Category Archives: Writing

The International Adam Curtis Society – Inaugural Post #AdamCurtis

As self-appointed President of The International Adam Curtis Society, I reach out in a gesture of goodwill to worldwide admirers of Adam Curtis’s works. Join the society, and help, as a collective, to push the next phase of human evolution by engaging with Adam Curtis’s works via the written word. Specifically, the task of all society members is to break free from the constraints of ‘hauntology’ and ‘individualisation’ – both terms that Adam Curtis uses to describe the stuck state all of Western society finds itself in.

As President I will direct the society’s agenda on a monthly basis, seeking engagement from members in the form of guest blog posts, tweets, etc., that will appear, initially, as part of the textual silence project until a dedicated website can be set up. Such writings will discuss aspects of Adam Curtis’s works, with the aim of shattering the widespread public apathy that currently exists, and which leads, inevitably, to a kind of atrophy induced by a rapacious capitalist system that seeks to nullify all existential threats to its existence.

The work you are tasked with as a member of The International Adam Curtis Society is serious and you are unlikely to reap any reward from it in your lifetime. However, remember Adam Curtis’s comments on The Civil Rights Movement of 1960s’ America, where he remarks that people the world does not know the names of are the people who did the real work of the movement. Such work is arduous. But it is important. Follow in their footsteps. Be glorious in word and deed. Seek nothing in return, other than a better world for all human and non-human animals.

In the spirit of past movements a Manifesto will be drawn up, but this will take time. Meanwhile, take the following memory of mine as the foundation from which all action shall spring:

Growing up as a child in 1970s Britain, born into a working class community, and regularly exposed to the glitz and glamour of American TV programmes, a devastating blow was dealt to me as a five or six year old. It was the realisation that I would never grow up to meet my childhood hero: Captain Buck Rogers of the 25thCentury. This may sound laughable, but the dawning comprehension that I would need to live for over 500 years (an impossible task) shattered my childhood, thrusting me into a period of seriousness that exists to this very day (and yes, I soon realised that he was a fictional character, but nevertheless, it’s the spirit of the memory that I want you to retain). And so the spirit is this – it is that we can live free from imposed boundaries, we can reach for new worlds, we can concentrate human intellect on a far larger goal than profits and trinkets, and that we can utilise the age of technological advancement to resign late stage capitalism to a footnote of human evolution. Fear and hate and discrimination and violence and profiteering have no place in this quest. Love and empathy and understanding and peacefulness and commonality, for both human and non-human animals, must be our guiding light, here.

If you wish to join The International Adam Curtis Society, comment on this post in the first instance, leaving an email by which you can be contacted by myself and by other members. And remember… we are about to create something new in the world, where power struggles, the language of war and hierarchies, the practices of profiteering have no place.

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)

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Spare a Thought #LivLitFest 2019

Is there a room where the famous writers can retire following the public event? I hope so. They’re all in attendance, supporting each other—it’s a veritable feast of literary dining for the paying public—but most wear a wearied look, forced to perform. You have to look closely to see it. They’re smiling, sure, but a commercial mask, a veneer separating them from the gathered crowd—the quiet, reserved members of the public, and the annoying, needy ones alike. A relatively new form of low for the literary geniuses must be the ‘posing for a selfie’ craze. There’s the mandatory line for book signings. Fair enough, you expect that. But now it’s not just a signature and polite chat with each person in the queue. Now, they come round to your side of the table. Most without even asking. They just assume it’s fine. They don’t see it as an invasion of your personal space, where you get to smell them, whether you want to or not, as phone swipes into camera mode. Wine on breath. Lipstick on lips. Perfume squirted goodness knows where. Lingering odour of tea (dinner). Faint waft of gum disease. They want to put their arms around you. You have to smile, look pleased to be a part of this. It seems to take an eternity. It’s rather unpleasant. I’m next in line. I can see the author’s utter distaste for this, but they’ve bought a book, so what are you gonna do? I offer to take the picture, so it’s not really a selfie. This, for two reasons. One: it makes a nicer picture for the couple in front of me. They both get to be in the frame with their literary idol. Two: it speeds the process, saving the literary genius from sitting through more of this torture. You see it in the eyes of the literary genius. Like a cow, drained of milk. Teets sore, struggling to lactate. That’s what the smile looks like. It’s a smile, but not a smiling smile. Aiming to please, you can see that, but the reality of the situation seeps through. You have to ask yourself… Is any amount of money worth this? My name, yes, it’s…


