MEDiA: Fred & Rose West, Sounes [Audiobook]

I find the story of Fred and Rose West and their victims grimly compelling. And Howard Sounes tells the story well. I’d seen Sounes as a talking head on TV doc’s about the Wests. He reads his own well-researched book well.

Bizarrely, perhaps, the story starts rather cozily, looking back to the family histories of Fred West and Rosemary Letts. These stories, grim enough in their own ways, are nonetheless fascinating, for the slices of lower level humdrum lives, and how these can have a devastating fallout over time.

It’s a story that starts off tragically, grows into something seedy, and then slowly grows into a barely creditable tale of monstrous depravity, bubbling below a surface that seemed relatively normal. But of course things in the West household were far from normal.

Fred’s life, from his time in Scotland, to his eventual arrest, is filled with petty crime and strange sexual shenanigans. His life as a self-employed handyman,

MUSiC: Drums – Stick Control Summer Challenge

This post isn’t so much a review of George Lawrence Stone’s evergreen classic, which is rapidly nearing its centenary. I’ve reviewed this before, elsewhere.

Instead this post marks a historic achievement for me: I finished my summer holiday Stick Cobtrol challenge – play through the entire book, every exercise twenty times (as prescribed!) – start finish.

It’s just after midday, on Friday, 19th June. And I’m very, very chuffed! It’s amazing how enjoyable these exercises become. They’re hypnotic and meditative. Some are easy, some harder. And I guess what some find easy, others may find hard?

The funny thing is, of course – and anyone who knows Stick Control will know this – that you’ll never truly ‘finish’ this stuff. I’ve gone through it all one now. And in doing so I learned a lot. Some of it was how to interpret the notation, some of it was about the mechanics of stick control.

But I can come back to it, all of it, and mine it for so much more: try it with my feet! Try more focus on individual exercises at differing tempi. One thing I already found myself doing occasionally was adding in obvious variant iterations of ideas that suggested themselves but weren’t actually in the book.

The possibilities for continuing study with this book are, literally, endless. On the one hand that’s daunting. Maybe even a little off-putting? But in the other, it’s a call to continued study.

I think instead of going straight back to aspects of Stick Control – the flam section, for example, is one I could do with studying much more – I’ll focus on working through the next book, Accents & Rebounds. And then there are the two volumes of Joe Morello’s Master Studies.!

What’s great about finishing this book is that I first of all feel a sense of accomplishment. And secondly I now feel more confident teaching from the whole thing. but thirdly, and importantly, it reminds me that having all the drum books I own is all well and good. But only when I work through them do I get their benefits.

I mean, it’s so obvious, it sounds idiotic to even say that. But the truth is that oft-times I e allowed myself to purchase educational drum books, and left it at that! Daft as that sounds. This is a wake up call to start working through my drum score library.

BOOKS: Wahoo! Massive Mr Men Windfall!

Fifty lovely little books.

Yesterday I bought this handsome set from a Facebook seller locally. We were on our way to Anglesey Abbey, for a lunchtime picnic. That didn’t work out, for reasons I’ll cover in another separate post.

But en route we stopped over at an address in Chatteris, and I bought this delightful set of Mr Men books for a tenner. A tenner!!!

Each individual book is £2.50. Fifty at that price translates to £125 in total. I fully expected that the boxed set would – obviously, surely? – be somewhat cheaper. After all, you want to make the bulk buy attractive, don’t you?

The entire series.
What? No bulk buy discount!?

So I was surprised to see that this set has, printed on the reverse of the hard-case, the full £125 asking price! This makes the tenner I paid even sweeter. And the condition of the set is immaculate. Brand new in all but name.

We don’t have kids. But these will not only potentially come in handy as and when kiddies are visiting us. But, truth be told, we adore them ourselves. They’re so sweetly innocent and charming. And most of them are a part of our own childhoods.

After the trauma of yesterday’s vehicular disaster (see this other post), reading a few of these today was a massively uplifting experience. The inner child lives on lustily in both Teresa and myself!

The (Mr) Man Who Wasn’t There!

I read Mr Nobody to myself. I find the theme here quite attractive. Almost Zen!? It’s not really intended that way. As Mr Nobody’s ‘nothingness’ – beautifully and so simply conveyed by his being see-through – is a bad thing, to be corrected.

