Tuesday, May 31, 2005

181. timeslip

the tendrils
of lazily
curling steam
from this cup of tea
reminds me
of Proust's
and the
of employing
mere memory
to salvage
akin to truth

Sunday, May 29, 2005

180. fishing in belfast

a sun-speckled dazzle
dancing coins of light
the wet water

Liam, before he died
so horribly ...

the windshield wipers
chick, thunk ... chick, thunk,
outside the Northern Bank and Trust,
the rain gleaming streets
almost beautiful,
slashed with reflected neon ...

Bon Jovi

the wink and shine
on each individual bullet

Help me find Thy grace, O Lord,
now in my hour of need

such sweaty hands, a Belgian
gun: is the safety off? which
way does it go?

You can crucify me
upside down, I haven't
tried that before.

A gun in my hand
feels good, redirects
the course of Empire.

I am a soldier
I will answer none of your questions.

179. seven past mental

in a lonely ditch with a nagging bitch
domestication overcame me

my sad eyed lady of the lowlands

half-cut, leaning leftwards in the breeze,
bouncing off trees, losing
the run of herself
oh! oh! entirely

so I went to the pissart convention
straight down the old red lane
with stout Cortez, an eagle of a man,
or was that Pissaro
gazing goggle-eyed,
on the Hill of Howth?

We were
half-cut, leaning in the breeze,
leaning and linking serenely,
floating over the flushed and happy faces
of the lusty multitude, singing,
loudly, lovingly,
their anthem at the races:

there were four and twenty virgins
at the Ball of Inverness
and when the ball was over
there were four and twenty less

and in another corner of a foreign field
young Jimmy the Bollix and Gaston Grey
among the lazy langourous lilacs,
gesticulating, interpolating,
Sinn Fein
and fifty feckin reasons
to kill your mam
and love your dad

the only peace I ever had
was seven past mental
alone in the flat in Islandbridge
but with two suns in a blazing sky
closing in, approaching,
there was this ... apprehension
(a temporary illusion)
of permanent impermanence

and I thought (that was then)
Mr Death was not worth dying for:
because like any sensible man
I was all for a bit of silence
but, Jayz, Mr D went a step too far

in the other direction. Beyond the gallows,
you may discern
the psychological centre
of the healthy happy human mind:
pre- Communist
pre- American

as when in days of innocent youth
we laughed with girls and told the truth

but let me
put some interpretation
upon your scalp
and rub it in with kneading fingers
as the needing lingers
the clocks

Shantih ... Shantih ... with a dull sound at the stroke of eleven.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

177. Continuation of Post 169

Back again. Thought I'd forgotten, didn't you? Well, you'd be right ....

Where were we?

"Well-meaning friends often ask a senseless question (your enemies couldn’t be bothered): “Are you happy?” There is no possible answer to this. Happiness is as fleeting as spring weather in the offshore Atlantic islands and just as evanescent."

The notion of the "pursuit of happiness" is a product of pre-revolutionary France -- allow me to give that nail another whack, a product of the FRENCH Enlightenment -- and it only later, as a knock-on, became so famously enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, a peculiar and impressive document in more ways than one. Nothing about that Declaration is self-evident, and most emphatically not at the time it was written. Now, you can pursue happiness all you like, chums, but you will never catch this elusive little thing, much less possess it. Happiness flows through our clutching fingers like water through a sieve.

Does happiness exist? Definitely. But far from we being the ones who "pursue" it, happiness actually stalks us and creeps up behind us, all unbeknownst, to swoop down suddenly in surprising and very fleeting raids of pleasure: your child takes his first two or three steps, your work is praised by colleagues you respect, the girl you pine for suddenly throws off her clothes, a thousand and one dizzy, silly, wonderful things ....

The fact that we take so many photographs on family and other occasions and the way we endlessly award certificates and medals to the somewhat worthy amongst us is the final and incontravertible proof that happiness cannot be quantified, cannot be measured, cannot be pinned down. The old, in particular, surround themselves with photographs and other mementos of the past. We all do. But what is this, if not an acknowledgement that none of us can hold on to the moments that give us pleasure?

Well, we can hold on to the "things" that give us pleasure -- land, houses, horses, cars, jewellery, subordinate human beings. This appears to be not so difficult but descends inevitably (slowly, then rapidly) into a pit of bottomless sorrow.

We come naked into this life, and naked we leave it.

Where is this essay going? I don't know. That, in itself, is hardly untypical since I have grown used to living with a brain that doesn't often tell me what it's doing.

Herodotus mentions in his Histories that the Persians of his day (circa 400 BC) would make all important decisions twice. First they would consult with their elders and friends, consider all the pros and cons, and have a really good think. Then they would go out and get roaring drunk. If the two "decisions" coincided -- sober and drunk -- they would go ahead with their plans, otherwise not. And the drunken decision took precedence. I have to say this made a tremendous and lasting impression on me when I first read about it (I was probably about 14) and I have never made a decision since without getting drunk seven or eight times -- just to make sure, you understand.

It's not a fool-proof system. Look at me.

Now is when we can start talking about dreams but we are not going to. That would take us off the trail, across the river, and halfway up the mountain.

