The Geography of Planet Mad

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Have you heard about Planet Mad? Have you taken time out to swirl in its orbit, tracing out the continents and the weird light? Have you spent a sleepless night on the Net, wandering down ever more remote and tortured corners? Have you tuned into late night talk radio?

What Planet Mad needs, what Planet Mad pines and has boners for, is someone to listen, someone to tune into the endless noise, the discreteness of thought, the addled mutterings, all those souls who feel themselves interrupted.

Planet Mad has rules just as intricate as the world of money, but its denizens are after airspace, not capital. It’s a capitalism of soul time, all energies expended on a frantic dash for the accumulation of hearings, of attention.

What’s curious is how many of them really have nothing to say, but want to consume your whole day saying it. I used to have to listen to quite a few.

There was a guy who spent weeks bombarding us with plans for shopping malls composed entirely of plants. Just stick the thing in the ground, apparently, and in no time at all you’d have a leafy commerce cavern, boutiques divided by real waterfalls, sunny alcoves where kids could dash and scream at each other from in between all the reeds and fronds.

I spent a ball mangling six hours listening to theories of the Organic Universe, of how it was an indisputable fact that life had been seeded here by comets, about how these comets were in fact the seed store for the entire Cosmos, how organic cities had existed in very early history, before Babylon, but knowledge of them had been suppressed by the Romans, and later, of course, by the Church.

When I finally got around to asking him how you’d build one, he unfurled a mind bending array of yin and yang diagrams, segmented circles showing graphic representations of the Cosmos, and something which purported to be a photograph of a human soul.

Ok, so how would you actually build one? I asked, and he replied that general details were available on his website. I thanked him for his time at eleven or twelve points along the next two or three hours.

All that night my brain goo twitched at me, making clicking noises like a computer you’ve just been rude to. For a wheeze, and because I couldn’t sleep, I checked out his website. It contained more of the spectral pie-charts and pictures of Babylonians in prehistoric shopping malls, as well as his personal spiritual testament, a document running to over eight thousand pages.

He was, to be honest, one of the more exotic cases I dealt with. Most of the rest were banal, banal in their repetitive incoherence, their sad longing to be taken seriously by someone in a suit.

Above all, they were boring. They made time itself go putty like from boredom.

There must be a freedom in being mad, in not giving a shit about anything but the contortions and eruptions of your own brain goo.

But then, surely the mad suffer too. How can there be any justice if they don’t?

It’s not about connections between things. It’s not about binding one moment to another with chains that seem to make some kind of sense. It’s about writing your pain large across the world.

The Trouble With Life

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The trouble with life – look, you’re getting this knowledge for free on a blog, isn’t the Internet just fab? – the trouble with life is this: it’s so f—-g boring for so much of the time.

Its screaming lack of incident leaves you unprepared, you slouch and swagger through the oceans of empty hours, vapid nights, the TV dinners and minor hair emergencies, the Internet’s bag of tricks to smother you in stupefaction, growing numb on the idea that events are things which happen to celebrities and people in Syria.

Events are our enemy, but like diphtheria and black plague, we think we’ve got them mostly licked. Life lets us believe we’ve got them licked.

This is inconsiderate of life, because when your life suddenly mangles itself into Mexican soap opera, you haven’t a clue what to do, you’ve no experience, no training. Existing so long as a platonic tomato: sleeping, scratching, applying new gels, watching travel programmes, deadens you to what life has crouched around the corner.

Life is a mugger with bad art ideas. Life is addicted to plotlines composed by drug crazed B movie writers, squatting somewhere in the clouds. Life loves nothing better than to drop one on you, having first softened you up with thirty years of non-event.

It might be fairer, perhaps, if you got the chance to practice. If you worked yourself up to big, horrible events by being able to experiment with smaller, slightly less horrible events.

But you can’t just sit into a new vehicle, a new form, turn it on and expect everything to go all right. Life is careful to make sure things don’t work like that. If it’s just lined up a new experience for you, then by gum, you better believe everything’s going to be new, the whole trip.

