It’s a little-known fact that Robert E Howard (of Conan fame) invented the literary genre of Sword’n'Sorcery – or Heroic Fantasy if you prefer. As a keen young writer for the 1920s boy’s adventure magazines he tried his hand at any manly genre that he could sell a story in. You can try his collections here, of which I prefer his historical fiction during the Crusades. I’m not sure if he’d gotten hit hard at one of his regular fight club nights at the local meatpacking plant or was divinely inspired but he had a gem of an idea. Why not combine the historical actioneers of Sabatini and Dumas, tales of dashing derring do, with the supernatural horrors of Lovecraft and Stoker? The modern fantasy was born and Solomon Kane it’s first hero.
Great stories. A dour 16th Century English puritan swordfighting his way through Romania and Africa to right wrongs and bring death to evil doers.
“It hath been my duty in times past to ease various evil men of their lives – well, the Lord is my staff and my guide and methinks he hath delivered mine enemy into mine hands.” – Solomon Kane
As the genre gained popularity it finally produced it’s killer app – Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I personally find the Tolkien brand much too beardy and verbose. It’s like the creation of an alternate universe with it’s own mythology has superceded the purpose of telling a crackingly good story. Once Tolkien tilled that soil we’ve had to put up with ham’n'eggers like Robert Jordan and the ilk producing multi-volume sagas without crossing out a single sentence in their life. Ah well, at least the occasional George R Martin and Brian Lumley dragged themselves above such dross.
But I digress. The most interesting side to LoTR is it’s real-world inspiration. Compare the map of Middle Earth with the real globe*
The Shire is middle England, probably Kent. Here dwell delightful little Hobbits who are blissfully unaware of the real dangers of the world. Major drama in the Shire is when the Sackville-Bagginses steal your best turnip before the Flower Show. The narrative arc of LoTR is three Shire natives being pulled into an adventure across Middle Earth where they eventually see the world for what it really is – very dangerous.
The Elvin paradise of Rivendell is Scandanavia, a last bastion of an elder race shrinking under outside pressure as the population seeks to escape West (to the USA). Like the real world place it is crumbling under outside assault and the great genetic lineage being corrupted and dying out. Heading south we get through Germany and France (Rohan) which are the industrial and cultural centres of Middle Earth where real men live until we get to the outer perimeter of the world of men, Gondor. The two towers are Israel and Istanbul, last outposts against the malignantly evil
muslims orcs. From even further south (Africa) come the dark-skinned mercenary armies to aid evil against the Men.
Pretty striking parallels really. It’s no surprise in the movie that all the good guys have white skin and the bad guys are all dark orcs. When the Hobbits finally return to the Shire they feel alienated. They can’t unsee the world as it really is, they can’t go back to the blissful ignorance of little Englanders. They know that Hobbits can only live their rural ideal because the rangers patrol the hinterlands and a deadly struggle of border defence is raged thousands of miles away, completely out of the sight of those who chose not to know.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell.
Thus considered, LoTR is a prescient takedown of the progressive/liberal alliance that seeks to destroy England. The Islington socialists are Hobbits (and in Polly Townbee’s case, she really is dumpy and hairy) who willfully refuse to recognise the structures that need to be in place to insulate Western European civilisation against the barbarians at the gates. Like the Hobbits, they even mock the rangers that keep them safe, putting on airs and graces. I’ve travelled to Istanbul and personally witnessed the eddy and flow as the tides of Islam push against the frontier of civilisation. I’ve read the history of the crusades. I know about the siege of Vienna.
And thus I have undying respect and gratitude for those rough men that protect the life I hold dear. God Save The Queen.
* The point is even more obvious if you consider the first ever Heroic Fantasy kingdom by REH. Conan was born in Newcastle, near the Picts of Scotland. Aquilonia is France, Zingara is Spain, Stygia is Egypt, Kush is Nigeria, and so on out East.
Over the past two years I’ve barely lifted a finger. I can’t remember what it’s like to wake up early and board a rush-hour Underground train with all the shambling grey men struggling to open their eyes, drained masculine women reading chic lit with tacky fluorescent cover art. The rat race is an odd thing, a wholly artificial creation.
Work hard, earn status increment, worry about year end bonus, pay tax…. year after year after year. That’s not for me.
Regular attendees at the Count’s table will be aware that I’ve lived the past two years all across God’s green earth. Like a campaigning army, this does require some funding. Smart men have control of both their top and bottom lines. On the expenses side I’ve pared things down, downshifted if you will, so that I can maintain my monthly rooms in London on just one day’s salary. I believe in simplicity. While jetsetting the world as a corporative executive I became accustomed to First Class long haul and five star hotels. It’s a pleasant way to live. If you fly on Saturday to begin work on Monday morning in a different timezone then you really do appreciate the comfort of a flat-reclining airplane bed and a room at the Tokyo Imperial or the Santiago Intercontinental. It rejuvenates the body as much as it pleases the ego.
It’s also utterly unnecessary when you’ve remodelled your life to claim all your time as your own. The world doesn’t care if you fly a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 or a cramped Ryanair jet. You can pick up a nice private apartment on Airbnb for £30 a day in most European countries thus relieving yourself of the £150+ burden a hotel will place upon you for a room you’ll barely see (Cervantes tip – Just buy a coffee in the lobby bar of the city’s best hotel and you’ll find yourself equally welcome to bask in classy surroundings as if you were a guest).
So now I live an almost spartan existence. Everything I own fits into a tiny storage unit, less than a double-bedroom’s worth. I no longer collect Stuff. I buy quality when it suits me and no more than I’ll need. The bottom line is small.
Still, I do require a topline so I recently made a decision between Plan A and Plan B. The former is the lifestyle of true geographical and financial independence acheived by earning passive income streams. I toyed with this idea but it’s not as easy as Tim Ferris makes out. I refuse to dabble in the murky world of affiliate marketing and selling of empty promises. Such nefarious behaviour would hurt my vibe and intrigue. Although I’m capital rich I see no good traditional investments in the stock market as I believe we are in the early stages of a decade-long depression. The market will shuffle sideways like the walking dead if not simply fall. So Plan A is out.
Fortunately I have a real career and great resume so Plan B is to contract three months a year and use the accumulated loot to live the lifestyle to which you see me accustomed for the other nine months. A perfect marriage of tax efficiency and retaining my mastery over my skill set. It was with this in mind I attended a recent job interview. I think I’ve only had two interviews my whole life where I didn’t get a job offer, so my spirits were high. Only 24 hours after sending recruitment agents my resume and I’m walking into exactly the kind of role I want at a rate 25% higher than target.
The frame is crucial. I don’t need to work and I don’t need the money. Although I’d like a job and this one interests me, it’s not my only option. That said, nobody wants to hire an inflexible egoist who has disappeared up his own arsehole with a frame so brittle he won’t allow any bend in it. All the interviewers really want to know are:
- Can I do the job
- Do I want to do the job
- Am I the kind of person they’d like to spend time with
I like to enter every environment as the best-dressed person there. I respect men who have good aesthetic style, are physically fit, and carry themselves with appropriate professional decorum. I hold myself to these same standards. So I bought a new Saville Row style suit and had it tailored to perfection, and some Italian leather shoes. I feel good. A strong intitial presence.
My body language is a balance between alpha (cool guy, can’t be pushed around), sigma (independent) and beta (reliable, polite). I make good eye contact but don’t get into any eye challenge battles. Then I let them talk, let them invest, while I nod my head thoughtfully and make listening noises. I answer every question concisely. They try it on a little with frame control and trying to make me chase (e.g. “Your resume isn’t as strong as what we’d usually accept for this role”) which rolls off me without ever changing facial expression or knocking my voice off its politely formal tone. I show a little warmth and a smile where appropriate.
Within ten minutes they are selling me on why I should join. After half an hour as I walk out they are seeking to befriend me. It’s in the bag. As it should be – this is a company that meets all my requirements (professional, talented, flexible, high salary) for the type of work I like, and I tick all their boxes.
Funding is secured. The legend of Cervantes lives on.
Chaps, I’ve not really gotten round to posting in the past couple of months. A lot has been going on – starting work, busy with girls, travel etc. This blog is not dead. I fully intend to come back to it as soon as I can make some time.
It’s a little-known fact how much of Britain’s intelligentsia were either Soviet agents or outright apologists from the 1930s right up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. For example Nye Bevin, one of the heros of the 1930s Labour Party, stood up in parliament to praise Stalin despite the Ukranian Holomodor having already been exposed. Trade Union leaders and party officials were often paid off by the KGB. Peace movements actively tried to leave Britain defenceless against Soviet invasion and the pivotal industrial actions were attempts to bring down British government and replace it with socialism.
Needless to say, the Left doesn’t like to talk about its squalid history.
An 18 year old boy who isn’t a socialist has no heart. A 30 year old man who is still a socialist has no brain.
I was something of a leftie in my teenager years, quite naturally. The experience in childhood of having all your primary needs met by others, being exempt from earning a living, and just left to focus your attentions on your personal development. By the time a child reaches adulthood he’s had years of free schooling, free healthcare, free lodgings, presents at Christmas… is it any surprise he is reticent to go into the big scary world and suddenly stand on his own two feet? An integral part of becoming a man is to cut the apron strings, undergo a rite of passage, and then make your own way in an unforgiving world. Socialism is a negation of manliness. Deep down in the Id, teenage socialism is a wish for the easy life of childhood to continue.
My socialism lasted until I paid tax. Nothing sours idealism like suddenly becoming one of the suckers who has to pay for it. I tend not to argue with socialists anymore because they simply can’t see the horrors it causes. Living in a leafy English suburb insulates you against it’s bleak crushing monotony and for all it’s faults, Britains constantly meddling socialists haven’t succeeded in destroying our social structures. Britain is still a nice place to live.
But when you travel you really feel socialism. The greatest cure for socialist idealism is to visit a former socialist country.
I was in Cuba earlier this year and it’s a festering shithole. There are remenants of prior glory everywhere in the colonial architecture, wide boulevards, monuments but it’s like a neutron bomb went off in 1959 and they haven’t been repaired since. Locals still fly around in 1950s american cars chugging with truck engines. The Havana city hall has unrepaired broken windows everywhere and many streets are full of beautifully made old town houses that have degenerated into hovels. Cuba is ruined by communism.
