David Bowie’s Death on Facebook

Social media – yes, like you are reading now – is fatuous and inane, worse than anything ever produced on radio or television – and that includes The Bachelor. getting aa roseFacebook posts on the death of David Bowie serve as sad exemplars.

Mark Pautz 06h30 this morning. I was awake. Strange, as I’d only got to bed four hours earlier. But it was then that the musical soundtrack of the first 55 years of my life came to an end.

Terry Boyd I am 43 and I have always known David Bowie to be singing he was an iconic singer, and there will never ever be another David Bowie of his kind.

William Lemos David Bowie a true hero

What is it about any of these people – indeed anyone, you or me – that makes one a David Bowie expert? Our facile love of his music? Our hyperbolic connection to his lyrics? Good god, even The New York Times sounded ridiculous in their piece on how Bowie “transcended” music and art. 20160112_BOWIE_HP-slide-DMXR-videoSixteenByNine1050-v2The truth is his music didn’t transcend anything. He was a great musician, and all of this  blather only acts as a depressing testament to how lonely everyone is too scared to admit. 20150820_162923While keeping up to date with each other’s life moments on social media can be a nice thing, as is watching cute red pandas, reflections on the importance of an artist for an individual is irrelevant and utterly pathetic.20151205_162003Someone to claim us, someone to follow
Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
Someone to fool us, someone like you

We want you Big Brother, Big Brother

Sold: “Female Construction Crews of Myanmar”

I didn’t know I even had an agent. He was a nice guy, big and bald and told me happily that he thought he could sell my novella, The Female Construction Crews of Myanmar. $3200. I accepted and signed without a thought.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand.” He folded the contract and gave me a check. “Why doesn’t he know who he is?”

The truth was I didn’t remember writing the book; I didn’t remember anything about it. “It’s a reflection on his state of mind.” I scanned the text quickly. “He has the drinking problem too.”

“He does?”

“It’s implied.”


I read a random selection: The roads in Myanmar are slow and narrow, spotted with gaping potholes and long stretches of dirt and gravel. As slow as the traffic slowed, this afforded him time to see the road construction crews, almost entirely of which were made of women.

I scanned ahead, through a long journey down a winding descent and then the character, “I”, boarding a horse cart, and suddenly, in front of his escort, trying to self-fellate. 20151228_075210I couldn’t understand how this worked, why this was being published, but was desperate to understand before I had to give it back, just so I might write more of it and sell something I might remember. 

Smashed rocks had been loaded into baskets and the women walked past, these baskets on their heads. The men minded the boiling tar in flaming drums, back-breaking work, as the horse cart jostled ahead and we headed on our three-day trip.

Overlooked NY: Downtown Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce Building, at 65 Liberty Street, is one of many buildings in downtown Manhattan with doric columns.Overlooked NY: Downtown Chamber of CommerceBuilt in 1900-01 to house New York State’s Chamber of Commerce, it was vacated eighty years later. The building was restored in 1990-91 and now houses a pair of banks: The Megabank of New York and Bank of China, Taipei. 20151203_163218Overlooked NY: Downtown Chamber of Commerce

In contrast to the heavy finance going on inside, the front of the building is consistently lined with rows of bikes for a local food delivery service.

Ferry Rights in Loch Aw, Scotland

My ancestors were granted the ferrying rights across Loch Aw, Scotland in 1488. The (much abridged) document reads:

In the name of god amen… in the 7th year of Innocent, the 6th divine providence, Pope, in the presence of me, the notary public, the good and honest man, Moricius McFedran, handed over a certain letter written on a parchment about the ground as it appeared to be…lochaw1…containing word that it to me be clear to all that, given and to the honour and praise of Almighty God of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints for the safety of our soul and of the souls of all our ancestors and to the successors of the Lord of Lochaw, to have set and demitted to our faithful Dominicus McFedran by force of those present to his male heirs begotten or to be begotten the one mark of land of Sonachan near to the port extending to the river which is called Altbane and the river which is called Altynesperry lying in the Lordship of Lochaw, to be held and possessed all and the whole of the mark land along with the duty of ferrying …understanding that Dominicus and his heirs will carry all infirm, lame, poor and pilgrims without price or charge across the Loch.lochaw2The cost per year: 10 shillings of silver, two bolls of grain which are called barley and oats, one pound of cheese and a sheep.

