July 21, 2008

Assimilate or bust

They take assimilation seriously in France.

They don't mess around with upper-case "tolerance".

All very politically incorrect.

The French way or the highway.

No shit.

Have to admire their gumption, their chutzpah, their moxie. (And their accents.)

"... last month, France’s highest administrative court upheld a decision to deny citizenship to Ms. Silmi, 32, on the ground that her “radical” practice of Islam was incompatible with French values like equality of the sexes.

It was the first time that a French court had judged someone’s capacity to be assimilated into France based on private religious practice, taking laïcité — the country’s strict concept of secularism — from the public sphere into the home.

So far, citizenship has been denied on religious grounds in France only when applicants were believed to be close to fundamentalist groups.

The ruling on Ms. Silmi has received almost unequivocal support across the political spectrum, including among many Muslims. Fadela Amara ... "

Not giving a flying ƒυςќ about anyone's sensitivities:

"the French minister for urban affairs, called Ms. Silmi’s niqab “a prison” and a “straitjacket.”

“It is not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that promotes inequality between the sexes and is totally lacking in democracy,” Ms. Amara, herself a practicing Muslim of Algerian descent, told the newspaper Le Parisien in an interview published Wednesday."

Pass the champagne and pate, oi, oi, oi.

A veil closes France's door to citizenship


  1. Anonymous4:55 PM

    A pretty interesting case, inded, and one that got a fair bit of press here - as you might imagine.

    I mentioned at Harry's place the other day that I had just seen what I think was my first French woman in full chador, the whole kit and kaboodle leaving only a slit for the eyes. I haven't seen another since and I am starting to think it might have been a visitor from some other country staying with rellies.

    Muslim integration remains a big issue here and while most people have accepted that many muslim women will cover their head in public, there would seem to be much les support for the sort of 'full body cover' that the woman in the story was all for.

    BTW - one of the other implications of the laïcité laws is that the government is not permitted to ask the population their religion or ethnicity on the census. The government can only guess at the number of Muslims, Jews and Catholics and - outside of airport entry records and crude assessments of the surnames of residents - have little chance to discover the ethno-religious make-up of the country.

  2. The census censoring is a big hole in an important aspect of a population Dylan - for understanding, rather than purposes of bigotry!

    Personally, I don't care how many Catholics or lesbians or amputees there are in Australia, but I appreciate that this type of data is useful in terms of understanding the general makeup and motivators of large populations, even if it doesn't directly link to policies or public amenities or infrastructure. There is still an importance for gov't - and individuals - to have some level of appreciation of the social identities across the communities they govern / live. Besides, it's a capture of information for history, for future generations, if nothing else.

    I wonder if the French gov't sometimes gets a little nervous and is tempted to put that question back in, you know, just to "see" what's really goin' on out there? However, given the general climate in France and the long history of secularism, many would not answer the question, either out of protest of its inclusion, or for others, out of fear. Wouldn't be much use then.

  3. Oh, I had to have a little snirtle that the woman's use of a male gynecologist was viewed so very, very positively Dylan.

    There's not much about this case that isn't degrading, and I say that as someone who objects and will always object to the flaunting of any religious symbol intended to both proclaim one's superiority and simultaneous judge and condemn all who do not bear the symbol. None is so strong in that regard as the chador, and every modification thereof.

    Besides, I loath the blatant message that it sends, the perpetual announcement, that men are nothing but uncontrollable animals, base, despicable beasts who can lose the plot at any tick of the clock, or any glimpse of a wrist or a well washed big toe.

  4. Anonymous10:17 PM

    Frankly, I only married my wife because of her well-washed big toes. :)

  5. Sensible man Dylan. There's much to be said for clean toes, indeed, clean feet in general.

    It will, err, stand your marriage in good stead.

  6. Islam treats women as second (or third, behind goats) class citizens because it fears the civilizing effects women can have on men's behavior.

  7. I saw only an occasional muslim woman in France, it was nothing like Sydney. More like, I don't know, Melbourne. I saw one on the Bir-Hakiem bridge where Brando walked in that film from 1974. On occasion another might ask me for Euros with a little card and an opening line: "I am from Bosnia.." The muslim women in the Arab institute were helpful, unveiled. I can't recall any in the Paris mosque but perhaps there were. I recall a "Rue De Mohammed" and a beggar.

    It was the Pompidou centre which introduced me to the ambivalent photography about traditional women of Iranian muslim photographer Shadi Ghadirian. Her work shows muslim women's faces obscured by domestic items, or juxtaposed with modern equipment (for example a boom-box, reminding me of the mix of islam and hip-hop one finds at UWS). My favourite works are in the "unfocused" series which just show a woman in a series of poses, blurred. They can't be shown in Iran (where she studied photography at Tehran university) because they depict the female form. It breaks my heart.

