Herman Studios Home


P'sMW- page 1
Four ducks

A painter's style

Thinking with Google

The Vulture's Throat

Tortures of the Damned

Memory & self

Hinduism & me

The Barber

Glasgow Smile

Airports

False advertising

Buttons

Govandhan pooja

Mean Streets

Population

Back in New Delhi

Buskers

Science & Philosophy

Happiness & Theory of the Mind

Boat races in Sarasota

Would you kill yourself to go on living?

More Happiness

Theo Jansen's kinetic sculpture

ebooks & writers

Arthur Ganson

Thai politics

Misanthropy

Dying

Googling our minds

Knowledge transfer

TEDtalks

Viggo

A study in ideal form

Fables

The Ant & the Grasshopper

Conceptual Art

The importance of punctuation

California, first impressions

India

Conspiracy theories

I love you; thanks’; you’re welcome

Errata

Fear

Egon & the other animals

A note about price:size ratio in paintings

Strange tales


P'sMW- page 2
Christ’s devil

Timelines

Life's funnel

Souvenirs

Moon Myth

How chaos was subdued in the Japanese genesis myth

Noah Lukeman & the murky world of today’s book publishing

Morality and religion

Music and Love

Temeris Mortis

The Dream

Peace

God's Tick

Old Man (short story)

Intuition

Curious Fact


P'sMW- page 3
Photos of the spring fair in Sevilla in a new window


Why Humans prefer other Humans to be like themselves

A letter to painters

Why do people talk?

The Painter's Eye

I'bn al Alhí's treasure (short story)

Associative Personality Disorder

Love poems, death poems

The Golem

Elitism in Art

Theory of the Mind

Shorter of breath, one day closer to death

Politics II

Rock & Roll

Words II- more words

Words

P'sMW- page 4

Confidence

How to steal from gullible artists

Priests behaving badly

How to make a painting

Oats & history

A note about signatures on paintings

Bob Dylan

Number of atheists among scientists

Theoretical physics & me

Faust & Mephistopheles

Children's reading habits

How to get good photos of fireworks

The 20th century

Further Dialogue on the 20th Century article (above) with comments by Bobby Porter

Love is

Civilisation

Martial Art as sport

Blind Boy Fuller


Becoming an artist

Insomniac notes

Mind-brain

Age


José Tomás


Black Adder


This is not a Blog

P'sMW- page 5
Chivalric ethics

Shibumi


Shibumi: Comments by Bobby Porter

The artist’s relationship to his work

Bobby's response
to The artist's relationship to his work

Egon

20,000+

Memories of my father II

P'sMW- page 6
Men & Women

Girls: come closer & I'll tell you a secret about men

Catholic Spain

Art is


Bad luck


Dogs are the Best People


Tough Love


Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story.


Cubans, Norwegians & me


From the Guggenheim to Santiago's tomb


Memories of my Father


Ecco il uomo


Divorce & maturity

Arcos de la Frontera


Inspiration & process


Bulls & men

P'sMW- page 7
Why do artists paint?

A Monk's Funeral


Pet theory


The Bicycle Thieves


Stories from here & there


Truth & beauty

Bugs as food

What is art? part II- Is modern art, art?

A painter’s thoughts about self-portraits


The Piraha of the Amazon jungle


Thailand: stories


P'sMW- page 8
We'd be better off without Religion

East Meets West


Thoughts on Memory

Scared

Frank Zappa

Art & Dreams by Ilene Skeen

Indoctrination

Rush to change names in Isaan

The Artist & Emotion


The art critic


What is Art? Part I


Note of introduction added to the Masculine-
feminine article

Rebuttal to Raymond S Kraft

P'sMW- page 9
I'm back!

Masculine versus feminine, Muslim versus Buddhist.


Driving with Muslims or Buddhists

Peter Feldstein & Stephen G Bloom's Oxford project

How to argue

On 'happiness', in answer to Ivan's comments.

Thoughts on Happiness

The birth of Chiang Mai

War Story

Happiness Versus Suffering

Cogitations upon observing the life of an ant, from its birth to its death by old age, while I lay in a bathtub.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11

At the beginning of what the media began calling the ‘Scopes II’ trial I thought it would become more polemical than it turned out. I began collecting media reports, commentary, cartoons, defences & attacks published here & there by some of our leading scientists -- I started at the very beginning & continued for about four months.

