POETRY: Classroom Crush?

I’m following Kurt Vonnegut’s advice, as per my previous post, and writing a poem. Here it is:

Classroom Crush

She’s a beauty
And no mistake
Long brown hair
A fine filly
With a luxuriant mane
Just enough jewellery
To suggest sophisticated decadence
Sat with her peach of a derrière
On the edge of her desk.

A green velvet jacket
A colourful batik silk scarf
Enchanting hazel eyes
A voice that’s refined
Commanding obedience
Oh so willingly given
Long elegant fingers
Rest on a copy
Of Sirens of Titan.

Oh, Mrs Martin
Your Mona Lisa smile
Always baffled and beguiled
I wonder how many
Boys hearts you quickened
Or maybe broke?
Sat in the ranks
Of hideous brown plastic chairs
I secretly loved you.

HEALTH & WELLBEiNG: Pre-Medieval Nonsense of a New Age Nutjob

This is both a book review (my first zero stars one!) and a polemic, I guess. It also touches upon troubled familial relations.

Many years ago my mother gifted me a copy of Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. I read the first half, and found it asinine. But, in essence, I agreed with Hay, that thinking positively is healthier than thinking negatively.

But the second half of the book? That was another matter entirely. And it is in that part of her ‘work’ that Hay’s true colours are shown to be, not to put too fine a point on it, a motley flag of insanity. Insane, and very dangerous for anyone taking her advice to heart.

I have, I suppose, some unresolved issues with my mother, around both the break up of our original ‘nuclear’ family. And, subsequently, being treated less equitably than other siblings. When my sister lived abroad, my mum visited Spain far more frequently than travelling the few miles to us, for example (I’ll leave it at that, for now).

Anyway, back to the main topic of this post. Her having bought me this book, whilst in part motivated by good intentions, perhaps, revealed a deeper – I might say unstated, except it wasn’t/isn’t – view of her apparent opinion of my life circumstances.

What it boils down to is what is nowadays referred to as ‘victim blaming’. In this case it’s the ancient pre-scientific idea that illness is a form of punishment for ‘sin’, wrongdoing, evil, or just a bad attitude. Call it what you will.

When I first read You Can Heal Your Life I put it down in absolute shock, horror and disgust when I read Hay’s moronic assertion that the disease Polio is caused by ‘Paralysing jealousy. A desire to stop someone.’ She has an A-Z, or, more accurately, an A-W, of similarly ridiculous ‘explanations’, for everything from Abdominal Cramps to Warts! [1]

The impact of polio on my family’s lives is huge. Polio killed my grandmother on my father‘s side, contributing to the consequent disruption of his life (he and his brothers were brought up in foster care, as orphans). Polio also disabled my maternal grandmother, meaning she lived her adult life on crutches, and eventually in a wheelchair. My mother had issues with family, quite possibly related again, in part, to the knock-on effects of this disease, running away from home very young (so I’ve been told), and ultimately into the arms of my father.

Does she really and truly believe that these two ladies got polio as a kind of cosmic or psychic punishment for ‘Paralysing jealousy. A desire to stop someone?’ Such views are horrific; they are obscenely offensive, and totally unfounded. The actual cause of polio is, as should be universally known now, a virus, identified in 1909, transmitted for the most part via water contaminated by human faeces. [2]

Something that struck me very forcibly when I decided to research this post is the total mismatch between endorsements and critiques in relation to Hay. Everybody , from Wikipedia’s entry on her, to the Guardian’s obituary, simply parrot Hay’s own completely unsubstantiated ‘personal history’. There’s no mention at all of any sceptical views of her anti-scientific ideas and claims.

I find this deeply shocking. Does her financial success make her immune to proper evaluation? Apparently so. The only objective or balanced critiques I could find were those of individuals, pointing out what crackpot nonsense she grew rich peddling.

It’s a great shame, I feel, that so many people – millions, perhaps, if sales of her stuff is any indication – are suckered into uncritically adopting her bullshit. Even if only thanks to the positivity aspect of her ideas. It smacks of a blinkered desperation. I can understand that. Having chronic ailments myself, I recognise that deep longing for some kind of simple solution to what might otherwise appear to be intractable problems.

It has been demonstrated – the placebo effect, for example – that the mind can be very powerful in relation physical health. But to adopt Hay’s alleged position (her own life needs to be thoroughly investigated, as to the truth of her own claims/actions [3]) is to fly in the face of the findings of all modern medical science.

It has been medical science, not New-Age quackery, that has dealt with my psoriasis and related arthritis, and manages both my physical pain and mental ill health. We can thank (or curse?) developments in public hygiene, in light of this hard won knowledge, for creating the conditions that have allowed for humanity’s demographic explosion.