A few weeks ago I was visiting friends in Lithuania. Usually I set up rooms in the beautiful Old Town but I took a chance and booked an apartment in the Vilnius suburbs. Good grief, what an education that was. If the old town is the cultural centre, drawing in the more affluent and worldly Lithuanians, then my suburb is the normal life that remains, the average Lithuanian citizen. Miles and miles of decrepit tower blocks designed to a formula that had all the life knocked out of it. There’s no feeling of spontaneously evolving organic society here, just a pre-fabricated one-size-fits-all imposition where all the streets look the same. The country has recovered well from communism and attracted lots of foreign investment and free trade so this isn’t a Cuba-esque tale of woe. But I imagine thirty years ago these same suburbs would be bleak, hopeless, soul-sucking hellholes.
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge. – Red Wind
Possibly the coolest modern First Edition collector’s book is a copy of Goldfinger signed by Ian Fleming to his friend Raymond Chandler. It recently sold for £40k and is now offered for double.
Fuck me. Epic cool.
Chandler is the king of hardboiled crime fiction, my favourite of the three subgenres* of detective novels. It always starts the same way with morose private investigator Philip Marlowe sitting in his office, feet on the desk and a quart of whiskey in the drawer. A shifty floosie comes in to ask for help without giving a straight account of herself and over the next 200 pages Marlowe dredges the cesspools of 1950s Los Angeles streetlife taking a few beatings, turning down a few come-ons, until gradually piecing together a mystery that would’ve been a whole lot simpler had his client just told what she knew.
There are few better writers of quips and comebacks than Chandler. The pages crackle with intensity.
“Tall, aren’t you?” she said. “I didn’t mean to be.” Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her. – The Big Sleep
We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did. – Farewell My Lovely
I hung up. It was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. I ought to have locked the door and hid under the desk. – The Little Sister
When I read him I’m furiously commanding my subconscious to store and catalogue all the one-liners for future use in conversation. It’s futile. I’ve only ever used one, when being threatened on the phone – “If you listen carefully, you can hear my teeth chattering”.
The genre was mostly invented by Dashiel Hammett with his Continental Op short stories that have aged remarkably well. Hammet worked briefly for the Pinkertons as an operative and it’s likely where he picked up his sharp dialogue, unromantic colouring of people’s character, and the technical details of investigating. Thus his stories feel real. Where Chandler completed the picture was adding dry humour. Lately I’ve caught back up with the Hard Case Crime series which carries the banner into the current era. These paperbacks are pumped out once per month with new lurid covers. Unbelievable as it is to me, the editors seem to share an identical taste as I’ve never been disappointed in a single one of the fifty I’ve read so far.
I plan to read one book per week this year. It’s important to pursue your hobbies for the pure leisure of it, without a care for if you are advancing yourself in a self-development-y sense. So I’ll read the classics, I’ll read science and history, but I shall also read whatever I damn well please no matter how little it contributes to my ongoing project of knowledge accumulation.
A man shall have his fancies.
* The other two being Police Procedural exemplified by the likes of CSI, and Locked Room Puzzles exemplified by Agatha Christie. But that’s for a different post.
It’s Saturday afternoon in a quiet corner of London’s most peaceful borough. All week now unseasonably hot sunshine has roared down to assault the pasty skin of the natives (well, the few Londoners who were actually born in England). Yesterday I picnicked in Regents Park by the lake, nibbling on homemade sausage rolls brought by the fine young English filly I’ve been seeing lately. Today both Dante and I have patches of sunburn and a lazy demeanour.
We are lying in garden hammocks under the horse chesnut trees. It won’t be long till all the conkers have fallen to the grass and we can begin the annual house conker competition. Dante is wearing a panama hat and making gin pahits. We’ve decided its 1935.
Recently I discovered a personal pattern in my hobbies to synchronise my media. Let’s imagine I’m reading a memoir of a South African mercenary, learning about life in the Liberian civil war. A good book is immersive and makes me want to experience more of the world the author is painting. What to do? Naturally I found a video game that closest represents the vibe (Far Cry 2) and listened to the music he casually mentions. Then I’ll dig around for movies of chaotic warzones in oppressively hot climate such as Apocalypse Now or Beast of War. This will often kick off a mini-cycle of interest until I’ve learned and felt alot more about this little corner of life. Then I move on.
- Bioshock kicked off an art decor interest that had us listening to 1940s jazz, smoking cigars in dark lounges, reading old magazines and books such as Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead.
- A few Hard Case Crime hardboiled novels switched me on to LA Noire, LA Confidential, and drinking neat whiskey in the middle of the day.
So right now Dantes is dipping into W. Somerset Maugham, an imperialist writer of the early 1900s who regals his audience with short stories of empire and the indolent, self-satisfied, interesting characters who always have an anecdote or two spare. Hence the panama hat and gin pahits. It’s sweltering hot now.
I fancy a game of billiards. Perhaps we’ll be bathed and dressed for seven, then a slap up meal at the Savoy and a rubber of bridge in Mayfair.
Jobbers fascinate me.
Ok, back up. Hold on. Let me explain a jobber. And no I don’t mean a wet paper ball that you throw from the back of the classroom at the blackboard. As with everything in life, it can be explained by the concepts of professional wrestling…..
Let’s first break the kayfabe and acknowledge that inside the ring it is a co-operative activity in which two athletic performers act out a series of moves to progress towards a predetermined ending (called a “work”. On the rare occasions where no winner is planned, it’s a “shoot”). If you didn’t already know this, perhaps you’re reading the wrong blog. Professional wrestling companies are faced with a surprisingly intractable problem: how can you persuade large audiences to pay money to watch a contrived “fight” between two co-workers? It’s tough enough for boxing or MMA promoters to do that with real fights.
The answers are found in pantomine. The pro-wrestling industry structure blends together the lessons of travelling carnivals, pantomime, and soap opera so that you have four levels of show:
1. Weekly digest: Every week there is an edited highlights show broadcast on free-to-view television on a slot watched by children, such as the Saturday morning Superstars Of Wrestling I used to devour as a child. This is the “roper” (in hustler parlance) which draws a steady stream of new interested viewers and introduces them to the characters and the storylines. It’s always a few days after the event and teases more than it shows. This is so you upgrade to the…
2. Weekly live content: At least once a week on subscription cable is the standard show (WCW Nitro, WWE Smackdown etc) where all the wrestlers have normal matches and progress storylines (“feuds”). These shows are in themselves satisfying with full live matches and bring in revenue for the company (and likewise involve high costs to create steady new content). However, one thing you will never see is the matches you really want to see – the payoff bout between two stars that settles a feud. They’ll almost fight, often interrupting each-other’s matches with sneak attacks (“run ins”) or mouthing off until friends drag them away (“a pull apart”). This is because the 6 week storylines are all designed to naturally reach their climax at the….
3. Pay Per View event: This is the big moneyspinner that you’ve invested six weeks of your life anticipating so you can invite your friends around, crack open the beers, and enjoy four hours of highly scripted entertainment that is the pro-wrestling equivalent of a porno money-shot compilation in which all storylines are resolved, good triumphs over evil, and a clear champion is crowned.
That’s the 6-week structure to the industry and in the spaces between these TV programmes are the off-TV “house shows” which function like a rock band on tour, pulling in money from live gates and on-site merchandising. So we have a basic ecosystem in which free shows attract new viewers (without this the industry cannibalises itself like boxing did in the 1990s when all the stars went exclusively to PPV) and the subscription shows monetise them, with the PPVs creaming off the most-dedicated. In the 1980s it was common for performers to be wrestling six nights a week sometimes crossing timezones. A punishing schedule and the reason so few of them live beyond 50 years old after succumbing to a cocktail of drink, painkillers, and leisure drugs.
But what of the performer hierarchy?
Well, PPVs need heroes to bring in the money and we call them “babyfaces”. Think Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin. Most feuds involve a babyface being sneak-attacked by a viscious good-for-nothing (“heel”) until he decides to sort him out and restore karma to the world. The goodness of the babyface’s heroism is in direct proportion to the dastardliness of the heel’s villiany. This brings the most cheers (“pop”) when the hero openeth the can of whoop-ass.
Consider the problem – how do you prop up both the hero and the villian so both are credible opponents?
Enter the jobber.
Just as in professional boxing where a prospect can only advance to a TV-marketable 20-0 record if you have perenial losers willing to diminish their own records for a payday, in wrestling you have jobbers. A jobber is the opponent who agrees to lie down for (“put over”) the wrestler who is being pushed towards stardom. At the entry-level of the pro-wrestling TV food-chain that’s the anonymous little guy in dorky trunks who gets squashed by the famous guy on the Saturday morning show. All the stars feed on these jobbers to rack up wins and in the case of the heel, an aura of invincibility.
For one performer to win (and thus build his reputation) another must lose. If you keep having stars pair off in the weekly subscription shows then you can diminish one guy for every guy you elevate – which is bad for business. Hence pro wrestling relies on a steady stream of jobbers.
The unsung heroes of the industry.
Something my brother said to me a few years ago while commenting on the local booksellers and their relatively slack business practices: “I’ve only now realised how working at [private sector company] drilled me with so many effective work habits”
That caused me to think somewhat about what I consider normal standards of behaviour. In the investment bank I used to work for we had meetings. Many many meetings. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to run a financial firm without Powerpoint, Starbucks takeaways, and highlighter pens. Quite frequently I’d be on an away job in, say, Chile and before wrapping up in the office receive a call from my London-based boss: “[Big Boss] from Boston wants you to set up a conference call for 8am with the team and update him on progress to date.” That would immediately set off a chain of events which would culminate in a meeting the next morning.
At 7am I’d be listening to the dial tone to patch through my boss’s boss. In our boardroom there’d be my full team, all briefed, all ready to share their work if prompted. Five paper copies of the agenda and discussion points would be on the desk and a copy in Big Boss’s inbox. Probably even a fresh pot of coffee brewing in the corner.
I considered it absolutely normal to be prepared.
No last-minute fretting because we hadn’t booked a conference call slot in the network, or forgotten to email participants the access code. No paper jams holding up the discussion points. No confusion over which team member is assigned to go into further detail about which issues. No surprise findings that I’m unware of.
It is only when I stepped out of my corporate bubble that I discovered the harsh truth that my minimum standards of competence exceed most people’s performance on their best day. This is not to paint them as devils – people have different priorities afterall – but many unanswered questions as a teenager (“How can people fuck up their lives so badly that they are homeless in middle age?” “How can someone turn up late to their University finals?”) suddenly seemed clear. Some people go through life with the hustle mentality – the people who would jump off a cliff and then wonder why they are falling.
