Forget Freud; here comes the real thing…

Thursday, 24. January 2013

This book is transforming the way Cora and I think about “personality”. Forget Freud, he’s just the start…


This volume is a superb introduction to the richness and originality of Abraham and Torok’s approach to psychoanalysis and their psychoanalytic approach to literature. Abraham and Torok advocate a form of psychoanalysis that insists on the particularity of any individual’s life story, the specificity of texts, and the singularity of historical situations. In what is both a critique and an extension of Freud, they develop interpretive strategies with powerful implications for clinicians, literary theorists, feminists, philosophers, and all others interested in the uses and limits of psychoanalysis.
Central to their approach is a general theory of psychic concealment, a poetics of hiding. Whether in a clinical setting or a literary text, they search out the unspeakable secret as a symptom of devastating trauma revealed only in linguistic or behavioral encodings. Their view of trauma provides the linchpin for new psychic and linguistic structures such as the “transgenerational phantom” an undisclosed family secret handed down to an unwitting descendant, and the intra-psychic secret or “crypt” which entombs an unspeakable but consummated desire. Throughout, Abraham and Torok seek to restore communication with those intimate recesses of the mind which are, for one reason or another, denied expression. Classics of French theory and practice, the essays in volume one include four previously uncollected works by Maria Torok. Nicholas Rand supplies a substantial introductory essay and commentary throughout. Abraham and Torok’s theories of fractured meaning and their search for coherence in the face of discontinuity and disruption have the potential to reshape not only psychoanalysis but all disciplines concerned with issues of textual, oral, or visual interpretation.

“Social” media, I don’t think so…

Saturday, 25. August 2012

I once “knew” a woman who had been to a posh primary school for girls and she told me what the little darlings did in their playtimes to build a “community”. They gathered mud and stones and twigs and set them on little improvised platters, then pretended to share gifts of “food” with their intended friends. The purpose of this fantasy was popularity, to be “liked”.

Look on Facebook and you will see your “friends” frantically posting twee photos, cute quotations and links to supposedly interesting music, TED performance or articles written by someone else. That’s supposed to be the “social mefdia”, a community, a place where people develop relationships. Actually it is a place of morbid solipsism pretending to be happy and trying to be popular by having more friends, followers and likes than everyone else. This is supposed to make them feel better, I suppose.

In the “business” world we don’t do all that, do we? We don’t think of ourselves as part of some “kick-butt elite” that can provide innovation and leadership to change the known world. We don’t care about being “liked”. We don’t breathlessly follow our Klout scores in the fantasy that we have “influence”. We don’t believe in easy money for nothing. We’re sure we can turn anything to profit because we’re so brilliant and have such great leadership skills, vision, core purpose, etc. We don’t believe the myth that many random contacts will churn that effortless dosh… Surely not. We are grown ups.

More than that, we are a real community, aren’t we? Huh!

It’s all the same…

Saturday, 25. August 2012

People often talk about something they call “change”, by which they actually mean the development of an existing system without any radical transformation of the human personality. This error normally occurs in a climate of expansionist optimism and is actually one of the driving forces of our acquisitive culture. Innovation, we believe, will save the day whatever mess we make of the world…

Communism was also, in its time, a very radical “development” but since it did nothing to alter the people’s attitudes, it became as corrupt as everything else in human history… Another good idea that could never work because nobody actually knew how to share the world, the wealth and above all: the power. Nor did they want to. Too much pleasure to be had in secrecy and covert power, creating fear and spoiling people’s lives.

This idiotic notion of progress through economic growth and technical innovation, of thinking up new forms of the  same basic thing… it’s just as stupid, but it is tempting. It draws people in to apply their so-called business skills and apparently flatters them into displaying decisive “leadership skills”. Yet nothing changes and no one really warned the world of the latest and great economic catastrophes… Certainly less was anyone motivated to avoid them. The rich just took the money and ran, then took some more money ton the pretext that everything would go to hell if we didn’t save their vile structures made of unreal assets, gambled out of the reach of ordinary human beings…

Unless people have a fundamental change of heart away from selfishness and the need to triumph over others, nothing will ever make the slightest difference.

What disgusts me most is that they actually celebrate the “human spirit” and “human nature”, as if we have achieved far more than the dinosaurs. We haven’t.

We ravage the planet. destroy other creatures and allow countless millions of our own to suffer painful and wasted lives. None of that is necessary and all of that is a mark of our infantile stage of development, which some callo a history of “innovation” or “change”. Give me a break! It’s all the same stuff.

FILM: the most horrible feminist shite I ever saw

Thursday, 8. October 2009

It’s called “In the Cut” starring Meg Ryan and half penned by cult writer Jane Campion and it made me sick with its relentless, menacing, sordid, anti male propaganda.

Plenty of atmosphere, all of it nasty. Plenty of sharp dialogue without one single moment of human decency ever poking through the total gloom. Nice pointless plot in which all men are suspected of everything and not to be trusted. Possibly the most utterly objectionable film I have ever seen after Silence of the Lambs.

