Last night in Nip/Tuck, which Mrs Zen watches and I mostly ignore, a woman had a child and the guy, the father, a white man, was surprised to find that it was black. I won't walk away, he said. I loved it in the womb and I'm going to keep on loving it.
This posed some questions for me. Could I love someone else's child? What does loving a child consist of? The former question used to crop up from time to time when I was younger, when I would think about whether I would form a serious relationship with someone who already had children and, more importantly, whether I could come to love them. Then I thought I could, now I am not so sure. Certainly, if I were to separate from Mrs Zen, I could have a relationship with a woman who had children. It wouldn't be a problem. But loving the children would. How could I? My love for my children is fuelled by their being mine. In the shoes of the guy in Nip/Tuck, maybe I could care for the child, maybe I would feel a form of love, but it would not be what I feel for Zenella, Zenita and Naughtyman. They are integral to me, not just part of my life but part of me, who I am, what I hope for (which is little enough), what my deeper self hopes for (I suppose I mean by that what the reptile that does the driving wants, what my genes want, what the spinning points of nothing that make me want).
An acquaintance wrote to me, talking about something I had written. She has lost a child. It made me think, that is what love for your children consists in. The knowing that nothing can hurt more than their dying. I don't need to lose a child to know how it feels. It haunts a parent all the time. This morning I found Zenita drinking face cleanser. There are plenty of things in our house that could poison her but that isn't one of them. I had a sudden glimpse into an abyss, a profound grief that I know awaits if she ever drinks one of the things that will. Just the thought is disturbing enough to make me slightly nauseous. Sh, my acquaintance, is haunted by her missing child. There is a space where the child should be, a shadow across the moments of her day. When her other children are laughing, there is one voice missing, the sound of the child she dreamed her baby would grow to be. All parents, I should think, imagine futures for their children, ways they could be, how they might look. In this sense, children are like books, laying down their histories a page at a time. We imagine sometimes that the rest of the book has already been written but we do not know how to read it. And so it is revealed, delighting us, surprising us. But the lost child--their book has its pages torn out, from the point of their death on. Torn out and burned. If we believe in a god, fate, whatever, we pray to it not to spoil this beautiful thing that is unravelling for us. Even when your expectation is rather misty, an uncertain future, a who knows?, even then you know how painful it would be not to have the rest of the book to enjoy.
Pod of wails
Photek is difficult but rewarding. Angular and yet filled out with big bass. I cannot follow a Photek track end to end but that's how my head is, so I'm loving it.
The rain is in our street like a broad, fast river. It astonishes us that we have so much rain but there is not enough for us all to drink. The National Party had a dream that Australia would have a population of 50 million and would become a powerhouse in the world. That's the kind of narrow, emptyheaded nationalism that sells well here. I've never cared enough about being English to feel it but I suppose people's need to belong makes them want to belong to something big. The water stopped them in their tracks though. There isn't enough for 20 million and more would not be sustainable unless we all learn to drink seawater.
What goes on is straight ahead rock, which the Velvet Underground, despite their reputation for the esoteric, did better than most. I suppose that it's only in hindsight that it sounds straight ahead: VU created the idiom.
Sometimes, when you consider innovators, you have to consider whether the thing they made was bound to happen. I was thinking about potatoes and how wonderful they are. Without Columbus... well, that's not quite true. If Columbus had not found the Americas, someone would have. VU weren't the only experimental band of the late 1960s and one supposes that if it hadn't been them, it would have been someone else.
But perhaps if the English had found the Americas before the Spanish, or the French had, things would have developed differently. Would the difference in tone had there been no Columbus match the difference had there been no VU?
Witness are a great unnoticed band. Their sound is quintessentially American and they come from Wigan. Why do I say they sound American? I suppose because they do literate, carefully made alt.rock. It sounds like open spaces. It certainly doesn't sound like Wigan.
I am eating potato waffles. Junk food is warming on a chilly, wet day. Yes, we have them, even in the sunshine state. Listening to A Certain Ratio's Shack up takes me back to my teens. Potato waffles were a staple of my diet when I was living at home. My mum was not a cordon bleu cook but she made what we liked. ACR did funky quite well. Some say you have to be black to be funky but this is just a reprise of blacks got riddim for people who think that's a bit risque. Blacks do not got riddim, of course. I've seen a club full of blacks and not one of them could dance to save their lives. I should have video'd it for Mythbusters. I can't dance either. The advent of club culture and E was a blessing for me because nondancers needed only drop the pill and suddenly they were Travolta himself. With more gurning.
