Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Going to the baths.

When I was about five or six, my grandfather would bring me to 'the baths' every week. Baths was my grandfather's way of referring to the swimming pool. This reference can help unload a whole history of personal hygiene.

It was the early eighties. My maternal grandparents still lived in a house without a bathroom in a Protestant working class district of Belfast. I still remember clearly the tin bath that hung on the wall out in the yard, where the toilet was also located. Years later, when I read descriptions of the living conditions in George Orwell's 'Road To Wigan Pier', my mind would be cast back to this house, giving my imagination leverage.

It is easy to imagine the discomfort and cold in the early hours of a December morning, lying in bed needing to use the toilet. Would one need to go bad to enough to brave the cold in the rain or snow, with the wind cutting through your night time attire?

The effort of filling and topping up the tin bath in front of a blazing fire, would take so much effort and time, that it was profitable for the city council to have bathing locations, that later become swimming pools.

I am only 34 - still I remember such conditions still existing in my grandparents' household. It is amazing how much more comfort we live in today compared with two generations ago.

Personal hygiene habits have also changed greatly. It is a matter of course now to shower every morning as a minimum. Back then, it would have been a case of filling up a basin and washing from this most days. Having a bath was a treat!

Going to the swimming pool today, I was reminded of all this. It is amazing how quickly our standards have changed. We take take so much so granted now, such as indoor bathrooms!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lyrics: All Along The Watchtower

'All Along The Watchtower' was written and originally performed by Bob Dylan but more familiar versions are those by Jimi Hendrix and U2. I first heard the U2 version when I was fifteen years old. I loved the song but the lyrics always mystified me. They are sparse and have very little detail..., to the extent that I thought that there must be verses missing.

Roll on nineteen years. I am back from a holiday in Tenerife; a holiday that has really challenged the way I live my life and think about the world.

One of the things I lacked on Holiday was access to my music collection, so on Sunday I had an opportunity to put on some music and get a good dose. There is little I like more than laying back on my bed, blasting some music and pondering the meaning of life. I hadn't listened to Hendrix in a while and thought this might do the trick.

When Hendrix's version of 'All Along The Watchtower' came on, the experiences I had on holiday started to click with the lyrics and it all started to make sense.

First, I met lots of intelligent people working out there who did not want to be stuck back home in the rat race. This may surprise some people, for the common image of typical Spanish holiday resort is of idiots abroad who want nothing more than to drink and fornicate. While this element did exist, some people have to be given more credit.

Second, since I originally graduated back in 2000, I have been in two minds. Sometimes I wanted the security of a job. At other times, especially when things were really bad - I wanted to escape this. I have been to London (which is still highly recommended), went back to university to study for a MA and struggled to find a graduate level job. What I discovered is that none of this really matters. I have been half fooling myself for far too long.

The first verse hits the spot well:

"There must be somewhere out here, said the joker to the thief.
There is too much confusion. I can't get no relief.
Businessman they drink my wine. Ploughman dig my earth.
And all along the line, no one knows what it is worth."

This sums up so much how I have been feeling. There is the confusion and lack of direction, the disorientation and the loss of real value. The archetypical characters of the joker and the thief are those who live on the outside of society and so can look in with a critical eye.

Then the second verse:

"No need to get excited. The thief he kindly spoke.
There are many among us, who feel that life is but a joke.
but you and I we've been through that.
And that is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now.
The hour is getting late."

This verse is utterly brilliant. These two characters you would not normally expect to have access to 'truth' are those of the joker and the thief. The joker is someone who normally challenges everyday reality and most would assume that he tells an untruth to amuse 'normal' people. When really, the joker is in earnest - he does not see that life is a joke. The thief transgresses normal reality by not adhering to the normal values of society. This transgression brings into question the 'laws of the land.'

Then finally the conclusion:

"All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants too.
Outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl,
two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl."

The final insight: the societal values that most of us hold dear also preserve vested interests. The notion of women coming and going may relate in part of Celine's 'Journey To The End of The Night', where a similar scene is painted. (I have read somewhere that Dylan was a big fan.)

AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! What have I been doing with my life? Time to push on with the book and get it finished in the next two weeks. Whether it gets published or not..., it is time to give myself more time.

Monday, 26 October 2009

PR's in hell.

Public relations in hell is a tough job but it helps if you are a good looking and chatty individual who knows how to identify the buying signals. Hell looks something like Veronica's strip in Tenerife, where an army of people want to bring you into bars, strip joints and lighten your wallet by selling other tat.

This is naked capitalism, stripped of the 'respectable' sales of high street brands and corporate 'cleanliness'. There are presumably aspects of the business here that are illegal and such illegality helps reinforce the supposed moral high ground of the established order.

The difference, however, is not as great as it seems. When the first taxes were introduced a few thousand years ago, this would have seemed like nothing more than a protection racket. Yet we accept unquestionably the divine right of national governments to impose taxes to pay for hospitals, roads, a police service and standing army. This racket certainly has it's benefits but the activity has become naturalized. The question mark has vanished.

Whether such activity is deemed legal or illegal, does not get beyond the issue of how people live off the activities of each other. People will sell to each other the essentials of life, such as water and food. This is rarely gifted. People will also play on each other affections. As any good sales person will know, it is easier to sell to someone if that person actually likes you - no matter what the product being sold is.

And of course - we all need to make a living. The blame should not always be placed on the shoulders of individuals. Narratives of legality make us focus on the actions of particular individuals and sometimes people do have to be brought to account. Still, the over all framework of how we live with each other is generally ignored.

Call me an idealist. The one thing that I yearn for in life is to find evidence of unconditional love. This I would describe as a gift given freely without expectation of any return.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


When the media talk about depression, more often than not they will focus upon the individual. They will talk about depression as an illness and will include within this discussion the array of treatments available - such as drugs and various therapies.

Such thinking is politically biased. By placing the responsibility for recovery on the individual, treatments already pre-suppose a judgement about the very nature of depression.

I have never suffered from sever forms of depression - I have never seriously contemplated taking my own life for instance. In such circumstances, outside intervention may be justified. (Already one is working within a standard set of criteria. How much can one argue that 'honour suicides' in ancient Japanese culture be a result of depression?)

Like most people, I have often suffered mild depression. Thinking about how this has arisen enlightens falsities within the standard debates on mental illness.

When I get 'depressed' - this normally happens when certain circumstances conspire to make me powerless. In work, were power structures are rigorously imposed, the injustices of being treated in various ways can get me down.

So say, for instance, a silly rule is imposed on the workforce generally. Imagine that employees are only allowed to go to the toilet once outside of allocated breaks on any given day. At first glance, this may seem reasonable. Your employer is paying you for your time and does not expect to be paying while you are on the brick reading a newspaper.

But then consider, why such a rule has to be formalized in such a way. Have a few 'bad apples' ruined it for everyone? Why then not deal with the individuals concerned? Why impose order onto the whole workforce in such a way?

I would argue that such a formal approach helps the workforce self-regulate. Managers, if they are any good as managers, actually want to do very little hands on management. Better to delegate this responsibility collectively and have the workforce stay compliant through self-regulation.

So why does all this get me down? Such rules remind me of my powerlessness within these circumstances. My self-worth is effected because I am not being treated as an individual but as a number when I operate within theses structures. I am only treated as an individual when I deviate, when I break a rule and then I am taken to account.

Depression, as a medical category, is a way of treating deviant behaviour. Not only should one remain and operate within the rules of the workplace, one should also remain happy and cheerful - especially in sales type roles! It is not enough to have compliant behaviours, one should also have compliant thoughts and complaint moods.

It is actually okay to be down sometimes. It is part of a range of human emotions that are necessary to function in a healthy way. Recognizing when one is depressed can also help identify ones own priorities and values in life. It is part of the inner voice that can be contrary to the wider pressures within the environment.

I like to try and imagine a Wittgenstein or Einstein in my circumstances to see how they might have coped. They would have suffered greatly I am sure. Not that I can be compared to such people..., but it helps illustrate my point.

I am a unique individual who will not take sole responsibility for any depression I suffer - especially when that depression is understood within the context of a deviant or abnormal mode of being within the world.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tenerife Holiday

This Friday I fly off to Tenerife for a holiday in the sun, just as the winter kicks in. It has been five and a half years since I was last there. I will have seven nights to relax, party and forget about my normal everyday concerns.

One of the amazing things about this island is its geology. When you fly in, the first image is of this sheer black rock that shoots out of the sea. It hardly seems inhabitable. Then when you land and get through customs, climb onto your tour bus and have a moment to relax - you notice how the surface is like a moonscape.

A sense of being alien remains when you arrive at your resort. The PR's, with their aggressive sales style, constantly want to lull you into one of their bars. The tourist economy isn't quite natural and resolves around the consumption of huge volumes of drink and food, timeshares and the seedier industries of human desperation.

Because it has been so long since I was last there, the impressions I get will be very raw. I will try to find a computer cafe, so that I can record some of my experiences each day.

Roll on Friday...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

New Music

Over recent weeks, there has been two great albums released by bands who where about when I was really starting to love music in a big way: Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains.

