Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Tomorrow in this country, is a little holiday that we like to call thanksgiving. It is a day that leaves dead turkeys and bugling waistlines everywhere.  A day where the 'tradition' is to collectively cook enough food to feed Norway for a week, and individually eat enough food to feed Oslo for a week. It is a day that people like Jenny Craig exist because of.  The tradition of the day is supposed to be, as far as I understand it, to thank god for the bountiful harvest that keeps us able to shovel food down our greedy gullets at Rabelais-like rates. Some pilgrim/Indian deal that I wasn't a party to, and cannot fathom why I have to celebrate.

Truth be told, I don't celebrate it, as a card carrying agnostic, I find that giving thanks to 'god' is a bit over the top, and I certainly don't need to spend an entire day eating myself into a coma. I am already tubby enough thanks. But it is tradition, I hear you cry, we HAVE to get together with family, eat until we are struggling to breathe, then go out after with our friends, get drunk, and complain about how crazy Aunt Jessica has become since the last time we saw her (which was last thanksgiving). 

That is the tradition and we all have them, there are sports traditions, like the President of the US throwing out the first pitch on opening day of baseball season, kicking the ball out of touch when a player is injured in football, social traditions like lawyers wearing wigs, and military officers wearing spurs, and not double dipping a chip. Traditions abound, you cannot swing a overly dry turkey leg without hitting a tradition. It is the way things have always been done, and by jesus it is the way we are going to keep doing them, whether you like it or not, and if you don't like it then we will make you sit at the kids table again this year.

Of course there are an increasing number of us non-traditionalists that buck that tread. We aren't cool, we aren't trend setters, and we aren't powerful individual with enough force of personality to tell the world to 'go fuck itself'. For the most part we are just assholes that what to be left alone, that figure this tradition stuff is bollocks, and can't be bothered to pretend to care about Uncle Earl's gout acting up again. Trouble is when you tell people that your plan is to sit on the couch in your spiderman underwear, eat Krystal's burgers, and read a really good book, they go through two stages of reaction. First, they say 'oh you don't have an family here?' and give you a pitying look, then they look at you as if you are a leper, and mutter something about 'well to each his own I guess.'

Those are the kinds of questions and looks that are the precise reason I have the (non) plans I do, not a fan of people. Another problem, though not one for me, is what if you have conflicting traditions what if one of your traditions clashes with either another one of yours, or with someone else's? Who wins that clash of the titans? Do you draw lots? Play cards? Flip a coin? The conflicting traditions must be resolved right, or the Earth may spin off of it axis and go hurtling into the Sun, and that would be just awful.  However this conflict is resolved, it is more than likely going to disappoint someone, and that is one of the rubs of tradition, just because we've always done it this way, doesn't mean it was right. It was bollocks a hundred years ago, and it is just as much bollocks today. 

Sometimes that conflict can't be resolved, and feelings are hurt all around. Compromise, that dirty little word, must be reached but sometimes just the NBA lock out, both sides dig in their heels, and refuse to budge. It is possible for the conflict to create a, brand new, first time for everything, tradition, but usually it isn't a pleasant one.  The choices you make with regards to tradtion are your own, and whether you choose to 'tow the party line' or to be an outcast is up to you. Just remember next year we will be in the same fucking position again, and I hope you enjoy your choice because you are stuck with it. happy turkey day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


'After hanging up the phone, I stood for awhile looking out my window wondering if I should have told him no.'

After all, he had asked me to commit a serious sin, and a crime to boot, but he was like that, a guy you found it hard to say no to. I stood there looking out of my tiny little window at the dirty street below that was being washed 'clean' by the third straight day of a  pissing rain, and wondered why I didn't tell him no. I might not be the most moral, or ethical fellow in the world, but I had managed to live my life up until this point without committing any major crimes (a little speeding, and a bit of drink driving are not crimes where I am from they are traditions).

As I watch the rain fall in buckets, I begin to realize that the reason I didn't tell him no was because I just didn't give two shits anymore. My life had reached a point of indolent indifference that would make an Ottoman proud, and it was apparent to me that things were not going to change anytime soon. So why not agree to this madcap scheme of his, after all, we are two clever lads, and who knows we might just pull it off. One never knows I guess, well until it is too late, and by then all one can do is say to one's self that 'it seemed like a good idea at the time.' Which is the problem with these types of ideas, them seem sound at the time, they seem obtainable, and they seem like the type of idea you should have had ages ago.

