Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

OBJECTS


There's no one left in the world. No one at all. But the cars still drive and the trains still arrive and depart and announcements still crackle from Tannoy's but from no one's mouth and for no one's ears. Products are still manufactured and sold but by who and to who? Import and export still continues but why? The world still bustles but is simultaneously silent. There's no one here to clean up the dog shit but that's OK because there are no dogs to shit.

An algorithm drives things on and machines fulfil the roles of consumers and producers. GDP is steady and things are running smoothly and does it matter that we are no longer here to witness all this because targets are being met and graphs are looking healthy and wasn't that what it was all for? There is no one here to see what is happening but that's OK because there isn't much to see. There is no longer anyone here to comment but that's OK because there is nothing to be said.

The grass still gets cut.

Dead leaves are swept up.

Healthcare expenditure is nil.

Objects go to the cinema to watch films made by objects about objects being objects and there is no one to complain about objectification. And there's no more of the sound and fury that signified everything. The world is purely utilitarian and every emotional experience is a simulacrum. A protocol. A choreographed imitation. The objects in the cinema laugh at all the right parts. There are no longer any wrong parts. Things are working at last. We finally got there by removing the thing that prevented us from arriving - us.

The tide comes in and the tide goes out and an abandoned tanker bleeds on the horizon. It doesn't matter at all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

EDWARD BURRA


A landscape, like one from a dream. Sparse with pylons and clumps of trees. Beautiful but asleep. A silent road cuts through it but where does it lead? Far, far off to somewhere that can't be seen. And you've no choice but to travel it, to follow its twilight track. You'll cross over the horizon and you won't be coming back.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

THE TREE IN HER BACK GARDEN


The beguiling geometry of her face didn't hit him immediately. It took a while for the cunning collection of angles to coalesce in his mind and settle there. What first intrigued him was the reserve that, he wagered, hid a good heart. The reserve itself was hidden behind a generous sociability but the reserve wasn't hidden that well. You easily got past the cheeriness to find the guardedness but beyond that you'd discover the truth. Maybe he could have helped her.

Then there was her laugh. A single Ha! A spontaneous and genuine expulsion. The kind of thing you'd emit after getting away with a bank heist. A loud exclamation but warm and inclusive. He delighted in eliciting it. 'Ah life, such a wonderful ridiculous thing', the laugh seemed to say. To him at least.

Her body moved easy to the Universe. It wasn't out of step or closed in on itself and seeking the nearest exit as his was. It was outstretched. It could protect itself if required but it was willing to take on all comers. She belonged in the world and her hips, limbs, breasts and neck danced with it. It was hard to keep your eyes off her once you'd looked properly.

So, with all those things perceived, processed and ruminated upon with every breath, he found that he was truly stuck. He'd been drawn into a snare that didn't want to catch him. This beautiful trap was seeking other prey. Neater featured prey with a tidier psyche and a measure of conventional prestige. He didn't resent this, or at least knew that he shouldn't. He himself had caught quarry he wasn't pursuing in the past. It's the stupid way of things. At least she was fond of him. He had made her laugh. Perhaps she'd remember the laughter he'd caused her and shed a poignant tear of regret when she found him dangling like a bastard on a rope from the tree in her back garden.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

JUST JENNY


Jenny was glad to have finally found a reason for being. She'd had trouble finding any reason but was actively searching. Her lack of interest in just about everything had isolated her. She was always on the periphery of conversations at her school, simulating interest and nodding and pretending to laugh or gasp at the right times but never truly engaging. She was no one's best friend or worst enemy. She was just Jenny. 'Oh, it's just Jenny', people said. Even her mother said it. Just Jenny, someone adults kept alive and healthy to see what might become of her. Well, she had decided what she was going to become and, my oh my, what she became.

Despite her persistence, Jenny's online forum contributions and Facebook posts always went unacknowledged. That is until Aarzam from Luton (a place in England) started responding to her because she responded to him. He kept going on about God and justice and all this stuff and Jenny asked him what he was talking about. What followed was a correspondence that lasted for months. Jenny didn't really care what they were talking about, the important thing was that they were talking. Jenny never had a point of view on anything so she consciously decided to adopt Aarzam's point of view on everything. Not everyone agreed with Aarzam, in fact some people thought he was crazy or evil, but he got people's attention and attention was something Jenny craved.

Anyhoo, as the girl in question would put it herself, this all led to Jenny being stopped at the airport and asked to step into a back room to answer some questions. She told them, flatly (everything she said came out flatly) that her destination was Syria and that she was joining her boyfriend. The airport security were nonplussed by this strange girl in a homemade burka fashioned from a bed sheet dyed black. Things became even more confusing when they asked Jenny where she was from. South County Dublin was the answer but her accent was clearly United States. She told them her 'mom' spoke like that too. She was asked if her 'mom' was American. 'I don't think so', Jenny said. They asked Jenny if she had ever been to the United States. Jenny said she hadn't. They asked Jenny why she had an American accent. Jenny wasn't aware that she had an American accent and said it might be because she 'watched a lot of shows'.

So, like, anyways, things turned into a really big deal. Aarzam had been seen in a viral where a non-unionised freelance journalist got beheaded. Jenny became the opposite of famous, infamous, for a while but then she just became famous when she renounced her newfound beliefs and ran a mini-marathon in aid of something, she wasn't quite sure what. This was all on the advice of an agent Jenny's mother employed. 'We're going to need someone to handle this Goddamn fucking shit storm', was Jenny's mother's reasoning.

The newspapers and the TV went crazy and spoke to the other kids in Jenny's school and they said that she always seemed like she was keeping secrets. Jenny didn't know they thought that about her. It was kind of cool. Better than boring. Jenny went from being 'Just Jenny' to 'Jihad Jenny' in the space of a few days. Some professor guy called Schlemp wanted to talk to her for a book he was writing called 'Online Anomie International: Islamic Extremism and the Search for Likes'. They were going to make a movie too with Saoirse Ronan acting as Jenny. 'She's OK I guess, she's kind of old though', Jenny told Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show. Ryan asked Jenny if she'd lift her burka and give the audience a peek at her pretty face. Jenny did. There was a big round of applause and then Ryan gave everyone a hamper of beauty products.

Jenny's mother was really happy with how the whole thing panned out but she was 'really pissed' at first. There was silence in the car when she picked Jenny up from the airport but then she suddenly exploded. She screamed and slapped her open palm against the steering wheel.
'How the fucking motherfuck did you wind up facebooking with a bunch of Wahhabi crazies?'
'Jeez Mom, take it easy. I don't even know what Wahbabbi or whatever is. I just made friends with a Muslim boy is all. What's the big deal?'
'Just made friends with a Muslim boy?' Jenny's mother repeated, emphasising her incredulity.
'Yeah', said Jenny, 'he kind of like listened to me'.
'And what the heck were you saying that made him listen to you honey?'
'I dunno', replied Jenny, her voice trailing off. 'Just stuff I guess, ...just, y'know, ...stuff.'

Saturday, September 27, 2014

JENNY TALKS TO MOM


'I just don't feel the same way other people do about stuff', said Jenny sadly.
'People don't have to agree about everything', Jenny's mother reassured.
'No Mom', said Jenny testily, 'I mean I don't feel like others feel. I don't have feelings like them.'

'Feelings?' Jenny's mother intoned.

'Yeah, people feel things. They really feel things. They fall really hard in love for each other and feel really strongly about wars and stuff. They go crazy. I don't have those feelings, at least not so much.'

'And how does that make you feel honey?'

Jenny glanced up at her mother. Their eyes briefly met to acknowledge the irony. Then Jenny dropped her head again.

'I guess it makes me feel lonely. I guess that's the only feeling I have. The lonely feeling.'

Jenny's mother looked at her sad daughter. A curtain of hair spilled from Jenny's head onto the table, hiding her face. Was she crying under there? Jenny's mother would have pitied her daughter if she could have but she could not. 

'I guess it runs in the family', Jenny's mother said with a sigh as she turned on the juicer and annihilated the conversation with the sound of whirring blades.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

FIRSTNAME SURNAME


His first name was Firstname and his surname was Surname. He was a disciple of academic trans-philosopher and uber-thinker Dieter Schlemp. Schlemp had advised that everyone unburden themselves of all cultural, ethnic and genealogical identification. That was why Firstname had changed his name. His new name was, in and of itself, an interrogation of identity. 'What is a name?' asked his name. And that question brought with it another question - 'what is a person?' Firstname was going to find out. Schlemp would be proud of him and regret never replying to any of Firstname's tweets or following him back.

Firstname worked nights. He awoke at dusk and went to bed at dawn. His was a twilight life of empty roads and half-lit streetlights. He and his colleagues were like vampires. Vampires that worked in a depot, moving boxes about. No one knew what was in the boxes. No one had the energy to care. They just yawned and lifted the things and carried them from one place to another. Firstname put his ear to one of the boxes once and could have sworn he heard the sea.

At work Firstname was referred to as Justin, his first name before he changed it to Firstname. He asked his colleagues to call him Firstname and they said 'sure thing Justin' and never did. They didn't mean any harm by it, they just couldn't get used to the name change. They didn't treat his decision as odd or anything. They didn't make fun of him. They were too tired for that.

Firstname was disappointed at the lack of discussion his name change had inspired. No one seemed to care. They were indifferent. People are indifferent to everything. The Universe is indifferent. Schlemp didn't even respond to Firstname's constant tweeting. 'Is this what it is to be a person?'

One night in the depot, Firstname dropped a box and it opened. A seashell fell out. Firstname asked his boss about it. Firstname's boss told him that the seashells were ornamental. 'People put them on their mantelpieces and use them as paperweights and all that shit', said Firstname's boss. Firstname's boss told him that he could take home a defective seashell if he liked. There was a bucket of chipped seashells under the stairwell. Firstname took two. He took them home and attached them to an adjustable metal arch and wore them like headphones. He used them instead of an MP3. He walked around hearing the sea all the time. He preferred it to music. It was less contrived. No one commented on the seashell headphones but this didn't surprise Firstname. By now, he was used to people not noticing things. They were preoccupied. They had work to do. They had bills to pay. They were sleepy. Firstname was sleepy too but the sound of the sea let him dream. He doubted anyone he worked with dreamed. The closest thing they had to dreams were modest ambitions, like the hope for a raise or something. Firstname didn't judge them harshly for this. They didn't judge him and he wouldn't judge them. That seemed fair. They were all just doing their own thing, which was the same thing. Firstname was doing it too but at least he was wondering what exactly it was they were all doing while he did it.

'If you wonder don't expect anyone else to care that you wonder', said Dieter Schlemp in a recent lecture that Firstname discovered on Youtube. 'If you force people to wonder they will resent it. They will resent you and they will resent wonder itself as a distraction. If we must wonder we must wonder in private. Wondering is a secret pastime for the few and we should remain aware that it is no more than that. There is no honour in wondering, in fact there is probably dishonour. Wondering does not make you better than anyone else. Wondering is ultimately unimportant. There is little to be gained from it in practical terms. To most, wondering is an irrelevance and they are right. Wondering is extraneous. Wondering is about as important as the whirring sound a clockwork toy makes as it walks from one end of the room to the other before winding down and stopping completely.'

Firstname was shocked to hear this. He held Schlemp in such high regard. He considered him an existential paradigm buster. 'Existential Paradigm Buster', that's what the blurb said on the back of Schlemp's book Derrida Does the Dishes: Domesticity Deconstructed, published by Anosognosic Books, 2011. Now it was revealed that Schlemp didn't agree with this accolade. The man himself considered himself to be a lesser man, whatever a 'man' was. Schlemp had wondered about wondering until he had arrived at the conclusion that it was a waste of time to wonder. Schlemp looked exhausted these days and he seemed intent on alienating his acolytes. 'I do it for the money', he said at the conclusion of his lecture before leaving the stage to a confused and hesitant cricket match applause. Firstname suddenly felt a fool for changing his name. He decided that he would change it back to Justin. He wouldn't even have to ask anyone at work to call him by his original name again because they had never stopped.

Firstname collected up all the books he had by Schlemp and left them in a plastic sack outside a charity shop. He felt betrayed. He felt he had been abandoned by the leader of his expedition as he was halfway across an antarctic plain. 'What a prick', Firstname often thought as he eschewed the ways of a wonderer and resumed earning and simply living and hopefully having a bit of a laugh at weekends. He kept the seashell headphones though. He couldn't bring himself to part with them. He decided not to wonder why this was, just as the people who sent away for seashells to place on their mantelpieces and use as paperweights didn't wonder why they did what they did. For the briefest moment, Firstname found himself wondering why they did what they did but then he reminded himself to stop wondering and he did stop wondering and he no longer wondered as he listened to the sound of the sea.