Susie Orbach (2016) In Therapy. How conversations with psychotherapist really work. Becky Walsh (2007) Advanced Psychic Development.

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I read both of these books very quickly in one day. Years ago I tried bending spoons when Uri Geller was on telly. It didn’t work then. Let’s just say it wouldn’t work now. But good on him, I say, the multimillionaire got away with it. There’s that moment in Elmer Gantry when Burt Lancaster gets caught up in his own rhetoric, he convinces himself he’s not a fraud. So far, so human. The most dangerous type of human is the one that is never wrong We’ve got the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse as an ongoing exhibit.

Susie Orbach’s conversations are, as you’d expect, low key. She doesn’t claim any otherworldly powers, or perhaps she does, in our increasingly fraught world, she listens, really listens. She’s there in the moment. And she smiles. That’s important. Like Judy Garland clicking her heels three times in the The Wizard of Oz, Orbach smiles three times. Numerology is very powerful. If the analysand doesn’t smile back then she knows the relationship won’t work.

Becky Walsh tells her readers that ‘The word personality’ comes from the Greek word per-sona, meaning ‘through sound’, personality being the expression of ourselves through sound.

Sound is a form of energy and each of us is…well… you know and I know. Orbach goes for extended periods of silence. The client finds himself questioning, or interrogating his own questions and finds his real self.  I’m OK and You’re OK. I’ve always wanted to argue the point and say, Am I fuck OK.

Both practitioners do a different kind of cleansing before meeting new clients. The mind is fragile as falling stardust, but as strong as a planet and can create meaning from nothing. We get the archetypes for therapy from Walsh and not Orbach.

Walsh breaks it down better for us novice tea-spoon benders.

The non-sceptic, sceptic.

You will recognise this person from one of their first sentences: ‘I believe in what you people do.’

The blind believer.

A good question to ask is, What are you doing when you like yourself the most?

My friend was fooled, but I won’t be.

I come without a purpose, I just want to know what you see for me.

I want to know what the future holds for me. 

Orbach would, I’m sure, recognise these characteristics in her clients. Her four case studies of Richard and Louise, Jo, Helen and John, who declared he was in love with her, didn’t have the gizmos or psychic fireworks of Walsh, but really it’s all about love. Holding that moment up to the light and helping people into the light. It takes all kinds.

Orbach in her Afterword puts it this way:

Therapy, like any special work, can seem odd to the onlooker. It has been my aim as a psychotherapist when outside of the consulting room to show what is fascinating and potentially life changing about the process and apply the insight of therapy to the wider world.

Amen.

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Prison, Channel 4, 9pm, produced and directed by Paddy Wivell.

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https://www.channel4.com/programmes/prison/on-demand/66913-001

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/prison/on-demand/66913-002

Durham Prison in the North East of England holds around 950 inmates on any given day. In the first episode there were no real surprises, apart from the prisoner that managed to smuggle a phone inside up his arse. He freely admitted to it on camera. There’s a kind of world-weary tone between the film crew, the young lags on the wing and the prison staff. We know there is not enough prison staff, because that’s what the prison officers tell the viewers.

Cost-cutting means that where there used to be a dog unit searching for drugs on ever wing, is now shared over the whole prison population of around 4000 prisoners. Dogs need to be booked in and out, like prisoners and visitors, which what they are. An epidemic of the psychoactive substance ‘Spice’ shows who is boss, when those that are importing it into the wing are kinda stopped in their tracks, but not really. Some other mug takes the hit when drugs are found in one young con’s cell. He winks conspiratorially at the camera.  Prisoners know who is in charge and it’s not staff who try and often fail to hold the line.

The second episode is about mental health. Prison and not hospital is where most people with mental health issues end up. Paddy asks a leading question to show this. He asks the mental health nurse how many of the inmates had mental health problems. She estimated about 600 of 950. Most of them self-harm.

This episode focuses on three of them. Chris, James and lets call the last guy Stig. Stig has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. He bounces in and out of Durham Prison. His latest arrest for stealing a fishing rod. After wrecking his cell, twice, keeping the prisoners in the block beside him up all night, threatening to throw shite at the officers and having a history of covering himself in shite and cutting himself, everyone in prison is weary of him. Paddy asks him about these constant demands.

‘I don’t give a fuck, me. I care about me.’

Durham Prison’s problem is they have a duty of care. They need to use very limited resources to care for Stig and giving him the attention he craves reinforces his negative behaviour. Stig knows this and plays the system. Ironically, the only place of safety Stig can find is in Durham Prison.

James, his fellow prisoner, hears voices and refuses to eat because he thinks officers are trying to poison him. He thinks everyone is out to get him, and cuts himself. Durham has a limited number of beds on I Wing. This mental health unit is paid for by the NHS. As you can imagine, only the very worst of the worst can get a bed in I Wing. James gets one of the eleven beds, but, later, kills himself.

