“Yoofs Today”: The Genuis of Youth.

“Stop eating Pringles so noisily. You’re making me want one.” Anon. 

So I was lying on the sofa this morning, eating Pringles, and wondering what to do with my life, a set menu of activities with which I am all too familiar. In between wondering (and eating Pringles*) I was gazing up through my fog of crunch breath and looking at my hand (palm and the front bit, in turn***) and suddenly concluded my search for a  project to fulfill my  youthful, creative genius. I’ve been looking for such a thing most of my adult life, largely because I am so combustively dysfunctional that such a level of shittery (intermittent, nihilistic, misanthropic, bad in bed and boring at parties) can’t possibly exist without a concomitant blowhard brilliance.  It just can’t. I can’t allow for it. Acknowledging that my sad, unsuccessful life (permanently unemployed, teasingly average looking, bit fat and  mostly friendless) is isolated by mediocrity would tumble me into a rickshaw depression.***** I want to be Byron-esque, not botched.

My creative genius would be fulfilled as thus…I would take a photograph of my hand every day until the day I died, to witness its slow alteration from streamlined and spongy (OK I don’t have spongy hands, I just fucking don’t know how to describe hands, k?) to nervously lined and pleasingly crisp. I had done it. I had invented aging. Or documenting aging. Or documenting the ageing of hands. Or documenting the aging of my hands. Its all the same thing, in the end.

I had invented the concept of the photographic documentation of the aging of my hands.  I was a creative genius after all. ******

I have been thinking about age a lot recently, ever since I thimbled towards thirty, thus alleviating my status as a Young Person, and inching closer to the status of an Old Person.  I’m on the precipice. And I’ve been trying to work out what that means (if anything.)

When I was younger I was quite precocious, in the sense that I was persistently, confidently definite. My mother-figure  said that when I was four, I trundled into the living room one day, hands on hips, head held high and declared that I had confidently definitely become a follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ.*******  Later I became confidently definitely sure  that the established church was a patriarchal wealth hoarder and that the animated religious stories they used to put on television had indoctrinated me into my bible bothering, and were thus a duplicitous menace to society. Now  that I see that children’s television exists purely for  advertising wacky plastic crap at febrile young minds….I think perhaps the bible bothering, if nothing else, provided me with an early antidote to pure materialism. Its what I tell people when they ask me why I don’t have a smart phone…and, in any case, what institution isn’t a patriarchal wealth hoarder?

But you see the evolution? From definite to definite to maybe to possibly who  in ham fist  knows? Who the fuckedy fuck cakes even cares? My youth now seems muchly  like an energetic run up to a shoulder shrugging plateau. I have been so so right so so many times, only to find out I was wrong enough times, to no longer take seriously even the smallest crumb of my now jaded judgement. You know why progressives (who believe in everything passionately) are said to become  liberals (who belief in nothing dispassionately) in their mid years? Because progressives  are basically so enamoured by their own intellectual and political inventiveness that they can’t possibly comprehend why anyone else wouldn’t engage in their positivism. And that kind of violent intellectual masturbation  takes youthful verve. But as one hits those middle years, one confronts the fact that nothing you’ve ever believed about life was,  straightforwardly  true and self doubt and uncertainty makes bush space for self interest. Its head down and get on with the business of self serving time, because if you don’t understand the world enough to think about changing it, there is little point in you being unhappy.

But I realize immediately, that is a somewhat offensive theory, based on an initial false premise, that I have curated because I am having a bit of a Bad Day. Largely because I have come to the conclusion that the take-photos-of-my-aging-hands project probably doesn’t have legs, and I am still stuck on the bus with my mediocrity. I lashed out. I’m sorry.

Its also largely because I am envious of twenty years olds. Sometimes  in the sense that I fruitlessly admire them, and sometimes in that I fornicate with the bitter knowledge of their simple existence. I think only the latter is justifiable. Because I am no longer it, and because therefore I will no longer be this either and therefore nothing means anything and therefore. What’s the bloody point?

But its not just that. Its something to do with being on the precipice, and soldiering a confrontation with myself as changing thing. That fact that I, now, have literally no control over me, tomorrow. And I find that bothersome. And because I don’t know tomorrow, I only know yesterday (and can’t be fully sure of today) yesterday (and thus youth) is were I shall (probably unfairly)  cast my chagrin.

Starter for ten, yoofs are super earnestly correct about everything… so much so that even when they are not correct, rather than confront their incorrectness, they just mold speech so that they become correct. In order to avoid burping up whatever curdles of modesty they may or may not have. A bit like journalists. Or Owen Jones. Who is a journalist. And the contemporary British yoofs cult leader.  They manufacture reality linguistically to suit  culturally having-a-moment identities….heterosexual-but-likes-the-idea-of-a-bit-of-now-and-again-gay-if-only-imaginatively-and-not-actually-and-in-any-case-not-enough-to-go-full-half-bi-so-basically-heterosexual…. becomes Queer. Music-that-isn’t-verse-chorus-verse-and-isn’t-very-good-and-says-nothing-in-particular-and-is-willfully-banal becomes Hipster Punk. Eats-meat-but-only-only-thursdays-or-hangover-days-or-rainy-days becomes a Ontological Vegetarian. Uncomfortable-with-placing-sexuality-within-an-ethical-framework-because-they-think-that-makes-them-crusty-but-associates-the-phrase-free-love-with-yoofs-of-yester-yore become Sex Positivism. As though there was any such a simple thing as Sex Negativism. Even Evangelicals, I reckon, are acclimatized to the occasional bit of after dinner nipple sucking.

On that note, they also seem to be labouring under the misguided belief that people older than them are shockable innocents, who would blister should they discover the dirty folds of their sexual exploits. Oh yes. Did you not know that yoofs invented rimming and spanking and sex toys and gender bending and orgiastic fellatio feasts and cucumber sandwich parties? ******** Oh lemme tell you youngs and beautifuls, oldies and crusties have done it all before and have hitherto (mostly) stopped doing it because they worked out (as you shall) that none of that shit is half as fun as is written on the box. Mostly, such sexual Olympics are embarrassingly demonstrative of what happens when the universe gives sweaty, primordial beings something of an enculturable intellect and a low concentration bandwidth. And as you refine into maturation, you’ll realize that simply Being Drunk and rubbing yourself against a cushion whilst thinking about Idris Elba or Penelope Cruz or, I dunno, Josh Groban, is probably enough. But that wouldn’t make for such a fun anecdote at a Have You Ever..? party.