The Yellow Magic Orchestra were pioneers. I'm not sure what of though, because their leftfield mix of Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk is not much echoed these days. Rydeen is a sweet melody though, but horribly dated now. Strangely, Kraftwerk are still fresh (Jarre never was). I don't think you can analyse what makes music timeless. It's quite different from writing, for which being dated is not a drawback: Austen and Dickens are still fantastic to read, even though no one could or would write that way today.
Yo La Tengo are my idea of a perfect pop band. I'm probably fonder of their alt.country stuff, such as Did I tell you, Autumn sweater or particularly Stockholm syndrome, but they have been consistent for years across a range of styles.
Sometimes you wonder, well, I wonder, why great bands like that never make it big. Of course, I'm too polite to think the truth of it: most people don't actually like music. It's just noise for them. Some people feel hurt when others don't share their loves. Not me. I only care that enough people love what I love that the people who make what I love keep making it. The rest of the world can go fuck itself.
On the spot
I am walking up and down on the spot. There's no point to it. The good things go unnoticed; the bad are magnified until they overwhelm any possibility of making life work.
I want to dance but I am leaden-footed. I am old. And you don't get younger as the days pass. You don't feel any younger. So it's quite true that you are as young as you feel.
Nothing tastes good because I cannot taste what I want; nothing sounds good because I have no one to share it with; nothing looks good because the days are grey; nothing is good because nothing touches me. I am numb, chilled to the bone, entirely without anything to warm me.
I cannot see the door that leads from here to there. I cannot see a path to anywhere. I am trying, running sometimes, crawling others, but my steps are slowed by the tar of where I am, who I am and what I have.
I need love. I need someone to light a flame. The ones who can fear it will be they who burn; the ones who can't just suck more and more warmth from my days. I know I need to take a deep breath. It's just life, I know it's just the way it is, days when feeling nothing feels worse than feeling bad and feeling good feels further away than the star you no longer feel you can reach for.
The best music reaches up, and the bands that make the best music aim ever higher. Sometimes they fall far short of their aim but they're all the better for trying. When they have a body of work, you can forgive an album that didn't make it (particularly when you can syphon off the best tunes for your iPod). To be honest, Mogwai's albums usually are a bit hit and miss. I don't think they've had a single one that didn't feature a duff song or two. Where Mr. Beast is a letdown is not that it has more than the usual quota of duffers but that it is overall of good quality but does not soar.
With the astonishing, brilliant exception of Friend of the night. Mogwai's trademark is to take a fragile, sweet melody and spin it into a huge wobbling monster of a track. A failing of Mr. Beast is that many tracks are nice but go at a trot, never quite breaking out into the full gallop that the Gwai thrilled with in Mogwai fear Satan or Ratts of the capital. Friend of the night is far too short: it leaves me every time begging for more. But it is breathtaking, a quintessential Gwai melody that briefly takes off, captures your heart and then sails off with it. For about half as long as it ought to!
Still, for all that it doesn't quite live up to the hype, it's another well-crafted, beautifully produced Mogwai album. That makes it better than nearly everything else around, because Mogwai at a walk beats most bands at a sprint.
Talking about beautiful production, I have been listening a fair bit to Seamonsters, the Wedding Present album that was produced by Steve Albini. I say produced, but Albini insists that he "records" bands, and does no production at all.
Dalliance, one of the best songs Dave Gedge, or anyone else, has ever written (who else could so accurately capture the hurt of the "other man" who is dumped for the husband), breaks out from a gentle strum that highlights Gedge's words into a massive sprawling guitarfest. What amazes me is that you can pick every note the guitar plays out. The sound is massive but beautifully structured.
As I write this, Shine, by the House of Love, is playing on my iPod. It perfectly illustrates the value of production. Shine screams out for the rhythm guitars to go to 11, but they stay resolutely at 3. If only Albini or Kevin Shields (imagine! The House of Love with seventeen layers of feedback) had produced them.