Pearl Jam's offering, Backspacer, is an immediate rush at thirty eight minutes long. Most of the songs are punk-pop, everything being stripped bare until what is left are little diamonds at the bottom of the music miners pan. The songs are also genuinely happy, which as a bit if a surprise at first. What this band have done really well in the past are dark, moody pieces that one wants to get lost in- so that the real pain of the outside world is displaced for a few moments by the soothing effect of an imagined pain. Not that the pain is such songs were purely imaginary - they may have been real enough for the writers themselves - but the audience normally grapples with art and music in a different way than the artist.

One big plus for this album is how there is a single thread running through it. When I checked the credits, I noticed that Eddie Vedder had written all the lyrics. This consistency hasn't happened in a long time. Other band members are great lyricists - but the over all effect with many contributers, is that those albums don't work as a mood piece. Instead, those offerings become a bit jumpy and wacky, which can be fun if your feeling listless- but not if your wanting to get lost.

Backspacer does contain two songs that relieve the musical punk-pop, with acoustic numbers that are very much of an ilk with Eddie Vedder's solo album Into The Wild. This is a reminder of Eddie's potential as a solo artist which perversely gives him greater control over his band, making Pearl Jam more focused and driven.

Black Gives Way to Blue is a broodier album. Despite the new vocalist, many of the trade mark Alice In Chains habits are still there. The vocal melodies, down tuned riffing plus the intelligent and emotional lyrics. The title track, which arrives as the last song, really got me. It's an album about continuing on- after the death of a loved one. It is an album about how the deceased has had an irreplaceable influence on who you are as an individual. It is an album that both celebrates and mourns.

The Black Gives Way To Blue album is not as 'instant' as Backspacer - but it is one that will continue to intrigue me for many years to come. Despite how much I love the Pearl Jam effort, I am not so sure how much I will be loving it in five years time.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Kelly Joe Phelps: Musical Contortionist

When I discovered that Kelly Joe Phelps was playing in Newtownards I was really surprised. Here is an internationally renowned artist coming to play a little hall, in a little town, in a little country. It was a pleasant surprise though - a few years ago I had bought one of his albums and loved how his vocal melodies tied together his finger-picking, acoustic licking, sonic mosaics. I readily agreed to go along with a friend.

After two very decent opening acts, Kelly Joe Phelps was introduced by the compare but took a moment to appear. Was he really here or was this some kind of facade to get his fans to attend a gathering that would otherwise be empty? But sure enough, a couple of minutes later, a smallish man seemed to hobble along the front of the stage before taking a seat. A long hovering microphone pointed in his direction, though he didn't seem to notice.

As he started picking his guitar, his body writhed into all kinds of different shapes. It was as if the control and precision he displayed on his instrument was compensation for his lack of control over his other bodily movements. He hunched over the guitar, his head jotted out like a chicken, then he howled like a wolf as a particularly enjoyable sequence of notes was ran through. He also seemed to be lost in a world of his own.

He showed little interest in his audience. You could tell straight away what music meant to this man. It was a way of exercising control over a life that probably lacked control. My friend looked at me, as if to wonder if the artist wasn't quite normal. I mentioned to my friend that he had found his zone.

With Kelly Joe Phelps, his genius is subtle. The bluesy guitar notes underscored vocal melodies that seem to have more in common with Irish Ballads. Still, it worked amazingly well. If he were a cook, he would be the sort of man who would serve up chocolate with potatoes- but make it work.

After the gig, my friend mentioned that he preferred the second support act, an Australian called Owen Campbell. It was true that Campbell created more crowd interaction and had a greater presence on stage. He told stories between songs and made his segment extremely enjoyable. Phelps in my book was the master though. He took his guitar, sang his songs and vanished into the night wench he came. A ghost of a man, there was something magical that happened during this apparition. Sometimes it requires belief before you can acknowledge the existence of spirits.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Healthy eating and weight loss

I have made it at last! I went on a diet last March to lose three stone and get myself into reasonable shape again. It has taken this long but I have got there!

It was amazing just how bad my diet was before. Working twelve hour shifts I got into a lazy habit of eating out after work every night. You name it: Fish and Chips, KFC, Chinese..., all fine in moderation but not every night of the week!

There have been some great side benefits, apart from the obvious health implications. My confidence has grown considerably. I have also received a lot more attention from women when I am out and about. It will only be a matter of time before something clicks here!

I think I am also happier than I was. Before, I used food to make myself feel better when I was emotionally down. This comfort eating I didn't really identify until I stopped it. When I struggle with issues now, the thing to do is to put on some music (Malcolm Middleton, Pearl Jam, Sophia, Metallica etc...,) and write the issues out.

There is no going back. I can't imagination gaining that type of weight again. There are just too many positives now that I don't want to lose!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Psychological Blockage in Adolescence

It is especially difficult for a young adult to pass judgement on the the ideas that prevail at any given time. Part of the conflict of adolescence is spawned around the need for acceptance, coupled with the counter desire to express and portray an unique identity.

People can get stuck here for years. The effects of such blockage can range from mild depression, anxiety, anger and compulsive behaviors.

It is no accident that most writers first get published in their thirties. It can sometimes take that long to get beyond the psychological blockage of adolescence.

The book that I am writing at the moment deals with these kind of issues. One of the common pitfalls with someone experiencing these conflicting desires is how their self regard is inflated, so that their understanding of others is seriously affected. This of course, does not help the individual at all. How they might navigate their life into calmer waters is hampered if they can not see the obstacles for what they are.

Still, the pain of adolescence is like a second birth, if one is able to come through it. One also gets to learn about self-criticism, once the self regard of the obsessed teenager is overcome.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Drinking and writing.

It has been a rough weekend. I was at a wedding all day Friday and last night I went to see The Lemonheads. I must have consumed several weeks worth of drink. I am only recovering now- and it is three thirty in the afternoon!

I was up early this morning as I had agreed to meet a friend for breakfast. I don't really get headaches the next day but I was disorientated. I am in no fit shape to write in that condition.

It is a funny thing- some people believe that drinking helps the creative process but for me it only blurs how I think and my mental capacity is badly affected.

While drunk- the imagination also becomes more base. One starts to think only of food and procreation! Not that those things are necessarily bad, it's just that the complexities of life can be filtered out when writing under the influence.

And of course, that is the point. One of the reasons why drink is so attractive is because life does seem less difficult while drunk. You feel you can take on the world and win.

I guess that some of the people who find that drink helps them write, suffer from a confidence issue. But it may only help in this limited way- one can find the courage to commit words to the page when an otherwise self critical mind imposes a writer's block.

Later I will put a Muse CD into my sound system, turn on the laptop and get a couple of thousand words written. It is a process I fully enjoy, as I work my way towards the end of another novel.

I will be sober.

Monday, 7 September 2009


It has been over a week now since I got back from London. It was a fantastic weekend. Every time I go there for a break or with work, my desire to move to the big smoke is renewed.

If I ever do manage to fulfill this desire, it will be next year before it happens. The book I am writing will probably take another month or so to finish. This is plan number one. If I achieve the freedom to live at the edge of society as a published author, I can start doing what I do best full time. i.e. be an observer of life and be creative with that.

If the publishing contract does not transpire- and let's be honest, this is the more likely option- then it's back to the job hunting. At least that way I can start on another fresh novel once I am there. I am encouraged by something that Eddie Vedder said recently: "Try something a hundred times and then ask yourself if you are any good at it." I will never write a hundred novels but I should be getting better the more books I finish.

Of course, even if I always fail to get published, this will still be a worthwhile activity. The primary thing is staying creative and open to the possibility of living the life I want to live.

Who knows where I will be in a years time.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Another Stag Weekend

Another trip to London beckons this weekend- and another stag do. I fly out from Belfast Friday morning and will return on Sunday. There is already plenty lined up.

There will be The Comedy Store on Friday night. This is a fantastic laugh and performances at this venue are shown on The Comedy Channel. That will set the mood right for the rest of the weekend. There will plenty of craziness, creativity and laughter! Some really big names in comedy have performed here, such as Robin Williams. Who knows, we might even see the next big thing.

Then on Saturday afternoon we will be making our way to Wembley Stadium to see the The Challenge Cup final. It is one of Rugby Leagues biggest events. I checked the attendance for last year- and there were 82,000 people there. Very impressive! It will be amazing being at such an iconic stadium for the first time.

The rest of the weekend will be up for grabs. There will be a nightclub on Saturday night and a lot of drinks consumed. As I am unattached, I will be looking forward to chatting to some random women. This is a fun activity and not to be taken too seriously. I love testing out my accent anyway! It always gives me an advantage when I am away anywhere!

Roll on Friday morning!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Film Documentary: Eddie Vedder on Laird Hamilton

This documentary I happened to trip over last night. I was flicking over the television channels, having a few beers in the house. I have been a big Pearl Jam fan for years now. I was surprised that I had never heard of this film before. I didn't even have an idea who Laird Hamilton was.

It turns out Laird Hamilton is a massive surfer, famous for riding 100 feet waves. The images of him as a tiny dot, surfing these massive fields of water is astounding. There is so much wrapped up with this- courage, stupidity, spirituality, existential endeavor.

The film documents the bonding of these two friends. They are very different in lots of ways. Eddie is a world famous musician and songwriter. Laird is a surfer who has had his face on Time Magazine. The artist and the jock.

