Another Friday Dies

So, another week gone by, and I don’t feel like I’ve achieved as much as I should. Which is, in its own way, kind of odd, because I actually got a fair bit done this week. I’m back to doing stuff over at my other blog The Centre Cannot Hold again, getting back into the swing of things there, which is a nice feeling, because it means that I’m putting at least one new thing, however small, into the world each day. Plus there’s the assorted reviews I’ve been putting up here.

I’ve spent a lot of this week listening to various new podcasts. Some I liked, and I may wind up talking about them here at some point, others I didn’t, and I’ll never mention them again. I like to like things, after all, so when I dislike a thing, I try to put it down the memory hole (which may not be entirely healthy, but what the hell). This blog isn’t a place for criticising things, but a place for celebrating them.

For some reason, despite all my best efforts, my body keeps resetting to being almost completely nocturnal (I have literally seen about an hour of sunlight each day for most of this week), which is deeply annoying, because the world that has jobs in it doesn’t work that way, and I like having money. (To say nothing of my creditors, who also like having money, and would like very much for me to give it back to them. Sorry guys, I know it’s taking forever, but it is happening.) Still, there are worse things than being nocturnal, although this being winter, it does mean that my waking hours are in the colder half of the day.

Fortunately, now as always, darkness makes me smile.

Uncritical Criticism

I’m both awesome and sucky at being a critic.

Awesome, because I’m good at seeing the flaws and the merits of a given work, and explicating them simply.

Sucky, because I’m a little too good at forgiving the flaws. If I enjoy something enough, I can forgive a lot. I can forgive the egregious plot hole in “Seveneves”, despite the fact that it annoyed the hell out of me for the first 500 or so pages of the book, for example.

I tend to try to view things in the context in which they were created – I don’t judge an Eighties sitcom on its gender role assumptions the way I’d judge one made today; I try to ignore the racism in 19th century (and earlier) novels (with mixed success); and so on. There are a few things I draw the line on, but in general, I have higher expectations of works created closer to the present time or day.

I also try to judge things not by an objective standard of artistic quality, but instead by the range of their particular form (i.e. I don’t compare a sitcom episode to “Apocalypse Now” or “Macbeth”). I’m quite comfortable with something being a solid but unexceptional example of its kind (yes, “Watchmen” is a better comic than say, “Marvel 1602”, but they both have their charms), which is a useful ability if you watch American sitcoms.

Experience has made me expect more of some creators than others, and so I hold them to higher standards – I expect more of Dan Harmon than Chuck Lorre, or of Kieron Gillen than Dan Slott, or of Jo Walton than Mike Resnick – but than doesn’t stop me from enjoying at least some of the works of all these people. (NB. “The Big Bang Theory” still sucks, but I enjoy “Mom”.)

I like to like things, in short.

(Thank you, Miles Stokes, for that wonderful phrase.)

And that’s going to be with this blog is about from now on. I’ll be writing about things I like and why I like them. Probably with occasional outbreaks of more personal stuff, but mostly just fansquee. Be seeing you.

My toe in your water

It’s hard to know quite what to write in this space. Given the opportunity to say anything at all, I find that rather than having everything to say, I have nothing to say. Nothing I am sure of. Who might read this? How might they react? This is public, after all, and I have even less control over who sees it than I do on Facebook (although I do have room for a lot more nuance here, which I like).

But instead I am careful, and cautious, and all those other words that sound like one is mature and adult but actually mean “afraid”.

Well. Perhaps admitting that fear is a necessary step to over-coming it. I’d like that.

Here comes another winter…

Not the most upbeat of titles, I suppose, for a first post on a new blog, but an accurate one. It’s May 31 again, and the autumn is almost gone. A few leaves are still on the branches of deciduous trees, but they’ll by gone in a week or so. Now comes the grey, and the rain, and the swift, early sunsets.

It’s on this day each year I like to come to the little stairway that hangs off the side of the ramp that carries High St from Westgarth up the side of Rucker’s Hill, to Northcote and beyond. It’s my habit to watch the city, as the sun goes down again.

It looks like this

It’s a habit born of a few things: I’ve spent a lot of my life in Northcote and environs; significant dates encourage introspection in me, and, of course, I have a love of the music of The The. This song, in particular:

Matt Johnson’s music and lyrics will always have a place in my heart (I imagine them as the soundtrack to Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer, among other things), but this song is special.

