Nothing to see here – move on!

March 24, 2008

There hasn’t been much action on this blog lately, but now I can guarantee you all that there won’t be any for the next while. However, this time I have a good excuse. My American road trip has kicked off, and you can read all about, and follow the daily updates at:

www.roadsidediaries.org

See you on the other site!

Love,

Jacob


Learning to drive

January 31, 2008

I’m learning to drive. I never really wanted to, but now the lack of powers that be has shown me the way. And not just any which way – no sir, the American Highway. I’m heading out in little over a month, and there ain’t no turning back. I can feel the pressure mounting. It’s a good thing, I guess, but it feels fucking terrible.

I never thought learning to drive would be this hard. I mean, everybody drives. You don’t even have to be literate or anything. A driver’s license isn’t something to be ambitious about. It doesn’t amount to anything in and of itself. It certainly isn’t a valid goal in life. It’s just another of them human rights. A tiny box to be checked off in the curriculum of life. If you don’t have it, people might pity you at best. But then again, people aren’t always right. And if they are, I’m certainly wrong.

So far, my little motorized adventure on the streets of Copenhagen has brought me nothing but black, bad, sad luck. The strictly theoretical part of it was a seemingly endless stream of wearisome late night classes in a dingy back room full of impatient youths and driveling (pun intended) teachers. When we were finally let out onto the road I fell into the hands of a crank driving instructor who drained my bank account, and gave me nothing but bad habits in return. Tough luck, they told me, and put me up with a she-devil. Competent and all, I must admit, but a she-devil nonetheless.

Since then I’ve suffered several nervous breakdowns right there behind the wheel. And all the she-devil does is pull the brakes, and smile at me. I gotta love her for it, though. If she did anything more, I might end up strangling her. That’s how bad it is with me. Sweaty hands desperately hanging on to the wheel, shoulders locked in position just below my ears. And don’t tell me that’s how all newbies drive. I’m not a newbie, you see. Not anymore. I’ve had some 40 plus lessons, you know.

Lately I’ve taken up what you might call a more reflexive attitude towards the whole thing. It began with the realization that I’ve been hitching rides all of my adult life. That’s how I made it around Europe as a teen. That’s how I fared on the roads from Iceland to Tasmania. And it doesn’t stop there. No, sir. It extends all the way into my social, financial, creative, and perhaps even metaphysical turns of life (including “political” on the list would be tautological, considering the representative nature of our democracy). I’ve been hitching rides on the backseat of other people’s lives ever since I was given one of my own.

I’m not confessing for pity and understanding. Hell no. The eternal witnesses of dumb matter and energy knows that I’ve been living it to the full. I’ve shaken the dust, sped down the road, and taken some nasty curves, too. Still, the metaphor rings true. I’m a backseat driver – and a pretty good one at that, never lost track of the map – but still a backseat driver. I guess that’s what’s holding me back. But no more. Or so I like to tell myself.

Today the she-devil pointed out to two things to me. I drive a jerky car, and I don’t look ahead to anticipate the traffic. To get a feel for the flow of driving I must learn to plan my moves in advance. No more sudden starts and stops. No more last minute swerving to avoid the obstacles on the road. It doesn’t take me anywhere in the long run. Rather, it keeps me falling behind. And it sure doesn’t lead to no driver’s license. If I’m serious about climbing into the driver’s seat and getting behind the wheel, I have to learn the rules of the game. No matter how much I despise them – the rules as well as the game. They’re here to stay, and I’m not. The parking-meter just keeps chewing away at my dimes. Sooner or later I’m gonna run out – whether of gas or money doesn’t matter much. I’m gonna run out.

Strange how Jim Morrison should chant “keep your eyes on the road / and your hands upon the wheel”. Perhaps he felt a bit like me. For sure, he crashed. And I don’t wanna end up a wreck. I might, though, if I keep up my rant, and fall in love with my metaphor (I’m a romantic at heart, you know). So I think I’d better park right here. Get in gear, and get a move on. See you on the road!


Why Great Revolutions Will Become More Rare

October 18, 2007

America is only a few months away now, and preparations are in full swing. I’m currently pursuing several literary paths to gain a more acute understanding of my European predecessors and their take on that promised land of dreams and opportunity. One such predecessor is Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote his “On the Democracy in America” way back in the 1830s.

Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont originally travelled to America on behalf of the French government to conduct a survey of the American prison administration. However, curiosity and fascination got the better of them, and they decided to probe deeper into the mysteries of the young nation. Beaumont wrote the novel Marie about afro-american slavery, whereas Tocqueville went on to write his magnus opus about the democratic institutions of America.

