Friday, August 22, 2014

Invitation only


Over the past year an airy loft in the Cape Town inner city has been serving as a meeting point for the Persons of Exceptional Significance - an elite society of the finest minds in South African culture, media and academia (and indeed the universe).

Participants in the Persons Of Exceptional Significance events convene to drink, acknowledge each other’s brilliance, set up independent non-partisan award committees to ensure that members are adquately recognized for this brilliance, express suitably emotive and enthusiastic support and indignation over the Cause Of The Week™, ridicule people who think they’re better than other people, and delight in scrumptious artisanal organic locavore fare from the village Woolworths.

This weekend was a particularly special and festive occasion, as our visitors had an opportunity to batter down one of the last and most stubborn of the outmoded, antiquated traditional social norms that hold back human progress. In short, they gathered to express the deepest nuances of their viscera to one another in a calm, safe and encouraging environment.

Host and recent star graduate of the UCT Faculty of Film & Economic Studies, Clarenceby Silverspooned Shyte-Spigot, went first.

Commentary from the assembled guests proceeds from his initial expression d’p├ęter.

Thomas Tedious-Twattertoff: Astounding Clarenceby! Somehow you have managed to echo the themes, mood and substance of the essay you shared with us last week. Oh don’t look at me like that! You know the one! The one about the significance of the spoons in my own Sociological Thesis on the oppression of levers in Wolfgang Petersen’s tedious fascist production, Das Boot!

That is to say, the delivery was brazen, an initial austerity of sensory perception which lulled one into a sense of cautiously thrilled anticipation before our senses were overwhelmed by notes of literal-mindedness and a whiff of caecum. A cracker of an icebreaker! I..

Sean Whitesteed: If I may interrupt, Thomas, we’re all terribly excited to find out what the lovely Nigella Sollip-Cyst has to offer us this afternoon.  Nigella, a little bird at your gallery told me that you spend no shortage of your time refining your expressions in the gallery broom cupboard. This must require truly daring levels of self-regard.

Nigella Sollip-Cyst: Sean, don’t be silly. I’d much rather see what you have to offer.

Sean Whitesteed: Cert..

Nigella Sollip-Cyst: No? WELL! The truth is I have been working on something special in my spare time. A Spartan diet of hard boiled eggs and champagne ensures that my ability to deliver convincingly coincides with the moment of inspiration from my muses. I also find that readings of Gramsci and Marcuse tend to filter through to, and inspire, my expressions at a profound level. Allow me to prepare a moment

Sean: Yes of course Nigella. Take as long as you need.

Clarenceby: Nigella won’t disappoint us.

A breathless hush ensued, and for a moment we feared that Nigella had lost patience and had enjoyed her expression by herself before coming over. But then it emerged in all its sonorous, majestic glory.

Jessica von Brassica-Haben: Good. God. Nigella. That was outstanding!

Clarenceby: May I! May I!

A brief altercation ensued, in which the gathered group argued playfully about who should have the right to first interpret Nigella’s minuet in methane. Clarenceby eventually won through, but was prevented from taking the podium by the premature, and prolonged, release of Professor Ivorytower-Tenure, who had become overwhelmed by all the excitement.

By the time that had droned away to a final, moist flourish, Nigella’s effort had been entirely drowned out by the Professor’s production, with its evocation of bookjacket dust, tobacco and choleric rice paddies. So Clarenceby simply reprimanded the professor for his poor form, before charitably indicating appreciation for the overall substance of the prof’s contribution. The floor was then opened for discussion of the two necropolitan productions we had just experienced.

Everyone agreed that words were probably not capable of communicating the brilliance of Nigella’s effort, while the Professor’s contribution had spoken for itself. Sean Whitesteed then offered to delay his own contribution until our next meeting so that he might compose a suitable and reciprocal homage to Nigella’s evocative expression.

After this there seemed little else to say, so the baton was passed to one of the VIPs at our event, political scientist Sylvester Houghton-Crib, who had recently resigned from his consultancy position at an autoproctologists union in order to dedicate himself to being permanently offended.

Sylvester rose to his feet and bowed gracefully.

Sylvester Houghton-Crib: With my compliments.

For several moments the attendant group waited expectantly. When nothing transpired an excited wave of murmuring washed across the gathering. One member whispered just loudly enough for everyone to hear whether Sylvester hadn’t perhaps been a little too generous with the gin earlier in the afternoon.

Then the genius of Sylvester’s play hit us all simultaneously, sparking spontaneous applause across the room.

Thomas: Sylvester you Devil. It was about substance and not style all along!

Jessica von Brassica-Haben: Brilliantly wrong footed. Just. Ouffff!

Nigella: Strains of Lloyd-Weber’s Phantom of the Opera, music of the night? And more subtly do I detect a tribute to the abstract expressionism of Newman?

