Insane” are also instructive: drawing on that shoddily mawkish classic “Mad World” cover that white people around the Anglophone world remember from Donnie Darko, she and Kevin Martin make a point of distancing her verses from self-pity; “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had” becomes the brusquely realistic improvised line that “the dreams in which I’m dying are the dreams I’ve ever had”, and the self-pitying piano changes are replaced by an angry drone bassline and hard dancehall.

But.

“Skeng” was the big hitter, because it’s an inspired abstract picture of urban life in eternal collapse. Even if you yourself (and this is me) did not live in a world of suspicion and deals gone bad, it made immediate sense, at least to me and a handful of friends in 2008 – when everybody was losing work and nobody knew if the fall of Western Civilisation was imminent – that the appropriate soundtrack for the time was not the poptimism which would mistakenly enjoy a resurgence a short while later, but dub, and beats, and cold-eyed cynicism. Pop music has its merits, no doubt, and music lovers everywhere who do doubt its merits are cunts, but the merit of “Skeng” is its abstract realism: beat and verse; beat and worse; shot inna face make you send fi di nurse.

That’s such a pretentious closing sentence for a paragraph and I know it but it’s all I have here…

The point is that in this album – which I have been re-listening to obsessively in full for the last few days – there is a world of realistic cynical beats and verses which work because they reflect in an abstract mirror the worst things about life and society, and do so relentlessly, without ever a light shining in. As with the ominous Book of Revelations style of the second Joy Division album (Kevin Martin is noted as a devoted Joy Division fan, as am I), depression and anxiety are sublimated as just another form of life, where events get ahead of oneself and one just has to fuck with it as long as one can. Or maybe I’m wrong, and it’s just good because getting fucked up on illegal substances and pretending you’re as cool on the dancefloor as you assume Flowdan would be is a standard thing for a privileged millennial teenager in London to do.

I hate to use the phrase “Late Capitalism” here but I just did, as did Werner Herzog 20 years before I was born. But the universal experience, beyond the experience of black people, or people from London, that London Zoo makes concrete, is the – as I said before – cold-eyed abstract representation of urban life. Most people live in cities now, and most people have, for the last 12 years at least, been operating under the assumption that year-on-year chaos is their norm. But what makes London Zoo, as well as The Bug’s first album (as well as the film that inspired it) so good is the recognition that The Terror, the constant state of anxiety, is the natural state of people when they aren’t befuddled by the artificial beauty of something like a prom queen.

This has been your missive from a difficult man who spent most of his twenties trying to work out how to get a real job and failed at it.

Words and Hands

“The days melt into each other” – Ben Wallers

I was never very good with my hands.

I learned how to write well(ish) only under duress, being sent to a typing school as an attempted fix to my severe teenage dyspraxia, the only reason I can reliably communicate via text today. For a long time as a very small child I even often refused to spell out my own name, out of fear that it’d come out “wrong”. Along with the typing school, which barely ameliorated the problem, I was sent to a child psychologist who told me that, in essence, without a lot of luck I would be hamstrung for life with the consequences of developmental disorder(s) that started long before I could have had the cognisance to do anything about it.

Fine. I will be an artist, I vaguely remember thinking. Until of course I had to do a writing requirement to get a sufficiently good GCSE to get onto an art A-level at my highly selective independent school which would get me onto a course at an art college (all of my pieces, some of which I still have lying in a file somewhere, got top marks – but I mostly failed the writing part).

So, after belligerently filling in my A-level form with: “Physics”; “English Literature”; “Economics”; “Art”, I was called into the office of the woman responsible for assigning kids to A-level courses. She was sympathetic but firm, and I was to pick out from a list of subjects which weren’t art. The only thing other than psychology (a science against which I will never not hold a grudge) which seemed worth doing was philosophy (I failed out of economics to by the way, and made up for it later).

Philosophy is in part great because it involves a lot of talking, and I’m good at that. Faculties of historical recall and training in abstract logical argument are incredibly cool things that learning academic philosophy – at least in principle, and in my personal experience – teaches you very well indeed, and I’ve done well enough with those skills to be the first person in my family to win a graduate degree in anything. But the problem is that when it comes to writing things down in order to communicate what you at least think you know, you still have to use your hands.

