Thursday, May 29, 2003

the relocated crown fell out again, taking yet more of the crumbling tooth with it, so he decided there was only one course of action left - to invite a few mates round for an extraction party!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

memento mori

the only thing that matters is to be young.
well - not too young: your average seven-year-olds still aren't quite achieving those levels of fiscal autonomy that trigger the standard economic indicators (sweet ole things, economists - translates: spoilt rich kids still aren't quite spoilt and rich enough yet - keep spoiling!).
however, to have to admit to being more than oh, twenty-five years old now is to acknowledge (bites trembling lip, lowers eyes to shuffling feet) that the door to the only truly cool club in town is forever henceforth barred.
it's a cruel but delicious sport to us tiresome mediaevalists - almost as much fun as bear-baiting - spotting that expression of desperate anguish stealing over the face of the high-rolling young dude or dudette who's about to 'celebrate' that disqualifying birthday. it's an expression that's going to be wrapped up in a rictus of denial for the next twenty-five years, as the realisation dawns that all that precious youth has been squandered, and that, from here on in, it's going to cost an awful lot of time and trouble to sustain the ghastly mockery of a resurrection of all that wonderful youthful stuff that they took for granted way back then.
there has to be a better way of dealing with the ageing process than denying it, and yet it's clear that vast swathes of aspirational-but-deluded human beans have walked, open-eyed and open-walleted, into the gilded Hall of Lies that is the cosmetics industry and committed a combined financial resource large enough to rescue the entire planet from hunger and disease to the entirely futile effort to suspend time and undo a few of the principle laws of physics - like that neat one of Newton's that says that gravity attracts everything - apples, breasts, facial skin...
someone has to say it: hey, cher, michael, ivana, arnold, et al (long list) - you don't look young and beautiful, you look like a waxworks dummy! this further flaunting of your obscene and utterly undeserved wealth on a completely wasted attempt to elevate yourselves yet further above the little people makes you look quite RIDICULOUS! you'd be better advised to stick your head inside a brown paper bag inscribed with the words "PITY ME"!
what happened to dignity?
what happened to pride?
seemingly, it does need iterating, since the lesson is not learnt: there are seven ages, people - seven (see below) - and nothing - nothing at all - can prevent the human frame from progressing steadily from one to the other. anyone aged forty who needs to mimic the appearance or behaviour of a twenty-year-old is just a sad sucker living in la-la-land.
think - it's obvous - there are, at any one time, QUITE ENOUGH 20-year-olds in the world to fulfill the natural function of the 20-year-old - to strut around as if they owned the place and were going to live forever and scorn the appearance and opinions and musical tastes of anyone over the age of thirty. to wish to be locked into an endlessly looping reprise of that state is to risk a host of uninvited and unwelcome visitors - psychic as well as physical - gate-crashing such a feast of fools, as well as to have to listen - forever - to oasis and j-lo. think hard. think very hard.
you can't help feeling a tad sorry for them, though. I mean, when you've spent your entire mature life denying that you're growing older, imagine the trauma of having finally to accept that no amount of further stretching, tucking, stapling, stuffing, or re-shaping is going to alter the fact that your innards are reaching their genetically-allotted sell-by date (brought forward, more than likely, by all the toxins you've introduced in order to adjust the exterior bodyscape) and that, short of achieving some kind of total body-replacement therapy (that has to include muscles, nerves, blood vessels, glands, and skeleton, as well as vital organs, eyes, ears, teeth, and hair) you're going to continue to deteriorate, at a vastly accelerated rate thanks to your having destroyed your 'natural' self-repairing processes, until you .......

it cannot be.
I'm rich, I'm famous, I'm supremely powerful, I'm recognised wherever I go, I'm on TV practically around the clock, I've appeared on many many charity telethons - and this was not a cynical but absurdly easy way to get my face associated with good deeds in front of a captive audience of millions who thenceforth would love me even more and buy whatever the merchandising guys decided I needed to sell at the time - no - it was damn hard work - far worse than getting up at dawn day after day and breaking hard-baked soil into tilth for twelve hours at a time with the nearest water-supply a three-hour walk away. no - I did it to help put a smile on the face of those poor starving - but splendidly cute and photogenic - little refugee kids.
I can do whatever I want.
I can have whatever I want.
I can't ...
not yet ...
I'm not ready ...
not yet ...
to ...)

...... DIE!
yup - fraid so - at the end of all this is ...