    I am working through the Quran from front-to-back and was a little disturbed to read the chapter called "Fibre" in which Mohammed declares that the wife of his political enemy and uncle will have a "rope of fibre around her neck". Or the Hadith and the unambiguous assertion that stoning should be the punishment for adultery. On the other hand I was charmed by the Prophet's wife's comment that when she is menstruating the prophet used only to "fondle" her. He is much more earthy than, say, Jesus. All the saintliness can be a drag (though I still respect him for standing up and saying to the crowd that they should NOT stone the poor sinner for her sins).

    Turns out Anti-discrimination law is my best law subject (well, apart from "Communication law and ethics" but that hardly counts) giving me a distinction.

    Sorry for vanishing suddenly but blogging depresses me, especially during the busier times. Like now, as it happens - gotta run!

  8. Oh dear Solomon, never apologize. Always charming and delightful to hear from you, forever surprising.

    I can't believe you're putting in the hard yards to read the whole of the Quran; it would try my patience too much to attempt it. Mind you, I have never read the bible end to end either, but I used to be able to recite the names of all of the books. Have you also read the bible front to back?

    Congratulations on the distinction, well done. Not an easy task. I've always considered our (and everyone's) anti-discrimination laws to be ... vexed. I know the cause is worthy, and I much prefer that we have such laws than not, but they can be problematic in both sentiment and execution.

    (Of course, sexual harassment laws are far more vexed.)

    Barely six months to go before you finish your studies! You must be getting quite excited. New adventures, and less impoverishment, so near at hand.

  9. I am more than halfway through the Quran. Admittedly it is repetitive, violent, threatening and strangely sexual but occasionally it comes out with intriguing passages. I like the idea of a "Garden of repose" though I am not sure exactly what it entails.

    Sura 49:12 should be required reading for Islamic regimes the world over: "Avoid immoderate suspicion, for in some cases suspicion is a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another."

    The punishment is to eat the dead flesh of your brothers, presumably in Hell. So there you are.

    There are also useful passages requiring to take believing women as refugees; Iran and Pakistan take significant numbers of the world's refugees.

    Overall the book has a kind of midnight hour ethics, full of dream-like violence and imagery of blood and the moon and stars.

    I have not read the bible back to front though I like the idea, as I am sure I would discover a great deal which isn't ordinarily underlined. It is much longer than the Quran and I don't really have the time to give it the attention it needs, and it is so hard to get through all those "begats". I might start with the psalms. I certainly learned a significant amount attending bible study for that year not so long ago.

    Anti-discrimination law was deeply enjoyable and it is something I could happily practice in, arguing either side. I think our workplaces should be regulated as they are not optional in any real sense but form part of our civil obligations. Most of the law isn't particularly onerous if you are a decent human being. I think what causes the most grief for employers is parental leave/conditions. The laws in this regard can be quite powerful.

    I am looking forward to graduating but part of the relief is obviated by the fact that I need to do lengthy post-grad stuff if I want to practice as a lawyer, and more if I want to go ahead with becoming a migration agent. Still my subjects this year are excellent: immigration, advocacy, further international law focusing on a moot competition and professional ethics. I am positive and confident about it all and think I could ultimately make a fine lawyer. I find my eye for detail, complexity and comprehension seem to have returned to me and I am not quite so frightened or fatigued as I was before. Well, madness does that to you. Reassessing some of my past behaviour and faults and am trying to cut myself a little more slack, as I can see its relationship to the underlying crisis. That I am here at all, relatively unscathed, is remarkable. I scolded a lecturer on Friday night for comments he was making about mental illness; he meant no harm, but I found the implications of what he was saying offensive. It struck a nerve, and I am sure that was obvious to the class, and revealed to me how much I am still hurting. Bastard.

    My desire to read and to write seems fully integrated into my life now, rather than in opposition to it. This is a breakthrough. It makes me happy because even when I am unhappy, so long as I am writing life is bearable.

    Got some fine words of encouragement from Roger Ebert, master Yoda himself, on his blog, which was surreal and wonderful. They even wanted to publish my comments and some others in the Chicago Sun-Times, though I have no idea if that ever went ahead. He worries me, dear man, with all his talk of loss and death.

  10. The post-graduation process will be well worth your while Solomon, and you always knew that was coming when you chose law, hey? At least you will earn some cold hard cash, above the level you've become adjusted to all these years.

    Your hurt and offense at the comments by the lecturer came as a surprise to you? Perhaps hurt over such casual ignorance and insensitivity will diminish over the years, but I don't believe - I hope - the sense of being deeply offended never will. Empathy is something we want to hold onto, and I doubt that you will ever forget. It's embedded in your in your very being. It's who you are.

  11. His comments were essentially that though we might presume monsters in history like Hitler were insane, they were actually perfectly sane. I agree with the general thrust of the argument (which is hardly a novel one, or one he is likely to have genuinely formulated through historical inquiry) but something about the way he said "To have done those things we think they must be insane, right? They must be mad." hit me. The words were like lashings, because NO, that is not my presumption, I don't necessarily associate gross criminality with mental illness. There was also an element of reproach in the words which I couldn't take. I just asked him if he could stop using that kind of language, but it was less the words themselves than the thoughtlessness, the missing element. It was a class on professional ethics and in such a context I wasn't going to let it slide. I am not usually keeper of the politically correct: I like informal, less clinical words, but I have discovered my limits.

