Politics, US Election, US Politics

“When America sneezes, the whole world catches pneumonia.”

When one pictures Donald Trump at the helm, the next ejaculation could render us all with venereal disease. Sounds amusing? It shouldn’t be, as there is a deal of truth behind this statement:  repeatedly, throughout history, Britain and the U.S. have crossed ties, whilst maintaining the outward appearance of unity – tussling over issues of the Revolutionary War, the Irish Question, Indian independence – we’ve depended upon America numerous times in the past, in the case of rearmament and support during the Second World War, yet no matter the circumstance, the U.S. has emerged on top, the “power player”. Whilst the British Empire has dwindled – a shrinking tea stain within a pool of freshly roasted American coffee – the U.S. has been spreading its feelers, sticking its toe repeatedly into the swirling maelstrom of the Middle East.

I won’t defend Britain’s position in this respect – didn’t the U.K face enough problems during World War Two, within the immediate area of Europe, to even contemplate marching into Iraq once again? We’ve produced our fair share of atrocities regarding this region, carving out sections with chilling brutality and moulding it into the shape of our own desires, in classic Imperialistic style. However – who supposedly instigated or failed to prevent the atrocity of 9/11, in order to establish the War on Terror as a cover, whilst they pummelled the Middle East of its oil? It was the honourable Bush Jr. and the rest of his venerable administration, who, in order to advance geostrategic interests, may have allowed the initial occurrence as a clear excuse for an invasion. Sounds insane? Perhaps; however, it has been said that all legends have a basis in fact; similarly, all possible theories have a basis in truth. And as a result of such neglect, we were dragged in, in accordance with the demands of a military alliance: the debacle of the 2003 Iraq invasion is an illustration of such.

Is it ever possible to relinquish responsibility or involvement over a populace with whom you share an immense, bloody, twisted history? Clearly, neither the U.K nor the U.S. is against such an idea; both intend to free themselves from a bloodied entanglement with the Middle East and the Muslim community: with ISIS broadening its impact, one cannot question the logic behind tightened security and border control; however, it is the other reasons behind such measures that I intend to attack. Certainly, as John Bew, professor of War Studies at King’s College, London, states: “No matter who is in the White House, the US relationship with the UK is going to look slightly different.” Indeed, as current public opinion within the U.S. has revealed, Americans have grown tired of us “freeloading on U.S. security”.

Speaking as a member of Generation Z, I have – I will confess – been inclined to view past historical atrocities as part of the distant past; indeed, those of previous generations have exhibited a tendency to do the same. Such thinking is undoubtedly dangerous.  Indeed, currently, we are all witness to a close reincarnation of Adolf Hitler’s ascension into power: Trump is tapping into the existing pool of dissatisfaction within society, just as Hitler utilised the festering pool of resentment with Weimar Germany, exacerbated by the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. As well as heaping blame upon the government, which in both cases is justified; the scape-goat tends to be the immigrant population. In the case of the demolition of Weimar and Hitler’s ascension – the finger was pointed at the Jews. In the case of Trump – Muslims and Mexicans are placed under the radar. This is, as some may argue, far more understandable than Hitler’s anti-Semitism, which stemmed from a mixture of anti-Marxism, an insane belief in the Jewish ‘take-over’ of the world, a festering resentment of the affluent population due to a lifetime of economic hardship – however, this resentment didn’t appear to prevent him from kissing up to the German elite and accepting funding for Nazi campaigns. After all, Trump has ISIS to point the finger at, which is a predictable yet effective tactic – ISIS poses a definite threat, but many seem unable to separate the diaspora, the 1980s immigrant settler, and the rabid terrorist.

However, both don’t hesitate to reinforce the concept of the ‘alien population’ – and again, we are faced with the issue of history repeating itself. Let’s draw a comparison between 21st century London and 1930s Berlin: a significant portion of the population – our minorities – have become a sizeable chunk of the electorate, the children of the first-wave immigrants and their offspring have contributed to the economy; loyal taxpayers, contributors to the community, who have anglicised themselves effectively through the adoption of the Christian religion. On the other hand, according to members of the older British population, we have the “scum” or, in Hitler’s terms, the “outsiders”, “pouring across our borders unabated” according to Trump. Indeed, Trump’s stance is giving the older British populace the final nudge towards Brexit – however, in this situation, Britain is not responding with a half-hearted policy of appeasement.