But the ‘been there done that brigade don’t disabuse you of your erroneous sense of sexual sophistication because correcting ignorant smugness is Kinda Mean. And bound to foster embarrassment.

And, you know. They’ve been there.

But all that stuff is curiously forgivable, if for no other reason than even at my relatively new-to-not-being-young age of 30, I am personally aware that the raw hope that yoofs carry with them, that they are peculiarly unique and fundamental and interesting and informed peoples, is going to be shattered out of their brain hands like one of Manuel’s silver trays. And its going to smart. They are going to have to swallow a lot of sick when it finally occurs to them that they are not especially attractive, intrepid voyagers of new horizons with  an abundance of freshly coined intellectual textures. They are, put simply, harbingers of the buzzword, soon to collapse into conversational sameness. Just like the rest of us did.

Its possible that postmodernity – with its tendency towards persistent for the sake of it flip switching,  gives us larger territory. My favourite sitcom Peep Show, lets the discovering how Not Special  we invariably become, no matter how hard we try to cultivate romance about ourselves, drag out until 40. And so, on that merit, I’m still in the ball park of the self satisfaction that comes with assumed knowledge apex and, ahem, individuality. But to be honest with you – and here is an admission – assuming you know everything and that you’re pretty interesting, is set of affectations that we all take with us to our soily, worm pocked graves. Only as you age you possibly stop being so interested in making sure everyone knows what you know and or is aware of your supreme specificity. Once you had enough mind changes and unsatisfying box ticky sexual encounters and break ups and break downs…your creative genius and your omnipotence stops being your Culture your Identity your own Personal Brand and starts to become your Dirty Little Secret. One that you occasionally indulge in, just to get you through a long, overcrowded, grey, smelly train journey. You are being romanced by Ellen DeGeneres on a white sandy beach in Mauritius , who has fallen for you due to your well matched spunky, cerebral charm and her predilection for Nobel prize winners. Whatever the fuck you do, don’t open your eyes. Don’t look up.

Yes the smugness of my youth has dripped into, what I hope,  its final manifestation: I am never going to be a rock star or actress or genre defining novelist, or world changing activist, or breathe taking beauty, or highly sexed libertine  or framework creating intellectual or party centred raconteur. But I am still half considering taking photographs of my aging hands.





*I am saying Pringles so much in case they** google Pringles and find me and send me Pringles vouchers. I like addictive savoury snacks.

**Missed opportunity.

*** What is the front bit called? Douglas Adams will know. ****

**** Googled it. Its dorsal or dorsum or something. Of pertaining to the back of one’s hand. Funny. I would have thought the palm be the back as its often got its back to me, hence back. I’m either literal or tendentiously confused.

***** WTF is a rickshaw depression? You’re going to google it and find out its NOTHING. Ha. Geddit? Actually you’ll mostly get people talking about being depressed whilst in a rickshaw (how is this even possible?) or economic depressions in areas were there seem to be rickshaws.

****** This didn’t set out to be a mock of the modern ersatz arts, but its turning out that way.

*******I stopped following Jesus Christ after a while when I realized he wasn’t going anywhere in particular. And stalking people is a bit rude.

******** Double ended dildos. Copy-write Rae Story.



Courting Popularity:Trying to be Liked

In the UK, we have a television program called Room 101. Taken from Orwell’s 1984, the concept is that people of note make the case for things that they don’t like to be obliterated from society, via the subterranean torture chamber, used in the novel to punishingly confront the socially ‘deviant’ with their greatest fears.

The TV faces, in accordance with the values of ‘offend- confront -or-challenge-no-one’ television, never come out with real, painful, human anxieties. Like Ingrid Thulin’s Ester in Bergman’s The Silence finding the smell of semen rotten, as a result of her fear of impregnation, or the fictional author of Notes from the Underground’s fear of social humiliation (leading him to, in affect, seek out social humiliation) or even Peter Pan’s fear of growing old. They usually put in littering, or gum on bus seats, or the assumed pretentiousness of liking herbal tea (I like herbal tea. Happy to lay my cards on the table). Its a way of ‘not liking things’ via the public gallery of courting popularity.

What goes into Room 101 for me this month?

Indeed, it is a society that functions around persuading people to court popularity, whilst punishing those who draw attention to the craven spinelessness of our structured social interactions, by courting popularity poorly.

In social groups, there are often people who have proffered upon them the status of lowliness or ‘not requiring of respect’, even whose ‘job’ it is to stomach the domineering, aggrandizing, repetitious, hierarchical, conformist and petty elitisms of other people…a person who anyone can lord it over, attack or deride with more or less safety from resentment or reprisal. Someone who tries to fit in, or do right, and is seen to fail, is one of those people.

OK so we live in a society of ‘kiss ups and piss downs’ and more or less unsubtle hierarchies; the extent to which we ‘succeed’ in terms of popularity and social respect depend on our ability to seamlessly – as opposed to obviously – accord ourselves with the wants, wishes and ideals of people who have already been designated as having high status. In other words, studies show that people who are deemed more popular, generally are more astute to the behaviours and attitudes needed to be so, largely because they value popularity in the first place, not because of some other ineffable aspect of their character.

The contemporary specific ‘popularity pressures’ for women reside in emulating the most lauded aspects of ‘femininity’ in order to maintain high sexual appraisal, whilst emulating some ‘masculine’ behaviours, simultaneously, because things made, done, thought and said by men are deemed of more cultural value, in most contexts. Indeed, we have a commercially sexualized female culture (post the concept of women seeking value for their own selves), in part, because the tendency of a woman seeking sexual appraisal fits more intuitively with attempts to be praised as though one were also a man, than domestic, reproductive, or emotional labour appraisal. Of course that does not mean that it works.

But the idea that popularity achieved due to sensitivity to the very fact of social expectation, does not take into account people who value popularity (or at the least being liked) , but try and imitate its tenets clumsily (often as a result of social isolation or insecurity), in a way that ultimately draws attention to the attempts, and thus the very artifice of popularity – or social currency – as an ideal.People who – to the hive minded – ‘try’ to be ‘cool’, ‘overestimate’ their ‘attractiveness’ or tell jokes that ‘flop’.

