memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘observations’ Category

The texture of memory

The texture of memory.

Human weakness

Human weakness.

Lady Lazarus

The University of South Carolina has developed a sociology course dedicated to the life, work and rise to fame of pop star Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame is to be taught by Professor Mathieu Deflem, a fan of the singer. The course description aims to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours. My personal opinion of this High Priestess of the Iconography of Popular Culture is that, while she is a talented singer with a great voice and is undoubtedly at the cutting edge of dance and fashion etc., her videos show a leaning towards the macabre and have sado-masochistic overtones, which (call me old-fashioned) make them unsuitable viewing for children.



Let’s listen in on a possible first lecture of the course, shall we? –          « … Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, aka. Lady Gaga, was born on March 28th 1986 in New York City ….. ….. right, that’s it for today; now for your assignment I want you guys to gather into groups of four or five and watch with attention the video of POKER FACE and then sit around discussing your reactions to it, kinda brain-storming session, word-association with flow-charts …. Anything that pops into your head, anything at all is cool … and even if nothing whatsoever occurs, that’s cool too (NRR – Negative Response Reflex). Later, at the Fraternity House: –          Hi guys, some of us are going round to Brad’s pit later to discuss some aspects of Wittgenstein’s theory of Logical Positivism over squash and cookies! It should be a real blast; why don’t you all join us? –          Tempting, it sounds like a real hoot, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to give Brad’s bash a miss this time; we’ve got to stay in tonight and work on our Lady Gaga assignment which is due in tomorrow; it’s important for this semester’s grades. –          What a drag, bad luck! –          Yeah, while you guys are having a good time discussing and debating the night away, spare a thought for us lot having to stay in and  get blathered and watch Lady Gaga videos and have ideas and stuff.  

Eye-catching Headline

I must say one sees some rather odd headlines in our newspaper:



Due to lack of funding, one assumes.


Thirty nine shades of grey

You’ve all heard of the grey areas of moral/ethical/sexual protocol in the bedroom (and how a certain book caused the sales of hand-cuffs to rocket by 400% in the UK alone) arresting stuff no doubt but let’s not go there.

Allow me instead to introduce you to the world of grey food.

Not rather grey, not quite grey, not fairly grey, not greyish but completely grey, utterly grey, absolutely grey – a dismal, dreary, drab, depressing grey.

The Chinese have a saying: may you live in exciting times.

 (Well we certainly do live in exciting times, what with our various crises – economic, ecological, socio and geo-political, moral and spiritual).

 But the Spanish greeting: may nothing new happen to you today is more to my taste, so the following incident took me by surprise.

 It was unexpected; it came at me from an angle low on my left flank when I was looking the other way.

 (It was a bolt out of the blue).

It’s dinner time. First there is the usual yellow soup which is OK if one is partial to that kind of thing – as for me I can take it or leave it but what the heck we eat to live here (not the other way round).

Then you can knock me sideways and call me Dick Turpin if the main course doesn’t turn out be more soup; but not just any old soup; this stuff is special; this stuff is grey!

Well I’ll be jiggered, I think, whatever will these inventive and resourceful people come up with next? Blue spaghetti, green potatoes … anyway grey soup was a «first» for me.

Brief description:

•             Name:   Farinho de pão

•             Colour:  Grey

•             Odour:  Fishy, definitely fishy

•             Shape:  Amorphous

•             Texture:   Viscose

We are served thus: a dose/dollop/splurge of the stuff/substance is ladled/sloshed onto our (not-soup-but-normal) plates, in such a way that there is a slight danger of the capillary effect coming into play in cases of plate-overload (which can be messy, very messy).

The buzz-word of the meal (farinho de pão) started at one end of the dining hall and spread/creaked/whined/rumbled from table to table like a mournful mantra.

 I calculate that these immortal words (farinho de pão) were repeated (in tedious succession) between 50 and 60 times.

Hey-ho, grey thoughts on a grey day.


(The following two posts are extracted from my memoirs THE WAITING ROOM pub. January 2011).


During the course of my second brain procedure I died.

I heard the surgeon calmly call the time of my death and the nurses disconnect me from the various machines and screens which had been monitoring my existence, wash my head and change my bandages, straighten me out and fold my hands decorously over my heart. Then the last of them quietly left the operating theatre and I was left in silence.

The silence deepened as the floor beneath my bed opened and slowly and soundlessly my bed descended on hydraulics, the flaps of the floor, now the ceiling, closing smoothly above my head. I found myself in a sort of crypt and my dream started to turn into a nightmare.

