Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bite my shiny rationalist ass

So Mikey says it's free dress day and he needs a gold coin. What's it for? I say. Just curious. Because they often do this at the school for charity. The chaplain, he says.

So here it is. Not only does the school have a religious dude who is there to take care of the kids' "spiritual wellbeing" but they have a schoolwide fundraising thing where you only get to go in mufti if you cough up to promote religion in the school.

I'm pretty tolerant of religionists, despite their general intolerance for things I hold dear, but this is disgusting. So I told Mikey, you wear your free dress, mate, but no way are we paying for the chaplain. Tell your teacher we say "no religion please".

It sucks that these people put our kids in the middle. For years, women would cut Lindy dead in the schoolyard because their kids had told them our kids were kept out of religion class. Yes, Americans, believe it, we have classes in our state schools in which children are given religious indoctrination. And you have to opt out, not in. Most parents, even if they're not believers, are too cowardly to say no, so Bill sits outside his class with the Muslim kid and all the others in his class are taught that Jesus loves them.

And yeah, in case you were wondering, Queensland is by far the most bigoted, backward and hateful place in Australia. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that it's the one most infused by the Christian spirit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On being a failure in poker and life

Failure is relative. That's the first thing. I mean, take any ten people at random, including me, and I'm the best poker player among them. The chances of your picking a better player are low enough that I can say that.

See, that's something I've learnt. How chance works. I am saying I failed, not that I learnt nothing.

But mostly I learnt how to fail.

I was aiming at being good enough to make a living. And if I was Romanian, I would have made it. And was close to making it but I lacked some elements that you need for success: not least, ruthlessness. And any aptitude for hard work, let's face it.

But it is like so much in life. I understand the game. I know what it takes. And I know every excuse I can use to avoid doing what it takes. In the end, I had to quit because I am not a gambler. I know that seems weird when we're talking about a gambling game but you can play poker without loving to gamble (I don't think you can be very good at it though: again, it's the ruthlessness -- not just with others but with yourself). I had good offers for staking and that could, should have been enough to see me through a bad patch in freelance work but I realised I could not risk my kids' wellbeing. A steady income, even if it was unglamorous gave me the ability to know I could provide.

So failure is relative. I failed as a baller but I succeeded as a dad. At least in that way.

But of course you think what if. What if my backer's offer of coaching had been a bit firmer and I'd have taken more of a chance? What if I had spent a hundred hours learning push/fold so that my game was strong enough to switch to games where the edge is all in push/fold and not so much the all-round game that's my strength now? What if I wasn't a pussy?

Well, what if I wasn't is meaningless. I am. That's the thing with failure. It's relative. If you're who you are, you can only do what you are capable of. I learnt this about other people long ago. I am deeply forgiving of others for being limited. Yet still I hate myself for it.


So am I too cowardly or too lazy to write a novel? I am hoping the answer is neither. Paul Valery went something like twenty years without writing. It happens. Other shit gets in the way. When a plant isn't watered, it doesn't grow. Right? But I hope I am a cactus. That I am tough in some way and will still flourish when given the chance. I know I must create the chance myself. I'm not a good schmoozer. I don't have connections or friends in useful places. That's not the fault of my friends. I certainly know people who would do anything they could for me. But they can't do anything for me.

I have not given up on me. I mean, we all have bad days, bad weeks, when we think we will amount to nothing (unless you've amounted to something). That doesn't mean we are nothing.

You know, pick ten people at random, including me, good chance I am the richest among them. I have not forgotten that I am fortunate. I am smart. I am a damned good writer. And I see what it is and that's something you can turn into money if the chance comes. It'll come. I mean, here's where I should say money doesn't matter to me. But I chose to be a poker player, where success and failure are measured in dollars and no excuses. So in some ways it matters. But only as the way we keep score, right?

This is how I will be successful: you take ten people, me among them, and I am the happiest.  It's not impossible. That's something else poker has taught me. The worst among us have a lucky day sometimes and if that day coincides with the Sunday Million... well...

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I feel like there is a huge howling void in me because my mum, so vivid, so real, was here with us when I went home in June, and she was a bit coughy and a bit weak, but she was the same madcap, wonderful beast as ever, but her flame was just snuffed, just like that, and now I can't believe there will ever be any justice or right in the world because how can my beautiful mum have been just the same as ever one day and dead the next? I have suffered a bit in this life, I have been divorced, I have felt bitter bitter failure but I have never ever been hurt like this, never.


I have been feeling guilty recently because I have been, from time to time, hoping I will share in whatever money my mum left behind. (And I know it isn't much -- a small life insurance policy and some bits, whatever.) It feels like I am ready to loot the corpse.

