I just tried to start reading it tonight but I haven't been able able to get past the cover without sobbing like a, well I would say child, but here is this seven year old Japanese girl, separated from her family during the American storming of Okinawa...
From what I gather from the cover blurb, she had to survive alone on the island, to hide out from the battling troops during the invasion, and here she is on the cover, having made such a momentous decision on her own - my god what thoughts were in her head - to make and carry a white flag of surrender over her shoulder... Don't shoot me just because I am Japanese. I'm just a child.
She makes a mockery of our privileged lives.
Oh the things we warring adults do to children, the resilience of these children, the growing up they do in the heart-beats between bombs and bullets...
What's is going on in Syria, Africa, everywhere?
I'm still crying. I don't think I can stop until wars stop.
I have no idea if the book is any good, or indeed if it justifies these emotions, but does it matter?
I wasn't sure what to do, or whether I was hungry or thirsty, sad or happy. I was tired from walking the streets of Lisbon on a warm, unpleasantly sunny day, for I had lost my hat in the train from Sintra and the fragile skin on my bare skull was broiling steadily. The crowd in the Museu de Cerveja looked to be straight off that floating city in port. I looked at the empty chairs in the place next door, older, hardly gentrified yet. Perfectly indicative of the struggle of Portugal to move slowly forward. So I finally settled on a table and chair that were the least unattractive to me, except that the table was unsteady after all, and I looked down at the restaurant menu, by the corner of the square. I turned the meagre menu (fish, more fish, fish) this way and that, but the food seemed to offer nothing but nausea and a repulsive end-product. I glanced at a sign on the wall. It was a line drawing of a thin-faced man with a moustache and those round glasses of old Europeans, and below this paltry representation were a few lines of self-deprecrating poetry. How he must feel on the wall. Like a fly, only unable to crawl, or indeed, to fly. Fernando Pessoa.
I opened my Kindle in a mood of resignation, for although I was unsatisfied with everything, I also felt the need to make a gesture, hopefully one that would take me away from my gloomy thoughts. Let me run my retinae over this array of pixels. Let someone else put the vibrations in my brain. I tossed the menu aside made the waiter (who had been hovering, and then had eventually moved away after observing my sour uncertainty and inability to commit) bring me a maio de liete and a quejada de villa francecso de campo, for that perfect cake would ruin my mood even further when I considered that it would not only not be fresh (flown in from the Azores who knows when) but my last one ever.
I read several pages of my book...
I had forgotten - it was uncanny, yet coincidences rarely excites me. I was reading The Book of Disquiet at that time. Short pieces, almost epigrams, paragraphs, a few pages. Everyone one of them ironic, bitter and dissatisfied, yet it was amazing - uplifting at the same time. It is so sad and negative, it is immensely enjoyable. The phrases are poems, not a cliche touches the paper for him.
And so my poor (transcribed above) blackness of the world lifted from my shoulders and a much BETTER blackness of the world settled instead. A black joy. Pessoa's perennial mood. I was elated at his contrariness and the refusal to enjoy life in evidence. Fernando Pessoa told me exactly and with unparalleled clarity how I felt, at that exact time. The word for my mood was "disquiet".
In short, with The Book Of Disquiet is perfect for those times when you are sitting in the restaurant where Pessoa himself used to sit and write (as he got drunk), and you feel happy to be feeling grumpy, which is 90% of the time for me, so I'm rating it 5 stars!
And I gave the waiter a 50c tip for his surly service!
Goodreads Review. No-one has liked it yet. I am expecting a lot of crap to be brought down on me.
As E@L is wont to do after an evening of imbibing (beers, sake), he sits on the Toto arse-washing toilet seat in his tiny hotel room with a certain type of book (or his Kindle) on his bare lap.
Poetry. And he reads it out loud.
As a young man, a teenager even, E@L did not "get" poetry the way he did as a ten year old - when Sr Mary Brega praised his verses on cats and dogs being "cuddly and wuddly," and awarded them a gold star. No, sad to say, nothing had progressed much, until Year 12, when, not "allowed" to do Chemistry (but begrudgingly permitted to continue Physics), he chose English Literature as his fifth subject. He was told to buy a book by some Metaphysical Poets. John Donne, Andrew Marvell, etc... You know the crowd.
E@L didn't understand a word of the complicated rhyming and obscure references and awkward syntax - more truthfully, he didn't even try - but he passed EngLit somehow, perhaps on the strength of an essay on Crime And Punishment in which Raskolnikov was, he suggested, a precursor to Albert Camus's Stranger: cliches, that was all it took.
There is a short set of Poetic Best Ofs on his Kindle, and this includes some poems of Donne's. So, being in a declaiming mood, needing to blow off yakitori steam, E@L unfolds his Kindle's new book-like protective cover (Y2000 in BIC Camera, Shinjuku) and finds "Elegy 19: To His Mistress Going To Bed" awaiting.