The contemporary ‘talent’ show is mandated by this tendency, because people who ‘succeed’ are purported to be interesting or have the ‘X Factor’ but are usually some seamless derivation of previous tropes (women warbling a la Maria Carey, white troused boy bands; I’m probably out of date on the specifics) , and people who are there to be mocked in the early stages are those who attempt to imitate these repetitions, albeit poorly.

Of course, someone can hit musical notes or not, but it is also the case that the demonic production decision to put people ‘out there’ with the full intention of having them humiliated, is done purposefully, to give those who invest in social hierarchy and elitism a pressure valve. In order to mock the very pretensions to which they are invested. We laugh at those who ‘try to be cool’ but fail, so that we don’t have to challenge the drive to seek vindication via other’s expectations of what has already been deemed ‘good’, in and of itself.

Of course counter or high culture does this too (maybe with less febrile nastiness); we mock those who poorly attempt to emulate the urban economy of a Beat writer, or the language twists of a philosopher or the hair cut of a punk.

Of course you can probably guess that the term to be floated up from the dregs abouts now, is ‘authenticity’. Simon Cowell uses it a lot (don’t ask how I know that.) The person who is considered cool is a maverick (usually deemed male), who makes things new, creates things fresh, who is the locus of our social, cultural and intellectual orientation. We worship at their alters, we, even human strangers, put flowers on their graves.

Everyone wants to be authentic, so our tendency to copycat others or imbibe the zeitgeist – perhaps out of necessity – needs to be screened out; the fact that much of our behaviour, language, values are handed to us and are not a result of our own intuitions or indeed, because of some essential, transcendental good sense (see, common sense) needs to be kicked under the carpet. Again, those who attempt to be popular, or even ‘normal’, but fail, undermine this, they draw attention to the persistence of human interpretation,imitation and replication.

Indeed the trend setters are more those who successfully combine various facets and textures of other subcultures, rather than creating an ostensibly new culture. Arguably, some of the most popular contemporary creators do just this; Quentin Tarantino’s films, Madonna’s music. It is by its nature a strange bricolage of ideas, thoughts and practices from a multitude of places, which again, is presumed to be seamless, convergent, cohesive, but is usually actually discordant, confused and contradictory. In such an environment success depends more on an emotive assimilation of different outputs to make up one ‘brand’. Despite an awareness of the multitude of people and organisations that enable these brands, there is still an attempt by some to deem these cultural creators as intuitive artists of the modernist variety, rather than successful coordinators of social expectation.

So social currency is on the one hand a process of behaviours, attitudes and appearances that have already been intuited to have value, but the Holy Grail of popularity is to be considered the very source of the value in the first place. However, because we deem such capacity – whether trend setter, game changer, genius – to be of such rarity, most of us settle to be good emulators. Or at least as good as we can be.

Of course for women, being an ‘ideal’ woman has no inherent cultural currency, unlike being a sports person or writer or scientist (always presumed, even now, to be male in the first instance) because beauty in women is supposed to be born, not made, whereas genius, talent or capacity, though also inherent, is more obviously noted and understood to contain labour. No-one ever says ‘I worked so hard to beautiful’ as they do say ‘I worked so hard to win gold’. Although we all know it is true.

But nonetheless, the attempt to repeat the beauty rituals of rich or famous women, to bad effect, is a source of mockery and humiliation for the attempter. I’m not even trying to reinvent the feminist wheel here by pointing out (see what I did there?) that women with hair roots expose the artifice of the dye, or streaky foundation the artifice of the make up. Again, like the poor joker, or the fat dancer, or the out of date music fan, these people are not poppies that stick up from the bush, so much as jut out from the sides, whilst they attempt to fit in.

The social climber is perhaps, in this genre of those who try and court popularity badly, the most enduring of stereotypes. Hyacinth Bucket (or as she pronounces it Bouquet) from Keeping Up Appearances, is one example of a lower middle class women suffused with pretensions of high social status. Basil Fawlty of the Towers is persistently on the look out for ‘the right class of persons’ to stay at his hotel, and is often, as a result, taken in by what we are to see as charlatans who look the part. Del Boy’s entire personal output is predicated around the hope that “This time next year boy, we all be millionaires.” This indeed, seems obviously a particularly British anxiety. We don’t much like obvious ‘social climbing’. But in some ways at least our bitter admittance that most people end up in the class house they were born in, is less toxic than the American Dream, which serves up heavy servings of false hope.

In comedy, these people can be lightly ribbed, but in life, being perceived to implore the vindication of those around us – and to fail – is one of the most devastating of humiliations. As ever, being the person who tells the flat jokes, or makes the slowly or not replied to emails, or organizes the parties that no-one attends, is the cultural thing that many people fear most.

Of course it would be easy for me to admonish those who vie for vindication as driven by narcissism and vanity, but given that we do live in a society that rewards people on the basis of their ability to ‘to fit in’ it seems hopelessly unfair to judge only those who do it least well. To give out platitudes to selfish psychopaths capable of glibly rubbing people up the right way, in order to get what they want, but to dish out mockery to those whose just want to be liked for being liked sakes’, especially given the social bent of our species – is an injustice indeed. Especially when others are given a head start by virtue of their demographic.

The saddest thing, is that because of our fear of being that person, many people opt for social isolation, afraid to make friends, crack jokes, offer insights. And it is ever increasing, with Like culture and Reality TV persistently organizing us into social winners and losers. But like the Capitalist system, in terms of money, the Popularity system is predicated on harsh competition, and it is a game that the vast majority of us, by its very nature, cannot win. By giving those who court popularity successfully their status, or by flattering them with hapless imitation, we are rendering ourselves subordinate.

Confessing Ignorance, Fear & Loneliness

I have a confession. Its a whopper. Not that anyone does or should care or is even listening (*fumbles and taps damp fingers on old microphone*). I’m confessing it to myself, and to the auditorium ether, who is my council in this goddessless universe, of which I am (tedious cliche alert) an infinitesimal, withering speck. A dying, infinitesimal withering speck, that has the difficulty of dealing with belches, the annoyance of external noises  I can’t control,  and the pleasure of having a damp blossom. This blog post is  not empowering. Or even logical. But at least its honest.*

The confession is I really don’t understand much of anything much of the time. But I have a lot of opinions. That probably change quite radically and frequently. But I still spout them as though they were consistent. And cogent. Considered. And that is, you know, unnerving. I think during my ‘write an honest CV’ exercise I put “Is very good at pretending she has thought things through whilst actually making it all up on the spot, a sophistication which, is in and of itself, hiding her obsession with what time lunch is”).