“On the Democracy in America” is an overall enthusiastic – if somewhat theoretical – piece of writing. Tocqueville is clearly impressed with the democratic mindset of the Americans, and he constantly compares it to what he considers the dull and dated mindset of the more aristocratically inclined Europeans. But his praise isn’t blind. Every now and then, worry and anxiety creeps in between the lines. The following is an excerpt from chapter 21, entitled “Why great revolutions will become more rare”:

Alexis de Tocqueville

As I stand amidst the ruins of our revolutions, do I really dare speak it? Do I dare say that revolutions are not what I fear the most for coming generations? If we continue to wander restlessly around our own narrow circles of domestic interest, we may ultimately shut ourselves off from those great and powerful public emotions which perturb nations – but which also develop and renew them. Seeing how property changes hands continually – how wealth is pursued with incessant ardor – I cannot but fear that we might reach a point where every new theory is considered a threat, every innovation an irksome toil, and every social reform a stepping-stone to revolution. Then the race of men shall refuse to move any further, afraid of being moved too far.

I dread the day when man shall no longer be able to control his cowardly love of passing joys, when he shall lose interest in the future of himself and his descendants – the day when he shall prefer to glide along the easy current of life rather than make an effort to change its direction according to his own will.

It is a common belief that modern society is a changing society. However, I am afraid that it will become too rooted in its own institutions, in its own prejudices and mannerisms, and that the evolution of man will stop in its tracks. The human mind will forever circle the same point. New ideas will no longer present themselves. Man will ultimately waste his powers on small, isolated matters of no consequence, and though in constant motion will cease to advance.

You might call it too simple or too pessimistic – but as always with Tocqueville, there’s something to it that I just can’t help but feel rings true. I know that prophecy tends to be a lot like astrology – generalized and ambigious – but at least this time I’ll have the retrospective advantage of checking it all out for myself.

So to all the people who have accused my trip to the US of being as defocused and derailed as the life of your average modern man: here’s the enquiry to keep us all together on our tacky toes! Has the old American dream stopped Western civilization in its tracks, or do we still have places left to go? Attempted answers will be available soon at:

www.roadsidediaries.org


al-Arabiya launches news site in English!

August 31, 2007

As of August this year – that is, like, now! – the Arabic news portal al-Arabiya is also available in English. They’ve decided to become an Arabic voice in the English-speaking parts of the world, presenting news both International and Middle Eastern.

I’m all eager to follow their slant on International top stories, and find out how they maneouvre in the hotbed of their own backyard. Up here we could sure use a few more local angles from down there.

I’ve added a link in the news section of my blogroll. Use it!


One more reason to do stuff

August 31, 2007

Last night I was watching “The five obstructions” by Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier. I have watched it before, only this time it kicked off a train of thoughts about art and the urge to create. I won’t go into any details about the movie, so if you haven’t seen it just consider it a point of reference. The following isn’t about the movie anyway. It is about little me – and pretty preposterous, come to think of it.

To me, interesting art is personal art. And personal art is art created not only by but also for yourself. As soon as you start creating it for others, it loses the edge that makes it interesting. I can be entertained by the stuff that was made with an audience in mind, but rarely can I be intrigued by it. Why is it so?

I believe the answer to this question to be connected to the question of art in itself. Why do we make it in the first place? Well, deep down at the bottom of our vast chemical souls, I think we create in order to be able to stand ourselves, to face ourselves. We’re all well aware of the overall pointlessness of our creations, but still we keep at it. Some insist that they do it for the sake of others, but only they who readily agree that they do it for themselves and noone but – only they can I truly relate to, and be truly inspired by.

I guess it’s all got to do with being in tune with yourself. If you aren’t in tune with yourself – if you aren’t clear about your own basest motives – your creations just doesn’t ring true. That’s why it’s such a fucking cacophony out there! It gives me a headache everytime I walk out the door, or log on to the internet. So if you wanna play God, please admit to yourself that’s what you’re doing. Don’t give me any bull about you knowing what I want. Rip out your own fucking heart, and maybe then I’ll come have a share of it.

Sorry, this wasn’t meant to be reproachful or admonishing. It just came out that way.