    It came as something of a surprise to me because they I understood how words can hurt, it was always second-hand knowledge, not something I ever felt myself in my young white male preservative jar.

    God, though, the wounds are indescribable. As you lose your mind you lose your liberty as well, you are immersed in a concentrated and dangerous environment full of other vulnerable people, everything you say and do is observed and yet no-one actually listens to you, your mind and body are administered with astonishingly powerful drugs which suppress the chemicals your mind uses to think and to move. If you can imagine your mind as having a kind of watery consistency, with the psych meds it kind of takes on a thick, pastey consistency like honey. Perhaps quicksand is a better metaphor, because it operates gradually and increasingly, sucking you down into nothingness, empty space, more like death than sleep (in sleep chemicals are released, it doesn't occur through the suppression of neurotransmitter Dopamine, and so is an entirely distinct process). Clearly you struggle against this effect (they let you drink as much coffee as you like during this period, and the extraordinary cocktail of influences has a powerful, heavenly euphoric effect for a short time), but the more you succeed in struggling, the higher they increase your dose. The more frightened you are the more you struggle, and your condition is built on fear, and the last thing your body, pumping with adrenaline, is going to do is let someone immobilise you. Whilst your fear and struggle is variable, the medication is not. So there is the possibility that they might over-estimate, as they did with me once, or you might relax and suddenly the stuff hits you much stronger because you are not resisting. Straight after taking the meds I fell to the ground (perhaps someone caught me, but I fell). They could have killed me (but of course, they don't tell you that the wrong dose can kill you, I learned that later from an academic). When I was unconscious they took me from the youth ward to the observation ward, for the sole reason that I had declined to take the psych meds, thinking they had been wrongly prescribed when I had only come in complaining of insomnia (the presumption is always that if you were mentally ill previously, now it must be a "relapse"). It was little more than kidnapping. Under this kind of treatment there were times when I felt ready to kill - that's how much they fuck with your defence mechanism, that is how life-threatening the dynamics of the situation are.

    On my own initiative, learning more about the mind and how the drugs operate, I can better handle them. If I lie down, without moving, and relax, observing my mind as it slows and preparing myself for it, it isn't so bad. If you try and stand up, move around, it doesn't work, as you just stumble around like a drunk (but much more than that, visibly deeply affected, to the point where people ask you: "Are you okay?" despite the fact that you are trying your best to simply walk inconspicuously in a straight line.)

    In international law you have the right to refuse medical treatment. Under the common law every time someone touches you without your consent, it amounts to an assault. There are certain exceptions where you are incapable of consenting because of your mental condition, but God help me I am dead certain I was not one of those, certainly not the second time I was in hospital, and the first time they could have waited and reasoned with me.

    I think psychosis is aptly described as a loss of reason. In its place fear substitutes for reason and operates differently, defensively, trusting nothing and yet dismissing no possibility, trying to hunt and provoke in order to find answers of immediate concern, though the questions are distorted by fear. To use reason with someone who has lost it is, to my current beliefs, the best way to remind them of it and restore it to them. Instead what I witnessed was a bureacracy at work, a procedure, a group of individuals who didn't listen but monitored, who kept their clipboards and their records. It is a symbol of your loss of standing in the human community when a person writes in a clipboard in front of you without first having asked your permission.

  12. On Muslims I must confess I like them better than most other students I come across. That is my heart speaking, and it is overwhelming. There are many at my university, more than any other in the country, and often they are in the law faculty, both women and men. The other day a female Muslim law student wished me a "Safe trip home" and I was deeply moved. Another, who is my friend, uses the word "Bullshit" and is cute anf goofy in the way she talks. Today I saw her wearing leather boots. She was actually kind of..attractive. These individuals are confident and out-spoken, though often vocally conservative in their views.

    Though there were no muslims in my anti-discrim class, my lecturer mentioned that last year there had been some who had gone to the Hilaly speech. She said the debates they were having in class were about whether there might be a cause of action against him for vilification, because his comments might cause people to hate Muslims. That is an extraordinary interpretation of events, and indicative of their priorities: not affirming their values but rather of managing how they are seen. It brings to mind Waleed Aly's comment that the "Conspiracy theories need to stop". It is the crackpots who get the air-time, obviously, and it creates a wall of assumption and suspicion in a certain kind of person.

    What I most want to say to them is: it is not your fault. Their ancient religion, the expectations of their family and community, the terrorist attacks, the climate of fear. They haven't created any of these conditions.

    Still as adults there is a necessity to challenge our beliefs. That is incumbent on all of us and it involves a constant revision and reassessment, sometimes a revolution in how we think. There are deep problems in trying to apply a 1300 yr old religion forged through tribal violence to the modern world. Most of the time this is a matter for private conscience, engagement and advocacy by the community and at the extreme edge by the rule of law.

