Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hiding

The worst outcome of a broken marriage is bitter loneliness. You focus your energy on having a family and that sours, and you are left realising you don't have any friends.

I am feeling it today because I am hiding in my room. I was playing poker at the dining table, but M is cleaning so he put on heavy metal because "it's good cleaning music". Yeah, but it's not great poker music. So I put my iPod in my ears to shut it out some. That was okay; everyone happy.

So he turned it up. He saw that I had my iPod on and it was obvious why, so he turned the music up even louder. I don't begin to understand why. Maybe he was upset that I wasn't cleaning too. Maybe it was just a favourite song and he wasn't thinking how unpleasant it would be for me. I don't know. I can't ask because I have to avoid confrontation. If I can't live here, I have nowhere else to go. I have no work and very little money. What little I have, Mrs Zen wants half of. She wants to turn her trip to the UK, which was to be to begin our new life, into a holiday. It will cost me, I figure £4000 to pay for her to go and to have the holiday she wants. I don't think I will be able to go to the UK. I just can't afford it. I had other plans, but I'm going to have to forget them too. I am pretty much stuck. If I spend my money doing what feels like it will be good for my soul, I risk not having the money to live.

I should be used to living like this. I have lived in a relationship that is unbalanced for some years. Mrs Zen never bothered working at being married because she knew that worst case she would keep my kids and live at her dad's rent free. I had to work at it, and I did, because I wanted her to do something other than that. This is a way relationships can work. One partner creates inertia and the other has to try to budge them. In the end, the price I had to pay, for way too little reward, was too great. Now she laughs with M that our marriage is over and it's great that I will find someone new.

I, on the other hand, am not laughing. I am fucking distraught that my marriage is over and what makes it 10x as bad is knowing she is content. I am left feeling I was 10K miles from home, isolated and lonely, and she did nothing for me. She still won't. She still doesn't see any reason to change. And what is worse for me, she thinks it's just dandy. That really hurts because I invested in her. I trusted her to try to make life good for me when I came here because I was making a sacrifice for her. She didn't and she still won't.

Well, that's her. I'm done with worrying how other people are. It hurts me that they're shit, but they're shit. I can't do anything about that. All I can do is not be shit myself.

I have been. I don't have any illusions. I am deeply ashamed of how I was with Mrs Zen, and some of what I did makes me very ashamed (although probably not the things you or she thinks I should be ashamed of). Some I just feel I had no choice, and some I felt was just an outcome of sorrow breaking me into pieces. I feel less sorrowful now, mostly because I have given up hope. I am accepting that I have nothing to hope for, and as long as I stay numb, I will stay alive.

I don't want to be lonely but I don't know how not to be. I don't know anyone like me here, and I don't know where I would find them. For years, most of the companionship I've had has been online. I know, you could say that I should have made real-life friends and not wasted away my years on the internet. But you know what? No one who says that has any idea how I would do it. Everyone's good with directives; no one ever has instructions. I know what I'm supposed to do: I'm not an idiot. I just have no idea how to do it. I doubt it's even possible here.

We speak

Did we begin with song, something we sang to ourselves as we worked, because we had realised what boredom was and wanted to fill it with sound? Or was the first speaker a mother who sang her baby to sleep?

We know that we rarely say anything to each other, because every message must have a receiver and we rarely listen. We are just taking comfort in words, what we can spin them into, messages we believe should thrill, but know are only thrilling to ourselves.

I was thinking what I had been doing this year, and the answer is, reading. Only in the past month or so have I read any fiction. The rest has been nonfiction: current affairs, science, philosophy, whatever. I feel dumber for it. I have drowned in countless words.

***

So I don't do resolutions but I'm going to cut down the time I spend reading and spend a bit more time doing.

Well, I say I don't do resolutions, but I am doing "acceptances". I'm going to accept some things about my life and allow the consequences. For instance, in poker, I'm going to accept that I play at a certain level and win. I have some ability but less than I would have hoped at this stage in my learning, which is an outcome of being unfocused in learning. So I've held myself back and that's what I do. I won't bore you with the consequences of that.