The actions of our current hopefuls aren’t enough to prevent the onslaught of Trump support, and the subsequent wins scored at each primary. As of today, the delegate count for Trump is at 996, with 1,237 required for nomination; those Republicans who hoped for Ted Cruz as a stop-gap for Trump’s ascension will certainly be disappointed.  Cruz holds 565 delegates so far, which may seem promising; however, he has failed to grasp the majority within the key, influential states: Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire. Trump grasped the majority in the wake of the Super Tuesday flood; however, Democrat “Red Queen” Hillary Clinton scored a fair amount – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia – both have been thrust to the forefront as their party’s hopefuls.

So, what’s the common consensus regarding the Red Queen?  There are those who view her as the only likely candidate with the capability of defeating Trump: after winning every county in Alabama, and gaining close to 75% within most states, it’s fair to say that she’s proving herself a worthy contender. According to Simon Burns, Conservative MP for Chelmsford, Essex, Clinton is the “front runner” – whereas Bernie Sanders, the youth advocate, is a “third rate candidate, elected as a Socialist, not a Democrat”. Parallels between this “extremely interesting phenomenon” – according to Noan Chomsky – and Jeremy Corbyn have been drawn often enough; both securing the support of the youth, with a core group of devotees – both, also, unelectable.  Both are, in a similar manner to Trump, tapping into an existing core of dissatisfaction with the public – however, unlike Trump, Sander cannot inspire confidence among those with financial leanings. His attacks on Wall Street, whilst justifiable, are not a viable method of resistance – policy attacks on Wall Street need to aim to hold issues to account, not simply state the presence of a deficiency. His way cannot inspire a shift in confidence in him that will have a long term effect on his candidacy. Ultimately, it seems as if Sanders will have to rely on the surging and ever fluctuating tide of the youth vote whilst Trump and Clinton will continue to be beholden to the whims of their chosen electorate. I wouldn’t give up on Sanders just yet; president or no, he’s managed to successfully mobilise the youth vote against the background of the US presidential elections. This will last, and propel the youth initiative further into the laps of Congress.

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2016: Has the impetus gone?

I’m aware that I haven’t updated this blog for a very long time; the “apple” has not been polished. But I will reiterate: the impetus has not vanished completely. I will admit that I have had opportunities to write, during the summer months, but mitigating circumstances (family problems, self-doubt, insomnia etc.) have frequently prevented this.

I have one piece of advice for myself in 2016. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions; I believe in life-long resolutions. My advice: act older than your age. Don’t be lenient with yourself. Being young but “adult age”is essentially a handicap. You haven’t been churned out, fully formed, hardened and perfected clay, prepared to run the rat-race that has already begun. Surfacing from a psychotic break, as I am currently, there are three options: Up. Down. Stagnant.

This is an extremely disjointed, rather random collection of thoughts. Anyway, to summarise, my advice is as follows: always live in the future. Not the present. Focus; everything else is just white noise. Luckily, I’m more driven than I have ever been before. I’ll prove this as the months go on.

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“Mind-forg’d manacles”