I then read two to Teresa, putting on voices like a parent to a child. And it was wonderful. Not having children of our own, being, simple and childlike ourselves can be a real balm. A release from the unceasing cares of adulthood!

First I read Mr Rude, a later title (as was Mr Nobody), which I hadn’t had or read as a child, as it’s far more recent. Mr Happy forces himself on Mr Rude, as a house-guest, eventually helping Mr Rude find his better self. Lovely!


Teresa wanted me to read Mr Uppity. This is one I did encounter first many, many moons ago. Roger Hargreaves’ delightfully playful works occasionally use what Tolkien called ‘fairey’. And here we find Mr Uppity visiting the Goblin Kingdom, and thereby learning to be politer and nicer.

Utterly charming, and conveying simple homely morality, wonderfully illustrated in such a beguilingly naive and simple manner. Just lovely!

I told myself that, at least in part, I was getting these as illustration work type reference material. And so it is. But in truth I just love these books. And I’m very happy to own this set. Both as possible inspiration for my own work, and as little gems in their own right.

Roger Hargreaves (and son Adam?), we salute you!

BOOK REViEW: The Price Of Paradise, Iain Overton, 2018

An excellent book, that is by turns fascinating and horribly depressing.

Starting with the assassination of a Russian Tsar, and moving forwards in time, via such phenomenon as the Kamikaze pilots of Japan in WWII, Iain Overton traces a history of suicide bombing.

One thing that may initially surprise readers – it certainly surprised me (though on reflection, less so) – is how recent a development the suicide bomber is. One could potentially quibble as to a slightly deeper origin (did any of the killers-self destruct during the ‘infernal device’ attempt on Napoleon’s life? Or were the casualties of that either unwitting proxies and/or unfortunate bystanders?).

Although it’s grim reading, Overton’s skill in laying out this macabre evolution is impressive. Indeed, at times his deft authorial touch was almost a bit too slick. And at those times it felt, to me, like there was a danger that the subject was becoming a form of extreme adventure tourism reportage.

One has to wonder, in an age and about a subject matter in which such reportage can attract the very worst kind of medieval responses from the enraged faithful, what makes anyone stick their head above the parapet at all. As Alan Partidge jokes when Sidekick Simon irreverently conflates Judaism with Islam, you can poke fun at Christians, by all means, and maybe Jews ‘a little bit’. But Islam is off limits! And for reasons made all too obvious in this book.

Of course Overton isn’t making fun of Islam. Nor, as he is at pains to point out, are suicide bombers only ever Arab Muslims. But even the mere attempt by an ‘outsider’ to discuss some of the subjects covered here might seem to many a red rag to a deranged homicidal bull. And yet he proceeds, over the course of 16 or so well constructed chapters to attempt to forensically study the rise of the suicide bomber.

That this mostly revolves around Islamic practitioners of this grisly but incredibly potent weapon will surprise no one. But the route there may. Taking in not just the aforementioned Russian anarchists and Japanese pilots, but also Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. And Overton does a great job of mapping the grim and bloody road.

For most of the book the author successfully occludes his own judgements, in that time honoured modern western liberal mode of at least attempting to be balanced and dispassionate. Only occasionally letting slip through, or sometimes outrightly acknowledging, his own biases.

In examining why folk – be they men, women, or even children – might allow themselves to kill and be killed this way, or even embrace (sometimes individually, but more often in a collective context), such a ‘martyrdom’, and what the fallout is for the victims, their loved ones and the physically and mentally traumatised survivors, Overton eventually climbs down off the fence.

And so it is that quite near the end of this sizeable book, most clearly when talking about the victims, he talks bluntly of the ‘ugly ideology’ and ‘religious delusions’ of the perpetrators, and how wrong it is that those they murder be remembered solely via such an abrupt and violent end to their lives. Lives which had, until that cataclysmically fateful intersection, nothing to do with such toxic pre-medieval nonsense, enabled as it so frequently is, ironically, by so diabolically modern means.

It’s hard not to look at the events covered here, and how things have continued to develop since the book was published (2018) and despair. The self-appointed Davids of these persistent backwards folklores may not have slain the ‘Great Satan’ Goliaths, but they still seem to be winning, inasmuch as their impact is so incredibly pervasive. And that so few can adversely affect so many.

