If I didn't do what I thought was right, and used other means to decide what to do, what would they be?
I could throw dice. That isn't really what I was thinking of but I'd probably get better outcomes if I did. The question would still remain what outcomes to allow the dice to choose from. (Not to mention that I don't have the macrochoices that dice would be good for; only many microchoices.)
Maybe I should do what others think is right. Or at least what they want.
There are only three problems with that approach. The first, and hardest to overcome, is that others do not know or will not say what they want. Or, worse, they will not say what they want until after you have made a choice and, as things turned out, it was what they didn't want. The second is that they often want what I don't want, or want conflicting things (so that Mrs Z wants one thing but a friend wants another; how do I choose if they are entirely opposite?). The third is that I am a contrarian and cannot help it.
It's something I would change if I could. I do like people after all. Or try to. But people's wants often seem so challengeable. The problem with changing is tied in with the first two reasons. Because I am talking about getting into the habit of doing what others want, and not just occasionally giving them their own way (which I do, of course), I would have to do what they want and I don't. That's the point. And picking and choosing would run counter to that point, surely? And who would I allow to choose? Everyone? Whoever has the wherewithal to state clearly what they think?
Maybe I should
stick with the dice.
So I got through some books while I was away, mostly on the plane there and back.Amsterdam
is McEwan in grotesque mode, in which he unleashes his profound misanthropy. I quite like that, but as usual, he creates fine caricatures and then allows them to coarsen, colliding them in a plot that stretches belief too far and stifles enjoyment.
If McEwan had more faith in his ability to capture the human condition, he would write better books. But he doesn't. He escapes from the lack into a plot twist that is just wrong
The book suffers from other flaws that McEwan often displays. He is often lauded as a stylist, but what this reputation is built on, I don't know. Yes, he can write, and there's none of the leadenness that makes Zadie Smith, for instance, entirely unreadable. But he never flies. I think it's because he only has one tone, a sort of "ha ha, look at him" leer. In Enduring love, it was unbearable. Where pathos, profundity, even sympathy were demanded, McEwan could not rise above "woah, check it".
Still, on the upside, it was readable. The characters were entirely unbelievable but fun all the same. However, it has to be said, you can never consider McEwan a great writer, not even a particularly good one, because he lacks the ability to tell the truth, to uncover us, to show us what we are really like
. For me, that is the heart of art. You show us what we are like or what we could be, or you are showing us nothing that will last.
I finally read Life of Pi
. I found it curiously flat and uninspiring. It was nicely written but in a rather self-absorbed prose that didn't engage me. I think it had too much of an air of the instruction manual (and I don't mean just those parts that actually were an instruction manual).
I wasn't clear on what the message was supposed to be. I think the cause is more likely my own lack of engagement than any failing on Martel's part (although I think I can blame him for not engaging me!). I didn't see how the boy's character saw him through. He just seemed to plod to survival. (Well, maybe that was the message? But no. You know when a book is trying
to tell you something. I knew I was supposed to be understanding something but I just couldn't see what it was.)
Curiously too, although Martel evoked Indian food brilliantly, he didn't capture Pondicherry at all. I could not recognise it from his description.
I am a huge fan of Peter Carey, but I approached Theft
with some apprehension, for two reasons. First, that it was subtitled "A love story", which is unpromising. Not because you think that Carey will deliver a love story (when he has, in Oscar and Lucinda for instance, he has been quite brilliant) but because you know that he is going to be in "clever" mode. Second, because while Carey can write wonderful books, he can also write some awful shit.
So which was it? For once, neither. And a bit of both. It was a cleverly constructed entertainment, with the usual Careyesque central character, engaging, flawed, funny. As a narrator, Bones reminds you of the Illywhacker, although he doesn't hit the outrageous heights of Herbert Badgery. But it also had another, wholly superfluous narrator, whose voice was all wrong, and who seemed to exist simply to add an overlay of "depth", which the book didn't need. Take him out and you have a neat comedy thriller, which made some arch, if not subtle, observations about the art world. Where Carey differs from McEwan (and one of the several reasons he is a far superior reasons) is that his characters, though grotesque, are plausible. McEwan will take a couple of facets of a person and stretch them into a whole being; Carey allows his characters to have a full set of attributes. McEwan has contempt for his characters; Carey loves his.
But neat as it was, it was slight. Carey needs to give himself a bigger canvas again. His great books have been sprawling picaresques, in which he has allowed a strong character to propel the plot. It may be too much to hope for another Jack Maggs, but I am hoping that he still has at least one.
I also read The little green book
by Phil Gordon, so I came back fired up, ready to play great poker, etc etc. Well, Mr Fucking Gordon, you explain why I cannot even cash in a dollar tourney, huh?
And I read half of Brick Lane
, which surprised me by being quite good. It would have been excellent if someone had taken the shears to it. It's a big book that would have been ten times better as a small book. It has too much scope filled with too little stuff
. (I know, that's criticism of the highest quality! But I can't find the mots justes for it: the feeling that a book sprawled out of control, was overstuffed. The best I can come up with is that it was not high enough in concept: it wasn't thematically strong enough to carry so much prose.)