Absurd, revolting and unpleasant; it is also submerged in its own mystical allure, possessed of an inescapable beauty, exquisitely expressed. Lolita will glimmer, a glistening diamond droplet within the inky letters of the erstwhile American critic, slavering at the mouth in his eagerness to deride. “Paedophilia”, “pornography”; dangerous words. Open the floodgates, ignite your righteous anger, prepare to denounce. Can we not regard it as an untouchable work of literature in its own right, untarnished by the instantaneous urge to condemn? Of course not, because each of us, however morally upright and comfortable in our own needs and desires, recognizes within Lolita a shred of oneself.
When presenting a valid opinion, it is necessary to locate a scoured, clean expanse of one’s mind in which to formulate such judgements. I, submerged in the comfortable smog of a determinedly disorganized brain, cannot begin to tackle such a Herculean task. Such is Lolita, a classic example of the unreliable narrator that characterises postmodern literature; oh, the joys of a slanted, one-sided viewpoint! Lolita: the novel that cannot be labelled. There are those who dismiss it as simplistic pornography, erotic literature enmeshed amongst esteemed relics. Some praise it as a divine work of refined, polished lexis, to be placed inside a glass case, dusted occasionally, looked upon with fleeting reverence. I could certainly add to the endless pools of homage surrounding Nabokov’s unequivocal, crafted prose. I gloried in his perfection; I yearned for his prowess. Each one of my senses was inverted, so immersed was I, bound tightly in his languorous ropes. Is Humbert a forty year old man with a desire for young girls on the cusp of adolescence? Yes. Very well: Humbert is a villain, a repellent specimen; yet Humbert is in love. Is Lolita the villainess, the scandalous siren, is she the temptation that drives Humbert to distraction? Or is she an innocent, innocuous twelve year old in pastel print frocks? She is neither: she is both at once.
Here is the conundrum: whose part shall we take? Because here we have two damaged human beings, one the victim of another’s hopeless lust, the other grappling with the monstrosities of his incongruous subconscious – a veritable “tangle of thorns”. Both pitiable, both irreparably damaged; however as Humbert himself was unintentionally aware, one could be saved. As the fictional foreword states, this novel should “make us – parents, social workers, educators – apply ourselves with greater vigilance and vision to the task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world”. Such a noble declaration; and yet it is a weak specimen, without sustenance; no amount of determined righteousness can hold it upright. If nothing else, Lolita demonstrates the absolute futility of even beginning the weary trek along the high road. If it was a simple work of base, sexual fervour, one could dismiss it as a didactic publication of morality: “and this, my dear disciples, is the fate the evils of lust condemn you to”. But there it is: “my heart was like snow under thin crimson skin”, “I would shed all my masculine pride—and literally crawl on my knees to your chair, my Lolita!” This mental image remains the constant, most profound creation this novel has to offer: Humbert, a wounded animal, mad with desire, crippled by love. As Krafft-Ebing so aptly affirmed: “The nucleus [of romantic love] is always to be found in an individual fetich which one person exercises over another.” Humbert’s subjugation to Lolita illustrates this to perfection: “you never deigned to believe that I could, without any specific designs, ever crave to bury my face in your plaid skirt.” The nucleus, the sweet kernel that holds within all the delectable nerve points of rapture, Humbert’s ardour, the pure flame of tenderness; when these become discernable for brief, cherished moments within Humbert’s narrative – that is the time to rejoice, to realize the inevitable truth: Humbert is a varied, sordid, mismatched representation of human lust, so insatiable, so determined. The reverence for the human body is illustrated consistently through Humbert’s yearning, convoluted prose: “apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, the sea-grapes of her lungs”. That is the moment to cast away your “mind-forg’d manacles” and fully appreciate the depraved, dogged, devoted nature of the ardent abuser. The simultaneous vulnerability and notoriety of the human spirit is comprehensible within Humbert, and the impartial reader can neither condemn, pity, nor seek to justify his actions. There can be no moral, no lesson learned, no placid sense of satisfaction. Here again, futility rears its hideous head.
