Thursday, 29 January 2009

THE STING or The Story Of How Gordon McCabe Shot Himself In The Foot

This Is The Story Of How Gordon McCabe Shot Himself In The Foot In Front Of An Audience That Included A Dutchman, An Elberry, A Kindly Cynic, And One Selena Dreamy Who Reported The Matter To The Relevant Authorities.

Having long had serious doubts about my own identity, Gordon's feat might have been be a simple trick, embellished by second sight and wishful thinking, perhaps, but somehow I always knew that someone like Dr McCabe would come along and sort it out. I am, indeed, a close observer of this Doctor of
Philosophy - who I'm acquainted with professionally and fond of personally - and even though Gordon's actual findings were preliminary and had not been subject to peer review he went ahead and published them.

"I formed the suspicion long ago that Selena was male. In fact, my suspicion was quite specific: I guessed that Selena was Dr David Oderberg, from the Philosophy
Department at the University of Reading."
(Gordon McCabe)

This was undoubtedly an incriminating statement! And as such, accordingly, I needed to declare an interest. I'm not acquainted with Dr Oderberg, and for all I know he may well be Miss Selena Dreamy, or a kind of quantum-Doppelgänger. But that would be to place the theory before the
evidence, and as theories are themselves based upon evidence, they must always
be open to amendment in the light of new or conflicting information. And since,
precisely on the information available - I myself inclined to a different view,
I sent Prof. Oderberg an email:

"I'm not certain, Sir. But I think I stumbled across something at the
Comment Section of that you were not supposed to see. Come and share this bit of gossip:"

The die was cast, and for Dr Gordon McCabe nothing would ever be
the same again. Indeed, if this has ruined your day, Gordon, don't be
disconcerted. I want to apologize for the wicked Prof Sonderberg. The punishment
inflicted upon you has been severe, if not inhuman. At the same time, of course,
the comparison constitutes an unbearable insult to my own person, needless to
say. Indeed, as a philosopher, he has, it seems to me, an altogether
unsophisticated relationship with anger. And perhaps, at least in retrospect,
that is his chief transgression:

"Hello, thank you for this email and for drawing this bit of stupidity
to my attention.
Gordon, how dare you post such a ridiculous piece of
speculation. I have no connection whatsoever with any of this.
I demand an immediate retraction on this blog, with apologies.
Next time you are inclined to speculate about who people are, you might consider asking them first so as to corroborate your fanciful hypothesis."
Prof. David Oderberg
University of

Then came the problematic part: and, here, predictably enough, is
Gordon on his way to do penance:

"David has asked me to retract my hypothesis, and I’m more than happy
to, and apologise for identifying him with Selena Dreamy."
(Gordon McCabe)

By means of that extreme simplification, two mock-philosophers
managed to sidestep all the elegant solutions associated with that noble
discipline. Truth to tell, for someone used to the exercise of reason and the
concept of philosophy as a search for intellectual salvation, it is all very
strange and alarming. Indeed, there is a lesson here. Philosophy - and surely
that is a point upon which all sides can agree - is an ancient art, the
essential foundation of all other inquiries, the generator of higher thought,
and based on the idea that human existence may be alleviated through rationality
and mutual understanding.

I know that's all relative, but frankly, contemporary philosophers are
a fearful jest upon a fearful age, if I might be allowed this freedom to express
myself. And just so you won't look a dupe, Gordon, when next divining an
identity, I'd like to clear up a common misconception: A pseudonymous identity
is not the same as a false identity. It is the work of the devil. A transgression peculiar to the Internet age, replete with everything that makes the cyber sphere, and the vast opportunities it creates for ethical and professional deception, such a virtual torment.

In a word, a loony bin!

But what I meant to be saying before I was so enticed by one of my multiple personas - troublesome little trolls - is, that as an American subject, I respectfully decline to answer any
further questions concerning my gender or identity by virtue of my
constitutional privilege under the Fifth Amendment!

Dreamy (Miss!)

PS.: for all other enquiries, please refer to my gynaecologist!