I'm also going to accept that people in service positions are not generally looking for reasons not to serve me, or at least not me particularly. That's the tip of an iceberg but I don't want to write about the iceberg until it has melted.

There's some other stuff but I'm going to keep that to myself. Like anyone cares!

Monday, December 28, 2009

More-or-lessley

Ah Paul Morley! Sometimes I imagine Paul Morley as a Dickens character, stamping down the high street in a long coat with a pack of laughing children in his trail. "Begone, you foul urchins" I imagine him crying.

Morley has made a career out of intellectualising pop music. I do not mean he has written books and theses about the use of harmony in the Beatles or analysis of chord structures in the modern hit. No. Morley makes his money by writing pretentiously about music. Witness his latest about Simon Cowell.

Frankly, all that need be said about Cowell is "that turd!" because although he made his dough as a music entrepreneur of sorts, his fame is derived from being a wanker on the box. (And so successful is he at being a turd that he has spawned an imitator here in Australia: Kyle Sandilands, a man who so successfully personifies "arsehole" that they could print his picture in the dictionary.)

But that would never do for Morley. It's a truth about him that he always has more to say. It was somewhat fitting in the early eighties, when we were all dreadfully serious about music, but the purveyors of pap have ground us down now and we are willing to admit that all we care about is a nice tune and a beat we can tap our toes to.

It's apt that Morley is writing also about Rage Against the Machine, who have also made themselves wealthy by being achingly pretentious. Yah, they're smashing the system. By signing to Epic. Reading guitarist Tom Morello's explanation of why it's perfectly okay for indie rebels to sign to a major is enough to make you grind your teeth, but it boils down to "it's the best way to convey our message to teh kidz". That message is "don't collaborate with teh Man". Yah, you show teh Man Tom. Nothing says rebellion like a Hollywood villa you fly to first class.

Such is entertainment. Clowns writing about clowns (and yes, here I am, a clown writing about a clown writing about clowns). It's all vitally important. The world will, count on it, stop turning if we stop yelling "omg Simon Cowell" and meanwhile, in Iraq, people blow each other to Paradise in the name of another delusion.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The third race

So we are standing by the rail waiting for the race to start and I'm talking to one of the women in our crowd. I am making her laugh with some bullshit or other.

Earlier, I had noticed that her husband was wearing a cross, which was large enough to be showy, but plain enough to be understated. Both of them stuck to softdrinks, with straws in their cans, which I found odd. Maybe it's just that I would feel a bit silly asking for a straw for my softdrink. Maybe it's just that they hadn't ordered them from the bar (where they would have been served in a plastic glass).

So Jesus frowns on drinking but doesn't mind gambling? Who knows? Drinking is not a virtue, after all. It's something we do because we've always done it, and we rarely ask ourselves whether we actually enjoy being drunk.

This woman is an odd, delicate sort. Her teeth look sharp. She doesn't seem the sort to bite you though.

So she is smiling and laughing and that's nice, but the husband comes over and says, come on or come away, or something of that sort. The words don't make enough impression for me to remember them precisely, but the tone does. It's the way a dad talks to a child who is doing something they shouldn't, or is holding up the family in some way. It's not respectful.

I wonder why he would do that. I'm not going to seduce his wife or anything, so what is his problem? It's as though there is some undercurrent that I'm not aware of. Maybe I seem dangerous. I find that hard to believe but I'm not on the outside looking in at me, and who knows how much danger I might seem to represent to a timid lad?

If he is a timid lad. He wasn't friendly enough for me to find out.

***

There are quite a few goodlooking women at the races, but I don't talk to any. I feel like I am there but I'm outside looking in. Nearly everyone else seems to be having a better time than I am. It's not that I wasn't having fun, although as I often do, I felt disconnected from the person who was there doing whatever I was doing. He seems like someone I really care about what happens to him, but have no ability to change the course of his day.

Sometimes I feel like he is just a robot, his arms and legs moving to some tune I can't quite hear, but vibrates through my world and makes me dance a graceless jig. That sounds more fun than it is.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little

I have become tiny and that's sad. You wouldn't think I was tiny if you saw me. I look quite big. But I am almost entirely negligible. I have to work incredibly hard to be salient in anyone's life. Everywhere I look, I see people who are meaningful in other people's lives, and I know there are people who are meaningful in mine, but I am minuscule. I don't know why I even bother writing a blog. I am pretty much impossible to care for.

