Will Barack Obama bring back heroism?

‘There’s only one way off this planet and that’s through me.’
Will Smith as Agent J in Men in Black, 1997

President ‘has four years to save Earth’

Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. . .

The Guardian, January 18, 2009

Last week, the director Spike Lee — more or less forgotten by many of us since his electrifying Do the Right Thing twenty years ago — confirmed an opinion I’ve expressed about politics. This came as a shock. His political instincts are shrewd, whereas I have bet on the wrong candidate in nearly every American presidential election since I was born. (‘Reagan? – Americans would never elect a dumbkopf from Hollywood with shoe polish hair,’ for instance.)

Late last winter, when experts on the political scene said I was mad to conceive of the man taking office today as a serious candidate, I said, ‘But Obama is exactly what Americans need after seven years of a leader whose ignorance of Abroad has nearly wrecked the planet. He isn’t just American, he’s from the big world outside. . . And just imagine the effect of electing him on young black men who use having no model for getting to the top as a permanent excuse for not trying to make anything of their lives.’

The bespectacled auteur put it like this:

“Changes the whole dynamic,” he said. “If we have a black president, maybe it will change people’s psyche.” Specifically, he meant African-Americans.

Anyone who doubts that stories influence life might want to know that I can precisely remember rewinding the video version of the space alien police thriller, Men in Black, thinking, if only a real-life equivalent of Will Smith as the fast-thinking, irreverent, sardonic and inventive Agent J were to come along. It’s a shame that I cannot think of any way to prove this, but I have the strongest suspicion that thousands of other minds were imperceptibly conditioned for the arrival of a tall, gangly, handsome, young, charismatic, technologically adept and extremely unconventional black presidential candidate by a tall, gangly, handsome, young, charismatic, technologically adept and extremely unconventional black character in a brilliantly silly comedy.

In the tests he has to pass to get his job, Agent J cocks a snook at the conventional solutions and examination etiquette. He takes a wild, maverick’s approach to proving his worth. What struck me when I saw the film was how much that was like the behaviour of the technology entrepreneurs who brought us the computer revolution – most obviously, the college dropouts Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

A question I’ve had for some time is why the creative license that came with the social upheavals since the 1960s has disproportionately encouraged important and transformative work on the science side of C.P. Snow’s ‘two cultures’ divide. On the other side, the idea of the suffering, helpless, creatively blocked and often hopelessly substance-addicted artist or sensitive soul has been built up and accepted as stereotypical – for members of the identical generation.

For some reason, we’ve turned our backs on heroes like Charles Dickens triumphing over his appalling childhood, Anthony Trollope getting a manservant to strap him into his chair until he had met his day’s quota of words, or George Eliot stoically scribbling her way through fevers and a catalogue of biological woes that would have flattened anyone else. In the recent past, we’ve disproportionately admired people like Jack Kerouac, Janice Joplin, Kurt Cobain and David Foster Wallace, and taken them and their lives to be archetypes of the artistic temperament and lot.

Twentieth century psychology nullified the idea of a hero for intellectual and cultural trendsetters. Assorted hubristic dictator-demagogues blind to their flaws also had something to do with that. Hero-worship became vaguely disgraceful. So did heroic aspirations. We’ve saved our pedestals for irony-loving, sceptical antiheroes.

Judged by the dominant psychological model of our day, Obama — the effectively fatherless, mixed-race child of a broken home, uprooted and shuttled across oceans — would easily have been granted permission for a life spent checking in and out of detoxification centres between spells of writing. Any number of anecdotes in his wrenching and unobtrusively elegant Dreams From My Father would have a jury voting unanimously in favour of forgiving almost any weakness or lapse on his part.

In the recollection I found most heartbreaking, he’s in his early twenties and goes with his mother to see the Marcel Camus classic, Black Orpheus – after she tells him that it was the first foreign film she saw as a girl; also the most beautiful. Halfway through the screening, watching her, he suddenly understands what the mostly black actors in this retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice meant to her, ‘a white, middle-class’ Kansan.

‘[T]he reverse image of Conrad’s dark savages’ was what had drawn her, ultimately, to his Kenyan father, he thinks – ‘childlike blacks,’ and ‘the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different.’ His conclusion, he says, was that ‘[w]hether we sought our demons or salvation,’ in another race, ‘it would always remain [. . .] menacing, alien, and apart.’ There is something unspeakably sad about his analysing her through the lens of her profession, anthropology, to perceive her inadvertent prejudice, and recognising that there’s an unbridgeable gap between them.

Obama’s membership of two races has given him double vision. That, and a detachment stemming from seeing qualities valued by one race undermined by the standards of the other, are part of what makes his autobiography the work of a genuinely good writer. Dreams reveals keen powers of observation and is remarkable for the fineness of its prose. You sense that if politics hadn’t stolen so much of his time, he might also have had a chance to develop a more strikingly individual style.

But there’s no doubt that he sees with a poet’s eye and feels with a poet’s heart. I think that’s clear in these extracts I’m pasting in here. The first is gently melancholy and self-mocking, an account of hubris punctured after he leads a lively meeting of community activists. The other splices fragments of tough street life into an exact evocation of a Chicago winter.

Obama’s capacity for confronting hideous truths and writing through the pain you sense that the work cost him drew strands of this site together – since it reminded me of the bravery of war poets. If genuine heroism and a widespread contempt for what William James called ‘the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success’ come into fashion, soon, it will be hard to deny him the credit for the transformation.


Filed under Poetry, Social trends

223 responses to “Will Barack Obama bring back heroism?

  1. BaronCharlus

    Well, Will Smith certainly thinks so. I’ve got BBC 24 open and just caught this much of an interview with him (all deviations from what he actually said are due to my inability to touch-type)

    “This is something that has never happened in the history of the planet…this connection to the human spirit will connect to people far beyond America… He’s created an idea that will create…the next Edison, the Next Pasteur, the next Nelson Mandela…His election completed a cycle of African-American citizenship.”

    He didn’t mention what Obama’s going to do about the aliens, though.

  2. wordnerd7

    Thank you for that, @BaronC — and on Sky News Agent J has said something absolutely right:

    === “There’s nothing he can do in office to destroy the idea that he represented and achieved over the past 18 months – it’s huge and fantastic,” he added. ===

    You point out:

    === He didn’t mention what Obama’s going to do about the aliens, though. ===

    But will you please consider the alternatives — if he didn’t have the man in black on his side, for instance. Have you read the autobiography, by any chance? I’m curious to know if anyone else in our group of regulars has.

  3. Thought-provoking words. I have thought for a while that it is becoming harder and harder for us to have worthy heroes as we head towards omnipotence of the media. Everybody (including us on here) has an opinion and access to information is phenomenal. This makes it ever more likely that a hero’s misdemenours will be spotted and further, that there will be people who damn the hero for these mistakes. Added to a general cynicism it is certainly a challenging environment for a hero!

    Maybe this will force our heroes to be even more exceptional? Maybe it is healthy that we do not hero-worship anybody? What do you think?

    I think your point about confronting hideous truths is an excellent one by the way. Certainly a character trait of a hero.

  4. BaronCharlus

    I haven’t read it. I had assumed it was a pre (possibly senate) election puff-job but so many have praised his thoughts and prose style that I feel I might.

  5. seanmurray

    Your best piece yet, wordy, although you’re wholly mistaken about David Foster Wallace! His entire crusade was *against* the corrosiveness of irony and ‘the idea of the suffering, helpless, creatively blocked and often hopelessly substance-addicted artist or sensitive soul’. Absolutely no one could read any page of his and come away thinking they should model themselves on this tired, boring but still lethal stereotype. He’d be nodding his sweaty head in agreement with every word you’ve written here.

    Why has this stereotype such a grip? Well, partly because many artists, alas, *are* ‘suffering, helpless… substance-addicted…’ and above all solipsistic. They are, quite simply, fuck-ups. Problem is, so are huge swaths of the (cough) ‘middle youth’ demographic, not helped of course by the fact that so many of their artistic heroes are suffering, ‘edgy’, coke-tooting (a subject for another day: the cataclysmic impact of coke on quality control in the modern arts), narcissistic, solipsistic, etc, partly because these middle youths vaguely enjoy (or think they do) having their own solipsism reflected back to them. A nightmarish hall of mirrors indeed.

    How about this for a start: how about shunning writers who write about being writers? I am reading the feverishly hyped Bolano’s The Savage Detectives at the moment and he seems to me merely yet another modern Great Male Narcissist. The bitchings between rival gangs of obscure poets and the blowjobs every barmaid is desperate to give them: *this* is what’s meant to attract the young back to fiction?

    Anyway, I’ll be watching the inauguration today and raising a glass of milk to the Prez. If he’s one tenth as left-wing as Dreams From My Father suggests, we may be in for a whole new era.

  6. BaronCharlus

    On the subject of confronting hideous truths within oneself and one’s culture, Gunter Grass was a hero of mine for what seemed his unflinching yet fantastical processing of experience in the Tin Drum. However, since his recent revelations, he has revealed himself as something quite different. Still a great writer but sadly diminished as a figure of artistic courage.

  7. wordnerd7

    Welcome, @thedailycrazy, and thanks for your sharp and thoughtful comment.

    === Maybe it is healthy that we do not hero-worship anybody? What do you think? ===

    Well, I hope others join the discussion. . . I don’t like the extremes, and think we’ve moved too far from idealism. Don’t like the idea of worshipping heroes either, but if more people had quietly heroic aspirations, like Barack, how could that not be a good thing? . . . I can’t think of anyone in public life more acutely aware of the dangers of hubris than he is — he’s a model of caution. A good model for a hero.

    . . .A most interesting post on your site about mice being trained to lead blind dogs, btw. 😉


    === I had assumed it was a pre (possibly senate) election puff-job ===

    Exactly as I suspected — since I’d had the identical suspicion. But then I found myself admiring his judgement in every stage of his candidacy and with the online bookseller’s discount, thought I wouldn’t be too angry if my worst expectations were confirmed. . . And then I was stunned. I’ve also read that he did not get very much help with the editing — remember, he was a nobody when the book was published — and certainly didn;t have a ghostwriter.

    I think it will be an all-time classic. It’s so sad, so often, beneath the calm and stoical tone — particularly in the first half — that I’ve to make gaps between spells of reading.

  8. BaronCharlus


    Interesting you mention Bolano. I’m only aware of him since the Guardian feature this weekend and was intrigued by, if suspicious of, the great claims being made. Funnily, your precis sums up exactly what I imagined the work might actually be like. You’ve saved me time and money.

  9. BaronCharlus


    Just to say I’m glad you’re marking this day with such a positive post. We have so many days in which to be cynical, it’s good to take some clean air between mud-dives.

  10. wordnerd7

    Hurrah, another reader of DFMF! Kind words indeed, @Sean, and I am sorry to learn this — since there’s clearly a serious gap in what I know about DFW:

    === Absolutely no one could read any page of his and come away thinking they should model themselves on this tired, boring but still lethal stereotype. He’d be nodding his sweaty head in agreement with every word you’ve written here. ===

    Later, when I have some time, I’ll try to reconstruct the thoughts that led me to that view of him. . . You must know that some of the obits certainly supported it — yes?

  11. wordnerd7

    === it’s good to take some clean air between mud-dives. ===


    Glad you approve. . . I am frankly amazed to be saying what I have about a politician.

  12. seanmurray

    Baron —

    Bolano’s By Night in Chile is even worse — there it’s a crowd of Nobel winners/contenders standing around sipping wine and bitching about one another. Sometimes when I’m talking about this stuff with certain lit types and meeting only mutterings about writing what you know and miffed ruffles of their cravats (metaphorical or otherwise), it suddenly dawns on me: these people don’t *want* the great unwashed gatecrashing the lit party, partly I suspect because this would blow the lid on the whole subsidised conference/workshop racket (Murray gibbers, sinking into the mud once more…)

    wordy —

    Yeah, I saw some of those obits. Rather like claiming Obama as a triumph of white supremacism, I’m afraid.

    This is, I think, is the heart of the Obama matter:

    ‘There’s nothing he can do in office to destroy the idea that he represented and achieved over the past 18 months – it’s huge and fantastic,” he added.’

    I read DFMF in over Christmas. Truly, I’m still struggling to believe the author is now running the country that elected Bush. (Bye, George).

  13. “if more people had quietly heroic aspirations, like Barack, how could that not be a good thing?”

    Heroes that do not consider themselves to be heroes then. I am happy to toast that!

  14. atf

    i just don’t like this obamamania! the US stock market doesn’t seem to bear out the general optimism that a new era is beginning; as he take ole Abe’s bible and swears on it this is what the markets have to say!

    Dow: Down 163.59 points -1.98%
    Nasdaq Down 52.09 -3.41%
    S&P 500 Down 24.50 -2.88%

    not good portents….

  15. atf

    sorry to cast a bad reflection on this glorious moment in history, as the world waits and holds its breath for a intelligent mr president with all the answer, it just seems that the markets are peculiaryly impervious to rhetoric; no light on the economic horizon for the new messiah…

    Dow Down 287.05 -3.47%
    Nasdaq Down 72.70 -4.75%
    S&P(oors!) Down 39.52 -4.65%

    is ‘yes we can’ ‘no, we can’t?’

  16. atf

    OMG! in the last few minutes its dropped another half century!
    Dow 7,946.38 -334.84 -4.04%

    It’s crashed through the important psychological level and fallen below 8k. disaster! do we need a president with two brains?

  17. wordnerd7

    Dear @atf, how do you reconcile what you’ve said on this thread with this comment of yours in another patch of ether:

    20 Jan 09, 4:38pm (about 7 hours ago)

    the little i’ve heard of this election puts me in mind of macbeth and the three witches. all promise, mysterious spirit emergence and portent. world, hold your breath. daft. methinks we’ve got ourselves a stockbroker when what we need is an accountant. [. . .]

    . . . The reaction, don’t you see, is perfectly understandable — to a speech in which no one is being asked to drink the Kool-Aid? . . . Where do you see Barack himself breathing ‘mysterious spirit’ on people? He’s telling people what they don’t want to hear. Go to The Independent and read:

    Obama speaks of ‘crisis’ facing US

    Reuters, AP and PA
    Tuesday, 20 January 2009

    President Barack Obama says he is taking the helm of a nation that is “in the midst of crisis.” He said in his inaugural address that the challenges “will not be met easily or in a short span of time”.

    But he said, “they will be met.”

    Describing the challenges ahead, he said: “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.

    “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

    “Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

    [. . .]

    Remember you’re on record, now, for saying that what the world most needs now is an accountant. I’ll hold you to that, if you don’t mind.

    : )

  18. wordnerd7

    Here you are, @atf, . . . as I said, as far as possible from ‘Drink the Kool-Aid’ . . . this is from one of the Indy’s best political analysts, Rupert Cornwell, who I think is John le Carré‘s half-brother:

    Inaugural addresses are usually flowery and grandiose, idealistic and sometimes triumphalist. Barack Obama’s yesterday had its share of soaring language, as one would expect from one of the most accomplished orators of the age. But in almost every other respect it was different. It was pragmatic. It was realistic. It pulled no punches. In a single word, it was hard.

    . . . any conversation about Obama is nearly pointless unless everyone in it has read Dreams From My Father. Until you do, you simply cannot see the layers of depth in this man.

  19. wordnerd7

    Astonishing, the man has only just taken office and less than ten people in a Cif Polly Toynbee thread with over 300 comments are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. . . . (@ISA: I don’t know anything about Polly T’s record: have no feelings one way or another, about her.)

    I’d say it’s a safe bet that – having grown up partly in Indonesia with an Indonesian stepfather – Obama is the first US president to have resented the ‘ugly American’ abroad, instinctively seeing this creature – and equally privileged others — exactly as someone Indonesian or Kenyan might.

    From his autobiography, thoughts about a visit to Nairobi – a place where @Suzan could arrive any day, now . . . :

    I took the opportunity to study these tourists as Auma and I sat down for lunch in the outdoor café of the New Stanley Hotel. They were everywhere – Germans, Japanese, British, Americans […] many of them dressed in safari suits like extras on a movie set. In Hawaii, when we were still kids, my friends and I had laughed at tourists like these, with their sunburns and their pale, skinny legs, basking in the glow of our obvious superiority. Here in Africa, though, the tourists didn’t seem so funny. I felt them as an encroachment, somehow; I found their innocence vaguely insulting. It occurred to me that in their utter lack of self-consciousness, they were expressing a freedom that neither Auma nor I could ever experience, a bedrock confidence in their own parochialism, a confidence reserved for those born into imperial cultures.

    I’d bet anything that those angry commenters on Cif know nothing about his ability to see the world like this. . . And @BaronC, I think that even such a scrap should be enough to tell you that writing the book obviously wasn’t a cynical vote-getting exercise.

  20. BaronCharlus


    ‘I think that even such a scrap should be enough to tell you that writing the book obviously wasn’t a cynical vote-getting exercise.’

    I stopped thinking that when I found out how early in his career he’d written it. You’ve no need to convert me. Obama’s election is thrilling if only because of what the US electorate rejected, even more than who they elected. Personally, I think it’s exciting for many other reasons but watching ignorant right-wing triumphalism fall flat was a joy, watching McCain become so ashamed he seemed to sabotage his own campaign by turning on his supporters’ wilful ignorance and bigotry, that was a joy – ‘you don’t have to be scared, ma’am…’.

    Yesterday, Obama spoke like a leader, not a winner.

  21. wordnerd7

    === Yesterday, Obama spoke like a leader, not a winner. ===

    @BaronC, spot-on –

    Leader: ‘a person who rules or guides or inspires others’

    And if we’re lucky, we might even get:

    Statesman: ‘a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.’