Another question one gets asked (I do) is "what is the most important thing in your life?" On occasions I have received questionnaires on this ridiculous subject from inquisitive high school students and crocodile corporations. Generally, you are given a list of things -- in no particular order -- which you are then meant to sort out and assign priorities to: family, friends, career, money, health, hobbies, religion, obsessions, and so on and so forth.

Strangely enough, all these lists tend to leave out the most important thing of all -- freedom. Total, sheer, and absolute.

Freedom doesn't mean you can behave like an asshole, mind you. Well, you can. But somebody will shoot you, and you'll probably deserve it.

Freedom -- and by this I mean the intelligent and creative use of freedom (don't ask, still in beta testing) -- is the most important and essential gift life offers. It's a gift we are constantly trying to get rid of, too, if standard human behaviour is anything to go by.

All of us, by definition, are social beings. Even our thoughts about individuality and uniqueness are determined by the understanding of our relationships with others -- including the warped decision to stop having such relations. Language is a case in point. We learn the language of the society and culture we grow up in. Everybody does. How do we learn our first language? Nobody really knows; perhaps our brains are hardwired for what is essentially an intensely social process. Try learning a second or third language -- and I mean learning to speak another language well -- and you will discover with a flash of insight that the way you think is totally conditioned by the language you speak. A monolingual person is a mental cripple who just doesn't realize it.

More later. Maybe.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

175. Papers hail fighting Galloway

George Galloway
Originally uploaded by _dedalus.

The newspapers all agree that George Galloway - in the words of the Express - came out all guns blazing when he faced his accusers in the US Senate.

It was a powerful performance, the Times says, while the Telegraph describes an assault on Capitol Hill.

The Financial Times acknowledges blistering testimony, while the Guardian lauds street fighting form.

The Sun admits a barnstorming performance, while the Daily Record says the MP "spanked the Yanks".

Galloway vs. The US Senate: Transcript of Statement

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Also, check out The Rude Pundit

and Galloway a Hero

174. Kite Festival

Originally uploaded by _dedalus.
The Kite Festival is one of the largest in Japan and can attract as many as 2 million visitors from around the country and abroad. One of the features of the festival is the parade of shrine carts (yatai) downtown on the second evening. All the local kumi (neighbourhood teams) come out for the occasion, each wearing its own distinctive colours and designs. A pretty fair amount of drinking goes on until the early hours ....

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

173. Trial of the Century

smalltrial, originally uploaded by _dedalus.

A sight we'd all like to see ....

After a frustrating 2-3 weeks of pictureless blogging (the security nazis put up a new firewall that Hello couldn't jump over) it's great to be able to operate around the system with "Flickr". Well done, the lads!! And what better way to resume than with this vision of future justice?

Credit for this photo goes to the Billmon Blog where it was first encountered this morning.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

172. Stop-Loss (for Frank)

Five little men
came over the hill
so we shot them;
five more little men
didn't, circled behind,
and shot us instead.
This was so totally
unfair, I didn't join
the Guard to get shot at.
I joined for educational
benefits, a couple of useful medals,
and a patriotic jolt
to my CV. I feel kinda bad,
you know, like, sad about the guys,
afros and ethnics mainly,
a couple of rednecks, because
they got killed, not my fault
I jumped in the only hole,
wouldn't you? Bummer. The thing
I can't get my head around
is why these raghead foreign bastards
we've come all this way to save
act so ungrateful, shooting
at us!! This whole damn'd country
should be turned into a parking lot.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

169. Thoughts on a Holiday Afternoon

“The humanity … oh, the humanity –" radio reporter witnessing the 1936 Zeppelin explosion at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

If I may begin on a personal note – what the fff are blogs for, you may well ask – it has been difficult these past few weeks to find a position of distance from which most considered writing springs; my writing, anyway.

Life is in the living moment and we’ll all be a long time dead. This is the accepted Carpe Diem philosophy of the de-Christianized West (Europe far more than the United States), or to put it another way, the thoughts of generally well-fed people trundling into their fifties and sixties with nothing in the way of trauma to impair the lures and the lies of superficial living – apart from occasional difficulties with the children.

I sit here on a pleasant holiday afternoon, shaded by gently shedding keyaki trees in an outdoor courtyard, sipping Weizen beer and half-listening to relentlessly cheerful Bavarian music (will someone please shoot the clarinet player?), and my mind roams back over the events of the first few months of this Year of Our Lord 2005. Half-jokingly I wrote a post on this blog at the beginning of the year to solemnly announce I was skipping 2005 and moving on independently to live in 2006 instead. The prescience of those words comes back to haunt me.

Engagement with the details of life is the sine qua non, the very definition of sentient existence. And yet, we are told on unimpeachable authority – Aristotle, I believe – that the unconsidered life is hardly worth living. In order to consider life, one must surely step off the escalator (it moves in both directions, down as well as up), adopt a temporary stance of disengagement, and generally call for a Time Out. Otherwise the process of consideration gets caught up in the flow of onrunning events.

What, then, is the proper balance between the living of life and the consideration of it? I don’t know, but I suspect that the whole idea of such a juxtaposition is rather shaky.

Well-meaning friends often ask a senseless question (your enemies couldn’t be bothered): “Are you happy?” There is no possible answer to this. Happiness is as fleeting as spring weather in the offshore Atlantic islands and just as evanescent.

(post truncated ... to be resumed)