He declaims to the limits of his plastic one-piece toilet/bath cubicle's acoustics:
Whoever LOVES [he over-emphasised], if he do not propose
The right TRUE end of love, he's one that goes
To sea for NOTHing but to make him sick[!!]."
Hang on. Does that mean what E@L thinks it means? That if you are going to start, you should make a concerted effort to finish, when it comes to wooing the ladies? An effort, close associates know, E@L cannot always lay (ho ho) claim to.
Soon enough E@L gets back to declaiming, but now with an ear more open to not only the sing-song sound of the words (he wants to be able to read like Tom Hiddleston), but also the rather rude connotations, the dooble ontondurs, and the copious and amusing naughty bits. This is getting sticky, this poem, he feels. This Donne is quite the rake.
E@L wonders, after 30 lines or so, if he ought not have brought some more traditionally (i.e. modern) risque material into the dunny (ho ho) with him, instead of works by this outrageously crude, famous, hence charming and sophisticated, poet - E@L means, you don't want to read dirty poetry, do you? Or do you? E@L will have to look it up.
Perhaps he feels a bit guilty for finding such stuff in his toilet-based situation, for expecting seriousness and elegance and chuffy ruffled-collared wit whilst taking a dump, rather than enjoying (and he was enjoying it now) 300 year old fun and frankness and nudge-nudge honesty, from back before sex was invented, a guilt he might not have felt with internet access to a local (Japanese - E@L is in Tokyo for a week more) pron site or other, probably involving tentacles, and/or enemas, etc... (You've seen the pics, you know how weird this country gets...)
But when E@L gets to the end of the pome, reading in more hushed tones now in case someone beyond the cardboards walls complains about the metaphysical language, it quickly becomes very un-meta in its physicality:...
Rich Nature in women wisely made
TWO purses, and their mouths aversely laid. [Purses!]
They then which to the LOWER tribute owe, [Uh-huh...]
That way which that exchequer looks must go ; [Huh?] He which doth NOT, his error is great,
As who by CLYSTER gives the stomach [pause] meat.
So that means, E@L translates prosaically (literally), that if the gent is only going to kiss his lady's upper "purse", he may as well have a clyster (look it up) instead of dinner and expect hearty sustenance...
And that's when E@L realises that he IS reading enema porn.
Writing Rules: It pays to have a BOOM opening sentence...
Why is it that now I like living in Singapore, whereas my first few years were traumatic and irritating? Have I become a more forgiving person, or is it Singapore that has lifted its game?
I admit that the medication I have been taking for chronic neuropathy (off-label), is in fact a "mood stabiliser", so perhaps I am less grumpy, less irascible, less irritable, less easily pissed off. But people in Singaporeans stand aside at the train doors now (mostly); they don't run you over with their shopping trolleys (as often); they don't spit at your feet or squat on the toilet seat; they move to the back of... OK, I'll stop stretching it: they don't move to the back of the bus, but in my international experience (I used to catch the school-bus in Australia), no-one does.
One might get the feeling that Singaporean are more polite than they used to be. Or is that there are heroes out there...?
I bring this up because I was approached in the street by two high-school-aged kids, a boy and a girl. The boy held his arms bent up, palms out towards me at chest height, and moved them slightly as the two walked in my direction. I was a bit taken aback, as you would be, but realised that he was just asking me to slow down, to stop, indeed, for they wanted to chat with me. It reminded me of the time in Beijing that a young Chinese person, innocently enough, asked me if they could practice their English by talking to me - it used to happen to tourists in Tienanmen Square all the time.
These kids had no clipboards or badges with IDs, but they wore tee-shirts which had an illustration of a giraffe's heads on the front. The girl was quiet and said nothing, but smiled brightly. The boy took the lead.
First of all he told me that they were not selling anything, nor asking anything special of me, but one thing.
He began to explain what the giraffe's head meant. I saw that a web address, giraffe.org, was printed underneath.
As you would as well, I expected this to be a wildlife, endangered species, don't shoot lions, or giraffes for that matter doorstopper. The sort of faux-interview and the hit-up for funding support thing.
How gentle, wrong reader, was I.
"Giraffe.org", he said, "is a sort of movement. You how, like, for a giraffe, it's stick your neck out for things? To do things?"
I nodded "Mm-hmm."
"We are looking for stories. Of people who you have seen stick their necks out to help other people. You know, like random acts of help and good things. Kindness, like that."
Impressed that he hadn't mentioned religion so far (he never did), I raised my eyebrows (in a good way).
He continued: "So if you have recently seen, or even heard of, normal people helping people they didn't need to help, you know like someone was in trouble. Good people..."