At which point everyone agreed that it would only be charitable to open a window to share Sylvester’s genius with the city below.

Several other participants ventured their performances before attention turned to three time Edgy Award nominee, Pastichia Saint-Beaucoup’or, who'd risen to universal prominence by modelling the latest ideological fashions on the runways of London, New York and Pyongyang.

As was always the case when Pastichia had the floor, a breathless hush fell over the room. Then she spoke.

Pastichia: Thank you my brilliant friends. Before I proceed a little background on my humble creation.

To avoid being exclusive, and to stay unique and creative, I travelled around Cape Town sampling expressions from cool, happening people. Now people. It people. I travelled all the way from Kloof Street to Long Street, sampling talent wherever I could find it.

I was so inspired by what I saw. Thousands of intensely individualistic, so, so, so interesting upper-middle class 20-40 something white people, all expressing solidarity in ideology, opinion, dress, artistic preferences, attitude and hairstyle. It was incredible. These weren’t your run of the mill status-whoring fast adapters, these were people who could actually appreciate the incredible daring and personal integrity that is required to sublimate oneself entirely to dominant establishment narratives.

In my conversations it became apparent that not one of these paladins of progress had allowed their deep commitment to their personal materialism get in the way of their equally intense devotion to radical leftist ideology. It was inspiring and intoxicating. Often I’d nip in while the artist was snuffing her- or him-self on the balcony of a local doucherie, sample a whiff and then snap my sampling cup shut on a little piece of self-expressed history…

The audience sat rapt, waiting for Pastichia to continue.

Pastichia: The key to my pending performance was to then siphon this saprobic scent into my sinuses, using yoga to encourage it to breath through the core of my being and merge with my own scent, birthing something entirely new. Something… revolutionary.

I then invented an apparatus out of a retro oxygen mask and a hosepipe (patent pending), generating a feedback loop that allowed me to internally distill the essence of my creation. For three days and three nights I allowed it to circulate through me. It was a religious experience. I encountered my own greatness, then surpassed it, fantastical ideas and concepts sparked through my brain. Soul burning, I finally arrived at the expression I plan to share with you today.

A breathless silence descended upon the room once again. The fervor of Sylvester and the Professor’s prolix post-perineal polemics had long since subsided. The audience watched as Pastichia slowly and deliberately pulled herself into the lotus position, took three or four deep breaths, and performed an act of pelvic pranayama so profound that several of the attendant members slipped from consciousness, while the rest of us wept openly in a state of near-religious rapture.

Then the plaudits began to pour in.

Clarenceby: Transcendental. I'm nominating you for both the Shyte-Spigot Praxis Award and the Diamond Medal in Significance immediately.

Professor Ivorytower-Tenure: Sublime, my dear. Notes of oak, evocations of Handel being played in a bathtub.

Sean: Your best ever. Wow. Just wow.

Jessica von Brassica-Haben: I love, love, love what you have done here.

Thomas: Perfection? Perfection. I wish I could have one of those first, thing, every morning. You should bottle it. You really should. It’s that good.

And there were too many more to mention. Sylvester was too moved to speak; the lenses of his sternly framed spectacles misted over, his face a picture of longing - and the faintest, piquant whiff of young pinot noir rising from his seat.

The room eventually settled into a semblance of order, but only once Sean Whitesteed had made a show of hunting around the room for every last delectable snuff of Pastichia’s genius.

After that it was agreed by all to move onto lunch, where our collective acts of daring self-expression were discussed over a plate of Woolworths soft eating bread.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

They Strode - A Parody

After reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and manfully resisting the urge to kill myself, I felt a parody was in order.

First there was The Road, then there was...

They Strode

The rain rapped down endlessly on the stinking plastic tarp, neither getting stronger nor stopping. The man lay in the cold endless dawn wishing he was dead, but then cursed himself for thinking such cheerful thoughts and instead lay imagining himself cutting his eyelids off with the serrated rainrusted lid of a tin can. Eventually he turned to the boy, wrapped up in his filthy blanket, bedraggled blond hair coated in the tiny carcasses of dead lice. The man watched as one last straggler hauled itself to the edge of a tuft of hair, hesitated and then threw itself off. It twitched once on the icy tarmac and then lay still. Merciful God. Even the lice are giving up.
Wake up.
Im really tired papa.
Were starving.
Again?
Again.
Okay.
Okay.

They ate the last of the dog food out of a dented can, waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t. Eventually the man put the boy in the empty cart and draped the tarp over him and set off down the road. The front right wheel of the cart dangling uselessly and causing it to oversteer to the right. The man stopped and thought. Then he asked the boy to get out the cart and walk, before strapping the cart to his back and continuing down the road.

