Wednesday, 5 October 2022


autumn, 2022.



damn you icelanders for strangling

the last pair of great auks

on a rocky island and stamping

on their egg in 1884.



My inadequate translation (apologies):

The Nazis may have been out to destroy her, but humiliation, for Hillesum, takes two: One who humiliates and one who they want to humiliate and especially: who allows themselves to be humiliated. She believed that if you are immune to humiliation, it does not get a hold on you. Then the humiliations evaporate into thin air, she wrote. They can do nothing to us, they can really do nothing to us.’

This is such a powerful idea and it’s almost literally what I wrote in my book. Did I have the same idea as Etty Hillesum independently 70 years later? Or did I read it in her diary and absorb it after which it somehow became transformed in my mind as an idea of my own? It’s possible. Perhaps it was unconscious plagiarism’ — that was George Harrison’s defence when he was sued about My Sweet Lord ha ha

As with most things it doesn’t actually matter — the death of the author and all that. RIP. Halleluja. But now, ten years later, I would add : But do not underestimate the effect of power. You may find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to allow yourself to be humiliated.



Nick Cave responds to the question What’s the point in life?’ :

To understand the point in life we must first understand what it is to be human. It seems to me that the common agent that binds us all together is loss, and so the point in life must be measured in relation to that loss. Our individual losses can be small or large. They can be accumulations of losses barely registered on a singular level, or full-scale cataclysms. Loss is absorbed into our bodies from the moment we are cast from the womb until we end our days, subsumed by it to become the essence of loss itself. We ultimately become the grief of the world, having collected countless losses through our lifetime. These losses are many-faceted and chronic, both monstrous and trivial. They are losses of dignity, losses of agency, losses of trust, losses of spirit, losses of direction or faith, and, of course, losses of the ones we love.




Every day is a long day and at the end of it you have to go to the place where the other is not and face the empty darkness of the night, the Great Big Nothing, which so many humans have become accustomed to filling up with Things.

And every day asks a question, as did the night that preceded it and the night that will come after it. What is the question? Let me tell you.

The night always asks if you are ready to die, if you are ready to merge with the Great Big Nothing.

Regardless of your answer, the night always returns you to the land of the living in the morning, ready or not — except for the last time, and then you better be ready.

And the day?

Every new day asks a different question. What is it today?

At the beginning of each day you have to reinvent yourself. Sometimes it is necessary to protect yourself, but what is this self you need to protect?

So often what it is that we feel we need to protect actually needs to be destroyed, or at least deconstructed.



Phenomenology : The how is the what

Timothy Morton just sent this note to his students and you should read it too

Hi! Everyone did much better on this quiz than the first one: good progress! But not enough of you defined phenomenology as the how is the what.”

Phenomenology began as a philosophical movement that decided to bracket” our assumptions about things and just look at the data. The Greek for this bracketing is epoche and that’s what they called it (“ay-pogh-air”).


Data is how something is manifesting. Data tells you about what is manifesting.

The how is the what.

The phenomenology of the way the discipline of psychology deploys the word phenomenology” is subjective experience,” because psychology has a strong vein of scientism running through it, unfortunately. It’s interesting that the closer science gets to human beings the more scientistic (aka religious) it becomes. Theoretical physicists don’t talk like that.

The phenomenology of the way the record store defines phenomenology” is subjective experience.” There is unfortunately an overlap between psychology and the record store.

The reason for this is that old creaky tweets such as subject” and object” (find me one of those in the universe, please!) are still very powerful. We don’t want to give them up. Which is a shame, because if we are ever going to get over the legacy of slavery, we really ought to try.

Yours, Tim Morton



Since the 1980s, physicists have been looking for preons, sfermions, dyons, magnetic monopoles, simps, wimps, wimpzillas, axions, flaxions, erebons, accelerons, cornucopions, giant magnons, maximons, macros, wisps, fips, branons, skyrmions, chameleons, cuscutons, planckons, sterile neutrinos — and even unparticles’, but all experiments looking for them have come back empty handed,” writes a physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Sabine Hossenfelder in The Guardian

So clearly if you know what you’re looking for you’re not going to find it.



don’t people from the north of england have lovely way of pronouncing shrub’?! this is mere speculation of course but i suspect that there are more shrubs in the north of england because of this. people are more likely to plant shrubs because it is pleasant to tell someone that you planted a shrub, and the people who are listening to you tell them about your shrubs find it pleasant too, and i expect people would talk about shrubs more often. for example say you are standing near a shrub, someone might say to you, what kind of shrub is that, do you know? or they go into shops where shrubs are sold and they say, have you got any shrubs? oh yes sir or madam we have all kinds of shrubbery in our shop. but alas shrubbery as a word is not as pleasant as shrub, even in the north of england. it sounds too much like a cross between rubbery and snobbery, or for that matter, robbery. so they leave the shop disappointed. that’s capitalism for you.

this post was brought to you courtesy of a cold and rainy tuesday afternoon.



Hardly a day goes by without seeing a headline about the huge increase in the numbers of people seeking help because they are not coping with the demands of being in the world and there is a complicated blogpost in me trying to get out with, at its core the idea that Byung-Chul Han, in The Burnout Society, calls a pathological landscape of neuronal disorders such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality and burnout’.

The post would have a link to the part of the Wikipedia page about Byung-Chul Han, which sums up the basic premise of The Burnout Society with some small edits for clarity and another link to an article which states that in the UK 1.8 million people are on the waiting list for mental health services and 8 million people want mental health services but can’t get on the waiting list as well as a link to the article which states that 1 in 4 adult women in the UK now take antidepressants.