*  I collected everything from science & Church to morality, philosophy, etymology, politics, poetry & parody, like the clever & funny web-site called the Spaghetti Monster. Also a bit of history, historical quotes on the subject & transcriptions of interviews & debates with Richard Dawkins & the like.

* Unfortunately the trials weren’t as amusing as they might have been if the Intelligent Design camp had better arguments & more credible support but in the end I think I have compiled a fascinating & entertaining document.

* It covers both sides thoroughly &, I hope, with a minimum of repetition (& includes links to further reference).

* I have added my two cents here & there in red. It is chronological with dates noted.  I originally saved it to a very large (260 page) Word.doc which I have converted to 11 pages of web site weighing between 30 & 130 or so kbs each.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11


Self portrait Sept 09. oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self portrait May 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self-portrait Jan 31, 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches

Self-portrait May 2008

Self-portrait 1994. Oils on canvas on board 100 x 50 cm

Self portrait 2

Self portrait 4

Self-portrait 2004. Oils on gold ground on panel. 45 x 45 cm

Self portrait 5

Self portrait 6

Self portrait 7

Self-portrait 2007

Oil sketch. Oils on panel


myspace visitors

Search Search Herman Studios
Last updated- 3rd of January 2008

Self Portrait 2006


Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.
EDGAR DEGAS


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
SCOTT ADAMS

The artist... becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an offensive state.
JOHN F. KENNEDY

Click here to try Paul's fun & challenging:
Art-Q Quiz!
pg1 - pg2 - pg3

Mental Workshop- pg 1 | pg 2 | pg 3 | pg 4 | pg 5 | pg 6 | pg 7 | pg 8 | pg 9 |

<previous | next>
page 6

Thursday January 3rd, 2008

Men & Women (1060 words)

Beneath these words- part of a letter I received from Miss Jamie Sue Austin, a talented writer & original thinker with a keen sense of humour whose letters are always a delight. I had said something about my not wishing my twenty year old self on a twenty year old daughter of mine; despite Jamie Sue's answer being tongue-in-cheek I am inspired by her thoughts to disagree in no uncertain terms! (~below Jamie’s letter)

I suppose you, like so many other men, assume you will age like wine while the women around you age like milk. It’s more than a bit sexist: Paul, you could do the same thing with a forty-five year old woman [Paul’s note- 45: my age] as you would a younger one. The basic physiology being the same regardless of gravity’s effects.

Twenty year old boys teach twenty year old girls the virtue of patience and help grow them up properly into self-sacrificing martyrs. Otherwise, women might go their whole lives not knowing what unbridled selfishness looks like and never be fully aware that it is their place in life to give the very essence of their youth to every pursuit but their own. We couldn’t have that could we now? After all, if a woman is not sufficiently wrinkled, dried up, tired, broken, and miserable by the age of forty-five then she obviously was not giving enough.

In fact, I’ve decided that once I turn forty-five I will have myself put down like a gimp mare so as to spare the world my crow’s feet and soured face. They can take my sagging corpse to a knacker’s yard and turn me into premium false-eyelash glue.

I’m poking fun at you, of course. I just find it amusing that many men assume (or confidently believe) they will grow old gracefully, remain dynamic and interesting… and despite their greying hair, balding scalps, expanding stomachs, dragging balls, creaking hips, bum knees, and broken backs… women will always be in awe of their virility (even if it comes in little blue pills).

If women had the same inherent self confidence, the make-up and fashion industries would crumble, birth rates would plummet, more than a few governments would topple, and men everywhere would find themselves in serious want of a lay. It’s amazing how much of the world dynamic is driven by women’s lack of confidence and fear of getting old.

I would agree unreservedly with everything you say, Jamie Sue, if I didn’t think you start with a false premise: the confidence of which you speak has nothing to do with our believing in our continued attractiveness or virility into old age. As Bertrand Russel said: “Women have us at a disadvantage because where we fall in love with appearance, they fall in love with character.” 

I read the results of an interesting study that took the simple form of asking men & then women, what each felt was the most attractive aspect of the other gender. I don’t remember the exact statistical results but they went something like this: A majority of men answered: “The bum” then: “Breasts” after breasts, legs &, perhaps more sensitively: “A woman’s face”. The majority of women answered: “The way he walks.” As symbolic psychology I read this result not as women being turned on by visual prancing but rather the basic confidence a walk reflects. A man who walks with his head high & weight on feet (that point forward), gives an image of greater self-esteem & strength than a head lowered, pigeon-toed & cautious walk.

