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Drugs [May. 10th, 2012|11:24 am]

New boxing column is up. Actual references to boxing: very few. As it should be...
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Preserve or conserve? [May. 9th, 2012|05:36 pm]
[music |Portishead - Wandering Star]

“Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can’t make anything.”

- Italo Calvino
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Unquestionably the best thing ever [Apr. 18th, 2012|02:08 am]
No, really.

Like a Southern roots/Gospel/60s girl group/surf mash-up. But good.
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Love is... Wrath [Apr. 17th, 2012|12:05 pm]
"And so what if he's taken up with the God of Wrath? Since when have you been so crazy about the God of Love? Or any other species of hippie bullshit?"

--Robert Christgau, on Robert Zimmerman's conversion to Christianity.
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An Angel-Satyr Walks These Hills [Apr. 14th, 2012|08:31 pm]
The Lurianic Cabalists were vexed by the question of how God could have created anything, since He was already everywhere & hence there could have been no room anywhere for His creation. In order to approach this mystery, they conceived the notion of tzimtzum, which means a sort of holding in of breath. Luria suggested that at the moment of creation God, in effect, breathed in -- He absented Himself; or rather, He enterered into Himself-- so as to make room for His creation. This tzimtzum has extraordinary implications... In a certain sense, the tzimtzum helps account for the distance we feel from God in this fallen world. Indeed in one version, at the moment of creation something went disastrously wrong, & the Fall was a fall for God as well as for man: God Himself is wounded; He can no longer put everything back together by Himself: He needs man. The process of salvation, of restitution--the tikkun, as Luria called it-- is thus played out in the human sphere, becomes at least in part the work of men in this world. hence years & years later we get Kafka's remarkable & mysterious assertion that "The Messiah will only come when he is no longer needed; he will come on the day after his arrival; he will come not on the last day but on the very last."

-- Lawrence Weschler.
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In Spite Of Everything [Apr. 12th, 2012|12:46 pm]
[music |Nature Boy - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds]

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves,since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds
-before leaving my room
i turn,and(stooping
through the morning)kiss
this pillow,dear
where our heads lived and were.

-- e.e. cummings
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There's a place on my arm where I've written her name [Apr. 9th, 2012|02:10 pm]
[music |Johnsburg, Illinois - Tom Waits]

Happy Easter to those of you who observe.
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A post on a subject I know little about (what's new?) [Apr. 5th, 2012|10:49 am]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[Current Location |The Cramps - Human Fly]

Right disclaimer time:

I love boxing. I know far too much about it, particularly on an anorak level. People assume my manic "expertise" must stretch to all combat sports, especially as the UFC is fifty times more popular than boxing due to demographics, being properly run & having snazzier T-shirts:

However, these people are hilariously wrong. I know nothing about wrassling, care little for judo/jujitsu/whatever it's called, laugh at that Brazilian thing that resembles dancing & find kung-fu (the martial art, the films & everything else about it) utterly boring. The combination of all these things in one multidisciplinary thrill-a-thon just means that there's a combat sport out there combining seven or eight different things that I do not want to watch, ta.

I do not wish to give the impression that I'm one of those terrible curmudgeons who sneer when boxing's sister sport is mentioned, those insecure fools who seek to ridicule the brave athletes & knowledgeable fans who engage in it & support it. I am maybe a little jealous, on boxing's behalf, of the reach & impact & respect the UFC engenders in its supporters & sincerely wish for something similar in boxing on a grassroots level, but would never denigrate another sport for cheap laughs, just to mollify my own fears.

On the other hand, there's Alistair Overeem, & the guy's just too fucking funny not to rip the piss out of.

Now, Mr. Overeem used to be a champion at something called Pride. This isn't, funnily enough, an all-comers LGBT deathmatch tournament, but instead a sort of hardcore kickboxing thing that they run in Japan. Imagine an 80s Jean-Claude Van Damme film crossed with Tekken & you're nearly there, mullets & all. Lots of mullets. & also, due to the fact that it was "regulated" by a bunch of morons, lots of steroids as well.

Lots & lots of steroids.

Now, Alistair, a very naturally gifted kickboxer, competed in Pride for years, winning umpteen titles. He also went from looking like he did, here, on the left, to the rather more... bulky version on the right:

& eventually ended up looking like this:

Let me reiterate this: the lad went from being a David Haye-esque fourteen stone of ripped, solid Adonis to becoming, well... the Black Dutch Incredible Hulk, all the while training for a sport that requires vast cardiovascular expenditure. It's difficult to gain lean muscle, in other words, when you're burning off thousands of calories per day with aerobic exercise.