I think I must be difficult to be around, a fact with which any potential clarity I might gain (“Hay I like being a pain in pisser!!”) is soiled by the further fact I guess most people are difficult to be around. Its hard to know whether or not I should accept fully my difficulty and go swim, in perpetuity, in a sock draw along with my collected confusion tears, or learn to accept that everybody shits off everybody seemingly all of the time. And, you know, swallow it with aplomb. Or a plum. Which might be more digestible.

Now I want to be clear goddessless universe, there are some things I do know. And that is kinda neat.  To know something. To know it at least well enough as anybody can possibly know it. And by know, I mean understand. Feel secure in. Not as a faith but as an accumulation of a lot of thought and practice and time. The ace guitar solo or grande symphony of all my opinions, which are otherwise boozy, thigh tapping, but ultimately generic folk numbers that anyone can more or less create and are here today and gone tomorrow, with the beer cans and the yodeling and the brouhaha. And that lost plectrum with which I glued a shred of the first  pubic hair I ever had the joviality of being introduced to. **

I feel very comfortable that Ingmar Bergman is the greatest living director.*** I know that feta and halloumi are the most difficult things about trying to be a vegan. I also know that everybody likes to stare at billy goat’s and bull’s massive, dangly testicles (in a more convivial ‘can’t help it’ fashion than staring at road kill).

And on a more serious note, I feel I know exactly what I think about very personal issues like the sex industry, and significant accompanying issues like rape and domestic violence and pornography. So much so that I have previously felt exorbitantly energised by that sense of righteous indignation that comes with the economic, social and gendered world finally clicking into cognitive place. So so much so that often its all I talk about, because, precisely I am so afraid of all the things I otherwise *think* about in  such an eclectic and casual manner as to not be able to form a definite, researched opinion. And so being afraid of saying the wrong thing, if I entered in to a new fray. And stepping on a landmine I don’t know is there but, otherwise more fulsomely engaged and literate topicians, can see coming like a naked, marauding elephant. Here is a naked, marauding elephant:

Image result for funny elephant

Look how much fun she is having.

Maybe I should just got over the fact, that I  though I may have enough caffeinated brain squish to follow a reasonable amount of urbane clever-pantsing, (otherwise known as I can competently understand somewhat complex threads of thought****) that doesn’t mean to say that I then become goddess of knowledge. And its OK to be thoughtfully ignorant. And its OK if I get something a bit wrong and someone corrects me. And its OK to say “I actually don’t know the answer to that, or how to respond to you, and not in a dismissive it does-not-matter kinda way, but in a I-think-that-is-too-important-an-issue-to-ram-my-ham-fist-into-it-like-the-drunk-sophist-I-probably-am kinda way. But its good and fine to tinker my fingers on the strings of new notions, carefully like a playful hopscotch encountering her first lute. And get an OK tune out of it, eventually.

But we live in the age of blunt assertion. And I’m going to gender this, because it is gendered. Where some male people often tramp about poking their opinionated willies into things they don’t understand, because its simply beyond them to accept that they may not be brimming with unbridled expertise. Where their masturbatory fantasy of being The Renaissance embodied,  stalwarts them from treating females particular (who everyone knows are stoopid, so its safe) with even a modicum of open respect. #notallmales #sometimesfemales #CamillePaglia

And where females respond by picking a side, a sonnet and singing it safely. The only way to protect yourself as female person on the interweb, where your regular experience of condescension to mocking to rape threats and back again, make you wrap yourself in a particular community whose rules of political and social engagement you have come to deftly understand, and give you some measure of quiet respect.

Its why I get the impression that general media and news platforms get ‘owned’ by men – and women who identify with them – and other women slip off into protective ghettos, who occasionally come out of hiding to coalesce around events that we all broadly know we team on. Like Trump. And maybe bread.

So to arrivederci this pointless piece – wherein I tell no body in particular that I don’t know what is going on – I will wade finally and briefly into some controversial debates in which I actually have very little knowledge, and have a knife at deciding what I think. Because I have said more or less everything about the sex industry I think it is possible for me to say and because I have not the energy to fulminate with that degree of intense attention again without exhausting myself. And then I’ll be done with. Done to study films and novels and commit any excess energy in working out different things one can do with chickpeas. And get to bed early.

But please don’t hate me. I am just trying my best.

1.Veganism: I think we should try and adios or reduce animal product consumption. I think its a good idea to approach the subject in general terms, as opposed to commenting on individual people’s eating habits, because individual people are, you know, well, like me. But I’m also told that some meat alternatives contribute to deforestation. Which, like keeping chickens in cages, is bad. But in any case its not not just meat alternatives… its things like Palm Oil, which is in a lot of processed food stuff and is hurting Madagascar. Which has lemurs. And of course vegetables are colourful and lovely and make me think of happy sex, whereas processed meat is smelly and gross and makes me think of sad sex. And we should probably eat locally grown stuff of greater variety anyway, to push back against horrible monoculture, which is good for supermarket corporations but bad for vitamin intake, the environment and for my photographs of salads.

2.Big Pharma: I think anti depressants are over prescribed and lots of depressions and anxieties are logical responses to our brutal, atomised, exploitative culture. And I think as a result most people are just frightened. And alone. And can only feel loved comfortably when that love lacks ambivalence. When we were children (if we were happy enough) we could bruise about having fun, and engaging in fantasy and eating biscuits, because we knew Mummy was always there. But our competitive capitalism thrives on a cliff edge indeterminacy between lambasting and worship, the lure of high praise and the ever, near likely threat of worthlessness and irrelevance, leaving us feeling precarious, watchful and dis-enabled. Mummy has been killed off and we are left with cold, distant daddy. Who  gives you gold stars if you’ve been brilliant, and hard slaps if you’ve been bad, but mostly just looks away at the paper, or about for his glasses. At least the risk of bad, means the possibility of brilliance, and the definitive of not being ignored. And while we fumble in the futility of this never ending oscillation, a little narcotic mollification can be our aid, until addiction doth repeat.  But that being said it’s your body, and I fill mine with black coffee and red wine to get me through my loneliness and insecurity, so whatever the fuck you need.