Women have the advantage (greater power) while young but lose it as they grow older-- more readily than men-- for these reasons. Women are moved sexually by romance novels while men are excited by visual stimuli like photographs of alluring women (showing once & for all that men have more imagination! Joking, just joking...). Imagine this situation: a man, an average man, is sitting all by himself in a lonely coin laundry waiting for the machines when in walks Jessica Alba like a spring breeze. She doesn’t hesitate but stops just before him & pulls off her little cotton dress to reveal she wears nothing else… she smells of Jasmine, her eyes are dilated, her cheeks- red, & she looks at the average man with vulnerable but unconcealed desire…

Most average men, however sincerely in-love & fulfilled as they may be with their mates, would not hesitate to decide this was a dream come true. Now reverse the situation- however attractive the man, the average girl who sits alone in the laundry will feel offended on principle & won’t be compelled by the same sexual attraction for the stranger as she might if he were fully clothed & smiled a charming & sensitive smile (think Jude Law) at her from the other end of the laundry.

It’s amazing how much of the world dynamic is driven by women’s lack of confidence and fear of getting old. by men’s competition with other men to have the more attractive woman according- largely & unfortunately, to men's biological desires & what women react to.

I once saw a billboard advertisement of a beautiful young woman in a bikini on the other side of the tracks of the subway in London. It was an advertisement selling beer or sporting car-tires or something equally masculine. Someone had risked her (presumably) life crossing the electrified tracks to spray-paint the words: THIS EXPLOITS WOMEN. I realised in that moment: It doesn't exploit women, it exploits men by convincing them to buy one beer instead of another by titillating their biological urges with a photograph of a very expensive model.

So while an unintelligent, uninteresting but beautiful young lady can turn an intelligent & powerful man into an idiot, so can a beautiful young lady fall sincerely in love with the strength of character & power (1) of a man no longer in his sexual prime, or simply: not sexually attractive in a physical sense- he is still a good nest-provider (& smart young ladies know older men are best!) I think about fifteen years difference makes the right balance (Like Nick Nolte & Julia Roberts in that silly film- I Love Trouble, though with his beautiful blue eyes, boy's smile & good hair one wouldn't guess it is actually 26 years that separates them).

(1) Power comes in many forms like Vin Diesel or Tony Soprano or Bill Gates
or Albert Einstein Return

P.S. There is more at work against women’s (& men’s) physical attractiveness than mere gravity!

16th of January:

Not surprisingly, I have had some disagreement voiced over the thoughts in this article- Doreen Dori writes from Israel with the argument that men peak sexually at eighteen while women don't until the mid-forties (really? Mid-forties? Is that true?) I'm not sure if by this she is suggesting the most viable base for a healthy relationship is sexual & if she is further suggesting that eighteen year old boys would be best off with middle-aged women but there you have it...

While an old friend of mine says she agrees with me: she also would not wish my twenty year old self on a hypothetical daughter of her own but neither would she recommend my present, 45 year old, self to her; to which the only answer I could think of was laughter! So let me clarify: what I said about the ideal age difference between men & women was meant tongue-in-cheek, speaking as I was, from the Paul who is a chemical robot motivated by biology instead of intellect & who cannot help being attracted to women of the same age as he was fifteen years ago.

Wednesday January 2nd, 2008

Ego- click to enlarge

Tuesday December 25th, 2007 Merry Christmas!

Girls: come closer & I’ll tell you a secret about men (630 words)

I guess by now everyone knows that, to an extent at least, we humans are chemical automata. Indeed, it is difficult to believe how recent the scientific knowledge is (mid-twentieth century). The surge of Oxytocin a mother experiences upon seeing her baby for the first time binds her emotionally to it; though it feel like nothing more than an objective experience of mother’s love. Serotonin accompanies romantic love & Dopamine: passionate.

In a short few years we have developed all kinds of subtle, thought, mood & personality adjusters that can make the clinically depressed see the bright side, the schizophrenic take a break from their tortured paranoia.

These chemicals are the couriers for attitude adjustment dictated by our biological ethos*, based on the will all living things have to reproduce/replicate. So we have a clear link between biological mandate, or impetus, & psychology, or more precisely: what we think (or what we think we think!).