Each May 31, I like to perch at the top of the stairs, watch the city fade into night, and evaluate just how we’re doing. Johnson wrote the song talking about Thatcher’s Britain, but the political and economic ideas of Thatcher and her ilk her never really gone away, and the current Australian government in particular seems guided by them.

Sometimes, it almost feels as if they use the lyrics of Heartland as a checklist:

  • Cut the heart from the welfare state – check
  • Wars on the television, never to be explained – check
  • All the people frightened – CHECK

So alas, this will be yet another winter of long shadows and high hopes…

…still, as Warren Ellis reminded us, “the future is inherently a good thing, and we move into it one winter at a time.”

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll journey into it with me.

Nolite timere

The Latin motto “nolite timere” translates as “be not afraid”. It is the personal motto of Archbishop George Pell, three words said repeatedly by Jesus in the Bible, notably at Mark 5:36, where he also amplified “Be not afraid, only believe.” As admonitions go, it falls a little short of “trust me” or “this will be our secret”, but it has a similarly child molest-y vibe.

Quite apt for Pell, who has definitely had an interesting week. His accustomed air of saintly naivete has been tested to the absolute limit by his four hours of testimony before a Victorian Parliamentary enquiry this week. Despite it all, he comes across as still convinced that the Catholic Church is being singled out, and that this is all just persecution.

Never mind that, as he himself told the enquiry, there were numerous coverups, and that he himself had participated in some of them. Never mind that, in numerous other cases – notably those of Gerald Risdale, Ted Dowlan and other Catholic clergy in Ballarat in the Seventies – he claimed an ignorance so profound that he can only be regarded as either terrifyingly incompetent at his assigned jobs or the most mendacious liar currently active in the Australian media. Never mind that Pell is absolutely infamous for his lack of empathy to those whose lives are destroyed by his actions and inactions. Never mind that he still has the temerity to threaten Parliament with dire consequences if they continue their current investigations. Never mind that he claims that there is “no moral obligation” to increase the size of compensation payouts, because obviously, we should all take the word of a man with the demonstrated morality of His Eminence, George Pell.

None of this matters, because as far as can be told from Pell’s statements, what’s really important here is the good name of the Church. Pell’s major defence of the coverups, after all, is that they were motivated by fear of scandal. The fact that coverups are, in and of themselves, scandalous, seems not to register with him. The fact that, in lying and bullying, he’s betraying the very same ideals that his service in the church is supposedly based on, every bit as much (and every bit as damagingly) as those who carry out the actual abuse.

I’ve spent most of this week writhing in disgust and rage, wishing there was more I could do, fearing for all the children still in the clutches of an organisation that increasingly seems to think that all it’s done wrong is get caught.

One of my most cherished ideals is that of the presumption of innocence. I think it’s a basic foundation of any civil society, and I have since I was old enough to think about this stuff. (Hell, one of my greatest regrets is a friendship I blew up one night when in the heat of the moment I forgot to be guided by this ideal.)

That said, I’d like to see every single member of the Catholic clergy in this country dragged before the bench and asked to testify. Asked to swear on a goddamned Bible that they were going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because I’m sick of the child-molesting elephant in the room – and I’m sick of it throwing its weight around.

I have a personal stake in this, you see. If you click here, and scroll down to the testimony of “Jamie” (not his real name, and I won’t be telling you what is)…

…I knew Jamie. I was in the same class as him at Cathedral College. I even attended the confirmation ceremony he mentions – some members of my extended family are still involved with that particular parish, in fact. I didn’t know about it at the time, but even then, there were rumours about Ted Dowlan. And that was just in the one school – we didn’t know anything about his history.

Unfortunately, that was all I knew when Jamie called me up, shortly before the case came to court. He asked me to testify, and I had to apologetically tell him that I didn’t know anything except hearsay. The most help I could give was help him get in touch with other boys from our class, whom we both hoped would know more.

Even now, nearly twenty years later, just thinking about this – the mere mention of Dowlan’s or Jamie’s names – fills me with outrage for the past, and fear for the future. “Nolite timere”? I don’t think so.