Chris is the upbeat note the programme ends on. The team on the unit are able to get him sectioned and he is sectioned (locked up again) in a Durham mental health unit when he leaves and is given a NHS bed. Another inmate is shown leaving with the mandatory £46 and that’s it. Good luck with that pal.

America jails more people than all the other nations on earth combined. We’re going the same way and love to do it on the cheap. Bring in those corporations that warehouse people. Check them in and check them out. The war on drugs is great for corporate profits.

Our local prison Barlinnie, in Glasgow, was made to renovate its cell blocks after a prisoner took them to the European Court of Human Rights for having to piss and shit in a bucket. Sloping out was upheld as contradicting his human rights. Now we’re no longer in the European Union I’m sure we can go back to sloping out. That shows how little money is spent on prisons and how we like to treat prisoners.  Simple, it’s shameful. Durham Prison shows how we get some things right, but the system is so fucked up it helps no one.  What are prisons for?

 

 

Celtic 3—1 Rosenberg.

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Celtic take a two-goal lead into the second leg next Wednesday and hit the woodwork a few times. It could have been more and quite a comfortable tie. But in a patchy first half, just before the 15-minute mark, Celtic were a goal down.  Jack Hendry gave the ball away outside the opposition’s penalty box. Rosenberg broke forward with pace. Bendtner, who gave the Celtic centre-backs problems, held the ball up and laid it off to the on-running Meling Jensen, who side-footed it through a ruck of players and into the net.

It was against the run of play, but Rosenberg were comfortable at this point and remained so, until a minute before half time. Odsonne Edward, that nine-million pound signing, some of us (including me) weren’t sure about, came up with one of those goals no-one saw coming, including the Rosenberg defender whose legs he seemed to stab the ball between and past the keeper, Hansen.

Jubilation. Half-time 1—1.

A minute into the second half and Ntcham scored a wonder goal. One of those benders that start outside the post and swerve in. He’d tried it a few times in the first half, but his goal, and Celtic’s second, was a thing of beauty. He’d another few efforts the keeper was lucky to keep out and one that hit the bar. Celtic hit the bar a few times, a Hendry header and McGregor dink. Tierney was unlucky with a ball that rattled off the keeper and rebounded out.

Celtic dominated the second-half in the way they hadn’t the first. Midway through Edouard who had been playing on the shoulder of the last defender found himself running in on the keeper. He dinked it, like Henrik in his pomp, over the keeper and gave the hoops a comfortable lead.

It wasn’t quite game over. Celtic looked to add to the score. Edouard won the sponsor’s man of the match, but his French compatriot Ntcham had a champagne performance.

I was worried because Celtic’s best player in these early, but crucial, pre-season games, Moussa Dembele was out of the tie. The team is under enormous pressure and one slip can undo all the good work of the last two seasons. But the French trio look a heavyweight class above everything thrown at them so far. We’re not taking it for granted we’re through to the next round and another gruelling tie against the Greek champions AIK, but vive la France, vive la Celtic.

 

David Halberstam (2009 [2007]) The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.

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David Halberstam was killed in a car crash in 2007, clichéd as it is, his memory lives on here. This is a book all American citizens need to read before saluting the flag. Old Glory, American Presidents should be handed it when they are sworn in and take office. The Korean War began on 25th June 1950 and lasted three years. The forgotten war, a stepping stone into Vietnam. Military historian S.L.A Marshall described it as ‘the century’s nastiest little war’.

Karl Marx’s view was that ‘history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.’ Halberstem did not witness the election of the moron’s moron, Donald J Trump, as the 45th President of the United States. An election victory the mainstream media did not see coming. (I can take a little credit here, predicting he might win, could win, did win, for the same reasons that I thought Boris Johnson this side of the Atlantic might be the next British Prime Minister when he dallied with Brexit all those years ago). The much heralded New York Times, whom Halberstem worked for, marked Hilary Clinton as a shoo-in for President.   You’d need to go back to 3rd November 1948 for such a shock election result. There was no digital then.   The Chicago Tribune  had already printed copies of its front-page banner: ‘Dewey defeats Trauman’. Harry S Trauman was, as history shows, elected President by a landslide. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Senator Joe McCarthy’s claim then that ‘the Reds Run the State Department’ have taken until 2016 to having any semblance of truth, or fake news, depending on your point of view. There is little doubt that Russian intelligence provided finance and expertise to get the least intelligent President in American history elected. Reporter George Reedy’s quip at the height of the House of Un-American Activities investigations, that espionage wasn’t Joe McCarthy’s speciality and that ‘Joe couldn’t find a Communist in Red Square – he didn’t know Karl Marx from Groucho Marx ’, now seems the cruellest kind of irony.