Ups and downs
Playing poker can feel like someone is kicking you in the guts, over and over. You play your cards, make the right bets and get killed. The guy who bets all his cards, even the offsuit rags, picks up every pot. When you have pocket cowboys, someone else has pocket rockets and you go all the way for your shafting, spewing chips as you go. Every draw you try for, you miss, two, three, four in a row when the odds are less than two to one each time. You start thinking you were wrong about yourself, that you can't win. In two hours this morning, I lost $30 (American, to make it all the more painful). That doesn't sound like much, but it's 60 big bets. Winning 5BB per hundred hands makes you a huge winner; losing 5BB per hundred means you are running very cold. In two hours, I'd played only about a hundred hands.
But poker is also the lady who finds you bleeding in the gutter, picks you up, dresses you down and kisses you for luck. In the next two hours, I won every cent back. No tilt, no stupid bets. Just solid play. I'm learning to win at poker but better than that, I'm learning to lose too.Glossary
For the benefit of the nonpoker-literate who might want to read and understand these posts (a very select few, I should think!), I'll explain some of the jargon.
Offsuit rags: in holdem, each player is dealt two hole cards that only they see. They can be suited (both of the same suit) or offsuit (different suits). Rags are nonpicture cards. Most good players won't often play two cards that are both unsuited and of low value.
Pocket cowboys: A pair of kings. This is a very good starting hand.
Pocket rockets: A pair of aces. This is even better.
Spewing chips: Betting when you think you're winning but, erm, aren't. This term applies to those times you should stop but don't.
A draw: In holdem, once everyone has betted on or folded their hole cards, three cards are dealt face up on the board. These are called the flop. The idea in holdem is to make the best possible hand out of your hole cards, and five board cards: the flop, the turn and the river. There is a betting round before the flop, after the flop, after the turn and after the river. That's a lot of betting for those that want the action, and a lot of spewing if your hand is not as good as you hoped! A draw is generally speaking when you hold four cards and a fifth will give you a strong hand (although you can have draws to improve any hand). A backdoor draw is when you have three of the cards either in your hand or on the board. A backdoor draw needs two cards to turn up, so it's no use to you after the turn.
Big bets/small bets: I play limit poker online. This is not the same game you see on television (which is no limit, the game I play on Friday nights), although both have the same rules for making up hands and so on. In limit poker, bets on the first two rounds of betting -- preflop and after the flop -- are limited to the small bet (25c at the limit I play at). If someone has already bet the 25c, you can raise the bet to 50c and so on. There's a cap at a dollar. On the turn and river, the bet size rises to 50c, with a two-dollar cap. That doesn't sound like much, but a pot can rise to nearly $20. I lost a $17 pot this morning. I didn't think I'd win it but I couldn't release my cards. If the pot's that big, you'll bet just about anything and pray for luck, rain or insanity on the part of your opponents. The difference for no limit is that there is no betting structure. It's important to understand the concept of blinds. In limit poker, the blinds are forced bets, which each person in turn must make: the big blind pays a full bet, 25c, the small blind roughly half, 15c. In no limit poker, the blinds rise after a certain time at each level. I won't go into why but it helps the game along.
Some other bits that might help: Coldcalling means calling a bet and a raise. (If you're really struggling, calling means that someone has bet, and you put in the same amount of money to stay in the hand.) Mucking means the same as folding (the cards go into the muck). A set is three of a kind. Flopping a set would mean you have a pair and the board turned up the third of that kind. That's a good flop! Three of a kind is a good hand, although straights (five cards in a run) and flushes (five cards of the same suit) are stronger, and full houses (or boats, three of a kind and a pair), four of a kind and straight flushes (flushes that also make runs) stronger still. If the flop shows a pair, and you have another of the same suit, you've flopped trips. This is not as good as flopping a set for the obvious reason that someone else might have the other of that kind, but still it makes a strong hand. When you've flopped trips, you'll be hoping your other card comes on the turn or river to give you full boat, a very hard hand to beat. What if you and the other guy both have trips? Who wins at the showdown? Whoever has the higher other card. This is called the kicker. The kicker is always the highest card, if any, that you have in your five that doesn't make anything: so if you have AK and hit a pair of As, you have a king kicker because it's not part of the pair. If you hold A4 and the flop is 447, you have trips with an A kicker, and you're likely to get paid. (It should be obvious that flops can make or break a hand, and that knowing whether you've been made, broken or something in between is one of the skills all holdem players must master.) The nuts is the best available hand. Recognising what it is and knowing whether a/ you have it or b/ anyone else is likely to have it are basic skills in holdem. It's astonishing how many people are willing to play without having them. A "nut" hand, whether a flush or straight, is the best available with the board cards. Again, you should know what it is, if it's there. The nut flush is A high, but if the A is on the board, the player with the highest card in the same suit will have the nut flush. If you have the K, that's you. Hitting any flush will usually make you a winner, particularly if the board does not show a pair (in which case, only another, bigger flush will beat you). If you hold the A of a suit that has four cards on the board, there's no pair and someone else just bet, Christmas has come. You have the nuts and you're going to get paid.
