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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Greatest Living Wicklowman

Dara O Briain on religion in his show last night: 'It's just the Bible. It's not gospel.'

On the benefits of having a Nasa-approved mattress in the event of his bedroom suddenly experiencing weightlessness: 'I'm being expelled into the vast empty reaches of outer space. But I'm so well rested.'

I was the man who shouted 'Uzbekistan'. This must be my Philip Larkin 'Broadcast' moment: 'my voice, tiny in all that air, shouting "Uzbekistan"'.

Autum of Discontent

7-year-old poet Autum Ashante has been annoying touchy white folk in the States with her poem 'White Nationalism Put U in Bondage', in which she compares Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin (?) to 'vampires'. At a school reading recently she led black students in a recitation of the 'Black Child's Pledge', asking white students to remain seated throughout.

Asked his opinion of the child poet Mino Drouet, Jean Cocteau answered: Tous les enfants sont poètes sauf Minou Drouet.

Ring Lardner

Michael Schmidt quotes Ring Lardner in his StAnza lecture to answer Neil Astley's allegations in last year's lecture about the 'poetry police': 'Shut up, he explained.'


Discussion in today's Guardian of whether a severed head can remain conscious.

Sentenced to death after the French revolution, Antoine Lavoisier arranged to have his severed head picked up and the number of blinks he made counted. He got to between fifteen and twenty.

Surrealist refusenik Georges Bataille and some like-minded friends founded a society called Acéphale, which they hoped to get started with a good old Jacobinical head-hacking. Lots of them volunteered to be the victim, but no one wanted to be the hacker.

In the Russian town of Samara recently (and wasn't that the name of the evil girl in Ring?) someone who complained to the police about being roughed up by a local heavy was abducted and brought to a wood, where we was forced to witness another heavy behead an Uzbek illegal immigrant, then made to do the same to another Uzbek, the idea being that this might discourage any further trips to the police. He has not been charged with murder.

The only cheerful beheading story I can think of is that of Mike the headless chicken. Mike lived in Fruita, Colorado, and one September day in 1945 was about to become dinner. Off came Mike's head, but (adopts reassuring voiceover style) Mike forgot to die. He appeared entirely oblivious of his headlessness, even attempting to preen his feathers with his absent beak. He became a fairground attraction and died some time in 1947 of an accidental mucus build-up in his opening.

He is commemorated in his home town each 17 May with a 'Mike the the Headless Chicken Day'.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bamako, Mali

There's a nice song about a hippo on the new Toumani Diamaté album, Toumani Diamaté's Symmetric Orchestra. A European hunter kills the villagers' favourite hippo and the women sing a lament for him.

Then they stuff him and put him on a traffic island.

Bamako, its capital city, means 'crocodile', but Mali means 'hippopotamus'.

This man's middle name means 'donkey': it's that other great Malian musician, Ali Farka Touré.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Crossing Continents

As a very angry bed-wetter I've always found the Radio 4 programme Crossing Continents a disappointing experience, I must say.

Thanks to Cliff for this one.

O Canada

You may not have an Abu Ghraib, you may not have a Guantanamo Bay, but you sure as hell know how to beat the crap out of a bunch of fucking seals.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Ian Hamilton Finlay, 1925-2006

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Yeah yeah yeah

Speaking through tears to Bishop Tutu at the Chelsea FC Truth and Reconciliation Committee, aka tonight's post-match interview on Match of the Day, Didier Drogba confessed: 'Yeah yeah yeah I dived... it is part of the game... I did not dive.... I play my game.'

Reduced Heaney

We've all heard of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, but reading the new Seamus Heaney book, District and Circle, it struck me it might be time for a Reduced Heaney equivalent. True to its Tube-themed title, not a few poems in District and Circle make for slow commutes with a few too many stops along the way for comfort. Here are my Reduced Heaney versions:

A Shiver
Hammers: aren't they just great for hitting things very hard? They most certainly are.

To Pablo Neruda in Tamlaghtduff
I may name-check Pablo Neruda but I'm still the same country boy I've always been. Neruda/still the same country boy. Neruda/still the same country boy.

The Tollund Man in Springtime
That body in the bog in Denmark is still there. Scary! But reassuring too.

A Clip
As well as farmers, thatchers and blacksmiths when I was young there were also barbers. Bless that barber.

Out of this World
Good old Czeslaw, he loved all that mystical Catholic stuff. I love it too. Even if it's not actually true.