'twas forever thus, because - contrary to everything it says in the glossies and on TV, we are all
and in truth, whether or not we choose to understand what that means determines whether we are alive or already dead, since the lesser death of ignorance and denial is the only option for everyone who is afraid of being alive - really alive.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav'd a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

(As You Like It; ActII.Sc.vii)

Friday, May 16, 2003

strange weather lately

a few timely words from one of the very few humans the rhino stands in total awe of - God Bless You Mr Vonnegut.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

cynics v sceptics

I used to argue that I was a sceptic, not a cynic, because I used to regard the one as demonstrating a positive, and the other a negative take on the world. I think I still am, but in order to fight my corner I have to bend my own definitions somewhat.
the sceptic interrogates all 'official' information about the world with suspicion, on the lookout for the lies, the hypocrisy, the deceit, from a position of moral rectitude - in other words, the sceptic believes in a fundamental human inclination to decency - to right behaviour, or behaviour in line with his or her understanding about truth - which is consistently attacked and undermined by the controlling agenda of the authorised establishment.
the cynic, on the other hand, is the pallid, gollum-like creature that emerges at the other end of the tunnel when his faith has been fatally eroded by experience: he or she has learnt that there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of this righteous expectation of a glimmer of truth emerging out of the self-serving mouths of these various organs of control, and has come instead to expect to be lied to.
I think the reason why I still can't say that I've completely moved over to the cynics camp is that I still get angry at this - especially at such a time as this when all truth has been seen, yet again, to be equivocal grist, minced in the grinder of the basest imaginable nationalistic chauvinism.
the actual differences between Sadam Hussein and his supposed nemesis are awfully slight: the America of George Dubya is not a bastion of democracy - its current leader rigged the elections to win the race, and couldn't give a monkey's tit what the rest of the world thinks about his petty vendetta with the man who bested his daddy. he simply has the power to do this - first to pulverise the rubble of Afghanistan in search of one man (who was never found) - and now to run rampage through an already sanctions-ruined Iraq in search of another (who will - almost certainly with covert connivance - survive to a ripe old age in luxury somewhere - the Crimean peninsula, perhaps - or the Hamptons) - and no-one can stop him.
the anti-war movement still has plenty of energy left to run. Iraq, clearly, is a basket-case - we're going to be mopping up the blood for generations - no hope now of preventing that. but what seems to have happened is that a whole new generation of young Americans (they especially, but the same sense of outrage has been experienced in the UK) have been politicised by this in a way that hasn't happened since Vietnam. there's a real feeling of overwhelming anger and dismay coming from across the pond at the realisation that certain sorts of administration - the ones that get elected when the proper checks and balances fail for want of attention - will only ever act on behalf of the suits and the uniforms. as long as these same young people can be persuaded to vote next time, George and his despicable team of yoiks and yahoos will be taking a walk.

"We asked people how long it takes to soft boil an egg. 74% gave the wrong answer. The average time given was just over 3 minutes. 9% of 18-24 year olds thought it would take 6-10 minutes."

(Think before checking.)

Sunday, May 11, 2003

why do so few rape victims bite their attacker's penis off?