To stay the series of shuddering images and visions and in order to fix them in my mind, I will attempt to describe the vast vault.

It stretched away to a horizon in the same dreary flat monochromatic tan colours of the desert under a dull sky (even the sky was sand-coloured). The bed on which I was lying was in a murky cave giving out onto the landscape and had pieces of furniture carved out of sand around it: a chair, a table and a pré-dieu in front of a tablet or icon. There were figures about the place too – silent sand-effigies, one kneeling at the pré-dieu and the two others standing at the foot of the bed – inanimate, frozen.

Outside the hospital I heard the fire-engines’ sirens giving two mournful wails; of course, I thought, with the logic of dreams – one for a birth and two for a death (one for a girl, two for a boy, three for sorrow and four for joy).

Presently I noticed some stairs cut out of the inevitable sand ascending to a door in the ceiling. Sometimes a doctor would appear in his white coat and begin to descend the stairs slowly and backwards, the image was smooth and coherent at first but began to break up towards the bottom of the stairs, like a person flickering jerkily in a flashing strobe-light … then he was at the top of the stairs again and would repeat the backward descent … an extraordinarily sinister manifestation.

The horror of my situation grew on me.

Presumably the morticians would presently fetch me from this sullen hall.

I despaired.

Her smiling face

The smooth face of a pretty young girl of eighteen is an untold story.

Before the heaving swaying voyage

Down the corridor of the years

Before the bounding intake of breath

Before the aching pangs

Of a bad romance

Before the striving

Before churning down the lanes

Of the waters of life

Before eye-opening knowledge

Widens her understanding

And travel broadens her outlook

The smile-lines at the corners

Of her honey-coloured eyes

Her increasing skills

Her gift of caring

All these blessed attributes

Will fill her cup to the brim.

Time, my Lady, in due season,

Shall trace its kindly lineaments

Across your smiling face.

But not yet, my Lady,

Not yet.


The Moslem Calendar

The Moslem new year

The Moslem calendar is different from our Gregorian one. For a start the years are lunar-based and therefore 10 or 11 days shorter than our (solar-based) Western system. Then, where we count back to the year of the birth of Christ, the Moslem year one is predicated on the Hegira (Mohammed’s flight from Mecca to Medina).

Thus in 1978 the current Islamic year was 1398.

Actually I remember reading somewhere that modern science has demonstrated that our (Julian) calendar, established during the reign of Pope Gregory in the 6th century, was computed erroneously (by six years) and that Jesus Christ was born in 6 B.C, or in other words, He was born six years before He was born.

(This makes nonsense, by the way, of the well-meaning literalists who attempt to impugn significance in the dispersion of the various astrological bodies in the night skies eg. the twinkle twinkle little star that three wise men were following).

The lunar month has 29 and a half days and thus Moslem months are not tied to the seasons as in our calendar. Religious days and holidays are rotative and therefore have no fixed date; (only our Easter is a moveable feast, being based on lunar calculations).

Days begin at sunset rather than at midnight – the night of a day therefore precedes the day rather than following it, i.e. Monday night is the evening before Monday.

Some Algerian calendars were printed with both the Gregorian and the Islamic dates. They were read from right to left. While the Gregorian calendar had been officially adopted, the Islamic one was still used and dictated the holy days (or holidays).

Meanwhile my guitar gently weeps

Opiate Of The People

Towards the end of the 19th century (earth-time) a German Jew called Karl Marx, a political philosopher who was living in London, wrote Das Kapital which was to become one of the foundation stones of Communism.

In this book which was basically an attack on Capitalism, one of the many quotable aphorisms is: Religion is the Opiate of the People.


Now at the beginning of the 21st century might I suggest to your Excellencies that one change this to: Football is the Opiate of the People.

Football, in case anyone reading this is from another System in the Galaxy, is a game where twenty two grown men are paid mind-bogglingly huge sums of money to kick a a dead pig’s bladder around a field for ninety of their earth minutes.

I know, I know … go figure, there’s no accounting for taste, is there? But you will really fall out of your chairs when I inform your Excellencies that this, often unedifying spectacle of testosterone-fueled louts throwing tantrums when they lose, can be watched by up to a billion natives of this planet.

The inspection team is nearing completion of its assignment on this distant rock (there are just a couple of belief-systems we need to look at again in the eastern part of the planet) then we’re out of here!

Our recommendation is that the classification of this world should be downgraded from C (promising) to C- (disappointing).

Quote of the day

A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84)


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