Ali writes quite well in a sixth-form essay sort of way, correctly but rarely passionately. At least she didn't try to overwhelm the reader with overwriting, which is a common failing in English writers at the moment. But I have been entirely unmoved by it. I am thinking, this is okay.
Writers, if you're aiming for "okay", aim again. Aim higher. That is all.
I am sick of everything. I can feel my life dripping away, day by day, and I can't escape it even for a moment. I am sick of everything I do, everything I say, everywhere I go. But I have nothing else to do, nothing else to say, nowhere else to go.
All the things I am sick of I cannot stop doing or rid myself of. I cannot seem to fix anything. I cannot stop doing the things that are bringing me pain; I cannot stop my fingers from clicking the links, my mouth from saying the words, my head from spinning, crashing into confusion. Whenever it seems a small shaft of light is entering my life, it is quickly extinguished. I am not blaming anyone else for that. I know how good I am at snuffing out small flames.
Inside, deep beneath the clothes of the day to day, I believe there is something bright and wonderful; sometimes I believe that. Who wouldn't believe it? If you cannot muster any faith at all that you are good inside, you are done.
And I do believe I could be happy. I just don't know how. I do not know which step -- when so many are false and lead deeper into the quicksand -- is the first on the path to feeling well about it all.
I have become so sick I can scarcely even write. I can only whine sixty words a minute, turning the boredom that is drowning me outwards.
I was thinking of people who have come and gone. I didn't want them all to go, and it's no use pretending that I did. As so often, pride is a distant second to the truth; although pride hurts less, it costs more. But what can you do? Sometimes I wish I could reach out to the people I cared for once, so that they would still be a part of me. But when you do, they do not always reach back, and you are hurt twice: first by letting them go and then by trying to have them back.
It is worse though when what there has been has become something else. I must once have loved Mrs Zen. I still feel I do. But I can't find anything in her that is loveable. It is as though life has bent her so far out of shape, she cannot unwind herself to be the person she once was. I know I played my part in that. I don't kid myself that I'm the most fun person to live with. I suppose you have to know how to benefit from knowing me. What benefit can I be to a simple person like Mrs Zen?
What benefit can I be to anyone? I do not even know if I want to be. I do not have any views on what I want. I think that is the worst you can feel: void of ideas, void of needs, void of wants. I have simply surrendered them all as pointless. (Of course, I still want things: CDs, books, that sort of thing; but I am talking about meta-wants, big wants, what-you-want-from-lifes.) What is the use of wanting someone to enjoy the music I enjoy if I never meet anyone like that and never will? What is the use of wanting someone to watch the football with if no one I know even likes football? What is the use of wanting anything if you spend your days in a dark room?
All I am left wanting is someone who wants me for me, who wants to know me because it is good for me, not because they think I have something they want. Not like 1, who wanted me to stop burning but didn't bring water. Not like 2, who wants me to be entirely imaginary when I'm all too real. Not like 3, who wants me to be exciting but offers me nothing in return. Not like 4, who wants me to be too much, when I am too limited to be very much of anything at all. I want to be touched, not used. Does no one know the difference? Or do they know it, want it but not think that it's something I would want too?
About eating animals
I have been a vegetarian for a bit more than 15 years. I became one because I couldn't escape how easy it is to eat without eating animals and I had the vague idea that it was a small good thing not to eat them. I didn't go much deeper than that (that shallow thinking is quite enough to end meat-eating) so I still drank milk and ate eggs. It's not so much that animals suffer, although of course that concerns me, but that they die.
On reflection, three things have occurred to me. First, the suffering is possibly worse than the dying. Killing something to eat it is not so bad. It's natural that those that are able dispatch what they can and eat it. Lions do not stop to think whether they should rather eat carrots than gazelles. Of course I am being facetious. I consider myself more capable of ethical consideration than a lion. What I have a problem with these days is that that consideration lacks foundation. I find it harder to think of myself as anything different from any other animal. There is something speciesist in being vegetarian: I consider myself better than the brutes that simply eat other animals at the same time as I claim to be considering them my equals by caring about them enough not to eat them. But being kept in a factory farm is a bad fate for an animal, and I feel worse that I am in some small way complicit in their suffering in this way. I eat free range eggs but I don't buy organic milk. I have my doubts that it is "free range" in any case.
Second, I have reason to doubt my compassion for animals. Perhaps it was only ever squeamishness, which is not quite so noble. I simply don't feel all that compassionate though. I have had the yard treated for ants and I bombard my children's hair with lice medicine (which doesn't seem to work; no surprise, Brisbane is chockers with tough insects that bite weigh above their weight). I sprayed the outside of the house with creepy-crawly killer. This is just to avoid discomfort, not even because insects pose a threat to me. So I can't really claim to feel compassion for all living things, although I am sorry to think about the dead ants and so on.
