Saturday, September 27, 2014


'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


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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#LICHEN - or - He's a Complicated Man And No One Understands Him But His Woman

Famed post-post-postmodernist philosopher Dieter Schlemp had spent his entire career setting out to prove various things in the hopes that he would fail to prove them. He didn't like to be proven right. Dieter prided himself on his lack of pride but he did not like to be proven wrong either. Right or wrong is such a dull paradigm. What Dieter liked was if the results of his investigations presented something entirely unexpected and bewildering. What Dieter ultimately wanted to prove, although he'd loath to admit that he wanted to prove anything, was that all enquiry was folly and that reality was incomprehensible. Some may argue that without enquiry our species never would have crawled from the sea and mastered the land but Dieter reckoned that we were better off under water. Dieter believed that the human experience was the result of a profoundly boring cosmic mistake and the only thing that interested him was to prove this, or not as the case may be.

Dieter's latest thesis argued that people were more interested in talking about things happening than things actually happening. For example, imagine you witnessed a UFO landing in your garden but you could never tell anyone. Now imagine you could tell everyone a UFO landed in your garden but such a thing never happened. Which would you prefer? Dieter suspected that the vast majority of people would choose the latter because what really interested them was getting attention and being listened to and valued. Most people would not say as much but, from what Dieter had observed during his fifty five years on this planet, it was what they really thought. People liked to talk above all other things, even if it meant talking about nothing. In fact, as far as Dieter could make out, the closer to nothing the subject was the more people liked to discuss it. It was easy to have an opinion on something that barely mattered at all. Things that did matter were a lot more trouble so people tended to keep those things off the conversational menu. This, for example, is why puff pieces about shoes get more column inches than meditations on mortality.

After garnering the largest bursary ever awarded to a humanities based academic investigation, Dieter hired a large PR firm to create a commotion concerning lichen. Dieter instructed the PR company to get the media talking about lichen more than it talked about red carpet events. What Dieter wanted to do was make the spreading of lichen and the patterns made by lichen and other phenomena particular to lichen water cooler moments. #Lichen trending like a boss for at least three weeks was what Dieter wanted and that's what he got when the PR company arranged for Kanye West to pose for photographs with some lichen and share his opinions on lichen. 'Lichen just be chillin and shit' said Kanye of the lichen. Then the PR company manufactured stories about sick children whose last wish was to stroke some lichen as well as stories about how lichen stroking was being used to treat PTSD and fight the signs of aging. 'For too long we have taken lichen for granted', said an op-ed piece by a popular columnist who genuinely believed that he was writing his own thoughts. Almost everyone agreed with the columnist and even those that didn't were still talking about lichen when they expressed their opinion and therefore maintaining its 'trending' status. Pixar then made an animated film about lichen that was voiced by Kaley Cuoco and Donald Sutherland. An awareness campaign about lichen sclerosus was also launched and everyone bought anti-inflammatory ointments and smeared them on their genitals. 'I'm so glad people are finally talking about this', said one daytime TV host who did not suffer from the condition or know anyone who did.

So, Dieter's thesis was proved correct. People liked to talk, no matter what the topic and the blander the topic the more they liked to talk about it. Dieter was, of course, miserable to be proven correct and moped around the house irritating his wife, Annabelle, for weeks afterwards. Being proven wrong would have been just as bad for Dieter. 'What did you expect to happen?', Annabelle asked him. 'Something new, something different', said Dieter dolefully, 'something bloody interesting'. Annabelle knew her husband well and lifted his spirits when she posited that something interesting had indeed happened. 'Isn't it interesting that people can be interested in something so uninteresting?' she asked rhetorically. Then she delivered her stroke of mercy, 'why is that, do you think?' she asked non-rhetorically and with fake nonchalance. Annabelle then watched as the spark of enquiry once again grew in Dieter's dying eyes and she knew that he would soon be off on another folly. Dieter would never realise what Annabelle had done for him and Annabelle knew that he would never realise it but that didn't matter to Annabelle. She too prided herself on her lack of pride and, really, she was just glad to get him out of the house.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


'The sum of modernity is a deconstruction of function and a parody of form. It is both signifier and signified. It is based in baselessness yet post-debased.' 
- So muttered Dieter Schlemp (author of Terrorism as a Selfie: The Case Against Common Sense, published by Ineffable University Press, 2006) in his sleep as a small amount of dribble escaped the corner of his gob and was absorbed by his pillow.

When awake, Dieter described himself as a 'Para-Baudrillardian Crypto-Narratologist'. He liked his self-descriptions to be as inaccessible as his treatises. He never trusted an idea that could be understood, even by himself. That was why he liked his own ideas so much, even while positing them he never knew what he was talking about. Elaborate pronouncements would just spout from the largest hole in his face and wind their way through the mental ether looking for some sense to make. Dieter often entertained the notion that his ideas would one day be understood but that day was not today and it wouldn't be any day soon. Dieter considered that if such a day was to come at all it probably wouldn't be during his lifetime but what a day it would be because his ideas sounded like they might be marvellous. For the time being though, Dieter had no idea what he was on about, he just kept going on about it. 'Does a river have to know where it is flowing?' was what he said in his defence to Annabelle, his wife, when she pointed out that he was 'spoofing' again.