There are many similarities too. They have had issues with father figures in their lives. Laird talked about his step father, who was also a famous surfer. If he failed, it was okay as he wasn't the real deal. Eddie talked about his biological father, who he never knew as his father until he had past away. He too was a musician and in his earlier career, Eddie had his own sense of achievement diminished by others, who said that the musician in him came from his father. Eddies reaction was that he should be given individual credit for his individual efforts.

They both have their own families now. Eddie has a daughter and Laird seems to have many children. At one point in the film, while Laird is packing his jeep, his daughter calls down from their home, 'Daddy, do you like my hair?' He stops his conversation mid-sentence with Eddie, telling his daughter how beautiful she is.

It great seeing these individuals away from the normal narratives of celebrity. It adds weight to the film when they explore issues of spirituality and life choices.

The film is littered with Pearl Jam songs about surfing. I never focused on this aspect of Pearl jam before. Rather than release a greatest hits album, as all band do- they should have released a surfing album instead!

Both friends go out surfing. They talk about being aware of 'the outside' in this activity, of being part of their natural environment. The danger and vulnerability of these activities 'brings them closer to nature.' This is such a cliche but no less true for that. They have a sense of belonging when in the sea.

The film ends with Laird cycling 75 miles to see Pearl Jam perform. He gets a back stage pass. Eddie dedicates the song 'Big Wave' to him.

This was a pleasant surprise last night. Just goes to show that channel surfing can often pay off!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

big egos

People with big egos have a persona like a Norman castle. The castle can look regal and impressive, befitting if not a king, at least a duke. A Norman castle is extremely difficult to penetrate and gives the master an air of invulnerability. If some local, unhappy with the taxes imposed by the Duke, wanted to take matters into their own hands, it would be near impossible for him to do anything.

People with massive egos act with similar confidence and appear invulnerable. The facade of their personalities can seem imposing and make the onlooker feel very small and insignificant.

Yet the very fact that the castle exists at all, just like the overbearing personality, is a mighty clue. Norman castles were built for a purpose. So, I would suggest, are massive egos. They are strategies of domination that are effective. Still, these strategies give away the fears of those they were designed for.

To notice that fear is the primary motivation, should be encouragement for people on the outside looking in.

Monday, 10 August 2009

I was never Arnold Schwarzenegger

On Sundays, I like to get out of the house and take in some fresh air. There is nothing like walking for a few hours to cure a hangover. This not only helps with the physical ailments but also gives me time to deal with the emotional aftermath.

I change my walk every Sunday. Sometimes, I like to go along the coastal path that runs from Bangor to Holywood. It offers great views, over looking Belfast Lough. On any given day, there might be tall ships, views of the Seacat that operates a service to Scotland and occassionally grey Royal Navy frigets. On other occasions, I will walk in the opposite direction and go through The National Trust site that leads to the small village of Groomsport.

There is normally very little human contact on such walks but I do sometimes pick up the odd sentence that can be very entertaining. Yesterday, there were a couple of lines that it would be fun to build a story around. The first one came from a taxi driver who was standing chatting with his chums. "I was never Arnold Schwarzenegger, you understand." Just what the taxi driver might have been talking about opens up a whole world of possibilities. The other line was about the Man U vrs Chelsea match for the Community Shield. One guy, wearing a Man U top, was conducting a conversation with his mate on the other side of the road, "Are you heading to the bar for the match?" The response was automatic and without much thought, "No, I will be watching it on the radio!"

Sometimes though, I become introspective. The night before I had been chatting with a girl from Ballymoney, her Ulster Scots accent strong and mean.

"Can you speak English?" she kept asking me.

She was trying to be offensive. It is true that I do speak quickly. I was probably slurring my words but the other girls from South London, who I had been chatting to a little earlier in the night, didn't seem to have any problems with this.

I have had many years experience working in a call centre, talking with people from around the UK. English people rarely express difficulty with how I speak. With Americans or people from other Anglophone countries, this is also rare. I do often have problems with people new to the UK, or with some Scottish people.

This state of affairs is counter intuitive. The Northern Ireland accent is closer to the Scottish accent in tone and speed. On the face of it, it doesn't make any sense that this difficulty should occur. To have someone from Ballymoney express difficulty doesn't make any sense either. She lives forty miles from my home town and they really should be used to the accent.

While I thought about this, I realized that there might be something else going on. 'Put downs' often emerge from people who feel inferior. When they project feelings of inferiority onto others, this is a means of self over-coming.

The girl from Ballymoney was out with her mates- all of them single. The dynamic of that group seemed to be one of mutual aggrandisement. They supported each other morally, while angrily judging the outside world. Out on the town like a pack of wolves, they hunted down men with merciless ease. Yet, they would never be satisfied. They had already prescribed what a man should be like.

The girl told me that I should be funny. She thought that I should be good looking. She suggested that I be more articulate. On reflection, my supposed failings were actually spawned by her failure to be open. She was unable to get to know someone different. With this attitude, she will never find her man, for that man is an idealized figment, roaming about in her head. She was not prepared to be surprised.

After twenty minutes, I left her to it. There lingered bad feelings. It wasn't until my walk that I was able to exoricise these.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Human fetishes can often appear bizarre. They don't even have to be of a sexual complexion. Stamp collecting is just as good an example as those strange beings who are obsessed with women's feet.

There is an important thing going on in such behavior. This human endeavor is often motivated by individuals who seek out an area of control in their lives. Expertise can be developed, interests are refined constantly until an unique expression is formed.

To understand this manifestation of conduct one should always look beyond the object of concern. Stamp collecting is not just about stamps. Foot fetishes are not just about feet. Yet, It is easy to think so when one concedes to the bizarreness of any given fetish.

The stamp collector might find herself further ingrained in the world by her collection and knowledge of stamps. The foot fetishist may feel himself to be closer to women, in his habit of treating women as goddesses. The interest always lies beyond the object of concern.

Probably all important human trends started off as fetishes. The first humans to create an alphabet and to write about their world were probably motivated in a similar way. Those paintings we find in caves of animals and warriors expresses a particular concern with the environment and societies involvement with it. Such activity would have only started off in small groups until it caught on more generally.

We should not then, be overly concerned with the strange behavior of human beings, when they become obsessive- as long as people are not being harmed by these activities. Strangeness should be celebrated. Once we have then understood the strangeness of human fetishes, we will find that they become part of normal realm of our experiences; that is until other manifestations morph our perceptions.

Art- what for?

Thursday, 6 August 2009


In the west, the concept of freedom is held up as an ultimate ideal. Moreover, as a population, we generally understand ourselves to be free. What duplicity!

Most of us are wage slaves. We work in jobs that are tedious, tiring and soul destroying. Such jobs take up most of our energies. This in part explains our love affair with the concept of freedom.

Freedom is a negative value. It deals with lack of constraint, lack of domination etc.

Of course, there are different types of freedom. We may have 'freedom of expression', 'economic freedom' or 'physical freedom'. When each kind of freedom plays out, there can be consequences that seem contrary to the very notion of freedom.

For instance, the freedom one acquires through great wealth can have untold consequences that is not always apparent. It is a fallacy to maintain that anyone can be rich because everyone can not be. If everyone was rich, this would mean that there would no service industry to speak off. Only volunteers would work in care homes, drain sewage systems and generally do the dirty jobs.

The idea of freedom of expression is normally contained with a specified sphere. Equal opportunity laws, while in general a good thing, curtail political expression within the work place. It is a nonsense to say that in the west we enjoy such a freedom, without noticing that political space is already well defined.

While we are said to have physical freedom, this too needs further consideration. It is true that with a passport, we can enjoy international travel etc. In most cases, however, due to economic necessity, most of our weeks are spent in jobs. Our ability to travel and explore the globe is constrained heavily by economic considerations.

As a negative value, freedom does not normally prescribe what one should do. We hanker after what we think we have already obtained.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Breaking habits

When we talk about habits, we normally talk about them in a negative light. There are good habits too, such as showering every morning, brushing your teeth or wiping your arse.

Still, it is worth breaking habits sometimes, just to see what kind of possibilities open up. Habits can kill your sense of perspective. Making a conscious effort to change your way of doing things changes the world in new and interesting ways.

George Orwell did that all the time. He always changed the way he lived. He went tramping, fought in the Spanish Civil War, ran a small farm and lived on a remote Scottish Island at the end of his life. It is true to say that he did not always do these things as a sacrafice at the alter of literature- he did have political motives when fighting in the Spanish Civil War- but his way of looking at the world was always fresh as a result of these changes.

This is important if you want to be a vital artist. Try breaking some habits and see what happens. I will wager that your work will benefit as a result. Although, I would not recommend that you start by breaking the habits associated with personal hygiene! You might come to understand loneliness in a more disturbing way.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Saturday morning tradition

I don't always believe in tradition but I do sometimes follow tradition. Every Saturday morning, my friends and I meet up at a cafe for an hour. There will be between three and eight of us on any given day. It's a great way to keep in touch despite the changes that occur in our lives.

This tradition has been ongoing now for about twelve years. We even meet up at the same time. 10:45. Why it should be this time rather than any other I have no idea. It has just become habit.

What has changed is the breakfast we consume. It used to be Ulster Fries all round. Now, we have diversified as we have became more health conscious.

Note: An Ulster fry differs significantly from a 'traditional English' or 'traditional Irish' breakfast. An English or Irish fry consist mainly of the same thing. Fried Eggs, sausage, black pudding and behold beans! An Ulster fry never has beans and rarely black pudding. It is more bread based. It is important to notice that it will always have soda bread and sometimes pancakes. Scottish fries differ again as you can get with them with sausage squares!

