Today I will share with you some thoughts that I have had. There is a theory that the human mind is not a machine for thinking, but that it is instead a device
for receiving ideas
that are broadcast throughout space
. These ideas were generated during the moment of creation, and have radiated through the universe ever since then. They react with information stored in the human memory, rather like Alka-Seltzer
dropped into a glass of water. The bubbles are thoughts
. It is fortunate for the universe that I am alive to receive its ideas, and it is fortunate for you that I am able to convert a fraction of them into writing. Perhaps, if I could receive enough ideas, and concentrate them into a single thought, I could create a new universe of my own
. A single giant big-bang bubble
derived from a single thought. I realise that there is no hope for the future. No matter how hard I try to square the circle
, I cannot find a way to rationalise my fate. I cannot find a way to reason with the cosmos. I do not know which is the worst nightmare. The nightmare in which time runs out
, or the nightmare in which time does not run out, and extends into an infinity of nothing
This is not the thought I would like to share with you tonight. It is too raw. The German phrase for "ham-fish cow-stick" is "Schinkenfisch-Kuhstock". I'll tell you why I know this. It's because I think about the food I eat. Humankind can be divided into three strata. There are those who do not contemplate their food. There are those who think of nothing but food. And there are those, such as myself, who think of food, but also think of other things. Food keeps me alive, but I do not obsess about it. At the same time, I appreciate food in its many forms. I make no distinction between high food and low food. Perhaps this is because I intersect so infrequently with high food. A few days ago I had chicken for tea, some bits of chicken that I had bought from Sainsbury's, a popular supermarket. The chicken had been formed into strips, and it was breaded, just like fish fingers, except that it was made of chicken. It was the kind of food that separates me from the people of San Francisco. They do not eat store-bought junk food. They eat expensive food, painstakingly prepared expensive food, from Japan, because they are trapped by their society. It gives them great wealth, but limits them. Fundamentally, it is always about money. If I had more money, I would not be a different person, on the inside. But no-one can see inside a person. People would see me in a different way, because they would be looking at my new iPod, or my expensive trousers, or my young man's toys. This is a theme I have dealt with before. Emotions and behaviour can be faked. Actors do it all the time. A person's clothes and personal style cannot be faked. A pair of expensive trousers are expensive trousers, whereas a smile can be a lie. Supermarket staff smile a lot, as they sit in their little booths. No-one cares if they are sad on the inside, as long as they are happy on the outside. If they are happy on the outside they keep their jobs. If they are sad on the outside they are sacked.
"The minute you walked in the joint/
I could see you were a man of distinction/
a real big spender"
That's from a musical called "Sweet Charity". It was written in the middle of the 1960s, and it was based on a film by Federico Fellini called "Nights of Cabiria". You have heard about this film. The Criterion Collection released it on DVD. You have read the blogs, you know about this film. I know you know, because I know you. I haven't seen it, I have only read about it, but I have read enough about it to give the impression that I have seen it. Let us return to the strips of chicken that I had for tea. Sainsbury's calls them chicken goujons, and so does Iceland. According to the internet, a goujon is a type of catfish that has a flat head. As I stood in the supermarket I was struck by a number of thoughts. The first thought was that the goujons were half-price, £1.40, which is very good. That solved the problem of what to have for tea. No more would I wander the supermarket in a state of confusion, hunger, and fear. The second thought was that chicken goujons are imitations of fish fingers. They are imitations of an imitation. Except that fish fingers are not imitations of fingers. And the chicken goujons are not imitations of fish fingers, they are imitations of fish. They are imitations of an inappropriate reality.
You see, the goujons are made out of chicken, but they are shaped to look like fish. I wonder why. Everybody loves chicken, whereas only a few people love fish. "Sushi. That's what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish." Chicken is inferior to nothing. It is the king of food. It would be more sensible for Sainsbury's to make their fish look like chicken, rather than the other way around. But I'm sure Sainsbury's has done a lot of market research, and there is a rational reason for this deception. Perhaps the people who shop at Sainsbury's like the idea of eating fish, or there is a tabloid-driven health craze for fish, but they prefer the reality of eating chicken, and Sainsbury's solves this problem by combining the two. I imagine a parallel universe in which Sainsbury's sells "ham-fish cow-sticks", which are fish fingers shaped to look like cows - and they have flavouring in them so that they taste of ham. And there is a picture of a sheep on the box. A sheep, covered in oysters, and the packet comes with a sachet of duck-flavoured sauce. I want you to tell me why beer does not taste like trifle.
I also wonder why Sainsbury's bothers to call them goujons at all. How many people even known that a goujon is a type of fish? Not many. I didn't. I assumed it was French for "strip", chosen instead of the word "strip", because in English the word "strip", conjures a negative mental image of someone whipping a cow with a great big bullwhip, and tearing off strips of flesh. Some people enjoy the thought of this, but not enough to keep Sainsbury's afloat. So why not call them chicken fingers? I believe it is because the idea of eating a chicken's fingers also feels slightly grim. Of course, chickens don't have fingers. They have little claws. But the important thing to bear in mind is that food is not rational, and supermarkets know this. Food bypasses the rational mind. It communicates directly to the chaotic, irrational dream mind, where thoughts and notions circulate, adrift from sense or sensibility. In the world of dreams, chickens can have fingers. It makes sense, on a half-asleep level, to imagine that chickens have fingers. They are animals like us, whereas fish are not animals. Fish don't even have arms. Chickens have arms. How else do they open cans? They peck them. But they need to hold them so that they can peck them.
We have come to accept the idea of fish fingers, partially because fish fingers were developed at a time when people were less squeamish about eating animals, and partially because we understand that they are not supposed to be the fingers of fish, they are instead mashed and pulped fish remnants that have been moulded into the shape of a finger. And even then, they are fingers in the same way that the Mull of Kintyre is a finger, rather than in the way that a human finger is a finger, by which I mean that they are not supposed to look like a person's fingers, they are supposed to look like fingers in the broad sense of the word fingers. It is hard to imagine fish having fingers, even on a surreal level. Cartoon representations of fish usually show them with articulate gills, but not with individual little fingers.
Really, it is not food that causes irrationality, it is physical lust. Supermarkets use food to create physical lust, and to sate it.
I have written a poem. It goes like this:
or a jambon goujon?"
It was more than six months.