And so I freely confess that this particular post comes from a place of absolute hatred. Of contempt and loathing, and of rage and fear…

But not, I think, from a place of factual inaccuracy.

Once upon a time…

…there was magic in my life. Or at least, there was a sense, a feeling, something so hard to describe that it might as well be called magic. Even now, I find it difficult to put into words. Often, the best I can manage is to turn to one of a select group of friends and say “You know, you were there” (and oh, how that group has dwindled over the years). Alternately, if the lyrics of My Friend The Chocolate Cake’s “A Midlife’s Tale” resonate with you, well, I don’t think a further explanation is needed.

It was a combination of things, really. A part of it was that I was in love at the time (and I mean madly, passionately in love), but that’s far, far from all of it, for the feeling only started to leave then – it didn’t die with that relationship. Part of it was youth, part of it was adventure, part of it was the sense of almost limitless possibility. And part of it, possibly the biggest part, it now seems to me, was the sense of meaning. It was a time when, to paraphrase Papa Hemingway, “this was a good world, and worth fighting for.”

Without that, it sometimes feels like I am simply going through the motions of a life, not living one. So I suppose it’s fair to say that it’s the life I had that I miss, or at least, aspects of it. I do not believe that it’s the love I had that I miss; I feel that I’ve made my peace with that, however unsatisfactory a peace I may at times find it. (The friends I mentioned above may disagree, but that is how I see it.)

In fact, I don’t actually remember that much of that relationship, ironically. Intense emotion makes it difficult to form memories, and frankly, I’ve had lengthy hallucinations I can recall in greater detail than I can those months. And while I’m aware that a goodly part of the magic I now miss was simply due to that intensity of emotion, I know that that wasn’t all of it.

I wish I had it back, I truly do. Even now, twenty or so years later. And I don’t think of it as gone or lost so much as misplaced. Every so often, I touch it again, for an hour or two if I’m lucky, and I know that it’s there. That there’s still a path to the centre of the labyrinth, could I but find it again.

And I guess the reason I’m telling you this is that, as of last night, I am back on the hunt for it.

Twelve and Thirteen

I see a lot of people out there saying how 2012 sucked for them, and an equal number saying how it rocked for them. That must be nice. To have a memory of a year that you feel strongly about.

To me, 2012 was a nothing year. Good things happened and bad things happened, but none so very great in either direction (not in my life, at least). I made progress on a bunch of projects, I acheived a greater understanding of who I am and what I want, but in none of these was there a sense of any great accomplishment. (Especially the latter, which often felt like either I had finally stopped resisting realizing a thing, or in other cases, that I was the last one to figure it out.)

I’ll look back on 2012 with a sense of disappointment and embarassment, both coming from the same source: I did not dare. I did not risk. And conversely, in other cases, I did not perservere. I did not endure.

These are all failings that I’m thoroughly sick of, so let me tell you right now what’s planned for 2013.

Starting next Sunday will be a medium-sized project, The Annotated Ten Commandments, which will last ten weeks, and which will then be self-published in various forms. That self-publication will not go un-accompanied: in the near future, I’ll be dusting off my old company name and re-purposing it to do the work I really want to do. There will be a website and everything, and the first thing it will do is sell three books of mine that I imagine will fail to endear me to a great many people. There will be another website for another set of publications, which I will also tell you more about in due course. And this is just the start, this is the stuff that’s going to carry me through the next quarter or so. Later in the year will see at least one more book, and definitely some other stuff – although at the moment, I’m still tossing up various ideas. As I settle on things, you’ll hear about them here, though.

There’s also the continuing revision and updating of this site, notably the various Timelines, but also (when I can find the time) the Keating! annotations. There may also be some new features on this site – again, I’m still deciding what to do when, and you’ll hear about it here when I do.

A year from now, when I look back at 2013, I expect to feel very bloody tired – but also, very satisfied (and hopefully, even more ambitious for 2014).

I hope you won’t be bored 😉

I cannot wear your White Ribbon

I have something to say about White Ribbon, but it occurs to me that I may well be misunderstood, in either my words or my intentions, in saying it. So I have decided that there is a certain sentence that I will repeat, in bold, in every single paragraph of this post. It is this: I am not advocating violence against women.

Continue reading “I cannot wear your White Ribbon”