    The best method of transformation, I think, is at an interpersonal level. If Muslim women are to take off their veils, I want them to take them off themselves. That is my ideal, that would mean something, be a genuine liberation rather than another kind of oppression. The limit of our responsibility here is to say, always: you don't have to do any of this if you don't want to. You don't have to wear this, you don't have to think this, you don't have to follow this book, this man, these people, this institution. Your life is your own.

    It is difficult to even start this conversation when they are raised on a book which vilifies outsiders and forbids even friendship between muslims and non-muslims. It means a lot when a young muslim woman offered to shake my hand, though under her religion she is obliged not to touch men other than her husband (balancing this, I suppose, is the emphasis on politeness and courtesy). I remember once we even walked across a log, balancing, like children. This is a vision, sad and rare in this world, of how things might be.

    But deeper still I wonder at the glass wall that says I can't date or marry a Muslim girl, speak honestly or intimately, attempt to undo whatever damage has been caused by our mutual upbringings. It wont be governments who undo this harm, but ordinary people, and the women themselves. It is a social cost that cannot be counted in dollars, but think of the time and thought that has to go into it. I am more patient than I used to be, and would do this kind of work without resentment or the desire to force solutions, but think of all the better things we could all do with our time.

  13. I've had an inspiration. I am going to write a series of suggested political speeches for the Liberal party and publish them online as public domain. I want to try and translate their press releases into meaningful, human terms. It will be an interesting exercise; I used to attempt the opposite and try and translate my own words into tabloid schisms.

    Studying advocacy this semester I am disappointed that it seems to have been defined in the narrow terms of how to best "win your case". Tips include obvious (and dubious) points like "depersonalising" your opponent by not using their first name. I wanted something deeper about what it means to speak for another, but I haven't even been given the space to explore the idea, as the course has a deliberately lop-sided emphasis on practical tasks. What interests me are things like advocacy from the losing side, how to make the process meaningful even when the outcome is unlikely or uncertain. Or the difficult process of advocating a position you don't believe, of developing the selflessness and empathy necessary to give a voice to someone unlike you, and what that finally does to change you.

    A Christian friend suggested I read about the concept of "intercession" and I think perhaps this isn't such a bad idea, that I might find more in this kind of source than in my textbooks. I was right to teach myself about language and literature simultaneously with law, I find my mind is far sharper because of it, and it has helped me to maintain my independence from legalese.

    The Liberal party is the only party I can stand given that I am (and have always been) a fervent individualist. I can also court them with a clear conscience now that they are so distant from office. They are ripe for development and variations in tactics.

    Thinking about the Muslim issue in this way and revisiting Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" has reminded me how much I love words and how they can be used to transform. She writes about the sea speaking to the soul, a kind of dissolution and then rebirth of the self. I want to take some of that power and apply it to the nation's sore-spot, the crabbed and awkward political machine.

    Don Watson attempted this a little with the Labor party but I think he is still too awkward, conventionally masculine, brutalised.

    Politicians can't seem to do it themselves because they are too close to the whole drama, the schoolroom culture. I can operate as a detached observer and express the longings of constituents rather than the longings of office-holders.

    Empathy - yes - but the first tool is simply self-observation. What is it I want to feel and to have my representatives feel and express? How do I want it to sound?

    I learn that Julie Bishop has a Fairfax blog. I think I will use that as a place to start; I prefer women to men in most circumstances, though I try not to discriminate. She is a prime candidate for a process of softening, easing. She speaks as if she has a bladder infection. Her writing (and, admittedly, all of the Liberal party writing) reads like Ayn Rand with a bladder infection.

    Even the thought of losing an election properly, the so called moral victory I find fascinating and unexplored - to fail and be noble, to lose and be noble. We don't often talk about these things.

  14. "She speaks as if she has a bladder infection. Her writing (and, admittedly, all of the Liberal party writing) reads like Ayn Rand with a bladder infection."


    I don't even know what that means Solomon, but it's hilarious.

    How the hell does anyone sound or write when they have a bladder infection?




    (Oh, I see, Ayn Rand, indeed.)

    A metaphor worthy of remembrance, whatever the case.

    Your lecturer sounds a right proper twat Solomon.

    Hitler must surely be the most analyzed man that ever lived (all bar Jesus), yet no one has ever been able to pin the insanity on the little man's tail - despite mammoth efforts. On that basis alone, your lecturer is playing at being dumb. Perhaps he assumed that under-graduates are ignorant and stupid and he could get away with such an asinine comment. You were right to be deeply offended.

    More the pity, most criminal and / or barbaric people are wholly sane. The masses find it comforting to believe otherwise, despite all evidence to refute this particularly cherished (wishful) thinking.

    Have you read any of Don Watson's books? I would never have thought of his work as being awkward, conventionally masculine, or brutalized. You are a harsh judge, a hard task master Solomon!

