CULTURE: Kurt Vonnegut on The Arts

KV. A terrific writer. With some great insights.

I have to thank a secondary school English teacher (Mrs Martin?), for introducing me to Kurt Vonnegut. Truth be told it was her sex appeal – a bright and beautiful young woman, with a fascinating looking book – as much as the literary appeal that first took me. Ah, Mrs Martin, where are you now?

The edition Mrs Martin had.

Well, today, on FB, he was quoted by one of those weirdly intrusive ‘you might like this’ meme-things. I reproduce the quote below, keeping the bit about homosexuality that they omitted:

‘If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.’

According to online sources this quote comes from Man Without A Country. I must get/read that!

REVELATiON: Am I A Misanthrope?

The Misanthrope, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1568.

I’ve described myself to some folk, over the years, as a misanthrope. I’ve always done so out of a vague notion of what that means. So I decided to look it up today.

I find that the Wikipedia entry on Misanthropy resonates with me in many, albeit not all, particulars.

One typically assumes that most folk would view misanthropy with scorn and disdain, as it’s not an obviously positive or helpful outlook. And that’s the kind of view of the outlook or philosophy portrayed by the Brueghel painting above.

One of the chief areas in which I might not be a misanthrope is in relation to sex; apparently many misanthropes are antinatalist. Well, I can see that humanity is somewhat overstocked, which appears to adversely effecting the planet and everything in it (inc. ironically, humanity itself!).

But like nice wine, sex – whether for reproduction or just plain fun – is one of our few solaces. So I’m all for lots of it, whether it produces offspring or not. Though I feel compelled to confess that the misanthrope in me does wish that there were a lot less humans on the planet.

And now, having read most of the Wikipedia entry on Misanthropy? I actually feel more not less inclined to self identify in that manner.

PS – The inscription at the bottom of Brueghel’s painting reads (acc. to Wikipedia):

Om dat de werelt is soe ongetru, Daer om gha ic in den ru

‘Because the world is perfidious, I am going into mourning’

Brueghel’s painting suggests this makes the misanthrope a fool. He’s having his purse pinched by a figure representing vanity, and is blindly walking into some ‘caltrops’ (little spiky things humans invented, with which to hurt each other, lame horses with, etc. *). Meanwhile a shepherd in the background contrasts with the misanthrope by humbly going about his business.

* Aren’t we a delightful species!

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.

MiSC: Life & Art, Poetry & Depression

Black eyed dog he called at my door
The black eyed dog he called for more
A black eyed dog he knew my name
A black eyed dog he knew my name
A black eyed dog
A black eyed dog
I'm growing old and I wanna go home, I'm growing old and I dont wanna know
I'm growing old and I wanna go home
Black eyed dog he called at my door
The black eyed dog he called for more

Never been a dog person. Much prefer cats! But a little yappy terrier called Insomnia is barking and biting at my heels again. Put the little fucker down, I say.

And in the hallway, in the shadows, his darker more vulpine cousin can be heard, panting and drooling, occasionally pacing the few meagre feet of corridor. Depression is that mutt’s name. I can smell his stink from here.

I’m not listening to it literally. But the words and melodies of Drake’s ‘Black Eyed Dog’ are circling like carrion in my spent and careworn brain.

I'm growing old and I wanna go home, I'm growing old and I dont wanna know

Can I get an a-men? Too right! Ah-bleedin’-men! Can I get a hallelujah? You must be fucking joking! Tired of scrabbling in the dirt and dust in the peripheral shadows. Stop the ride, I’m sick and dizzy, and I want to get off.

MEDiA: Royalist Propaganda Overload

I’d like to know who this brave lady is.

Teresa, having dined royally, so to speak, on Versailles, is now watching Marie Antoinette. As she does so it strikes me that in the last few decades we’ve seen not just a rising tide, but a veritable tsunami of royalist propaganda.

