I think too much

Although today I did not do half the reading I would have liked – okay, I didn’t do any because I felt lazy – I am becoming increasingly keen on the idea that fiction can hold vast quantities of data beneath it’s surface. I now feel quite certain that fiction has as much to tell us about the human condition as empirical science. The case in point is Heimat: reading up on it these last few days has given me vast insights into German culture and history; in turn, through reflection, this also gives me some insight into my own too.

With this in mind, I want to test my theory: can any piece of narrative fiction supply us, through interpretation or directly, with insight into the realm of the human condition? Let us, for the sake of argument, take several short texts previously thought remote from the ‘truth’, and subject them briefly to analysis.

Firstly, the dirty Hungarian phrase book on the surface looks frivolous, but I think it quite likely that the writers of this sketch were familiar with the work of de Sasseur. It is a play on the arbitrary nature of language itself. Given that the sketch was written at the height of the cold war, the concerns about inaccurate translations in a simple phrase book may also indicate concerns about similar problems at the UN. Given the cold war was largely fought using semantics, worries over mistranslation would seem reasonable.

Something similar could be said of the two Ronnie’s sketch ‘Four candles’. Again, this draws attention to the highly ethereal nature of language, and the arbitrary relationship between sign and signified. The growing frustration of the shop keeper, while extremely comic, reflects exactly why this is so dangerous. Moreover, philosophical points could be made when we read language as an extension of the mind.

Schizophrenia is most definitely alluded to in the parrot sketch. Here two directly opposing versions of reality are made apparent: one holds that the bird is dead, the other that it is resting. The shop keeper’s insistence that the parrot is simply pining for the fjords is interesting; it suggests the bird longs for it’s homeland, giving it an aspect of death. This brings to mind Genesis, and the banishment of man from Eden and the advent of his mortality. That we have two separate versions of reality no doubt reflects the inachievability of objective truth, and when we apply this to our biblical hypothesis may be a reflection on how scripture is open to interpretation. Thus two men arguing over the status of a parrot may become two men arguing over the meaning of scripture. The ultimately mad-cap nature of this sketch in turn reflects the absurdity of such arguments and hence all religion.

Thus I have shown how three quite absurdist texts can be read as reflections of reality. This is, by and large, a statement of the obvious: any text is open to interpretation, from eastenders to postman pat. There is, however, one exception, the intellectual equivalent of a blank screen:


never say never again

we all heard that there was a huge fire at pinewood studios yesterday. part of me worried that this might signal the end of bond films.

but, as it says in the end credits james bond will return

a little light reading

A few weeks ago I managed to pick up the theoretical reading for next years culture module. It’s on the German series heimat. We were in London this weekend, and I had taken it to dip into in case I got bored, or simply as a show of making the effort to study. I found, however, that I couldn’t put it down.

It would be futile for me to try to condense a 300+ page collection of essays into a simple blog entry. Needless to say, the German idea / conception of heimat, when read alongside freuds 1919 easy ‘das unheimliche’ gives one valuable insight into German culture. It is as if the second world war made the comforting concept of heimat, with its overtones of home and warmth, unheimlich in the same way that to a neurotic, what was once familiar becomes uncanny due to the oedipal complex.

Of course, this is a gross oversimplification. I need to read lots more, think on it too. Ultimately, however, one cannot help but feel sorry for the German people – the German idea of heimat seemed to go to the very core of German society, and was what they used to feel good about themselves. But heimat was the very thing which saw fascism rise to power. It seems this gave rise to a sort of ambiguity in German culture which needs to be exorcised.

I may have misunderstood it, which is why I need to read more. It seems to me, however, that the Americans may have a similar positionality these days with their fervent patriotism; are they too in for a similar fate?

I want an assistance monkey

Although I must point out that home help isn’t as bad as she thinks – they’re very useful when I’m at uni, and they beat institutionalisation any day imho – this ouch article by liz car is very accurate. Mind you, I found it rather pessimistic too, as it seemed nothing could quite suit miss carr’s needs. She seemed to be quite the pedant, or maybe I just give up fighting my case too easily.

