Posts from 23rd April 2004

Apr 04


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 290 views

DEAD MAN’S CHESS: (Three Questions abt Treasure Island pt 3)

#3 (and LAST): Why did the pirates not win?

Basically Treasure Island is an argument about the nature of authority: at sea*, this zone of lawless democracy, sovereignty is his who can seize and hold it (and God defend the right, as Kings and Revolutionaries both always insisted).** The unfolding story offers us a sequence of potential authority figures, each examined in turn and set aside.

i. Squire Trelawney is the representative of the conservative social order, who you tug yr forelock to (if you respect such things). He is treated as a bit of a fool from his first arrival: he is likeable enough, but no one looks up to him. The heirarchy-of-ageless-tradition is really worth very little to anyone.
ii. Dr Livesey is a man of skill and learning. He is respected: his authority is what he knows, and everyone, on all sides, defers to it. The pirates are quite comfortable allowing him come and dress their wounds during the period of truce: but the specialisation of his objective universality tells against his ability to help the pirates make the choices necessary to resolve their various conflicts and difficulties (the surgeon who amputated Silver’s leg had been a college-man who knew Latin ‘ ie his authority derived from the same things as Livesey’s ‘ but it didn’t save him from the gallows).
iii. Though Captain Smollett derives some of his authority from Trelawney-like tradition, and some from Livesey-like knowledge (he can read a chart and get the Hispaniola home), his is really an authority of narrow need. A pirate tolerates the idea that a ship under sail has to have someone taking the responsiblity for needful decisions ‘ eg steer to port not starboard NOW PLZ!! splice mainbrace when I give the order etc ‘ but is resentful of authoritarian discipline. Nor is it obvious that – outside his narrow area of expertise – Smollett is any good as a leader; his judgments aren’t great re Silver (pro OR con) and he manages to offend Trelawney immediately (Livesey acts as one expert acknowledging the expertise of others outside his own domain). Besides, when Smollett is hors de combat, this underlines the problem ‘ someone has to stand in for him (his chosen deputy being a drunk who vanishes overboard early in the voyage).
iv. Silver is the obvious choice. Charismatic, a manifestly clever charmer, an entertaining man with a plan, the ship’s cook is well-organised, foresightful, very well able to grasp the niceties of enlightened self-interest. In a sense, the pirates fail because they don’t trust him fully as leader (they mutiny way too early, against his advice, before they’d even found the treasure; he had intended to let Capt Smollett sail the whole expedition back into known waters, at which point the Respectable Treasure Seekers wd disappear over the ship’s rail and the renamed Hispaniola wd point prow at, well, who knows?) When things get too pear-shaped, black-spotwise, Silver carefully puts JimH in his debt by saving Jim’s life (and putting his own at forfeit). As a representative of libertarian revolutionary-bourgeois atomised free-market Nietzschean self-interest, he is immensely exciting and dynamic, but (ultimately) stymied by the inability of others like him ‘ other pirates ‘ to gamble accurately on the best games-theory strategy (which wd be TRUSTING him and vice versa), to realise his project. He has to compromise (ie in his terms become a careful canting moralist and/or sharing socialist) to survive at all…
v. At a meta-level, the pirates fail bcz they forget that they are in a children’s book in which JimH the boy-narrator will end up being triumphantly the smartest as well as nicest : that’s just the laws of the genre, and if you break them one will read about you!! (The pirates at one point accuse Jim of having forged the original map of Treasure Island, which of course a R.L.Stevenson he DID!!) But even ignoring our complicity in these processes of Literary Darwinism, JimH’s attraction to Silver signals from their first encounter that he is (as Silver himself says) a junior version of Silver. A quasi-pirate given insight into his mentor’s flaws of behaviour and judgment (he gets to eavesdrop on Silver twice: from the applebarrel during the planning of the betrayal, and then during a murder of a non-pirate crewmember on the island). Jim simply ignores everyone’s else’s orders, and follows his own counsel. He is inevitably revealed to have been wearing the mantle of authority from the outset, because everything that happens follows from his acts, his decisions. Look who we remember; that’s who we want to be: we think we want to be Silver, but actually we want to be Jim’s idea of himself being Silver.