"You shouldn't ask me that," I said, smiling. "I am as close to evil as you've ever come." (Thinking of Pete Cook's Mephistopheles in "Bedazzled". Cheeky and mischievous, rather than actual evil, while still being The Devil.)
The girl continued her cheery smile and the boy gave a chuckle. "I don't think so, sir. We are always trying to show to the public the helpful people, like they are heroes to others, small heroes in everyday things. If you can think of any incident, or anyone you know like that..."
* Indy bought me a beer the other day... nah, we're probably even by now.
* Bruce took me to new club in the 4FoWs and offered to shout a round of tequilas to the six girls who were hanging off me... but that was the year before last, hardly "recently". (Tempus fugit like the fuck!)
* My maid took my suit to the laundry to be dry-cleaned... Nah, that's her job.
Well, maybe I should branch out and think of what I have seen people do for people other than myself... But no, nothing comes.
"Sorry," I said. "I can't think of anything right now. But I do like your programme, it sounds... nice."
The boy pulled his a face into a resigned-but-not-yet-exhausted-by-rejection smile and the girl's smile started to wilt, but I gave them one of my patented Chin UP! smiles and they brightened again (or made an effort to).
"Thank you, sir," they said.
"You are entirely welcome." What a nice cause, what polite children, thought
E@L has fallen out of the habit of writing; but haven't we all.
He is not sure what habit might have supplanted it (for him at least - whatever nefarious alternatives you might have found are matters for your own conscience and the ability of the neighbours to get a good night's sleep), but he is certain it is a bad one, not worthy of spending any time on, and not productive of anywhere near the enjoyment he used obtain by pressing "Publish" (followed by three hours of correcting typos and blind links) and thereby pushing his bullshit into this isolated and brackish backwater of the Web to be ignored by the billions of people who might conceivably benefit by the experience.
Wouldn't it be good if he could throw Famebook out the fucking window and let his communications open up in this antient forum, at least to the four* people in the world who might possibly still read his rambles, as opposed to those few of the 246 "friends" who have not Blocked or Ignored him (there's probably about eight as well) on Flakebook.
Wouldn't it be good if everyday he could achieve what Michel Faber managed to do in order to write his most recent novel (while his wife was dying); just write six sentences (at least) a day.
Every word of every sentence is a step in the right direction because... because what?; a sense fulfillment; the exclusion of boredom; a way to prevent eyelocking the abyss... because blogging used to be the way we'd get our opinions, feeling, frustration, thoughts and exploits out there and maybe even contemplate turning the output (or deflecting that energy and enthusiasm) into something more substsantial, and make money and find eternal fame and undying adulation, as some, and others seemed to have done, back in the day.
So here we go - let's see how long this latest promise to himself lasts.
E@L is back on a bad-food restriction programme - no-one says "diet" anymore - with added calorific expenditure augmentation - no-one says "exercise" anymore - motivated by the fact that E@L has a Dr's appointment in a coupla weeks and that he had promised the good Medico that 5kgs of ugly/fair-to-middling fat would be converted into CO2 and H2O over the three months since his previous visit.
The authorities at E@LGHQ have, under the exigencies of reality, recently reset that goal to a barely feasible 4kgs in 2 weeks. Hmmm. E@L do be looking for a dose of some gastro-intestinal disaster to drop the reading dramatically. Any suggestions? KFC? Pizza? Newton Food Court?
It is now, what, just over 3 years since his dramatic IAI (Italian Angina Incident - no-one says "heart attack" anymore), and the Caring and Supportive Cardiologist (perceptive and perspicacious E@L can tell) is on the verge of dumping E@L because he have only put on weight, and dropped off to lower degee of exercise since they joined forces in this battle against arterial plaque. He said, mustering an impression of involvment, "Well, mmm, I guess we should do another test of some sort. It's been a while. Um. I think that maybe we should try another ECG stress test, see if anything has, you know, gotten worse." "But you said last time that nothing was wrong on the stress test! How can anything get worse when it is good!" "Um, yes, that's right, I think; I meant, um, you know, changed."
And as, persistent reader, you no doubt realize, an exercise test involves, um, you know, exercise, E@L is back on the treadmill in his gym in anticipation of that momentous treadmill test in the Good Doctor's office.
Walking uphill, a bit of jogging, getting the pulse up there... It all reminds E@L of the high level of cardio-vascular, umm, fitness he had achieved in the months leading up to the IAI...!
Having had a normal PET stress test two weeks before the IAI, plus his own experience of patients he has seen or people he has known, E@L realises that things happen, no matter what. Normal everything, healthy everything, but you can still just...
... just obssess about it.
* Quote from Colin Farrell's character in True Detective, on why he has so few friends" "I like to limit the number of people I disappoint.")