Apart from if you stuff yourself to the gills with enough 'roids to muscle up a Grand National winner, natch.

Now, people have been... More than a little suspicious of Alistair's amazing physical transformation, for a while. & since he left Pride behind & started competing in the relatively big money UFC, people have been whispering that he's gonna get caught out, especially as (despite what many snide boxing fans like to giggle about) they apparently do test for drugs in UFC. Kinda. Even though most of the heavyweights look so much like action figures you expect to see the word "Mattel" stamped on their arses when they go over. Overeem's first bout in the UFC was against the former poster-boy/flagship fighter of the entire sports franchise (how strange it is, coming from boxing's corrupt but old-fashioned world, to use the phrase "sports franchise". It sits oddly on the tongue; & makes me think of an outlet of JJB Sports or something), the former UFC heavyweight champion & (before that) WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar:

Who also definitely does not look in any way suspicious, at all & whose physique is totally the result of heavy lifting, lots of protein shakes & lots of good wholesome sleep & nothing else.

The one-sided victory over Lesnar gained Overeem a shot at the current UFC heavyweight champ, a fella called Junior Dos Santos. However, today, all the stupid jokes about Wistrol & bitch-tits & probably having a very small package can be dusted off once again, because at his pre-fight drug test Overeem's "A" sample was flagged for an elevated T/E {testosterone} ratio that exeeded 10-to-1, well over the 6-to-1 limit.

That means, for those of you without a degree in biochemistry, that Overeem's testosterone levels were ten times the amount of a normal human male's at the time the test was done. Apparently, long-term steroid usage fucks up your endocrine system badly enough that you require testosterone replacement therapy like the massively-muscled lairy equivalent of a menopausal housewife; loads of fighters are "allowed" under UFC drug-testing rules to "compensate" for whatever they may have been injecting themselves with in the past by undergoing TRT, to the tune of having six times the normal level of testosterone in their bodies. This does not mean they have cheated in any way shape or form. No. Just paragons of athletic virtue, one & all.

But ten fucking times? I mean for fuck's sake. It's almost too pathetic to mock. Almost. I think they should disregard the drug test result & let Alistair take whatever he wants. Then they could get him to fight MechaGodzilla or something. It'd be wicked.

Alistair Overeem, if only for giving me ammunition to make lots of stupid jokes, I salute you, & hereby would like to extrapolate into the future the athletic gains you are sure to make, once you have duly served your suspension & got clean:

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You better duck... [Apr. 4th, 2012|07:05 pm]
..when I show up:

Fuck. Yeah.
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Fanta-twee, or, why you probably shouldn't ask me to tell your little'un a bedtime story [Apr. 3rd, 2012|04:41 pm]
[music |Tom Waits - Tell It To Me]

Okay, then, Jackanory time.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...

Once, there was a princess. Her father the King had received a prophecy telling him that all the flax in the land was poison, & the merest touch might kill a person. So, being a bit of a totalitarian autocrat, he ordered that no-one in his domain should spin with flax. Jute or hemp, cool. But flax? No way. Not on his watch.

The princess, being a princess & therefore somewhat willful & probably just to piss off Daddy, decided to get out her spinning wheel & start merrily spinning away. With the flax. Gawd, these modern girls, eh?

As you can probably imagine, the princess finds a splinter after about two seconds of spinning, & swoons all over her spinning wheel. After her retainers cut her out of the wreckage (princess/spinning wheel interactions can get a bit messy, those things spin at some rpms, I tell you), the King (being a nutter as well as an autocratic dictator who didn't even trust his own subjects not to poison themselves stupid) decides that she should be laid upon a velvet-covered catafalque in the darkest part of the forest.

Like you do.

Some time later, a rich nobleman (which, if you think about feudalism, probably means he was related to the King, which is going to make this next bit (even) nastier) was riding through the forest. & he spies Sleeping Beauty, immobile, cold as stone, soft as death. He stops his horse. No-one about. Beautiful girl. Velvet bier. Possibly some dry ice. Imagine a Nick Cave video from the early 90s. Anyway. He kisses her. & she doesn't awake. & there's no-one about but the squirrels & pine martens & I'm far too much of a city boy to accurately portray the fauna of a forest but I'm sure you can extrapolate appropriate local colour from that, right? Right.

So, being unobserved apart from by aforementioned local wildlife, the nobleman... There's not a delicate way to put this. The bastard rapes her. Sleeping? Dead? Immobile? Cold as death? Cold as stone? Birds nesting in her hair? Worms crawling over exposed marbled flesh? Doesn't matter. He takes her, zips back up & rides off, whistling like the utter git he is.