  22. Hello Wordy, 🙂

    Just lurking for the moment.
    I’ll be in Tanzania on Sunday and from next week will be able to write on your site more often.
    I’ll also let you know how opinions are currently spreading out in East Africa, if you like. Tanzania & Kenya have extremely close connections with regards to political goodwill.
    I often move with the grassroots and you can collect the kind of stories not reported in the media. Basically, my East African friends will tell me anyway. I think to be a part of them, – because there is still a silent segregation between expatriates and the people of East Africa & also Zimbabwe – you have to see yourself as one of them. To me, the Masai and East Africans are beloved. This will be my 10th year visiting Tanzania.
    For that matter if you meet black Americans on holiday in Kenya/Tanzania/the Zanzibar, they too will be quick to tell you that they’re American…that they’re not really a part of the scene. Still, at this moment, I’m not too sure if they would actually find it stylish to change their minds, now that they have Obama for a President.

    By the way, I did remember atf’s stout dislike for the fervour rather then anything else, that surrounded Obama. She has said this on the Gu now and then.

  23. atf

    i’ve tried to avoid it wordy, but find you can’t listen to the radio for anything and not hear Obama. there was hope that he had the solution to the financial turmoil – as well as to everything else – but the markets go down as he takes some ‘oath’ or other. seems comic in an ironic way. i didn’t know he was an accountant when i posted that jibe!!!! thought he was some kind of lawyer.

    The whole thing has bored me and seems to be the negation of democracy. We don’t, under our chosen political system, rely on one individual to run things. We say we have the best system in that everyone sends a representative to a parliament which comes up with the best rules because everyone is represented. This Obama thing seems to me to be saying ‘what we want is an oligarch or King ‘we want one individual to represent all our aspirations and we want to repose all power in one individual’ that’s why it seems macabre to me and silly and is merely a euphoria fest.

    but what do I know about politics? i seriously believe that he’s not going to be any better than anyone else and all the hype is like some horror film which has a threatened world and a hero who’s going to save it! i think Blair tried to introduce a presidential sytle premiership here and it didn’t work and aroused hostility from the ordinary people and Robinson tried to introduce it in Ireland as president and it didn’t work. i suppose it’s the ‘greatest show on earth’ by now but what leaves me in dismay about it is the extent to which it denies the validity of democracy. i don’t like it what all the people of a nation invest their power in one individual. it reminds me of Stalin in Russia, Mussolini in Italy etc. democracy may not be perfect, the type we have is very imperfect but at least there isn’t the oppressive sense of having to live with an obama day in day out . the Irish just love it…when I lived there it was Haughey the Irish media gave us for breakfast dinner and tea, so much I don’t seem to have any memory of living then, just Haughey Haughey Haughey…dreadful.

  24. Hi atf,

    I had said it here in my last paragraph.
    By the way, I did remember atf’s stout dislike for the fervour rather then anything else, that surrounded Obama. She has said this on the Gu now and then.

    Charles Haughey dreadful, you mean! 🙂
    I understand though. I was filled in on the stories myself – and what a great many of them – when I first came to Dublin. Rte still runs documentaries.

  25. atf

    hi susan!

    yes, i noticed that you represented exactly my feeling! thx.

    great to be hearing about your travels. tell us everything, the hotels, the streets, the people…it’ll be nearly as good as going along with you!


  26. Yes, I’ll do that from next week on my blog, atf.

  27. Atf & Wordy,

    Des fell and hurt his back on a slippery pavement. I think it hurts bad.

  28. atf

    oh, sorry to hear that. is he ok? he’ll need an x-ray to check for damage. i got a crack in my sacrum falling from a m/c. i know what it’s like but after resting it should be ok.

  29. Thanks atf & sorry to hear about your own predicament once before. I think it was quite bad but he could still walk away from the scene.

  30. wordnerd7

    Really sorry to read that, @Suzan: is that why we haven’t heard from him on this thread? He likes the new prez, I know. . . He needs to lie flat on a hard mattress and stay there — it took me four days to recover just like that, after an accident about 16 years ago. . . Please send him deepest sympathy from me . . . I don’t think you can afford to leave Dublin any more. : )

  31. wordnerd7

    I hadn’t seen this when I wrote my post. Life and fiction are being conflated in hair-raising ways, if you ask me. I just found the story by following a link in WordPress information about Will Smith posts and blogs:

    Will Smith ‘to play’ Barack Obama as US President in Hollywood movie

    Hollywood film star Will Smith has staked his claim to play Barack Obama in a movie about his rise to become US President and America’s first black leader.

    By Tim Walker, Mandrake
    Last Updated: 3:28PM GMT 15 Jan 2009 [The Daily Telegraph]

    Smith has staked his claim to play the role, even before Barack Obama has been inaugurated as president.

    Speaking at the premiere of his new film Seven Pounds at the Empire, Leicester Square, in London, Smith laughed about reports that the US President-elect had indicated that he would like the actor to play him if his life story were ever to be made into a movie.

    “If I am ordered by my commander in chief to star in a film about him, I will do my duty as an American,” he said, beaming.

    Smith, best known for the Men in Black films and Independence Day, says however that he had no desire to move into the White House for real. [continues . . . ]


    . .. So Smith cues imaginations for Obama as an actual leader and then plays him in a film — !!!??

  32. BaronCharlus

    Sorry to hear about Des. Hope he feels better soon.


    ‘. .. So Smith cues imaginations for Obama as an actual leader and then plays him in a film — !!!??’


    But this whole Barack Obama thing is a smokescreen prepping the US to accept Smith’s White House bid in 2016. That’s when he’ll ‘fess up about the aliens.

  33. Geez, Wordy! Probably… & in addition to the fact that Des can be moody. He doesn’t know I’ve said anything but will soon.
    He will definitely read you Wordy.
    Thanks Baron.

  34. ISA

    Sorry about Des’s back.

    I’ve been being very negative about the whole Obama inauguration because I am very worried by all those unpleasant people who seem to be very happy that Obama’s got in. The Blairites and the right wing of the Labour party and the right middle (with a twist) of all the European parties.

    It is as if they think that Obama can be manipulated to do what they require of him. They are probably right.

    But, in any case the Brish journalists have lost all sense of perspective. This is not a joyous day for the British because he is not our Prime Minister. But the truth is that the media have lost all sense of who they write for. Because in their profession they do criss cross the Atlantic the whole time at a certain level. Academics at a certain level too.

    Look at Christoper Hitchens. What a strange and obsessive beast.

    I think, therefore, that initially, strong opposition to Obama is healthy, pointing out why Obama will not provide solutions is the best strategy of the left. This is because this critique highlights the ways in which Obama will be manipulated and leaves the paths clearly defined.

    The biggest danger for Obama is the right wing social democratic third way fudge.

    Obama’s election does not annul Vietnam or Iraq or any other foreign policy venture. Obama’s election won’t annul that vicious brand of capitalism that dominates his society.

    Better strong constructive criticism than wishful thinking.

  35. atf

    Des can be ‘moody’ – susan. sure is some understatement!

    Glad so see someone else – ISA – is a doubter that this ob thing is going anywhere…

  36. ISA

    Of course it’s psychologically healthy that Obama has been elected and he makes some of the right noises, but to be critical is the right approach because we need to floodlight the roads to social justice he will not take.

    I shall now get off my soap box and go and have a cup of coffee and piece of toast andbutter and

  37. How dare you broadcast my health problems in public Suszan Abrams!!!

    Ha ha. Thanks for the thouhgts BC, ISA, Wordy and atf. It was just a tumble, but no damage.

    It was raining and i was coasting down Dame street, just past the castle, and i went to turn into temple bar, or rather onto where the pavement meets the road, with a two inch mount – but the angle was too oblique and i had just picked my bike up from the bike shop at christ church after taking it in to get a new tyre and inner tube, and the tyre was thinner than the one it replaced – and so instead of gaining purchase and mounting the little rise, the wheel skidded and stayed in the gutter and I came off. Luckily I managed to break my fall with my left foot, and luckily was slowing down with the brakes on, and because it was wet and I had a thick coat on, I landed with a thwack at the base of my back and sort of skidded along the pavement. But no damage.

    To the observer it would have looked like one of those wild west stunt men, far worse than what it was. I lay on my back and a crowd of senior schoolkids gathered round, asking if I was OK, and as I got up said, *it’s OK, I’m getting filmed by Naked Camera (a secret filming show) just up there* pointing up the road to Trinity College. I limped off and then bumped into poet Dave Lordan, who won the Kavanagh in 2005, when I should have, went for coffee and then got off home after buying Taffyn on DVD, with Pierce Brosnan in his mid thirties hey day, playing a debt collector.in rural Ireland and outfoxing some Dublin thugs who come down at the behest of the local developers to ride roughshod over the natives rights.

    No way!!

  38. BaronCharlus


    ‘it’s psychologically healthy that Obama has been elected and he makes some of the right noises, but to be critical is the right approach because we need to floodlight the roads to social justice he will not take.’

    Quite so. I still think it was good, in this interim between Nov4 and Jan20, to indulge even the possibility of something better – cynicism breeds passivity, not positive action. But, as you say (and as Obama said, I think), normal skepticism should be resumed.

  39. 3p4

    if you constantly tell a child it will fail,,
    if you make a fuss about errors over success
    if intention does not count more than results at the outset,,

    no man is an island,,you are the wind that guides the boat,,every one of your words,,

    breathe positive

  40. ISA


    I am.
    I am that because
    I am just what I am,

    But sometimes

    I am not what I am,
    I am not that
    I am not,

    Obama too.

  41. ISA

    Actually, the title of that poem is “Yams”

    Anyone else want to poem the president?

  42. wordnerd7

    Later I will answer @ISA and @atf in a comment whose invisible headline in 30-pt. type — borrowed from @BaronC — will read,

    cynicism breeds passivity, not positive action.

    This is just to say, to @Des:

    Luckily I managed to break my fall with my left foot, and luckily was slowing down with the brakes on, and because it was wet and I had a thick coat on, I landed with a thwack at the base of my back and sort of skidded along the pavement. But no damage.

    PHEW! . . . thank you for letting us know.

    To the observer it would have looked like one of those wild west stunt men, far worse than what it was. I lay on my back and a crowd of senior schoolkids gathered round, asking if I was OK, and as I got up said, *it’s OK, I’m getting filmed by Naked Camera (a secret filming show) just up there* pointing up the road to Trinity College.

    …………………:) ……………..:)………………… :)………!

    . . . And most important of all, a toast to @3p4 for this:

    if you constantly tell a child it will fail,,
    if you make a fuss about errors over success
    if intention does not count more than results at the outset,,

    THANK YOU @3p4.

  43. wordnerd7

    Dear . . . erm, @Hyperborean .. .. ah! . . . [weeps] . . . on the Guardian books blog … if this isn’t the most brilliant commentary on the Obama inauguration — I mean the Elizabeth Alexander ‘praise poem’, not his speech, which I liked — I’ll eat all the 25 straw hats I own. . . I’d read the putative poem on the NYT site but had no idea of how it had been delivered — until I came across this post:

    21 Jan 09, 9:02pm (about 3 hours ago)

    Though I watched the swearing in on RTE, I returned to listening to Newstalk 106 radio when the coverage ended. George Hook was in Washington and a panel of commentators in the studio in Dublin, who immediately set about judging the speech, with (I think) senator Eoghan Harris leading the attack, saying he thought it wasn’t as memorable as Kennedy’s and that he felt it was a bit of an anti-climax, which seemed to be the consensus in the studio.

    I then began hearing an androgynous voice in the background, like when two stations are broadcast on the one frequency, with the volume level of this voice below that of those on the panel. I couldn’t discern what the voice was saying, so pressed my ear closer to the speaker, trying to figure out what was being said, in the tenor of a voice issuing instructions. I became vaugely peturbed, momentarily thinking it may be the beginning of non-human contact, which seemed plausable at the time; my reasoniung being that if such a thing were going to happen, this would be the natural time for it.

    Then I thought it may be an auditory hallucination, which though something I have not experienced, was unfortunate enough one Sunday Afternoon in Highgate Wood when walking the dog, to mistakenly believe I had: after hearing a choir singing *Jesus Loves You*, (unknown to me) floating in a from practice hall a long distance away beyond the confines of the wood, but which the topography of the area (undulating hills) – coupled with an increasing paranoia, resulted in a very distressing twenty minute incident spent searching for the source of the voice.

    Cocking my ear and following to where I thought the voice was coming from, I began seeking it out, unable to fathom the anomaly, becoming increasingly concerned for my mental wellbeing, and finally, when roundeding a corner and spotting a white transit van, from which I thought, that’s where the singing is coming from – panicking; as by this point, *Jesus Loves You* was very audible.

    Realising that a flock of angels could not fit in such small a vehicle and concerned for my sanity, I began quickly walking home, hoping this was not the onset of scizophrenia and luckily I stopped hearing the voices just passed St Lukes pyschiatric hospital as I closed in on Muswell Hill Road. I told me freinds of my supernatural experience, and a month later he cleared it up by telling me he had heard the same thing but discovered the practicce hall where the choir rehearsed. However, it has alwayts stayed with me, that sense of foreboding I felt, which happened again yesterday on a far smaller scale, because when I moved the dial of 106 Nestalk radio, so the voice went also, and I ficgured it was either two stations on the one wavelength, or something else. But the voice, the voice I couldn’t make out, and I admit, the thought of it being poetry did flicker across my mind. More or less as Saurs said.

    I couldn’t make out was wa sbeing said, and again, a thought occurred that, if it was some Vogan kind if poetry, it may be containing the wisdom of the universe, getting spoken to us for the first time, and I strained to hear, writing down the only words I caught:

    “Praise song for walking forward in that light”

    And at this point I giessed what had happened, but for a very short span of less than half a minute, a procession of scenarios passed through my mind, and on reading the rest of the poem, I am with the genral consensus, but these words I caught, not knowing at the time where they came from, I thought excellent.

    So far most of the commentators in the news, and those there, have said the millions were totally silent as he spoke, and it was eye watering stuff, but the Dublin chaps, Eoghan Harris, when asked, was straight out of the traps to take it apart, giving his view that the pathos of the rhetoric was below par, because, whilst the ethos was OK, the logos could have been better.

    I thought he may have been a bit harsh, swayed by the fact it wasn’t him delivering to the millions, as Harris is a noted public speaker with a very fruity voice.


  44. wordnerd7

    @BaronC, about

    === But this whole Barack Obama thing is a smokescreen prepping the US to accept Smith’s White House bid in 2016. That’s when he’ll ‘fess up about the aliens. ===

    A thought that only occurred to me some hours after I read that earlier post of yours – are you also saying that Will will tell us then that Barack is actually an extra-terrestrial import of Agent J’s? . . . Could explain a lot, you know.

    . . . What a great find for Marginalia, here . . .


    . . .thank you . . . if only I’d had it as a companion piece for A Publisher in the Attic
    [ https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/the-publisher-in-the-attic/ ]

  45. Yeah, it’s true, for a moment I thought it was the mother ship calling.

    I think carol is being disingeneuous.

    Here is the poem written out on Mark Doty’s blog.


    Carol praises stuff of the exact same inventiveness when log rolling her pals. The fact that they are two academic women poets of a similar age, both working in the grove, one in a much more prestigious place, one slightly younger and more successful, reading to millions in one of the most historic occassions in American history, has – of course – no bearing on Carol’s opinion. Maybe she could read at Cameron’s swearing in?


    But I discovered something more interesting than this yesterday. I finally got the universe fixed in my head. Astronomy is one of the ancient sciences, but I have never grapsed all this galaxy stuff, until yesterday, when watching this series on youtube Beyond the solar system, which uses computer graphics to show the shape and size of our galaxy.

    The Milky Way galaxy in which our sun is, is a barred spiral galaxy containing 2 – 400 billion stars. It is 100,000 light years diamter and our sun is 28,000 light years from the centre, just over half way of the 50,000 light year radius.

    It is essenitally flat, being 1000 light years thick, with the central *nuclear bulge* around 3000 light years thick and 40,000 light years in diameter. A disk shape 100 times longer then it is deep. To get some perspective, this Mayan 2012 site has a picture of a barred spiral galaxy similar to ours, showing where our sun is in it.

    So, we have 3-400 billion stars in our local Milky Way galaxy, which is only one of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. The nearest neighbouring galaxy is Andromeda, and together with this (in interstella terms our very close neighbour), we form a binary system of giant spiral galaxies belonging to: “a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group, itself being part of the Virgo Supercluster, itself part of a larger super-cluster forming part of a string of galaxies. In total there are around 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. 93 billion light years in diameter to the farthest reaches of the observable universe.”

    Earth is situated in one of the spiral arms, and from our vanatage point, in the disk, our galaxy appears as a long line of milky light. So, finally grasping the scale of where we are in this, it occurred to me, that we are totally alone and their is no intelligent life anywhere in the observable and inobservable universe, apart from us, right?

    It took the church till the 18C to stop killing people who claimed the earth went round the sun, and the selfishness or rather stupidity of man throughout history, is self evident.

    One of the lines in Obama’s speech I thought very prescient and relevent in a writerly context and the net age:

    “..as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.”

    The one thing the net is doing, is dissolving the previous walls and barriers of hubris and self-delusion which elevated commentators, into something more Public than being just like us, just private human beings who are fallible and fail, get it wrong now and again.

  46. wordnerd7

    === Yeah, it’s true, for a moment I thought it was the mother ship calling. ===

    : ) . . . one of your all time greats, I’d say. Most ingenious interweaving with imaginary or remembered backdrops, scenes, props, etc. BRAVO, @Des . . . and I’m glad you’re okay. Maybe we should switch to worrying about @Suzan, now? : )

    === “..as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.” ===

    Yes, you’re right . . . this and his good judgment, integrity and intelligence, have been his greatest attractions for me, so far . . . and I can’t bring myself to write a proper reply to comrades who are ignoring these qualities. . .

    . . . @ISA (at Cif) wants Obama to have a clear ideology – but haven’t we been punished enough by the way that paralyses thought? ‘Four legs good; two legs bad’? . . . mental strait-jacketing that accounted for so many of the worst atrocities of the century we were all born in?

  47. BaronCharlus

    To echo Wordn, a marvellous post, Des. (and if you want to know what happens in Dec 2012 you should read Grant Morrison’s Invisibles!)