3.Women’s Health: When it comes to women I think we have been for too long and too often given woeful and damaging ideas about purity which in its current form manifests in the craze for so-called clean eating. Par example, I think if you’re a vegan that’s great and fine, but if you have no allergies, teaming that up with other food group eradication like gluten is a terrible idea, and where ‘eating discipline’ (a most joyless of concepts, and the dysfunctional bed mate of loneliness eating) slips into disorder territory. We are not clean people, we never were, we never will be. Added, though I agree that for too long only prostitutes and bohemian women were given the pleasurable space to get tipple mullered (drunk) brand name wine companies have exploited the gap in the female problem drinking market by advertising Jacob’s Creek o’Clock. Again, are we drinking to burst full heartedly up against others, or to stave off tenacious drum of our isolation. Even whilst we swim amid urban masses and a digital bog of exhaustive contact.


*Or is it?? Den den deeeeerrrrr!!!

**The plectrum with which I created my best folksie number, which was what I imagined might have been the song that went with the title to Phoebe Offa’Friend’s Ode to a Pubic Hair. I maunder.I used to say I digress too much (because I do, you know, digress) so I decided to gigantithesaurus the shit out of it and came up with maunder, a word I’d never considered using before and I am now going to use all of the time, until it is imprinted into my eyeballs and I see it on ever advertising platform ever. Which is better that see ‘beach bodies’ or ‘laxative creams’. I maunder.

*** The living bit I typed during a slush of energetic, ill considered writing, but I like how it sounds so it stays. Bergman is no longer with us. But the existential confusion about the nature of life or death would please him. Or stress him. Which might please him. Who understands these ‘men’ creatures, anyway?

**** But not Hegel. And certainly not Butler who is not clever, she is just using willful abstraction to hide her lack of substance. I know so because someone clever told me so. And that is basically knowing so.

My Four Steps Steps…To Partial Recovery

Russell Brand, recovered Bon Vivant! and the-dark-side-of-Benny-Hill Lady Chaser, believes the 12 step program, as disseminated by Alcoholics Anonymous, is a fitting template for wider global change. The revolution, whatever the revolution might be or what it might be gunning for, can be rooted up from the ground via its ideas and workings. The program, he says, “has the seeds in it, it has the code”. The Da Vinci Code. Move aside Marxism, Feminism, Civil Rights, Humanism, Liberalism, Buddhism (which Brand has now rejected for a less difficult but more delicious ‘higher power’)… all the tedious isms (whose harvests have been mixed, but not non-existent) don’t extend as a “Big Idea” in the way adopting a societal 12 Step Program  can.

I’m not sure exactly what Brand means by any of this; I have not read the book that he is currently promoting. A book, journalist Miranda Sawyer, takes some issue with. As she says, “Brand is working hard on his narcissism, but not enough to stop him thinking he can save us all. And not enough to stop him making money by rewriting the program that saved his life for free. Still, here we are.”

As it happens, this bothers me significantly less that it does Sawyer. Without going full, head on analysation stations, the AA and its program and its culture, have always been and seemed problematic to me. Some peer reviewed research shows that it is a success for only one in fifteen of its members, and others show that most members leave after only one month.  A central narrative within its yes, religious, corridors, is “Its AA or the highway”, and that without adherence to its tenets, there is only perpetual inebriation to look forward to – ended  by greetings with the Cold Murky Earth. Given that this is so, one wonders what those high in number, early  escapologists are taking away with them? Less than what they came in with..?

In any case, I don’t think Brand selling this as a new age spiritual solution for the world’s ills is any more meh than any other of the shinny, money hoarding books in the goddamn self help section, are meh. Its ideological precedent is neither without criticism and is certainly not sacrosanct.

Essentially, what I am saying is, if the 12 step program has not within it a capacity to ‘save’ even most of its attendees, it probably cannot save the world. But I have no real beef with Brand. Any more than any other Woke (but not to his own Joke) new ager. Bottle put downer. Relentless mirror searcher. Better penman than public speaker. Seemingly at odds with his own impending death doom. Aren’t we all?

And I am not being spectator critical here; I have had plenty of my own run ins with destructive behaviour. Impulsive, endlessly thwarted, ruthless pursuer of falling down hills, getting my heart twisted and being the obvious butt of  someone’s else cruel joke. I’ve got bruises. I’ve got war wounds. I’ve got white shirts sloshed with that second bottle of red, and blim holes in my linen. I don’t know where half of my too small underpants are, swum off into the promiscuous ether.

Its just that, I don’t really believe that addiction is an either/or. A condition, other than human one. I don’t believe I should aim for perfection, spiritual high ground, seamless rhythm. And unless you have  actually gone far down the toilet plumbing, rabbit hole…I think aiming for such giddy heights probably does more damage than it does good. But that isn’t the same as saying I think if you hurt yourself, or accept or tolerate being hurt by others, that you should condemn yourself to ritualistic misery. How to strike balances? How to gun for the Middle Way, in a way that is contemporarily sensible?

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I think I have some ideas. Note: Don’t hold me to them. If they don’t work, you don’t get your ‘readership time’ commerce back. Its already gone.

1.We always focus on taking things out of our life, but it seems this method of self denial seldom works. Because it comes from a  place of penance. Of the idea of fundamental wrong doing, and so our attempts to drink less, eat less, gossip less are riven with shame and self hatred, and the near invariable  failure of such an uncompromising approach results in a solidification of shame. So what do you do?

I think its better to focus on putting more stuff into your life, body. Different stuff, more forgiving stuff. You can’t just rip out your daily rituals and then think later what you might do with the empty space. You have to force the space to change by diluting the tumult with more clear options, more treadable pathways. This insightful Ted Talk presents the argument that the obsessive compulsive behaviour of addiction lessens when we have a Rat City. Edifying or pleasurable things that getting up in the morning, wanting to explode from heavy prior consumption, would prevent us from doing.  Basically, don’t stop drinking and wait for a significant time to pass before you decide to become a marathon runner. Start running already. “The whisky devil makes work for idle hands…”

2. Stop seeking perfection. It does not exist. Its a social fiction often reproduced in different ways in order to mollify, control or even exploit. And if too many people inch closer towards the fiction, the fiction goal posts more further away. Perfection is the illusion that there are people who embody it (the people usually who decide what goes on TV and into magazines) and if we only try harder we’ll get there.