Friday, 23 January 2009


"...meant to say but keep forgetting, you should post some samples from
your book on your blog - the equivalent of letting a potential buyer flick
through a book in Waterstone's.
Best wishes etc.... "

The above is from an e-mail I received a little while
ago. And below is, not an excerpt from the book in question, but the version of
an extract which I myself posted, in the fall of 2004, to Gillon Aitken
Associates, Literary Agents, London S.W.10.

“As for the story I cannot really see the point in dwelling on it.“ I
wrote. “It has a beginning and an ending, a denouement where you would expect
it, some truly offensive language and some psychotically violent and
child-chillingly hideous villains. I know what you're thinking - I'm under no
illusions here - but it seems to me that in spite of an appearance of
considerable complexity, any story is only as good as the telling. The proof of
the pudding, in other words, lies in the reading.” And lets be frank about this,
I’m never even going to attempt a *great* fictional masterpiece. My passion is
philosophy and the pursuit of reason. But I am not, as might have happened once,
above writing a damn good social satire or, in the event, even entertain a few

Unsurprisingly, Kate S. was ‘not in love with it.’“I didn’t find myself
responding positively so I’m obviously not the right agent for you,” she wrote
with impeccable common sense. Bless her.

If the eminently sullen nature of my query produced a response which no
consideration of literary irreverence could mitigate, the fifth chapter would
definitely have put paid to any possibility of that. Not because it’s the
slightest chapter. But because the temperate Ms Shaw could not possibly have
approved of it. Frankly, I myself was astonished one morning in the summer of
2003, in the midst of my deepest slumber, to learn that I had been placed under
arrest. And, for those of you who might suggest that my life has been an ongoing
triumph of impeccable conduct, I am afraid to say, the allegation was one of a
serious sexual nature.
And here’s how the whole thing started.
My friend Benny told me about this party and how it was going to have all
the cutest chicks in town. The instant I arrived, he said “Try the Appleton
I had barely opened my mouth.
Then his pals and their girlfriends piled in. Six hours later I found
myself at a police station in Wembley Park - a West London district of whose
existence I had previously been altogether ignorant.
I was stripped naked. A desk sergeant asked me a quantity of highly
inappropriate questions. A custody officer advised me on my rights. I was then
supplied with a prison issue boiler-suit - entirely made of paper - and
"charged" with affray, sexual harassment and attempted rape!
Imagine that!
Then the cell! A bunk, a sink, a john.
No amenities, except for a paperback left lying on the bunk. ‘The Satanic
‘. I’m not even a fan of Salman Rushdie‘s. The only thing I like about him
is his incredibly lovely fourth wife. That said, I may not have the prominence
of Salman R., but the reason I don’t have his wife is not my lack of virility.
That thought cheered me up a lot. Whatever was going to happen next, I
blissfully drifted off to sleep.
My slumber was interrupted when an audible gasp arose from a startled woman
PC who tugged at my sleeve and pointed in the direction of my groin. I snapped awake. For reasons completely unrelated to my libido, an awkward matter had presented itself. It looked three-dimensional. It felt three-dimensional. It was unmistakable:
A giant erection!
As I lay napping on my bunk, a highly volatile and critical development had been unfolding in my boiler-suit. It seemed like the prelude to an explosion. Given the nature of the paper vestment, nothing substantial restrained the projection. The WPC then said that I could be guilty of an offence of indecent exposure with intent to insult a female under the 1824 Vagrancy Act. The maximum penalty, she added was three months imprisonment.
She was looking at the ceiling, not at me.
Nor could I possibly have conceived that the English criminal justice
system and a natural urinary inclination could be combined to form such a devastating indictment. I scarcely knew what to say. I also explained that my physical appearance was the result of too much Appleton Special, a giant hangover, and pressure on the bladder.
What else was there to say? That I was pleased to see her?
I didn’t tell her about Salman’s wife, though. No need to get cute with the
Nor did I mention that the Appleton Special was 100% proof. That it can
cause double vision, pink hallucinations and visitations from airborne
elephants, is what I have also good reason to believe.
As I was led into the interrogation room the constable simply waved me
inside. He did his best to ignore the fact that there was an unauthorized
hard-on on the make. Flushed with adrenalin, it was still straining to gain
altitude. The paper suit seemed remarkably compliant. There was nothing
ambiguous about it. The cops kept their distance. Once inside, though, there was
a universal gasp, and it wasn’t one of approbation. It was evident the
detective-sergeant in charge of the interrogation alternated between
astonishment and reprimand.
“Good Lord,” he said, stating the obvious.
Force majeure!” I replied, by way of explanation.
“Straighten up, man!” he said - not without awe.
Hardly the best move to make under the circumstances!
“Sit down!” he barked.I was happy enough to do that.
“Are you drunk?”I admitted I was.
“Do you have a drinking problem?”“No, Sir,” I said. “I have a problem
staying sober!”
He didn’t crack a smile. Privately, of course, I agree, my appearance told
heavily against me, even though the only credible piece of evidence produced by
the Crown was a substantial erection. How substantial depends on which account
you believe. Mine or the police’s.
And that’s about the size of it.