And with tragic irony all who aspire to a better world ultimately seem to lose. Only the thugs cloaked as religious fanatics, or the corporate suits – be they in Western or Arab garb – both disguising themselves, however thinly, cynically or otherwise, as ‘respectable’ types, literally profit.

Everyone else – and that’s beyond those killed and injured – suffers doubly. Firstly with the ever growing all-pervasive fears of death and destruction, and second with the zero-sum scenario, in which vast overspending on paranoic ‘defense’ measures, and the none too subtle erosion of hard won human rights, find the already far from perfect conditions of life in so-called liberal western societies (and elsewhere) being fundamentally eroded and undermined.

On the one hand I’m quite keen to read Overton’s previous book, Gun, Baby, Gun. But on the other I’m chary of doing so. Like the violence of the world generally, there’s a macabre fascination with the ‘dark side’. But one also needs to be wary of over-saturation, or even contamination, with all this ‘dark matter’.

Still, all in all, a very good and much needed book. He even offers, as one might hope and expect, some ideas about how we might move towards a better place. Hardly a light or easy read, but definitely recommended.

As a little footnote: in this interesting little article for the Grauniad, Overton illustrates how easily and suddenly, in our times/culture, one can awaken to discover you’ve been ensnared by the death merchants’ bloody ‘testicles of doom’: (thanks to Count Arthur for the malapropism).

BOOK REViEW: Cowboy Song, Graeme Thomson

I’ve loved Thin Lizzy, and consequently Phil Lynott, ever since I was first introduced to them, somewhere between the ages of 10-12 years old, by a girl I briefly dated. Thanks, Heidi!

A cassette of a greatest hits compilation – The Adventures of Thin Lizzy – was the way I was introduced to this group. Wild One and Whiskey In The Jar were the first to really take root. Within a year or two I was collecting their albums. And now, almost 40 years later, I still love Lizzy and Lynott.

This was my intro’ to all things Lizzy/Lynott.

My sister got me this book for my 50th (thanks, Hannah!), and I’ve just finished reading it. I’m glad Graeme Thomson and I share a view of Lynott that appreciates his broader sweep. The ’rise and dear demise’ of Lynott’s own ‘funky nomadic tribe’ – that’ll be Lizzy – is shockingly brief, and distressingly riddled with patchy fortunes.

Like many biogs on artists in many varied fields, the most enchanting and exciting stuff is kind of front-loaded: childhood, and the ‘getting into it’ being periods full of promise. Thomson covers all this very well.

Lizzy’s debut is terrific.

I don’t agree with all his judgements on Lizzy’s recordings – we’re probably roughly agreed on the naive and varied charms of the first three albums – but I clearly like and rate Nightlife and Fighting rather more highly than Thomson.

I adore this record. One of my early

I’m perhaps a little more aligned with his views on the decline of the group, but not entirely. Bad Reputation is terrific. For me, and despite Gary Moore (and ‘Sarah’), Black Rose is the start of the decline. Chinatown’s not the best. But it’s not so bad.

Given that I’m a bit of a Lizzy nut, I confess I hardly know Renegade; the fact I’ve had it for decades and almost never listen to it says something!

Possibly my favourite Lizzy album?

Even though it arrived when things were already going badly, I actually quite like Thunder And Lightning. Although I have to agree with Thomson, and admit that with Sykes on boards it did all get a bit too ‘eavy metal’. But with Cold Sweat and The Sun Goes Down, it ain’t all bad!

Lynott died the day before I turned 14. I’d really only just discovered him and Thin Lizzy! I was only very dimly aware of it at the time. I was sad, I do remember that much, but I had very little knowledge of his truly grim and tragic decline. And for me he was very much alive, via the music.

Mind you, this is a stone classic!

Reading about this latter part of Lynott’s life is not much fun. It’s such a cliché! So sad to see a man of so much talent and such polyglot tendencies gradually reducing themselves to an unpleasant caricature.

And one always feels a mix of why didn’t folk help more? Along with a realisation that those bent on self destruction might very well be beyond help. So sad!

But, despite the inevitability of the way the story ends, I’d still thoroughly recommend this book, esp’ for the first two-thirds to three-quarters, which are a rollicking good read, documenting an exciting man and the great music he and his chums made.