in order to assert his sexual power, a man actually needs to do far more than assert his bruter strength. he has to persuade his victim that his 'weapon' is, literally, overpowering - this in the face of the manifest evidence to the contrary, namely, that the penis is in fact a highly vulnerable appendage, susceptible, together with the testicles, to debilitating damage under the feeblest of counter-attacks. located as they are - low, frontally, and, what is most significant, externally - protruding out through the protective body-shell of the abdomen - the male genitalia, this repository of machismo, are ludicrously exposed, for organs that contain so many tightly-packed, excruciatingly sensitive nerve-endings. in an erect condition, the cock and its suspended balls are actually about as threatening as a rubber chicken, and no more serious a 'weapon' than a small leek and a couple of brussels sprouts in a hairnet. the intended victim need do no more than take either the penis or one of the testicles between her teeth and bite hard - seriously hard, as if chomping into an overdone steak - and the attacker would (this is absolutely guaranteed) immediately crumple into a screaming, writhing, weeping heap. the mere thought of this happening is enough to have all men metaphorically curling into a shivering protective ball.
so why does this hardly ever happen?
the committing of serious violence on another person is actually (mercifully) a rare event, despite what the media - organs of an authoritarian state which recognises the virtue of a permanently fearful populace - would have us believe. violent activity is a manifestation of failed social conditioning: fantasised about a great deal, it is nevertheless generally recognised as being a sort of sickness. even amongst drunken adolescent males, the ratio of noise and posturing to actual violence is still quite high. the downside to this is that, when faced with the inevitability of violence - when the possibility of escape has been erased - this strong social taboo has to be broken. the truth is that, when confronted with such a situation, the majority of us - male and female - are effectively paralysed by the conflicting imperatives between our instincts - urging us to defend ourselves with the greatest possible force - and our socialised senses - which are neither capable of grasping the actuality of the event ("this can't be happening to me") nor able to break the taboo of the last resort. the casual mugger would require the reflexes of a snake to dodge a determined counter-assault on his eyes, for example: out of nowhere, completely unexpectedly, two hands grab at his face and, before he can blink, both eyes have been gouged out by two pairs of middle fingers. end of assault. but how many of us would be capable of inflicting that sort of damage on another person, even in an extreme situation, where our very lives might be at stake? soldiers have to be trained - through a protracted process of brutalisation - to regard 'the enemy' as a dehumanised object, a 'target', merely. and in the case of the psychopath or the drug dealer's minder, the brutalisation happened, somehow, in the course of their previous lives - this is part of the job description.
for the time being, the pathetic rapists' pathetic packages are safe.
sadly, nothing can prevent their having to spend their next ninety-nine lives as a hermaphroditic mollusc's bitch.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

the thirty-six figures of rhetoric

  • figures of diction (in which the form of words is modified): prosthesis, epenthesis, paragoge, aphaeresis, syncope, apocope, metathesis, diaeresis, synthesis, crasis
  • figures of construction (which concern the natural order of words): ellipsis, zeugma, syllepsis, hyperbaton, pleonasm
  • figures of speech (tropes): metaphor, irony, allegory, allusion, catachresis, hypallage, synecdoche, metonymy, euphemism, antomasia, metalepsis, antiphrasis
  • figures of thought: antithesis, apostrophe, epiphenomenon, subjection, obsecration, hyperbole, litotes, prosopopoeia, hypotyposis

Monday, May 05, 2003

the c-word

it's hard to resist the conclusion that some profound fault became embedded in hom sap's brain at a crucial evolutionary moment. the more religious have the easy option - the 'error' mythologised as Original Sin is perhaps an early recognition of this. how else to explain so much that is clearly fundamentally wrong?
to select but one example from a very long list (from the 'a' of 'anger management consultants' to the 'z' of 'zero tolerance' via the 'j' of 'jerry springer') how can it be that the most primitive of instincts - 'c' for 'competitiveness' - continues to operate at full throttle in an environment totally transformed from that which it was adapted to? as a species-specific trait, competitiveness became redundant a very long time ago. Man is the dominant species. no argument. no mere rhino is going to argue with that. the nearest challenger is so far back down the evolutionary track as to be disregardable. and yet this species that completely dominates the animal kingdom appears virtually incapable of selectively engaging the far more important learned behaviours - like cooperation - which have contributed so significantly to this success, and which, you would have thought, should by now have all but replaced the cruder devices that made us top dog. on the contrary, the behaviour that the drive to compete provokes has been displaced into any number of arenas in which cooperative behaviour would be manifestly more rational and efficient.
from the species-specific point of view, for instance, an economic system based on an equitable distribution of the common wealth makes sense - whereas a system based on the assumption that a set of finite resources can be plundered indefinitely by a subset of the species that actively promotes inequity as the driving engine of its economy is, not to put too fine a point on it, psychotic. and, as is the case in most psychotic conditions, it's a system supported by a very primitive sub-system of belief and superstition. actually, capitalist economics has more in common with shamanism and voodoo than with the principles of the enlightenment. just take a look at the language: the 'spectre' of recession hovers threateningly behind 'the market's confidence' that 'sustainable growth' can be maintained despite 'inflationary pressures' blah blah blah. this is the obfuscating lingo of the professional evangelist - cloying, impressive, pseudo-scientific, plausible, but at no point connecting with anything like the substantive proofs that distinguish granite from bullshit.
economists are con artists in direct line of descent from the alchemists. the only thing missing from the contemporary lexicon is the mandrake root.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

for the benefit of those fans unable to travel to the site of the famous triptych, we bring the triptych to the fans. behold!

tor triptych (surgery waiting room) - c. 15' x 4'