Meanwhile, I want to set your minds at ease as much as I can. I want you to
know that I was granted bail in accordance with the Bail Act, 1976, under the
provisions of Section 34/37 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and granted
unconditional release. Would it bother you if I also claimed that I am less
disturbed by the evidence I presented to the Crown, than by seeing that the
question of my gender should have become the subject of so much hesitation on
this board? Conflating fact and fiction, I would remind you, is the essence of a
writers' license, and so far as you are concerned, gentlemen bloggers, perverts and doggers,
rest assured that I always considered, and shall continue
to consider, myself delectably, scrumptiously, deliciously...

Miss (!!) Selena Dreamy

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


THE BETTER MAKER by Walter Aske.
Lulu 278 pp £ 7.29

"I mean that I came home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous and even more cruel and inhuman - because I have been among human beings" Seneca

Walter Aske has a way with words. "Darkly attractive with words" - to paraphrase Sini Kaattari, one of his main characters. Nor is he part of a literary movement or creative writing club, but a man of great introspection and originality. For his main theme, unprofessed, is undoubtedly himself. Maintaining a symbiotic colloquy with love and despair, The Better Maker is an excellent example of how the use of language sets one apart; how its rendition, not the story is paramount.

Using a well-established literary device that allows one timescale to
be relevant to another, Patrick Sadler's Italian fast-forwards give his life a
posthumous meaning as well as guiding the eye of the reader to the ultimate
denouement of his literary composition. On the face of it, Patrick seems
destined to be a pariah. Morose, insular, lugubrious, he has in effect turned
himself into an outcast. Again and again, his adult behaviour has roots in his
childhood: ...his introspection, his suspicion of his own insignificance, his
self-obsession, his ambiguous relations with Sini Kaattari and - of which she is
seen as the epitome - with Polly‘s nose. One remains profoundly struck by the
miserable aspect he presents. Rigid with intimidation, he has a defeated look
about him. A symptom, no doubt, of the overarching need to be loved. Perhaps the
story is apocryphal. But it has the sound of psychological truth. And on this
point as on others it does not lack credibility

Above all there is a sense of restless uncertainty:

"He studied her for some hint of his failure, why she had withdrawn
from him in the Leech Hall, and avoided him since. And why now she had taken him
into her kitchen, and offered him tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate even. Then
his gaze dropped and he stared at the table, fighting to withstand the love that
would compel him to speak, to speak and so err in her strange kingdom. If his
love had scared her so, then he must act outside of love; but that misleading
angel had him, as surely as ever. Within a minute his easy, sleepy warmth had
contracted to silence. He was barely aware of her or himself; he had sealed
himself into a numbness from which he could act without love. The music met the
silences strangely.”

While he endures a major psychological crisis - that of falling in love
- people around Patrick Sadler are both charmed and alarmed by his tranquil
defiance of convention. Like the Roman Seneca, Patrick is dismayed with himself,
but even more dismayed with his fellow men, and he functions on the assumption
that they are not to be trusted. At the same time, one is struck by his strange
passivity in the face of his “Torment.” Reacting with the same stoicism he has
displayed as a child, the victim refuses to protest the treatment the world is
dishing out to him. Tortured by inner demons and a sense of his own
worthlessness, he's less of an arrogant or Rimbaudlean rakehell than he is an
abandoned and impassive outcast. His entire attitude is complete denial.