I have a handful of things I’m theoretically good at with my hands. I was once a pretty good sketch artist and watercolourist, though I’m long out of practice. I used to train as a boxer, but I ruined my right hand with what the GP says is probably irreparable nerve damage (doesn’t stop me punching you the fuck out, just means that after five minutes on the bag I get an apocalyptic pain in my wrist). I can play guitar with preternatural skill and creativity. And I’m not bad in bed.

Everything else is a total wash. I fuck up almost every sentence I write and have to go back and fix it. My handwriting is illegible even to me. From a young age I tried or was forced to learn the piano, the trumpet, the flute, and the violin, all of which have eluded me, besides abstract slow improvisations on the piano. Basic things like folding clothes or emptying a dishwasher make me nervous and embarrassed about myself. I can’t throw a football to save my life, although for some unknown reason I can shoot hoops as long as nobody’s blocking me.

It’s a fact that isn’t acknowledged enough that there are people out here who, in spite of having the best possible chances at life (that’s me!), end up psychologically stunted and denuded by sheer chance and bad luck and the fact they have to live with their own disappointments. The problem is that in the Plague Era all I have to do is to use my hands: to type out words in an essay, or a tweet, or a job application: then to pick fruit (a skill at which I also had to get good, and never got particularly good at). If I want to get better I have to use my periodically shaky hands just to fill out a form that’ll let me get proper psychiatric and other medical advice, and I don’t have enough confidence in them to do that.

I’m stuck here, and I have to live with it.

On Bernie Sanders

“I wrote the goddamn bill” – Bernie Sanders

A very friendly person without much nous about the whole economics thing asked me very nicely for advice on – essentially – why I hate globe twitter so much.

This is my reply I sent them, and the link beneath is the bit they linked me asking questions about why I’m so down on this shit

Therefore:

OK, so to follow up (and bear in mind it’s late here in London and I’m long-term dyspraxic so if there’s a typo or a missed thought in here try to get over it).

The argument against Sanders’ idea of rent control is *extraordinarly weak*. The official policy of the Sanders campaign was universal nationwide rent control. This fact alone completely obviates the arguments made in the /r/neoliberal post which are based exclusively on *local* rent control, which is an entirely different concept. This doesn’t mean that rent control is the right approach, but the point is that the poster there is just talking at cross purposes to the Sanders campaign. A further point to make here is that the same poster appears to be suggesting that private development companies who just want to build new housing are entirely benign: I can tell you for a fact that even on the street where I currently live (and this has become the so-called “New Normal”) that this is not the case, and predatory housing development is a noted feature of the modern world (my generation is the first in the last century in the UK to on average have less floor space per income).

On the subject of “Free Trade”, our poster here is being what I can only assume to be wilfully obtuse. In economics there are always trade-offs, and Paul Krugman of all people won a Nobel for pointing out that free trade is not *always* beneficial to its assumed beneficiaries (New Trade Theory). Sanders seems to hold the relatively sophisticated belief that without sufficient alternatives to jobs that ultimately end up (with specific free-trade deals such as NAFTA) in poorer countries working class people often end up struggling to make ends meet in a different kind of economy than they were expecting (and I’d point out here that you don’t have to be left-wing to care about what working class people expect: Milton Friedman made “expectations” of exactly that kind a core of his economic philosophy).

The upshot being: overall quality of life might go up on a rude mean or median average, but that doesn’t mean people are happier or better off in any meaningful sense. They’re anxious, they’re worried, sometimes they’re even rioting (as we’ve seen). Sometimes they’re going so far as to vote for Donald Trump against their own interests: using raw numbers with your preconceptions doesn’t help with this all that much.