It is good to make a point in keeping in contact this way. Otherwise, without Saturday morning breakfast, we might have all drifted apart by now. Plus, it's a great excuse to get the hungry head on and pig out.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

"Man is a diminished adolescent."- Michel Houellebecq

It has been many years since I had the whole summer by myself, without the necessity of work. Those two long summer months of July and August were great. Everyday, I would get out of bed, call on some friends and just drift into all kinds of trouble.

It is important to note that it was rare that my friends and I made plans. We just rolled with it. No two days were the same but they all seemed wonderfully inventive.

Then between childhood and adulthood, things became a bit more difficult. With parental presure, I had to get a job and with that came a level of financial independence. You could spend money on drink and go to pubs (even if we were two years underage)- listen to live music and fail miserabily trying to chase girls. A lot of fun.

Slowly, this spark disappears. Maybe you take on mortgage or rent payments. In some cases, children will appear and so one is moulded into a responsible adult. Even so, there lingers a desire to break free, to take a day off and do something out of sequence.

I am currently reading Michel Houellenbecqs book "Whatever" and I am amazed by it. Houellenbecq knows the score. It is a very funny read. The mundane life of office work is contrasted with the absurdity of what becomes important as an adult. The line, "Man is a dimished adolescent" says it all. It is a myth to say that the old are always wiser.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

U2 Friday 24th July: The post gig hangover

Ten years is a long time. It has been about that long since I last watched U2 play live. Having witnessed this gig, I have discovered just how much I have changed in that time.

There is no doubt that U2 put on a great show. There stage is circular in shape and this allows the band members to get closer to the audience. This is one of the things that U2 do best- work their audience up into a frenzy. The lights, the music and the atmosphere created is spectacular.

What I found cringe worthy was Bono's political pronouncements. Everything is cast in black and white.

It is true that there is a clear distinction between right and wrong sometimes but these cases are exceptionally rare. I would also hold that everyone- as a citizen of the world- should be able to express an opinion. Bono is just in a very privledge position to do so. When he utters a few words thousands will listen.

So I am not going to go down the line and say that Bono should keep politics and music separate. What I would say is that he is more circumspect and think about what effect his utterances might have, without getting carried away too much.

On the Friday night he made a few comments about the 1916 rising, which probably alientated a small section of the crowd. Irish history is an extremely contentious area still. Bono puffed with pride at being home and rightly felt honoured to have such a welcome back in his home city. Why he felt it necessary to then align the rising with his pride I am not quite sure.

U2 and Bono have an amazing reach- and their music has connected with people from both main traditions on the island. He was walking on a tightrope here though. In the words of Bono himself, "I should be an acrobat, to talk like this and act like that."

Ten years ago my response would have been different. I would have said that I did not agree with him but supported his right to say it. Now I say, you have a right to express an opinion but first put a bit more thought into it.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

U2 Live in Dublin 24th July 2009

This Friday I will travel down to Dublin to watch U2 Live. It has been over tens years since I last seen them play. That was during the Pop-mart Tour, which involved the band emerging from a giant lemon come space ship- really bizarre but fantastic stuff!

After the Pop Album, I thought the band lost their way a bit. I am all for experimenting and trying new things but I felt that the band lost their consistency. Still, there have been some great songs written since then and their last release, No Line On The Horizon, is their most consistent album since Zooropa. It takes a while to get into, but it is a subtle album. The songs have many textures that hint at different influences from Led Zepplin to Arabic chanting. (See especially the vocal phrasing on Breathe.)

I don't really know what to expect. That is part of the beauty of going to a U2 concert. I have seen some of the other 'biggest bands in the world'- but nothing surpasses the stage show at a U2 gig.

I have been told that this will be something spectacular and been advised to check out You Tube. I'd rather wait and see. I want to be blown away.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Radiohead:Pyramid Song

When I come across new ways in which artists expressed themselves, I get truly excited. One good example of this was when I heard Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song'. It opens with a piano riff that falls away at the end, as if the player is aiming for perfection but fails every time.

It is also a natural response to the song to try to link the musical imagery with the title. According to one theory, the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids in order that the pharaohs could be transported into the heavens and achieve immortality. It is believed that the pyramids pointed to particular constellations of stars and that this positioning was vital.

This of course, is a notion connected with the Persian Tower of Babel. The tower was built so that humans could find a way into heaven. According to the biblical story, God was not best pleased. So he decided to disperse humanity and created many different tongues, so that humanity as a whole could not conspire in such a way again.

We see within these stories a desire for eternity. The building of the tower and the pyramids, is an expression of this human tendency to want to remain permanent and to avoid death. The tragic aspect is that humans will inevitably fail, despite their desire and the immense intensity of work that this can inspire.

To return to the song, one can then interpret the way the musical chords are played on the piano as an expression of such failure. It is also a reflection upon the modern day striving for immortality through fame and celebrity.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Self censorship

One of the most difficult things about writing is catching your self on when you are censoring what is written. There are important things to write about that can be hampered by an already carefully crafted self-image.

We can be viewed in many different ways by many different people. The employee can have a very different persona to the one out with 'the lads' at the weekend. In work, censorship does exist in a big way- you must be professional at all times- you can not tell dirty jokes or express political opinions readily.

In our everyday lives therefore, we can become many different people. One of the challenges of a creative artist is to overcome such divisions. The thought..., 'What would x think of this?' can hamper the creative process and turn the work into an iodine peice of cardboard, without shape or character.

Neither is this simply a question of 'expressing oneself'- for the idea of a true self is a nonsense. There is no authentic self, just a different set of responses in different contexts.

I think it is important for the writer to de-personalize as much as possible. The work should remain distinct from the artist. Like a child, you might have been responsible for its very existence but you can not be held responsible for it after maturity.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


I have been writing a new novel now for nearly three months. Without wanting to put the blink on it, it is easily the best thing I have ever written. A few things have helped me over the last while.

First, I have discovered the works of Graham Greene, Celine and Bukowski. These guys are not really conventional writers but they have connected with me in ways others haven't. Celine and Bukowski don't even seem to have plots to their work because so much of it is taken from episodes in real life. To that extent, it is closer than heavily plotted novels where there are neat and tidy endings. Greene is probably the most ornate of these writers but there is still a high value of reality within his books. He would certainly describe with accuracy the way people might think given their circumstances and history.

The other big influence has been going to see Will Self read as described elsewhere in this blog. Writers and books always held a kind of mystery for me- as if the people themselves where absent from my world. Seeing a great writer read in the flesh and have him discuss literature with an attentive audience was a super way to kick me out of this mystical slump that I had fallen into. These guys are normal, though gifted individuals. If I work at it, I too can come close to achieving what they have done.

The most difficult thing for me is having the patience. Being unhappy with my current circumstances, I would like everything to improve right now, this minute!

I have to be realistic and accept that this is not going to happen. But like the Film, 'The Great Escape'- with time, courage, patience and intelligence I will get there!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Death of a Sales Man

Last night I watched a film adaption of 'Death of A Salesman' staring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich. There is some great thinking that went into the writing of this by Arthur Miller. It explores themes of family conflict, idealism, The American Dream, commercialism and male egotism.

One of the major strengths of this play, as a piece of writing, is how fair it is to characters that one assumes Arthur Miller had little liking for. Willy Loman, the main salesman of the play, displays his love of his family despite being unable to connect with them fully. He puts the long hours in and is still supporting his oldest son at the age of 34.

So this is not black and white treatment. There is ambiguity and a richness of complexity within the writing.

There is a great lesson in this work for any aspiring writer: have great sympathy for the characters who do not share your views of the world. This will contribute to the greatness and potency of the work.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


I have been back to the gym now three months. I have been going regularly, maybe three or four times a week. I'm mixing up the cardio with light weights and starting to see a big difference.

I was always very active when I was back at school. I played football and our year even won the under sixteen's Northern Ireland Schools' cup.

It is amazing how you can be lulled into bad habits. When I left school I had more money and I would enjoy eating out. I did not maintain the level of fitness I had before.

Very slowly, over years, the pounds started to pile on. It happened so slowly that I didn't really notice. Nor do the people who see you on a regular basis. Or if these people did notice they said nothing. (There is a big social taboo about talking about other people's weight. Unless they bring the subject up, it is not the done thing. The only real exception would be a partner or a medical professional. )

Since I have started, I am have now reached the half way point to where I need to be to hit my recommended BMI ratio. (Body mass index.) I am eating more healthy food, really enjoying the exercise and my social life is improving.

There have been other benefits. My level of confidence has shot up. If I had never put on the weight in the first place this would never have happened. There is always something to be said about starting from a low position and making vast improvements. The effort, dedication and will-power is visible.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Self image and belief

Last night I watched a BBC4 documentary about music from Northern Ireland, as part if the channel's Ireland week. There were some great acts on there: Therapy?, Iain Archer, Snow Patrol (known in Bangor as 'no show patrol' but that is a different story), Duke Special and Van (the man) Morrison.

It is amazing how there is such great talent from such a small place. One thing that really stood out for me was Duke Special's comments. He was remembering a dark time in his life when he was doubting his own abilities and wondered if he could even consider himself to be an artist. A year little he is on Jools Holland performing!