    I will have to revisit your writings tomorrow, or tomorrow, when energy & time permit.

  15. I used to love Don Watson. I read "Weasel words" and "Recollections of a Bleeding Heart" (twice). I used to think of him as Keating's manservant. More recently I have been questioning his methods. This is out of respect, because if I didn't think he was worthwhile (perhaps the most worthwhile figure in politics) I would ignore him like, I don't know, Barry O'Farrell, or, Western Australia.

    There was a time in my life when Howard's shadow was still over us, with his petty fidgety approach to human problems, when the Redfern speech brought me to tears. Having only dim memories of the Keating era, my exposure to it came retrospectively; whilst most of Australia was dead-sick and disillusioned with him, to me it came like a relief, a revelation.

    At the moment I am not sure I am able to defend my description of Don Watson, I think I have underlined elements which are minor in his overall scope, but which preoccupy me at the moment. I would like to go through "Bleeding Heart" again and try and define precisely what it is that now bothers me about it.

    Perhaps it might give some guidance if I explain that I think of the Labor party as male and the Liberal party as female. My sympathy always seems to be with the fallen woman.

  16. On second thoughts my last comments are more likely to confound than to explain.

    You will have to (be so kind as to) help me with my erotic novel, Caz, when it is further developed. I have written some promising material but I fear the effect it will have on an audience, given my tendency towards understatement. My characters are starting to become enigmatic, even to me, and I think this might be a fatal weakness. You are a conscientious and experienced reader, I think your response would be invaluable to me.

    Even without your help if I try and see it through your eyes I keep coming up with: Huh? What? Eh?'s all over my manuscript. (Part of my technique is to read my work as I anticipate it might be read by particular people with different tastes, then keeping the elements which I hope will please each of them, or at least, not antagonise any of them. I think this is better than thinking of an amorphous 'audience' in the abstract.)

    I have always been taught to write "short and simple" but this doesn't seem to work for me, as I tend to try and compress complex ideas into terse statements. A lecturer criticised me last semester for an essay I wrote on abortion, telling me my argument was "hard to follow". I don't want to be hard to follow. That would be shooting myself in the foot before I even submit anything.

    I recall you once said I wrote with "bald statements" with "Labyrinth reasoning" and I can see the truth of that.

    And yes, Good God, time and energy!

  17. I can't believe you remember me saying that Solomon, excellent memory. I do recall making the comment.

    OMG - OF COURSE I would be more than happy to be of any small service to you Solomon! No pressure, you know where to find me, drop an email with material whenever you feel ready - or in need of - some comment from a reader. Erotica is difficult, so you already know your task will be challenging, but I don't think you would bother if that wasn't the case. Besides, with your sensibilities, I think you would find it impossible to prevent yourself from writing about relationships, men, women, the temptations and sensuousness of life.

    I'm amused by your gender-take on the Libs and ALP. I would have placed them both on the not-at-all metro or new age male scale. It is the Aussie way. Neither party brings a female metaphor to my mind.

    Quite different in the US, where the Republican party seems forever wedded and embedded in the macho mold of ye' old. While the Dems are altogether more feminine, and highly sexed gals at that!

    Sorry I haven't written, and only a brief note to respond. Not for lack of thinking of you and imaging the things I want to find time to say.

  18. I have little time either. Tomorrow Michael Kirby is speaking at my university. I am going to make a sketch of his face. Try and find something of use to my writing; I don't care anymore what he might say, I know what he might say, I want to for the second time study his physical presence, his judge-like bearing.

    Last night I attempted to sleep without the pills. It was more successful than usual but not wholly successful. I kept imagining a woman on the beach; myself at the bottom of a gorge, trying to climb to the top with a broken back. I am studying memory and wondered perhaps if there were a relationship between sleeplessness and short-term memory impairment; any human attribute that is cumulative, even - healing, learning. Minor success I think, there was something different happening to me for a little while. It is awful when your body tires and your mind lays awake for 8 hours. I had the most profoundly spiritual thoughts and held my hand over my heart hoping to die. Though it hurts, it is less violent than the tablets, which regularly give me a sensation, whilst sleeping, that I am on the edge of dying. The other night was the most vivid and for a second I thought I was dead and asked myself, quickly, am I still here in the after-life? The mind panics when it thinks it is dying, floods you with adrenaline, or whatever last trick it has left. I am too intimate with my heart; makes me think it might fail one day without notice. It is how I want to die, to just have my heart stop beating, to slow to a stop. Fitzgerald seemed to have an intuition of his own heart attack, pouring over metaphors of the heart and circulation in his later work.

    My thesis in the novel is to explore the relationship between the erotic and memory. There is some precedent in Nabokov, Proust, etc, but I am not sure if it is as conscious or focused as I intend. Early days yet. I work over things in the same way a painter labours over a painting. I think writing needs as much thought and care and time to be worthwhile. Time is the best editor. I will try and isolate the self-contained parts which I have worked over longer and send you something. There is one part of which I am particularly fond.