At Peregian Beach
Dad is looking good but he is in the zone. I've always thought, as a rough approximation, that 60 on is the zone for dying. The years begin in which if you die, it's no big surprise. Before then, you feel that the person died young, was robbed, it's just not right. But from 60 on, it becomes fitting.
Nothing brings home to me more that life is temporary than knowing my parents will die. They are a fixed point in my life and always have been. I know it is mundane to say so, because of course they have always been part of it, but it's the sort of truism that only strikes home from time to time, and when it does, you feel already bereft.
It is a tragedy for us that we know we will die. It sometimes crushes you into a tiny cube, knowing that everything has a limit. Better to be a cat, unaware, unfeeling, uncaring.
I love my dad. I always have. Not for anything he's done or been to me but just because. I do not know how it would be possible not to love him. I can't imagine what he could do that would make me stop. He's done some shit things. He's a difficult man to know, to be with, sometimes.
When I think about my dad, I can't help thinking about myself, because I think about how he was with me and how I am with my kids. He was not a great dad. He didn't have a clue and he still doesn't. I am not a great dad either but I still have time and I am never leaving them in doubt that I love them. That was a mistake my dad made that I won't repeat.
My dad was away a lot when I was a kid. Or, I should say, it felt like a lot. I'm not sure how much of the time he actually was away. It was up to six months at a stretch sometimes. (He was not a career criminal but a sailor; still, they are similar in their way, both man's worlds in which men find a way to cut themselves off from having to deal honestly with their emotions and, in particular, how they feel about women.) I don't think that was a good thing but I'm not sure it did any damage. It has led me to want to be an enduring presence in my children's lives, which is not easy, because I sometimes just want to sit in my cave for hours, untouched by the world. I think about his being away a lot these days because I am not sure I can stay married and if I don't, I do not know how I can be here. It's a desolate, cruel choice: to have to consider whether I can live in a place that makes me unhappy so that I can be near my children. I do not want to be one of those men who disappear from their children's lives. How can you bear that? But when I know how close I am getting to the zone, how can I bear living in a place that is so empty of opportunity for me, so deeply unattractive?
Life does that to you. You are never wholly the captain of your own ship. The life in which that would be possible would be worse for me or would require me to be someone else. You have to negotiate with what there is, not what you wish there was. Age just makes the negotiations more urgent, the outcome more important (it feels that way, even though it surely isn't true) and the stakes higher (again, they seem that way, even though they probably do not change: a life is a life -- but now I say that, I have to think, well, how do I explain the sorrow I feel when I see a fucked-up life? The waste that I feel it is when someone is enslaved, hurt, crippled, unable to cope? How do I explain that feeling? Because I know I feel it. Am I just feeling it to create a route to feeling sorry for myself? Because if I can empathise with broken lives, and convince myself I have a broken life too, then I can empathise with myself? The worst outcome of my life has been how self-absorbed I am. It makes it entirely impossible to unravel, to spread out, to allow life to enter my dead core.).
We were talking, me and my dad, about the Greeks. He is studying for a masters in Classics at the Open University. He is saying that he must write an assignment on Thucydides' narratology. It's a long time since I read the History of the Pelopennesian War and I certainly can't remember the details, but Dad is telling me how speeches made by Alcibiades and Nicias early in the book prefigure the text that describes the events of the war. Nicias, in particular, is made to look prescient. Thucydides is subtle enough never to have anyone, least of all Nicias, say "that Nicias was right", but the book yells it out. We talk for a bit about the Greek way of war and how history is represented in films. We haven't talked like this for years.
I am struck by the thought that we might never again, my dad and I, talk like this. He is not a talker and we are rarely together. I am thinking, I want back the times we fought, the times he hated me and I hated him. I want back the hours that we were not big enough men to save from destruction. And I know that I need to love my boy fiercely, enough that he will not have a moment that he does not know, with absolute, crystalline certainty, that I love him with the same undying, unquestionable love that I have for my dad, and he in turn, my son, will have for me.
Does he have a K?