The vast programming skills (persistence, mainly) of No1 Son have resurrected the link to my prior blog. He has shown me (sort of, c.f nictatating membrane) how to do this - and it was in fact what I had been trying do all along (I gave up in Jan last year according to the time-stamp on the Error _Log) only with more guesswork, and had partial success, short of making the blog, um, you know, visible.
It all was to do with some changes to the PHP language. Small things like square brackets ( [ ) being required around certain strings in certain commands, etc, ad tedium... He'd try to do something, like find previous entry and it would call up a PHP redacted (or whatever) error. He'd find the bad line in the named file, find the solution on an online PHP forum, correct it, test it, move on to the next topic. Stuff programmers love and their fathers detest. He didn't finish though, as we went to dinner at an execellent restaurant (Umberto Espresso Bar) on High St Northcote, not too far from his/our new place.
So, unfortunately - HA! like a) anyone will go back through it, and b) care nough to make a comment - you currently can't make comments. I'll work on that using the technique mentioned above during my continuing weeks of travel.
Segueing in which topic: I have just left Australia after three (3, count 'em) weeks, and am in New Zealand now, Sydney Friday, then I will fly back to Singapore for two nights, then go to Bangers for a week, come back to Singers for three (3, etc...) days then go to KL for three more. Then, it's Japan. All work.
But, bless my blessed life, it's Portugal and the Azores with the bestest people, the good old SPG and her Gandalf: to whit, Izzy and Danijel from Madhouse Heaven and points in between. (BTW Izzy's latest blog is here.)
After a brief spell so I can get my washing done, it's off to Hawaii for a wedding. Not mine, phew. These things are happening all over the place these days, with notable exceptions - c.f. No1 Son and partner).
The link to the archives is at the bottom of the side-bar on the right, but here it as again anyway: Expat-At-Large.
Unusually for him [cough], E@L was a little bit muddled a few weeks ago, somewhere in a foreign country in the middle of a conversation with someone he can't recall for legal reasons.
Anyway, point of story: E@L had stated that Hitachi, the company with which E@L may or not have a passing employment-oriented relationship, made Japan's Shinkansen trains.
And the other guy said, "Yeah, along with Toshiba."
E@L was certain he was unsure about this, but being always polite, did not challenge this assertion. More than that, he assented to it. "Yeah..." he said, semi-agreeing enthusiastically (beers had been consumed and the mood of the moment was positive) but quickly changed to a subject he felt he might be certain about being certain about - which is to say he shut-up and glugged another beer.
E@L's First Trip To Japan, contemporaneous with his First Fuck-up In Photoshop
It's been bothering him though, because he had probably looked this up years ago. Fuck, the past is a foreign country, which is fair enough, as most of it happens in foreign countries. And besides... He has a vague memory of someone in Japan telling him about the Shinkansen, perhaps on the ride from Tokyo to Osaka.
Certainly Hitachi made the early models, as organised by Japan Rail, he is sure about that, but did they make ALL of them. Did Toshiba kick in at some point in time and go into a joint venture, or did Toshiba even make one or more of them completely?
Jack Ely, the lead singer of The Kingsmen, most well-known for their 1963 seminal hit, Louie Louie, sadly passed away on the 27th of April. RIP.
In case you didn't know (like, by not having read E@L's FB post, or the link above to the Wikipedia page) this song was investigated by no other just arbiter of morality, niceness, appropriateness, and generally good social behaviour than the FBI, for being a menace to society!
"This land of ours [USA?] is headed for an extreme state of degradation what with this record, the biggest hit movies and the sex and violence on T.V." said a concerned father in a letter to the Attorney General, no less. Gee willikers, you don't hear that exact complaint almost word for word anymore, do you? Right...?
The FBI file is most entertaining. E@L wonders what importance there could possibly be in the redacted sections.
~~~~~~~~~~ *The Controversy*
Listen to this song while you read the "explicit lyrics" dear old dad found buried in there.
E@L is certain that you too are outraged!
Now listen to again again while you read the actual lyrics...
Oh. Pretty tame really, but Jack Ely, man, what a brilliant performance he slurs out. It really does sound like he should be singing bawdy, subversive lyrics! E@L reckons he's been smokin' serious amounts of those Jamaican tea leaves prior to the recording session... E@L wishes he had been there! Except he would have been 6yo at the time, andy don't smoke.
OK, great, but apart from being famous for Ely's obviously almost unintelligble singing, the song has had quite a seminal role in what became what we know as rock music, influencing strongly The Kinks' You Really Got Me, which in E@L's opinion is the first truly modern rock song.
Brilliant. Especially the flag-waving at the end!
Louie Louie has been in a squidillion movies and TV shows (see the Wikipedia link, above).