The overall impression she gives though is that personal assistants are the best solution for the day to day needs of disabled people, and I must say I agree with her entirely.

Matt versus the washing machine

On Monday dad and Julia came up with the grand idea that I should learn how to do my own washing, as then I could be more independent. Apparently, clothes don’t clean themselves after all – I had always been lead to believe that, if you threw them into the bag in the corner of the room, a few days later they would be transported back into the wardrobe, cleaned and folded mid-flow.

I was wrong, as this morning dad showed me a big white box in the garage with knobs on the top. At first I thought it was a primitive computer, but then turned two of the knobs and opened the lid: there wasn’t a circuit board in sight, but a big bowl with a spindle in the middle. Into this dad put some odd-smelling powder, and then asked me to put all the clothes from my bag into it too.

This was very boring work and meant a lot of lifting and dropping. I am not designed for such things – I was meant for more scholarly stuff, not the lifting and dropping of clothes into big white boxes! This is what one has a slave – sorry, PA for. Its silly. I’m an artist, not a clothes crane.

I prefer my idea of transporters! There are no silly powders or liquids in that – and how do they expect me to handle those anyway? I can barely control toothpaste. Mind you, I did get to poke the clothes with a stick, which was cool.

Washing machines indeed. Humbug. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have Freud’s 1917 treatise on the uncanny to finish reading.

do they hhave nothing else to write about?

I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve been trying to organise an advert for a new p.a in the local press, so recently I have been swapping quite a few emails, making sure everything was organised. All normal; just part of a crip’s life.

However, this morning I got an email from the editor: the local paper now wants to run a story on me. This is very odd indeed: apparently me wanting a PA is a newsworthy event. I couldn’t really say no – I suspect it will vastly heighten my chances of getting a PA.

Today being rather hot, I decided to go into town this afternoon to sort this out in person. Anyway, the ad needed paying for and I’d rather not d that via email in case I push the wrong button. So I rolled up to the chronicle office and asked to see someone about the advert. However, they knew exactly who I was and acted as though I was expected.

I first paid for the advert on my visa, which wasn’t a problem. They then introduced me to a young journalist – presumably a trainee – who, once we had found a quieter space, asked me questions like where I was from, what I studied and so on. I even managed to mention my work with Onevoice, simply as a point of pride – I think those guys ought to be ‘bigged up’ more.

Anyway the interview over, I went on my way, highly amused at the truly weird course of events.


after reading this from the site of a right-wing fool, i jotted te following, and decided thereafter to post it here, as it follows from what i wrote yesterday

Who is this idiot and what fool allowed him his own radio show? What he says is illogical and conceived of base hatred and lack of understanding for the Muslim people. The caller was merely trying to defend his faith in a calm peaceable manner, but this Bortz was only interested in painting Islam as an evil religion. You will note he drowned out any counter-argument the caller might have; ergo Bortz is only interested in his own point of view. Such people never listen to reason or logic.

However, bortz asks where the Muslim condemnation of terrorism is: if you look it is there. Maybe due to the repressive structures of countries in the middle east mass protests cannot be organised, but the vast majority of Muslims are appalled at terrorism. The protests borts wants to see are impossible for various reasons does he want a million Muslims to march down the mall shouting ‘we condemn terrorism’? why, that would be akin to, say, Catholics marching in protest of the inquisition. It would be asinine and humiliating.

Yet the truth is bortz would rather this not happen: he likes having his enemy. He does not want to listen to any argument other than Muslims are evil because that’s what he wants to believe; it means he does not have to look at his own country for thee root of the problem, but can comfortably deflect any blame away from himself. Never mind the fact that America is partly to blame for this whole mess due to its involvement in Saudi Arabia (can we say hypocrisy?) the problem is that Muslims are evil.