*Not that TI is set ‘at sea’, strictly speaking: almost all the action is liminal, either in hearing of sea when on land or in sight of land when on water.
**The grounding of the American Revolution is simply that it had happened ‘ viz since neither vox populi nor vox dei had spoken convincingly out against it, it was meant to be, ie justified.

Fun with graphs

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 456 views

Fun with graphs

Totally ripped from mark H “blogging” it on ILE, but graph humour is always great. The rest of the paper is ok. It’s just graphs that crack me up. Every time. Also, why doesn’t this graph have a title? I would deduct a mark from the examiners if I had my way.

Oh no!

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 228 views

Oh no! All the publog gourmets have gone to the States for some kind of wedding thing! What are the rest of us to do? To the rescue, Cooking With Crisps!


Do You SeePost a comment • 972 views


evazev: why are there not more ghosts in soaps?
tokyo rosemary: there should be!
evazev: yes!!

Red Kite Farms Ltd have come up with Organic Slumber Bedtime Milk

Pumpkin Publog5 comments • 2,769 views

Red Kite Farms Ltd have come up with Organic Slumber Bedtime Milk. Described as, ‘whole-milk, ORGANICALLY produced at night on our farm in the Chiltern Hills which may help to promote revitalising sleep.’ Apparently it’s chock-full of MELATONIN, which ‘regulates our body clock and triggers our desire to sleep.’ I don’t think desire is the problem, but still. As a part-time but keen insomniac I was blinded to the fact that Slumber Bedtime Milk costs about six times the price of normal milk and hurried home to guzzle a pint and catch some zeds. It seemed to go well. It’s a nice bottle and it tastes great. I started to drop off, cherishing visions of a frilly-gowned milkmaid gently massaging the heaving udders of a contented cow under the stars. I was nearly gone when it occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity to make my long-awaited* debut on Pumpkin Publog. Slowly but surely the milkmaid took on the shape of Starry Sarah and the cow started turning, pixel by pixel, into Tim H’ Well, so much for a good night’s sleep.

The fact that Slumber Bedtime Milk is produced at night reminded me of the time my dear old dad started railing against the thoughtlessness of the local farmer because he could hear the milking machine buzzing away across the fields at about eleven at night. So one man’s melatonin-induced sleep is another man’s metallic teat-clanking night of gathering psychosis. Think on, Red Kite Farms, think on.

* long-awaited by me. I was so tired I forgot about Voll-Damm.

Numerological mysteries

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 313 views

Numerological mysteries: Three “not a nice number” says Anthony from Blue. My understanding is that Lee has been planning a solo release for ages – he was going on about an anti-war single last year to the distaste of leading politicos like George Michael.

I Resemble That Remark

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 253 views

I Resemble That Remark: Alexis Petridis turns link-slut as he identifies Wiley’s two fanbases – and heartily patronises both of them. I have banned myself from ILX during the working day but I can confidently expect a 200-post thread to be waiting for me later tonight.

(I’ve not actually heard the whole Wiley album yet – I downloaded it but then decided not to listen to it, I want to buy it, see if I can still get that old-fashioned release date object-rush.)


I Hate Music1 comment • 589 views


“Stick it up your bollocks. You’re not even Irish, you English cunt.”


I Hate Music5 comments • 1,555 views


Who says political hip-hop is dead? You just might if by some astonishing stroke of bad luck you hear “Great Britain” by the P Brothers, who have come out, both barrels blazing to give your complacent arse an injection of TRUTH. Starting with their name.

The song is a catalogue of Great Britain’s ills. The Queen “lives in a house just like Saddam Hussein / They’re both rich so I guess they must be the same” – even they don’t sound too sure of their logic there. Actually there is much to agree with in the song – house prices are shocking, gin prices more so, Britain is the pawn of the US (the only possible explanation for Eamon) and the fact that these guys “learned to rap … in Great Britain” is as big an indictment as you could ask for.

Even so the lyrics bear signs of not having been completely thought through. “Your prisons full of crooks, Great Britain!” cry the P Brothers and/or Scor-Zay-Zee. They sound very angry about it. You might think though that being full of crooks is rather the point of prisons: it’s what makes them, well, ‘prisons’ rather than ‘streets’ or ‘hospitals’. Maybe the P Brothers would prefer to see the prisons full of chancers instead. I certainly might.