  19. Indeed, insufficient sleep is well established as being a leading cause of sub-optimal memory retention in 55 out of 10 people Sol.

    More seriously: yes. It seems that adequate levels of sleep ensure that new tracks are laid for things we experienced - including learnings - from the day. What this means is that lack of sleep result in us doing less well in tests, for example, despite studying long and hard. Better to sleep than to forgo sleep for a couple of extra hours of study, basically. Obviously we don't spend our lives perpetually taking tests. Anything that we wish to retain or build upon has a better fighting chance if we let the mind rest with sufficient sleep.

    Your dream metaphor is intriguing. You feel beneath women, or perhaps one in particular? You feel broken by women? Not exactly an ambiguous message there. Worth contemplating that you are the equal of women and that you must recover a sense of not being shattered, broken, whether in relation to women, or in a more general sense.

    Do send any favorite sections, no matter how out of context they may. I'm quite good at joining the dots with very little information (hey, it's what I do at work most of the time!), so I will not be disconcerted, nor fail to appreciate, sections or mere segments of a greater vision.

    Will drop you a note about other matters.

  20. It wasn't a dream. One needs to be asleep to dream. It was simply an imagining. I meant it as two seperate imaginings. The gorge is a real gorge and the woman is inspired by a a real woman but I didn't think to associate them. I was trying to focus on something and dwell on it for a long time, hoping that in doing so my conscious mind would stop and from the vision enter into a dream. Focusing on a woman, though pleasant, leads into the erotic, and so I shifted to the anti-erotic world at the bottom of the gorge. Focusing on climbing upwards helps a little. It seems illogical from a sleeping position and I think that is the reason, it severs the rational connection between mind and body.

    As a child I used to fall asleep by picturing the stages of a journey into space.

  21. Sorry for my misunderstanding. All the same, a fascinating choice of images.

    Oh, and yes, one must avoid the erotic young man! :-D

    I've always thought that counting to aid sleep was stupid, since counting uses the rational parts of the mind, therefore, would not, in my opinion, aid ones journey to contented slumber.

    Your approach is creative and engages the appropriate sections of the brain. I do a bit of that myself when I need to, but your scenic imaginings and metaphors are far more interesting than mine - indeed, alluring comes to mine.

  22. I think counting sheep works as it forces you to visualise. Repetition might also have something to do with it. Try counting slower than your heart beat. Or simply listening to your heart beat.

    The unfortunate thing about my visualisations is that they don't work. Nothing works except Seroquel, i.e., the use of force. Hence my desparation and effort to find another way.

    My point earlier was not that sleeplessness impacts on memory but that poor memory might create sleeplessness and problems healing certain maladies. This remains pure quackery until proven, and yet, having intensified my interest in my own memory this past week or so I am discovering startling things about myself. One can experiment and analyse this phenomenal little faculty without a laboratory; it is all inside your head, and offers you the potential to change and know yourself in a deepening way. I feel very different, almost as if I am giving unused parts of my mind a workout, thawing myself out. Mental illness to me is painful, almost like physical pain except the mind feels it differently. My efforts on memory seem to be steadily relieving that pain. I wonder how far this can go. I'm not sure it has a limit.

    One thought: we are always trying to remember things quickly. In our day to day efforts we try and call things up because they are immediately useful. Often noted is the fact that we often remember things after we have given up. I am starting to be more conscious of the speed and time with which I attempt to remember. The possibilities of slow remembrance seem under-explored. Might I find in me memories I thought I had lost? What if I spent a day on it? We don't spend extended time on trying to remember because in our day-to-day lives it is more practical to give up and try something else,or do it later. There is no skills-base for slow remembrance.

    It is easy to remember things memorised or used regularly (I am starting to call this faculty the citadel; memory's fortification) but most of our lives we don't live consciously so as to remember. Little wonder we lose it so easily.

  23. I'm not good at meditative techniques like listening to my heartbeat - I get a bit bored. Counting engages my logical mind too much, no matter the speed of the count. I'm just as likely to start thinking quarterly reports, EBIT or asset management spreadsheets if I start thinking about numbers.

    Your visualizations might not "work", but they are a rather fun exercise for your creative mind, and quite possibly serve some other useful purpose, whether perceived that way by you or not.

    Besides, no harm to you in trying different things. Something that doesn't work today might work next year. Enjoy the attempts, the game of it, if you like.

    My point earlier was still quite true, and scientifically proven: inadequate sleep plays havoc with memory, and therefore, learning and intellectual tasks, for example, not to mention no end of more trivial, but essential aspects of day to day life.

    You've seen the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"?

    I think "slow remembrance" is a misplaced concept - rather it's relaxed remembrance. If I stop worrying and straining I remember things. The speed or slowness isn't the issue, it's the mental tension.

    "Citadel" - ah, now there's a charming word. I remember using it once in a poem, as in: "the citadel of anguish". I believe I have never had cause or context to make use of it since. Pity. It's a good word. Should be used more often in everyday life and everyday sentences.