Lolita has been branded as “art over morality”; an apt categorisation amongst the others that have floundered like moths, unable to stick to such a sublime work of dexterity. And what art it is, combining the honeyed tones of synaesthesia with hackneyed ones of convention. One must recall Nabokov’s “chess stratagem” (Speak, Memory), each manoeuvre carefully plotted, in order to grasp the full scope of such meticulous skill: “it is only when they are combined in a certain way that a problem is satisfying.” The pure, audacious genius of Nabokov: never was synaesthesia so fastidiously used, particularly, as Wakashima points out, in the case of double exposure: “the treatment of popular culture by means of temporal distortion.” The effect of this tool allows for a slightly distorted, adjusted America encapsulated within Lolita, an America undoubtedly fitting for the decadent nymphet at the centre of it all.
Lolita ceases to exist as an individual entity; she remains within Humbert’s idolatry, part of the endless stream of nymphets, dazzling, suffocating one with their palpable presence. However, Lolita is a stubborn streak of tenacious taupe against the canvas of untouched ivory. This unruly stripe, glittering beneath with elements of dusty rose and gold, consistently holds the fore of Humbert’s mind; a cancerous growth, impossible to extract. One cannot simply remove it with the prying, sterile prod of the inquisitorial psychoanalyst’s fingers; only a softer, feather-light touch would be successful in accomplishing this feat. A merciful critic would ache to clasp Lolita to their bosom, concealed from vultures who intend to gradually pick apart the threads that twine firmly together, maintaining this resplendent, baroque, intricate tapestry. Pick too hard, and the threads will unravel, leaving the stark foundations of Humbert’s reality behind: and the tapestry already has holes – the gaping chasm left by Dolores Haze’s character. Dolores Haze; following chapter ten she slips gently into hazy obscurity, never to surface again until the very end: bespectacled, world-worn, “frankly and hugely pregnant”. Dolly has no substance as a stand-alone character; she is overtaken, as Humbert’s perception dictates, by her corresponding duplicate: a tumultuous, wily, precocious nymphet. Indeed, the only occasions we see a fleeting glimpse of Dolores Haze in fierce Technicolour, cognizant, existing – are during Humbert’s feverish worship of Lolita, “the loveliest nymphet green-red-blue Priap himself could think up”.
And so, we shall condemn Humbert and in doing so, hand Dolores her divine retribution, her keys to inner salvation. Is it poetic justice? Yes. Is it realism? No. Nabokov deliberately denies Lolita her retribution, and Humbert his “redemption”, ruthlessly snatched by Quilty. Both Humbert and Quilty are “men of the world, in everything – sex, free verse, marksmanship”. Both are murderers, delivering the cruel blows: Humbert is softer, lacerating with care, whereas the other distributes the cold, calculating lechery with ease. The nature of Humbert’s abuse – delivered under the guise of love, but such a genuine, hard wearing love – shakes the very foundations of the psychotherapist’s brain. Such a judicious, conclusive brain; devoid of meaning, devoid of life.
One cannot attempt to put a label on desire, or human emotion. The idea in itself is repellent, as is the unceasing determination to categorise, box, label. An object of such intense skill as Nabokov’s is a tribute to all those young scholars entrenched in their heavy volumes of Homer, Joyce and Milton; their fatigued, prematurely aged eyes look up hopefully, in pursuit of something indefinable. Once this undiscovered entity is acquired, those scholars breathe out with relief, knowing they have found the perfect whole jewel, the cause of all frustration, the beautiful reward. This is why we are here, staring dry-eyed into the tremendous, all-encompassing vacuum of life, mad with fear, brimming with self-possession. And life stares back, in all its brutality, and lust, and abuse; the despair of children, their amorous abusers, their negligent mothers. We meet its gaze steadily, aware that we, as humanity, are responsible for the pain, and we remain a tiny clot holding back the onrush of the flood. We are responsible for the despair, therefore we must glory in it, because it is ours; it is self-made, thus irrefutable. The hollowness of morality, persistent hands clinging steadfastly to judgement, is never so clear when reading Lolita. Such work must be looked upon from a plane of pure intelligence, unencumbered by moral stipulations. There is still a part of her that hopes to breathe; so let her breathe.