But this is a forest. & a fairytale.

By some strange enchantment, two babes, perfect twins, grow in the navel of Sleeping Beauty. But she doesn't stir. The months roll on. The seasons change. Sleeping Beauty gives birth. She doesn't awaken at the breaking of her waters, nor at the rending of herself as new life clawed its way free of the old. She is a closed state, but out of her comes life, the sun, the moon. It's probably quite spectacular & all the deers & badgers & shit are standing around to watch. But still, she doesn't wake up.

The crying babes drag themselves up her body --left conveniently naked by our aristocratic rapist--to suckle & feed & something strange happens. Some say their questing mouths, searching for a nipple, drew a poison splinter from her breast; others, that as the umbilical cords stretched & tore it drew something from her, & the enchantment of the forest rushed to fill it. Others say that she was just a heavy sleeper, & that perhaps she should leave off smoking the flax before bedtime.

But however it happens, Sleeping Beauty awakes.

So, the scene changes once again. Shimmer. Dissolve. It's spring. The sap is rising. Flowers burst forth in a riot of colour. The forest hums with life. Through it (hopefully sneezing & allergy-ridden) rides the aristocratic rapist. Now the nights are getting shorter he's feeling frisky again, & returns (scoundrel) to the scene of his despicable crime. Pulse pounding, nerves twitching, the maddening itch of the season taking root somewhere between the base of his spine & his forebrain, he forces his horse forward through the newly-grown undergrowth; soft fronds caress his face, thorns claw at his neck, streaking it like the tracks of a lover's nails. The trees shake as if frightened by his passage, & as his pony picks its way along the now-overgrown path blossom falls, terribly slowly, careening end-over-end to the silent forest floor. It settles on his shoulders like a cloak.

& once again he's here. The weeds have grown up, thick & rank over the clearing; a riot of gladioli, bluebells bobbing their heads like penitents. Amidst this riot of new growth, nearly buried in the midst of a tangle of thorns & ferns, the bier. & its occupant...

Something's changed. He stops his horse, slides numbly from the saddle. Where the object of his vile affections should lie, sprawled as he left her, deshabillé to the world, a healthier, more tanned & far more awake young woman lies. At each breast, she suckles a babe, dandling them on her lap. For a second, he casts about, wondering what could have wrought such a change. But then he looks into her eyes...

He crosses the clearing, kicking his way through the bluebells, trampling the blowsy anemones (swine. I like anemones). Fetches up by her side. She can't take her eyes off him, something like the ghost of a memory flickers its fingers up & down her spine, closes up inside her stomach like a fist. She wants to run, to take her babies & throw herself into the forest, hide.

Gently, he touches her face, then the heads of her children. & she looks at him, terror filling her throat, & she gazes into his eyes. Her heart sinks, because staring back at her from this strange man's face are her children's eyes. That's all it takes; all at once, she knows. Don't ask me how, & I know this isn't the place to drop in some terrible fucking patronising male idealisation of female intuition, so all I'll say in answer to the question "How does she know?" is that it's a bloody fairy story, & that she knew her children's eyes like all mothers know their children, & leave it at that.

Right, where was I? Oh yeah...

Ambivalence rages in the heart of our rapist. He's come all this way, waited so long to get what he wants, & now he's found it & he's suddenly assailed by the awful feeling that whatever he's wanted has changed. She's moving, for a start, & looking at him with a strange mix of terror & hate & an awful kind of recognition, which is putting him right off. & there's the kids...

Being a bastard, he doesn't say a word. Not even a "Sorry" or a "What did you decide to call them?" He swings back up into the saddle, turns his horse around & rides away. Sleeping Beauty watches him for a moment, then rises from the bier & follows his retreating form, back through the trees, back to the path, out of the forest, a babe under each of her arms.

The rapist rides the long lonely road back to his castle. Once there, he tries to forget the woman in the woods, tries to bury the ache within himself with ideas of duty & fidelity, turns his attentions once more to his long-suffering wife. Probably raises taxes, on a whim. Cuts the local serfs' poor fund or closes a library (he's a Tory, natch).

But guess who turns up at the castle's back door one day, bedraggled & somewhat the worse for wear, hair as wild as the forest she crawled out of, a mewling infant clasped in the crook of each arm? The nobleman's wife opens the dread portal, sees the girl standing there. She glances down at the burdens Sleeping Beauty carries. She smiles a cold, tight smile, beckons the young girl inside...

