Corona Diaries – VIII April through May 3

8

Finished Westworld series one today. It had an interesting ending, but was ultimately unsatisfying in the way some TV shows are these days – the puzzle solution is basic and doesn’t make sense, whilst the puzzle itself is engaging. It’s like the producers just wanted it to grip and confuse, and drive compulsive viewing, without worrying about the solution, the denouement. In fact, fully satisfying someone is the last thing a modern American Commercial TV producer would want their show to do.

I clean the loo, then walk. I translate some more of Bonjour Tristesse, then a package arrives. I carefully cut it open, dropping the packaging straight in the bin, and then clean it with washing up liquid and tissue paper – a copy of the 2013 penguin translation to check mine against when I get really confused.

9

In my morning youtube viewing, which seems to be my habit these days, I learn about the trend for ‘tiny houses’. I think about it on my walk. It’s an interesting development of millenial culture reacting to high house prices, which is to say housing market monopoly, and it essentially takes the form of a rebranding of living in a big static caravan.

I begin series two of Westworld. It’s less thought through than the first series, and the quality of the writing has dropped. The amazing thing about the first series, the exploration of cowboy western tropes and aspects of selfhood and fantasy, seems to have disappeared completely. If I were to be in charge of this series, I would have used it to examine just how false those western tropes were – have members of the other western theme park arrive, the realist theme park, anti-colonial, and see how things develop.

I begin to tidy my room, inspired by those minimalist living videos. I think my room is pretty well optimised considering the space. I use the dead space for storage. I could do with more shelves though. I end up picking up my poetry books and randomly translate a poem that Laura Riding wrote in french.

Later, I watch more about tiny houses, and realise that there might be a clash as tiny homeowners begin to bump up against anti traveller laws. Will there be bogus moralistic rules for the ‘Good’ little homeowners and then the nasty, restrictive laws for the ‘Bad’ caravaniers? Or maybe these tiny house owners will realise the oppression and restriction that stamps on travellers and Romani people, and start to take notice…

10

A gloomy day today, which always makes things harder, or at least focuses the difficulty through this idea of gloominess. I do more tidying, and it warms up later. Whilst tidying I listen to french electronica artist Fakear, and soundtrack my final chapter, imagining phrases and images as I work. That tends to be how I create, in images which I build into narratives or series.

As I go through my books, I read some D. H. Lawrence and see resentment splashed across the pages. The literal small mindedness. At least I have one less author to worry about now. Racist, anti-Semitic, anti-modern, he seems to think everyone else is fucked when the Ockham’s razor would indicate otherwise. The rotten grape thinks all the others seem too fat and sweet. I don’t feel guilty as I move his books to the charity pile.

11

I finish ‘How Democracy Ends’ by David Runciman. The weather outside is great. The book is written from a neutral position, which is useful but I find it odd. Identity politics might be a ‘dead end’ as it were, but isn’t chosen just because you like it. There are arguments that lead one to a position that you then support. People didn’t choose to polarise. It was an intitutional and media-driven process. Compromise is great, but if the machinery of a political system benefits the incumbents if they polarise a situation, then what do we expect to happen? We can’t moralise about identity politics without offering measures that will encourage collaborative and constructive engagement. If you don’t, you’re essentially leaving it to individuals to offer meaningless nods to the ‘other side’. Getting at people for having too much integrity in their morality, clinging to it too much. It’s a bit rich.

Later I am given the logic puzzle from the first Harry Potter by my sister. I am stubborn about trying to solve it, as I used to be good at logic puzzles. But I miss a key framing fact, which means ultimately I fail. Intelligence is strange, and often based on strategies for shaking yourself out of a rut. Looking afresh at pieces of information you thought were unproblematic, in case you’ve missed a key frame. There are only two of a certain potion, therefore the other rules are qualified.

12

For easter breakfast, I have a hot cross bun. With my friends we do a video chat easter egg unboxing. I then sort through the books I sorted through the other day, and take some back from the charity pile. It’s helpful to see how some opinions and decisions can be arrived at differently on different days, and there is no right or wrong answer.

13

Read Diana Athill’s little biographical work ‘Alive, alive, oh!’ It’s beautiful, one of the most memorable books I’ve read in a long time. Learning about her life makes me more optimistic about my own.

14

On the walk, I see a rat by the lake. They’re normally extremely jittery, but this one seems calm, just pottering around on the dirt. It seems like a pretty happy little mammal.

I think about the phenomenology of the seasons. How in winter, the outside world shrinks away out of consciousness, until it doesn’t play into your decisions, but as the weather heats there is a widening as parks, as the outside begins to reappear in your thoughts, til it is easy to lie in bed and feel the sizzling expanse of hot streets stretch away from you. How humidity changes the feel of distances. There must be a lot more to it, the calm and warmness of the bright sun, then the electric and repulsive heat in the midsummer midday.

15-21 April, No Notes Written

22

At lunch I become unstuck in time due to my neighbors. They have kids that look just like me and my sister did when we were kids, and as I sit looking out, it’s as if I have swung back to twenty years ago, and am sat looking out at myself.

I think, perhaps I will miss this framing, the lack of cars and planes, the loudness of the birds, the everyday walks, maybe for the rest of my life. If normal life could be more like this quarantine, but without the threat and hysteria… I would quite like it. Of course, I have a garden, and housefellows I don’t mind at all, in fact love.

As I wander down the path on my walk, I hear a drunk guy wandering on the other side of the road singing “Who let you think it’s over, it’s just begun…” He repeatedly asks who sang that. We don’t know.

23 April – 3 May, No Notes Written

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