Tuesday, December 29, 2020



Mario wrote very seldom; in fact, for a long time past, the only signs of a writer about him were the pen and blank sheets of paper always lying ready on his desk. Those were the happiest days of his life, given up to dreams, and free from teasing practical problems; a sort of second childhood, more desirable even than the maturity of  a successful writer, whose words flow too glibly and with too little effort to the paper, leaving an empty husk which mistakes itself for ripe fruit.  Italo Svevo, The Hoax. (1929)


You see? You see? This is why E@L keeps loads and loads of books. Boxes and boxes of them. He picks up a volume at random and this gem of a paragraph unfolds before his eyes. How can one not relish that contradictory idea: the happiest days of his writing life were when he wasn't writing, even though he still thought of himself as a writer. So self-depricating in its contrariness, so freshly thought, so pretentiously unpretentious, so oxymoronical, so... so Svevoesque (new word, first in a long time!). 

This volume also contains The Story of The Nice Old Man and The Pretty Girl - a classic...

Sigh. E@L doesn't write anymore, but, unlike Mario, he doesn't kid himself/others that he's a writer either. 

Happy days for 


Saturday, December 05, 2020

In the current oeconomic climate...

Two thousand, three hundred and fifty years ago, trickle-down economics [sorta] was deemed bad and a progressive tax was imposed in Athens.   

"I saw, men of Athens, that your navy was decaying, and that, while the rich were getting off with small payments, citizens of moderate or small fortunes were losing their substance, and the state, by reason thereof, missing her opportunity of action. I therefore proposed a law, by which I compelled the one class (the rich) to perform their duty, and stopped the oppression of the poor; and --what was most useful to the country-- I caused her preparations to be made on time.

[On being offered bribes by the rich class to drop the law] "And no wonder they did so; for under the former laws they might divide the charge by sixteen, spending little or nothing themselves, and grinding down the needy citizens; whereas under my law everyone had to pay a sum proportioned to his means ..."  Demosthenes: On The Crown (330 BC).


Reagan, Thatcher and that lot: don't listen to them!!

And as for that Macedonian upstart, Philip, and his pisqueak son Alex... Don't listen to them either, listen to 


Monday, November 16, 2020

Repost Re:Post

I have recently been pestering FB friends with longish arty-farty stuff, pieces that I once would have posted here. 

So I'll try to remember to post them here as well/instead. 


New Yorker articles - prereading for MANK


"There is a theme that is submerged in much of “Citizen Kane” but that comes to the surface now and then, and it’s the linking life story of Hearst and of Mankiewicz and of Welles—the story of how brilliantly gifted men who seem to have everything it takes to do what they want to do are defeated. It’s the story of how heroes become comedians and con artists."

There's a piece by movie critic Richard Brody on David Fincher's new bio-pic fillum Mank, about the making of Welles's (ha!) Citizen Kane, in the current New Yorker. It discusses Pauline Kael's long 1971 article, also in the New Yorker about Mankiewicz, "the Central Park West Voltaire" more than the movie as far as I read. But I would consider this (the Kael) essential pre-reading before watching the movie, although a) I haven't finished it, b) I haven't seen the new movie obviously and I can't remember much (cough) about CK and c) it's probably behind a $-wall for most/all of you.

The Brody article quotes a 1978 biography of Mankiewicz with this line Mank was prepared to say if he had turned up the Oscars (he didn't) and Welles didn't. (Citizen Kane had won Best Script with both their names on it, even though Welles contributed SFA and he initally had wanted sole credit.) “I am very happy to accept this award in Mr. Welles’s absence, because the script was written in Mr. Welles’s absence.” Comic or con?

Either way, I think Voltaire would have approved, as does


Friday, November 13, 2020

Some writers. Phew! 

I managed to get through the audiobook of The Great Fire a few years, it was a long struggle, but I enjoyed it by the end and found it both intellectually and emotionally satisfying (and I had a sense of avhievement - like completing Ulysses or, should I ever, Infinite Jest).

Warning: Shirley Hazzard does not assume you are stupid or poorly read... 

I tried again after that to read The Transit Of Venus but could not get my teeth into it. I am sure that is both my failing and my loss. Every small pulse of emotion can have such import that flows through the characters' lives, which are seemingly impossibly dense with thought, feeling, empathy, and reflection - and literary references.

I sense late in life that some people are like this in reality. Was it something I said in 1983?