You spend so much of your life in the half-awake belief that you’re in some kind of partnership with time. You focus the cooperative bits of your brain goo on that blank eternity known as the future.

You pursue things that’ll buy your ticket into that great future party: that car, that sleeker girl, that better job, that black money hole house. They say your mind’s on your work, but it isn’t really, it’s on misty mind visions of some middle aged Nirvana.

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The big house on the surf, the babes and money boat, that Californian wet dream that you’ll be just as intact when you get there, just as able to hold your liquor and your boners. The mental archetype that drives so many of our economic propellers is some weird cross between Hugh Heffner and James Bond.

Those who eventually write the true story of this time in the West will have to ignore Christ, Marx, Buddha and all the rest, and instead try to figure out what went on inside the inner life of a Hugh or a Jimmy.

And I’ve found someone in the spacetime continuum that I don’t envy. I wouldn’t want to be that guy / girl, trying to figure all that out. I wouldn’t want to do it.

Exclusive: Trump Time Travelled To Feature in Bad 1978 Sci Fi Movie

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According to pictures revealed here for the first time, Donald Trump is an alien who somehow travelled back in time to play a bit part in a French science fiction movie named ‘Starcrash.’ A tentacled, free floating head depicted in the movie – made 38 years ago – clearly bears the face of the 45th US President.

The figure floats in sinister, smoky mid-air, passing judgement on the movie’s two main characters, a bushy haired weirdo and a scantily clad woman whom the disembodied head may or may not have sexually harassed, according to experts.

Experts are baffled as to how the President-elect, known simultaneously as the most evil genius and biggest moron on the planet managed this appalling feat of evil. However, one CIA scientician, speaking under conditions of strict anonymity, said he had almost certainly been helped by the Russians. “They are clever, clever bastards,” he pointed out.

According to the expert, the time travel process must have somehow caused Trump’s real physical appearance to reveal itself. Contrary to the carefully controlled images seen on TV in 2017, his true features: lack of a body, enormous head with multiple tentacles, still enormous hair, are there for all to see.

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In the scene from the movie, the enormous floating head is seen sentencing the scantily clad heroine to ‘hard labour.’ This is almost certainly code for some form of sexual harassment. “Look at all those tentacles,” one highly respected academic pointed out, “it’s obvious that they are there for one purpose only, to be busy all over the private areas of the scantily clad heroine.”

But why on Earth would the most moronic genius in the history of the world have been drawn to appear in an obscure French movie in the 1970’s? “Partly it would have been arrogance,” explains one critic, “look at me: I’m the greatest person in the world, I can do time travel etc.  and I do it so beautifully. But there would have been other things that drew Trump to French cinema.”

She continues “look at all the French movies that are basically about ugly, depraved middle aged men getting their wicked way with nubile young women, under the guise of helping them ‘find themselves,’ whatever that means. You’re talking about pretty much all of French cinema. Of course Trump would have been drawn to it like a fly to butter, even if it meant traversing the very boundaries of time itself, he would have made his way there.”

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Sources inside the Democratic Party, and indeed anyone in the world who isn’t a racist sociopathic scumbag, are already calling for an inquiry. “The thing is,” one said, “this is time travel. We don’t know at what point in our reality Trump decided to go back in time to sexually harass French actresses. Maybe he hasn’t actually done it yet. This raises a really important question: is Trump planning to engage in sexual time travel adventures when he’s actually supposed to be the President? We need clarity on this and we need it now.”

Tycoon, time traveller, liar, sociopath, and now President of the United States, it seems there is literally no end to the infamy of which Donald Trump is capable. What next? No one can even guess, although one independent expert suggests he may try and open a temporal rift in the White House, a la whatever they did in Ghostbusters, and allow known associates of his – such as Vlad The Impaler and Rasputin – into the 21st Century. Watch this space!!!

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In an incredible oversight by Trump’s cronies, the movie ‘Starcrash’ is still available to watch on YouTube. Rush over there now to find the only proof you will ever need. In a sinister development, the movie also features known actors Christopher Plummer and David Hasselhoff. CIA sources are calling for both men to brought in for questioning, assuming of course that they are still alive.