AT head's up. Blinds 500-1000 (not real money!). I'm on the button and I raise it to 3000. He calls.
Flop was K93 rainbow.
I bet it decently until it got scary and then bet it some more to try to blow the other guy off the river. I think I did the right thing (he was 3/8 to have paired his hand and had some odds to have a better hand preflop but the betting told me he didn't have a better hand, so I was right to bet the flop) and lost, so I'm cool with that.
He did the wrong thing and won. He hit the K and coldcalled my bet. Look, what does he think I have? I've bet a decent amount so I'm representing a hand. What am I telling him I have? I raised preflop from the button, which I can check if I'm hoping just to hit the flop. So I probably have something. I didn't go massive either, which he could read as a bluff-raise to blow him off the pot. (Because if you're on 500-1000 blinds, you call it from the small blind and the button raises you 5000 or 6000, he probably has bobbins! If he has a good hand, he won't want to scare you away from the pot.) He has to put me on a pair or high cards. KK is unlikely, of course, but AK is definitely in my range; AA, KQ, KJ, KT, K9 all have him beat. He beats Qx, Jx, which I might have raised preflop with, and lower pairs. But any of these latter hands I'm likely just to check the flop. I'm an aggressive player but if I'm sitting on Qx or Jx on this flop, I'm not going to bet against the overcard! (The gutshot is a bit more than five to one against, not good odds when the pot is paying a bit less, but close to it.) If I had a small pair, I'd be likely to check it if I missed the flop.
I think he needs to raise me. If I have a small pair or a draw and call the bet, I'm taking my cards too far. If I have a big hand and reraise, he has an easy fold. If I have nothing much and I'm trying to steal it or I bet the gutshot, raising makes the bluff more expensive and ruins my odds for the gutshot. If I fold, he wins without further risk. KK is not a great hand. Okay, he's hit the flop, but he has a poor kicker (an 8). A backdoor flush is a possible out and so are backdoor straights for Qx and Jx. My hand, AQ and AJ are all in my range and each have three outs. (If he knew I had Ax, he would right simply to call. He should lay me the odds to hit my outs because the pot is nowhere near big enough for me to call a raise and it would be a mistake to do so.) A raise would give him information. Say I bet 2000 on the flop (which I think was what I did). He raises another 2000 and what happens? If I fold, he wins my preflop raise and my bet painlessly. If I call him, he knows he is beat and he can save himself the more than 2000 he would be betting on the turn and the river.
I could have checked into him at the flop. But I think AT is a good hand, probably winning. Either outcome after a check isn't good: if he checks behind, I have no information about his hand; if he bets a decent amount, I have to decide whether he has hit the K or is trying to scare me off the pot. I can in the latter case bluff-reraise but it's an expensive way to find out he has the K!
The turn is not scary. A 5. I bet out again, another 2000. There's no flush possible because we have all four suits on the board. And if I was betting a gutshot on the flop, I now don't have the odds. Why am I betting? Simply, I do not put him on a K. I have him on Ax, Qx, Jx hoping to get lucky or the bluff. I think he should have raised a K and I think he will call bets with Broadway cards with his big stack.
But I'm not happy that he has called. It tells me he has the K (or a slowplayed AA). Why? With the blank turn, the bet is representing a hand. He called the flop and didn't raise, so unless he has a 5, I could check into him and expect a check behind. With no hand, he has to think I'd take the free card. I am representing having Kx and putting in a value bet. I figure, I can and will fold to a raise, but he should be folding most hands.
What would he call the flop bet and the turn bet with? If he had been hanging in with a Q or a J, he is now drawing close to dead (Q5, Q9, Q3, J5, J9, J3 all have three outs each against the K, but my PF raise would suggest to you that KQ and KJ are possible for me, which slightly devalues the outs). So they're gone. He could have 95, 93 or 53. They all beat me, of course. 93 would probably have merited a raise at the flop though and 53 would probably merit one here. It's only getting beat by KK of my possible range of hands. If he has Ax, he'll again be drawing to three outs on the river and must fold here.
Look, he's not a thinking player. He won't have worked all that out, but he knows he's fucked if he has been hanging in with a Q or a J, that's all, and he should be able to see that he's probably fucked with Ax. He doesn't have any draws and I'm sure to call a bluff. (I have quite a bit of my stack in now so I'm hardly going to throw away a pair of Ks to a bluff.) I am semibluffing, of course, because I do not have a hand. I know I am behind any king at this point but his range of hands after the flop was in my view about 50/50. Half the time he'd have a K, the other half he'd have Ax, Qx, Jx or fuck all. Bets are worth making from the small stack if you have an edge, and I considered I had it.