The problem is they aren't they are shit plans, ideas that are best left in the dustbin of history, there is a reason why no one has had this idea before, it is because it is an epically bad idea. An idea so fatally flawed, and so toxic that if you were to think it too many times you might catch cancer. But, bad ideas are like bad relationships you think they are good at the time, and you find them so very hard to let go of, both are something you can get used to, and who knows when another one (relationship or idea) will come along. Either one don't just grow on trees you know, and besides you aren't getting any younger, or better looking for that matter. 

However, the more you thought about his idea, the more you thought it a work of genius, and you wouldn't want to miss out on a genius idea would you? It can't rain forever, and eventually the sun has to come out for all of us, and you can't just ignore the signals all the time. It was a far reaching idea, and one that if it were to work, would allow you to finally tell your boss to do awful things to themselves, while you bunk off to the south of France. The crime wasn't one that required any (large amount) of violence, and besides you would be careful. No need to let anyone die just so you can skip out of work for the rest of your miserable life. 

Which is the main reason you didn't tell him no, your life's plan (if you ever had one) has gone awry, and you are not going to be able to straighten it out with the resources you currently possess. In fact, it only seems to be getting worse, and the more you try to paper over the widening cracks, or ignore the massive flaws, the more you realize that time is not your friend.

The friend you do have, the one that placed that important call is the one you need to be thinking about now. Hard to turn down, not because he was some physical presence that reeked of bad things happening to your limbs if you told him no, but a charmer. The type of guy that could sell a copy of the Koran to the fucking Pope at a profit. The kind that could charm the pants of a nun, if nuns wore pants. Your partner in crime, and in sin, the type of guy you wish was your brother other than the fat, lazy slob that actually shares your DNA.  A stand up guy, one that you would 'go to the wall for' and not think twice about it.

But as I picked up the phone to call my other friend the one that would be ever so conveniently placed to foil this dangerous plan of my'brother' you sadly think to yourself. It really, really is a clever idea, and with my help he could have pulled it off, and no one would have gotten hurt, and that villa in the south of France would be all mine. Of course it wasn't the criminal nature of the idea, nor was it the immoral part of the idea that led me down the path of betrayal. None of that overly concerned me at the time, nor does it concern me now. Now that my friend is spending his time as a 'guest of the state.' No I wish I could claim that it was my sense of right, and morality that led me to 'drop a dime' on my friend, but the truth of the matter is that his 'crime' was much more mundane. He fucked my girlfriend more than once, and for some reason that upset me, now I hope he enjoys being some large fellow's 'wife' for the next 10 years.

“I stole this line from page 220 of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles” 

For Grace

Thursday, November 17, 2011

For Shame

Tricky title, and not going to be some post where I wax poetic about how many things I (and the rest of us) should feel shame for doing, thinking, or eating. This is a post of a different flavour, so enjoy if you want, or ignore it if you must.

Imagine yourself a writer, an author, not some scribbler that works for the local rag producing yellow journalism to scare the ignorant masses, but a full blown, this is how I earn my daily bread, and pay the rent, type of writer. A published writer of many large tomes. A writer of fiction, a writer who has created entire worlds, and populated them with some the best (and worst) characters in fiction today. Hundreds of characters all, for the most part, well drawn, not the cardboard type of characters that we see in many of today's moder literature, but characters that have some depth to them. Good on you right? Good for taking the wasteland of American/Modern literature, and giving it some life, some hope for the readers amongst us that are desperate to read something worth our time.

An author is what you are, it was what you always wanted to be, and you've made it! Made the grade and have whole bookshelves in local bookstores that are groaning under the weight of your published works. Does the heart proud, might even make the parents happy, though I am sure dear, old Dad wanted you to be something useful like a doctor, or a lawyer, but you've got the last larf on him haven't you? Shows him what's what doesn't it? How many lawyers do you know that can just laze around in front of a computer screen "thinking" all day? Most of the lawyers I know don't do a lot of thinking period, and certainly couldn't sustain thought for an entire day.

Of course, the rub is this, and it is the reason for the post. You've become a victim of your own success. You've written wonderful, wonderful books, and the reading public, those greedy bastards, have come to expect you to churn out a book on a regular basis. They, the bastards, have no idea how much work it takes, how hard it is, and how difficult new ideas are to come by, they just want to hand over their 10 quid, and read something fantastic, and it is incumbent upon you to give them what they want. After all, you're a writer aren't you? Write us something clever then.  Go on, write us something that we want to read, something that takes our minds off the shitty economy, the bad hair days, and our under-performing hedge fund, and miserable sods of a football team.

And that is your job isn't it? To write something that does all of the above, so your vast readership isn't tempted away from you by some other writer with fresh ideas. Knuckle down, and get to writing, and suddenly there it is! Your latest work, complete only about 200 pages which is a lot less that your major works, but hey you were in a bit of a rush weren't you? It will suffice, it will feed the need of your readers for a bit,while you work on your tan, err your next 'major' work.  They won't mind a short little tale to tide them over, after all if they had any brains, they would just write something decent themselves.