A simple guide for effective living is:
When considering various courses of action, future project what consequences may ensue, what conditions may inhibit completion, and how you intend to resolve these problems.
It’s blindingly simple yet beyond many people.
I’m now sitting in an airport cafe after a short trip to a Greek island where Dante and I visited a few girls we know for their birthday party. Island life in the Mediterranean is relaxed. Clear blue seas lap the harbour walls and the sun blazes down as you partake in fresh-caught fish and cold beer. The Greeks know how to pass time. But these very same laissez-faire attitudes to life are the reason their nation’s only accomplishment since Aristotle has been a single headed goal against Portugal in the Euro 2000 finals. Clearly, from the evidence I see here, they can’t be trusted to run an advanced industrial economy.
I think it comes down to self discipline. As you venture further from the equatorial regions and it’s bountiful nature life becomes colder, harder, and more organised. Whether the inability of Mediterraneans to invent anything, to run any kind of innovative business, or to simply walk from A to B without flopping down for a siesta is due to genetic differences or simply the lure / oppression of hot midday sunshine is not for Cervantes to determine, but just getting to this airport was a challenge for me.
There are 7 daily buses from the Kos town centre to the airport. Inexplicably, the last bus is 9pm and the second-last bus 4:30pm. This despite flights being evenly spread throughout the day and thus plenty of demand for buses between these two times. Bus times differ wildly depending on which day of the week, so for example on Tuesday the last bus from the airport is 5pm although flights arrive on up till 10pm and it’s 25km to the town.
The bus station is a tiny area with five bus stands. However none of the buses are assigned to any given stand so you must wait for the bus to arrive and then look at the destination on the front – completely removing any possibility of orderly queueing and thus guaranteeing a last-minute scrum. They sometimes change their mind which bus is for the airport after everyone is one it, causing a mass-disembarkation. So despite such a logistically simple task to run buses to the airport, the Greeks have made an absolute mess of it. Their are organisational blunders commited every hour that would, were they to occur once a year in Japan, trigger mass resignations and public apologies.
This is why Greece should leave the Euro. They have no business being in the same room as Germany. No self discipline.
My favourite Bond movie is The Man With The Golden Gun. It’s clearly not the best one but Christopher Lee’s portrayal of elite assassin Scaramanga fascinated me as a child. Much of the Bond mythos derives from creating archetypes of the super spy and the super villians he battles. These men distill the essence of male development (mostly the warrior energy of the Jungian male archetype) as channelled through unrealistic life specialisms. I don’t believe it’s about the impossible dreams of perfection or control over your life, some kind of inadequacy and fear in a child’s real life that is overcompensated through living vicariously through fictional ideals. Bond is a flawed man, especially in the books (and later in Daniel Craig’s portrayal in Casino Royale).
“Men want to be him. Women want to be with him”
This famous description of Bond does not arise from his perfection but rather from his pure channeling of warrior energy into something larger than life. Place such a compelling character into a globetrotting, dangerous life, surround him with beautiful women and you have cracking good stories.
But of course every hero needs villians to fight. The greater the villian he overcomes, the greater his heroism. Scaramanga was my favourite because he was Bond’s equal in living the lifestyle. He was no boardroom-dwelling mastermind (like Ernst Blofeld) nor a calculating automaton (the Soviet assassins) nor a powerhungry fantasist (Hugo Drax). Scaramanga lived one hell of a life…. he just also enjoyed killing people and found a way to make it support an extravagant lifestyle.
Consider for a moment a typical day in his life. He wakes up in a wide expansive bedroom with silk sheets and the soft sounds of the Thai sea outside. Dressing in an exquisite lounge suit he walks over to his windows and gazes out across his private island. A midget butler brings his breakfast and asks what sir would like to do. Perhaps a powerboat ride to the city to meet his contact? Take on a job, follow his prey to a horseracing meeting and quietly assassinate him. Then a look around the night market, dinner with a beautiful woman in a quiet restaurant atop a hundred-storey skyscraper, then home in time for Eastenders.
Except for the occasional deadly tussle with a superspy, I can see the appeal.
Scaramanga carried himself with class. His Golden Gun is precision engineering and thoughtful design of a class above even a fine Lange & Sohne watch. Rationalised into several parts, each of which can be carried as an accessory congruent with his lifestyle (pen, cigarette case, lighter).
Consider his interior decorating. A man’s home is both his castle and his playground. I have a boxing gym, a cinema room, a study, and a snooker lounge in my house. These are the things that interest me on days I wish to stay home. Scaramanga’s interests differ to mine so he has a shooting range. Nice.
While in Thailand, Scaramanga’s country of residence, I tried to find a cigar lighter of a similar style to his. The other pieces would be difficult to obtain and incongruent for a non-assassin such as myself, but a lighter is a necessary accoutrement for a man of class. My search came up empty. Finally, in a small cigar specialist shop in Belgrade I found what I was looking for. Gold restrained look, solid weight, clean sharp snap when it opens and closes. Bliss.
I’ve realised too why I like the Hitman series of videogames. They are essentially puzzle games played by human characters rather than tetris blocks. The highest score in Hitman comes from killing your target and only your target, without any security becoming suspicious of you. In the fourth game you can actually construe your murders to look like accidents so the world doesn’t even know an assassin exists. The contracts take place in mountaintop party lodges, Mardi Gras carnivals, English stately homes….. yes, this game is a Scaramanga simulator.
The new game comes out this year. I expect I shan’t go out for a while.
Women receive so much bad advice in modern Western societies. Back in the good old days of clear gender roles, the petty institutions of social organisation, and balanced hormones girls would grow up with a clear idea of how to live. Aunts and grandmothers would fill in whatever gaps existed in the education provided by their mother and schoolteachers. Be nice, learn to make conversation, learn to cook and sew.
Modern society is characterised by massive choice. Life is now reflexive, a project to be managed. The unspoken dogma is more freedom to choose leads to greater happiness. Compared to suffocating totalitarianism or subsistence feudalism, yes this is true. But beyond a critical point increased choice only improves our lives if we have the direction and knowledge to choose wisely and confidently.
Modern young women are placed in an extremely privileged position, perhaps the most pampered cohort in human history, in which all their basic needs are met by men (rule of law, economic development, welfare payments etc) and a kaleidescope of choice awaits them. The problem is they haven’t been trained to choose wisely. Nor has nature designed them to choose. Male leadership has evaporated and in it’s place terrible self-destructive advice assails them on all sides. Thus we live in a world of weak men and disorderly women.
When I date girls I nip this in the bud immediately. Once I’m in the position of leadership where the girl looks up to me and my opinions matter, I bring the problem into focus for her. I explain masculine and feminine polarity, natural gender roles, and the path to happiness. In every single case it’s like a burden falls from the girl’s shoulders. Suddenly she realises that all those feelings of doubt she had (“I don’t really want a career”, “I don’t really want to make every decision myself”) are good natural feelings. Quickly her logical forebrain is emptied of all liberal equalist bullshit and she becomes a sponge for old-timer wisdom. Within weeks her forebrain in realigned with her hindbrain and she feels free.
Her confidence soars. She knows what a real woman looks like, and she knows how to get there. She feels the inner peace and sense of accomplishment that comes when performing the function she was designed for. Her eyes sparkle, her skin regains it’s bloom, and her vibe glows. People notice. Her friends and family comment approvingly.
Role models help. Deep down most girls want to be Audrey Hepburn, not Rihanna.
I find the pin-up paintings from the likes of Gil Elvgren perfectly encaspsulate the vibe and look of blooming womanhood. Any girl who wants to improve her vibe and sexuality to draw men in without diminishing her innocence should study these paintings. What is so compelling about them?
- Curves. These girls have narrow waists and wide curves, without going to fat. Most girls can get this if they eat the right food and avoid excessive drinking. The lack of waistlines in modern society strikes of a serious hormone imbalance caused by bad diet.
- Playful incompetence. These girls don’t take themselves to seriously. Many photos show girls in a “oh dear, you caught me” pose, often having gotten their dress caught in a hoover, or failed to anticipate a gust of wind that lifts her skirts.
- Covertly sexual. Many of the best pictures are unashamedly sexual in the women straddling rockets, bikes, bannisters, lamposts etc. They never overtly say “fuck me” but they make no pretense about denying that they like cock.
- Good posture. Never ever underestimate the effect of sitting, standing, and walking with studied grace. I remember a catwalk model I dated and sometimes while sitting in a cafe with her I’d look across and be fascinated just to see how she held herself in repose while reading a book. It was more attractive than any amount of dancefloor booty-shaking.
These women don’t need to be stunningly beautiful. Such compelling female radiance is fully within reach of at least half of 15-28yr old women.
Back in Newcastle at one of the fight gyms I trained in, there was a sign on the wall: Higher Consciousness Through Harder Contact.
There is a single unifying factor in all man-vs-man competition, a single peak moment of self-actualisation when you hit the “flow” and everything comes naturally, in the moment. I have personally experienced this in Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Muay Thai, and BMX stunt riding. If I’d practiced guitar more often instead of taking the soft option and playing power chords in all the songs I wrote then I’m sure I’d have eventually begun hitting flow state there too. When hitting the flow the world disappears. There are no techniques, defences, scales, tricks. Time slows down and all that matters is in front of you right now at this moment. You see everything. Your body is moving before your mind orders it.
I wonder if the sports flow is tapping into the same moment of unburdened self-actualisation that Maslow put at the peak of his hierachy of needs, and Tolle placed in the power of Now. Consider the hierarchy.
The lower layers must be satisfied before the higher layers open up. You can’t concentrate on finessing social relationships when your stomach is rumbling and you have nowhere to sleep. You don’t worry over status increments and the corner office at work when the mugger holds a knife to your throat. I believe this explains much of the shock people feel when suddenly cut down by illness or physical violence.
I was once mugged while walking home from a late session at the university library. Two chavs asked me for a light and then followed me for a 100m before jumping me. One smacked me in the mouth with a brick and knocked out a tooth. Luckily my boxing training meant I didn’t collapse under attack but I didn’t kid myself I could take them both. After the first blitz failed to overwhelm me a stand-off ensued and finally after a tense thirty seconds they wandered off. An hour later in the hospital as I had my teeth and nose checked out I had a sudden attack of nerves, out of proportion to the severity of my injuries. I think the problem wasn’t fear (two days later a couple of friends drove me around the area as we tried to find the chavs to give them some payback) but just the massive relative shock from total comfort in life to having the curtain of civilisation ripped down and looking at the reality of danger in the world.