It would also have links to some recent agony aunt columns, like this one in the Guardian by Philippa Perry, and this one in The Times by Tanya Byron, who is like super ego, professor and your mother rolled into one.

And of course there would be a number of pithy comments, like, is it any wonder that your twelve year old grandson, having discovered that he can get as many dopamine hits as he wants in front of the computer screen, or on his phone, in the comfort and safety of his own bedroom, would rather do that than going out into the so-called real world where he has to confront all kinds of scary, cruel and weird people and stupid and annoying things that don’t go away at the click of a button?

But writing such a post would take a lot of time when I could be writing something else, and wouldn’t you rather read a report on Orient’s 2-0 victory over Barrow and the 258 fans who travelled 1000km to see it? Or maybe you don’t like football which would mean that you are not interested in reading this piece by Barney Ronay in The Guardian about England’s inglorious defeat in Italy the other day, even though the writing is very funny.

Among the gems :

England found a system here that made an elegant, technical, imposing midfielder (Bellingham) look like a man being chased around a car park by a swarm of bees.


Sterling had one of those nights where he seems to be playing on the jagged volcanic crust of the planet Mars.



Niets, echt niets meer kunnen, geen brief, liever nooit meer de deur uit, niks smaakt, ik ben vies en afstotend, de mensen maken een omweg als ze me zien aankomen, ik vervloek iedereen, behalve dat ik nog een beetje, zij het halfhartig, op onze Eeuwige Moeder durf te vertrouwen. Neen, het zijn niet het verdriet, de bittere teleurstelling, de tegenslagen, enzovoorts. Neen: het is de leegte, het eigenlijk niet meer leven, de futiliteit van alles.

Gerard Reve - Brief aan Edith Visser, 4 januari 1989.



in the year or so before i arrived back in europe in june 2016, three well-known dutch poets around my own age killed themselves because they were depressed, rogi wieg (15-7-15 by euthanasia), joost zwagerman (8-9-15) and wim brands (4-4-16) — and a philosopher (who was not depressed) rené gude (13-3-15), died of cancer.

youtube | non-google audio only link

here is a one hour conversation from dutch tv, on 14-3-14, between one of the poets, wim brands, and the philosopher, about death of course and other things, like life, and the function of the rational mind and its relationship with the emotions. the philosopher says the problem is not the emotions themselves but what the rational mind tries to do with them, suppress them mostly, and/or worry about them; in addition the rational mind also thinks about things in an unproductive way which causes emotions.

when emotions come, let them come, to paraphrase gude, they will subside again by themselves.

this is a useful idea for people whose mental health is sound but if there is a malfunction of a person’s neurochemistry, their experience of their emotions may be so overwhelming that it renders them unable to function and these emotions do not easily subside by themselves, or not at all, and philosophy and/or therapy are not in themselves effective. you can talk and talk and talk and ask questions for three days solid and/or until you’re blue in the face but ultimately the person with the malfunctioning neurochemistry ends up by themselves in the hour of the wolf❊ freaking the fuck out again.

it pains me to say it but this is what it has taken me 64 years (and a major depression) to work out — but better late than never i guess.

❊The hour of the wolf is the time between midnight and dawn when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palatable. It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.

— Ingmar Bergman



For a depressed person who is temporarily not, or less, depressed, there is a sense of inevitability about sooner or later being again hit by its full force. Even if the planet Melancholia sometimes flies straight past, just missing you, its trajectory is unpredictable. It always come back. Doesn’t it? Or could disappear it forever into the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond?



When I was at art school in the 1980s, art was a minority interest enjoyed by a modest number of monkish cult members. If you put up a sign outside a gallery saying Contemporary art this way, the queue would have stretched in the opposite direction” as my least favourite art critic, Waldemar Jacuzziak, puts it in a piece in today’s Sunday Times about Damian Hirst’s The Currency. This could have been interesting, but as usual, all he manages to poop out is a very small, hard turd of an article which is mostly about himself, a subject Waldy consistently fails to recognise is of interest only to himself.

Still, if you’re at all interested, The Currency is a work about material vs virtual art consisting of 10,000 (very boring) dot paintings made with enamel paint on handmade paper. Each sheet has a hologram of the artist on it, as well as a stamp and signature. On sale for $2,000 each, buyers had a choice of owning either the physical artwork or an NFT — 5,149 wanted the actual’ artwork, but 4,851 went for the NFT.

In a couple of weeks, Hirst will be burning those 4,851 paintings, value : about £10 million, were it not for the fact that, since people opted for the NFT instead, they are actually worth nothing.

Ah art, I remember a time when it seemed to be about more than just money… but a much smarter and ecologically sound move would have been to work to order and only produce 5,149 actual’ paintings, representing a significant saving on both production costs and impact on the environment.



I often sleep badly and/or have bad dreams, not nightmares as such, but recurring dreams of having to leave somewhere and packing up all my stuff, and not being able to fit everything into the available boxes or bags or suitcases and having to leave some of it behind or to store it somewhere else temporarily, or coming back to a place where I’ve stored some of my stuff, often inappropriately, and finding that there was a lot more of it than I had thought.

You don’t need the Father of Psychoanalysis to work out the meaning of those dreams but why do they keep repeating over and over, night after night, year in year out.

Do I have that much baggage?