Is Ireland The World’s First Virtual State?

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It was late 2015, and Ireland’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising were already starting to bore me into homicidality, and this was largely before a self-congratulatory ball had been kicked. It seemed to me that, if we were being honest (and we seldom are, either with ourselves or the world outside), any notion of celebration came wrapped inside a paradox, which in turn should have led to a question.

Broadly speaking, the question was this: should we have focused on celebrating a 100 year old event which ultimately led to Ireland achieving an element of independent statehood, or should we have instead thought long, hard and clearly about the events of the intervening 99 years, which brought about the effective end of that statehood?

The political establishment in Ireland will tell you that that statehood briefly came to an end in late 2010, when the nation lost control of its economic affairs to the IMF and the European Union, but that everything’s fine now, thanks very much.

This isn’t even slightly true. Irish budgets have to be scrutinised by the German Government long before Irish politicians (never mind the people) get to have a look at them. This conforms to no definition of independence that I’ve ever heard of.

In fact, what little control the Irish enjoy over their own affairs started to erode in earnest way back in 1992, when the nation received an influx of six billion smackers from the European Union, and the permanent Irish Government i.e. the senior ranks of the Civil Service, began to realize that Brussels was where all the real action lay.

By proving themselves the best little boys and girls in the Euro class, many high level Irish civil servants could look forward to massively lucrative posts in Europe once their careers in Dublin had run their natural course. The revolting populace have thus had to endure the implementation of every EU Directive imaginable, including the ones which are utterly toxic to Irish interests, as well as ones the French long ago said ‘merde’ to.

The peasants watched mutely as numerous national mineral and fishing rights were simply signed away, all for the greater Euro good, because the big civil servants are playing in the Champions League now baby, and there’s no way they or you are ever going back.

None of these are exactly new thoughts. I think they first began to crystallize when, in a former life, I got to peruse a long document known as the ‘National Spatial Strategy.’ Prepared by civil servants and brought out with great fanfare, it was supposed to set out all Ireland’s regional development priorities for a period of at least twenty years.

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I turned page after glossy page bearing all these sci fi terms like ‘gateways’ and ‘hubs’ before finally realizing that the document didn’t contain a single concrete pledge to do anything. As a series of priorities, it contained less weight than a ball of fluff. There was something vague for almost everyone in the audience, which meant there was nothing for anyone, and the then Fianna Fail Government had undermined even the vague pieties of the National Spatial Strategy only a couple of months later.

A newer thought, however, is that far from the usual berating of Ireland by technocrats and would-be liberals for being backward and behind the times, we’ve actually been well ahead of the curve when it comes to virtual sovereignty. Last year’s election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in Britain partly reflect the desperation among citizens that even the tiny measures of control they used to enjoy over their affairs have disappeared.

Sovereignty across the world has increasingly dived into black holes of committees run by Corporations and highly paid bureaucrats. In the case of Europe, the unelected EU bureaucrats are supposedly charged with representing the interests of ordinary European citizens in lucrative trade negotiations. In practice, they do no such thing. As Ireland has been learning since the early 90’s, senior bureaucrats are a social group all by themselves, and like all social groups since the dawn of history, they are there to represent their own interests, nothing more.

This is why, after every few years of ‘trade negotiations,’ the citizenry get bombed by concepts such the TTIP deal, intended to destroy what little remains of workers’ rights and to kill off small business and innovation by granting corporations the right to sue governments for grant aiding small business.

As I say, we’ve been experiencing this sort of thing in Ireland for decades now. Statehood has failed to make us evolve beyond the standpoint of peasants on the periphery of Empire, mutely sucking it all up. The rest of the world, with more of a tradition of actual democracy, isn’t taking it lying down just yet.

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Naturally, none of the ten billion or so official back slapping events which took place in Ireland in 2016 addressed any of the above.