In modern societies most of nature, red in tooth and claw, is hidden from view. Unlike tribal savages we can go our whole lives without witnessing death, whether violent, natural, or pestilence. Unpleasant experiences are quarantined in specialist locations with specialist staff. Abattoirs prepare the meat. Soldiers fight the wars. Surgeons saw the bones. We get to sit a safe distance in offices and apartment blocks. Antony Giddens calls it the sequestration of experience.
We live mostly at the higher levels of needs, so when we suddenly drop right to the bottom and our body goes into fight or flight, we are not mentally ready. Even if the danger is mild, the relative shock is significant.
At the bottom of the pyramid all the social constructions, future projections, and ego props disappear. The lizard brain takes over. You see this in boxing when a pretender is put under pressure by a veteran. As Evander Holyfield said of Mike Tyson, “Pressure busts pipes”. After fighting your way up the pyramid you are once again freed of all the structure in life and enter the flow but this time as a free man, not a hunted animal.
Recently all of the men in my house have taken up fisticuffs in our home gym. We have a little room matted out and equipped with heavy bags, a mirror and two pairs of gloves and shin guards. There’s always someone in there cuffing his housemate around. It has changed the vibe of the house. In the middle of hearty sparring you can dip in and out of flow state. Usually after taking your first stiff jab. It’s lively.
Like the movie narrator states, “after a night at Fight Club the rest of the world has the volume turned down”
It’s raining outside. Lashings of good English rain against the skylights and windows in my boardroom where I sit with Dante and Wagner studying. We’ve got a pleasant view of the garden as the squirrels run up and down the fully-leafed trees. Today is for hibernation in my castle, free from the distractions of the world.
I’ve got a leggy young English bird coming around this afternoon to make sandwiches and watch an old Italian giallo movie in the cinema room. She’s a pleasant young filly but I won’t be elevating her to bedroom companion any time soon. Tomorrow my Belorussian girl has asked me to walk her along the river. These are all agreeable diversions but today I want some quality Cervantes time.
I’ve been studying Turkish on the Rosetta Stone. It’s part of my 2012 plan of rounding out my cultural knowledge (Mastery and Intrigue, in my vernacular). I’d like to get some basic grounding in five languages this year, enough to get by on a holiday and shake off the idiot-foreigner label. It took a while to narrow down the list. Thai was very difficult, the pronounciation so strange that I wasn’t even sure what sounds I was listening to. Turkish is far more amenable to the English ear. Plus, I’ve got a thing for Turkish girls. Their dark features and thick hair captures my attention quite easily.
Rosetta Stone is likely causing mayhem to the business model of language schools. When studying Japanese in Tokyo I went to daily classes four hours a day and a couple of hours homework in a cafe. I liked it but with the benefit of hindsight learning as a “subject” is wrong. It’s bookish. Language needs to be alive and freed from subclauses, conjugation and other grammatical abstractions. Rosetta Stone is so simple as to be genius. Learn language like children learn – through repetition and figuring out the rules yourself from carefully-presented examples. It’s fun.
Last Autumn I met a classy Turkish girl in London. She was walking down Carnaby Street perusing the hats of a street vendor. Kurtz and I noticed her. Tall, elegant, immaculately dressed. I felt compelled to introduce myself. We dated a few times but she was only in London for three weeks to study English in preparation for a big movie role she’d been offered. She’s back in Istanbul now and she wants to show me around her city. I think it would be nice to revisit Istanbul with a bit of language behind me.
I’m driving through Bosnia with Dantes after a few days in Sarajevo. It’s a strange country utterly dominated by the mountains. Our car trundles along at depressingly slow speed through half-finished roads bisecting the thin strips of land between these looming mountains. It’s imposing on our psyche at first but soon gets repetitve. So we crank up the music.
The Greatest Driving Songs Ever reaches the top of our CD cycle. Bonnie Tyler’s raspy voice belts out her two best hits, Holding Out For a Hero and Total Eclipse of the Heart. Big bombastic tunes that rattle the packet of Werthers Originals in the glove compartment. Most interesting is the lyrics. These songs are about women crying out for a real man in their lives and then hanging on as tight as they can. It’s an interesting insight into female psychology and one which it behooves a Renaissance Man to learn.
Where have all the good men gone And where are all the gods? Where’s the street-wise Hercules To fight the rising odds? Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need
Women are born with a lean against men. They are not designed to stand alone. That’s why teenage girls will always find a boyfriend even if the available lads aren’t good enough to actually have sex with. It’s why women respond so well to laying your masculine vibe onto them. In Dubrovnik we met an Austrian girl who was supping alone in a seafront restaurant (her friend arriving the next night) so Dante chatted her up from the pavement and we took her out to a few bars. After some light pseudo-feminist resistance she just crumbled under the “I’m a man, and this is how it is” vibe we gave her. She was gushing effusively. Same thing in Sarajevo when we pulled two local girls out of a bar with more of the same.
I like to have my lady friends listen to the whole Jim Steinman playlist. The arrangements are emotional rollercoasters and the lyrics constantly position girls into the feminine lean-against position of desiring, chasing, pleasing and pining over their man. It is positively light years ahead of the classless dross sung by the likes of Rihanna, Lily Allen or those other mannish tarts.
What you saying now
Give it to me baby, I want it all night
Give it to me baby, What you saying now
Give it to me baby, Give it to me baby, Give it to me baby
Good grief! Reading the rubbish the Jay Z sings in that song is even worse. I’ll stick to the 80s.
I adore women who want to be first-class women rather than third-rate men. Women of the Audrey Hepburn mould can inspire noble feelings in a man over and above basic lust. Women who understand and embrace their need for a man as more than just “wanting it all night”. These are the girls who will get it all night and still have the quality man hanging around in the morning.
Just make sure you explain in advance that these rock operas are seriously hammed up.
I remember the Bosnian war from TV when I was a teenager, first fumbling with political ideas as I try to understand the world a step beyond my immediate environment. As a child you learn the small area of a couple of square miles around your house, every little bush, every little wall (handy for hide and seek). The process of getting older includes the process of foraging further afield like a dog running further on it’s adjustable leash.
By age 15 I was diving into fringe politics – local anarchist and anti-fascist groups. I was just a child really. I was too young to have developed good judgement so I went through phases of believing some choice bullshit. While studying for my university entrance the Serbs encircled and lay siege to Sarajevo. April 5th 1992, twenty years to this day. Fortunately I was in a different city. Tonight I write from Sarajevo.
It’s just one of life’s coincidences. There was no intentional symbolism in coming here on this historic day. I’ve been travelling through Croatia with Dante as we look for new cities to live in. We’ve scouted Zadar, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik. So after an interminable queue at the Bosnian border we headed up towards Sarajevo.
Our first stopping point this morning was Mostar.
This city got the shit kicked out of it during the war. As we ambled around the back alleys and outskirts the buildings were pockmarked with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of bulletholes. Something about personally witnessing the remnants of war brings a stronger emotional reaction than just seeing it on TV. This is a site of many horrendous images I’d seen mediated through TV and magazines as a teenager. Now we were standing beside bombed out shells of buildings twenty years on. It was eerie. Sinister, even.
The town itself has rebuilt. The Old Town by the famous bridge is just another pretty valley town. We had a coffee overlooking the river and it could’ve been anywhere.
A few days earlier I’d brought a local girl home while up in Zadar. She’s a twenty year old Bosnian so I just assumed the war wasn’t part of her life, but then she starts talking about her family….. “my great grandmother was Croatian and kidnapped by Bosnian soldiers and trafficked. My great grandmother on the other side was Bosnian and kidnapped by Croats…. Two of my uncles died in the war”…. This girl said she is shunned by some Zadarians because of her surname and Bosnian look. Perhaps a flair for the dramatic but the war still ripples through lives twenty years on.
So now Dante and I are dressing up in our sartorial elegance for a night on the town in Sarajevo. We can hear fireworks outside. The streets are awash with stunning women. Let’s see what the night brings….
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jnr
Most important leaps forward in quality of life come from a mental realignment (i.e. a change or improvement in your frame) rather than an objective change to your circumstances. For example, when a man learns Game and internalises the principle of not supplicating to women he doesn’t only become more successful with women (an observable change in circumstances) but the internal realignment of his values towards natural masculinity lead him to simply feel considerably better about himself.
Dale Carnegie devoted much of his books How To Make Friends and Infuence People, and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living to such changes in frame. For example he advised following best practice in your daily tasks:
“…the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
The results of employing best practice were brought into stark relief when I first arrived in Japan and noticed everything worked. This was after boarding from Heathrow Airport where escalators were broken, floors dirty, and workers surly. Narita airport positively sparkled in contrast and this impression is continued throughout the country. Japan still has social capital so even the “dodgy” areas are nice and safe.
The Japanese pride themselves on performing their tasks to the best of their abilities whether CEO of a zaibatsu or FamilyMart sales assistant. This gives the worker purpose and pride for themselves while the air of competence and effort spreads a virtuous cycle among others. Compare this to its polar opposite – a unionised UK public sector worker such as those found in immigration, council offices, or perhaps worst of all the sprawling civil service complex in Longbenton, Tyneside. Here you find slothful, incompetent, indifference, petty jobsworths who care only about getting through the day with the minimum energy output until time arrives when a pension can be claimed.
I’ve given thought to where I can operationalise best practice in my own life. My boxing training is an example.
I’m a high self-regulator in general and in boxing training this shows itself in my methods. I refuse to just amble into my gym and flop into a few rounds hitting the bags. I follow the method drilled into me as a teenager in my first classes – warmup, shadowbox, stretch – and each movement is performed with my attention to detail. When shadowboxing I spend the first round exaggerating the movements to free up my shoulders and hips for correct twist/extension, then in the second I’m using the mirror to constantly check posture and hand positioning while working myself into the boxing flow. I work the heavy bag like am opponent – feinting, moving in and around, mixing up shots – without letting my muscle memory fix in shoddy motions. The end result of this best practice is that I am drilling at a high level of competence (e.g. punch selection, distance, timing, guile) so when I’m tired in sparring / fighting these are the default states in my body. Had I trained with mental sloth then the moment I get tired my hands would drop, my chin raise, and my feet turn to stone.
Your life is full of opportunites to excel. Look at how you accomplish all those little daily tasks and figure out how you can do them better. Very quickly your life will become more ordered and your pride in yourself shoots up.
“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie
Do you sincerely want to be right?
