Posts from October 2004
In October 2004 Blog Seven was a blog about fear.
A Final Fright
“In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving. It was gliding very slowly Northward. At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it. But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke. Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done. It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird: some bird of prey with a cruel, carved beak. It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were carved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails. It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it.”
(Picture by Pauline Baynes, text by C S Lewis, from The Last Battle (1956). I first saw this picture at age 4 and on my many later re-readings I would generally pause and turn two pages over at once so as not to encounter it.)
FREAKY TRIGGER 25 SCARIEST THINGS
1. Being bound to a table and experimented upon by a mad scientist
Yes, you read that right. That is, hands tied down, proven by mad science, the single scariest thing it is possible for the lobotomy enhanced human mind to contemplate. And if its a product of the methodology, then understand this: in the process of descending upon this horror, we considered all of the usual candidates, and plenty of unlikely ones, falling through circle after hellish circle of terror, as the ravages of alcohol opened a door in our minds that gave us sight of torments of doom I hope never to have to confront again, and NOTHING received the instant and vociferous unanimity that this did.
Why? Why? Dear God, why?
Perhaps because it is the Swiss Army Knife of fears: its imprisonment, its the terrible death of your beautiful self without the luxury of oblivion, its the castration of the laser advancing up between your legs, its forgetting who you are, its being fused with a spider, fed to the crocodile clips and quite possibly having a red hot poker thrust in your eye.
But its more, even more than this: its the final realisation that we are not some divinely definitive incarnation of existence, that our physical, mental and emotional selves aren’t combined into a super-corporeal being, at least, not for everyone. To this mad scientist – and he’ll look somewhere between that child in your school who wanted to see what insects did with only three of their legs, and the bullying teacher who was chained to grim misery by his own power complex – you are nothing but a biological machine that can be changed, programmed, or destroyed at whim.
Feeling hungry? That’ll be your gut he’s just emptying out. Headache? The jar your brain is being kept in might be too tight. And sorry, but your face is needed for the scientist’s daughter, who’s eyes are sans one at the moment.
But the body isn’t the most fearful part. Perhaps you’ve a shallow understanding that, although the universe is seen through your eyes you are only one of billions of organisms in it, but have you ever really been made to face this idea? Now you will: your precious memories, your sparkling personality, your glorious and intimate relationship with your fingers and toes are merely a configuration of neural connections in your head’s pulpy innards, and the person who knows this best is now standing over you with a scalpel in one hand and your scalp in the other.
A slice here, and that brilliant eloquence is forever drowned in a pool of your own saliva. An injection there, and your childhood disappears. Love, ambition, your very soul burnt away until you are the unquestioning zombie that the insane professor needs as his slave.
And you’ll do as he says, because if he does this, you will get the fear! The FEAR!
Mwah ha ha ha!
fear of desire/fear of completion:
i was 8 or 9 when i learnt my dad was going to die: that he had parkinson’s disease, which wz incurable, and that he wz unlikely to live more than another ten years. i don’t actually remember being told, which is possibly telling in itself: it feels like something i just somehow knew. my guess is: i sat quietly, absorbing or not absorbing the news, and processed it as someone small is likely to, by putting it all inside on some emtoional-mental shelf, and not thinking about it, or rather, not thinking about what it meant. as a family, we coped: well, i think. we became expert at living in the moment, enjoying today, putting off the deadly future until it arrived – don’t live in dread; something will come up! and of course what i learnt at 8 or 9 wz wrong, at least in the specifics. my dad is going to die and so am i and so are you, but it’s now very nearly 40 years since he was diagnosed, and he’s going strong. something DID come up – l-dopa was synthesised in 1968.
