Dec 122011
 

Seriously? No, seriously?

Just cut out the middleman and let rich people sponsor a poor person. There would be less waste in the long run, jobs for council workers (the OKCupids of wealth patronage!), and a powerful social impact.

After all, why give your money to charity when you can give it to your own impecunious client?

I mean, it worked for the Romans.

Mar 032011
 

Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance and prolific author and commentator on British politics and society, has written a novel of mayhem, adventure, and alternate history: The Churchill Memorandum.

I don’t know Sean Gabb personally, but I have read other works on his recommendation (notably those of Richard Blake), so when the review copy of his novel arrived, I dove into it with great anticipation and devoured it in one afternoon, taking assiduous notes between incredulous outbursts of ‘He just… did he really just do that? WTF?’ Anyone who has read the novel will probably recognise this frequent reaction.

Even though this was several weeks ago, I waited to publish this review because I had a feeling, which turned out to be correct, that the novel would be somewhat controversial. In that interval, Gabb has been accused of being, variously, anti-American and an English national socialist, all because in his novel the United States is a fascist horrorville and Hitler wasn’t a mass murderer. As an American myself, I’m rather more sensitive than others to whiffs of anti-Americanism, and I didn’t get any as I was reading. I certainly don’t think Gabb is an apologist for Hitler or the Nazis. And I suspect that to make these sort of assumptions about an author based on the characters or settings in his novels is to indulge in more than one cognitive bias.

Sometimes, a novel is just a novel.

Or, in this case, a crazy drug-trip into an alternate universe where Hitler dies in a car accident in 1939, the pound sterling is still sound money in 1959, and Winston Churchill ‘did nothing big after Gallipoli.’ Be thankful for this back-cover exposition, because you, the reader, are a genius. If you know nothing about Europe of the Second-World-War era, expect to spend half your reading time delving around the murkier recesses of La Wik.

Our hero is half-caste Anthony Markham, historian of the feeble sideshow that is Churchill in this universe and unwitting possessor of a document that numerous plotters, including Germans and Indians who smell persistently of curry, desperately want to get their hands on.

Why do I characterise the book as a crazy drug-trip when others have described it as ‘Hitchockian’ and ‘noirer than noir’ (which I’ll also buy)? It’s hard to say without giving too much away, but here are a few bullet points to whet the appetite, or bring smiles to the faces of those who have read it:

  • Chekhov’s Buttcheek.
  • Alan Greenspan is shot within hearing of a bunch of air commuters, and nobody bats an eye.
  • CS Lewis as archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Goering is giving nukes to the Jewish Free State.
  • Having been framed for murder, our main character goes on the run—and promptly murders someone. Not even an important someone, so this doesn’t count as a spoiler.
  • Who the hell is actually behind this convoluted plot, anyway?
  • Michael Foot’s acid baths.

The importance of the titular document is wholly drowned in the gunfights, the multi-transport chases and escapes, the sheer insanity of staid types you once knew and loved such as Harold Macmillan—who, incidentally, tries to corral the main character just as said hero has been mistaken for a Labour Party candidate in a town hall meeting and is delivering a triumphant speech:

‘Brothers, let it never be said that the Labour Party was at all exclusive in its welcome to speakers. You’ve heard me put the socialist case for our national future. If you want to hear the other side, be aware that our Foreign Secretary—Harold Macmillan himself—is standing just outside this room, and is waiting to answer all your questions in person.’

Cue the mob.

Markham’s publisher’s daughter and a mysterious Major who doesn’t officially exist are also part of the dastardly plot, and Enoch Powell turns out to be the shadowy badass whom all the plotters fear.

Y’all, this book is further down the rabbit-hole than Alice, and I dearly wish that instead of a review wherein I praise the author for his audacity and imagination, I was publishing verbatim the notes I took. You would not believe this book.

That said, there are some deep author-avatar moments, and without doubt Gabb can create characters who are horrifyingly realistic. Markham, protagonist and first-person narrator, is a remarkably unsympathetic character, callous and cowardly by turns and buffeted along by events entirely out of his control. His attempts to take refuge in a sense of loyalty or duty to his country are constantly shown up as stupidity by people who possess neither, and his actions neither drive the plot nor resolve it. Much like real people, in fact, warts and all. And the realism is necessary in light of the fact that most of the other players stepped straight out of a Bond film.

More importantly, the more you hear from Markham, the more you realise that despite having access to his internal monologue, you do not know this guy at all. There is no mention of friends, family, background, previous life, or romantic involvements (apart from whoever gave him Chekhov’s Buttcheek.) His thoughts revolve around two things: nebulous politics and immediate circumstances. He’s like a random guy in a pub telling you a random story, and when you stagger out you’re none the wiser.

To me, this makes him possibly the most unreliable narrator in fiction. This is what really makes the novel worth reading, though of course it is exciting and inventive as well. But I feel compelled to draw your attention to the fact that the insanity all starts in chapter six, and when you remember what Markham does at the end of chapter five, well…

…that’s my theory. And I’m sticking to it.

Oct 022010
 

From Keep Thinking, Butch:

There is a crash of thunder. Enter Lord Piotr Manhandlebum.