Lynott and Brian Downey, pre Lizzy!*

Of course I’d also recommend either acquainting yourself with Lynott and Lizzy, if they’re new to you. Or, if you already dig ‘em, revisiting the terrific musical legacy they left us all.

As a footnote, another area where I think I may well differ from Thomson is regarding Lynott’s two solo records. The first, Solo in Soho hasn’t aged particularly well, to my ears. But The Philip Lynott Album? It’s a stone cold underground classic!

A terrifically eclectic album.

A recurrent theme (or sub-text, perhaps?) throughout this book takes note of how Lynott was never really the one-dimensional hard man rocker that a part of his own personal mythology might have folk believe.

Early Thin Lizzy, from their eponymous debut right up to Jailbreak, and perhaps even more so The Philip Lynott Album, show the musical magpie or chameleon that gradually faded away from the Lizzy side of the equation.

Lynott with Frank Murray, who’s quoted frequently in the book.*

Apparently there are about 500 unreleased Thin Lizzy tracks, or demos. I’m not sure if this figure includes the many Lynott side projects and/or misc collab’s? For example at one point it’s noted that he had a bit of a private funk period. I’d love to hear that stuff!

Anyway, in conclusion, an excellent biography of an interesting man, talented artist, and, for better or worse, ‘rock legend’!

* These pics are not in Thomson’s book.

BOOK REViEW: The Green Man, Mike Harding

I arrived at the point of collecting a few A Little Book of this, that or the other titles, all by Mike Harding, in a roundabout way.

Having adored the Cosgrove Hall animated film of The Wind In The Willows, I was seeking out other similar stuff. This lead to Cosgrove Hall’s much harder to track down The Reluctant Dragon, another Kenneth Grahame adaptation.

It transpired that Mike Harding did the music for the latter. So I wound up checking him out a bit more. And so it was I found the series of Past Times titles from which series this comes.

An alternative edition.*

I got four – on green men, gargoyles, misericords and tombs and monuments – all of which are roughly six inches by six inches square. So far I’ve only looked at this Green Man entry. It has approx 60 colour images of its subject, along with a little explanatory text for them all.

I hope they’re all as good as this one. It’s delightful. Harding speculates on their origins, meanings, etc, and the ways in which green men can be found in many traditions and places. But his main focus is on how these so very pagan images populate so many Christian sites in the UK.

A rare full-bodied green man, St Leonard’s, Linley, Shropshire.

And he also draws some more secular and even up to the minute inferences from the study of his subject; ‘the Green man … has a story to tell – if only we knew how to listen.’ Amen to that, brother Harding, Amen!

A great little gem of a book. Highly recommended.

* A better and nicer cover image and design than the edition I wound up with, which is pictured at the top of this post.

MiSC/MEDiA: The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Over Yuletide I watched the Cosgrove Hall animation of The Wind In The Willows. But the version I watched was an augmented and lengthened one, that an enterprising fan had created, splicing in several segments absent from the official release, in order to bring it closer to Grahame’s book, in it’s original unabridged form.

At the time that I’m re-drafting this post (started on my 50th birthday, but totally re-written now, on the 9th), I’m several days into reading this, at an appropriately leisurely pace. And last night, at just gone midnight – a suitably enchanted hour, perhaps? – I read the beautifully titled mid-point chapter, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

The aforementioned ‘extended cut‘ of the Cosgrove Hall production took parts of the TV series they also made, and spliced them into the feature length film that is both a standalone gem, and had also acted as a ‘pilot’, of sorts, to said series. And the insertion of The Piper segment very literally enchanted me.

A watery rural idyll.

Some print versions of the book apparently cut this remarkable chapter. Vandalism, I’d say! And I’m not 100% sure, but I think the version I recall from childhood didn’t have that part. As it all felt wonderfully fresh and new to me. Whereas the remainder of the book, by and large, is all very familiar.

As is the way of my adult self, I want to read around the subject a bit. And I’ve discovered that there’s a great deal of tragedy in the real world back story, regarding Kenneth Grahame himself, and most especially as that relates to Alistair ‘Mouse’ Grahame, the author’s son, and only child. It was out of bestie stories told to the young Mouse that WITW grew.