District and Circle
I take the tube. But I'm still a country lad at heart.

Reduced Reduced Heaney: wait for the paperback.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Don't Trust Whales

Lots about whales in this month's issue of Viz, as not pictured above.

According to the ever-amusing Profanisaurus, a Thames Whale is 'A large turd which appears in the pan without any explanation, and which is reluctant to return to the sea.'

In 'Have Your Say' M Thrumpton of Treadwell preaches caution: 'I don't trust whales. They have too many teeth and they grin like paedophiles.' Lucy Pencilbox of Okehampton proposes 'a special park in the middle of the Thames with a memorial fountain [for Wilma the Thames whale] and an underwater book of condolence'.

Elsewhere, in Yannick Noah's Ark, whales and wasps go at it flipper to mandible. David Attenborough comments: 'Whales remain one of the hardest members of the animal kingdom to swat with a newspaper.'

Sean Hitler

Another old Dublin urban myth is that Hitler had a brother or was it a nephew called Sean who worked on the railways for CIE, in Inchicore I think. The whole master of the German folk and attendant world empire business just wasn't for him. Something to do with the pension scheme looking a bit dodgy.

No doubt he's fondly remembered in the pub that Twenty Major drinks in.

Monsters of the Solitudes

Beckett fact no. 57.

'I am a monster of the solitudes', the narrator of How It Is observes in a zoomorphic mood. We've had parrots and dogs before, so here are some more Beckettian beasties.

1) All manner of creatures from London Zoo in 'Serena II': a mangy boa, a condor, elephants and an adder.
2) Sloths, in the French poem bois seul: 'sors tes yeux se détournent-ils sur les roseaux /se taquient-ils ou les aïs.' The aïs are the sloths, and no I don't really know what they're doing there either.
3) A llama, an alpaca and even a humming bird in How It Is.
4) The Battersea Park sheep in Murphy, now alas departed.
5) The mole in Rough for Radio II that Fox soaps, rinses and dries before replacing in his chamber with a nice feed of grubs.
6) 'What I believe the Germans call a Schimmel' in From an Abandoned Work, i.e. a completely white horse. Though always 'on the look out for a snail, slug or worm' he 'simply will not go' out of his way if they happen to be in it. They have been warned.
7) A centaur, in the Luis G. Urbina poem 'The Centaur's Bath' from the Anthology of Mexican Poetry. Given to 'rude caresses'.
8) The Yeatsian bird among the deepening shades from 'The Tower' that gives its title to the late television play, ... but the clouds... .
9) A smelly decomposed hedgehog in a box in Company.
10) The chess-playing chimpanzees that almost, but didn't quite get to feature on the cover of Murphy. There is an online Beckett quiz that asks if the chimps he wanted for the cover were masturbating, playing chess or scratching. Being effective multi-taskers, there's no reason why they shouldn't have been doing all three. I'm reminded, though, of the chimp in Dublin Zoo who was condemned from the altar by the Archbishop of Dublin for his habit of indulging in the pleasures of the palm in front of bemused schoolchildren. Fact or fiction? The Unnamable mentions that it's possible to masturbate to the age of seventy, after which it becomes mere habit, whatever that means. I don't remember him comparing himself to a chimp, though he does say at one point on the whole human v. animal thing (paraphrasing the Louis Armstrong joke about folk music) 'it's human, a lobster couldn't do it'). Though maybe a centaur could.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Whole Misery

Beckett fact no. 56.

'the whole misery diagnosed undiagnosed misdiagnosed', Beckett calls the panoply of human suffering in the poem 'Ooftish'. Some diseases in Beckett:

1) Acathisia. The inability to sit down. Cooper's in Murphy is 'deep-seated and of long standing.'
2) Duck's disease, otherwise panpygoptosis. Afflicts Rosie Dew, also in Murphy, grotesquely distending her backside.
3) Bright's disease and Graves' disease. As featured in Murphy's horoscope. The latter should be Graves's disease. Christopher Ricks notices this mistake in Beckett's Dying Words, but from the page references he gives I can only presume he is quoting from the original, i.e. 1938 Routledge edition, average price on Abebooks £3500. Makes you sick, doesn't it, though not with Graves's disease. Graves's disease can lead to endogenous hyperthyroidism, tachycardia and nervous excitability. Bright's disease affects the kidneys and wreaks havoc with your pee.
4) Ectropion. A rolling outwards of the eyelids, as suffered by Murphy's Mr Endon.
5) Korsakoff syndrome. Paralysis of eye movements, ataxia and mental confusion. Still in the MMM we find 'a hypomanic teaching slosh to a Korsakoff's syndrome.'
7) Dupuytren's contracture. Affects the hands. Beckett suffered from this in old age. There is a Rue Dupuytren down the road from the Hôtel Trianon on the Rue de Vaugirard, where Beckett wrote Dream. Shakespeare & Co. opened there in 1919 before moving to its better-known site on Rue de l'Odéon. 'A''s hands in Catastrophe are 'crippled' with 'fibrous degeneration'.
8) Haemophilia. An exclusively male disorder but 'not in this work', according to a footnote in Watt explaining its prevalence among female members of the Lynch clan.
9) 'cancer angina it is all one to us /cough up your T.B. don't be stingy', the illness-ridden 'Ooftish' (again) invites.
10) Diarrhoea is a disease but constipation isn't. Explain that one to me. The narrator of First Love spends long enough in the bathroom for his family to empty his room, but having described all the symptoms of his constipation asks 'Or am I confusing it with diarrhoea?'

Monday, March 20, 2006

It's a Carrot

Castrated male swine raised for slaughter. But first, some sugarbeet pulp. Mm... sugarbeet pulp

Beckett fact no. 55.

No one eats all that much in Beckett, I must say. Beckett's own favourite dish was liver and onions, we learn from Beckett Remembering /Remembering Beckett. If only to keep him off the liver, let's have some Beckettian fruit and veg:

1) 'How's the carrot?' Vladimir asks Estragon in Godot. 'It's a carrot', comes the reply.
2) 'A turnip, I know roughly what a turnip is like', the Unnamable says during his stint advertising Marguerite's restaurant, 'a carrot too, particularly the Flakkee, or Colmar Red.'
3) Bananas and gooseberries in Krapp's Last Tape. 'Fatal things for a man with my condition, he says of the first', and 'Picking gooseberries' his lady friend says of how she came by the scratch on her thigh.
4) We pass through life as sunlight through cucumbers, we read in Dream, with a hat-tip to Swift's Balnibarbi Academy. That's a yes to sunlight through cucumbers, but a no to Balzac's 'clockwork cabbages', roundly condemned in the same book.
5) Mary the parlour-maid in Watt, addicted to onions (but not liver) and peppermints.
6) Mrs Lambert's lentils in Malone Dies. Must make a pleasant change from all her husband's stuck pigs. The Lamberts are the Louis in the French version: Lambert + Louis = Balzac's Louis Lambert. More clockwork cabbages!
7) Speaking of porkers, 'We now feed our pigs on sugarbeet pulp. It is all the same to them' ('Censorship in the Saorstat').
8) 'the mouth resigned to an olive and given a cherry' (How It Is).
9) This one is cheating, but in Dream Belacqua calls the Smeraldina his 'Brussels Braut'.
10) This one is cheating too, but when Nagg snaps T'occupe pas de mes moignons in Fin de Partie (moignons being stumps) he is punning on the colloquial French way of telling people to mind their own business, T'occupe pas de mes oignons.

Dead Zone

Elena is a biker who rides into the Chernobyl 'dead zone' on her Kawasaki and takes eerie photographs of abandoned swimming pools, ferris wheels, wild horses, and obstinate peasants who persist in living in villages that no longer appear on updated maps. See more of her pictures here:

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heaven and Hell

Yes I know, but it looks damn like him

Slavoj Žižek writes in the New York Times:

During the Seventh Crusade, led by St Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked why she carried the two bowls, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them: 'Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God.'

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Something Wrong There

Fat cheque? Fat-check? Fact-check?

Beckett (non-)fact(s) no. 54.