For an example, making the most of the incompehensible lyrics with their drunken slurring, John Belushi at al have a great go at it in National Lampoon's Animal House... (set in 1962, although The Kingmen's version that's playing on the juke-box wasn't released until 1963).
E@L is not at all qualified to speak in any depth about war.
He knows very little about either the mutiny of the sailors on the Battleship Potemkin in 1905, or the non Apocalypse Now / Deer Hunter / Casualities of War parts of the Vietnam War, but when he was looking at a series of photos a while back in, was it, The Atlantic, about the Vietnam "conflict", (which failed to mentioned its prehistory with the War of Independence against France) he came across this pic of a farmer displaying his dead son to a tank-load of South Vietnamese soldiers, which triggered something in E@L's memory of Film Appreciation 101, back in his brief fling with higher education at Uni in 1976.
Ah, of course, that's right. There is a scene at the Odessa Steps in Eisenstein's film that is for all intents, identical.
Draw whatever conclusion you like about any similarities between the Russian Revolution and the Vietnam War, but killing children seems to be what war is all about these days. What with ISIS decapitating children and killing children in schools, and Boko Haram kidnapping school-children for who knows what nefarious purpose, we have to wonder what else we are capable of.
Could it get any worse, or has it always, in reality, been like this?
Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke gives ample support for this observation, that civilians have increasingly become the specified targets for warring nations during the twentieth century. Sure there has been raping and pillaging since tribes marked out boundaries, and since armies trampled through civilian areas on their way to the next staged battle, but it is the power of films and photography and YouTube that stamp these concepts into our minds today. We can see it everywhere, everyday, we don't have to look hard. Our minds explode with these images.
Soldiers might go to war, but that war comes to us, with a camera.
As Trotsky said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
Some targeted children have names:
Kim Phuc (note the photographer changing film next to her in this uncropped shot) "Colonel Alles added that napalm had a ”big psychological effect” on an enemy. ”The generals love napalm,” he said." (Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, March 19, 2013)
We lament our young soldiers today, the 100th Aniversary of ANZAC Day. We should mourn for everyone who has died in "conflicts": man, woman, and child.
We should wring our hands and hang our heads in shame for the human race.
I am doing VERY poorly on my Goodreads promise of three books a month - I keep jumping from book to book halfway through and never seem to finish one. Perhaps because I keep buying more of the fuckers, and faster than any human can read.
I was in Folio Books in Brisbane last week (Archives Rare Books secondhand store was earlier in the week, no Oakley Hall in the Westerns section, damn) and, while I was buying the new biography of Stefan Zweig, I saw the latest Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) on the shelf, with a picture of Gabriel Byrne on the cover, dressed up in period costume almost as he was in the movie Miller's Crossing. Obviously they (who? BBC One and RTÉ One) have started placing the shambling Dublin pathologist, Dr Quirke, into a TV series! But I realised when I looked inside the cover that I was several books behind. I thought, hey, I won't buy it now anyway because bought-too-many-books-already/overweight-luggage/double-stacked-shelves/too-small-apartment (Ha, say my friends).
Back in Singers I go to check the last of the dour Quirke sagas I have read, the fourth - A Death in Summer. There it is, correctly sited in Fiction, alphabetical Author, publishing date order... with a bookmark poking forlornly out the top between pages 220 and 221. One third through. I didn't finish it. Oh, well there are a plethora (veritable, literal, actual) of other unfinished dusty* old tomes here, no great surprise there. I was no doubt enchantedly distracted by fresh pastures of augmented literary verdancy then as I still succumb to now.
I decided to restart it on the spot, catch up to the latest in the series and then download, ahem, purchase the TV shows.
Straight away, just a few pages in, I knew why I had not finished it. It was not that I had been distracted by something else. I think instead I had consciously decided not to finish it. I didn't enjoy it, it was too light (despite the grisly death) for what I was expecting from the early books. Too much sunshine, or something (not even sure if it mentions sunshine, but...). I'd given up on it. When the author is named Black, you expect darkness. Perhaps the women are too beautiful, too photogenic, and that is where the sunshine comes from. But Quirke in love with that snooty-French bitch, the gorgeous, newly widowed (Femme Fatale alert) Francoise? You've got to be joking.
