The Shape of Things to Come

‘To a person finding himself at the beginning of an era, its simple fundamental structures may become visible like a distant landscape in the flash of a single stroke of lightning. But the path toward them in the dark is long and confusing. At that time [i.e., 1939] we were faced with a very simple logic. Wars waged with atom bombs as regularly recurring events, that is to say, nuclear wars as institutions, do not seem reconcilable with the survival of the participating nations. But the atom bomb exists. It exists in the minds of some men. According to the historically known logic of armaments and power systems, it will soon make its physical appearance. If that is so, then the participating nations and ultimately mankind itself can only survive if war as an institution is abolished.’

– Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, German physicist involved in nuclear research for the Nazi’s, found in The Making of The Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

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An Annoyance

I am, I’m afraid to easily distracted. Sitting here reading Richard Rhodes ‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’ while my open door ferrets the sound of ‘Just a Minute’, try as I might, my focus is lost, spiralling into that quagmire that programming designed to be easy to listen to and follow, creates. If I’m honest, it’s not just that, the thickness of the book weighs on my mind, that nagging feeling that the time spent crunching the formidable length could be spent doing something else.

This something else is never clear to me, never revealed with a bright neon sign. Yet everything that upfront reveals how much time you need to invest to complete it inspires a similar dread in me. Its all very well to watch Friends as it aired, but if I had never heard of it and was one day given the collection, lock stock and barrels so to speak, I’d dare say that despite the quality, the length would distract and worry me. Ironically this post too, under the guise of writing something with substance, serves as another distraction, so I shall push Publish and return to that fascinating tome, hopefully with the regrets mitigated if not entirely allayed.

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The Confession and Manifesto of a Lethargic Student

I started my M.A. with a mission statement namely, learning was its own reward and regardless of my disenchantment with academic institutions I would continue to explore the different tenets and ideologies so I might learn more about the world around me, I would make the world bigger for myself. But in praxis I have allowed these ill feelings and outside agitators to supplant the foundations on which I approached edification, this in turn has lead to an apathetic limp in the completion of my academic pursuits. So here I am, seventeen weeks before I have to hand in what will most probably be my last foray in formal education, supposedly knuckling down for the single largest assignment I have ever written. Yet I am lethargic and letting slip what should be the crowning pursuit of a combination of six years at university, so what am I going to do? Rather than appeal to a lofty ideal as to why I should enjoy and subsequently work harder on my assignment, I  however offer this far more pragmatic resolution that I will do what is necessary to complete this assignment to a quality that is reflective of the time and expense that I have put in, so I have the degree that I deserve. This is why I, Tim Lewis, pledge to write a minimum of 1000 words a week effective immediately.

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A Juxtaposition of Themes

‘The grand marshal of the palace complains bitterly [wrote the governor] that despite repeated prohibitions the soldiers continue to obey the call of nature in all the courtyards, and even under the Emperor’s own windows.’
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

‘Spring break, spring break, spring break forever.’
Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine

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On the Complexities of Discourse

When watching Korean shows there are a host of cultural differences that throw themselves at me, some of them, the constant commenting on the attractiveness and weight of the women on the shows is something that I can, in a very weird way, accept. Not approve you must understand, but such concepts are not so foreign as to provide an unpassable gulf. Yet there is one instance that never quite recedes into my mental cache of ‘Oh that’s different, moving on’ and that is the formal/informal way of speaking, determined primarily by whether one speaker is older or younger than the person they are speaking too, ultimately if closeness develops then that can be overridden. This also leads to people unfamiliar with each other saying their ages so they can determine the hierarchy of politeness in speaking. When this interchange happens and it happens not irregularly, it never ceases to amaze me, as short of the little used (in normal conversation) and gendered honorifics conferred on boys when they become men and women when they become married, we have nothing like the Korean system in the UK*. Then in a moment of madness, I installed Snapchat and had the realization of a new, not specifically called out way of exchanging messages. Before the internet a message was only stored in perpetuity if the reader thought it was important or if it was considered protocol to do so. Then this wonderful thing came along and we decided; ‘Aw hell, let’s store everything!’ This, by and large, I consider a fantastic thing, slightly embarrassing for those who grew up and have random ramblings spilled all over cyberspace from when their were far too young to have anything worth saying. But that cost is only in red cheeks and is more than paid when you find a speech that a politician would rather everyone forget, it lends weight to words and hopefully the realization that promising to save the NHS then doing your darndest to tear it to pieces is something that cannot, thanks to the plurality of the internet, be buried.


So into this new and brave paradigm, comes an app that’s purpose is to create, as the Wiki page so helpfully lists, ephemera. An acknowledgment in form of language that is impermanent, you write ‘I love you’ on Facebook and you can delete it, sure, but we know Facebook, that post isn’t necessarily gone and god forbid you send an email with those words. That same message on Snapchat is by its nature, impermanent, it’s ‘I love you [for now]’, like reality it makes no promises for eternity. The function of Snapchat is to replicate reality in a way that the internet doesn’t, in real life we say stupid and dumb stuff to our friends and we don’t expect ten years down the line for someone to call us out on it. There are, indeed, instances of people going around the Snapchat mechanics to get that picture of you with the duck face saved for all time but that too is not absent from recollection. So, to return, ponderously, to my original point, it’s odd, just as odd as using ages to determine a speaking hierarchy to have this deterministic venue where, in knowing our words are, to use that fine word, ephemeral, we are more easy and carefree in what we say. The same is true for the difference between the public venue of Twitter and that of the semi-private (but not really) arena of Facebook, yet as far as I’m aware none of my friends have posted pictures of themselves on the toilet to Facebook, in that Snapchat reigns supreme.