Note this is not the same as “winning the argument”, in which entirely different rules apply. Relationship advice often includes ways of dealing with the arguments you have with your woman and perhaps one of the first rules is that the immediate overt subject of the argument (e.g. drinking milk from the carton) is usually just a flashpoint to unload all kinds of deeper grumbles that have been building since the last argument. Thus it is wise to step back from the content of the argument and consider what you are really arguing about and deal with that issue.
I find it useful to ask myself “what type of argument an I having?” As defined by the purpose of entering the argument, is it:
- Inquiry – A presentation of ideas and evidence to whittle down misconceptions and inaccuriacies until a best available position is reached.
- Political – Rival positions are presented to an audience in order to win them over, rather than to convince your rivals.
- Catharsis – The participants stand on opposite mountaintops flinging lightning at each other until they both feel better.
- Domination – You intend to dismantle your opponent piece by piece until they are in tatters and submit to your superiority.
- Persuasion – You want your opponent to abandon / change their position so that they more resemble your own.
Having outlined a typology it should be obvious that each requires a different tact. For example the quality and ability of your audience will strongly determine what evidence and logic you can present in a political argument as opposed to using rhetoric and appeal to emotions. Domination requires a ruthless single-mindedness of purpose that will deeply antagonise your co-participant whereas persuasion requires you to gradually coax them along with references to their own values. Whichever argument you are engaged in, an understanding of informal logic is crucial. Before turning it upon your co-participants you should first turn it on yourself and eliminate the cloudy areas of your own positions.
Most people cannot conduct arguments with clear logical thinking, listening comprehension, and measured appraisal of evidence. It’s simply not natural. Our instincts always pull us towards defending our public reputation, our identity, our tribe. We frequently make it personal and frequently employ intellectually dishonest sleights of hand. These latter are called fallacies and interest me greatly. Here’s an introduction to some of the commonly-deployed fallacies. Learn them, remember the names, and then identify them in the field. It’ll become so much easier to dismantle foggy thinking.
Equivocation – Using the same word to mean different things without clarifying which, hoping that the word itself provides the continuity that the logic cannot. For example:
- Pam: “John is really selfish”
- Ken: “No he’s not. Have you seen how hard he works to provide for his children”
- Pam: “But he is happy when they are provided for, so really he’s just doing what he wants to do, and that’s selfish”.
Here the word selfish has morphed from the common understanding meaning an unreasonable self-regard to mean simply doing what makes you happy.
False Dilemma – The range of options is unfairly narrowed down to only two. America – Love it or leave it!
Logically Black is White Slide – Proposing that because the difference between two ends of a spectrum are made up of small incremental changes (e.g. black to white are seperated by many subtle different shades of gray) that they are actually the same thing.
No True Scotsman – When counterexamples prove a generalisation wrong, they are unfairly dismissed by redrawing the boundaries to arbitrarily exclude them. For example: “Islam is a religion of peace” draws the counterexample “But what about the jihadists?” so the boundary is redrawn post-hoc “They aren’t true muslims.”
Begging the Question – Assuming the conclusion within the premises of the argument. For example “The Bible is true because God wrote it, and God wouldn’t lie”
The Heaper – Very similar to the LBiWS. When you can’t draw a clear line between two states of being you deny the difference. If you keep piling grains of sand onto a table you will eventually have a heap, but which grain of sand turns it from not-yet-a-heap to heap? Much sophistry about the age of consent relies on this fallacy.
Many Questions – You ask a question that can only be answered by assuming the truth of another (unproven) premise. When did you stop beating your wife?
Poisoning the Well – Negatively characterising a position before introducing it. “I trust you’re not one of those imbeciles you thinks…..”
I was first introduced to these ideas at university when taking a course in Informal Logic. The two core texts were Anthony Weston – A rulebook for arguments and Antony Flew – Thinking about Thinking. Both are great little books that will immediately straighten out the kinks in your processing. Get them.
As a teenager I went through a phase of collecting horror / exploitation movies. This was the pre-DVD pre-internet era so I was literally tape trading VHS tapes with fellow collectors around Europe. I had a strong preference for Italian and Spanish movies, with the odd bit of Jean Rollin thrown in (best softcore lesbian vampire movies of the 1970s – an acquired taste).
Like every other teenage boy with a taste for the forbidden I started out by collecting the “video nasties” made famous by the 1984 Director of Public Prosecutions list. Back then the newspapers had led a moral panic claiming horror movies on the new unregulated video format were driving kids to violence and murder. It’s a clear case of the media amplification spiral and several books document this particular shameful exercise of government meddling in the liberties of free-born Englishmen. So I was collecting low-budget grot such as Anthropophagus the Beast, Gestapos Last Orgy, Driller Killer and so on. Very quickly I realised that the Italian entrants on the list were frequently good movies from genuinely talented directors such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci.
It was from Bay of Blood that I stumbled onto the greatest of all low-budget genre directors – Mario Bava.
“Movies,” Bava once explained, “are a magician’s forge, they allow you to build a story with your hands… at least, that’s what it means to me. What attracts me in movies is to be presented with a problem and be able to solve it. Nothing else; just to create an illusion, and effect, with almost nothing”
His impact on the movie industry includes:
- Directing the first Italian horror movie The Devil’s Commandment when contracted director Riccardo Freda walked out.
- Shooting the first Peplum movie Hercules.
- Invented the Giallo genre with The Girl Who Knew Too Much
- Invented the Slasher genre with Bay of Blood. There’s one twenty minute section near the beginning when a group of teenagers show up at a lakeside camp which was in microcosm the entire genre when later ripped-off by Friday the 13th.
Bava was legendary among producers for his ability to wrap up competent movies on time and under budget but more impressive to me is his versatility across genres. He made gothic horrors, sword and sandal, westerns, sex comedies, noir slashers and psychological thrillers. All beautifully shot with oodles of lavish atmosphere. My personal favourites are his brooding whodunnit set with a house of high fashion Blood and Black Lace, and then the movie that inspired Ridley Scott’s Alien – the 1964 sci-fi Planet of the Vampires. Sam Ishii-Gonzales writes:
“A near abstraction on colour and movement, Blood and Black Lace is Bava’s cinema distilled to its cruel essence. This film develops with complete abandon what Bava more tentatively explored in The Girl Who Knew Too Much (La ragazza che sapeva troppo, 1962) and “The Telephone” episode of Black Sabbath. From the opening image (an unhinged sign for Christiana’s Haute Couture banging in the wind) to the last (a telephone receiver off the hook swinging like a pendulum, back and forth) we have a remorseless, inexorable movement, a dissipative force, that levels everything in its path. This movement becomes, in the case of Nicole’s murder in the antique shop, a pulsation of light, by which one means not only the neon sign which flickers off-on, off-on as the woman meets her demise with a medieval iron hook (a variation on the death mask of Black Sunday; later, Mary’s demise by way of a red-hot furnace will duplicate the searing of Asa’s flesh), but Bava’s use of primary colours which throb with an intensity all their own. That Bava’s source of inspiration was a lurid type of pulp magazine itself identified by a specific colour, giallo (yellow, the colour of terror, of fearfulness), couldn’t be more appropriate.”
Watching B&BL is like stepping into a timewarp of a Europe that never really existed where the women are beautiful, forests dark and rainswept, and offices are in gothic country homes dripping in oversaturated colour. I imagine Count Cervantes dating one of these young models.
The Italian movie industry of the 1960s-70s is a treasure trove of unusual boundary-pushing cinematic oddities. A bustling profilific era, every time a major western movie proved to be a hit then suddenly dozens of production companies would churn out hundreds of clone movies within a few years. So for example when Kurosawa made Yojimbo, Sergio Leone remade it in the American West. That movie struck gold and kicked off the whole spaghetti western cycle (which in ironic symmetry was then emulated by the Japanese chanbara movies of which Yojimbo was an example). Other examples:
- A Man Called Horse inspired the cannibal cycle
- The Night Porter inspired the Nazi love camp cycle
- Emmanuelle inspired the softcore love cycle
- Dawn of the Dead inspired the zombie cycle
- Caligula inspired the roman decadence cycle
Truly bizarre. In this era of DVD and torrents you can easily lay your hands on obscure oddities that back in my tape-trading days often took years just to track down a grainy 5th-generation copy. Transport yourself back through time. Get some friends together, put a crate of beers on the table, and have a real grindhouse night. Here’s some sample triple bills:
1. Italian bloodiness: Bay of Blood (Mario Bava) / Deep Red (Dario Argento) / Flavia the Heretic (Gianfranco Mingozzi
2. Italian freaky atmospherics: Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Lucio Fulci) / The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci) / Caligula the Untold Story (Joe D’amato)
3. Spanish timewarp: Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando De Ossorio) / Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Jorge Grau) / Justine: Marquis de Sade (Jess Franco)
Video games are scorned and frowned upon by those who didn’t grow up with them, dismissing them as childish, time-wasting and somehow low-brow. When the goal of your life is happiness you learn to tune out the chatter of witless snobs and focus enthusiastically, unapologetically, on those things that make you happy. Video games please me.
As a seven year old boy I used to go to my school film club every third Thursday of the month with my brother. A couple of the popular teachers would put up a screen in the assembly hall and play kids movies and serve hotdogs in the intermission. Very happy memories. The hall would be full and the cool kids would lie on the big crash mats laid out on the far left. I fingered my first girl on that crash mat a couple of years later. But I digress…..
One night as my brother and I arrived home from the club my mother was in an inexplicably bad mood and send us through to the lounge. We were puzzled. But then as we opened the lounge door the surprise hit us – my father was standing next to a brand new Atari 2600 with PacMan playing on the screen. They’d set us up for the old rollercoaster emotion trick to heighten our pleasure of the present. Nice one. It’s a dear childhood memory of mine.
From that day on I was never without a video game console. Atari, Sinclair ZX81, Dragon32, Commodore C64, Amiga, Sega Megadrive, SNES, Sega Dreamcast… and on to the present generation. I’ve literally grown up with video games. My memories are littered with great gaming experiences both in disappearing solo into game worlds (e.g. the first night I played Resident Evil 1 for eight hours straight) or big post-pub Tekken sessions with fellow young professionals in London. There’s not a snob in the world can make me ashamed of being a gamer.
I’d go so far as to say the best quality art is now in video games. But that’s for another post.
Coffee and biscuits
Games allow your imagination a window into alternative lifestyles of which you could only experience one or two in real life. In the game world you can be a race car driver on Monday, a super spy on Tuesday, a space marine on Wednesday, a blue hedgehog on Thursday and perhaps a guilt-ridden murderer on Friday. Ok, I’ll admit it – Count Cervantes can be all of these things in real life should he choose….