But when he called it, my heart sank.
The river was another blank. I actually forget what it was, maybe a 2 or a 4, so any draw was a complete suckout. Something like that.
What do you do in this spot? It's tough. What I wanted to do was fold. I was sure I was beaten. If I check, he should not bet because he will be opening himself up to the check-raise, which will show him he is beaten, and I will fold to a bet if I don't have it. So he would just check behind and shows down for the money. If I bet the same decent amount, I am throwing money away. If he called it on the turn, he'll almost certainly call it again on the river. The river wasn't scary; no reason to feel I had hit anything.
Checking or betting a small amount makes me a sure loser. I've bet enough into this pot to leave me on a respirator if I lose it. He'll have eight times my money and I'll be facing the music if I check, a bigger lead if I bet.
I could go all-in. But in his shoes, I'd consider an all-in bet a bluff. I think that's an easy read of the action.
So I bet 5000. It says unambiguously, I have it and you're going to pay me if you have Kx. It's saying, I want you to be fool enough to call with your dominated K and pay me off. It's a bluff. I don't want him to call. I want him to think that giving me another 5000 will make me not far short of even but keeping it will leave him healthily the big stack. I want him to fold it away and think that he made a great laydown. He has no read that I will bluff. I haven't been caught in one all night. I played tight early on and raised good hands (in one case I reraised fairly large from late position with KQs and then called the all-in bet from another guy who had 66 -- a bad bet from him, I'd say, because I'm always going to call you if I've put money in, and he paid me when I hit the flop; so he'd seen that I would play big hands aggressively). I stole some blinds with nothing at all but he doesn't know that. My preflop raise was healthy, reflecting the edge I had (AT wins about 60-40 head's up) and maybe a bit more (enough that I could definitely have had a hand like AK or KQ). I had bet decent amounts, given my short stack.
I wonder, did he even think about what I had? I don't think so. I think he called it because he was big stack and thought he could afford it. I think laying it down would be a good play with no read that I might bluff. In his seat, I'd be putting me on a better hand.
Still, I learn more lessons. I went a lot better with more aggressive play head's up. And thinking back over it, I'm sure that he should have put in a raise on the flop. I am finding it harder to learn from my mistake. I'm sure I made one at the turn but I haven't worked out whether I should have checked or bet more. I'm thinking I should have gone more but I'm not sure why. Ah well. Three live games, three times in the money. You don't have to get them all right if you're at least getting paid a little.
Bleating into the abyss
There is nothing that gladdens a troll's heart more than being talked about and nothing that saddens one more than not being noticed. The greatest fear for the troll is that they are just bleating into the abyss. You never want to be doing that.
Imagine my delight at finding that there's a whole board
practically devoted to whining about me. Okay, I have to share space with Holocaust denial
but you can't have everything.
As it happens, rightwing extremists are some of the easiest people there are to troll. Why? Because they are so full of shit. And trolls feed off the full-of-shitness. Sorry, but they do. If you're getting heavily trolled and flamed by someone who looks like they're enjoying it, you're either a troll yourself and asked for it, or you're full of shit.
I specialise in hypocrites. Okay, it's not much of a speciality because there are tons of the fools and they don't have the sense not to oblige you over and over. These particular idiots claim to believe in free speech but silence people they don't like. Ho hum. Surely it would be better to be honest: to say that what you are in favour of is hating Jews and that you only want to be allowed to speak freely because you want to express that.
But honesty is the enemy of the neo-Nazi. If they were honest, they would need to face up to their own inadequacies, and stop blaming their misfortunes on people of another colour or another ethnicity; they would need to accept that the world despises them because they are ugly not because there is anything wrong with the world; and they would agree to the truth that millions of Jews and others were murdered by the Germans and their allies in World War II.
Free speech is in any case a difficult area, as I discussed in connection with David Irving
. You are not entirely free to say what you want in any place in this world. Leaving aside that good sense and good taste are limits on speech, there are many expressions that you are not free to make even in the freest nation. I believe free expression is a A Good Thing, probably much more so than the likes of Holocaust deniers "Igor Alexander" and "Blu Aardvark" or, laughably, accountability queen "qwerty" -- a man who spends his days hunting people down on the interwebnet but doesn't have the guts to say "this is who I am and where I am", another hypocrite, who when called, I note, banned me from the board he was spouting his bullshit about "accountability" on, but I do not believe at all it should be unlimited and do not pretend I do. If "Igor" had the balls to bleat at me in my comments, rather than from his board, which he has excluded me from, I would be sure to deny him the right to speak. I simply don't care what Nazis have to say.