On “Free College” I’m meh. I owe a little over £40,000 for my undergrad degree and nothing on my MSc, which under the UK programme I’m on I will probably never end up bothering to pay off. In the UK undergrad degree loans are formulated as facsimiles of an income tax that you pay for going to university which frankly aren’t that heavy. In the US it’s very different, as I’m sure you know. Personally I would prefer to have a European system where you can get more or less whatever education you want whenever you want for relatively little outlay. But free college in the US may well be a more *politically viable* proposition than any of the proposed centrist alternatives, and would certainly not be a massive burden on the State one way or the other (and hey, maybe broader access to education would *actually change* the structures of power that make people who go to college overwhelmingly upper middle class, as it has to some degree in the UK).

The “Wealth Tax” stuff is just lazy. No thought put into it besides endorsing Georgism, which is fine, but the analysis is meaningless. The strong argument for a wealth tax has already been presented by Piketty. Capital flight is a canard of the 70s and 80s that never really turned out to be that important for fiscal policy. Maybe the Sanders rate is too high but the argument in the thread doesn’t even discuss the fact that the USA holds the global reserve currency, which is ridiculous.

The “less money is better than negative return” shit is equally risible. Maybe in the very short term but no globalised market actually works like that. Globalised markets *specifically exist* to generate “money” in the form of things like currency and debt over often relatively long periods of investment, and big money businesses generally do not count – especially over the last 12 years by the way – their accounts in nickels and dimes unless they’re properly worried in the first place because things have been so fucked up and unpredictable in the meantime.

Under a significant wealth tax you would expect a slowing of GDP growth and, if Piketty is right, an accumulated slowing of inequality and the accumulation of wealth by a tiny elite. That’s it. So hey maybe there are a few things else we could focus on such as universal healthcare or whatever.

Green New Deal? I’m not gonna bother engaging because I think anything that averts Climate Change is better than what we’ve got.

On the subject of the Fed and bailouts I *agree* that independent Central Banking as a principle is an important check on monetary and fiscal policy by an elected government in a putatively liberal democratic country (even though I am otherwise opposed to the form that the contemporary liberal democratic State takes). But I think the criticism of Sanders here is deeply unfair. There are strong reasons (and you only have to watch the movie The Big Short to realise that this is far from an exclusively far-left position) to believe that *letting the banks fail* is a viable strategy for creating a less differentiated and more equitable society, in which people are less frequently exploited with bullshit mortgages and ridiculous horse-trading of insane financial instruments that in turn create financial crises *simply by the fact of their existence*.

Dominic’s Basilisk, Part 3: I Give Up

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” – Samuel Beckett

I’m certainly not the first person to point out that this inspirational quote, often now framed in instagramable type across an instagramably filtered background, is in context actually an ambivalent expression of resignation to a personal world of mere misery.

On the other hand, not many people who like the quote will have read the late Beckett work Worstward Ho, even though I might have done – a bit.

I am, however, pointing it out now.

I’ve promised various people at various times I would complete this trilogy with more, but who could be fucking bothered after two and a half months indoors with only a journalistic project to obsess over? So this is on hold. Like most people I honestly thought when I began writing for even a small audience about Cummings that nothing as awful as what’s happening would happen.

And while revelations about Cummings-of-the-past continue to come out which are good material for a Dominic’s Basilisk piece in the dull and relentless daily press, essentially we’re in a United Kingdom of very traditional power struggles in cabinet and electoral politics beyond it. The line I started with about the authoritarian tendencies of the rationalist community aren’t especially relevant in the daily chaos, with nobody manifesting the capacity for authority or pseudo-technocratic control.

So those plans are on hold, which is a relief from a self-imposed burden I’ve been lying under for weeks trying to ignore in the midst of personal issues and all the shit of trying to keep up with how to make a mask to wear to the shops to buy more wine.

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Not gonna give up on my contempt for Dominic Cummings though.

Words and Actions and Dominic Cummings

“Action, not words” – Edward Heath, titling the Communist Manifesto

If I ever actually meet Dominic Cummings I’m going to strangle him to near death and then let him go like I’m some kind of mafioso just to let him know what it feels like to have emotions, such as pain and fear (I can guarantee you I have a stronger grip than Cummings has whatever he’d be using to fight back). Self interest for psychopaths, in the sudden face of personal hardship, can be a useful learning tool. Cummings, for example, suddenly realised his career might be in turnaround a couple of months ago (when was it, what year is it anyway?) when the “herd immunity” bullshit was shown by epidemiologists at Imperial to be bullshit.

Much hay has been made in defence of this stupidity out of the relatively slow rate of infection in places like Sweden, or that the emergency Nightingale hospitals have fortunately been more or less laid empty. It does, however, stand to reason that things are really fucking bad, even though we fortunately know a lot more about epidemiology than a century ago. The same theme was noted in the Malleus Maleficarum of plague (my copy of which is unfortunately in storage in Scotland, about twice as far away as Durham), and the same book describes appropriately grisly solutions to the problem of witches.

But I’m getting beside the point and myself. Cummings isn’t going to resign unless you throttle him until he can’t breathe because he knows he’s in a perfect position for a twat. A barely understood virus and a massive majority in parliament and a population who – ignorantly – think that because things aren’t as bad as they could be we should all go to fucking Southend. This problem is not a parliament thing, it’s an authoritarian thing. “But not for thee” sort of thing, it’s a brutal assertion of authority and power and a lot of journalists are missing it because they’re either blind or looking out a piece of the pie.

It doesn’t particularly matter if he loses the support of Tory MPs (as he has done, repeatedly, without any substantive impact), because that’s just performative parliament stuff.

Many of the people who voted in this shit government have never heard of Dominic Cummings in the first place, which works to his advantage, because they just think Boris Johnson is funny and likes waving the Union Jack, or they think immigration (refugees actually, they don’t mind or don’t know the fact London is full of French people) is too much (the UK has, of course, an almost uniquely low intake and brutal treatment of refugees). This isn’t particularly insightful, it’s just true. And I am very very tired.

The Extraordinary Changes: 24/03/2020

Wednesday, a day in late March. London.

You ever notice how people always specific early, mid, late March when they’re talking about a shit month? Like one where they have to go work without a Bank Holiday in sight or they can’t sack it off early in a heatwave and go drink cheap tins or overpriced Prosecco at four in the afternoon in the park. Nobody ever says “late June”. They say “late August” because they know Autumn’s coming with September and everybody knows the weather’s gonna turn and they’ll have to tolerate me for probably more than an hour on my birthday. 13th of September, that’s mid-September sure, and nobody’s gonna dispute anything if you say it like that.

I mean you say it if you have to,

“I’m going on holiday what date is the festival?”

“Oh it starts on the 25th this year, can you make it? When you are going away?”

“Uh, I that’s like two weeks away and I forgot to book flights, like mid-to-late June, maybe August or something I dunno.”

Who the fuck under fourty years old has their shit together enough to distinguish between four different weeks in only one month without putting a number on it and checking against the other number on their phone.

Oh right, so:

Global Coronavirus Deaths – somewhere between 50,000 and 1

UK Corona Deaths – the same as that but less so, not counting essential alcohol sales

I *am* putting a number to the number of days until I can go to the shops and volunteer for the “NHS Volunteer Army” (yes thank you thank you, I don’t need your applause I’m only doing my unemployed part), which so far as I can work it out is sometime in early April. I don’t know, I have to check with my astrologist at the Brookings Institute.

I can’t be the only person doing that thing in the first paragraph either right now, no? How many days until we can stop worrying about mass death and start complaining we missed out on half the Summer. How far away is the Summer? Well it’s supposed to traditionally start in June so anywhere between the first person you care about dying and just over two months. How long is “just over” wait, don’t tell me I’ll get out my iPad and check on google, oh cool somebody replied to me on twitter.

Staying on the selfish side of things I started to worry because I’m still in the house with my dad now that he’s cheerfully recovered from the virus and I haven’t showed any symptoms after several weeks of close contact, so it’s gonna really be a kick in the teeth if I didn’t even asymptomatically contract it all this time and have to go to some hospital I’m already volunteering at on a ventilator when it kicks my lungs on their smoked out ass. Then I found out the NHS Volunteer Army thing is apparently predicated on volunteers all having a smartphone with the appropriate app, which is darkly hilarious. Look man I don’t work for Uber I have a Nokia brick with a Vodaphone bill I haven’t bothered to pay in two weeks, I’m in self-isolation performing social distancing, text me (please).

The official numbers for the death toll by the way, because I depressed myself with my own insouciance and checked in between that paragraph and this one:

Global Coronavirus Deaths: >20,000

UK Coronavirus Deaths: ~465

Check out my new hobby, at which I’m not very good at yet, but I have 53 more tries to go with the current pack:

I got a forwarded message from the great hippyish woman who used to look after us when we were kids and my mum was often functionally a single mother, and I think she’d approve of the style, but personally I’m not sure at all.

Getting sympathy for struggling with unemployment and substance abuse from a woman who used to spend afternoons after school doing everything to build me up, who I haven’t seen in years, in the middle of an epidemic, would be a sobering call back to reality if I didn’t have so much drink in the house.

The Extraordinary Changes: 23/03/2020

23rd of March. London.

Global coronavirus deaths – who knows

UK coronavirus deaths – who cares

This is the fourth instalment, the third is here: https://irrationallyspeaking.home.blog/2020/03/22/the-extraordinary-changes-22-03-2020-london/

Today is a good day without numbers. Sleep happened, and so did a walk to Dawson Heights, a fucking classic of London modernist architecture sat like an Aztec pyramid on top of that last line of hills before the Thames alluvial plain (is that the right term? Answers from geography nerds not requested) in South-East London, where Jen used to live back when I knew her. She ghosted me, deliberately or not, a couple of years ago: if you’re out there Jen, even in Dawson Heights, hope you’re doing well and found a wife or something.

I’m pretty sure you owe me a beer too.

The music of Lou Reed has some extraordinary changes, mostly from A to D and back again. But sometimes the other way around, and even down further to G, as in Sweet Jane. Some aberrant versions of that song even go further, to B minor – criminal – as in the version of what must be easily one of the greatest live rock albums of all time, Live: Take No Prisoners, in which a cheerfully wasted Lou bitches out almost literally everyone he’s ever met, including the band, to a home New York crowd, and a number of people he hasn’t.

Listen to the whole album, towards the end is a “version” of “Walk on the Wild Side” that’s mostly just – again – bitching out everyone from the Andy Warhol scene of the pre-SCUM era plus Robert Christgau and other assorted rock “critics” over the space of about fifteen minutes and two chords.

This is the shit we live for, no? Who wants to be a professional in the music industry? When I was a kid helping out gigs for The Dream Machine at The Half Moon (now a Fuller’s pub, for fuck’s sake) we used to have Dan Treacy of Television Personalities fame on now and again – poor Dan, after years of mental illness and substance abuse he was found in prison by some friends I used to know, propped up for a few years doing live gigs and recording a bit, then had a bad fall and last I heard he was either dead or unlikely to recover from brain damage. He was always good with me though, a sarcastic Estuarine gent. One night I’m behind the mixing desk with my mate Alex (hope you’re doing great Alex) and a plastic bag with some beer cans for the rider and Dan has one of his moods, he kicks the entire band off stage and embarks on a sort of odyssey of half-remembered solo covers of other 80s songwriters on his scratchy Danelectro (ha. ha.).

(Not the specific event in question, but illustrative. They turned that room into a fucking pub grub place now too. Wankers)

Alex, the consummate and slightly tipsy professional at the desk is unhappy about this, but I’m loving it. This enthusiastic attitude of mine invites a remonstration from the desk-jockey. But it’s an event, isn’t it, and that’s what we go to gigs for: the spectacle.

Professionalism is boring, which is one of several reasons why people go to gigs.

Anyway here’s a couple of classic Dan Treacy/TVPs tunes to cheer everyone up, God knows those of us who haven’t got any work to do for the alleviation of material suffering right now could use a break from the BBC. That isn’t innuendo but now that I’ve said it isn’t you’re thinking about it aren’t you.

And one from his slightly less infamous partner in crime Ed Ball:

Wonder what Pascal’s up to.

The Extraordinary Changes: 22/03/2020. London.

This is part 3, part 2 is here: https://irrationallyspeaking.home.blog/2020/03/21/the-extraordinary-changes-21-03-2020/

Global coronavirus deaths – ~13,500

UK coronavirus deaths – ~233 (240?)

“The devil’s in the details, and everywhere else”

Woke up twice this morning, or so I infer. Remember getting out of bed into an overbearing Sun, then must have fallen asleep until 7am when I woke up for the second and final time, into another overbearing peel of light. What Sun would that have been in March anyway, and so how is that possible?

Ha! “Sunday”.

My dreams are usually too psychedelic and disconnected to remember, but quarantine seems to have forced things into vague coherence. So it is that on Thursday I woke up from a rare narrative thing, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie in which I starred as the rugged and defeated protagonist trying to get from a beach in Scotland down to London to find shelter in the midst of mysterious foreign aircraft crashing through the fields for reasons unknown, and making suspicious passes over our hut at night – fortunately my subconscious intervened to turn the whole affair into something about playing support for a punkish girl band in an abandoned cinema and a vaguely romantic and horny subplot with someone I used to have a crush on many years ago. This morning’s dream was a Bernie Sanders press-conference about cheese (in his youth I am told the Vermont Senator and presidential candidate had a snobbish preference for Gruyere imported from France, but recognises in his latter years that Cheddar from Wisconsin and even Velveeta and “Government Cheese” not only have their place but deserve to be celebrated as home-grown All-American culinary masterpieces of their own).

Not sure what that says about my media consumption, but this is probably as good a time as any to recommend those unfamiliar with the weirdest syndicalised cartoon strip in history that they therefore familiarise themselves with “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend”.

I’m sure I can and should not discuss these things with Puck and Nathan when, hopefully, we do a video call in the evening, despite living only a few miles away from each other in South-East London.

Mum and Miah both came around yesterday. Miah to drop off the usual supplies and Mum to drop off garden furniture. The supplies are only partially depleted but the furniture is still sitting on a tarp in the conservatory looking rather woeful and unrepaired. I’ll get round to it. There are worse things to do with your hands in the apocalypse than paint and wax a few garden chairs and all in all I can’t really be bothered with the alternative.

Dominic Cummings is in the papers again and I similar wonder why. Nascent personal dominion falling apart around his ears due to natural forces outside his control (that one’s got to be a pain for himself in particular), and meanwhile millions of people are going to die. Well. I admit I made two missed calls there: (1) that “herd immunity” was just a headline and wasn’t as policy-crucial as – obviously – it turns out it was, and later on; (2) that Cummings and his role wouldn’t be that important for corona. Mea culpa, the idiot apparently really did leave his mark on affairs with the herd immunity thing – fuckwit.

Contagions are hard to track, once they start running away from you. So one regret is that I chose not to write up the story of Cummings and – once again – the rationalists when I first spotted that the rationalist subculture was agreeing solemnly with itself that “herd immunity” (with corollary mass deaths of the vulnerable and elderly) was obviously the only rational response to coronavirus, roughly around the same time the phrase first started turning up in the press. Seems like my original instincts that Cummings had his ear to the rationalist door were right, and I shouldn’t have second-guessed myself.

As usual, probably the best source for non-insiders to keep up on what’s going on in the Cummings box (avoiding the use of the word “brain” here) are the most prominent internet ground zeros of the relevant cult: reddit.com/r/TheMotte; reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex; the SlateStarCodex blog itself and associated environs; and by association reddit.com/r/SneerClub.

God help us, the government is run by people who spend their free time on fucking reddit.

Here’s Matt Taibbi bitching out Dominic’s fellow enthusiastic moron Thomas Friedman with great panache a decade ago to calm everyone down, assuming anybody is reading, plus a picture someone drew of me with a red panda (his name is Fred) on my head.

https://delong.typepad.com/egregious_moderation/2009/01/matt-taibbi-flathead-the-peculiar-genius-of-thomas-l-friedman.html

The Extraordinary Changes: 21/03/2020

This is part two of the diary, part one is here https://irrationallyspeaking.home.blog/2020/03/20/the-enormous-changes-20-3-2020/

21st of March, 2020. London. Day 4.

