An offer on twitter of a free ticket to see a Hitchcock film that I was sure I’d already seen. Little did I know – it was one of the middle period Hitchcock movies, and I was in for a treat. I had not only not seen it, but it has one of my all-time favourite actors in it.
Cotten. This guy’s a dream.
Apparently, he was in three world class directors best-known masterpieces. This one was dear Alfred‘s, The Third Man was Carol Reed‘s, and Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’. Not too shabby, eh?
Actually, lemme let Wikipedia explain what this film is:
The day had started with a visit to The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment and then a trip with one of my closest friends and his 9 year-old to The British Museum, which we sailed through in record time. Not that I’m proud of that. The whole point was to spend time with them. What we did was irrelevant. The British Museum was as nice a place as any for us to go, and she’d never been.
To imagine seeing all of those things through her eyes, I walked through the exhibits covering the ancient world. Saw the Rosetta Stone and the dude from Easter Island. What must it be like to be nine and wander through those rooms.
To try seeing all this – this life I’m knee-deep in – from a nine year-old’s perspective. Certainly can’t hurt.
Recently, I was handed a German article about five things one should or could say to the dying to help them in their journey to the afterlife.
Never to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, I’ve decided to write my own list. Here are Five things to harass the dying:
Remind them what they’ve done or what they did
Point out to them that this (their life, their family, everything good and bad that they’ve done) will eventually be forgotten
Whatever palliative medicine they’re receiving, take it away and no matter how they beg for it, don’t give it back
Invite each of their enemies over (unexpectedly) for one last little chat
Make as many references to your plans once the dying person is finally gone
Now, I realise this isn’t the nicest of lists, but I have one very pointed question for those of you who may or may not be offended.
Why are we trying so hard to make things easier for the dying?
Certainly, if they’ve had a good life and made some sort of peace with everyone in it, then the above list will be useless. It won’t touch them. They’re immune from my machinations.
Please don’t think I’ve done any of these things on my list. I’m actually quite pleasant and caring to the people in my life who’re at death’s door. I learned quite a lot while watching my father slowly die of complications related to his diabetes.
He died six years ago last week, and lately my thoughts’ve been swirling around topics of mortality. It’s actually quite understandable.
So, what’d possess me to make such a heartless list of cruelty like the one above? What’s wrong with me?
Well, I’ve got a simple answer for you in the form of a few questions.
Why? Why should I forgive what’s been done to me? What benefit does it serve?
I know a bit about Buddhism, and I know the tenet that carrying around such bitterness is akin to taking poison. Not only am I aware of this, but I even try to practice forgiveness. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it. Most of the time.
But like an irregular French verb, there are always exceptions. And what to do with those? Aren’t there some things that’re unforgivable? I believe that the jury’s still out on that one.
There was a time when we were begging for an instalment from our London correspondent, but luckily that is behind us. After publishing his recent piece on the London Olympics, he appears to have been bitten by the writing bug.
We here at the Lahikmajoe have been so wrapped up in our own idling lately that we hadn’t bothered to write anything here for the last few days. As a result, we’re very grateful to have received the next instalment from Our Man in Notting Hill. And may I reintroduce you to Nigel:
As the 205 flames of Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Torch parted, sank and finally died, so did my heart and those of many Londoners around me. I for one shed a tear or two, and woe betide anyone who may have tried soothing me with platitudes in the vein of ‘all good things must come to an end’. For those people I harboured secret plans to make good use of the still dormant missiles strategically placed around London.
The morning after was as it sounds. London had a hangover, whether or not its constituent parts had been drinking. Even the sun refused to shine. So what better course of action to take than to do absolutely nothing? (editor’s note: we like where this is going).
There is an Art to doing absolutely nothing, its fundamental premise being that you actually have to do something which you can tell yourself isn’t doing anything at all. Even thinking about how you are going to do nothing is walking on thin ice as it prevents you from thinking that what you are thinking is absolutely nothing. Avoiding these paradoxes and conundrums is the entire reasoning behind the creation of a pastime known as idling.
I fancy I hear a throng cry out that I am writing about idling ergo can not be idling as writing is clearly an action; but I beg them turn their mis-led souls and blinkered eyes to the words of Alfred Jarry, author of Ubu Roi, who quite rightly claimed that idling was ‘designed to upset the mundanity of being’ and transform it into ‘the eternal dream’. So actually I’m dreaming. And you can’t get more idle than that.