What I remember though is a night when I turned up in the Spring and Airbreak in Belfast with two other friends. We had been drinking and the place was empty. Duke Special was on the stage performing. We got a seat right in front of the stage and were impressed by his version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." We shouted out a request for "Better Man" by Pearl Jam and really pleased that he knew it. We had a really great night, though I am not sure what Duke Special would have thought of us! We did get a bit silly, shouting out other requests such as themes tunes for children's television programs.

He really didn't have to put up with that but he took it in good humour.

It really is such an obvious thing to say but if you do have self belief it is amazing what can happen over a period of twelve months.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Yes 'friends'

If you ever observe from the distance anyone with even a little success, you will notice the amount of 'yes' people that surround them. It is as if such people get a little boost of esteem by being recognized by the individual concerned. Lottery winners, presidents and pop stars have hordes of people following them around. Such people are often idealized and guarded by these leeches.

I am reminded of the band Metallica. In the film documentary 'Some Kind of Monster,' everyone is bumming and blowing how great the new album sounds until the drummer's dad turns up. He is pretty critical about what he hears and speaks his mind. His son Lars takes this the right way. He laughs and recognizes what is going on. He sees the value in his father's friendship.

Likewise, during the band's induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, Lars thanks the people who have never been frightened to say 'no'. These people are vital to Metallica's success and help them move forward critically.

So often successful people do not have these kind of no-friends and so lose their way.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Sophia live at The Bush Hall

I was at the Bush Hall gig last night to see Sophia. I was disappointed if I am honest.

To start with the positives:

Adam Franklin def added something last night in terms of his guitar work. If I remember correctly, the last two times I saw Sophia I don't think he played. (Or if he did he didn't stand out.) AF was subtle in what he did but creative with it too. He wasn't playing by 'wrote' so to speak.

Astrid also sang really well and doubled up on keyboards. She has great stage presence and it would be interesting to see her live in her own right.

The support act, William Fitzsimmons, was a revelation. His songs were really good and he dealt with the audience in a gracious and self-effacing manner, which went down really well.

I think a lot went wrong last night too. Robin broke a string after the second song. (Which he can't really be blamed for.) The lyrical phrasing in Desert Song No 2 seemed to be off slightly. The band as a whole seemed a little rusty, though Robin did do Heartbreak with just strings.

I was standing at the back and a lot of people left throughout the gig. I was trying to figure out what was going on...

The songs are not the problem. (Although Robin joked after Something that this is when people start screaming out 'Home' or 'Desert Song'.)

I know it's a strange thing to say but I think Robin paid too much attention to his friends and the people who have supported Sophia for a long time. There was nothing there that was all encompassing. As a result, anyone who hadn't heard off or been to a Sophia gig before probably felt excluded. At one point Robin asked how many English people where in the room and he counted four. I know he was only joking (he had Welsh and Itailian friends present) but this could have came across pretty badly. It might have sounded like a knawing resentment for Sophia's lack of recognition in England. I noticed a few English girls leave after that. (They were originally standing beside me outside. One friend trying to convince the other how good Sophia was.)

One of Robin's Italian friends spoke to me outside the gig too. He pointed to the Sophia sign and asked, 'Is that Robin Proper-Sheppard? You know he is my friend.' Then he talked about how there was no coverage in the English press for the new album. (I even tried writing something myself!)

It reminded me of what the writer and journalist Will Self talked about the night before in Camden. He said the press' commercial interests dictate what is written about these days, with the result that words are no longer free. Picking up from that, the only way then for Sophia to get coverage in the UK is to create a vibe so the press jump on the band wagon. (Not visa-versa.)

I read an interview recently with Malcolm Middleton and he said that anyone who was commercially successful these days had sold their soul in some way. I can't help but disagree. This sounds too much like self-rightousness. It's too easy to start pointing the finger at others when you do not have the level of success that you might wish for. In truth Sophia and Middleton are brilliant artists. You just can't be defeatist when things don't work out. You just have to re-think your approach.

The thing to do is engage with the wider audience and get the vibe working. That's what happened with punk in the early eighties and grunge in the nineties.

It was a shame considering I travelled the whole way from Belfast. I have such huge respect for this band and I felt that they were not up to scratch.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Walking tour of London

Yesterday was a beautiful day. As soon as I got into London and booked into my hotel, I had a few hours to spare before going to see Will Self. I got the tube to Oxford Circus and started my walk.

I love being out and about and walking the streets. It gives me the chance to observe other poeple, take stock of the scene and get my head showered. London is especially good for this. There are so many people to bump into and so many nationalities to observe.

I walked along Oxford Street, piles of shoppers going about their ordinary business before taking a right into Soho. This is probably the seediest part of London. The place is full of sex shops, appartments with open doors advertising 'models' and nameless throngs of tourists mixed up in all of this. I even spotted a courier service called, "My Sister is a Bike." It took me a moment to realise what this was all about.

Soho is perhaps the strangest part of London. There is a errie vibe and you can be sure there are things happening behind closed doors that it is difficult to imagine.

From there I went to China Town. There are lots of shop windows with ducks slowly getting cooked. The duck fat drips on meat products I cannot identify. I was reminded here of how within western culture, we have certain norms when to comes to food. One would rarely think of eating certain parts of an animal, such as a heart. This also reminds me to keep an open mind; try not to assume anything just because it is deemed 'normal.'

From there I went to Charing Cross before moving onto Covent Garden. I found myself a nice pub with an outdoor seating area. I bought a pint of ale that is not available back home. There were more tourists taking photographs of a theatre facade close by. Then I noticed a women actly strangely across the street from me. She kneeled down on her hunches before lighting a cigarette and puffing at it madly, looking over. She hardly took a breath between drags. I ignored her and she finally got up and walked away. I am not sure if this was my imagination or if she was looking for 'some business.' She just seemed too forward for it to be concidental. So having finished my pint, I got up and walked toward The Royal Mile before swinging left past The Houses of Parliament.

I walked across the Thames and took a left along the South Bank. This is my favourite part of London. There are many street performers and artists. Located here also is The Tate Modern, HMS Belfast, The Golden Hinde, The Globe Theatre, The British Film Institute, South Bank University and The London School of Economics. They even have an area for teenagers to skate board and spray-can the walls. I had another drink in a pub here before crossing the Thames again at Tower Bridge. I walked past The Tower of London, the place where Mary Queen of Scots was executed. (There is a family myth that we are related to The Stuarts through my maternal line!)

Making my way into the finacial district I found a pub named 'Addendum.' I texted my band mates to tell them of this strange coincidence. A pub named after our band! I even joked that if 'Addendum' ever make another CD, we would use the front of the pub as an album cover. A little like The Doors did for their album, 'Morrison Hotel.'

From there I walked through Algate and Algate East. This is where I lived for six weeks when I was in secondment in London. It brought back great memories. There were eight Scottish colleagues and eight colleagues from Belfast all living in a hotel together. We had a great time. Eating out every night, we got to know London and each other pretty well. This is when I fell in love with the place. There is just so much to do. You have access to great music and other art forms. It makes Belfast look like a village!

I got on the tube at Liverpool Street Station to catch the book reading. A great day joyfully wasted.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Will Self at The Roundhouse

Tonight I went to see Will Self read at The Roundhouse in Camden. I was there about an hour early so went to the bar. The first thing I noticed was how the women seemed to be in groups while the men sat by themselves. There were very few exceptions. There were maybe two groups consisting of men and women. As a single guy, it was an ideal situation. As someone in London by themselves, I did not feel at all out of it.

This soon changed when the film crew turned up! They started trying to interview people and I had to make a quick dash out of the way. In someways, I am a very shy individual and I didn't feel the need to perform in front of the camera.

The reading itself was very good. It was an excellent performance and Will was very quick on the uptake. He had an exceptionally quick mind and in another life would make a great dour comic. (In fact he is, given his performances on the comedy programme 'Have I Got News For You.')

What really impressed me though was the discussion after the readings. At this point the camera crew were good enough to leave, giving the audience more freedom to talk. I wonder if someone had a word?

Will talked about the nature of writing, journalism, British politics, Celine and drug taking amongst other things. One of the most endearing things was how he told the story about his eleven year old son who also writes. He said to his dad that he finally 'got it'; all you had to do is write about your real life, only be economical with the truth!

It was also good listening to a great writer discuss how writing should be grounded with its sense of place etc. I took a lot of encouragment from this, especially from such a fantastical imaginative novelist.

I slipped out at the end without saying hello. While I did bring a copy of his book 'The Butt' with me to London, it was left in my hotel room. I did not want it signed. I only wanted to have as much of read as possible before I went to 'the gig.' Still, I should have had no concerns. Will was sensible enough to read from an early section. He even discussed how he hates going to readings were the writers read sections from the end of books, so feel obliged to explain everything first! A complete waste of time...

I would do this type of thing again. Just sit at the back, keep a low profile but get an immense amount of enjoyment out of it.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Holiday Time

I have a week off work. I will be flying out to London on Tuesday morning from Belfast and coming back Thursday. On the Tuesday night I am going to see Will Self. He will be reading passages from his novel 'The Butt.' A far as I can tell, it's a sartical take on multi-culturalism. A man absent mindedly throws a cigarette butt from a balcony while on holiday in some strange land and all kinds of chaos ensues. Anthropological digressions and strange legal ramifications bring out the absurdity of the ways human societies work.