Manhandlebum: Now is the winter of my discontent
Made quite frankly irksome by this glorious son of Marx.
But did I hear the clown say sooth
That Tony of Blair is here within the castle walls in truth?
I am not in his good books and my own book is not good.
The Turd Man has pricked New Labour’s rose, and pricks
Are all the rage at Arsinore. I should know.
I’ll to the chamber and position myself behind the arras.
No change there then.

Exit pursued by a bare man.

I urge you to read the whole thing. It’s a treat.

Jan 312010
 

I gather that few others found this as funny as I did:

Fundamentally, the remit of any new localized ‘cell-based’ but centrally co-ordinated publication, whether electronic or hard copy, will be the creation of an effective interface between the existing ‘lifeworld’ and the development of an appropriate register of anti-hegemonic discourse.

By ‘lifeworld’, I refer to the post-Husserl Habermasian conception (‘Lebenswelt’) of a set of socially and culturally sedimented linguistic meanings, shared in their current form by the working class and its hegemonized identities (and sets of identities).

Into this existing set of shared understandings of how the world operates, it is necessary to ‘infuse’ the appropriate set of Marxian conceptions both around the essential nature of capital/labour relations and the consciousness of the working class as an objective entity in relation to capital. In turn such conscientization will lead to the development of a renewed ‘Lebenswelt’ in which class struggle becomes both more desirably and feasible through solidaristic local and then wider action.

Displaying a startling lack of self-awareness, one commenter blithely bypasses the main point and thus demonstrates a complete absence of appreciation for the author’s craft:

I think my approach here would have been a little simpler: sheerly ripping the piss out of these so-called libertarians. Several of them make comments which demonstrate that they didn’t read your article, particularly as regards where the funding comes from for your blogging endeavour.

Another misunderstands the definition of satire:

You can self-satirise Frankfurt school jargon, rampant bureaucracy and heavy-handed control-freakery all you like, but this is how the Left operates.

Ah, well.

One of the things that’s always puzzled me is that, in this current struggle between ‘right’ and ‘left’, each side is convinced that the other is the hegemonic group. This suggests that, in reality, neither is.

So who’s actually in charge, then?

UPDATE: Anna Raccoon has also picked this one up. I can only echo the remark of commenter Katabasis:

What makes the joke even funnier is that the satire is sufficiently subtle that not all of his fellow travelers will get it.

And the same person who, on the original post, misunderstood satire again levels accusations of FAIL at Anna’s place, because apparently, Lefties really are like that. Seriously.

*le sigh*

The Gospel according to Flying Rodent

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Dec 022009
 

This is rather an old post, but everything about it is funny to me, including the title: Hands Off My Loaves and Fishes, Hippies.

26But Libertarian Jesus was great in wrath, and did goeth on at great length about negative liberty and natural law.

27And on.

28And on and on.

29And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the Pharisees begged Libertarian Jesus to holdeth his peace, but to no avail.

30And lo, presently the Legion came upon Libertarian Jesus, and gave him a bloody good crucifying.

31And there was much rejoicing and loud were the hosannas.

32And Libertarian Jesus looked down upon the Pharisees and said, Forgive them LORD, for they know not the principles of Minarchism.

Nov 242009
 

Iowahawk strikes again:

But there’s a problem: as the worker researchers attempt to store each raw datum into the neat honeycomb hockey stick structure provided by the hive’s Alpha Grantwriter, they discover that few will fit. The infrared shows them growing cool with fear. This signals the climate researcher’s instinctive behavior to begin viciously beating, rolling and normalizing the data into submission. According to Dr. Nigel V.H. Oldham, professor emeritus at Oxford University’s Centre for Metascience, this violent data dance is what makes climate researchers unique among breeds of scientists.

Professor Nigel V.H. Oldham:

Like other species in the order homo scientifica, the climate researcher gathers and organizes data to lure grant money to the hive. In contrast to those other species, however, the climate researcher has evolved a set of complex violent behaviors to insure any data leaving the hive is perfectly adapted to nature’s most lucrative and sweetest grants. It really is a marvel of natural selection, and explains why the climate researcher continues to thrive in any kind of weather condition.

Truly, Iowahawk is a giant among satirists. Do go and read the whole thing.

Oct 302009
 

Gangland Julius Caesar offers some advice to President Obama:

And believe me, nothing boosts an imperator’s public approval rating like turning the opposition into lion snausages. Your loyal plebes will love it, and after the games you can hand out free bread. And healthcare.

Shit, I dunno, maybe I’m being to hard on Obamacus. The big problem is that the punk don’t know how to pick a posse. Look at his Senators. Jupiter H. Cripes, I thought that crazyass Caligula was straightup psycho for appointing his horse to the Senate, but that thing had more brains than half these muthafuckers. Combined.

I know you be thinkin’ you’re some kind of stone cold Claudius, layin’ down some phat oratory at the Forum and plowing your enemies’ fields under with salt. But you still a teleprompter punk, and you gotta know what you don’t know…Lesson one: rule first, deification later.

Iowahawk has breathed new life into my Friday afternoon. Go read the whole thing; everybody knows regular blogging on a Friday snuffs out around 2 pm.