I have heard women call themselves an alcoholic because they drink a bottle of Cava a night. But a bottle of not-rich-enough-to-buy-champagne a night does not an alcoholic make. It is someone who drinks, probably, somewhat too much. Stop pathologising yourself for not living up to some idea of physical purity, and collapsing the drinking over the recommended allowance barometer (different in different countries) with having a stiff gin with your Macdonald’s Happy Meal, each morning.  I’ve heard women call themselves fat who barely stretch out of the 25 BMI (an arbitration method that has issues in any case) because what they mean by too fat, is that they are not like *insert slender celebrity name* – who is basically a creation of visual performance, obscuration and hard digital labour, in any case. But all you’re running towards, if you manage to stay on the hamster wheel for long enough, is that you will end having to buy slightly smaller trousers. Nothing else is going to happen. But if you don’t make it, the shame you feel, and sense of loss about some high minded ideal you have ticking about in your ego drenched consciousness (me too, me too) might only send you running back to crisp bag and bottle, only Bigger Ones.

3. We are not, and never can be, clean. No matter how much ginger tea and gut wash green grass powder we funnel in to ourselves. We are waste producing, fluxing,  mucky creatures with guts full of crap and healthy bacteria and blood and marrow and acid and on and on. We are  porous, growing and decaying sweat producers, who have the fantastic luck of coming with orgasm organs, and sensitivity to humour, affection, beauty and music. Stop trying to gun your fine biological self into some cold, impermeable, Athenian statue. I am not advocating ramming yourself with poison and going with out taking your outside bits to a warm water stream, or taking the plaque off of your teeth. But as Goddess Greer might well have said, “Clean enough, is clean enough.”

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4. You are going to die. Rot (or burn) and disappear into what is left of the ecology. The natural world, so beleaguered due to man’s need to transcend his own mortality by filling his boots with its resources and raping its foundations to prove his godly might. But, nonetheless, after fifty or so years, no-one will remember you, or his, living self. Perhaps a great great grandchild will purloin your old photos trying to find themselves in you. That is the best you are going to get. Take that ego stick out of your back end, and learn to live with it. You might actually find your inevitable journey to the grave, somewhat less fraught and exhausting.  You might even drink less.

Thoughts For the day: Isms

I like to try, these days, and make a differentiation between classical liberal feminists, who believe using social processes to obtain some murky concept of equality and liberty, and those pomo queer, libertarian infused, anarchopolists and self obsessed identitarians,

The former group I believe can be allied with, as someone who vaguely tendencies toward radical feminism (although most likely poorly) even though I think their analysis is simplistic and they often focus on the tertiary symptoms of patriarchy and not the root causes or the worst sins. Largely because I think ‘as women go’ they tend to be at the more privileged end of things to start with. They get a little angsty about radicalism and hop over themselves to convince others that they aren’t man haters, don’t own dungarees and are not cat fanciers, largely I think for supposed political expediency…seemingly without noticing that as far as getting feminism to sit comfortably on the tongues of others, it isn’t much working.

I guess I am talking WEP territory, early days Naomi Wolf, maybe Gloria Steinem,(although I am told she is more radical than she comes across in the medja? She has never been a feminist I’ve read much of). Shinny hair and tailored suit feminists (nothing against shinny hair, but tailoring can go busk).

Having said that, they do tend to more easily curb to the madbad demands of the lip stud and purple hair brigade, though I imagine, or it seems to me, unwillingly and again due to this ‘political expediency’ reflex. Funnily, I’ve been reading about Fascism recently and it seems to be a notable trend that ‘liberals’ are the first to cave to authoritarian attitudes and demands, out of this need to ‘compromise’. But of course you can’t compromise with those who seek absolute power and the total subordination of others. Its liberalism’s existential problem.Its belief in its own ballast. Can I then compromise with the compromisors? Its all getting very muddy in my three coffee and four hour slept brain.

Also interesting is that European fascism started out partly as a groovy movement for young intellectuals and utilised a vaguely socialist (but not really & abandoned later, and was always antagonist to Marxists and reformist and internationlist socialists) analysis. Also contrary to popular imagination, many began life as artists, ‘revolutionaries’ and bohemians, not dyed in the wool conservatives, although philistinism became a ‘quality’ of fascism later; one imagines because it was a very commodifiable entity. Also contrary to the middle class student imagination, in particular, was relatively deficient in its ability to gain working class attention, again, in the early stages. Seeing as the working classes had unions and pubs and churches to give them the sense of identity that a lot of post industrialized, religion rejecting, educated, entitled and rudderless middle class males had. Worth thinking about.

But I continue to differentiate, not because I am not critical of classical liberal feminism, for some of the aforementioned reasons, because even if they are a dying and ageing (or the other way around) breed in practice, the category distinction is necessary. In much the same way as I try not to use ‘the left’ to refer to the whole umbrella of purported social progressives — ranging from neoliberals, libertarians, socialists, queer ‘thinkers’, the eco-police (I like them: especially George Monbiot) and so on – who are not only often reading from a different hymn sheet but aren’t even remotely in the same philosophical vicinity (I got tired of the metaphor half way through.) Tied into the same contradictory municipality by their shared hatred of Peter Hitchins… or rather by their shared fear of being seen to be like him. But to mean those who favour a more equitable state of socio-economy. Essentially, you have a problem when your political identity is more about superficial signifiers, fame hungry self branding and identifying new forms of political contraband in order to assert authority and maintain control.

(I was going to be offensive here and post a mock up of Mussolini in what we call ‘lady clothes’, but I thought better of it. Or I couldn’t find one. Or both. You decide.)

But classical liberals really ought to believe in things like the rule of law and freedom of speech and belief, and tolerance of difference (key not just tolerance for the difference of what is punky and new, but what is fusty and old – to the purple hair brigade, Difference, often just means change). And many don’t in any conceivable or reasonable fashion, even if they do share the free market individualism. Whether they admit to it or not, Paris Lees. Their antagonism towards the state is largely performative, because ultimately they believe its their best weapon in silencing their dissenters and galvanizing their own interests. Like another group of rag taggers I could mention. Actual old school liberals probably want to be re-asserting these ideas abouts now. They are in muted small number.

By arguing against the stretching out of incitement to violence laws to not allow incitement to come to mean ‘have an opinion’ and violence to not mean ‘that offends my self constructed, and hence fragile, identity’.  Because some compromises are flood gate opening.