You must see it, as an education in pure, unadulterated prejudice masquerading as interesting psychological complexity. And Meg Ryan really got into it, as you can see from the Parkinson interview on YouTube, and Nicole Kidman co-produced it, so these babes think it really says something about sex, love and men – which is simply terrifying.

Because no mysoginist, no matter how bleak his world, no matter how many women had cruelly rejected him, could ever turn out an image of woman as utterly hating and completely negative as the men portrayed in this film.

What it tells us, that a bunch of rich, attractive, powerful and intelligent women in the most cosseted country on earth could make such a movie, what it tells us is that something is terribly wrong…

FILM: Woody has made a film I like, at last

Thursday, 8. October 2009

It’s called Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is a title so bad it hurts; the plot is a tapas bar of clichés about romance; the “characters” are at best half a dimension and in most cases considerably less; the acting is school of Johansson, who dominates throughout, except for one brilliant protagonist who holds the entire thing together: the voiceover, which is simply stunning, on a par with the gentle irony of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.

This voiceover enables Woody to illuminate the easy lives of a bunch of stupid American clichés, to mould them this way and that around a bunch of stupid romantic and life clichés, to foil them with a bunch of stupid cliché Spanish stuff - and yet to extract a dry laugh from a jaded and hostile viewer (me) at every single turn.

I have never liked the guy, never liked his arrogance, never liked his antics, never liked his strange family relationships and never liked the adulation he used to get from dunderheads starved of anything more meaningful. But if he had learned to step back sooner, as he does here, if he had broadened his field of vision like he does here, my God, he could have been almost half a contender.

For American humour, this film is brilliant, almost European in its almost sophistication. A very enjoyable romp, though the sex could have been more explicit and the Cruz identity almost spoils it by overacting to put  Scarlett in her place when actually the third woman, the incidental, woman, the Spanish artist and the voiceover are the real stars, especially the voiceover.

The British Experience (2) Choosing a Garage

Sunday, 30. August 2009

You have an oldish but still sturdy car which is due for its MOT test and needs an oil change. The aircon is not functioning properly and you fear for the worst.


1)          mesmerise yourself while passing dingy garage run by yobs offering a “free safety” check and recoil in panic when they discover worn shocks and offer to fit a reconditioned aircon something or other much cheaper than the main dealer; knowing nothing about cars you think it has to be done now and leave the car for three days; after hassling them on the phone twenty times, the final bill is about £700, less for cash; drive away and wonder if the aircon really is working or if they even changed the oil, let alone the front shocks

2)          opt for safety and book a luxury coffee break at the main dealer’s gorgeous showroom while a brittle woman plastered with make-up who knows nothing about cars but everything about billing patiently wears down the customer before you; glance at Daily Torygraph and National Geographic while trying not to admire the gleaming coupe next to your comfy leather armchair; speak to brittle woman for five minutes and depart in loan car for the day, desperate not to scratch it; return at teatime to see gleaming old car in parking lot and glimpse of beautiful workshop area where uniformed engineers are looking at computers; endure even longer wait for brittle woman’s assistant, hairstyle woman, who has a white Afro that surpasses description of any kind; drive away in immaculately valetted vehicle with £1, 287.67 plus VAT less in your bank account; this is fine if you have loads of money but the aircon still isn’t working like it used to

3)          learn something about cars and spend time tracking down the last real garage for miles, where Sid answers the phone after he’s crawled out from under an old Jag; book in for vague list of possible things that need doing and arrive early on appointed day to find Sid and Bill already on their bacon sandwiches after starting work at six; they don’t say much and they wave you away so you catch the bus home and hope for the best; at lunchtime Sid phones to explain something you don’t understand but it’s not that expensive so you say yes; when you turn up at closing time Sid and Bill are still at work on a treacherous Alfa, swearing at each other and obviously exhausted; your car is parked behind several others they must have done that day; you wait, wondering when they retire and why anyone would fancy Miss July 1983 for so many years; Bill arrives, because he is the communicator… explains that you are very lucky because they found a something that had worked loose from the aircon lying in the oil-pan where it could have fallen in the road and been lost, oh dear; he’s sorry but they had to change the brake pads and I didn’t answer when he rang me; apologetically hands over grimy scrawl bill culminating in the sum of £312 inc. VAT and tells you the shocks can wait another year; they don’t take credit cards but it’s OK to bring the rest of the cash tomorrow, when you can collect the MOT cert., OK?