I may have been at a loss as to how to continue floating comfortably in a dream bubble were it not for the fact that an equally idle friend of mine had told me of the existence of the Mecca of idle pursuit – The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment – and that it lay practically on my doorstep. So I set off to Bayswater to find it (although with some trepidation, lest an aficionado of René Descartes’ philosophies be lying in wait there in order to leap upon me and prove that I was not dreaming at all).
I needn’t have troubled myself with the apparent reality of moving shadows as I couldn’t actually find the place. I was told it stands opposite The Westbourne Tavern in Westbourne Park Road and is number 81. Now London is notorious for making things up as it goes along, particularly when it comes to house numbering. Under normal circumstances, the numbers should go up or down depending on which way you are walking and be even on the one side and odd on the other. Not so with this road. There was no number 81. On either side. There was most certainly a number 80. And an 82. But 81 was obviously a figment of my friend’s imagination.
It seems to be a golden rule that you will only find something once you have given up looking. I had abandoned my search and was walking disconsolately homeward when the The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment suddenly appeared like something out of Alice In Wonderland.
I stood on the threshold faced with a cross between a bookshop, a library and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe on the seafront of every coast town in England. Something about it reawakened the smells and aura of my old school and of childhood holidays simultaneously. One wall was lined with well stocked bookshelves, the other adorned with curiosities; the front an Edwardian full-length glass shop front and the rear a desk with a till and a tea-making table, replete with cake, standing before a sash window. Behind the till was an open door to the garden and stairs leading down to a dark and mysterious place. I wanted to ask what lay down there but was afraid of the possibility of mundanity encroaching upon my dream, so I headed instead for the tea table.
As I crossed the wooden floor, partly covered by a thinning faux-Persian rug worthy of my former headmaster’s study (and his head, if the truth be told), an old rumple-suited man began to expatiate to his long grey beard, teapot and anyone else who may have chosen to listen upon the subject of rationality as it relates to the philosophy of economics and the improbability of the Impossibility Theorem. I thought it best to ignore him and concentrated on the delicious selection of teas displayed on a hand-written blackboard leaning against the tea table.
From a selection including Oolong, Pua Mai and Fresh Mint I chose a Himalayan Orange and sat at one of the oak fly-leaved tables to peruse the bookshelves. And what was the very first thing that caught my eye, sitting there amongst The Iliad, Will Self and Blood & Mistletoe? What other than Bertrand Russell’s In Praise Of Idleness?
At this point the rumpled man, who had become a low monotone soundtrack to the Academy, suddenly said very clearly;
‘Kenneth Arrow, of course. You are familiar with Kenneth Arrow?’ My tea arrived and I stood up at once and stepped towards the bookshelf, my mind searching furiously. Then it came to me.
‘Yes, I believe I heard him mentioned on the radio this morning,’ I replied, pointedly looking at the books, my revelation being that Kenneth Arrow was in fact the gay policeman who had stood as a candidate in the election for the Mayor of London.
‘I very much doubt that,’ he retorted and launched into a torrid invective of the man so torrential that my mind and ears automatically shut off, my hand instinctively reached for Bertrand Russell and I quickly turned to the lady behind the till brandishing the book and saying;
‘How can I resist this? I’d like to buy it if I may.’
‘And I would like to sell it to you,’ she replied, ‘ but I’m afraid the till’s broken. There’s always something broken here.’
As suddenly as they had been aimed at me the rumpled man’s attentions returned to his beard, teapot and whoever else was choosing to listen and he continued to ferociously pluck Kenneth Arrow feather by feather. (I have since discovered Arrow was the man who came up with the Impossibility Theorem. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out why the old man insisted his theorem was improbable).
What was I to do now? Well, as a means to my idle ends I had brought a book along with me (I never leave home without one). A detective novel. An intelligently written detective novel, but a detective novel nonetheless. Now, having been deprived of the possibility of reading Russell, the obvious thing would have been to have made do with the exploits of a gumshoe, but instead of reaching for the novel I panicked. How could I be seen in the company of Ovid and Darwin’s Ghosts reading a mere detective novel? How trite is that?
Before beads of sweat could form on my troubled brow I was mercifully saved by Joanna the Lady of The Till who must have noticed my disappointment, or panic, or both, for she said;
‘Why don’t you give me £10 and I’ll write a receipt and you can settle any difference there may be next time you’re in?’
I fell in and out of love with her in the time it took for relief to wash over me and for me to dig out my wallet and fork over £10.