I've already moaned on about some of the error-ridden editions Beckett has been lumped with, but seeing the letters page in today's Guardian I was reminded of the amusing non-facts his biographers have tried to inflict on him too. In the first edition of her biography Deirdre Bair describes Suzanne Dumesnil-Deschevaux happening upon the recently stabbed Beckett on a Paris street in 1938. What a romantic way to meet your future husband! Or it would have been if it had happened, which it didn't. In the proofs of his biography, Anthony Cronin takes seriously the old canard about Beckett having pretended to be born on April 13 1906, rather than May 13, the date that appears on his birth certificate. Except that if he'd checked the birth announcements in the Irish Times he could have seen for himself that Beckett was indeed born in April. He didn't do this, but did check an early copy of James Knowlson's Damned to Fame, in which the false date theory is put to bed. At the launch of his book Cronin mentioned to the journalist Bruce Arnold about having corrected his May 13 mistake. A curious Arnold compared his proof copy and the published text and found that over and over again Cronin had altered the text to bring it into line with Damned to Fame. And lucky he did too, though it would have been nice for him to run an acknowledgement that 'This book was full of errors, which a quick read of James Knowlson's rival biography has thankfully spared me, oh and I've also lifted lots of other material too.' Read all about it in Bruce Arnold's 'From Proof to Print: Anthony Cronin's Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist Reconsidered' in Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd'hui 8. And then there's Edna O'Brien. 'You can't go on, I can't go on, I will go on', she claims to quote from The Unnamable in last Saturday's Guardian. Beckett had 'nothing to express with or from or towards, except the obligation to express', she counter-claims to what he actually said to Georges Duthuit. 'Words were my only love and not many', she keeps on misquoting. She describes Belacqua's name as taken from one of Dante's 'unrepentant sinners', despite his residence in Purgatory. She places between quotation marks 'what reads like a drunken version of Beckett's words', Richard Cope writes to the Guardian to say. Her short book on Joyce (let’s not call it a biography) was full of mistakes too. But ah sure aren’t we all Irish geniuses together, Sam the genius, Sam my great friend, Sam the single most famous line in whose fiction I can’t even remember.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Only a Pawn in Their Game

So I said to the Rabbi, I said to him, so that's what you do with all those foreskins! (applause, uproarious laughter)

Next time you drop in on Grand Ayatollah Sistani don't, whatever you do, suggest a good old game of chess. He's decided it's an 'absolutely forbidden' game. According to his webiste:

It is not permissible, because it is a means for Lahv (debauchery) and gambling. Many traditions have been reported from the Holy Prophet and the Imams (a.s.) that prohibit playing chess. Moreover, when we do not know the reason behind the forbiddenness of an act, we are bound to obey in absolute obedience. There is a reason for it, but we do not know it and when we do not know it, it does not mean that we should not abide by it.

The Geography I Had

So one Inuit says to the other Let's go to Nova Zembla this summer and the other says I'm having Nunavut

Beckett fact no. 53.

Ten Beckett tourist destinations

1) Nova Zembla (How It Is). Site of world's biggest ever thermonuclear explosion (Soviet test, 1961).
2) Cuq-Toulza. Somewhere even Watt's fame has yet to penetrate (Mercier and Camier). Between Toulouse and Castres.
3) Condom. On the Baise, as we learn in Molloy. Used to be a French rugby player of that name. Though 'condom' in French is 'capote', as Gore Vidal likes to remember when thinking of how his non-friend Truman Capote went down in France, i.e. not very well.
4) Würzburg. The Unnamable views a Tiepolo ceiling there.
5) Enna. Sicilian mountaintop city, as mentioned in the French poem jusque dans la caverne ciel et sol.
6) Australia. If the Unnamable were to shit, his turds would come out there.
7) Saône-et-Loire. 'Bons vins et Lamartine, a champaign land for the sad and serious', Belacqua boasts to Winnie in 'Fingal'.
8) The Holy Land. 'That's where we'll go, I used to say, that's where we'll go for our honeymoon', Estragon reminisces in Godot.
9) 'Why need I go to London', Neary asks Wylie in Murphy, 'why not Bray?' Why not indeed.
10) Bundoran. 'On Doubleday Doran Less Oxy than moron /You've a mind like a whore on /The way to Bundoran', as Beckett wrote of a publisher who'd rejected Murphy.

Odd Couple

'Stop leaving me little notes. It took me hours to figure out that 'F.U.' stood for friendly ungulate.'

Centenarian tortoise and tsunami orphan hippo 'mother and son' couple (despite tortoise being male) at odds over who's Jack Lemmon and who's Walter Matthau in forthcoming Fox India reality TV show.

Ahem... ahem...

Coughs look like THIS

I was at a poetry reading the other day and when the reader said she might be a bit hoarse with a sore throat (pause to sip a glass of wine), a ripple of polite laughter passed through the audience. Would you laugh if I told you that? If your plumber did? Why do people laugh at the unfunniest things at poetry readings? I can come round to your place and cough all evening, if that's your idea of fun.


