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Self discipline

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.

Scaramanga

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 Japanese super-assassin

The new game comes out this year. I expect I shan’t go out for a while.

Pin-up girls and the ideal woman

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.

Finishing school

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.

Flow with the go

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”

Rain rain go away. Come back another day.

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.

Holding out for a hero

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.

Sinistar

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 looking better these days

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….