Sigh. Well... The plot also seemed (and still seems) terribly formulaic, something of a pastiche, a parody, an Agatha Christie-like passionless, vaguely intriguing mystery to read on the train. It seems to steal something from every other crime mystery ever written. Oh no, it's not suicide after all! The usual suspects; the rival blustery businessman fresh from verbal with the deceased; the surly, estranged daughter; the sensitive ex-con estate manager; the ice-hearted widow due for the inheritance; the businessman's mysterious son just back from (shades of Inspector Hound) Canada... This feeling was so strong, I recall I could almost see Banville/Black surrendering to a How To Write A Crime Mystery Writer's Workshop rigidity. The mindset that forces him to use hoary old tricks to keep us reading on past the chapter breaks. Perhaps they're not so much a cliff on which to hang, as a street gutter outside a pub to stumble over, but I hate that type of overly dramatic pause with a finishing sentence that doesn't finish anything. I might just be me, I despise airport (or train journey) thrillers because of it. It's an hiatus that clangs of ad-breaks for the TV shows (ironically), so that you can rush to the toilet... I fight against it. I prefer closure to the Perils of Pauline while I hold my piss. I much prefer watching cable-TV shows or movies that are edited to be watched all the way through, rather than to the fifteen minute ad-cycle of free-to-air TV I am forced to sit through with the FLOs in Australia. And it is the same with books.
Meanwhile other novels I have dug my head into lately (and not finished either, mostly) include ones by Thomas Bernhard, Jose Saramago, and Låszlo Krasznahorkai, writers who confront you with great slabs of un-paragraphed text for many, many pages, and even in Bernhard's case a whole novel, and when so the break does come, it comes not with a short gasp of suspense, but with a sigh of completeness. That's that part of the story done, OK? Now let me tell you the next bit...
Well yes, this ad-break method is inherent in the style of the genre Black/Banville's chosen to write, that of the unputdownable (take it to the loo with you) thriller, but it makes you wonder why he is just following someone else's sclerotic old rules half-heartedly, only half-seriously when he is such a master. He still writes as well as you'd expect of a Booker winning author (maybe Noble Prize short-listed?) and has sent me to dictionary.com now and then ("louring turrets" - louring: lowering, looming, threatening, as in dark storm clouds louring. As in turrets. A very Thomas Hardy word, don't you think?), and I think back on the masterly works of Banville as Banville, how Kepler captivated me, etc...
The title of the book itself:A Death In Summer**, it reeks of a TV show, doesn't it? Mid-summer. Murder. Sort of thing. From the start you know there's only going to be one corpse. There's a bit of mystery already gone. And it is not to be confused with the more Hemingwayesque title of William Trevor's Death In Summer. Death as a concept, as an abstraction, as a slaughterhouse. (Is Midsomer Murders about a serial killer?)
B/B's going to have to do something special to get this penny dreadful plot to rise above a Dame Agatha level of two-dimensionality. The sad fact is those cliffhanger devices work best when the story is thrilling already, but the intrigue of whether Sinclair will bang Quirke's daughter or not hardly moves me to insomnia. (Of course he will. Or maybe not.)
Having said all that, we know and love the man with more troubles than all the other crime mystery heroes combined, the multi-troubled, diffident but determined, the grown man still tormented by memories of a childhood in those horrific Irish orphanages, the poorly-reformed alcoholic, chain-smoking, overly curious Dr Quirke, surely enough.
- Is it himself in this one?
- Aye, it surely is.
- And is he worth the flamin' effort? Just for himself, the man, at all?
- Aye, to be sure.
Ah well, I keep pushing on... There's sure bound to be more about child-abusing priests, and the stories of other victims of the horror orphanages who had made it out even more negatively affected than did Dr Quirke. And Sinclair will bonk Phoebe. Or if not, definitely in the next book - I can wait to find out.
I'm sure blacker things will lour up suitably turret-like and ominous once I push past last time's point of abandonment. Then I can get on with rest of them.
* NTS: must berate the FDW for insufficient "attention to detail". (The catch-phrase of my old Chief Radiographer, who'd sweep every horizontal surface of your monthly allocated x-ray room for any particles of germ carrying dust: "Attention to detail, Mr E@L, is the hallmark of the good radiographer." As it is for almost every occupation, E@L kept muttering under his breath.)
** I wrote this before I read the much, much better informed and more forgiving Guardian review - I see cliché, he sees homage and due respect. The reviewer seems at least to have finished it before putting fingertips to keyboard.
E@L was in Australia, 8 - Feb 2015 - 13 Mar 2015. Phew, glad that's over. Working mostly, but 10 days off as well. Perth, Townsville(!?), Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane.
To have paid so much for every drink and every meal (chicken parmagiana [sic], three types!) for all that time. Man, that country is expensive.
Expenses: big bill...
And then, woah, E@L comes back to pay a mere $23 for his share of a massive feast of Schezuan specialities and loads of beer (with ice) on the streets of Chinatown, Singapore. OK a lot of the dishes were vegetarian (or close to, but hey, we are talking volume here.) Awesome! Man, this country is cheap.
And the few the remaining Dionysians walk up to Ang Sang Hill Rd and E@L pays $15 for that yap for doh (one for the road). Outrageous! Man, this country is expensive.