Normally submissions to literary magazines are either accepted or rejected. When editing Horizon, Cyril Connolly pioneered a third way: the submission which is accepted for publication but never appears.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Dog's Moments

Beckett fact no. 52.

Ten dogs in Beckett

1) Rosie Dew's dog Nelly in Murphy. Eats Murphy's biscuits. All except the ginger one.
2) 'A dog came in the kitchen /and stole a crust of bread. /Then cook up with a ladle /And beat him till he was dead', as Vladimir sings in Godot.
3) Sophie Lousse's dog, knocked down by Molloy and buried in her garden.
4) 'Constipation is a sign of health, in pomeranians' (Molloy).
5) The dog in the park in Mercier and Camier. '"They begin astraddle", said Camier, "and finish arsy-versy."'
6) Hamm's toy dog in Endgame. 'The sex goes on at the end.'
7) Skom Skum in How It Is: 'it licked my genitals Skom Skum run over by a dray it hadn't all its wits'. And also the dog earlier on in How It Is that turns up again in the fragment broken off to form L'image, the text 'translated' by Beckett as 'The Image' (i.e. not translated by Beckett at all) that turned up in As the Story Was Told.
8) The dreaming dog of 'Serena II': 'there shall be no loss of panic between a man and his dog /bitch though he be.'
9) The Lynch twins' dog in Watt, fed Mr Knott's scraps.
10) We had the dog in Krapp's Last Tape before, so instead there's always the absent dog in Rough for Theatre II which provides C with such entertainment: 'He sat doubled in two, his hands on his knees, his legs astraddle, his head sunk. For a moment I wondered if he was not vomiting. But on drawing nearer I could see he was merely scrutinizing, between his feet, a lump of dogshit. [...] When two hours later I emerged from the Post Office, having cashed my order, he was at the same place and in the same attitude.'

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Toussaint l'Ouverture

Beckett fact no. 51.

Belacqua ‘envied the manhood of Toussaint l’Ouverture’, and the Unnamable compares himself to a ‘tenth-rate Toussaint l’Ouverture’.

Toussaint l'Ouverture (1743-1803) led the slaves' revolt in Haiti, clashing first with the British and then with the local mulatto forces who wished to reintroduce slavery. By 1801 he had control of much of Haiti, prompting Napoleon to send an expedition against him. He struck a treaty with the French who promptly betrayed and sent him to France, where he died.

Beckett's translations of Jenner Bastien's 'Summary of the History of Hayti' and Ludovic Morin Lacombe 'A Note of Haytian Cultures' can be found in The Negro Anthology.

Bone to Pick

Beckett fact no. 50.

‘Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards…’

Ten Beckett graveyards.

1) ‘I visited, not so long ago, my father’s grave…’ (First Love). ‘Way out in the wilds of the country on the side of a hill, and too small, far too small […] a few more widows and they’d be turning them away.’ It can only be the Protestant cemetery in Redford, Co. Wicklow, on the left as you go up the hill to Greystones.
2) Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg, which the narrator of First Love greatly prefers to the above, ‘particularly the Linne section’. ‘A lion, if I remember right, is carved on [Hagenbeck’s] monument, death must have had for Hagenbeck the countenance of a lion.’
3) In Malone meurt (but not Malone Dies) we find this little verse of Macmann’s in praise of Glasnevin cemetery on Dublin’s northside:

C’est l’amour qui nous conduit
La main dans la main vers Glasnevin
C’est le meilleur du chemin
A mon avis au tien aussi
Mais oui
A notre avis.

4) The Saint-André cemetery in Tangiers, resting place of Arthur Keyser and Caroline Hay Taylor, as commemorated in the mirlitonnades.
5) Belacqua’s cemetery among the ‘sea moonstone washing the countless toes turned up’ ‘the mountains swarthy Uccello behind the headstones.’ ‘The loveliest little lap of earth you ever saw.’ Except his coffin is empty, as we discover in the still-unpublished extra story ‘Echo’s Bones’.
6) The ‘distant tomb’ to which the old woman in Ill Seen Ill Said makes her way, ‘bearing by the stem or round her arm the cross or wreath’.
7) The grave astride which ‘they give birth’, according to Pozzo in Waiting for Godot: ‘the light gleams for an instant, then it’s night again.’
8) 'I would like my love to die /and the rain to be raining on the graveyard...'
9) The pub floor on which Murphy’s ashes end up, among ‘the sand, the beer, the butts, the glass, the matches, the spits, the vomit’, despite Murphy’s strict instructions that they be flushed down the Abbey Theatre toilet, ‘if possible during the performance of a piece, the whole to be executed without ceremony or show of grief.’
10) Montparnasse cemetery.