The zoologist, Desmond Morris, wrote in one of his many excellent books: Why are human females the only mammals with hemispherical mammaries? All mammals have pendulant, conical or tubular breasts with which to feed their young, all except women. It is sometimes difficult for the human baby to find the nipple &, apparently, there is even danger of its suffocating while trying to feed at its mother’s breast. Morris answers with: We are among the very few mammals that make love face to face & so evolution has titillated men with the view of a décolletage as substitute for the primordial bum that would have been the call to sex for males from before the time we stood upright.

If you agree with me so far I think you will find the consequent conclusion logical, i.e.- The fundamental difference between the psychology of male & female Homo sperm Sapiens is based on the biological fact that men create 250,000 seed a day while women have just one precious egg a month… 12 a year, about 500 between puberty & menopause; compared to 5 billion spermatozoa... for a life-time total ratio of 10 million to 1.

In this world of finishing schools abolished in the name of feminism & egalitarianism, the women of the last two or three generations, have forgotten the feminine arts & men have forgotten the pleasures of being manipulated by them.

Here is the secret girls: When a man falls in love with you & no matter how well you trust him, never let him know you are entirely his & he will happily chase you the rest of your life trying to conquer you definitively. But if he ever feels perfectly safe, in possession of you, he cannot help the nature of the beast who will look over your shoulder as he hugs you- for the conquest of a more attractive alternative.

I saw an interview with Marcello Mastroianni not long before he died where the interlocutor asked: As a famous Latin-Lover, would you say you have seduced, or been seduced more often? Marcello shook his head with a low chuckle & answered: No, it is always & in all cases, the woman who seduces. So don’t lie to your man, don’t cheat on him, but do use the feminine arts to keep seducing him forever.

If you think this sounds like an insincere or even cynical way of approaching a relationship I would beg to differ- it is as romantic as putting on make-up & as honest as remembering to say why you love him -- even after you have to trudge through the mud of mundanity together, instead of staring pie-eyed in the face of the mystery you imbue with meaning by projecting your desires on to his clean-shaven, well-dressed, lust-filled & attentive first date.

* ...& similar chemicals for all flora, fauna, bacteria, Archaea, Eukaryota, fungi… Return...

Comment

Saturday December 22nd, 2007

Catholic Spain (1240 words)

In 1492, the same year Ferdinand & Isabel sent Columbus to sail the ocean blue, the Catholic Kings, as they are affectionately known here in Spain, also finished expelling the last Jews. Actually, they weren’t all expelled- the ‘conversos’ who denied their religion & culture, who traded olive oil for lard, kosher for pork, Sabbath for high Mass, were allowed to stay. I guess that sounds like it makes the first statement true: all Jews were expelled leaving only those who were no longer Jewish, but in-fact many who stayed remained Jewish in their hearts & secretly brought their children up Jewish.

As an aside, because this essay is not about those Jews, being Jewish, or even Fernando & Isabela: I remember reading in the fifth volume (if I remember correctly- the Renaissance tome) of that most charming of historians, Will Durant’s, History of Civilization-- that like the Parsee in Persia (the followers of Zoroaster)-- the Spanish Jews took to ships & tried to find a new home. They sailed from the South of Spain across the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean but weren’t allowed to disembark in Portugal*. They went on to the Bay of Biscay but weren’t welcomed in France either.  Britain also turned them away but in Holland (the Low Lands) they were given berth. Durant concludes: from that point on, Spain goes downhill while Holland goes up (Spinoza, whose original Spanish name was- Espinoza, was one of them).

The Jews weren’t the only victims of the Christian God’s representatives. After centuries of struggle it was the Catholic Kings who finally vanquished the last Moorish stronghold & signed a treaty of surrender that allowed King Boabdil (who had been so very tolerant of the Christian fundamentalists’ insults to Islam in his Kingdom) & a limited number of his people to live in a certain area around Granada- forever. TheyChopping heads with God's benediction in Catholic Spain waited two weeks until they felt their power was consolidated & then threw Boabdil out too (but not the treaty- I have read it). There is a spot on the route followed by Boabdil & his retinue between Granada & the sea where the king turned from the last vantage point to see his beloved Granada, the fecund jewel of the Moorish kingdom (the abundance of fresh water supplied by the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, literally: 'snowed mountain range'). The spot has been called: El Suspiro del Moro, The Moor’s Sigh, ever since. Worse was in store for him when he got home: having forfeited a 9 centuries-old kingdom, he cried disconsolately for his loss & shame, prompting his mother to remark: Cry like a woman for that which you weren’t able to defend like a man!”