    Also, because amusement is more important than dignity, I should tell you that the following GU headline gave me a momentary (only momentary) shock this morning:

    ‘Whirlwind hits Washington as President Obama starts work’

    They’ve since changed it so maybe I wasn’t the only one…

  48. Thanks very much wordy and BC.

    The link to the Myan site tells what will happen astronomically on 21 12 2012. There will be an alignment which occurs once every 25,800 years, when the earth – sun – centre of the milky way, align.

    This happens once a year anyway, it is just that in 2012 it will be occuring on the winter solstice.

    David Wilcock, who mixes TV Stargate stuff with real science, has it that some waves of solar energy are becoming more frequent as we pass closer to this date, which act on the pineal gland in the centere of the brain, and say we get one a day now, for example, the closer the date comes, so the increase of their frequency, until they are happening every half day every hour and then every second, which will open our empathy and we will all connect to the god-head within, and it is more about mas consciosness than armegeddon.

    What does the other person say BC?

  49. As for sue, she is getting excited about her Africa trip and has been doing some power walking round Kaula Lumpa, honing her size 12 figure for the next Vogue shoot.

  50. BaronCharlus

    Grant Morrison is a comics writer and his 6-year epic ‘Invisibles’ fixed the Mayan date (Terrence McKenna gets in there too, I think) for the dissolution of time and creation into, I think, a kind of post-binary nirvana where consciousness defines its own experience without conflict (hope the seats have cushions in Pseud’s Corner after that last sentence). The Matrix is a direct rip-off (albeit near-infinitely reduced in complexity). The comic asked the question ‘what if all theories, conspiracies, belief systems etc, were true, or true in potential’, in sci-fi terms similar to Charlie Parker deciding that, essentially, you can play any scales you want. Morrison created a patchwork of Gnosticism, Eastern mysticism, pop-culture, Lovecraft, Moorcock, Aztec and Christian mythology and many other things to build an adventure story but one following what he saw as humanity’s conflicts on the journey away from a binary experience of creation. At least, that’s how I remember it 🙂

    And, on topic:

    Sorry to keep Poe-ing, but this story, Mellonta Tauta, a letter written from a balloon in the year 2848, contains several observations on the strange life of the ‘ancients’, who ‘were oddly afflicted with monomania for building what, in the ancient Amriccan, was denominated “churches”- a kind of pagoda instituted for the worship of two idols that went by the names of Wealth and Fashion’ and were ‘accustomed to regard War and Pestilence as calamities’. Here, their strange concept of a democratic Republic is explored:

    ‘The ancient Amriccans governed themselves!—did ever anybody hear of such an absurdity… they started with the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free and equal—this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so visibly impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical universe. Every man “voted,” as they called it—that is to say meddled with public affairs—until at length, it was discovered that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s, and that the “Republic” (so the absurd thing was called) was without a government at all. It is related, however, that the first circumstance which disturbed, very particularly, the self-complacency of the philosophers who constructed this “Republic,” was the startling discovery that universal suffrage gave opportunity for fraudulent schemes, by means of which any desired number of votes might at any time be polled, without the possibility of prevention or even detection, by any party which should be merely villainous enough not to be ashamed of the fraud. A little reflection upon this discovery sufficed to render evident the consequences, which were that rascality must predominate—in a word, that a republican government could never be any thing but a rascally one.’

    There is also (Des) a discussion of the structure of the galaxy and (my unscientific brain tells me) a foreshadow of quantum theory.


  51. I suspect there is a mythical element to the reaction to Obama’s victory. Mainly due to incredulity that it could happen less than 50 year’s after segregation was officially given the heave-ho.

    I understand the scepticism – there was huge relief when the Tories were booted out but that soon turned sour so people are still holding their cards close to their chests. The first reports look good but nowadays it almost seems like truculent governments are easier to deal with than the machinations of big business.
    I over-exaggerate of course but…..

  52. BaronCharlus


    ‘are you also saying that Will will tell us then that Barack is actually an extra-terrestrial import’

    Not at all. But I expect Sarah Palin is working up something similar for 2012.

  53. ISA

    I am sorry Wordy,

    You won’t like this, but I will repost what I think and feel free to delete it if it gets your goat.

    Expect Rawl’s balls economics from Obama.

    Obama will be cowed into compromising over any plans to tax and spend on the poor unless that spending is merely strategic, focused and highly limited – and he suggested as much in his speech.

    I had an hour long conversation with my brother on the phone who had flown over to be at the inauguration. He thinks I am being offensively ungenerous. Isn’t Obama better than Bush, Phil? Obama is such a well meaning sincere chap. A gent. A sincere man who deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    I’m sorry, but the right way to see Obama, Chris, is as the face of a massively expensive marketing exercise on behalf of US corporate capitalism. You’ve heard of “greenwash” well isn’t Obama a kind of “blackwash”.

    My brother described the inauguration as an African American’s day out. A day when the dreams for African American equality came much closer. Point taken. And what a salutory effect the Obama must have on a racially divided country and a traumatised African American community.

    But come on. I said. Get real bro’ It’s not all about the man Obama, is it?

    It is all about the government, and the country he represents. Obama is the front man for the same country that invaded Vietnam and Iraq. The motive force that drives the USA to invade and pollute and manipulate will still be there. Obama fronts an empire. He is not going to change the essential nature of the US economic system. He’s not going to radically change the configuration of forces in that society is he?

    What if Obama did try to make his society more equal and socialise it a little. What if he did intend to put a muzzle on US corporates who are on the rampage through the world. If he were really going to do this he would have to be divisive. There would have to be a little of the Chavez in Obama. But plainly and clearly that there is nothing of the Chavez in Obama. Unlike Chavez he will not take the bull by the horns.

    To prove to people all across the spectrum of the right to centre right that he has “his heart in the right place” Obama has brought the market fundementalists right into the heart of his government and economic policymaking. And to prove to the corporates that he will work just as hard as Bush to guarantee markets, investment oportunities and raw materials Obama has set the hawks out to determine future US foreign policy.

    Ridiculously, Obama believes that by the exercise of his personal charisma alone, and without challenging American corporate capitalism he will be permitted to tax the rich and redistribute to the poor.

    That’s rubbish. In fact that is a precise definition of the Third Way. The Rawlsian way. Whereby, so long as you look after the most desperate, the single mothers, handicapped, vulnerable children, the sick, the deprived, the aged and the poorest 10%+ of society, that 10%+ ruling class can enrich itself until it explodes and do so guilt free. We’ve seen it in Britain.

    The remaining 70 -80 percent of the population, the rest of us, are capitalism’s “bitch”.

    Now perhaps Obama is considering extending the Rawlsian approach outside the USA’s borders (something Rawls himself did not do.) Well perhaps he will, but the same holds true. While 10% of the world may benefit in future from Obama based benificence,

    Nevertheless, the remaining 70% to 80% of the developed world will always be capitalism’s “bitch.”

  54. 3p4

    its a smart move to jump aboard the bandwagon when its attached to the freedom train

    there is no guarantee of destination,,but ripping up the tracks already is as smart as hamas

    the desire to “be right” to be well placed to say “i told you so” is frankly unspiritual,,inhuman,,

    faith is a future,,think Pascal,,god does not exist
    but obama certainly does,, ,, ,, hope a border twixt
    animal and human

    the gnome has spoken

  55. atf

    i think isa is right. i don’g mind seeing someone with non white skin getting in if we must resort to the sort of language that this election is all about but really Ob isn’t impressive, except for those who want a little pie in the sky to lighten up in dark days, and these are dark days. here in the UK probably the darkest since the fifties. Ob from the tiny bit i’ve bothered to glean from this election hasn’t won on the basis of policy or the brains he’s supposed to have, i think his victory has something to do with the way in which he ran his campaign. most US presidents rely on big sums of money from a small number of people whereas he has asked for small amounts from a large number of people and this was the winning formula. he put the money into it and got what he paid for, all the right soundbites and press and media attention. but really, what has he said that shows he really knows where America is and what needs doing? he doesn’t seem to know much at all, nothing but silly common denominator sloganising and involving the masses in some kind of vague delusion about a new dawn and a new era and ‘world’. but he still talks as though the world were america’s problem which has to be solved. But america is interested in increasing its power in the world and aiming for total domination. This policy has apparently done a lot of damage in India and probably elsewhere because America has the biggest voice and the heaviest hand in world trade which is what will make america richer. but america getting richer is the rest of the world getting poorer, because the smaller countries are always at a disadvantage when plying for trade against the bigger. In some respecta america’s getting richer has involved smaller countries getting poorer. so this will go on with Ob. Can you imagine where he would have gotten in this election if it got out that his presidency would make America poorer because it favoured power and wealth returned to smaller nations? american blacks are not different in this regard than american whites, and will see the increasing power and wealth of america as being good for themselves. What’s good for the world is bad for america because it means restoring the balance of wealth and power to the smaller nations exploited by the heavier hand america has had in world trade. World politics is a really tough game and all this pansy talk of Ob goes down well with the common denominator but it won’t wash with other world powers. Ob may have the toughness to face up but really so far all he’s done is posed as the soft solution to a hard world but I don’t think his soft soul and lovey doveyness will impress a different sort of opponent and cadre.

  56. ISA

    But one proviso, because I respect Wordy’s feelings and because Wordy might be feeling a little sore and unaccompanied:

    In our college there are a lot of immigrant and Black British kids and Obama is something has soothed them and given them a big boost.

    Obama as a blow against racism is wonderful. For the rest, as some of us have said, we don’t really buy it. But I’m going to give it a rest.

    Some Obalma in Gilead for Wordy:

    Mahalia Jackson:


    Nina Simone:


  57. ISA

    I posted something that didn’t appear, so I’ll try again.


    I respect your feelings on this and in one respect I agree with you.

    Obama has had a wonderful effect on the black British and immigrant students in our college. His election has soothed them and encouraged them – given them a real boost.

    In the sense that his victory is a symbolic victory over racism, that’s great. (Other than that, nope. Sorry, but I agree with the Baron and atf.)

    Gnomically speaking 3p4 may be right. Hold your fire and let the good stuff flow, but I am very suspicious about all of those people, politicians whom I detest, who are happy about this.

    Nevertheless, just to soothe you Wordy,


    And here’s some Obalma in Gilead from Mahalia Jackson


  58. ISA

    Hey Wordy, I had to post the same mollifying thing twice and neither appeared. Have you done a Guardian moderator thing on me?

  59. pinkroom


    Invited here from the GU PotW by atf and the baron and a very interesting blog too. Thanks. Lots of my bag here.

    Great to hear Des’s voice “uninterrupted”! I’m sorry to repeat this but you’re a man for the prose; work up some of those early years in Dublin stories… hold nothing back!

    For what it’s worth on Obama I do think he has a poet’s heart and he is, in a way, a mythic character… Lincoln is the obvious comparison as somebody who used their gift for using the right words at the right time to nudge history into a slightly more “progressive” orbit. Lord knows the world needs that.

    Who will be his Whitman???

  60. pinkroom


    Was invited here by atf and the Baron from GU PotW. Thanks. A very interesting blog with lots of things that are very much my bag.

    Nice to read Des again “uninterupted”. I’ll say it again you’re a prose man. Work up those early Dublin days stories… hold nothing back.

    On Obama, I think he does seem to have a poet’s heart and has a mythic quality. Obvious comparison is Lincoln who used his skill with words at key times to nudge America/the world into a more progressive orbit. Lord knows we could do with that right now.

    But who will be his Whitman?

  61. BaronCharlus


    Sometimes Wordn’s spam filter quarantines posts for no discernible reason. It’s happened with me a couple of times. I’m sure it’s fine!

  62. wordnerd7

    . . . Thank you, @BaronC, but the blockage might not be entirely mysterious, on this occasion . . .

    As dependably as clockwork, the day I take a longer break from the blog to get off-line life sorted out is the one day when I’m actually needed. Please look far upthread to see comments that somehow got withheld in the pipeline . . . [BIG sigh]

    . . . A warm welcome, @pinkroom – once people have had a chance to see what you’ve said, I’m sure they’ll understand that the disappearing posts have nothing to do with me – since they included some, like yours, in close agreement.

    . . . Anyone who didn’t know me might assume I’m distressed about eg., @ISA disagreeing – see his newly liberated posts. But @ISA and I agree almost as often as we don’t, and several arguments with him have been exceptionally revealing, stimulating and worthwhile. Certainly for me: he’ll speak for himself. . . And his support and help with this project have felt like having the Great Wall of China on-side. 😉

    . . . The circumstances in which these particular posts failed to appear are a bit suspicious. In @Des’s blogging experiment, over a year ago, someone _did_ actively try to interfere with posts and create misunderstandings between the participants, which included me. I have a pretty good idea of who the pranksters were – I’ve been among those who have backed and praised them, elsewhere, for their wit and sharp commentary, but I also know why they are trying to disrupt this blog. . . I have records of the last few posts on @Des’s forum before @cs and I left, lavishly backed up, that I could use to support a remarkable trail of _circumstantial_ evidence. But remember, dear imps, I’m sure of at least one of your offline identities – and can prove it. . . And if you do succeed in destroying this site, surely you’ve seen enough to know that another will spring up in its place?

    Sorry to sound so mean, but though our group is small, I think there’s been more than enough evidence that this site is serving a function that discerning people appreciate.

    .. . I can’t be on the blog much at the moment – hope you’ll all continue your completely engaging conversation without me – so will only say now that @alarming has in part spoken for me, perfectly, here . . . even though I’m sure he doesn’t know that:

    === The first reports look good but nowadays it almost seems like truculent governments are easier to deal with than the machinations of big business. ===

    Certainly for most writers and artists trying to get serious work out into the public sphere, that is the bigger problem.

  63. 3p4

    though our group is small,

    if a diamond is the size of a brick its not much use as a diamond

    this site is serving a function that discerning people appreciate.

    you built it but i feel like its mine as well,,

    there is nothing special about obama,, he has no magic qualities,,he does behave in a way that 3potato4 interprets as good human honest integrity father husband person i like and respect
    until experience proves otherwise,,and proves it against my resistance to be wrong in my initial appraisal

    until then

    there is something unique about how the COLLECTIVE INTERPRETS obama,,its a spark,,piss on it and it goes out,,blow gently it kindles a flame,,fire is energy,,energy is change,,think Pascal,,
    belief cannot create scientific facts
    emotional facts can only be created by belief

    what is a ‘good president’,,a fact or a feeling,,?
    attitude is everything
    whose attitude? obamas ? or yours?

  64. wordnerd7


    === you built it but i feel like its mine as well,, ===

    The nerdian cup runneth over: that’s the idea, exactly.

    === there is something unique about how the COLLECTIVE INTERPRETS obama,,its a spark,,piss on it and it goes out,,blow gently it kindles a flame,,fire is energy,,energy is change, ===

    Yes, though it depends on which ‘collective’ you mean. Funny that on Cif blogs during the campaign, Obama had near-unanimous support against McCain . . . then he gets in and — just WHAT exactly is going on???


    === In the sense that his victory is a symbolic victory over racism, that’s great. (Other than that, nope. Sorry, but I agree with the Baron and atf.) ===

    .. . other than that the one country that took our Magna Carta, ran with it, and for a long time far outdid any other nation in acting on the idea that we’re all equal . . . lapsed (in letting a dumbkopf run things as if by the Divine Right of Kings for 8 miserable years ) . . . and at long last, with Obama, has made a shining recovery . . . no, no big deal, @ISA, nothing of consequence at all.

    Notice to you and @atf and everyone else holding forth about Obama when you haven’t read his book — I’m sorry, but I cannot take your opinions seriously. This is not a vacuous sound-byte president with a pretty face. He has complex, nuanced and profound ideas to share. Read the book, please, then we’ll talk. . . I’ve heard you both say as much to comrades many a time and oft on poetry threads, to people arguing about poems they’ve never read, so am sure you understand my logic.

  65. WN I wonder if the scepticism is less to do with the man’s character ( I’ve not read the book but it does seem that it contains an honesty that such books lack ) and more about what he will be allowed to do.

    Blair and his predecessor John Smith were both quite feisty individuals when shadow cabinet ministers but their light dimmed when they became party leaders ( sadly completely so in Smith’s case and sadly to a completely sinister degree in Blair ) and all that invigorating energy drowned in a soup of diplomacy. It can’t be easy balancing everyone’s vested interests.

    But of course one hopes.

  66. BaronCharlus

    ‘I have a pretty good idea of who the pranksters were’

    It’s Will Smith. We’re on to him re the 2016 election and the aliens. We know too much, Wordn!

    On Obama, I still feel it’s worth highlighting that what was rejected is as important as who was elected. One ought to be sceptical about any government, especially one as powerful as the US, and the leverage of corporate interests is – or should be – a given:

    To say Obama’s win means nothing (what would we be saying if McCain had won?) because of the imperial nature of the US adventure seems to me a little like saying to an Olympic javelin champion ‘well, I suppose you did okay. But you’ll never throw it really high will you, eh? Not while gravity’s around’. Perhaps we must find our hope within the current conditions or simply be hopeless.

    But isn’t there something worth savouring in the US electorate (who have been parodied internationally and domestically as a gaggle of ignorant, atlas-burning blimps) rejecting the isolationist, sneering, right-to-rule party, whose ever-successful strategy of insinuation and smear was responded to with distaste and pushed to such points of farcical desperation (terrorist fist-jab? I laughed long over that one) that by the end McCain seemed so disgusted by his own campaign and support-base that even he wanted Obama to win.

    Alarming, you mention 1997. I remember being excited not because Blair had won but because the electorate seemed finally to have woken up to who had been cheerfully shafting them for all those years. Of course, we were handing Blair a broom handle…

  67. BaronCharlus

    Oh, and good to see you, Pink

  68. wordnerd7

    @pinkroom, last week or so, I think @freepoland said he was feeling starved for some good doggerel on this site — perhaps you, @alarming and @BaronC will inspire each other?

  69. wordnerd7

    @Alarming, as you and @BaronC say, scepticism about what might be accomplished in the future is something else altogether. Here you are stating an ancient truth about the challenge of governing – and it’s never been trickier than in modern democracies:

    === It can’t be easy balancing everyone’s vested interests. ===

    We all know this, even if we apparently need reminding . . . So what we’re dealing with in recent posts on this thread is a psychological phenomenon. What are we to make of people (i) denying Obama congratulations for the nearly superhuman obstacles he’s overcome to get the job? (see DFMF) (ii) frothing at the mouth when they know virtually _nothing_ about the man’s story or his ideas?