How can a faith be evil? All humans need shelter, food and love. An evil, warlike faith would, in the long term, deny it’s adherents this, so eventually nobody would follow that faith. Therefore Islam cannot be evil, and it is illogical to say otherwise.

Thus this extract is nought but the watering of some crass fool, full of self importance but proving himself a base idiot.

on the mid east crisis

In war there can be no just party. All hands get dirty somehow. Therefore I do not wholly blame the Israelis for the current crisis in the middle east. It is true that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation with no reservations about sending child suicide bombers to their deaths – an act abhorrent.

Yet Israel acts by firing a scud missile at the ant that bit it, killing many innocent people in the process. Now, Israel is a fact; I isn’t going anywhere. As I see all religious books being equally silly, it has just as much right to that tract of land as anyone. It also has a right to defend itself. Yet, by and large, I see the current state of affairs as being largely Israel’s fault: it has occupied and repressed the Palestinian people to the point where they want to blow themselves up.

The Americans are no better in their blind support of Israel. Together they seem to be keeping the Arabic peoples of the peninsula divided, for were they to join forces, Israel would have no chance. Thus they are acting as if they are an empire repressing a colony..

Of course, tell this to an American, and they accuse you of communism; tell this to an Israeli, and they accuse you of anti-Semitism. As a person with a good understanding of Marx and a good few Jewish friends, I assure you I am neither, but try telling that to those who believe that Islam is a religion of hate and should be wiped from the map.

It is they who are the root problem.They refuse to realise that, given the relationship between sign and signified is arbitrary, all texts, religious or otherwise, are open to interpretation. They blame Islam but Islam is not the problem. If the Koran teaches hate, so do the torah and bible. By no means do I acquit terrorists of blame after all they have choice; rather, I am saying that, as the dominant power, we in the west should first look to ourselves before denouncing others. No party is blameless.

filmic thoughts update

Most of my time recently has been spent pondering filmic linguistics. I don’t know why, but I seem to have become obsessed. I have decided, and am convinced, that using natural language as a paradigm for film is a dead end – the two are just too different. Words are both simple in their composition and highly complex in their combination. Metz was right when he said that shots were more akin to sentences than words.

Yet I think the truth – even from this highly reductive perspective – is even more complex than that. Shots are not still, but move – the camera moves. This gives the director an extra dimension with which he can make meaning. Of course, unlike writers, directors have an infinite lexicon, so all the shots available cannot be bound in a simple dictionary, but the question is, can we catalogue all the available techniques.

I have observed that two films on similar themes may employ the same style. Last weekend, Luke and I were channel hopping: on one channel, there was a batman film, on the next was a Spiderman film. Both superhero movies used the same kind of triuphalist music, the same cinematography, etc. in other words, they were using precisely the same set of signs: ergo language, but not as we know it.

Pinning it’s exact nature down is a huge task, but it intrigues me as the question appears to have many paradoxes. for example, does film have a basic unit, and if so, what is it.

I need to read, think, write and – above all – watch lots of films.

my subjects

According to my father, I don’t say enough on my blog about being disabled. I think this is a very good issue to write about, as it raises a few important issues, like how far should I be focussed on my disability? Given what I like to call my unique perspective, should I only bee writing about disability-related issues here?

Maybe, but I refuse to let my disability govern my life. I am not the sum of the two letters, CP, but much more. Yes, I have ccerebral ppalsy, and yes I am proud of it, but if I write too much on that side of my life, things would get dull. Moreover, I think it important to illustrate how all us toids and crips are not just two-dimensional beings, but go out and grab life. Thus I like to write about university – both academically and socially – politics – I haven’t taken a swipe at David Cameron in ages though – and the many other things which take my interest. When the subject arises, of course I’ll write about disability, but in the meantime I’ll just jot stuff down about the stuff I find on the net, news, etc.

Nnote: a comment on the current situation in the middle east will be posted soon.