But I’ll save any further thoughts on that and other extra-literary considerations for another time. This post is intended as a very positive celebration of what’s best and most captivating about this classic of so-called children’s literature. I put things that way because it’s my view that the inner child lives ‘eternally’ within us. Or ought to. And by eternally, in this context I simply mean as long as we live, and despite our ageing.

Mole’s inner child is frequently excited.

One of the many very attractive things about The Wind In The Willows is it’s strongly pagan affinity for nature. This is something it shares with other writers, such as A. A. Milne – whose stage adaptation of Grahame’s work helped popularise it – and, very notably so, for me at least, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Allusions to Christianity do intrude here, however, and more nakedly so than in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth writings (or the Winnie The Pooh stories, for that matter). But when they do, as for example in the carolling of the field mice at Mole’s door, the frankly comically bizarre parochialism that so frequently attends the conflation of myths, as they travel from place to place and culture to culture, is plain to see, as Joseph and Mary seek shelter in what appears to be some snowy English shire!

Another strand, relating once again to nature and the place of living beings within her, is to do with consciousness. Grahame’s animals, whilst rendered in cutely (or ought that to be acutely?) anthropomorphic forms, retain certain ‘animal qualities’. Or rather what we, or more accurately Grahame, think these might be.

Many a bucolic reverie is enjoyed.

So it is that animals are more firmly located in the present moment. And, correspondingly, perhaps, freed from the burdens of anxiety over past or future, they are more subtly attuned to whole ranges of perception – this is delightfully rendered in the chapter Dulce Domum, in which Mole’s home calls to him on the air, via scent – of which we humans are very crudely and ignorantly unaware.

All of this stuff, from the anthropomorphism to the ideas of animal nature, is freighted with all manner of assumptions. And it’s not set about in a rigorously scientific way. But rather approaches things from a poetic angle. Let’s not forget Grahame also wrote The Reluctant Dragon, about a peaceful dragon who preferred poetry to fighting!*

I absolutely adore The Wind In The Willows. And whilst it may magnify or conceal flaws in the whole romantic view of life/nature, or it’s creator’s own character, or the history of his times, it remains a potently charming work of poetic storytelling art. And, for me at least, it’s manifold attractions far outweigh any nitpicking analyses, past, present or future.

A perfect tale for those long winter nights.

It’s interesting that Grahame, like Tolkien, found finding a publisher difficult. And it’s worth noting that TWITW was no overnight success. Indeed, at the time of first publication it received poor to indifference notices!

Anyway, this post is intended to capture the flashes of enchantment that this terrific little gem of book lit up in or for me. I’ll leave it there for now, as I still have just under half the book left to read.

* Also brought to our TV screens, and delightfully so, by Cosgrove Hall!

An old-fashioned love of simple homely pleasures.

MUSiC/BOOK REViEW: Stick Control, Stone

Joe Morello studied with George Lawrence Stone. That alone is recommendation enough!

I’ve been dipping into this for over two decades now. Although, to my everlasting shame, I’ve not completed it yet. I use it in my drum teaching all the time.

Morello was Stone’s star pupil. And thanks to Morello’s precocious work on Stick Control, we also have Stone’s follw-up, the snappily titled Accents and Rebounds.

A great tool for developing better reading, and – of course – stick control. Starting with such simple building block as singles, doubles, and grouping of three or four, per hand, the numbered exercises take you though a huge variety of combinations, leading with both right and left.

Stone says play everything 20 times. And play with a metronome at various different speeds. This is terrific conditioning practice on a pad, and fun to transfer to snare. Of course one can then take it to the kit, and orchestrate it there.

Used regularly and with a bit of discipline this book can impart strength, stamina, speed, control of dynamics, and much more. Definitely an essential piece of kit in the drummer’s training arsenal.

MiSC: The Unabomber Manifesto

‘Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.’ Ted Kaczynski

Several print versions are available.
This is an original manuscript.

I really like the quote at the top of this post. It’s from Ted Kraczyinki’s Industrial Society & Its Future, aka The Unabomber Manifesto. I like it because I think it captures extremely succinctly and very powerfully a very real trait of contemporary humanity, our addiction to technology.