But, here's the rub, and it is a big rub your latest word is dross. It is awful, and as a member of the bastards known as the reading public, I feel it is my duty to tell you that it is one of the worst books I have ever had the displeasure to read. One of the top ten worst books I have even seen. It is just god awful, no story, no plot, disjointed, and just plain BAD.  It is an insult to the world of literature, and I hope you are ashamed of yourself. Though I doubt it, after all you got paid didn't you? What I can't fathom is how you got this piece of donkey shit past your editors, and your friends who (as you are quick to point out) read your work, and offer brilliant insight as to how to make it better. Trust me on this, there is no number of brilliant insight from anyone that could have made your latest book readable. Though on the bright side they couldn't have made it much worse. All I can say is, For Shame!

Sunday, November 06, 2011


"I will give you the benefit of the doubt" she said with very little conviction in her voice. Truth be told I probably didn't deserve the benefit of the doubt, so I merely replied thank you. Not trusting myself to say anything further without getting myself back into the trouble she was offering me a way out of. Also, I figured that keeping my mouth shut was probably for the best, it usually it, and it needs to be one of life's golden rules that I follow more often.

However undeserved that benefit was, it got me to thinking about benefits in general. There are quite a few benefits that we toss around like dwarfs at a Scottish fest, and I am pondering which of them are really important. There are the fringe benefits that those of us who have what are termed 'real' jobs have. The medical insurance, the life insurance, the paid vacation, and all the other little perks that some jobs can provide. There are friends with benefits type relationships, that I am sure many of us have been in at one time or another. These types of relationships are easy for shallow, emotionally stunted men like myself, are designed to have. The relationships that start of easy enough, but generally end in tears. While they last, and while both parties are in agreement as to what they are, they are not the worst type of relationship to be a party to.

Then we have the 'benefits of a classical education'. These types of benefits are myriad, and sometimes very difficult to quantify.  They can range from being really good at trivia competitions, to being a marvellous dinner companion that people love to sit next to at those awkward social gatherings that we, as social animals, are forced to attend in order to be normal.  The ability to carry on a conversation about a topic that does not involve your favourite sports team, is a very desired quality, especially in a man.  These benefits can also include the ability to make meaningful, positive changes in the world around you. If you are classically educated enough, and armed with the proper motivation, and the right tools you can change at least a little part of the world for the better. That is a solid benefit, and one that should not be over looked. It is this benefit that is probably the greatest benefit a classical education can offer, and one that is well worth paying for, and believe me classical education does not come cheaply.

I, perhaps without proper authority, consider myself to be classically educated. I am a fair hand at trivia contests, and if I were such an awkward sod/misanthrope, I would probably make a decent dinner conversationalist, but I am a misanthrope, so my dinner party invitations (also thin on the ground) have pretty much dried up as of late. Not that this upsets me in the least, it is just something that I am not prepared to mourn.  I certainly do not use my trumped up classical education to effect the world in any positive manner.  I am not armed with the proper motivation, nor do I generally find or receive it in/from my fellow human beings. I also lack the correct tools, or at least I haven't figured out how to use the tools I do have properly to make the world a better place. I understand this is a major failing on my part, and I at least try to hope that if I don't make the world a better place (as I should), I at least try not to make it a worse place (not sure I succeed in that endeavour).

Maybe an unintended side effect of a classical education is what is preventing me from positive change. That side effect is, in many ways, very ironic. To be classical educated is to realize that there are HUGE gaps in one's education, and to understand that one is woefully undereducated.  No one can process all the knowledge of the world, but one has can be smart enough to realize just how ignorant one actually is. It is a humbling realization, a frustrating thought, and a crushing burden all at once.  On the other hand, it while it has been a bit of a burden, it also has provided me (quite recently) with an new idea.

That idea is simplicity itself, if I am actually classical educated (which is debatable) I should, and do understand the gaps in my education, and my new found idea is to fill those gaps. They are too numerous to every fill in completely, and I am not sure I am quite certain where to start, but at least now that I have the idea I can begin try to make the holes less glaring.  I know nothing of opera, very little of the history of China, next to nothing of any foreign language, and am clueless on a wide number of other topics. At least, I now realize that these gaps are unacceptable and that has fired my desire to plug those gaps with actual knowledge not just to pass the time at my local trying to avoid stabbing douche bags in the eye, although prison might be able to provide me the isolation, and regular schedule I could use to continue my classical education, I prefer to try to do it on the outside, after all I am too pretty to go to prison.