Nor did any of them address the other side of the question, which runs as follows: if Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and the rest had been granted prophecy in the very small hours of Easter Monday 1916, if they could have seen exactly what type of statelet their sacrifice would help to engender, would a single one of them have got out of bed on that nice Bank Holiday morning?

Ireland abu indeed.

One Year On – The Death of Bowie

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Almost a year to the day, and like a great deal of the rest of the planet, I’ve been revisiting my thoughts about David Bowie. Sometimes reality does one of those things that makes your world wobble. The matrix throws up something which just doesn’t seem to compute. Try as you might, you can’t absorb it into that frame of things you can legitimately live with.

9/11 is obviously one such example, that very jarring sense of the world being a very different place at five past two than it was at two o clock. Few things are more unsettling. Forget what the positivity gurus tell you: we don’t actually like change at all. Our strength as a species is that we can (sometimes) adapt to change, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

I suspect that one reason so many people, even now, find the passing of Bowie so difficult to accept is the way versions of him have replicated themselves across the culture so profusely, like that agent in The Matrix who gets cloned ad infinitum.

There was hardly a single musical act of note in the 1980’s which didn’t owe a debt to Bowie. Only last night, I was struck by how much the layered dissonance of albums like Heroes must have influenced punk rock. Even while early punk rockers derided Bowie, they were happy to churn out simplified versions of his sound.

The influence continues to this day. Bowie’s take on the enigmatic outsider who may or may not be gay or asexual finds repeating echoes all over the culture: would Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes have been plausible without Bowie? Possible, but not likely.

In a very curious way, outside of the musical legacy – which is considerable – David Bowie may even have altered human nature, or our perception of it at least, to an extent that might not be fully understood for decades.

Would the concept of marriage equality have achieved mainstream cultural acceptability without those early stretchings of the boundaries by people like Bowie? Yes, it’s likely these things would have happened eventually, but there’s no question that Bowie’s ‘expansion of the possible’ became an insistent whisper that culture found increasingly difficult to ignore.

But there’s a more fundamental way, I think, in which Bowie will continue to shape our sense of who we are. He invented and discarded new personas for himself with dizzying abandon. At different points, he was a singer/songwriter of bewilderingly dense folk ballads, a mainstream crooner in the Anthony Newley style, a novelty act, a possibly transsexual glam star, Major Tom, the Thin White Duke (something that still seems very edgy today), an alien, a cultural refugee in Berlin, the emaciated prophet of Blackstar, and those are only the ones I can remember.

Some of these personas were made and discarded in the frantic struggle to crack the big time, others were an at times frightened response to that eventual success, but all of them came from one person, and maybe that’s the real message of David Bowie’s life and career: one person can be many things, many identities, we are not monolithic, today’s camp butterfly can be tomorrow’s pub bore, we are a spectrum, though even that phrase doesn’t do us justice.

Those who followed him and his career will always, I think, have reason to be grateful to David Bowie. He increased the range of things that seemed to be possible, and that is an immense thing to say about any artist.

Now, being human and terribly sentimental, some of us since last year have felt the need to elevate Bowie to the status of some form of secular saint. I expect to hear any day now that people have been cured by touching his album covers. The contribution he made was part of his own ruthlessly pursued artistic journey. He didn’t martyr himself to drugs in the 1970’s just so we could all feel a little cooler about ourselves; it was part of his own trajectory, simple as that.

It seems very important to many to believe that he was a wonderful man, as well as an important artist. Maybe he was, but the only people who really know are those who were closest to him.

As always with Bowie, people have felt the need to project what they will, what they think of as their own truth. Not long after his death, I came across a lengthy article which argued that he’d been a secret devotee of Aleister Crowley and the occult all his life, and that the Blackstar album, far from being a passing gift to fans, is actually a deeply intricate occult thesis. The most striking aspect, perhaps, was not what the article was saying so much as the sheer effort the writer had expended trying to say it.