It's not that I have money troubles particularly. I have a relatively small credit card debt and I'm a bit worried about paying for moving home, which I will have to do shortly, and I suppose I'd like to take my kids to the UK next year so they can spend time with my family there. But I live within my means more or less, and I can cope with what's upcoming.

And not even that I feel entitled. I don't. I want my dad to be able to enjoy his retirement. I hope he will sell his house and use the money maybe to buy somewhere smaller, maybe to do some of the things he had hoped to do with mum -- whatever brings him joy and comfort. Whatever his failings  -- and the apple has not fallen that far from the tree, they are no worse than my own -- he has always taken the responsibility to provide for the people he loves seriously, and it did not end when I (finally) left home. He has often supported me and bailed me out. I wish I was able to return the favour now he is older, although I don't think he needs it at all.

But I have never been particularly good at acquiring wealth. I am content with what I have. Like everyone, I have stuff. Way too much of it. I have not had a hungry day for many years. I have a drink when I want one, a pack of smokes from time to time, a pipe of weed. I know that we can always spend more if we have more but I do not yearn for more. I have always thought the things that are really worth something are not measured in money.

Yesterday was Zenella's birthday and Zenita was upset because she thought Zenella had had more than her. I said to her, But I took you and your friends to the cinema and to Max Brenner's for deluxe chocolate, you have forgotten. I said, What I bought you, just you, in Max Brenner's cost more than the little things I got for Zenella and we spent pretty much the same on your big present. I told her about my childhood, when I would have one thing for my birthday, just one, and I was never discontent with that. I had everything I needed.

I said to her, Stuff doesn't matter. I would give up all my stuff, everything, and every spare dollar I have for the next 20 years to have Granny for those years.

But I cannot. There is no god for me to bargain with. I could not do anything to give her even one more day. And nor could anyone else. A pulmonary embolism cannot be bargained with. That is how life, and death, is.


I could write a tribute to my mum. She was a beautiful woman: not just physically but spiritually too (and I don't mind using that word when I talk about her -- I don't mean that angel bollocks she indulged in; I mean that whatever we consist of, whether we are souls in corruptible bodies or machines that think we are something special, she exuded the human spirit). Only after having my own kids did I start to understand the patience and kindness that lay at her core, that I cannot begin to match, although I do try, I do.

But I won't. My tribute to my mum will be to try to become the man she thought I was. I know that my dad, if he reads this, will tell me how proud she was of me. I know she was. I know she loved me more than she loved anyone or anything else in this world. That is why it is so hard to live without her. You cannot lose that much love and shrug it off.

And I know I am doomed to fail. Because I have never been worthy of much love and I have never been much to be proud of. But I have to try. Because ultimately I do not want anything from Mum. She already gave me everything she had. She doesn't owe me anything now. But I owe her.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


How then is it possible to count from one to two, when between them lies an infinity of infinities? How can there be a road that does not end; but if it does not lead to God, where else could it lead?

When we find that space is served up in discrete chunks, the continuum is dead forever. The real numbers become another irreality and we will have to tell ourselves that we have once more proved bigger than the world we inhabit.

How then is it possible to step down a path of innumerable steps, that once we have begun we can never find an end? How many steps would we be willing to march before we are able to say that we were wrong -- sometimes even if you have the unshakeable conviction that you are right, it is better to accept wrongness and be content.

Do you ever feel that if you cannot know you would rather be dead? Is this why -- if you dove deep into whatever makes them -- young men are willing to die? Or do they simply fear that the endless procession of empty days may never end?

One, two... one, two... you can do it if you pretend the world is simple, that it has no hidden depths, that there are no secrets to be revealed; you can step over the countless count of the abyss.

When you are young, they tell you that pi is 22 divided by 7. Which almost makes sense and you can find comfort in such a sensible ratio. Then one day you learn that pi never ends, that if the universe existed for a trillion trillion years, pi would not have ended, that there could be a trillion trillion universes of a trillion trillion years, and still the countless count would march on.

But you can take pi and times it by the diameter of a circle and get the circumference. Somehow the unending digits of a number that cannot be contained in a trillion trillion universes of unimaginable age can be contained in the ring of the smallest circle.

Yet the circle too is uncountable. Each, regardless whether it measures an inch across or a lightyear, has the same number of points within it. Each portion cut from it, be it however small, the same number.


Perhaps a cruel god, knowing that his creation would wish to know itself, punished the vanity he himself created by making creation divisible into eternity, so that nothing was ever truly knowable, and we, driven always to know more, would become insane as our finite brains tried to contain an infinitude that even he, himself infinite, had been driven mad in trying to contain.