When ya ain’t got nottin’ t’ say, it’s good ya got somebody t’ say it for ya

July 2, 2007

This is the story o’ Hezekiah Jones
Hezekiah Jones lived in a place in Arkansas
An’ he never had too much ‘cept he had some land
An’ he had a couple hogs and things like that

‘never had much money but ‘e
Spent what he didn’t make as fast as he made it
So it never really mattered
That he had much money

But, in the cupboard there
He kept in the cupboard
Kept in the cupboard, books
He called the books his “Rainy Season”

White folks around th’ county there talked about Hezekiah
They said: “Uh, well-l-l … ol’ Hezekiah, he’s … he’s harmless enough
But the way I see it he better put down them goddam books
Readin’ ain’t no good fer an ignorant nigger”

One day the white man’s preacher came ’round
Knockin’ on doors
Knockin’ on all the doors in the county
‘e knocked on Hezekiah’s door

‘e sez: “Hezekiah, you b’lieve in the Lord?”
Hezekiah sez: “Well-l-l, I don’t know
I never really seen the Lord …
I can’t say as I do”

‘e sez: “Hezekiah, you b’lieve in the church?”
Hezekiah sez: “Well the church is divided ain’t they?
They can’t make up their minds, I, why I’m just like them
I can’t make up mine neither”

‘e sez: “Hezekiah, d’ya b’lieve that if a man is good
Heaven is his last reward?”
Hezekiah sez: “I’m good!
Good as my neighbor”

“You don’t b’lieve in nothin’!” said the white man’s preacher
“You don’t b’lieve in nothin’!”. “Oh yes I do!” sez Hezikiah
“I believe that a man should be indebted to his neighbor
Not for the reward of a Heaven, or of a fear o’ hell fire”

“But you don’t understand!”
said the white man’s preacher
“There’s a lot of good ways
For a man to be wicked …”

An’ they hung Hezikiah as high as a pidgeon
White folks around there said
“Well-l-l … He had it comin’ …
‘Cause the son-of-a-bitch never had no religion!”


Strange Days (now playing)

June 25, 2007

Is blogging supposed to be an act of penance? My own little private confession booth where I mostly opt for silence? Think not. Probably in the words of some wisecrack philosopher, come to think of it: Think not! Well, conscientious penance it is. At the moment everything is. Food, drink, sex, sleep not included. That’d be the day. Strange day indeed. Locked inside a prison of my own device. Seems like my intellect has folded. Gone to the woods not to discover, when it dies, that it has not lived. A friend told me always to delete the last paragraph of any text you write. The paragraph where art dies and opinion takes over, you know. Guess it holds true for the first paragraph as well. The paragraph where your fingers rediscover the joy of typing. To hell with it. This is a blog. This is penance.

I am staying in a halfway-house that spells ”routine” the wrong way ’round, and tells me it doesn’t add up. I’d sleep on the floor anytime soon. One of my housemates just poured himself a cup of coffee. At two’o’clock – O Clock! – on a Monday morning. Says it all, doesn’t it? ”Anatomy of a Murder” ate away my evening. I went for chicken biryani instead. James Stewart is brilliant, but why should I sympathize with a jealous husband who shoots up his wife’s lover? Rape must have had a different ring to it back in the fifties. So had Duke Ellington. Never thought I’d see him as a grey-in-grey pie-eyed pianoman on the silver screen.

I’m going to the US&A in February. Is the American dream a divider or a uniter? A week a state. How long is it gonna take before I find out? Is life gonna keep deleting its final paragraphs too? Maybe, maybe not. Hot hot hot. Sounds more like child’s play to me. Anyway, I’m going, and I’m looking forward to it. Truly, I am. Just like I’m looking forward to Bulgaria. That’s next month, by the way. And my girlfriend’s coming along too. Not bad. Not bad at all. Houses hanging onto the edge of cliffs like scared sheep caught up in vines. And below, the river. The river runs through it. Through it all. The Buddha displaced the gods.

All in all I must’ve spend some two or three years studying Sanskrit. Yesterday I had my first occasion for practising it outside of university grounds. A friend wanted me to translate a couple of words for a wedding ring inscription. It took me six hours to come up with a proper suggestion. Wouldn’t wanna mess up a wedding ring, would you? Wouldn’t wanna mess up the only solid piece of work to survive you. The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare. I’m in it for the quotations. I said that.

It’s not that … It’s just that … On and on a-rolling. Does a document document? So help me Art! Have you ever emptied an ashtray to convince yourself that you smoke less than you do? Have you ever emptied a bottle to prepare for sleep? This is turning into yet another last paragraph.

I love to fix bikes when the garden is flowery, when the weather is warm, when my friends are around, when there’s beer in the fridge. I even like to ride them. The American dream is an American car, and I’m gonna learn to drive one. Wonder if I’ll like it, wonder if I’ll love it. Did you know that the Bulgarian national epic is titled ”Under the Yoke”? My love of freedom is so intense. I’m gonna blog whenever the hell I feel like it. Hail to penance! It’s a process of learning. No harder than riding a bike, no harder than driving a car. I reckon and I figure. The floor is calling. Think I’ll go for the bed instead. Rhyme is reason. Let’s swim to the moon.