Demands for a ‘loyalty test’ still hold true with Trump, but With President Trump inviting President Putin to the White House and Washington in the Autumn and announcing policy reversals be Tweet, reds are no longer under the bed and mainstream media is twittering as it catches up. There’s no doubt the moron’s moron would fail Hoover’s ‘loyalty test’. The only person Trump remains loyal to is himself.

(There is a joke here about them not being in the bed unless a couple of ‘communist’ prostitutes have peed on it, first –but that’s fake news and not very funny).

The Coldest Winter is a topical book about casual racism and hubris. The four-star General Douglas MacArthur and self-styled Emperor of the East took it upon himself to ignore orders from the Commander in Chief, President Harry S Trauman and created a coterie of sycophantic officers and yes men that took up residence in Tokyo to fight a war in Korea. There’s parallels here, of course, with the moron’s moron.

MacArthur claimed in early November 1950 that what fighting there was in Korea would all be over in three weeks and his men would be home for Christmas. He ignored warnings and intelligence reports that the Chinese were about to enter the war to support the three divisions of North Korea communist troops that were routing their Southern (ROK) counterparts. MacArthur referred to them collectively as Chinese laundrymen and a few divisions of white American troops would show up and have them running. MacArthur was right because he was always right. His armoury didn’t include being wrong.

American troops sent to Korean didn’t have enough of pretty much everything required for a war including men, military hardware, rifles that worked and ammunition. Much like the Nazis invading Russia, they were in summer uniform in temperatures thirty-below zero. Most non-conflict casualties for American troops and their NATO allies were due to frost bit. But there were lots of casualties. Americans were running, but in the wrong direction, not towards the North Korean capital as planned back at MacArthur’s headquarter, but back towards the 38th parallel, that still divides North and South Korea. Many of them never returned. MacArthur’s call for a larger war against China were downplayed.

Satellites looking down at night see only the South Korean towns lit up. The North remains in the darkness of the 1950s, when Chinese troops used horses and musical instruments to coordinate their punishing attacks.

General Douglas MacArthur presided over one of the worst military defeats since Custard at Little Big Horn. This was the same general, of course, that refused to believe the Japanese would attack America – until Pearl Harbour – and then got stranded in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. He had that God complex.

In comparison, there’s nothing casual about the moron’s moron’s racism or hubris. It’s who he is and what he stands for and stood for in the Presidential election.

The Korean War was an unpopular war, largely ignored at home in the United States. Fighting Communism, fighting the North Koreans, fighting the Chinese, with the Russians standing on the side-lines, fighting for free Asia, to protect Europe, the word ‘crusade’ was used. Escalation of a small war, to a larger war, to a nuclear war and nuclear winter.  North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung, the Great Leader also had that God complex, which he passed on to his son, and grandson, Kim Jong-Un like a bit of stale cheese. Chinese historians, those running dogs, were not pleased that little mention was made of China’s part in saving North Korea from capitalism in a museum documenting the war in Pyongyang.  History repeating itself. God I hope not.

China, the workshop of the world, is at the stage where America was at the end of the Second World War. Where Russia was after winning the Great Patriotic War (let’s forget, like President Putin does, the sticky bit about the agreement to invade Poland and parcel up Europe with the Nazis). The rise of fascism all over Europe.  The moron’s moron in the White House. Hubris and racism meeting and having spoilt kids we call oligarchs. The rise of eugenics, populism and the belief that the atomic bomb can be deployed in a limited capacity. There lies World War III and Armageddon. The seeds of that right-wing madness is all here in the 700 pages of David Halberstam’s classic book. A must buy. A must read. My book of the year.

sj howarth (2018) painting for lemonade

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I must admit to not really knowing where a poem begins or ends. I guess it’s about the sharpness of the image and that something that sticks in the craw. I enjoyed this collection and it’s important to remind people how we see the world, how we order words and ideas, of ‘you know whathisname, who had the desk by the watercooler’.

stop being careful.

Let’s try and work it out together.  The last bit is me, the reader.

The poem, that’s not a poem, acknowledgements sums it all up

i am fortunate enough to come from a bold, strong and encouraging family, and warm gratitude and love goes to all of them, across the generations

special thanks to mum, who taught me life is much more exciting, offers much more when you run towards things that are scary and unknown, not away from them.

…thank you to cerasus for taking a gamble on this collection

high praise to abctales.com for giving poets a space to enjoy one another

finally, thanks to nature in all her guises and to the universe for sustaining me, looking out for me

yep, that about sum is up. The last bit is me again, the reader.  I’ll shut up now.  Have a look for yourself. Read on.