I am at home again, another night. I don't have anywhere else to go. I arranged to go to the pub with M. He said, are we going to the pub? I said, I am just going to the toilet and will be ready to go. When I was finished in the toilet, he had turned on the TV and started doing his ironing. Most of me doesn't mind. I am too small for anyone to bother telling me they changed their mind about doing something with me. The rest of me is making me cry though. I wish I could kill that part. It is terrible to want to be loved when there is not enough of you for anyone to love. But it's tough because it's the part that doesn't want to give up. I couldn't say anything to him. I am way too small to impose on anyone like that. I guess he will read this. It's pretty sad when a blog is the only way you can feel safe enough to express yourself, but that is who I am.

I am even small for my kids. A couple of weeks ago, Naughtyman said, I don't care whether you come round. I realised I must have done a lot wrong for him to say that, but I'm not really sure what. I know, kids say shit. But this was unprovoked. I feel like I worked pretty hard to make Mrs Zen central in my kids' lives, I pushed her into that role, and all the time I was digging my own grave.

Maybe I misunderstand it all. I am mostly bewildered by how my life has turned out, and how people are to me. I am the sort of person who must have an understandable world. I suppose it's a mental disorder: I cannot accept that the world just is what it is and spins indifferent to me. I am self-centred enough to think that it will reward me for goodness and punish me for badness. Of course I know it doesn't really care -- rationally I know that -- but it's a lot harder to live in an impersonal world. It's why we invented a god to care about us.

Oh well. One foot in front of the other. This time of year always did get me down. At the end of the year, you're reminded how little you've done that year. It makes loneliness so much worse not to have Christmas parties, not even a work function, to go to. And a new year is not a time of renewed hope when you have no hope to renew. Well, merry Christmas anyway, hey?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tortoise

two tears fell, one from each eye
tracking slowly down her face
is there ever any getting away from it
i had no reason to doubt her


When I loved Lowlife as a young man, I did not know they would be the soundtrack for my loneliness. I kissed my children and left them in the yard. I looked at Naughtyman, sitting on his own as I left. Am I imagining sadness in his eyes, or am I seeing my own reflected? I do not think I am making them sad though. I try not to.

They are beautiful and fragile, more like spun crystal than jewels. I know I haven't held them close enough, and now they are slipping away. They will join all the other broken things in my life, piled up in the corner, not quite out of sight.

what i'd seen was honesty and good intent
what i'd felt was loneliness, distance
what it all comes down to is this
be careful where you take this
be careful where you take this
bittersweet


I don't feel any resentment. I just feel defeated. I feel my wheels spinning, endlessly turning, and I will never drive out of here.

No one will want to give me a tow. Who would? I have become old, heavy, ponderous and useless to everyone. I am like an old Camry, rusted, leaking oil, and everyone has something newer, something faster, something better cared for. And what good does it do to say no one cared for me? I didn't care for myself and now I am a tortoise stuck on his back, his legs uselessly milling in the air. I keep thinking I should be strong enough to flip myself upright, but it seems my muscles have atrophied, if I ever had them.

Is a tortoise on its back unhappy? Is it focused on its unhappiness? These concepts are not even real. It is only concerned with how quickly it will starve.

Ended

So I say to Mrs Zen, have you got a babysitter so we can go out and talk?

Because I asked her maybe three weeks ago if she wanted to do that and she said she did. After all, the bottom line is we have children and we at least have to talk about them. It's been amicable enough. I have put aside bitterness and feel better for it.

No, she says, I can't find a day that suits.
This is why we're not likely to get back together, I say. Which is not polite but it's the truth: the possibility of restructuring our marriage, or even to talk over the things that we still have between us, is not enough for her to get one of her female relatives to sit the kids for a night.
We aren't going to get back together, she says.

