Seven. So much significance laid upon a single digit. In various cabbalistic systems it is considered auspicious, being the number of perfection. Yahweh, the Hebrew mythology tells us, created the whole she-big-bang in seven days. The Romans, when dice became popular, noticed seven came up more often than expected, and assumed that the number was intrinsically ‘lucky’. Actually, they just sucked at probability.
That’s all relevant to little, excepting that this is the seventh of these monthly columns I have produced for The Independent, and it occurred that I ought press my luck a little. By examining some of the feedback I have received, stating my intentions, and finally introducing myself. Fret not. There shall be no listing of pets, hobbies, scars, peccadilloes, or favorite gettin’-it-on positions. Think ‘introduction’ in a theatrical way. A prologue soliloquy, delivered before the curtain rises (forget that there have already been six performances), to set things up for you, the audience, and help you decide whether you care to stay to the end of the show.
Let’s do this in an orderly manner.
An important distinction
Let me start with the one misapprehension I encounter most. There appears to be no little confusion as to the difference between an article and a column. This be the latter. An article is a piece of journalism with implications of objectivity and reportage. What we have here is a column. An opinion piece, the opinion being mine. This is not to say that I ought not have my facts straight and be able to defend said opinion(s). It might even be the case that I am working that opinion out via this forum. Occasionally, these are more accurately described as reaction pieces. Rant and diatribe will also sometimes be suitable descriptors. My pieces are, admittedly, not always as intellectually rigid as I would like. That is, in part, due to my own limitations; in part because I tend to write ex tempore smartass and revise for length and rhythm, but less so for the argument itself. I’m lazy, is what I’m saying.
I am not a big fan of people as a group…
So, do not mistake this monthly series of screeds for journalism, as it is simply not so. It is one man’s take on a variety of subjects, filtered through his own experiences, preconceptions, and issues. If you find the product of that combination interesting, or amusing, even infuriating, you’re welcome to join me here each month. If not, why are you even still reading this?
Tone of voice
Another comment I encounter relates to my – what word suits? Manner? Tone? Well, my aim is to keep it conversational. To use my own voice. Not the more mystical, amorphous authorial ‘voice’, but to write this as I would to a comrade in an email or prattle off to them over steaming mugs. A friend tells me that when she reads these columns she can hear me speaking, as though I were expounding to her directly. This is exactly my aim. But, this also means that the pieces are rambling, wordy and profane. Just as I am.
I consider those otherwise innocuous words which we have been programmed to find offensive as the salt in the stew. I use discretion but in the sense that, like any spice, it is best utilized in appropriate quantities…
I got into this column gig hoping to rile and provoke and do that scowly, uncensored schtick which those around me seem to find so entertaining. It is certainly my impression that it is why I was asked to dance at this ball in the first place. However, I’ll admit that finding a balance between no-bullshit orator and belligerent crank has been difficult. No one wants a visit from their crotchety old uncle every month, with the same complaints, while having to send the kids off to play so that they don’t pick up any new, unauthorized vocabulary. I wish to often address big topics, usually make some salient observations, occasionally inspect my navel and, as often as possible, amuse. That is likely biting off more than I have any reasonable expectation of masticating, let alone forcing down my gullet, and damned certain it’s going to cause all manner of distress even if I do manage it.
Oh, dear, gracious me
There have been some complaints about the language in my pieces. Not my English. Few seem to care how much that gets mutilated nowadays. No, I refer to the quotient of irreverence and imprecation. The swarin’. As stated, this is me in often angry or irritated conversation. I consider those otherwise innocuous words which we have been programmed to find offensive as the salt in the stew. I use discretion but in the sense that, like any spice, it is best utilized in appropriate quantities, and at specific places in the cooking process. NB: I can also beat a metaphor until it begs for death.
To wit, for those who have, for example, mewled over the number of ‘F-bombs’ in my columns, I can offer no satisfaction. I find those who get their frillies bunched over profanity rather sad. I find those who use expressions like ‘the F-bomb’ both sad and hilarious. I asked the editors to restore the ‘viewer discretion’ warning at the top of this page and those with delicate sensibilities can go feed at another trough, with my best wishes.
I am not a big fan of people as a group. Not sure if it shows. Most of the exceptions, the people I do like/love, are women. They inform many of my opinions. They reign me in when appropriate and encourage me when, well, I am pretty sure when it bloody well amuses them, appropriate be damned. They are my friends, advisers and confidantes. I would never call myself a feminist, no more than I would refer to myself as a ‘masculist’, but I do hate seeing them hurt, mistreated, misjudged and underestimated. And will say so, here, despite that I am not female, and do not pretend to have any special insight into their workings. That said, I am often distressingly male, and might get it all twisted in testosterone. I love and respect them, but that does not mean I won’t sneak glances down their tops sometimes. Allegorically speaking, of course.
Some of the people, some of the time
I am realizing that having even a paltry readership means cutting a wide swath across the demographic field. And sometimes I don’t cut where I intended. I do often want to ‘go there’; to push the buttons. I am opinionated and have little heed for delicate sensibilities. I don’t apologize for it, but I don’t deny that it can (will) colour your interpretation of what I’m saying. Several times I have felt that I am not communicating properly, or have even misjudged my approach. It is very early, with a mere six posts to my name, and I still stumble and stutter. That’s my fault, and part of the process of finding balance.
Provocation is a good thing if it engages and prompts response, especially if it makes someone dissect their own stance.
I like to stir people, and at times use a purposely abrasive tone to that end. Provocation is a good thing if it engages and prompts response, especially if it makes someone dissect their own stance. I have never understood why ‘giving offense’ is held up as a crime, as though you have damaged someone’s bodily integrity; that offending another was something truly dire, like the Pope or Nickelback. Whitewashed sensibilities too often need a little dirt on them, if only so that the owner might examine them more closely during the subsequent scrubbing.
It’s also true that I can be needlessly belligerent and arrogant (this implies that there are times when belligerence and arrogance are needed, and I would make that argument). If it helps, I have mellowed quite a bit, and am considered by those who know me best to now be a pretty nice guy. This was not always the case. I try (try) these days to be less fractious and more thoughtful. Mind you, the thoughts are generally depraved, but I am certainly full of them.
I do not expect, nor desire, to please everyone and I’ve no issue with you disagreeing with me, getting riled or even unruly. No point being provocative and then complaining when people are provoked. I have, however, been advised by the very capable editor with whom I deal that, while I am welcome to address and/or rebut any readerly comments that come in, I ought weigh how much worth I place on my time, energy and sanity before doing so. I am convinced that this is excellent advice. So, while I might desire to put aside life and obligations in order to enlighten some benighted reader as to the error of their ways (and apparent lack of reading comprehension skills), I will instead wander away and suffer the refutatory blue balls.
The curtain rises
So, there it is. I am. Whichever. Prologue ended; audience oriented; expectations adjusted. Pleased to meet you. If this is not that for which you secured a ticket, please mind everyone’s feet in the dark on your way out. If you’re sticking around, feel free to heckle or applaud as you see fit. Oh, and for the love of anything holy, turn off the fucking phones.