She's a put-upon woman, is the rich man's wife. Imagine: empty evenings in the echoing castle, nothing to do but embroider bloody tapestries & stare longingly from the windows at the darkening forest, waiting for the return of a man she knows doesn't love her. A person could grow bitter, waiting like this, take each one of those lonely evenings where her lord rides abroad, each one of those nights facing a cold empty bed & the misery of each vacant dawn, & compress it into hate for everything that walks or crawls under the sky. This is of course not the only reaction to the terrible stimulus of her faithless husband's treachery. She could grow kind; pain turned inwards & reflected back at the world as beauty, altruism springing back, pushing its head up through life's bare & stony soil like weeds left untended.

She could. But she hasn't. She's gone stark staring mad with ideas of revenge.

& so, she smiles at this little slut on her doorstep (do castles have doorsteps? Fuck knows), she smiles at the bedraggled beauty yawning with the brats clutched to her, she smiles & smiles & is a villain, so she takes her inside & she sits her down near the fire & she calls the guards & Sleeping Beauty gets chained in a downstairs room & the rich man's wife takes her babies, her beautiful babes, & turns to the cook.

"Tonight," she says, "When my husband returns, you'll cook him something special. A particularly piquant dish."

The cook looks hard at his mistress; she stares back at him. Hate comes off her like radiation, like the smell of sweat or sex. He looks at the children. His eyes drop to the floor. He nods, & opens his arms to take the babies from her.

Later. The nobleman has returned once again, his sick & twisted passions sated for the moment by the ravaging some poor farmer's daughter (after first knocking her unconscious with the pommel of his sword; his MO's tragically predictable, his kink so formulaic, his fetish has replaced every natural reaction to the extent that I like to think that since that evening in the forest a year ago, he can't even get hard unless his lover's sprawled cold & immobile beneath him, dead to the world...). After a hard day's rapine there's nothing he likes better than an enormous meal, taken alone in a corner of the great hall, brooding in silence & his ancestral crimes while the shadows lengthen & the damp stone-smelling air cools...

So he slumps in his chair, & the cook brings forth the evening's meal. If there's a cringe in the lackey's step, the rapist doesn't notice; if there's a flicker of a tear in the corner of his eye, his lord would not even care. So the nobleman quaffs his wine, tears at the succulent young flesh spiced upon his plate...

& his crazed, grief-stricken wife (avatar of every wronged woman in the world, revenging Fury & avenging angel) leaps from an alcove on the wall, where she's been hiding & watching as the rapist chows down on his grisly meal, & she shrieks in a voice made of malice & madness that comes tearing out of the shattered remains of her many-times broken heart:

"Oh my lord, you eat what is your own!"

Events collide in her husband's forebrain. He looks down at the tender meat on his plate, the rich sauce. It tastes, he decides, a bit like chicken. He's swallowing some more wine, staring & staring at his mad & hysterically laughing wife, who's clawing at her own hands with tears streaming down her cheeks, & a horrible feeling of unease sweeps across him. Then it hits him, a notion with the terrible weight & heft of an awful idea that's actually true, a blow to the chest. He puts down his knife & fork, rises from the table. It's not out of love & it certainly isn't out of fear that his adultery has been discovered, it isn't out of pity for the children he's eaten, it's rather that he's an unreconstructed utter bastard & he's been made a fool of, he's Zeus raging at Tantalus, he's shamed at being caught & he's shaken down somewhere in his overwhelming ego about being tricked, so he takes his sword & he runs his poor wife through, & she bleeds out her last on the cold stone floor, blood pooling blackish & shining in the guttering candlelight.

The cook, who's been watching from another alcove (these old buildings are riddled with them), chooses that moment to step forward. Actually sir, he explains, mumbling & wringing his apron hem in his fat hands, actually sir, your missus -- er, your ex-missus -- told me to cook these children up sir, but I couldn't do it, I couldn't, so I swapped out some free range chicken & hid the kids & Oh sir I'm sorry...

The rapist is confused, yet relieved on some level. He's finally got up the gumption to leave his wife, better, he's gone & killed her stone dead. No more nagging; no more sad eyes, the bitter sharp lash of her sorrow & longing each time she looks at him, each time he returns with the smell of another upon his fingers, upon his breath. He feels great. Stammering still, the cook mentions that the kids are still alive. Oh, & their mother's downstairs...

I'm running out of room. Shall we give it a happy ending? The fairytale ends with Sleeping Beauty & her rapist raising the children together in the castle. Can't see it myself, but I really have to go & get my shit together, so all I can say is that they lived. Whether it was happily ever after or not, I shall leave up to you.
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