In other news: I woke up this morning and realized it is basically Autumn. My favourite season. I dislike summer. Summer makes me apocalyptic and slovenly all at the same time. Autumn, I return to my reflective punctiliousness. I also like the way it smells. Is it just me or does Autumn have a smell? A nice one.

Learning Thirty: What I have Understood About Dissent (nothing)


So the day before yesterday I  moved into my fourth decade. I went to a museum, cooked soggy rice, drank wine whilst watching a film that made me confront my lack of genuine creativity and originality,  and had a series of ill conceived and more or less suppressed conniptions. Pretty much the same as any other day.

But I sort of feel on some level I should mark the occasion. By telling you, the reader, what I feel I’ve learnt.

Because Thirty feels like a big birthday. I know so because that chauvinist,  pappy, knobfest  Mates, did a whole episode on it. And also because it seems like the age when I can no longer confidently and strictly call myself ‘a young person’. I’m young-ish, but effectively closer to midlife crisis age, than teenage rebellion.

Though the daily rumblings of my brainiac pretend otherwise. I’m rediscovering T-Rex, baggy t-shirts and buttkiss ‘check it out!’ comedic irony… but not in the exalted fashion of someone new to the territory, but with the steely fever of an irredeemable nostalgic, desperately clinging onto something that vaguely looks like the past. In multiple senses. (I wasn’t alive when Mark Bolan was. It might surprise you to know. And no he was not transgender, he was just a dood what liked to wear glitter and fancy pants.)

But the desperation to be ‘young again’ – fully – is made more woolly, as I exist in the full knowledge that the past wasn’t that great anyway, and being young  proper was mostly awkward, painful, humiliating and dispiriting, and suffused with foolishly candid encounters, poor taste, philosophical and political ignorance, and terrible sex.

Nonetheless, I’ll hark back all the same. And as I cycle forcefully towards forty, no doubt I’ll rediscover my desire to be a punk goddess, and start a two chord one woman band… utilizing the limitless layering qualities of the digital age. An age designed to convince reams of the hopeless to believe they have shot at carving out a distinguished bit of the zeitgeist. If there even is a zeitgeist anymore, or have the hipsters ruined that concept for us? Probably. Fuck them and there cereal cafes and their anarchopolism and their pointed ‘randomosity’.

And, worse, much worse, their version of feminism;an exhaustive and confused mash up between libertarian and authoritarian attitudes and a rabid refusal to engage thoughtfully in any of feminism’s herstorical tenets. But I am a part of it, a part of it, a whimsical part of it all the same.

I digress. Back to being a punk goddess.

Though it would be perfectly seemly to arrange my astounding musical outfit around my own fine self, it might be incumbent upon me to rope in the collective. Perhaps  the bassoon mastery of some proper grown up mate’s  short suffering, nerd teen. She’ll say, “Rae’s a sad, silly sort…she’s woefully unsuccessful personally, occupationally and spiritually…can you just help her out a bit with her ‘band’ on Saturdays?” And my sister, doodles, who did use to play the piano but has given that up in favour of her aside in thigh slapping, foot tapping, and making herrraaannnnng noises at passing cars.

But why though? Why harrumph myself into feigned punk goddess territory?

The problem is, is that me and everyone, want to have something to contribute to our culture and our politics, but never in the licking stamps, writing letters, hauling banners kind of a way. The zeitgeist, if it is anything, is the fear of anonymity. The desire to cultivate a brand that is knowable and reachable and definable and ripe for analysis. You know how many famous people there are these days? And you know how few  you actually know? And you know how neurotic that is?

But its also sinister, because our psychologies are being smashed out of a capacity for effective change. What actually gets us somewhere is tertiary to how shit makes us feel. Check out that Woman’s March. What did they want? What were they protesting? What were they angry with? Was it Trump, or what he represented? Why did they wear pink hats? Pink hats is not politics. Seemingly they were angry that the popular vote winner, Hillary Clinton, did not make the first female president. But there again, a lot of the diffuse and often contradictory aims that the march represented, were issues with her too.

There are two problems.

It seems to me that these political confusions are down to a lack of differentiation between philosophical concepts. A confusion between conservatism and fascism, between liberal free market politics and social liberalism and most bizarre of all between left wingism and a form of ‘queer politics’ which has nothing whatsoever to do with socialist economics. An uncertainty about whether or not feminism is a political philosophy that has its own tenets and its own nature, or is  just a by word for ‘wanting better stuff for women’. And the drunken abstractism is made even more flailing by the fact that we don’t even know who women are anymore, and outside of a small cabal of self appointed appointers (the nose ring and purple hair brigade) we are not even really allowed to discuss it. It reminds me rather of that episode in Black Books, where the landlord shifts the walls of Fran’s apartment to make way for a new flat, and simply pretends he has not done it. Its easier that way isn’t it? The only thing that seems to collectivise what we call progressives, is the belief in their agitation against the right wing enemy. But the right wing enemy isn’t even cohesive; its neoliberalism, its conservatism, its the fascio…and these people are not the same people, and they don’t want the same things. However the idea of the right wing enemy is useful, because anyone who does not fit the shifting purportedly progressive aims can go in the right wing bin. You critical of prostitution? Ring wing bin. You believe prisons should be demarcated by sex and not self identification? Right wing bin. You don’t want to be cat called on the street? Prude, in the right wing bin. Progressive versus the right is a mutable and increasingly hard to define set of pointless skirmishes, designed to shore up the sense of power and worth of its internet spokes people; Owen Jones on the one side, Milo on the other. Its internecine, means nothing and benefits no-one, but the people who already have power.

The other problem, is that we aren’t willing to take any political risks. Naomi Wolf is right in saying that legal protesting is not effective. The boundaries within which we are allowed to operate are getting smaller, and many of our public spaces are being sold off. Corporate interests close in on us, make us impotent, mollify us, and yet we doff our caps and we huddle back.

The suffragettes had a specific goal. And they were willing to entertain the idea of making themselves serious social pariahs in order to get what they wanted.  Not the kind of “..ooo errr aren’t I a confronting spectacle with my perfectly made up face and my zebra print hair cut??”

Look, I am not advocating violence by any stretch of the imagination, but unless we specify our aims and unless we are willing to truly sacrifice what comforts we have in obtaining them, we’ll get no where. The corporate state knows we currently have our hands tied behind our backs. It does not fear us.