Only the other day the latest copy of The Idler plopped through our letterbox, and the cover feature is an interview with Microsoft employee and tech guru Jaron Lanier (I’d never heard of him before!), and is about how the internet has enslaved us. At least according to the ‘strap line’!

I’m someone who doesn’t shy away from some of the darker rabbit holes of history. For example, my interest in WWII has lead me to read numerous biographies of Churchill, Stalin and Hitler.

Nothing too controversial so far, perhaps? I mean, Churchill is regularly described as one of the greatest of Britons. Hitler and. Stalin, tho’? I will admit I felt slightly grubby or suspect, even, purchasing Mein Kampf, which I’m part way through reading at present (it’s a pretty stodgy read, before one even addresses the author’s ideas).

If one fears polluting one’s mind with dangerous ideas, ought one to even contemplate reading what might be the demented ravings of, say, a serial murderer, like Anders Brevik, or the Unabomber? [1]

Several modern serial killers have published ‘manifestos’. I don’t know this for sure, not having read much in that line, but normally, from what I’ve gathered about those by folk like Brevik and Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch (NZ) Mosque shooter, they’re like the worst kind of school essays, composed from cut and paste plagiarism. Never mind the drivel that passes for content.

Anyway, as I’m clearing steering this from the less obviously or overtly threatening arena of biog’s of the ‘great men’ of history (great in terms of historical impact, as opposed to great as a friend/human being!), to the writings of convicted serial killers, one might reasonably ask, is this really to slide rapidly downhill into a moral cesspool? Hitler, Stalin, even Churchill, all sent vastly larger numbers to premature graves, even if they admittedly didn’t personally perform any/many lethal acts themselves.

But enough prevarication! In this post I am talking about the ideas of a convicted serial murderer. A man frequently dismissed as insane; note the ‘brilliant madman’s essay’ bit in the pic at the top of this post. So, having just read Industrial Society & Its Future, this post aims to ask, is anything Kaczynski says true, interesting, valid, or worth pursuing further?

The young mathematics genius.
The older ‘lone wolf’ outsider.

Throughout the 35,000 word document Kaczynski repeatedly refers to himself as we, or FC (this latter purportedly standing for Freedom Club), and on one occasion he even alludes to the fact that, without his having killed, he wouldn’t have attained his goal of getting his thoughts published and – he hoped – widely read.

Interestingly, having already waged a long lethal campaign of terror, successfully evading detection, he used the threat of deadly violence in two ways in relation to his manifesto. Violence had got him attention, and now it was to be both carrot and stick, when he approached parts of the US media with the aim of getting his thoughts published.

On the one hand, the carrot, he promised to cease and desist from his bombing campaign, if his manifesto was printed. But on the other, the stick, he threatened to kill again if his writings appeared in Playboy, preferring instead the more high brow NY Times and Washington Post!

A facsimile of one of Kaczynski’s bombs.
Hugh Scrutton, one of Kaczynski’s fatal victims.

I read somewhere online – I can’t recall where – that Kaczynski claimed his killing of computer store owner Hugh Scrutton (pictured above) was ‘humane’, and the victim ‘probably didn’t feel anything’. Other and more reliable/plausible sources of information suggest Scrutton remained conscious and took about 30 minutes to die. Obviously such a gap between the perpetrators’ perception of his actions and the real consequences doesn’t cast the Unabomber in a good light.

But stepping back momentarily from the messy and personal nitty gritty of individual lives, deaths, maiming, etc, what at first appears mind-bogglingly awful – killing another person to get your views across – is in fact, historically, relatively normal human behaviour, albeit that this is not something readily or happily admitted to nowadays. And by and large society seeks to quell this aspect of our natures.

But governments, and even corporations, continue to do it all the time. When governments do so, it’s called foreign policy. When individuals outside of the traditional power politics frameworks act in this way, depending on their targets/motivations, it’s generally going to be labelled either freedom fighting or terrorism, depending also where the relative parties (and observers/commentators) stand.

But setting aside how Krazynski got his platform, do the key ideas in Industrial Society & Its Future have any useful insights or merit? I don’t really know why this suddenly became interesting to me. But it did [2]. And for this reason I wanted to read it. So I did a little ‘googling’, and soon found it, archived via the papers that originally (and with state/security forces backing) published it.