Well okay, I'm thinking, but maybe you could have let me know that? I have kept the possibility alive because I think it's a terrible thing that my children should not have a family. I feel sad to think of them living in her dad's house (she'll never move) and me chained to it just the same as ever.

When we moved there, it was for a couple of years max. I was stupid enough not to realise that it would be for my kids' entire childhood. I guess that marriages include all sorts of promises you can break, and each finds a different one's breaking to be unbearable.

So that's that. It's quite apt, I suppose, that our marriage is finally ended because Mrs Zen couldn't be bothered.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ugandan affairs

It should go without saying that nations that persecute gays should be expelled from the Commonwealth.

This is very much the downside of religion: whereas one can see the benefit in the comfort of religious belief, the notion that a God who creates us in a particular way hates us for how we are is disturbing.

As with so many things in this world, the huge cognitive dissonance in claiming that this is a god of love is ignored by believers, simply because they don't think about it. This is, sadly, how the world turns: men with something to gain from a particular policy or position make use of the ignorance of unthinking people to create the world they want. It's often to the disbenefit of the ignorant. It remains true of the human race that in the long term we benefit most when we cooperate with each other and try to feel kindly towards, if not love, our neighbours, and lose most when we are motivated by hatred and greed. We seem in the short term to benefit, but we forget that when we are done hating gays, we will need someone else to hate, because our world still will not be perfect, and we will still require someone to blame who is not us.

Getting warmer

How can we know that increases in CO2 cause increases in temperature?

Get three big jars full of air, each containing a thermometer. Jar A is your control. Put it to one side. Add a small amount of CO2 to Jar B. Add 10x the amount of CO2 that you added to Jar B to Jar C.

Carefully irradiate all three jars, using the same amount of radiation and the same time.

One hour later, observe the temperature of the air in all three jars. End of discussion.

That really is it. We discovered the link in 1862. Nothing's changed.

But it might be a really small effect, right? Well, that seems feasible if you never experimented with different levels of CO2, or if small effects don't matter. The lab does not translate well to the atmosphere (the earth is not contained within a bell jar!), but the effect is big enough. And it doesn't have to be huge because it's incremental. Increasing the heat means more heat to radiate away when the sun isn't shining. And a small effect is enough. Think about our hot summers. A sheet is pretty thin but we have nights where sleeping with a sheet over you is unbearable. The analogy is quite close, because what causes the discomfort is that the sheet prevents you from radiating heat away. It only traps a little, but it's enough to make you feel uncomfortably warm.

Now imagine you have to keep yourself wrapped in the sheet, under your normal clothes, during the day.

****

On that subject, here is an excellent article on the "Climategate" scandal, which is a bit of a case study in how the media can beat up nothing much into something that looks big, fuelling the deniers, who don't require facts at the best of times.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oneway ticket to the Hague please

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Above water

I feel like I have been under twice but as I was choking, remembered I could swim after all.

Then I forget, and wish someone would throw me a lifesaver, but I have no one to rely on but myself, and I'm not reliable, anyone will tell you. I say six and arrive at seven, if I turn up at all. Mostly I'm quivering at home, too afraid of the lights and noise to be where I need to if I want to be anywhere at all.

I feel like I am the water circling the drain, yet somehow I am never drained away. I keep spinning round, round and round. If I close my eyes and try really hard, I can make dizzy into exhilarated.

Did you ever do that when you were a child? Make yourself spin round until you were high. I feel like I never stopped and now I do not know whether it's my world out of control or me.

***

We are all laughing in the water, the girls close by and Naughtyman's beautiful eyes alight with joy.

He has all the best features I have but he will not be weighed down. If I had a god, that is what I'd pray. Don't let what I've done bring him sorrow.

Zenella is floating on her back. Her smile is beatific, you could frame it.

Her smile is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. If I had a god, I would pray that I would never make her cry.

But I will.

***

I cannot help what I am. I didn't choose it. I never sat down with a checklist.

Once I did, and I was a better man for it. I was wrong in all the ways I'm wrong, but I felt good about it. Rascal and bastard are two sides of the same counterfeit coin; one you love, the other you cannot spend.

I want to be coin you put in the bank. I want to be currency that a person can use. I want to serve the ones I love, more than anything, but it's not the only thing I want.