Not ever being able to remember peoples' names, faces, where we met, or what I said or did to/with them had insulated me from many such regrets. Not all, but many. Someone should write a book, maybe 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Days Of Past Futures

The link to is the eight tab from the left on the bookmarks bar of his browser. E@L is not sure why it remains in such a prominent position as it never gets a hit these days. 

Has E@L nothing to report? Has he no opinion on anything? About getting his coffee order correct? About troublesome taxi drivers? About toasters that require three runs through? About books and movies? About the rise in populism, and political insanity. About both conservatives and liberals being painted into unreasonable, irrational positions in the corner of their ideologies by the sloppy brushes of social-media propaganda, a shaken and stirred paint can of silliness from the radicals at the extreme ends of the colour chart (this is E@L stretching a ridiculous metaphor to its breaking point with his hasty thought of RED OR DEAD through to WHITE POWER: it's not a racist comment)?

What about work? Yeah, what about it?

What about his health? Heart attacks, and major surgery? What about major new health issues, and staring into the abyss yet again? Indeed, what about it? [Abyss says, Hey E@L, you back again?] 

About leaving Expatriatdom for good?  About - shudder - riots and plagues? Read on McDuff... 


In Oct 2017, an suspecting E@L was invited into the Lair of the Black Demons, one of the meeting rooms next to the CEO’s office, to meet with the relatively new CEO and the HR person. Uh oh, he thought. And appropriately, because uh oh is what happened.
Softly, contracting her cheek muscles to elevate the sides of her mouth (is that a smile?) HR person said, "We have decided that it's best to bring you in line with the other staff..."

Uh oh.

"So, E@L, you have been a valuable employee for nearly 14 years, but it’s best that all CAS [clinical application specialists] are on similar contracts, so from the end of this month [THIS MONTH!!]...

... we will be removing your housing allowance... [inevitable really, E@L has been riding this caboose of the expat gravy train for way too many years - not that he is complaining!] 

... and your utilities allowance... [turn off the freaking air-con and live like you're in a kampong!] 

.... as well removing your business class flight privileges... [NNNNOOOOOOOOO!], 

.... and ending the repatriation clause in your contract.” [was that still in there?] 

Uh fucking oh. Expat in name only for E@L. He slumps to the desk, slides to the floor...

"We understand that this potentially would require you to downsize your apartment [AAAaaaarrrrrrghhhh! Not E@LGHQ!]. We can help you to obtain a real estate agent to find a less expensive place for you."

"Did you say no housing allowing from NEXT month? NEXT month?"

HR lady retracts her risorial musculature slightly again. “Yes.” CEO says nothing. He has said nothing thus far for the meeting, which is worrying, until E@L remembers that he can’t speak English.

“Do you want me to resign, is that it? Or is there a package? Can you offer a redundancy, same as you did for  ******.” 

“No, E@L, we don’t want you to leave, we really need you. We just want to pay you less. It’s not been a good year. Please sign this document to show you understand and agree to these changes to your contract.”

E@L, in shock, shakes his head, asks for some time to think and excuses himself. He returns to his desk.


First thing he does when back at his desk is look for a copy of his contract. He has kept them hidden in a secret cache in an envelope labelled ‘contracts’ in the middle drawer of his desk. He should remember to lock that drawer. He should try to find the key.

When he subsequently reads his contract for the first time in years (unlike the new CEO who has a highly marked-up copy on his dartboard), he sees a paragraph that states that all of the benefits he is being asked to rescind, to be stripped of, would have been automatically lost if he had taken up permanent residency (PR) or became a Singapore citizen, presumably by getting married. He quickly discarded the thought that the recent discussion with HR constituted a subtle offer of matrimonial bliss. 

E@L was writing an email to point out this (PR, not matrimony) when said HR person came to his desk and placed the document in front of him again. 

“Could you please sign this.”  

HR person actually did this. [In subsequent occasions, such as when E@L was unwell, HR person provided excellent and personable support. But not this day.]

“I’m not signing that!” cries 


(to be continued) 


Monday, June 15, 2020

Pessoa In Disquieting Times

"History rejects certainty. There are orderly times when everything is wretched, and disorderly times when everything is sublime. Decadent times can be intellectually fertile, and authoritarian times fertile only in feeblemindedness." 
The Book of Disquiet. Fernando Pessoa  Section 214(410), undated. (Probably 1930-33) 
As he read the papers (i.e. his Facebook feed), E@L thinks we've hit the Pessoan jackpot, with all these times at once. 

Every post is either wretched, sublime, intellectually fertile, or feebleminded, or combinations and permutations thereof.

Ah, who is he kidding. T'was ever thus. He is certain of that.


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