Some of its content makes repetitive reading. There are too many recurring,
campus canteens that badly need to have their mash potatoes fed to the pigs. And
a number of his dialogues are diminished by a plethora of insider innuendo. A
sort of campus repartee. I wonder, too, whether the university content isn't
responsible for some the style, which, at times, is remorselessly collegiate. In
fact, the atmosphere is, if not pretentious, somewhat affected, even if the
finest passages are composed in an archaic, oblique and enigmatic style with a
terseness that - for all its infusion of "fearful secrecy" - has few equals. Or
at least, few that I know of. And yet, paranoia can be catching. Becoming ever
more detached and mysterious - in the words of Sini: "You are not exactly human”
- their "forbidden" relationship seems more suited to the sadistic moral
universe of 13th century Florence than the Runnkirk of 1999.

"He dreamt of her death. he dreamt of his. Knives in the night. He woke
in his flat and rolled to his unsteady feet, listening and waiting, then unable
to sleep, worried for Sini across the town. They both waited their end, her
shaming, and what hell would follow after. Their love did not feel blessed and
wonderful; it was urgent. They both talked of how long they could love like
this, before a world they both saw as cruel and stupid found them out. They
shared an intimation of doom that went beyond scandal or separation"

Fear feeds on itself and prophecies of doom become self-fulfilling:
“Sini died on Christmas day.”

One of Walter Aske's amazing qualities is the potently
self-deprecating irony and wit that he applies to potentially heart-rending
situations. His ability to handle emotional restraint is extraordinary. There is
a memorable scene in the nocturnal college library where Patrick feels haunted
by a ghost - which then turns out to be Sini incarnate, who promptly takes him
home. What follows is a tragicomedy. He declares his love for her as he lies
prostrate under a pile of vestments from a coat-rack which has collapsed and
buried him. One wonders what Henry Miller would have made of it - the great
master of the hilarious and grotesque. And Strindberg's taste for bad omens
would have been no less well served - to take the other extreme. Indeed, some
may argue that if you are used as a butt for fate or buried under a pile of
coats, some of love's dignity is lost. But even though Patrick is hardly
expansive in his emotions, for the time being he appears a contented man.

He dreaded the fading of his love for Sini - and so did I. In truth, I
felt a terrible hole in my stomach. And, I suppose, if I'm honest, I also felt
affronted when "she took his now eager cock in his mouth". It jars (- which is,
of course, precisely the point that the author is making). Polly Church, on the
other hand, never lives up to her promise. I retained a feeling of distinct
unfamiliarity. "The one deeper, bonded in his blood and bone; the other an
unsettled revenant, a catalyst."
The result, inevitably, is an untidy compromise
until I lost them again in a long bluster about Schubert, Mozart, St Augustine,
Apocalypse, Christ and the pretensions of literary theorists. Followed with
another exegesis by Polly Church on Abelard and Heloise in - if I have got this
right - Dante's Inferno, plus a giddy succession of non sequiturs blazing away
with all the dizzying complexities I had previously devoured about Patrick’s
disintegrating life. It was 3 am - the hour of the wolf - and I had enough of
death, Satan, the Viking and a man called Gaston who devotes himself unashamedly
to succeeding as a bohemian temp. I told myself we'd reached the central fire.

Now, I am no great creative writing fan. And some books have a longer
life than their authors. Most of them don't. But I have a hunch that what makes
The Better Maker unique has more to do with the dark poetic spirit of its
author, the vogue for personal deprecation and its spark of nihilistic chemistry
than with any capacity for explicit, blatant mainstream perceptions. The author
started as he meant to go on and he writes well, in an "untutored" fashion.
Clearly, in scale, scope and significance this is an Erstlingswerk, and I had an
extraordinary sense of its singularity. In fact, Walter Aske is an accomplished
communicator, but he also needs to be a skilled editor in order to render the
intricate convolutions of the story accessible to the more general reader - for
that "less is more” continues to be an excellent recommendation, here as
elsewhere. Commercial success, admittedly, is only a remote possibility. But
then, success and genius are not synonymous - far from it! In fact, he would
never make it as a writer-in-residence employed by Camden or Islington Arts
Council. And we should all be thankful for that!