* That people are given titles by Royal assent and by, if their ancestors were lucky enough to kill for the right monarch, hereditary titles, is something that I am ignoring as it is both silly and unused in the exchange of words by the public at large.

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On the question of un-occupying Tahir Square

‘There are no lights. People are standing in clusters, arguing, shouting. Abu Muhab holds my arm, steadies me: it’s dark and hot and the ground is treacherous. Judge Baroudi appears and begs everyone to understand the importance of unity, of working together. They listen then resume arguing. Strong voices argue for suspending. Strong voices retort that the closure of the Midan is the only card they have. I think people don’t want to go home and pretend their lives are normal when their kids are dead. They need to remain in an ‘exceptional’ state. A woman faints. A young man on crutches tells me he’s one of the ‘injured’. He says they’re offering him 10,00 pounds. And what happens to me when they’re finished? he asks. I don’t want money. I want a job. Abu Muhab gives me a folded sheet of paper. It’s the draft announcement. Rejected. I phone the TV crews; we don’t have an agreement.’

– Extract from Cairo: My City, Our Revolution by Ahdaf Soueif


In an odd twist of fate I both left my copy of War and Peace at home yesterday and bought a new book without realizing my latter oversight. Thankfully this gave me the opportunity to dig right in and although I am quite enjoying Tolstoy’s epic taking a break from it, especially with a non-fiction work makes me feel a little relieved. Although as I am already half way through, I anticipate finishing this by the end of day.

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Extract from War and Peace

‘No, but the best bit of all,’ said one of them, describing a disaster that had happened to a service colleague, ‘yes, the best bit was the minister had told him that his appointment to London was definitely a promotion and that was how he should see it. Imagine his face!…’

– A line from a diplomat, ‘War and Peace’, Leo Tolstoy

I find this a most brilliant extract because the line is presented in the text without any lead in and the impression left by it speaks volumes about the perception of London by those characters. Perhaps also by Tolstoy himself but I haven’t done any research on that.

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Talkin’ About a Terrible Self-Righteous Term

There are I think only two things that are applicable for my generation. The first is the death of the phrase my generation, the plurality of the internet has revealed just how radically diverse peoples interests are, sub-cultures within sub-cultures, entire communities based around banalities. This wonderful and terrible revelation shows how godawfully reductive and presumptuous the term ‘Generation [Letter]’ is.

The second, also spawned by the internet is that immediacy, one that people of the previous generations may assume could be stressful. It really isn’t, I find out minutes or sometimes moments after it happens that Pratchett has announced a new book, or that tragically a chemical attack in a Syrian village. Both banal and important things are offered me with little delay and that concept is glorious. No more stressful than old news airing every hour and by the nature of the delivery system, more tailored to my interests and far less repetition of old, already known crap.

Of course, these things don’t apply to countries where internet access is restricted or nonexistent. Once again demonstrating that the phrase my generation, and all its associated children, requires so many prefaces that it then becomes literally worthless.


Post Script;

I felt on retrospect perhaps this post didn’t convey what lies at the heart of my gripe and this little diatribe that I wrote encapsulates the same feeling but expressed more succinctly and eloquently.

Americans are rude and of course the English are polite, except for Obama , who despite his many faults is polite, except for Boris Johnson who, like a snake, wears ill that mask of politeness. Except for, except for, expect for… Eventually the ‘except for’s drown out the original message and all you are left with is rain in the gutter. Die, and die a deserved death, you foul generalizations, you tool of the inarticulate, that wretched corpse on whose flesh stereotypes live, may you be buried deep and never darken that noble doorway to speech again.

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Statement of intent

Mere moments ago* I finished Hunter S. Thompson’s fascinating work ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72’ and I’m really glad I read it, but it is a very easily consumable work by its nature. I feel that I need to tackle something more challenging and to get that wretched mountain of unread books down. Mr. Thompson’s book didn’t really help on that account as I bought it then immediately started reading, so it didn’t even touch that colossal wreck. So I state here for all (and none) to see, that I Peter Huw Jenkins, being of sound body and probably mind, am going to start reading the Russian Epic ‘War and Peace’, may God have mercy on my soul. This statement of intent will hopefully mean that, unlike Dostoevsky’s ‘Demons’, I will get more than a third through before putting it down and then forgetting half the characters by next pick up.

*I wrote this a good day or two in advance of finishing the book and have just posted it. Preparation!

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Extract from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

‘Any re-writing now would cheat the basic concept of the book, which -in addition to the publisher’s desperate idea that it might sell enough copies to cover the fantastic expense bills I ran up in the course of those twelve frantic months – was to lash the whole thing together and essentially record the reality of an incredibly volatile presidential campaign as it was happening: from an eye in the eye of the hurricane, as it were, and there is no way to do that without ejecting the luxury of hindsight.’
– Authors Note, Hunter S. Thompson

It seems I’m attracted to Rolling Stones writers with viewpoints a little beaten by time. Although I am imagining a version of Mr Thompson tweeting at every twist and turn, getting increasingly wasted and becoming ultimately, incoherent. The new Gonzo journalism.

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