Then I will be going to see Sophia play live on Wednesday night. There will be a full band with a string section. This will be amazing. The first time I watched Sophia play live was at the same venue with the same set-up. (The other time was in Dublin but there was no string section.)

If I won the lottery this is the kind of thing I would do all the time. Fly here and fly there, catching my favourite bands and engaging in all types of 'cultural' activity.

I actually had a laugh during the week. In work we have a lottery synidcate going, it breaks up the day and gives everyone the chance to dream. This week there was a massive jackpot of £110 million up for grabs. One of my colleagues insisted that he would not leave his job if he won this kind of money! He said he would get bored sitting at home and would have to do something.

This kind of thing amazes me. I would have lots of projects going. I would be writing, maybe record another Addendum CD with my fellow bandmates, open a few clubs around the UK and Ireland and become a concert promoter supporting up and coming acts, set up a recording studio, learn how to ride a motorbike and get a few friends to cross North America with me on Harleys. One thing I would not be doing is sitting at home getting bored!

Some of this stuff I can do anyway. It only takes longer. I can still write or arrange to record a new CD. It's just a lot more difficult because of work committments.

Holidays are artifical to that extent. We can do things with a greater amount of ease than we can normally.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sophia: There are no Goodbyes

The album begins with what sounds like a hunter’s horn; this musical image indicative of the journey that is to come. Acoustic guitars are blended with subtle atmospherics and dark haunting lyrics. The first line is delivered with a gentle resignation: "I lost my head in a landslide.”

‘There Are No Goodbyes’ is about many types of loss; loss of self, loss of location, loss of happiness and loss of life. It is a piece of work that struggles with the enduring desire to find the eternal friend. That life will always fail in this respect gives this collection of songs their edge.

In the song ‘Dreaming,’ dreams are entwined with reality, “You held me close and said you could sense the torment inside me. You even touched my cheek to see if I was still breathing. But I was only dreaming.”

The conflict between the pursuit of friendship and the many ways in which friends are lost, is the source of the pain expressed. Nevertheless, the conclusion is never reached that one should give up the pursuit. On the contrary, the song ‘Something’ expresses self-doubt, the imperfections of the individual but holds onto the idea of love as the source of meaning.

‘Signs’ tangles up such meaning. People are forever being misunderstood and misinterpreted. The loss of friendship is explored here as the failure to properly connect. The hunter has failed to capture his beloved; the romantic pursuit frustrated by the failure to read signs. The ideal of the beloved is thus contrasted with the more messy and untidy aspect of the everyday relationship.

‘Heartbreak’ is rendered with strings and a gentle acoustic guitar. It is sparse, open and vulnerable. It is a song about the unexplained absence of a loved one: “I’m like a child waiting for the postman at the front door.” There is also a level of emotional maturity when Robin Proper-Sheppard sings, “I guess I should know by now that nothing ever lasts.”

Still, there is a sense of progress with the album. The songs here are not a sadcore musical confession of a singer-songwriter stuck in an emotional rut. The last song ‘Portugal’ contrasts well with the opening lyric: “I took my head and turned my face to the sun.” The existential delight at being alive, being able to breathe and take stock is a resolution of sorts.

‘There Are No Goodbyes’ should be enjoyed in an intimate setting. Draw the curtains, dim down the lights and relax with a glass of Shiraz.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Charles Bukowski: Pulp

This novel was written just before the author's death and unlike his other novels the main character is no longer Chinaski. (Though Chinaski does make a brief appearance at the start.)

In the foreground, it is a book about a private detective in LA. You see all the provado, attitude and worldliness of the main character Nicky Belane.

The book however is a meditation on death. One line in the book states that there is no such thing as winners and losers, there are only apparent winners.

There are references here to other writers too. Even Bukowski's literary hero Celine is tracked down and taken out of the game by Lady Death. Unlike ancient Greece, even heros fail to obtain immortality.

Death is metamorphised as a sexy and sophisticated woman. While this is a way of referencing Kafka, it also describes how imagination works to conceal the naked reality of life. The creative process is only a side on look at 'reality.' One can never quite look straight into the sun.

The redemptative feature of this work is that it undermines all the posturing and explicit egotism of the private dick.

The book is dedicated to bad writing. One can not help but feel that Bukowski is looking back on his life and his writing and trying to make some sense of it. He is searching for clues but ultimately loses.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The lobster effect

Sometimes it is really difficult telling who your real friends are. Especially when people give you negative advice under the guise of imparting such wisdom 'for your own good.'

People can also get upset when you question their motives. Yet, it is necessary, even if you only ask the question inwardly, to wonder why people are telling you such things.

Sometimes it is easier not to share your ambitions with others. People will more often than not trample on your dreams. This will happen when people are not happy with their own circumstances but are too cowardly to do anything themselves. You are therefore insulting them when you express such desires etc.

Geoff Thompson in his book 'Shape Shifter' discusses this and talks about the lobster effect. When fishermen lift into their boats the lobster pots, the lobster at the top could have always easily escaped- if only the lobster below had let it go! Human beings can work in just the same way.

This is not to say that all human beings are alike. There are good friends out there who will support you. There is a time and a place however to share your dreams and aspirations. Choose your friends carefully.

Friday, 24 April 2009


Memories can be both a curse and a blessing. If you have suffered some tragic event in your life, this can be replayed so many times. You can analysis what happened, make a judgement about how your attitude was faulty then live with the consequences of such a response.

Of course, memories can also work the other way too. At this point in my life I am frustrated with my circumstances and I want to move on. I work ten hour days in a call centre trying to sell to anyone who happens to come into contact with me. It has been a year and a half since I completed my Masters degree and nothing much has happened. I have been applying for jobs in London. I hope to relocate there once I find a job. The plan is to write a steady five pages a day and work at becoming a decent writer.

I still write on my days off, this is something I need to do. But the ten hours on the phone seem to be killing me. I am becoming more and more anxious and I really need a change!

There are places I can still go. I can remember special occasions, like the time I wrote and recorded an EP with two friends. Then getting airplay on Cool FM! That give me a real sense of achievement and purpose. It also give me a chance to express myself and to be taken seriously.

One day, this moment in my life will also become a memory. I will be able to look back and laugh! There will be a distance between my future self and the person I am now, just as if I was watching someone play me on the big screen. It will be then that I won't take myself too seriously!

Charles Bukowski: Factotum

This is the poorest Bukowski novel I have read so far, which is not to say that it is entirely bad.

The book's last line is a statement of impotence: "I couldn't get it up." This detail is telling, for the novel describes an endless parade of deadend jobs with a listless sensibility; while the writing about women displays a love-hate attitude. Bukowski casually states that you will never find a women on skid row. The implication is that a woman would quicker use her body, (either professionally or under the guise of a relationship)- than slide to the bottom of the slippery slope.

It is a frustrating read. One wonders if Bukowski was being entirely honest with himself. Still, as a work of fiction it does describe accurately a particular attitude towards women. In particular, as a study of powerlessness and how this can effect male sexuality.

If this was the first book of Bukowski's I had picked up- I would not be tempted to try another; which is a shame.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Charles Bukowski: Hollywood

Most of Bukowski's novels deal with 'Tales of Ordinary Madness.' Yet he notes in this work that he has never witnessed anything just as mad as the Hollywood film industry.

In real life, he had the chance to write the screenplay for the film 'Barfly.' The book 'Hollywood' is a fictionalized account of this experience.

There are some really strange scenes, like the producer who threatens to cut off his fingers with a chainsaw unless the film is made. This helps the work stand out from the other Bukowski novels I have read. For despite his involvement, he is writing as an outside observer. He openly admits that he is not a movie buff and does not really enjoy films. He also claims that the reason these films get made is because we have got so used to bad films- we can't really tell the difference between good and bad anymore.

There are some beautiful moments of insight too- like imagining the actor who for most of his working life needs to pretend to be someone else. The tendrums of this actor are described as an inability to relate to people in any real context because of his lack of pyschological rooted-ness.

This book also gets to see Bukowski at the end of his life enjoying some real success. This is satisfying after reading about his childhood (Ham and Rye) and the mind numbing jobs he has had to suffer. (Post Office.)

This is a good book to leave and savour after getting through the other Bukowski corpus.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Philip Roth: Exit Ghost

Near the end of this book, the main character describes his trip to New York as a story between a has-been and the not-yets. That the main character is nearing the end of his life and suffering from impotence, offers a great perspective into the way in which our everyday concerns can be dictated my bodily needs-desires, etc.

It also offers great insight into the nature of sexual infatuation and the gap between such fantasy and 'reality.'

Yet, for all that nothing very much happens. This work is great as an amplification of the imagination. But it fails because it is about the private thoughts of 'the writer'- all the good stuff is in the narrator's head.

It is a frustrating read. Perhaps just like life, with moments of quiet desperation.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Vaselines: Live

Last Friday night I went to see The Vaselines play at the HMV Forum in Kentish Town. Like many people there, I first heard of this band through Nirvana. During there famous unplugged set, Nirvana played their song "Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam." Nirvana's first album also contains two Vaselines covers.