I thought about giving this book half, or maybe even just one star, for the first part, about the benefits of positive thinking. But the issue is that these come attached to the second part, which, in my view, is poisonously bad. Evil, in fact. The rose here is attached to an enormous stinking turd that really cannot be ignored.

It has oft been said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’d be damning enough if one were to know how many desperately ill people have died as a result of taking Hay’s unfounded nonsense as truth [4]. That people will have died following her advice is sadly inevitable.

But, just as bad in my view, is the pernicious and completely bogus idea that illness is the fault of and consequence of the sufferer’s thoughts and/or actions. This adds self-righteous condemnation to the arsenal of the healthy, and unnecessary guilt and self-condemnation (how ironic, given the alleged healing of loving oneself Hay professes to peddle!) to the afflicted.

My mum needs both her hips replacing. According to Hay’s worldview this is somehow my mother’s own fault, on some negative psychological level: ‘Fear of going forward in major decisions. Nothing to move forward to.’*

This would be laughably preposterous applied to a car; do my tires regularly need replacing because, A) they have a ‘Fear of going forward in major decisions. Nothing to move forward to.’ Or B) due to physical wear and tear?

If your local garage mechanic said ‘You don’t need new tires, your tires just need to truly love and value themselves. Here are some affirmations for them to repeat.’ Would you pay them, or go back there in future?

Not the cartoon I wanted. But the same idea.

In her lifetime Hay profited monumentally from peddling her dangerous brand of nonsense. Her personal claims are all totally unsubstantiated. And her broader claims fly in the face of medical science. Why – other than the toxic marriage of hopelessness to comforting BS – has she not been taken off her pedestal? It has to be the present day sanctification of success. She’s made lots of money, so she must be right.

Louise Hay (source: wiki)

* These quotes are lifted from the appalling second part of You Can Heal Your Life. It ought to have a Government health warning: New Age BS is no substitute for scientifically grounded medicine.


[1] Her ‘explanation’ as to the cause of warts would be hilarious, if it weren’t so frighteningly vacuous: ‘Little expressions of hate. Belief in ugliness.’ Her list reads like a dotty New Age analogue of horoscopes; arbitrary, open to wide interpretations, and based not on real knowledge of understanding underlying facts, but a vague even whimsical form of associative imagining. Warts are in fact caused by a virus. Not by the mind of a person who may have them.

[2] Tragically, under our current Tory rulers the potential return and rise of such diseases is being increased by the total disrespect shown to both the environment and the humanity it sustains, by their rampantly capitalist ideology. Brexit is part of this downward scramble towards private profit-motivated deregulation.

[3] As far as I’m aware none of Hay’s autobiographical claims, from the alleged facts of her childhood, to her ‘miraculous’ curing of her self from cancer are in any way reliably documented.

[4] I need to re-find the quote, but one of the few critical things I found about Hay included a comment from a bereaved man whose wife died whilst following Hay’s imbecilic ideas.

MONEY/CLOTHES: Disappointment, and Web-Knavery

Some while ago I posted excitedly about ordering a bunch of groovy green tops. Well, turns out the company in question are Chinese bandits. They pinch pics of expensive fashion-wear from genuine makers/sellers, and pretend they’ll sell you it for peanuts. Should’ve known it was too good to be true.

The only upside is that I filed a complaint and a request for a refund. And, somewhat to my surprise, they did refund me. Now I’m worried they might be flogging my card/account details! This and another recent and similar farce have taught me to NEVER EVER buy clothes off FB marketing links!

MUSiC: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi

Utterly gorgeous!

I had wanted to get this in time for the 2022 Yuletide season. But I didn’t. But, with gift voucher funds from Teresa and Patrick, I did finally get it after Xmas.

Speaking frankly, and especially as I’ve loved Guaraldi’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown for years now, I can’t believe it’s taken me over a half a century to get around to buying this. A truly terrific recording, this gets my occasional – and reserved for only the berry vest – six stars. It’s just utterly wonderful.

It’s one of those instances where less is more. Much, much more, in this case. Jazz is a musical style in which sometimes the tempos can be high, the vibe intense, and the notes hyper-abundant. This collection, however, belongs to a mellower more Chet Baker-esque jazz world. A musical universe of pretty melodies, and spare pared down playing. I love it!

And it’s not just Guaraldi’s own playing and composing that benefits from this approach. The sidemen here* are, for the most part (a little less so on one or two of the added bonus tracks at the end; we’ll get to them later), the essence of tastefully restrained.