The bigger the truth, the greater the paradox. The sheer workload of stuff Bowie got through between about 1968 and 1980 is absolutely frightening, particularly if he was doing all the drugs they claimed at the time. Had he made some kind of Faustian pact with the future which rendered the sad decline after 2003 inevitable?

Most of his financial worries were solved by the deal with EMI and the ‘Let’s Dance’ album of 1983, but the unprecedented commercial success he achieved appears to have become kind of trap. The deal meant he had to churn out other albums, such as ‘Tonight’ and ‘Never Let Me Down,’ and while the latter isn’t as risible as people say, there is a big sense – when you compare it to what came before and after – that his heart wasn’t in it.

I think it’s too trite to say he produced less good music in the 90’s and zeroes because he was happy. But it’s hard to figure Tin Machine as anything other than a kind of whimsical mid life crisis. Maybe he just wanted to be in a band, any band. Maybe it was something to do with Kabbalah.

It’s been revealed recently that Bowie didn’t receive the news that his cancer was terminal until just a couple of months before Blackstar was released, and that this supposedly refutes the theory that the album was conceived as a farewell.

Maybe, but everyone who has known cancer or cancer sufferers knows that it’s possible to be at least two things at once. In the words of yet another band influenced by Bowie, you “hope for the best but expect the worst.” You plan consciously for a future that has already sneered that it might let you down by failing to turn up.

Death and regret suffuse both Blackstar and the strange album which preceded it, ‘The Next Day.’ Indeed, the song ‘Where Are We Now’ from ‘The Next Day’ contains a shattering sense of the failure of powers, of someone who is almost a ghost flitting through the landmarks of Berlin, the one place in the world he felt weirdly free.

It’s like the singer of ‘Always Crashing in the Same Car’ is back inside the same fantastical temporal loop: the loop continues but there is every sense that our trapped hero will not.

In that sense, Blackstar becomes a kind of heroic last summoning of powers. There’s a heartbreaking segment in the recently released BBC documentary about Bowie, where the mike picked him up essentially hyperventilating, trying to push enough oxygen through his blood to belt out those last powerful notes.

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Heartbreaking too is the song ‘I Can’t Give Everything’ from Blackstar. There is an almost Buddhist sense of acceptance, of gently slipping back, but there’s a restless note as well, if not exactly rage, then certainly a regret at the slow death of light. How much more of myself will I have to give away before … before whatever?

I’ll close with words I’d intended posting here a year ago, and go back to fantasising that the Starman is on a spaceship hiding behind the Moon, waiting with all the other notables for one of us to understand.

I didn’t meet the man and now I never will. But the fame of others in this weird age of ours is such that, like many people today, I feel an absence: some touchstone, some prism through which I consciously and unconsciously viewed myself and the world, has abruptly departed.

Like the very best of us, it didn’t hang around for ever more demeaning laps of honour. It mailed a last gift then quickly took its leave. Our most fabulous alien has left the planet. I imagine this must be what it would feel like if Superman was to die.
I must have had five conversations with different people about Bowie in the last week alone, and until Monday, it wasn’t an unusual week.

Only last Monday, I agreed with someone that his best albums – radically different to each other – were probably ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘Low.’ Only the other week, a meme was doing the rounds on Facebook, inviting us all to feel small and inadequate by comparison with the insane number of things Bowie had achieved by the age of 30 or 40 (Facebook is extraordinarily good at making us feel small and inadequate. I sometimes wonder if that’s its true purpose.).

Just a couple of nights ago, I heard the first single, ‘Lazarus,’ from the now posthumous album ‘Blackstar,’ a parting gift to the world from the strangest and most generous of men. I was shocked by how frail and fearful it sounded, as if the King of Detached Cool had somehow morphed into Noirin Ni Riain, pushing his voice and arms out in supplication against the dark.

It seems as if this was final character, the final guise in which he strove to tell us about himself, about us. Every character is essentially summed up by its own paradoxes, but Bowie’s life was so less ordinary that the paradoxes are suitably gigantic.