Definitely a Survivor, Not a Victim #MeToo #RapeCulture

In the coming weeks, having recently revealed her identity for the first time, Chanel Miller, the survivor of an horrific sexual assault, of which she has no actual memory because she was unconscious at the time, will speak publicly about life following Brock Turner’s decision to sexually assault her instead of helping her (which you’d imagine would be an automatic response at seeing a person unconscious on the ground, but as we know, Brock Turner’s first thoughts were not that he should help but that he should try to remove her clothes and rape her – only stopped by two passers-by who were actually willing to help Chanel Miller in her unconscious state (personally, I don’t think that I’m overdoing it stressing that point)).

There are a number of issues to be raised here, but first and foremost our thoughts must turn to the fact that Chanel Miller had no choice in what happened that night, and that she has had to live with the consequences of Brock Turner’s decision to sexually assault her, and she has lived that form of private hell ever since, and now she is about to relive it all in public, with everyone who wishes to know about such things having access to the most personal details of her life, which will be incredibly stressful at the very least.

And this is where #MeToo (and its earlier incarnation) and awareness of #RapeCulture are key to educating current and future generations in order that people stop doing such terrible things to other people. The ramifications of such acts are long lasting, and forcing ourselves, and others, to think about how a person can dehumanise another person in order to satisfy whatever urge they feel at that moment in time is a step towards ending inhumane behaviour. Chanel Miller should have been helped, not sexually assaulted, and it is to her credit that she is willing to speak up to help others.

As this is the time of year where youngsters start college/university life, many living away from home for the first time, it is important to spread the message that no matter how intoxicated a person may be, and no matter the clothes they wear, and no matter the areas through which they walk, whether alone or accompanied, no one has the right to sexually assault or rape another person. That seems like an obvious statement, and many readers will agree without even flinching, but there are those like the Brock Turner of 2015 (who failed to show remorse for his crime) who will continue to do so unless such behaviour is called out and challenged – shout as loud as possible until it becomes second nature for a person to help rather than harm. Chantel Miller’s voice will be heard, and it will make a difference.

And I haven’t even had time to mention the judge, Aaron Persky (who was eventually recalled).


What Would This World Look Like? #Trump #BoJo

It only took a little over three years…

the textual silence project...

Here’s a very short post, for a change. It may be nice to pause, amidst the political goings on of the moment, simply to ponder the following. In a world where it is possible, although not altogether plausible or desirable, for Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump and Boris Johnson @BorisJohnson to become head of state, respectively, what would such a world look like?

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Would it look like this? Might The Donald reach across the Atlantic and smack a big wet one on BoJo’s fleshy lips? Worse things could happen, don’t you think?

#VoteWhatever (it probably doesn’t matter anyway) #PoliticsIsDead

(ooh… Soul II Soul)

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Definitely not Normal: More Reflections Following Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Just to offer some perspective on the shift I have experienced in getting on and off planes, and the bit in between (@ #DFW19), here’s the Uptown Circle area of Normal, Illinois:

And here’s the High Street of the town I live in:

Perhaps best to hold on to the following sentiment, though I’m not sure what good that’ll do me:

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And just think, the whole thing started with this post: The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal

There’s no place like home, eh?


Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

A by-product of being able to attend the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, was the chance for me to visit the site of The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, considered by many to be the birthplace of House music, or at least the place where House music began commanding audiences, as opposed to just being shared around privately. Anyone with an interest in finding out more can just follow this link.

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The experience of visiting a building that means a great deal to me (because without a place like The Warehouse my teenage years would not have been so much fun – and I would not have begun to understand the bigotry I had grown up with as a child (nothing wildly overt, but the usual racist, sexist, homophobic stuff prevalent in the UK media, which then filters down via one’s parents)) was, as indicated in previous posts, akin to that of a pilgrimage. I only hope that the message of love and shared connections, so often promoted in the lyrics of House music songs will continue to thrive – and on that point, happenstance that Chicago Pride weekend is the time I get to visit.