So I sat back down, sipped my Himalayan Orange tea and begun idly leafing through Russell’s pages. The old man finished his tea and tutorial, mumbled something about how the Idler Academy was always re-using its tea pigs and shuffled out. I was left to enjoy the fulfillment of the promise inscribed above a snail on the glass over the entrance, ‘Libertus per cultum’, and to conclude that idling was indeed the best way to beat the post Olympic blues.
Because of some new projects I’m involved with, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and trying to do too much. So many things I wanted to accomplish this weekend, and yet something in me rebelled. It was as if my brain raised a flag of surrender and said, ‘Enough.’
Rather than power through and do a lot of work for the sake of it, I followed my heart. I listened to music and took the dogs for a longer walk than usual. Normally, I’d brew a pot of tea to fuel my next writing session. But instead I brewed the same tea I would have and sat looking out the window while I drank it. Doing nothing.
Not doing very little. Not planning the next thing I’d do. Doing absolutely nothing. At all.
Yet, there was something bothering me at the end of the day. While I normally have something concrete to show for another day of existence, here I was left at a loss. Those projects were still sitting there untouched. Those people waiting on my submissions still on the other end of the telephone line. Or another email asking, ‘How’s the thing coming? You know, the one we’ve already been waiting on for so long.‘
Uh, I didn’t want to think of that. Not at all.
In the process of doing some research about an old folk singer whose playing a show in Munich, I happened upon a website called The Idler. This isn’t going to help. This might even keep me distracted a while longer.
The section called About: An Introduction begins:
‘The Idler is an annual periodical that campaigns against the work ethic and promotes liberty, autonomy and responsibility.’
Ooh, working against the work ethic? This could get interesting. Liberty and autonomy sound good…I tend to shirk responsibility when possible (see above), but I suppose I do get around to being responsible when it matters.
Then the same page says:
‘The title comes from a series of essays by Dr Johnson, published in 1758-9 in the Gentleman’s Magazine.’
Well, I needn’t know too much about the periodical (it’s from the eighteenth century, after all…unlikely that it’s still in print), but you know I had to go look for what Samuel Johnson had to say about Idlers. I did go look, and found something.
'Written professedly for a paper of miscellaneous intelligence, the Idler dwells on the passing incidents of the day, whether serious or light, and abounds with party and political allusion. Johnson ever surveyed mankind with the eye of a philosopher; but his own easier circumstances would now present the world's aspect to him in brighter, fairer colours. Besides, he could, with more propriety and less risk of misapprehension, venture to trifle now, than when first he addressed the public.'
Sounds a bit like how some of us approach blogging. Especially the miscellaneous intelligence part. My intelligence seems particularly filled with miscellany at this point. More so than I’d care to admit.
And I’m doing things a bit backward here. Starting with the brighter, fairer colours and moving toward a bit of propriety. Well, as best I can. My suspicion is that as my writing gets more respectable elsewhere, I’ll continue to use this medium to say things a bit more thought-provoking and questioning.
I intend to continue with the idling, as well. Just not too much. I have things to accomplish, after all.
The video above starts with the woman asking her father how he’s getting along with the new iPad he was given recently. He answers that it’s just fine while he finishes cutting vegetables on it, rinses it off, and then loads it into the dishwasher.
Have been hearing a lot of noise from luddites lately. It’s understandable. Technology isn’t always easy to get accustomed to.
And rather than admit that it’s difficult or frustrating, it’s easier to say, ‘Why do I even need that newfangled gadget?’
The iPad? You don’t need one. You really don’t. It’s just a lot of unnecessary hype.
Unless you’ve actually used one. Then it’s an entirely different story.
I’m curious why I take to certain social media so easily (and so whole-heartedly) and not others. Nothing about MySpace attracted me. I had a lot of friends who did it, and it was certainly a place where musicians could display their work. But it looked somehow childish to me. Not childlike – childish. Definitely not in a good way.
Facebook? It was exciting at first. There were so many people with whom I thought I’d never be in contact again. For the first while, I was there all the damned time. Now? Not so much.
I really enjoyed StumbleUpon at first, and always think to myself, ‘You found such interesting sites with that one – you should go check it out again…’, but then I never do. And tumblr is something I heard people rave about for so long. I set mine up, and then couldn’t figure it out. So it lay dormant for half a year or so. I’ve since decided to put photos of my dogs Ella and Louis there. I suppose I’m using it a bit like flickr was intended.
Oh, I have flickr, too. And audioboo. And have just started using Storify. I really like it. There are times when I’ve had wonderfully bizarre conversations on one of the above-mentioned sites, and I’ve wondered how I could even begin to explain to an innocent bystander how that online conversation got to the ridiculous conclusion it did.