Safe Not Safe

The boat broke across the water, dark and hard, the wind constant until we were leeward of the island. The water stayed dark, but we now glided, turning along the rocky shore, a boathouse at the tip, and came around the corner, again into the wind. The dock was there and then the house. DSCN1935My mother looked well, not old and lost as she was supposed to be, but talking easily and walking ahead up the steep rocks and into the back of the house where her sister was, not dead, and my father, frail but not dead either, and she showed me the diving board my brother had brought up from the city for the pool, still under construction.Newfoundlabrador2010 076I noticed the algae for the first time then, much thicker than the water. It was in the neighbor’s pool too, and in the Olympic sized one at the apartment complex. I made jokes about diving and swimming. My niece laughed at that while my brother made the usual remarks about my drinking and we watched the film that we were in about the encroaching algae. It was written well, with the cartoon characters in the second act proclaiming their importance directly to the audience, and I made I note of that, thinking I should try that device too. 20151003_153056The algae did not stop. It consumed everything – the pools, the houses, climbing up everything, breeding, spreading, until the astonishingly climax where the algae people had swarmed up to the highest buildings of the city and had at last cornered the corporate giants responsible for everything. IMAG1622And then there was nothing, not water, not land, not weight. Blackness out of a space-age dream, a voice over all, choosing, like a reality show, seeing who will be eliminated, one by one, a harrowing horrible, cartoon thing, falling through booby traps, numbers being counted down, playing that game, ignoring the vertiginous void, the inevitability, the death. 20150919_154805And then in the water again, always there, breaking over the surface, the bow hitting hard, thinking the shore will never come, and then getting there, unloading the groceries and trying to find the right word for my name.

Ice Friday: George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”

George Orwell’s Burmese Days is not a well-crafted tale, nor is it compelling; however it does remain a vivid portrait of Orwell’s own Colonial days in Burma.

Brutally vivid, it serves as a clear reminder of how civilized the English have never been: No natives in this club! It’s by constantly giving way over the small things that we’ve ruined the Empire. The only policy is to treat ’em like the dirt they are. 20150712_025442It’s an English tradition to booze together and swap meals and pretend to be friends, though we all hate each other like poison. Hanging together, we call it. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it weren’t for that. Booze is the cement of the empire. 20150716_174440Most grotesquely compelling of all is Orwell’s portrayal of the English hunt, first shooting birds from trees: Flory took one of the little green corpses to show to Elizabeth. ‘Look at it. Aren’t they lovely things? The most beautiful bird in Asia.’20150717_140907 Later, they corner a leopard: The leopard was writhing along on his belly, sobbing as he went. Flory leveled his gun and fired at four yards distance. The leopard jumped like a cushion when one hits it, then rolled over, curled up and lay still. Flory poked the body with his gun-barrel. 

Zuckerberg Tries to Get Out of Being a Rat

According to Buddhist belief, those who have done evil in their lives will spend the next incarnation in the shape of a rat, a frog or some other low animal. Unknown(Zuckerberg) intends to provide against this danger. He would devote his closing years to good works, which would pile up enough merit to outweigh the rest of his life. images-1Probably his good works would take the form of (a for-profit charitable organization). Four (billion), five, six, seven – (his wife) would tell him how many – with carved stonework, gilt umbrellas and little bells that tinkled in the wind, every tinkle a prayer. imagesAnd he would return to earth in male human shape – for woman ranks at about the same level as a rat or frog – or at worst as some dignified beast such as an elephant.*

(*Adapted from pp.3-4, Burmese Days, George Orwell)

Cassandra Speaks

I have watched Fate unfold her pattern; Try endured/ What she endured; her captor now, by Helen’s decree,/ Ends thus.
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I have done with tears. I will endure my death./ O gates of the dark world, I greet you as I come! Let me receive, I pray a single mortal stroke,/ Sink without spasm, feel the warm blood’s gentle ebb,/ Embrace death for my comfort, and so I close my eyes.

Screenshot (1164)Friends, there is no hope, none – once the hour has come./ This is the day. Retreats wins little./ I go. Now in the land of the defeated I/ Will mourn my end and Agamemnon’s./ I have lived. Screenshot (1162)I am not like a bird scared at an empty bush,/ Trembling for nothing. Wait: when you shall see my death, woman for woman; when in place/ Atoned with death woman for woman,

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Then witness for me – these and all my prophecies/ Were in utter truth. This I request before I die. Screenshot (1168)Alas for human destiny! Man’s happiest hours/ Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes,/ And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out.

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Cassandra’s lines (1297-1328) from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon.

The Problem with Travelling is the Tourists

The world is full of beauty and wonder. P1000247Like everyone else, I seek that out. Which is why I was in Myanmar. P1000395And that’s the problem; I’m like everyone else. P1000488There are too many people like me, all of us seeking new vistas, putting pins in the map, collecting magic moments.. P1000537It’s depressing in the end. Like the phrase implies, “taking pictures”, it’s taking something just so I can present them proudly to you and proclaim, “Look where I was!”P1000307“Isn’t this great? I’m special, aren’t I?”P1000212When the truth is I’m not. I’m just like everyone else.