The Catholic Kings went on to a distinguished career as, possibly, the cruellest religious despots in history, or at least- they laid the groundwork for four centuries of atrocities carried out in the name of their benevolent & forgiving God. The Holy Christian Crusades crossed the sea to ‘re'capture Jerusalem from the infidels & were followed by the ‘Conquistadores’ ('conquerors'), Cortes & Pizarro, among others, who crossed the ocean & managed to wipe off the face of the earth two old cultures, 8 million people, in three years,** even though they had already stolen-- by right of arms-- all the gold in the country.

After Atahualpa had successfully filled one room with gold & two with silver in exchange of his freedom, Pizarro decided to kill him anyway- his grounds? He merited execution because he was an infidel. Atahualpa baulked at being burned alive, because he believed if he were, he would have no afterlife. The priest (Pizarro’s partner) offered an exquisitely ironic redemption: if Atahualpa converted to Christianity he would be allowed to die garrotted instead of burnt. Ironic on the one hand because when he converted to Christianity the charges against him as infidel no longer held & on the other, because his conversion to the Christian creed was motivated by a belief in a different religion.

Pizarro & the priest offered this option only in the hopes that the Inca would all convert once the king had, & could therefore be governed more easily. Instead, the Inca turned to the new king & were, shortly after, dispatched by uncommonly efficient, cold-blooded murder.

Most of the Gold came to Spain only to be spent in Holland (which belonged to Spain through most of the 16 & 17th centuries) where it stayed.

Then there was the Sainted Inquisition who held brutal & corrupt political sway well into the nineteenth century. I bought, at auction in Madrid, an eighteenth century book (published by the offices of the Inquisition in wood-block instead of moveable type***) that describes in detail how to torture Jews in order to save their souls.

What a religious history! Spain’s church make the most vengeful Greek God seem harmless fluff…

I also have a photograph of a church in a small town in Spain near which I once lived. It wasn’t a photo of the unremarkable church however, but of the tiles near the main entrance painted with Christ floating above the words: This church was rebuilt in 1936 after the Marxist hordes destroyed it. The ‘Marxist hordes’ refers to the Spanish Republicans who lost the civil war to the dictator- Franco. Once Franco was in power he had the children taught, in Catholic schools, that these very bad men & the cruelty both excused & imposed by the Church, were actually good men doing the right thing. So, right up to the end of the twentieth century Spain has had a violent & corrupt church.

How does today’s Spaniard feel about his Catholicism? I read of a census that was taken just a few years ago that claimed 76% of Spanish people were Catholic. But when the researchers went on to ask questions about the religion, its moral infrastructure & tenets, they found that the answers given only qualified 19% as actually Catholic. But more impressive than that, I would say, is the way Spanish people swear. I am not even talking about the vulgar swearing one doesn’t say in front of children, but common swearing when one drops a hammer on his foot or sips coffee that is too hot; in front of children, on television... Are you ready? Please don’t read on if you will be offended- Me cago en la cara de Dios & la Puta Madre que le parió! Or- I shit on the face of God & the whore mother who bore him…! Can someone capable of saying that really be God-fearing?

I think the tradition is deep but in their hearts they are cynical.

* actually some did cross into Portugal by land but they & the others already there, were treated even more brutally a few years later as Ferdinand & Isabel's Catholisism gained in power & spread its influence. Return

** in a world that probably held fewer than a billion people, each culture largely isolated from the others, meaning: it makes ‘8 million’ people an even more outrageous number if the people that any single culture might be aware of at that time could probably be measured in the tens of millions. Return

*** Wood-block printing only allows small editions as the blocks quickly wear out; this book was not meant for the pleasure of the reading public (in France Voltaire was leading the age of Enlightenment at the around the same time) but rather the spiritual edification & practical instruction of priest/torturers. When I hold it in my hands I wonder at whose bloody fingers turned its leaves in its 200+ years... Return

Comment

TOP

Tuesday December 12th, 2007

ART IS KNOWING WHEN TO STOP.

Tuesday December 11th, 2007

Death & the farmer from the 'Dance of Death' series by Hans Holbein the Younger,
first published in 1538 (printed from wood-block). Click to see the nice detail in the background landscape.