***

I have stopped feeling bad about it. Okay, I'm useless. I deserve nothing but charity. So I accept it, and still, I have love in my life. Now I accept it, there is nothing for a monkey to screech at.

And I will die before he gets another chance. I cannot live ten more years of suffocating myself. I would rather let go and drown.

But before I do that, let me tell you, I would rather join you on your planet, if you will have me. I would rather smile with you, tread water and smile, if we can.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My slacker god

So I have been a bit underworked of late, which provides plenty of thinking time, so I have been indulging in metaphysics (because nothing improves your life prospects/earning ability/sanity like a bit of ontology). I have been thinking about what kind of god I could believe in. Not that I intend to start, but if I did...

For starters, not your one. Gods who care about whether I'm naughty make zero appeal, because fundamentally it seems difficult to rationalise a transcendental entity who cares about my behaviour. Unless you are raised in a religious tradition, and do not question it too deeply, it's difficult to arrive at the belief. You certainly wouldn't create a god like that. You might want one that cared about you personally, but you'd probably want one who accepted that he'd created you with failings and didn't care about that, not one who considered those failings worthy of punishment. This is, for me, a fundamental problem anyway with the god who hates sins and loves sinners. He created the sinner and the sin both, and being omniscient, knew you would sin, knew whether you had the capacity to repent and also knew whether you would or wouldn't. See, it's a bit of a vicious (or virtuous, if he created you all saintly) circle.

If you are religious, bear with me and please don't take offence, but the people who invented the Christian and Muslim gods did not do it from scratch, so they weren't wholly concerned with making a coherent deity (if you like, you could say that God is what he is, and the reflection of him in the minds of men is not coherent, and that has the same effect, I think).

There is also, of course, the problem of evil. If we have a god that loves us, why is the world so often shit? Why is there pain? Why are some slaves? Why do some babies die and others become deformed? Why are people mean? Most theodicies are utter nonsense, because again this is a fundamental problem with the concept of God. It's such nonsense that he can love you yet give you polio that you need a bunch of nonsense to make it work. I mean, do you cripple the people you love? No, didn't think so. I do like the unitarian approach though, in which God creates a good universe and lets it make of itself what it will. That appeals to my belief that we are fundamentally good (by which I mean we are not fundamentally bad, rather than that we all have a saint inside).

I think this kind of god is possible to believe in: one who made the universe, set it in motion and chose not to know how it would be revealed. You have to rid yourself of the Jesus stuff, but (religious people look away) that was just ripped off from pagan king sacrifice mythology (check out Baldur or Osiris some time).

A god from whom the universe emanates also works quite well. The universe can equally well emanate from nothing but having a "creative force" is more satisfying. The key to these three ideas is that you have a god who can permit free will because he simply doesn't allow himself to know how the universe will pan out. You might believe he did it to entertain himself. It's hard for this god to be fully transcendent though, so he probably needs to be enmeshed in what is. I like a transcendent deity because of course he exists without the universe, which is kind of a sine qua non for creating it. But it's not impossible for the universe to be entwined with God intimately enough that he is not really transcendent. Some people believe this (including pantheists who believe God is entirely immanent). Personally, I don't believe it's possible to believe everything is God because that kind of god has too little meaning. If God is not meaningful, there's not really too much point to having one.

I think it is rational to believe in a god who does not permit free will. One metaphysical idea that appeals to me is the block universe. In a block universe, everything exists at once, timelessly. Variously, this is everything that was, or could have been, everything that is, or could be, and everything that will be, or might be. This allows God easily to be omniscient, simply because he can see the entire universe spread before him, but does not on the face of it permit free will, since he chose everything possible at moment one. However, I've seen it suggested that we live in a block universe, and our minds weave paths through it, creating time for us by choosing from the potentialities that exist. Of course the notion of a fate set in stone is not new, but this allows it to be something that you choose. It opens up the possibility that you can figure out how you choose, and although it seems that you could only change your future by small degrees, you would be able to pick a world you were glad to live in.