All-New Simpsons Only on Sky

Click on image to enlarge.

No Milk Today

Out and about with an instant camera.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man

Beckett fact no. 49.

‘What’s the matter with my head, I must have left it in Ireland, in a saloon, it must be there still’ (Texts for Nothing 8)

Ten Beckettian tipples and tipplers. We had Dortmunder and Wallenstein beer before, as you may remember.

1) Still in the Texts for Nothing, in no. 3 the narrator remembers ‘potting at the invader from behind a barrel of Guinness, with my arquebuse’.
2) On-tape Krapp calculates he spends forty per cent of his waking life on licensed premises. A chastened on-stage older Krapp decides against joining in his laughter.
3) In ‘Sanies I’ Beckett sees ‘a perturbation of sweaty heroes, /in their Sunday best, /come hastening down for a pint of nepenthe or moly /or half and half.’ Whatever about moly and nepenthe, and as any good barman will know, half and half is stout and ale in equal proportions. The same passage rendered into prose turns up in Dream, while later in that book someone swills from the 'rim of a pint pot of half-and-half'.
4) Watt drinks only milk, we are told, but in Mercier and Camier he tanks up on whiskey before bringing his stick down on the bar table with a hearty ‘Fuck life!’
5) Still a prey to inexplicable urges, the Unnamable finds himself as ‘thirsting away, you don’t know what for’.
6) I think we’ve heard the ‘stout porter bitter’ joke from Murphy before. Never as good the second time, like Pozzo’s pipe, it reappears in Watt, with a dash of whiskey, when Louit, going down the stairs, ‘met the bitter stout porter Power coming up.’
7) ‘Picking grapes for a man called…’ Vladimir muses to himself after arguing whether it was in the Macon or Cackon country. The man’s name was Bonnelly, the first French text informs us. In the American Godot Macon and Cackon become Napa and Crappa.
8) 'Tis only me turd or fart', the th-dropping Mr Graves says in Watt of his afternoon bottles of stout in Mr Knott's garden.
9) What better pub scene in all Beckett than Belacqua's drink in 'Ding Dong': 'The bottles drawn and emptied in a twinkling, the casks responding to the slightest pressure on their joysticks, the weary proletarians at rest on arse and elbow, the cash-register that never complains [...] A great major symphony of supply and demand, effect and cause, fulcrate on the middle C of the counter and waxing, as it proceeded, in the charming harmonies of blasphemy and broken glass and all the aliquots of fatigue and ebriety.'
10) In 'Love and Lethe' Mrs Tough proffers Belacqua a rosiner. 'Reader, a rosiner is a drop of the hard'. Ruby takes a gloria. 'Reader, a gloria is coffee laced with brandy.'

That made eleven tipples, really. Consider the last one on a two-for-one offer, like the Bacardi Breezer’s at my local Co-op.

Since I quote Flann O’Brien in my post title, it’s only fair to add that Beckett and O’Brien met once, O’Brien referred to James Joyce as ‘that retailer of skivvies’ stories’, and the conversation went downhill from there.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Final Destination 3

I am death! Nrrrrrf, dodgy roller coaster! Arrrrrgh, faulty wiring! Krrrrrkh, unwisely stacked library books! Brrrrrf, way too much garnish on that salad!

After hundreds of millions of years of old age, heart disease and cancer, death has a plan: needlessly elaborate industrial accidents.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Northern Membranes

For all your Northern Membrane needs

I've just learned from a van in the street that there is a roofing company where I live called 'Northern Membranes'.


Slobodan Milosevic sentences defiant Slobodan Milosevic to death; remains formally identified after burial in field, grisly exhumation; believed to have cut deal to testify against self before death; had 'enormous secret crush' on Madeleine Albright; day of Serb mass tributes, self-ethnic-cleansing announced; mortar shell-shaped coffin readied for firing into midst of Belgrade market.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Get 'Sloganized' at

Guest blogger: Percy the cat.