'Death & the farmer' by Hans Holbein the Younger

Monday December 10th, 2007

Bad luck. (440 words)

I was walking with a friend in the country-side that surrounded my house just south of Chiang Mai, Thailand, with its mix of paddy fields, tropical growth & the occasional charming hamlet of bamboo dwellings that straddles the dirt path. We had just passed through one of these little, lost-in-time villages, when I noticed in the irrigation ditch that ran along the edge of the road some small, clay, figurines of people & animals. They had obviously been discarded, indeed, were positively strewn in an array of desolate rejection. I noticed immediately that in typical Thai fashion they were beautifully stylised & confidently wrought. As I reached to them while wondering why anyone would throw them away, the Thai friend I walked with noticed what I was doing & screamed an urgent command: “DON’T TOUCH THEM!”

It turns out that when one is having an unusually long or deep run of bad luck the old woman of the village, who knows about these things, will make the effigial figurines as symbols of the negative emotions that can bring bad luck or invite the spirit who curses you with it. The victim holds the little clay water buffalo of ignorance, duck of vanity, human figure of envy, or whichever are appropriate, in his hands while the old woman draws the bad luck down the arms from the shoulders to the sun-dried clay, while intoning Buddhist mantras (like all religions, one often wonders what the rites have to do with the gods whose names are invoked!) until finally, when all the bad luck is transferred, the bad attitudes that brought it are thrown in a ditch & abandoned.

Later, when I had time to think about it, I realised this tradition was anything but a baseless superstition or even a simple religious ceremony but rather a symbolic & ritualistic introspective psychology. It does not ask of any God or spirit to remove the bad luck the sufferer feels is unjust, but requires instead a facing of the actions that brought the ill-luck by its victim. I bet the practice of Western psychology would benefit a great deal by putting a face to the concepts.

To the Thai they are not, as they were to me, lovely little examples of an evolved yet naïf, traditional art, but rather living entities that seethed with a black & evil energy that might be contagioned by anyone foolish enough to pick them up. A fact of life too real to my alarmed Thai friend for me to ignore & I had to leave the objects where they lay though I would have liked to take them.

Comment

Sunday December 2nd, 2007

Dogs are the Best People. (1030 words)

I have been around dogs all of my life & despite the title of this essay I do not, therefore, anthropomorphise their characters- I have seen my bitches eat their still-borns. I once had a pair from the same litter who had never been separated but when one was run over by a car at three years old, his sister sniffed his convulsing body, wagged her tail & licked at his blood; if I had let her she probably would have eaten his body. Not to mention the first face transplant patient who needed the operation because her faithful dog had eaten her old face while she lay knocked out on drugs & alcohol.

I read a book written by that wonderful zoologist, Desmond Morris, on the subject of dogs. He explained why small dogs will attack large ones, like a man attacking an elephant, as if they didn’t notice how hopelessly outmatched they are. The instincts that make the larger dog reticent to retaliate as part of nature's way of protecting puppies from the ire of their adult pack, can encourage the small dog. He goes on to explain that as different as is the appearance of a Chihuahua & Great Dane, a Pomeranian & a Bull Mastiff, they are in fact the same species, if you mix their gametes together you get: a dog. And so, despite the variety that comes of man’s genetic tinkering, the dog, in his heart, whatever its size- still feels he is a wolf.

ToulouseThis morning I was remembering one of my favourite dogs, Toulouse (I name them all after artists), now dead of old age at fourteen. A dog whose life I saved from Parvo while she was still a pup, with an old horse syringe with which I gave her five subcutaneous shots of plasma daily to keep her hydrated while her body fought the virus that wouldn’t let her absorb water or nutrients through her digestive system.

We travelled a lot in her youth & I think for a time she felt the English army Land Rover I had then was home & the other places were just incidental stopping points we visited. This may have been how she learned the very convenient habit that if we were ever separated she would go back to my car to wait for me. I often convinced hotels who didn’t allow dogs to take us by telling them the truth: she was better behaved than I. She was always by my side wherever I went & if I had to enter someplace she wasn’t allowed like say, a cinema, I would tell her to sit & wait & she would spend the two hours watching the spot I disappeared, ignoring the throngs that passed her in either direction & waiting for me to re-appear.

An excellent dog & deeply in love with me.