One particular genre of game I enjoy are what I term “coffee and biscuits” because rather than rely on rapid reactions and constant input (e.g. a first person shooter) you can actually sit at your desktop and patiently plan your moves while leisurely sipping your coffee and dunking your biscuits. This genre includes the “tycoon” management simulations, God games, strategy and so on. Why are they so satisfying?
Men have a will to power and empires to build.
Take Civilisation, the classic world domination game. You start out as a little tribe of grass-skirted savages and must explore the world around you, settling in villages, shaping a local resource-gathering economy until as the centuries pass your country is a superpower churning out scientific advances, cross-continent trade routes and of course nuclear war. The whole time your minions are running rampant across the globe you are reclined in your favourite leather chair industriously demolishing a packet of Hobnobs.
Speaking of minions, Evil Genuis allows you to become a James Bond supervillian masterminding a secret criminal organisation. Ever wanted to own a lair in a volcano with orange boiler-suited minions operating banks of flashing-lighted 1960s computers around a shark tank? This is the game for you. As your criminal schemes build notoriety governments send super spies to assassinate you and you must outwit them with hidden traps.
How about commanding an army and building a dynasty. Rome Total War has both a Risk-style economic / political game of intrigue but also tactically faithfull battles. How about running a business? You can have a hotel, a shopping mall, a Jurassic Park theme park with real dinosaurs or how about just running a vast capitalist empire?
These games speak to the man in you. The likes of Call of Duty channel your warrior energy but I tend to prefer the king games. If you were to sift through your gamesplaying history you could probably plot yourself on the Jungian King / Warrior / Lover / Magician grid without needing to trouble yourself with all the expense of pyscho-analysis.
And speaking of Warrior energy… nothing channels that more than Demon Souls. Oh my god, what a game!
An intellectual hero of mine is the godfather of the Austrian school of economics, Ludwig Von Mises. It’s a disservice to the range and power of his thought to pigeonhole him thus but it’ll serve current purposes. In 1921 he published the weighty Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis and it sent shockwaves through the intelligentsia. For decades socialism had enjoyed a charmed existence in polite circles remnants of which persist to this day. How many times have you heard someone of reasonable education and intelligence utter bland statements such as:
- Socialism is such a good idea in theory but unfortunately it’s never been properly tried.
- Socialism would make society so much fairer and better but there’s too many barriers to it ever actually happening.
Since the late 18th century socialism has enjoyed an Obama-eque free pass because of it’s stated (and unproven) utopianism. Proponents of socialism are taken at face value when they profess their noble ideals whereas in contrast proponents of capitalism are immediately assumed to be greedy, selfish and to be treated with suspicion. This is despite the historical record where every single socialist country was a disastrous shithole compared to it’s capitalist equivalents.
Mises’ book shattered these illusions and proved unequivocally (and with arguments that haven’t been effectively answered even to this day) that socialism is not only untenable and assured final collapse, but that it necessarily creates a hell on earth that no amount of good intentions can stop. Across 1000+ pages he demolishes the ideology through detailed predictions of what society it leads to….. and this writing only 4 years after the Bolshevik revolution – before Stalin, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Unlike Nostradamus, Mises made detailed predictions and 80 years of history proved him right.
So if you want to know not just why socialism is inherently evil but also why it can’t work and why despite this people still take it seriously, I recommend you check out his book.I’ll briefly summarise each of the three segments here.
Socialism is evil
Capitalist societies are built upon individual freedom expressed through non-coercive market transactions. Contracts are only entered into if both sides agree to the terms and thus you can’t force any customer to buy your product nor can the customer force the business to provide them a service. In this fundamental manner capitalism supports the individual right of self-determination.
Socialist societies are built upon collective responsiblity expressed through coercive central planning. Contracts are decided by a government bureau and then dictats issued forcing people to comply under threat of negative sanctions. In this fundamental manner socialism suppresses the individual at the expense of the collective.
It’s pretty easy to see why this leads to gulags, extermination camps and purges. Imagine yourself for a moment heading the Bureau of Economic Planning and the new Five Year Plan has just been signed off by the Politburo. It is now your job to cascade the Plan downwards by issuing all the orders and regulations to accomplish it. Say, for example, the plan requires X million tonnes of coal to fire the furnaces that produce the traintracks, rolling stock, cars, hammers, cutlery etc. The Plan calculated 10,000 coal miners are needed to extract this coal but currently only 9,000 exist. You need to find 1,000 extra coal miners.
Under capitalism this problem is easily solved. Mining companies calculate the labour value of miners based on the market price for coal produced less various costs. Potential miners evaluate the offered salary and those most interested will apply for the job. If there is still a shortfall of miners and thus coal, the price of the latter increases as rival customers bidding raises demand. Mining companies find it more profitable to offer higher wages (and thus bring in more staff) than to forgo the extra sales. The vacancies are filled.
Socialism has only one solution, after cajoling has failed. Point a gun at the recalcitrant workers and force them to become miners. The Plan doesn’t have dynamic self-correcting features and it is so laborious to construct that the whole thing won’t be torn up just because a few hundred labourers would rather be bricklayers or train drivers than miners. Follow the history of socialist countries and observe how quickly they default to compulsion and labour camps. It’s built into the system.
Socialism will always collapse
Mises showed that socialism cannot ever solve the problem of economic calculation. The problem, simply stated, is this: How do you calculate how to deploy the resources (labour, materials, machinery) of a society in order to produce the goods and services that best meet the needs of the population? For example, English people need tea. How does a society figure out how many cups of tea Englishmen need in 2012? Assuming this can be done, how many kettles will be needed? Is the metal / plastic combination used to make these kettles actually better used elsewhere such as in cutlery, brake discs, watch cases, screws etc?
Under capitalism no-one makes this calculation
and yet still Paris gets fed the English don’t take to streets in Tea Riots. The highly devolved market system matches capital and resources to those entrepreneurs who accurately predict and efficiently serve the wants and needs of the population. If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to consider what is abundant and what is scarce in your country. The list may look like this:
- Abundant: cheeseburgers, Budweiser, iPhones, wristwatches, leather shoes, curtains, chairs, roses, chocolate, Xbox games, books
- Scarce: healthcare, education
Those goods and services that are supplied by the market are plentiful, cheap, and ever-improving (consider the functionality of an iPhone 4 compared to the phones of 1990). Those supplied by government are scarce, intermittent, low quality, expensive, rationed. If the government took over management of the Sahara desert there’d be a shortage of sand within weeks.
The biggest reason is that without markets you can’t solve the problem of economic calculation. Markets provide prices information that signal consumer demand and incentivise businesses to increase/decrease production and to innovate in new directions. This information is an emergent propert of millions of micro-transactions conducted by self-interested actors with no concern for the macro picture. Socialism has to perform it’s calculation based on top-down social surveys, almost like a sociologist. This causes many problems.
- Do you know how many pizzas you will eat next year? I certainly don’t. It’s not even theoretically possible to know because often the decision to order a pizza is made five minutes before the order is placed. You were planning to catch a live show at the blues bar in Soho with some friends but the weather turned to heavy rain so you all stay home. Rather than waste the evening you assemble in the cinema room and watch The Godfather. Stomachs begin to rumble and the women have the night off. So you confer and order pizza. This decision was unknowable more than a couple of hours in advance at most. The world is full of consumption decisions made upon a whim of circumstance that are unknowable even to the decision makers themselves. How can a central planning agency collate such information with sufficient accuracy and foresight to formulate a plan? It can’t. This is an epistemological problem that cannot be solved with supercomputers.
- Anyone who’s ever trained in social research (I have) knows that finding out what people think is far more difficult than simply asking them. Imagine taking out your clipboard and approaching twenty strangers with the question “How often do you masturbate?” What’s the bet you get the answers they want you to hear (if any answer is forthcoming at all) rather than the truth? Under socialism interviewees are quite aware that their answers could just as easily disappear into an unmarked draw as to critically redirect production.
The end result of these problems (Mises gives many more) is that central planning is horribly inefficient. Capital is destroyed, resources simulatneously squandered or untapped, and people’s needs unmet. This is why Soviet states had both breadlines around the block and empty stores with dreary unwanted appliances. You can still see this if you visit Cuba.
Socialism can never be eradicated
Karl Marx is indirectly responsible for more misery and squalor than any other historical figure and it all stems from a neat sleight of hand he played in the mid-nineteenth century. Essentially, Marx rebranded socialism from witless utopianism (in which form it had already been discarded twenty years earlier) to pseudo-science. In his brilliant introduction, Mises credits Marx with three rebranding successes that transformed socialism from a stupid failed idea into a stupid successful meme. Importantly, none of Marx’s arguments withstand a moment’s scrutiny but because they appeal to emotions (and particularly the human hunger for meaning) they stuck.
1. Socialism is inevitable due to dialectical materialism. Marx took the laughable “logic” of his mentor Hegel’s dialectic in which every social structure (the thesis) contains seeds of it’s own destruction (the antithesis) which will necessarily be resolved by the emergence of a radically new structure (the synthesis). Hegel used this to show the advance of the human Spirit throughout history and is hopelessly teleological. If you don’t believe me, just read him. It’s nonsensical. Marx tapped into this intellectual heritage to add a sheen of authority to his own rewriting of history in order to argue that capitalism (thesis) creates is own internal contradictions that lead to revolution (antithesis) and it’s final resolution in communism (synthesis). World communism represents a final solution to the dialectic and thus the end of history. People actually bought that. It gave great confidence to motivate socialist agitators that they were pre-ordained with victory while similarly undermining the confidence of those opponents credulous enough to believe it.
2. Socialist institutions cannot be analysed ahead of time. The utopian socialists had been savaged by political philosophers in the early 1800s as their fantasy worlds were shown to be untenable. Marx countered with the idea of infrastructure/superstructure. Put simply, the economic organisation of a society (feudal/capitalist/socialist etc) determines all associated laws, culture, knowledge, arts. People are so constrained by the ways of thinking in any given epoch that they cannot perceive alternatives. The very knowledge that we take as truth are just culturally-conditioned and specific to the form of economic organisation. Again this is ridiculous – as if the engineering knowledge that allowed aquaducts to be built in feudal Roman times suddenly became inaccurate with the shift to capitalism. After all, the aquaducts remained standing! What Marx achieved was to deny the legitimacy of any inquiry into how a socialist society would operate. You can’t know until you get there!