Meanwhile, on the plane back, earlier that day, IKYN, he's eating his dinner of eye filet, roasted root vegetables and creamy mash with a glass of Bordeaux (what, you good people of Singapore, etc, don't think E@L flies cattle class on long hops do you?), when a sense of nausea creeps up on E@L, a slowly enfolding miasma of awful, permeating stink... It takes a minute or so to register that something is wrong in fact. E@L is just sitting there, and the meal doesn't taste right, the wine lacklustre (it is only French).
Literally, the atmosphere here is bad. It dawns eventually that he is becoming enwrapped in a fearful cloud of noisome wrongness and that something really smells!
He doesn't know where the smell is coming from initially, whom is the source, the culprit, except that stench is of human origin. No shit not, piss... FEET. Like his own feet get when he has been wearing old sandals in the rain. Pong. Pure and simple, sickening and foul.
And a roll of fawn cotton socks, monogrammed with a brand if not the owner's name, strikes him as incongruous.
Swear to God, the guys sitting next to him has taken the complementary pair of useless sock/slippers they give you in long hauls in Business Class, but rather than place them over his socks, he has taken the socks off, tucked them into a ball and plonked them ... wait for it ... on the tray for the small storage slot on the back of the seat in front of him. Right out in the open, up high.
Here: to give you an idea.
What the bromodrotic fuck?
What sort of ignorant creature would do this, you ask of E@L?
Let's test E@L's powers of description. Well, first of all he's a man a bit older than E@L (past middle-age by now); pale skin, loose around the jawline; light hair, curly and thinning; a bit of a paunch but no more than you'd expect; steel-glasses; well-dressed (second time in a few days well-dressed men have offended E@L: another story in Brisbane re: locked keys in car, need bus fare) in pale slacks and two-tone polo shirt; and he's eating the crispy skinned cod filet. Perhaps that's why he doesn't notice?
But when you think about it, why wouldn't a man who looks intelligent enough, mature enough, successful enough, why wouldn't he realise that it is simply rude, inconsiderate, and woefully ignorant to place your socks up somewhere in view while you and others are eating. This is the sort of thing a mother should have whupped out of him as a youngster.
Manners. This man is bereft of manners.
The feet can be a source of great offense in Asia as you know, even beyond power to demolish the olfactory aesthetics of the moment. Typically people have outside shoes which they leave at the door, and inside shoes, or they go besocked or barefoot. Dirty, profane, disgusting, bad luck. You shouldn't point with your toes, or place your soles of your feet (or shoes) in the direction of certain South-East Asians, particularly those who are Buddhist.
[There is some interesting (to some) Japanese porn about feet - footjobs, enejaculated toes, the like. What is it with the Japanese?]
E@L shakes his head. It must be the socks, of course. Yes, no doubt: This nauseating fog is a characteristic of a uniquely sock/foot emanation.
He doesn't get angry, he gets mildly offended - hey, he IS mildly offended. "Excuses me sir, are they your socks?" With a slight twist of bitter disgust at the end.
Untaken aback, he leans forward, pops them under his nose, and says, very convinced, "They don't smell."
E@L only partially stifles a guffaw of incredulity. "I beg to differ," counters E@L.
The man drops his socks to the floor, and as if to dismiss E@L, continues to eat and watch his movie.
So, E@L shakes his head again. And slowly, his appetite challenged, he chews into a chunk steak as it were cardboard, orders another vin cru bourgeois, ignores the ignorant savage right back at (or away from, it would have to be) him.
Well, yes, of course it was the socks. With them out of public view the foul air gradually dissipates and, E@L presumes, is recycled - to offend someone else in the plane, probably down at the rear end where lighter gases, such as body odour and (once upon a time) cigarette smoke, slowly driven back with the plane's slight accelerations, gather. Back where you'd think the unwashed and malodorous would typically reside and not up in the classy end where businessmen, and E@L, not to mention the jerk who was beside him, prefer to sit. Safely ensconced, unassailed by fell aromas. You'd think.
After the meal, the man unapologetically but not rudely it must be said, gathered his stuff, stepped over E@L's discretely shod feet and moved to an unoccupied seat by the window at the rear of the section. Open the window man, let the stink out.
The Singapore food market for expats and Mercedes-driving locals is Cold Storage. It's run by Dairy Farm Holdings. Now Dairy Farm is a place in Singapore, so that makes us think that it is a local company, right? But people, it's, um, not really. Not at all in fact.
It is managed out of Bermuda (as if Singapore's taxes weren't low enough), and uber-owned, surprise-surprise, by the Jardine Matheson group. Those are the charming fuckers who made it big by sneaking around and eventually usurping British East India Company's monopoly on trade (in particular opium) with the Chinese in the early-mid C19th. The drug trade caused the death and suffering of countless Chinese and was threatening to bankrupt their place, but it was raking back in all the silver the English had paid for tea and silk, so England didn't seem to care.
