chapter one – chapter one

For explanation of this blog, see Chapter One – Intro

“It is for you to place the beneficial yoke of reason round the necks of the unknown beings who inhabit other planets – still living, it may be, in the primitive state known as freedom. If they will not understand that we are bringing them mathematically infallible happiness, we shall be obliged to force them to be happy”

These are words from the novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, not an excerpt chronicling the memory of a 1997 cabinet meeting in A Journey. Unsurprisingly, Zamyatin was not popular in his home of Russia being exiled by both Tsarist and Communist Russia. We is not the first book of my one chapter undertaking, partly because it is not broken up into chapters but records instead. Once I’ve eased myself into this I might attempt books that shirk the conformity of chapters.

I have read the first chapter of The Diversity of Life by E O Wilson. Anyone who has read Edward O Wilson knows that he is one of the finest writers of science and is fascinated by ants. I am far more interested in ants than I was as a younger man. To take an interest in ants or termites is a sign of growing up. When you are young you want wildlife documentaries about mammals that roar and tear, the older you get, the smaller the creatures you want to see in a documentary. Many people in their late nineties will only watch documentaries if at least 72% of the episode is taken up with slime mold. In Chapter One of The Diversity of Life Wilson writes of one night in the Amazon Basin and the ideas that flickered through his mind as he sat waiting for a storm.

“In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon”

He writes of the darkness in the Amazon, so lush is the darkness that you can barely see your own hand. For any of us living even 30 miles from a city, it is hard to comprehend that without the bleed of a thousand distant streetlamps, falling into ditches would be far more common on a late night journey home.

“animals are masters of the chemical channels where we are idiots”

Wilson praises the majority of beasts who find their way around via scents diffused from tiny glands, though he goes onto write that despite our smelly gland deficiencies, we are much better on the audiovisual side. Soon we are on to ants, Wilson wonders why some organisms are so good at survival and proliferate while others fall towards extinction. Ants are the dominant subgroup of social insects. In the Amazon rainforest they are 10% of the biomass of all animals. I am fond of biomass. I am impressed that scientists work out the weight of different species on the earth, that is using mathematics for good not evil (and interesting good, not goody good good).

As ants work together and are content to make sacrifices for the good of the whole, they appear to have come up with a more successful system than the solitary creature (in the world , SKlub7 would thrive while Morrissey could be endangered. Actually, that’s not what would happen at all, Morrissey would suck them of their life energy and leave them as wrinkled husks, somewhere between the films Lifeforce and The Hunger).

Wilson writes of the scientists desire to be the first to make a connection.

“our goal is to capture and label a process, perhaps a chemical reaction or behaviour pattern driving an ecological change, a new way of classifying energy flow, or a relation between a predator and prey that preserves them both, almost anything at all.”

Red Howler Monkeys also get a look in once the storm begins –

Words I had to look up from reading Chapter one of The Diversity of Life

Eidetic – extraordinarily vivid recall

Notothenioid – fish that can live in very cold waters due to anti-freeze proteins in their blood

Then I watched Chapter one of the The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things DVD. This is based on the short story collection of JT Leroy, a Truman Capote like squeaky voiced young man who apparently had experienced a childhood of truck stop and trailer park hideousness, but who turned out to be a female author in her 30s when writing, and when appearing in public was played by that author’s partner’s half sister (wonderfully named Savannah Koop). It had that contemporary Gus Van Sant almost home movie look and I suspect it would becoming increasingly upsetting as an unbalanced mom (played by Asia Argento who also directed it) made her son do unspeakable things. Before the first unspeakable thing happened my computer insisted it needed to skip a bit due to surface damage. Then everything jammed. I liked the look of the aerobics show that was on in the background where after each move of exertion you had to declaim “Thank you Jesus”.

The Diversity of Life – keep

Heart is Deceitful Above All Things – will be given away at my show at Camden Head on 19th October (looked well made, well acted etc but so many films to get through)

(NOTE: as with all my blogs, I have failed to reread this. There are bound to be spelling mistakes and moments of ghastly punctuation. There are no prizes for pointing these out. Well, let’s see how this experiment goes)

NEXT GIG – 19th September Hyena York (at picturehouse) Solo Bad Book Club show

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