The British Experience (No 1) – The DIY Store

Saturday, 29. August 2009

Many years ago I remember the birth of large, out-of-town DIY stores, meaning that instead of paying what seemed like a lot to an ordinary shop where the owner had dedicated his life to becoming a helpful expert who would sell you a couple of screws and a tap washer if that’s all you needed… you could now waltz round with a shopping trolley grabbing massive buckets of magnolia matt coloured water that needed at least three coats to cover anything. An era was born. Anybody with half a brain ascended the “property ladder” because not to do so would leave you stranded for ever in poverty. Whether we liked it or not we all had to try our hand at being handy…

This evening I witnessed what must be the death throws of that business model, at a depressing warehouse where flabby women waddle and spotty youth “manages” to be as completely unhelpful as possible, knowing zero about their own stock and not even trained to say “good evening” in response to polite customers who recognise them as human beings, which is a waste of time because they are not. From the financial pages I know that this chain of sheds is on the rocks and about to go bust, but have they learned anything about customer care in thirty years, have they used their huge sourcing muscle to bring quality goods to the public at reasonable prices? Have they fuck. The retail space consists of acres of crap bath and bed room layouts, all of them nasty but few of them cheap, followed by acres of own brand shite, all of it nasty but none of it cheap, followed by acres of garden furniture, most of it nasty and some of it cheap as well as nasty. The stuff you actually want, like a halogen bulb, a decent paint brush with proper bristles, some carpet tacks, whatever… it’s all carefully hidden away so you have to ask a confused assistant who waddles around for a while before saying she’ll ask the manager, who is busy with a queue of irate consumers returning trash and arguing about special offers that didn’t scan as such when they got to the checkout.
Finally you have your stuff and in a murderous mood you join a long line for the single open till that has broken down while fat waddlers and spotty managers whine at each other and look at their watches. They’re people, you tell yourself. Say good evening and engage in sympathetic banter about what a long day it’s been. Waste of time. The best you get is a grunt, blank incomprehension when you mention the lovely evening sunlight and the interesting breeze that is blowing the bags away, no thanks for keeping them in a job so they can buy some more junk food to exacerbate the spots and improve the waddle, not even a goodbye.
Personally, I’m sad that the excellent hardware store where I could have done this in five minutes for about the same price and had a jolly amusing chat with a friendly person about how well Arsenal are doing this season – has long since closed to be replaced by yet another fucking money-grabbing optician charging a 600% mark-up. But we asked for this when we were seduced by having the spending power of proudly rising house values and were able to improve our own homes meaning that decent workmen had nowhere to go and the world filled up with last minute cowboys who rip you off and the only way to get a plumber these days is to be insured.

Ugly, greedy, slimy-suited capitalism 5, ordinary people and consumers, 0. Quality of life index, minus 30%.

Something new in Mozart interpretation?

Monday, 3. August 2009

While there is much to admire in the skill, dedication and courage of the people who bring us classical music, there is often much to deplore in their interpretive abilities, which tend to follow the meme of their era in quite a predictable way. Who would have really heard the essence of Bach’s Cello Suites before Pablo Casals, yet now everyone is at it, giving them more bite and resonance than they merit sometimes, because no one knows how they really “should” sound. So even a fairly staid version like the Yo Yo Ma is highly rated when it is tame compared to Casals himself and some of the recent Russian efforts.

If classical performers were photographers and we were using the concept of contrast we might differentiate between the high contrast, edgy, nervy, explorative, sometimes monochrome mode of interpretation and the blander, more colourful, more lyrical tendency that was very strong before what’s his name came along with the best-ever selling classical recording, his famous Four Seasons. Now every scrap of old Italian music, which used to be ignored or when played sound like metronomic Scarlatti, is being given the authentic oomph by tight little chamber orchestras with charismatic leaders, usually claiming to use period instruments to produce their sharp but grainy sounds. A good thing, probably, because Bach used to be boring when it was done as a babbling brook and Haydn still is so often turned into chocolate box that anything else is welcomed by listeners who are gasping for something with some sex about it.

By complete contrast, the classic German interpretations of Beethoven have always been far too harsh and it’s taken diverse foreigners and methods to find the inner lyricism, the two calling birds that are forever chirping at each other, even in his grandest pieces and intrinsically modernist late quartets.

Poor old Brahms seems to be the ultimate victim, a man for whom the peel of bells is the prime inner compass, a music that seems to fall heavily between whatever compass points professional musicians happen to be adjusting the direction in whatever epoch. They still haven’t mastered Brahms. And I wonder about Schubert, the great unpredictable, source of such sweet melodies and such God-awful, all-over-the-place discord at the same time.

And how about Mozart? So perfect in so many ways. Surely a genius that great can’t have intended so much slush to issue from his instant creations. Surely they can feel the scope for mood in all those endless sonatas and concertos that are so often reduced to technically proficient Muzac… Doesn’t Mozart, more than any composer, need a Nigel Kennedy to come along and kick some ass?

Well, in my view, it has finally happened, and the critics overwhelmingly agreed on giving it five stars. If you want to rethink Mozart so it has something in its trousers, have a listen to this from Kremer.

Fascinating interview about writing

Saturday, 1. August 2009

All sorts of insights into the death of reader and the eternal life of the writer:

A new way to hear Dvorak

Sunday, 26. July 2009

It is altogether possible that you didn’t even know Dvorak wrote some very moving works for solo piano that rival those of Grieg for poetic intensity.

Well now you do; these:ák-Complete-Piano-Music-Box/dp/B0009OALJM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1248635439&sr=1-1

Reviewed here:

Somf it, like Grieg’s famous Lyric Pieces, is repetitive. But much of it will stir the nature in your soul.

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