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Fortunately for me a group of young teenagers (mostly dressed in rainbow colours and seemingly having much fun with one another) happily and politely answer the questions I have about how far it would take me to walk here and there, and generally advise me not to walk in the direction of the inner city ‘hoods (their term, not mine). The atmosphere in the city was amazing, and 50 years on from Stonewall (though there’s still much work to be done to foster understanding and shared connections (both within and outside of the LGTBQ+ community)) it seems like we can begin to imagine a Promised Land: “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth). At least that’s the optimistic view I’m taking given the young people I have encountered both at #DFW19 and on the streets of Chicago.

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The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Where to start in trying to sum up the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois? Perhaps with the attendees at the conference? Perhaps the topics of conversation? Perhaps the countries from which people travelled?

 

 

The age range was fairly impressive, with presenters as young as 18 years of age, and attendees one might describe as senior, but those are merely numbers (or hinting at numbers), not conveying the breadth of knowledge possessed by the youngest, nor the enthusiasm shown by the eldest. The male/female split (if we must do such things, and I suppose we must given the ‘LitBro’ conversations around Wallace) was around 66.66%/33.33%, fluctuating on certain days due to late arrivals/departures. And a cursory read down the list of presenters speaks of visitors/presenters from Australia, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, along with Eastern/Western and Northern/Southern States in the US.

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Another feature was the number of independent scholars in attendance – those who share a passion in discussing literature and culture, and who were willing to make the journey, and to mingle with academics. The overall effect was, in my mind, spectacular, and if this in any way speaks to the readers of this blog post, that, perhaps, you, or someone you know who has an interest in Wallace, or contemporaries of Wallace, or even in contemporary literature and culture as a whole, or creative writing, or indeed many other things, then there is a real need for you to act upon this and to look to attend and/or present at future conferences (at ISU or elsewhere – the main thing would be for you to make contact with the broader David Foster Wallace community, and to seek out such opportunities – my email is at the foot of the page if I can help facilitate this for you). And that doesn’t mean you must necessarily be on the ‘Saint Dave’ side of the fence – straddle the fence, or even kick that mother/father over (metaphorically, for I am not advocating violence).

 

 

But why? Well, the overriding sense of this conference is that we are now moving into more challenging conversations arising from a discussion of Wallace’s works – and that’s not before time. In recent years the inclusion of diversity panels have brought about a focus on issues of gender and race, respectively, with this year’s panel turning the attention on LGBTQ+ issues, and/or the lack thereof in Wallace’s works. Wallace, just one writer from a list of thousands, left a legacy in his writing that speaks of the beauty and poetics of carefully crafted prose, but also offers a specific cultural moment for us to reflect upon – and some of it is f***ed up and/or just erring on the side of cringe worthy (the HIV/AIDS essay, the use of vernacular particularly with respect to minority and/or disenfranchised communities, the prevalence of sexual violence, the essay on rap music, the exploration of infinity, and the list goes on…). Have you something to say on these (I’d imagine you would)?

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Taking time to analyse our current cultural climate, wherever that may be, seems more pressing now than at anytime in recent memory. So, as a parting shot, let me reflect on the things I have experienced this year, not all of them academic in nature, but more personal, things that shape the way I think and feel…

Talking to very young people who make me feel inferior because they are so switched on (Andrew, Tyler, Matt, Reilly, Elena, Kristin, Ben, Ryan – if any of those are spelt incorrectly, sincere apologies), but who are in no way contributing to my inferiority complex (that’s all my own sh*t going on).

Generally being listened to and given time to speak and communicate my thoughts, and then receiving communication back, whether in the form of comments, suggestions, and/or questions.

Meeting people I genuinely felt a sense of affinity with (all of those listed above but also Ryan, Emilio, Denys, Kristie, Amy, Brian, Jane, Allard, Vern, Tennis Andrew, John, Gen, and Swiss Andrew).

Not plucking up the courage to ask questions because the right moment never came up/my own inhibitions got in the way (Grace, JoAnna).

But getting to talk to people and feeling a sense that they too see a need to change the ways in which we currently live, and the ways in which society has operated in without any real sense of critique, let alone the possibility of change.

I didn’t see any ‘LitBros’ at all. Just genuinely affectionate, and thoughtful, human beings. Some dressed formally, some dressed informally – doesn’t matter. All good.

And then it’s over and I get to fly home, stopping off at 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, on the way, of course (see original The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) post. “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth).

*Classic mistake – forgot to put my email at the foot of the page first time round. Here it is: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

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