He was an entertainer who was often dark. He was an exhibitionist who was fanatically private to the end. He was a fighter who at heart was probably a far gentler soul than many of his fans or detractors suspected. He was ambitious and retiring, a rock star with the heart of a performance artist.

He had the incredible tenacity – an almost staggering obstinacy – that I have only (and most paradoxically) encountered among the gentlest souls I have met. He was a communicator who remained unknowable, exotic and strangely closed, like an Oriental doll or a Mishima short story. Only by spanning all these contradictions, it seems, can you truly be called an original.

His parting gift to the world was released just days before his death, and it’s hard to believe that this wasn’t planned: Bowie confounding expectations yet again. And just like his life, the manner of his passing spans and confounds all the genres. There is, for example, some macabre low comedy in the fact that his nut job ex-wife is currently appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. One wonders if Bowie himself would have appreciated the joke. He was always more of a comedian than most people realized.

I’ll certainly buy the new album, but it may be many weeks before I can bring myself to listen to it.

Farewell spaceboy. Rest in peace between the stars xxx

Prophets, Busted Clouds And Broken Fathers

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Truly original artists often end up with a whiff of the prophet about them. I don’t think this is because they’re in direct communion with God, or anything like that. It’s partly because, whenever a cool idea which is genuinely new comes out, it is relentlessly photocopied by lesser, more streetwise types who realize, a la Mo Syzlak, that ‘you may have come up with the idea but I came up with the idea of charging 6.95 for it.’

Hoods these chaps and lasses may be, but they are also the engine of what we like to call capitalism.

The earliest copies are often not that bad. I thought the Monkees were pretty cool until I came across The Beatles. Culture has become a kind of fantastically speeded up geology, so that whenever some new seam of intellectual sediment is deposited, it is instantly covered over by layer upon layer of ever so slightly less good stuff.

By the time you manage to sift down the layers to the actual original which spawned it all, the creator of that first sediment seems like so much more than a workaday genius, she’s a seer, an enchantress, a living prophet.

I think that’s why I’ve been unable to avoid viewing a succession of female songsters through the prism of Kate Bush, who wrote about all their stuff a long time ago and managed to produce music you could dream to.

Apart from Bjork, who seems like a genuinely wacky and fearless original, a lot of them just seem to be peddling reworks of the same thing. I’m probably doing all of them a terrible disservice, but there are so many other, greater injustices in the world, after all. There’s hardly time to fight them all, is there?

I can’t listen to Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’ without (almost) shedding a self-pitying tear. It was written many years before I became a father, but it seems to me to anticipate the kinds of things my own daughters (and the children of many others) might feel about their fathers today. Maybe I’m being Richard Harris, hectoring John B Keane with all the deeper meanings he didn’t see when he was writing ‘The Field,’ but there is a tone in ‘Cloudbusting’ that feels prophetic.

The girl’s Daddy in the song dreamed large, and encouraged her to dream as well, but things somehow came up short. The Daddy in the song is essentially a powerless figure (where the hell is that all powerful Patriarchy the feminists keep screaming at us about?).

This is what I mean by prophecy, which essentially means that, knowingly or not, an artist has somehow seen that bit deeper than others into the currents running under reality. How was Kate to know what would happen to fatherhood in the decades since she wrote the song? How culture and sleazy, mean-minded law would combine to emasculate it, make it irrelevant?

How was she to know that this law – conceived out of the most base and dishonest motives – would make an army of homeless dreamers out of the fathers of tomorrow? How could she have known about that legal and social consensus – as lazy as it is vicious and tyrannical and cowardly – which would turn fathers into imposters in what they had idiotically believed to be their own homes?

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How was she to know how hard it would be to keep fighting and hold some sort of faith, some sort of connection, to their dearest of souls.

Here’s a 2017 wish to all those broken fathers out there, to all those who have been robbed, pilloried and slandered, but who keep on fighting because, as Cormac MacCarthy wrote “if the child is not the word of God then God never spoke.” Keep the faith. Don’t give up. You know better than anyone how most of what you read in the news is fake. Nothing is more real than your struggle. Keep the faith in 2017.