The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations, 1979

The Culture of Narcissism

“We live in a swirl of images and echoes that arrest experience and play it back in slow motion. Cameras and recording machines not only transcribe experience but alter its quality, giving to much of modern life the character of an enormous echo chamber, a hall of mirrors. Life presents itself as a succession of images or electronic signals, of impressions recorded and reproduced by means of photography, motion pictures, television, and sophisticated recording devices. Modern life is so thoroughly mediated by electronic images that we cannot help responding to others as if their actions– and our own– were being recorded and simultaneously transmitted to an unseen audience or stored up for close scrutiny at some later time. ‘Smile, you’re on candid camera!’ The intrusion into everyday life of this all-seeing eye no longer takes us by surprise or catches us with our defenses down. We need no reminder to smile. A smile is permanently graven on our features, and we already know from which of several angles it photographs to best advantage.”

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations, Christopher Lasch, Warner Books, 1979.

Arsenio Hall and Guests in Large Shoulder Pads, 1990

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Power was a popular word in the 1980s and 90s. People ate power breakfasts and lunches, power walked, power napped, and women power dressed in suits. By 1990, shoulder pads had become enormous, typified by the talk show host Arsenio Hall and his broad shouldered guests.

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(above: Julia Roberts, Rob Lowe, Madonna, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Paula Abdul, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Eddie Murphy).

“Death of the Giant Killers” in “The Blizzard”, Issue 16

“Hereford United are one of the most celebrated minnows of English football, so how could they collapse into bankruptcy?”


My story about the sad demise of Hereford United Football Club was published in Issue 16 of The Blizzard. The football quarterly also features wonderful stories about the World Cup in Qatar, how football is paying its part in rebuilding the shattered communities near Fukushima, an interview with the former Brazil striker Reinaldo, how a reserve goalkeeper brought Cote d’Ivoire to victory in the Africa Cup of Nations, and many more, including a section devoted to football in Sierra Leone.

Issue 16 of The Blizzard:


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“The Manila Times called the distribution of American arms to mountain tribesmen in South Viet Nam was (sic) ‘disturbing.’

‘While it is presumed that the U.S. forces in Vietnam know what they are doing, still the possibility of having overestimated the dependability of mountain tribesmen is disturbing. It is not that these men are lacking in fighting qualities but that under pressure or because of Communist propaganda, they might one day yield their weapons to the enemy– even use them against the government.’

The paper recalled the use made of American arms by the Communist Huks in the Phillipines. The arms were given to the Huks so they could oppose the Japanese…

…Communist China’s Pelping People’s Daily, seen in Tokyo, said the United States must be forced out of South Viet Nam and Southeast Asia. It commented:

‘We are deeply convinced U.S. imperialism can never put down the Vietnamese people’s patriotic and just struggle no matter what barbarous and cunning means it may employ. No difficulties can prevent the Vietnamese people from realizing their aspiration for kicking out the U.S. aggressors and reunifying the country peacefully.'”

‘What They Say About Us: World Press Hails Telstar,’ Eugene Register-Guard, July 22, 1962.

Our Mum, by Ron Kray

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The Kray twins were Britain’s most notorious gangsters and mama’s boys. “They loved their mum Violet,” said the man in the second-hand furniture shop where I picked up a copy of their memoir, which was dedicated to their mother and opened with a poem by Ronnie:  

Mum you are like a rose.
When God picked you, you were the best mum
he could have chose.
You kept us warm when it was cold
With your arms around us you did fold.
For us you sold your rings of gold.
When you died, I like a baby cried.
When I think of you it is with pride,
So go to sleep mum I know that you are tired.

Our Story, Reg and Ron Kray, with Fred Dinenage, Pan Books, 1988

Conspiracy Theory: Big Ben

Big BenThe comments section of The Independent can be a lively place. “Have you thought about getting some help?” a poster named Steve Ottevanger asked Carl after he outlined his theory of the MI5’s plans for the destruction of Big Ben. Carl remained unmoved.  ‘Hi Steve,’ he replied. ‘Clearly you are very under informed and out of touch. Have you heard of Google? lol.” 