These two shows are about past French Royalty, admittedly. But the almost universal chorus of abjectly sycophantic bootlicking around the recent passing of Liz II really shocked and upset me. This toadying, far more than the passing of one elderly and obscenely overprivileged woman, is what I find deeply saddening.

We had a brief period, post WWII, in which, for a while, there was a semblance of some move towards real progressive and enlightened change in the UK. The creation of the NHS, a growth in the ambitions of the BBC. But all these things seems now to be under the very real threat of Tory vandalism and dissolution.

A great but rare sight. The ‘other’ view in public sight.*

And the orgy of misty-eyed revisionist veneration for royalty that we’re living through now is a stark reminder of the degree to which we are now an increasingly enslaved and backward looking nation.

I wondered if anyone in the UK shared my feelings, and googled the theme using numerous selections of search terms. And what I found most of was the very same obsequious royalist garbage that so disturbs me. It took quite some digging to begin to uncover what one might call such things as republican or anti-royalist stuff.

Alas, if only ‘t’were so.

Here is one of the few things I found. And it’s very good. I think I might try and use this and future similar posts to try and gather together such thoughts/links, etc.

Interesting to note that I can not, so far, find the names of either the ‘not my king’ lady, nor the ‘f*ck imperialism’ protestor. The former was allowed to continue her protest, whilst the latter was removed and charged with a ‘breach of peace‘.

A truly scary sign of our times…

In a previous post that touches on this theme I was able to find the identity of another protestor. That individual was Paul Powlesland, above, a barrister who said around the time:

‘One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It’s one of our most precious and sacred rights and it’s far more precious to me than the royal family is.’

Amen to that! But is the idea of free speech in the UK now no more than an illusion? It’s starting to look that way.

* The most recent Jubilee was, for the most part, a horrifying display of forelock tugging idiocy. I didn’t encounter any anti-Royal views in the media at the time. Even allusions to other viewpoints were rare. And, of course, the vast propaganda machine supporting royalty steamrolled over any neutered opposition. So Liz wasn’t the last of her ilk. Alas…

MUSiC: Transcribing Drums – Midnight Rendezvous, Casiopea, 1979

Takashi in the studio.*

I have been digging the fantastic drumming of Takashi Sasaki for a while now. He was, strictly speaking, Casiopea’s second drummer. Their first drummer, Tohru ‘Rika’ Suzuki, didn’t record with the group (at least not on an officially released album). Hence Sasaki is commonly thought of and referred to as their first, as he’s the first to be heard in the chronology of their official recorded discography.

His style is light, tight, intricate and highly musical. His chops are extraordinary. With a mastery of dynamics – the range between his ghosted notes, standard hits, and accents, make his playing very hard to accurately emulate – and a penchant for a style Weather Report infamously described as ‘soloing all the time without ever soloing’.

Looks like an album cover or sleeve montage?

He can and does get busy at times, but he always grooves like a mother! Some of his fills are truly ballistic. And, occasionally, they’re almost impossible to decipher. This is particularly true of a few fills (and possibly even grooves?) on the super tasty Midnight Rendezvous.

Even using Moises to isolate the drums, and ASD to slow them down, there’s a fill at around the 3.00 mark that is doing my noggin in. I initially thought perhaps it was in fives, or something like that. But repeated listening leaves me stumped. I need to have it running as a slowed-down and visual (wave-form) loop, methinks. I’ve not tried that as yet.

My score for this is a work still in progress.

It’s taken me a good few hours to get down the first two pages of what will, I think, be a four page score. And even the fifty or so per-cent I’ve done so far will, undoubtedly, be subject to some revision.

I’ve got as far as the end of the (very tasty) guitar solo. Next up is the keys solo, under which Sasaki does some very light and intricate stuff. I’ve blocked in some of this latter section. But I’ve yet to get in there and tweak it.

Sketched out, and still needing fine tuning…

All the cats in this band are just utterly phenomenal. They play in that deliriously groovy sweet-spot, where instrumental prowess and sheer good taste, when it comes to musical choices, collide.