    Obama himself has said that his complicated background and identity make him a human Rorschach blot (if @Iant is reading this, she’ll confirm that that’s long been _my_ line about, eg., gender-neutral bloggers.) There’s also psychological projection at work when complex hostile ideas are expressed with little or no factual information behind them:


    3. Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harbouring hostile thoughts.



    I understand about the disappointment about Blair – but that’s like bile-ridden women who hate all men for the few or many that have ‘done ‘em wrong’, or raving misogynistic men also disappointed in love . . . As someone reminded me the other day, think of Pandora and what lay at the bottom of her box. Just as you said, in your way . .. Hardly the same as being a witless Polyanna, now, is it?

  70. 3p4

    Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person”””””””

    tell me it isnt so,,surely not any of the posters WE

    did you hear me laugh ?,,dont think i ever used the word ‘sardonic ‘ before,,

  71. pinkroom

    You wan’t doggerel… well imagine what might have happened had the industrial military complex managed to spike The Poet’s drink shortly before his inauguration.

    I Barak Hussein Obama
    do solemnly swear, by the leg of pyjama
    to solemnly uphold the, “…hey man it’s karma”
    inhaled with my college days’ fine marijuana,
    so help me
    so help me!
    My wife… she’s a llama,
    dressed up for a Douglas Sirk
    lush melodrama
    and my kids are both working
    for George Bush the farmer
    take your hands off her,
    “You bastard, don’t harm her!”
    My name it aint Saddam…
    don’t call me Osama.
    Osama, Osama…
    Mishima, Yokahama…
    my name is embarrassed
    O Henry
    O’ Hara.

    So help me God.

  72. ISA


    Another seven verses and set to music and that poem would be a lemon fresh song.

  73. ISA

    Sustained it would be an evolution of: “Day in the life” or “Subterranean homesick blues.”

  74. pinkroom

    seven more verses? Standng on my head ISA.
    Am I his Whitman yet? The Walternative laureate.

    Hold it fellas,
    I’m now feeling calmer.

    No… now it’s gone
    All wobble-orama
    but pretty with techni-
    of colour panorama
    while some Dublin fella,
    wants to play, “Yo Mamma…”
    with the Protestant martyr
    “prayer-book” Tom Cramner
    and the East German footballer,
    “Dresden” Matt Sammer
    to try to defeat a


    e stammer.

    now I’m losing my syntax,
    losing me grammar

    So now you see,
    a re-born Obamma.

    Yup,I’m the new sheriff

    And you’re for the slammer

    I am the law.
    I’m Prince of Parma,
    Say, how do you like
    this “bad boy” black armour

    and just look at my six-gun
    It’s a real Whambambangbanger

    Y’all meet your new Prez…

    I’m Barack “Mike” Hammer.

  75. BaronCharlus

    In the House – White – history safe in the sack
    I turn e-fant to ass, slap the ‘Cain down, cut slack
    And now even my rivals are keepin’ my back
    Cos they’re jumpin’ the train that’s been steamin’ my track

    I’m the mack: Creationist-pro-life took whack
    From my $2,000 BlackBerry beaming out flack
    And these world leaders’ telegrams growing in a stack
    One from someone called Gordon, asks how I got the knack:

    Well, they’ll say I’m no different, that I filled a vac-uum
    With honey and rhetoric and I’ll soon I’ll attack, but
    We’re all on thin ice and it’s soon gonna crack:
    When it does, call my name, see who comes (it’s Barack)

    (the opinions expressed in the above doggerel are not necessarily those of BaronCharlus corp)

    ISA seems to think you’re 3p4. I’m confused. And splendid rhymes, btw

  76. ISA

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Wow, @Pinkroom. @Baron.

  77. wordnerd7


    === Projection ====

    tell me it isnt so,,surely not any of the posters WE
    read,, ===

    Projection is part of being human (and is conceivably not unrelated to mirror neurons. . . : ), . . . so we are _all_ guilty of it. A matter of degree, innit. Some psychological projection does have ‘hooks’ in reality – eg., the things we call facts; some doesn’t.

  78. wordnerd7

    @pinkroomr and @BaronC, thank you for the lovely riffs. It took me a long time to work out ‘e-fant,’ @BC – until I stuck it onto ‘ass’ : ).. . A deep bow/curtsey, as a _very_ great editor and friend who died at forty-six used to say more gender-specifically. . . I’m seconding @ISA’s praise. Never let it be said that you don’t rise to the occasion. Each impressive on your own but together — quel team formidable!!

    [@pr: I am trying to be scrupulously non-directive on this blog – but if comrades could please refrain from telling other comrades how to do their actual, real-life work as opposed to commenting on their blog posts, I’d be grateful – I mean, you telling @Des what kind of writer he _really_ is – You might just say, imho. . .please : )??? ]

    Back to @pinkroom + @BaronC: Joy aside . . . Your drop-of-a-hat compositions on how Obama sees himself in his most private self have given me pause – since you see only the half that is black. . . If you read DFMF, I wonder if like me you won’t see him – above all — as a man ‘chanelling’ the passionate ideas for social justice of an anthropologist, his mother — who just happens to have been white. . . I don’t ordinarily pay much attention to race. But the persistent refusal to acknowledge his dual heritage is making me sit up.

  79. wordnerd7

    @ISA, it was from the feeling of Phil-of-all-people that your Obama posts made my hair stand on end. Though we often disagree — and enjoyably — as I said earlier, this time I am baffled by the reasons why. . . This wizard post of yours on Cif is so good that I hope it’s okay to paste a copy into this thread — since it explains my puzzlement (apparently shared by one Andy Hall, I’ve noticed : ) ):

    23 Jan 09, 2:42pm

    The origins of the idea of human rights is not a western idea.

    At the time when the Celts and the other northern tribes were mainly into reeking, vomiting, killing, raping and pillage – and they were into it for several millenia, Cyrus, on the other hand, was indeed great.

    Have you seen the great seal of Cyrus in the British museum? Probably not. Or if you did, perhaps you didn’t realise it’s significance. Or if you realised it’s significance then perhaps you simply didn’t make a complete connection, or if you didn’t make the connection then perhaps you went ahead and just shot your mouth off anyway.

    Cyrus the great was a Persian. Therefore notion of human rights was Iranian. The father of philosophy, Thales, was a Phoenician (Lebanese), Pythagoras was Phoenecian. Greek culture started on the periphery of Anatolia – Turkey.

    In other words, the idea of human rights originated in the Eastern Mediterranean lands.

    Count to ten Bob. Google Human Rights, then open mouth.

    Moreover, the notion that God created everyone equal, comes from the idea of …well God creating everyone equal.

    And again, Bob, God, as far as we know, is mainly an Eastern Mediterranean construct.

  80. pinkroom

    Hi wordnerd7… wasn’t meaning to be bossy or “telling”… it’s just that I hadn’t read any of Des’s more serious/autobiog. stuff for a while and it seems to have such rich potential to inform/delight/amuse. Meant as both a “spur” and compliment imho… but point taken.

    Hi baron… Strange how you discover things even writing doggy verse because I am sure there are things lurking deep in BOs subconscious must be all sorts of things. I reckon his touchstones would include Richard Pryor (how long before he is caught using the MoFo word in public) the sheriff in Blazing Saddles, Sly Stone (…he does seem a bit of a dandy… how long before he re-invents himself pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous) but all these super-slick self-images must conflict with his white heritage too… the bookish student, the interest in anthropology etc. but behind all that are the generations of gun-loving hillbillies, slavers and imperialists. I bet he loved “The Dukes of Hazard” (still a little place in his… er, heart for Daisy?)and “Star Wars” as a teenager. Closer to Bush than we may imagine?

    It will be fascinating and perhaps a little scary, to see which of these threads
    emerge when he’s put under real pressure.

    Hi ISA… I’m not 3Pot I’m afraid as 3Pot may confirm. dickensdesk reckoned 3Pot was Billy Mills!

  81. wordnerd7


    === Strange how you discover things even writing doggy verse because I am sure there are things lurking deep in BOs subconscious must be all sorts of things. ===

    Actually, your own ‘things lurking deep’ — right? I mean, you’re discovering your own subconscious prejudices about Obama — since you have no access to his thoughts about himself?

    . . . Read the NYT and you’ll find that he has absolutely _no_ interest in clothes — he is a consummate bookworm — so where on earth are these ideas of yours coming from:

    === (…he does seem a bit of a dandy… how long before he re-invents himself pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous) but all these super-slick self-images must conflict with his white heritage too ===

    Have you asked how long it’s going to be before Gordon Brown turns vain and reinvents himself as a ‘chav’?

    Yes, Obama looks elegant; wears clothes well. He’s tall, slender, fanatical about exercise and watches what he eats .. . good for him, don’t you think?

    . . . No worries about @Des (unless he lets you know to the contrary) . . . I’ve just been going out of my way to counter the schoolroom atmosphere, not to mention the schoolmarm style (both the female and male versions) of certain above-the-liners, at another place.

  82. BaronCharlus

    Artp and myself had quite a time convincing Parisa that we weren’t the same person at one point.


    Thanks, as ever, for the kind words. Although I don’t think

    ‘since you see only the half that is black’

    is very fair. Black is the only word I don’t use to rhyme with Barack (although it turns up in BlackBerry) and the topics I covered address his success and public perception. Only the use of a hip-hop style could be said to give the ditty a racial frame. I’d been listening to Eminem and Talib Kweli yesterday and Obama’s fondness for Jay-Z during his campaign was well publicised.


    I think, if we’re to believe ISA and ATF, then Obama is more likely to don cowboy hat and chaps any day now. Personally, I’m still waiting for him to announce the mothership’s imminent arrival (and not the Funkadelic mothership, Wordn).

  83. wordnerd7


    . . . that sorts that, then — it was precisely the frame that I had in mind . . . No, I didn’t feel you were insulting him; was just interested that you and @pr picked exclusively ‘black’ frames and in her case, much of the content. . . People will see Obama as they choose to. I was only remarking on the curious impression your posts left — and on just one blogger, since I don’t know about anyone else.

  84. atf

    “Yup,I’m the new sheriff

    And you’re for the slammer”

    brilliant comic piece Pinkroom. like these two lines. once they get into office they have to toe the line to the right wingers! otherwise they know they’ll get a bad press. the press can ruin any politician! people vote ’em in; press chucks ’em out!

  85. pinkroom

    Fair cop wordnerd; I am as it happens, a huge Sly Stone fan and my frustrated super-ego will be forever dressed in a floor length fur-coat, afro and fedora combo… if I project a little of that onto BOba so be it. Love not prejudice.

    Having said that he is a dandy no matter what he protests… his clothing choices have been absolutely spot on so far. Sidney Poitier c.1966, smart, strong, cool, dignified, understated. His barber also deserves a lot of credit too. It’s that eye for detail that makes the true dandy. I now look forward to him expressing himself a little.

    I did try to balance his black heritage with his white “good ol boy” side. It is to this that I imagined the military industrial complex were hoping to return him, presumably with an ego-shredding dose of LSD.

  86. atf

    seems to be some agreement on the irish media to the effect that no politician in ireland could make speeches like obam.alammabamaloo because of the extent to which they’d be lampooned. i fear i have to see myself among the cynics while all around me people are in tears. but does he write his own speeches. someone suggests these are written for him?

  87. atf

    good point about his hair. i thought it looked painted on with a mere suggestion of impasto

  88. atf

    he’ll deserve all the praise if he brings peace to the middle east that’s for sure. i’d personally bow to him if he did that. but otherwise it’s all a bit pop world – love, love me do; you know i love you…

  89. No doubt, he may work 8 days a week & end up with a hard day’s night, atf And then he’ll long for Yesterday when his troubles seemed so far away. 🙂

  90. 3p4

    President orders air strikes
    -headline in large type-

    Obama gave the go-ahead
    -first line in small type-

    i recognise the names here from the poetry and pedants threads,,
    do those two fragments mean the same thing ?
    as i asked,,whose attitude matters,,his or ours ?
    ,,the flesh or the clothing
    go ahead =flesh

    preemptively speaking,,”No i dont think it was ok,,Yes i do think drone technology is a disaster for mans morality,,Yes i do want the munitions to never be fabricated in the first place,,No i dont expect everything to change overnight,,,, and i think those kind of headlines are very dishonest
    destructive and immoral,,

    HG Wells had some very good observations about the role of headlines and more especially cartoons
    about their impact on the public opinions during 1900-1914

  91. wordnerd7

    i recognise the names here from the poetry and pedants threads,,

    You didn’t mean poetry-and-pedants threads by any chance, did you @3p4?

    ahem . . . sorry I meant to say, er . . . [chortle] . . .

    Hark! ye grumbleguts, ye sourpusses, ye unbelievers, ye miserabilists . . . ye @anytimewotsit, ye @pinkoshootfromthehip, ye @trotskysghostieISA, ye @fencesittingbaron . . .

    . . . Comrade Obama-the-Ox shall not stretch his yoke in vain! . . . To the rescue of a daft, raving thread ornamented with hallucinations of angels squashed like sardines in small white vans . . . examples of life imitating art; art imitating life . . . racist bigots trying to look like hipsters . . . comes the matchless Wisdom of the East:

    Celebrations will welcome Year of the Ox
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    . . . Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. People born in that year are dependable, patient and methodical. They do not back down in the face of obstacles. President Obama is an ox. . .


    The Year of the Ox, which starts on January 26, will be the most peaceful year globally since 2000, he says, but stock investors don’t need to rush into the market yet.

    “2009 will be a ‘pure earth’ year, which means fire will be missing so there will not be a lot of drive to push up the stock market,” said Lo. […]

    The global outlook will be helped by the fact that incoming U.S. President Barack Obama was born in a “yin earth” year, like President Abraham Lincoln.


    But who ever heard of soothsayers agreeing? Come, ye congenital pessimists, sip ye your curdled milk here:

    Obama, born in the Year of the Ox, is taking office in a particularly bad year for his Chinese astrological sign. The ox sign is in direct conflict this year with a traditional Chinese divinity called the “God of Year,” considered a bad omen. Obama also is the 44th president, a number the Chinese deem extremely unlucky, because “four” is pronounced the same as “death” in Chinese.

    “The new U.S. president is not having good luck this year. His honeymoon will only be short-lived,” said fortuneteller Alion Yeo, predicting Obama may even face impeachment in his first year in office. “The Year of the Ox looks slightly better and less dire than last year, but it will still be bumpy.”

    Yeo also predicted that the U.S. mortgage crisis would worsen and the stock market would plunge to new lows.

    But Malaysian numerologist Weng Shi Ming suggested Obama’s birth year would offset his bad luck. Weng said the symmetry of 1961 is “the perfect mix of ying and yang,” rendering Obama “immune to the effects of 44.”


    . . . Yo! globetrotter @Suzan, why did ye not tell us about ‘Malaysian numerologist Weng Shi Ming’, ye delinquent reporter, ye . . . where are you today ?????

  92. anytimefrances

    I listened to something on the radio yesterday about the poet who read his inauguration piece and apparently they’ve been friends for a long time and met at an institution of education in NY where they were both teachers.

    I had a very warm feeling towards him and her after hearing it, very different from the one I had from the little bits of electioneering I’d caught on radio. She seems a very good person and is a very popular teacher and a great help to poets whom she goes out of her way to help.

    it’s all the hype that gets my goat but maybe there is something to look forward to although i don’t agree with its being made an opportunity for all the sneering at Bush. i think he’d be different if he hadn’t had the worst task ever given to a president, having to deal with the attacks.

    she comes across as a very warm, human person, another of her poems was read also and it seemed prosy so maybe she priviliges communication over artifice?

    susan is probably feeing a giraffe somewhere, on the savannah.

  93. wordnerd7

    I’m sure you’ve had experiences of being hyped yourself, @atf — there’s nothing we can do about what other people say about us, is there?

    I would like to see how Obama responds to this — . . . a good test . . . the proposer is the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick (an American):

    [. . .] The president, with bipartisan backing in Congress, should send an audacious signal of hope. Starting with the United States, Mr. Obama should call for each developed country to pledge 0.7 percent of its stimulus package to a vulnerability fund for assisting developing countries that can’t afford bailouts and deficits.

    [. . .]

    Poor people in Africa should not pay the price for a crisis that originated in America. The total aid from developed countries is about $100 billion a year, a modest sum in light of developing countries’ needs. [. . .]


  94. anytimefrances

    i think the reason i couldn’t be interested much in the election was that it was being represented so much as a reversal of the racist master/slave paradign rather than the election of someone who had the more equitable policies towards the developing world. there’s an awful lot wrong with the way wealth is distributed in the world but also a lot wrong with the way it’s distributed nationally. some people just have unbelievable incomes for what they do and there seems to be little or no controls over the for the benefit of all. i read some time ago that jonathon Ross is paid something like 10M a year and ant and dec (a pair of nits to my mind if ever there were such!) get something like 40M between them. these kinds of salaries just make me despair that anything that could be called ‘policy’ could ever work. we’re living in an age of lassez faire which to me seems to mean too much freedom for individuals and in many ways encouragement from the top for individuals to amass huge fortunes. they say it’s good for all because it ‘filters down’ but in my economics a currency has to be limited to be effective and the more there is for massively wealthy individuals the less there is for others. america is a free enterprise country, one in which the rich have always been praised and upheld and which has traditionally been hostile to any kind of socialism. i’m not sure that obama is going to reverse this, but maybe…

  95. Jumbo Wordy, (meaning hello! in Swahili)

    Did you ask where I was today? I’m in Dar es Salam, Africa. I was in Dubai this morning. I wrote that Beatle tease for atf at the Kuala Lumpur airport. I’m very upset that my cherished luggage is covered with
    desert sand…which feels like fine talc. That’s how it looked coming out of the conveyor belt. Its changed the colour completely. This happened once before with Jordan. Also, desert sand.
    I’m in a hotel with a vast sea view. A calm ocean today. Harbourfront. And I can see the ferries and Catamaran bound for the Zanzibar sailing/zooming past. Palm trees, the whole works. I got it by chance. Didn’t manage to book a place. I was just very lucky.
    By the way, Obama’s face is heralded everywhere in Dubai duty-free. I get the impression that he’s seen as some kind of – and I don’t think atf will like this –
    saviour… 🙂
    will write more later.