Third, I find that it is conceptually difficult to distinguish a cow from a carrot. Both are living things and I struggle to work out why I should care more about the cow. Most reasons that I can come up with are fairly anthropomorphic. The best of a bad bunch is that cows feel and carrots don't. Which is true but surely one need only avoid allowing the cow to suffer?
I am left with a faint revulsion, which as I say is not much more than plain squeamishness, or a feeling that those nice cows should be allowed to live.
I suppose I could start eating meat again. Philosophically I could and it would improve my eating habits no end (it's hard to be a veggie in a place that is entirely meat-oriented). But the thought of meat makes me sick, so it's quite moot. I doubt I'll ever eat it again.
Raaaaaise it up
Because I've just started playing at PokerStars, I tried out the .02/.04 game, to get used to the interface. I loved it! Where else can you checkraise the field three times and still get called?
Sigh. I probably won't win too many 33BB pots at $30/60, so I suppose I should enjoy this fine moment
POKERSTARS GAME #6773769423: HOLD'EM LIMIT ($0.02/$0.04) - 2006/10/26 - 02:56:48 (ET)
Table 'Florentina' 10-max Seat #8 is the button
Seat 1: SPIDER521 ($4.43 in chips)
Seat 2: Card_Avenger ($1.05 in chips)
Seat 3: sis 53 ($0.63 in chips)
Seat 4: monoleg ($0.86 in chips)
Seat 5: luckey118 ($2.34 in chips)
Seat 6: krassdrauf ($0.46 in chips)
Seat 7: Mortl ($0.80 in chips)
Seat 8: flosimon ($0.57 in chips)
Seat 9: Aenima77 ($0.70 in chips)
Seat 10: Zen ($0.72 in chips)
Aenima77: posts small blind $0.01
Zen: posts big blind $0.02
Mortl: posts big blind $0.02
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Zen [Ks 8c]
Card_Avenger: calls $0.02
sis 53: calls $0.02
monoleg: calls $0.02
luckey118: calls $0.02
Aenima77: calls $0.01
*** FLOP *** [Ad 8d 8s]
sis 53: checks
monoleg: bets $0.02
luckey118: calls $0.02
Aenima77: calls $0.02
Zen: raises $0.02 to $0.04
Card_Avenger: raises $0.02 to $0.06
sis 53: folds
monoleg: raises $0.02 to $0.08
Betting is capped
luckey118: calls $0.06
Zen: calls $0.04
Card_Avenger: calls $0.02
*** TURN *** [Ad 8d 8s] [Th]
Card_Avenger: bets $0.04
monoleg: raises $0.04 to $0.08
luckey118: calls $0.08
Zen: raises $0.04 to $0.12
Card_Avenger: calls $0.08
monoleg: raises $0.04 to $0.16
Betting is capped
luckey118: calls $0.08
Zen: calls $0.04
Card_Avenger: calls $0.04
*** RIVER *** [Ad 8d 8s Th] [4s]
monoleg: bets $0.04
Zen: raises $0.04 to $0.08
Card_Avenger: calls $0.08
monoleg: calls $0.04
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Zen: shows [Ks 8c] (three of a kind, Eights)
Card_Avenger: mucks hand
monoleg: mucks hand
Zen collected $1.32 from pot
luckey118 is sitting out
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $1.36 | Rake $0.04
Board [Ad 8d 8s Th 4s]
Seat 1: SPIDER521 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: Card_Avenger mucked [Ac Ts]
Seat 3: sis 53 folded on the Flop
Seat 4: monoleg mucked [3h 8h]
Seat 5: luckey118 folded on the River
Seat 6: krassdrauf folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 7: Mortl folded on the Flop
Seat 8: flosimon (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 9: Aenima77 (small blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 10: Zen (big blind) showed [Ks 8c] and won ($1.32) with three of a kind, Eights
So I was patient and played tight, waiting for my opportunities to come. For two hours, I hardly played a hand, and my stack was still about 5000 after four levels. Still, no need to panic. I win a couple of decent pots and I'm second in chips. The players who have splashed around are out or down. I have put hardly a foot wrong in this game. I'm easily the best player at the table and I'm playing like it.
So I'm in the big blind and R, chip leader, who has been very lucky (playing as badly as he usually does but scoring a lot of suckouts) limps in the small blind. I have Q4 so I check my option.
The flop comes AQ4r. Beautiful. He bets out something small, and I raise it up. He comes over the top all in. I am thinking he has at best an ace. I am certain I'm winning. I call and he shows KK.
I know he will turn an ace, and he does. Sigh. Welcome back to poker innit.
What I did on my holidays
So if you want to read a rather dull journal about a trip to China with some amateurish photos, you can find one at the imaginatively named DR in China
My being only me
I am only jealous if you think what you have with them is like what you have with me. If you think it is, do not tell me because I will cast you aside like I would a worn-out shoe. I will never think of you with any sentiment because the magic is only in my being only me. You cannot have two, whatever else you do with them.