    The hardest things to forget are those things we most wish banished from our tortured minds. At least that's what I find.

  24. I wrote a poem about the desire to forget last year.

    Even you

    Hush, memory - defying Nabokov's call to remember
    Reminisces of your obscene moves
    Masturbating me in a street
    Your military Father and your psych still in the bar
    The drive home smelling of come
    Staring out the window into the blackest of nights
    What was I to think?
    My first ever cigarette that night
    You told me to stop.
    So that I would not embarrass myself
    Display my inexperience and cough

    You asked me once
    In a room by the sea
    What I would do should you fall pregnant
    I said I would kill the baby
    “We match.” – You said.
    It seemed to mean something then
    That our sexes were compatible
    You recited a line or two from popular film
    And I was glad I did not notice
    Until long after you had left

    Drinking Starbucks with a South Korean in Paris
    With an inconvenient pseudonym
    I am haunted when she tells me your same story
    Halfway across the world

    To be married; Perhaps already wed
    For all I know
    For all I care
    I pray each night to die in my sleep

    It may even be you that I love

  25. Then later another about memory. Memory and forgetfulness I can see now are simply aspects of the same thing.


    Let the darkness between us

    Be as the night sky

    With one lonely star

    As the keeper of your memory

    Let me recall

    Your heartless stare

    Sparkling hopelessly

    Before the dark of my eyelids

    Closes over my eyes

    If I saw you


    If I saw you

    Some moonlit night

    Even from afar

    I would lay down brave

    Lay down right

    Into the empty grave

    Where with some luck I might

    Forever see that tiny star

    Let me wonder at the night

    And what hid behind the light

    And find what words may yet be right

    No deliverance

    No requiem

    Perhaps a gentle dirge

    For my one pitiful star

    My lost hope

    And let my bones sweet the Earth

    December 2007

  26. "Eternal sunshine" I rented but didn't watch. I did notice the way people talk about it though.

    I am no good at meditative techniques either, anymore. I struggle to concentrate on my images and I think the effort to do so is what gives the technique its value and logic. Though it isn't a disciplined exercise and the image can and should go off in whatever direction it wants, I think the state of mind has to be maintained for a period of time and cumulatively deepen into that state of mind. Hence the connection to memory.

    Relaxed remembrance is another way to look at it. Yet I think within relaxation there is an element of slowness. I am still a novice at trying to articulate these concepts. One technique I've developed is to read through the dictionary and at each word, ponder what relationship such a concept might have with memory/forgetfulness. That is how I came up with the "citadel" metaphor, for our everyday memories, the kind we keep close at hand (also "accroutments").

    This is a writer's technique more than scientific one but it produces interesting results; also I think the study of memory is more linguistic than scientific. I am reading a book by a scientist who is having difficulty convincing me that it is necessary to decapitate chickens in order to study the subject.

    I am also learning new words, and the conscious effort to try and associate particular words with the process of memory makes it slightly more likely that I will remember those words. I learn that in Medieval times that in memorising texts they tried to "digest" them into themselves, so that what they read became a part of them and they became its new author. What I am doing is not unlike this, as by taking the dictionary words and turning them over with my own craft, I create a new thing, authentically my own.

    From here I came to realise that I could use the same technique reading any text but with the advantage of structure and interrelationship between the words (as opposed to the random associations in a dictionary, which are obviously not organised according to meaning), and experimented with "Tender is the night", sentence by sentence, to see how this would influence my understanding of a text that I am already deeply familiar with. The result was fascinating in that by focusing on each sentence and its relationship to other sentences and by making a conscious effort to remember and incorporate otherwise incidental words and phrases, I developed an extraordinary intimacy with the text. I read it with a writer's eye, conscious of the buried, coded interrelation of each part of the text. I took time over each sentence and allowed myself to think about it, something I am not used to doing. The time it takes to solve the little puzzle I set myself in reading each sentence meant that it left a deeper impression on me and I was able to hold scenes from the past, present and future of the novel in my mind at once, in a way that I was unable to do whilst relying solely on natural memory.

    I plan to use the process when I start learning a language (French). I think it will work, since the hardest part about learning a language is that we learn words we seldom use and so forget them. By forming an association with a process I use all the time (memory) the words become incorporated into me, perpetually useful. In France I bought a copy of "Tender is the night" in French (Tendre est la nuit). Ultimately I hope to translate and memorise the text in both languages, and in doing so create a kind of Rosetta stone inside my mind.

    I have a pebble already. Mi-Chemin = Halfway.

    "On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about halfway between Marseilles.."

    The intensification of my practice of writing has taught me to be conscious that every word has to be constructed from nothing. Even incidental or functional pieces are carefully thought through and bear a relationship to the text as a whole.

    As a result of these discoveries I am not the same. I am a different creature with a powerful little invention to play with.