And I’m as guilty as anyone. If guilt is even the right word. I’m not fearless, I have nothing spectacular to contribute, I’m not willing to risk what little I have, I want some vague measure of comfort in my life. I think radical thoughts, but conduct no radical actions. One time I stamped on some shirts in Primarni. It was my protest against the textiles industry. Then I just started shopping in charity shops. It was a political affront that is still discussed to this day. By me.

Another time I joined the students socialists at University in a protest against an Anne Widdecombe one woman show at the Exeter Corn Exchange. Because she was against abortion. At the time she was no longer an MP, barely got any TV time and was not listened too outside of a small subculture of pale blue shirt wearing, purple faced, lamb quaffing conservatives. The protest was like a bunch of kids stamping on a crisp packet.

So at thirty I have come to terms with the fact that I am not a radical just on precipice of catapulting myself into some kind of beret wearing resistance. I’m just going to mulch through life as a thwarted dissident, trying not to hurt anyone. Licking stamps. Signing petitions, headed to the ballot box. Picking fair trade coffee. Trying to not eat meat. Trying to set a vague example. Being thoughtful. Learning, reading. Waiting for some stirring leaders with the verve and intelligence to drag us out of the morass of decadent hipster cynicism.

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And in the meantime…Punk Goddess. Whose with me?

Buying Freedom


Edward Bernays was the nephew of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He is renowned, like a spin doctor of consumerism, for taking Freud’s ideas about the subconscious desires and drives of human beings and reconfiguring them into seductive advertising.

Bernays understood that you could abandon pragmatic advertising — simply telling the potential consumer what the product does and why it is of use — using symbols and phrases designed to prod the uncertainties of identity that people feel, in order to get them to buy things and more so buy into things, that they don’t need or even harm them.

So you don’t just buy a car to get you from A to B, you buy a car because it makes you more attractive, more successful, more powerful.

Effectively, he manipulated people into being irrational spend-heavies, whose purpose in life was to be driven into purchase after purchase. And to have them believe that this was the source of their happiness and self-esteem and even their purpose in life.

To give you an infamous example, Bernays was asked by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) how he could use advertising to influence women to smoke outdoors — at that time, a taboo. It was just something women didn’t do. Couldn’t be seen doing. And that restricted the firm’s profits.

Of course Bernays did not simply tell women that smoking outdoors was OK — that it was not immoral or unfeminine — and hope they’d respond. He needed something more insidious.

The cigarette was believed, by the Freudians at least, to be the modernist symbol of phallocentricity, hence power. It was 1930 and 12 years postsuffrage, amid a culture of women’s growing taste for emancipation. Indeed, in some circles, it was already believed that smoking was a sign of the women’s movement, symbolising women grasping at male power.

Bernays purposefully leant on that notion when he managed to attract some debutantes to parade with lit cigarettes on the streets of New York. They called it “lighting the Torches of Freedom.” The event, the purported “protest,” made national press, and helped in lifting the taboo. And from then on? Cigarettes became a symbol of women’s urban, liberal sass.

Now, of course, one does not wish to subject women to taboos. But the re-imagining of such an unhealthy, obsolescent and, ultimately, enormously-profitable-for-a-tiny-minority thing as cigarettes into a form of political power and social freedom, was dubious to say the least.

Nonetheless, now freed, those elegant white sticks found themselves dangled between the red sofa lips of starlets and models everywhere, littered in abundance on film posters and in commercial advertising. Of course all it meant, in material terms, was more women spent more money on something they didn’t actually need. It was almost as though the proto-feminism of the day had been sold a pup.

Now the known health consequences of a life “lit-up” have overwhelmed the strong arm of the tobacco companies — in Britain at least — and the culture of seeing smoking as a form of liberation has long since been scattered into the ashtray. But the usefulness of manipulative advertising — in the form of sound bites and sleight of hands, come-hither and cockamamie aesthetics — to sell bogus ideas of female empowerment, in the service capitalist interests, has not gone away. It’s just taking new forms. And the so-called “beauty industry” is one of the most notorious of perpetrators.

Advertisements for cellulite cream, shampoo and lipstick have purposefully played to the diluted tune of a sort of magazine feminism, a type of cultural politic so rejecting of rigour, so faddist in nature as to be feminism in name alone.

Take the 2014 “buy a lot of make-up!” campaign by cosmetic brand Cover Girl, “Girls Can.” To a winsome, who’s-got-talent soundtrack, celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Pink smash the patriarchy by telling the girlz that they can do whatever the boyz can do. Be funny, be smart, be active. But, this you-go! you-go-girls-ing is conditional. You have to do it buttered-up. Prettified. You want to be a sports hero? You can, so long as you crisp up your lashes with a mass of mascara. You want to make people laugh? You can, but as long as the mouth that gives exit to the funnies is slicked in industrial layers of lipstick.

In a style of skulduggery that would make Bernays proud, the ad does not literally have to tell its audience to buy the products. The insistent layering of image after image, depicting women-who-can, so deftly manicured so as to be beyond recognition to that woman they see in the bathroom mirror every morning, is enough.

The ad explicitly sells you the idea, and implicitly sells you the cosmetics as a proviso.

After the “you-go!” rhetoric has been pounded out and the gold medal-winning track dips down, the real message emerges. Before Ellen walks off camera, she tells the newly empowered consumers to “make the world a little more easy, breezy and beautiful.” And there it is. Its thick thumbs laid heavy on our socialised-to-provide angst.

Society will now let you have a shot at its activities, so long as you remember you are women first and last. Being a woman means providing the world around you with entertainment, comfort and service, and being beautiful is a part of that.

Feminism, of the kind that actually wishes to liberate females from the bonds of servitude and performative femininity, has come far enough to make most women suspicious at the idea of being a hat-doffer to the male gaze, but not far enough that avoided the suspicion cannot be at the deft hands of consumer capitalists.

It’s an obvious point, but one worth repeating. Any form of cultural, declarative feminism which promotes the mode of consumption as a means of thwarting the patriarchy, should be met with a healthy glut of cynicism. Whether it’s smoking, face-painting or corseting, we cannot buy our way out of subjugation. Particularly when the brave new world on offer looks so curiously similar to the old one.

Originally published in The Morning Star