  96. Yes, and I have just spoken to suzan on the phone and it costs very little, so will be soeaking again soon to the little whirlwind flurrying about the globe like a calm sea of positivity, teasing atf and making all who cross her path, smile and see, Suzan Abrams in the best freind anyone could want.



  97. anytimefrances

    wow! you’ll have us all flying out there, any minute…could you hide us all under your bed?

  98. wordnerd7

    Jambo, @Suzan (that’s how I’ve always seen it spelt) . . . and thank you for that amazing story about your matching Louis Vuitton suitcases. 😉 . . . It’s this sort of detail that’s always missing from the travel supplements. . . I long ago gave up any attachment to luggage.

    Back soon to reply to @atf . . .and hello @Des . . .

  99. wordnerd7

    I am so glad to see your thinking about Obama evolve, @atf – as long as people don’t get mentally stuck, whether or not they agree with me, I’ll always read new posts with interest.

    Imagine being a goddam furriner maddened beyond describing, for years, by the parochialism of Americans, and then reading this – it’s a passage that begins with Obama walking past a ramshackle clothing shop in a vast and hopeless slum in Chicago called Altgeld Gardens, near the beginning of his career as a community organiser . . . I’ve chosen it also because of your mention of your worries about whether he’d be fair about world trade:

    The scene took me back to my childhood, back to the markets of Indonesia: the hawkers, the leather workers, the old women chewing betelnut and swatting flies off their fruit with whisk brooms.

    I’d always taken such markets for granted, part of the natural order of things. Now, though, as I thought about Altgeld and […] I saw those Djakarta markets for what they were: fragile, precious things. The people who sold their goods there might have been poor, poorer even than folks out in Altgeld. They hauled fifty pounds of firewood on their backs every day, they ate little, they died young. And yet for all that poverty, there remained in their lives a discernible order, a tapestry of trading routes and middle-men, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust.

    It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like the Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself, it was the loss of order that had made Rafiq and Mr. Foster, in their own ways, so bitter. For how could we go back to stitching a culture back together once it was torn? How long might it take in this land of dollars?

    Longer than it took a culture to unravel, I suspected. I tried to imagine the Indonesian workers […] joining the ranks of wage labor to assemble the radios and sneakers that sold on Michigan Avenue. I imagined those same Indonesian workers ten, twenty years from now, when their factories would have closed down, a consequence of new technology or lower wages in some other parts of the globe. And then the bitter discovery that their markets have vanished; that they no longer remember how to weave their own baskets or carve their own furniture or grow their own food . . .

    . . . See, he has the broad vision of the very best anthropologists, like his mum – is capable of seeing his own country’s problems in an infinitely wider context than most of the most highly educated Americans, . . . and with utmost sympathy for the plight of foreigners. If the US is unfair to poorer countries in future trade negotiations, you somehow know after reading DFMF how much it will cost Obama, personally.

  100. sean murray

    Wasn’t the booksblog once this busy?

    Pinkroom —

    Strong seconds re Des’s prose. I’ve been asking him for two years for a short story. Wordy: would you let Des post one in Marginalia?

  101. wordnerd7

    Yes of course, @Sean — I think I’m safe saying that Desectables have appeared in nearly every section of the site. . . In my experience, though, he doesn’t like being herded, nudged, etc.. . . . So I suppose we’re all saying, should he decide to let us read one of his stories in this space, he’d have an appreciative audience.

  102. 3p4

    i left a prompt to prose on his site a day or so ago

  103. wordnerd7

    Hmm, perhaps you can all set up a rent-a-nag service together? . . . poor @Des . . . : )

  104. Yes … a very interesting comment on bicycles too, I see, 3P4.:)

  105. On the contrary, Wordy, I carry nothing more than a cheap clothes bag…it’s made distinctive by a scattered floral design…just so I can spot it miles away on the conveyor belt. It also stays as one of the few claims of femininity I still hold dear. It’s had its fair share of adventures by the way, once having trooped as a runaway, being sent to the seven seas in succession by Qatar Airways without my permission. 🙂

    My bag is a clothes (soft) bag that fills out at the seams. It always looks non-threatening and can take a lot of stuff, so I never get stopped to declare anything at customs, so far at any airport in the world. Not even the Middle-East!

    Whereas passengers who carry the heavier luggage with wheels are the ones who suffer the most even if they have nothing to declare. No plea will work! The trick is not make any duty free plastic bags visible. The more bags you have, even if you have nothing to declare, and you’ll turn out to be Customs’s pawn for the day…especially in obscure foreign ports.

    In Dar, after clearing immigration, I had to pass an Amazon of a Tanzanian Mama about 40, who looked like she may have lived 9 lives and ruled over all with a baton. She had massive boobs, a massive belly and massive hips in all. She with her bright lipstick and wobbly flesh, was in charge.
    My! What flirtatious power for sure!

    She twirled and belly-danced her instructions! A finger here, a wriggle there. Most men with their wheeled bags didn’t stand a chance. Sometimes, she looked like she was whispering sweet nothings. With Tanzanians, she offered the odd shy grin and slight flirtation. Yet, she showed no favouritism.

    “Check”! She’d command authoritatively, ignoring protests and pleas with sadistic pleasure. “Check! Check! Check!”

    When it came to me, she stared disbelievingly, at my bag covered with Dubai’s desert’s sand. It looked suddenly tiny among the rest of the passengers’ possessions, it appeared pathetic to the eye! She continued to stare dumbfounded and I felt slightly abashed.

    “What have you got inside THAT,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Nothing, nothing at all…just clothes,” I protested feebly. I braved an ambitious shoulder shrug. She gave me a wait-a-minute-you’re-not-going-anyway-don’t-think-I-don’t- know-what-you’re-all-about smile.

    Someone distracted her. She did a little dance. Another distracted her…another little dance.
    I stood with my humble clothes bag, rooted to the spot. My clothes bag and I looked decidedly innocent. Together, we wore highly pained expressions. We had been in business for a long time! I had to rescue my dirty clothes bag!

    I stood like I was captured, completely beholden to her smothering power and this in a somewhat lifeless manner as if there was no more fight left in me. Never answer back or plead for mercy, is another tip I’ll offer as a veteran traveller. The Customs Officer is likely to view your perfectly legitimate wail with suspicion and hostility.

    Suddenly, she turned around and noticed that I still hadn’t been attended to. What curried favour was that I had made no attempt to escape. Not that I would ever get far, the harmless mousy thing that she summed me up to be!Of course it helped that she was to be declared the only goddess on the Green Channel. At that moment, we were in stiff competition!
    “Madam,” she finally summons me with her finger, “madam, you and your bag can just go…just go out the door over there..you and your bag, alright?”

    She looked at me after her BharatyaNam finger dance as if I had wasted her time for all eternity. Couldn’t I see the clutter? Couldn’t I see the crowd? Couldn’I see that she had better things to do? Was I attempting to insult her that she would waste her very important time, even zipping open my insignificant clothes bag, shrouded with filthy powdery sand?

    I suddenly rose to life, grinned and with a shout of Assanti, dashed out of the green channel with such electrifying speed that I believe she was prone to a long stare. And that was as closest to the Red Lane that my little clothes bag which has just turned 2..has ever come. And if it has secrets inside its contents in the way of nothing more harmful than perfumes and chocolates galore, it’s not telling!

  106. wordnerd7

    Thank you, wonderful post, @Suzan, exactly what I hoped you’d give us – selective minutiae as well an overall sense of what your life as Ariel is like.

    === My bag is a clothes (soft) bag that fills out at the seams. It always looks non-threatening and can take a lot of stuff, so I never get stopped to declare anything at customs, so far at any airport in the world. ===

    Perhaps you’d consider doing as Sam J does – post a picture of this bag I am now longing to see — on your site? . . . since I haven’t yet worked out whether comments here can have illustrations (I’d guess not). It would be funny, since most of us haven’t any idea of what you look like, to recognise your bag on an airport carousel and then wait with bated breath for you to pick it up.

    === When it came to me, she stared disbelievingly, at my bag covered with Dubai’s desert’s sand. ==

    But why didn’t the sand fall off, even if it is super-fine?

    == I stood like I was captured, completely beholden to her smothering power and this in a somewhat lifeless manner as if there was no more fight left in me. Never answer back or plead for mercy, is another tip I’ll offer as a veteran traveller.===

    Excellent advice, I don’t doubt. . . It’s the same with the searches. Best to strip off anything remotely problematic pre-emptively, I’ve found, and overwhelm them with your efficiency (which doesn’t come naturally to me, I might add). . . Congratulations, you slew a dragon with ‘soft’ power all the way. Brill.

    . . . Btw, . . . very interesting to read what you said about the Obama images at the airport in Dubai. More reactions to the election from other places you visit would be tremendous.

  107. ISA

    Hi Susan and Des,

    I am exploring the idea of memory at the moment. I lived in Tanzania as a boy – I was 11-12 I think.

    I went through a climbing phase there. First I climbed the Jacaranda tree which was almost as tal as our 5 story block of flats in Upanga and then I tried to climb to the top of every tall building in Dar. I also climbed up the side of our building on both sides, but only got to the fourth floor before I funked out. Once I was climbing up the side near the garden and as I climbed by a small window on the second floor someone inside looked out and screamed. It was our neighbour. She thought that I had climbed up to peep in at her. So she ran round to my parents to tell them. They asked me about it. And I told them disgustedly that I was just climbing.

    The same people were naturists. This was 1971-2. And apparently they walked around their house with no clothes on. We discovered this afterwards when, in a gesture of unnecessary, and rather disturbing, good will they invited me and my 10 year old twin brothers in for tea.

    Silly sixties people. What were they thinking?

    Anyway, the memory experiment that I conducted when I was 11 was to choose a completely point in time with no salience whatsoever and fix it graphically and sensorily in my mind.

    That point was in Tanzania on the road going from the Standard flats to the sea – a place full of rock pools where we used to explore.

    The image I fixed in my mind, I can call it up now with ease, is of the dark green leaves of a tall hedge at eye level with the gravelly road beneath my feet and flats to my right.

    So if you were to go there Susan and Des, you would enter my dreamtime.

    I can try to google map it for you if you want.

  108. ISA

    “…at eye level, with the gravelly road beneath my feet and flats to my right.”

    I’ve written a little about Tanzania here.


    And the link with Barak Obama. Well therin lies a story…

  109. ISA

    We moved house after Upanga, I’ve confused places in the linked story.

    Keep reporting Susan, please.

  110. ISA

    My mom and Pam Dos Santos had an argument with Malcom X. This was because Malcom X complained about the fact that Marcelino Dos Santos, a close friend and Vice President of Frelimo (enemy no. 1 of the Apartheid regime in Mozambique) had a white wife.

    As my dad said. Black power could be the arsehole of imperialism.

    I didn’t have that much contact with black Americans, but I wrote a little bit about it in the piece I posted the link to:

    “On the way back from the camp we saw a group of approximately ten Afro-Americans with big hair and big attitudes. They noticed us in the truck with the ANC comrades and we could read the disgust on their faces, displeasure that whites should be tolerated by true black heroes, like our ANC comrades. To us from our modest barefoot childhoods, who were small harvest of the red earth of South and East Africa itself, they seemed like strange and dangerous, creamy brown hybrids. They glared at us from their ghettos minds as we rode past along the dirt road.”

  111. wordnerd7

    Unusually engaging and rewarding posts, as always, @ISA. I haven’t had a chance to read the essay you’ve linked to, yet, but it’s high on my list.

    This caught my eye.

    === they seemed like strange and dangerous, creamy brown hybrids. ===

    Why are they dangerous? . . . And does your feeling about ‘hybrids’ have anything to do with your dislike of Obama?

  112. ISA

    They were dangerous because they looked at us aggressively.

    We were the natives of that soul, though we were white children. We were fourth generation Africans concerned with the welfare of South and East Africa and exiled members of the ANC in the company of ANC guerilla fighters who were also concerned with the welfare of South and East Africa travelling in a Chinese Army truck.

    These people were aggressive, racist interlopers. But they thought they knew what was going on. Of course they did not.

    What was going on in their heads, just like what was going on in Malcolm X’s head (Didn’t Obama admire him?) was black power and the problems faced by black people in the USA, quite different.

    Their “creaminess” was merely a descriptive device to illustrate the fact that they were alien – presumptuous political tourists.

  113. Hi Isa,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog posts (mini memoirs) and will definitely go to read the bit on Dar.
    I’m afraid Africa is just not Des’s cup of tea. He’s now only slightly used to the idea that I might not after all be kidnapped by a bachelor Masai on the prowl for a wife. 🙂

    In fact, Isa, if you could tell me where exactly in Upanga, I could look it up for you and send you present impressions of the place.

    I’ve made grammatical errors as usual in my rush. I do apologise. For eg. it should be Dubai’s desert sand and claims to my femininity. The thing is, the grains sit comfortably in the texture of the bag’s make but feels powdery and sandy to touch. And that too, doubly so as it comes off on the palm of your hand. I daresay, slippery is a good word.

    That was just a one off about Obama. Will write more for you, Wordy.

  114. ISA

    And my criticism of Obama blackwash has nothing to do with his race, as you very well know Wordy.

    Could it be that you think politics is all about personal narratives, Wordy?

  115. Wordy,
    I will post a picture of my bag…after it’s had a bath!

  116. wordnerd7

    Thank you @Suzan . . . I’ve never met sand quite as clingy as that. : ) .. . I look forward to your next instalment. . . If any of us counted our grammatical errors, blogging, oh dear . . .


    === What was going on in their heads, just like what was going on in Malcolm X’s head ===

    And what about Jesse Jackson’s? The other day you posted to say that you far preferred him to Obama — and _he_ embarrassed himself during the campaign by making it clear that Obama wasn’t ‘black enough’ for him . . .

    Since I couldn’t think of any other distinction between him and Obama to which our attention has been drawn so clearly, I wondered whether that might have something to do with your preference. . . It’s almost as if you’ve taken on the resentment of some (most?) full-blooded Africans of mixtures. If I haven’t over-interpreted you there, why would that be?

  117. BaronCharlus

    This is getting too much. I’m working this morning and had to write the word Orange (as in the telecoms company).

    I typed Obama.

  118. wordnerd7

    @ISA, I hadn’t seen your last post . . . and you hadn’t read me about Jackson . . : )

  119. wordnerd7

    ‘Could it be that you think politics is all about personal narratives’

    Tired old slogan of my elders-and-betters, growing up: ‘The personal is the political.’ .. .Now, I’m not the creature of slogans, but even you surely agree that these spheres, the personal and the polis, overlap and influence each other . . . ?

  120. wordnerd7

    ‘I typed Obama.’

    Strange, I’ve been doing that too, @BaronC!

    At least we have companions in our madness, . . . ? 🙂

  121. anytimefrances

    hi wordy, and all,
    yes, the extract is interesting and shows a mind that is thoughtful and not proud. an impression i got from listening to this programme I mentioned, that he and alexander the poet were thoughtful, modest, concerned people. together they provide a different kind of image of America, not the great wealthy technologically powerful nation that wants world domination.

    i think it’s very welcome really. people in europe have come to identify america with power and wealth and these two seem to have an image to project that shows a side that is vulnerable and weak and poor. hence the need for sympathy for their nation and not just fear and awe.

    it’s a very good piece of writing i agree and the appreciation of the antropological view of otherness is interesting; the US has always given a bad impression to europeans because of its idolisation of the dollar and scorn for those at the bottom of the social/economic scale. they’ve always praised the rich and always held up the example of those who had struggled and ‘made it’ but the displays of wealth have a way of looking ill when the good times falter. some of the most poignant stories i’ve read were written in the wake of the 1929 crash and the fleeing from the ‘dustbowl’. he, and particularly alexander, might be able to have a transformative influence on the american psyche and give the nation a heart that doesn’t beat only to the tinkle of the dollar. let’s hope. it would be worthwile seeing and very good for all. they might take the aggression out of world politics. i hope so. i do not see a leader but modesty and goodwill may be given a try; it would do a lot better.

  122. ISA

    OK, briefly, back to Obama vs Jackson.

    Jackson is an advocate for his community who has also identified that his community is a victim of the dominant economic system of the USA. He is old enough and wise enough to understand how corporate capitalism functions and for this very reason he is unacceptable as a democratic Party candidate. He has suffered and fought through his coalition to represent his community. He was with Martin Luther King at the time of civil rights.

    I don’t regard Jackson to be a black racist and neither does anyone else.

    Obama on the other hand is more superficial, more middle class and personally ambitious. He has no critique of corporate capitalism anywhere to hand. He is a Rawlsian, a Blairite. He is full of hot air and promises, and while he makes these promises his team of all the talents looks more to the right of Clinton’s.

  123. wordnerd7

    == it’s a very good piece of writing i agree and the appreciation of the antropological view of otherness is interesting; ===

    That’s what I hoped you might see, @atf . . and thank you for explaining the resentment. Not news to me, but it’s good to read your reasons outlined so clearly . . . The parts of the US I know and love best are nothing like what you see on TV screens. Not glamorous in the least. Every form of conspicuous consumption and showing off related to money is laughed at.


    === I don’t regard Jackson to be a black racist and neither does anyone else. ===

    Ah, then you must have missed the _huge_ fuss about his ‘not black enough’ remark about Obama in the final weeks of the campaign. I’ll dig it out for you some day soon. . . I don’t see how someone can make a remark like that and not be hair-raisingly racist – I’m sure there were cases of rugs flying off bald heads and being carried away on the wind.

