Friday, 20 April 2018

I might've made a tactical error

I've got into bed fully dressed. Alright, shoes and socks are off, so not quite fully dressed I guess. I predict this will be a race against time; will I stay wake long enough to get out of bed again, wash my face and brush my teeth, and importantly, deal with my bladder?? I have gone to bed in my clothes before, I know that sounds bad, but honestly, there isn't a lot of difference between my clothes and pyjamas and usually when I go to sleep fully dressed I somehow get out of my clothes during the night. Last weekend I woke up and I still had some things on but they were inside out. Something interesting apparently happened but I have no way of discovering what it might have been. Well, don't look back.

I am very tired. This is a difficult time of year in my job. Today was a huge day, seven thousand schoolchildren, and next week I shall be servicing the Dawn and trying not to be bowled over by the tsunami of humanity flooding over the grounds and into the building once the sun finally struggles over the horizon. When I got home this evening, just a little bit drunk, I lay down on my bed in the manner of a person who is just having a lie-down and not really expressing an interest in sleeping, i.e. I put my feet on the pillow and my head near the other end. And then I felt a deep sense of rest and peace washing through my body from the inside out. I breathed deeply and I felt the air opening a passage down through my centre; I breathed out and I was asleep, and when I woke up Vinnie was lying right in front of my face, purring with his smelly breath and ecstatically kneading a tangled lock of my hair that was lying on the rug between us. So to get away from him I got under the covers and here I am.

Sleep has become a very big part of my life over the last few months. I don't know if I've said so on here, but after many months of trying to deal with chronic insomnia in other ways, I've been taking sleeping pills since January. What this means is that I now sleep between six and a half and eight hours at night, as opposed to four or five, and the change has had an extraordinary effect on my health. No shit: I feel incredibly well most of the time, I can think clearly for most of the day, I'm not tempted to eat things that I know will disagree with me, and I don't lose my rag at people even when they really deserve it. One negative side to this feeling great is that I really notice, now, how rotten I feel the morning after drinking at night, and so because I know that's going to happen I just don't drink much at all any more, even though I very much enjoy being drunk. I can see I will have to schedule in some of that kind of activity at times when I can cope with the consequences, because now that sleep seems to be more or less sorted, getting more fun into my life is the next priority.

So these pills: I just have a tiny piece of the lowest dose pill available and then I have an hour, maybe two, before I can't fight off sleep. And I will usually stay asleep until between four and five. It is so incredible to me to be able to sleep again that I am willing to accept the consequences, for now at least. These are that I don't have much of a life outside of work and looking after Leonard. Lately I haven't even been able to read more than a few pages of a book in the evenings before I have to close my eyes. And also I wonder if I am able to go to sleep without them. The few times I've forgotten to take one, or I've got home too late to take one, I have slept not at all, or hardly anything. This suggests to me that I've gotten dependent on them. Well that's something I can live with, if it's the case; again it comes back to how extraordinary it feels to not be exhausted and sleep-deprived all the time.

Insomnia makes you tired in the day and also the lying awake at night fulminating is a pretty unfortunate thing. (That's a garbage sentence, but already my eyelids are getting heavy and I know I won't last much longer.) But something is shifting there too. I guess it's the weakening of the habit of lying awake and doing full-tilt thinking in the dark. A few nights ago I realised I had been awake and thinking for an indefinitely long period of time, and no doubt I'd been thinking uselessly about the problem I have which will be sorted out eventually but that moment will not be hastened by obsessive rehashing of the circumstances or of the plan for getting the better of them. Now usually at that point of realising I'm awake, I just carry on thinking even more elaborately and therefore unhelpfully, while also feeling very worried about how I'll get through the next day on inadequate sleep. But this night, without planning or trying to, I thought to myself, just relax and go to sleep and let my dreams sort it all out. And I don't remember what happened after that, so perhaps I did indeed return to sleep and allow my unconscious to stage whatever scenes it wanted with my little worry dolls. But I do remember that at the moment that I had that notion, I felt a sense of warmth and expansiveness and peace bleeding through my body. And now I had really better get up and go and wash the grime of the breaths of seven thousand children off of my face. Enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Reading log

Right now I am reading Apex Hides the Hurt by Coulson Whitehead, I bought this last week at Readings instead of The Underground Railroad, which is actually what I went there for, while killing a few minutes before the movie I was going to see (I, Tonya) but when I picked the latter book up and looked at the cover I couldn't bring myself to, because it was one of those redesigned covers the publishers put out when a book wins a major literary prize, and it just put me right, right off. Anyway the one I'm reading instead is really excellent and it reminds me of many other books that are great, without being at all like them (eg, White Noise). Whitehead is a pretty amazing stylist, he has this rare gift for figurative language which is both highly original and also somehow doesn't draw attention to itself. The language watches the action from the edges of the room, and in this it's like the protagonist of this book and also the protagonists of many of his other novels, notably Zone One.

I think I've been reading too much American fiction recently. The other book I wanted was this thing I have heard a great deal about from my friend L, called The Sea and Summer, an SF novel published thirty years ago and dealing with sea level rise in an Australian city. I don't like ordering books, it feels like a hassle although it rarely is in practice, but I'm going to have to order this one I can tell, if I'm ever going to get a copy.

I have also made a few false starts at Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie; the blurb said something like "the true heir to Iain Banks", and just like an Iain Banks novel I am having difficulty getting across the hump of the space opera settings, personal names, labyrinthine military bureaucracy etc, but this book has been eagerly recommended by two or three different people whose opinions I trust so I'll try it again.