3. Socialism will correct the injustices of an epoch. People don’t like to be taken for suckers and thus if you can convince them they are being played, they’ll believe alot of rubbish (feminism succeeded with women this way). The emotional motivation for socialism is greedy, envy and revenge fantasies against those who occupy a higher social station than the socialist. Marx was able to provide a thin veneer of righteousness to socialism not by waxing lyrical about the win-win paradise of the utopian socialist but rather by justifying the indignation of the vast sea of people who are unhappy with their lot in life. His labour theory of value (which I’ll demolish in a later post) concluded that the poor are poor precisely because the rich exploit them. The riches they have are stolen and illegitimate and thus the workers have every right to take them by force. This sweetens the ugly motivation of revenge behind a pious mask of justice.
I strongly recommend Mises’ work. I’ve merely scratched the surface with this post.
Just over thirteen years ago I was working in London getting my career off the ground in a promising graduate position for a famous professional services firm. It was a gruelling three-year apprenticeship period with oodles of internal training, external training at specialist colleges, and competive exams. This on top of an already-challenging full-time job that criss-crossed London. I was pretty drained. What fitness I’d won at university through boxing and circuit training was steadily eroded until I was getting pretty pudgy and creaky.
Finally on the day I achieved my professional license, I quit and hopped on a flight to Okinawa to teach English for a year in a tiny subtropical island. The itchy feet could no longer be denied. Trading the high-pressure hustle of grey dreary London, overnight, for the balmy 30+ sunshine and beaches of a small rural community came as quite the shock, and relief. It also presented a fitness challenge.
How would I recover my fitness when there’s no gym on the island?
All I had to work with was a tatami-matted spare bedroom and my own body. I couldn’t even rely on mail-ordering equipment because everything would need to be shipped in on a prohibitively expensive two-hour ferry. This was before the internet became ubiquitous, before youtube was full of training videos. I had just a 56k dail-up modem on my Sega Dreamcast.
Luckily, I found my way into functional fitness through bodyweight exercises. Initially through a guy called Matt Furey who was touting the dinosaur training of old-school strongmen like Otto Arco, Maxick and George Hackenschmidt. He’d also recently gotten the nod from an ageing Karl Gotch to begin marketing his old catch-wrestling workouts. This was back when Furey still had good material to sell, before he branched out into some fairly questionable internet marketing off-shoots.
The old timers are incredible. This was the era before steriods, human growth hormone and ephedrine. Back then “bodybuilding” was called “physical culture” and was inseperable from good long-term heath. The old timers spent as long practicing deep breathing and muscle control as they did pure strength gains. I was never interested in a gym body with huge muscles and low bodyfat, having been introduced to physical training through boxing where the world “musclebound” is an insult. I wanted a body that could respond to all my daily needs with spring and vibrancy.
I trained three times a week with a hardcore session that left me so drained I could see Jesus walking on the water. I’d usually do another light session to round out the week. For one calendar year I did these workouts:
- Variation A: Royal Court: 500x hindu squat, 100x hindu pushup, 5 minute neck bridge
- Variation B: The Gotch Bible: work through a deck of playing cards doing the number of reps on the card face (picture cards = 10, ace = 15). Black is hindu pushups, red is hindu squats
- Variation C: 250 Pushups: combination of push-up variations in sets of 10.
The results were immediate and significant. I became much fitter and stronger than when I’d dabbled in weights as a teenager and all round felt great. I wouldn’t particularly recommend high-rep workouts anymore but my knees are great without any soreness thirteen years after hitting them hard with 500-rep squats. I’ve since moved my training more towards kickboxing and isometrics, but encourage you all to try the Royal Court.
There’s something special about knocking out 500 non-stop squats. First time took me 35 minutes, and my peak it took 11. You’ll start off scoffing at it’s ease, then begin to feel the burn in your quadriceps as you approach 100. By 150 you’ll be wondering if you can finish and by 200 really beginning to marshall your mental discipline. By 250 you’re over the hump and beginning to zone out. 400 is the home stretch and you feel great. By the time you step off the mat at 500 you know you’ve acheived something beyond 90% of men. For months after you can look back and think “I have the mental discipline for 500 squats, so I have the mental discipline for anything.”
The cheapest £5 black digital watch is more reliable than a £5,000 Rolex automatic. Sorry to break it to you like this, but watchmaking was revolutionised by the quartz crystal and all those beautifully engineered luxury watches are old technology. Granted this, did you also know that the ETA organisation makes pretty much all of the internal movements found in every brand of luxury watch – TAGHeuer, Breitling, Omega, Panerai etc. Last time I checked only Rolex and Seiko made their own movements. Thus when you buy the brand you’re basically buying the case it comes in and everything under the hood is generic. Lastly, the distribution system for these watches involves huge mark-ups at every level and the watches require bi-annual servicing by official engineers (read “gravy train”) at eye-watering prices in order to maintain the resale value and warranty.
So it’s a dumb idea to buy a luxury watch, right? Nope. I love them.
Just keep in mind that you are not buying (i) status (ii) reliability (iii) investments. You are buying a cool-looking watch that accessorises your personal identity. With that in mind, you won’t have a watch for all occasions, picked for something so primitive as telling the time. You will buy a number of watches to suit different outfits and social settings.
1. Friday Night Lounge Bar
After a hard week’s graft in the office you’ll be headed to the local pub for a quick snifter with your work colleagues and then perhaps across to Soho to rendevous with your best friends for some carousing of the ladies. Chances are you’ve dressed down for Friday’s work but are closer to sunday best than casual. Perhaps dark fashionable jeans and a well-fitted semi-formal shirt. Your outfit is projecting the air of a competent high-status breadwinner ready to throw off the responsibilities of his week. In this case I recommend the Panerai Luminor Marina.
This watch balances a retro military feel with it’s chunky bezel and functional dial, together with a sheen of sophistication and leather-strapped maturity. It’s also the Rambo watch. When Sylvestor Stallone was in Italy during filming of his disaster movie Daylight he stumbled across an old vintage Panerai in a curio shop. He inquired and subsequently bought shares in the ramshackle watch company and then commissioned 50 specially-designed Slytech watches given away to his best buddies in Hollywood. It didn’t take many A-lister parties before people started noticing the watch they were all wearing and overnight Panerai could start charging £5k per item.
2. Daily Activity
It’s Sunday afternoon and you are driving over to a friend’s house for summer barbeque. Perhaps it’s Tuesday evening and you’ve packed your sportsbag before headed over to Muay Thai training. You’re in casual jeans, leather boots, and a t-shirt. A normal physically active guy going through his day with vim and vigour. Take a Hublot Big Bang.
The rubber strap gives it a sporty durable look while the exaggerated chunkiness of the ceramic bezel and brushed-steel mount fondly recall the Tonka Toys you smashed up as a young boy. If James Bond is ever assassinated by a super-spy, his vanquisher will be wearing this watch.
3. Gentleman’s Club
Saturday evening and you are in your reading room with old friends, sipping whiskey and puffing on cuban cigars. Soft jazz plays in the background, leather-bound classics line the woodpanelled walls, and you recline peaceably in a chesterfield sofa. As an older man you enjoy the refined luxuries of life. Naturally your watch musn’t overshadow the situation. I recommend the A Lange Sohne Zeitwerk.
There are few social settings in which a simple indented and worn brown leather strap together with rose gold case would not look ostentatious, but your club is were you are at liberty to feel pompous. To offset such detail I suggest simple clean lines on the face and an unusual and retro feel. This is a watch you can take back into the 1940s.
Naturally I don’t suggest you pay full retail price for these timepieces. Find an online dealer in Chinese replicas and then check the replica watch forums for his reputation. Each of these watches will set you back about $140 for a good quality knock-off. When buying replicas, pay attention to the reputation of the dealer rather than fall in love with a particular watch. I got my last few from Watch Eden.
There was once a dilemma among the left-leaning pollyanna hippy crowd on how to square their utopian wishes for a tree-hugging kum-bae-ya Avatar-esque society with the readily observable historical cases of surpremely nasty human behaviour such as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria or the German invasion of Eastern Europe. How are we to run a lentil-eating organic collective society without nasty things such as laws, police, and armies unless people are themselves very kindly natured?
In true left-wing fashion the dilemma was buried. Some people came out with the “Germans are different” hypothesis to explain why literally millions of German citizens were able to enthusiastically support, or at least turn a blind eye to, a reign of terror in the East. It’s their Teutonic blood, or their Prussian militarism that leads them to follow orders no matter how foul etc.
To address this question Stanley Milgram conducted his famous experiments on the influence of authority in making normal people commit murderous crimes. He recruited random participants to play the role of teacher in a learning experiment. This was a cover. The real experiment was in how the participants follow clearly immoral orders. An excerpt:
“Teachers” were asked to administer increasingly severe electric shocks to the “learner” when questions were answered incorrectly. In reality, the only electric shocks delivered in the experiment were single 45-volt shock samples given to each teacher…. Shock levels were labeled from 15 to 450 volts….. In response to the supposed jolts, the “learner” (actor) would begin to grunt at 75 volts; complain at 120 volts; ask to be released at 150 volts; plead with increasing vigor, next; and let out agonized screams at 285 volts. Eventually, in desperation, the learner was to yell loudly and complain of heart pain.
At some point the actor would refuse to answer any more questions…. Teachers were instructed to treat silence as an incorrect answer and apply the next shock level to the student.”
What percentage of teachers, if any, do you think went up to the maximum voltage of 450?
“Results from the experiment: Some teachers refused to continue with the shocks early on, despite urging from the experimenter. This is the type of response Milgram expected as the norm. But Milgram was shocked to find those who questioned authority were in the minority. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the teachers were willing to progress to the maximum voltage level.”
Zimbardo carried out a similar experiment in which two groups of participants were randomly assigned roles as “prisoner” and “guard” for a two-week simulation of a prison. The experiment had to be abandoned because the fakr guards quickly became violently abusive to the fake prisoners. The simple takeaway from these experiments is thus:
Despite all the outward signs of normal decent behaviour, a huge proportion of people will rapidly display brutal behaviour when situations either pressure them or make it advantageous to do so.
That next-door neighbour of yours who smiles and nods at you but you don’t quite trust? In 1990s Bosnia he’d be denouncing you to the secret police in order to steal your house. That co-worker who is unhesitatingly polite in meetings but seems to always dodge the unwelcome projects? In 1930s Soviet Union he’d petition the NKVD to send you to the gulag so he can take your job. So how can you spot these snakes in normal stable society? I have a few rules of thumb all of which involve paying close attention to the dropping of the mask.