    === Obama on the other hand is more superficial, more middle class and personally ambitious. He has no critique of corporate capitalism anywhere to hand. ===

    How on earth can _you_ judge this when you’ve admitted that you haven’t read any of his books – and certainly not DFMF. . . The long extract I posted for @atf will give you _some_ idea of his ideas of how capitalism both builds wealth and destroys communities and cultural traditions. Why not read it and tell us what impression you have of him after that?

    And no, he had only the veneer of a comfortable middle-class life: mother struggled as a single parent and for long stretches had to depend on her parents to support them all; her father was an unsuccessful life insurance salesman (his part of DMFM is very like Death of a Salesman) and her mother worked in obscure, low-paid clerical and administrative positions. Absolutely _not_ comfortable, in material terms.

    And Jackson is less ambitious? Isn’t a failed bid at running for president part of _his_ story?

  124. ISA

    Well Wordy,

    It’s your country, isn’t it? You tell me.

    Of course there is Google out there and we can all find out what there is to know about both people.

    To sum up:

    Jackson commitment to social justice, his profound honesty and quality has been proven over many years.

    Obama – expect gale force winds of hype, a veritable sirocco of of a marketing campaign in a rebranding exercise for the USA Ltd.

  125. ISA


    Keep reporting. I’ll find the exact point on the map. maybe the same leaf.

  126. wordnerd7

    Not my country, @ISA, we carry the same passport — unless yours is South African.

    === You tell me. ===

    I’d far rather that you told you.

    Would you pay attention to someone denouncing DH Lawrence who hadn’t read any of the novels or travel writing and was relying on Google for his opinions — you don;t have to tell me the answer.

    : )

  127. BaronCharlus


    I do find it a bit strange that you invite people to comment on your Obama post and then bash anyone who hasn’t read his book. That wasn’t stated as a condition of entry. Did you hope the response would be more uniformly positive?

    And it’s not a big deal but I didn’t think

    ‘racist bigots trying to look like hipsters’

    was very pleasant. But let’s leave it there. 🙂

  128. ISA

    There you go Wordy. For you the personal is political. The emphasis is on Obama’s personal narrative. For me the political is political and the emphasis is on:

    What did X do on the basis of what understanding of the situation? What was the result and was it advisable to do X or not? and if it wasn’t then why not?

  129. ISA

    As for the jibe about Lawrence. I have read some of poems and one novel. I explained the rationale behind my critique. I thought you understood it.

  130. It’s a bit irrelevant comparing Jesse Jackson to Obama in terms of experience isn’t it ? One has a long, distinguished (and occasionally a bit dodgy ) track record and the other is just getting started.

  131. wordnerd7

    Thank you, @BaronC — I’m deeply in your debt and @ISA’s for making this thread go . . . and these are good points you’ve raised.

    === I do find it a bit strange that you invite people to comment on your Obama post and then bash anyone who hasn’t read his book. ===

    To borrow an expression popular in Obama’s country, . . . the post, as @Sean put it memorably, was about Obama brilliantly demonstrating an alternative to the ‘fuckup’ model as a reaction to a difficult childhood full of uncertainty and identity confusion. . . Discussing that certainly doesn’t require anyone to read DFMF. I didn’t and don’t.

    Where a blogger — for example, @ISA, usually one of the best of our best — makes sweeping statements about Obama, his life and opinions that clearly show that he knows very little about them, then I think it’s reasonable to suggest filling in the gaps before he argues. Now if that seems unfair to you, would you please let me know how?

    . . . As an aside, have you noticed that Robert McCrum has only today recommended DFMF on the GU site as an important literary landmark? . . . All these months, and the book has never as far as I know been given a blog of its own, over there, as far as I know. . . Interesting, yes?

    ‘Did you hope the response would be more uniformly positive?’

    Of course not. Like everyone else who has studied Obama and admires him, I’m ecstatic about having got what I wanted last November. . . Of course I was pleased to see RMcC vote the same way, but that was icing — the best grade of marzipan on the cake (very little sugar).

    === And it’s not a big deal but I didn’t think
    ‘racist bigots trying to look like hipsters’ ===

    I thought we’d long ago sorted out any implication that _you_ were being racist. . .That remark was anyway made in a humorous post — in the same larky spirit as your and @pinkroom’s doggerel — about Obama and the Year of the Ox. . . .

    @pinkroom has made some eye-popping remarks about Obama. One of the reasons I’m so opposed to censorship is that I think it’s excellent for us all to see someone who has apparently been given a decent education say the following — and here she was _not_ writing doggerel or joking:

    === I am sure there are things lurking deep in BOs subconscious [. . .] . I reckon his touchstones would include Richard Pryor (how long before he is caught using the MoFo word in public) the sheriff in Blazing Saddles, Sly Stone (…he does seem a bit of a dandy… how long before he re-invents himself pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous) but all these super-slick self-images must conflict with his white heritage too ===

    When I wondered in a post about whether she’d asked if Gordon Brown was going to turn vain and re-invent himself as a ‘chav’, she was gracious enough to concede a fair cop . . .

    But then she went on to say that it was a compliment for her to see him as a sexy black entertainer. . . To put it mildly, this was rather sad to read about a man whose mother was so anxious for him to escape the poverty and desperation of so many black lives that she woke him at four or five in the morning to drill him in lessons he wasn’t getting in his Indonesian school. The boy goes on to become editor of the Harvard Law Review — not an appointment, but an election by one’s peers, hence a position that owes nothing to affirmative action — and yet @pinkroom apparently can’t wait for him to revert to being ‘pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous’.

    Do you have a problem with that?

  132. ISA

    I found a connection with Obama.

    Philip Ocheing, who was a close colleague of my father’s while they both worked at the daily Nation from 1963 to 69 says about Obama Sr.

    “His friend, Kenyan journalist Philip Ochieng, has described Obama Sr.’s difficult personality and drinking problems in the Kenya newspaper The Daily Nation.”


    Now I don’t think Obama Sr was much of a journalist, he was more of a civil servant and academic and perhaps Dad and Mom’s path didn’t cross his in a more than cursory way.

    My father, however, was responsible for drafting the political programme of the opposition leader to Kenyatta ( a Kikuyu), Odinga Odinga (a Luo like Obama Sr.), and as a result of my father’s actions our family was hounded out of Kenya.

    Obama senior was a socialist and economist and was forced out of the government for writing “Problems Facing Our Socialism,” published in the East Africa Journal. Now that sounds like a principled and respectable stand and he paid for it like we did for my father’s stand and the guy should be respected for that and I couldn’t give a monkey’s that the poor man was an alcoholic.

    Because that is his personal story.

  133. ISA

    And let’s have a defence of Obama that isn’t touchy feely, for God’s sake Wordy.

    Explain to me why he is a “good thing” without ad hominim appeals to the fact that he is a “nice guy” and I hope to be convinced.

  134. wordnerd7

    Have just read your new posts, @ISA. Please let’s quote each other accurately — ?

    I said that ‘The personal is political’ is a tired old slogan, and explained exactly where I stand in relation to it.

    You are obviously too upset to read straight if you think I was accusing YOU of not reading Lawrence. Remember I’ve read your blogs about him and praised them highly . . My point is that you would laugh at anyone who made strong assertions about DHL — or any other literary figure — and had never bothered to read the writer’s work. . . For similar reasons, I’d be thrilled if you’d DFMF. I mean you, especially — since politics is one of your subjects.

    . . . @alarming, I hope you don’t think that I introduced a comparison of Jesse J and Obama . . . 😉

  135. ISA

    Or get a liberal US politico mate of yours to blog on this convincingly.

    Blighty is quite cut off from the world, isn’t it? It’s quite possible that this cynicism is misplaced. After all, the US had Roosvelt and the New Deal and fought in Studs Turkel’s “Good War”.

    In fact let’s see what Studs has to say:


  136. wordnerd7

    === And let’s have a defence of Obama that isn’t touchy feely, ===

    No touchy-feely about it, @ISA, and for the first time, you’re almost making me angry because you know what difference _that_ stereotypical accusation is based on.

    The differences between our positions on Obama are based (i) on facts and reading about his life (wn) and (ii) hearsay (ISA).

    Now, the information about his father and yours is the kind of thing that makes me hope that nothing gets in the way of you finishing your memoir.

  137. wordnerd7

    === Or get a liberal US politico mate of yours to blog on this convincingly. ===

    No hope of anyone convincing you, I’m afraid, until you’re prepared to read what the man himself has said.

    You owe him — not to mention yourself — that.

  138. BaronCharlus


    ‘I thought we’d long ago sorted out any implication that _you_ were being racist. . .’

    Which was why I was surprised to see it come up again but

    ‘That remark was anyway made in a humorous post’

    sorts it out. Anyway, it was more the suggestion that I was trying to be a hipster that irked 😉

    Re Pink’s statements; yes, I did raise an eyebrow but took them in the same tone as your comments discussed above (perhaps more generously as I wasn’t personally implicated…). Pink, you out there?

  139. ISA

    You’re right to pull my socks up about accuracy. I should get into the habit of pulling them up myself. I really like your pointedness and lucidity Wordy, even when I disagree with you. You must have been a dazzling editor.

    Truth is I have to do some translations and an article and am being a bit slap dash.

    But I have a trunkful of cuttings from the daily nation. I am sure that Obama Sr. features somewhere. I’ll let you know if I find something.

    PS I recently had a Luo student Nelson Mbua, a young man, one of the most competent intelligent and amazing students I have had. He is now studying medicine. I have no doubt he will be the President of Uganda one day. Preferably the President of a united East Africa.

    What signs of Ujama and Nyerere can you see in Tanzania Susan. Ask about: What has happened to Ujama?

    We called Nyerere “Mwalimu” the teacher. What a good man he proved to be.

  140. ISA

    I don’t think we know what the rest of us know. Baron and ATF and I seem to be singing from the same hymn book, but that’s illusory. I think we are probably coming at it from different angles. Are we Baron? ATF?

  141. wordnerd7

    @BaronC, thank you, we usually sort out our disagreements amicably, I’ve noticed —

    as for @pinkroom, she switched from joking (doggerel) to serious — and anyone who doubts that has only to read the thread. . . I’ve put it all behind me, since she has a tendency to shoot from the hip. Please see the Fighter-poets thread where I’ve suggested to General Hazlitt that she be awarded a VC.

  142. WN Not at all. But if you want I can 😉

    This debate is taking a rather odd turn however. Obama being a good thing is entirely speculative at the moment isn’t it? He may be a good president and on the basis of what he has said and written he seems to be different from the last few encumbents.

    The fact that he is not George Bush and that he will not populate his immediate circle with neo-cons is a good thing surely. I can’t share atf’s feelings about Bush – to me he was wholly incompetent. 9/11 was one thing but the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina showed up the fact that he was out of his depth and only there through family connections and the old boy network. Good riddance.

    At the moment I refuse to be speculatively cynical even though experience tells me that government corrupts. Nothing wrong with feeling that I think.

  143. ISA

    Anyone for Chekhov?

  144. ISA

    From the article by Edward Lifson with Studs in the Huff Po:


    “I’d ask Obama, do you plan to follow up on the program of the New Deal of FDR?

    I’d tell him, ‘don’t fool around on a few issues, such as health care. We’ve got bigger work to do! Read FDR’s second inaugural address!’

    So you know what? Obama can’t be a moderate! He’s got to remember where he comes from! Obama, he has got to be pushed!”

    That’s what we should all be doing Wordy.


    Push, push pushity, push, push, push.

    Because I tell you what Wordy. Obama is going to be lobbied to hell by the right and they are going to insinuate themselves into positions of government and they are going to try and cow him and if the guy just isn’t as bad as Bush and gets healthcare through, that’s not going to do it.

    But then it’s not my country.

  145. ISA

    Here is an excerpt of the speech Studs suggested Obama read and take cognisance of:

    “Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.

    This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

    “In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.”

    Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Second Inaugural Address
    Wednesday, January 20, 1937

  146. ISA

    Tell that to Larry Summers

  147. Today’s CNN in Dar. New dolls styled after Obama’s daughters are being aggressively marketed.
    Viewed as a controversial issue and exploitation. Caroline Kennedy had one doll styled after her in the Sixties.
    Obama’s wife has protested openly but the creators of the dolls are confident that Obama taking them to court stays the furthest thing from his mind.
    At the moment over here, Obama appears to have taken a back seat to the big news that the Congo’s sadistic Tutsi rebel responsible for massacres has finally been captured and will hopefully be tried for international crimes. Rwanda hopes that the air is now cleared, that its leaders ever showed support for Congo Gen. Laurent Kyunda as was often alleged. This is the big news here at present with accompanying documentaries and very little on Obama at all. Gaza is also big news.
    Know the saying, “A prophet is never recognised in his own country.” But I’ve just got here and haven’t had a chance to speak to anyone yet.
    At the moment, I’d rate Obama No.3 in Tanzania after Kyunda and Gaza.

  148. Hazlitt

    With a flick of his wrist on a pentium switch 18 people die on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border from a remote controlled drone.Business as usual at the White House.
    This is a bi-partisan administration including Robert Gates who was head of the CIA for 26 years.If anyone has any doubts about the future of American foreign policy check out Bob on Wicki.

    Barack Obama confirmed Bob’s appointment as Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.I think we can expect an escalation of the Afghan/Pakistan war very soon.
    God help the civilian population in this border region.

  149. Sorry. With Gaza, the focus is on suffering families, the killings and the murders of children rather any kind of political stance that would involve Obama directly. Focus too on sorrowful mothers. Another highlight. There are also questions here as to if Israel should be tried for international crimes. The situation played out is one directly of criminal-and-victim.

  150. anytimefrances

    pace hazlitt i don’t think an individual, even if he is president, has all that much power to change things. the context into which he will have to fit has gathered its momentum and is likely to sweep him along with it. that’s why i’ve been a bit sceptical about the electioneering talk and talk of new age, new dawn…it’s all promise and the hard realities of keeping the thing going will take over from the promises of the open hand, the unclenched fist. i think if america lets up there’s the risk of a rise in activity from those who oppose the US in various places around the world and so the pres will have to keep clamping down to stay in control. certainly there’s a lot of pretty awful things going on between India and Pakistan as well as in palestine/isreal and these forces are not amenable to the words of one man. with them it’s war and that’s about winning. no matter how much i might like the man it’s too optimistic to think that all’s going to change and these fighters will lay down their arms and shake hands with the new way. though i would like that to happen. people have invested too much in obama and he won’t make the enemies of the US go away, nor will corporate america loose it’s hold on other nations and their resources. the west has its eyes on underdeveloped countries, because these are pools of cheap labour and have resources which can be exploited and create wealth. emotional attitudes don’t wash these away. i think we’ll find that the difference between ob and bu are much less in the long run that were hoped for and idealism is for dreamers.

  151. 3p4

    the context into which he will have to fit has gathered its momentum and is likely to sweep him along with it. ””””

    its a car,,he is a driver,,being swept along works good when you can turn the wheel,,

    i’ve been a bit sceptical ””””””

    statement volume 2

    sound at my end,,volume 11,,
    idealism is for dreamers”””””””””””””

    so is poetry,,and like any poem there could be two hundred posts trying to define ‘idealism’

    its quite special reading all the minds here soaked in academic erudition and seeing endless investigation of the most esoteric and nebulous
    minutea of a poem and then see discussions of
    such vast subjects (obama et al) conducted in huge sweeping brushstrokes full of internal (to the author) mechanism and complexity,,tremendous exageration,,dogmatic opinion,,provocative and aggressive tones ,,,,

    thank you all,, you and the internet provide a new dimension to people watching,,

    @Baron C
    ever seen Red Sun ? i have the shortest list of ok movies in the western world,,but Red Sun is on it
    Alain Delon,Ursula Andress, Charles Bronson,Toshiro Mifune, an excellent little comic book,,

  152. BaronCharlus


    Never heard of it but, god damn, that cast list! Just ordered it. I’m reading Japanese literature at the moment and my other half is researching westerns so I have the perfect excuse. Thanks for the tip.

    I’d always associated Bronson with Michael Winner and consequently avoided him but, referring to Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone claimed that Bronson was the finest actor he’d ever worked with. Not sure OUTW bear that out but certainly made me see him differently.

  153. BaronCharlus

    Coincidentally, I recently ordered Yojimbo for my mother’s birthday so now there’s a mini Mifune festival on the way.

  154. Baron if you add Hidden Fortress and Sanjuro to Yojimbo you’ll have the 3 films that influenced virtually all Leone’s and Eastwood’s Westerns and which gave the templates for many other action films as well. That might be a minus in your books but hope not.

  155. Hazlitt

    Red Sun is nonsense.
    Alain Delon in Samourai as Jeff Costello the doomed contract killer is classic film noir.Delon plays gangsters,I remember laughing at his cowboy……..

    One of the best Westerns of all time has to be one of Peckinpah’s least know B movies “Ride the High Country” (Guns in the afternoon).A timeless classic staring Joel McCrea and Randolf Scott(his last film)Samourai and Ride the High Country can be viewed repeatedely.Always a good sign similar to Chinatown.

  156. Hazlitt

    Follow the money atf.
    Have a look at maps of the region.Then check out the Caspian oil/gas supply routes.

  157. BaronCharlus


    ‘Red Sun is nonsense’

    Any nonsense with samurais AND cowboys AND Ursula Andress is the kind of nonsense I need in my life. I saw the Wild Bunch recently and wasn’t very taken with it. Is “Ride the High Country” different?

    Certainly not a minus. Have seen Hidden Fortress a long time ago and remember enjoying it. Big Leone fan and High Plains Drifter is a very significant film for me.

  158. 3p4

    Red Sun is nonsense””””’

    i am not smart enough to know,,i like it,,

    I remember laughing at his cowboy”””””””

    i said comic book didnt i

    its the bizarre cast list that i like as much as anything else,,remembering their relative stature at the time,,Ursula Andress was a big name back then,,Mifune,,not so much,,

  159. 3p4

    the essential nexus twixt samuri theme western
    action is The Magnificent 7,,but you all knew that
    didnt you,,that is the essential Bronson identity
    that film was really big in its day,,it maybe a footnote these days,,but was all through the halls of academia in its day,,

  160. 3p4

    apologies for all for the distraction on a serious thread,,it was just an Alain Delon reference i had
    been trying to remember to post for Baron C
    for quite a while,,my bad timing,,sorry bout that,,

  161. BaronCharlus


    As the theme of this thread is definitions of heroism in these cynical times, I think cowboys and samurai fit very well. The Will Smith character Wordn cites in the original post is a direct inheritor (albeit a comic one) of these roles.