‘Linus and Lucy’ is revisited on this recording, and is a case in point: the main theme is just piano – a beautifully rumbling train like piano – against very minimalist drumming, with the bass dropping out altogether. But the keys and drums duo sound is remarkably full. The bass appears when they go into the B-section, sometimes bossa, sometimes swing; but the vibe remains resolutely Spartan. Fantastic!

Apparently Guaraldi’s ’earthy’ style garnered him the nickname Dr Funk, on the local music scene of his native San Francisco, where he came to fame playing with Cal Tjader. And, whilst talking about learning more about this dude and his music, I’m definitely keen to find out if more of Guaraldi’s work, Schulz related or otherwise, is as good as the two Charlie Brown themed albums I now have. And to that end I intend to check out this NPR show on him:

Looks interesting!

One of Guaraldi’s drummers, Jerry Granelli, is either still going, or only recently passed. I remember watching him not long ago, online (YouTube, no doubt), including in a trio performing Guaraldi’s Peanuts stuff. It struck me that Granelli’s kit looked like an Ayotte, a Canadian drum brand of which I have a beautiful example.

Guaraldi himself passed away quite young, aged just 47. He was busy musically till the end, working on further Peanuts stuff, gigging, skiiing, and then boom… killed by a massive heart attack! Sad, really.

Back to the CD, and happier thoughts! The material is a mixture of trad Christmas stuff, from O Tannenbaum to Mel Tormé’s evergreen classic, The Christmas Song, with some Greensleeves, and a brief but beautiful Fur Elise, by Beethoven, as well as a good fistful of superb Guaraldi originals.

The liner notes to the CD are good, and talk about Guaraldi’s modest self-appraisal, and his desire to make pretty music, and be loved for it. Well, I agree with the liner notes author; you did it Vince, and we love ya!

A few pieces have vocals from a children’s choir, which just adds to the festive charm. The Choir of St Paul’s Episcopal Church do themselves and the music proud.

If you’re interested, you can read more on the Peanut’s Yuletide special here. Rather like the two page comic strip ad for the special itself, that Schulz produced (which finds Charlie Brown lamenting the commercialisation of the season), all this stuff, the music included, had a beautifully gentle and lightly wistful edge to it.

Utterly lovely! Can’t recommend it highly enough.

* Apparently Guaraldi wasn’t the best at keeping accurate records of who performed on his dates. Which has lead to some confusion over personnel credits.

MEDiA: La Planète Sauvage, 1973

Wow! This is a pretty amazing animated film. The quality of animation is terrific. Especially for its (pre CGI) era. Whilst the visual aesthetic is not immediately to my own tastes, it’s so singular and powerful it kind of sucks one in. Well, me at least, at any rate.

I discovered the existence of this movie thanks to the inclusion of some music from it on the vinyl compilation Mindbending Nuggets, which a friend had bought. This latter is a great collection of slightly obscure music, with a good selection of odd and unusual but groovily funky tracks (released in ‘97).

The basic premise of the film (itself based on a book*) is that humans, called Oms, are kept as pets by Draags, big blue red-eyed and web-eared humanoid characters. These Draags spend most their time meditating and being a bit weird.

They live on a planet, Ygam, whose look reminds one of both surrealism generally, and in particular the paintings of scientist (and surrealist painter) Desmond Morris. All organic blobbiness, but with an appropriately ‘sauvage’ spikiness.

Tiva plays with Terr.

Apparently the movie was marketed as a stoner experience, best watched in an altered state. And I can see that that might well be a good way to see it. Although personally those days are, for the most part, very much behind me now.

The music, by Alain Goraguer is terrific. It’s often compared to Atom Heart Mother era Floyd. Although, to my mind/ears, it’s far more complex, focussed and funky than the Brit-proggers.

Funky keys, wah-guitar, and lush strings and vocals create the perfect aural companion to the visuals. It’s one of those rare instances where the music stands in its own right, and is as strong as the film it accompanies.

Mmm… sexy jazz!

Above, a bit more of Goraguer’s work. I’ll prob do a post on him at some point. But for this one, let’s get back to the animated film. Which is, frankly, visually stunning.

* Based on this book:

All told, there’s something a bit odd, and slightly limp or disappointing, in the ideas or the narrative. The visual imagination and invention is terrific, but the conceptual side occasionally feels a little lame.

There’s a definite hangover of both WWII and the hippy era. The ‘de-Om’ing’, or culling of humans, clearly resembles the Nazi ‘final solution’. Most obviously so when gas releasing pellets – Zyklon B springs to mind – are used to kill Oms en masse. But in the end, and rather quickly, it’s determined that peaceful co-existence is the only way forward. And, rather abruptly (and dissatisfyingly), boom, the film ends.

