Culturally Discombobulated

A New Year Greeting – W.H. Auden

I’m not the only one returning to Auden lately. Numerous articles I read after the election referenced “September 1, 1939”. The times are not good if people feel they need to retreat into Auden’s poetry to try and get an understanding of the present. Faber should publish a shrink-wrapped anthology of his work entitled “Break open in case of emergency.”

On this day tradition allots
to taking stock of our lives,
my greetings to all of you, Yeasts,
Bacteria, Viruses,
Aerobics and Anaerobics:
A Very Happy New Year
to all for whom my ectoderm
is as Middle-Earth to me.

For creatures your size I offer
a free choice of habitat,
so settle yourselves in the zone
that suits you best, in the pools
of my pores or the tropical
forests of arm-pit and crotch,
in the deserts of my fore-arms,
or the cool woods of my scalp.

Build colonies: I will supply
adequate warmth and moisture,
the sebum and lipids you need,
on condition you never
do me annoy with your presence,
but behave as good guests should,
not rioting into acne
or athlete’s-foot or a boil.

Does my inner weather affect
the surfaces where you live?
Do unpredictable changes
record my rocketing plunge
from fairs when the mind is in tift
and relevant thoughts occur
to fouls when nothing will happen
and no one calls and it rains.

I should like to think that I make
a not impossible world,
but an Eden it cannot be:
my games, my purposive acts,
may turn to catastrophes there.
If you were religious folk,
how would your dramas justify
unmerited suffering?

By what myths would your priests account
for the hurricanes that come
twice every twenty-four hours,
each time I dress or undress,
when, clinging to keratin rafts,
whole cities are swept away
to perish in space, or the Flood
that scalds to death when I bathe?

Then, sooner or later, will dawn
a Day of Apocalypse,
when my mantle suddenly turns
too cold, too rancid, for you,
appetising to predators
of a fiercer sort, and I
am stripped of excuse and nimbus,
a Past, subject to Judgement.

Leaving Modesto

I had intended to post this video about leaving Modesto so much earlier in the year, back when the most distressing part of 2016 was the death of Bowie. For purposes of housekeeping (or should that be blogkeeping?) I’m posting it now. It doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate to do so right at the end of the year as this is how the year began – with an ending, a leaving. It’s just an experimental little video (mere frippery) I did playing around with my GoPro in the weeks before I moved away from Modesto after seven curious years living there.

Hark The Herald Angels Sing – The Fall

As I place satsumas in everyone’s Christmas stockings (something I will no doubt be mocked for in the morning) and ponder why such an obviously vernal song as Greensleeves is better known as a Christmas tune in America, I thought it only right to leave readers of this blog (both of you) a “satsuma” of your own – so I give you all the festive gift of Mark E. Smith’s caroling*.

May you all get your figgy pudding without resorting to threats.

* A better man than me would have got in a Kurious Oranj pun in here.

American Snaps #16: Thanksgiving Day Parade

“​Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.” Mark Twain

New York, Nov, ’16

A Trumpian Thanksgiving

A peaceful Thanksgiving this year would seem to be dependent on limiting conversations about a rigged contest with a divisivie winner purely to the results of the Westminster Dog Show.

It’s a curious thing, this trope of bad tempered political arguments being conducted the Thanksgiving turkey.  There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of it in the UK, nobody there seems to dread the Christmas dinner in quite the same way, there’s no feeling that there will inevitably be a disagreement about current affairs. If there was our pop culture would seek to play on it, but, as is clear from any Christmas episode of Eastenders, we’re happy to fight over the turkey, just not about voting.

Perhaps Americans are simply more engaged in the political process, perhaps they lack the ability to laugh something of, or is it simply that during an American holiday the focal point is less on television? They’re certainly not a television culture in the same way the British are, and instead of the holiday being a banquet of special editions of everyone’s favorite television shows – a blessing that allows the British family to spend time together without having to actually engage with each other – the American family is left with the awkwardness of having to actually interact with each other. The mood is not helped in that Thanksgiving and the election season are always so close to each other, nor in the fact that the average Thanksgiving meal leaves the body confused and irritable; the turkey makes you lethargic while the unnecessarily sweet sides make you hyper. No wonder it causes the average nuclear family to combust.