So why even bother going to their site? Well, apparently, it's my birthday
. I wanted to see whether they had bought me a cake. Miserable bastids haven't though. Not even a round of For he's a jolly good fellow. Sigh.
Here's a thing that whenever I see it, I think, you should have resisted that
urge: you use babysdaddy as your handle, or the first part of your email addy (hey, slow readers, you replace "baby" with the name of your baby). Do you not realise that we are all
astonished by our children when they first happen, this side of CroMagnon man? We all cannot believe how cute they are. Even the mother of that gorilla baby that scares old ladies when they look into its pram. And we all have that sinking feeling that we have lost our identity, ceased to be Zen and started to become Zenellasdaddy. Which passes once you start to have more sleep and are able to focus on other things a little better. If you do. Some people, I know, become mommybots: they stop being able even to think about themselves, the world round them and the things in it they used to delight in. But this is a disorder, not something to celebrate in your screen name.
I received some good advice about blogging about my kids: don't journalise them. Damned good advice, which I've fairly religiously followed. Because I am an average man and I have an average life. My kids do more or less what anyone else's kids do. Sure, Zenita is cute and has a mop of curly blonde hair that looks like the icing on the bun; Naughtyman has a ladykilling smile and a loping run that would make him perfect for a George Romero film; and Zenella can knock the world entirely sideways with an expression of love or generosity that is unexpected. I'm not saying they are not wonderful, individual, special children. Far from it. They are far more interesting than anyone else's and twice as good-looking.
And of course they teach me lessons about myself and about life. But they are probably lessons we all learn. Quite banal. And I think the problem about journalising your kids is going to be that you start shoehorning lessons into everything. Everything becomes a learning experience, but life is resolutely not like that. Much of it is dreary stuff that you have to drag your sorry arse through with gritted teeth. Trust me, a four-hour car journey with twin year-olds and a woman who has not had a night's sleep in fifteen months teaches you only not to do it again.
What would be worth blogging about them is almost unwriteable and, in any case, not necessarily something that you can share (because, although many forget this, when you write about someone in an intimate tone, your writing belongs in some way to them too -- you are trading in your intimacy with them). But mostly just unreachable with words. I think I am a good writer, who can spin most things into readable prose, but I cannot begin to find words to touch the feeling of watching your child sleep on a warm night, their face lit up by the moon, the feeling that the world boils down to your moment, right here, and if you could pull everything to a stop right now, you could cease. And you lean over to touch them and they smile, gently, in their sleep, because even asleep they know and trust your touch. You cannot put that into words because words are not enough to journalise love and never will be.
What is difficult is deciding whether I was right to call while knowing he was so wrong to bet. He goes all-in with wired fives. The flop is low but shows a flush draw. Two hearts and another small card. But I have 67s in hearts. So I call him.
And afterwards he is saying, well, there is no big overcard on the table. And I’m like, what a crazy thing to go all-in on, because there is an overcard and they don’t need to be big or small so long as they are over and a flush draw. Okay, he can gamboool on the flush because what are the odds I have two hearts? But he is giving me the odds I have a bigger pocket pair and didn’t raise it up or that I hit the one that’s there already, or the two to come, or a straight because there are pieces of a straight there.
So the flush draw, pair up either the 6 or 7, hit the backdoor straight. I am about even money. And tonight the turn is a 3 and the river a J, so I score nothing and he cleans it up. I am shaking his hand and saying, well played, man, but I’m thinking, you do that every time we are heads up and I will take your money.
I learned my lesson from a fortnight before. My tight game serves me well in this company and if I play cards I’m comfortable with and muck rubbish, I win pots. I’m not in for the big pots, but I survive to the last three without needing to take risks.
At one point, I outscore a guy who has a full house. I had to bet it, he said, I had full boat. But he was beaten all the way. Not knowing that is why he left his money on the table. There were two Qs on the board. He had Q7. I knew I had him beat. I had QJ and the other card was a J. What the fuck. Did he not notice I was playing tight? I knew he would play anything he thought would put him in the hand. I am learning to love players like that. At first, if you’re playing TAG, it’s hard to play the fish, because your game’s geared to playing people who have a clue. But you slowly realise that the solid game will also beat fuckwits. You just have to trust it.
