Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sketchiness and Wordiness: Handy

HE ASKED ME TO give something up, something that mattered.  I had no money, so I offered my right hand.

He cocked his eyebrow, wondering if I was serious.

‘I have nothing else,’ I said.


He chopped it off without warning, using a cutlass that flashed once.

There was no pain at first, just my hand on the ground, a spreading puddle of blood, and a squirting stump.

Then…I saw whole constellations of agony, a multi-headed stabbing sensation crawling up my forearm.


Whenever I thought the pain had reached apogee I was elevated to new heights of suffering. Yet, I did not scream.

He knelt, scooped up the hand, wrapped it in oilskin and left by the back door.

Then, sure of my privacy, I screamed.”



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Our Stream-of-consciousness is not Harmless

A number of times this year one person’s thoughtless tweet has triggered a twitterstorm. Often, but by no means always, the person meant no offense or meant one kind of (socially-endorsed) offence like “I’m a curmudgeon, fear my tongue”, but ended up with a social-death type label like homophobe or racist or misogynist. The most notorious might be Justine Sacco.

I’m going to take a leap and assume that all people find themselves at one time or another thinking unkind, unwise, or even prejudice-type thoughts. The decent folk then feel disgust and drive said thoughts out of their own minds. Other folk may chose not to, but do not act on the thoughts or say anything.

Take person A, B and C.

All of them get cut off in traffic by a Volvo with a black person at the wheel.

Person A thinks ‘black people always do this’, but realizes the nature of that thought and says nothing to A’s spouse when arriving home.

Person B thinks ‘black people always do this’, realizes the nature of that thought, but does not care, and relates the story to B’s spouse, saying the exact sentiment verbally.

Person C does the same as B, except he tweets the event along with the line on his Twitter account.

Twitter outrage against C ensues because C’s tweet is seen as racist. A and B (using their online personae) even contribute to the firestorm since they are protected from similar accusations by having kept the same thought in their head (A) or in the family (B).

My point is perhaps the problem is the nature of Twitter which tempts us to publish thoughts as they form. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to broadcast every single notion that comes into your head. Perhaps there’s a reason that telepaths do not naturally occur, and that our thoughts are private until we choose to share them (at least for now). Perhaps it’s not such a good idea to have access to Twitter on your desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone so you can share any random mental ejaculation. Perhaps it’s the Law of Averages, and if you keep saying exactly what’s in your mind sooner or later you’ll offend someone.

Our stream-of-consciousness is not harmless and does not belong on Twitter or any other social media (medium, actually). It belongs in our heads where it should be worked on by our prefrontal cortex before becoming an expressed verbal or written thought. To deny the natural editing process is to risk being labelled as something we are not, or to hurt people we have no intention of hurting, or to come across as ignorant when we are not.

On the other hand (says my prefrontal cortex) perhaps it is a good idea for one to test thoughts out this way. Perhaps a notion I had was racist/homophobic/misogynistic/ablist etc, and by airing it I would become aware. Sure, I might lose my job and all my friends and get death threats, but I would have learnt a valuable lesson in social dynamics, the kind of lesson you can’t buy with money.

And of course there are people who mean the offence they are accused of, to which I can only respond with a bovine grunt as I do not understand such people.

As Tyler Durden says, “But that’s me, and I could be wrong.”

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Sketch Inspired by “I against I”



Inspired by:

‘I Against I’ by Massive Attack feat. Mos Def


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Snail’s Pace

Snail's Pace

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December 26, 2013 · 18:01

Review: ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ by Neil Gaiman

‘The Monarch of the Glen’ is billed as “an American Gods novella”.

For my money it’s better conceptualised as an extended epilogue to ‘American Gods’.

After the events of ‘American Gods’ its main protagonist, Shadow, wanders around in Europe, backpacking, looking for something he can’t quite define. He ends up in Scotland and puportedly because of his immense size and his ‘I’ve been in prison’ body language he is hired to provide security for a high-class party at a castle. He agrees, but then it turns out that things are not what they seem and security is the least of what his employers will require of him.

As in its parent novel, ‘The Monarch of the Glen’ features gods and monsters, myths and legends, all in mundane guises. There’s a cameo by Odin. There’s Grendel, from Beowulf. There’s a huldra called Jennie who perhaps has the hots for Shadow.

I read it in an hour. It’s well-crafted, with no flab or drag. I just wonder if this novella could stand on its own without the glow of ‘American Gods’ or Gaiman’s celebrity.

I find Shadow problematic as a character. For one thing he seems to lack agency. I understand the need to drift a bit after a major cataclysm, but Shadow’s motivation in accepting the job is unclear to me. He seems slightly thick, to be honest. He is warned not to go and had several opportunities to abort the mission. This does not stop him.

He allows himself to get caught up in circumstances similar to what happened in ‘American Gods’, suggesting he hasn’t learnt a simple lesson about taking jobs from strange old men, jobs that only his bulk and his jailbird status qualify him for.

I would recommend it as long as you read it second. I enjoyed the novella, but I wonder how it would fare if I had not read ‘American Gods’ first.

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Ahh, Santa. You knew exactly what I wanted

Ahh, Santa. You knew exactly what I wanted

Dennett’s “Intuition Pumps” and “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes”.
For Christmas.

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December 26, 2013 · 03:48



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December 25, 2013 · 22:36