Another possibility that I like a lot is that we create our universe on the fly, by consensus. So three thousand years ago, the sun really did circle the Earth and the stars were pinpricks in a firmament, but now things are different because our understanding is different. This makes man the centre of the universe (not literally because our consensus is that there is no centre or that everywhere is the centre, depending on how you look at it), which is in decent accord with the view that God created us specially. It would also be possible for each of us to be living in slightly different overlapping universes. So long as our conceptions of the world were close enough, we would seem to be living in the same world. Only when we were very divergent would we think each other insane. So in your universe, there is a god who cares if you covet your neighbour's ass, but in mine, you can covet what you like and the only person who will care is your neighbour.

So I think I might choose the last kind of god. He gave us each our own universe and doesn't mind what we make of it. It will be however we render it. This god has done us each a huge favour. He did not just give us life; he gave us a whole universe of our own to live it in. And if we want to believe he will punish us for our sins, then he will, and if we don't, he won't. He's not fussed: he gave you the freedom to choose and he doesn't mind what you choose.

No change, no hope

What Hansen says is sad but true.

Quibbling over percentage points won't get the job done on climate change. We need to go to zero in a hurry or we're stuffed.

It needs someone with balls to stand up and say that, but unfortunately we have Obama, a machine pollie who will not say anything that upsets the big money.

One of the problems with climate change is that the scientists can't lie and they do not know everything and can't claim they do. I know the deniers found some dodgy emails but they don't actually show any great conspiracy or anything like that. They just talk about how to present data best. Of course scientists can have a thesis and try to fit their observations to it. That's part of how science works. If the facts don't fit the thesis though, you bin the thesis. Some theses take more binning than others, that's true, but there isn't actually any question about global warming: the world is warming and human beings are causing it. The evidence is overwhelming for both statements and you have to be a flatout liar, charlatan or fool to deny it. Sadly, the world has plenty of all three.

What is not known is where exactly the "tipping point" is. We have probably not quite reached it, but we know that there is going to be one: a point at which the damage is not just irreversible but self-perpetuating. There will be so much carbon in the atmosphere that we cannot halt global warming; it will just continue.

As Hansen says, we are probably at a metre rise in sea levels now. You probably wouldn't need to worry too much about that if you're not Bangladeshi, an Islander or Dutch. We could save coastal cities using dikes and other mitigation technologies. The other disturbances we can probably handle, not least because most of the punishment will be borne by the third world, and let's face it, we don't really care about them.

A metre is nothing though. We face desolation. We face a planet we can't even live on. I mean, deny it if you want. Deny it till the day you die. Your grandkids will live it though. They won't thank you for the horror of what you've done.

The Liberals here (and I remind non-Australians that they are confusingly the conservative party) have elected Tony Abbott their leader. I can't use the right description for Mr Abbott on this blog, but suffice to say he was elected largely because he strongly opposes the Labor Party's milquetoast emissions trading scheme, which will not save the planet or anything like it. I don't doubt that Prime Minister Rudd wants the planet to be saved, but he feels constrained by the limits of political possibility.

Voting Liberal, or for any conservative of any type, always has the air of voting for greed today and eff tomorrow, among the other things that voting for racist wowsers entails, but electing Mr Abbott would be an act of criminal irresponsibility. Our grandchildren will indict us. They should. We are planning on leaving them a wasteland, our refuse tip, and it's a pity, because it's a beautiful world if we'll let it be.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More war

Once again, President Obama has shown that his Nobel Peace Prize was well earned, as he took the courageous stance of pulling the tr--oh no, sorry, I have that wrong. It's a surge.

There is nothing much to say, except to express sorrow at the many lives that will be lost because yet another American war criminal has decided to pour blood and treasure into getting re-elec--sorry, pursuing America's vaguely defined goals overseas.

Next time some lunatic Islamist is murdering us in the streets, don't ask why. This is why. We do not set boundaries to our murdering of Muslims, our endless quest to "civilise" Asia and its peoples. And we suffer for it. At best we end up paying throgh the nose for these men's adventures. It doesn't matter that we demand change. What we get is the same old same old.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teh lucky country

What is wrong with Australia? Nothing if you like being bitten: