Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A round up

Well, I'm off to Dublin in a little over four days. All a bit hectic to be honest, and I don't really have the time to write much just now (I did write a great piece about ID cards last night... one of my better essays; succinct, funny and devastating; as is always the case when your browser crashes and you lose the bloody thing!) I don't have the time to rewrite it, and I doubt I'd recapture some of the better turns of phrase anyway. Sorry about that.

I've also got a long essay about the 'Muhammed cartoons row' in the works. Unlike many of the bloggers I regularly read, I find it to be a fascinating and very important story. My article has already wandered off on several tangents... the potential for idolatry to act as both cultural powderkeg and cultural safety-valve depending upon the historical context... the role of symbols in shaping human behaviour... the nature of religious belief...

you get the picture. Let's just say I'm unlikely to finish it very soon, given how little time I can devote to blogging just now. However, should you find yourself in need of some fine web-based writing, then you could do a lot worse than read some of the best of recent blogging:

It almost goes without saying that Harry Hutton has written the funniest thing about the Dick Cheney hunting accident.

Meanwhile John Reid (Secretary for Violence Against Foreigners) is neatly skewered and roasted over at Chicken Yoghurt. Justin hits the nail right on the head when he writes,
It's almost as if he's saying, if you want us to respect your religion you need to accept that our lads may want to give one or two of you a kicking now and again and be expected to get away with it.

David Byrne recently published a piece on a subject that's been on my mind a lot lately. Go read Selfless if you're in the mood for something philosophical.

Joel has written another excellent piece.

The Curmudgeon reveals the revelling of Rifkind in the notion of limited military strikes against Iran. After all, Iran is more serious than Iraq was wrongly claimed to be.
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Saturday, February 11, 2006

I Heart Zoe Williams

While I waste time droning on about Orwell, or semiotics, or emergent intelligence, Zoe Williams manages to completely eviscerate Reality Television with a few short paragraphs about children's fiction.

Go read House of Cards now.


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Friday, February 10, 2006

Eighteen (9 x 2)

It's a blog meme thing. If you're looking for something highbrow to read, check the Orwell quote in the previous post. Quality stuff. I'm planning a big essay on why the essays of George Orwell should be compulsory reading for everyone between the ages of 14 and 18. We'd have to set up some sort of surveillance system to make sure everybody complies of course...

But back to the matter at hand. Merrick (of the Orwell essays) completed the 7x7 blog meme thingie that I'd tagged him with. However, he decided to expand it to make it the 9x9 blog meme. Then he requested (in the comments) that I complete the additional two questions. Which I'm doing now.

Nine Things I've Only Done Once And Don't Expect To Do Again

  1. Build a soft-drinks factory in Saudi Arabia.
  2. Spend three days driving around the UK in a van with my best friend and three big bags of cash desperately trying to find somewhere he could buy a fake passport because he had pissed off both the police and some quite violent drug dealers.
  3. Run naked across one of London's major bridges.
  4. Get shot at (expect? well, it's more a fervent hope).
  5. Datura.
  6. Vote Labour.
  7. Laugh derisively and call someone "a sad fuck" when they proudly show me their new tattoo.
  8. Lose my virginity.
  9. Get arrested and interrogated by the KGB.

Nine Songs I Don't Think I Could Live Without

  1. Madame George - Van Morrison
  2. Listening Wind - Talking Heads
    (This song is from the first album I ever bought - Remain In Light - and it holds within it almost everything that's made music such a central part of my life. It deals with politics through the poetry of magical realism and reveals a timeless wisdom... all the while keeping you mesmerised by the rumbling music behind Byrne's imagery.)
  3. All Is Full Of Love - Björk
  4. Life on Mars? - David Bowie
    (I just can't imagine never hearing that lilting "It's a god-awful small affair..." opening again.)
  5. Back to the Old House - The Smiths
  6. It's Only Love - The Beatles
  7. Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles
    (To be honest, there's about a dozen Beatles songs that spring instantly to mind when I try to imagine "songs I couldn't live without". These were merely the two that muscled their way to the front and provided a good cross-section of the band's music. Lennon's gloriously ragged voice on the chorus of It's Only Love gives me goosebumps nearly every time. And well... Tomorrow Never Knows needs no justifications from me.)
  8. Until The End of The World - U2
    (from Achtung Baby when the band were at their peak. For those of you who can't see past the whole 'Bono' thing, it really is your loss. During the early 90s, for about about 4 years, U2 made truly sublime music. And this track captures the whole period perfectly. It also drags me right back there... to a very groovy period of my life indeed. Ace.)
  9. Gloria - Patti Smith

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Read some Orwell

My friend Merrick recently gave me a very lovely gift... a weighty tome entitled 'Essays' by George Orwell. It is 1,300 pages of the finest, wisest, most insightful writing of the last century. Indeed, ever.

Every essay in the book; whether a newspaper column from the war years or a one page review of a long-forgotten book or a lengthy piece assessing the cultural impact of the work of Charles Dickens; every one of them contains within it at least one line or idea that forces you to think in a new way about something you'd previously taken for granted.

That's the essence of great political writing. Indeed, for me, Orwell is easily our finest political writer. Certainly he didn't have as great an impact as some others (Marx springs immediately to mind), but I'd argue that may be because - ironically enough - he's far more revolutionary. I don't have time to write my big "Read Orwell's Essays!" essay just yet, but I came across this wonderful paragraph and I felt compelled to share it with you...
Marx's famous saying that "religion is the opium of the people" is habitually wrenched out of its context and given a meaning subtly but appreciably different from the one he gave it. Marx did not say, at any rate in that place, that religion is merely a dope handed out from above; he said that it is something the people create for themselves, to supply a need that he recognized to be a real one. "Religion is the sigh of the soul in a soulless world. Religion is the opium of the people." What is he saying except that man does not live by bread alone, that hatred is not enough, that a world worth living in cannot be founded on "realism" and machine guns? If he had foreseen how great his intellectual influence would be, perhaps he would have said it more often and more loudly.
- George Orwell
Notes on The Way (April 1940)


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