  162. Magnificent 7 – 7 samurai – Yojimbo. There is an inner logicto the discussion. Right time for more work then bed.

  163. seanmurray

    And then pistols at dawn tomorrow for slagging murray’s 100% non-irritating wee vid on GU.

    ; – >

  164. 3p4

    Magnificent 7 – 7 samurai – Yojimbo.–a fistful of dollars

  165. Hazlitt

    Point taken Baron, atf.
    Red Sun is certainly a laugh.Sorry folks was fik of me.
    “Ride the High Country” will not disappoint and far superior to the orgiastically violent “Wild Bunch”.Read comment on IMDb.

    Also apologies to editor wordnerd7 for diverting attention from Saint Obama…er I mean Mr President Obama :
    And no! I haven’t read the book 🙂

  166. Sean was hoping this could be settled by playing Western film themes at each other until one or other is forced to resort to the theme from Big Country and thus lose the duel.

    But if Winchesters at dawn is what you want then so be it ( this written at 9.00 in the morning – I’m not the one to defend my or anyone else’s honour am I?)

  167. seanmurray

    I bin plugged by a posse of ComMods awaitin’ me at the corral, prancin’ hither ‘n’ yon in thur boots ‘n’ neckties ‘n’ uther GU finery. My poor hawse ‘n’ unirritatin’ vid bin plugged ‘n’ all. Alarming done stoolied* on me ‘n’ my poor hawse ‘n’ vid, yuh hea’? Stoolied* us to them Mods. Please just one last sippa rye…

    * possibly wrong genre

  168. wordnerd7


    Lovely continuations, thank you . . . finishing something else, at the moment . . . delighted with discussions of hero archetype on celluloid, Red Sun and Sushi-Westerns, Western-Westerns, etc., etc.


  169. Murray yore goin’ dahn *

    * definitely wrong genre

  170. Thanks wordy and sean for the short story invite. Unfortunately I have only ever written one that came naturally, and that was for a short story module in college. Maybe I could try again, set myself the task.

    I have got Dreams of my Father now, after a book buying splurge at Chapters. I have just finished reading Ulick O’Connor’s diaries from 1971 – 81. He was a Trinity trained barrister who turned to bio and poetry, doing bios on Behan, Gogarty and the Twilight Dawn. An all rounder, into sports and got known in the 60’s with the advent of TV in Ireland.

    Next up it’s Obama’s book.

  171. seanmurray

    Des —

    Do you remember your first (or maybe second) OY post about tramping across fields in the north of England (IIRC it also involved an open mic night somewhere)? That’s really all I’m meaning. I would never expect you to marry your remarkable prose style to a twee little tale about a dinner party gone wrong, or whatever.

    Looking forward to this, man!

  172. wordnerd7

    @Des, I’ll be keen to see what you make of DMFM. Something I’ve kept forgetting to say is that its tone is as far as possible from misery lit — but instead, so stoical that I wonder whether it wasn’t that word coming to mind that made me think of Hadrian, who was both a Stoic and an Epicurean.

    I’ve read a bit of the Yeats biography you recommended, and am so glad you did because there are mysteries about his life that I’ve got explanations for, at long last . . . @Hazlitt, my impression, so far, is that in this telling (Yeats’s Ghosts), he’s not so much the elitist s*it you’ve just described in Fighter-poets : ) but a bit of a mother-dominated bore (not a likeable mother, or I might not mind so much) . . . But, @Des, would you agree that this is an impression for which the biographer rather than the man might be responsible? She sees him too much from a Freudian perspective, for my taste — Freudian dissections of people tend to drain all the life out of their subjects, in my experience. . . .

    Her research is clearly meticulous and extremely admirable, but didn’t you long for a text that captured some of the magic of his great poems?

    I _can_ imagine a great biography giving us tasting quantities of whatever fun the Golden Dawn(?) crowd had with their mad seances, etc., while taking apart the mumbo-jumbo . . . but in this biography I smell too much formaldehyde. Tell me why I’m wrong, and by the time I get to the end of the book, who knows, I might even agree with you about it being a good book, overall. . . Or so you seemed to say, some way into it.

  173. pinkroom

    Lighten up wordnerd…

    I am approximately the same age as Obama, went to college, among other places, in the US about the same time and… whatever he says in his book I would be astonished were he not – as I was -profoundly influenced by Richard Pryor and the Funk/Soul stars who were tearing up new ground for black, white and mixed race folks around that time. In my view the likes of Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Pryor, early Murphy etc. prepared the ground for BO as much as the straight, political guys. They took black America to a higher -funnier, sexier, more self-confident – ground that the more idiotic rappers etc that followed have done their level best to tear down.

    Not that I should need to justify it but my humble “poem” was playing with the idea that under the influence of CIA LSD, BO might fess up to some of those bad-ass influences less palatable to middle America, before being shredded and re-configured as a Bush-a-like cowboy in thrall to the complex. It was a satire… a joke.

    Hi Baron.

    Personally I wear my hipster badge with some pride. Not overly happy with the racist tag though… if sustained may (reluctantly) need to take my ball home.

    One of Pryor’s great achievements was that he put humour “about” racial stereotypes firmly back on the agenda, subverting them, reversing them, ridiculing them… ultimately as near as damn neutering them. Why did a black man, or woman, who have wanted to get on have to negate every aspect of his/her “blackness” and be “a credit to his/her people” instead to get on? Why shouldn’t he/she be able look, talk and act black. This, in essence, was Jesse Jackson’s “gaffe” about BO during the campaign.

    Are BO’s “funkier” black roots, as oppossed to his noble, good student, roots,”off limits” somehow??? That, to my mind, is a really dangerous road and will come back to haunt him. His best tactic is probably to be as up-front and honest as he can. No spin. If he does all America, the world will at the very least respect him. If he goes down the phoney Tony route he’ll go the same tragic way.

    To be honest I’m quite impressed so far but fear, as other posters seem that conservative “advisors”
    will get to him.

    So, in a way I’m only half-joking. Get on the good foot BO.

  174. 3p4

    the sidney poiter reference somewhere around here was very apt i thought and if pryor is relevant
    (and i agree he is) then bill cosby is also very relevant,,especially as Dr Cosby,,

    if we can keep playing with your ball Pink i will bring oranges for half time ,,

    Get on the good foot BO”” i think he has already scored several goals,,(and conceded a goal in pakistan,,)

  175. anytimefrances

    yes, don’t take your ball away from us Pinkroom…we’ll let you score a goal!

  176. pinkroom

    Yes of course, Bill Cosby was huge. What happenened too him? I stopped watching tv in any consistent way about 20 years ago so out of that loop. Wasn’t he voted America’s ideal president at some point?

    He, or his character, would be a good call because he seemed a post-Pryor type who became acceptable to/even beloved of white America. He didn’t deny his black roots and slipped effortlessly back into them when necessary but also aspired to a wider cultural life.

    It will be fascinating to watch how it all pans out. So much depends on his court and how incorruptable, at every level, they are. Among these needs to be a historian come sooth-sayer to study the rise and fall of every vaguely progressive administration point to those key moments that killed them. Blair for example was sunk from the moment he was bought, used by and caved into that relatively small-time spiv Bernie Ecclestone. After that there was no chance he could never stand up to the likes of Murdoch/Bush etc even if he wanted to. BO needs somebody really clued-up next to him for all those big calls that will be coming hard and fast. My own suspicion is that slapping down Hil (and Bill) …perhaps on Israel, may be high up on that list if he really does want to get things moving in a better direction.

    Think BO. What would Dr. Cosby do???

  177. wordnerd7

    @pinkroom, . . . I think I told you yesterday or thereabouts that we are strictly non-directive on this site: no commands to lighten up or down, please, no telling people that they are poets and not writers of prose, or vice-versa. . . We make polite and friendly suggestions here (see for example @Sean‘s, yesterday, a billet doux to an ancient and lovely post by @Des at GU). . . Otherwise, I’m happy to read what you have to say.

    @Suzan, wherever you are, I hope you read this. I clipped a bit of your crisp and fine report from Tanzania, but got distracted before I had a chance to write the post (sloppy wordnerd, sorry!):

    At the moment over here, Obama appears to have taken a back seat to the big news that the Congo’s sadistic Tutsi rebel responsible for massacres has finally been captured and will hopefully be tried for international crimes. […]
    At the moment, I’d rate Obama No.3 in Tanzania after Kyunda and Gaza.

    There’s something wonderful about getting a ‘live’ dispatch from one of our own group from all the way over there. More, please . . . all you have to spare & I’ll go looking on your own site, too, as soon as I have a chance.

    . . . Something heartbreaking about the juxtaposition of the silly fuss over the ridiculous dolls next to a reminder of the Hutu-Tutsi bloodbath. A perfect reflection of what our minds are stuffed with.

  178. pinkroom

    “I told you” indeed.


  179. wordnerd7

    === “I told you” indeed. ===

    That’s right, @pinkroom. You sometimes have to match a conversational style to demonstrate why you find it distasteful. Search the site or the archive with my comments at GU and you won’t _me_ addressing anyone else like that.

    Now I’ll admit that I’ve been keeping a particularly close eye on your style of communication, given that you threw one of our group off one of your forums, joined someone you didn’t even know in a completely unnecessary vendetta against a second member, and threatened to sue all of us, collectively, in another place. The only instance I’ve ever seen of a blogger mentioning legal action to settle an argument.

  180. BaronCharlus

    Well this is fun, I’m home alone after a happy drinking session with some buddies and…

    Need time to respond with sense to persona discussion.

    Pink, don’t take your ball home. Yes, I was spun by your choice to frame Obama within the terms of black personalities and certain stereotypes. But I’m a big Sly fan and Pryor was one of the great modern artists; I wouldn’t call you racist. Your ball should stay here. And I’m no hipster: more Betjeman than ODB.

    There’s a lot of political backstory building up here that I don’t get. The whole tone these last few days is becoming more combative. This blog has been a haven of respectful, supportive discourse. I don’t want that to change. What’s going on?

  181. wordnerd7

    Dear @Baron, I welcomed @pinkroom onto this blog because I’ve gathered she’s a mate of yours. My last post sets out exactly what behaviour of @pr’s that we on the receiving end don’t want to see repeated . . . Nor do I wish to go over @pink’s history at GU and elsewhere in this spot, since most of the rest of us are deeply bored by it. I’ve asked her not to rap out orders at me or our comrades here. C’est tout.

    I look forward to reading you on persona.

  182. seanmurray

    I think we need a sing-song.

    Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah.
    Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah.
    Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah.
    O Lord, kum ba yah.

  183. wordnerd7

    . . . kum. . . kum . . . kum ba yah. . .

    Good idea, ….. ahhh, that feels so much better.


    Did you btw see thepiece titled ‘See the Web Site, Buy the Book’ in last Sunday’s NYT? I came across it a few hours ago and thought, how wonderful to know someone on the dizzying edge of all that. ..

  184. pinkroom

    This is plain silly and I’ll say no more than I am a poster plain and simple, have no “forums”of my own, have never in my life complained/pressed a “report abuse” button. As for legal action, that is just nonsense… you must be confusing me with somebody else. I’m certainly not Billy Mills or anybody paid by the GU!

    I write poems/about poems simply because I enjoy doing so. Yes I can tease people a little if I find them silly, bullying or pompous but I usually try to make it up if I get the chance…that is my way. There are far worse.

    I came here in good faith at the invite of atf and charlus (whose poetic skills and good nature I rate extremely highly) largely because I miss Des, who I think has some important things to say and was unfairly hounded from the GU. Along with deadgod I stuck up for both him and atf when they were in trouble with the mods. I contributed a poem and a couple of posts in a constructive spirit to introduce myself so to speak and you have been telling me off from day one.

    Have I been set up here?

    I don’t get it either Charlus.

  185. seanmurray

    No, I didn’t, wordy. Cheers for the nudge. I’ll have a look for it now.

    Have to say, based on his/her contributions here, I see nothing obnoxious about pinkroom whatsoever. His/her posts have been sharp and stylish as hell. Maybe a case of mistaken ID?

    Kum ba yah, my Lord…

  186. pinkroom

    Am I being confused with Parisa perhaps?

    Des once posted this absolutely devastating (and hilarious) and to my ears nonsensical assault upon me once only to realise it was Parisa he was cross with. He apologised next post. She had a rather spectacular spat with atf a few week’s ago… perhaps that’s what you had in mind?

    It’s a bit like that fad many years back for forwarding the “Mr.Angry of Purley” taped message to some bemused colleague who, conditioned by years of customer service training, would set about pacifying the unpacifiable tape recording. Funny… to a point.

    I have many sins of my own to answer for (mostly cheek… bad cheek some of it) but I would never, ever sneak to teacher.

    Hi seanm

    “Have to say, based on his/her contributions here, I see nothing obnoxious about pinkroom whatsoever. His/her posts have been sharp and stylish as hell.”

    Thanks for that. Music to me poor old bruised ears.

  187. wordnerd7

    === As for legal action, that is just nonsense… you must be confusing me with somebody else. ===

    I’m not the only one, in that case — and remember perfectly which blog it was in which you returned under this screen name — identified, as it happens, by someone in our group. 🙂

    Anyway, @pink, no commands from you, no bossiness, and all will be well.

  188. 3p4

    i think Pink is being confused with someone else,,

    i always wonder how Pink went from he/she/they
    to “her?,,not my call though i really dont care,,it seemed to me Pink knows a hell of a lot about soccer for a woman,,not impossible but unusual,,

    “Have to say, based on his/her contributions here, I see nothing obnoxious about pinkroom whatsoever. His/her posts have been sharp and stylish as hell.”SECONDED

    howling windge
    suspicion rained
    lighting of,fenced
    hubr is th under ed
    posters chill Ed

    go gators go bama

  189. 3p4

    Yes of course, Bill Cosby was huge. What happenened too him? I stopped watching tv in any consistent way about 20 years ago so out of that loop.

    i havent watched tv for about the same length of time but i remember cosbys son was murdered
    while changing a tire on the freeway and cosby pretty much disappeared after that,,

  190. wordnerd7

    Thanks for coming in, @3p4, though I’ve nearly reached my limit for further discussions of this subject. I’ll move ‘Re: pinkroom’ to another part of the site, if necessary, where everyone interested will be able to continue for as long as they like.

    . .If you are right about the mistaken identity, there’s still a problem of a style that grates on my nerves. There was, for instance, a long and exceedingly pompous lecture on how to write poetry from the person blogging under @pinkroom to TheBoldODonaghue at GU last December (the 13th — the limericks thread) . . .

    Lecturers and censors are what we’re escaping here, and their absence has been a factor in the congenial atmosphere we’ve enjoyed. Remember my many posts about a certain pontificator/pontiff at the other place? . . . A bad fit with me.

    I’ve left two small blogs where I didn’t seem to fit the conversational style. It’s always possible to set up a blog of one’s own, thank goodness, and as @ISA once said, one day we’ll all spend our days popping in and out of each other’s sites, each furnished to our own taste. It’s clear from the comments here that @pinkroom has lots of fans — people with good taste who find her/his domineering style attractive — and his/her blog should take off like a rocket.

  191. wordnerd7

    === which considers their qualities as actors (in the non-dramatic sense) and not higher beings.===

    @ freepoland,

    we’re certainly on the same page if you’d agree that personal greatness — like spiritual distinction — is best recognised posthumously and therefore, by other people.

    I’d be inclined to have any adults announcing their qualifications for the description led away and wrapped in warm blankies with teddy bears.

    Of ancestors I most admire, the anonymous architects and stonemasons of the great Gothic cathedrals and the pyramids of Egypt stand out. Those were people who worked towards accomplishments that border on superhuman for, as far as we know, meagre earthly rewards and scant recognition. . . What makes me sad is thinking about the comparatively low standards most of us settle for now, in any sphere — including politics — as long as we make enough money and can be seen smirking at everyone else from celebrity news pages and web sites. . . Does this mean that the battle has always been essentially between God and mammon, and that mammon has cleared the field of all contenders? And might that have something to with a persistent impression of our undershooting the mark — in any sphere involving willpower and high aspiration in which comparison makes sense — when we measure ourselves against the past? . . . And am I a bore for asking these questions? (yes!)

  192. To read @pinkroom‘s latest post and continue this particular conversation — with or without him/her, please pop in here:


    Creating a special area for discussing policy disagreements is a solution many of us (starting with @Sean) suggested more than once to GU, and we were ignored. . . I hope that this gives comrades more room to express themselves.

  193. ISA

    What tends to shut me up is the ability of someone to write a poem. I remember being infuriated by atf on several occasions. She wrote a poem and I didn’t swoon, but felt a little dizzy, and that was it.

    Isn’t it strange how this life of the mind gets to you – on these threads we have no carapaces.

    As people speak here they are kalaidascopic and multifaceted. To reveal a fixed identity would slow the beating flash of personas down to a stately pulse.

    But we converse and are none the wiser and I don’t really care what colour socks anyone wears. Do you?

    Now Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister came onto CiF several times (Not surprising as Dawkins and Dennet both popped up for a thread about religion) and I am sure he sounded quite persona – able. And no-one recognised him except for a couple of Journos.

    In the same way, if Obama came onto CiF, and noone would be any the wiser. His formlessnes would not inform us as to his persona his manufactured ID.

    So the question is how do you know someone at all? Not that you can’t, but does it require the projection of a persona, a turn of speech perhaps, a standard response, to actually recognise someone?

    Wordy is good at recognising people by their writing.

    This is a serious point about anonymity. How can we be anonymous if we bare all? That’s ridiculous. Surely the thought and the feeling and the creative joissance of a person comes before their brand new ID card, the imprint they leave?

