Saturday, October 25, 2014

PASSING THE BABY


'Passing the baby' was the chief custom of the Hahananawup people. A Hahananawup child would be born and held and caressed by its mother before being passed to its father who would cuddle the infant and then pass it to its grandparents who would cradle the little one before passing it to its uncles and aunts who would display affection in the usual way and then pass the newborn to cousins who would say 'ahh would you look the darlin little thing' or whatever before passing it to their friends who would show an obligatory amount of enthusiasm before passing the baby to friends of theirs who would display customary endearment and then pass the youngster to others who, by this stage, would be complete strangers to the infant's parents. The baby would continue to be passed from one person to another until it vanished from the lives of its mother and father completely, not to be seen again for at least four decades.

This would happen with every baby born into Hahananawup society, resulting in a whole population of people passing each other around. Of course, as a baby grew to adulthood the reactions of those it was passed to would change. Instead of pinching the baby's cheeks and saying 'coochie coochie coo', the Hahananawup people would offer polite conversation and ask the former baby how things are going or maybe say something about the weather.

It is thought that the custom of passing the baby brought about the end of the Hahananawup people. Hahananawups were not able to incorporate careers into their lives of being passed around so any chance of forming even the most rudimentary economy was remote. Consumption of food must have been difficult too but that matters little when one considers that there was no food to consume. Farming and hunting were close to impossible for a people being perpetually passed around and passing around others, to say nothing of attempts at procreation. The Hahananawup civilisation was a short lived one. As a people, they were just a throng of bodies jumping in and out of each other's arms, growing weaker all the time and suffering from the contagious conditions that the baby passing tradition facilitated. It is thought that the Hahananawup people only survived for two generations after adopting the custom of baby passing. We can work out what happened from the records of other societies who observed the Hahananawup at the time and from the remains of the Hahananawup themselves. Ah yes, ...the remains. A troglodyte city, empty but for a meshed heap of skeletons. The birds don't sing in the home of the Hahananawup but the wind whistles eerily as it moves through that colossal lattice of bones.

When the Hahananawup people and their custom of 'passing the baby' comes to mind, we are forced to consider the consequences of doing something just because everyone else is doing it. Some of our most treasured and adhered to customs might too be nothing more than really really really dumb fucking ideas. I suppose that's the moral of the story. Not that stories should have morals. Stories should just make people think and let them decide for themselves. But that's a story for another day. Until then, keep passing the baby.

And now a short film...

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.