  27. Even if all that comes out of this bafflingly elaborate process is poetry then I have created something worthwhile.

  28. ""Eternal sunshine" I rented but didn't watch. I did notice the way people talk about it though."

    And how do they talk?

    I've never asked anyone.

    Perhaps ignore, or forget the memory of the talk, and please do watch it sometime, leisurely.

    Forget the actors, the script, the embedded saccharine / cheesy subliminal 'moral' of the narrative arch : its the philosophical proposition that's of compelling interest. The conceptual challenge. Truly, the idea is quite intriguing, though I have not reached my own conclusion one way or another.

    I will have to re-read your poems and other thoughts tomorrow, when I am rested and can give them due care.

  29. Time is always an issue for me these days, too. It forces me to learn to integrate different aspects of my life; my work on memory is useful for both fiction and law. Blogging is possible only if I can record my rambling thoughts (so forgive me!) as they come to me.

    Part of the rationale for writing an erotic novel rather than any other is that (if this is not too much information) this part of my life is a given, something already fixed in my routine, and it is enlightening to do it with a measure of self-observation; all erotica is, after all, a kind of autoeroticism. Last night I attempted to integrate my fiction into my visualisation technique, and I think this is something that is worthwhile, since I may as well integrate these two similar processes. The rational mind is not as honest as the irrational mind - also, it shows me if what I have said is effective or ineffective in what it tries to do, a luxury rarely afforded to a writer.

  30. I think I have discovered the sexiest law student in the world. She has black hair and piercing blue eyes, rather like my ex (and she is intelligent and opinionated, like my ex). She moved me to prayer. That has never happened before.

  31. In your final year you have only just stumbled across this fellow law student? She must be in an earlier year of study?

    Begs the question what you decided to pray for.

    I can think of no reason not to pursue writing of the erotic, if one can manage such a tricky task with skill. Most fail, many rather mortifyingly so.

    I believe it to be a noble challenge. Besides, as I have said many times, there are only two real preoccupations in life: sex and death. I think it excellent that you have set yourself the task of writing about something that matters Solomon.

  32. I didn't know that I was looking for her until now. I didn't know such a person could exist within this environment. It is a large law school spread across many campuses, and I have been here a hundred years.

    My intuition tells me that she is the kind of girl that if she likes me (and she would have already decided) and is available she will pursue me, so I need not fear she will slip from my fingers. I am praying to draw her near; more precisely, I am summoning up all the requisite attractiveness I might hold to her and keep it in the forefront, the citadel, of my mind. It is a distinct, predatory but relaxed state of mind, with a certain discipline and responsiveness. I am wired to say 'yes'. Seductions are made by a succession of small yes's until a kiss, and then it is sealed (at least it always has been for me, so I suppose I am a good kisser).

    My novel is called 'The Suicide Kiss'. I suppose it is about sex and death. It will be a Gothic romance. I am pursuing a cult audience, as a subset of the wider literary audience (in a way it is also a long love-letter to the Gothic girl I loved at sixteen). In fact there is an obscure rock band and a goth website with the same name; at first this bothered me but I have since thought it over and decided I like the name enough to continue to exercise ownership over it. Experience with Wikipedia and google has taught me often-times various phenomenon hold the same name.

    It is indeed difficult to write erotica but I am well-read, naturally poetic and even as a child wrote with the unconscious desire to seduce. I have a student's thoroughness and research skills, a familiarity with audiences and many years of false starts to guide me. More importantly I have found I am able to summon up the muse within myself, the right mood and tone.

    My aim is to use visual pornographic material as a litmus test of how effective my writing is. The professional material is actually very finely wrought in appealing to its audience; its aim is to gratify and not to poeticise, and my work has to have as a minimum this level of effectiveness (whilst obviously transcending its purely mechanistic and meaninglessness).

    I have to do this whilst writing for men and for women, since no novelist can afford to dictate the composition of the audience in the way a magazine can. I think I am well-poised to accomplish this.

    I think I will complete the novel by the first months of the new year. This is my vision for how the cover should be presented, with the title in small black print just below elbow height.


    Of course chances of publication are slim but I plan to work it over until it is worthy of publication, looking at it through all the filters from which a publisher would look at it. It is necessary to me that I leave nothing undone that I might have done. From there it is out of my hands, and I can always render it on to the web, and to history, or to small, targeted readers amongst friends and acquaintances.

    The readers I want are already seeking my book; it is the empty space on the shelf, where the book they want to read should be, but has yet to be written. The way I understand the industry: they will seek me out, if what I have to offer is done right.

  33. Nicely ambiguous image, but the proposed book title and photograph have no synergy.

    Yes, a man's ability to display adequate and acceptable kissing skills is extremely important, however, I give you my absolute word, from my lifetime of experience, that there is zero correlation and zero causation between a man's kissing skills and any other skill or attribute - physical, emotional, blah, blah - pick something, anything at all, hey, bricklaying! Nadda. No link whatsoever Solomon. So, if you hoping that a single attribute was a signifier of anything else: nope!