Dieter was assumed to be of superior intellect by his peers who never argued any of his points for fear of revealing that they didn't understand the point that was being argued. Rarely did they realise that there was in fact no point to be argued and that Dieter prided himself on never having a point at all. Dieter was of the opinion that no one had an actual point when they expressed themselves and that when people expressed themselves they were merely seeking to make some kind of connection with others or, perhaps, to hear the sound of their own voices. All discourse, as far as Dieter was concerned, is just nervous systems in search of approval so as to better their chances of survival and/or reproduction. Dieter had experienced much approval in his life and he had also reproduced. He and Annabelle had two children. The first was a girl they named 'First' and the second was a boy they named 'Third'. They were trying for a Second. Annabelle wanted to call the children what she considered to be 'proper names' but Dieter argued that to name someone is to encumber them with a title. Annabelle told Dieter that she didn't know what he meant by that and Dieter reminded Annabelle that he never meant anything. Then Annabelle took something for her nerves.

So, anyway, there was Dieter, talking in his sleep and dribbling and next to him was Annabelle, ever dutiful, rising from the bed, reaching for the dictaphone and holding it to his mouth. With any luck she'd manage to record a few pages for Dieter's next book by the morning. So much of his oeuvre was achieved this way, nocturnal rambling. Then he'd wake up and ask her if she 'got anything' and she'd hand him the dictaphone and he'd feverishly rattle the device's recording onto his keyboard. Dieter had a devoted following of readers who were convinced his books might have changed their lives, probably. His publications always received rave reviews and went to several editions.

Annabelle wasn't sure if she loved Dieter but he was certainly a cash cow. Gerald, the only other man she suspected she'd had significant feelings for, could never have provided her with the status she desired. By the time Gerald had proposed, Annabelle had met Dieter at a debate on the ethics of having ethics that was hosted by her faculty. She had seen Dieter before, as a frequent panelist on a late night television discussion programme called God Forbid. He had deep set eyes and a jutting jaw. When he leaned forward the whole world seemed to lean back. He wasn't a tall man but he was imposing, like an owl or something. He wasn't a bit like Gerald at all. Gerald was a huge soft heap of a guy. He was like a massive cloud that no one ever noticed.

Dieter asked Annabelle to join him for dinner at Wittgenstein's Pabulum, a restaurant that was known for being frequented by the literati. When their meals arrived, Dieter threw his plate on the floor in what he loudly pronounced to be an act of 'asymmetric digestion'. The people at the other tables applauded and did the same. Annabelle knew, there and then, that Dieter was the man for her. Gerald was heartbroken of course. He put rocks in his pockets and walked into a lake. Annabelle tried not to think of Gerard since but sometimes she did, on those occasions when Dieter wasn't around and First and Third were at school and she had a moment to sit and wonder to herself what it all means. She became quite anxious on those occasions. She'd wait for Dieter to return and, later in bed, she'd sit up and grip his shoulder and ask 'but really Dieter, what does it all mean?' and Dieter would look at her with his caved-in eyeballs and his antimatter pupils and say 'it means nothing, absolutely nothing Annabelle'. Annabelle would feel strangely comforted by these words and lay back in the bed and not think of Gerald or the way his sad cloudy face exploded into the most beautiful smile each and every time he saw her.

Dieter had once spoken to Annabelle of love. He said love was a 'somewhat patronising chemical reward for the misguided propagation of a flawed species'. Annabelle asked Dieter if he actually meant that and Dieter said that it didn't matter whether he meant it or not. 'It's just another idea', he said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The Devil came to see us. He waited until we thought he'd never come back. He waited until most of us decided that he was never here. And then he crept into our skulls, into the soft lump that sits there. He was banished for his pride and refusing to bow to God so he took perfect revenge and made God's children proud. Ideas fell across our heads like shadows and we set out with knives and guns and smartphones. We laid waste to each other and spilled the blood of newborns. We uploaded it for all to see and cower or cheer or comment and the more we killed and the more we died the more the Devil grew potent. And we tumbled like an avalanche into the Devil's jaws and down his belly and he belched and licked his lips and wondered what to do next. So, the Devil stood and took a walk around to look at what we had left behind. He found shame and money and weapons. He found shameful weapons that cost money. He found crude oil and crucifixes and the investment portfolios of holy men. He found cost benefit analyses and transfers of liabilities. He found public relations coups and rolling 24 hour news. He found lies that were believed because they were more believable than the truth. And then the Devil realised he'd not swallowed God's children but his own and he wept and wept and wept and wept and then he turned to stone. And he's curled into a ball and he's floating in outer space and there's bacteria under his fingernails that will evolve into the human race.

Monday, September 1, 2014


One day we’ll all be extinct
And under blades of grass
And the world will breathe a sigh of relief
And say – ‘peace at fucking last’.