“I am going to stick my neck out and make some predictions. MI6/MI5 will roll out a sham terror attack in the UK before the General Election. It will be in several locations. The police have already got the MSM to curtail their coverage. So when this goes down, you can look forward to hours of BBC lies…’We believe,’ ‘We have been told,’ and several hours later the messages will change. These attacks could be used to delay the General Election and this could give the Tories a 5 point advantage. But this is not the reason for pulling off this false flag attack. No, the real reason is that they believe they can pull it off. We can do it, so we will do it. London looks the most likely, but expect another UK location[s]. Me and my team have calculated one HOT TARGET so far. It ticks all the boxes and will actually save the country BILIONS and BILLIONS in spending. The Houses of Parliament are falling down. I heard one MSM source say they need to spend £50 billion to save it. The Queen Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) is leaning as well. In simple terms, bankrupt Britain can`t afford the fix. So a few well located bombs and a couple of fires could save the country a fortune and it is quite fitting at a time when Britain has ceased to be a democracy. Out with the old and in with the new. While we believe these events will transpire before the GE (90%), there is a chance it will happen post GE. We are already in a police state. but such events will bring this to the fore so that no one will be blinkered to the reality of fascist feudal police state Britain.”

Carl Jones, comment section of The Independent, February 28, 2015
Photo: Diego Delso 

The Publications Control Board of South Africa, 1970

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“In 1960, [the government’s chief censor] Kruger said, he and the ten other board members had been forced to decide South Africans should not read 622 books, magazines, and pamphlets. They ranged from Playboy to Karl Marx. There were forty-six films completely banned. Among the records unfit for South Africa was the cast album for Hair. The Board kept black South Africans from seeing more than 100 films passed for whites and cleared expensive hardback editions of books on politics and sex while banning cheap paperback editions that might have been within range of Africans.

Kruger said the increasing frankness of movies– and sexy movies appeared to be as popular with Afrikaners as the rest of the world in 1970– made film screening the hardest part of his job. Sex, violence, and ‘objectionable intermingling of the races’ were the three main troublesome subjects. It took seven sessions for the Board to chop The Wild Bunch down to South African size. Bonnie and Clyde, another film of stylized bloodiness, was banned completely. So were Easy Rider (although Kruger could not recall what the film was about) and Belle de Jour.  (That one, Kruger recalled. ‘Two thirds of it takes place in a brothel. We weren’t about to pass it.’) The Graduate made it into South Africa after two years of rejection, but it was slashed. Dustin Hoffman was not allowed to say incredulously, ‘Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.’ And Sidney Poitier did not come to dinner in South Africa. ‘Social integration is not allowed here, and it cannot be allowed on films,’ Kruger said.

‘Why don’t they make more films like True Grit?’ Kruger asked me. ‘That was a splendid film, and we could pass it right away. Rolling grass, and a good fellow like John Wayne.’ I gathered that Kruger looked on John Wayne as a sort of honorary Afrikaner.”

South Africa: Civilizations in Conflict, Jim Hoagland, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1973

W. Somerset Maugham on Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chapli“Charlie Chaplin. He is of an agreeable exterior. He has a neat figure, admirably proportioned; his hands and feet are well shaped and small. His features are good, the nose rather large, the mouth expressive and the eyes fine. His dark hair, touched with white, is waving and abundant. His movements are singularly graceful. He is shy. His speech has in it still a hint of the Cockney of his early youth. His spirits are ebullient. In a company in which he feels himself at ease he will play the fool with a delightful abandon. His invention is fertile, his vivacity unfailing, and he has a pleasant gift of mimicry: without knowing a word of French or Spanish he will imitate persons speaking in one or the other of those languages with a humorous accuracy which is wildly diverting. He will extemporize dialogues between a couple of women in the Lambeth slums which are at once grotesque and moving. Like all humour they depend on a close observation and their realism with all its implications, is tragic; for they suggest too near an acquaintance with poverty and squalor…

… His fun is simple and sweet and spontaneous. And yet all the time you have a feeling that at the back of it all is a profound melancholy. He is a creature of moods and it dos not require his facetious assertion: ‘Gee I had such a fit of the blues last night I didn’t hardly know what to do with myself’ to warn you that his humour is lined with sadness. He does not give you the impression of a happy man. I have a notion that he suffers from a nostalgia of the slums. The celebrity he enjoys, his wealth, imprison him in a way of life which he finds only constraint. I think he looks back to the freedom of his struggling youth, with its poverty and bitter privation, with a longing which knows it can never be satisfied…


…One night I walked with him in Los Angeles and presently our steps took us into the poorest quarter of the city. There were sordid tenement houses and shabby, gaudy shops in which are sold the various goods that the poor buy from day to day. His face lit up and a buoyant tone came into his voice and he exclaimed: ‘Say, this is the real life, isn’t it? All the rest is just sham.'”

W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook , Penguin Books, 1949.