Global coronavirus deaths – >11,000

UK coronavirus deaths – 177

“Over the-“

It pays to talk to no-one.

This is the Spring without end. This is the Summer of your malcontent. This is the Winter of your desire.

Circulating across the Earth.

Wise words Marquee, but what about the Autumn? I’m turning 27 this September so it’ll be interesting if I’m still in quarantine then. Traditionally my birthday comes in the week that the weather goes off, so we’ll see if it coincides with an apocalyptic spike in corona deaths or just a sharp fall off in sales of the beer by that name, neither of which scenario seems like it’s gonna be good for my favourite bars.

https://mobile.twitter.com/GeorgeHemingto1/status/1241318536510873602

I forgot to mention yesterday that Miah missed out on going to Ohio – lucky break there – because it’s probably for the best not to run a conference for women and trans folk in the music industry in the middle of the worst global pandemic in 100 years.

Well, I say worst, HIV was a thing after all. Didn’t kill as many people as this looks likely though, just cut down kids and people in Africa instead of elderly mostly straight people in the post-industrial so-called “Global North”. Slow rate of transmission if you have to shag instead of breathe to catch the bastard, and as we are so often told, nobody’s fucking anymore anyway.

Such, for some reason, is the wont of sexual arousal at The End of History.

Wonder what Alex is up to in Memphis. Wonder what Hannah’s up to in Edinburgh. Of course I could easily message either but it’s more interesting, a game for me, to circuitously work out what might be going on from Alex’s cryptic tweets and Hannah’s posts about lupus and coronavirus and you on facebook; after all Alex’s (ex-?) wife was often forced into bed for long periods by lupus when I worked on their farm.

I note that Psychic TV’s “Godstar”, which I’ve been listening to incessantly, came out a short seven years before Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man”, which came out the same year as The Fall’s “Code: Selfish”, one year before I was born. Seven years ago I was entering undergrad in Belfast, where there was another Hannah, who is probably going fucking spare right now. But then Hannah was rarely not going spare, effective as she nonetheless is.

The Last Man never had it so good. Some people like to denigrate Fukuyama for announcing the end of the great forces of history in the 1990s. But imagine if you will being a straight dude who has a BMW with a direct injection motor, whatever that means, probably born in the mid-1970s, facing up to the coronavirus situation. Because that gratingly dull image hasn’t really gone away, has it? Fukuyama might well have been dead on here, it’s just that he missed that catastrophes were going to go on happening to people like you and me and people like that forever and ever until the [tired tropes incoming] heat-death of the universe, or the explosion of the Sun, or an asteroid mercifully wipes us clean of our inveterate stressors without warning (God I hope there’s no warning, that’d just prolong the inevitable).

Meanwhile, cities in Europe are falling apart, borders are closing, with no real ideological reason beyond “don’t let people die, if you wouldn’t mind”. It’s a polite, Last Man, sort of response to a probable global cataclysm. People are losing their jobs, losing loved ones, worrying about whether they’ll be able to care for their children, or if somebody will be able to care for their children. But this is all framed within a very limited work. If you were imaginative about things, you could go completely mad and still be on top of everything!

What, after all, is the metaphysical substrate for any of our complaints of having the virus? Physicalism? A good portion of philosophers and scientists have long denigrated the very idea. To be fair, most of them are wrong, but most people are stupid in the first place. And I might have a cough, God save me.

Superstition. That, I think, is the key. Superstitions are good if you ignore the bad ones: they give you points of guidance at moments of indecision; you know, the William James thing.

Or you could go Absolute Idealist, like my friend Russell, completely throwing away all sense of sense and purpose in favour of the a priori. Why not? It isn’t like Hegel ever put a wrong foot somewhere…

And my wisdom tooth hurts, which I guess isn’t going to get sorted for a while now

Part 3 follows here: https://irrationallyspeaking.home.blog/2020/03/22/the-extraordinary-changes-22-03-2020-london/