* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

New beginnings

2 January 2003
Matt is breaking his programming

It starts here.

My field of vision is full of white, like:

* a blank sheet a paper

* the Antarctic

* the other side of a black hole

and it's oh-so-very slightly translucent, so I can't tell whether the shadows in what I see are real, or figments of my imagination, or ghosts.

Wait. Wait. The white is almost electric, piercing. I'm getting snow blindness. Wait! I'm seeing the very moment of creation. Wait! Black and yellow spots start dancing at the edge of my vision, and it's then that I have to escape --

Colours. Noise. People. Borders.

I'm in Borders on Charing Cross Road in the Literature section with a plastic bag clutched in my hand, I'm sweating, my skin feels like it's burning but not as much as my lungs and I'm gulping deep cool breaths.

Mother always said not to put bags on my head. Even though it was never really something that crossed my mind, it was one of the first growing-up safety tips I ever had. And I think everyone has it, along with Don't Drink Bleach and Don't Go Near Strange Dogs.

Both of which are fair enough actually. Both bleach and strange dogs can do you a lot of harm, as well as getting in cars with strangers, running across the road to fetch a stray football without looking, letting old men touch your Thing, and poking paperclips into plugsockets.

All good advice.


But, really, bags?

Your traditional plastic bag is fairly flimsy. In the event of any form of panic, it's not the most arduous thing to remove from your face. And it's a carrier bag, which means it carries things -- including both your head and, yes, a small air supply. Not to mention the happy accident of evolution of that peculiar and bizarre ability to hold your breath.

We've got lungs, people! It means we don't have to have air the whole time!

Frankly, I fail to see what's so dangerous about a paper bag over my head anyway.

The sudden sensory deprivation is not going to render a grown man or even small child insensible and throw them into fits of panic. A bag covering the face is not going to cause you to forget how to take it off, and certainly not for a whole minute or however long it would take for you to fall unconscious, and that only if the neck of the bag has somehow, maliciously tightened itself around your throat.

Plastic bags don't kill people. Guns kill people.

No, what it's all about is programming. It's a way of training, of indoctrinating children into society.

Think about it this way: I, in my parent hat, tell you, in your infant hat, that You Musn't Eat That Chocolate. If you eat it and I see you then you're going to get bawled at, and maybe in certain unenlightened parts of the world spanked, thrown down the stairs, molested, cattleprodded or otherwise punished. But if I (still wearing my parent hat) don't see you then you won't get punished, and the lessons you actually learn are:

* I can do whatever I want so long as I don't get caught; and

* Even though my parent says I can't do something, I can; and

* Mmmmm. Chocolate.

The ultimate problem here is that you like eating chocolate. You're being given an instruction which is plainly impossible and end up losing your faith in parents, society and the universe in general.


However! If your introduction to the world of taking instructions had been about something you had no inclination whatsoever to do, you'd simply never realise that you could break the rules. You'd just never be in a situation where you'd find that breaking a rule had no consequence.

Because who, really, would put plastic bag on their head, without prompting?

(Apart from tramps and hippies, which completely proves my point about realising the rules can be broken as social exclusion.)

And everything else is based on this. You believe that instructions actually mean something. Once the child is used to obeying one rule, another rule isn't so bad, and another, and another, until finally it's:

* Don't kill people

* Don't let old men touch your Thing, even for money

* Pay your taxes

* Say your prayers

* Get your hair cut

and you obey all of them.

All resting on this basic assumption, this unquestioned rule, that given a plastic bag, you mustn't put it on your head.

Yes, and that's why I'm here, in Borders, next to the Joseph Heller novels, catching my breath: I'm breaking my programming. I'm subverting the system. I'm taking the power back. In public!

It didn't kill me. I didn't inhale weird toxic plastic bag fumes. I didn't suffocate. I didn't go mad from sense deprivation, I didn't go blind, it didn't cling and wrap tightly and crawl down my gullet. I'm panting and I'm a little sweaty, but that's the worst of it.

So here! Have my trousers! No, keep my wallet. If I'm not paying taxes, I'm certainly not paying for books, and I'll never need to pay for another haircut.

Prayers, what are they? Laws?, you have no power over me.

Give me five bucks, you can touch my cock!

Now, where are the scissors? I want to go running.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
23 October 2003. Matt writes: Topology
2 October 2003. Matt writes: Haunted
8 September 2003. Matt writes: The Gardener's Diary
21 August 2003. Matt writes: The Starling Variable
31 July 2003. Matt writes: Two stories
14 July 2003. Matt writes: What is real?
23 June 2003. Matt writes: Mapping and journeys
29 May 2003. Matt writes: Extelligence
5 May 2003. Matt writes: Religious experiences
17 April 2003. Matt writes: Seeing the Light
27 March 2003. Matt writes: Flowering
10 March 2003. Matt writes: Climax state
10 February 2003. Matt writes: The Role of Cooperation in Human Interaction
20 January 2003. Matt writes: The same old subroutine
2 January 2003. Matt writes: New beginnings
9 December 2002. Matt writes: Packet Loss
18 November 2002. Matt writes: Wonderland
31 October 2002. Matt writes: Having and losing
10 October 2002. Matt writes: Trees of Knowledge
19 September 2002. Matt writes: The online life of bigplaty47
29 August 2002. Matt writes: Divorce
8 August 2002. Matt writes: How to get exactly what you want
18 July 2002. Matt writes: Eleven Graceland endings
27 June 2002. Matt writes: Listopad, Prague 1989
3 June 2002. Matt writes: Engram bullets
6 May 2002. Matt writes: Sound advice
15 April 2002. Matt writes: How it all works: Cars
21 March 2002. Matt writes: Proceeding to the next stage
25 February 2002. Matt writes: Spam quartet
31 January 2002. Matt writes: Person to person
7 January 2002. Matt writes: All for the best
13 December 2001. Matt writes: Life
19 November 2001. Matt writes: Giving is better than receiving
25 October 2001. Matt writes: Ludo
1 October 2001. Matt writes: Gifts, contracts, and whispers
6 September 2001. Matt writes: The world is ending
13 August 2001. Matt writes: The Church of Mrs Bins
16 July 2001. Matt writes: Things I Don't Have
25 June 2001. Matt writes: Fighting the Good Fight
31 May 2001. Matt writes: Code dependency
7 May 2001. Matt writes: Up The Arse, Or Not At All
5 April 2001. Matt writes: The increasing nonlinearity of time
19 March 2001. Matt writes: Hit Me Baby, One More Time
22 February 2001. Matt writes: Space, Matter, Cities, Sausages
29 January 2001. Matt writes: Truth in Advertising
1 January 2001. Matt writes: Six predictions for tomorrow
7 December 2000. Matt writes: You must reach this line to ride
16 November 2000. Matt writes: The truth about the leopard
23 October 2000. Matt writes: Shopping mauls
28 September 2000. Matt writes: Heavy traffic on the road to Utopia
4 September 2000. Matt writes: Sixty worlds a minute
17 July 2000. Matt writes: You, Me, and Face-space

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