Once I’ve finished the transcription, I intend to learn to play the whole piece as best I can. I’d like to do a YouTube video cover of it, and share it online.

It’s funny for me, as a primarily self-taught drummer, who’s only learned to read drum music ‘on the job’. Stuff that ‘classically trained’ musos might find obvious and easy can sometimes fox me. Transcribing stuff is proving a great way to teach myself written music. Albeit I’m still dealing in timing only, and not pitch/harmony, etc.

A master at work. What became of him?

Here’s a specific example of how I’m learning on the job: there are some quick ‘crushed bounce’ style left hand-doubles – sometimes such stuff is played as a buzz; but oft-times you can clearly hear these as a double – and I initially thought, ok, just turn a single 1/16th into two 1/32nd’s.

But that just sounded so wrong! So instead I turned the ‘&-a’-notes from two 1/16ths (or more [in]accurately one 1/16th and two 1/32nd notes) to a group of three 1/16 note triples. The resultant ‘4-e-&-trip-let’ subdivision sounds and feels sooo much better. And that’s how he plays it. Learning on the job!

* Those tom angles!? They look awful… like a school-kid’s drum set up. Still, the sounds he gets, the feel he achieves, that’s the proof o’th’ puddin’. Just goes to show there’s no single right way. Each to their own!

MiSC: I Knew It! Chatting with Cats…

I appear to have Chester’s attention!

I knew it! Or, rather, it’s what I wanted to believe. And, in all honesty, this study seems so small as to be of questionable scientific merit. But it’s in line with my confirmation bias, so I’m running with it!

Anyway, I doubt anything would stop Teresa and I chatting in our baby-ish ways with our cats. We did it with Tigger, now we’re doing it with Chester. It’s natural! We love it. And, so it seems, so does he.


MiSC: Bank Holiday Monday, 2022

Labour MP Clive Lewis.

An interaction with family today has made me reflect on the incredible depths of penetration that politics really has. And how the establishment so totally owns and runs and controls the ‘status quo’.

The dominant narrative in the UK right now is that we’re all united in grief over the death of Queen Elizabeth II. And any dissent from this position is automatically negative and therefore despicable. This position silences debate, playing very powerfully into the interests of retrograde Conservatism.

And the ‘shut up and don’t complain’ card is very powerful. So I’m very happy to see and respectful of those few brave souls taking a principled stand against the ongoing propaganda and lies that swaddle our monarchy.

From Labour MP Clive Lewis to barrister Paul Powlesland, and the guy caught on film pointing out to Charles the costs to ordinary people of the monarchy, it’s refreshing to find that some people are not being hypnotised by all the pageantry.

Paul Powlesland.

Powlesland said “One of the many things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom of speech. It’s one of our most precious and sacred rights and it’s far more precious to me than the royal family is.” Amen to that! And, as he experienced, when making a very mild protest in London, these freedoms are being systematically attacked by our current Tory (mis)government.

And in the UK today amongst some of the most powerful groups serving and enabling Tory repression are those very large swathes of people who are doing alright. The ‘I’m alright Jack, don’t rock the boat, with your carping negativity’ crowd are helping silence dissent, or alternative views/possibilities.

And, lest we forget, we wouldn’t have things like weekends, holidays, sick pay, the eight hour day or 40 hour week, etc, if it wasn’t for the dissenting voices. Or even the NHS, which is really and fundamentally a response to the massive blood sacrifices made by the working masses in two world wars. If we’re required to make such sacrifices for the state/nation, shouldn’t that state/nation look after us? Damn right it should!

I like history, including the colourful Napoleonic wars, with the ridiculous peacock finery of uniforms that were often destined to be torn into bloody pieces, along with the ‘soft machines’ wearing them, by shot and shell. I love cathedrals, but I loathe religion. I can see the appeal of the pageantry. But I also see the oppressive institutionalisation of inequality such mummery represents.