It almost feels like they just ran out of either budget or ideas! Maybe not? Who knows. Either way, it’s a bit of a damp squib way to end.

Nevertheless, the sheer visual richness, and the soundtrack, make this essential viewing, in my opinion.

BOOK REViEW: The Wild Boys, William Burroughs

Just finished reading this. It’s a short and fairly easy read, albeit the prose veers between normal and ‘cut up’. Luckily there’s enough standard English to make it readable.

I’m fascinated by Burroughs. I think he’s prob’ a bit nuts, and possibly a bit of a huckster/charlatan. But he has a great command of language, and an amazingly vivid if somewhat twisted imagination.

In essence, a great deal of Burroughs writing – at least what I’ve read – is autobiographical. But rather than straightforward documentary narrative, Burroughs serves up a postmodern bouillabaisse of fevered drug-addled eroto-fantasy, interwoven with crumbling memories.

Burroughs wandering life as a trust-fund dilettante, globe-trotting in search of, essentially/frankly, thrills, and being both gay and – by dint of the latter, to some extent – Bohemian, lead him to live in all the places that crop up here: St Louis, Mexico City, London, North Africa, New York, etc.

Burroughs’ unusual outsider life – involving crime, drugs, and a sexuality that meant living not like but as an outlaw – all conspired to fuel a pretty weird fantasy world. And so The Wild Boys (and other writings) veers towards being his kind of heir to the Marquis de Sade’s vision of ultimate freedom in a melange of sex and violence.

Depending on the reader’s tastes, it can make for quite compelling and entertaining (or off-putting) reading. What it’s real merits may be, I’m very uncertain. In some ways I enjoyed this book. In others, I was disappointed.* As with much of Burroughs’ work, it’s like the somewhat choreographed dredgings of a disordered and fairly warped mind.

In some of his writings all of this is filtered through very standard prose, in others – particularly when he employs his cut up style – it’s practically unreadable. Here it’s a mixture, thankfully erring on the side of comprehensible. But the visions it describes are, well… read it. See what you think!

The book signs off ‘William S. Burroughs, London, 1969’. This was an interesting time in his life, about which you can learn more here.

Pop group Duran Duran’s hit song is named after the novel (more on this below). And I’ve read that cult gay film maker Fred Halsted was in discussions with Burroughs about making a pornographic movie of The Wild Boys. But that never came to pass, alas.

* The titular Wild Boys don’t really come to the fore till very near the end of the book. Making many of the ‘plot’ synopses of this work I’ve seen seem way too glib/conventional.


I made the following notes as I read the book. I forgot to do so for two chapters, so those are in [brackets]!

CHAPTER / Remarks / score
Tio Maté Smiles - Cinematic surrealist Mexico City sleaze… **1/2
The Chief Smiles - Moroccan death sleaze … ***
Old Sarge Smiles - St Louis nun-sleaze, with a sprinkling of racism… **1/2
Bury the Bread - Audrey moons, Old Sarge rants; a psychedelic melange… ***
Penny Arcade Peep Show #1 - Funfair surreal gay sex dreams ***1/2
Le Gran Luxe - Big swanky party surreal gay sex dreams ***1/2
[Penny Arcade PS #2 - I forget!]
[Miracle Rose - … er? Something to do with anii… & ‘rectal mucous’!?]
Silver Smile - Frankie & Johnny gay sex dreams ****
Frisco Kid - Klondike gay sex dream ***1/2
Penny Arcade PS #3 - Cinematic cut & paste
Dead Child - Golf course gay sex dreams morph into shaman jungle dream ***
Call Me Joe - Defection from the straight army to the Wild Boys **1/2
Mother & I - Perverts vs Police State: ‘Our aim is total chaos’. Wild Boys eroto-horror… ***
Wild Boys - The title finally addressed… more of the same [gay sex dreams]… **1/2
Penny Arcade PS #4 - Tree-house-boat gay sex dream ***1/2
Penny Arcade PS #5 - Assassin gardener **1/2
Wild Boys Smile - Arrival, more of the same [gay sex dreams]… The End ***


The Duran Duran song, The Wild Boys, is of little or no interest to me, particularly musically, in itself. But it is a little intriguing inasmuch as it was supposed to be the theme song to another mooted attempt at making the book into a film. The ‘songfacts’ website says:

‘Duran Duran recorded the song because Russell Mulcahy, who directed their videos, bought the movie rights to the book and planned to make it into a film. The band wrote the song for the movie, which was never made. At the time, this was the most expensive video ever made.’