Oh, and lest I forget, if you have never heard of Walter Aske , you may be surprised to learn that he is none other, of course, than Elberry of The Lumber Room.


Sunday, 18 January 2009


Kayfabe: "Our Government tells us it's expecting to borrow £60bn this year
and a further £100bn next. Many other countries in Europe will be doing much the
same. In the US, as we know, Congress famously approved an extra $700bn of
borrowing to fund the bail-outs. Obama says he's going to spend a similar amount
on New Deal style projects - in addition to the regular Federal deficit of a
$trillion or so. So I dunno... how much new Global borrowing does all this add
up to? Couple of $trillion? Five trillion.. more?"

Yep, much more! $ 53, 000 000 000 000 trillion, to be exact!

According to the financial expert David Walter ("An American Time
), America's total liabilities, including public debts, actually amount to
$ 11 trillion, added to which there are currently unfunded obligations in social
security benefits of $ 7 trillion. Unfunded medicare promises, apparently, add
up to some $ 34 trillion, to which for good measure he attaches another $ 1
trillion for miscellaneous requirements. All of which adds up to a grand total
of $ 53 trillion in terms of negative equity - or $ 175. 000 000 per person - in
order to deliver on the obligations and promises of the US government.

I, personally, cannot vouch for these figures. But anyway you slice it,
wowza! There is nothing in human experience to compare with it. What we are
dealing with here is not an event of negative equity, but a process of financial
meltdown at a rate ten times higher than the growth of population.

Meanwhile, in America, apart from the huge tax-cutting and public-spending
package sketched out by Barack Obama last week, its central bank, The Federal
Reserve, has already stepped up its quantitative easing, as if we could conjure
away financial immolation and find economic immortality through printing
banknotes. But perhaps our most spectacular failure is with the fundamental
problem of balancing the structure of the global economy with the demands of the
global ecology. While the future will be disintegrating in yet another ferocious
spiral of boom and bust, all efforts would have to be concentrated on urban
demographic growth in order to increase the world's fiscal population. Precisely
because growth and productivity are linked to the volume of consumer population,
the only answer to long-term economic decline, is more humans and plenty of
them. Nor - in the full understanding that this, too, is an adjournment rather
than a annulment of an inevitable confrontation - does it offset the burgeoning
new carbon emissions created by the requisite high birth rate and the steady
flow of migrants to the West.

Here is a human explosion waiting to happen!

And carbon capture technology, to tell the truth, will not be keeping
pace with the urban population increase. It is a classic case of untested
assertions. Carbon trading, too, is by definition a strictly temporary
expedient. I have no fundamental objection to such Keynesian ideas as
deficit-financing - I don't understand it, so I don't object to it - but if
Messrs Brown & Co are confident that we should continue to consume more than
we produce, it is obvious to me, that Keynesian insanity is a natural result of
the belief in charlatanism. Indian jugglers may perform such feats of
escapology. But then, of course, they are tied up inside a sack and thrown into
a river. Which rather suggests to me that Anglo-American conmen should be
treated likewise.

There is no way to spin it, folks. The dirty fact of the matter is,
that we can’t escape; we can’t hide; and we can’t possibly have the cake and eat it.


Tuesday, 6 January 2009


LIVING OUTSIDE TIME: "When I think about the character of China I struggle.
This surely is not only because I do not know the language. I sense that it is a
different world, not just a different part of the world. Despite the obvious,
profound differences between Islam and the West; despite, moreover, the
increased personal freedoms here in China - with respect to personal matters
such as alcohol and relationships – I do feel that China is more exotic and
strange to me than was Kuwait."

Cultural differences are like alien worlds. Indeed, culture moulds our thoughts so much that we cannot even conceptualise ideas for which we do not have precedents. And the value and
rightness of Western knowledge are not empirical absolutes. Which often makes me
wonder how presumtuous it is, indeed - as if they were divinely ordained - to
measure everything by the moral standards of the West...