The solemn sun circled above the ashen rainclouds, wandering around the earth like a chemotherapy patient around a cancer ward in a blackout. They walked through sodden drifts of ash, mixed in with unidentifiable bones and trash, while the boy played with a broken yoyo by throwing it up in the air and catching it again.
Are we there yet?
Where?
The place where we’re going.
The coast?
The coast.
No.
Why are we going there.
Because I want you to see the ocean and it was getting too cold at home.
But its cold now.
It was colder at home.
But it wasnt cold in the good place.
No it wasnt.
So why did we leave. There was plenty of food there, and beds, coffee, lighters. Now I am starving.
Me too. Because we would have been found.
Why didn’t we just move the stuff out of the shelter and into one room of the house? We could have covered the shelter again, nobody would have seen us. We could have searched the town. Maybe there was a hospital or a pharmacy where we could have found some medicine for you.
Since when do you communicate in multiple sentences?
Don’t be angry papa.
I’m not angry.
Okay.
Okay.
We could have stayed there and eaten all the food and rested until you were better and then left when we had just enough stuff left to put in the cart.
I’m getting angry.
Okay.
What’s by the ocean anyway?
I don’t know.
Well at least we have a plan.
Who said that. You? Or me?
I don’t know – this kind of dialogue can get complicated. I think I’m the boy and you’re the man, so I guess you said it. You’re the man. Why don’t we have names?
Because theres no God, if there was he'd hate us and the world is cruel cruel cruel.

They nighted beneath a burnt tree. The boy scouted around and found two desiccated twinkies lying in a pile of trash. They saved one and toasted the remaining one over the fire on a burnt piece of branch until the cream foamed out of the twinkie and the sponge cake turned dark brown. The man fed it to the boy with a broken fork.
Its really good papa.
Here have a tinned peach to wash it down.
Where did you get that?
I dont know we always seem to have some tinned peaches left.

In the morning they tramped back onto the road. The rain had turned to sleet, mixed with ash and bits of old snow. They passed a crashed Boeing 747, its innards hanging into the road. A broken wing pointed hopelessly at the sky. A mess of oxygen masks, pillaged luggage and burnt tortured bodies twined around its aluminum skeleton.
Wait here.
I’m really scared papa.
I said wait here.
No I am really scared papa.
Wait here or I am selling you as a catamite to the next band of cannibals we see on the road.
Okay.
Okay?
Okay.
You sure?
I fucking said Okay.
Okay.

The man dug around the inside of the plane working his way methodically from the tail down to the cockpit. He found a Gameboy in the knapsack of a tiny backpack with a burnt teddy bear hanging off it on a rusted keychain. In a luggage compartment he found a felt fedora. He put it on his head and moved forward. In the cockpit he found the pilots still sitting there. Flight caps perched on the caramel brown of their skulls. In the lap of one a thesaurus, swollen by damp, the print still barely legible.

The man put the thesaurus in his pocket and rifled through the cockpit. He found three cans of peaches a Zippo lighter and a samurai sword. The man climbed down out of the plane to show the boy what he’d found. The boy was gone and an icy hand clutched at the mans heart.

He found the boy standing on the top of the rise overlooking the plane. His back to the man, staring down at the field beyond. The boy was jumping up and down in fear. His eyes wide. Clapping his hands and pointing.
Whats wrong?
I’m..
Really scared?
How did you know?
What’s wrong?
The boy pointed again. The man turned his head and looked. He didn’t think he’d ever be okay again. On the savage ashed plain beneath the rise, hidden from the road, a field of stakes. On the top of each a head, covered in matted golden fur, leatherlike tongue lolling out over rotted teeth. Each head never to bark in joyous welcome again.
Golden Retrievers.
What?
Golden Retriever puppies.
Puppies?
The boy started crying.
I’m sorry.
I want a puppy.
The puppies are dead. Im so sorry.
Why papa why?
Because this is just going to keep on getting unimaginably worse until the writer gets a Pulitzer prize just to make him stop.
Okay.
Okay.
So the man picked up the boy and turned away from the field of dead puppies.
Look what I found. A thesaurus.
Can we eat it papa?
No. Look.
The man crouched down in the sodden ash and flipped the thesaurus open, ruffling through the pages.
What are you doing papa? Im really hungry.
Very.
The man pointed at a page of the thesaurus.
What?
You're very hungry. Veritably hungry. Absolutely, bloody, clearly, decisively, determinedly, distinctly, downright, emphatically, flat out, for a fact, in spades, no holds barred, no ifs ands or buts, no mistake, no strings attached, positively, straight out, strongly, terribly, terrifically, unequivocally, unmistakably, fucking hungry.
Okay.

In the laudanum evening the two located the trolley. The man labouriously strapped it to his back and they moved into the firescarred woods looking for shelter from the wet, cold, sepulcher dark.

The End.

"To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility, which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals." Friedrich Hayek