The guy who came third had been second in a bigger tournament the week before. So he was the form guy but he was a nothing player. It’s encouraging for me. He was willing to play bad cards and played them badly. He played wired sevens against a Broadway board and handed his money over (sadly not to me).
So how did I lose? (Because although I won money, I still felt I had lost.) I’ve never played heads up in the flesh, so I wasn’t sure what strategy to pursue. I didn’t catch any cards – and I mean no cards, I was playing rags – and I found myself calling a lot in the small blind. My instincts told me raise or fold, of course, and a bit of reading after the game tells me that this is where I lost out: I gave up the aggression when heads up. I let the other guy read my hand and never had a handle on his. The value of raising is that it lets you know whether others are serious. Okay, you pay a few bets when you lose but you win overall because in cards, as in life, knowledge is power.
Oh and yes, I was wrong in theory, right in practice to call.. He bet nothing preflop and the best he could have hit was a crap pair. But I wasn’t to know that he hadn’t sat on pocket 8s, 9s. I get about four to one to hit the flush and some odds for my backdoor straight and the pot odds are (obviously) a bit better than two to one. I’m a dog and should chuck them. Instinct told me he was bullshitting, because I know that he has been buying the blinds by going all-in with marginal hands (no-limit poker is not all about the maths; psychology has a part to play), so I wasn’t surprised to see how poor his holding was.
He deserved to lose. I could have had anything. He was leading out, hadn’t even heard me bet. I could have hit trip 3s (the low card on the board). He gambled on a bad hand. You know, I don’t mind losing that one. Because most times, I’ll win. And I’ll play him a lot of times. Last Friday, I called and I lost. But most Fridays, I’ll call and beat him. I’ve learned my game is better than his or anyone else’s there. It’s worth paying 40 dollars to learn that.
Rice and beans
Freedom means having choices. You cannot be free if you cannot choose. This does mean that our freedom is fundamentally limited. Often people say "you don't choose your family". That is true. And as young men often wail at their mothers, you don't choose to be born.
I am compelled to be here. I could choose to leave. Would that free me? It's curious. I don't ever
have suicidal thoughts but I do not know how to escape that conclusion.
Why does it matter to be free? Isn't happiness better? I suppose it would be but I don't feel happy when I feel compelled. There is some part of me that runs amuck, yelling "bring it on", asking what the world has for me to rebel against. The strange thing is, I am more restricted, my choices more limited, by that than by anything else.
I don't have an answer to that because I cannot subdue that part of me.
I hate that I feel limited by others. I am not saying that I resent the restrictions on my freedom brought by having a wife and kids. Of course, like anyone I have moments when I think, if I didn't
... but I don't curse my choices. However, it is hard sometimes to accept that others want to restrict you because they cannot see what you see, and you cannot help them see it. I am ever frustrated by that. I get to that point at which reason has broken down and I have nowhere left to go. Sometimes being free requires being freed.
Did I really choose to sit in a darkened room, correcting someone who thinks "the appliance group had enhanced its critical mass" means something in English? I suppose I must have done. I suppose it's worth trying to figure out how it happened because that should inform my future choices but the problem is, I've lost the ability even to see myself as someone who makes choices. I have become almost entirely passive. I have a burst of enthusiasm, a bit of belief that I can make a change, and then it's crushed.
Naturally, nothing crushes it. The crushing happens entirely internally. I become convinced that I am compelled. Sometimes, what I want is only going to be possible if I walk a long road. If I can ignore that and start walking, I'm okay. But when I get a glimpse of the mountain, I feel immensely saddened. I feel it shouldn't happen to me.
Most of the time, I don't take myself seriously enough to feel sorry for myself. But when I catch sight of the small boy whose future I have mangled, I do. I feel sorry for him because he is still living in here, still hoping.
I know. It is all wrong. I know it. I spend too much time thinking about the choices I don't have and not enough on those I do. I am hurting myself with it and those around me. I know. I know it but what can I do about it? No one will let you just stop and say, this is what I'm going to be about.
I am not feeling articulate. I want someone else to be articulate for me. I want to say simple things and not be misunderstood. I could promise to live on rice and beans if I could eat it in any place I chose.