All this triggered the Opium Wars and, as they say, to the victor go the spoils, such as Hong Kong, and J-M haven't looked back since. Well maybe they were glancing back a little bit in the lead-up to 1997's Handover. However, to put them in perspective, it's probably accurate enough to consider them the Mexican drug cartels of those heady (woozy) times.
Cold Storage's specialty, top-end, Australians only/mostly, woah-expensive, organic only/mostly supermarket brand is Jasons Marketplace, or in some manifestations, Jasons The Gourmet Grocer. Jasons it is, note, in a Finnegans Wake sort of mythical plurality of Joyce's here comes everybody trope, calling upon the Platonic concept of the ideal Jason, not Jason's.
They now have stores in Taiwan as well.
FYI, Dairy Farms' low-end, peasant-level consumables are slapped up at Seven-Eleven, and cheap, peasant-level consumable furniture at their IKEA stores.
Singapore expats, being equal with HK expats (often indistinguishable, often the same individuals) as the world's most conspicuously conspicuous consumers, love throwing away their money at the place. S$19 for a tub of strawberries? You beaut!
There's a new Jasons opening around the corner from E@LGHQ vewwwy vewwwy soon. You can bet E@L will be there whenever his recipes call for organic fennel bulbs (which used to be a giant weed growing free and untended along the riverbanks of the Barwon River in Geelong) and biodynamic rhubarb, chia seeds, or gluten free peanut butter.
BTW, the Hong Kong brand equivalent Cold Storage is Wellcome, and Jasons is known in HK, I believe, if I believe Wikipaedia that is, as MarketPlace By Jason.
They all seem to be doing very well, with 2013's world-wide total sales "in excess" (redundant*) of US$11Billion, thank you very much.
However, on another little island with a more celebrated military history**, Jasons didn't really work out all that well...
* since when has $11Billion NOT been an excess.
** the whole frackin' island was awarded the St George Cross! I bet the Maltese people, 1,300*** of whom had died as the Italians and then the Germans carpet bombed the place, were satisfied with that...
*** just over half of the number of people in the Nigerian towns around Baga killed by Boko Haram Islamists two weeks ago. (No medal awarded.)
It ain't. Not really. Just another day. And apart from the New Year sales, nothing really special on a capitalist front either. No special gifts required.
But Happy Western New Year anyway.
Why don't we say it that way? Happy Western New Year.
Why do we (Westerners) not differentiate between the Chinese New Year, and dozens of other New Years, as celebrated by other countries, cultures, and religions (the Christian - i.e. Liturgical - year commences at Advent, late November to early December) and not specifically remind these other countries, cultures, etc, that it is new year only for us, i.e. those predominantly Western civilisations which use the Gregorian calendar or the revised Julian Calendar?
White European arrogance and fantasies of some farcical form of assumed supremacy facilitated merely by the historical predominance of guns, germs and steel in this culture?
Was there anything big and/or firsts for E@L in 2014 worth commenting on?
Glad you asked.
1: got pinged for speeding in Geelong (certainly not a first, but just thought it worth mentioning in consideration of No:2)
2: got pinged for driving an unregistered car in Gippsland, Eastern Victoria! (Long story - he didn't know it wasn't registered)
3: Christmas dinner was for the first time not at E@L's mum or sister's place but at his cousin's place way over in Gippsland, near Wilson's Promontory National Park (beautiful place), which is a long drive away. (see No:2)
4: watched his Singapore expat circle continue to diminish significantly as several friends moved away to one or other extensions of the SEA expat rubber-band. They will return, it is a rule of physics, but until then E@L might have to go out and meet, shudder, other people. Hell is...
5: visited new countries/cities: Malta, Vienna, Kyoto (gorgeous, need to visit again!), Queenstown in New Zealand (gorgeous, need to visit again, with skis)
6: thought seriously about a retirement plan. No conclusion reached, his misty visions of his future years remain inchoate and nebulous. But so does this afternoon. Health-care primary concern. And good cafes.
7: bought another house (went thirds with No1 son, etc,...) to add to the property portfolio of the still inchoate retirement plan - he had purchased his sister's house late in 2013.
8: E@L's mother sold the family home, the one he grew up in, tough, and for a lot less than she wanted. Not that it is E@L's money, but ya gotta keep that retirement plan in mind, inchoate or otherwise.
9: spent a lot more time in Australia than usual - thanks to our affiliated distributor's growing workload. Mostly work and waiting in corridors for vast tracts of time, very little play.
10: did not fall in love (certainly not a first, but just to keep you up to date)
Word Of The Day:
ultradian: rhythmical cycles which occur for longer than an hour and shorter than a day. Like E@L in the office, falling asleep at his desk.