Tory propaganda nowadays looks different, but is essentially the same.*

It’d all be fine if nothing meant anything – a position that appears to have escaped the genie’s bottle of left-wing ‘postmodern’ academia and infected the entire organism of modern culture with a very pernicious form of relativism – but alas, stuff does mean something. And in this case it means ‘shut up, know your place, and march in step with us, backwards towards a fantasy feudal past’.

No thanks!

I’m inevitably going to see some of today’s tomfoolery. Teresa likes that sort of thing. I can hear she’s watching it now. So I’ll get sucked in as well. Hey ho!

Gillray’s prodigious talent was very effectively deployed by the Tories.

As I’m typing this the soporific harmonies of High Anglican service waft up the stairs. It seems as if, thinking back to the ECW – what Royalist history calls ‘The Interregnum’ – with the Stuart Restoration, and then later the Glorious Revolution, England, or what became the UK, awoke momentarily from the stupefied slumber of monarchy, only to lapse back into a deep sleep. A sad state of affairs that continues to this day. Wake up!

* Gillray was a brilliant satirical political cartoonist. But his fabulous talents were deployed by the oppressor, to maintain a conservative status quo. Nowadays Gillray’s job is accomplished via the predominantly right wing media, be it print, TV, or online. At least Gillray left us something we can still admire and enjoy! The tawdry disposable ephemera of our own times barely exists beyond the few minutes or hours it’s required to do it’s job.


Ever since hearing the news of the Queen’s passing, I’ve been thinking, who else died that day? How many took their own lives, amidst poverty and despair? How many of those who died, anonymous unlamented (relative to the Queen that is), might have lived longer and better lives – richer lives, even if not in the fiscal sense – if our society was less wealth and power crazed, venal and uncaring?

MiSC: Sleep, Dreams, Rain/Thunder… Absent Cats!?

Where’s our little darkling, Chester?

It’s 4.42am whenI start typing this. Just awakened from crazy kaleidoscopic maelstrom of dreams! Votz it all abite, Ulfric!?

Some of the dream stuff is simple and clear: wanting family – parents specifically – to come to one’s aid in difficult times. But the ‘nuclear family’ as it once was went up in a toxic mushroom cloud decades ago. And the radioactive fallout is still blighting life!

Anyway, now that conscious modes have shifted, it’s a quick trip doon the wooden hill, and across the plane of Liv Ingroom, to pee, and to wonder where Chester, our cat is. Hope he’s ok?

After weeks of drought and many days of crazy heatwave, the weather app – and various intrusive newsfeeds – are warning of heavy rain, thunder, and poss’ flash floods. With the ground baked solid, rain water might just run off… crazy times!

Note the baked dry ‘grass’ (!?) path.

I wonder if, re the precipitation, would it be wise, and a potential contraceptive precaution, or solution, to take a fork to the garden?

Teresa wants us to get Chester a neck tag. And it might be wise (if that horse hasn’t already bolted?). Has he also got fleas? Found a solitary flea yesterday, in the home.

Crazy dreams earlier! Fading fast. Got the fans back on. Need them on almost constantly! It’s still soo goddamn hot, close and muggy!

This weird, weird part of the night biz’, puts me in mind to read the recently acquired Why We Sleep (or, sometimes more to the point, why we don’t sleep!). Must read!

Must start reading this!

Teresa’s back to work today. And she’s going to have to travel by bus, as she can’t afford the train indeed, despite me being stony broke, I’ve had to loan her money for travel (a normal monthly occurrence!). That means more time on pubic transport.

We really ought to nationalise so much of our infrastructure; transport, utilities. Capitalism just ain’t working! Except for the billionaires.

Teresa’s doing like I did… off for a middle of the night pee! She just got back into bed, and… Boom!!! Her alarm just went! It’s now 5.10 am. That’s a bit bloody early!!!