The Judean-Christian morality may well be regarded as the chief
instrument regulating legislative questions subsequent to the Roman Empire. But
I, myself, am more than puzzled. What Christianity achieved by a bold stroke of
dogmatism, the world now accepts as an inherent good, which plainly it is not.
It is nothing but the identification of the supreme power with the supremely
self-serving choice. And by that identification the Anglo-American dominated
West bestows upon itself a legitimate and divinely sanctioned international
authority. And don’t tell me, folks, that world supremacy was not acquired by
effective and brazen occupation.

Nor does it prevent me from recognizing that oriental cultures have
completely different conceptions of either freedom or personal constraint.
Muslim culture wilting under the heel of the American imperialist, means more to
its adherents than all the social opportunities of a way of life directed at
nothing but the pursuit of happiness. And just how honestly anyone can claim
that the world promised by America is the best of all possible worlds, is rather
a matter of perspective. As for that freedom we worship so much, we have
considered chiefly its rewards. Impressive though it is, it may well be the
secularised version of the descent into Hell. So far as Islamists are concerned,
every constraint and taboo which builds a civilized society has been swept away.
Sexual license is at a premium, the dissolution of the family progressive,
homosexual union administratively sanctioned, paedophilia rife, crime out of
control, violence glorified, drugs the great sustainer of the multitudes.
Whereas Islam - with its gigantic affirmation of Allah - has all the attributes
associated with the propagation of the human heritage and the continuity of the

Or has it? Or is that which dominates the entire bloody sequence of
current events but a dichotomous fanaticism, impounded in its own mad,
delusional "freedom" one the one hand, and a deeply entrenched fundamentalism on
the other?

It is never a matter of iniquity. It is always a matter of cultural or
religious perspective. But it is compelling, nevertheless, to observe how the behaviour of one
side always reinforces that of the other.

There is no way I am going to forego the freedom my Western heritage
bestows. But while you and I believe it possible for Western Hellenistic
Enlightenment, ultimately, to democratise the entire globe, I personally, find
it an imposition to think that a fourteen-hundred year old theocratic culture
like that of Iraq or Afghanistan can be emancipated during the course of a
single war. The reform of Islam is a contradiction of terms. The democratisation
of Islam signals the death of its own oriental identity. Nothing less. Indeed,
let the record show that this war has been responsible for turning the austere
religious tenets of an obscure Saudi tribe - the Wahhabis - into a worldwide
Islamic fundamentalist revival!


Thursday, 1 January 2009


ALL SHOOK UP: Though a brilliant logician and an enviable blogger whose writing is clear and lucid, ASU clearly cannot see the forest for the rubber trees. I suspect it relates to his fundamental inability to embrace the fact that he does not exist. The human mind is perversely immune to such logic, and ASU cannot be sure he is ruthless enough to believe in a philosophy informed by mind-bending quantum equations and distorted by relativistic insights. For some, quantum physics is still a religion, and the knowledge and mastery of science the centre of its mysteries. Astrologers such as Mystic Meg, of course, will tell you that they've known this all along, but the experience has done nothing to change ASU’s mind. Indeed, he has difficulties restraining his annoyance at the complacent arrogance of Selena’s tone, and I am fully conscious that such censure is well and truly judged. Trust me to mock someone whose only crime has been to be a agreeable and generous conversationalist. Shame on you, Miss Dreamy.

APPLEYARD: A regular domestic Messiah, see BRYAN

BLOGGERS: Everyone, it seems, is at it, except the paedophiles and the
Brownies. Rabble-rousers, liberals, bigots, zealots, pornographers, the
pro-lifers, homophobics, psychopaths, and even the Sioux. A constant flow of
hard drive addicts who rant to get their latest fix. In terms of subject matter,
it's open season. Frankly, if someone's going to have an vacuous, pointless
hobby, I'd rather it was sex. I only read bloggers who adore fornication and are
enthusiastic about the death penalty. In any case, I have never been at ease
with this world of digits, where you can't tell whether anyone is who they say
they are, and that obviously excludes myself. But you know what scares me most
of all? Bloggers are like the bubonic pest, the black death, the plague of
locusts - you can never kill them off!