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“A Fallen Woman”

We may like to believe that the idea of a “fallen woman” no longer exists in today’s society. However due to various factors, particularly the concept of religious faith, a woman who gives the impression of “enjoying” sexual relations as a man does is commonly labelled as immoral; a “whore”. Society’s definition of a whore is simply a woman who behaves like a man. However, this behaviour if exhibited in a male is simply regarded as normal behaviour; this is known as a double standard. A man can have sex as many times as he wishes before or after marriage and more often than not this is disregarded: whereas a woman is labelled “whore”, “slut”, one of “those girls” who doesn’t deserve respect. In what way does the amount of sex you have, and the amount of sexual partners, reflect your own mind and why does it degrade a woman to almost sub-human level if she chooses this path? A woman who enjoys sexual relations with various men is frequently ostracized by men and women alike in society. Indeed, this behaviour is almost encouraged through “girl on girl hatred”, often based on jealousy that men encourage, as if hoping to spread dissection through the ranks of women, to cripple us through dislike and envy of beautiful women, to make us blind.

“A consequence of female self-love is that the woman grows convinced of social worth. Her love for her body will be unqualified, which is the basis of female identification. If a woman loves her own body, she doesn’t grudge what other women do with theirs; if she loves femaleness, she champions its rights. It’s true what they say about women: Women are insatiable. We are greedy. Our appetites do need to be controlled if things are to stay in place. If the world were ours too, if we believed we could get away with it, we would ask for more love, more sex, more money, more commitment to children, more food, more care. These sexual, emotional, and physical demands would begin to extend to social demands: payment for care of the elderly, parental leave, childcare, etc. The force of female desire would be so great that society would truly have to reckon with what women want, in bed and in the world.”

― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

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(Day 5) “Love me, hate me, don’t ignore me” Ally Ross, TV critic, the Sun

To start with: Today, I was tired. And completely not in the mood to drag my butt up to Canary Wharf once again, with a twisted ankle to boot (it actually might very well be a sprain. I’ll have a limp for the rest of my miserable life).

And then to hear a shit ton of people boasting the fuck out about their results:

Ally Ross, TV critic for the Sun, reminded me of a scraggly pigeon and looked in need of more than a few breadcrumbs. He began with the word “passionate, a word so overused by many of the visiting journalists this week: “Make sure you’re passionate; it will show through your writing.” However, we were also told to avoid pandering to the audience. Ross also enlightened us with the following surprising information: “As you grow older, you become more cynical.”

You certainly don’t have to tell me that. I can’t remember the last time I uttered a sincere word to anyone, at least without a mocking tone of voice peppering my words. An apparently, criticism is worth all the hassle as long as you can “take what you dish out.” Though I have to admit, the freedom of writing for tabloids certainly does appeal to me, as it also does to Ally Ross. And of course, the wonders of being a TV critic are boundless. But, as cushy a number as it might be, I’m not suited to spending my career glued to the TV screen even if it is a brand new expensive one, free of charge from my editor, and watching crappy television. I doubt that my acute, language sensitive nerves could stand those 10-12 hours a day, to be perfectly honest, although all Sky channels are paid for. What unimagined luxury!

One question that really grabbed my interest was “How do you avoid writer’s block?” I doubt that any writer, old or young, exceptional or mediocre, has not come to grief stumbling upon the dreaded writer’s block at some point during their career. We were assured that as long as none of the pages you turned in were blank, you were onto a good thing. Personally, I’d rather turn in blank paper rather than a whole bunch of crap that I regret spending an hour of my life writing and would give anything to change. But of course, in this hard, remorseless world of journalism, it is virtually impossible to have your own way in anything. There is no real way to avoid writer’s block: you must simply deal with it as if it were a turn of the season head cold, bound to pass after a bit of cosseting and some prescribed medicine (in this case, I suppose it would be strenuous TV watching).

The title of this post may sound like the lyrics from a cheesy American love song, but it is in fact Ally Ross’s mantra, proving that all criticism is worthwhile. Especially your own. Therefore, I feel fully justified in giving my own opinion about his career. Journalism, as I am fully aware, encompasses all different types of communication whether it be on TV, reviews, news reports, websites, the lot. And all are similar, linked together in some way like missing pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The question is, are all the pieces needed?

Answer: yes. A jigsaw with a missing piece would be incomplete, there’s no doubt about that, and it would be impossible to replace it with a different piece. Therefore all the pieces are necessary, and it is all these separate pieces that create the world of journalism, that giant sphere of communication and contact that envelops us in its wireless connection embrace. Right, let’s go for another analogy: a tower of wooden blocks. Remove one of the lowest bricks, and the whole tower topples. But do the bricks crumble? No, they do not. They remain as unchanged as ever. And no, I’m not saying that the world of journalism can do without television reviews. I am simply saying: Would the absence of it made a great impact? Thanks to social media, there is little need to catch up on reviews of the latest shows and rely on the  journalist’s critical comments to piece together gossip about the actors.

I am for once aware of how satirical I may sound throughout this blog post. Now that I am aware, I am obliged to end it here: there is absolutely no fun in satire if you know you are trying too hard. I blame the influence of our esteemed critic. But maybe, Mr Ross, if you point me in the direction of a few good internships, yourself and your work will grow visibly more appealing before my eyes.