There would therefore be some truth to the statement that The Vaselines have gained fame through Kurt Cobain's advocacy. This is to miss the point however. They really are a great band in their own right- though I might never have discovered that.

The reason I was in London was to see Metallica. Months before, a friend and I were thinking about what to do on the Friday night so we casually checked what live gigs were on. It was a very quick decision- "Yeah, let's give that a go."

There was great musicianship on evidence at this gig but what really carried it was the humour both in the songs and the banter with the crowd. I still haven't fully digested what has happened yet.

It's been twenty years since this band last toured. They are far too good, in their own right, to let this kind of gap to develop again.

Monday, 30 March 2009

"Don't even try to cheer me up because you'll NEVER be able to make me happy."

From a literary perspective, insults are wonderful. On the stage, in film or on the page- we can take real delight in them. This is partly due to the way they reveal so much. In a few words, a whole context can be condensed before exploding into existence.

The best insult I ever recieved was one I got last week: "Don't try to cheer me up because you'll NEVER be able to make me happy!"

People do not always talk directly to each other. Sometimes that which is left unsaid can fester until things boil over. The insult then manifests itself like a beautiful plum of smoke.

With the insult in question there is so much going on. This person does not want to accept my friendship because she thinks I have bigger plans! There is also confusion here. There really is a difference between being concerned about someone and trying to work your way into someone else's life. Friendships should occur naturally. They should not be a product of manipulating plans. I am no Marquis de Sade.

The insult works because it tries to undermine my manhood. It's as if this person is saying, "You will never be man enough to please me." You have to admire how ingenious this is.

This has been a gift nonetheless. I perform best when I am under-estimated. I do not need anyone else's belief in order to push myself forward into the world. I have my own ideas and know my own mind.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Charles Bukowski: Ham and Rye

This novel is really something else. Published in 1982, it's a semi-fictionalized account of Bukowski's childhood from his first memory below a kitchen table to the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The book deals with the beatings inflicted by his father, explores the social anomie of a teenager suffering sever acne, how he discovers sex and alcohol and perhaps most importantly; his literary heroes John Fante and Ernest Hemingway.

Time after time Bukowski describes how he is faced with a choice between 'bad and worse'. The impotence of his circumstances manifests itself into fighting, drinking and seeking solitude in his writing. He describes how difficult he found it forging deep friendships in his childhood. Of course, this is a theme that has been developed by other writers but I have never seen it described with such clarity before.

Often a weakness in one area of life can mean that another part becomes developed more than ever could be expected. The vitality of Bukowski's writing demonstrates this like nothing else.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Sunset Behind Black Mountain.

I was in work this evening and when I took my 15 min break, I was awe struck by the sunset behind Black Mountain. It reminded me of when I was young and still living in Belfast.

I could see a part of Black Mountain from my back bedroom. I rememeber being sent to bed early during the summer when it was still bright outside. Even when I was five or six years old, this image always had the ability to take me away from my everyday concerns.

Reflecting upon this now, this was during the height of 'The Troubles.' Belfast was in the mist of bombings, shootings and punishment beatings. Of course, I was too young to understand what was going on but I did understand what a beautiful country we all lived in.

Human beings are very forgetful. We get wrapped up in our everyday concerns. Percieved injustices, extreme pain, betrayl, ideals and tribal politics can all distort our sense of reality in brutal ways. A societal beat can control our movements until we only see what we are 'meant' to see.

It is always important to look at things a little closer or try a different perspective. Sometimes it is important to unlearn the lessons of the past so that we can try to move in a new way.

Anyone for salsa?

Friday, 13 March 2009

Physical Illness

Nietzsche talked about how physical illness can produce spiritual highs in 'Human, All Too Human.' This is the original source of the following phrase: "If it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger."

This week I had a head cold. Nothing serious, just enough to trip me up so that I lost my normal stride. When this happens you can not fulfil your habits. I was forced onto my back.

I didn't have the energy to write. Just to think and reflect upon how things are going.

I have decided to make a few small changes. I will start back to the gym and take more control over what I eat. I will miss the food but this body is the temple of great thoughts!

It's time to recover.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Miles Davis: A Different Kind of Blue

Last night I watched a documentary about Miles Davis entitled "A Different Kind Of Blue." The title comes from two sources. First, a portrait Joni Mitchell painted of Miles after his death. This is also a reference to a 1959 album entitled, "A Kind of Blue." The documentary included the 38 minute performance of Miles at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. (What a gig that would have been! Artists included Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Leonard Cohen, The Who and Free.)

I never really 'got' Jazz. The closest I came to developing an interest was while watching a scene in the film Collateral. Tom Cruise goes into a Jazz club to kill the owner. While having a drink, Cruise's character talks about listening behind the music. There is an emphasis here on live jazz and an existential attitude of improvision. It works well for the film but I thought that it was overstated.

How wrong I was! Miles' performance at this festival was really something else. In a clip, Joe Satriani talks about listening to the music and how it awakens 'multi-dimensional consciousness.'

There is no centre to jazz. This is not to say that it is just random noise. Little themes are developed here and there, while other bits of music are picked up and worked on before being dropped. There is great freedom in this way of playing.

As far as Miles' performance, there is a hint of ecstasy, a freeing of boundaries and an expressive joy in the combination of melodies.

I once read that Jack Kerouac aimed at developing a jazz style when writing "On The Road." Again, there was no centre to that work, just re-ocurring themes in a spiritual quest of expressivity.

It now makes sense.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Curse words

As a child, there is something delightful about learning curse words. Children know that they shouldn't say them but when out of earshot from parential influence, the language can turn the air blue.

It's not that children know the full meaning or context of these words- the delight comes from the act of transgression- of doing something that is frowned upon by adults.

There is also alot of laughter in such behaviour. Adults can seem absurd from the child's perspective. These 'mere' words can shock an adult which gives the child an immense sense of power.

Similar behaviour is shown in young children when they 'play fight.' I have a nephew who likes to punch me as hard as he can to see if he can make me cry! He doesn't mean any harm by it, he is only testing his own strength. Such behaviour is natural.

Curse words are a device to try and put adults off balance and this is magic when it works!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Charles Bukowski: Post Office

I have just finished the novel 'Post Office' by Charles Bukowski. It is an amazing piece of writing. While it does not try to impress it is impressive. The writing is simple and straight forward. It charts episodes in a eleven year period of a man working a deadbeat job and how such a man still tries to live and enjoy life.

There is much great material here- like how the soups (the supervisors) abuse their position and power and enforce silly rules. How drink and the racetrack counteract such abuse by giving a man a sense of freedom. It also explores racial tension in a period leading up to race riots in LA.

Bukowski's relationship with women is complex. There are moments of vulnerability and sensitivity in this novel while at other times there is a more extreme attitude. He was certainly a product of his 30's upbringing- though this can not excuse some of his more macho stances.

Overall this is still a worthwhile read. It compares well with writers such as Jack Kerouac. Both are great novelists but there is no religious undertones with Bukowski. He is out to make the best of a bad beat. He is not searching for answers but only for a way to survive.

Friday, 6 March 2009


If we are to achieve anything great, we are told we need discipline. What is generally meant is that we stick at it when we are tired or thinking about giving up. A novel for instance, might take months if not years to wright. If you gave up after three or four chapters because you then had a 'better' idea, nothing would ever get finished.

I think this overstates the point. Most of us live pretty mundane lives. Everyday is much like the one before. After you leave school, years seem indistinguishable from each other. I could not tell you a big difference between 2003 and 2004. They have melted together in my memory and it would take a real effort for me to tell the difference.

When this has happened we have bought into an idea, i.e. that living as an adult looks something like getting a regular full time job. You get up at the same time every morning and go through the same routine. You take the same route to work, have the same breakfast and buy the same newspaper.

If you work in an office you might even go through the same ritual. You buy the coffee out of the vending machine before reaching your desk. You sit down, take a deep breath and ask the same colleagues the same questions. 'How is everyone this morning?'

This type of discipline does not achieve anything great. Rather, you have become a disciple to a working ethos. As a slave to the grind, you have become switched off to other possibilities.

There is another type of discipline. You can push yourself to think of something different and fresh everyday. To attempt to write a poem or song may not have an immediate effect on your circumstances- but it does keep you awake. It keeps you sensitive and open to other courses of action. Day dreaming keeps your soul alive.

The wrong kind of discipline only turns you into a zombie.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The idea of heaven

Every sunday afternoon I was sent to Sunday School. My parents were not particularly religious, it was just an excuse to get my two sisters and me out of their hair for an hour and a half.

Despite my non-belief, I think there was a lot of good that came out of this. I grew to like the big questions and this probably feed into later life when I studied philosophy. I enjoyed confronting my Sunday School 'teachers' with awkward senerios. Two notions I played with were why animals do not have souls and why God did not decide to create a more perfect world.

Another highlight was the free sweets we would get at the end of every Sunday. This was a cheap way to buy our good behaviour!

There was a lot wrong with this experience. With the younger lads, there was always competition to be the best dressed. The competitive instinct can take many forms but this was a tiring manifestation. There was a group mentality and it was often difficult to speak 'out of turn.' A typical saying was: "There is not such a thing as a non-believer who once believed. If you truely believe, you will never lose your faith."

I also didn't like the blackmail. The idea that non-believers would go to hell was not really an argument but it frightened the life out of me. There is something wrong with telling children that if you do not believe you risk being sent to lake of fire for eternity. And as we do not know when we will die, you'd better start believing soon!