Percy's bum is the sound of the future.
Play Percy's bum, start living.
Percy's bumtastic!
My Percy's bum, your Percy's bum, Percy's bum for all!
Percy's bum never sleeps.
Percy's bum – simplified!
Percy's bum will be for you what you want it to be.
Get me my Percy's bum.
Be Young. Have fun. Taste Percy's bum.
Percy's bum inside you.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Comedy-sized jellyfish infest Japanese waters/insert strained parmesan sushi joke here/if I don't use this image now I never will/this is visual flarf

Today I read an 11,000 word article about 'flarf' on Jacket, at the end of which I still didn't know what flarf was.

A flarfist writes: 'there is no such thing as flarf'.

But if you (meaning me) really must know: a while back someone called Gary Sullivan wrote the first-ever example of the stuff, as a way of gulling the ever-insatiable editors at who, true to form, asked for more of the same. Here it is:

Yeah, mm-hmm, it's true
big birds make
big doo! I got fire inside
my "huppa"-chimp(TM)
gonna be agreessive, greasy aw yeah god
wanna DOOT! DOOT!
Pffffffffffffffffffffffffft! hey!
oooh yeah baby gonna shake & bake then take
AWWWWWL your monee, honee (tee hee)
uggah duggah buggah biggah buggah muggah
hey! hey! you stoopid Mick! get
off the paddy field and git
me some chocolate Quik
put a Q-tip in it and stir it up sick
pocka-mocka-chocka-locka-DING DONG
fuck! shit! piss! oh it's so sad that
syndrome what's it called tourette's
make me HAI-EE! shout out loud
Cuz I love thee. Thank you God, for listening!

{end quotation}

That is flarf. Allow it into your life. Be at one with the flarf.

Athanasius Kircher's Cat Piano

Taking cats of differently pitched-miaows, arrange in pens and ensure that depression of keys leads to vigorous poke in the feline ass from specially designed cat piano spikes.

(Via Boingboing)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Abort Abort

Beckett fact no. 48.

Angry self-destructive foetuses have been voting with their unformed feet and leaving South Dakota in record numbers since the outlawing of abortion in that state.

'Abort abort and they'll blush like new', the narrator of First Love says of his pregnant lady-friend's aureolae.

'A washout', Henry's father calls him in Embers. 'Wish to God she had', he says of his mother. Jack McGowran does a fine reading of the passage on his Claddagh Records Beckett recording, Beginning to End. (Beckett himself features on the album too, playing the gong.)

'I would apply the death penalty to any woman giving birth', suggests Dr Piouk in Eleutheria.

And in an addendum to Watt we read that the 'foetal soul [is] fully grown', on the authority of Cangiamila and Pope Benedict XIV.

Attempts to find out more about Cangiamila were greatly hindered by the profile for this website turning up as result number three on a search (he's listed on the profile). 'What have I done!', I wailed to myself for a bit, before finding out he lived from 1701 to 1763.

As for Pope Benedict, he reigned/ruled/served from 1740 to 1758. Unsatisfied with the mere nine-syllable title of De Synodo Diocesana he also penned De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et de Beatorum canonizatione and Thesaurus Resolutionum Sacrae Congregationis Concilii.

Both were associated with the rolling back of 'laxism'. South Dakota legislators and other associated religious types like to call on the great Christian tradition of considering a foetus a human being. But 'twas not always so. Aquinas believed the soul was infused in the foetus at forty days, but not before. A prominent advocate of 'laxism' was Thomas Sanchez, who proposed that a woman could legitimately abort an unformed foetus to avoid public shame of a kind which might endanger her life, and was condemned for this by Pope Innocent XI in 1679.

The 'neo-John-Thomist' Dum Spiro, also in Watt, invokes Sanchez among a host of other theologians in his answer to Martin Ignatius MacKenzie's letter. Careful now!, as the protest placards on Father Ted said.

Still, not even Cangiamila or Pope Benedict thought sperms were human beings too. The Unnamable thinks he might be one (a sperm, I mean, rather than a human): 'the slut has yet to menstruate capable of whelping me [...] a sperm dying, of cold, in the sheets, feebly wagging its little tail, perhaps I'm a dying sperm, in the sheets of an innocent boy...'

Krapp's trysts with that 'bony old ghost of a whore' Fanny were originally 'better than a kick in the crutch', but in later productions of the play Beckett decided they were 'better than the thumb and forefinger'.