as a tactic, denial paid off. as a strategy, it comes with a cost. already aged 10-11-12, i wz shy abt declaring myself: part of the lesson i think i absorbed was, no WANTING. to announce your interests and needs and aims and dreams is to banish them, to trash them: if we were keeping dad alive by just taking his presence for granted, then by logic WHAT YOU ASK FOR YOU WILL NEVER GET. And the other part, increasingly, and by my mid-30s i think nearly pathologically, was an inability to finish things: to finish things i wz reading or writing; to finish pots of jam or cartons of milk; to dot the final i and cross the final t: the way i wrote and the way i lived had become a blizzard of ways to begin the next thing before the last wz over. including a whole raft (at least in my writing) of mini-tactics of faux completion: using deadlines – the demands of others- as an excuse for triage, i have never handed in anything which didn’t contain at least one paragraph, one idea, one strand or aspect which i secretly knew i’d just abandoned in mid-flow, not worked through, not completed, not tidied up into coherence or non-contradiction. sometimes it wd be cut; sometimes left. komikal exercise for my longer-term readers: track down and identify this section, in anything and everything i’ve ever had published!
i planned to post this the moment i saw that ‘fear’ was blog seven’s theme, several weeks back: but of course i’ve left it till the final morning, and spent this last month not thinking abt what i wd write. i can actually (sort of) do it at all bcz the spell is broken – my first book is pubished next week, and my mother, very dangerously ill two months ago, is out of hospital and off the danger list. intellectually i know that – while she is still an invalid; while there’s still the possibility of dangerous relapse – this is NOT going to have been caused by my arrival at the point i first imagined setting out for the moment i wz aware that i loved reading more than anyone round me: the point, in other words, of “becoming a writer”. completing a book did NOT bring about her hospitalisation, and, come what may, whatever health dangers face her are NOT going to have been caused by finishing this paragraph and publishing this post [insert full stop here]
THE ULTIMATE FUTURE SHOCK – by Al Ewing, scanned and uploaded by me. Enjoy!
London Film Festival: the hot news is, fuck the London Film Festival. It’s a kind of test case for reception theory: I used to think, sponsors be damned, here is an opportunity to watch lots of skill films. But such is the intensity of branding and general Murdoch fannydangle that my old position is no longer tenable. I’m not going to play the viral game and say what the ‘hot’ films are. I saw some good films and some bad, but I would have seen them eventually, in my own time, and without pressure at some point anyway. No film is ‘discovered’ at the London Film Festival: most of them have been bought for distribution already. This is true of the Cambridge Film Festival, which I boosted here. But that had charm, and an enthusiastic audience: this has awful non-fans. Last night I overheard a conversation along the lines of ‘I kind of got confused between [Faye Wong] and [Gong Li]’ — from someeone who had seen ’2046′ already at Cannes, ie who was likely High Up in the film world. Possibly I like going for days out (ie to Cambridge) more than to films. I dunno. Martin Luther was right.
It’s possible if you decide to go wildly insane on us that you cd hunt down actual real grown-up discussions, pro and con, of the US system of choosing the President, the loved-and-hated Electoral College – and even read and absorb them all. The case that TMFD must make, of course, is that, whatever its creakily baroque drawbacks from the limited perspective of political science, it’s a system that allows for campaigns of tactics and strategy even more addictively detailed than Risk!: considered purely from the POV of gaming, it allows the fan-observer to examine and dissect – in advance and afterwards – every possible managerial decision and player move: eg “Michigan has come into view by Bush because of Kerry’s weakness among Catholics. In Michigan, Catholics comprise about 5% more of the voting population than the rest of the nation. However (and this is likely underpolled), there is also about a 5% bump over the national average of Arab-descent voters in Michigan, which has flipped from being pro-Bush to now pro-Kerry by a lopsided margin.” And from a non-gaming perspective, one of the potentially radical elements here is that fan-observers are now also (courtesy the interweb) more than ever potential participants: not just ahem “stakeholders”, but fund-raisers, agitators, commentator-critics, blue-sky imagineers, curators of the soul of a political project and/or prankish (re)movers of the goalposts…
freaky trigans w.better publogistical memories than mine will recall the name of the pub where we were canvassed by ‘kippers (= they shyly passed across to our table some rubbish leaflets, quickly leaving the pub before we cd begin our gleeful mockery of same): anyway the only excuse i have for dredging up this snippet of ancient taproom legend is it allows me to pass on this account of more recent events in that hapless political quarter – i’m not sure that the LRB’s haut-en-bas scorn here is that much more edifying (or fair) than our kneejerk geezaesthesis was back then, but still you can’t help enjoying the founder’s horrified summary of the current make-up of the party he left long ago: “aged xenophobes” and “meaningless fuddy-duddies with very little intelligence”