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Thinking for yourself: that’s the first step towards wisdom.

“I’d like to talk about feminism,” is what I would shout over the subsequent groans that would immediately resound if I were in a room full of people. And that, my friends, is one of the many joys of the Internet: being able to ramble on as long as I want about whatever I wish, and not have to hear the complaints of my long suffering listeners.

I do not entirely misunderstand the reaction such a topic would receive. Many of you – men and women alike – would groan at the ever present debate and aggravation this topic seems to spark. Men especially, whatever respect they may have for women and however open-minded they are towards feminism have a tendency to think, “God, it’s just another woman ranting again about how much better they are than us.” Many, despite acknowledging the relevance of this issue, believe that like many other important things in this world, it is better to be ignored, looked over, not talked about. But how the hell can any of us expect to resolve any kind of problem if we don’t talk about it? We must talk angrily, voraciously, and at length.

It doesn’t help there’s such a bit stink around the word, almost a taboo. In the words of Caitlin Moran, “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?” I myself am inclined to believe the latter.

Do you classify yourself as a person who can use their brain? Of course, all of us have brains, but not all of us use them, that much is obvious. As Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.” (I’m picking all these quotes from the deep recesses of my memory, by the way; no way did I just look them up on Google right now.) And if you did, in fact, have a brain that you could actually use, then you would be able to see for yourself what feminism is, instead of grabbing on to the opinion of another. Feminism does not mean that WOMEN ARE BETTER THAN MEN. No, it never has and never will mean that. Cast our mind back to your history lessons, and recall the suffragette movement of the nineteenth century. What were they campaigning for? The vote. What did men have? The vote. It’s all about equality, knuckleheads. Not a “who’s better than who” playground argument. (Though to hear some people talk about it, they might as well still be in nursery.)

This leads me onto another important topic: the issue of double standards. In today’s career world it is very easy to enter your late 20s or early 30s and not be married. The outcome of this for men is that they are viewed as focused, driven individuals. On the flip side, a woman in the same age group, also unmarried and without children, is looked upon by society as crazy, or simply undesirable despite the fact that she may have chosen to live her life this way. Who is it for anyone else to judge? A pointless question, I know; all we do every day of our lives is constantly judge the other lesser mortals littered about us. Another issue of the double standard is the constant figure of high school life: slut shaming. Yes, the pre-teens especially are guilty of this crime. At some American high-schools, girls have to cover up their legs so that they don’t “tempt” boys. And, apparently, it’s a girl’s fault if she gets raped because her clothes were “asking for it”. Such twisted mentality is almost physically sickening. A girl who wears garments that other girl tend to label with malice as “slutty” or “tarty” has, simply by the clothes she wears, placed herself in the category of “those girls” that aren’t allowed to say no. And therefore, if she is raped it is undoubtedly her fault, no questions asked. A “slut” my dear readers, is simply a woman who behaves like a man: the sexual appetite of a man is deemed “healthy” whereas on a woman it is deemed disgusting and unwomanly. I beg you to recall the Steubenville case. In this small town, boys were “culturally given the right to do whatever they wanted” and the rape of another minor, a fourteen year old girl, came to light. But here, my dear readers, the press is also to blame, mainly for taking the side of the two rapists e.g. CNN’s biased coverage of the case: “Two young footballers with such promising futures ahead of them…The boy collapsed into the arms of his attorney…my life is over, no one will want me now.” The victim received further hatred and death threats from social media because of this.

Furthermore, if a man has a chiseled, or strong, or sleek body it is universally accepted that he should flaunt it. A woman is seen as an object when she does this, and becomes the fantasy objective of the consumer.

That underlying consciousness that prompts the person to get the product or believe the concept because there was something pleasing to the senses offering it to them. But women are also criticized and ridiculed for doing this. However at the same time there is a constant pressure on women exerted by society to look attractive 24/7. In my opinion, a fat woman is more ostracized than a known serial killer/rapist would be walking down the street.