1. Observe them in moments of discomfort. Even the most despicable scumbag can maintain his mask of civilisation when comfortably housed, fed and employed. It is when their comfort is disturbed and suddenly a gap opens between the right thing to do and the thing that restores comfort, that’s when you watch. That’s why you learn a man’s character in the boxing ring when you spar him. I’ve had partners bite, scratch, run, and worse show a sadistic gleam in the eye when getting the better of a weaker opponent. These are the concentration camp guards of the future. Watch your friends when you are talking to girls they fancy and those little things they do to try to slit your throat. Watch momentary hesitation as they calculate if they can get away with something selfish.
2. Watch how they treat the little people. Most scoundrels will act with due decorum and politeness when dealing with equals whose responses can affect their quality of life. It’s a rational selfish calculation. Those same scoundrels change when dealing with people who are unable to present them with consequences to their actions. How do they deal with serving staff, or secretaries, or call centre salesmen? How do they talk to a helpdesk employee when they are complaining about a problem in their service? Be very careful of those people who treat the little people as subhuman.
3. Let them talk about taboo subjects when they think you agree. Don’t stop and disagree with them, just let them talk. Scoundrels will often unleash a torrent of envious negativity and in particular will betray a habit of assigning certain groups to the collective bin of “subhuman” and then propose mistreatment. For example, the Left will often look to classify a rival as “racist” and then strip them of their right to a job, a social life, and their freedom. The vindictiveness of their persecution is something to behold. For evidence, just follow any news story when a public figure utters a non-PC statement. The only thing stopping such scoundrels from sending thought-criminals to the gulags is that we live in 2012 Britain not 1935 Russia. However, don’t mistake this with profiling based on collective factors. It is one thing to point to an observable, defendable fact (e.g. “95% of interracial rape is black men raping white women” or “almost all terrorism against the UK is commited by Islamists or Irish”) but quite another thing entirely to strip blacks, muslims and Irish of individual human freedoms simply because they belong to these identity groups.
4. Link patterns of improbable coincidence. I once met an English guy in Tokyo who had several fistfights with drunken Japanese on the last train home after drinking. I knew the wife of a friend who kept quitting / being fired because every one of her bosses was an arsehole. In each case, consider the wild improbability that these sequences were coincidence. Bad people frequently get into trouble and they can be skilled in rationalising each isolated event as not being their fault. Don’t buy it.
None of these methods are infalliable. People are complex creatures and while someone may be an arsehole at the “retail” level (never buying drinks, spouting hate etc) they may suddenly show strong moral character at the “wholesale” level (when the shit really hits the fan). Nonetheless, don’t be lulled to sleep by the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Alexandre Dumas’ serialised novel The Count of Monte Cristo (Hereafter ‘TCMC’) caused a sensation upon it’s 1844 release. As relayed by Luc Sante:
“The effect of the serials, which held vast audiences enthralled … is unlike any experience of reading we are likely to have known ourselves, maybe something like that of a particularly gripping television series. Day after day, at breakfast or at work or on the street, people talked of little else”
Should you read it’s 875 pages of dense type you’ll see why. Few novels are so able to maintain a fast pace, wide scope, deep characterisations, and also suck you into their period through details. This in itself would be enough but it is also chock full of life lessons. I first heard about the book while watching Dr Paul’s “Deep Inner Game” dvd series. He used the plot as a metaphor for the rites of passage from boy to man. In bare bones:
Boys have not yet taken the weight of responsibility upon their shoulders so they are carefree and looked after by their elders. As they advance through puberty they must develop the leadership and direction of manhood. This is not easy so most traditional societies structure the transformation with a symbolic rite of passage. The boy is metaphorically killed and the man rises from those ashes. Note there is no equivalent process for women – simply reaching physical sexual maturity is sufficient for a girl to become a woman. For men, effort and sacrifice is required.
TCMC is a literary rite of passage for the lead character Edmond Dantes as he opens the novel a wide-eyed precocious teenager full of love, trust and naivete. He is promptly betrayed by jealous rivals and locked away in a dungeon for 14 years. During his incarceration he befriends the wizened Abbe Faria who bestows upon him a full renaissance education and faciliates his escape. The now “man” Dantes dedicates his next twenty years to exacting a cunning revenge on his persecutors. Read this way, TCMC is a blueprint for masculine development and this strongly recommend to those of my readers who wish to style themselves renaissance men.
A different theme that intrigued me is that of revenge. There’s no question this is primarily a revenge fantasy and Dantes dedicates fourteen years of incarceration to plotting it then another twenty years exacting it. His net of retribution, although tightly aimed, enmeshes many bystanders who the book takes care not to position as “innocent” but are not among his persecutors. Towards the conclusion Dantes ruminates on whether he was justified in his actions (he ultimately concludes “yes”) particuarly in how he ruins the live of his faithless fiancee and also indirectly causes the death of a small, though wicked, boy.
Rollo Tomassi wrote an interesting juxtaposition advising against the cold flame of vengeance. To paraphrase he suggests the emotional energy and resources directed towards carrying out revenge would be better disposed of in making your life better i.e. living well is the best revenge.
“For so long as you consider revenge, no matter how petty, you’ll still be attached to the emotions of that rejection. Accept the rejection, move on, rejection is better than regret… beware the ‘Well-lived’ life spent in pursuit of revenge. Revenge should never be the motivation for success. Even the time and mental effort needed to consider some appropriate way of making her aware of how she made you feel are resources better spent on meeting new prospective women who will reciprocate your interest. The root of confidence is developing, recognizing and acknowledging as many personal options as possible. Any effort you’d expend on revenge is a wasted opportunity to better yourself. Indifference to detractors and personal success are a far better revenge than any one sided injury you could inflict on them in return.”
Dante’s revenge is not a buffer against rejection but rather is a settling of accounts against men who have deliberately wronged him. Also, the pain suffered by Dantes is several orders of magnitude higher than the type Rollo considers. Initially it is difficult to see why Dantes didn’t merely declare the vendetta and assassinate his persecutors at the earliest opportunity, sticking a knife in their ribs in some dark alley rather than the laborious public ruination that he actually inflicts. The reason is Providence. Dantes comes to believe he is chosen by God to punish the wicked (due to the sheer improbability of how he is furnished with the means to exact revenge) but it must be accomplished slowly to give the wicked ample opportunity to repent and thus be spared. Because of his mission he does not consider his efforts in exacting revenge to be wasted.
Personally, I’d have just murdered my enemies and then moved on to other things. A man should not allow others to take what is his. When jackals transgress the rule of law and hurt you, you are required to exact revenge in order to maintain your boundaries. Allowing the cold streak of cowardice into your heart will hobble you for life. This does, of course, assume you were significantly wronged. Having your pint spilled in a pub doesn’t count.
I’ve been in Chiang Mai for almost two weeks, bunking down in a private apartment near the university district and heading to the muay thai gym four times a week. Training in 30C+ heat after a long jog under the blazing mid-afternoon sun can give one a rude awakening about one’s fitness. Determined as I am to improve my conditioning and drop some weight, I have to gather all my mental resources when my legs alternate between jelly and lead. Yet every evening as I lie on the massage mat and get rubbed down after training, I feel great.
We chose Chiang Mai due to it’s far less seedy atmosphere than the likes of Bangkok or Phuket. My fledging thai language study doesn’t allow us to properly integrate with the locals but we do at least see how normal thais live. We find a farang-friendly riverside bar near the Old Town and take a well-earned break to watch live music.
This whole country has an hormone imbalance in the current generation. For the most part the women are cute and feminine but there is an absolute abundance of lesbians. Little frumpy girls with short quiffed hair and serious expressions. There’s probably ten times as many as would naturally occur. The men are a joke. Except for those small oasis of muay thai gyms, there is barely a milligram of testosterone in the whole country, of the younger generation at least. The men are all skinny, weak, mincing push-overs supplicating desperately to the women. Ugh.
Brutus and I get a drink and install ourselves against a pillar to watch the band as they run through a set of Greenday and Republica covers. There’s a din of light-hearted chat and the pub is bathed in a warm glow. We already stand out from everyone else. Apart from their obvious physical differences, the thai men are determined to wreck their intrigue and vibe by shamelessly pandering to the girls and then jumping up and down to the music in the vain hope they score by being “fun”. The few farang are seriously creepy. One such low-life is blatantly angling to touch-up and probably date-rape a wasted-drunk local girl. Others are breaking out into short solo dances then value-scanning the bar to see if any girls noticed.
We ignore them all. Just watch the band and talk to ourselves.
I see a smoking hot local girl with exactly the balance between beautiful and sexy. A swishy polka-dotted summer dress flows from her figure, her long tresses of black hair are softly pulled back into a ponytail, and she has on big fat black geek spectacles. Her whole aura exudes elegance. My blood bubbles. This is the girl for me. Within a few minutes she walks past with her plain friend so I turn and stop them. It’s loud, the English is strained so after a minute I say thank you and turn back to the music. But it’s long enough to make a favourable impression. She returns to her group on the veranda by the river.
Ten minutes later she manoeuvres near to us on one side, then the other. I feign inattention. Another ten minutes and she’s back again so this time I say hello and offer her a spot in front of me. She begins a pleasing gyrating dance that is the right side of slutty. She’s showing me how sexy she is without slippy over into attention whoring. Again I feign indifferences. She stops, confused. She restarts the dance, and so on. Ten minutes of me gazing over her to attend to the band and I finally talk to her. She jumps at it. I confirm not only does she fancy me but she’s not just trying to tool me. I like her more at this juncture. She’s the most suitable girl I’ve met since my arrival.
She has to rejoin her group of three friends and an old Korean guy who seems to be some kind of esteemed guest that they are showing around. As the night winds down I decide I’ll have her but I’m certain it won’t be tonight. Too much social pressure and her vibe wasn’t “fuck me” it was “I like you”. Brutus and I decamp to the veranda and for the next quarter hour the girl keeps stealing glances at me and smiling. Surrepticiously she lets me break her off from her group for long enough to exchange details. For the first time in a month I’m having a strong physiological response. My heart is beating faster when I look at her and I’m absorbed in her manner and beauty. That does not usually happen.
Fate has put this onto the backburner. She texts me the next day to say she’s in the airport on her way back to Bangkok. Still, it’s always enlivening to share romantic moments with a real woman.