One time I was painting extensive murals in the house of a client who had a beautiful English Pit Bull, fifteen kilos of murderous muscle & sharp teeth. I worked in his house for months & he would keep his dog outside while mine kept me company inside. One Pit Bull (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) day the owner was talking to me from outside the mosquito-net doors, his dog beside him, mine beside me. The dogs were used to each other & were of opposite gender so they didn’t bother each other but on this day, as Ted & I talked & the dogs sniffed each other through the screen, it occurred to Toulouse to growl… the Pit Bull didn’t hesitate but simply walked through the mosquito screen as if it wasn’t there & despite weighing half as much as my dog & only reaching a third of her height, within a couple of seconds he had her turned over onto her back as he held her by her chest in his huge & powerful jaw. I, aghast, managed to grab Toulouse & separate her from the enraged beast & holding her in my arms while he continued to try & grab her I looked up at Ted & shouted: “Grab your dog!” But Ted put his hands & eyebrows up & said simply: “No way Man!” I held my dog as high up as I could but as I had seen the Pit Bull jump effortlessly to the top of the two metre stone wall that surrounded the property in order to patrol, I knew I wasn’t nearly tall enough for my ploy to be effective.

As I turned one way & another making it difficult for him to reach her his frustrated rage led him to clamp instead on my left knee but with a lucky right knee I dislodged him before his jaw locked but not before he was able to rip a neat & bleeding gash. I could see clearly that we three large animals were no match for the little 15 kilo killing machine & I tried the only alternative that I could think of, to the losing battle I was fighting: I backed a few paces & threw my dog into the interior swimming pool just hoping the Pit Bull wouldn’t follow. As he approached the edge of the pool I looked desperately for a weapon but found myself grabbing the only thing at hand- a floatation device, not what I would recommend in a fight to the death with a furious Pit Bull. While I tried to keep him at bay with the plastic children’s toy Toulouse kept trying to get out of the pool but I repeatedly kicked her back in, taking dangerous seconds from my guard to do so, when… all of a sudden it was over, the Pit Bull was suddenly not angry any more, his daemonic face reverting to its habitual & handsome smile-- his stub of a tail moving back & forth. Ted then acted & took the dog back outside while I slid the glass doors over the dog-shaped hole in the mosquito screen.

With typical doggie logic though, my Toulouse showed no fear of her nemesis the following day but was afraid of swimming pools the rest of her life.

Comment

TOP

Saturday December 1st, 2007

Picasso's Dad

Friday November 30th, 2007

Tough Love. (235 words)

Boy! This page seems to be filling with thoughts of love, coincidence? Well, this short post, at least, has no sex in it!

Though I’m sure some people everywhere in this wide world practice what they describe as ‘tough love’ it seems to me a particularly & peculiarly American shortcoming. The description of a concept that doesn’t in-fact exist, love is not tough, love is gentle, considerate, sensitive.

Tough love is nothing but an armour suit inside of which one can safely keep his deep emotions & through which he need never feel others’. It reminds me of Sicilian women who have told me without a trace of irony: He only hits me because he loves me.

If one’s influence on another through the use of this weak & cowardly tool is successful it is for the wrong reasons: either wanting to live up to the wielder’s expectations or a submissive fear of his censure. While the healthier impact is motivated instead, by respect & trust.

I think Aesop would have taught the children of a thousand generations a far more beneficial lesson if the ant, after his summer’s toil, had said to the freezing & hungry grasshopper: Sure Brother, come on in, we’ve worked so hard this summer that now your cheering music is just what we need to get us through the long winter (thank goodness you spent the summer practicing).

15th of December:

I have now received so many agreeing comments (without one to counter) that I feel
I should mention it: I have been surprised to find how many people have raised their voices to express the solidarity they have always felt for the footloose & artistic grasshopper in the face of the self-righteous & smug ant who unfeelingly closes the door leaving the grasshopper to a slow, painful & sure death. Heartening, but then I have always been of the opinion that man, as a whole, can generally be counted on to do the good thing if not the right one.

Thursday November 29th, 2007

Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story. (1520 words)

I arrived in London after an 11,000 kilometre flight to see Kate. I was planning to stay with a friend who has a big house in Hampstead, but at the last minute I take Kate's invitation to one of the cute little flats her record label use to put up music industry people.  Very posh, South Ken, quiet, views of the church. I see she has stocked (or, more likely, sent her P.A. with a list) the fridge with delicacies, left a carefully chosen variety of CDs' (from our conversations about music) & finally: seems to have gotten to know me so well that the 4 or 5 books she has left by the bedside were all ones I already owned. 