BOB: The Dutch like to lecture other countries about the evils of too
much legislation, and Bob is a man who can detect flaws down to the atomic level
of intellectual resolution. But whereas I believe that reality is an illusion
that can only exist in the mind, his point indubitably is, that the world turns
on mutually exclusive delusions, and that it is never as simple as black and

BRYAN: Never trust a man who uses self-deprecation, it is impossible to
provoke him. Afflicted with an inner restlessness that is compounded by a
chronic inability to sleep, Bryan’s psychological profile fits the contours of a
high-functioning intellectual suffering from emotional deprivation. There is
little doubt that Bryan desires to be loved. Or that this tenderness towards
himself may cost others dearly. Though I did all I could to be provocative, he
stubbornly refuses to be engaged. Understandably! At stake is his whole design for living, the
dream of a liberal intellectual who has built his career entirely on academic
ephemerals. Bryan has lived on the edge of great ideas, and his shoptalk abounds
in tantalizingly loose ends. But does his clean, unchallenged reputation stand
up to scrutiny? Or has the Messiah lost his call? The buzzards are circling.
Beware the Ides of March.

DICK MADELEY: A pseudonymous identity is not the same as a phoney
identity. Is your identity defined by law, or by what you believe you are, in
your own mind? Handsome, shrewd and disarmingly affable, Dick’s first discovery
of himself was of a man as far as possible removed from Richard in origins and
fortune. But behind every great man, it is said, there is a great valet. And as
such he has become confidante and counsellor of numerous television
personalities and society ladies, including his charming spouse Judy, to whom he
preaches an admirable if outdated nineteenth-century morality. See RICHARD

DREAMY: As a blogger I am not worth much but I have the advantage that
others are worse. As a leggy blonde in hotpants and stilettos I really am a
cliché, a woman driven by oestrogen, rather than expertise - but inevitably I
have a lot more admirers then (see) SELENA

CRUSHED BY INSOC: Crushed needs no attempts at cheerleading from
myself, idolised as he is by his numerous readers. Everyone agrees that he is
clever and charming but in truth, as yet, I don’t really know him. Evidently, he
is an operator who beguiles his audience. And an affable participant in the
genteel, informal debates on uncontroversial subjects, such as sex and cocaine. May he blog happily ever after…

ELBERRY: Elberry is the laureate of
the loner. Witches and sorcerers are still proscribed, but Elberry is spreading.
Born of bitterness and cynicism he has the whiff of the serial killer about him
( – which, I sense, is l’eau du morgue). In certain ways he’s representative of
what's wrong with all of us. Because we owe our identity largely to psychotic
forces and have no wish to appear a failure to ourselves, we feel bound to pour
scorn on the rest of world. These experiences are indeed consistent; they are
nothing but the ever-present grievance of the humbled man. Elberry’s problem is
not original in this respect. But rather than plunge into a deep depression or
suffer invisible blows to his psyche, he reacts with the same obduracy: (alternatively: see ÜBERMENSCH). Also see THE LUMBER ROOM

HAVERS of HAVERING ON: The last of his kind, writer and musicologist
Richard Havers can be found, fortuitously but appropriately, in the heartland of
northern politics where the principal source of all moral wealth is England
still. And the unreserved aversion which he shares with almost everyone for the
Scottish author of our economic discontent is more than matched by his total
contempt for the devious turncoat Mandelson. It takes a remarkable investment to
dislike as keenly as he does, though, in truth, I’ve often thought of shooting
Mandelson myself.

HELEN's FIRST LANGUAGE: Why are there so few women at the highest level of science…?

JONATHAN: A man whose comments reveal a high level of irritability, and
whose leitmotif is a never-ending: "I don't understand…” He believes that the
heart's creative wisdom has a more important message than the logic of the mind
and needs his Saviour like a father. His anxiety is like that of a child fearing
abandonment. I shook him to the core, because he suddenly saw the fundamental
dilemma besetting his personal destiny when reproduced on a higher,
anthropomorphic plane. No doubt his crucial hesitation is whether our idea of
God can be purely spiritual or must be in part at least, be an anthropic one.
Nor is there any reason to doubt the sincerity of Jonathan’s investment. In
fact, I don't know any seeker after the truth of whom I am disposed to think
more highly.