A bunch of books around Australia's recent and current military operations:

Anzac's Long Shadow by James Brown - I've read this before - read it again and not until almost the last page did I realise that the author is not actually Kevin Rudd's son-in-law, as I had thought, but Malcolm Turnbull's. A WHOLE OTHER AND DIFFERENT THING. And of course, periodically while reading I would momentarily forget that the author was an Australian defence analyst and ex-soldier and not actually the Godfather of Soul.

No Front Line: Australian special forces in Afghanistan by Chris Masters


Uncommon Soldier, also by Chris Masters 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

one album

I'm sorry for saying yesterday that everything sucks, and also I'm sorry for repeatedly trying to pressure you into looking at Alex's painting. The fact is, some things do suck and some don't. Trite but true. Yesterday was thoroughly rotten but today was not intolerable. Anyway I really, really don't want to whine about it so instead, here is one album that I would put on Facebook if I was going to do the ten albums in ten days thing that people are doing.  If I put it here instead I will not feel obliged to pick out ten albums, or remember to keep it up for several days, and I will be able to write a thousand words right now about this one without feeling self-conscious and, importantly, I won't have to have an awkward conversation about it with twenty-six people.

I'm fairly sure I bought this shortly after Songs From The Big Chair was released in 1985, or 1986. I have that album too. The Hurting was Tears For Fears's first album and it had come out a couple of years before. Here is a Youtube playlist allegedly of all ten tracks.

I was so fascinated by this record. I think I learnt some very important things about myself from it, or I began to learn them, at least. Hindsight is a seductive thing. This was before I got onto The Smiths, who immediately displaced all my other musical interests and in many ways simplified things, erasing some nuance in the process, just because they were so straightforwardly great and so easy to love.

In the interests of not succumbing too quickly to the charms of linking The Hurting with lots of aspects of my later life, I'm very happy to acknowledge that one of the things I liked most about Tears For Fears was Curt Smith's eyes and dark hair and pale skin and the curves of his face and how his mouth looked when he opened it to sing. Yeah, I had a lot of pretty lustful thoughts about him in particular and also Roland Orzabal, although it was a bit complicated with him because I found him sexy and also at the same time weird and repulsive. I think that Curt was easier for me to crush on because he was as beautiful and elegant looking and sounding as a girl, and his sexuality came across as more simple and more like my own. Roland was troubling because he seemed to me obviously the smarter of the two, or at any rate the more literary (although I was already sceptical about equations of cleverness with the habit of carrying books around) and it felt as if not being in love with the smartest person would be a very warped and impossible thing indeed. I liked the way he did his hair and the clothes he wore and I adored the way he moved, but at the same time, I found his earnestness about all of these fashionable gestures highly cringeworthy. I was reading Brideshead Revisited throughout these years and I guess it shaped what I thought about pretty English boys, how lovely they were, how unlikely it was that they really existed, and how impossible it was to see them without irony, although I very much doubt I consciously made that link at the time. The book I definitely did connect with Tears for Fears is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13& 3/4. If you've read this you might possibly remember very late in the story Adrian is sick in bed and he asks his dad for three t-shirts in shades of grey and a razor blade, which his dad provides, too worried at this obvious sign of delirium to enquire why. Then as soon as Adrian is a tiny bit better he makes himself "monochrome rags" to wear, reassuring his family that he's not going to die, he's gone right back to being a ridiculous teenager. I knew Tears For Fears were like those monochrome rags, and I responded to them, not just their stylings but their music, with scepticism and curiosity and embarrassment and love and desire.

Look at the insert and you'll see:


It must have been a music magazine which supplied the information that the songs on The Hurting were influenced by Arthur Janov's primal therapy, and I suspect that the few things I knew about what primal therapy might actually be probably came from the same source. It's easy to forget how difficult it used to be to find out anything not covered by the World Book encyclopedia. Again a grain of salt must be applied to what I think I then made of the intense and angsty focus, in song after song, on the inner scars left from an unhappy childhood: I think I was extremely interested in this idea but a bit sceptical about the authenticity of the overall project. Without putting it anything like this explicitly to myself at the time I reckon I might have suspected some affectation and posturing, or at least some book-derived augmentation of personal feelings was going on. Taken as a whole the album has got a strange sort of new wave prog rock quality - a concept album about 1970s californian psychobabble. That said at least half the individual songs on the album still stand up well enough to make me think, now, that the record came from a place of lived experience, and it doesn't really matter that the cultural material they used to express themselves turned out to be junk.  And it's still really fun music to dance to.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Everything sucks

Apparently there is a TV show called "Everything sucks", which only proves my point. I can't even say that everything sucks without that simple utterance being ruined by some mediocre piece of garbage. Nevertheless, everything sucks enormous jobs, and if you resisted the temptation to click through to the Paris Review article with the picture of Alexander Melamid holding his own bum portrait, well, you are made of stronger stuff than me, but also, why are you bothering to be made of such strong stuff? The suckage is everywhere and it will definitely get you in the end. I neglected to mention yesterday that as well as his arse, Alexander* has included in his painting his large, dangling ballsack. Good for him.

I have been listening to Neil Young a lot lately so here is some Neil Young for you, I suppose this song is one thing that doesn't suck

I love the way he pulls focus just at the next to last line, and drops for a second into an intimate first person. It's heartbreaking and it's what gives the song its power. 

See you later, and remember, everything other than "Cortez the Killer" sucks!

*formality of address feels pointless under the circumstances