We met that night and it was sheer delight, I remember laughter like I haven't laughed in years.  I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when I see others laugh like that, jealous of my own childhood when Charlie Chaplin could do it to me.  And that first night after hours of excited and absorbing talk, our eyes hardly ever leaving each other’s- I remember her singing Summertime for me in her rich soul singer's voice in the depth and darkness of Green Park at 5 o'clock in the morning.  Making love which is love, talking of the joy of feeling that way forever...

The 21 year old girl, Kate, who I fell in love with and seduced through writing; letters that took each of us through a range of profound emotion during a period of six weeks, after an exciting three hour meeting on an airplane. We were separated by an empty seat but we talked with ever greater interest as we flew high over our planet, and our hands began to trespass the no-man’s land.

Our correspondence shared so many intimate thoughts & sentiments that were mutual, that we felt we knew each other better than if we had come to know each other in person; we each felt here was the real I unperturbed by difficult-to-read physical attractions or dilution in the quotidian mundanities- we knew each other because of a pristine mental exchange, what we had was real & my everyday life, 11,000 kilometres away, began to turn around our usually- thrice daily, exchanges.

She was exactly what she said she was: an ambitious, successful, talented and intelligent girl, six fluent languages including one dead, ancient Greek.  First university degree earned at nineteen, with all the advantages of an unusually wealthy father.

The giving, sensitive, sincere and wholesome ‘Kate of the letters’ however, turned out to be the invention of a much crasser (often drunken) Kate.  She thinks she is enjoying a wild youth, when in-fact we who are older know, she is just making an empty space in her future memories.  I rejected her and even in the end, her overtures of friendship.  I have always found it difficult to follow disillusioned love with friendship. 

At first my romance stricken eyes make excuses for her bad behaviour (spoiled I thought), made excuses for the strange habit of ordering a cocktail each at the bar, plus 6 shots of tequila lined up and shot back, 3 each, before taking our cocktails to a table...  She was busy with work, we met when we could, but mostly it was at night she was mine.  As often as not she would climb into the bed I was already asleep in.  We would make love and talk ‘til morning.

One night at four I was wakened by a telephone call from a desperately drunken Kate.  “I have never drunk so much! I don’t know where I am! I should go to a hospital!” At first I don’t take it seriously, I tell her to get in a cab.  I wait a few minutes and call back, “Are you in a cab?” After a few phone calls, where I even get her to put bystanders on the phone, (who told me they are outside a now closed club in Leicester square) I am dressed.  Finally I call and a man answers, a black man, who says, laughing: I don’t know who you’re calling, but I have just stolen this phone…

I organise with the doorman, giving him my mobile number in case she turns up, with instructions to sit her down in the lobby and call me.  I explain that though she may sound like a tramp, calling drunk in the middle of the night, because of who her father is she is actually a kidnap victim in potential...  I get in a cab and go to Leicester square, a big place with clubs down its side streets as well as perimeter.  I walk awhile, dressed in crisply ironed white shirt, blue jeans and shark skin cowboy boots, perhaps the only perfectly sober person on the wide streets of London at 5 o’clock this Friday morning.

It is deserted, but eventually I find a group of four people and sure enough one of them is Kate, evidently not nearly as drunk as she sounded on the phone.  I walk up behind her taking her by the waist (she: surprised and delighted: “Paul! What are you doing here?), I nod to the group and say: This girl’s with me.  I keep walking.  Her girlfriend Megan (a hanger on) and the two men, are momentarily non-plussed, but Kate doesn’t fall into step and the two men break in.
 
I have faced off and had the odd scuffle in times recent to this writing but I haven’t been in a real fight for years.  If I stop to imagine myself in a dangerous fight I can see myself having such thoughts as: I’m too old, I don’t want to get hurt, is it worth it?  And yet I know I made those decisions (about cowardice) a long time ago, and when faced with the real situation I won’t reconsider my options.  It is not that I overcome my very real fear of death but just that because of those time-worn decisions I forget it in the appropriate moment.

The two men are between me and Kate whom I can see hands over mouth giggling.  They are both gym giants, one towers over me, handsome- with bulging muscles covered in tight tee-shirt and jailhouse tattoos.  The other not much taller than me but significantly wider, shaved head, baseball cap on backwards.  The big one is in my face, hands either side of me, he’s shouting, surro