I remember praying, asking God to show me a sign because I really could not believe. I was worried in case what they said might be true. I was really frightened. I remember then being told that God would not give me a sign because he also needed to test my faith. If I really had faith, I would need no signs. I was only a child for goodness sake!

It was fear that drove me to such measures as praying. The idea of heaven really did not appeal to me. I was told that there would be no sin and no free will. We would naturally know what was good and could not even think sinfully. As we were full of sin, we could not have a clearer image of what heaven might be like.

If I have children, I will never send them to Sunday School. While my experiences there were not entirely negative, I am still living in the aftermath of such head games.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The God Machine- The Desert Song

Everyone remembers 'eureka!' moments; like the time you finally figured out how to do long division in maths class. Life is full of such moments, when a difficulty is surmounted and you finally 'get it'. Sometimes, we even get such 'eureka!' moments when something has not been playing on us, when we have not been experiencing any difficulty. We can be surprised by insights sometimes, as if someone has given us an unexpected gift.

When I first heard The God Machine's "The Desert Song' this was such a moment. The production is full of middle eastern influences that provoke the imagination, of incidental bits of music that push forward what music can achieve.

The desert is the location for the production of the three main monothesitic religions. One can imagine the wide open spaces, the sheer size of which is both intimidating and inspiring. Unlike city dwellers, it is impossible too become to wrapped up in your own circumstances as a desert rat. You are forced outward, needing to rely on your wits in an environment that is intoxicating.

This track intermingles such influences sonically by suggesting important influences like the music of prayer in mosques. Even the 'talking track' is subtle in its execution, referring to a theme of western philosophy since Descartes: "Why people are destroyed by lack of knowledge because doubt has rejected knowledge." This is music that really pushes the imagination in a creative and engaging way.

The desert is the home of the prophet.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


The vampire is the most obvious metaphor for the emotional parasite. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Bram Stoker's Dracula- we have been telling stories about those beings that live off the energy of others.

We are both attracted and repulsed by the image of the vampire. There are the sexual undertones, the crossing of boundaries and the appeal of an eternity lived half dead.

We identify with this being from our own lives. We all know people who prey on others. We may have at some point been victim to such people. Whether that be bullying in school or the workplace, we can identify the vampires that live off the energy of others.

We are implicitly aware that vampires are only half human and have lost their souls. In concrete terms, this means that the vampires are not living their own fulfilled lives.

There is also the issue of deception. We are not always aware of who the vampires are until they strike. They may seduce their victims through promises or praise until it is too late. In a close relationship, flattery can be used like a drug. When we come to depend on the praise of others, this can be withdrawn at precise times so that the vampire can influence and control the victim.

As always- the lesson is to remain one's own most trusted friend. To be adult means making your own decisions, trusting your own thought processes and not relying too much on the friendship of others.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Emotional parasites (2)

Another way that people try to deal with their loneliness and anger is by refusing to be alone. Such people can get so bad that they will put up with anything rather than take a look at themselves in the mirror. This is slightly different than off loading on people. It is inward rather than outward looking.

To borrow a phrase from a Leonard Cohen song, it's like living off the crumbs. This is evident in an abusive relationship when poeple seem to put up with terrible 'put downs' in public etc. There is also a cycle that develops here. Yes, there is a desire for emotional comfort from the victims perspective, but the 'put downs' reduce self-esteem until the person does not feel they have the strength to leave the bully.

The existence of 'feeders'- viz, people who constantly feed their partners until they become massive- relates to this. Such 'feeding' is interpreted as an act of love. But this is also motivated by the fear that a partner may leave. If the partner is so unattractive that no one else would want them, then the feeder can feel more secure in that relationship!

Human beings are certainly complex and feelings can manifest themselves in a manifold manner. The key is to try and discern the underlying motivation. It should be mentioned that such an attempt to discern motivation should be treated with caution. It is always easy to misjudge such motivations, especially in relation to people we are close with.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Emotional parasites

I had to calm down a friend today because someone had a go at her, criticising her accent and where she lived. It's a curious thing- this need to vent one's loneliness or anger.

First thing that I noticed is that this had nothing to do with my friend. The other person did not know her. Yet, there is something familar with this kind of behaviour. How many times do people put others down? In my experience it happens all the time.

The people responsible for such bullying normally lack the resources to make do on their own and need their own sense of worth confirmed in the 'victim's' misery or pain. What a horrible state of affairs.

Sometimes it is difficult to be alone. Sometimes one does doubt one's own sense of worth, when you have no friends to talk to. Sometimes it is easy to get depressed and feel sorry for yourself. Yet, this does not justify such behaviour.

To ask yourself what you have done to make yourself proud, even if such achievements are invisible to the vast majority of people, should be enough to confirm your sense of self. If it is not, here too is an opportunity to impliment changes in your life. To take the other path- and try and destroy someone else's day, is an implicit admission that you really don't have anything good to offer. Only then, is loneliness and lack of worth actually justified.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


We take words for granted. Everyday, they become demystified with common use. We also tend to repeat ourselves. I can not think of anything said to me today, that has made me step back and re-think my attitude. Perhaps I have not been listening hard enough.

Words do have a magical quality. I am not just thinking about the witches and wizards of lore and legend, that are able to turn princes into frogs with words uttered in the right sequence. Though such myth is probably a symptom of their power.

The written word does have imense power. This was especially evident in the past when fewer of the population could actually read and write. Being literate, was a gateway to something great. It distinquished one from 'the herd'. In religion as well, Christain's have spoken of "The Word"- when referring to The Bible. This therefore gave 'the clerics' the power of interpretation in respect of the word of God.

Even in a more secular sense, we treat words like sacred entities. When we talk of beauty, we assume that their is some hidden essence behind the word to be discovered or explored. Indeed, Wittgenstein's critique of the history of philosophy came down to the judgment that the problems of philosophy resulted from this very misunderstanding. When the ancients tried to deceipher the meaning of beauty or the good, they were mistakened about how we used language.

Still, trying to imagine human beings without language is impossible. We live in a language community, we understand our environment through language and tackle technical as well as ethical problems through this medium. In this sense it is impossible to move beyond language.

However- we can not treat words with too much respect. We must remember that words are always under-determined. A sentence will always be open to various interpretations. And this is part of the fun. Language is constantly being subverted. The ability to joke and poke fun stems from this subversion.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Five Nights in Port de Pollenca.

Just to the right past Hotel Romantic is where I had my bed.

I was informed that Robert Graves had lived in Mallorca after his involvement in the first world war. As I fantasized about being a writer, I noticed that I stood apart from the crowd. Though this was not due to any pretentions.

The town I was staying was in the north east of the island. I had not imagined anything like this. There was no one my age. There were lots of children and older couples. It was like my generation and been wiped out from the face of the planet. Even with the Spanish barmaids, there was probably an eight to ten year difference.

I spent my days strolling around the town, taking in the sun rays and trying to forget my name. No one knew who I was, what I believed in or where I came from. From my appearance, the most that you could tell was that I was northern European or of European extraction. I felt free. No one expected anything from me and no one was concerned.

When I had enough of walking and needed a rest, I would move into a bar and ordered a cider with a pint glass and ice. The Spanish barmaids with their darker complexions and their friendly glare must have set some hormones rushing for I seemed to get a little high. I laughed to myself about the unconscious aspect of biology. I never had a chance with any of these beautiful maidens but the body refused to listen.

Taking my drink outside, I would bask in the glory of the cloudless sky. This was so different from home, not a chance of rain and no one to bother my solitude. I didn't want to leave this place and I discovered something about myself. I am not always driven by ego. I don't want to be 'the best'. I do not want to come first or be the bravest. Such concerns actually empty the magic out of existence and don't really mean anything. To be alive and to be able enjoy the beauty of life is enough.

This was also a break from my obsessions at home: my eternal search for an easier job, a partner and the desire to buy my own house. All of this became unimportant.

By about half way through the night, the bars would be half full and I would have enough to drink. I would eventually make my way back to my room. I would politely file past reception, saying hello to the person in charge. Parents would be struggling to get their children to sleep. You could tell that they wanted just a couple of hours to enjoy a drink and have some peace and quiet. As I lay face down into my pillow, the sweat trickling from my pores, I tried to block out the distant echo of happy children and shouting parents.

It's hard to tolerate laughter when you're out of your head.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Charles Bukowski: Inner Strength.

I have started reading a biography of Charles Bukowski by Barry Miles. In the great tradition of reviews, I have decided to start writing about this book before I have even finished. I am eighty eight pages in and I am really impressed! In one respect, it charts a very unremarkable life. Though there are general themes that are of interest- physical abuse, father-son relationships, how migrant communities adapt and live in a new country, the second world war and American culture.

But there is something astonishing with this work. What is described is a man that emerges out of difficult circumstances and begins to learn to write with beautiful simplicity about his ordinary life. Moreover, it shows how such writing becomes the redemptive aspect of such an existence.

I must admit- I am hugely attracted to the idea of the underdog. I really love stories about people of determination who pull through and survive by focusing on a particular love in their life. Even when Bukowski was not writing- his life would all eventually feed into his passion.

I will probably write more about this man at a later stage when I have finished the biography and read some of the original works. But for now...I am really excited!