It’s a very long essay, in numbered paragraphs with quite a few footnotes. Some of Kaczynski’s former life as a student/academic/professor, clearly lives on! This said, structurally and in terms of content, and despite the author’s obvious intelligence, it is also quite rambling, and perhaps lacking in coherent structure.

Ted at his cabin.

Worse still, like many critiques of modern society, wherever they might originate from, left/right, anarchist, whatever – oh, and America as a whole, and Kaczynski along with her, has serious issues with the whole idea of ‘leftism’! – it’s strong on critique and weak on solutions.

Anyway, I suppose now is the time/place to précis the contents. I, like Kaczynski, am fond of endless digressions, and feel a compelling need to qualify anything I might be thinking or saying to the nth degree. I’ll try and spare you that now! As simply and as brutally as I can, I’ll synopsise FC’s diatribe.

Rather bizarrely, the whole thing is bookended, fore and aft, with his railing against ‘leftism’. For now I’m simply leaving that issue at that, i.e. duly noted. What’s much more interesting, to me at any rate, is his expatiating on modern society and our seemingly exponentially increasing dependency on technology.

To cut a long story short, I think he’s essentially correct in his analysis: in essence modern or post-industrial-revolution society is a vast and brutal ‘super organism’. And one that has gathered its own momentum, in which the human species has now been almost completely reduced to an enabling agent. Cogs in the machine, the grease that keeks the wheels spinning.

The consequences for individuals, in terms of the loss of personal freedom, have been very radical indeed, and are, by and large, a fairly recent loss. The damage is not wrought on the psyches of individuals alone either, but also on the ‘natural world’, or our environment. This is something Kaczynski feels keenly. As indeed do many nowadays, a lot of whom might be shocked to learn that Kaczynski is, in this respect, a ‘fellow traveler’.

Surreal… Ted’s cabin on the move!

There were times as I read this that I thought to myself, ‘Ah, but Ted, you’ve missed such and such’. For example he likes to say ‘The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.’ And he frequently harks back to the 19thC in particular, on this theme. But he does also, if only in passing, allude to the fact that humanity’s ability to affect nature may have deeper roots.

I recently read Against The Grain, in which James C. Scott goes much, much, much further back, placing humanity’s domestication of fire as the start of our leaving a discernible imprint on the planet. But Scott also makes the point that most of humanity remained living mostly outside of state control until very recently. And in this respect, despite differing in details, the essence of their sweeping vision remains much the same; only very recently has humanity become enslaved by the super-organism that is modern society.

The major issue, obviously, is what, if anything, can be done? And with Kaczynski, the lone wolf, that translates to ‘what can one do’, individually, about this new evolutionary context we find ourselves seemingly inescapably enmeshed in? Kaczynski’s answer is to seek to destroy it. That’s where he and I part company.

Some might say ‘why bother to read the ravings of a nutjob?’ Well, we might say Kaczynski’s nuts. But I’m interested in what sends folk over the edge. Maybe our society is in need of change, and maybe not all who oppose the status quo are de facto insane. Maybe even those driven to the most overtly shocking or barbaric acts can still teach us all something about ourselves?

I found Kaczynski’s ‘manifesto’ interesting, it didn’t seem to me like the ravings of a lunatic. His issues with leftism are things you can hear people say very frequently, both here in the UK and the US. Many of them could equally well be said of aspects of ‘the right’ (I hate the whole left/right binary thing, it’s so limiting in scope!). But as I said above, I’m not going down that rabbit hole in this post. His grievances with ‘Industrial Society’ seem genuine and, for the most part, understandable.

Ted’s cabin wound up in the ‘Newseum’.

What I take away from having dared to read the ravings of a lunatic, so to speak, is that our society does indeed face many serious issues, and that the answers are far from simple.

If you’re interested enough to want to read it, the text of the manifesto can be found here.


[1] My mum, bless her, was worried when I bought a WWII German tanker’s cap, at a ‘40s show (I also bought some British uniform gear), lest putting it on my noggin might somehow transmit evil Nazi brainwaves from cloth to psyche! I reassured her that it was a repro’ item, and not a genuine WWII piece.

[2] Possibly it came to mind around the 9/11 anniversary? At times like that we sometimes wonder – as well as mourning the passing of the victims of terrorism – what motivates the terrorist.