THE LUMBER ROOM: Glum bulletins proliferate, but
spurred on perhaps by simultaneous perusal of the tractates of those very
elusive thinkers Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein, Elberry’s public transformation
from college pariah to exiled intellectual is now almost complete. The LUMBER
ROOM’s true purpose - despite some rather odd personal statements - makes one
feel that he is sustained and animated by the whole notion of literature, and it
is that which seems to have prevented him from turning himself into nothing but
a self-lacerating outcast. The Lumber Room is a remarkable mixture of insider's
knowledge, philosophical speculation and literary assimilation. Highly recommended.

McCABE: Gordon acts the part of the theoretical
physicist brilliantly, but philosophy, you feel, has never really been his first
love. Prompted by nonhuman emotions and perceptions, the logical, unemotional
part of his blog is performed excellently. But always remember that he will
employ scrupulously formal syntax, and that there is no conspicuous
demonstration of wit. Mathematical reasoning is the only way to grasp the
fundamentals that lie behind what Gordon observes. Where others have a vision,
Gordon has a balance sheet. But thank you, nevertheless, Dr McCabe. I always
profit from your blog. As a specialist in data processing, you have, at all
events, provided us with the certified statistician’s view of philosophy.

for a few instalments and then become dull, embarrassing self-parodists for the
rest of their time. Nor do I wish to suggest anything of the kind. On the
contrary. I know Richard Madeley is an intellectually most alert and very
complicated individual, and I think it would be presumptuous and wrong on my
part if I were, in any way, to second-guess his motives. The Richard Madeley
Appreciation Society
is one of the great classics in blogging history. But the
tragedy of Dick’s talent is the missed opportunities it represents. If you want
to drive a man to become a radical destroyer of his proper genius, just give him
half a dozen blogs…

MUTLEYTHEDOG: Lovable, cuddly, in the most promiscuous sense. A canine
who said nothing that could not be found on the walls of a public convenience
and whom I’ve previously nominated as my choice for comedian of the year. Fact
is, I seriously intend to retrain as a counsellor for people who have been
exposed to Mutley’s website, or been contaminated by his wit. Which, roughly,
amounts to 15% of the UK population.

NIGE: The little Little Englander. Sublimely believes in the divine origins of Shakespeare. A gracious blogger. Tasteful. Exemplary. Nige writes carefully, elaborate when necessary, but in that proper English tradition which includes humour and élan and just a trifle recklessness whenever so appropriate.

THE OVERMAN: The Who? A signed copy of my best-selling autobiography
plus gratuitous sex (where applicable) for the first correct answer!

PERCY: No one can ever say you lack candour, Sir Percy - a
conclusion entirely uncompromised by his rough, untrimmed beard. Veteran biker
and a man of strong will, fixed opinions and mercurial temperament, he seems
ideal for the type of woman who says “let there be war.” Still ponders the
amount of sperm he dispensed since first he worshipped at Selena’s fountain.
He’s disappointed when people agree with him, so he dissents just for the hell
of it. What happens next is anyone's guess -

PERVERTS: see Percy

SELENA: Polemic backed up by a considerable body of research, and genius is an
amplifier often used when promoting herself. In fact, she has a tendency not to
engage in conversations, but to descend into them, often from an elusive height.
She is dogmatic, overbearing, deceptively articulate, with a sort of despotic
predominance and a tendency to overrule everyone. Irritating at best, obnoxious
at her worst - your continued patience is appreciated. See ÜBERMENSCH

SUSAN B: one of Bryan’s favourite groupies, Susan is an uplifting
discovery. Refreshingly of her own mind. Independent, highly literate, though
given to daydreams and flights of adulation. Like her a lot.

THE SPINE: This weblog is well grounded, brilliant, perceptive,
sublimely satirical!

TRADITIO ET VIRTUS: So much about blogs is down to atmosphere and
conception. This has a stillness, suggesting an almost serene engagement. The
fascination of a poet's soul for the power of the infinite. Reach for the stars
but eschew the gutter - behold, we can make thoughts come

ÜBERMENSCH: “The noble type of man feels himself to
be the determiner of values, he does not need to be approved of, he judges ’what
harms me is harmful in itself
.’ He knows himself to be that which in general
first accords honour to things, he creates values.“ (Nietzsche, Zarathustra).