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(Day 4) “No extra words than a machine would have extra parts”

The above quote, my friends, describes exactly what a sentence in a good article should be like, according to the esteemed Mark Gilbert, Bloomberg News, who graced us with such wise words at the end of today’s session. Instead of admiration for his skill with metaphors, I felt a sense of dread. If anyone is guilty of putting extra words in a sentence, it’s me.

IMAG0471 (My mug shot.)

And of course, in the harried, harsh, unforgiving world that surrounds journalism and news today, I would certainly find it difficult to conform to the word limits of editors (time constraints could be met, perhaps, with practice). One of the skills so prized by Mark Gilbert is the skill of self-editing, which I unashamedly admit is lacking in myself. However, I think that the ability to self-edit effectively comes at a price: to an extent, it is almost self betrayal. When I type a sentence or paragraph that I can approve of completely (which is rare enough in itself) I am loathe to edit it in any conceivable way. Now, that may seem vain, but it’s the truth; if you take pride in your work then consequently you cannot bear it when the red pen slashes through your hard written work with as little mercy and as much brutality as a sharpened dagger.

But what I have found is that writing, when it is good writing, shouldn’t be at all hard to accomplish. Realistically, something that did not take a great deal of effort to write – almost none at all, if possible – would be better than an essay in which the author has struggled to pen two sentences that flowed, and tried and failed to make sense of their own mind and internal voice. Because that’s what it comes down to: the fluidity of the internal voice. It should be as serene and eternal as a flowing river; ever present, resurfacing at times of need. Unless of course you hit, as many writers have, the inevitable dam of writer’s block. I suppose that one of the beauties of journalism is that there is always something to write about; there is always a story, it is just a matter of finding it. You must probe the person you are interviewing to eke the story out of them, as if wringing out every drop of water from a dishcloth. As Mark Gilbert advised, it is better to sit in silence when interviewing: “Learn to shut the fuck up, and let them fill the space with words. People hate silence, it makes them uncomfortable.” This is certainly true; pretty obvious, when you realize it.

It is clear to me even more now, after today’s session and the sessions that preceded it, that to be a journalist you cannot be a one-trick pony. You must be “a carpenter with a toolbox” to quote Mr Gilbert, who also verified that you certainly don’t to be an expert on economics to work at a financial magazine.  If the job today does not require a screwdriver, get the hammer out instead, and wield it with the same scrupulous precision. When asked if he found financial journalism hard or boring, he answered, “It’s terrifying; but never hard. It’s about people, and people are always fascinating.” He likened it to throwing darts at a blackboard littered with topics; whichever one you hit is the topic of the day, and you make it into something worth reading. And this proves my previous point to be valid: it all depends on your own internal monologue, and whether you can make something interesting to the reader. This is why I am unable to convey any sense of aloofness or dispassion when I write, as I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts about the Mick Hume session we had on Saturday: how is one able to be less opinionated, yet still maintain the reader’s interest and allow for their own personal style? The answer is: you can’t. No, I will backtrack with haste; hell, of course you could, but it would be a complete waste of time for someone like me, who is unable to maintain any impartiality when discussing anything. The opinion is what makes it worth reading. If there’s no passion, there’s no point. Why should someone enjoy something you have written, or be affected by it, or experience any emotion whatsoever from it, if you yourself haven’t felt the same? And if you felt like shit when writing it, or were so dispirited and blasé about the entire thing, it would come across in the finished product. How do I know this? I read voraciously, any time, any place, anywhere. I read to take my mind of my own problems, I read to educate myself about other people and their problems, and other lives and times and places so different to my own. Having recently read Gone with the Wind (I intended to tackle it for a long time, but never got round to doing it until about a week ago) I can certainly detect fervour, zeal and vehemence when it drips off the pages of this book. The vibe, whether it is remorse, agitation, dedication, resentment; it should be as tangible as a boiled sweet. The aftertaste should remain on the tip of your tongue. I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been breathing; that’s what it seems like. Why should I stop writing? Why should I stop breathing? The response to both would be the same. For the true master of penmanship, writing should be what eating is to a starving person: a constant joy and craving. And if I have to relentlessly pimp myself to get what I want, then I will do it. In the words of recently deceased icon, Robin Williams: “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

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