    The problem we face in conversing with each other highlights a key problem of human existence. Sorry, but it does:

    How I behave is roughly based on what my theory of your mind is – intentions, knowledge and so on.

    I can’t see Wordy but sometimes Wordy speaks to me. That sounds almost pathological.

    I’m reminded of Alice through the Looking Glass. I look around, and there is noone there and yet I keep hearing this little voice:

    “A Goat, that was sitting next to the gentleman in white, shut his eyes and said in a loud voice, `She ought to know her way to the ticket-office, even if she doesn’t know her alphabet!’

    There was a Beetle sitting next to the Goat (it was a very queer carriage-full of passengers altogether), and, as the rule seemed to be that they should all speak in turn, He went on with

    `She’ll have to go back from here as luggage!’

    Alice couldn’t see who was sitting beyond the Beetle, but a hoarse voice spoke next. `Change engines — ‘ it said, and was obliged to leave off.

    `It sounds like a horse,’ Alice thought to herself. And an extremely small voice, close to her ear, said, `You might make a joke on that — something about “horse” and “hoarse,” you know.’

    Then a very gentle voice in the distance said, `She must be labelled “Lass, with care,” you know — ‘ And after that other voices went on (What a number of people there are in the carriage!’ thought Alice), saying, `She must go by post, as she’s got a head on her — ‘ `She must be sent as a message by the telegraph — ‘ `She must draw the train herself the rest of the way — ‘ and so on.

    But the gentleman dressed in white paper leaned forwards and whispered in her ear, `Never mind what they all say, my dear, but take a return-ticket every time the train stops.”

    `Indeed I shan’t!’ Alice said rather impatiently. `I don’t belong to this railway journey at all — I was in a wood just now — and I wish I could get back there.’

    `You might make a joke on that, said the little voice close to her ear: `something about “you would if you could,” you know.’

    `Don’t tease so,’ said Alice, looking about in vain to see where the voice came from; `if you’re so anxious to have a joke made, why don’t you make one yourself?’

    The little voice sighed deeply: it was very unhappy, evidently, and Alice would have said something pitying to comfort it, `If it would only sigh like other people!’ she thought. But this was such a wonderfully small sigh, that she wouldn’t have heard it at all, if it hadn’t come quiteclose to her ear. The consequence of this was that it tickled her ear very much, and quite took off her thoughts from the unhappiness of the poor little creature.

    `I know you are a friend, the little voice went on; `a dear friend, and an old friend. And you won’t hurt me, though I am an insect.’

    `What kind of insect?’ Alice inquired a little anxiously. What she really wanted to know was, whether it could sting or not, but she thought this wouldn’t be quite a civil question to ask.

    `What, then you don’t — ‘ the little voice began, when it was drowned by a shrill scream from the engine, and everybody jumped up in alarm, Alice among the rest.”

    : )

  194. @Hazlitt,

    . . . Among the strange undercurrents these last few days, . . . I noticed as I rushed to put up the next Obama post that comrades were reading silent disapproval into my failure to join the chat about Red Sun . . .But blame simple ignorance instead. No mention of that film’s director in David Thomson’s surpassingly brilliant Biographical Dictionary of Film, but only of its star, Toshiro Mifune.

    Some support, there, for bloggers who couldn’t take Red Sun seriously — since he apparently played a Japanese actor’s idea of a Western interpretation of the Samurai code (!) and the ultimate _Japanese_ hero:

    I have nothing against Toshiro Mifune (or nothing much — I _am_ averse to actors who huff and puff that much). The greater problem is the degree to which he is revered in the West for endorsing so many Western fallacies about the virtues of valour, swordplay and rigor mortis in the upper lip (or upper head). Japanese film may be innately feminine — and its actresses are more glorious than its actors — but Japanese acting [. . .] is so rich in restraint, detail, and inner life. While Mifune was, patently, an actor made for such barbarous things as Grand Prix . . . [. . . ] Red Sun . .[…]

    In other words, he is America’s Japanese. […].

  195. wordnerd7


    === What tends to shut me up is the ability of someone to write a poem. ===

    Why? Just about any arrangement of broken lines on a pages is licensed to call itself poetry, now . . .

    On the other hand @Suzan’s latest post — from Dar-es-Salaam — hard on the heels of a post by the writer of a wonderful poem with Tanzania in the title . . . was there ever such an embarrassment of lucre? . . . Back in my next blogging break . . . lovely post for one who was traumatised by Alice’s wanderings as as a small child but loves AIW and TTLG more fiercely with each passing adult year . . .

  196. positions lorgnette on nose and stares down from lofty position.

    It’s always very difficult when you get into the personal on these threads. I’ve been accused of being people that I’m not, saying things that I never said, having opinions that I don’t hold.

    Isn’t the problem that blogging is a very rapid method of communication and yet often your comments are forensically examined as if they were the result of a week or longer’s work?

    Of course having people continuously snapping at your heels sharpens up your act but when you have to refer back to previous posts and then try and remember what you said or who said what it’s no wonder that mistakes are made.

    I do a lot of work outdoors on the streets and have done for decades ( not this again I hear you cry – but I think it’s always important to state your position ) . Some of our earlier work was deliberately provocative – not in a nasty way but in order to disrupt a prevailing atmosphere. When it worked we created some fantastic spontaneous shows but when it didn’t work it was horrible. You develop skills in order to ensure that it works but the horror and delight of provoking people is that you never know how they are going to respond.

    I find blogging is much the same thing. But sometimes ones attempts to be an amiable provocateur fall on deaf ears. And sometimes you get it completely wrong and just look like a twat.

  197. anytimefrances

    Yes, i second Sean. PR is the most exciting thing that’s happened to GU since I went on – apart from Des but he was there before me – and I almost feel ashamed for asking her to grace this place with her fine wit and intelligence in view of the flak she’s getting but she’s a feisty thing – she gave that boldo what for! – and will bring some intelligence and insights, in verse at times I hope, to this place.

    lighten up wordy!

  198. wordnerd7

    Lightly, then, @atf . . . on tip-toe . . . but if you insist on copying his/her style — as in that ridiculous American expression (lighten up so you can fly out the window real easy???) — maybe we can all visit both of you at a new chat joint?

    === she’s getting but she’s a feisty thing – she gave that boldo what for! – and will bring some intelligence and insights, in verse at times I hope, to this place. ===

    .. . _If_ s/he stays. . . and I’m afraid that that’s going to be my decision — just as other blog owners have let me know, more or less subtly, when _I_ don’t mesh well with their style (usually too po-faced and dry for me) . . .Frankly, I’d rather have TBOD here — he wrote some delicious limericks in reply to his/her Big Foot lecture . . . do check the thread.

    I’m not much interested in academic perspectives on poetry unless, like Steiner, the writer is graceful and as far as possible from pedantic. But surely you both get all you need of that on PotW? This place is not trying be an alternative PotW or PP.

    There is no money in running a blog, and the effort — considerable at times — is worthwhile only because of the special atmosphere this space has had, thanks to the extraodinary group we’ve gathered. . . In a reply to a suggestion of @Suzan’s the other day, I said I didn’t want to develop the site in any way that would bring conflict and egos into the mix.

    @pinkroom may stay if s/he refrains from lecturing about writing, shouting out advice about the tone of our posts, or giving bloggers her opinion, unasked, about what forms best suit them. . . No ‘natural leaders’ needed, thank you.

    ==== and will bring some intelligence and insights, in verse at times I hope, to this place. ===

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m thrilled with the companions we’ve got — yes, newcomers will be warmly embraced as long as they have no trace of the er, … _managerial_ personality about them.

    I haven’t said so before, @atf, but just as I suspect that the friendships here soften @ISA’s grieving and helped @cynicalsteve endure what he had to, other comrades are also looking for relief from terrible (if not _as_ terrible) problems and stress in these patches of ether. . . My tolerance for any additional strain in such a place is nil.

  199. freepoland

    wordy. I am greatly in favour of kindly authoritarianism, especially if the authority doesn’t affect to manage. Leading is enough . And though brevity of explanation is to be hoped for, flights of fancy should always be excused and welcomed. (ISA.)
    In your last (10.53) entry wn, the strains reached my ears:
    ‘Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, Nobody knows but Jesus’ Blogging is a new and strange confluence of the public and private for which we have no worked-out philosophy, and maybe the better for that.

  200. freepoland

    PS. Moderation on the GU books blog is approaching the intolerable. The unremarkable but testy McCrum thread has been decimated by the pious Crown, in nobody’s particular interest. And I fear the mercurial Mishari may have been put off for life by meddling managerialism. Once the poetry threads get infected (which will happen as soon as there are a few hot topics) the Cif project will wither and die, which is a shame, but likely.

  201. Hazlitt

    “The time has come, “the wordy said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes and ships and pinkrooms
    Of blogging and her kinky things.
    And why wordy is boiling hot
    And whether pinkroom has wings.”

    “But wait a bit,” the atf cried,
    “Before we have our chat;
    For some of us are out of breath,
    And Hazlitt is too fat!”
    “No hurry!” said the wordy.
    He thanked her much for that.

    “A loaf of bread,”the Baron said,
    “Is what we chiefly need;
    Pepper and vinegar besides
    Are very good indeed..
    Now if you are ready,Des and Sue,
    we can begin to feed”

    “But not on us!”the 3p4 cried
    turning a little blue.
    “After wordy’s kindness,that would be
    A dismal thing to do!”
    “The blog is fine”Alarming said.
    “Pinkroom admired the view.”

    “It was nice of you to come!
    And you are very nice!”
    The wordy said nothing but
    “Cut us another slice:
    I wish you were not quite so deaf
    I’ve had to ask you twice!”

    “It seems a shame,” the freebie said,
    To play them such a trick,
    After you’ve brought them out so far,
    And made ISA trot so quick!”
    The wordy said nothing but
    “The butter’s spread too thick!”

    “I weep for you,” the wordy said:
    I deeply sympathize.”
    With sobs and tears she sorted out
    Those of the largest size,
    Holding her pocket-handkerchief
    Before her streaming eyes.

    “O bloggers,” said the wordy,
    “You’ve had a pleasant run!
    Shall we be trotting home again?”
    But answer came there none
    And this was scarcely odd,
    Because they were tickling her on her tum!.

  202. BaronCharlus

    Bravo, Haz

    Funny, I seem to remember another spat involving PR inspiring some defusing verse back on the Winter PP thread…

  203. wordnerd7

    Hello @freepoland,

    and thanks for those interesting thoughts.

    === the strains reached my ears:
    ‘Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, Nobody knows but Jesus’ ===

    Hard as this might be to believe, I wasn’t thinking principally of myself. . . surely, @freep, you’ve read between the lines and worked out what I mean about some of our comrades, over the months? . . . Even some of those with absolutely no material or work-related worries can sound pretty desperate when they let the odd fact about their lives drop.

    I only wanted to make it clear to @atf that this either continues as fun for me — recalling some of the conversations here has me laughing as my eyes open on many a morning — or I’ll simply stop. Pleasure is the only rational reason for continuing.

    === Blogging is a new and strange confluence of the public and private for which we have no worked-out philosophy, and maybe the better for that. ===

    Yes, that’s also part of its fascination for me. But ideas like basic decency and good manners do cross over as desirable from life on land, and I’m trying out the notion that we can be kind and civil instinctively, or correct each other with gentle nudging. . . But comparing GU and the little offshoots like this one makes less sense to me every week. These more private places are far more like gatherings in homes of friends. If the host blogger says in effect, we leave our shoes at the door in this house — as some rather maddening people I know do in embodied life — I feel I have to do as asked without a murmur, or leave . . .

    I suppose we should all be amazed that we haven’t had clashing styles to deal with before, considering that we’ve gathered together virtually all the most bolshie and awkward characters from the books blog. This has, so far, been a delightful realisation and I hope that we can retain our larky spirit . . . It’s been a tremendously stimulating experience to be with everyone who comes here —

    . . .Someone was kind enough to email me to say that the Obama discussions here have had no equal for getting awkward and highly sensitive but vital questions out into the public sphere. I don’t know if that’s true since I have no time to surf and compare. I do know that since the first Obama post, on many days, the click count has been twice as high as the highest peaks in any earlier week. So readers must be finding something they want here — and enjoy seeing what you all have to say.

  204. wordnerd7

    Ahhhhh …… I have just been reading all the calumny that’s appeared while I was busy writing to @freep . . . haven’t got to the end.

    Frightening to see some of my susceptibilities so well-known by so many . . . ‘And why wordy is boiling hot’ . . . really, @Hazzy ??????? How on earth would anyone know . . . Brilly surpassing doggerel, the finest we’ve had so far . . . mmmwa!

    Dear geniuses, I shall have to read you more carefully, . . . but @Sean, yes please to a Mailer fight — soon!

  205. seanmurray

    Freepoland —

    Mishari’s new site is here:


  206. freepoland

    wordy, sorry, I wasn’t accusing you of self-pity. Just that although the private / public thing is of endless fascination, our invisibilities mean that nobody can make assumptions about anyone else. After all, cynicalsteve was gravely ill and kept posting. And any of us might have dark tragedies or murky backgrounds – but this is not, I take it, an outpost of Jerry Springer’s emporium.
    But I agree about the shoes in the porch. And fun.

  207. wordnerd7

    A new collection of posts censored by The Guardian in Salvage Operation, part 2: https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/salvage-operation-2/?preview=true&preview_id=570&preview_nonce=3cd418a9b4 . . . Many thanks to @freepoland for tipping me off about the latest acts of insanity by moderators at The Guardian.

  208. wordnerd7

    [This is a duplicate of a comment posted by the same blogger on A bit more on heroes: Barack Obama’s odyssey, part 2, for consideration in conjunction with other posts reflecting his/her point of view in this thread. — wordnerd7/acciaccature]

    Submitted on 2009/01/28 at 8:32pm

    The Passion of President Obama

    As he left The Whitehouse
    for the last time
    scourged by blinking wall of arms
    length lenses he tried to
    stand tall before stooping between
    his guards to the car.

    Inside they said little
    but if he was not much
    mistaken he felt the jab
    of hidden heat in his side
    no matter;
    the speech
    the speech was all.

    They sped on past the shouts and placards,
    a decisive two to one against him.

    It was through no fault of his own
    except the fault of trusting…

    …this was about more than the hopes and dreams of one man but the very future of our Great Nation…

    …and so it is, with the greatest reluctance
    that I now must…

    He looked up and smiled
    the same smile that just two years before
    had made history
    and now, whiter of hair
    was broken by it.

    He visualised those other smiles
    fixed and waiting

    …leave you
    in the more than capable hands…

    How far back had they finessed this moment?
    At what point did they certainly know?

    …of the woman who will herself
    be making history
    as the 45th President.

    And with this his mind returned
    to College days
    gatherered around that big old
    top-loading VHS
    and the tapes of Richard Pryor
    they would fall about re-winding
    and the one word
    the one word he had spent
    a political lifetime
    avoiding, came full and
    heady, rasping to his lips.


    The skies darkened.
    And it was good.

  209. ISA

    I think it is very difficult when people play with racist stereo types. To say: “rasp” the word “motherfucker” (Obama has a clear tenor or baritone anyway) crosses the line a little for me.

    But I know a lot of women were disappointed when Hilary didn’t get in. To tell you the truth, I would have preferred Hilary too for that country. Much more of a tried and tested realist.

    But perhaps PinkRoom tests the whole question of moderation. Let’s face it some of us, including me, have been quite vituperative at times, taking pot shots at literary gatekeepers.

    Well blog moderators have to set standards, I suppose.

  210. ISA

    Hey guys,

    I have a nice problem her that you realy must help me with. You remember I wrote a blog for the Guardian on a Chadian kid who came to the UK. Well he needs a reading list so that he can really, really get to grips with our language (and culture). He can take absolutely anything you can throw at him.

    This is your chance to influence the thinking of a future improved version of Barak Obama:

    Suggestions and as many as possible please.

  211. seanmurray

    What age is the kid, ISA?

  212. wordnerd7

    . . . and @freepoland is probably your man, for this question. He writes books for children — @freep, is any part of one viewable online?

  213. ISA

    18, very precocious. Top student. Hungry mind.

  214. ISA

    Put it this way. He strated learning English from scratch 2 years ago, and now speaks it perfectly. Read Edward Said and Das Capital etc.

    He plans to go through the whole 1000 Guardian book list, but I think he needs something a little targetted.

  215. wordnerd7

    How about asking him to read and compare Atlas Shrugged with The Grapes of Wrath?

  216. BaronCharlus

    Sounds like he could recommend books to me.

  217. wordnerd7

    But you also need to tell us more — does he have a philosophical bent? is he more imaginative or fact-oriented (in which case (auto)biographies of eg., Gandhi) . . .

  218. wordnerd7


    === Just that although the private / public thing is of endless fascination, our invisibilities mean that nobody can make assumptions about anyone else. After all, cynicalsteve was gravely ill and kept posting. And any of us might have dark tragedies or murky backgrounds – but this is not, I take it, an outpost of Jerry Springer’s emporium. ===

    Well, Steve virtually told us on his blog that his illness was fatal, in roughly the December before . . . and I was immensely touched by the way a group of us took turns in making sure he nearly always had someone to talk to — and did this without consulting each other, without particularly liking each other in some cases, or with any explicit plan. The best part was that one of the most attentive and solicitous blogmates is most famous for his terrible disposition, yet you’d have thought he’d sprouted wings when he chatted to @cs.

    So . . . I wonder @freep, whether you aren’t saying that blogs should be treated like combustion chambers, where people set aside many (but not all, eg. shoe-removal rule 😉 ) social niceties for the freedom of any kind of venting at all without any consideration of what another person’s state might be . .. where they are, of course, aware of this. . . Doesn’t really fit your own behaviour, since you are unsually considerate, I’ve noticed.

    . . . Wouldn’t have minded if you did think I was indulging in a bit of self-pity. . . I grant everyone close to me in the real world the occasional bout I grant myself — it’s only nonstop whingeing I can’t abide. . . Would be far worse to block such a strong emotion entirely — since it can make people shut down in destructive ways. Am just completing a thought, there, .. .

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