What led someone to suggest making a whole week of Sneaky Fucker posts? All the Twitter mentions of Sneaky Fucker Week? Where could those be assembled? Well…that’s what Storify appears to be for. Little did the creators of Storify know that they could’ve potentially be such an important part of the history of the internet. If only I’d known how to use that sight when all the Sneaky Fuckery was going on.
But I find myself pondering all of this and those luddites I mentioned at the beginning of all this. They have a point, you know. When I try explaining some conversation I’ve had, and setting up the scenario takes half an hour, because I have to explain who HazelBlackberry in Perth, Australia is or why ‘You don’t know my life‘ can send me into hysterics…when that happens and they cock their head and look at me like I’m a madman, they have a point.
Another thing I didn’t get into was Second Life. It seemed so ridiculous to me. Wait, you set up an avatar and could play a character and buy things with money that only existed there? When folk don’t understand social media, I try to remember how both MySpace and Second Life were incomprehensible to me.
There are all sorts of little beeps and burps that some sites use to tell you about what a friend just said about you on Facebook. Or Echofon whirs when there’s a mention on Twitter. Don’t even get me started on Tweetdeck and/or HootSuite. The idea might be great, but the constant cacophony whenever I have either of them open nearly makes me murderous (before you tell me you can mute all of those things, I’m well aware of that – I’m trying to make a point).
Recently heard someone ponder what sort of endorphins might be released when we get such audible signals. That someone out there in the universe that is the web has gone out of there way to tag me in his quest to conquer Farmville. Someone else has written a new blog that a few months ago I’d have written in an RSS feed at some point in the next few days, but today? Today, I get an alert on my phone. My phone buzzes, I salivate, my hands go digging in my bag or under the pile of newspapers that I’m neglecting because I’m reading the latest about someone buying Mashable for some astronomical amount of money. That vibrating phone means someone out there wants my attention.
Everyone should have a philosopher in the family. Not necessarily one with a degree and limitless awards. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. I actually like it that some people out there are still making a living writing scholarly books about philosophy. That even in this postmodern world we still need folk who do serious thinking.
And don’t even get me started on ethicists. Many people’s eyes glass over when a thorny question of ethics comes up, but not me. My ears perk up. The more unsolvable the better.
But back to my family’s philosopher. We don’t have one. Well, my Nana can swear like a sailor when she’s angry, but that’s not the sort of subtlety I’m thinking about.
My grandfather was a student of human behaviour, but he didn’t necessarily like to talk about it at length. One of his oft-used phrases was, ‘Only an idiot talks about politics or religion in polite company.’ I’m convinced the whole idea of blogging would irritate him immensely.
No, in our family I had to look elsewhere for a bit of philosophy. But I didn’t have to look far. My parents have a friend called Andy Finch, and he has theories and ideas on almost everything. Give Andy Finch a new topic and just a bit of time, and without fail, he’ll come up with a novel way of looking at it. Guaranteed.
Despite how well he contemplates issues under time pressure, Andy Finch‘s real gift is the handful of topics that he’s been able to chew on for years and years. And here’s one of his finest. If you think it’s too obvious, ponder it a bit more. It’s a gem.
Older people and younger people misunderstand one another in very profound ways. According to Andy Finch, one particular thing has been at work for a very long time. Generation after generation. I’ll start with how the older generations view the younger ones.
Nearly without fail, older people regularly believe that the whole of society is going in the toilet as a result of the way younger people are running things. It’s not that they believe everything that happened in their time was necessarily rosy. And they rarely have illusions that everything would be better if only they were still in charge. Nevertheless, they truly believe that everything around them is simply falling apart and often that it’s a direct result of poor management and/or lack of foresight.
Please don’t bring me exceptions. There are always exceptions. But think about the older folk you know. Isn’t this just the least bit accurate?
And what about the younger generation? What’s their misperception? According to Andy Finch it has to do with sex. What else, right?
His contention is that younger people always think their generation is the first to really enjoy sex. When they discover it for themselves, they just can’t believe that older people ever felt these emotions quite this vividly. Didn’t experience these sensations quite so dramatically.
Sure…there was procreation. It’s not as if the younger generation disputes the basics of biology or reproduction. But the actual enjoyment of having sex? It’s somehow inconceivable that anyone could’ve ever felt quite this good ever before. And yes, I chose the word inconceivable quite carefully. It’s appropriate on a few levels.