As for what Cangiamila or Pope Benedict said about having a wank, sadly nothing is known. As for Sanchez, he was mad for it, mad for it.

All Fours

The discovery of a family in Turkey who walk on all fours has offered geneticists an insight into the evolution of middle-eastern footwear trends. Could the brogue and fingerless glove look be the missing link?


Google plans to store entire contents of your hard drive; Google Parking now offering storage of bluetooth-enabled vehicles, ironic cyber-clamping of SUVS optional; Google Earth implements storage of entire world in lock-up garage somewhere in Santa Monica next Thursday.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Love Me Love My Umbrella

Proust writes to the Countess Someone or Other. I paraphrase.

I have lost my umbrella. Can you please check to see if I left it at your house? PS Please ignore this letter, I just found it.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Conversation on BBC Five Live on the sentencing of Gary Glitter for kiddy-fiddling. I paraphrase only slightly.

Caller: If there's the slightest hint of anyone being like that they should be locked up straight away.
Host: But I could spread a rumour about you and it wouldn't be true and you'd be locked up.
Caller: Exactly. Then I couldn't harm any more children even though I would never ever do that.

There’s Our Catastrophe. In the Bag

One minute I was jacking off to daytime TV, the next there were people dying everywhere I fucking looked.

One minute I was marking some crappy essay, the next it was smallpox virus coming through the letterbox and cars blowing up, for all the fucking sense that made.

If my town councillor has got an opinion on all this shit I for one want to hear it.

Unless the smallpox only affected paedophiles and asylum seekers – imagine – sorry, you expect me to have a coherent answer to that, you bigoted scum?

So you’re the most wanted man in the world. Which do you choose: a hole in the ground in Afghanistan, or up my arse with a suitcase bomb and a bottle of anthrax? Exactly!

So the bomb goes off while I’m playing with my wire-cutters and duct tape. Do we tear down the road to the school or heed the public safety warnings and write off our sweet little angel to those murdering sons of bitches and their big fucking bomb?

And the topic for tomorrow’s daytime TV show is: one minute I was jacking off to this crappy show, and the next there were people dying everywhere I fucking looked.

You, sweaty, ugly guy at the bus-stop I’d rather walk to work than have to sit beside, it’s at times like this I realize just how fucking important each and every one of us is.

(Homage to David Rees)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Through the Windscreen, Into the Void

Left shoulder, right shoulder, hand-brake, blind spot and go. Going places going nowhere: incomparable, these drive-through dead ends, for the turn in the road, the left reverse, the parallel park. The Cop Shop container sits on the green, the youngsters sit on the Cop Shop. Chased through the streets by it, Eiffel took lunch in his tower to give it the slip. Perched on their box the boys are invisible to it, the twockers, the twaggers, the ASBO cases. They sit in a row and they smoke.

Some of their hood zippers go all the way up. All the better to. Set gas. We practise my manoeuvres to their noisy derision. Biting point. Come down here and say that. Observation. Children, children, have you thought of the joys of the open fields behind you, the free-roaming dangerous dogs and pasturing horses, the ditches and pylons? One left reverse later, proceed to:

* White-tie reception on traffic island.
* Dog-hanging competition from lamppost.
* Boarding up of occupied properties (occupiers inside at the time).
* Abandoned white goods, landscape gardening of.

The boys go silent, they sit there and smoke. No one is really bothered, about me or anything else. I’m not bothered. Some girls arrive and the boys share their fags and turn a stereo on. They mess around with some papers and fire. They unfurl a large banner and drape it over the Cop Shop. It reads ‘Welcome to [placename]. Twinned with your Darkest Thought.’ Except of course for the fact that. What. Unless. What. This already is my darkest thought. A pocket of antimatter tears open inside my head, I file my thought-twinned-with-itself away inside it, it seals itself in and dissolves. A turn in the road, a left reverse, a parallel park. That showed them. Mind the kerb. Stop. Stop. Stop. Now go. Go, go, go!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Erith-Dagenham Suicide Pact

Comedian Linda Smith has died, aged 48. She was from Erith, home of picturesquely pointless cycle lanes.

I mention Erith because Linda Smith once described it as being too pathetic to be twinned with anywhere, though it was (she said) in a suicide pact with Dagenham.

Also on the theme of Erith, it ran a competition once to find a name for its new leisure centre; the winning entry was 'Erith Leisure Centre'.